Family Dinners: Introducing New Flavors

COMMENTS: 60

family  Family Dinners: Introducing New Flavors

family  Family Dinners: Introducing New Flavors

family  Family Dinners: Introducing New Flavors

At one year, Skyler is an open-minded eater. She’ll try anything. But there are still the wrestling matches for the spoon, her spirited tests of… gravity, the “grass-is-greener” on your plate scenarios to make dinner complicated—and then there’s her three-year-old brother. We do our best to sit down together and let her try a bit of everything, but there are some meals when that’s trickier. When we, for example, order Thai food and the curry is a bit too spicy.

But I like to feel like we’re eating together, and I want to do all I can to help her become an adventurous eater. Plum Organics has new line of baby meals and their Hello Dinners have proved to be a great solution:

The ingredient list is nice and small to begin—simply some filling whole grains and vegetables—and while we can add just a bit of hot water and serve it immediately, we’ve discovered that they also make a great base for introducing new flavors.

family  Family Dinners: Introducing New Flavors

family  Family Dinners: Introducing New Flavors

We’ll mix in more vegetables and protein or, in this case, some kaffir lime leaves, cilantro, and a little coconut sprinkled on top.

Skyler can feed herself and still be a part of our dinner. We can introduce her to new flavors, while still making sure she has a well-rounded meal. And honestly? She wants to grab everything! So even if she gets to try a bite of everything on our plates, I love for her to have her own dish—something more than just rice—so that we have a moment to focus on feeding ourselves.

family  Family Dinners: Introducing New Flavors

family  Family Dinners: Introducing New Flavors

Check out that spoon control!

Each of the Hello Meals (there are two Hello Morning and two Hello Dinner options) have suggestions for customizing: add some chicken stock and mushrooms, stir in coconut milk or a bit of yogurt and bananas—or whatever suits you.

family  Family Dinners: Introducing New Flavors

It’s a winning proposition.

In fact, good news…

family  Family Dinners: Introducing New Flavors

Giveaway! I get to give away a Plum Organics prize bundle, including  4 boxes of Hello Meals (1 of each flavor) and 15 pouches (everything from Peach Apricot Banana to Barley, Kale, Spinach & Basil).

To enter: Leave a comment with something you’d add to one of the Hello Meals to make it your own. For example, I added raspberries and extra bananas to the Hello Morning Blueberry, Banana & Quinoa and found myself stealing bites. (Tip: Find recipes to use with Hello Meals and a $1-off coupon for Hello Meals.)

Comment by Friday, February 27 at noon PST. Good luck!

This post is sponsored by Plum Organics. Thank you for supporting Hither & Thither!

P.S. Cooking with kids.

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An evening baby shower

COMMENTS: 9

family  An evening baby shower
family  An evening baby shower

Who says you can’t have sequins at a baby shower? My friend Emarie threw this lovely cocktail reception for her sister, Meika-Rae (and a few dozen friends and family). I stopped by to take some pictures and was so inspired by the sophisticated (but still sweet) celebration. I love that it the decor and theme would have worked for a co-ed party, as well.

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A First Birthday Gift

COMMENTS: 15

family  A First Birthday Gift

family  A First Birthday Gift

Yesterday, Skyler turned one. Though we have a small party planned for Sunday, we of course also celebrated the day at home.

Babies don’t require much for their first birthday, but we still wanted to give her something special—something lasting, but something that she might also enjoy now. We decided on the Mini Storybook of Names and Faces by Pinhole Press. (For Hudson’s first Christmas we had made a Big Storybook of Names and Faces, and they’ve since come out with a smaller spiral format.) It’s perfect.

family  A First Birthday Gift

family  A First Birthday Gift

You can choose twelve photos, but we kept it simple—with pictures of immediate family and, of course, Sawyer. It was fascinating to see her reaction to each picture. When she spotted Sawyer, she actually took off looking for him. While looking at her daddy (and her grandmothers), she leaned in for a wet kiss. And when she turned the page to an image of her and Hudson, she offered up her block! (I try to tell him she’s happy to share.)

I’ve paired it with some of my other favorite ideas for simple, thoughtful gifts for one year olds in your life (above):

  1. A hand-sized stuffed animal to love
  2. Their very first photo book. (As it holds 12 photos, you could also choose one photo from each of their first 12 months.)
  3. Soft leather soles for a new walker
  4. Bells for tight little grips (a sound no one will mind)
  5. A beautiful shape-sorting box (similar)
  6. A keepsake print

family  A First Birthday Gift

family  A First Birthday Gift

P.S. Another great gift for kids, by Pinhole, and the brag books I’ve made for every Mother’s Day.

