1.29.2009

Global Parents: Joanna and Kristian


Let us introduce you to Joanna and Kristian. They reside in the famous university town of Cambridge, about an hour outside of London in the UK. It is here that they raise their beautiful children: their little girl named Xanthe who is just shy of 2 years and their young son named Luka who is 3 1/2 years old. Joanna, who is English, works as a Search (Recruitment) Consultant specializing in the Non-Profit sector. Her husband Kristian, who is Canadian, is a Marine Scientist running an organization called ICRAN (International Coral Reef Action Network).

We asked Joanna about what an average day is like out in their corner of the UK:

Tell us, What beautiful names! What's the origin?
Thank you! Xanthe comes from the Greek meaning 'Golden'. It is my middle name and my own father, being a classicist, discovered it. He and my mother met and married in Turkey, and in fact, it is where Kristian and I were married too! Luka's name is more commonly spelled with the letter 'C' but his version is the Eastern European version. Kristian's family is originally from Hungary. It occurs to me now that my children will always have to explain or spell their names!!

What does the morning look like around your house?
We get started anywhere from 5:30 to 7:00 am. If the kids get up earlier we usually start them with some milk before they get dressed for breakfast. During the week I usually get the kids started while Kristian gets ready for the day and then while he takes them down to breakfast I get myself ready. At the weekend, it can vary.

When you mention milk, what kind of milk do your children drink, and is there anything special about the breakfast routine in your home?
No, there is nothing special about our breakfast! We give Xanthe cow's milk and Luka drinks a fortified milk. Both kids were breast fed for about the first year, Luka exclusively and Xanthe a mixture of breast and formula.

Any reason why Luka is drinking fortified milk?
Yes, Luka has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease which affects the lungs and digestive system. He is asymptomatic at present but takes medication such as additional vitamins and an enzyme to ensure he absorbs fat from his food.

Can you tell us more?
Luka is on a high fat diet which means that things like chocolate and crisps have never been off limit. The weird thing about this is that as a result, he is not hugely interested in it! We do a lot of exercise with him which is good for his lungs so there are a lot of blowing games in particular. I don't think it is hugely different from other boys but we make sure he does something every
day. There are other things that we have to do (like clinic appointments every 3 months for check ups). CF is a bit like diabetes in that you cannot tell that the child has it so he seems completely normal. We give him an enzyme in capsule form before he eats anything with fat in as one of the effects of CF is that it is difficult to absorb fat, extra vitamins and a prophylactic antibiotic. The main concern is not getting lower respiratory infections and lots of physical activity is important - but that is not difficult with a boy.

Do your children go to school most days, or are they home schooled, etc?
Luka goes to nursery on a part-time basis and Xanthe goes to a childminder, again part-time.

Any special means of transport to and fro?
My husband takes our daughter to the childminder on the back of his bike, I take our son to nursery - I walk and he goes on a "likeabike" (bike without pedals). We try to use bikes as much as possible, otherwise it is a car!

When you speak of a bike, is it anything in particular like you might find in Amsterdam, for instance?
It's a straightforward bike with a bike seat. We have looked into the Dutch bikes with the pods at the front but they are so expensive here and we don't like the burleigh/wagon system where you pull them behind as there are not sufficient bike lanes and I know a couple of awful
stories. I think we will end up getting a Dutch bike as I hate the fact that I have to drive to pick the children up but they are very expensive and rare enough for it to be almost impossible to get one second hand.

Is Cambridge bike friendly?
Cambridge is very bike friendly with lost of bike paths and routes. However, you do also have to use roads at times.

Luka

Does Cambridge make any special effort for public things to do with kids on a regular basis (like a great children's museum, or town square, or great parks)?
I don't think anywhere in the UK, other than maybe London, has as much to do as some larger US cities. Cambridge is ok - it has some good parks and swings, a good arts theatre with children's programmes at times, children's cinema and during the year, especially in the summer, there are one-off events. What is better is the heritage houses, like the National Trust, which have great facilities, swings, farms and fantastic children's programmes. I love to be outdoors with them, enjoying all sorts of activities!

Hey, are there any special toys or books your children love that other parents may not be familiar with?
This is a tricky one! Luka is into Playmobil (airplane, knights, pirates, etc.) and Xanthe actually enjoys it too although they have very little bits! We have a huge trampoline in the garden which they both love and spend a lot of time on when the weather is good. They read all sorts of books - the Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffer series are very popular here in the UK - and I tend to get lots of books that I had as a child.

We like to sometimes stereotype English children here in the USA as being well versed in foreign languages - is it true with your children that they can speak several languages without any effort?!?!
No, sorry to disappoint!!

Xanthe

What's the afternoon routine like around your home?
I collect the children from their respective daycare at 1 and 1.30 (except on a Tuesday when I work all day when I pick them up at 5.00 and 5.15, and on Fridays when I don't work).

Anything special for an afternoon snack?
My son usually has a glass of milk, my daughter has some water and then we have anything from bread and butter to popcorn, fruit, crisps, dried fruit, etc.

Any naps?
My son no longer has a nap. My daughter sleeps in her cot from about 1.30 to 3.30 pm.

What's the routine for evening meals? Anything special on the menu?
Nothing special or especially different I suppose. Full spectrum of meat and fish and vegetables (when they'll eat them!!). The norm is usually water or watered down apple juice. Let's just say we eat alot of Pasta!! Of course, Luka will have extra butter on his vegetables or extra olive oil on his pasta. For some reason, they like frozen peas and sweet corn, and prefer their vegetables raw or al dente if cooked....hmmm.

What's bedtime like - any special routine?
Although it is meant to be calm, it involves quite a lot of jumping on our bed, running around and laughter. We tend to give them a bath first, then milk in our room while we read stories, then bed. Our kids are in bed between 7.15 and 7.30 usually. Our son has 2 stories in his bed before having lights off, and our daughter is put into her cot with her doll.

Any ideas you had in the past that are coming back to remind you or haunt you now that you are a parent? Any special insights or comments from elders that you think about anew now that you are a parent?
I never thought I would let my children sleep in our bed but they do on occasion when they are restless! I have huge respect for my parents as I now realise how all consuming (and difficult) parenting can be! And I now understand why one or the other of them would roll over when we would wake up and get into bed with them in the morning. They were obviously trying to get a little extra sleep! Who knew...? We're still learning! It's the most all consuming, exhausting thing but also the most rewarding thing one can do obviously. We have learned that consistency in the way we deal with the children is very important - and to take time to stand back and enjoy one's children, that's important too! Sometimes you can be so involved in the day to day that you forget to enjoy them!

