name that kid

Last weekend my husband and I were in charge of putting on our church Christmas party. We usually have a family party, with a visit from Santa Claus, but this year we decided to have an adult only sit down dinner. We hoped it would give people a chance to mingle and get to know one another, more so than when we are busy running after our children.

We knew we needed a game of some sort to kind of bring the party together. So we asked everyone to email a Christmas photo from their childhood, and we used a projector to project the pictures on the wall. They were numbered, so everyone had a card numbered 1-50, and you had to write down who you thought each kid was. We laughed at how easy we could recognize certain people because their children look exactly like them when they were kids. A box of Trader Joes peppermint Jo-Jos was our prize for the winner.

I think this would work well for a Christmas party at home, and you wouldn't need a projector. Just have people bring a photo with them in an envelope (so people don't see who brought which photo), then arrange them on a wall or table along with numbers and have everyone write down who they think is who.

We loved seeing so many photos from Christmases past.. sitting on Santa's lap, acting out the nativity, decorating the Christmas tree, leaving cookies for Santa. It made me realize the importance of documenting these moments with my own kids... to help them remember what Christmas was like when they were a kid.

A special thank you to my friends who let me post their photos here!


the christmas toys

This is how I find Bee most mornings.. downstairs in the family room playing with our Christmas toys, still in her pajamas. Breaking out the Christmas boxes is always fun, the kids love to see the ornaments and the lights and our growing collection of Christmas books (we add one new book each year). But the most anticipated boxes are the ones which hold our Christmas toys.

My sister-in-law has started a lovely tradition, which I believe was started in her family a while back. Each year, around the first week in December she sends our family a package that reads "Do not wait until Christmas! Open immediately!". And inside is some sort of Christmas toy. When my children were smaller she gave us a new Little People set each year, first the nativity.. then Santa and his reindeer, next the Christmas village. (Word to the wise: Most of these play music of some sort, so we have an Only-One-Toy-Has-Batteries-at-a-Time Rule. Trust me, you'll want to do likewise.) This year she sent the Playmobil nativity set (which I have had my eye on for quite a while.. it is awesome!).

The kids love their Christmas toys, perhaps because they are only out for a few weeks each December and are then packed away with the other decorations. (And I love that the kids are happily occupied for a bit so I can get a few items crossed off my To Do list!)


on keeping calm

It's December! And somehow that makes my heart beat a little bit faster. The list in my head is growing longer and longer each day (get the Christmas tree, put up the decorations, design the Christmas cards, finish the shopping, frost the christmas cookies, mail the presents, etc. etc. etc.)

I love Christmas. I always have. But Christmas as a mother of three is leaving me a little breathless. There is a fine line between making Christmas a special time filled with fun activities and family events, and making Christmas a harried season that's too busy and filled with stress.

So my mantra this Christmas season is to keep things calm. I am trying to be more intentional about how we celebrate this year. Choosing carefully the things we will take on as a family, skipping things I feel will add stress to the holidays and focusing on the simple things that we can do together.

My list is looking like this now: Hang the advent calendar. Trim the tree. Find some small acts of service for those in need. Read the Christmas story as a family. Mail our packages early. Enjoy our week of being still.

I will still want to make Christmas cookies with the kids, and hand sew a doll for Bee, and sew pajamas for the kids (all those years at Martha Stewart are still with me). But I will choose carefully the projects I take on, and if I feel the stress rising, I will put things aside. I don't want my children to look back at holidays and remember a mother who was stressed and crazed and taking on way too much.

If anything, I want the days surrounding Christmas to have a special feeling. Calm. Peaceful. Loving. And that is how I would like my children to remember their mother at Christmas too. (Why is this harder than it sounds?)


preschool co-op

Bee went to a traditional preschool last year and loved it, but when I heard some friends were organizing a preschool co-op, I decided to try it. We've been having a Monday morning playgroup with these same kids for two years now, so all the children are buddies, all the moms are well acquainted with each child's personality, and the kids feel really comfortable at each home. (And I should mention that all of the moms in this co-op are pretty amazing, so I knew Bee was in good hands.)

