Posts in August, 2010

Hanna Andersson’s Hanna-me-Downs

Monday, August 30th, 2010

There is a lot to love about Hanna Andersson these days. The best news is that my ‘niece’ (she is actually my sister-in-law’s niece but we have such a small family we like to think she is our niece too) is a budding super model and Hanna Andersson model. Look how cute she is! I also just got a postcard in the mail from Hanna Andersson about their ‘hanna-me-downs’ promotion. It is such a great program. All you need to do is bring in some gently used books to one of their stores and you’ll get 20% off your purchase. The promotion goes through September 12th. (You may need to have the postcard too – that I am not sure about.) What is so cool is that the books will be given to kids in need in your own community.

Hanna Andersson

School Craze

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

Great back to school books from Susan….

A new school year can bring up a whole host o’fears. Will I make friends? Will the teacher hate me? Will I have to spend every afternoon on questionably-useful homework projects?

And those are just my anxieties. For my children, the terrors are much more fundamental. My toddler worries that mommy won’t actually come back for him. My kindergartener is scared that his school won’t have bathrooms. And they both wonder why they need to learn to read, anyway, when all they really want to do is play soccer for the rest of their lives.

There are lots of heartwarming, sentimental stories about walking through those big red doors – books that have both parents and kids sniffling as they turn the last page. But for me, humor is the best way to combat fear. That’s why I adore the following books. I’d rather be smiling – or, even better, giggling – when I wave goodbye on the big day.

Wow! School!, by Robert Neubecker. Yes, I’m raving about yet another Robert Neubecker book. My kids and I just can’t get enough of them – they’re colorful and bright and irresistible, with so much happening on each page that my toddler sometimes says “Again!” as soon as we’re done. It’s nice that crazy-haired Izzy and her daddy aren’t scared at all about her first day of school. You soon see why – Izzy’s school is a comforting and exciting place, full of sand tables and volcano pictures, friendly kids of different ethnicities and a smiling teacher. The book takes Izzy through a whole day, from circle time to recess, which is a great way to show kids what to expect at school. Wow, School! makes me want to go back to school myself.

Wanda’s First Day, by Mark Sperring, illustrated by Kate and Liz Pope. Wanda, a witch dressed in black, is nervous about her first day at school. And she doesn’t quite fit in – all the other girls are in pink, with wands instead of brooms and little fairy wings instead of black bat wings. But when Wanda tells the teacher she’s in the wrong place, the teacher reminds her that everyone feels that way at first. By the end of the day, Wanda has made new friends, learned new things, and can’t wait to go back. The best part? She doesn’t have to change who she is. The fanciful line drawings sizzle with color and energy.

Miss Nelson Is Missing!, by Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall. A badly-behaved class discovers that their mild-mannered teacher, Miss Nelson, has been replaced by the dreadful Miss Viola Swamp. When Miss Swamp takes away story hour and gives the kids too much work, they set out to bring Miss Nelson back. The twist, of course, is that Miss Nelson and Miss Swamp are the same person! The book is a good way to remind my kids that they have some control over their day. Be nice? Chances are you’ll get a Miss Nelson. Act up? Watch out for Viola Swamp.

First Day Jitters, by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love. Sarah is dreading the first day of her new school. She’s worried that she won’t know anyone, and she’s afraid that everything will be difficult. The book follows her as she’s persuaded to get out of bed, get dressed, and get to school – at which point Sarah is revealed as being a new teacher, not a student. I’m hoping this book will help my kids realize that teachers – and maybe even mommies – might need some kindness and understanding, too.

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.

Deals & Discounts

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Here are some great deals and discounts at some of my favorite stores. Happy shopping!

Stella & Dot – New items on sale at Stella & Dot. Up to 50% off! – Summer Sale: 20% Off Baby & Kids’ Products

The Land of Nod – The Land of Nod sale is going on now!

Wallcandy® Arts – See what’s on sale at WallCandy® Arts!

Destination Maternity – Buy One Get One 50% select tees at Destination Maternity. Valid until August 31, 2010.

Saks Fifth Avenue – Receive a bright tote bag filled with deluxe samples & irresistible offers with your $75 beauty purchase at Use Code: PURE

Designer Handbags and Accessories at up to 70% off retail prices at BBOSPrivateSale

Toto Knits

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

The latest addition to the Modern Mom Favorites section of Sweet Peas & Stilettos is Charity from Austin, Texas. She introduced me to these adorable hand-knit organic cotton sweaters from Toto Knits. Not only are their products totally adorable, they are all hand made by women in Kenya, many of whom are single mothers. “Toto Knits provides an opportunity for Kenyan women to gain financial independence while learning new skills and working in a flexible way which fits around their commitments to their families.” Super cute, organic and supporting a great cause – sounds like a fabulous purchase to me!

Vacation Books

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Susan’s got a new selection of great books for your kids to enjoy…

Vacation? What Vacation?

