In Defense of Organics!

By now you should be used to the media telling you about a new research conclusion with new findings. Usually, the data only serves to confuse. Case in point, I've always loved the announcements one year that coffee is good for you. Then the next announcement a year later tells you that research has found the opposite is true. The same with red wine, chocolate, peanut butter, honey, beer, you name it - one study finds it good, then the next one its bad. You got to love all this research! Of course, to be fair, research is usually more complicated (or layered) than that - but don't let that stop the media from sharing it with us like it's the gospel! No wonder we're all confused!

But, yesterday, I'm reading that now a new report by the researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines (and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) has just concluded that Organic Food is no healthier or detrimental to the health of your average human than Non-Organic Food. What the heck does that mean? You read the article and see if you come out of it any more enlightened. I didn't. If you do read the article, I like that bit at the end that wraps up the whole thing by saying that there is no sufficient research into the long-term effects to the use of pesticides on human health. Now that will make for interesting reading when that comes out....don't you think?

It means the report has stated that the researchers have found 'no differences in most nutrients in organically or conventionally grown crops, including in Vitamin C, calcium, and iron. The same was true for studies looking at meat, dairy, and eggs.'

I'm sure the researchers were fair and the results well studied - it states in the BBC article that the group is independent and has no agenda. Nonetheless, it sort of reminds me of the unnecessary argument that I've had before with my mother-in-law, who at 76 years old has scoffed periodically at our use of the word 'organic' and our insistence on using home grown, or store bought, organic fruits and veggies. As I told her, the term is only funny because in her day it wasn't necessary really to differentiate. But now, in order to have the wholesome goodness that she took for granted, before the huge industrialized farming practices and food system took over in my generation, we have to clarify the difference. 

My problem is not with the fact that nutritional values might be the same, or not - but it is with the farming practices often used in large scale farming and rearing of animals. And, my other problem, which was not clearly addressed in the report, is the MOST IMPORTANT - what effects are such things as pesticides and growth hormones doing to our health, and the health of the environment. I don't really care who has the greener apple! Anyway, if you ask me, I've tried both in my life, and as far as I'm concerned, I'm sticking with the more wholesome approach - the veggies, fruit, meat, and dairy just taste better in my opinion - and I feel a hell of a lot less guilty - even if I do have to pay something more for it at the check-out stand. 

In fact, as I try to convince my mother-in-law, we're interested in the same thing as an end result - we just have to call it by a different name these days! Which brings to mind something else, have you heard of the new movie/documentary making the rounds called FOOD, INC. - it's a great eye opener into an industry that you may pay little attention to but plays a huge daily roll in your everyday life. The film is great, but even the website is a great source of information for those of you interested. Hey, you know what - I think I'll make the film (DVD) a nice Christmas gift to my mother-in-law this year.... uh-oh - she'll either love me for it, or kill me! 


Rachel Faucett - Hand Made Charlotte

In our effort to bring you even more varied points of view, especially when it comes to style, we're very happy here at Nonchalant Mom to introduce to you a new blogging partner: Rachel Faucett of Hand Made Charlotte. I've admired her varied interests and particularly stylish eye for a while now and was very pleased when she agreed to partner with us in sharing with you some of the things that she focuses on from day to day! Where she finds some of the things she promotes I'll never probably know. But, I'm sure excited by the idea and HAPPY that she is too!

So, in keeping with my wish to make things as familiar as possible we asked Rachel to sit down and answer some questions. I think you'll be inspired by her beautiful house and focus on natural living. But, more so, you'll be amazed that she has time to do anything while raising her small team of kids, and with another beautiful surprise on the way!!! Oh my!

Rachel, you've been busy - are you pregnant?
I am pregnant with my sixth child!!! My second child, Catherine Keeling died of SIDS when she was 3 months old. We miss her very much and I always include her with the rest of my pod! So.... Isabella (9), Jonah (6), Murphy (4), and Charlotte (2)!

Whoa! That's great news!
My husband Jonathan and I have been married 12 years. It was a 'love at first sight' kinda thing! We met, fell in LOVE, and eloped!

And where do you all live?
We live on Elsberry Mountain Farm in Dallas, Georgia - which is about 22 miles outside of Atlanta.

the house viewed from the lake

And how did you manage that piece of magic?
Jonathan's parents bought the farm that we live on 35 years ago. After we got married, we asked if we could live in/fix up a cabin his uncle had built on the property, and they said yes.We moved back and fourth from Atlanta for several years! Once we had children we decided life was best on the farm so we added an addition to the cabin (it's a crazy layout, almost like a cabin 'inside of a house'). The best part is our neighbors: Nana and Papa (grandparents), Jonathan's sister Suzanne, her husband Mike, and their 2 kids. The property has a large lake as well as a really cool mountain top where you can view the Atlanta skyline in the distance. We have lots of animals including Horses, cats, dogs, a ferret, a parrot, a pet duck, ring neck doves, roosters, a guinea pig...!

