Things to Make - Rosemary Sage Body Scrub

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Since beginning this blog, I have received various emails and requests for guest posts, press, advertising, etc. Most of which did/do not seem like a good "fit" (though I always appreciate the asking). But every once in awhile, a perfect request comes a long. A few months ago, a woman named Michelle Pino** asked if I'd be interested in blogging some homemade body care recipes. Since I'm trying to cut down on excess spending (i.e. Red Door), this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I decided to try Michelle's rosemary sage body scrub and ordered all of the ingredients through Amazon (except for the sea salt, which I bought at Trader Joe's). It only took about five minutes to mix is all together. The results were incredible. I think I'm going to make a few more jars for end of the year teacher's gifts.

So thank you very very much Michelle! And readers, let me know what you think! I'm hoping to post more of Michelle's wonderful concoctions in weeks to come . . .

Here's the scoop:

1 cup Sweet Almond Oil
2 cups Sea Salt
Rosemary Essential Oil
Sage Essential Oil
Airtight Jar for Storing (Mason Jar recommended but not required)
Spoon for Mixing

Fill your jar with the fine sea salt. (If you have sensitive skin, you can replace it with brown sugar.) Then slowly add your sweet almond oil a little at a time since you might not need all of it. There should be just enough oil to hold the mixture together, so try not to make it too oily. Then add 6 drops of your sage and rosemary essential oils. Mix everything together with the spoon. Done!

It's really simple to make your own natural scrub at a fraction of the cost of store bought ones. Feel free to experiment with different exfoliants, essential oils, and carrier oils to find one that you like the most.

And if you want to experiment with different scrubs, here's Michelle's advice:

Every scrub has a basic recipe consisting of an exfoliating base, essential oils, and carrier oils. Since the skin on your body is rougher than the skin on your face, sea salt is a great choice for a body scrub. If you want to make a face scrub, use finer exfoliants such as sugar or oats.

Essential oils serve to add delicate fragrances for your scrub. Each bottle of essential oil should last you a relatively long time, as you only need a few drops. When purchasing them, make sure that the oils have been cold-pressed, come with a stopper to minimize spillage, and are in a dark colored bottle to prevent oxidation. Some personal favorite essential oils to choose from include: rosemary, lavender, grapefruit, sage, and bergamot.

Carrier oils are the base oils that moisturize your skin and keeps your mixture together, anything from sweet almond oil, to grape seed oil, to olive oil. Personally, I prefer sweet almond oil since it's easy to find and doesn't leave an oily film.

***Michelle Pino, is a Spa Manager at Skana, a spa in upstate New York at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY. She enjoys DIY projects, healthy recipes, exercise, and all things related to skin care. If you have any comments or questions feel free to contact Michelle via email at michellepino@turningstone.com.


Things to Do - Random Links

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In case you have a case of the Mondays, here are some links to brighten your day . . .

* Nick van Woert's studio. Coolness.

* Buy art for charity. I love several of these beautiful prints.

* We're currently making our way through Parks and Rec on Netflix (that show is hysterical) and I'm a little (okay a lot) obsessed with Amy Poehler right now. Poehler's youtube channel for "smart girls" took my obsession to a whole new level.

* Zammaan - crowd sourced family photos from the middle east. Change your perspective.

* An Amazon warehouse - these pictures are worth seeing just for the space alone (miles and miles of books), employees walk between between 7 and 15 miles as part of their daily shift. But the actual info is quite depressing - “The feedback we’re getting is [working in the Amazon warehouse is] like being in a slave camp,” said Brian Garner, the centre’s dapper chairman.

* How to be alone.

* Loving these pictures of a train ride (with kids) in India.

* Test Your Creativity: 5 Classic Creative Challenges. I need to work on this.

* Kids were here.

* Oh Gweneth, how we love to hate you. (yet i'm still on the library waitlist to check out your newest cookbook).

* 10 fascinating TED talks by contemporary artists. Of course, I haven't listened to any of them yet. But I plan on it. Soon.