Thank you so much to Joanna and Kristian for allowing us a small glimpse into their life as parents. If you know of someone anywhere in the world you'd like us to focus a few questions on, we'd be happy to oblige - even if it is yourself. Our aim is to try to create a sort of informational resource based on the varied ways that parents might raise their children - not just in different cultures, but even in different neighborhoods, or different family structures. It's all interesting to us here at Nonchalant Mom. So, let us know with a quick email (put 'Global Parents' in the subject heading) and we'll follow up. The more the merrier!

1.28.2009

j-e-l-l-o and Kanten


I wanted to make this post just in case you had forgotten about jello as a desert, it's easy, light and fun and kids love it! I usually have the kids help me because that's most of the fun, and they insist on checking it every 5 seconds...another fun part...

but did you know...

that you can make 'good' jello too? it's called Kanten and it's just as delicious and if you make it yourself your kids will never know the difference. Agar Agar (which the Japanese call Kanten) is available in many co-ops and also at Whole Foods in the Japanese section, I suggest you look for the brand 'Eden' because if you use an inferior brand you can be buying the same thing as our american 'Jello' which is mostly chemicals. Agar Agar on the other hand is seaweed, so this is a great low-sodium way to add the benefits of seaweed to your kids diet (predominately for calcium but there is so much more goodness in seaweed).


the kids couldn't wait until I took the picture, right there on the floor!!!

recipe: KANTEN
a common version is orange juice kanten but I am going to give you a more unusual recipe from the Eden website which sounded great, just substitute orange juice and slices of oranges to make the orange canten. But you can use any juice and when you get used to it you will make your own favorite recipes.

Apple Cherry Kanten
(serves 4)

Ingredients

2 cups Eden Organic Cherry Juice
2 cups Eden Organic Apple Juice
5 Tablespoons Eden Agar Agar Flakes
1 pinch seasalt (optional, just a couple of flakes is enough)
1/2 cup apples, sliced thin
1/2 cup cherries, pitted, halved

Directions

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Do not cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce the flame to medium low and simmer 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the agar flakes have dissolved. Pour into a shallow serving dish and refrigerate until gelled, about 1 1/2 hours. Spoon out or slice into squares to serve. If you like, you can 'spice' things up a bit and add a layer of wholesome yoghurt (I used banana yoghurt in this recipe you see in the photos) - the kids just sucked it up like a vacuum cleaner!!!

Nutritional Info

Per serving: 154 Calories, 0g Fat (1% calories from fat), 0g Protein, 38g Carbohydrate, 5g Fiber, 0mg Cholesterol, 56mg Sodium

Kanten makes such a great snack or desert that your kids will love and they will really enjoy! So have fun creating your own recipes and have fun with making deserts without processed sugar!

1.27.2009

Let There Be (to much) Light!


It must be some sort of primal instinct left over from our ancestors who were forced to live in caves. For many of us in the modern world, light equals a recognized world, and darkness gives
us... well, it gives us darkness. Perhaps we remember deep deep down in our marrow that at one time we were afraid of what the darkness brought - and so now, being all technologically advanced and such, we light the hell out of everything. EVERYTHING !!!

Did you know that millions upon millions of humans, the majority residing in urban centers, or modern suburbs, have no idea what a proper night sky looks like. For many of us, we just take it for granted now that our world at night is lit up. We don't have to venture very far to see the effects of light pollution - especially if you happen to live in the USA, Europe, or Japan. Just take a look at a map of our world from outer space showcasing the night time usage of artificial light and you'll see as clear as day (no pun intended) that light pollution is out of control. Where we live in Southern New England there is no shortage of light at night. Just the other night while driving home I noted 7 empty lots (large ones) lit up for no apparent reason, a smattering of buildings lit up from the inside without any sign that people were using those spaces that required the lights to be on, several roadside billboards brightly lit, roads as far as the eye could see lit up nice and bright, empty sidewalks lit up, peoples homes with every conceivable light switched on, and my favorite sight - whole buildings lit up from the outside for some crazy aesthetic reason. I guess it is just another sign of progress. We can declare ourselves so advanced that we can even negate the night sky.

lights off/lights on

Now, I must admit, we live in a semi-rural setting - decently away from any big town. Our area thankfully forgoes street lights on the main thoroughfare. And, our neighborhood in particular uses nothing but motion sensor lights, or even better, some solar lights. Still, if we venture outside to get a decent view of the night sky with its distant stars, planets, and some fantastic views of the moon when it is correctly placed, you don't have to look hard to see the glowing sky that indicates our neighboring town. And, I'm sure, if you are reading this, you can relate. Our skies are polluted with light.

the USA mapped at night

Yet, while we take all that light for granted now, and assume our world is a safer place at night because we light everything up, we once again neglect to take into account what all this means to us. Just like noise pollution, or visual pollution, light pollution has some poignant disadvantages. Studies show that lighting up the night sky can have profound effects on the natural lives around us, from insects to animals. Who cares, you might ask? Well, alot depends on the subtle fabric that weaves all living things together, and our planet. So, tampering with even the smallest organisms can set off a chain reaction in our eco system, for one thing. But, even if you could care less about a small insect's sex life or the migratory patterns of birds, for instance, you might be surprised to learn that light pollution can effect our internal clocks as humans too. Studies are starting to show a growing link between light pollution (over exposure to light) and such things as cancer and stress related illnesses. Our recent history of lighting everything up can't just wipe away a whole history of being used to changing elements.