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Pinhole Press has been a longtime supporter of Hither & Thither and I’ve been so happy with everything we’ve ordered from them. Their quality is wonderful and they’re a great source for gifts. 

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12 Months. Happy 1st Birthday, Skyler!

COMMENTS: 21

family  12 Months. Happy 1st Birthday, Skyler!
family  12 Months. Happy 1st Birthday, Skyler!
family  12 Months. Happy 1st Birthday, Skyler!

I find my eyes doing a lot of brimming lately when I talk about… (wait, let me grab the kleenex)… this perfect little baby girl turning one. My emotions are, as a friend put it, right below the surface.

Nothing will particularly change when Skyler turns one today, but the marker of time feels especially bittersweet when that time—that wonderful, precious time—has gone by so fast. And our family is complete with her, so there’s that, too. Every milestone is passed with celebration, but also with a sigh: “it’s the last first.”

But it’s also just the beginning! And every day, as with the Grinch who stood watching Whoville erupt in song, our hearts grow in size. She’s just so amazing.
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Decluttering & organizing (life-changing magic?)

COMMENTS: 24

family  Decluttering & organizing (life changing magic?)

family  Decluttering & organizing (life changing magic?)

For Christmas, Aron gave me a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. Like all of the people that put an article about the book on the New York Times’ most emailed-list, we had sent each other the promising piece about this little guidance book.

At one point, when we three (Aron, Hudson, and I) were living in our 550-square-foot studio in New York, we were pretty good about simplifying and decluttering. But with more space has come… more stuff! Kondo’s advice to keep “stuff” at bay? Choose what you want to keep. “[T]ake each item in one’s hand and ask ‘does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.” Perhaps what will be most life-changing of all, it suggests, is the confidence you’ll gain in your decision-making ability.

The key bits of advice throughout are bolded—which I think is one of the real strengths of the book: You could skim it, if you chose to. But I’m finding myself so compelled to read about principles of organizing. There are moments when I find myself nodding in agreement as I recognize my own faults, my own tendencies. And others where I scoff—only to read, a paragraph later, that Kondo has anticipated that reaction.

These are some of the suggestions that have resonated most: 
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Stop texting while driving. It Can Wait.

COMMENTS: 19

family  Stop texting while driving. It Can Wait.

Isn’t it frustrating how often knowing better doesn’t make one do better?

For example, I will feel sick if I eat that ice cream instead of dinner at 4pm. I know better. But to avoid it, I have to keep the sweet stuff out of sight.

So why is my phone still sitting beside me on the passenger seat when I drive, where the temptation to read text alerts (or worse, reply) is so strong?

Whereas the one might result in a ruined appetite and feeling of guilt, the other is a potentially deadly habit.

family  Stop texting while driving. It Can Wait.

In fact, just this month, the New England Journal of Medicine released a new study saying that dialing a cellphone is the most dangerous thing you can do in a car: it increases your risk of crashing or nearly crashing eight-fold.* And a lot can happen in just the moment you look at your phone. 

AT&T reached out to get me involved in their “It Can Wait” Campaign, aimed at reducing the incidence of texting and driving. And they’ve introduced me to DriveMode, their free, no-texting-while driving app that’s available on Android and, now, iOS.

I’ve been using it all week, and here’s how it works…

You can turn it on manually, or you can set it to turn on automatically whenever you drive 15mph or more (it turns off shortly after you stop). While activated, it silences incoming text message alerts and then automatically responds to incoming text messages to let whoever is trying to reach you know you’re driving. (It also allows parents with young drivers to receive a text message if the app is turned off. No getting sneaky!)

family  Stop texting while driving. It Can Wait.

You can customize the message. The #X in this example means “I’m pausing this texting conversation before I drive.” In fact, they’re encouraging adoption of #X as a new social shorthand. Whether you use it in social media, text or email, it lets others know you’re pausing the conversation before you drive. 

Do you reply to texts while driving? Do you look at your phone when you get an alert?

Take the pledge to stop texting and driving—and encourage others to do so as well—on itcanwait.com. Put the phone away and know that anyone trying to reach you will get the message; they’ll understand.

I know I’ve got at least three good reasons why it can wait, and they’re in that photo up top.

