Monday, May 18, 2015

O Chickadee Has Moved!

We did it! We've moved! O Chickadee is now live at our new (and easier to remember!) domain:

Oh how I hope you'll come visit me there, and stay awhile to see all the new things we've built for you. I promise- it's going to be fun!

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Learning Tower by Little Partners

Did you have a wonderful weekend? I sure did. We are finally experiencing some beautiful weather, so we spent both days outside playing in the sprinkler. So much fun.

Today I am excited to finally share with you something that I've been enjoying for a few years now. I hope you'll like it as much as we do.

I am constantly being told that our boys are surprisingly good at cooking and food preparation overall. As a family, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and the boys are always right in the middle of the action. I love how this effects our family. The boys try new foods, learn how to prepare healthy food, and are tremendous bakers. We also find it helps their math skills too. And it means that when they want lunch, both boys are perfectly comfortable making their own sandwiches. A win for everyone.

But a big part of what makes getting our kids involved in the kitchen is our Learning Tower, by Little Partners. Basically, the Learning Tower helps our boys safely stand at counter height so they can cook with us.
It's easy for the boys to climb into, and it fits both of them comfortably. It is completely sturdy, so Zach and I don't have to worry about them tipping over the way we would with a stool or a chair.
It does have some cons. It is big. Like really big. It doesn't fold up, so you're pretty much stuck with it. And it is not very easy to move. But in our opinion, it is still totally worth it, since it is such a big part of encouraging our boys to get involved in the kitchen. It is well-made and smartly designed.

If you're interested in getting your little ones involved in the kitchen, check it out!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mother's Day Gift Idea: Storypeople

Even though we've been home from our vacation for a week now, I still can't get enough of these sweet faces. Now that spring has sprung, I feel like I am getting to see them in a completely new environment, where their imaginations take them outside for hours, and they come home rosy and sweaty and flushed and dirty... exactly as happy little boys should be. Needless to say, it's been a good week of mothering my boys.

Speaking of mothering, how is your Mother's Day shopping going? Any really special gifts out there?This week I'll be sharing a few of my favorite ideas for Mother's Day.

And I'll start off by saying that it boggles my mind that in the five-ish years I've been blogging, I haven't once yet talked about Storypeople by Bryan Andreas. Storypeople is yet another art company my sister, Lissa, introduced me to (way back in high school!), and it has been a stand-by ever since. Storypeople prints were the gift I gave to my bridesmaids as a thank you when I got married, with a perfectly chosen story for each woman. I've sent Storypeople greeting cards. And among the most beautiful gifts I've ever received from Zach is this Storypeople sculpture, which hangs in our bedroom and makes me weepy every time I read it, because truly, Zach loves me so well.
I even have a Storypeople print hanging in the boys' room, one that was gifted to Tate when he was a baby:
So here's the thing about the Storypeople stories. They aren't really stories, per se. They are more like short, beautiful sentiments that are evocative enough to tell an entire story. And they are beautiful.

There are so many perfect stories for mothers. Here are a few I might choose for my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, or other important women in my life:
I don't know who we'll become in the days ahead. I only know the quiet voice in my heart that says we'll become it together.

I will always remember the way you'd laugh & clap your hands watching us play & then later, before bed, you'd gather in your arms & whisper, Have you ever seen a world so perfect?

because you remind me of everything there is in this world to love

There is no one who comes here that does not know this is a true map of the world, with you there in the center, making home for us all.
Don't you think these are all such beautiful sentiments? And one of the great things about the Storypeople website is that they make it so easy to find the perfect story- you can search by keyword, by celebration, by event or theme... all helping ensure you find the perfect gift that reflects your own story, and those of the people you love.

photos #7-#10 from here

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rave: THE Best Bathing Suit for Moms

Well, I've done it so you don't have to. I spent an entire week in Jamaica snorkeling, swimming, and being lazy around the pool, and I can assure you that I endured this (really, suffering, I assure you) and can report back that the Seafolly Boyleg Maillot bathing suit really is the perfect bathing suit for moms whose bodies haven't quite bounced back from baby (or baby #2, as is my case).

