mother's day

I found this old photo tucked in a drawer the other day and have been staring at it all week. I'm not sure exactly what month it was taken, but it shows my mom (looking stylish as usual) with my three older siblings. She may even have been pregnant with me at the time.. I'm her fourth.

I keep looking at this picture and seeing my own little family: my oldest boy, C who turns 8 in a few weeks; then my daughter Bee, who is 6; and our sweet Baby M who is almost 2. And our fourth baby will join us this summer, I'm due at the end of July. (We're hoping this baby won't come as early as Baby M did! Fingers crossed.) Four children! I keep looking at our dining room table and imagining all the chairs filled.

Because it's Mother's Day this Sunday, I've been thinking a lot about my mom and the way she raised us (I should give my dad some credit too, I guess). In many ways I hope I can replicate the family I grew up in.. I had a lovely childhood and my family is still close. My parents are a good team, and I look to them as examples of how to raise a family full of love, with ample teaching moments, a bit of discipline, and a lot of fun.

It's a special week for my family. My older sister (the cute one above with the saddle shoes and the big grin) is getting married this weekend, and we'll all be together for at least 24 hours. All five of my siblings and all their spouses, and all the eighteen children we have between us. I cannot wait! 

Loeffler Randall (a lovely shoe company I first heard about when Purl Soho designed some knit socks to wear with their rain boots) asked me to do a little Mother's Day Q & A. Hop over there to hear how my mom inspires me. Happy Mother's Day!


making granola

I've told the story before about my friend Katie and the brunch she threw one Saturday morning at her house in Brooklyn. Everyone had brought their favorite breakfast foods, and the table was filled with streudels and donuts and all kinds of deliciousness. But I kept going back for the granola! Katie shared her recipe with me and I've been making it ever since. It makes a perfect breakfast with a scoop of greek yogurt, some milk, and whatever fruit or berries you have on hand. 

Katie's Amazing Granola

This granola makes a TON, two full sheet pans to be exact. I don't have a bowl big enough to fit everything at once, so I make mine in two big bowls and divide all the ingredients in half.

In a large bowl (or two!) mix the following ingredients:

 10 cups of old fashioned rolled oats (buy from the bin at your local health food store..)
2 cups of whole wheat flour
2 cups of wheat germ (store in your fridge between batches)
2 cups of shredded coconut
2 cups chopped pecans and/or almonds
1 tablespoon salt

In a separate bowl, mix the following: 

4 tablespoons vanilla
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup of oil (I use Canola)
2 cups honey (if you use the same cup you used for the oil, the honey should slide right out)

Divide the wet mixture between your two bowls of granola and mix well.


Spread your granola in two large, shallow pans. Bake at 250 until deep golden and almost dry, about 2 hours. Every 30 minutes rotate your pans and stir and crumble the granola with a big wooden spoon (the outside edges will brown first, so you want to mix everything around so it all cooks evenly). 

When it's all nice and golden and you've broken up most of your big chunks, remove from the oven and let cool (I leave mine on the counter overnight). Store tightly covered or in the refrigerator if you have room.

Teacher Appreciation Week is coming up and I guest posted over at Skip to My Lou about giving granola as a gift. I like to fill old mason jars with granola and tie a ribbon around the lid. Use this printable PDF to make a label you can personalize with your teacher’s name (it also includes some of the ingredients in case there are any allergies).  I print mine on full page Avery shipping labels, cutting around each circle with scissors. A thoughtful way to let your teachers know you appreciate all they do. I've been known to give jars of this away to friends on their birthdays as well.


swallows day parade

Today is the annual Swallows Day Parade by the San Juan Capistrano mission in Southern California. It's a parade that's been going on for as long as I can remember, and is touted as the nation's longest non-motorized parade. There's lots of horses and high school marching bands and good Mexican food. It's not so crowded that you can't see anything and we like to bring a blanket and some chairs and sit on the grassy area by the New Mission Church (not part of the original mission, but built in the "spirit and likeness" of the original stone church which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812). It makes for a lovely Saturday morning.

