spring in a box

When we lived in New York, this time of year was hard for me. The end of March and the beginning of April, when spring should be out in full force, were usually still cold and dreary. Winter seemed never ending. There's only so much you can do with two children under 3 when it's freezing cold outside, and for a girl born and raised in sunny Southern California, I had had enough.

I have a few friends who have had tougher winters than usual this year for various reasons. Friends who have been cooped indoors with colicky babies, or feeling down about just about everything or wondering how much longer they can stay sane in their tiny New York apartments. Oh, I remember.

So I decided to mail them a little something.. I call it "Spring in a Box". I gathered an assortment of all things yellow and orange and wrapped them up in the brightest paper I could find, including a note about how spring would definitely come.. that they had almost made it through the long cold winter. And I included these two lovely quotes:

The packages have all been received. Sunshine delivered by way of the USPS. Friends are cheered. Spring has come. Mission accomplished.

NOTE: Yes, it is because of the long, hard winter that we moved away from NYC and all its charms. Now we enjoy winter in southern California, usually wearing flip flops and making lemonade from the lemon tree in our backyard. So California has its charms too.


this week's library book

Bye Bye Baby by Janet and Allan Ahlberg tells the story of a little baby with no mommy. "He fed himself and bathed himself. He even changed his own diaper." One day the baby realizes "I am too young to be doing this! I need a mommy!"

He sets off to find a mommy. "Will you be my mommy?" he asks whomever he finds (including a teddy bear, a horse, a kitty cat, a wind up chicken, and a nice old uncle). But none of them can be his mommy.

Finally, he meets a nice lady pushing a baby carriage. "I am a little baby with no mommy" he cries. "There's a coincidence," says the lady. "I am a mommy with no little baby!"  And she takes him home and gives him a warm bath and feeds him cookies and tea.

After a while, the baby realizes he doesn't have a daddy. He sets off once again until he finds a nice farmer and asks if he will be his daddy. And of course he says "Yes!".

Note: I am new to the work of the Ahlbergs, but they have written quite a few lovely little books including The Jolly Postman; Each Peach, Pear, Plum; and The Runaway Dinner .


easter outfits

Last year I made my first Easter dress for Bee. It was the Tea Party dress from Oliver + S, which turned out rather sweet, but I felt badly that I didn't make anything for my son C. This year I decided to try the Birthday Party dress, which Liesl assured me I could handle despite it's perfect pleats and five (!) buttonholes.

I made the dress out of linen, which proved a little shifty, but I love it nonetheless. Bee is a very active three year old, so there really is no hope of keeping it wrinkle free for long, but lucky for me, it looks just as cute rumpled. And Liesl was right, although the construction of this dress is a more complicated than anything I've made before, if you just follow the directions carefully, it will all work out in the end.

But what to make for C? The plan came together when I saw Molly's tie pattern on the Purl Bee. Perfect for a brother-sister duo. Matching, but subtle. Sweet, but not too sweet.

I didn't realize the tie is mostly hand-sewn, and it was fun to make. You can easily finish a tie in one sitting, and I get a weird sense of satisfaction sitting down on the couch with my needle and thread, stitching each little stitch one at a time.

I don't know how many more years I can coordinate their outfits. C is going to start having opinions about his clothes at some point. But I'm sure going to try and keep this up for at least a couple more years.. The pictures alone are priceless.


sinking eggs

My little boy C has asked me every day this week if it is time to "sink eggs". It took me a minute to realize he was talking about dying eggs, which we do each Easter.

I love the beautiful eggs my friends make using natural food dyes.. but I opt for the PAAS kits, I hope you'll forgive me. There is something about the little fizzing tablets that takes me back to my childhood. The kids think they are magic.

I love Easter... lots of fun, but somehow less filled with pressure and holiday stress than Christmas. We roll pretty low key around here. An egg hunt, church, a walk with Grandma and Grandpa, dinner with family, and some strawberry shortcake. Perfect.


easter cupcakes

Do you ever get so excited about a recipe that you find yourself making it over and over again, despite your husband's hatred for coconut? My latest obsession are these coconut cupcakes, made from Ina Garten's recipe (aka the Barefoot Contessa). I am a fan of most things Ina makes, simply because they usually turn out exactly as I expected (and sometimes even better than I dared hope!).

When I was an art director at Martha Stewart Living, Ina had a monthly entertaining column. She would plan a menu or a little party and share her recipes and tips. You may not know that Ina was a very successful caterer for years, running her shop and catering business The Barefoot Contessa in East Hampton. I had the chance to art direct a few of those entertaining columns, and though it was sometimes crazy getting up at 5 AM to make it out to East Hampton at a decent hour, I always enjoyed being in Ina's home. She had a lovely garden just out the back door where you could cut some lettuce for a recipe or grab some fresh herbs. And spending any day in the Hamptons was always a treat.

