blood orange salad


When we were in Rome blood oranges were everywhere, and if you ordered orange juice it was usually blood orange juice. We bought them in the market near our apartment everytime we shopped and they were incredibly sweet and juicy. When we got home Bea and I were at the Food Coop and she saw the blood oranges and asked if we could buy more. This salad reminded me of our trip.



2 blood oranges

2 navel oranges

1 small head of bibb or butter lettuce, washed and torn into pieces

1/2 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced, and a few fennel fronds

handful of fresh mint leaves

extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon, meyer if possible

coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Slice the top and bottom off the oranges and remove pith and peel following the curve of the fruit so that the pulp is exposed and the outer membrane is removed. (See sectioning citrus if this is confusing.) Slice into rounds. Combine the lettuce, fennel, and mint leaves in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and juice of the lemon. Arrange oranges on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.


travel sketchbooks

When we went on our extended family vacation to Rome my Mom brought sketchbooks for each of the kids. We asked them to draw a picture or write something at the end of each day, but we also brought them on many of our outings. It was wonderful way to document the trip, and a really fun way to see what stood out in the kids minds. I love all the drawings they did, and stories they wrote, but the memory that stands out the most is from the day we went to Palatine Hill, the Colosseum, and the Forum. We had waited in a very long line and had climbed a windy path to the top of the hill and decided to sit down and rest for a bit. The kids all got out their books and started drawing, getting totally absorbed. Everyone who walked by smiled or commented at the sight of these little kids sketching Rome, which only made the kids more proud of their work.



Owen's drawing of Palatine Hill. He really loves to do architectural drawings! 


Of the 4 kids, Owen was the one who really embraced the journal concept.
 We all loved reading his "Dear Me," entries each night.



Oliver's drawing of Gladiators; note the gelato spoon columns.


 Oliver loved taking the metro (buying the tickets and collecting the used
tickets were favorite pastimes of all the kids).



Bea did this drawing of St. Peter's Basilica on the day of our arrival. We drove by it in the taxi on the way to our apartment. I was amazed at how much detail she noticed in that brief moment...and almost fainted when she labeled it from her memory of the conversation in the car!



I neglected to mention in my first Rome post that we were in Rome for Easter. None of us are Catholic but my Dad and I both were intrigued with the idea of going to the Vatican on Easter Sunday and seeing the crowd and possibly seeing or hearing the Pope. This was not unanimous, and we all knew it was as crazy as going to Times Square on New Year's Eve (something none of us would ever consider!!) but we decided to go. We got there just as the Pope gave his blessing but we could not get very close since the crowd was so big. At lunch that day Bea drew this picture. When she finished drawing the Pope she started on the female figure and I asked her who it was. She said it was the Pope's girlfriend. I explained that the Pope is not allowed to have a girlfriend, that he has to dedicate his life to God. She shrugged and without missing a beat labeled her drawing God. I love it!



This is Lila's entry on our first day. We rented one big apartment that had room for almost all of us, and then a second little apartment in the same building for one couple. I love all the details she included in this drawing. We were at the top of a cobblestone street, in an apartment building with lots of winding stairs, roof terraces, and big shuttered windows. She even included the daybed on the roof where Ben took a nap that day!



None of us had ever been Castel Sant'Angelo before and we really enjoyed exploring the huge fortress. This drawing of the Angel by Lila is one of my favorites...I guess I let that show a little too much. Bea got jealous and tried to copy it.


roman holiday

Last week was spring break for us, the holiday we traditionally spend with my parents and my sister Lauren and her family. This year the destination was Rome! We all loved the idea but were a little nervous about it too...would the kids enjoy sight seeing when they have grown accustomed to spending this holiday on the beach? Would they be interested in the history and art? The short answer is they loved every minute of it! From day one they were full of energy and approached every outing with delight.


