August 10, 2009

to the market we go

Take two … back to the INA Market as we were having fish for dinner last night.  This ain’t your neighborhood Krogers or Giant Eagle, people.
In an effort to hopefully somewhat adequately describe this experience … I can tell you that INA is a closed market (not open air) and has what seems to be hundreds of shops.

From plasticware to shoes, saris and fabrics, vegetables, meat, fish (both live and already processed), live animals, cheeses, grains, spices, stationery, even “American” items like Lucky Charms and Jiff peanut butter.

There are no spiffy clean tile floors, no shopping carts and orderly shopping.  There is no hand sanitizer when you first enter, and there is definitely no elevator music to lull your ears while you shop.

There is no mindless shopping here either … you don’t have aisles and aisles and shelves upon shelves to choose from, while on the other hand, there are some instances of MORE than you could ever imagine to choose from.

As you walk through the maze of shops, shop owners call out to you “Need something today, madam?”  or “What can I get for you, madam?”  It is a noisy experience.  Bargaining and negotiation for the best price is a constant.

The smell is pretty hard to convey.  Tony had a VERY hard time in this environment because of the smell and the heat.  As an adult, I have been able to mentally push past the smells.  It is a combination of all of those spices, the fresh meat, the animals (and all that comes with animals in containers), loads of hot/sweaty bodies, and simply the smell of India, etc. all combines for a pretty powerful sensory overload.

As we walked by the chickens, ducks, roosters and fish — the kids said “awwwwww mom … look at the animals!”

Little did they know that if they wanted chicken for dinner, one less “cute little animal” would still be sitting in that cage.

This catfish … was a rather hysterical story.  A woman had asked to purchase a catfish … once wrangled out of the blue bucket, he somehow escaped from his plastic bag (en route to be … well … ready to take home for dinner).  He flopped around the market floor for what seemed like an hour as all of the shop owners chased him around.  The kids found THIS rather amusing.

Oh … the fabrics…  I think I’ve gone to heaven.  I can NOT wait until my sewing machine arrives!

I’m going to enjoy our times at the markets!  I am looking forward to trying out Khan, Nehru Place and Daali Haat (forgive my spelling?) after the kids start school!

What is something “outside the box” that you might try with your children? Something outside of their comfort zone … outside of their bubble of normal?

August 7, 2009

an easy way to trick your toddlers into eating veggies

snap peas

One of the best things I did this year was to plant a garden. I know I’ve become one of the many millions to create a no-frills backyard garden to help alleviate the price of produce at the grocery store. But sadly I’ve seen very little in the way of crops in exchange for the time, effort and water I’ve invested but I can attest that it has proven to be a great way to help me relax during particularly stressful days.

I say it is one of the best things not because it has eased my stress and made me relax but more for the way that it has proven to be a great tool for introducing vegetables to my twin toddlers.

The other day we finally had a few pea pods ready for picking, the girls were so excited and anxious as they have invested just as much time and care into the garden as myself. On a regular basis they help with the watering, weed picking, and day-to-day inspections. I was shocked when they both insisted on eating the raw peas straight out of the pod. There were a total of five peas for the three of us to divide amongst ourselves and the girls were not satisfied with their measly two apiece. They eagerly asked for more and I was disappointed at the lack of production from the garden, especially when they were so keen to eat something nutritional. Something that I had offered on their plates at mealtime at least 200 times since they started eating solids, the peas were always rejected whether in the mush or solid forms.

While at the grocery store, supplementing my lack of vegetable production, I had the novel idea of picking up a bag of frozen edamame. This was one of my favorite foods while frequenting the sushi restaurants during my previous life as a career woman. I cooked the bag the very same night and placed them into a bowl at my place assuming I would be the only one that would indulge in the protein-filled wonders. But as soon as the girls laid eyes on them they giggled gleefully. Then followed, “yeah we have more peas from the garden.” I thought about it for one short second and decided it wasn’t worth making the correction.

