Holiday memories (& Friday Links)

COMMENTS: 4

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: 7

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: 7

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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Hither & Thither Gift Guide: For the (Traveling) Kiddo

COMMENTS: 91

family  Hither & Thither Gift Guide: For the (Traveling) Kiddo

We’ve already seen lists of the Best Books, Best Toys, and Best Creative Gifts for preschoolers, so this one will be thematic: Gifts for the kids—and the parents of kids—who like to travel a lot… and a giveaway. (Keep reading.)

  1. Books are always the right thing. Any of these would be worthy choices: Maps (the most beautiful book of illustrated maps), Walk This World (peek under flaps on a stroll around the globe), one of the Larry Gets Lost titles (we love our San Francisco edition) or a classic This is… city book (This is the World is a compendium). For a board book, consider How Hippo says Hello.
  2. Lightweight, easily packable, and ideal for independent play. In other words, perfect for little travelers: Classic Paddle Ball Gamefamily  Hither & Thither Gift Guide: For the (Traveling) Kiddo
  3. Who wouldn’t love a Skootcasefamily  Hither & Thither Gift Guide: For the (Traveling) Kiddo ? For mini Gregory Pecks and Audrey Hepburns the world over. Freaking adorable. (Do they already have a suitcase of their own? These would make great stocking stuffers.)
  4. We keep a small globe in Hudson’s room. He likes to see how far away a place is before we go. This one’s also pretty enough for the parents of a new baby: “Best wishes on all your adventures as a family!”
  5. A vehicle and a power drill: Take-A-Part Airplanefamily  Hither & Thither Gift Guide: For the (Traveling) Kiddo
  6. A charming and cheerful floor puzzle, fit for a globetrotter.
  7. These Planes slippers are sure to offend your aesthetic sensibility but kids love sliding around wearing their favorite characters. If you are looking for a less-familiar (i.e. branded) plane, try these.
  8. Little Passports subscription. (Be sure to check the shipping schedule if you want one to arrive before Hanukkah or Christmas.)
  9. This one’s more for the parents: OK to wake clockfamily  Hither & Thither Gift Guide: For the (Traveling) Kiddo . Invaluable at home and in a new time-zone. Sure they’re awake but no one gets out of bed until the green light comes on. Throw in a Water Wow coloring book and everyone’s happy.
  10. I think I’ve snapped iPhone photos of this in stores at least three time. This VW Camper Van Tentfamily  Hither & Thither Gift Guide: For the (Traveling) Kiddo  is so cool!
  11. Whether they go by air, land, or sea, help them keep cuddly and comfy. This changes from a teddy bear to a neck pillow and back again. (Or we have one like this.)
  12. We love our Wanderlust City Playmat! Both Skyler and Hudson (who zooms around the roads) are fans.

And there’s good news! Ella Lou has offered to gift one of those beautiful playmats to a reader! And for everyone else they’re offering 15% off playmate with the code HITHER15OFF through December 12th. 

family  Hither & Thither Gift Guide: For the (Traveling) Kiddo

Each one is designed and printed in San Francisco, CA, using non-toxic, water-based inks and a blend of heavy-weight organic cotton & hemp canvas. Choose your preferred city (SF, LA, or NY) and leave it in a comment before Friday, December 5, 11:59pm PST, to be entered in the giveaway. Sorry, US residents only. Note that the last day orders can ship to arrive in time for Christmas is December 20th. (Express orders will ship as late as the 22nd.) See them here. Good luck!

P.S. Last year’s Gift Guide for Kids. And the year’s before that. See all gift guides here.

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Scenes from (Skyler’s 1st) Thanksgiving

COMMENTS: 8

family  Scenes from (Skylers 1st) Thanksgiving
family  Scenes from (Skylers 1st) Thanksgiving
family  Scenes from (Skylers 1st) Thanksgiving
We start the advent calendar this morning, but before we deck the halls and trim that tree, a few favorite photos from the holiday weekend and Skyler’s first Thanksgiving.

Later today: the first of this week’s holiday gift guides. (They’ll be posted each day this week, in the afternoon.)

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Happy Thanksgiving!

COMMENTS: 5

food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!
food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!
food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!
Hope your holiday is filled with things that make you happy—perhaps some good friends, good food, and some good downtime. We have so much to be thankful for, and I’m grateful for a holiday to celebrate it. And it’s a pleasure sharing so many of those things with such kind readers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Next week is a full one! Looking forward to sharing some gift guides in the afternoons.

