February break, here

winter_breakWe’re planning to stay in Boston for February break and I’m noting down the things to do with Lux at home and many other otherwise-weekly activities cancelled.

(I’ve also whiled away several hours looking at houses in Georgia O’Keeffe/Deborah Madison New Mexico. Coincidence?)

I foresee several luxuriously long library visits, at date night in, a hotel night out, a museum we would otherwise save for a weekend. A few of the things on my mind…

THE STAY SOMEWHERE ELSE AWAY

Downtown, the Lenox Hotel offers easy in-house activities for kids like Cookie & Paint night, movie night, or a crafting night. The Lenox is ideally located on the green line near the central Public Library, and a few stops from the MFA, both of which will also be offering special activities for the week. Interesting restaurants abound in this area, making it simple to stay indoors if the weather isn’t great. And do note they offer a few select rooms with working fireplaces! From $260 per night. The Lenox has offered us a free night stay in exchange for me sharing these facts, which we are totally taking advantage of. 

Boston public library copley

On Cape Cod, the Bayside resort schedules full days of activities for the whole week, including themed (free) breakfasts, scavenger hunts, bingo, movie nights, pizza nights and simultaneously scheduled parent’s happy hours. Plus, you’ll have the winter beaches to yourself. One night from $159 per night.

THE AMAZING OUTDOORS

The Highland Foundations sponsors totally free skating at the Boston Common Frog Pond.

New Hampshire Ice Castles: These are built new every year in New Hampshire from scratch and appear to be rather amazing. We’ve never been, but I’d love to take an afternoon to get up there. You can see photos here, and coordinate your visit with a fire show!

The Somerville Winter Market: every weekend on Saturdays, indoors, full of amazing food vendors!

MUSEUMS, YOUR FRIEND

The newly reopened Discovery Museum in Acton (about 40 minutes west of the city). This delightfully hands-on, low tech, and interactive museum could you keep your family busy all day.

**Giveaway now closed. The Museum is offering free admission for kids under 12 on March 3rd & 4th.

The Museum of Fine Arts places special kid-interactive crafting activities in galleries all around the museum. Often there are concerts and special guests as well. All of these activities are free with admission. Check their schedule posted online beforehand.

mfa dining

THE GREAT INDOORS, at home

Buy art supplies: I like to think of the money that would have been spent on the random dining out that happens on trips redirected to other things, like buying a new art supplies. Here are a few we love, and are currently out of; combine any of these with a leftover cereal box and I promise amazing things will come of it! Do-a-dots (two year olds love), pastels (particularly fun on black construction paper), shurtapegold leaf, twistable crayons. Gold leaf and pastels are both special supplies that require adults checking in every now and then. Always useful: this comprehensive list of the Eric Carle Museum Studio’s favorite kids art supplies.

winter_break

^^ This is a recycled chocolate wrapper, not gold leaf, but we’ve done similar activities with that fluttery gold multipurpose dazzle!

Handwriting hobby After a recent conversation with the first grade teachers, I realized significantly less time is made for handwriting practice in today’s school curriculum. Much more time is spent on writing and writing comprehension. This empowers them as writers (or it has, for Lux) but the actual technique gets left behind. So we are working on this habit at home! Paired with a yummy snack and cozy rug, it’s a great activity and all you need are some ruled papers, or order your own handwriting book.

Count the dice Another activity I’m borrowing from Lux’s classroom hints. The kids make charts with a column for each number from 1-12. Then you get two dice, roll them, and color in the box above the number you received, pass the dice to the next person. It’s the simplest thing, but it seems to be satisfying in those ways that adults love too–rolling dice, reading numbers, checking off boxes. It’s communal and fun to do around the table.

make your own

Making your own play dough has gotten a rap as trademark ultra-homemade-crowd, but really, it takes ten minutes and you get to pick the colors and end up with warm play dough. It lasts forever compared to the store bought stuff. I don’t use add spices but I do use the recipes that include coconut oil.

Pillow jump This is from the Waldorf crowd, best for toddlers up to age 3, but fun for all if you’re not worried about the downstairs neighbors. Take a step stool, put it in the middle of the floor. Surround with a big pile of pillows. Climb up, jump off. Repeat.

 My Holidays guide to Boston, some of these things still apply.

Anything special on your schedule for February?

Night Sky Party

joe_ringenbergstar-party-frontjoe_ringenberg_star_party

a star party, for our girls who love the moon, constellations, and the stories behind the constellations. ^^ invitation postcard, back and front. Designed by Joe, and the included star chart is really useful to have! ^^

July has been beautiful in Boston, but the night we chose for the outdoor in-the-park party was cloudy and cold. I had visions of a quilt of blankets in the Public Garden, children with flashlights weaving through the trees, but oh well, maybe next year.

