This is not a sponsored post, just my own personal view.
One of the highlights of my girls’ birthdays and other milestone events over the years has been the cupcakes baked by Karen Zorn from Dulce & Petit. She is a local Jersey girl who will work with you on whatever creative ideas you may have for your special occasion. I love that Karen uses high-quality ingredients and accommodates any dietary needs we may have. For Ines’ birthday celebration this past weekend, Karen worked with my request to have cupcakes that are nut and egg-free. Ines was a little hesitant about not having any chocolate in the menu but she wanted to make sure that her friend with allergies would be able to enjoy the cupcakes like the rest of her group. Over the years, Karen and I have worked on creating cupcake decorations that fit the girls’ interests du jour, which means a running-inspired theme for Ines right now.
Here are other ideas and themes that she has done for us:
…Peas in a pod for my sister’s twin baby shower
…Chiara’s grade school graduation cake
….Harry Potter theme
…First Communion Cookie Party Favor
I can’t tell you how many joyous memories are associated with each of these cupcake themes. As I was going through these photos with the girls, I cannot help but smile as we travel down memory lane and rekindle special moments together.
If you want more information on Karen and Dulce & Petit, you can visit her Facebook page. And for you urban dwellers, Karen is open to working with clients based in NYC as well. She is great to work with and always open to collaborating on affordable creative cake themes that taste delicious.
Do you feel like the apocalypse is just around the corner? I sometimes do. I am an optimist at heart and never really liked dwelling on the negative for too long. But, geez, it just feels like we are stuck in this dark period for awhile, with big heavy clouds hovering above us that simply would not go away. From the Vegas massacre and Puerto Rico’s hurricane devastation to taking the knee during the national anthem, our world is burdened with many vexing issues that can make us all feel sad, confused and angry.
Naturally with all these developments, our children, especially younger teens and below, absorb what is going on and internalize family discussions heard at home. They then become our little ambassadors to the world representing the views held by us, their parents. The only problem is that we live in such divisive times where no one can seem to agree on many things. Debates, at least at my older daughter’s middle school, often leads to an “us versus them” mentality, which causes rifts even among the closest of friends.
I am not sure exactly how much I should interfere in my girls’ lunchtime discussions. But there are a few things I do try to tell them. First, I encourage them to hear the other person out and not to get too emotional about the issue. After all, no one likes to feel like they are getting attacked for their personal views. Second, I urge them to seek out people not like them so they will get exposure to others’ viewpoints and thinking. Third, I try to steer them to the causes of the underdog, the vulnerable, those who may not have the voice to defend themselves.
Again, with the polarization of America, it is hard not to offend others these days. I do hope that the foundation we have given our girls to accept others and embrace diversity will have a lasting influence on them as they venture further in life. I hope that they will also always remember that a little kindness and empathy go a long way. What about you guys? How are you handling these difficult times with your children?
It’s only been three weeks since the girls started school and yet I am already beginning to feel a bit lethargic and stressed out from our usual routine. The constant driving to and from activities, the numerous school forms, the different deadlines are enough to make any parent seek those dog days in July when the kids were driving us bonkers from restlessness and boredom. It is easy to feel frazzled and stressed out but we must keep in mind how easy our inner moods and disposition can permeate and affect our kids’ attitudes toward schooling and activities. Our kids are smart and sensitive and they can easily detect when we support or hate certain things that they are doing. So how do we cope with the drudgery often associated with parenting and avoid burn-out? Here are a few ideas:
- Think of the end goal – Remember why you are taking your child to different activities. Is it to help him get more comfortable with Math? Is it to work on his soccer skills? Don’t resent him or the activity because of the time commitment, just focus on why you are doing what you are doing and help your child get there.
- Days are long, the years are short – Another mom said this to me when the girls were little. I had a hard time agreeing to this expression then when I was constantly sleep deprived and pretty much in zombieland 24/7. However, now that the girls are grown and high school is not a distant reality for us, I realize how precious the remaining time I have with them. The girls will be gone one day and this juggling act will be nothing but a distant memory. Just remember to make everyday count!
- Three things – I recently heard this meditation strategy at my older daughter’s school. At the beginning of each day, think of three things that you are grateful for. Then at the end of the day, think of three acts of kindness that you might have done toward someone. Reflecting this way grounds us and helps us remember what is good in our lives and forces us to think in selfless terms.
- Have fun with your kids – Make sure that you have fun quality time with your kids. When you are in the car with them, listen to the music they like. Unplug and tell them not to use their cell phones. Kids are usually more relaxed in the car when they do not have to look directly at us. Start by asking small questions about their day but let them take the lead; they are likely to clam up if you pry them to open up beyond their comfort level. And make sure that you give them undivided attention when they do finally open up.
- Take time for yourself – Regardless of whatever utopian or benevolent approach we take in parenting, we all need to have time away from our roles as parents, providers and caregivers. Make sure to do something just for you on a weekly basis. What were your passions before kids? Do you have new interests you would like to pursue? Remember to always stoke the fires of creativity and individuality that make you vital and happy.
Hope some of the ideas above help. Let me know what your strategies are to cope with parenting juggling act. I would love to hear them!
And just like that, summer 2017 is over. Every summer feels more poignant now that the girls are older. These days, it seems that I’m always counting how many more years I’ve got with them before they leave the coop. This way of thinking may be a bit harsh and melodramatic but it’s my way of of facing the sad truth — that the remaining time I have with my daughters is brief and I should make the most of now.
The girls started school this week, both of them at the end of a milestone — grade school and middle school. But before we headed back to the rhythm of things and harsh realities, we spent Labor Day weekend in Mystic, Connecticut. To those of you who are familiar with Mystic, the photos here will be familiar with scenes of ships, boats and Mystic Aquarium.