August 6, 2009

indigo arts: a true love affair

tn_everyday-charm

In our travels, we fell in love with the subtle characteristics of Japanese culture.  We discovered exquisite vintage textiles in a quaint Kyoto gallery. We met a modest artisan who is revered for his heritage, knowledge and talent. And we became infatuated with small, independent design houses featuring clothes for a relaxed lifestyle.  This fall, we’ve created a collection of children’s clothes that expresses the grace and style of Japanese culture, especially the honored use of indigo dye.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved the raw beauty of indigo.  I’ve watched it age, growing richer in its blue hues, softening to the touch, but retaining its strength.  For me, indigo is an emotional inspiration because of its glorious, ancient origins, and how I’ve seen the Japanese render it today into a high quality, casual fashion.
In Kyoto, we visited the Aizenkobo Indigo Workshop where an artist revealed more to us about the dye than I ever knew.  In its natural form, indigo doesn’t burn.  It is rare to find such textural beauty and strength together.  In the 18th century, Japanese firefighters wore indigo-dyed garments because of its protective ability.  One of my favorite travel pictures is Laura Boes in the antique firefighter’s coat from the Edo period. 

Shibori is another traditional craft that is much like tie dye. Cotton fabrics are soaked up to 20 times, or even 40 times for silk, to achieve the deep blue-violet color.  Artists, then, painstakingly string-tie miniscule knots around pinches of the dyed fabric, creating a small-dotted circle shape. Thousands of these knots evolve into a sea of repeating geometric motifs that can cover the entire piece of cloth. 

Because of the arduous and expensive process, most of the world uses synthetic indigo.  However, a few Japanese artists and designers are keeping the craft alive in today’s culture.  We wanted to pay homage to this honored tradition in our boys and girls clothes.   

The Indigo Arts Collection includes great back-to-school and holiday essentials such as the Shibori Girl Dress and Top, Takayama Plaid Top and Dress  for girls and the Edo Firefighter Pullover for boys .  And we are bringing back our iconic Kimono Robe . When I see my son and other little citizens wearing it, I know that they have the softest, most quintessential piece of children’s outerwear for any time of year. 

I wish a wonderful fall season to everyone.  I look forward to your comments and hope that you will share the spirit of indigo with all who inspire you. 

-Emily

August 5, 2009

birthdays to remember

With no fanfare, no streamers, and no cheering, I am happy to finally declare that Birthday Season at our household is officially closed. After the chaotic sprint of birthday-birthday-mother’s day-birthday-father’s day-birthday, I’m done. I’m spent. I’m planned out. I have made more cupcakes that I ever thought possible, I have fashioned more paper pinwheels than is healthy, and I have cut and curled more party hats than I care to admit.

By nature, I’m a pretty lazy person who likes to keep things uncomplicated. Children’s parties for our family involve no games, no decorations to speak of, and typically no outrageous theme. They are actually just get-togethers with our friends and families that happen on or around a child’s birthday and therefore involve cupcakes for dessert. Reflecting on this year’s birthday season, I have realized that most of the parties that I have organized have followed the following set of guidelines hereby known as “Throwing a Good Enough Birthday Party for the Preschool Set.”

1. Take it outside. My kids have the good fortune (from a party planning standpoint) of being born in the warm weather months, which admittedly in the South can stretch for most of the year. All of their parties therefore have occurred outside of our tiny home—on our back deck or in neighborhood parks. Not only can your forego the silly step of tidying your home just to have it trashed by children but the cleanup is so much easier when the party is outside. No worries about spilled drinks if they just land on the deck or the picnic bench!

2. Who needs games when there are bark chips? My kids are still young and really don’t care why their friends or grandparents have come over; they are just excited that there are so many wonderful people to play with. In the absence of adult created games and contests, the kids invariably create their own: How many cousins can fit in a cardboard box? How much bark can we pile onto the slide?

