baseball gender reveal

My dear friend (who also happens to be my sister-in-law.. that's the great thing about your brother marrying one of your high school pals) is pregnant! Hooray! We had almost all our family together for a family reunion this summer the day she found out the gender of the baby. I LOVE how she decided to let everyone know her big news.

We were all going to an Angels baseball game that night, so she and my brother didn't tell anyone the sex (not even their other children). We all kept asking "Boy or girl? Boy or girl?" "Just tell us already!!". She told us she would let us know what she was having by getting some cotton candy at the Angels game. BLUE cotton candy for a boy, and PINK for a girl. 

Every time the cotton candy guy walked by with his cotton candy, we all held our breath. All game long we kept asking "Are you ready for some cotton candy?". It was more exciting than the baseball game! Then finally in the 6th inning or so, my brother disappeared for a bit and came back with some PINK cotton candy for his wife (all the cotton candy guys kept coming around our section with only blue!).

It was so fun to all find out together (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters) and I loved seeing my nieces and nephews faces as they learned the news. Hooray for families and for creative gender reveals!


back to school dinner

Inspired by others who have similar traditions, we have started having a Back to School dinner the first night of the new school year. It helps to get the kids excited about school and to give the family some time to talk about each child and what they have to look forward to. This year we added a theme for the school year, something we want to focus on as a family throughout the coming year. Our theme for this year is: "Be a Builder".

We took some time to explain to the kids what this means. We built a little tower of blocks and talked about all the things we could do to help "Be a Builder". How it takes time and effort to build something great. How we want to be people who build things, not tear things down. We talked about how to help build others, both at home and at school. How we need each person's help to build our family. And most importantly, how to build their brains (did anyone else read Nurture Shock? There is a great chapter about teaching kids that their brains are a muscle that needs to be worked... not that some kids are just born smart).

I printed out "Be a Builder" signs and placed them on each plate, and asked each person to put their sign somewhere in their room to help them remember our theme. The kids have it on their bulletin boards, I have mine on my bathroom mirror. I also printed a big version for the door to the garage, so the kids see it as they walk out the door. To be honest, I think it is helping me the most. It can be hard to Be a Builder, to remember to build my children up (rather than focus on all their little mistakes)... but I am trying.

We had pulled pork sandwiches for dinner with some homemade coleslaw, and corn on the cob and watermelon. The most exciting part of dinner for the kids was the shrimp cocktail, which won a lot of points for presentation (i.e. hanging them on the side of a glass bowl). My 7 year old said "I've seen this before... like in movies, but I never knew we could do it in real life!!". I followed Ina's recipe for Roasted Shrimp Cocktail, and though the cocktail sauce was a little spicy for the kids, the shrimp were a big part of making it feel like a "special" dinner. Instead of boiling the shrimp (or buying it pre-cooked at the store), you roast the shrimp with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.. simple and delicious and sure to grace our table again sometime in the near future.



Ten years ago I watched the towers fall from my office on East 43rd Street. I had gotten to work a little early that morning and walked into the elevator with our Style Director. He told me someone had just flown a plane into one of the twin towers.

I remember how normal everything felt up until that moment. My typical morning subway ride, my short walk across Bryant Park into our building. And then suddenly everything was different.

We headed to an office we knew had a television. By the time we got upstairs the second tower had been hit. Our offices were on the 24th Floor and faced south, so we could see the Empire State Building out the window, and behind it, the twin towers. I remember looking at the television screen and seeing the smoke billowing out of the towers, and then looking out the window and seeing it in real life. It looked fake, like I was watching a movie.

I went to my desk to try and call my mom in California, I knew she would be worried even though I was more than 50 blocks away. While we were talking, I watched the first tower crumble and fall. I said "Mom, the tower... it's gone." And she said "No, no.. I'm watching the news right now and it's standing." "No mom, it's gone."

A co-worker and I climbed over my desk and opened the window so we could get onto the balcony that ran along our floor. She was crying. She kept asking, "My friend works on the 48th floor. Do you think he got out?" I remember trying to do the math in my head, the towers were 100 or so stories high, and I was thinking of how many people were on each floor, and how there was no way everyone could have gotten out before the collapse.

We were standing there watching the smoke when the second tower fell.

I was worried about my boyfriend, who worked ten blocks north of the towers. Cell phone service was spotty and I finally got in touch with him.. he was safe and walking north. We decided to meet at my old apartment in Hell's Kitchen where my roommate still lived, since there was no way to get to my new apartment in Brooklyn. I was finally able to get home near midnight, once a few of the subways lines were up and running. The streets were covered in ash and debris from the buildings.

I had been living in the city for over three years, but I became a New Yorker that day.