And, what about our kids. How do they suffer from the loss of a night sky. How many kids are losing the profound mysteries the night sky has to offer. And, not only that - what is all this light doing to our kids sensibilities. Perhaps time will tell. I for one do not think that lighting everything up at night is good for my kids. For one thing, we make it very clear to our children that a room is only to be lit when it is being used. Nothing is more odd than a house full of lit rooms not being used - you know who you are! And, what kid isn't amazed by a little star gazing on a warm night. I definitely know mine are. You just haven't gained any human perspective until you get to see the Milky Way spread out before you.

photos by David Allee

Thankfully, unlike air pollution or water pollution, light pollution is agreed by many to be easily remedied. Just in your own home, or on your own street, things can change easily. And, just think how when you change your night time lighting environment, you directly start changing a dependency on your electricity usage, which has an effect on energy consumption - which helps the overall environment. And, in this stage of fiscal tightening of the belt, how much money could you save - or your town save, by just adopting a better strategy to allow for better lighting strategies or simply just turning off, or regulating light usage. A letter to your town or community council, making suggestions, might go alot further than you think. For many towns and cities, the worst light pollution is attributed to outdoor lighting (streets, buildings, etc) that does not use its purpose effectively. Many many outdoor lights not only shoot light at the ground, which is what they are supposed to do, but they also spray wasted light out in the form of glare to the side (this can be called light trespassing when light is scattered across space), or wasted light projected up into the sky - for no apparent reason other than poor lighting design.

This is supposed to be a time when we are being asked to take a longer, and sometimes harder, look at how we interact with our daily environment. We are asking ourselves more frequently now how we can better our world for ourselves and our kids. So, why not consider, one little light bulb at a time, what we can do to bring some clarity back to our night time world - and if we just can't get rid of that light altogether, then what we can do to make it more effecient and better
designed!

photo by David Allee

And, if you think you are alone in thinking this, as I sometimes think I am, well you're wrong. If National Geographic magazine can address the issue on its front cover like it did a few months ago, then it has got to be important. For more information regarding light pollution in general, with facts and figures, you can check out our friends at The International Dark-Sky Association.
Here you will find ideas about how you can do your part to better the world around you, as well as finding tips on simply better lighting solutions for your home. And, in some of my research, I found these interestingly beautiful photos, of the effects of light being used at night, by the photographer David Allee - follow the link to see more of his work.

The long and short of it, in my family's opinion, is that we shouldn't be so afraid of the darkness. And moreso, we shouldn't be so afraid to question our current stewardship of our little Earth - there are so many ways we can improve the relationship - so many ways to do our small part! YES we can!

1.26.2009

some of my favorite things are on sale and I think you may have missed them!!!!


Each season I have some favorite things (how can I not!) a lot of times they are things that I would like for myself, but alas I don't fit into kids sizes, DARN!...but at least my kids can have them, I figure! well I am just afraid that some of these have been overlooked by you so I wanted give you a little 'review'! so....
"these are a few of my favorite things..."


(above: lightning t-shirt by salvor, veja sneakers (baby sizes on sale!), TUSS I love everything from tuss, it's so practical and my kids LOVE to wear all of her clothes)


above: lucky fish t-shirts...some as low as $20 (check the sale page)!, nonchalant kids pleated dress (or tunic because it's super cute with pants!), nonchalant kids patch pocket pants...these are perfect for all season! they are cropped so they are great for spring/summer too!


above: kice kice...I can hardly believe we had some things left to put on sale...but there are still some of the dresses left! they are all my favorites, but you know how I LOVE vests and vest dressing (I really would wear these if they made one for me!) the wool dresses are organic, soft and what could be more practical! Lesley Kice told me that the reversible vest dress (pictured above upper left) is so great for traveling because if your kids spill you just reverse to the other side... voila! clean clothes! (or at least they look that way to the outside world!)

above: Antik Batik... how did this happen! my very favorite dress (above right) the Aris dress is really so amazing and HOW is it that I still have some left!? and then the Meow dress, silky cute party dress... sweet and modern, covers all bases!


above: We only have a few of the Amy Arnold Peepwool people left, and how can it be that my most favorite one, Suzy Bikini, is still here in our studio! don't be afraid of her sexy binkini or her cute littly tummy, she is loveable and cute all the same! and Oeuf sweaters are just the greatest, I never usually put these on sale but these times called for it, so we do have some sizes left, don't miss them on sale!

The Rosenberg collection (previously known as "Kragh Rosenberg") is always one of my true favorites, it's exciting to buy the collection for the store and its SO exciting when it finally arrives here in our shop, we always go crazy, so I can't believe that we have these pillows left...and now on sale! or these duvet sets for crib and twin beds (pictured below) these are amazingly cute and so sweet for your kids room! (the duvet sets come in blue or pink) superbly cute!


There is so much more wonderful things on sale and I hope that you don't miss them!

1.24.2009

Doodle Art


We were at a restaurant recently and as usual we had the kids in tow. Some strangers came up to us from a nearby table and commented that they were impressed by how well our kids were behaved! Of course, my son through his ice cream at the one lady while my daughter jumped up and smacked the other one in the face.....(JUST JOKING!). But, hey, what parent doesn't want to hear a compliment like that! What these ladies didn't know is that my husband and I come well prepared to keep the little ones busy. Because, to be fair, you're asking the kids to sit generally still and behave properly for quite a long period.

Unlike my brother-in-law, who proudly announced that he couldn't handle the stress of taking his kids to restaurants when they were young - as so he didn't! we like to take our kids with us .... most of the time. But, like any little journey with the kids, it pays to be prepared. Most restaurants (we're not talking fast food chains) usually give a little something for the kids - but our kids are far to used to the old crayon and puzzle/drawing - and as it happens this doesn't last long.

So, usually, before we step out of the house we ask the kids to get something small from their rooms to keep them occupied - this often means a little doll for our daughter and something like a small puzzle or Lego thingy for our son to reconfigure. But, like all good intentions, things can go wrong. So, a back-up plan is needed - and what better thing than some old fashioned game playing. And, for this, you don't have to have a lot of the material on hand - just a pen, some paper, and an imagination.


We like to play games like 3-way tic-tac-toe (did you know that tic-tac-toe can possibly be traced back to the Romans?), that game where you have a whole paper full of dots and take turns trying to make squares to put your initial in (oh what's the name of this game???), and exquisite corpse (this little game apparently introduced to us by the Surrealists - of course, at this stage we use a different phrase with the kids so as not to freak them out prematurely... though my son loves the name of course!). You'd be surprised what a little game like this can do for the proper behavior at the dinner table.