* 30 easy color ideas for every room of your home.


Things to Do - Grateful List (March 2013)

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Even during bad months, good things happen . . .

* Reading Arcadia
* Reading Ruth Ginsburg's profile in the New Yorker (March 11)
* Reading Tenth of December: Stories
* Reading The Sense of an Ending
* Reading The Trouble Begins: A Box of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-3 (The Bad Beginning; The Reptile Room; The Wide Window)
* F reading Anne of Green Gables
* Watching Parks and Recreation Season 2 on Netflix (hysterical, I love this show)
* Watching Sheryl Sandberg's TED talk
* Watching Janeane Garofalo's live stand up at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse

* Jicama, mango, and cucumber salad (from the The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery
* Lentil stew with spinach and red potatos, thank you Allegra! (from The Pink Ribbon Diet: A Revolutionary New Weight Loss Plan to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk)
* Dan's tumeric hummus
* Pimm's cups at William Jeffrey's Tavern
* Roasted vegetable and farro salad (from the Washington Post)
* Spinach gorgonzola pasta (from The Pink Ribbon Diet: A Revolutionary New Weight Loss Plan to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk)

* Winter at the National Zoo
* The Washington Youth Garden's Nature Playspace in the National Arboretum (Washington DC)
* Dumbarton Oaks (Washington DC)
* A beautiful morning at Clemyjontri park with friends
* T at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, "i don't think he's working, I think he's standing. Because if he was working he'd have a computer."

VACATION (Philadelphia & Charlottesville)
* A weekend away at the Clifton Inn
* The Magic Gardens (seriously magical!!)
* Free breakfast and dinner at the hotel (plus T "swimming" in the pool); a wonderful vacation with my mom
* Hotel room burpee contests (P did 183 burpees in 10 minutes, how is that even possible?)
* Big Bugs at the Morris Arboretum


* Our new basement playroom (more on this in upcoming posts . . .)

* F and P staying up past bedtime reading books to each other
* Watching Coco run
* me - "being pretty on the outside doesn't matter, as long as you're pretty on the inside"; P - "well, unless it's for a photoshoot or wedding, then only the outside matters"
* Playgrouping until midnight at Allegra's house (thank you!!)
* "I'm going to draw pictures of my happy thoughts so I won't forget them" - P
* T coming home from a playdate and asking "mom, how could you go to the grocery store without me?"
* P on the LON basement makeover, "I just think our house is really cute now, don't you, F?"
* T always unloading the groceries for me
* The memorial service of a wonderful neighbor who died of brain cancer this month, so so sad but also so amazing to think of how large of an impact one person can have in a relatively short life
* P's obsession with fractions; F's obsession with poetry
* T singing "This is the day the Lorax came" over and over (a song he "learned" from the pastor at his preschool). When Dan inquired "are you sure it's not This is the day the Lord has made?" T replied "um, no dad, I'm pretty sure it's the Lorax."
* Playing Dominion Prosperity and Intrigue
* "I'm glad I don't have everything I want, life would be boring without anything to wish for" - P
* Our "whole family" for Easter dinner and watching the kids and their cousins scramble like crazy for easter eggs


F - art, books, school, my family, that we have a nice house to live in and food to eat, early release days, Lemony Snickett, spring, nature, Grandma T visiting, planning vacations, Cybil Lily, "an excellent day, so excellent I can't even describe it", easter, Coco, all my grandparents

P - my family, going to Menchie's, the new Utopian girl in my class [Ethiopian], dollies, our new playroom, playdates with L, going to Dumbarton Oaks, early release, cartwheels, doing gymnastics on the playground, sleeping over at E's house, my cousins, Grandpa and Grandma M, Grandma T visiting, the hotel swimming pool, Philadelphia, daddy's leg healing, vacation

T - Grandma T visiting, the hotel pool, going on vacation with grandma, Natalia, daddy being home, police, trucks, that we go to the big playground [Clemyjontri], playing with my friends, meeting spiderman, school, my cousins

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Things to Read - 6 Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on video games, day care, $40,000, American Girl dolls, creativity tests, and gun control)

1. The Huff Post rejected this personal piece on troubled teams and video games. It's depressing and somewhat scary, yet worth a read.