How do you think this all fits into Hand Made Charlotte?
I traveled a lot as a child and I've always enjoyed art! I have enjoyed all forms: painting, sculpture, candle-making, soap-making , mosaics , and knitting... I love it all! I sort of fell into the clothing biz. I have been setting up at antique markets and Flea markets for years selling my "junk"(anitque leather luggage, bird cages, furniture, etc.)! I started selling my own art and started getting more focused! I would set up my little tent like a 'home' and sell women's and children's clothing, jewelry, original paintings, etc. I was getting great feedback but I was scattered in too many directions. So, now I’m focused on little girls clothing! My favorite subject!

You've got a lot on your plate. How do you manage it?
I love our LIFE! My husband recently developed a new community in Vance, Alabama! www.discovernaturewalk.com! It is a test model for facilitating growth in a small community without destroying the existing core of the town. We're very much into supporting the local community. I have wonderful support in the home several days a week. 'Miss Diane' is our everything, she is a second grandmother and has been with us for almost 3 years. Jonathan works from home a lot more now and we have a ton of family close by!

Quackie the pet duck!

How's it look around your house on an average morning?
Of course the children are the first ones awake in our house! First thing we do is check in on the locals on our front lawn...... Geese,heron,deer,turkey,hawks,etc.! Isabella is becoming quite the 'short-order' cook at breakfast these days! I will join them a bit later and make sure they are having plenty of fresh fruit and yoghurt, etc.

What's for breakfast usually?
We like breakfast - we change it up quite a bit - but it's the most important meal of the day for us! Sometimes we do it 'Alabama' style with french toast, scrambled eggs, and bisquits. And then there's the famous 'Birthday Breakfast' with all the things the kids never get to eat like sugary cereals, donuts... you name it!

Do your kids go to school nearby?
My children are homeschooled! They go to a school for the arts one day a week . I really really LOVE it! We believe strongly in our Christian faith and this allows us an opportunity to focus on what is really important in our family.

Our school in the basement of the house

Naps and snacks, how do you work that out?
Charlotte is really no trouble, she justs hops up into the bed without being asked!! Of course, I'll lay down with her every once in a while - if I get the chance! For snacks, the kids like to pick stuff out of our yard to snack on! I try to keep plenty of fruits and vegetables around, preferably what we grow ourselves.

What's your team do for dinner? Is it hard to round everyone up?
We always try to gather as a family at dinner time and play little games to keep close. Sometimes we have a 'storybook' dinner where we go around the table and everyone adds a word or two of their own until we've strung along a crazy story! Or we might take on different identities and play a little 'role-playing' fun! We've actually eaten under the table before, but it's been a while since we have done that...!

Anything special about your typical entertainment?
We don't watch television, just the occasional movie. We have a ton of books, games, kits, animals, and crafts - anything but the T.V.!

How about bedtime, the kids must keep you busy?
We are still transitioning slowly from a 'family' bed! We usually end the day with an audio book (the 'Hardy Boys' are currently the favorite!).

You've got yourself such a lovely full house, any wisdom you want to share with other parents while we're at it?
All we need is love! I really love being a parent! It does get really crazy around here sometimes and I'm always praying for a little MORE patience and wisdom. I guess my advice is to relax and enjoy the 'moments' a bit more! This is advice I need to follow more!

We're looking forward to working with you Rachel - it's going to be GREAT! Thank you!
I'm SUPER excited! I absolutely LOVE your shop and your blog has such a refreshing perspective. It's nice to have a place to escape the 'mainstream marketing machine' and discuss parenting!


Rhode Island Monthly's "Best Of" - Nonchalant Mom!

We have a wonderful magazine here in Rhode Island called RI Monthly and each year they have a big sendoff of their Best of Rhode Island and Nonchalant Mom was voted Best Online Kids Store!! Horay!! It's a readers survey so it's even more wonderful... which means my homestate loves me as much as I love Rhode Island!!

We were especially surprised when they also published a piece on our home here in Matunuck. We love our tiny home and I love how people really feel at home in our house and I think that is what editor Megan Fulweiler found attractive about our place. It doesn't pretend to be anything except a comfortable home for a unique family that spends a lot of time at home. Both my husband and I work from the house (I have my store and Karim has a separate studio on our property but we still spend more time than usual working from home).

But I must add that although my husband is a clean freak our house rarely looks this clean! One of these days we are going to show you a before and after photo... maybe 'day to day' is a better way to put it, our house frequently turns into a photo studio for me to take pictures for Nonchalant Mom and then it easily turns into a giant fort for the kids and then it can also be a wonderful place for lots of parties!

We would like to send a big gigantic thank you to RI Monthly for a wonderful piece on our very special home! THANK YOU!