A few details, in case you're interested:

-There are five children in our co-op, and all are 4 to 5 years old and starting kindergarten next Fall. (I think 5 kids is the perfect size for a class).

-We teach in two week rotations, two days a week for three hours, rotating houses. (It makes for a busy two weeks, but once you're in the preschool mode it's nice to stay in it for a while and then you have a little break before you teach again a few months later.)

-We follow a pretty detailed schedule so that the structure of the day stays the same no matter who is teaching. The kids are really into the order of things, and can usually tell you what we're going to do next.

-We're basing our curriculum on children's books. A new book each week which helps you figure out your art or science projects. For example, I just taught Where the Wild Things Are, so during the week we made Wild Thing masks, talked about manners and how we are not Wild Things, learned all about seeds and how things grow (like the jungle growing in Max's room), and for music had a wild rumpus dance party.

Last week we focused on Thanksgiving, and I chose the book The Story of the Pilgrims. It's not a complete history lesson, but it was perfect for this age group. During the week we learned about the pilgrims and the indians (aka Native Americans), focused on being thankful, baked pumpkin muffins, made Thankful trees with paper leaves, and dressed up as pilgrims and indians for a feast.

I remembered these paper bag vests from an old Halloween costume we did at Martha Stewart Kids, and the kids had fun fringing the bottoms and decorating their vests. We strung indian necklaces (cheerios on some yarn) and made feather headbands (grosgrain ribbon with a slit cut in it for a feather).

We also made these super easy pilgrim bonnets and hats, so the children could decide whether they wanted to be a pilgrim or an indian for our feast.

The kids and I are in charge of the decorations for the kids table at Grandma and Grandpa's this year, and I'm thinking these would be awfully cute at each place setting. Bee and C will have way too much fun chasing their cousins around while we finish dinner.

Family nearby, good food, happy kids.. all things I am truly thankful for.


a birth announcement for baby m

Since sweet Baby M arrived early, I thought a postal theme might be nice for her baby announcements. Just a little postmark with her name and birthday (I've changed some information here for privacy, including her name). I kept it simple.. letterpressed in gray, with a lined red and blue striped envelope.

My friend Sue Corral at Page Stationery printed these for me. Back when we were both art directors at Martha Stewart, Sue showed me the ropes, and then she left to do what every art director dreams of doing: starting her own stationery company. Page Stationery is now 11 years old, and Sue has perfected the art of letterpress printing. I love the nice thick card they use, so the letterpress makes a nice deep impression. (You can see their pretty holiday cards here..)

Lining envelopes always makes things feel special. I printed this striped pattern myself, but you can line an envelope with wrapping paper, colored glassine, old maps, copies of blown up photos, etc. I always use this tutorial, which uses a glue stick (I like to use a spare catalog for scrap paper, turning a page for each envelope so you don't get any glue residue on the next one).

So when is it too late to send out baby announcements? I always like to wait a few months to take a birth announcement photo. My babies tend to look like scrawny old men for the first few weeks, then get progressively cuter as they put a little chub on. Three months is my favorite age for pictures... you can get them to smile on cue, yet they still have that sweet new baby feel. I got these announcements out the door when Baby M was 4 months old, and they are mostly sent to friends and family who live far away and have not seen her, so I'm calling it good.

Now on to the Christmas cards!


a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

There seems to be two constants in my sons life: legos and Star Wars. Other toys come and go, but he always returns to those two. So I wasn't totally shocked when C told me he wanted to be Luke Skywalker for Halloween.

We always try to make our costumes from stuff around the house. And if we do need to buy something, I try to make it something that will go in our dress up box after Halloween. The boot covers gave me a little trouble, but all in all, this was a pretty easy costume. We borrowed a karate shirt from a friend (a few sizes too big so it hangs down like Luke's), grabbed some tan cords we already had, and made some boot covers and a belt out of some tan felt.

The poses C came up with are awesome, I think he's been practicing these for a while.

My daughter Bee had specific instructions for her costume. "Princess Leia, but not when she's wearing a dress... like when she's a fighter." I can't recall Princess Leia actually wearing this outfit, but Bee thought it was perfect.

