Category Archives: Discovery and Exploration

March 27, 2009

medicine mama: homemade cures

Our world is shifting and more modern moms are looking back to homemade remedies. Forget reaching for Tylenol or Vicks which seem to have mysterious side effects. I wondered why I couldn’t take these medicines while pregnant. Maybe the side effects of modern medicine are no longer worth it.

In countries where Western meds are expensive and inaccessible, women always relied on natural cures. Why not give traditional remedies a try?

 

Here are simple cures from your kitchen cabinet or garden that can help everyone in your family no matter what age.

 

- A bit of olive oil will cure baby’s cradle cap. Apply directly on the scalp and let it soak overnight.

 

-Turmeric mixed with warm milk can soothe a cough.

 

-Steam kumquats with a bit of rock sugar will relieve congestion and excess mucus in the throat.

 

-Ginger tea made simply by boiling water and fresh ginger can rid a cold or tummy ache.

 

-For insect bites or small scrapes, fresh aloe vera comes to the rescue.

 

-Drizzle cornstarch on a skin rash and it will go away.

 

-Place a bundle of fresh lavender on the bedside to relax and sleep tight.

 

-Black sesame seeds are known to help children who may wet the bed. Roast the seeds and sprinkle them over dinner.

For further reading on holistic cures, I recommend reading The Book of Herbal Wisdom.

 


Please share your family remedies with us too!

 

 

decorating

I’ve heard that a child’s IQ is actually increased if they are exposed to as many different things as possible in the world around them. I love for my daughter Zoe to be exposed to different styles from all around the world. This is why I am absolutely in love with Tea clothing for her. It is also why when decorating Zoe’s room I decided to draw in art and other design elements from different parts of the world.

On one wall I hung a beaded folk-art tapestry from Haiti that I bought in New Orleans years ago. It is a picture of an angel and a very sweet image for a baby’s room. On another wall I put two paintings that my parents and I brought back from China when I was thirteen years old. I remember at the time that my mom said they’d be great in a child’s room someday. I had forgotten about them until after Zoe was born when my mom took them out and suggested that they be hung in Zoe’s room. The paintings show people and animals on windy roads in what looks to be a Chinese village –at work, play, home. Zoe and I love to look at them every night before she goes to bed and point out the different animals in the pictures.

On the other side of the room is a small painting from a village in India that have spent a lot of time in. It is a picture of Ganesh the elephant god and is done in the Madhubani style of painting which is common in this village. When Zoe is a little older I plan to show her this painting and others and tell her about the village and eventually I’d like to take her there. My hope is that the different styles, cultures and images in her room will help make Zoe interested in the world around her.

planting a garden

This past weekend, we spent a few hours in the backyard planting a garden with our children, Shelbi (6) and Lawrence (4). They requested that we plant a garden after watching fifth-graders breaking ground with First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. So on Saturday morning, we went to the local nursery and selected beets, carrots, red bell peppers and several herbs to plant. The kids got a kick out of selecting plants and painting flower pots for the herbs. As we were digging in soil and determining how far apart to place seeds, I realized that the act of planting a garden is educational in many ways.

By planting a garden, our children are getting a new appreciation for where their food comes from. They have always known that it does not grow at Publix, but now they understand the work that is involved with growing a vegetable from a mere seed. We also taught them how nutritious organically grown vegetables are and that any chemicals used on our seedlings will ultimately become a part of our vegetables.

We’re also teaching our children that they are doing something good for the environment. Even buying veggies from the local farmer’s market reduces the emissions created in transporting fruits and vegetables from distant locations. Growing vegetables in our own backyard is a wonderful way to participate in an ecologically beneficial activity.

Creating a garden was also a fun family activity. We had such a great time playing in the dirt and the water that my husband and I felt like kids ourselves. And one final perk – planting a garden is relatively inexpensive. The price of soil and seeds is negligible compared to the benefits of the garden itself. And in 40 – 60 days, we hope to see even more fruit (or in this case, veggies) of our labor!

learning: living abroad in france

Who says having a family settles you down? It certainly is not a philosophy that I live my life by. Even though I have three very active boys I still love to go dancing with my girlfriends. I take in the occasional Broadway show and I still enjoy those late nights alone with my husband. Because of this care free type of attitude, I found myself being whisked away from California to one of the most romantic countries on earth with three kids in tow: France.

