Aug 23 2013

Something I Love: Kid O

Oh Kid O, I love you.


Kids stuff. You feel me?

It’s an f’ing mess. An inherited toy vacuum is now sentient in our living room and sings in Spanish at all hours of the day. There are pieces of things everywhere. And pieces of things missing that are, apparently, critical to the future happiness of the 2 year old. And the moment I swoop in and pack stuff away because the 0-6 months play range is long gone is the moment Lo asks for the wrist rattles. WRIST RATTLES.

Whenever I see or we get a toy that is not rage inducing I get joy weepy. And I want to share. So, here we are.

I’ve been pleasantly put in place several times now by non-kidded friends picking out rad, rad stuff. It’s like they pick what is cool to them and therefore it is just cool. I miss being cool.

So, when an industrial designer friend gave us two puzzles that weren’t ugly or loud I sighed in both relief and in missing coolness. After reading about Kid O, I’m so not surprised their puzzles lured in a cool non-dad guy. Kid O has colorful but not eye-scorching toys. Their hook is toys that are “simple, modern and educational.” Y’all know I love me a serial comma but I can still get behind that sentiment. Simple. Please. More of that.

The site features four collections that are all quite lovely ranging from wooden toys to party favors and including those Bilibo turtle shell type seats from Moluk that I am kind of obsessed with but don’t totally understand but may buy immediately. I also love the blog for the line which focuses on play and learning and creativity. Like, I love it.

But cool toys are only cool if they appeal to the wee ones. A mid-century mock toddler-sized cocktail station or a make-your-own-mini-folksy-music-fest kit isn’t any good if the kid won’t play with it.

These two puzzles, one which has her sort by height and one by width, keep her happy and occupied.

Lo, who is obviously a genius, is not great with subtle size differences right now (nesting is a hot, hot mess of frustration, stacking a bit less so) but is great with following repeated steps we’ve modeled for her. These puzzles have proven a low-risk way to practice and not once has she done the standard frustration response of throwing everything everywhere forever. I figure the Pavlovian puzzle doing will, in turn, foster a better understanding of size differentiation. Maybe.

Maybe even better, I’ve found it’s excellent practice on my part to speak clearly to her. I get wildly confused myself when trying to explain that she needs a smaller piece, and then a MORE smaller piece. Or I’ll say “that one is too big” and she looks at me like I’m an asshole because, really mom, do you mean the piece is too big or the hole is too big?

Thinking about what I can learn from playing with her or watching her play has been pretty great. I always think about metacognition on her part but hadn’t really started thinking about play-based metacognitive stuff on my part. It’s been limited to how I respond to a freak out or how I model civility or compassion for her.

As I sit here and reflect on it, maybe trying to explain how to sort the lovely blue shades of tall to small will make me a better writer while making me a better mom and her a better size difference noticer. Clarity and conciseness are two things toddlers need and they’re two things writers need too.

So cheers to Kid O, a toy company doing it right and getting it right. Hip hip.


Mar 17 2013

Something I Love

Oh, Bittercube Bitters. I love you.

We have great friends.Two firmly in that great category are Kim & Kyle. They’re great for lots of reasons, they have similar views on wanting to go just about anywhere, they’re wildly talented, and they have killer taste. For the holidays this year they surprised us with a fantastic holiday card and a spot-on perfect gift, a sample of Bittercube Bitters.


These small batch bitters are the brainchildren of two midwesterners. One worked at the Violet Hour in our fair Chicago while his partner’s rooted in Minneapolis. They spent a year perfecting and concocting and, while it’s hardly accurate, I love the idea of potions brewing and steam rising as they worked on a batch.

It seems like we’re usually known for our beer, and we do that really well, but it’s nice to see we can make any booze better. There are bitters to make an IPA pop, plenty of interesting things to work into something ginny. The package includes a slew of ideas to make a cocktail party feel like an imperative.

For the purported end of the world on December 12, we hosted a pizza party for our playgroup. And to drink we set up “The Bitter End” cocktail station. To be fair, the 25+ kids running around made for a less-than-cocktail party vibe (yes, the tags I had on hand are offensively large, I know). But we did our best.

bitterend - Version 2

Last night we had Kim & Kyle over to eat & talk, and toasted friendship with a Bittercube-personalized gin & tonic. This morning we were off to a surprise birthday brunch. Our gift? A sampler pack of Bittercube bitters.

Mar 1 2013

Something I Love

Oh, Neskat hair clippies, I love you!

At about 8 or 9 months, Lo’s hair had grown long enough in the front that she was looking a bit too Eddie Furlong for my taste. Girl needed some help. But how to help? Hair accessories seem safe, right? Not always.

There began a dull ache of a struggle in the back of my parenting brain that I know is just the first of many. It’s been articulated by many before me, and probably better. In short, raising a girl is awesome. I know it is going to be awesome. I am ready to both model (when I can) and talk about (when I can) how to embrace being a girl, and then a woman, while not kowtowing to being precious. I struggle with that teeter totter between a level of girly that feels empowered and the level of girlie that feels overly twee.

I’m not a clothing fascist. I can get behind pink, my heistation is more that I don’t think her little coppertop looks great in pale pinks. I love me some owls. And something scroll-y in French? Sold.