Hope you’re having a great week!
An old Viking ship
Place of worship
Charles Morgan, a true whaling ship that sailed from 1841-1921. Actually got to go inside this vessel!
Typically, before we head back to the US after our monthlong sojourn in France, we spend a couple of days in Paris. The girls now deem it as a tradition before returning back home. The trip usually includes going to a favorite Indian restaurant and seeing an exhibit at one of the museums, though I must say we just keep going back to Centre Pompidou in the last few years with their exciting focus on modernist artists such as Twombly, Klee, Magritte and Lichtenstein. In order to keep things fresh, we also try to bring the girls to a part of Paris they have not been to during prior trips so they can get to know the city further.
As the girls get older, I start to wonder how they’ll feel about Paris when they are in their 20s and 30s. Will they see Paris the same way their parents do? Will they feel that they leave a part of themselves behind whenever they return back to the US? Will they come back to Paris and Normandy we stop footing their travel expenses? Hmm, I guess time will tell…
One of my favorite towns near us in Normandy is Honfleur, a place I’ve written about quite often on this space. Its early association with artists like Claude Monet, Eugene Boudin and Erik Satie continue to this day as the town carries on the tradition of featuring innovative artists in its galleries and lively musicians on its streets. A few Saturdays ago, the town hosted “La Nuit des Artistes” or Artists’ Night where all sort of performances, most at no charge, were available to the public. There were gospel choir singing, opera on one of the main courtyards, pantomiming as well as sculptures and artwork in plein air. I think there’s no better way than an event like this to make art less intimidating and more accessible to everyone — young and old, novice and experienced alike. The more access we all have to art, the more it will be a part of our daily lives. Do you agree? Wish we have more events like this one in the US…
We recently spent a week in Formentera, Spain. Not as popular as its flashy island sister, Ibiza, the island of Formentera has been some sort of creative haven since the sixties and seventies. The island had been refuge for Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell at different points in their artistic lives and architect Philippe Starck has a house near Cap de Barbaria.
The thing that I love most about Formentera is its rugged beauty that refuses over commercialization. You won’t see hotel or retail chains on the island. Most of the shops and restaurants that we went to have that artisanal feel that’s rare in most summer beach destinations.
Here are some highlights of our vacation….
Hippie Market at El Pilar de Mola
View from the Blue Bar
Lighthouse from Cap de Barbaria, southernmost part of island where Africa isn’t too far away
Church in Sant Francesc, one of the main towns
Some of the things we did that I recommend doing while in Formentera…
- Seeing sunset at Sa Sequi restaurant, one of the best views on the island
- Eating at the hippie chic Blue Bar where the food is yummy and the view is amazing
- Renting a boat and going to Illa Espalmador, only accessible by boat and has the clearest water I’ve ever seen
- Going to Platja Migjorn for the beach and Illetes for the scene
- Seeing the lighthouse in Cap de Barbaria and hippie market in El Pilar de la Mola
- Shopping in Sant Francesc’s town center
We’re slowly settling back to our house in Normandy. It’s funny how things have gotten easier over the years as we develop our habits and ways in going about our time here. After 14 years, we now know where to go for mundane things we take for granted at home in the US like where to get the best produce, bread, pastries and even simple things (think nails and paint) to mend the house. The good thing about settling in fast is the we’re also able to enjoy all the great things that Normandy offers.
One of the first things we did when we got here is visit the city of Le Havre, which is celebrating its 500th year. Imagine that…500 years! Much has happened in the city’s history but one of the most critical ones is the devastation Le Havre encountered during World War II. There’s much hype about the movie Dunkirk right now and its role during the war but Le Havre is also another French town that played a major role during that period. It took architect Auguste Perret’s great modernist vision post-war to develop what the city is today. Le Havre indeed feels like no other French city with all its modern buildings and architecture. I used to hate its utilitarian sort of feel but it’s only through learning Perret’s vision vis-a-vis the city’s history that I learned to appreciate this place.
Most of the art installations below were created for the city’s milestone anniversary…
MuMa Le Havre
Street Art by Vincent Ganivet
Le Volcan designed by Oscar Niemeyer in 1982
Art at St. Joseph church designed by Chiharu Shihota that symbolizes spiritual awakening
Work by Lang/Baumann to resemble doors that open to the sea
This past weekend, we were invited by our friend, Jean-Jacques from the restaurant Provence en Boîte, to our old neighborhood in Brooklyn to celebrate Bastille Day. For the past 11 years, Jean-Jacques has been hosting a block party in Carroll Gardens to celebrate Bastille Day, or what the French calls le 14 juillet. The afternoon was a blast as we listened to live music, danced and ate classic French picnic food. It was fun for everyone, including Brady our dog who ventured into Brooklyn for the first time.
The nice thing about staying in the US for the month of July is that we’re able to catch up with friends whom we usually do not get to see during the school year. Almost every single summer weekend has been spent with friends and family, a pleasure without a doubt yet definitely exhausting. Now I’m almost ready for vacation…
Last weekend, we visited Philadelphia, my old hometown where I spent critical years that still play a huge role in who I am today. I love sharing memories of the city with the girls even though I’m sure most of my comments went to deaf ears. I feel that I have a renewed appreciation for the city. Though much has changed in the areas I visited in Center City and Rittenhouse Square, I always love the fact that Philly is so much more manageable and less intimidating than cities like New York, Paris or Chicago.
We spent the afternoon visiting the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, which currently has an exhibit on my favorite artist of the moment, Robert Motherwell. PAFA is the oldest art museum and art school in the United States.