" As a teacher, I’ve spent a lot of time this past week [December 27, 2012] thinking about the Newtown shooting, school shootings in general, their causes and possible preventions.
It’s scary now to think that I ever had anything in common with school shooters. I don’t enjoy admitting that. But I did have a lot in common with them. I was angry, had access to guns, felt ostracized, and didn’t make friends easily. I engaged in violence and wrote about killing people in my notes to peers. But there is one significant difference between me at 16 and 17 years of age and most high school shooters: I didn’t play violent video games.

. . . .

Now I am not anti-video game crusader Jack Thompson. I’m not suggesting that everyone who plays a video game will act out that video game in reality. But I am saying that it is very dangerous to allow troubled, angry, teenage boys access to killing practice, even if that access is only virtual killing practice. The military uses video games to train soldiers to kill, yet we don’t consider “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3″ training for addicted teenage players? A high school boy who plays that game 30 hours per week isn’t training to kill somebody?
I am not surprised that school shooters love violent video games. As an angry, troubled teen, I would’ve probably loved to shoot hundreds of people on-screen. That might’ve felt nice.
But now, as a teacher, I worry about my most troubled male students playing games like “Halo 4″ and “Assassin’s Creed 3,” bragging about violent actions that they’ve never done in the real world. A scrawny, angry boy’s who’s failing socially is a scary video game addict.

2. The New Republic published a horrifying piece on low income daycare in America.

"By national standards, Texas child care regulations are typical—better than average in some respects, worse in others. That is to say, they are painfully minimal. “You know, when we walk into some of these places, they’re meeting the letter of the standards,” Lahmeyer says. “But it’s like a warehouse for children. You know it when, as the inspector, you are the most interesting thing the kids have seen all day. They attach themselves to you and are trying to engage because there’s nothing else going on for them.”

Like most states, Texas inspects child care centers at least once a year, but only has the manpower to visit home day cares every two. Even egregious violations don’t always lead to shutdowns. Sometimes, that’s because parents, lacking alternatives, fight to keep notorious places open. An inspector named Carol McGinnis told me she’d recently visited a center in “total disarray,” with “feces smeared on the walls.” Nevertheless, if the agency closed it, McGinnis expected some parents would resist, because it was one of the few places offering care on weekends.

On other occasions, the process of closing a day care can be torturous. Lahmeyer recalled one place that racked up repeated violations over two years before a judge would shut it down. “I can tell you there’s a fair number [of cases] that we lost because the judge decided, No child’s died yet, so they stay open,” Lahmeyer says.

All too often, it takes an incident to force a closure. Last November, for instance, DFPS closed a center after a caregiver left a nine-month-old infant alone on a changing table without a belt. The baby fell onto a concrete floor, sustaining a serious skull injury. In addition to the caregiver, DFPS cited the director for failing to “contact the parents the next day when a ‘mushy’ bump was observed on the infant’s head.” I asked McGinnis how many of the area’s providers she’d trust with her own child. She answered promptly: “Twenty percent.”

3. I don't know what to say about A Conversation with a Single Mom Living on $40,000 a Year other than it needs to be read.

"I definitely live paycheck-to-paycheck and that’s not an exaggeration. My bank balance by payday is often $0. I have no savings at all. My priorities as far as bills go are rent and childcare. I am lucky that I don’t have a lot of credit card debt, but even without that I can’t always pay all my bills. I have a very strict budget that I stick to. I can’t always pay utility bills in full, but I have figured out how much I have to pay to keep the utility companies from shutting off my service. My gas usage is higher in the winter, but goes way down in the summer so I am able to catch up on that bill by the next winter. I rent a very rundown house in a good school system and pay below market rent. Even then I have negotiated that rent to keep it low—not asking for a lot of work to be done, doing work on the house myself, etc.