Nat Rea - photography
Megan Fulweiler - editor


car trips - what a way to take a vacation

My memories of vacationing as a kid are usually in a car, I remember our really big station wagon, making beds in the back, playing lots of card games, scratching each others arms (legs, backs, etc..), making lots of things with legos and playing the ABC game way too much! We had a cabin in Northern Minnesota on Lake Mille Lacs--anyone from Minnesota knows about going "up North" for the summers! But when we went skiing we went by car too, and I know that things have changed but we are going to see if we can bring back a bit of nostalgia!

I don't know how I did it but I talked my husband into a car trip to Minnesota, this is a good 26 hour trip so I'm a bit nervous, but I think it's going to be memorable, let's just put it that way! For years now we have been talking about visiting our friends up on Burntside Lake, we used to go up to their island when we were kids and it's certainly been a long time.. so we can't wait! A bit of fishing, camping, swimming and spending the night with the good'old Minnesota Mosquito! So far everyone that we have told about this just thinks that we are crazy but we are going to prove them all wrong (or kill each other!).

Along the way we play to stop in Montreal and Thunder Bay and a couple of places in between, so if anyone has any good suggestions we would be very grateful of any travel tips! (picture above is Burntside Lake)

Nonchalant Mom will be open and working while we are gone so don't worry about missing anything and then when we get back I will be hard at work putting up all of the new collections!


Wow! Cookie Magazine's Top 100 - Nonchalant Mom!

Boy I couldn't be happier... Thank you Cookie Magazine for including me in their Top 100!

I am part of "The Plugged in Mom's Bookmarks Bar" (love that...) it goes on to say "You know that mom who always seems to know about everything before anyone else? (who probably isn't still listening to Alanis Morissette on her iPod?) Our guess is she's obsessed with these websites." My entry includes the quote: "Nonchalant Mom - Indie kids'-clothing lines--and an inspired parenting blog." How about that!! and I LOVE COOKIE MAGAZINE, thank you very much!

There are many inspiring articles in this issue so I hope you have a chance to pick it up (August 2009) with Vera Farmiga on the cover, how refreshing she is and really, really beautiful! And there's lots lots more fantastical information in this issue!
It's a perfect summer beach-read!


If you are near, or in, central Michigan this weekend and have kids that love trains (like ours) then this is the 'must see' event of the summer! Taking over the Steam Railroading Institute of Owosso, Michigan from 23 - 26th of July is the rare gathering of steam and diesel trains from around the country. Along with the full size examples, including the rare opportunity to see the famous Southern Pacific steam locomotive #4449 known affectionately as the 'Daylight'. These locomotives will be descending on the already existing Steam Railroading Institute located in Owosso, a town apparently only having a population of 16,000, just outside of Lansing we're told. The estimates suggest close to 100,000 will visit this unique event.

The SP #4449 - Daylight makes a rare appearance

I just know, if we could make it, that our kids would love nothing better than to see some locomotives that are rarely brought together for such a thing. Besides the full size trains, the Train Festival 2009 is boasting working model trains of all sizes, lego models, an already existing museum with railroad artifacts, and the opportunity to even get your hands on simulators, and for a lucky few - even an opportunity to get your hands on the actual instruments of a working train. Just imagine how exciting that would be for the kids. We showed our kids the images and that was enough to set them off with chanting "We WANT TO GO"....
oh darn it!

For more information, and just because you might be able to do it, you can go to the official website for the Train Festival 2009 and find more info. I'm sure you won't be disappointed!!


Shanghai Re-Thinks the National Family Planning Policy

Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Word arrives that the authorities in the Chinese city of Shanghai are going to reverse the ruling that was applied by the National Authorities some 30 years ago now to control population growth. Originally, the policy known unofficially as the One Child Policy, was designed to slow what was considered a very rapidly growing population in China, especially in the cities.

There are some who suggest that the entire world needs to consider the impacts of growing populations and longer life spans on our planets resources. The policy implemented in China looked heavy handed from the outside when it was first announced, but authorities have since claimed that during the first 2 decades alone the policy put a stop to over 250 million births. The policy wasn't without its critics - not so much for the idea itself - but because of its implementation over time. It has been implicated in the increase in forced abortions and female infanticides in a culture that seems to prize the male birth over the female. And, it was not a clear incentive, allowing for all sorts of exceptions, such as rural couples. Nonetheless, though the results are arguably a mixed bag and not without some social consequences, it seems to have stopped a rapidly growing population in China over this period.

But, Shanghai's authorities, taking a close look at trends and numbers have apparently decided that instead of discouraging 2 children per married couple, they need to encourage a slightly larger family to support what they see as a declining younger generation compared with a larger elderly generation. Now, it remains to be seen what the broader Chinese authority will make of all of this.

To read more about this you can see the article in the London Guardian Newspaper. And if you want more detailed analysis you can visit the Wikipedia spot on the policy.