We found some cream colored long underwear for $8 at Target, we made a cape out of some cream fleece and boot covers from brown felt, and I happened to have a white yoga belt that we wrapped around her a few times. We put her hair in buns, and handed her a Nerf gun.

Baby M joined the group as Yoda, wisest of the Jedi's. We already had a light green onesie and pants, and a brown wooly cardigan. I cut some ears out of green felt and sewed them to a light green pilots cap (a hand me down from Bee). I wish I had a photo I could show you.. the serious little faces Baby M makes were perfect for a wise Jedi master.

Just your average brother and sister team taking on the Empire. Happy Halloween!


potted pumpkin pies

My friend asked me to make little potted pumpkin pies for her witch party last weekend. They were super easy to make and look great in a big stack! I think these would be a nice addition at a Halloween party or to add a little twist to Thanksgiving dinner.

Make your favorite pumpkin pie recipe (I used this recipe from Everyday Food). I doubled the recipe which gave me enough filling for roughly 20 little mason jars. Fill the jars, stopping about 3/4" from the top. Bake at the usual temperature, but start watching them carefully after about 25 minutes since they won't take as long to bake as a pie. Pull them out when the center seems set (mine took about 35 minutes). Let cool for an hour or so, then throw them in the fridge while you make the whipped cream.

The whipped cream recipe includes a bit of unflavored gelatin, which you dissolve in some water and then fold in. I worried this would change the texture of the cream, but not to worry, the whipped cream was delicious and the gelatin helps it keep its shape so it doesn't fall the way ordinary cream would when left out for a bit. Spoon some cream into each of your jars, filling all the way up to the top, and screw on your lid. Return your jars to the fridge until you are ready to serve. These can be made up to a day ahead.

A few shortbread cookies or ginger snaps would be nice for a little crunch.


the witching hour

First, an apology: These photos don't do justice to this beautiful party. Everything was so lovely in real life, and I'm sorry that I couldn't capture it better with my camera (low light and I do not get along!).

My friend Aleisha has started a new Halloween tradition, a witch party she calls "The Witching Hour". The invite read "Leave your warlocks at home, don your most bewitching attire and come revel in an enchanting ghouls' night filled with a sinister supper and wicked company. Brooms and black cats will be checked at the door. A prize will be awarded for the most spellbinding hat." A baked potato bar was served for dinner. Friends gathered in the backyard around a glowing fire, decked out in black (think striped tights, pointy hats, and lots of black tulle!).

For dessert, I brought some little pots of pumpkin pie (served in tiny mason jars). There were delicious raspberry bars and marshmallows for s'mores to be roasted on the fire.

Little hand pies were left at the door as a favor "for the flight home".


a quilt for baby M

My mother deserves all the credit for this beautiful little quilt. She let me help pick out the fabrics, but she cut and stitched and pinned and quilted it all on her own. And I LOVE it. When I look at this quilt I see my mother in it, her perfect corners and her neat rows. It's as if she stitched a bit of herself into each little triangle. My little girl is so very lucky.

The pattern we chose is the Flock of Triangles quilt from Denyse Schmidt's beautiful book, and I've been wanting to make it for years. I have a weakness for bold quilts with simple, geometric patterns, especially when they are on a white ground.

I've been taking weekly and monthly photos of Baby M on this blanket, and I love seeing how big she's growing. When I started she was only about five triangles tall, and now she's almost eight!

The photo above was from Week 2, back when Baby M was still on a breathing monitor due to her early delivery. I'm happy to share that the monitor is long gone and that her legs have now probably tripled in size. She is a chubby happy three month old, and we about die each and every time she smiles.


color story #8

My sweet mom offered to make a quilt for Baby M before she was born. Since I've made a few quilts myself, I realize how much time they take and so I knew what a special gift this would be.

My mom and I headed up to Purl Soho's warehouse to pick out some fabric together. When I moved from New York three years ago I was especially sad to leave the Purl stores on Sullivan Street, but lucky for me, their warehouse happens to be here in Southern California. (And did you know that the warehouse is open to the public? You can stop by from 9 AM to 2:30 PM, Tuesday through Friday.)

We went with shades of red on a white ground (more of a natural white, almost cream) and tried to stay with simple, geometric patterns: stripes, dots, and grids.