I have really learned to negotiate a lot. For the summer, I simply could not afford the cost of full-time care for all three kids—it was more than I earn! So I contacted the child care provider and was very frank about my situation and was able to work out an arrangement for payment that allows me to keep them in child care. Then there are bills that I just can’t pay. I was saddled with a large debt in my divorce and I have just no money to pay that with—I know it will catch up with me eventually but for right now my priority is keeping my kids sheltered, fed and cared for.
I can’t always pay utility bills in full, but I have figured out how much I have to pay to keep the utility companies from shutting off my service.

I stick to a strict budget as far as groceries. I make menus, never shop without a list and rarely have “treats” for the kids. Our big night is when I order pizza and watch a movie on Netflix. My kids are growing so fast and I really can’t keep up with buying clothes for three of them so I have learned to swallow my pride and ask for donations. I belong to a listserv of single mothers and just put it out there that I needed clothes and received a lot of donations which got us through the winter.

I don’t take vacations—alone or with the kids. We rarely go out and when the kids are with their dad, I don’t go out. It’s very isolating because not having any “extra” money means I can’t go out and socialize."

4. Have American Girl dolls become too bland and materialistic? (Truthfully, before reading this article I had no idea that they ever weren't bland).

"With a greater focus on appearance, increasingly mild character development, and innocuous political topics, a former character-building toy has become more like a stylish accessory. Radford says, "I was really focused on the historical and fictional stories of the dolls. My [younger] cousins seem to view their dolls as one more item they need to be cool. They seem focused on having more outfits than their friends as opposed to connecting to the stories." American Girl once provided a point of entry for girls who have matured into thoughtful, critical, empowered citizens. Now the company's identity feels as smooth, unthreatening and empty as the dolls on their shelves."

5. NPR asks us to consider whether creativity be tested. After reading this article, I copied the experiment and drew large colored-in eggs on blank white pieces of paper. Then I asked the girls to "create." They both made the eggs into huge eyes, perhaps we've been reading too much Lemony Snicket?

"In the late 1950s, a man named E. Paul Torrance was . . . interested in children's creativity.

. . . .

"They were high-energy kids with ideas," she says, "and those don't always fit into a very structured school situation. And so [Torrance] did a lot of research in how, for example, teachers much prefer highly intelligent kids and often don't like highly creative kids because they are harder to control and they're misunderstood."

Torrance set out to change that, or at least to prove that creativity was as important as intelligence, not just in the arts, but in every field. As part of that mission, he devised a number of ways to test for creativity. Today, the system he created is called the Torrance Test."

6. Obviously, for those who read my post on gun control, I am EXTREMELY upset that the background checks bill didn't pass. Gabby Giffords wrote a fantastic article about "A Senate in the Gun Lobby's Grip", which I (of course) highly suggest reading. Further, Huff Post published a summary of how certain senators stuck their necks out in attempting to legislate against the NRA (go Harry Reid!!).

Regardless of whether or not you agree with me, call your senator. This is the time to show them who they work for. Even if you love the NRA, don't let them speak for you. Call yourself. It's time that people mattered more than lobbies.

" . . . Reid, who is up for reelection in 2016 and shows no signs of retiring . . . spoke out on behalf of an assault weapons ban on the Senate floor Wednesday in terms that'll certainly draw the ire of the pro-gun crowd back home.

. . . .

"Today I choose to vote my conscience," said Reid in an emotional speech. "Not only is Harry Reid a United States senator, but also a husband, a father, a grandfather and, I hope, friend of lots and lots of people. I choose to vote my conscience because if tragedy strikes again, I'm sorry to say, Mr. President, it will, if innocents are gunned down in a classroom, theater or restaurant -- I would have trouble living with myself."

He went on to blast opponents as conspiracy nuts. "I'll vote for the ban because maintaining the law and order is more important than satisfying conspiracy theorists who believe in black helicopters and false flags," Reid said. "I'll vote for the ban because saving the lives of police officers, young and old, and innocent civilians, young and old, is more important than preventing imagined tyranny."


