Model Undercover: New York, A Middle Grade Book Giveaway

modelundercoverI know it’s been ages since I’ve blogged, but, you know, international move, holidays, new school for the kids. I’ve had my reasons. Life is slowly returning to normal and one sign of that is that I’m back at the writing desk (or actually I don’t have a desk yet, so it’s the writing couch at the moment). Check out my post over at From the Mixed-Up Files┬ábefore Friday for a chance to win a copy of Model Undercover: New York, a middle grade detective story with a very fashion forward protagonist.

A Morning with Tove Jansson

Photo of Tove Jansson
Visit the Tove Jansson exhibit from now through 7 September at the Ateneum Museum in Helsinki.

As much as I may dream of spending a morning with beloved Finnish author and painter Tove Jansson in the flesh, a morning at Helsinki’s Ateneum Art Museum visiting the Tove Jansson exhibit still thrilled this Moomin fan. The exhibit celebrates the 100th anniversary of Jansson’s birth and demands a visit if you are in the Helsinki area in the next six months.

Tove Jansson created the iconic children’s fantasy world of Moominvalley and populated it with strange and wondrous imaginary creatures in tales published both as books and comic strips. The principal characters of this world, rounded white-bodied trolls called the Moomins (or muumi in Finnish), go on adventures with an unusual assortment of friends through a world that seems a lot like Finland–full of forest, seas, and sweeping valleys. Released as World War II came to an end, I imagine the child-like innocence of the characters as well at Jansson’s fanciful drawings appealed to many people who had known nothing but deprivation during the war. Read more

In Defense of Mr Business

Like most other elementary school parents in the known universe, I <del>endured the torture of</del> took my kids to see the Lego Movie this winter. And while I found the 3D glasses unnecessary and the plot schmaltzy, the final scenes between Mr Business and Emmet/Will Farrell and his son almost made it worth the Everything is Awesome ear worm. Almost.

Since we saw the movie just over a month ago, we’ve been working on a LEGO city of our own in the play room.

Read more

Never say never

Photo from the State Library of New South Wales collection (

When Gabriel was about 18 months old, I got together with a group of my friends from college. Several of us had children within a few months of each other, so there was a lot of talk that weekend about how life had changed and what we had to look forward to as our children grew. One friend who had older brothers told us about a recent birthday party she’d attended that involved pony rides, a cowboy, and goodie bags that cost roughly $20 a pop. We all howled about how ridiculous that was and about how we’d never, ever, ever do that.

The kids’ first few birthday parties held true to my proclamation. But that’s easy in Boulder County, where dressing up often meant pulling on the new Icebreaker or Mountain Hardware hoody and putting on the dressy jeans that weren’t frayed at the bottom from wearing them with flip-flops. Birthday parties there usually involved playing out in the back yard and oodles of home-made whole-wheat cupcakes, with a few gluten/dairy/soy/corn/nut free ones for the children with food sensitivities. Favors I offered in the past included little pots filled with dirt and basil seeds, home-made play dough, and little bouquets of natural dye-free lollipops. Read more

Paris with Children

Considering what a huge role travel has played in my life, it was with a surprising amount of trepidation that I booked our Winter Break tickets to Paris. Trying to live in a foreign country with a four- and a six-year-old somehow felt less daunting to me than trying to enjoy a vacation in a foreign city, especially when that city is one that holds so much meaning for Matt & I.

We were pleasantly surprised, however, and have some tips to share with regards to visiting Paris with children in tow. Read more

Country Mouse, City Mouse

a picture of me in my straw cowboy hat
Country Mouse headed to the big city...
You remember that children’s book about the country mouse who trades places with his big-city cousin and ventures to the city to see what it’s all about? It occurred to me this afternoon that I am that mouse. Despite having a rather big-city penchant for the opera, fine wine, fancy restaurants, and shoes, I think at heart I’ve always been a little more John Denver than Lady Gaga.