P.S. Last year, filmmaker Warner Herzog participated in the campaign by making the most sobering documentary about texting while driving (and that’s the right word to use, because More teens now die from texting while driving than from drinking and driving.)

*NEJM study via The Atlantic

Disclosure: While I was not compensated for my participation, I was gifted an iPhone to use with the DriveMode application. Thank you to AT&T for the opportunity to help spread the word. #ItCanWait 

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Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither!

COMMENTS: 43

travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither! travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither! travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither! travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither!

travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither!

Funny thing. I wished Hither & Thither a happy sixth birthday last year, but I got ahead of myself somehow—a few years back, in fact! Someone finally corrected me. This year marks six years. The first post was a picture-less entry written by Aron, on January 19, 2009.

What I didn’t get wrong is that every year on here is worth celebrating. And it never ceases to surprise me—even as its demands ebb and flow—how much of a role Hither & Thither plays in my life now. I’m so grateful for all of the readers whom it engages—those who have come along since the start (when Aron and I were writing it together in New York) and those who just recently started reading. For me, it’s so rewarding to have such a supportive space in which to grow as a writer and a photographer, and to build a career of my own vision. But of course it’s often the conversations, the friendships made, the back & forth, that’s best of all.

Thank you, as ever, for reading. With a trademark lack of brevity, I’ve compiled a look back at this year’s highlights. I so enjoyed looking back through some of my favorite posts again; I hope you will enjoy this, too:

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Thinking about: The Tyranny of Email

COMMENTS: 16

family  Thinking about: The Tyranny of Email

“Reply-all will be the death of me.” I read that somewhere the other day, perhaps on a satirical greeting card about office life? It resonated. My inbox is out of control.

And I’m not alone.

Nearly 30% of our workweek is apparently spent reading and responding to email, a figure which may or may not also take into account personal email. Over the summer I read a New York Times article enitled “End the Tyranny of 24/7 Email.” Yes, I thought, the “tyranny!” (I proudly resisted the urge to forward it to Aron, and instead told him about it over dinner.)

I’ve thought about the article, which started by describing an email policy at German automaker Daimler, many times since: “employees can set their corporate email to ‘holiday mode.’ Anyone who emails them gets an auto-reply saying the employee isn’t in, and offering contact details for an alternate, on-call staff person.” Nothing so revolutionary so far, right? But wait: “Then poof, the incoming email is deleted—so that employees don’t have to return to inboxes engorged with digital missives in their absence.” Deleted! If you need urgent help, you have someone to contact. But most people don’t.

If email lands in your inbox when you’re off work or on vacation, you’re likely to read it. One could argue that it’s on the recipient to manage his or her own time, but the article talks about shifting some of the responsibility back to the sender with talk of how over-use of “cc” often masks bad management or poor decision-making skills. (Insert image of me nodding and reading.)

The problem is the addiction-potential of email: an article in The Guardian likens it to gambling and quotes that “it takes an average of 64 seconds to recover your train of thought after interruption by email. So people who check their email every five minutes waste 8.5 hours a week figuring out what they were doing moments before.”

That’s right: most of us spend hours trying to remember what it was we were just doing. Every week. Yikes.

family  Thinking about: The Tyranny of Email

James Hamblin, at The Atlantic‘s Video site (one of my favorite places online these days), has a humorous solution: the Cool button. His fantastic segment “Email is Ruining Us” proposes that what we need is a “like” button for email. This would cover acknowledging receipt, doling out praise, and such. It could stand-in for what would probably be a smile or even laughter. In other words, I could reply to a PR pitch with “Got it! Cool!” with a single button.

My father-in-law (I hope he won’t mind me sharing) used to reply to many emails with the phrase “Noted.” I envied his brevity and lamented to Aron, once, that as a young person (and a female one), I fear the interpretation would be less than positive should I do the same.

•••

Ultimately, the task of managing my inbox falls to me. I’m going to be working on unsubscribing from listservs and using more categories and rules in my inbox. And I just set up a FAQ page for the blog!

Here’s some some etiquette I wish we could all take endeavor to adopt, based on my own personal pet peeves. Ask oneself:

  • Are you forwarding items from a subscription service? That someone else could choose to subscribe to? Think twice.
  • Are you doing them a favor by sending that message? Or are you just absolving yourself from the duty of remembering to tell them later?
  • Does everyone want their email address shared? Use the Bcc field when sending a message to a large group rather than Cc.
  • Do you need a reply? If not, use the phrase FYI in the subject line. No reply saying “Got it!” required.
  • Have you given the recipient adequate time to reply before re-sending? (Re-sent press releases are enemy #1 around in my books.)
  • Have you tried Googling that?