We did do a little to prepare them. First of all, we bought This is Rome and Ancient Rome, knowing that most kids enjoy seeing familiar books come to life. Secondly, my mom brought each child a sketch book -- more on that in my next post! Last but not least, I recommend the guide book Rome with Kids. It was full of suggestions on how to beat the lines and gave hints about how much time various sights would take. It aslo had fun suggestions of how to engage the kids...for example, there was a list of things to look for on the Vatican grounds if you climbed to the top of the Basilica at St. Peter's.


One of the truly special things about Rome is all the ancient history...something I knew the boys would be interested in, especially since they have learned a bit about it in school. The stories are right up their alley...gladiators fighting bears certainly captivated their imaginations! There is something about standing in the vast Colosseum that was very exciting for all of us, looking down and imagining what would have been going on below.


While planning the trip, I was most apprehensive about whether or not the kids would have much interest in the art and architecture. While I was pretty sure the Forum and Colosseum would be interesting for them, I was pretty sure that the Vatican might not be. At the same time, I felt strongly that no trip to Rome was complete without seeing the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. Amazingly, the kids were troopers for it all...even more amazing since we left those sights for the last day so had to cram in both into one exhausting and long day.


The highlight of the Basilica was climbing to the top of the dome. You can take an elevator up halfway and the sight within the church at this mid level is mindblowing. It is amazingly vast, and the mosaics and architecture are really spectacular. Then you wind up through very narrow passages filled with stairs to the very top. This time the view is of all of Rome and a great overview of Vatican City. The only downside is that it is a popular thing to do so very very crowded. Still, the kids thought all the stairs were great fun and they did manage to spot most of the things the guidebook suggested. As you finish the climb you are dropped into the Basilica itself and can walk through to see the art. Sadly, the Pieta is now behind plexiglass but it is still pretty amazing to see. The kids enjoyed hearing that Michelangelo was a young unknown sculptor when he made it and that now it is considered one of the best sculptures ever made.


After spending our morning at St Peter's we went for a lunch break so we could rest our legs before tackling the Vatican Museum and seeing the Sistine Chapel. I will admit, that by the time we navigated the mob and the incredible maze of the museum I am not sure the kids had anything left in them to really appreciate the chapel ceiling. I would certainly reserve a whole day for the museum if we were to do it over again. They did get to marvel at many things along the way though. We got to show them a masterful trompe l'oeil ceiling that had us all convinced at least temporarily that the ceiling was actually carved marble. We also saw hundreds of marble statues and each of the kids found aspects of them fascinating...Owen especially wondered how artists carve hard stone and manage to have it look so soft and lifelike. They were also blown away by the intricate tapestries portraying scenes in such detail that you could not believe that it was woven rather than painted. They were also quite curious about all the gore depicted - we had to talk a bit about parts of Christianity that they had been blissfully unaware of up until recently.


As for the architecture, the fact that the ruins are outdoors, and the castles and even churches are full of stairs to climb, means that they got to be very physical most of the time. This is a real plus if you have energetic kids like I do. Walking quietly through the Metropolitan is much harder for them than any place we took them in Rome!


One thing I thought Oliver would be particularly interested in was the work of Leonardo DaVinci since he read a book about him in school recently. Just by chance we found a small exhibit of his machines. It was an interactive show and the kids loved getting to turn all the various cranks and see how things work. It was quite remarkable to realize what a prolific artist and inventor he was...two fields that we often think of as quite different from each other. 


In addition to all of the famous sites we all loved just wandering the streets. My mother was our expert navigator and I have countless photos of her leading our pack. Practically every alley had some magnificent colorful palette or a wall dripping with vines of wisteria or covered in ivy. And all the piazzas were great places to take a people watching break and let the kids run in circles, playing with whatever silly "souvenir" they had talked us into that day.


Last but not least, no report would be complete without mentioning the food. It is hard to go wrong when every imagineable pasta and pizza are standard fare and gelato is allowed every day!! As promised, my Dad got to give Noah his first gelato and it was love at first bite. All in all, we had a wonderful week.


pickled ramps


Ramps are one of the surest signs that spring has finally arrived. They pop up in farmer's markets for few weeks, and then they are gone. One way to make the season last a little bit longer is to pickle them. Once pickled they make a nice accompaniment to meat, can be used in salads, or just nibbled on like any other pickle. I'd love to say how long they last but I find they always get eaten too quickly to measure.