We stuck with the special post-dinner time, but moved it indoors.

starry_night_room

A few photos, all taken before the party started, of course…

Joe and Lux gave their finest effort to making moon pies for the evening, but the recipe was junk and they turned out like so. I think the idea of moon pies popped into my mind from one long ago teenage summer spent reading Ellie’s Peopleyoung adult novels set in an Amish community. The story’s characters were always going to picnics, building barns, and looking forward to moon pies. (it turns out the Amish moon pie is different from what I imagined, it is similar to an apple hand pie.)

moon_pies

After the moon pies crashed on us, we turned at the very last minute to an icebox cake made with chocolate wafer cookies and whipped cream. I’m so happy we discovered this dessert because it’s incredibly easy to make and the girls ended up making their own with the leftover ingredients–it is really so fun. I put it in the freezer the day before. Frozen it tastes like a cake version of cookies-n-cream ice cream, and it was delightful to share the icy slices in a warm kitchen with our friends.

icebox-cake icebox_cake_2moon_cyclespopcornfoodicebox-cakemarshmallows

We dimmed the lights, and put little ikea lantern lights in the dark stairwell. Joe helped the kids make a star can, something we use frequently for indoor star shows. Buy a tin coffee canister, empty out the grounds, and use a can opener to cut off the bottom. Cut out the inside of the plastic top, leaving the edge. Cut out circles of paper, punch the holes for the constellation pattern (the big dipper being the easiest of those, looks similar to this) and put the circle of paper under the lid. Then shine a flashlight through to project the constellation on the wall. We’ve also made fun, non-constellation shapes like cat’s faces and bunnies.

starry_lights

Lux originally fell for the stars peering out of her bedroom window at night, during the very-early-dark winters we have here in Boston. She could see just a few constellations, and it so happened that Lepus, the bunny constellation, was one of them!

I don’t know if it’s something about this age, the amazing brains of five year olds!, but we also attended a friend’s five-year-old Rocket Ship Party, and I’m loving the photos from Hudson’s Astronaut Pool Party. Interestingly, our girls aren’t really interested in the gear/gizmos of space travel, just the planets and stars of space.

Our two favorite books on the stars are H.A. Rey’s The Stars and Find the Constellations. And we’ve saving up for one of these incredible constellation quilts from Haptic Lab.

 

Television for the downer

Frankly I’m a little annoyed with the depressing turn Downton Abbey has taken. And GIRLS. Even the new Community is sort of ick. Cheer up, drama writers! Take a nice sunny Mexico vacation and get back to us. I use television watching as a retreat, a thirty minute lapse into relaxation after a long day. It’s not good when that thirty minutes ends with me feeling more depleted than ever.searching_for_sugar_man

Soo I was delighted to finally watch something a little optimistic, something that said: let’s believe in the fantastical. About someone who could think of people outside himself. A true story and a real one, and a breathtaking one. We rented the documentary Searching for Sugar Man over the weekend and it was all of those things. Rent it (it’s $4 on iTunes). You’ll love it.

Have you watched anything cheerful and spirited lately? I’d love some ideas.

Bear films Elk

dave_eggers_telluride_filmDave Eggers designed the poster for this year’s Telluride Film Festival, inspired by washed out summer colors and old Parks posters. I did not know Dave was a graphic designer before he was famous for a million other things, but it does explain why McSweeney’s publishing is always meticulously beautiful.

We’re not going, but I wish we were. Passes are $780 each, but you’ll see every cool new movie in one gorgeous weekend. Plusm a spot to find a great rental, if you’re going: Rosie Cusack Telluride Rentals!

the new Anna Karenina

I went to Anna Karenina last night. My friend picked me up in her car and drove over there (a luxury that never happens in Boston) so there was no chilly-huddled walking. The theatre sells Tollhouse Ice Cream cookies, a gutsy decision I always like to support.

Usually I am a read-the-book-first type of girl, but I actually think this could be a great movie to watch first, then read. When I read AK I never got a good image of the main characters in my head. I really didn’t understand Anna at all. Keira Knightly is absolutely stunning in this. My friend asked if I had a favorite part, I said anytime she was on screen.  Actually all the characters were beautiful, and their clothes too. Tolstoy you old devil, I thought to myself. What a romantic! I want to read it again now. Did you see it? What did you think?

