April 2, 2009

family “blending” abroad

This Saturday my husband and my seven year old son are heading to California for my son’s spring time visit with his father. Although I know these trips are needed for a flourishing relationship, I still can’t help but be teary eyed as the moment of truth approaches.

We have really made a life for ourselves here in Toulouse! Going to the “marche” on the weekends,taking our nightly walks and having our French neighbors over for dinner. I sometimes forget that there are other people waiting and longing for our return to America. It is so easy for me to become caught up in the reality that my oldest son is now a bi-lingual boy of the world! To see him get up every morning with a smile on his face to tackle a new way of learning and communicating is truly inspiring for me. I am in awe of him when we
take our evening walks and he can read the notices in the local bakeries or when he is able to give the hour of day to someone who requests it in French. I start to daydream about what would happen if we want to India, Africa or Asia together. How long would it be before he could master three languages and find “ZEN” at the young age of twelve?

Then I remember that he has a whole other family waiting breathlessly in California. His father, grandmother, uncles and cousins. How would they feel about him traveling the globe with me and only being able to see him on holidays or vacations? What if I wanted to travel to a so called “unsafe” region? Would he “fight” for him to come back to “safe” California? I am starting to realize that when my son and I hold hands on our Sunday walk or have our lunch together on Wednesdays that he is just on loan to me for a short spell. Then I have to give him up. France is AMAZING and it is easy to become smitten with this dreamy life. Being a blended family though has made me up wake up from my dream a little sooner then I would like.

As the tears flow on Saturday,I will be thinking to myself; is it really worth it?

Bises

homeward bound

In times like these, Americans are examining the value of a dollar. Whether by choice or, in increasing cases, out of necessity we are laying aside our wants to meet our needs. For many, the quick weekend getaway isn’t as easy to come by. Enter the staycation. As our economy fails, the concept has become, dare I say, en vogue. All the cool kids are doing it.

That’s just the line I gave my husband to convince him to give it a shot. It worked. One Friday, he took the day off (rare) and we ventured into the city (rarer still) with Annie P.

Atlanta, often coined the capital of the New South, has much to offer the casual tourist. One of its newest attractions is the Georgia Aquarium. Touted the world’s largest, we couldn’t think of a better place to take a kid who just learned to point at everything she sees than to a record sized fish bowl. Ordinarily, my husband and I prefer a more ‘off the beaten path’ itinerary for our adventures. But kids love animals, and who would deny Annie P the pleasure of seeing the biggest fish in the world, a whale shark, because the place might be overrun with tourists? After all, we ourselves would be tourists if even for a day.

The place was packed. No matter. Annie P is small. I just made my way to the front of the displays and we had a blast watching her animated face. She had fun, thus we had fun. After our fill, we headed across the street to Atlanta’s location of a famous Boston-based restaurant my husband and I enjoy. Annie P was a charmer to the wait staff and a pleasant little diner. We had lobster rolls and reminisced about our idyllic trip to Nantucket the September before our daughter joined this great big world. As we talked, I realized I truly felt as if we were on vacation, even if it was simply for the morning. The ingredients that brought our staycation together were simple. We had a destination and we took the time to enjoy it. The best part was, we still made it home for naptime.

March 30, 2009

art in the streets

Walking the streets of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is the ultimate stimulation of the senses. At any given moment, one can see soaring landscapes, hear the rhythm of a table samba streaming from a café, take in the fragrant smell of tropical flowers and dense foliage, and covering the walls of buildings are beautiful and colorful street paintings.

For a Designer, the patterns, the colors, the styles and characters are the tastiest candy an eye could see. Of course I instantly imagine a color palette, a pattern for a dress, a graphic for a tee!

shown above the Paulista Dress

Shown above the Rio Dress and the Zaba Halter Dress embroidery

Shown above the Oscar Stripe Polo

We were lucky enough to happen upon a piece done by Sao Paulo Artists Os Gemeos (the twins). Now world reknowned, these twin brother artists have come to signify brazilian graffiti art. Their artistic subject matter ranges from political statements to depicting characters from brazilian folk tales and literature.

Their work has become a huge inspiration for color palette and pattern.

Shown above the Cariocas Shirt

In an interview with Art Crimes, the twins were asked if they would ever do a children’s story book? They replied, “maybe…working with kids is very cool and rewarding.” I couldn’t agree more, I sure hope they make one.

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

featured tea retailer: fiddlesticks, san francisco, ca

Spring is here, and so is the beautiful Tea Collection – a favorite in our store here in San Francisco… especially because they are local!

Beyond coveting this brand because of their consistent & exceptional quality, as well as the cohesive theme through and through… we wanted to share some of our season’s favorites!

Spring 1 is beautiful with it’s indigo colors. The Kasato Stripe Dress and Shirt, as well as the Heitai Sweater (which has a bit of a hip spin on a classic style) have been so well received by our customers. It’s perfect for a day at the beach…and a definite must for siblings to wear
on those family photo days!

The Santa Teresa dress (in the Spring 2 delivery) is a store favorite because it’s a fantastic “girlie” summer dress and it’s a clever translation to their brazil-samba theme.

And the jeans. The price point is spot on, the quality is present and the fit is slimming. With the increase need for skinny jeans these days.

But of course, we can’t forget Daily Tea. Always a popular grab for both our mothers and those baby shower gift givers! The price point is affordable, the quality always present & the summer styles are sooooooo cute. Especially the wave pattern for boys & ALL the dresses for the girls.

We can’t wait for our summer delivery to arrive, hard to believe it’s that time of year yet again. Hello beach and all those summer getaways….

Hurray to Tea for their consistency, clever designs, & top notch quality!!!!

-Elizabeth Leu, Fiddlesticks

daily tea sets are a one-stop shop for an instant spring wardrobe

I love the new Spring Break Daily Tea sets for boys and girls. The Kiela Set offers 5 great pieces just in time for warmer weather: a short sleeve dress, a sleeveless dress, a cute tee, sporty shorts, and great layering leggings. These 5 pieces make 7 different outfit combinations- all for only $95. For boys, I recommend the Grady Set. For $129, the set includes 7 pieces that can make 11 different outfit combinations of fun graphic tees, shorts and knit pants. I especially love the short sleeve hoodie that will be a great layering piece for spring and summer.

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?