Did you read Drew Barrymore's recent quote about post-baby bodies. She said, "You feel like a kangaroo with a giant pouch; everything's saggy and weird." Ha! As if I couldn't love her anymore, she then says something equal parts hilarious and true.

In particular, I've found that trying to lose weight and get in shape has been significantly more difficult the second time around. Not only does the weight seem harder to lose (and the pouch a little, well, flabbier), but I also feel like I have less time, less money, and significantly less inclination for working out. Combined with the terrible winter that never ended, and I have actually gained weight over the last 6 months. Sigh.

So the idea of spending a week in a bathing suit, while appealing, did bring about some nerves. What would I possibly wear?
Cue the Seafolly. This bathing suit was made for me and my less-than-perfect body. There are so many reasons why I love it.

  1. It has the perfect boycut bottom. Not so long as to be matronly or too much like shorts, but enough to give you a little bit of butt coverage. (Also, not to overshare, but if you don't do an impeccable job of personal grooming in all your nether regions every day of your vacation, this design element was incredibly forgiving. Good news all around.)
  2. It it made of super-soft and very high-quality fabric. It held me in and smoothed me out in all the right places, but wasn't overly tight or constricting. I never felt like it was sucking itself to my body, but always felt like it was molding my body (in a good way).
  3. The ruching and seaming made the whole suit totally flattering. 
  4. The cups of the bra were actually real cups, not just inserts. I loved this design element because it felt like I was simultaneously lifted and shaped and yet still tucked in.
  5. There was a slight retro-quality to the whole design, with the halter tie and the boyleg. This made me feel curvy and sexy instead of matronly, a hard job when you're wearing a one-piece in Jamaica.
  6. The lining was black. I think this bears mentioning because I hate it when I'm wearing a dark bathing suit and it has a light lining so anytime a little bit of lining shows, it is totally obvious. The black lining prevented that from happening.
The price tag is a little high (just under $150) but I genuinely felt like it was totally worth it. And it comes in a variety of fun prints too.
Now go book a trip to the Caribbean and see for yourself!

Monday, April 20, 2015

On Choosing a Vacation

Now this is a view I could get used.

Zach and I are in Jamaica. Have you been following along? It's been a wonderful two days so far, made even more wonderful knowing that the boys are in the best possible hands- my mom flew in from California to watch them and spoil them by taking them to the park every day and letting them pack picnics and walking them to the ice-cream store. Needless to say, they are having a great time.

So are Zach and I! We got massages yesterday and are drinking cucumber water and eating papaya and enjoying cocktails that are fresh and delicious. We have been getting 10+ hours of sleep a night (!!!!) and swimming in the most crystal-clear blue water you've ever seen and putting our feet in warm sand... all around, its been lovely. Especially after the winter we've had.
But here's the thing. Deciding on this trip was really, really hard. Because we don't go on "big" vacations like this often (we really only go every 5 years, as a part of our anniversary celebration), there was a lot of pressure to choose the "perfect" vacation. It tooks us months (and months and months and months!) before we finally settled on Jamaica, because in many ways, this vacation does not feel like a vacation we would typically take.

We're at a beautiful resort, but its a resort. Typically, when we travel, we like to stay in boutique hotels and charming bed-and-breakfasts.

We're in a different country, but in many ways, not- our plan is to stay mostly on the resort property, versus exploring the nooks and crannies and genuinely local culture of the place we're visiting.

We're eating good food and drinking delicious drinks- but I had a burger for lunch yesterday, surely not a Jamaican specialty. And while the food is delicious, it is not central to our trip, which is typically the case for us.

So Zach and I had to really think about what we wanted when we booked our trip. Did we want to go back to Spain, enjoying all it had to offer with amazing tapas and beautiful museums? Italy? Greece? All of these were on the table. But ultimately, we looked at each other and decided that what we most wanted was to relax. And to be warm. And that led us in a different direction. That led us to a resort in Jamaica where relaxation and warm weather are at the very center of our vacation.