Medecins Sans Frontieres

It's Summer time for many of us - which means we start to drift a bit and lose our focus on anything but trying to relax. Nonetheless, we try to remember what is right. We have to keep up the good fight, no? The world goes on.

Because we are involved in fashion, and we like our aesthetics very much, we like it when we can find somebody doing something very worthwhile for the world community (especially children) and coupling that with a very impressively cool campaign to get our attention. It is why we are proud to say we have supported Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders. You can check out their website(s) in English or a multitude of other languages, so you have no excuse to know what they are accomplishing!

When in Switzerland recently we were lucky enough to come across the latest PR campaign on behalf of MSF. We loved the t-shirt message when we first saw it (a double-take message) and the kids liked the message imprinted band-aids. But, moreso, when we spoke further with our insightful and creative friend Rachel Huber at the very talented PR agency in Zurich called Rod Kommunikation AG (the motto is 'A Bigger Bang for the Buck') we found that they had been the ones to help create this. Rod Kommunikation, having been founded in 2007 by three younger creative types named Regula, Oliver, and David (hence R.O.D.), have worked on ingenius campaigns that we admire for companys like Sanitas and IKEA. We liked the PR Campaign and wanted to try and be part of it.

However, when we researched it elsewhere we couldn't find any corresponding campaign in the other countries, including the USA. We asked Rachel specifically about the possibility of working with Nonchalant Mom in the future in producing t-shirts with the same campaign message - especially in children's sizes. We thought it would be a great way to generate income for a good cause and believed it would be a humorous and slightly provocative message for people to see. So, we're trying to figure that out right now. But, in the meantime, you can always get yourself one from the MSF website for Switzerland (English speakers shouldn't have that much difficulty navigating the purchase). And, if you just can't wait for the children's version to show up you can do what we have done and use the smallest woman's size as a sort of dress for our little girl!

Rod Kommunikation have created a very clever concept for getting attention - and the attention is everything when you are dealing with serious issues like MSF has to deal with on a daily basis. So, our suggestion, t-shirt or no t-shirt, consider sparing something for a good cause, even if you don't prefer the message. Then, you can get back to relaxing in the sun and feeling alot better about yourself....!

What's the Matter With Crocs?

Crocs in every conceivable color!

The ubiquitous, and what seems like endlessly colored, outdoor shoe is back in the news again lately. It seems that after a handful of years of constant growth the shoe that many loved, then hated, then loved, then hated again, is in trouble. Perhaps because of its own seeming obsession with flooding the market or because of all the cheaper substitutes that started arriving, many have started foretelling the demise of Crocs.

From what we can see, the company isn't necessarily closing down or going bankrupt. It had enough early success to stave that off for a bit. But, it is an ailing patient and is currently trying to recreate itself to better handle the competition and the slowing sales.

Like many others - our original problem was an aesthetic one. While it suited the everyday wear of children it never seemed quite right when it translated to the adult version. Our kids, in particular, liked them - our son because of the ease of putting them on and taking them off (as well as their resistance to all sorts of abuse),and our daughter liked them for this reason also, but moreso because she liked (for a brief stage) that you could get and play with attachments. We tried them as adults and found that what they promoted was true in our case: they were easy, versatile in the outdoors, and light weight. Then, like the plague, in the matter of a few years they went from fairly obscure but also fairly cool to overtaking the planet (you'd be hard pressed to NOT see them everywhere from airports to shopping malls to tourist shops) and serving as an excuse to wear them anywhere and everywhere - even during formal events like a wedding or business meetings. Let's face it, they became so popular that they took on the 'appearance' of looking uncool. Uh oh.... image is everything. Soon, word started popping up of a persistent resistance and the equation wasn't always pretty. Nonetheless, until recently, our own kids had a pair each.

Around our house we kind of avoided the coolness issue because what we had was mostly suited to the outdoor business of gardening or playing. But, what troubled us more was that we couldn't quite get a clear answer on whether or not these things were good for the environment or not. It mattered to us that we might be buying into something that wasn't ethically made or poorly treated the environment during production or after the fact. Even sites like treehugger and the Daily Green were unsure, if resting on the side that thought of them as neither great, nor really terribly bad. The Daily Green quoted Crocs themselves in a product description: 'Crocs are made of PCCR, a closed-cell material that virtually eliminates odour. No one will clear a room with smelly feet if they are wearing a pair of Crocs. The material also discourages sweating, making Crocs even more comfortable.'.... PCCR is some sort of “proprietary” blend Crocs makes, likely a petroleum-derived foam....and are made of EVA plastic, which is a lot better than the PVC/vinyl most jelly shoes are constructed from.' So, they aren't plastic or rubber - but neither are they the greatest material either. Then again, nobody we researched was willing to say that they were the worst material either! hmmm.