Our friend Sara C in Northern California introduced to us another little game with pen/pencil (and a scratch of paper) the other day. And, our kids have taken to it like crazy. We like this game, along with the exquisite corpse, because the imagination can run wild. It goes like this: the parent makes a mark (or two) to begin with, and then the child is to try and make a face (or other fantastical object in our case) from that. The pictures are a little poor, but Sara only had use of her phone camera in poor light! Sara's daughter Eloise is getting closer to her teens, so the drawings are capable of being that much more sophisticated. With our kids being younger though, we'll take what we can get!


The point is, though, whatever their drawing - the outcome is creativity and distraction. A few moments of our time getting the kids started at the dinner table is going to hurt - and allows for alot more time on our end to talk and enjoy a glass (or two) of wine! Anyway, we like having our kids with us..... it's all part of the FUN! Thanks Sara - much appreciated!!!

If you guys have any other suggestions for kids at the restaurant dinner table.... and we want to hear it all! so send us anything!

1.21.2009

breakfast you can be proud of....


The other day I was sitting down to breakfast and my husband and I had to laugh at our 'very different' plates! (above)

From time to time I like to make a pot of Rice Cream, I have talked about the recipe before many times, because of it's healing properties but honestly, it's something that you can make and eat once a month just to be in tip top energy and have a nice clean system. Rice Cream is well known in the macrobiotic community for healing many things
(everyone has their own personal slight variation but it's usually basically the same ingredients). I know someone who used it in conjunction with other things (in this case she swears by Aloe Vera) to heal cancer, but rice cream can be used to energize your system as well. Honestly it's not very 'fun' for kids and it's a little hard to make it exciting, but you should go for it and see if you can get them to like it and then please tell us about it!!--I think we will call this "The Kids Rice Cream Challenge" please write in and the winner will receive a kids Lucky Fish t-shirt of your choice for the winning concoction!

To make rice cream:
3/4 cup of organic brown rice (rinsed three times)
3/4 cup organic barley (or any of your favorite grain, millet is great too!)
3 umeboshi plums
1 piece of kombu seaweed
cook ingredients in a large pot of filtered or spring water (2 quarts? or so..)
stir just once in the beginning and cook for 5 hours (without stirring) on super low flame (use a flame-tamer if you have one). When it's done, skim off the top with a ladel, this is essentially rice milk. If you have small children drinking from a bottle you can share it with them together with some water. But for yourself you can drink this like a tea twice a day, just drop in a grain or two of salt.

The rest is rice cream! This you can put into a container (it will last up to three days, refrigerated) and eat it for two of your meals a day. I like to add steamed carrots or kale and sunflower seeds or sesame seeds but you can add what you want... a very delicious way to eat it is to make a pot of adzuki beans and then purée in a food mill or food processor, I put a big dollop on top and YUMMM this is so very delicious (it almost makes it into a dessert for me!).

This will be a big system cleanout...you will see what I mean when you do it. You will also notice that it will even clean the pan that you cook it in! My husband has a lot of words for it... like 'slop' or 'sludge' or 'road tar'... but I love it!
I find it hard to 'fast' so this is much easier for me and I happen to really love rice cream, I think you will too, it just becomes something that you will crave!

If you are cooking this specifically for babies or kids you should only use 1-2 umeobshi plums and a smaller piece of kombu seaweed. we used it for our son when he had trouble with Eczema when he was very small. And remember the Challenge
-- "The Kids Rice Cream Challenge" please write in and the winner will receive a kids Lucky Fish t-shirt of your choice for the winning concoction! (which will end at the end of March 2009 so that you have time to try some things!) so use the comment section to make any and all of your suggestions!

Good Luck and Good Eating!

1.20.2009

so much good news today!


Today was such a special day and a day for our kids to remember for the rest of their lives! I love his call to action for all of us to wake up and get in there and work. It was just truly inspiring and I want to do my part.

And there was more good news, you may not have been on the edge of your seat as me and many of my friends that have small stores that carry unique childrens goods, but the CPSIA Act (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) won sixth place on Change.org. Which gave it a spot and put it in front of the new administration! This is very exciting as I honestly wasn't sure if we were going to be able to continue bringing you unique and handmande toys and clothing collections with the heavy restrictions that this act had posed on childrens businesses. The handmade toys and clothing that we so proudly carry at Nonchalant Mom was going to have to have a series to testing that was honestly too expensive for theses small businesses to stay alive as well as too expensive for me to keep my business alive. The act is going to be looked at with the handmade and small businesses in mind, ensuring that the testing is placed on items that it is meant to focus on and that is goods made in large factories and part of huge production. You can watch, and vote, to see how this evolves at change.org. (and in the future you can check the website: change.gov)

I also heard from my good friend Robert Redford (yes, in my dreams he is my good friend) who together with the NRDC has overturned a last minute Bush act of destruction--"On Saturday night, a federal judge ruled in our favor and blocked the Bush Administration from proceeding with the lease sale of 110,000 acres of Utah's Redrock wilderness to oil and gas companies." If you want to be a part of the NRDC you can join and get emails from 'Robert' as well! (it's always thrilling to find his emails in your inbox).

I have a feeling there is so much news ahead, we are going to have to hold onto our hats and watch to see what Mr. Obama has in store for us!

you can review the handmade toys alliance press release here

1.19.2009

The Nonchalantdad: Make your Own Cheap Fun


Economy got you down? Finding yourself a little worried about any number of things these days? Want to burn some energy and connect with your kids? Well, if you're anywhere where it's cold and you've got your fair share of snow.... why not build an igloo? Actually, my kids were so excited after seeing some of the pre-inaugural footage of soon-to-be President Obama that they wanted to go to Washington DC to be part of the festivities. Of course, this being out of the question for one reason or another, I announced to the kids that we'd build our own White House in case the President of the United States ever wanted to drop in and stay. We took advantage of the 6 or more inches of snow piled up here and there in our yard and chose our spot.

At first, the kids didn't quite get the full picture I had presented them. By the time I could gather snow and create the foundation my little girl wandered off back into the house to play and my son seemed to find more fun in throwing snow balls at the back of my head. But, I had the mantra 'YES WE CAN' playing in the back of my head and I wouldn't be deterred. Really, I just needed some fresh air and a moment away from the bills, but I also knew that once I could get the first few balls of snow laid out the magic would start to come. Pretty soon, I had enough of a foundation that my son started to use it as his base for a one-sided snowball fight against me while I shoveled snow and brought it over. Well, I soon put a stop to that little insurgency by coming behind him and dropping a whole shovel of snow on his head.


