Posts in July, 2011

Animal Bookends

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

faux-leather-animal-bookends-serena-and-lily

Check out these very cute animal menagerie bookends available at Serena & Lily. These playful creatures will add a little spunk and personality to any child’s bedroom, or any bookshelf for that matter. They are covered in ‘faux’ leather that’s super-soft and smooth. And these little guys are heavy! They should be able to keep most heavy books in place, and you can also use them as a great doorstop or to keep that big pile of mail from flying away. Any of these would make a great baby gift too!

Zoku Popsicle Maker

Monday, July 11th, 2011

zoku popsicle maker review

Yes – the Zoku Quick Pops popsicle maker is just as easy and cool as it seems to be in all of the colorful pictures in the Williams-Sonoma catalog. Just pour in some juice and voila! The best part about the Zoku is the instant gratification. In just about 5-10 minutes your kids can make their very own sweet treats. The 2 layered pops above are the fanciest ones we have made so far.

zoku-quick-pops-popsilce-maker

This week we will try to make some of the characters. The Zoku is perfect for summer play dates – a great way for the kids to be creative and cool off too.

Lunch Box Preview

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

planetbox-ecofriendly lunch box dwellstudio-zinnia-rose-bag

Want to get a jump on your back-to-school shopping? Check out my new page full of cute snack packs, insulated lunch bags and cool lunch boxes. The items pictured above are from Planetbox and DwellStudio.

Behaving Badly

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Behaving Badly by Susan Fry

It’s a rule of life that kids misbehave. They may try to control themselves, but chances are that when they’re tired, or hungry, or the moon is full, they’ll find themselves hitting, kicking, and screaming their way to a time out. Along the way, parents may not behave so well, either. Reading about these fits when everyone is calm can help both parents and children process their emotions – and show that life, and a happy parent-child relationship, can still go on afterwards.

Mr_gumpys_outing

Mr. Gumpy’s Outing, by John Burningham. Gently colored cartoons tell an equally gentle story. Mr. Gumpy (not Mr. Grumpy) lives in a peaceful house by a river. He decides to take his boat on an outing, and everyone else around him – including a couple of children, a pig, some chickens, a calf, and a goat – wants to come, too. Mr. Gumpy sets the rules. “If you don’t squabble,” he tells the children, for example, and “If you don’t kick,” he tells the goat. And, for a little while, “They all went along happily.” But then, everyone does what they’re not supposed to do: the goat kicks, the calf tramples, the children squabble. The boat tips, and they all fall out. But is Mr. Gumpy angry? No. He seems to accept that children will be children, and goats will be goats. He gives everyone tea and simply says at the end, “Come for a ride another day.”

No-David!-David-Shannon

No, David! by David Shannon. It’s no coincidence that the author and main character share the same name. Shannon based the character on his own childhood, and he shows an understanding of both sides of unruly behavior – a child’s and a parent’s frustration at constantly having to hear, or say, “No!” Little David is filled with a frenetic, uncontrolled energy. Even the drawings seem to vibrate with jagged lines, snaggly teeth, and smears of color. David seeks out things that will get him in trouble, tipping over a fishbowl, tracking mud on the carpet, jumping on the bed, and even running naked down the street. Cries of “Come back here!” “Not in the house!” and “No!” follow his escapades. But a final infraction – David breaks a vase with a baseball bat – leads to a gentle conclusion. After a time out, his understanding mother hugs him and finally gets to say one “Yes:” “Yes, David, I love you.”

Harriet-You’ll-Drive-Me-Wild-by-Mem-Fox

Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Marla Frazee. For me, this book is a remarkable portrayal of parent-child conflict. The authors are willing to show strong emotions on both sides – both the child and the mother fall apart. Little Harriet spends the morning knocking over juice, smearing jam on her pants, and splattering paint on the carpet, “just like that.” Each time, “Her mother didn’t like to yell, so instead she said, ‘Harriet, my darling child. Harriet, you’ll drive me wild.’” Eventually, even this enviable mother’s patience cracks. When Harriet rips open a feather pillow, “There was a terrible silence. Then Harriet’s mother began to yell. She yelled and yelled and yelled.” While it’s heartbreaking to see Harriet cry following her mother’s anger, the mother-daughter recovery is astonishingly heartwarming. “I shouldn’t have yelled, and I wish I hadn’t,” her mother says, hugging her daughter. “But sometimes it happens, just like that.” Harriet and her mother end by laughing at the mess and cleaning it up together.

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.