So, as Crocs themselves advertised their production as new and revolutionary, they never really said they were environmentally friendly either, except if you took into account that they might last forever. That 'forever' thing caused a problem perhaps for accounting, because the longer they lasted, the less you needed to buy another pair. But, also, that 'forever' thing also started troubling us as a family - because not only was the production and material not biodegradable friendly, but now there was the picture stuck in our heads that all those colorful pairs we saw blanketing the horizon every time we went out would also now be swelling our landfills. The taste that originally was hopeful, started getting a little more tart - and even more pessimistic lately with all the more poorly made knock-offs. We're back to flip flops again for the summer, or bare feet. And when we want something a little more snazzy we opt for the VEJA SHOES .... oh yes, you knew we'd have to make a 'plug'!!

Veja Shoes

Though we have turned away from Crocs (and its replications)for no real firm answer, we feel a bit better about it. We think they just made us lazier people in various ways. Of course, you might think otherwise and we'd like to hear what you think? Have you been able to find something similar that are environmentally friendly and just as versatile to the outdoors? Or, darn it all, do you just like what you get from Crocs. Lay it on us if you want!


disco room!

We recently turned our guest house, which was previously the "nonchalantmom" store when I first started in 2004, into a Disco Room (first it was the 'dance party room' but the kids changed it to the 'disco room'!). The guest house isn't truly a 'guest-house' it's more like a room with a bed... we like to call it #2 (hence the #2 you may or may not have seen on the front of the house). When we were renovating we lived in #2 for a few months, it's about 400 square feet and we slept in it like an army barracks, myself, my husband and at the time just our son who was only 2 years old, but then there was also our friend, and contractor, who was coming up from NYC to help us, his assistant (another friend from NYC), the plumber and his wife. It was hilarious and we have very fond memories of the whole 'situation'. Which included a kitchen on the deck outside with a tented tarp over it, thank god for the outside shower! and a lot of dinners at the neighbors house!

Over the years we have never changed a thing in #2, we have always meant to renovate it but have never pulled the money together to do it, and really... it's just kind of fun the way it is! (I don't think my husband feels the same way about it though...) This summer we loaned an old pair of speakers and a receiver from a friend (and a turntable that we can't seem to figure out how to work), we get three stations on the receiver which is perfect (NPR, Oldies channel, and a classical channel).

The kids made a sign for the door, and then announced that you had to have a ticket to enter, then invited the neighbors and well it's just a blast in there! Lot's of music (loud!) dancing and just general jumping around! There are a few 'break dancing' bust-outs that I had no idea they even knew about.. and since the whole Michael Jackson thing it's only become more intense.

At one point everyone had to make their own ticket and then they taped them to the door! (above) and then sometimes you need to put your ticket into the 'ticket holder' (below) -- I love it! The best part is we left it all up to the kids, we just plugged in the stereo and they took it from there! I think that this is an easy thing to translate to a room or a basement and just have some fun!


RIP: Julius Shulman

Julius Shulman

98 years old is a very generous amount of time to spend on earth. And, by all accounts, Julius Shulman was a very nice guy. Nonetheless, it is with a bit of sadness that we say goodbye to a man who was responsible for giving us the visual face of modern architecture.

You may not have been able to live in one of the homes that he photographed, but his pictures were very much an influence for anyone interested in that type of style or architecture. For us, when we were refurbishing our circa 1950's home here in Rhode Island, we almost exclusively referred to his photos of those quintessential homes in Los Angeles for influence. In some cases, his photos are more important than the homes he was documenting.

For many, his name is not the first to come to mind, but without a doubt - if you have any interest in Mid Century Modern design or architecture - his photos would have probably been your first introduction. With his passing, we lose a central figure in an important period of time. But, his legacy will be the thousands of images he left us to contemplate.


recipe - pasta with anything in your garden!

I really love this recipe and I could eat it just about every night, I 'think' my family feels the same way and the kids just gobble it up! In my opinion just about anyone can make this with anything in your garden, if you don't have a garden I think it's good with all of the leftover greens you have in your refrigerator as well!

I like to make it this way:

cook pasta (I think it's good to mix it up sometimes with different pastas but the best is just plain semolina)

chop up:
2-3 leeks
4-5 cloves of garlic
3-4 leaves of kale
broccoli (I use broccoli rabe so just the leaves)
1-2 tablespoons of oregano
salt & pepper

when I take it off the heat I add:
1-2 tablespoons of basil
1-2 tablespoons of parsely

add ins:
-chopped apricots
-goat cheese
-sunflower seeds (instead of salt!)

saute in olive oil: leeks and add garlic when ready, --then carrots or beets if you are using them just put in what needs to be cooked longer here...-- kale, broccoli rabe, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Add in pasta and saute all together so that the pasta takes in the flavors, especially the garlic! add a bit of the pasta water (I always save a cup of pasta water when cooking to use for this reason). Put everything in a bowl for serving and add the basil and parsley and a bit of olive oil (olive oil has a better taste if you don't cook it) and salt and pepper if you need it.
If you want to add cheeses this is where you do it, I use yogurt quite often and goat cheese is great, you just need about a tablespoon and then some of the pasta water so that it's not too thick.