What would you add? How do you deal with inbox tyranny? What are your pet-peeves? Spill. Get it all out.

P.S. Lest I sound like a curmudgeon, or worse a hypocrite, a caveat: I do, in fact, like getting personal emails, and I probably fail at all this myself on a regular basis. Also, more Thinking About columns.

[Photos: Top, mine; Bottom, via Huffington Post/Getty Images]

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Cutest Ikea Hack: Duktig Play Kitchen

COMMENTS: 5

family  Cutest Ikea Hack: Duktig Play Kitchen

I love spotting a good IKEA hack. And this one blew me away.

Sara Eslami took the DUKTIG play kitchen ($99, check out the before) and gave it an update using only: Ikea TAG Handles, Butcher Block Contact Paper, LED stick-on lights, spray paint (white, gold, and primer), poster board and sharpie (for the subway tiles). Brilliant!

P.S. Two more Ikea Hacks: PATRIK swivel chair (with a gold spray paint recommendation) and the STOLMEN closet system as bookcases (also shown here).

[Photo by Sara Eslami for Craftykins (Babykins Mag)]

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Holiday Highlights 2014

COMMENTS: 23

family  Holiday Highlights 2014

family  Holiday Highlights 2014

family  Holiday Highlights 2014

Happy New Year! Hope you’ve enjoyed the holidays and that your year is off to a great start so far! I’ve been doing my best to step away from the computer a bit (though not from the camera… or Instagram), so allow me to ease back in with some photos from the break? I admit I sometimes fear these family-photo posts are too self-indulgent, but I love having them to look back on! They’re my favorite.

So, here’s what we’ve been up to since that last holiday re-cap

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Holiday memories (& Friday Links)

COMMENTS: 6

family  Holiday memories (& Friday Links)

Edward Pfizenmaier, Wollman Rink, Central Park, New York City, 1954

It’s the last weekend before the Christmas holiday. We’ve been enjoying multiple viewings of the Grinch—and multiple placed emphases on how the holiday will always be “just as long as we have we”—and plenty of peppermint Jo-Jos and other treats. Last weekend we took the kids up to the snow and we’re thinking we’ll make a return trip to the Sierras tomorrow as well. It’s interesting to think that at any moment Hudson could be forming a memory that will actually last. Most people I talk to can recount their first memory from around the age of 3-1/2 or 4. I wonder if any of this will be a part of it. What’s yours?

Is one of them ice skating? Here are five tips for getting on the ice if you are trying it for the first time (or taking someone for theirs).

Do you make form cookies? We’ll be making some this weekend. These would be the perfect cookies for wannabe Jedi knights.

Minted shared one of my tips for saving holiday cards on their blog, Julep.

Are you a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies? I think Magnolia is my favorite, but this oral history of Boogie Nights reminded me how brilliant it is, too. (He also behind There Will be Blood and The Master.)

How to smuggle booze and make a mixed drink anywhere. Hilarious. (Thanks, Harmony.)

I rounded up some amazing destination toy stores for Condé Nast Traveler.

I followed a link to this Q&A for its support of watching The Sopranos, but ended up loving its hilarious description of a wandering mind (while watching The Affair).

Now that Serial has wrapped, we’ll need a new form of pop-culture to binge. Any suggestions? (Related: Downton Abbey resumes in the U.S. in a couple of weeks!)

And finally:

Solid advice from the editors of Cherry Bombe: Steer clear of any gift “that reflects a desire on your part for that person to change.”

And this year’s gift guides for him, for her, for the kiddo (plus the best for preschoolers lists), and for everyone else.

Have a great weekend!

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The holidays so far (& Friday Links)

COMMENTS: 10

family  The holidays so far (& Friday Links)

family  The holidays so far (& Friday Links)

Last year we spent the first part of the holidays in New York City (seeing the Santa at Macy’s and visiting old haunts), and while we had packed our makeshift advent calendar in our suitcase, we never really stuck to it.

The plan was an experiential advent calendar, and this year we followed through: Each day Hudson checks to find a couple of m&ms (which he carefully turns over to see the letters and then stares at impatiently while he has to wait to hear Aron or me read that day’s seasonal activity off a slip of paper. We’ve had a few holiday movie nights already, but lots of other fun things, too.