1 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons salt 

1 tablespoon juniper berries

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

4 fresh bay leaves

3-4 cups ramp bulbs (the leaves can be used in pesto or as a substitution for onion in recipes)


Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, juniper, peppercorns, and bay leaves with 2 cups of water in a small pot. Bring to a boil. Add ramp bulbs and reduce to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes, remove from heat, and leave to cool in liquid. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.



colorful tape easter baskets


The kids have all been obsessed with tape lately. It started with wallets inspired by Todd Oldham's book Kid Made Modern, and has just grown from there. Any time we pass a hardware store or a big Lowe's or Home Depot the kids all want more tape...they love all the bright colors and patterns (thankfully they were out of leopard print this time) and materials, such as the aluminum tape Oliver chose for his basket (center). We are going to be traveling for Easter so we have not been dying eggs or doing any other Easter preparations but making our own Easter baskets seemed like a fun idea. We took brown lunch bags and cut them down to about half their original height. We covered the bags with stripes of colorful tape, and then used the top of the bag to create a handle. The tape makes them pretty indestructable so we can flatten them and pack them for our trip. 


paper flowers


My mom recently celebrated her birthday and the kids and I decided to make her a big bouquet of paper flowers for our celebration. I ordered a bunch of crepe paper and some floral wire and floral tape before we set to work. Bea was most excited about this idea so initially it was just the two of us working together. It was a really fun activity to do as a pair since we could focus and work together.



There are lots of ways to make crepe paper flowers but the only one I had ever tried was the technique shown above. You layer some squares of tissue or crepe paper, fold them with accordian pleats, and twist a stem around the center before carefully peeling up the layers one at a time, creating petals. I love this method, and find that even little kids can manage it fairly well. You can vary the shape of the flowers by doing wide or narrow pleats, and by trimming the edges so they are soft and round or spiky.



In addition, I wanted to try to make more realistic and delicate flowers. My friend Jodi has made many paper flowers over the years and has done stories on the subject for Martha Stewart Living so I searched and found her how to's: we tried the continuous petal method, the single petal method, and made our own stamens.



These were definitely too tricky for Bea to do on her own but she was happy to work as a team with me and we produced some pretty great blooms. Eventually Owen, Oliver, and Lila joined in and they all had a great time making the flowers too. By the end of the project we had made two big that was all shades of pink, and a second one that was art directed by Oliver that included red, white, and blue flowers...a very July 4th color scheme! My mom loved them all and seemed very pleased to get to take the bouquets home with her after our birthday dinner together. Happy birthday, Mom...We love you!


p.s. These would be great Easter decorations too!


cooking classes at pomme

About a month or two ago Lauren and I signed up Lila and Bea for a cooking class at Pomme. For those unfamilar with Pomme, it is a gorgeous children's shop in Dumbo, Brooklyn, full of very special clothes and toys. It is a great place to go when you need a special gift for a new baby or special child in your life. In addition the shop hosts classes and events - last year we took the kids and had wonderful silhouettes made by a talented visiting artist. 


Back to the cooking class. Lauren had a master plan...the girls would be occupied for a few hours and while they were we could do some shopping and explore dumbo...I must say it all worked out beautifully. When we arrived the back room was set up for the class: the tables were stylishly set and the kids were invited to sit on low benches in groups of 6 or 8. The teachers were very friendly and welcoming so parents were able to go do their own thing. When we picked up the girls the smell of freshly baked cookies wafted through the air and all the kids were in great spirits. 