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Manny & Simon

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

manny-and-simon-red-wooden-toy-truck manny-and-simon-wooden-lamb-rocker

Are you looking for a gift that is destined to become a cherished toy that can be passed down to the next generation? If you love children’s products that are based clean, simple modern design, Manny & Simon is the company for you. Their wooden animals and vehicles are destined to be classics.

manny-simon-elephant-wooden-toy manny-and-simon-stroller

I have purchased a number of Manny & Simon items as gifts over the last year and they are always a big hit. I can’t really explain it except that these products just make me happy. They are strong and durable, the designs are simple yet fun, and the Manny & Simon team picked perfect shades of every color to paint the toys. To top it off, these adorable wooden toys are made from 100% post-industrial recycled wood residuals, and they use ultra low odor non-toxic paint with zero VOC. They are all made in sunny Southern California too and haven’t spent the last month on a cargo ship… Check them out today!

Summer Shoes for Girls

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

especial-espadrilles

Once upon a time I owned about a dozen pairs of espadrilles – they were my absolute favorite pair of shoes. There was a little shop in Carmel that carried them and every summer my mom would let me pick out a few new colors to add to my collection. Tea Collection has some cute summer espadrilles for little girls that are colorful, comfortable and inexpensive too!

surf-turf-sneakers

Looking for sneakers the kids can get wet? These Surf & Turf sneakers are absolutely perfect. All of these little perforations control the temperature and let feet breathe. I am curious if you could get a super cool spotted foot tan too…

saltwater-sandals

Does your daughter prefer to wiggle her toes? Skip the glitter and bling and buy a great pair of classic Saltwater Sandals. These hand-stitched, waterproof sandals will keep her feet comfortable while she enjoys the summer fun.

Kate Spade Bobby Pins

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

kate-spade-bobby-pins

I have become a total bobby pin fanatic. I’ve been obsessed with doing a little twist with my bangs and then giving them a little tuck with a hairpin to keep them in place. Mostly I have been wearing basic drug store bobby pins but I am ready to up my game a little and start adding some cute hair accessories into rotation. I think these Kate Spade Bobby Pins are exactly what I need to add a little summer sparkle.

Little Rabbit & The Meanest Mother

Friday, July 1st, 2011

little-rabbit-and-the-meanest-mother-on-earth

Susan Fry reviews Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth, by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise.

While I may not be the tidiest person in the world, my children far surpass me on the messiness spectrum. I’ve seen playdates end with their entire room blanketed in Legos. Ouch! And I don’t even want to think about the time my son emptied a tube of toothpaste – in the bedroom.

No wonder my kids and I laughed out loud at Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth. The book examines the neatness struggle from both sides, and it arrives at a hilarious solution that satisfies everyone.

Little Rabbit’s playroom is covered with upended furniture, scattered toys, piles of rocks, and bits of paper. But Little Rabbit is interested in only one thing: the circus has arrived, and giraffes and lions parade under his window. His mother will only let him go if his playroom is clean, however, and Little Rabbit’s room just seems “to get messier, not neater.” When Mother Rabbit refuses to let him go, Little Rabbit’s frustration erupts in an all-too-familiar way. “It’s not fair! You’re so mean!” he shouts.

While most children would simply sulk, Little Rabbit takes control. He sneaks out and joins the circus. His claim to fame? “‘I have the Meanest Mother on Earth,’” he informs the ringmaster.

With entrepreneurial zeal, Little Rabbit sells tickets by describing his mother in a way that may feel very real to kids. “She has two heads,” he tells a kangaroo mother and baby. “And she uses them to think up mean ways to punish the small and the innocent.” While the mother kangaroo finds that hard to believe, her child murmurs, “I can believe it.”

But when Little Rabbit tricks his mother into the circus tent, the audience is understandably disappointed. “What’s so terrifying about her?” they demand.

Without missing a beat, Mother Rabbit exclaims, “Wait! I’ll show you all something guaranteed to terrify.” She leads the circus audience back to her house. “Welcome to the Messiest Room on Earth,” she announces. The audience is duly horrified. At the end, Little Rabbit’s room is finally clean – Mother Rabbit lets all the animals take toys as souvenirs.

The cartoons have a retro-Parisian, carnival-esque flair, with curlicues, stripes, and unusual color combinations of orange and blue, pink and brown. The body language between Mother Rabbit and Little Rabbit expresses a loving and happy relationship. When he’s scared, little Rabbit clings to her, and she holds his hand.

The final scene will make both parents and children smile – Mother Rabbit lets Little Rabbit sleep under a homemade circus tent. “I’m not the Meanest Mother on Earth,” she tells him. “I’m the luckiest.”

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.