We spent some time talking about how this is the perfect trip for this point in our marriage. How, when we look back, we'll remember that we had just survived the longest winter. That between the two boys, neither of us had seen 10 hours of sleep a night in years. How lazily sitting around on our balcony, listening to the ocean and getting to talk, gave us opportunities to connect.

All of which made us realize that like everything else in life, maybe vacations too should reflect the season of life we're in. I suspect that 5 years from now, when we plan our big trip for our 15th anniversary, we probably won't be celebrating it at a resort in Jamaica. But for right now, for this season of our life, this was the perfect trip, the perfect way to celebrate 10 years and settle in for another 40 or 50 more. With our toes in the sand.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Best Boys Shoes: See Kai Run

This week has been so, so great. Not only is my mom here, but the weather has finally turned, and we've had two (two!) days above 70 degrees. The boys have been playing outside... the daffodils are in bloom... and life just feels easier and better and happier and brighter. Coming home on a sunny day to a glass of chilled white wine and sitting on the stoop watching your little ones play in the front yard is quite possibly the best way to spend an evening. It's been very happy-making.

Add to this that Zach and I leave for Jamaica tomorrow (what? I haven't told you we're taking a trip to Jamaica?), and the anticipation of having uninterrupted alone time, long stretches of beach, rum-based cocktails and big feathery beds, all with endless opportunities to have long conversations, and I am one happy camper.

As the weather has turned, it became quite obvious that my boys were in need of some new shoes. But the truth is this: My boys have wide feet. Wide enough that it can be very, very challenging to find shoes to fit them. Which is why I am always on the lookout for good-looking shoes that fit.

Since Tate was little, I've been a huge fan of See Kai Run. I find their shoes to be adorably boyish with great-looking details, bright colors, and best of all- they are wide!

This weekend, we bought Ames the most adorable pair of bright red See Kai Run sneakers.
I love the striped lining and the gray accents, the wide and rounded rubber toe. I normally don't love the look of velcro shoes, but I think these are designed so well. Don't they look cute on Ames? His little feet and chubby ankles are just too much, aren't they?
We also bought him a pair of the brown Jude sandals, perfect for more sunny days to come.
I have a few things planned to share with you next week while we're in Jamaica, and will be sharing our trip on Instagram- be sure to follow along for photos of white beaches and blue water!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hannah Bergen Heirlooms

Growing up, every year I made the Christmas cookies with my Grandma and Papa. Grandma and I would make the pecan-based Italian wedding cookies, rolling them in confectioner's sugar twice, once hot right out of the oven, and again when cooled for a perfect, creamy, sweet finish. We'd make the spicy ginger cookies we called "Leah's cookies", although I never knew (and still don't know) exactly who Leah was. We made classic peanut butter blossoms, heating them up in the microwave for just a few seconds the next day to make the kiss melty all over again. Finally, after Grandma and I were finished, Papa and I would make a double-batch of the Italian biscotti, anise-flavored, twice-baked, and draped in a sweet anise-flavored glaze.

By the end of our baking day, our feet would ache, but we would have stocked all my Grandma's cookie tins to the very brim. It is a wonderful memory.
I've been thinking about these kinds of memories a lot lately, especially now that my Grandma has gotten older and we've all begun worrying more about her health. Which is why every time I see my antique nut grinder in my cupboard, the same one Grandma and I used over and over on our Christmas cookie baking days, I smile. Because this little nut grinder represents so many memories.

So you can imagine how much I love Hannah Bergen's Heirloom Kit. I think the idea of the kit is so beautiful. As the company puts it, the kit "holds everything you will need to record and save your family heirloom stories." This includes gorgeous heirloom tags that you can write the memories of your heirloom items on, Italian cotton ribbon to tie your tag to your most important heirlooms, and other items to inspire you to take your precious items and add your memories and stories.