Things to Do - 12 Pictures in 12 Hours (April 2013)

On all of these wonderful photography blogs I keep coming across 10 on 10 projects (click here for to view one of my favorites). For me, the idea of photographing a whole day seemed daunting - always being "on", trying to capture every moment. And then editing it all down to a small, select grouping, aiming for both honesty and beauty.

But lately, I've been trying to challenge myself a little, so this Monday (on Earth Day) I decided to bring the camera everywhere we went. Unfortunately, after downloading 450 pictures (and keep in mind that I erase the truly bad ones before I download), I realized that I had a ton of decent pictures and no GREAT pictures. Further, I found it tricky to pick only one pic from each time frame (and to leave out some timeframes entirely).

Still, the result really does capture one of our ordinary days. I might try more of these in the future (maybe once a month?), does anyone want to join me? Let me know if you're interested, we could link to each other's projects.

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9:30 am - Location scouting with T and Coco, Fort C.F Smith (Arlington, VA).

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11:30 am - Playdate at J's house.

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1:30 pm - On our way to the shoe store (yes, I actually took pictures in the store too, but didn't love how any of them turned out).

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2:30 - Pass out on the couch.

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3:45 pm - Walk the girls home from school.

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4:15 pm - F plays with a hippo. P practices gymnastics.

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4:45 pm - After school art project - paper bag "quilt."

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5:30 pm - Books and bubbles in the backyard while I make dinner. F's obsessed with Harry Potter lately.

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7:00 pm - After dinner dog walk.

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7:30 pm - Marble run with Dan before bedtime.


Things to Make - Cucumber, Jicama, and Mango Salad

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Jicama is one of those vegetables that I'm never quite sure what to do with - it always seems intriguing and restaurants tend to make it yummy, but I find it rather "tough" to figure out. Then I discovered this salad and now I'm addicted, fresh and easy - perfect for spring.

1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 large cucumber, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup peeled and diced jicama (in 1/2 inch cubes)
1 cup diced mango, in 1/2 inch cubes [I always buy it precut]
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1. Combine the vinegar, water, agave nectar, lime juice, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid has thickened and measures approximately 1/4 cup. Refrigerate.

2. Combine the cucumber, jicama, and mango. Add the vinegar mixture. Stir. Top with the mint.

-Recipe from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery (a seriously delicious cookbook)


Things to Do - Exactly Four Weeks Ago


Four weeks ago today, spring break began. And snow dumped all over us.

I'm not exactly thrilled that over the past few days temps kept decreasing (we had to drag our winter coats out of the closet for the DC United Game last night), but at least there are buds on the trees and sunshine late into the evening.

Happy Earth Day everyone!!



Things to Do - Random Links

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* Beloved movies that Roger Ebert hated.

* The jellybean plate is my favorite.

* The Top 25 Best Songs of 2013 (So Far). And The Top 10 Baby Names of 2013 (So Far). (I love a list).

* Not sure which one of these sites I like better - F** Your Noguchi Coffee Table or 15 Mid-Century Modern Dream Homes That Will Kill Your Children (thank you Carolyn and Addison!!)

* Roger Sterling's Best One Liners, though they left out my favorite - Don Draper: What kind of company are we going to be?/Roger Sterling: The kind where everyone has a summer house?

* Behind a museum's closed doors - I wish I could afford to buy Neanderthals and hang it in the living room.

* America's 10 Most Beautiful Hidden Gems - who's ever heard of Damascus, VA??

* The marketing gods have enslaved our children.

* The absolute worst poems by celebrities. Oh Jennifer Aniston, maybe I expect too much from you.

* Great suggestions on ways to celebrate Earth Day with the kiddos.

* Last, but not least, a few pictures of T's "wedding" are up over here.


Things to Do - Perhaps This Is Middle Age

At the beginning of spring I always seem to write a post saying how winter exhausted me, which seems so cliched and simplistic. But here I am again, dissing on winter.