But back to the cupcakes. These are the best cupcakes I have ever made. The cake itself is super moist and chewier than a standard cupcake because it has coconut in the batter (as well as coconut on top). The cream cheese frosting has a bit of almond extract that makes me crazy. And they're just so pretty.

I'm thinking if you toasted the coconut in the oven for a bit and then added a few candy eggs on top, this might be the perfect Easter cupcake.


ribbon egg cards

Lecia over at A Day That is Dessert asked me to share a little Easter craft on her sweet blog. For directions and to see more photos, hop on over here.  (Thanks Lecia!)


designer fortune cookie #1




our library routine

I love the library we visit because it's the same one I went to as a little girl. There is a newer, nicer library across town now, and most of my friends go there, but I prefer my old library. I love that some of these books could be the exact ones I read when I was a child, now coming home with me once again.

But even my small library can be overwhelming. So many books crammed into the shelves. How do you choose? I used to wander around picking out books that looked interesting or had well designed covers, but after taking home too many books that I was all too glad to return to the library, I decided we needed a new system.

When I was in college I kept two 3x5 cards in my wallet at all times. One was a list of movies I wanted to see (I was a film major at the time), the other a list of books I wanted to read. Whenever I came across a review of a book or a movie that seemed interesting I would write the title down. The next time I was standing at the video store wondering what to rent, I would pull out my little card and have a long list of movies.

So we never go into the library empty handed. My sister in law introduced me to The Read-Aloud Handbook, written by Jim Trelease. The first half of the book explains why reading is so important for kids, and the second half is a huge list of the best books. I have loved most everything on his list and my copy is now covered with notes and stars and checks so we remember what books we've read, and what books we loved so much we should just buy for our library at home.

I also keep a few lists with my book, a copy of the Caldecott winners, a list of suggested books from C's preschool teacher, a list of favorite children's book authors. (I've put together a list of the Caldecott winners that you can download here.)

And we're now using a library bag. We get six books out of the library each time we go, so we always have the same amount of books out at a time. Books can get scattered around the house pretty easily, so our library books are kept in a different place than our other books, so we're not searching the entire house looking for one lost book.

Here's a sampling of the books we borrowed this week. We try to make it to the library every other week. Books are due in three weeks, so if we go to the library every two weeks, we never have to worry about overdue books. Happy reading!


harvey faircloth

I try to keep this site as "commercial free" as possible. But I have to take a moment to brag for my friends Katie, Mara and Abby who have just launched their own clothing company: Harvey Faircloth.

I moved to New York City straight out of college because that's where the best design jobs were. There is perhaps no better place to be young, single, and employed! I had an amazing group of friends to run around the city with.. Saturday mornings skating in Central Park, afternoons spent getting to know the Met and the MOMA, dinners at Grange Hall (sadly now closed). We worked hard at our jobs all week, and we spent the remainder of our time getting to know the city we now called home.

Katie, Abby and Mara were all part of this group. They are lovely girls, and so very talented: Katie is designing the clothes, Mara handling the sales/business side, and Abby's over the design/branding. And did I mention the clothes are beautiful?

It takes a certain amount of courage to do the things you've always dreamed of. These girls are doing it, and I am so so proud of them.


b is for book

We have a new nephew (two actually, but only one gift is ready!). His name is Lincoln and he just came for a visit (my sister and her family live a few states away). I have loved seeing his big cheeks and sweet smile all week.

When our son C was born, my husband's family put together a bag full of favorite children's books. Each person in the family chose a book, and wrote a little note explaining why they had picked it and what they hoped C would learn from it. It was such a thoughtful gift, and almost five years later, many of those books are my son's favorites.

I made this bag for Lincoln, following the directions from this book. Now that I sew, I understand why people make bags. Quick. Frustration free. Totally satisfying. I used canvas for the bag itself, and cotton fabric for the bottom and handles. The bottom fabric lays over the canvas, so I know the bag will be nice and strong. And I always add a strip of canvas to the handles too, since books can get heavy. To make it a little more special, grab a needle and thread and add an embroidered name.

My mom, sister in law and I all picked a few of our favorite books to include, below are a few of my favorites. Happy reading Lincoln! Please come and visit your Aunt Brooke again soon.. We miss seeing your sweet smile already. (especially Bee and C, so sad to see their new cousin leave. "But how will he get on the plane by himself, Mom?" asked Bee.)