Since I left teaching 2 years ago to stay home with Claire the thing I miss most is being next door to the school's library. The computer lab was a prime piece of real estate - air conditioned, great software and nearby BOOKS! The books! I LOVE books! I nearly made it through the entire YA bookshelf in my time at Hilltop. In addition to having something to discuss with my pre-teen students, I often found the writing geared towards young adults more intelligent and challenging then the latest "bestseller."

I especially love beautifully illustrated books. Right now I'm drooling from afar since Claire likes the same three books over and over again. She's at the age where she's anticipating what is happening on each page and likes to see the same pictures over and over again. "Yook Mommy - lion rar!" I'm trying to live in the moment and enjoy each and every reading of "Dear Zoo," but really, I can't wait until we can dive into a new book everyday. I've mixed things up this week with "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" but it's the old favorites that Claire continuously grabs off the shelf.

Claire is way too young for this book below - I could see paper scraps strewn throughout my house, but isn't it so clever and beautiful?

These pics are all from the NY Times "Best Illustrated of 2009" list, check out their article to see the others. It's a really diverse lineup this year although I was surprised no collage type books made the cut. I'll resume my "Claire-centric" posts tomorrow, I just had to share these!

Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2009

Every year since 1952, the Book Review has asked a panel of judges to select 10 books from among the several thousand children’s books published that year. The judges this time around were Adam Gopnik, who writes regularly for The New Yorker and is the author of two novels for children, “The King in the Window” and the forthcoming “Steps Across the Water”; Jillian Tamaki, a teacher at the School of Visual Arts and the recipient of a Society of Illustrators gold medal; and Lisa Von Drasek, the children’s librarian of the Bank Street College of Education.



Claire has an obsession with all things 'wheeled' right now. She's very busy driving her toy truck all over me as I type. This suits her father who spent his weekend doing things with his Jeep he probably shouldn't. Case in point:


Paint by "butter"

Does anyone else have a kid that sneaks butter out of the fridge for a quick snack? I guess she needed some sustenance during the creative process...


In the Artist’s Toolbox


I recently shared a challenge my friend Kelly and her family undertook to reduce the amount of trash they send to the landfill with GrandmaDSC_0736 Caca. Well, it got my Mom and I talking about the amount of waste generated by her need for sterile, single-use medical supplies (she wears a trach to breathe). Each month she gets a shipment of individually boxed supplies for daily care. The oft repeated mantra of reduce, reuse, recycle doesn’t exactly fit the bill DSC_0741here…there’s no way to reduce the amount needed since it’s a daily requirement for living (short of a home sterilizer which I’m not sure even exists) and recycling medical “waste” won’t work either. What’s really unfortunate is the amount of stuff in one box that goes unused due to my Mom’s regimen of care. She doesn’t use the pipe cleaners and twine opting for a velcro system that’s more comfortable so, they were presented to me with a “can you use these?”

DSC_0742 DSC_0744

It took me all of two seconds to reply - of course! Pipe cleaners are a ubiquitous craft material for the pre-school crowd! So far we’ve used them DSC_0745for a textural painting too, a stem for tissue paper flowers and most recently, as a ring for my fashion-obsessed toddler (seriously, is this kid really mine?) I snatched up the the plastic trays that the trach-care kits are packed in and I was delighted to find they fit PERFECTLY in the easel’s tray. The kits are also packed with a sterile drape my DSC_0738Mom doesn’t use so Claire wears these an an apron (held on with two of the twine ties). The drapes are coated with plastic on one side making a great splash guard for water play.

So that’s our small way to reuse some of these materials. Any other ideas???

And yes, before you ask, I let my child dress herself today. I think the boots and flipped up hat make her look like a sweet bohemian painter, heehee.


PS – This great painting will be turning into wrapping paper. We’ve layered more “art” on it each day and I think it will be so cute to see some presents wrapped up with Claire prints all over them! I think we’ll use this special paper for gifts Claire is giving to her younger cousins this year!


Trying to be Optimistic


A favorite local playground is scheduled for demolition this weekend and I’m trying so hard to be optimistic. I love this wooden playstructure filled with secret passages and tiny hideaways made just for kids.

There are swings and slides and challenging physical areas for every age group. Claire finally worked up the courage to ride the tire swing with Bella last week and both girls love the tight rope area and big slide. This is the playground where Claire had one of her first swing rides, our little baldy had such a great time here even as a baby!

DSC_0662 DSC_0669 DSC_0657

As a Mom, it’s one of MY favorite parks. After a visit to the play area there’s a great 3 mile (stroller friendly) path around the lake and playing fields. Can you tell how much I LOVE this place???? There are plans to rebuild, but I’m unconvinced that the new version will be as fantastic. Like I said, I’m trying to be optimistic.


View Park Date


My Little Tree-Hugger!

Claire and I have been busy with end of season garden maintenance, we’ve repotted oodles of plants, brought in the rosemary to overwinter (fingers crossed) and we’ve started a nice compost pile (by we’ve I mean that I did the work and Claire dumped water and shouted at the birds). Come spring, I’m hoping for some “brown gold” enrich my veggie beds.


It hasn’t been all work and no play though! Last week, we spent the day at a local farm with our chapter of the Holistic Mom’s Network. Claire had a blast feeding all the animals, getting lost in the corn maize (get it? maze – maize?!) and decorating a pumpkin. Claire even took her first ride on a horse! Check out the album below, we had a great time!


Jump! Splash! Play!

I’ve sadly packed away the bathing suits, towels and beach toys but Claire seems to have found another body of water to enjoy:

October 09

Love those boots Kelly – thanks again! Nothing makes for happy kid portraits more then being covered in mud – here’s my favorite photo from today (and one in black and white for you, Grandma Caca).




Monster Meatloaf and Other Creepy Baking

Claire's still too young to appreciate Halloween and all the fun spookiness surrounding the day but Dan and I really enjoyed a couple of creepy meals this past weekend.

Check out our monster-hand meatloaf:

I was inspired by not Martha but didn't have the hand mold that she had. I decided to wing it and free-formed our Freaky Friday meal, and it came out awesome! The provolone on top really gave the hand a blistered skin-like look and I made my red onion nails thick and pointy. I've also come to the conclusion that the only way I'm making meatloaf in the future is to freeform it - this is the BEST meatloaf I've ever done, bye-bye soggy meatloaf pan!

I've got grand ideas for alphabet meatloaf when it's time to learn some letters...or maybe some miniature meatloaves shaped with cookie cutters? Have I gone meatloaf crazy or what?!

I'll post a recipe for these creepy witches fingers tomorrow - check out the ridged nails and realistic knuckles! Spoooooooooky, Creeeeeepy, very Halloweeeeny! We brought these to a Halloween party (with jellybean nails) and also to GrandBob and Gran-C who found them deliciously scary. I *love* Halloween :-)