My father died two years ago, in February, so the whole month just sort of hangs over things, like a leaky roof. I've managed to forget the exact date of his death, as I figured knowing it would serve no real purpose. But, in retrospect, maybe this wasn't my wisest decision (is decision the right word? can one really decide to forget?) as now I blame 28 days for his loss, rather than one calendar square. People respond to cancer in so many different ways - some raise money and walk or become advocates for certain forms of the disease, whereas I just wanted to forget cancer for awhile, like an old enemy, I wanted it gone. Unfortunately, with cancer, such plans rarely work out.

This February (dreadful, dreadful month that it is) our dermatologist called to inform Dan that a biopsied mole tested positive for melanoma. He would need surgery and he would need tests, to see how far the cancer had spread. After a call like that your life becomes a sort of waiting room, as you balance on a tightrope between normal and not normal. You check your life insurance policies while you continue to plan summer vacations. You tell yourself everything is the same and then you spend all day reflecting on what "the same" really means. But basically you just wait, a lot.

Then in March a good friend and neighbor's husband passed away after an 18 month struggle with brain cancer. They have two children, both in grade school. He had coached his son's soccer teams. An architect by trade, he renovated the oldest house on the block (it looks amazing). Although I did not know him very well, I have never heard anyone say a bad word about him. Nobody in the neighborhood can talk about his death without becoming teary eyed. At the funeral all the seats filled quickly and people overflowed into the aisles of the chapel. Such events are heavy. Very heavy.

In the meantime, we met with Dan's "team" (an oncologist, a surgeon, and a plastic surgeon), who seemed competent enough. I reflected on how odd it felt to have a "team." Everyone told us to stay off the internet, we did not stay off the internet. We bought anti-cancer books and changed our diet. We waited.

Dan underwent surgery (on his leg) on the Friday before spring break, which involved ten days of bed rest while the kids were home from school (tricky). During the surgery, they tested his lymph nodes to see if the cancer had spread and two weeks ago we - FINALLY - found out that it hasn't. I am relieved. We all are relieved. But yet, the feeling still lingers, as if we've lucked out and found a good hiding place during hide and seek. As if something is still chasing us.

And perhaps this is middle age. All of a sudden, Keisha's "Cause we're gonna die young" song becomes the most insipid thing you've ever heard in your life (and yet you find yourself jealous of her naivitee). You start to realize that there are no more weddings to attend, instead, you contemplate possible divorces. You go to funerals. Doctors seem more important all of a sudden. Moles become scarier than ever, little black bombs waiting to detonate. And life seems like a gift. An enormous amazing gift. Never again something to be taken for granted.


Things to Make - Plastic Easter Egg Garden


Every Easter, we always seem to end up with more of these then we need. We try to reuse them year after year, but so many become lost along the way, causing us to rebuy - a vicious cycle. So this year, I poked holes in the bottom and made them into little planters and color-coded plant type by egg hue.

Now let's just hope I can keep everything alive and growing throughout the summer.



Place to Go - Hains Point Cherry Blossoms (Washington DC)


Even though we've lived in the DC area for almost ten years, every spring the cherry blossoms still seem fascinating and new, almost surreal - especially during peak bloom. As any local will tell you, this year's "peak season" became a long delayed experience. Finally, approximately two weeks after the original bloom time estimates, spring engulfed the region.

Usually, we try to see the blossoms on the tidal basin, but parking is always hit or miss. And crowds are everywhere. After realizing that the parking gods were frowning on us, I decided to circle Hains Point before we headed for home. Wow. As we drove closer to the peninsula's end, parking spots started opening up. So we lingered by the water - T practiced his ninja skills (I use the word "skills" loosely) while P climbed gigantic old trees and F "modeled" for me. Eventually we made our way to the playground, where all three kids met new friends and played as dusk started to fall on the city. A cheesily perfect night. And sometimes you need those.


They don't always get along, but I cherish the moments when they do.


All you need is a gentle gentle breeze and - BRAVO - flower rain.


Ninjas and cartwheels, this is how we roll lately.