 

Sharing Moonrise

I was milling around the coffee and snacks table at church a few weeks ago when I heard a woman about my mom’s age discussing Moonrise Kingdom. It was her first Wes Anderson, and she was gushing. “Oh, I just saw it too.” I announced, “So good!” She turned to me.

“Oh! But you’re so young. Did you appreciate it?”

I nearly dropped my coffee. Did I appreciate it? I, who nearly went on a Royal Tenebaums location tour of New York with my friends? I, who have watched his entire oeuvre, most of them twice? Didn’t she just say she hadn’t seen anything else by the director?

But she continued: “It reminded me of my youth. My young love. ”

Ah, she’s right. Perhaps I didn’t totally get it. Perhaps young Sam and Susie’s devoted love seemed cute to me, but not as quite as eternally true as it struck this woman. I noticed when we first watched Moonrise that our completely-packed-theatre was full of people of all ages, perhaps a quarter of them over 65. And it’s been fun having a movie to recommend to adults much older than me—I think everyone would love it but perhaps some might truly wallow in nostalgia more than others.

(fun side note for east coasters: it was filmed in Rhode Island!)

Jessica Hische designed the typeface for Moonrise Kingdom. Meaning the first time Wes Anderson dallied away from his first love of Futura bold, he turned to Jessica (click to see her url for the work. It’s funny). Joe and I briefly discussed what accomplishment Jessica could do next that would possibly impress us more. We couldn’t come up with anything.

Image by Adrian Tomine for the New Yorker.

watched: Beginners

We finally watched Beginners this week. I got it out of the library after Birgit mentioned it was must see. I relished watching it. You can really sense it was written and directed by the same person. Some of the lines would be so cheesy or typical, but instead come across just perfectly fresh. The female lead, Mélanie Laurent was so charming and her hair was the. awesomest.

I hope we can go see Perks of Being a Wallflower when it comes out next month, though I imagine I’ll be just as sad afterwards as I was when I read the book. Love any movies lately?

podcast love // after the jump

I’ve enjoyed every single episode of Grace Bonney’s After the Jump podcast. She interviews the designers and creators you would typically only encounter via blogs. There’s just something about hearing people’s voices in friendly conversation—it’s the best! I also like that Grace knows so much about the design world because she’s been the boss blogger for so long; listening to her talk you feel like you’re eavesdropping on a dinner party with Brooklyn’s coolest folks.

There’s 12 episodes so far, they come out every Monday.

GIRLS & the Summer Solstice

The season finale of GIRLS happened this past week, and one highlight for me was book-spotting grumpy Ray reading I Capture the Castle. Have you read it? It might be one of my Top 10. It was written in 1948 by Dodie Smith about a poor family living in a washed-up castle, making do and having fun. Coming of age of a seventeen year old girl, journal style, eccentric father, unexpected visitors…I know that sounds predictable but truly, it is a charmer!  I recommend, as Ray did by saying, “This book is so fucking incredible. Anything by a British woman is just…fuck.” (or you could read my longer review here.)

Very apropos too, because the Summer Solstice plays a lovely role in that book and I always wish that I had some sort of tradition or rite to do on the longest day of the year. Is there anything you like to do to mark these kinds of holidays?

our weekend / birthday location hunting

There have been at least twenty discussions about birthday parties around here lately.

Here’s a few of the themes we circle around:

Is it weird to call it a birthday party if Lux will have no awareness that the party is for her?

How much alcohol can you have at a party that’s technically for children?

How do we emphasize that we are actually celebrating the crazy year we just had?

Obviously we can’t not memorialize this enormous life change we just went through, right?

Finally, bored out of our minds with this all this adult talk, we decided we wanted it to be on the Esplanade, the lovely park that coils along the Charles River and is full of playgrounds, benches, clean sidewalks, and beautiful trees. So Saturday morning we went location scouting and visited our favorite nooks, to see how they would do under party scrutiny.

The bridge over to the Esplanade is just up the street from us. You cross over four lanes of traffic, and can smirk with pedestrian swagger as you cross. Or you can focus on how the bridge is climbing up into the trees before it swoops you back down to earth among the sailboats.

Lux particularly liked this spot for duck watching and practicing her sideways bench walk:

We settled on this little triangle of grass:

a small pond on one side:

and shady trees all around!

Now that I’ve started thinking about children’s parties, I’m remembering all fantastic things kids get to count on: cake! scoops of ice cream! goody bags! random streamers everywhere, bringing a gift for your friend that you hope they love, musical chairs, and eating too much candy. This is one of those scenarios where kids really get the good stuff, right?