This is such a delicious summer pasta! AND it's good and healthy! YUM!

When Do They Need a Fig Leaf?

Funny coincidence. We were getting a little flack (a bit) from some about a photo on the blog below that shows a little tush. And, then today, an article appears in the NY Times written by Julie Scelfo discussing the public nudity of children. The overall feel of the article was that more people than not seem to accept the nudity of children as natural and nonthreatening.

The United States is a funny place like that. We are at once all about making almost everything sexual in our lives, but then on the other hand we can be equally prudish and moralistic when it comes, not only to our own bodies, but those of our little kids. We are often all about mixed messages.

Around our house, we try to take the more natural approach - call it European or whatever. Perhaps it's a bit easier for us to let our kids go nude because we are not pressed right up against neighbors. Nonetheless, our kids like to be nude/naked and often like to romp around doing so. We neither encourage it or discourage it .... in our home. When our little guy was around 2-3 (same with our daughter now) years old we also didn't mind having him naked at the beach. It seemed so natural to us. Of course, you'd get strange looks at times, but our opinion was that if there was a problem with having a little one naked it was more often than not the viewer who was at fault - bringing something to it that was not intended.

Now, nobody likes to see a small child naked if the circumstances are obviously such that having our kids naked make people very uncomfortable. But, usually, you can rely on a basic common sense to tell you this. We don't allow our kids to run around in the nude at other peoples homes unless it is obviously clear that they (our friends and neighbors) feel much the same. Nor, in many public places do we consider it acceptable. As for the ability to control ones own bathroom habits, that is another thing we wanted to be sure of. Our kids were/are not really allowed to be naked in a public place especially if they did not know how to control their 'bathroom' habits. Nobody wants to see your kid peeing on themselves or in the sand or grass right in front of where everyone is playing - or worse. But, that is even fairly true with a kid in diapers too. The same thing goes for exploring the body too. Our kids, even at a young age, are/were fully aware that being naked in public is something different to being naked in private. We discouraged touching oneself in public. Our kids are also fully aware that others should not be touching their privates unless Mommy or Daddy says it's ok.

The main thing for us is that you provide some limits, but that overall a childs nudity is just that - a childs nudity. To make it something dangerous or explicit is to make it something else entirely - something adult. And once you make it adult, then it is unnatural and unnacceptable.
We don't even go there. What would be the point? Now, our boy is coming up to 8 years old, and though he thinks nothing of having his younger sister prance around naked, we have noticed that he is starting to differentiate much more between being naked in public and being naked in private - all on his own, and naturally. As parents, it is our opinion that we are most often here to guide them, not lead them. Why give them hang-ups when there shouldn't be one in the first place. No?

What do you guys think with your kids?


A Summer Camp Gift For Your First Time Camper

We noticed that Blair at WiseCraft was acknowledging her own little nervousness (and touch of melancholy perhaps) at allowing her daughter Emma to go away to Summer Camp for a 4 day stint. Our two kids are not old enough yet to go away overnight to any such camp (day camps are about all we can deal with right now) - but, we can certainly relate to the mild anxiety and mixed emotions when your son or daughter first goes away on their own for any duration more than a sleep-over. I'm sure we'll probably follow the bus up to the camp when our kids first go, and then deny it later!

Anyway, we thought it very sweet that Blair should relieve herself of any mild dread and think about her daughter's needs - because if you might remember from your own experience the first time you went off to camp alone, it can seem a little scary at times. And what better way to be reminded of home than a little home made pillowcase with the family pet (or a copy rather) tucked inside for good measure. Surely, that is reassuring when the lights go out! And, it's a heck of a lot better than just a pair of underpants with your name written on it!

Blair also follows up on her blog with a story about Emma's letters home from camp .... very sweet!

Here's what Blair has to say:
My Daughter Emma leaves for summer camp on Sunday. Her first time, if you don't count the two camping trips she's gone on with her school, which were short and heavily chaperoned by parent friends who were only a cell phone call away. This one is 4 days, and about an hour away. A perfect starter one (for me as much as for her).

I wanted to make something for her to have while she is away (sewing also helps me with the nervous anticipation of dropping her off this weekend). After seeing a Maya*Made travel pillow, it seemed like a great idea to make a pillowcase with some kind of surprise. Emma picked out the owl fabric, which I like more and more as I sewed it up (she didn't know what I was going to make out of it though). I made a basic slip-on pillowcase for a full sized pillow, with fold over on the open end which tucks inside. Its my favorite kind to make. (There is a pattern for one like this in Lotta Jansdotter Simple Sewing book, but really, you don't need much of a pattern if you've got a pillowcase to measure.) I trimmed the front with "E.S." initial ribbon. Because things at camp should be labeled, right?