I always wind up with more pictures of P's feet than her face. She just moves a lot.


Even as an adult, there's something fantastic about a playground at dusk.


At the very end of the night, as we walked back to the car, a huge breeze hit and petals flew everywhere. Wonderfulness.


8 Interesting Articles From Around the Web - On Parenting, Food Fraud, Family Stories, Guns, Feminist Houswives, Life After Work, Mommy Blog Bashing, and Syria

A mixed bag this week, probably because I haven't posted articles in awhile. Hope you find something that resonates with you . . .


1. I know there are tons of cheesy parenting posts circling the web lately (and I've been known to write a cheesy parenting post or two), but Candace Walsh's Huff Post article on life with small children particularly resonated with me -

"[Seeing an old photo] reminded me of how vulnerable young motherhood is, how it oddly makes you public property, visible, a tableau to judge, a person to advise or criticize, well-meaningly or not. It reminded me of how my formerly predictable life became startlingly unpredictable: My children had minds and bodies of their own, screaming, laughing, sleeping, waking, pooping, regardless of when it was convenient for me. And it reminded me of how submerged I used to feel, as lumpy as my mom purse, breasts swollen with milk, baby weight riding along on my back, my thighs."

2. This short yahoo article on food fraud is just plain frightening - "olive oil, milk, saffron and coffee [have] joined honey and fish as the most commonly fraudulent products on the market."

3. I loved the simplicity and genius of Bruce Feiler's New York Times article on the family stories that bind us.

""The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come. "

4. The New Yorker published a short, well-stated piece on the cultural aspects (are there any other?) of the gun debate -

"And so the real argument about guns, and about assault weapons in particular, is becoming not primarily an argument about public safety or public health but an argument about cultural symbols. It has to do, really, with the illusions that guns provide, particularly the illusion of power. . . .

We should indeed be as tolerant as humanly possible about other people’s pleasures, even when they’re opaque to us, and try only to hive off the bad consequences from the good. The trouble is that assault weapons have no good consequences in civilian life. A machine whose distinguishing characteristic is that it can put a hundred and sixty-five lethal projectiles into the air in a few moments has no real use except to kill many living things very quickly. We cannot limit its bad uses while allowing its beneficial ones, because it has no beneficial ones. If the only beneficial ones are the feeling of power they provide, then that’s not good enough—not for the rest of us to be obliged to tolerate their capacity to damage and kill."

5. This New York article on the feminist housewife has become such a target of controversy that I'm almost scared to repost. And I agree that the author relies on certain stereotypes about women and men, but I'm also happy that she showcased alternative paths to happiness and fulfillment.

"Kelly calls herself “a flaming liberal” and a feminist, too. “I want my daughter to be able to do anything she wants,” she says. “But I also want to say, ‘Have a career that you can walk away from at the drop of a hat.’ ” And she is not alone. Far from the Bible Belt’s conservative territories, in blue-state cities and suburbs, young, educated, married mothers find themselves not uninterested in the metaconversation about “having it all” but untouched by it. They are too busy mining their grandmothers’ old-fashioned lives for values they can appropriate like heirlooms, then wear proudly as their own. "

. . . .

“But you don’t need to choose,” protests Alicia. “There’s no reason why you can’t work, be a wife and a mother.”

But I want to choose,” says Caitlin. “Maybe it’s different for my generation, but I don’t have to prove anything. Or if I have to, I don’t want to. I’m in love.”

6. Erin Callan's New York Times article on whether there is life after work really made me think about how we interpret success in modern day society -

"Inevitably, when I left my job, it devastated me. I couldn’t just rally and move on. I did not know how to value who I was versus what I did. What I did was who I was.

. . . .

Sometimes young women tell me they admire what I’ve done. As they see it, I worked hard for 20 years and can now spend the next 20 focused on other things. But that is not balance. I do not wish that for anyone. Even at the best times in my career, I was never deluded into thinking I had achieved any sort of rational allocation between my life at work and my life outside.

