How are you doing this holiday season? Are you almost done with your Christmas preparations? I am mostly ready with just a few remaining small presents to pick up. As the girls get older, there are fewer toys that we get for them. This year, there will be more big kid presents like an iPod Nano and speaker for Chiara and a suitcase and books for Ines.
Images via (1), (2), (3), (4)
Getting presents for Richard is always difficult since he doesn’t really have a wish list. The things he’s passionate about, art and music, are such personal areas that I feel like I need his input to purchase these presents. So I decided to stay with something safe and choose a sweater and shirts as gifts. I know they sound like boring choices but I feel like my options are somewhat limited. Do you sometimes feel that way about your significant other’s presents?
Image via here
For me, there’s only one item on my wish list, this funky and fun watch. I guess I’ll have to wait until next week to find out if I have been naughty or nice!
Image via here
Yesterday, we went to our old neighborhood in Brooklyn to check out the French holiday market as well as support small businesses and artisans. I love going back to Brooklyn and pointing out to the girls where we used to live and where things used to be. In fact, I was so immersed in the whole act that I started walking back to our old apartment, just out of old habit I supposed. It was only after a block or so that everyone pointed out to me that we parked the other way and asked me why I was walking the wrong way.
We first lived in Brooklyn Heights in the mid-90s and then in Carroll Gardens in the late ’90s, eventually moving to the suburbs in 2001. When we lived there, we can count with one hand the number of French families we knew in the neighborhood. Today, there are French schools and even an intense French program within the local public school. There are so many French expats in the area that it’s now often called Little France or Little Paris. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like if we had stayed in the area.
The French holiday market was well worth it for us. We saw a friend, Jean-Jacques Bernat, owner of the restaurant Provence en Boîte. He delighted our girls with crêpes while we stocked up on French goodies like merguez sausages and paté. His wife who sells Provençal linens gave the girls little wallets as treats. We also met a few jewelry makers — Atelier Wen-Ling, who’s based in Montclair and specializes in dainty jade pieces, and Bijou d’Ange who designs jewelry out of beautiful natural stone pieces.
The holiday market will have its last run next weekend. Don’t miss out on the fun if you are in the area!
Last year, Chiara and I had a conversation about Santa. It was becoming quite obvious in a lot of her comments that she was beginning to doubt Santa’s existence. I knew I was going to have the talk one day and even anticipated the conversation a few years before, after hearing parents complain about how bad they felt “lying” to their kids about Santa, and how they dreaded telling the truth.
The thing is we are not really lying about Santa, aka Saint Nicholas. He did exist and was known to have been a generous and heroic person who always helped the poor, especially children. There are many stories and tales about his deeds. His evolution to today’s Santa Claus, a jolly cherubic fellow who’s omnipresent during the holiday season, is something that happened when we tried to commercialize and capitalize on his image a bit more. In the US, he first appeared in folklore and poems in the 1800s and back then, he was not the central figure during the holidays.
So when Chiara and I finally talked, I told her of Saint Nicholas’ legacy and how parents around the world want to keep his spirit alive by trying to bring joy to their children through gifts. Parents wanted to leave gifts for their children in secret the way Saint Nicholas left his treats anonymously to those children he wanted to help.
“And that is the truth about Santa,” is how I wrapped up the discussion with my daughter as I gave her a big hug. As I looked at her, I noticed the relief in her eyes in knowing about Saint Nick and the joy in now being part of the grown-up world who knows what the real deal is.
The weather this weekend was pretty miserable with consistent, and at times heavy, downpour. This is the time of the year when we have to make an effort to avoid complete hibernation and minimize the desire to stay indoors all the time. We managed to go on a date night on Friday at this wonderful Peruvian restaurant, Costanera, despite the temptation of canceling the babysitter with bad weather as our excuse.
Luckily on Sunday, the sun finally came out. Though the air was brisk, we decided to brave the elements and check out an outdoor holiday German-style market in Sparta, New Jersey. The whole set-up was on the town’s boardwalk, adjacent to Lake Mohawk. There were local artisans selling crafts as well as restaurants serving German food, which is just the type of food one needs when the temperature is in the 30s.
Overall, I am glad that we went to the holiday market. It gave us a reason to be outdoors yesterday and the opportunity to explore a quaint little lake town that we’ve never visited before. The market also really got us into a holiday frame of mind as we were surrounded by people walking around with warm cider and hot chocolate while the Salvation Army guy rang the bell for donations.
Hope you had a good weekend!
Over a month and a half ago, Richard and I were invited to visit the studio of the wonderful local artist Hollie Heller. Frankly, I’ve been procrastinating writing this post on the visit and on Hollie’s work as I am simply in awe of her and was afraid whatever I write would not do justice to her work. I suppose it’s a lot harder to write about an artist whose works I have at home than writing about one whose works I admire from afar at a museum.
We first saw Hollie’s work at Speakeasy Gallery in Boonton many years ago. Richard and I instantly fell in love with her work. For me, the color, details and textures of her work are eternally fascinating. Since Hollie often works with mixed media, I feel that I am constantly deciphering messages in her work and looking for hidden details that I fail to notice before.
Another thing that I love about Hollie’s work are the shapes and materials she works with. Many of her works feature organic shapes that can be found in nature, often in the sea and its environs. I also love how her color palette has evolved over the years from darker and stronger colors in the beginning to the softer and gentler hues she often employs today, perhaps influenced by her frequent sabbaticals in Costa Rica. She also repurposes a lot of materials, including polymers and lenses, and makes beautiful art with them. I particularly like her use of old eyeglasses that were transformed into various sea-like colors to resemble sea glass.
I can’t wait to see what’s next for Hollie. She was chosen last year to participate in the Architectural Digest Home Design Show so perhaps she’ll do more work with interiors in the future. I know that she also has given art class/retreat in her place in Costa Rica so perhaps there’s a possibility in partaking in her creative endeavors in a more holistic way. Whatever it is she chooses to do, I know she’ll continue to create work that will surprise and delight us in years to come.
Are there any local artists that you are fascinated with at the moment?