Now, we had something going on. My son soon grabbed his shovel and both of us start collecting snow at a faster pace. The walls were climbing on our White House. My son was getting more and more excited the more he could see the thing take shape. We would stop occasionally and discuss seriously how we'd formulate a stronger wall with him inside butressing the structure while I was on the outside laying the snow balls. Together we were building this thing.

Some three hours later.... yes, nothing like 3 hours straight of shoveling snow and carrying it over to the igloo, then bending to form snow balls of various size - my mind was well off the financial worries. Instead, I must admit, there was a point where it was on the fact that maybe, just maybe, I hadn't planned this thing out to well and that I wouldn't be able to get the snow (this fluffy white kind) to bend over far enough to create the ceiling. No worries, I thought, I would just go for a kind of tepee look, instead of the round kind. My son didn't care, by the time the walls reached his head he was fully into the idea. Soon enough, the time flew by and we had our finished igloo!

I must be honest. I wasn't sure how well the idea would go over. I just wanted to get myself and the kids outside for a bit. If you had told me that it would take a large portion of my front lawn to come up with all the snow it takes to build an igloo - and that for several hours my poor back would take a good kicking I might have decided otherwise. But, I didn't - and I'm glad I didn't. By the time that roof came bending over and the last snowballs met to form one big structure, my son and daughter (who came back out when she saw the final process) were loving it.


They both would crawl in it, lay down, come back outside and run around it - even climb over it (which certainly tested my amateur engineering skills). By nightfall, my son was outside with a flashlight: off and on, off and on, off and on. You couldn't ask for better. And you know what? It was totally free, totally natural, and some great time with the kids. Try it - you'll see what magic it can do. And who knows, make it strong enough and it might qualify for a rental property.....
In our case we decided to make it the White House - my kids ran inside and grabbed a flag... I guess that makes it official. And, oh yah.... no snow for you poor folks suffering out on the west coast - try making a huge sand castle. Same idea - same success I suspect!

1.18.2009

Rock Stars Have Parents Too!

The Brothers Jackson with parents

This is the age of the celebrity. Trust us, we here at Nonchalant Mom know firsthand what the idea of celebrity is supposed to mean. But, true to our spirit, we just don't believe in it. It's almost as if it has become a game of us against them - and they always seem so darn perfect... so they must be winning. These celebrities, they must come from another world. NOT!

They are much like you and I. They have Moms and Dads too.... even Grandparents who like to embarrass them on occasion. And, aside from many of todays so-called celebrities - who can possibly get bigger than the Rock Star Celebrities of the 70's? What a fantastical world that must have been (I say so only because I was just a little thing during much of that decade). But, boy, did it look like crazy fun. So, take all that crazy fun and infuse some down home sensibility and it just gets a little.... well..... normal... in a weird kind of way.

Frank Zappa with his parents

Elton with his Mother and Stepfather

Case in point - check out this small collection of photos from Life Magazine's photographer John Olson. It's not a large selection, but it is sure fun. I'm sharing some of them here - but for more go to the Guardian newspaper. We know it's all about the 80's at the moment.... but we're still big fans over here of the 70's music and some of the gaudy decor styles. So, it is fun to see some of the big names of that generation being photographed with their own parents - who, in almost all cases, look very much like nice upstanding citizens.... which is even more funny considering who their outrageous children are. Just take a look at Frank Zappa with his parents - don't tell me you didn't know a kid like that in your school. Or how about Elton with his mother and stepfather - the loving, patient mother perhaps, with the over the top teenager!!! And how about that photo of Grace Slick holding her child upside down.... totally cool.... hmmm. And then there's Donovan with his parents... the sweet boy who might have asked you to the prom - or had his mother ask you for him!!! hah!!!

Grace Slick with her mother and daughter

What it says to us is that, no matter who you are - or who you think you are - there is always your loving mother or father behind you... and more often than not - they are not what you expect - and no way are they going to be ever as cool!

Donovan with his parents

1.17.2009

'Do-It-Yourself' Photo Books!

Every year I tell myself I'm going to make a great effort and put together a file of all the photos we took of our family from the previous year. It's funny to think that our children will be one of the first generation to possibly have everything photographed in their early life! My own parents had a collection of photos of us as kids, but I now take more photos in a week than they might have taken in a year. And, I imagine it is only going to get worse when you think about the ease of camera usage and processing. Just think how fast the local photo shop succumbed. Anyway, I suspect that in the future my grandchildren, and great grandchildren will have their lives documented so much that it will be something like a concurrent dialogue running alongside their real life - something out of a sci-fi movie! Things change so fast now. Not a hundred years ago, it was conceivable that someone would go through their entire life only seeing one significant change - like the introduction of the automobile, or electricity. In our parents generation the average westerner could expect to see change over the course of a decade perhaps. But, nowadays, it seems like significant change is coming every other year! I'm thinking how much more technology has advanced, or seemed to advance, in the last 5 years alone! EEEK!

Anyway, last year I came across this new feature with my iPhoto. It allows you to compile images and create your own book of images, complete with some script. There are a choice of styles, presentations, and even textures.... I just went with the simplest. Of course, you pay for the service, but it isn't necessarily expensive. I have found that it is a great and unique way (at least for the next year or so) to capture something special. And, from easily organizing the book yourself, to putting in your order, it seems like the whole process takes almost as long as the photo shop used to take to get your roll of film processed.



This year I used the service to produce some fun books for our family - but also some books for friends as a small gift for an occasion, for example, or just to share some special moments. I still save the bulk of stuff on discs that I store away (that's one thing that is a certain benefit - the amount of space it takes to file a disc as compared to a heavy box of photos).... but, if you are like me and like an object that you can pick up and feel nostalgic for, well then, this seems like a decent compromise between the future and the past.

My only real complaint is that when the little books I ordered arrived - they were way over packaged in very secure cardboard boxes. Though it was cool-looking the way each book was carefully configured inside the box - and certainly created to offer the highest level of comfort for a simple soft cover photo book.... I couldn't help but think that it was overkill. And, anyway, you'd think that for such an advanced company, they would be well ahead of the curve when it came to recycled goods and environmental friendly packaging!!! In short, the content is cool and advanced - the packaging could be made simpler!!! Just my opinion.

Double Checking your Child's Homework!!!