I certainly don’t want -Juicy- on her butt, at least until she can clearly articulate to me an argument that makes it make sense. For now, I don’t love -princess- or -diva- or other sassified crap on her clothing. It’s just not me. And with our lack of royal blood and my inability to carry a tune both in her DNA, it’s probably not her either. I felt pretty good about the clothing choices I was making and now…now I needed to figure out hair.

Enter Neskat, an etsy store that I lurve.

These delicious clippies are just the right twee, and two we own at Chez Argyle. Contrast stitching, felt, wool, delightfully intricate for being so tiny. Autumnal leaves, charming birds, and embroidered lovelies abound.

Easy to put on, not easy to fall off during roly poly play, the San Francisco-based etsy shop is doing it right.

And the best part? Apparently when I put the clips in Loie’s hair from the first time on, I said “BOOP!” right as it clipped it in. And now, my precocious little parrot doesn’t know the word barrette. She only knows that every morning she gets a boop in her hair. Yup, a boop. Just the right amount of twee for me.

Sep 16 2012

Something I Love

Oh, Victorinox bread knife. I love you.

When registering, we wanted a bread knife. A good bread knife.

I stumbled across the insanely good Amazon reviews of this knife after being whisper-guided that way by a clerk at a store. The clerk pointed our way to an under $50 knife that would serve us very, very, very well.

The wavy cut of the 10 1/4 blade works beautifully on baguettes and we also came to learn tomatoes. No more shirking tomato cutting duties for this girl.

And the best? The best is that it has made easy work of chocolate cutting. I read about it in a cookbook and it was a game changer.

First time I tried it is the photo above. We needed a ton of dark chocolate for raspberry stracciatella ice cream. The perfectly chopped chocolate hits the cold ice cream, re-hardens and is “torn apart” which is where the term stracciatella comes from. Love me some etymology. And some ice cream.

May 12 2012

Something I Love

Oh, Authentic Models, I love you.

We were wondering just what to do with a girl’s room that we didn’t want to scream GIRL’S ROOM Y’ALL!

At Bellini Baby we saw these beautiful vintage-looking balloon models floating high above us. I went home and began to Google like a madwoman.

The Red/Tan quickly became the design inspiration for Loie’s nursery.

Over her head float five hot air balloons in primary colors.

Their globe mobile was a changing table coup d’etat.

Her nursery quickly came together. A vintage-Paris-not too Frenchy-nursery.

More, another time perhaps, on this room I love.

Apr 22 2012

Something I Love

Oh ViaBoxes, I love you.

ViaBoxes are module storage units. They are 15x15x15x15 (or however many 15s you need to describe a box). They fit with their fellow ViaBoxes and can be customized with fun cut-out shapes in the front. You can add recessed doors and a shelf inside, which is what we did to create shoe storage.

We needed a mudroom type space since our old mudroom type space is now my much-beloved baking center and smack dab in the new kitchen. Our goal was to make it look like a custom built in without having to, ahem, pay for it. Our incredible -guy- David merged them all those Vias together and melded three different pieces of wood, staining them each slightly different shades because of their base colors for the bench, and built us some serious awesome in the bench/mantel department.

We also added mercury glass knobs from Anthropologie and reclaimed wood from Rebuilding Exchange, a cool spot on Ashland that sells just about everything ever from old buildings.

I sent the picture to their website because I like people doing good work to know their good work made me happy. I got this back: “That IS awesome! I must share this. That is a great ViaBoxes “hack”.” Well, well! A hack! How domestically subversive of us.

Apr 13 2012

Something I Love.

Oh, Vintage Industrial Furniture, I love you.

While working on our kitchen remodel, we were a bit stuck as to what to do with the space next to the pantry. It was crying out for shelves but the depth (12″) was an odd one, a few inches too shallow for a bookshelf to work.

I got to googling. The clean, modern lines of the dark cabinets were nicely balanced by the banged up hardware but we wanted some industrial elements to fit in with the lighting and our aesthetic.

In comes Greg Hankerson of Vintage Industrial. No, wait. He didn’t really come in because he’s based out of Phoenix. But he’s good with the phone, good with email, and awesome with furniture design and construction.

We got a custom 308 shelf which fits so perfectly snug in its spot that it makes my heart happy. It’s described as French industrial which, being a description snob, sat right in the Burwell sweet spot. Greg sent us bolting supplies to secure the shelf to the wall so little Loie & Co wouldn’t bring it crashing down. We also opted to not have the castor wheels, which bummed me out but the old house and the unlevel floors and, well, it just didn’t seem like the way to go (although they can be locked down). New parent anxiety wins sometimes.

Some glass jars, a wine rack, books and it was super ready to serve. We’ve since rearranged to allow for more glass jars full of dried goods. Vintage Industrial, smooches to you.

This is an insanely bad picture, I agree. Angles just weren’t playing nicely. The shelf does.

Apr 2 2012

Something I Love

Oh, pastry cloth. I love you.

This is easily one of the best gifts I’ve received in recent years. A dear friend gifted several of her baking-prone buddies a pastry cloth from Norpro for the holidays. We all looked at the rolling pin condom (?) with confusion until she explained it.

The flip side of this cloth has measurements for dough so you can roll it out to 8 or 9 inches. I’m not sure why I used this side, but I can report that it works splendidly too!

It keeps me from spraying my entire kitchen with flour as I fail miserably at creating a surface “lightly floured”.

I realize many have walked the path of the pastry cloth before. I’m ok being late to convert but now I will proselytize aggressively. Seriously, go get one. Now.