Hope you have a lovely weekend.


st. patty's day mint brownies

I've been on the hunt for a good mint brownie recipe since my college days, where you could pick one up at the cafeteria most days of the week. So when my friend Jen made these delicious brownies for a baby shower, I hunted her down for the recipe the very next day. They've been a favorite ever since and are the perfect dessert to follow our traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner. Have you tried Mark Bittman's recipe, by the way? You boil everything per usual, (he skewers his cabbage wedges so they stay together) and at the very end you pull everything out of the pot and bake it in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes so it's not all soggy. It's a game changer. I love it with a little horseradish mixed with sour cream. But back to the brownies..

Jen's Mint Brownies

The brownie base on these is more of a Texas sheet cake, which I love, but purists may prefer a more traditional brownie base, then duplicating the two layers on top. 

2 1/4 sticks butter, melted 
3/4 cup cocoa
2 1/4 cups sugar
6 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 7/8 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt 
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together butter and cocoa. Add sugar. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix well. Pour into a greased jelly roll pan (aka large cookie sheet with edges). Bake 15 minutes. Do not overcook; if you see any air bubbles, pop with a toothpick and smooth down. Cool completely, then frost with Mint Frosting.

Mint Frosting

4 cups powdered sugar
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 drops of green food coloring
4 tablespoons milk (or as much needed to get to a spreadable consistency)

Mix all ingredients, then spread in a thin layer on top of cooled brownies. Work fast as it dries quickly. Let the mint frosting layer set for about a half hour, then top with chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

3 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 square of butter (10 tablespoons)

Melt together carefully in the microwave (cook for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between each round until fully melted and combined). Pour evenly over mint brownies and carefully spread until you reach all the edges of the pan. Put brownies in the fridge for 20-30 minutes or until chocolate layer is fully set, then cut into squares. Keep extras in the fridge.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


the tooth fairy

During our recent exploits with my daughter Bee and the tooth fairy, I've been thinking about my own childhood. When I was 7 or 8 I wrote my fairy a letter, and tucked it under my pillow along with my tooth. I wish I still had it, but from what I remember I drew a picture of her and asked her what she looked like (I always imagined something like the blue fairy in Pinocchio with blonde hair, a sparkly blue dress and wings).

When I woke up in the morning I saw that the tooth fairy had left a note for me! It was written in a manly scrawl and had a drawing of an unshaven lumberjack, carrying an axe. It said "This is what I look like. Love, the Tooth Fairy". I couldn't believe that of all the rotten luck, my tooth fairy was a lumberjack!! I think I shed a few tears that morning as I ran into my parents room to tell them about my tooth fairy. I wish I could see how my mom reacted (she probably had no idea, the drawing was clearly my dad's doing). Years later, it makes me laugh.

It appears we aren't the only ones who have forgotten their tooth fairy duties from time to time. Many quick-witted parents have come to the rescue of tardy tooth fairies, telling stories of fairies caught in storms and cobwebs. Here are a few ideas I thought were brilliant:

-My sister-in-law says that she takes her wedding ring off when a child looses a tooth, and puts it on her dresser. All day long when she looks at her bare finger, she remembers, and then when she gets ready for bed (after the kids have gone to sleep) she sees her ring on the dresser and remembers to check under the pillow.

-Amy wrote:
"The tooth fairy forgot to come visit me once. I believe I was crying when I showed my mom. The solution? She stuffed my chubby, nearly newborn baby brother into my little sister's ballet tutu, taped a dress-up crown on his head and carried him into my room in a flying motion. She told me that the fairy was very busy and has asked my brother to cover for her but forgot that he was just a baby. I loved the resolution but never believed after that one, so use that sort of solution with caution."