OK, it's very very cold (at least in the midwest and northeast!!!) and it's that dismal time of year for many. So, my friend Teresa just sent me the funniest email message I've had lately. Normally, my friends send some odd stuff - as I'm sure your friends do too.... like dogs playing piano, people embarrassing themselves in strange ways, stupid jokes... and the odd right wing nonsense (you know who you are!). But, this latest one, involving the image above, was just to funny - and, all parents could relate. My oldest son, who is in first grade, has already narrowly embarrassed us unintentionally by relating information that we just assumed was private!!! So, when I saw this funny message, I just had to laugh laugh laugh.... and, if you're like me - well, I just needed it today! Thanks Teresa!

The mother is writing a note to the teacher because the teacher has asked about the above image that her daughter drew. I'm pretty darn sure none of it is real (check out the depiction of the dollar bills!).... but heck... who cares. The tag line to the above image reads like this:

Dear Mrs Jones,
I wish to clarify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an exotic dancer - as you suggest. I work at Home Depot and I told my daughter how hectic it was last week before the big blizzard hit. I told her we sold out of every single shovel we had, but that I had found one in the back. The customers were fighting over who should get it. Her picture does not show me dancing around a pole! It's supposed to depict me selling the last shovel we had at Home Depot! From now on I will check her homework more closely!
Sincerely,
Mrs Smith

1.14.2009

singing.... (in the car!?!!)


YES! a resounding yes! there is a saying about singing every day, and I believe it, I don't remember who said it, how it goes, or what it actually says but it goes something like this... "sing every day, it's good for you!" ah, you know what I mean!

But, when it comes to kids I think that parents tend to think that the latest cinderella cd, or Dora (god, help me!) are what you need for kids to be interested but really... you are driving the bus, not Mickey Mouse for gods sake! Your kids will love the Beatles, Elvis (my sons favorite), or Steve Miller Band (Fly Like and Eagle!) and I promise you that you know the words to Frank Sinatra's "New York" better than you know "Dora's Backpack"! So why not sing along with them and really like it while you are doing it! Your kids will know the difference and there is no better way to de-rail a bad car trip, no matter how long or short.

I have long been a singing-in-the-car kind of girl, what else do you do in Minnesota, in -20 degree weather!!? I amaze my husband by knowing the words to just about any song on an "Oldies Hits" channel on the radio, but it's honestly so much fun with the kids, they love it and sing along with me.

My new favorite is Adele, who was on Saturday Night Live one night, and I immdeitaly ran out (well ran to my iTunes) and bought it! She has a song called "Chasing Pavements" that my son and I really love to Yell/Sing in the car, BUT here is the beauty... he sings "Chasing Cavemen" and it's so much better that way! I laugh just writing it now! It harkens back to Whoopi Goldberg trying to sing the words to "Jumpin Jack Flash..." but she has no idea what they are saying! So now we sing the Caveman song, but he loves it, he is free when he is singing it, and it's fun for all of us.

So leave those kiddie CD's behind and just have some free-falling fun, and if a swear word comes up, just pretend they said something else! Just make it up and have a good time!

1.13.2009

danish teak


I was talking to someone in Minneapolis today and it brought to mind 'Danish Teak' one of my favorite stops when I am in Minnesota. We have a few pieces from Steven Swanson, who opened his doors in 1980 importing Danish mid-century modern furniture here from Sweden and Denmark. Over the years he has moved into a larger space, but he still works on each piece himself. If need be, he refinishes peices to their original petina and they look beautiful! I get a lot of requests for some of the furniture in our home which is from Danish Teak and some other friends who deal in 20th Century Furniture.

I think that these classics are a great way to make your home more warm and comfortable, these pieces don't need to be showpieces, moreover they are an easy way to make your home look more simple, clean and uncomplicated. When we had our first son I wanted to get a comfortable chair for breastfeeding or ultimately a rocking chair, it transpired in a Lamino chair from Swedse (above) which we love but it doesn't rock! If you are expecting may I suggest one of these (below) Hans Wegner rocking chairs...really the Ultimate! (Danish Teak has one in beach wood and one lacquered black, both are so beautiful) they look great and are the most comfortable for...well rocking, breastfeeding, getting your new baby to sleep! it's not easy to find a very cool, comfortable and generally chic rocking chair.



need a new family table perhaps? for your new family style dining (yes, eating out will not be so fun anymore and family dinners are the best way to get everyone together talking about the day and looking at each other and sharing, even if you live in New York City and never thought you would eat at home...you WILL I promise!)This Hans Wegner chair is still in production, it's simple lovely and couldn't add more to a room, in the winter just throw a lambskin on the seat, and there you have it...cozy seating!


I have included some of my other favorites here, like this smart sofa, so ingenious! because who knows...just about everyone I know that has new kids has done some kind of redecorating...it's ineviatble!

good luck and I hope this these images are inspiring.
visit the Danish Teak website here where they have these items available or they also have a section for that has previous items and you can "ask them to get another one like it" and they will!

1.10.2009

sharing advise with your sisters


My sister and I had very different lives, she had kids early and I had my kids later in life, this was very handy for me but maybe I was not so much for my sister (although I did introduce her to macrobiotics, ha!). But there are a few things that she told me that have always stuck in my mind as good advise, and whenever I am with friends and we start passing around advise my sisters always come to mind.

sister advise #1: "sometimes you just have to pretend you don't see things" in other words, pick your fights. There are so many times that I see our kids doing 'something' to each other and then getting in a scrap over it and sometimes it's just best to pretend you didn't see it and let them work it out between themselves. Obviously there are times when you just step in to diffuse the situation, but many times I think it's good for both parties for them to work it out. This also works for breaking things, dropping things, and even some tripping and falling (they can usually get up themselves you know!) I think it's good for them.

sister advise #2: It was after my sister had her second girl that I realized that she didn't go on and on about her kids much, I thought this was wonderful because I had heard so many women talk and talk about their babies and how marvelous they were but there was my sister with the cutest kids of all (okay maybe I was biased just a bit) and just listening to their stories. So I asked her once and she simply said, "when you listen to a lot of that gushing you just realize that nobody really listens to it anyhow so I just don't do it." well la-ti-da! how simple is that and I think that it's true, the proof is in the pudding and everyone can see how cute your baby/kids is without yourself going on and on.... although, I must say I have to give in sometimes! it's just impossible to resist, right!?