3. Don’t cater to the kids. Who wants to stop and eat when there is so much fun to be had? When my kids get together with a large group of their friends, they seldom stop to eat anything beyond fresh fruit and a birthday cupcake. Instead of planning meals and snacks around things that I know they will safely eat but that I find unappealing, food at recent birthday parties has included things like gourmet pizzas with garlicky spinach and pancetta, orzo vegetable salads, and Asian style cole slaw. The adults are happy not to be dining on hot dogs, and when the kids get hungry enough, you’ll be amazed by what they will agree to eat!

4. Forget the prepackaged theme. Save yourself a lot of time, trouble, and money and resist the urge to deck out the tablecloth, napkins, and party favors with some animated character’s visage. Instead, try decorating around a simple idea like summertime or snowflakes. For my son’s summertime party, we made pinwheels out of brightly colored paper to decorate his cake and used paper goods in primary colors. We let him pick the color for his cake’s icing which resulted in a memorable yellow frosting with an odd shade of puce as the accent color. My clever sister-in-law used the time of her son’s birthday party to create a fun party—she invited kids over for a Donut Party at 9 am and asked kids to come in their pajamas for some tasty breakfast treats.

5. Start your own traditions. Before my children were even a glint in my eye, I had bought a set of wooden circus animal candle holders. I have used these animals on every one of my children’s birthday cupcakes save one cake. And you know what? That cake just didn’t seem right with the little tiger and giraffe on it. Start a tradition with your children’s birthdays, and they will always remember it as will you.

6. It’s not about you. At the end of the day, if the kids have had fun, the party was a success. Keep it all in perspective and have a great time with your family and friends!

August 4, 2009

your child is the star of this book!

my very own name bookRemember all the gifts that flood in after your child is born? There are all the tiny little onesies and the soft Daily Tea. In the midst of the sea of pink we received the sweetest gift that we will keep forever. Olivia’s namesake came up with the ultimate gift for her. A book called My Very Own Name from www.iseeme.com. The title page on the inside cover is printed with a special note to Olivia from Uncle Drake and Auntie Brandi (she’s a fine girl). In the story, the animals are in search of a name for the baby in the bassinet. Each page has an animal that brings a letter to the other animals. For example the Antelope brings an A. One by one the animals choose a name for the baby. In the end it spells out the child’s name and the animals rejoice. The bonus is that the children learn to recognize the letters and spell their names. The bonus for the parents is seeing the pure happiness of your child when they read that the special book is about them. The illustrations are beautiful and now they offer other books which I have purchased for Olivia such as My Very Own Fairy Tale which was signed by the author. I recommend joining their website at www.iseeme.com and watching for specials such as book signings.

August 3, 2009

making time

long distance relationshipWhat India has already taught me [a.k.a what I’ve learned during this move to Delhi, and how it relates to marriage as I know it … a SAHM with two littles and a big kid at home, with a very hard-working husband] :

Let’s face it and be honest … when one spouse is working and the other is at home with the kids, there never really is a “good” time to talk during the day. Truthfully, even when evening approaches, time doesn’t magically make itself available either. Even more damaging to efforts at communication is a 9.5 hour time difference.

I’ve learned that in order for communication to happen, and actually flourish, both parties have to MAKE TIME. You don’t necessarily have to make time … at the same time. But the effort does need to be made.

When you phone your husband, understand that he might not be able to make the time right at that moment. He may be in the middle of changing oil, performing a root canal, negotiating a contract or in the middle of a therapy session (or whatever it is your hubby does). You don’t have any control over how his day progresses or entails, no matter how pressing YOUR issue happens to be.

What you DO have control over though, is making time when HE calls YOU to carve out even 5 minutes to concentrate your energy on listening to what he has to say.

Yes, I know. You might be in the middle of making lunch, homework or refereeing an argument. Even more disconcerting, you may be in the process of herding your children out to the car for an outing. You may have just hung up from an hour on the phone with your electric company arguing about a bill or just finished speaking with a teacher about a behavior issue. There’s also a huge possibility that when he calls that you’re in the middle of a diaper change, cleaning up vomit from one of your pets or knee deep in laundry.

