Posts in April, 2011

More Princess Books

Friday, April 15th, 2011

princess-bess-gets-dressed

And yet more Princesses . . . .by Susan Fry

I always envy friends who get to glam out at princess parties while I’m stuck – yet again – in an androgynous Jedi outfit, dodging light sabers. So I decided to use the British Royal family as an excuse to hold a princess party of my very own. On the night of Kate and William’s wedding, my friends and I will don our widest, most flowery hats and sip champagne while watching the TIVOed nuptials.

For those of you lucky enough to have a princess of your own – of either gender – these books should get you in the right frame of mind for the festivities.

Princess Bess Gets Dressed, by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Heather Maione. Frilly cartoons and clever rhymes make the most of Princess Bess’ extensive wardrobe as she changes outfits throughout her busy day. Dress-up fans will covet Bess’ tutu for ballet class, her velveteen gown for a snack with the queen, and her sequined shawl for a ball. But to Bess, dressing up is her duty. “What I really want to wear is a secret I can’t share,” she says. Only at bedtime can she finally revel in her favorite clothes – her underwear!

Princess Penelope, by Todd Mack, illustrated by Julia Gran. “Penelope was a princess. She was absolutely certain.” After all, Penelope gets a princess crown from her grandmother and a kiss from the King and Queen. But some of the reasons behind her “royalty” soon look suspiciously familiar. A “Princess” gets her own room while the King and Queen have to share. A “Princess” has lots of thrones, including a potty. And, of course, she has “servants” clean up after her. Both grownups and kids will get a laugh out of the ways that an ordinary girl is just like a princess. The lively drawings are an original blend of thick, black curlicued outlines and delicate watercolor.

Princess Hyacinth (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated), by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Lane Smith. Princess Hyacinth has a problem – she floats! So the King and Queen weigh her down with a crown, golden weights, and diamond pebbles. But the poor Princess just wants to play with other children. One day, she rebels and nearly floats away into the sky. Only a little boy’s kite string – and his friendship – can save her. The book can be read as a metaphor for royalty or love, or just for the sheer whimsy of the idea. Princess Hyacinth seems to draw heavily from one of my favorite books, The Light Princess, by George MacDonald, which is for older children and contains some darker elements.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications. You will find links to all of her children’s book reviews on our Toys & Books page.

Spring & Easter Favorites

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

tory-burch-adelaide-croc-print-sandal

The sun has been shining the last few days, and I finally got a pedicure on Sunday, so now I have an excuse to buy these chic ankle strap sandals from Tory Burch. These shoes made the Sweet Peas & Stilettos must have list of Best Products for Spring & Easter. Please check out the eclectic array of wonderful items that made The List this year.

And for those of you who were wondering, yes Tory has a great selection of handbags that will go perfectly with these shoes… Of course she does….

Pear Tree Greetings

A Modern Princess

Friday, April 8th, 2011

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How to Become a (Modern) Princess by Susan Fry

I’m not proud to admit that my favorite toy as a little girl was Princess Barbie. Even though I wore grubby jeans and loved tackle football, there was something just so irresistible about that doll’s scratchy, pink ball gown and shiny, fake little crown.

But while my childhood friends and I avidly watched Diana marry her Prince Charming, we also saw the fallout afterwards. We learned that there was more to being a princess than wearing jewels and a dress with a long, long train.

Now, a whole new generation is gearing up for another royal wedding. So it’s the perfect time to check out A Genuine and Moste Authentic Guide: Princess: A Glittering Guide for Young Ladies, written by Stella Gurney, designed by Janie Louise Hunt, and illustrated by Sophie Allsopp, Fran Evans, Georgina McBain, and Gretel Parker.

Princess primers filled with frilly clothes abound. But this one offers both sparkle and substance.

The sparkle will grab readers from the first page. The lovely, stylish illustrations mix fairy-tale with Art Deco flapper. And they’re covered in glitter that doesn’t come off on your hands. As girls learn etiquette and style tips, there are envelopes to examine, flaps to flip, and mirrors to peek into. There’s even a wardrobe that opens so you – I mean, your child – can flick through tops and bottoms to create different outfits. No wonder it took so many people to design this book!