-Jennie says: 
At our house the child who loses a tooth writes a post-it note telling daddy the good news and it goes on the bathroom mirror. Good thing the tooth fairy sees that note while she/he is brushing teeth!"

-I also heard of a family where the tooth fairy leaves change from a different country each time (coins family or friends have brought back from recent trips) and then they spend the next week learning all about each country.

Love these ideas! Any other tips or ideas out there?


when the tooth fairy forgets

My daughter Bee lost her first tooth this past week, which is about the most exciting thing to happen to a kindergartener EVER. She was so excited to finally get to use her tooth fairy bunny and carefully placed her tooth in the tiny pocket and happily went to bed. And do you know what happened? The tooth fairy didn't come! The second night came and Bee remembered to put her tooth under her pillow again and can you believe.. the tooth fairy forgot TWO nights in a row! So we decided to take some drastic measures.

We thought maybe some big signs might help the tooth fairy find its way to Bee's tooth. We decided maybe Bee has a different tooth fairy than her brother C and maybe this little fairy doesn't know her way around our house or where to find Bee's tooth (not every kid has a tooth fairy bunny pillow).

Thankfully it worked! And the tooth fairy finally did come and Bee was very happy to find a $1 bill in her bunny's tiny pocket.

We can't be the only people this has happened to.. what happens at your house when the tooth fairy forgets?


star wars valentine

One last valentine for 2012. Though my daughter Bee, who is in kindergarten, can't wait to pass out her fan valentine's at school. My son "C", who is in second grade this year, decided that fans were too "girly" for him to pass out at school. While perusing the candy options at our local party store, we came up with this more manly Star Wars option.

Slits are cut into the card with an X-acto knife and pixi stix inserted to make light sabers (and secured with a little piece of tape on the back).  C was very pleased with the results. Happy Valentine's Day!

(Many folks have asked for a printable for these, but I can't give you one without breaking all sorts of copyright laws in the process. I know people do it all the time in blogland, but I can only provide templates or downloads for artwork I've created myself. I hope you understand.)


last-minute valentines

Are you all set for Valentines Day tomorrow? If you're still scrambling to make something for your kids or need something the kids can take to school, here are some of the valentines we've made the past few years. Good luck!

Matchbox valentines

Portrait Valentines  (Jenny from Dinner a Love Story just posted her kids' here..)

Heart Notepads

Valentine Man

Valentine Alphabet for your sweetheart

Wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day, however you choose to celebrate it!


valentines 2012

I was asked by the folks over at Martha Stewart's family blog to submit an idea for their valentine contest. If you feel so inclined, I'd love if you popped over and voted

We're big fans of Valentine's Day at our house. This has not always been the case, as I spent most of my high school and college years dreading Valentine's Day and wanting to slap all those love-struck couples I saw making out on campus. But Valentine's Day with kids is a whole different story, and besides our annual Valentine's Day family dinner, the big debate is always what the kids will bring for their classmates this year.

My kids are also big fans of candy, and what's a valentine without a treat? So we were a little puzzled when my daughter Bee's teacher asked that we not include candy in our cards this year (due to an allergy in the class). A valentine without candy? WHAT?

We wanted to come up with an idea we could make at home, with materials we had on hand (if possible). I remembered these Fourth of July folding fans from Martha Stewart and we decided to make a Valentine-y version. (It's also been around 75 degrees here in Southern California lately, so fans make a lot of sense here!)

You can read the directions here, but these come together pretty quickly if you have a few helpers on hand. Bee was great at folding the paper up accordian style, and I was on glue and handle duty. You can make them any size you want, but we made most of ours using 12" x 5" pieces of paper, which will make a 5" fan.

I made little tags that say simply "I'm a fan!" and "Stay cool!" and we punched a hole in the top and bottom. Feed your fan handles through the holes and it will keep the handles together and hold your fan open. You can download a PDF of the tags here, it prints 12 to a page. Cardstock or a paper with some heft works best.