I have often wondered whether I would have been asked to be C.F.O. if I had not worked the way that I did. Until recently, I thought my singular focus on my career was the most powerful ingredient in my success. But I am beginning to realize that I sold myself short. I was talented, intelligent and energetic. It didn’t have to be so extreme. Besides, there were diminishing returns to that kind of labor."

7. I'm a little sick of mom blogger bashing (seriously, what's the big deal? If you don't like them, don't read them. or pinterest them.). But if you're going to bash, then PLEASE be this funny about it. Paul Rudnick had me laughing out loud.

"I believe that childhood is a brief, perfect state of being, and so I’ve tried to enclose my family in a shimmering sphere of enchantment, a realm that I call WonderPlanet, right here in our Park Slope brownstone. On WonderPlanet, anything is possible, as long as everyone loves one another and Goldman Sachs comes through with Daddy’s Easter bonus. I teach my children that money is like fairy dust, because when we sprinkle it around we can dream and sing and fly, usually in business class, and we can bake heart-shaped cookies that we can share with all the other children who aren’t allergic to stone-milled spelt flour, carob chips, whey protein, and smiles.

Some people have criticized me for not going back to work after my children were born, and for hiring a nanny. But I think of nurturing WonderPlanet as a full-time occupation, and someday I do plan on returning to my career as an advocate for women over forty who still want to grow and maintain waist-length hair. In addition, I’ve begun to sell a selection of trademarked WonderPlanet collectibles online, including hand-thrown ceramic mugs inscribed with the mottoes “Wander Into Wonder,” “I’m a Stay-at-Home Dreambuilder,” and “End Bullying Today—Buy a Mug.” I’m also marketing a line of meadow-dried teas, called Peaseblossom Morn, Smoochberries ’n’ Yarn, and Private Tutor. And in just a few weeks I’ll be introducing my WonderPlanet homewares line, in collaboration with Target, which will feature handwoven raffia boxes designed to hold smaller handwoven raffia boxes."

8. Finally, and most depressingly, the Atlantic published an article on Syria's rape crisis, which brought a whole new dimension to the phrase "horrors of war." WARNING - THE FOLLOWING QUOTES CONTAIN GRAPHIC AND HORRIFIC INFORMATION -

"a confession from a defected Syrian Army soldier [states that] he was ordered "to rape teenage girls in Homs at the end of last year."

"The girls would generally be shot when everyone had finished," the soldier said. "They wanted it to be known in the neighborhoods that the girls had been raped, but they didn't want the girls to survive and be able to identify them later."

. . . .

"a group of Syrian army soldiers had come to their house in Homs, tied up their father and brother, and raped the three women in front of them. The woman cried as she went on to describe how after raping them the soldiers opened their legs and burned their vaginas with cigarettes. They allegedly told the women during this: "You want freedom? This is your freedom."


Things to Do - Snapshots of March

I've been trying to take more pictures lately of ordinary life. Some days are better than others . . .

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P seemed to cartwheel her way through March. Everywhere we went all I heard was "just a few more, mom? please!"

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And T seemed to supehero his way through March. "Can I be a police/firefighter/builder/Batman when I grow up, mom?" "Um, sure, though you might not have enough time for hobbies."

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And F seemed to all of a sudden become OLD in March. I am having a hard time dealing with this.

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This winter, we had a few school cancellations due to snow. Obviously, how can the city operate with accumulation like this?

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Menchie's frozen yogurt opened up down the block from us. Life may never be the same.

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My kids became addicted to silly looking hats.

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The cherry blossoms started to bloom. Then just stopped for for a couple of weeks.

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Dan made T his own headset, so they could take conference calls together.

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F read books at the playground, while P flipped and T climbed.

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Our hotel in Philly had a spinny chair. This was more exciting than you can imagine.

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The Easter eggs went fast this year. Despite their lack of candy.

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T built a trap in the backyard to keep out the bad guys. It took three hours to complete and is so complicated I can't even begin to explain how it works.

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And sometimes we danced on the tables. Well, because we wanted to.



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