Three months later my boyfriend and I got engaged down by the water's edge in Brooklyn, staring at the skyline that was now forever different. A few years ago we left New York for California, with our two children in tow. This morning I watched my baby girl take some of her very first steps, and I thought about how much has changed in ten years.

I posted this photo back in 2008, when my blog was only a few weeks old and had about 15 readers (most of which were related to me). I hope you don't mind me showing it again, this was the view from my office window. You can see the twin towers standing behind the Empire State Building.


R.O.D. (Rules of Dinner)

Jenny over at Dinner A Love Story asked me to share our rules for family dinner. My favorite is Rule No. 2 "The Table is a Safe Place". This was a phrase my mother invented, and she used it often at our dinner table when I was growing up. Dinner time is sacred, and only nice things are said at the table. You may want to remind your son to put his bike away, or talk to your daughter about her lackluster performance in Algebra.. but wait until after dinner. Siblings don’t bicker, parents don’t lecture. The table is a safe place.

You can check out all 10 of our Rules of Dinner here. Dinner: A Love Story has become one of my favorite places for new recipes and just great ideas about family dinner in general. Jenny always gives recipes in a kind of honest short hand that I love. So in her honor, I will share one of our favorite dinners this summer.. Roasted Salmon with Fresh Corn Salad.

Roasted Salmon (adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)

Preheat your oven to 450. Melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter and a little olive oil in an oven safe roasting pan. Add a handful of chopped parsley or minced shallots if you have it. Place a salmon fillet (with the skin still on) in the butter/oil, flesh side down. Roast in the oven about five minutes, then flip the salmon and roast 4 to 5 minutes longer until it feels done. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and serve immediately. Buttery and delicious and my new favorite way to cook salmon.

Fresh Corn Salad (from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)

Boil 4 to 5 ears of corn in salted water for just a few minutes, drain in cold water. Set aside to cool. Finely chop about 1/2 a red onion and add in the corn kernels (I cut them off the cob with a knife right into the bowl). Add a few tablespoons of cider vinegar (I've also used red wine vinegar in a pinch), and an equal amount of olive oil (like 2-3 tablespoons of each). Season with salt and pepper. Grab a handful of fresh basil leaves and roll them like a cigar and cut them into little ribbons. Sprinkle the basil on right before serving.

Serve with some fresh fruit and maybe some good crusty bread. This is a meal that everyone in our house likes.. and one that only requires about 10 minutes of actual cooking! Win-win!


bottle cap labels

JR celebrated a big birthday a few weeks ago, and he's notoriously hard to buy gifts for. The kids and I thought long and hard about what to get him and decided to give him a collection of different gourmet root beers. JR really likes a good root beer (his favorite right now is Virgil's). Because JR was turning 40, we collected 40 different kinds and added a numbered label to the top of each bottle cap.

We printed the numbers out on label paper (I use the Avery full page sheets that you feed into an inkjet printer) and then punched them out with a 1" circle punch. Luckily all bottle caps seem to be right around 1" wide. While we were getting the bottles ready my five year old Bee remarked, "This is going to be a lot of work when dad turns 100!".

Letters could work too, you could spell out a message or just say "Happy Birthday". If you'd like to make some of your own bottle cap labels, I've made a two page file you can download here. Numbers are on the first page (up to 50) and letters on the second page (which includes two of almost all the letters in the alphabet). Happy Birthday JR! You're going to let me help you drink some of that root beer, right?


heather ross for walden surfboards

It's nice to be friends with Heather Ross. For one thing, she always knows where really good food can be found (and if you're lucky, she'll share with you). Also, she is a fantastically funny storyteller, which you already know if you are a reader of her blog. And she's super entertaining to travel with (I once saw her catch a frog with her bare hands to use as a prop on a photo shoot, true story!). But the best part of being friends with Heather is that sometimes she asks you to help her on really fun projects.

When Heather asked me to help her design some surfboards using her artwork for Walden Surfboards, I was thrilled. Looking through Heather's artwork, we knew the mermaids were an obvious choice. You can see the original sketches we made above, before we knew the actual dimensions and sizes of the boards which would be used for the final product. Below you can see how the surfboards turned out, and you can even watch a little video of the boards in action over on the Global Surf Industries site.

One nice little touch: We asked Walden if Heather could redraw their logo so it looked a little more cohesive with these designs and Heather came up with this cute turtle. I love the way it looks on the boards and how it still relates back to the original Walden logo.