These have been some highlights so far…

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Holiday Car Rides: Winter Felt Board Activity

COMMENTS: 6

travel family  Holiday Car Rides: Winter Felt Board Activity
travel family  Holiday Car Rides: Winter Felt Board Activity

Aron and I sat down at the end of November and drafted a list of all of the things we wanted to do throughout the month of December—tree lightings, holiday fairs, skating rinks and the like—and then jotted them down and slipped ‘em into an advent calendar, trying to balance cozy nights at home with hot cocoa and the Grinch with drives into Sacramento or San Francisco. Enjoying some holiday movies are definitely a part of the plan this year, so I’d love to avoid defaulting to screen-time in the car and still keep Hudson entertained with something seasonal.

We have been coming up with lots of activities for car rides lately—homemade audio books, window clings (I’m going to use this tutorial again for Christmas) and colorful snack boxes, for example. Here’s another simple activity to make and keep handy for car rides, whether en route to see Santa Claus or Grandma Mary: a felt activity board with a winter scene, that can be used over and over. Friction is the magic that holds the shapes on display. 

travel family  Holiday Car Rides: Winter Felt Board Activity

I had some extra felt left over from Skyler’s halloween costume, and thought baby blue and white would be perfect for a backdrop. (You can find felt at any JoAnn’s or Michael’s.)

With a hot glue gun, the felt can be layered on any piece of cardboard, but I chose to use the lid of a thin box so that all of the decorative pieces could be stored inside. The pieces themselves remain unattached, to be moved around freely.

travel family  Holiday Car Rides: Winter Felt Board Activity

As for the scenes themselves? You can easily cut them out yourself: Three white circles and you have a snowman! A green triangle and some small colored scraps and it’s a tree to decorate!

While I have an interest in crafting, I so rarely have the time! So I took a shortcut: craft stores tend to carry pre-cut felt shapes (especially around the holidays, for making ornaments), and there are Etsy vendors who sell seasonal felt packages, too. If you’re not up to the task, or your child isn’t old enough to wield a pair of scissors, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing precut shapes for felt or flannel boardstravel family  Holiday Car Rides: Winter Felt Board Activity . Trust me—they’ll enjoy it just the same.

travel family  Holiday Car Rides: Winter Felt Board Activity

travel family  Holiday Car Rides: Winter Felt Board Activity

A few notes: The box-lid background probably took me ten minutes to assemble, and Hudson played with it in the car for at least fifteen minutes each way. I found that, for his age, it was best to have larger pieces (in other words, consider drawing eyes on the felt rather than messing with tiny black dots), to make it easy to find everything by himself. That way we could talk about the scene without my needing to reach into the backseat to help. (He is obsessed—a little scared, a little thrilled—with the “bad snowman” in Frozen right now and wanted to know if this guy was funny or bad. I told him it was “Frosty.”) And that’s the goal.

How do you keep the little ones engaged throughout all the car rides required during the holidays? All tips welcome! 

travel family  Holiday Car Rides: Winter Felt Board Activity
travel family  Holiday Car Rides: Winter Felt Board Activity
travel family  Holiday Car Rides: Winter Felt Board Activity

travel family  Holiday Car Rides: Winter Felt Board Activity

This content was created in partnership with Ford to help make creativity a part of every drive this holiday season.

P.S. Tips for Flying with Babies and Toddlers. 

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Berkeley with Kids: Ride a Steam train in Tilden Park & other top picks

COMMENTS: 9

family california  Berkeley with Kids: Ride a Steam train in Tilden Park & other top picks
family california  Berkeley with Kids: Ride a Steam train in Tilden Park & other top picks
family california  Berkeley with Kids: Ride a Steam train in Tilden Park & other top picks

In routine traffic, it takes under an hour for us to drive into Berkeley. And yet every time we visit, I wonder why we don’t more often. There’s so much to do and see in this beautiful town, and a reason why so many UC Berekeley grads return to live there. (Many never leave.) When I was in college (at Davis), I would often go to visit friends, eat at Crepes-a-go-go on University, or have a slice of pizza in the Gourmet Ghetto, on the median in front of the Cheeseboard. Now, as a family, we’re likely to end up at the shops along Fourth street or in beautiful Tilden Park at Little Farm.

So the other day, after returning to Tilden Park and riding Tilden Park’s Redwood Valley Railway Steam Train, I asked my friend Amy (who lived in Berkeley when her daughter was Hudson’s age) to help me with a list of ways to spend the day in Berkeley—with kids.

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