The back has a surprise. A stuffed Gracie (our cat), printed onto heat transfer paper, then ironed onto basic canvas, stitched around and stuffed firm. Emma's favorite friend, to snuggle with while she's away. I used the heat transfer sheets made for ink jet printers to print out Gracie's picture because that's what I had here on hand, but, I'm not thrilled with how thick and shiny it came out. (Kind of reminds me of a David Bowie t-shirt iron on I bought at the beach one year when I was in middle school, in one of those stores where you pick the iron on and pick the shirt, and they iron it on for you.) I digress... The quality is passable, but not great, and I've seen much better results with printable fabric, which I will use next time. I'm sure my son Ian will want one when he sees it.

I sewed a simple pocket onto the back of the pillow big enough for Gracie to fit into for carrying. I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm making this gigantic stuffed elephant with a blanket strapped to its back, a pattern we saw at fabric store the other day. So, this might be a downer for her. I just noticed there is a project very similar to this in the new Dorm Decor book, but you crafty people really don't need instructions beyond what I've included (although this book does has some great projects inside).

I'm going to miss that girl.

my favorite thing this week! - flower bottles

You know from my flea market section on Nonchalant Mom that I am an avid flea marketer and everything that goes along with that... I can hardly get myself to walk by an antique store without jumping inside! Yesterday I was in New Bedford, MA checking out a factory and there it was a basement full of antiques! heaven!

My favorite thing this week are these lovely flower bottles that I have been picking up here and there, they come in such dramatic and rich colors that I can never just 'walk on by...'! I love to fill them with flowers that are cut from our garden or just flowers that grow wild in the woods and the kids bring home. The best is keeping them by your bedside so that you can wake up to a beautiful, single flower!

You can usually find these bottles in any antique shop, most often they are in the front window catching light. You may have to sift through a few to find the shape you like, sometimes you just have to stare at them for awhile and soak them all in and one will pop out at you (and it is usually not the first on you see or the most obvious one), they are pretty cheap from $1 - $15 and some come with really wonderful words on them, I have one that says 'Bixby' -- which I just love! (and if they are from England, which many of them are, I like to ask my mother in law if she knows what they are!?)


Out and About Town: Basel, Switzerland

Taking advantage of the city after indulging in way to much contemporary art back in June, I took a stroll around the Rhine River crossing back and forth over bridges it seemed - not looking for anything in particular. And, then, there is was, sunk down low in an otherwise unremarkable small building - one of the those spaces that are semi-below ground. Nonetheless, it's windows caught my eye: a bevy of 'antique' toys of all sorts - and just from the windows I could see stuff you'd be fairly hard pressed to find otherwise. It was the kind of place that was covered in dust and arranged just barely in a sensible fashion. But, you could easily imagine yourself turning things over, or finding some gem buried in a small pile. There were a few things I would have liked to have got my hands on... but, alas, when I went back the next day I could not find the place open - so I never got in and I didn't have the time to follow through with a phone call, etc. Which rounds out the general picture nicely - because it was one of those kinds of shops that you can just see the owner of - the kind of person not strictly given to following the opening hours. I'm not even sure the place had been open recently.

So, if you happen to find yourself in Basel anytime soon, you might wish to check the shop out and let us know what you find. Damn .... I really wanted to get inside! I've supplied a picture with the sign and info on it just in case you want to know more... but you can see from the pictures that if you get the chance, it could be worth it. That's assuming you have the same thrill we do for hard to find stuff from the past!


The World According to Wee See

One of Nonchalant Mom's dedicated customers, Heather, recently sent me 2 DVDs to share with my children. Of course, in this business, you receive a fair amount of samples - people wanting you to look at this, or eat that, or use this, or put on that... you get the idea. Normally, what I'm supposed to be sampling just doesn't even get off of base one. My general rule is an aesthetic one - if the creator can't even be bothered to package something interesting or beautiful, then it's a good bet the product is going to be just as uninteresting... ouch!

BUT, when someone gets it right - or in the case of the creators of Wee See - they excel at it at every point, it is a darn pleasure to share the wealth! The packaging design for both Wee See's collection one and two is alone worth a nod for it's simple yet beautiful design sense. And that's only the tip of the iceberg.

still image from Collection One

Suffice it to say, I'm of the generation who remembers the early raves that emerged in London
and elsewhere in the late 80's. One thing that stood out at those events, before the whole thing turned into a mass commodification of whistles and night lights, and silly beats, was the sometimes beautiful marriage of image and sound. When I first put on Wee See's collection of DVDs my 4 year old and 7 year old sat mesmerized. This will come as no surprise to the creators
of Wee See, but it was an uncommon event to me. What I was expecting, at least from the distance, was that my kids would take a mild interest while I was doing something else. But, Lo and Behold, first the sound carried me in closer, and then the softly shifting elements of shapes lured me in for the ulitmate experience of relaxation. These DVDs, whether they intended it that way or not, are not just for the youngest in your family - they are soothing and enjoyable for everyone.