The substance comes from the advice of “narrator” Madame Sparklington, who has just retired as the head of an exclusive finishing school. She does address glamorous dilemmas, such as how to flirt with a fan or climb out of a carriage. But her section on “Finding your Inner Princess” refreshingly corrects attitude, not clothes. She mixes old-fashioned rules, such as “Think of Others” and “Never Gossip” with more modern decrees, such as “Be Assertive.” Many of her tips apply to the day-to-day lives of all aspiring princesses, such as not overdoing makeup and eating plenty of vegetables.

And as for finding that prince? “Far too busy having fun to be bothered with Prince Charming?” Madame Sparkington asks. “Excellent! Enjoying yourself is the whole point.”

Though, personally, I’m still dying to know what Kate will wear.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications. You will find links to all of her children’s book reviews on our Toys & Books page.

Take Great Photos

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

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I have always loved photography and of course my favorite subject matter in the last few years has been my son. I have enlisted the help of Kristina from Moms Who Click to share some helpful hints so we can all capture priceless photos we will cherish forever.

Kristina’s 10 Tips for Taking Great Photos of Your Kids

We all know that taking photographs of little ones can be a bit of a challenge. Kids move quickly, become easily distracted and are just plain impatient. However nothing is more rewarding than obtaining that “great” shot. Here are a few tips to help you capture memories that will last a lifetime:

1. Take LOTS of Photos. The great thing about digital cameras is that you can take as many pictures as you want and delete any images that didn’t work out. Just keep your finger on the button and keep clicking. For really quick kiddies, we recommend trying out your burst mode or sport mode. Kids can move fast and these modes let you snap multiple pictures in seconds.

2. Get Down on Your Child’s Level: Getting down on your knees or belly will allow you to take photos that look more proportional. It will also allow you to capture images from your child’s perspective.

3. Prepare to Be Silly: Asking kids to “say cheese” often results in, well, a cheesy smile. It is important to capture your child’s natural expression and the best way to do this is through laughter. Playing peek-a-boo and for whatever reason, bathroom humor always seems to be a great way to get an ear to ear grin.

4. Fill the Frame: Remember the focus of your photos is your child. So be sure to capture the main attraction by focusing on his or her cute face. Try the macro setting on your camera to be sure the close-up shots are in focus.

5. Focus on Details: A close up image of bare feet in the sand, hands painting a picture or a pursed mouth blowing bubbles can make for an interesting picture that tells a story and preserves these memories for a lifetime.

6. Try New Angles: It is amazing how simply turning your camera in a new angle, shooting from above or below can result in interesting, unique photos. Think outside the box and get creative!

7. Use Natural Light: To avoid red eyes or shiny skin use natural light whenever possible. While taking photos outside is ideal, you can still take advantage of natural light by shooting indoors near a window. Be sure to turn off your flash setting.

8. Work with Your Child’s Schedule: Keep in mind your child’s schedule when taking photos. Interfering with nap and meal times can result in cranky kids before you even start shooting.

9. Know When to Say “When”: Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, that “perfect” shot might not happen. When you see your child getting cranky and you feel your nerves starting to fray, it is time to put the camera away. Who knows, when you go back to edit the photos, you may find a diamond in the rough.

10. Play with Color: You don’t have to have Photoshop to edit the color of your photos. There are great online editing tools like Picnik or Flickr that allow you to turn photos to black and white, sepia and play with saturation, brightness and contrast levels. These little adjustments can help your photos “pop” and create a whole new look and feel.

Remember, the key to capturing great photos is taking your camera out of its bag and having it at the ready to click, click, click. Ultimately, what’s most important is to capture these precious childhood moments before they are gone in the blink of an eye.

Kristina is an avid photographer. She co-owns as family photography business, Case Rust Photography and can also be found blogging about her business at Moms Who Click. She and her business partner also love interacting with photographers of all levels at www.facebook.com/momswhoclick.

Freshmom Feature

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

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I want to send a huge thank you to Hatton at Freshmom for her wonderful post about Sweet Peas & Stilettos. Her very kind words made me a very happy girl this week. Thank you Hatton! Please go check out her cool blog and our fun interview.