Sabbatical is the reason I find myself here with my family. Two years in Toulouse France to experience another culture and see where life will take us. My husband, having worked for five full years at Stanford University without having “visited” another campus (something that is quite normal in his line of work, finally got sabbatical. He was all too happy to have a “rest” from the rigors of his daily life. I, having fallen in love with Paris the prior year, was surprised with a round trip ticket in the summer to have a two week break from the boys. I was also grateful for a break from the normal routine when I learned of our move to France. The fact that both of us, born with “gypsy blood”, could actually do something adventurous with our lives while still being able to feed our children, felt like opportunity of a lifetime.

From day one everything about moving to France has been out of our control. This has the fact ruling our move abroad. It is also the one that continues to test our true character. I was due to deliver my third child two months before our departure. Being left at the mercy of not knowing when I would deliver the baby, there was the possibility that my husband would have to go to Toulouse first. We would follow later after the baby had been born. After all, he had to start his job! The next issue came in the way of passports and visas. The new baby was not born yet so of course he could not get a passport or visa until the last minute! In the mean time we had to book tickets to France. We floated on a wing and a prayer and payed the money for the five of us to fly across the Atlantic. The biggest issue of all was my oldest son from a previous relationship. His father, who was upset we moved from Palo Alto from Berkeley, certainly would not want us to move to France.

In the end, though, the baby came early. We all got our visas the same day we went to the office to apply and I came to an agreement of a temporary change in custody with my eldest son. We were all able to leave sunny California together and brave the snowy winter of the North and South of France.

Yes, I said North and South. While we did stay together our first weekend in France, my husband went
on to the South to start work while the boys and I stayed on a “holiday” of sorts. Everyones’ spirits were very high and everything was fascinating and new. Oh, how I enjoyed myself. The cafes, the restaurants and the night life. Tres bien. Being a seasoned parent you would think that my eyes would have been wide open, so to speak, of how my experience would be with three little boys versus being alone. I think I must have been caught up in the whole move and the glamorous notion of France. I thought to myself I will take the boys out to the cafes, we will walk the streets of Paris at night and maybe even catch a little bit of theatre.

When my husband left, I realized that I was in Paradise with three little boys staying in a beautiful STUDIO apartment for three weeks ALONE!! Alone with the kids, I think I experienced a bit of culture shock with a dash of postpartum depression added for good measure. That is the only way to describe how a city that I loved one minute became a city that I loathed the next. If I heard one more person speak French to me or have one more person not understand the words coming out of my mouth, I was going to scream. If I smelled another cigarette or had to tackle another raining day alone with the boys, I was going to get a one way ticket back home to California.

The boys on the other hand were having a blast! My oldest son was so happy to be out of school for a short time, that we could have been in the middle of the desert and he would have still been happy. My middle son was still on a high from the plane and train rides that we had taken thus far. The baby, well, he was just happy to be nursing! I was really surprised to be honest. I thought it would be the other way
around. That I would have to encourage them into adapting into their new surroundings.

The boys dove right into the culture. Eating baguettes, getting around on foot or metro and saying Bonjour. These things were slowly becoming second nature for them. We celebrated Halloween in Paris. We found this
wonderful library called The American Library In Paris. They were handing out candies to the children and even let the boys make little pumpkins to take home with them. It is a Halloween that we will never forget! They were the only children dressed up that day and it was raining. I thought they would be a little disappointed but the were so happy.

That’s when it hit me. I do not need to have control over everything. This experience is about once in a life time moments. Whether it be being the only ones dressed up for Halloween or not being able to order a chicken properly in the native tongue. Or that your husband is five hours away from you in a new country and you feel so lonely that you just want to cry. Embrace it all. The uncomfortable times and the happy times. These are what we will take back with us when we leave and what will help to shape our memories of this extraordinary adventure. My children taught me my first lesson on this journey, it is one of many that we have learned together so far.

More to come on our adventure living abroad in France…
Bises!!

March 19, 2009

obama arms

A friend of mine from college today put on her facebook status update, “I’m working on my Obama arms.”

I knew instantly what she meant. Those sculpted, toned, always in a sleeveless dress arms that make me drool and lift 10 more reps when I’m at the gym. I want those arms too.

Earlier this week I read an article by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times that brought up the idea that people thought that Michelle Obama should cover up her arms. Enough already, they said. We’ve seen “thunder and lightening,” she should cover up already. (if you have been living under a rock for the past 3 years, her arms are quite the toned arms, the envy of many!)

Uhhh…what???? Are we not in 2009?

Michelle Obama is a mom, a Harvard graduate, a multi-tasker, the first lady, and the inspiration to millions of women around the world. Why should she cover up her arms? They are just one more reason why I love her. Many people think that her husband Barack is an inspiration to all because he allows many people believe that they too can be president one day. Well…you know what???…I’m not one of those people. I never thought or will think that I can be president.