In the meantime, some favorite Thanksgiving posts:
The best cooking resources for making Thanksgiving dinner
5 Ways to keep your food safe this holiday
Thanksgiving for Two
Reimagining Holiday Leftovers

[Photos from an autumn trip to the Catskills]

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Skyler at Nine Months

COMMENTS: 10

family  Skyler at Nine Months

family  Skyler at Nine Months

family  Skyler at Nine Months
family  Skyler at Nine Months

Nine months.

As I’m late writing an update, Skyler has officially been out longer than she was in. I feel like we got here faster than with Hudson. I think it has a little bit to do with her disposition and a little bit to do with being the second child—she gets less exclusive attention each day.

Actually, right or not, I compare her to Hudson often. It’s funny how fast I’d forgotten what happened when, and I find myself looking back through photos archives, these monthly updates, and the line-a-day journal I kept with Hudson to see how their development is different (and the same). She crawled sooner. He took his first steps at the end of his ninth month.

What I don’t need any of those items to remind me: this is a wonderful age.

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Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)

COMMENTS: 26

family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)
family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)
family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)
family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)
family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)

The DeYoung Museum, in Golden Gate Park, is one of my favorite places to visit in San Francisco. It’s such a feast for the eyes—the architecture, the landscape, the views, and (of course) the art.

Art museums can be a bit tricky with kids, but I’d recommend giving this one a try if you’re interested.

family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)
family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)
family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)

Here are a few tips I’ve gleaned…

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Best Creative Gifts for Preschoolers

COMMENTS: 3

family  Best Creative Gifts for Preschoolers

As the holidays approach and the kids’ wish-lists starts growing, I thought it would be nice to get some advice from an expert—a preschool teacher. In this post, the last of a three-part series on tips for preschoolers, Kayla Poole was kind enough to share her answer to “What are the best gifts for inspiring creativity at this age?” 

The following items all inspire endless opportunity for creative self-expression. In case it hasn’t been obvious in my previous posts, I believe the most impactful gift we can bestow upon our children is the cultivation of imagination…

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Five Ways Cheerios Can Help on a Long Flight

COMMENTS: 9

travel family  Five Ways Cheerios Can Help on a Long Flight
travel family  Five Ways Cheerios Can Help on a Long Flight
travel family  Five Ways Cheerios Can Help on a Long Flight

Sometimes I can’t get over how much stuff we pack to entertain the kids on trips. It’s as if we’re going into an emergency bunker rather than boarding a flight.

It’s easy to forget how the simplest things are often best when it comes to entertaining young ones—and I’d been feeling like we needed some new (space-efficient) ways to get through a flight.

Enter Cheerios. We always pack Cheerios.

Here are five ways to use what you surely already have in your kids’ snack cups to get through a long flight this holiday season.

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Paris with Kids

COMMENTS: 5

travel family  Paris with Kids
travel family  Paris with Kids
travel family  Paris with Kids travel family  Paris with Kids

I just learned that Yolanda Edwards (Co-founder of Momfilter and Creative Director at Condé Nast Traveler) collaborated with the mapmakers at Herb Lester on their Paris En Famille guide to Paris.

travel family  Paris with Kids

Having a marked up map like this is one of my favorite ways to sightsee, actually: freeing you to wander, and discover things serendipitously, while assuring that you still have a way to connect the “Must-See” dots.

I usually make one of my own.

travel family  Paris with Kids
travel family  Paris with Kids
travel family  Paris with Kids
travel family  Paris with Kids

Just another reason to return to Paris.

P.S. Photos from our trip to Paris with Hudson last spring, when he was two. See more, here:
Paris Travelogue, Part 1 & Paris Travelogue, Part 2.

Also: A 5 Things Guide to Paris; the truth about high chairs in Paris; and our Paris apartment rental.

travel family  Paris with Kids

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The Best Books for Preschoolers

COMMENTS: 23

family  The Best Books for Preschoolers

As the holidays approach and the kids’ wish-lists starts growing, I thought it would be nice to get some advice from an expert—a preschool teacher. In this post, the second of a three-part series on tips for preschoolers, Kayla Poole was kind enough to share her answer to “What are the best books for this age?” 

As an early childhood educator, my personal picture book collection is enormous. We’re all aware of the inherent value in reading to little ones: if you want your child(ren) to love books, you need to start by reading your favorites to them. As a child, I vividly remember becoming lost for hours upon hours in the pages of books. Story books were everything to me, and that’s because my parents fundamentally believed in their importance. Cultivating imagination and creative thinking is so important at the preschool level, and storybooks are are the first resource I turn to in my classroom to instill these skills.