According to recent studies, children’s summer vacations are overrated. Our kids would evidently be much better prepared to compete in the world if they spent the so-called “fourth semester” studying, not sleeping late, playing in the park, or skipping stones across an idyllic lake.

Oddly, none of these studies mention just how overrated summer vacations are for parents, too. At least for those of us with young children. I learned early on that going on the road (or in the sky, or by the lake) with my two boys doesn’t actually count as a vacation. It’s a trip. It might even be an adventure. But relaxation? Never.

Vacations with my children are physically challenging, though not in the kayaking-surfing-spending-all-night-dancing kind of way. Carrying four overstuffed suitcases and a cranky toddler leads to a slipped disc, not muscles and a tan. New bedrooms and new time zones mean sleeping late is just a dream. And did I mention mosquito bites, cancelled flights, and food poisoning?

That’s why I’ve been so grateful for the books I discuss below. They’ve amused my kids when I most needed distraction, calmed them when I was anxious, and made me imagine, just for a few blissful minutes, that I was on vacation, too.

Airport, by Byron Barton. This deceptively simple book introduces younger children to travelling by air, including jet airliners, helicopters, and sea planes. As with all Byron Barton books, the illustrations are blocky but unexpectedly lovely. The primary colors and thick black lines remind me of cheerful stained glass. Barton even manages to create an ethnically diverse group of passengers in his smiling little stick figures.

Usborne Flip Flap Airport. Who doesn’t want to peek through the X-ray machine to see what’s inside people’s bags, or open the nose of an aircraft to load cargo? This incredibly detailed book uses sliders, flaps, and wheels to take kids from arrival at an airport to flying on a plane. The busy cartoons make even the everyday dramas of being late for a flight or dropping a suitcase amusing.

Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World. These wonderfully original tales go around the world, gently mocking country stereotypes with a friendly cast of animal characters. Even though the book is large, I carry it on every trip we take. The sheer number and diversity of stories means I can fill an entire plane flight reading, or ration one or two stories out at bedtime over a whole trip. The stories are complicated enough for slightly older children, but they can also be simplified for younger kids, who just enjoy the funny expressions on Dr. Krunchchew the Russian dentist or Schtoompah the Austrian tuba player.

Medieval Castle: A Carousel Pop-up Book, by Phil Wilson. Okay, I’m cheating by including this one. Open this thin hardback book, and it dramatically fans out into a free-standing, 3-D castle! The book comes with press-out princesses and a dragon, but Playmobil and Lego characters work, too. I’m always amazed at the intricate pop-ups within the castle rooms, including canopied beds, treasure chests, and hidden passageways. The “book” is sturdy enough to have survived my two boys, and it even fits on a tray table.

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.

Classic Kids Photography

Friday, August 20th, 2010

I recently had a fantastic photo shoot for an upcoming magazine feature. To be completely honest I was dreading the whole thing. My son has only had his portrait taken one other time, and though the photos (miraculously) turned out really cute, the experience was dreadful. He cried the whole time, I was sweating non-stop, and he was utterly terrified of the camera (and maybe the photographer too). It was the longest 2 hours of my life – nothing short of utter misery. I told myself never again. But when a major magazine calls, I had to jump at the chance. I needed pictures….

I called Lynn at Classic Kids Photography in Los Gatos to see if she could help me with my last minute request. She was so kind to squeeze us into her schedule. And it was a blast! We had so much fun. My son, Carl, loved it and has been asking about Lynn every day ever since. I am thrilled with the results too. This photo is one of my favorites. I would recommend their services to anyone.

Classic Kids Photography has about 10 studios across the country. They also have this very precious movie you might want to check out too.  I am thrilled that they are partnering with Sweet Peas & Stilettos to help me collect shoes for San Francisco Bay Area homeless children. I will have much more to tell you about that in the upcoming weeks. We hope you will be able to join us in supporting such a good cause.

Solage Calistoga

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

I took at little detour on my Silicon Valley spa tour this weekend and headed up to Solage Calistoga with one of my best friends from college, Marlena. We spent the day relaxing poolside after our perfect pedicures and it was sheer bliss! They have these incredible geo-thermal pools that were so relaxing. I have a pool at home, but this water was so soft – we didn’t want to get out. The snacks and drinks served poolside were so yummy too. Who knew that flatbread could taste so good?  The place is gorgeous in that casual, modern hipster kind of way, but not too over the top. The only thing that convinced us to leave was the thought of running back to our house so we could change clothes and come back for dinner. Solbar (their phenomenal restaurant) received a Michelin Star Rating and I can tell you, they deserve it. It was one of those meals where you cherish each and every bite. We sat outside in their gorgeous patio overlooking the main pool and it was the perfect setting to enjoy such a delicious meal.

So if you are looking for an all around perfect mommy getaway – this is your place. From yoga and a ‘mud bar’ to bocce ball and cruiser bikes and the best food around – you will undoubtedly be able to unwind and recharge.

photo: Solage Calistoga

The Monovore’s Dilemma

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

My friend Susan is back with more great book ideas for all the foodies out there. Enjoy!