The cooking classes are taught by Anna Harrington of Yummy Time and are for kids ages 4-8. I recently got an email from Pomme and there are three more classes on the schedule now: March 31, April 7, and April 21. If you are in nyc check them out!


dinner: salad bar


I have to admit it...I have been in a terrible cooking rut. When I think about it I realize this happens towards the end of every season...I get tired of all the same choices and am uninspired. The idea of making something new seems daunting in a way that it never does at the beginning of the season. I feel like I have been out of ideas for weeks now but thankfully spring is here and all the beautiful produce will begin to appear. Hopefully that is all I need to get back on track.


In addition to my lack of motivation, the fact that I can never please all the kids while still serving a healthy meal really gets to be a drag. After one too many nights of arguing about eating vegetables I decided it was time to try something new. Although my kids are all pretty good eaters, generally speaking, they do not agree on veggies. Regardless of what I make, someone is always unhappy, and making dinner only to be greeted with complaining does not help when the cooking rut sets in.



I was afraid that this effortless meal might cause an all out revolt but much to my delight it made all the kids happy, and they all ate a plateful of vegetables without a complaint. I think the magic of it was the fact that they love to have control. I put out lettuce, green beans, sugar snap peas, pommegranate seeds, figs, carrots, cucumbers, feta, and made a good mustardy balsamic dressing. To make sure the dinner was filling, I also added a nice garlicy goat cheese and whole wheat crackers, a loaf of bread, and some chicken tenders (our favorites are Bell & Evans - they are real pieces of chicken rather than reconstituted bits and are a great save when I really cannot bring myself to cook.) Besides throwing the chicken onto a pan and sticking it in the oven, the only cooking I did was to blanch the beans. 





fabric printing (from the refrigerator)


Bea's teacher is about to have a baby and the class decided that our gift would be a set of custome made onesies decorated by the kids in the class. For Bea's contribution we decided to do a print of an apple. One tiny baby item did not take long but she and Lila had a blast making prints on construction paper when she was done (we switched from fabric paint to regular tempera paint when we moved to paper). We used a sliced apple, the base of a head of celery, and some cut up shapes we made from a kitchen sponge. It ended up being a really easy and fun after school craft we are likely to do again.



children's museum of the arts


The Children's Museum of the Arts has been around for a while (although it is in a new location) but I had never heard that much about it.  When I saw this article in the NYTimes, and then noticed a subsequest post about the opening of the show by Misaki Kawai by a friend on facebook, Lauren and I decided it looked like a fun place to go with our families. I was really glad we did! The current show by Kawai is whimsical and quite fantastic -- and  the art filling the museum is a combination of pieces by the artist intermingled with artwork created by the visitors. I was sorry that I did not bring my camera - the photos here were all taken with my phone!



The whole experience is very interactive: one piece by Kawai is a giant furry animal with huge wooden combs that kids can use to brush the creature's hair. Additionally, there are numerous art stations where both kids and adults can sit down and do a project. We began our visit at a basic animation table where you were invited to create a creature using some collage supplies that were layed out and then sit with the instructor at the computer and use your creatures to make a short piece of animation. One of the coolest things about this table is that the end product is a composite of all the creations of the day, and the whole thing is posted online so you can see it even after you've gone home. The clip that our kids contributed to is here.  In another area there were more elaborate 3-D sets paired with more sophisticated software where kids could explore animation more deeply - we did not get a chance to try it out but some examples of work done by other kids can be seen here.



From there we went to the clay studio (the one station where advance sign up was required). Here the kids lined up on bar stools and once they decided what to make an instructor doled out bits of plasticine and lots of advice to help you make your idea come to fruition. Over the course of a few hours we also made some miniature paintings on small boards with acrylic paint and very fine brushes, a bouquet of paper flowers, and 3-D paper sculptures. The kids enjoyed a ball pit and big slide too. 




In addition to all the activities we did, there were many more that would be fun to try on our next visit. I think the more advanced animation would be fun to try, and there was also a sound studio, multiple (and varied) painting stations, and another collage area too. Last but not least, there was an area for very young kids with more open ended craft supplies and tiny tables and chairs so even 2-3 year olds would be amused.