This is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to picture books, as there are literally hundreds I hold in high regard. But these? They are some of the most beloved by me and the hundreds of students I’ve taught over the years…
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Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

COMMENTS: 13

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home
food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

I am such a sucker for studies about kids’ behaviors. The footage of a little girl trying to avoid eating a marshmallow? Empathy tests involving a room of toddlers? Aw, such charming little subjects. One such study that has stuck with me for years was watching preschoolers choose a sticker-festooned rock over a cupcake. (Say what?!)

What researchers set out to prove was that kids prefer foods bearing the likeness of characters, particularly familiar ones. I didn’t have children at the time, but I remember filing it away: “Stickers on carrots! Stickers on broccoli!”

With Thanksgiving approaching, I was thinking about how to get the visual-appeal-voodoo working on all of us for that post-holiday car ride home. After all, snacking in the back seat is the most sure-fire solution to keeping little ones entertained.

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home
food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

First step: sticker-festooning something. I went with lunchbox lids and got Hudson involved.

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

Next: work with what you have. I think we all love leftovers. (Turkey sandwiches with apples, cranberries, and cheese, anyone? Pumpkin pie for breakfast?) But there comes a time when you want to make some healthier choices—at least until the December holidays hit.

The raw ingredients for most Thanksgiving feasts are thankfully quite healthy, (think celery, apples, baked root vegetables, brussels sprouts, nuts… and turkey!), and you’re likely to have some yams left that didn’t get a marshmallow treatment. Hudson isn’t so sure about brussels sprouts, but the celery is a big hit because it’s so loud! (He thinks we can hear it crunching as loudly as he does in his ears, which amounts to lots of laughs when we make a game of pretending we can’t hear the radio.)

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

And finally: Make it pretty! Sure the stickers work on the preschooler in the back, but I’m also about ten times more excited about a snack tray that’s colorful and neatly arranged.

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

What healthy snacks do you like to bring along on road trips? What do you reach for after the Thanksgiving feast?

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

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

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The Best Toys for Preschoolers

COMMENTS: 9

 

family  The Best Toys for Preschoolers

As the holidays approach and the kids’ wish-lists starts growing, I thought it would be nice to get some advice from an expert—a preschool teacher. In this post, the first of a three-part series on tips for preschoolers, Kayla Poole was kind enough to share with me her answers to that pressing question: What are the best toys for this age? 

I am often asked my opinion about the “best” toys for kids. “What should I buy my toddler this holiday?” “What should my child entering kindergarten be doing in her free time?” “I want my kid to play but also be learning something!”

Guys, I know. I find this to be a nearly impossible question to answer adequately, as young kids are all so different, with varying interests and needs. Moreover, something appropriate for a two-year-old is very different than a toy or game for a four-year-old. That being said, I really sat down to think about the top recommendations I feel comfortable delivering to parents and inquiring gift-givers. This list is in no way comprehensive and based purely on seven years of practice as an early childhood educator. I tend to believe that less is more when it comes to toys. Children truly don’t need a lot to learn and discover: in fact, I stand behind my opinion that the most popular toy of all time for a toddler/preschooler is an oversized, empty cardboard box. So, there’s that.

Anyway, lest you care about what’s inside of that box, herein lie a few additional classics…

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Scenes from Halloween

COMMENTS: 5

family  Scenes from Halloween

The candy has been eaten (or stashed), and the costumes have been put away—as if we might actually use them again. More likely, I’ll just look back at photos and fondly remember Skyler as a parrot on her first Halloween, and Hudson as a “baaaaad crocodile.”

He really didn’t remember the idea of trick-or-treating, but it was amazing how fast word spread once we arrived at a party full of preschoolers. “Mommy! When are we going trick-or-treating?”

I wasn’t watching closely at the first door as the gang of them (about a dozen) yelled “Trick-or-Treat!” But when Hudson came back to me, he showed me that his entire sack was already full. I looked back and spotted the unintentionally generous six-year-old who’d been standing with a bowl of candy. Whoops.

family  Scenes from Halloween

You may have seen on Instagram that Aron was Captain Hook (with his parrot and his foe, the crocodile) and I was Peter Pan, but I also shared an album of photos on Facebook. Check it out, if you’d like!

P.S. Baby costumes using a onesie. And this year, Making Skyler’s costume.

[Top photo mine; Bottom photo taken by Hudson!]

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Happy Halloween!

COMMENTS: 8

family  Happy Halloween!
family  Happy Halloween!

Here are some shots of the work-in-progress for our family’s costumes. I made my very first one—a parrot!—for Skyler this year, so I really hope it stops raining soon so we can all go out downtown together again. (Davis has such a nice Halloween tradition. Here we are dressed up there, last year.)

Regardless, I can’t wait to see both kids in their costumes! I’ll be sure to share some photos after the weekend.

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