I love the idea of asking Grandma to write (in her beautiful cursive handwriting!) a story of our baking together and attaching it to my nut grinder.
I can also imagine doing this with Zach's grandfather's pocketwatch, the cufflinks Zach wore at our wedding, and other important and meaningful items in our family. Part of the gift of this heirloom kit is, I think, in simply reminding us that items do have importance and meaning, and it is worthwhile to memorialize the stories that go along with them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tate is Five: The Activities (Part Two)

We left off yesterday with a handful of happy butterflies. In addition to decorating their masks, I wanted a few other hands-on activities that would add structure to the party and be a lot of fun for a group of pre-schoolers.

Next on the list was decorating butterfly cookies. I set up a table with butterfly cookies, sprinkles, mini M&M's, and disposable piping bags filled with frosting. I thought that the set-up table looked so pretty.

I made the cookies the night before. One great pro tip: If you're doing art or cookie stations like I did, set everything up on individual paper plates. It not only helps the kids figure out where to sit, but it also gives them a vehicle for taking their treats home, and for artwork to dry on. You can even write their name on the plate when they sit down so no one loses track of which cookie is theirs.

The kids made a huge mess with this activity (and consumed a ton of frosting), but it was really fun.
 Even Ames got in on the fun!
Another good tip- once the piping bags are filled, use a rubberband to close them up. This will help prevent little hands from squeezing frosting through the top of the piping bag, making even more of a mess.

The last activity was a really sweet one as well. We gave each child a flower pot (again, all set up on a paper plate), and set the table up with paints and brushes. Each child painted his or her own pot, planted a flower, and added a butterfly. It was beautiful!

Following the activities, the kids ate lunch, we opened presents, ate cake (with a raucous rendition of "Happy Birthday", of course) and then the kids spent the next 20 minutes racing around. The entire party was just over 2 hours, which felt perfect. And each child walked out with a butterfly mask, potted plant, and frosted cookie in lieu of a goody bag. So much fun!

I mentioned yesterday that I think this kind of party, with planned activities, can be inexpensive and easy. All told, I spent about $2.50/child/activity. And the kids had a blast. Another benefit was that the parents had something to do- they helped their children with each activity, getting them involved and providing an opportunity for them to connect with their child.

I feel so lucky that I have such a curious, tender-hearted boy as Tate, one who would see the beauty in butterflies and who would invite his friends to share his happy day with him.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tate is Five: The Activities (Part One)

Oh my goodness, things have been so busy! Work and Tate's birthday and party planning and baking and picking up my mom from the airport... whew! But I am so excited to tell you about Tate's birthday party! We had such a great time. I loved getting to see him with all his friends, and celebrating the amazing little boy he has become.

I'll admit, I really struggled with how to plan this party effectively. We don't have a large house or playroom, and the weather in April in Western Mass is iffy, so an outdoor party was not an option. With Tate's requested butterfly theme, something like a gymnastics party or something hosted at a local play area wouldn't work. Ultimately, I rented a room through the local Parks and Rec. It came with tables and chairs and that was pretty much it.

In considering the schedule, I decided to model the party after Tate's pre-school's annual Harvest party. This consisted of three individual art activities that were all set up on separate tables plus one table for food and drink. It looked like this:
I decided not to use table linens for a couple reasons. First, table linens (even cheap ones) are so expensive. And in my opinion, cheap ones never look very good. Also, they felt overly formal for this kind of party. So I ordered two rolls of this brown kraft paper (although one roll was more than enough to cover six 8-foot tables) and we covered the tables in it instead. I think it looked great, and struck just the right note. (Bonus- the kids had a great time drawing on it!)
For the centerpieces of the food table, I ordered 12 monarch butterflies on wire, which I added to the grass and pots I had bought at IKEA. I added white paper plates, happy yellow napkins, and juice boxes:
For the first activity, I purchased butterfly masks from Michael's for just $1.00 each. With three $1.00 sets of markers (from the Dollar Store) presented in glass jelly jars, and a few stick-on gems, it was a lot of fun and probably my favorite activity of the day. Seeing the creativity of each child was great.

 Aren't they sweet? A whole flock of butterflies.

Tune in tomorrow for the remainder of the activities, and how I think this kind of party can be cheaper and easier than a traditional one (no goody bags needed!)