My two boys have the taste buds of Wisconsin linebackers. In other words, they’ll eat anything, so as long as it’s cheese. Yellow cheese. Pasta’s acceptable, too, and so are tortillas. Some fruits, especially white ones, are okay. But put a vegetable in front of them? Get ready to duck.

For a vegetarian, hot-chile-and-Thai-food-loving person like myself, their pickiness makes mealtimes torture. What’s worse is that I seem to be surrounded by foodie kids. “My daughter just loves chervil,” one mom coos to me. “Can’t keep little junior away from the sushi!” another mom raves. I love my friends dearly, but please! Are they just trying to make me feel bad?

That’s why it was such a relief to discover these children’s books about mealtimes. Not one of them – not one – is about a child who trails after his mother at the farmer’s market, pointing out which radishes are just perfect for a salad. No, these books are all aimed at children just like mine. The ones who will eat about four things.

What I like the most about these books is that they are realistic. Just like me, they resort to lies, trickery, and sneaky reverse psychology to get kids to eat a balanced diet. I think of them every time I try to hide cauliflower in mac and cheese, or explain that the green in the spinach pasta means it’s from Mars.

I don’t think these books will actually persuade my children to eat something new. But they do give me something to laugh at when yet another plate of delicious, nutritious food goes uneaten. They also remind me that the most important thing I can do, besides offering vitamins, is to feed my children’s brains.

Little Pea, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Ah, the joys of reverse psychology. Poor Little Pea has to eat candy every night for dinner just to get his favorite dessert – spinach! The simple illustrations and text might be perfect for younger children, but the “lessons” will probably be needed until your kids are in college. Little Hoot and Little Oink, Rosenthal’s next books, explore characters with similar dilemmas – they hate having to stay up all night or mess up their rooms.

I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato, by Lauren Child. A big brother gets his picky little sister to eat all the foods she claims to hate by describing them in magical ways – carrots are orange twiglets from Jupiter and mashed potatoes are cloud fluff. At the end, she even eats the “moonsquirters,” which are really – you guessed it – tomatoes. The illustrations are abstract but understandable, even for younger children. This book is part of the British Charlie and Lola series, which is also a fabulous cartoon.

The Seven Silly Eaters, by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Marla Frazee. When her first child will only drink milk at the perfect warm temperature, Mrs. Peters just chuckles. But as additional children arrive with their own finicky – and completely different – appetites, Mrs. Peters works herself into a tizzy trying to keep them all fed. I won’t give away the ending, but let’s just say it’s a mother’s dream come true. The story is told in understandable rhymes that actually scan. The length, however, may make this book better for slightly older children.

The Incredible Book-Eating Boy, by Oliver Jeffers. While his parents eat a regular dinner, Henry bites into a book. He’s soon devouring entire stacks of them, and getting smarter with every nibble. But after Henry outstrips his father and his teacher, all his new knowledge gets mixed up and makes him ill. He soon discovers that reading is the best way to digest books, after all. The illustrations are probably better for older children, as they have a dark flavor, but the overall message—and the “bite” out of the back cover—are nicely whimsical.

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.

Do You Want to Be on TV?

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Do you want to be a reality TV star?  If you live in New York and just had a baby – this is your lucky day. I spoke to a casting director earlier today about a new show and I think it is going to be fantastic so I had to pass this info on. Imagine ‘Real Housewives’ with babies…

Here is the scoop: A production company is “currently casting sophisticated and cultured first-time mothers for a new documentary series for a major cable network. This series will provide an exciting and in-depth look at the experience of raising a new baby and what it means to be a mom for the very first time while maintaining a high-class lifestyle. The series will center on new moms who balance the excitement of having a new baby with the challenge of maintaining their style, appearance and overall way of life.

Applicants must be new moms with a child under 10 months or expectant moms due by October 2010, and they must live in the greater NY area. They should be elegant and chic and should have a more affluent and first-class lifestyle than most. Participants will interact with other new moms as they share and swap stories of their new experiences. They will also be given access to premier baby experts, consultants and services in the greater New York area, and compensation will be provided if selected for the series.”

If you are interested or know someone who might be – just email me.

PS: This fabulous TV photo was taken by dailyinvention – thanks for letting me use it!

Celebrate Life

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I love birthday parties! Amy Nichols has recently launched Celebrate Life by Amy Nichols Special Events. Take a look at all of her fabulous photos and you’ll be hooked. She’ll bring so much originality and creativity to your party and will ensure that every last detail is taken care of. From party invitations and cupcakes to flowers and thank you notes and everything in between, she’ll find the best ideas and inspiration for your event. With her adorable themes and color combinations, you will be able to capture photos you will cherish forever. She can also help you with baby showers, weddings and your holiday parties too!

Mention Sweet Peas & Stilettos and you will receive 25% off planning & styling services.

Up to 50% Off