I tell you - they are BEAUTIFUL. I've seen some very creative things, even charming things, to do with teaching kids at an early level - but this one takes the cake also in re-teaching me, as an adult, how to slow down also and enjoy the world around me. I mean that! This is like the sensation I had when I first came across the artist/musician Brian Eno's physical environments where he married sculpture and colored lights together with his ambient music to create something at once soothing and simply beautiful. I have this same sensation with Wee See. And, my kids seem to think so too! And they don't even know a 'Brian Eno' from a bouncing ball right now! The creators bill it as a part installation and part pacifier.... but it's more than that - it's ART.

still image from Collection Two

Parent and Designer, Rolyn Barthelman, is the creator of Wee See. An award winning designer his work has been used by many a program such as Nickelodeon, Sony, and MTV, just to name a few - this is somebody for whom design is something more than just a job. It would seem to be a passion. And, when you mix that visual passion with a particular phonic creativity such as one gets here from Tim DeLaughter (originally from Tripping Daisy and The Polyphonic Spree) you got yourself some delightful magic. As I said about the packaging, even the website for Wee See (where you can learn even more) is beautifully and simply composed of the same engaging elements that go into the main source - underscored by Rolyn Barthelman's creativity and coupled with the development skills of Paul Torres of Monk Design. I can't give you a sense with the still images, so I suggest you have a sample on the website of what each DVD offers.

I honestly can't tell you how beautiful these DVDs are - and I'm very sure that you will either want one (or both) for yourself, or as a great gift for someone else. It is the reason why I am eagerly awaiting my initial delivery of them! So, if you want to make sure you get yours, please make sure you drop me a line so that I can put you on the list! And, a BIG thanks to Heather again for turning us on..... and tuning us in. Very Happy Viewing!

The Sponge Turns 10

Honestly, Sponge Bob has always been at the periphery of my interest. He appeared on television sometime before I even had children, so I mostly remember him, at first, for being this sort-of cult favorite amongst some of the more progressive adults I knew. His world seemed so outrageous. And, being a yellow sponge didn't hurt either. You might also remember at the beginning that he gained the attention of some morally upright politicians who tried to confuse his attractive and delightfully bubbly sweetness with some deep homosexual conspiracy!

I'm sure there were many college students at the beginning, just like with TeleTubbies, who indulged in a little whacky tobacky and immersed themselves in the deep sea neighborhood. I just wasn't really one of them. I had other things on my mind.

I did cross into Spongey's world, though, over the last few years though. He was fun enough, sure. But what appealed most to me was his seemingly endless supply of unadulterated optimism and kindness, even while surrounded by other characters who did not share in that ideal. So, I shared the program with my kids, but they seemed not to care so much. I just couldn't get the little fellow to stick in their imaginations. Oh well.

Nonetheless, I know many a parent who still raves about him, and his appeal (though not at cult status any longer) seems to have firmly hit the mainstream some time ago. So, for what he might be lacking in my household, he seems to have gained tenfold in the larger world. Good for him -
he's a sweetheart! I wish him a HAPPY 10th Anniversary! For more on Sponge Bob Square Pants and his ilk, there's a good article on him from the recent NY Times. This Friday Nickelodeon will play a Marathon viewing of 50 episodes back to back, as well as 10 new episodes. So, if the little yellow sponge didn't stick the first time around, you have plenty of time to get him to do so this time!


bachs flower remedies for kids

I am a big fan of Bachs flower remedies and I just found out that they have developed new kids formulations (I must admit the rescue remedy tastes kind of like a shot of brandy!). I have really relied on rescue remedy since my first son was born seven years ago, I found that they have helped me through a multitude of things including a flight from New York City to Italy with my son at 18 months... alone! Rescue remedy helped me through a few cases of mastisis and engourgement, and a few times just to get me off the ceiling! Rescue remedy really just takes me past the problem and I can get through my 'troubles' with a more clear mind, it's fascinating! (no chocolate, coffee or mint while you use the remedies)

The idea that Bachs created remedies for kids is something super! There are testimonials on their website, but I think that as soon as these things hit the stores there will be many, many more! The remedies include a kids rescue remedy, confidence remedy and daydream remedy. If you don't know about Bachs you may want to try them on yourself first to understand how they work, but they are very subtle and the idea behind how they work is something that I really believe in. They work a bit like a constitutional remedy in a sense that you do not need to take them ongoing but they can support certain areas of your life that trouble you from time to time. I think that the confidence remedy sounds amazing for kids who are shy and have trouble playing with a room full of kids.

If you do end up using one of the remedies we would really love to hear from you! So make a comment and you will really help other parents!

Buy Bachs kids remedies by clicking here