Whatever you are doing, make the conscious effort — if you can — to STOP what you’re doing … and listen. I am still working on learning how to effectively verbalize to Todd that sometimes I really can’t devote any time to a phone conversation (because of circumstances on my end of the phone) … and there are some times when he WISHES I’d just not answered the phone (when the kids are screaming banshees!).

I need to make more of an effort to explain quickly that I will be able to talk … after I finish changing a diaper, or get the kids loaded up in the car. Then I’ve effectively communicated where I’m at in my day and we can hopefully have a good conversation, maybe just a bit later in the day.

Another thing we have learned and put in place – actually long before India came about — is a “two ring system.” If I call him during the day at work and he doesn’t answer, we have put a system into place whereby I call again right away. If I’ve “rung twice,” it means that I need him to call me back ASAP, step out of a meeting, or otherwise make himself available to me.

The conversation that happens in those five minutes can either be positive or negative. Might as well give it a go to ensure that they are positive!

What tips and tricks do you have for making time in your marriages and relationships?

July 31, 2009

things we love: the orbit baby

orbit babyAs I am daydreaming about my plans (and not yet planned activities!) for the weekend and relishing in the fact that I live in a city that ALWAYS has something exciting going on, I thought of a conversation I had not too long ago with my mom.  Living in the city doesn’t afford you much square footage, so you can’t go crazy and buy every specialty gadget you see on the “As Seen on TV” commercials (like the hot dog and bun warmer I’ve been eyeing for a while!)  When I moved into my first place in the city, I had to look for household items that could play double duty.  I guess the gravy boat warmer would have to wait until I could afford a bigger place.

One big thing that I’ve learned over the years is simplicity.  As a card carrying member of the “everything but the kitchen sink sized purse” club, I’ve taken many a hard lesson on keeping things simple.  This is especially true for multitasking moms and dads who don’t have nearly enough arms (or strength!) to carry everything their busy tots need in a single day.  A great way to cut down on the clutter is with the Orbit Baby Infant System.  It’s a great system that uses a universal base that allows you to upgrade from bassinet to stroller, and also transforms into a safe and easy to install car seat. 

Leigh Rawdon, Tea’s CEO and co-founder said that the reason she loves the orbit is because it’s easy to pack and use on the run.  Her favorite feature?  The fact that you can easily open the stroller with a single hand, and take the pod off of the base to reduce the clutter when you take it into a store or cafe.  The stroller base allows the bassinet to swivel around so that you can give your little citizen a 360 view, and open their world to new sights!  Such the fan of the Orbit Baby, Leigh has been able to use it for both of her kids. 

And as if the Orbit Baby could get any better, the company has both internal and external initiatives to help save our planet and take care of the people in our communities.  Not only do they produce a baby transport system that is chemical free, eco-friendly, and safety-certified, but they also do lots to make sure that they are keeping their carbon footprint small, and give back to different initiatives that help both the children and our environment, including a recycling program for parents and kids who have outgrown their Orbit.  You can check out the full gamete of their initiatives here.  We love the Orbit Baby for those reasons and so many more, and we think you will too!

homemade popsicles

Summer’s in full swing, and we’re enjoying every minute of the nice weather. Besides taking our munchkin to the local pool/lake/beach when we can, here’s a cool, cheap and easy way to deal with the heat. One of our faves is making popsicles! A big hit with kids and adults alike.

There are probably a ton of recipes out there, but this is one I came up with that my son likes that doesn’t contain a lot of sugar. Popsicles are very forgiving so you don’t really need exact measurements; just taste to see if it’s to your liking.

Ingredients:

– diced or pureed fresh fruits (peaches, mangoes, strawberries*) or substitute pureed frozen fruit

– yogurt (we use whole milk yogurt)

– juice (we use pear or apple juice)

– a little bit of honey

Put ingredients — roughly 1/3 fruit, 1/3 yogurt, and 1/3 juice, plus a little bit of honey — in popsicle container (I use the KidCo popsicle container because the portions are just right for toddlers and it makes eight individual popsicles, plus it is safer plastic), stir (we use a chopstick), and stick in the freezer for a few hours. Voila! To take the popsicles out, run some room temperature water over the container and gently twist them out.