There are a few more but we did not live near each other when she had her kids so I kind of held onto the few things I got and tried to remember them. There is one that I use on almost a daily basis and well maybe it might work for you... we were all sitting around her dinner table and eating our lovely macrobiotic dinner and her middle girl (who was about 8-9 years old) said "why do we have to eat this food?" and she shot off "just eat it and think of it as fuel for your body" ....that's it...end of story! Nice one Linda!

Oh, and it does work in the opposite direction... when we had our first baby, my sister came to New York to see him right after he was born and tossed a pacifier in his mouth and I almost hit the ceiling, he was attached to it for three - four years after that, I got over it but at that moment the sisterly love was out the window!

Please comment and share with us some of your sisterly gleanings so that we can all pass on each others and make us all the wiser!

(ps. that picture is from an Iyengar yoga trip we did together on the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota, isn't it beautiful...)

1.05.2009

Big Kitchen with Food starring Chef Julian!


BAM!!! Slide on over Emeril. And, for good measure, Martha better watch her back! There's a new chef on the block. And, the progressive folks over at Portland Community Television have found him: Chef Julian!

We happened to hear a story about Julian Kreusser on NPR today - and it peaked our interest here at Nonchalant Mom. If you do not know him already, let us introduce you. Chef Julian is the master of his own cooking show on Portland Community Television simply called 'Big Kitchen with Food.' This spritely and charming chef is only 5 years old. He started his interest in cooking as young as 3 years old when he awoke before his parents and scrambled some eggs. He also concocted something called toasted olives, which seemed to go over quite well - but we're not so sure about that one!

And, it would seem that his production for the show is a family affair, including his younger sister on lights, his mother as director and impromptu assistant and human teleprompter when needed. His father is a producer and helps with editing. But, other than that, this young man has a command of his craft that few chefs can master.

So far, in his slim oeuvre he has shared such recipes as 'Chocolate Chip Zuccini Muffins', Persimmon Smoothies, a 'Spaghetti Sauce', and the particularly unique 'Yummy Yummy Citrus Boys', which we understand was essentially a scientific mixture of clementines and gingerbread mix (the master himself not being overly pleased with the outcome!).


One of the most appealing things about Chef Julian's show is its lack of snappy pacing and big set. The scene takes place in his family kitchen, using what tools he has command of, and what basic items he is familiar with. Nothing overly fancy here - but not short on artistic talent. The idea for the show comes from young Julian himself and is an extension of his home/own-schooling. There is talk about taking it national, but during the radio interview Julian didn't seem to care, and his mother refreshingly did not see the point in pushing it. This is all about learning. And, to be honest, our favorite bits are when Chef Julian finds himself at a loose end with regard to his ingredients (his mother helps prompt him from time to time off camera), or even better, when the camera lingers on him just long enough to show his fascination with trying to get a wooden spoon to stand on its own in a bowl of muffin batter! And, you won't find a better music soundtrack anywhere else on television!

Chef Julian Demonstrates!


Honestly, we don't know if this is the kind of thing that prime time television will take to as an idea. It certainly is a lot better than some of the other things being presented. But, that's not the real point in all of this. Julian's parents have the right idea it would seem - they just enjoy helping their boy learn in the most creative way. Perhaps we should all start a new effort on YouTube - segments featuring our own kids as they share their best recipes with all of us. They may not be as commanding as the charming Chef Julian is, but the process would be worth all the joy nontheless!

We only have a few pieces of advice for Chef Julian and his 'handlers': use organic whenever possible (it's hard to tell on the show if they do or not) and, whatever you do, keep the young man away from the cooking sherry!!!

1.04.2009

Please help to save the handmade industry (CPSIA HR4040)


I never had a slice of bread,
Particularly large and wide,
That did not fall upon the floor,
And always on the buttered side.
(anonymous verse,circa 1841)

There's alot of concern in the children's handmade toy and clothing industry at the moment. There's a lot of confusion, a lot of anxiety, and a lot of worry. Why? Well, if you haven't already heard - the US Congress is on the verge of passing a bill called HR4040 (the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act).

We're sure you heard the stories recently associated with the public scare associated with imported toys from certain Chinese manufacturers - and for good reason. These cheaply made items were tainted with high levels of lead and phthalates (a substance used to make plastics more flexible). Cheap and Badly made products were coming back to haunt us. Bad on them for these factories for producing such things. Bad on us if we bought this cheap throwaway crap for the sake of saving a few dollars! arghh! As a consequence, the US Congress has acted to clean up the mess.

The problem is that word has spread fast among small business associations that the bill mentioned above, as it is written now, is far from clear, way to broad in its demands, and unfair to small business. As some people have insinuated, we honestly don't think that this bill is a big-business-influenced stab at small business. We feel it's more of a matter of hastily arranged and over-reactive bureaucratic language - something that can be a common occurence when legislative bills are first drafted. All the more reason, at this stage to get involved and have your voice heard. We here at Nonchalant Mom think that the online industry with it's 'Etsy' and 'Dawanda's' supporting crafters of all sorts is such a benefit to our country and economy... we had always hoped that this was the direction that our country is turning. So, legislation such as this could severely quell this wonderful aspect of the online community and further crack the backbone of small businesses that have already withstood many a storm. We need to voice up and stand strong for these wonderful people making very special things for our kids and our homes.

To be as concise as possible, if it is possible to do so, we'd like to share with you what the bill basically proposes starting this February. To do this, we will borrow some words from our friends at SMALL MAGAZINE who have been very supportive in spreading the word to everyone concerned about how truly devastating this can be for everyone who produces, manufactures, designs, sells, or trades in children's toys or clothing items:

"...parts of this bill will directly effect all small handmade toy makers, designers and store owners in a way that will put many of them out of business. The CPSIA rules now requires all children's products, including natural handmade toys and clothing to be tested by a Third Party Lab, often at a cost of up to $4,000 per item. That could cost a small company more than $20,000 a season.