The beach was a big part of my childhood in Southern California, and though I'm not a surfer myself, I've always been surrounded by that culture. My family and I left New York several years ago and moved back west, and it's been so nice to be close to the beach again. My children love the ocean, just like I did when I was a kid. They can spend all day making sandcastles and playing with the waves, visiting the tide pools or digging for shells. There are definitely times when I miss living in the city, but during the summertime in Southern California... there's no place I'd rather be.


this week's library book

This week's library book is a classic by Bernard Waber titled Ira Sleeps Over. (As you might remember, I'm already a big fan of Bernard Waber's other series about Lyle, the Crocodile.)

A young boy named Ira has been invited to sleep over at his friend Reggie's house for his very first sleepover. But he has a dilemma: whether or not to bring along his beloved teddy bear, Tah Tah. What if Reggie thinks only babies sleep with teddy bears?

"He won't laugh," says my father.
"He won't laugh," says my mother.
"He'll laugh," says my sister. Ira decides not to take his teddy bear.

The kids have a great time until Reggie starts to tell some spooky ghost stories. Ira gets scared and wishes he had brought his teddy. Reggie then reaches into his drawer and pulls out his own teddy bear! Ira is so relieved, he runs home to get Tah Tah.

His sister says: "Reggie will laugh. You'll see how he'll laugh. He's just going to fall down laughing."
"He won't laugh," says my father.
"He won't laugh," says my mother.

"He won't laugh," says Ira.

I always love hearing about the authors of my favorite books. You can read more about Bernard Waber over on the Houghton Mifflin website. I especially liked hearing about how he got started illustrating books.

"My involvement with children's books originated with some illustrations of children I carried in my art portfolio. Several art directors suggested that my drawings seemed suited for children's books. At the same time, I was also having read-aloud sessions with my own three children. I am afraid enthusiasm for "their" books began, in fact, to cause them occasional discomfort. "Daddy, why don't you look at the grownups' books?" they once chided as I trailed after them into the children's room of our local library. Before long I was mailing out stories and ideas to publishers. Rejections followed, but after a time a cheery encouragement arrived from Houghton Mifflin Company, and to my delight, a contract was offered."

Imagine if Mr. Waber had given up when he received that first rejection letter?


bat girl

This spring we spent most of our Saturday mornings over at the baseball fields, rooting for my son C and his team. It was our first time playing little league, and Bee soon grew tired of sitting in the bleachers with me and Baby M. After talking it over with the coach (who luckily happened to be her dad) Bee deemed herself the team's "bat girl".

She would stand at the ready inside the dugout while our team was at bat, and then race out as fast as she could to pick up the bat and run it back to the dugout. (We actually had to have a few talks about slowing down and looking around because she would run smack into the next batter as he was walking to home plate.) She started wearing her own "uniform" each week, a red and white striped shirt and her brother's red soccer socks, so she would match the rest of the team.

I love Bee. She is so full of energy, so full of joy. I loved watching her big grin as she sprinted back with the bat in her hands, loved seeing her sit in the dugout with her brother, loved watching her dad help make her feel like a part of the team. As the season went on, Bee really felt like she WAS a part of the team, she would sit with the boys in the dugout and line up after the game to shake hands with the other team. We had our final awards ceremony a few weeks ago and Bee was sorely disappointed that there wasn't a trophy for her. (Luckily her mom had made award certificates for the whole team, including a special one for Bee).


happy 4th!

Inspired by our friends at Martha Stewart Living, we've organized a little bike parade with some friends from church over at our park tomorrow morning (along with some pancakes, and lots of bacon). The kids spent Friday afternoon working on their bikes, getting them just right. The printables they have over at the Martha site were super helpful (we found the spoke covers to be a bit big for kid size wheels, so we printed the artwork at 80% and trimmed the bottom point—they look pretty cool when the wheels are turning). I can't say our bikes are quite as snazzy as theirs, but the kids were thrilled with how they turned out. Here's a little tip: if you decide to weave streamers through your tires (like we did on C's bike), it's super helpful to have a second pair of hands helping so you can just pass the streamers back and forth. We cut our streamers down to about 1" wide for easier weaving.

Happy 4th!


inchmark and tinyprints

I have some exciting news.. you can now find my designs on Tiny Prints! Mostly graduation announcements for now, but my little collection will continue to grow and change as new cards are added.

Do you remember this heart themed baby shower? The invitation inspired this baby announcement (which comes in both pink and blue).

I often get emails from readers who would like to order invitations and stationery, and I've never figured out a system that worked for me (and was worth the amount of work it took for me to design, print, cut, and mail out each individual order!). I'm thrilled to be working with Tiny Prints, so I can focus on designing, and they can do what they do best — print beautiful cards (and their customer service is awesome).

I'll keep you posted as my collection grows.. holiday cards are right around the corner!