But I look at Michelle Obama and I think…I can be that mom. A good example, a volunteer, a compassionate and supportive partner, and a hot mama…I can be her.

Michelle…you hear me…don’t you dare fall prey to the critics. Don’t cover up those arms. Just like the education and degrees you have worked so hard for and show with pride. Flash those puppies, wear those sleeveless dresses, and give me inspiration each time I go to the gym.

I’m off in the morning to work on my Obama arms. Are you going to join me?

March 13, 2009

family heirlooms

As winter took one last punch at the eastern half of the US last week, we found ourselves traveling under unusual circumstances. My husband’s grandmother passed away a week short of her 101st birthday. With the funeral in Ohio and a reception in South Florida, packing proved challenging. We would be leaving our home in the Deep South for two distinct climates. I had some decisions to make regarding wardrobe; for starters, what should a baby wear to a funeral? I also struggled with how I would keep a baby with a southern winter wardrobe warm. I didn’t have to think long to come up with an answer.

Grandma was an amazing woman. Raised as an Orthodox Jew in rural Ohio, she saw her share of prejudice and hardship. She lived through the Great Depression and World War II. She saw her youngest daughter head south with her new husband, a Catholic no less, to tackle the Civil Rights Movement. That girl went on to have three sons, the last one my husband.

Through her 100 years, there was one thing her family and friends could count on. Grandma would crochet them an afghan. A woman with a sense of joy and much love, the blankets she created felt alive with her memories. She made them in all shapes and sizes, in all colors. We personally have six in our household and we love each of them. I feel overwhelmingly blessed that Annie P was able to meet Grandma and receive an afghan of her own. When we stepped out on a bleak winter day to say goodbye, Annie P wasn’t cold as she snuggled under her great grandmother’s gift.

We were fortunate to make it to Florida before the snow and got a couple of extra days down there as a result. But as the mourners returned to their homes in places up and down the east coast and the weather took a turn, they reached for their afghans. My husband’s mother and her sister received call after call from people to tell them they were finding comfort under their blankets, in more ways than one. Grandma left a legacy in her afghans, one we will hold onto for years to come.

This made me think about the things we hold dear. Some of the most prized memories of a family are woven, crocheted or sewn. The 103 year old dress Annie P wore for her baptism was first worn by my mother’s grandmother. The care we took in dressing, and undressing, her is a testament to the place the gown has in our family. After my wedding, I painstakingly preserved my dress with the notion that perhaps one day my daughter would take it out and want to wear it. Or just look at it.

Gloves, hats, quilts, tablecloths, pillow cases. Each woven heirlooms of what we’re made of, or where we come from. Sometimes when I’m dressing Annie P, I wonder which pieces of her clothing I’ll hold onto and why. Aside from aesthetics, maybe I’ll save the outfit she’s wearing when she finally walks, or her dress from the first day of kindergarten. Maybe a blouse I adore will be ruined beyond repair. So I’ll snip a small piece of it and save it in a drawer. Over time, it will become a part of a collection. Maybe I’ll turn that collection into an heirloom for Annie P And along with her afghan, I’ll keep them safe until she needs them.

a global take on an american tradition

A Great Baby Shower FavorThere’s very few American traditions I enjoy more than a good old-fashioned baby shower — complete with wonderfully useful (and a few useless) gifts for a first-time Mom. I recently planned an intimate baby shower that blended a traditional high tea shower with South Asian flair — the application of mehndi for the expecting Mom and shower guests.

About Mehndi
Mehndi or Mehendi is the application of henna as temporary body art. Evidence suggests that mehndi originated from India but it is also deeply engrained in the history and culture of people in other South Asian countries, North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Mehndi is traditionally applied as part of a wedding ceremony in India. When traveling in Goa a few years ago, I learned we could easily identify a newly married woman by her intricately designed arms and hands.

Mehndi is also a part of other special occassions live the birth of a baby, engagements, holidays or other family get-togethers. In Arabic speaking countries mehndi is part of celebrations of a woman’s seventh month of pregnancy.

Three Reasons Mehndi Is Great for a Baby Shower

  • It’s beautiful and personal to each guest – some Moms at the shower I just organized very cleverly had the names of their husbands and children worked into the intricate designs they selected.
  • As the henna gradually fades away, guests are reminded of the guest of honor’s upcoming joys and challenges.
  • Henna is cooling and soothing. Just this small amount on my hand had a great overall chill-out effect.

If you’re looking for a henna artist in the NYC area, check out Ammara at NY Henna – you can find her on Facebook as Ammara Nyhenna. Facebook also has a great Mehndi Lovers Group which contains listings for artists across the country and around the world.