The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of children's goods that have earned and kept the public's trust: Toys, clothes, and accessories made in the US, Canada, and Europe. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade children's products will no longer be legal in the US.
"

If the bill is to be taken seriously at this point, then it will not only effect small businesses nation wide who deal with producing or selling toys and clothing, but it will effect you as a consumer as well since many, if not all, small businesses like ours will be deeply impacted - thus reducing your ability to find handmade items for your children. And, worse, there is talk that this bill will even affect such business' as second-hand stores, and at worst, even something as small as a garage sale - since any time an item is sold, or made even by your grandmother at her kitchen table, it will be subjected to the mandatory and potentially expensive third-party testing to insure that the items are not tainted. This is some sweeping legislation..... !!!

The irony in all of this is that there is no evidence showing that any tainted items were produced in the USA or Europe. This has largely been initiated because of the recent scare concerning items produced by some large factories in China. No, that isn't ironic - it's cynical. We are all going to be subjected to a punishment that many many many small business' in this country and Europe did nothing to prompt.

But, before we get going on this thing... let's keep in mind some good news. Congress probably means well by trying to protect the consumer. And, we believe the bill will be reviewed and will probably be rewritten. Congress has the best of intentions, even if its current draft is HARSH. This is our government, and we need to take action. And, believe us when we tell you that almost every small business we know is deeply concerned (as if we need more) and is acting to bring attention to the potential consequences.

So, if you would like to have some more information about this bill please go to the following website and download the current bill yourself at CPSIA. Or, go ahead and search the many blogs and chat pages that are discussing this potential bill. It's all very confusing and potentially very scary!

If you'd like to act to clean up the terms of this bill and bring attention to its potential harm for many small businesses, we suggest contacting your state representative's office (Congressperson or Senators) - it isn't that hard to send an email and ask them to clarify their position concerning this bill, as well as tell them your concern.

here are some things that you can do to help, they only take a minute and if all of us voice-up someone will hear the call:

1. sign the petition click here

2. vote to modify the CPSIA on change.org - this website is amazing! the top 10 ideas from change.org will be presented to President Obama on inauguration day. we are currently at number 1 in the economy section - so keep it up there and vote now!!

3. phone or email your representatives in the house & senate (it's easy just click and select your state).

4. write a letter to congress you can use this sample letter or write your own.

5. join the save handmade toys facebook group

6. join the CPSIA discussion group.

Wish us all luck - and this includes yourself as a discerning consumer! We are not given to hyperbole normally - but this is going to be a sad day for the small guys/gals if it continues as is! Thanks for listening!

1.02.2009

A Small Tribute to Edwina Froehlich


I was reading an article in the newspaper today about a study that found that babies who had been breast fed for at least 4 months, as compared to those who were breast fed less than 4 months or bottle fed entirely, developed a better set of functioning lungs into childhood...well, well, well... slowly but surely the news is getting out breastfeeding is good! ha, it's not the 1950's anymore and I don't think anyone needs to hear news like this to say 'ah ha... I should breastfeed' I think that the biggest problem is moms that really want to breastfeed but have problems. Those problems vary and I have heard many theories but I think that la leche league meeting is always the answer. The whole thing reminded me that this year one of the co-founders of la leache league, Edwina Froehlich, had passed away at the age of 93. I meant to write a little something about Edwina Froehlich this past summer... and regretfully, I forgot.

I have written before about my love for la leche league and how much they helped me when I had troubles with our first son. There is just something about sitting around with a bunch of women breastfeeding that just seems to help any problem or issue you may be having, being it big or small! And that is what their entire concept was based on, when you go to a meeting you all just sit around and then just go around the circle and everyone talks about their breastfeeding issues one by one, you can learn so much from each other--issues you may not have right now but can help you and your baby further down the road. It's all so simple, free, and comforting that the la leche league idea spread pretty quickly. I think it was written up in readers digest in 1956 or so and then boom the book took off and so did the meetings!

I was reading in the New York Times tribute to her that the seven founding mothers had 55 children between them! I was also impressed that their early organization anticipated the feminist movement to come. Among many other great things the organization represents, the founders were early advocates for eating natural foods and spending more time with their children at the expense of their 50's roles as housewives presumably. By 1980, more than half of American women were breastfeeding and La Leche League had created about 4,000 groups nationwide - and now the League reaches almost 70 countries, with about 70% of women today in the USA breastfeeding upon leaving the hospital.

The times changed, and women started to go to work. It was one of the few core principles of the League that women should be available to their children as much as possible, even at the expense of work. I was not one of these mothers, since I was working. And I remember showing up at a meeting with my breastpump and when it came to my turn I just asked "how do these things work!?", I went into a full descrption (I'm sure I was in tears) that I tried it and I couldn't get it to pump...on and on...well the room went silent, no one had any answers for this, and they had probably never seen this crazy machine. But finally one of the leaders pulled me aside and helped me to work it out (hhhmmm, I didn't realize you needed to do both breasts at once) after she showed me this she added that she really had never used one but had 'heard' how this worked. At the time I didn't really think anything of it, I just figured these guys didn't need to work (I was at an upper west side of NYC meeting, so... why work?!) So it wasn't until much later that I realized that their core principles of the League that women should be available to their children. I honestly still love the la leche league and how helpful they were to me and my kids, it's so wonderful that this kind of support exists, and honestly, I have heard of friends that have had troubles and don't go to meetings because they think it's going to be a bunch of toddlers breastfeeding, but I think that their information is invaluable, and moms need to reach out to other moms for their answers. Nonetheless, I think that their attitude has changed a bit, and there is now an acknowledgment that many mothers do work today!

I am going to add a bit to this and say that breastfeeding should be a comfortable thing to do anywhere and at any time, the whole point to breastfeeding is that you are carrying around the perfect milk at the perfect temperature ready and waiting. Now some people don't think that a busy restaurant is a place for breastfeeding and if it's loud, it's probably not, but when you are an active parent--out and about--you can't find the perfect place all the time and I can tell you this, a rest room, unless you are at the four seasons and it's like a palace is not the place to breastfeed. It should be a comfortable and intimate thing between baby and mom and where you are doing it shouldn't matter to anyone but your baby and you, just be selfish and worry about the two of you... but I feel another blog coming on and I will save this for later, so back to the tribute...

Thanks, in large part to people like Edwina Froehlich (and the other six founding mothers) breastfeeding your baby is now agreed by many to be the more wholesome approach to feeding your baby or toddler - much different to the attitude that prevailed in those earlier days. I salute Edwina Froehlich and all the others who have worked to support natural parenting!