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Puj Tub

Monday, April 4th, 2011

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Here is one very cute baby getting a nice warm bath from daddy while he is still just a few precious weeks old. Greysen’s parents have nothing but fabulous things to say about the Puj Tub. Here is what Greysen’s mom, Erin, had to tell me, “I love this tub because the material from which it is made is soft enough for my baby’s head yet provides great support for his body while bathing. It also fits perfectly in my kitchen sink which is much easier than bending over a bathtub and kneeling on the floor. I would highly recommend this tub to anyone with a newborn baby!”

I know when my son was a baby I felt so bad when I was giving him a bath in a cold, hard plastic bathtub. You want your baby to be in something soft and safe. I was really impressed with the design of the Puj Tub – it is very cool how it easily folds to fit so many different sinks. A huge thank you to Puj for sharing such a cool bathtub with us and keeping innovation alive for the benefit of babies everywhere.

Inklore

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

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Yesterday I was out shopping in downtown Los Gatos and I meandered into Post 61 Collective, an adorable shop with modern locally made products. I purchased a precious linen shopping bag from Inklore as a gift for my college roommate. When I got home I immediately jumped online to find out more about the woman who made my bag. That woman is Sam, a California based mom of two who has a fresh eye and impeccable design sense. I have fallen in love with all of her creations and wanted to share them with all of you. They are simple and modern with a hint of whimsy. They are well priced too for frequent gift giving.

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Sam prints her designs on high quality linen and cotton using environmentally sensitive, water-based inks. She has a great range of products as you can see from these pictures so you will certainly find something you love. She will even work with you to create custom items too.

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When Sam “started Inklore in 2008 it was with the intention of hand crafting items that add pleasure to everyday living.” I think she is doing a wonderful job. You can shop directly from her website store or her shop on Etsy. I hope you enjoy her work as much as I do.

Steve Jenkins

Friday, April 1st, 2011

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Steve Jenkins: Putting Everything in Perspective by Susan Fry

Steve Jenkins’ books are deceptively simple. Flip through them, and you’ll quickly see that he’s fascinated by a single theme: comparisons. Jenkins loves to contrast animal sizes, mountain heights, ocean depths, and bone lengths. He’ll offer just a few pictures on each spare page, perhaps with a line or two of text. At first glance, his illustrations may even look clumsy – collages of cut or torn paper in muted colors, reminiscent of Eric Carle.

But Jenkins actually accomplishes something remarkably difficult. He can help a reader grasp difficult concepts in a single glance. And these concepts are accompanied by an emotional punch that reveals just how sophisticated Jenkins’ illustrations are.

Look closely, and you’ll marvel at how much detail Jenkins can portray with “just” paper. His collages are meticulously cut and pasted. A tiny square of white on a gray oval gives a drop of water its shine. A convoluted curl becomes an astoundingly-long jellyfish tentacle. Torn, fuzzy edges replicate the hair on a spider’s legs.

Jenkins also chooses his paper carefully — a mottled, water-stained brown for a flea’s back, a green sheet with wavy fibers for water, a thick, crinkled page for an iceberg. The figures seem to have depth and texture. And though they’re not realistic, they are instantly recognizable, and beautiful.

Jenkins’ combination of art and science will also give kids a new perspective on their own place in the world. In Biggest, Strongest, Fastest, for example, Jenkins shows two elephants, their trunks and legs delightfully wrinkled. But Jenkins isn’t just satisfied to write: “The African elephant is the biggest land animal.” Instead, in one corner, he draws a tiny figure of a man – to scale – next to an elephant. Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest explains annual rainfall in several countries – in relation to a man’s height. Bones: Skeletons and How They Work depicts a life-size human skull (on the cover!), then contrasts it with the bones of other animals.

My favorite Jenkins book, Actual Size, makes comparisons even more visceral. Kids can hold their own hands up to a life-size picture of a gorilla’s hand. And even grownups will gasp when they find the enormous, staring eye of a giant squid spread across an entire page.

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest

Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest

Bones: Skeletons and How They Work

Actual Size

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications. You will find links to all of her children’s book reviews on our Toys & Books page.