Growing Up – Definitely Country Mouse

I grew up in strip mall hell the suburbs of Indianapolis. It is by far the biggest city I’ve ever lived in, and (apologies to all my Hoosier friends & relations) Read more

Easy party favors: home-made play dough

IMG_0470This weekend, my son celebrated his fifth birthday (sniff, sniff) and each of his friends went home with a little bag of play dough as a party favor. The play dough was a much bigger hit than the clay pots and basil seeds I send kids home with last year, and it was even easier and cheaper to make.

My mom gave me this recipe and this is the play dough I grew up with. I still remember the lovely cinnamon and clove scent of Mom’s play dough and am happy to report that my children love it just as much as I do! Read more

One of the Fifty Million…

This weekend, I attended a talk by Kip Nash, a Boulder man who has turned many of the front yards in his neighborhood into farm plots as part of the Boulder Community Roots project. If the endless gorgeous seed catalogs, warm weather, and the kohlrabi, sorrel, kale, garlic, onions, garlic chives, and strawberries sprouting in my garden didn’t do it already, spring garden fever set in with a vengeance after his inspiring talk.

At one point, he referenced Richard Heinberg–a peak oil guy– Read more

The wrath of the puritans lives on…

In the run up to the Super Bowl, I have to admit to spending more time thinking about the ads (or, more specifically, how anyone can afford the exorbitant Super Bowl ad pricing in this economy!) than about the game itself. So I was delighted to see this ad on both Salon and Huffington Post today.

Yes, it’s true, PETA, in a take off of the “Vegetarians Taste Better” bumper sticker that has been around since I first got my license 1,000 years ago, tried to get an ad portraying women in lingerie getting Read more

What’s the Soundtrack of Your Life?

I’ve had a hard couple of weeks. Lots to do. Not enough time. Not feeling adequate. When I get in one of these “I suck” frames of mind, it’s sometimes hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So I’m constantly surprised at the ability of music to snap me out of my bad mood. Last week, when I was literally almost in tears after a particularly challenging shopping experience with the children (which, by the way, as with everything, was totally my fault for going at a totally bad time when the kids were both tired and hungry), I got in the car, turned on the radio, and got this:

Now maybe I’m dating myself with this, but this particular song reminds me of a particularly wild, hormonal, exciting time in my life (and no, I don’t mean pregnancy). I can see faces of old friends when I hear this song and it snapped me out of my bad mood instantly.

When it was followed up by this one, I knew that someone was out there trying to cheer me up:

So all week, as I’ve neglected ChezArtz and several other projects, I’ve been thinking about this experience and turning on the radio in anxious anticipation of more songs from what I now refer to as the soundtrack of my life. Like Cameron Crowe’s autobiographical character in Almost Famous, I dig music.

And there are just certain songs that will bring a smile to my lips regardless of what is going on in that particular moment. Need some more examples? How about this one, that always makes me think of a shaggy-haired rogue who stole my heart when I was 20:

Or this one, that will forever remind me of cruising in a Chrysler Lebaron with my best friend with the top down just before Freshman year of college:

These songs, although not all from the same era musically, all evoke a time in my life–that crazy era from senior year of high school up until I met Matt junior year–when I was trying, and often failing, to figure out who I was. Now that I have the benefit of emotional and spatial distance, this seems like just about the best time in my life. Unfettered by responsibility, accountable to no one (including my future self, who would like to take this opportunity to scold my former self for endangering our life, disrespecting our sacred body, and neglecting our studies oh so many times!), this person comes alive, if only for 5 minutes, each time I hear one of these songs.

For those of you who know me, I know you’re screaming, “surely she’s not going to end this post without the Grateful Dead.” I’d never disappoint:

Can I take this moment of self-reflection to share a story about my father, who passed away two years ago? He hated everything about the Grateful Dead. He actually went as far as to cover the words Grateful Dead on my back windshield with duct tape when he drove my car (he neglected the Lorax & Cat in the Hat stickers, and the acid bears dancing across my windshield, but we’ll forgive that omission). And he asked me one time, “Why would anyone be grateful to be dead?” I hear you now, Dad. But I still love Jerry and his band…

This era was 1993-1995 for me. And the songs, I’ve already mentioned. What is the soundtrack of your life? What does it mean to you?