*I noticed that even the sweetest strawberries taste sour when frozen, so you’ll need to add a little bit more honey and juice than the other fruits.

Another easy one is using watermelon juice, which is pretty sweet to begin with. I just add a tad of honey, and no yogurt or other juice. It’s also a good recipe for kids who don’t eat dairy or yogurt.

Please post your own recipes in the comments section! I’m always looking for more ideas, especially yummy fruits to work with. Let me know!

July 30, 2009

babymoon with a toddler?

I’ve always liked the idea of a “babymoon.” One last trip before the exhaustion of third trimester hits and before life gets a lot more hectic when a new baby arrives. A few months before my daughter was born my husband Jeff and I had a great time traveling to Belgium and London. During my second pregnancy my husband, our 21-month-old daughter Zoe and I took a trip to New England. We had a lot of fun on this trip despite it being the rainiest June in a couple of decades. Of course, the trip was not as relaxing as our first babymoon had been but we did get a little R&R in between running after a toddler.

Jeff has wanted to go to Maine for years so I had promised that the first summer that we were living on the East coast we would go. But last summer we ended up making so many trips for weddings and family visits that there was no time left for the Maine trip. This summer we figured that because of the pregnancy we are exempt from such family visits which involve long plane trips and we’re missing the two weddings we are invited to because they are too close to my due date. So we decided to take advantage of a summer off from travel obligations and take a 2-week road trip to New England.

The biggest challenge of the trip was that we did a lot of driving and Zoe (a real city kid) has spent very little time in the car and absolutely hates even a short drive. We tried to plan our drives around her nap time so she’d sleep for most of the trip though a few of our drives were just too long for her to nap the whole time. Long drives aren’t much fun to begin with but with a screaming toddler in the back seat being stuck in the car is even less fun!

In Maine our protein-shunning daughter was introduced to (and couldn’t get enough of) lobster, clams, muscles and scallops. Zoe also learned about another culinary love on this trip –ice cream. We introduced her to hiking in Arcadia National Park which she also loved though she only walked a short bit of the way on her own. For most of the hike Jeff carried her in a backpack which we figured put us on about even ground. Other highlights were the beaches in Maine and Martha’s Vinyard (when we had nice weather) and the Andrew Wyatt museum and Olsen house near Camden, Maine.

All in all the trip wasn’t as relaxing as our first “babymoon” when we had no kids but it was a wonderful family trip and it was well worth doing before we become a family of four.

July 29, 2009

Summer in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz has more to offer than the beach boardwalk. Even if you can’t do an overnight, it’s possible to do a bunch of fun stuff on a day trip. When we visited last weekend, I noticed lots of families hanging out everywhere. Definitely a kid-friendly beach town!

Here’s a quick itinerary:

-A must see is Natural Bridges Beaches. It’s not as widely known as the Boardwalk beach or even Seabright Beach.  NB is small and sweet. There are literally rock formations that create bridges in the water. Even better, there is a visitor center and a trail that is home to monarch butterflies in the winter.

For the gardener in you, visit the arboretum at UC Santa Cruz. Their land has a world class living collection and their garden store always has plants for purchase at excellent prices.

Marianne’s ice cream is a locally owned parlor with original and homemade flavors like lavender and ginger. In a big group, try the giant sundae that comes with over 10 scoops!

Skip the Borders and head over to Bookshop Santa Cruz on Pacific Ave. has something for the whole family. It’s one of the best independent books stores around and still thriving. They have an extensive children’s book collection with books from many cultures. There’s a cute play area for the young ones too.

-Ride the Giant Dipper. You can still stop by the boardwalk for an hour to get in line to ride the big dipper. Just buy tickets and enjoy!

Snack on fish tacos! Local fish make tasty tacos and they’re real easy to find. I recommend snapper and salmon tacos at Taqueria Santa Cruz

-The kids will love Pizza My Heart. They have plenty of veggie and vegan options for the super health conscious!

Let us know if you have any favorite Santa Cruz spots to share.