I'm hoping the kids in Bee's class with be "fans" as well. Happy Valentine's Day!


alt recap

Gabby asked me a while back to speak at Alt Design Summit, which is a blog conference held in Salt Lake City each January. I'll admit I had mixed feelings. From what I had seen of Alt, it appeared to be kind of a three-day-camp for blog superstars and wannabe up-and-coming bloggers. Before going I had seen the posts by bloggers worried about what to wear each day, the "aren't-we-having-the-best-time!" photobooth photos, and the power list of speakers and presenters and really... I wasn't sure I could find my place in the whole thing.

But I like Gabby, and I have friends and family in Salt Lake, and plane tickets were cheap.. so off I went.

I don't quite know how to explain what Alt is.. now that I have come and gone and seen it with my own eyes. It was inspiring and thought provoking, and nice to visit with old friends I knew in NYC (like Merilee of mermag, Kelli Ronci from uber-craft, Melanie Falick from STC Craft, and Mara from A Blog About Love). And fun to talk face to face with people whose work I admire (like Stephanie from stephmodo, Grace Bonney from Design Sponge, the lovely Amy Butler, and Pilar Guzman from momfilter). And to make new friends, like those I spoke with on the Work/Life Balance Panel (Sarah from Sarah Jane Studios, Chrysula Winegar, and Kathryn from Snippet + Ink).

Though the parties are a big draw for many Alt attendees, I guess I'm just not a big party girl. Instead, I loved having dinner with Chrysula and Sarah the night before we spoke on our panel, ditching the Friday night parties to have dinner at home with good friends in Salt Lake, and sitting and talking with people one on one throughout the day.

If you're headed to Alt you've got to bring some pretty business cards.. and I was happy to hand out these little guys I had letterpressed by Bryce Knudson of Bjorn Press a while back. They are the perfect size, smaller and squatter than a standard card and printed on a nice thick Lettra stock in a warm gray and pale cream.

Some of my favorite moments of the conference were the keynote speakers, like this panel which included Maxwell from Apartment Therapy, Deborah Needleman (founder of Domino), and Pilar Guzman (formerly of cookie, now running Martha Stewart Living). There was a lot of discussion about new media vs. old (blogs vs. magazines) and though I see that traditional publishing is in trouble, I don't see magazines and books disappearing anytime soon.

I also enjoyed the roundtable discussion groups that were led by industry experts and covered categories ranging from tax issues to ad networks to legal concerns. You just pulled up a chair and started asking questions. I would have loved to have been able to sit at every table.

I think everyone at Alt now adores Ben Silberman, founder of Pinterest. He told the story of how he turned his idea into a product and it was absolutely fascinating. I love him for quoting a line from the movie The Pirates of Silicon Valley (one of my favorite made-for-TV movies EVER). "I think .. there's something going on out there in California." And I loved hearing about how his girlfriend (now his wife) after hearing his ideas for years finally said "So stop talking about it and just go and DO IT." And he did!

The third day of the conference is small hands-on workshops and I was lucky to get to attend two: a screenprinting class taught by Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Press, and a calligraphy workshop taught by Melissa Esplin of ISLY. I create so much on the computer these days, it was really nice to remember how it feels to make something with my hands.

Since Alt, I've been thinking a lot about my blog and what I want it to be (and definitely what I DON'T want it to be). I've never thought of it as a commercial venture, so the discussions about ad networks and corporate sponsors and search engine optimization didn't really appeal to me. To be honest, because my blog is not meant to make money, I do tend to put it on the back burner from time to time, setting it aside for books and shoots and other projects I do get paid for. I hope you'll understand that though I may not post five times a day, when I do post you will know it is about something I believe in (and not something I am being paid to discuss).

Many of you have asked for a recap of our panel on Work/Life Balance. I am gathering my thoughts and will share them when I have a moment (but it might need to wait a week or two.. I've got a book design due and valentines to make with the kids!).

Bottom four photos from the Alt Flickr stream.