Apr 292014
Last month, in Amsterdam.

The elusive whole-family photo. Last month, in Amsterdam.

This poor, neglected blog hasn’t seen regular action in years, but lately I’ve been feeling the pull to write again. Or should I say, feeling the pull to communicate again? The actual writing has grown incredibly painful — writer’s block times a thousand. I’m stumbling around trying to move past it, hoping that more regular writing practice will help the words start flowing again.

Long story short, sometime in the next few weeks, I’ll be back to give this whole blogging thing one more try. Expect a rather random mix of family travel, health experiences, interesting facts on consumer life, philosophical musings, useful tips, and cool finds. (Blogging experts usually tell you to pick a subject and stick to it, but when does life ever fit neatly into a single topic??!?) If we’re lucky, I’m also hoping to pull in some smart and interesting blogging friends as regular guests.

When last we left off, I was struggling with disabling illness, raising a toddler, traveling whenever possible, and hoping to write a book. Two years later, I am struggling with disabling illness, raising a preschooler, traveling whenever possible, and hoping to write a book. Big changes. One of the frustrating things about disabling illness is the way it monopolizes your time and narrows your options. One day looks very much like the next. But the smaller my horizons become, the more I value Internet communities and treasure the comments from people who find value in this blog. Please do stick around — I look forward to “talking” with you soon!

Dec 232012


Holiday Gift Guide -- Splurges for Grownups

Clockwise, from top left:

1. Delicate quartz necklace. $108 at Magpie Lovely.

2. Retro radio with MP3 hookup. $95 at SF MOMA.

3. Warm wool hats. $54 at Leif Shop.

4. Foo dogs bookends. Set of 2, $58 at CWonder.

5. Silver porcelain cream and sugar duo. $273 from Little Blue Dish.

6. Unisex messenger bag. $119 from IKABags on Etsy.

7. Handwoven Senegalese laundry hamper. $145 at Brookfarm General Store.

8. Is it weird to covet a smoke detector? Because I covet this smoke detector. Chick-a-dee, $75 at Neo-Utility.

9. Lomo camera in a fun design. $99 at Daytrip Society.

10. Center: Vintage-style bicycle. $1,395 at Anthropologie.

Dec 232012
Holiday Gift Guide -- Splurges for Kids

Most magazines and many blogs feature only expensive goods in their gift guides. I don’t find that personally useful, so I set out to create guides featuring only great items that cost less than $40. Still, there’s no denying that there are some wonderful gifts out there for people who are willing and able to spend more. I’m closing out the series with a few of my favorite over-$40 discoveries. Clockwise, from top left:

1. Rocking horse. $198 at Daytrip Society.

2. Daddy bear and baby bear. $50 at Magic Cabin.

3. My First Piano from Schoenhut. $98 at Daytrip Society.

4. Skootcase rolling suitcase. $60 at Fat Brain Toys. (Similar to the very popular Trunki, minus Trunki’s stability problems.)

5. Kidcraft vintage-style play kitchen. $122 at Amazon. (Prefer stainless steel appliances? Here’s a modern version.)

6. Face-maker wooden blocks. $85 at Best Made Company.

7. Chalet-style dollhouse. $200 at Moolka.

8. Giant stuffed giraffe. $80 at Wayfair.

9. Alexander Girard alphabet blocks. $100 at My Sweet Muffin.

10. Center: Schylling ride-on fire truck. $120 at YoYo.

Dec 222012
Holiday Gift Guide -- For the Woman Who Has Everything

And one more variation on the one-who-has-everything recipient. By row, from left to right:

1. Cheery socks. $17 at Uncommon Goods. (And these socks are work-appropriate and touch-of-cashmere luxurious.)

2. A quirky umbrella to brighten gray days. $36 at Fred Flare.

3. Mercury glass vase. $15 at Luna Bazaar.

4. Set of 3 perfume vials in rich scents like “Fig Leaf & Bronzed Musk.”  $18 at Tokyo Milk.

5. Sculptural recycled-bottle wine stopper. $16 at Re:Modern.

6. Self-inking address stamper. $30 from The Stationery Studio.

7. Elegant glass water bottle. $24 at Wayfair.

8. A classic apron. $22 at Anthropologie.

9. Wool throw blanket. $20 at World Market. (Available in stores for the last-minute shopper.)

10. Wonder Woman travel mug. $15 at Patina Stores.

11. Pretty metal tumblers. $10 at Patina Stores.

12. Classic tote bags. Set of 2, $32 at Wayfair.

13. Boiled wool mittens. C$30 from SkepticDesigns on Etsy.

14. Hand cream in a gorgeous package. $20 at Tokyo Milk.

Dec 222012
Holiday Gift Guide -- For Those Who Have Everything

Clockwise, from top left:

1. Swan watering can. $9 on Amazon.

2. Polka dot food storage set. $34 at French Bull. (I also like to pick up vintage Pyrex glass fridge-to-oven sets on eBay.)

3. Classic umbrella. $16 at Muji.

4. Wool dryer balls are a hypoallergenic and eco-friendly replacement for fabric softeners. $34 at Uncommon Goods.

5. Chipmunk doorstop. $28 at Terrain. (See also: Squirrel nutcracker.)

6. Takeya pitchers are tremendously useful for iced tea lovers or anyone who cold-brews iced coffee. $21 on Amazon.

7. Custom silhouette of a beloved child or pet. $23 from StellaGirl on Etsy.

8. Soap birds — when the dark outer soap washes away, a white ceramic bird remains. Half of profits go to oil cleanup efforts in the Gulf. $28 at Rare Device.

9. In the Netherlands, people hang these birthday calendars in the WC. In related news, I suspect people in the Netherlands are champs at remembering birthdays. $14 at Greer Chicago.

10. Reduce waste, save the planet. Titanium straw. $10 at Think Geek.

11. Wireless luggage finder. $25 at Edmunds Scientifics.

And of course there’s always the charity gift option. DC animal lovers can adopt a species at the National Zoo or donate pet goods to the Washington Animal Rescue League’s Presents for Paws. You can fund medical care directly for a specific person in another country, via Watsi. And if you’d like to let the recipient choose the charity (always a plus when you’re giving a charity gift), consider Razoo Giving Cards or a micro-loan gift card through Kiva.

Dec 212012
Holiday Gift Guide -- For Grandma and Grandpa

Grandma and Grandpa are usually a special variation on the “person who has everything.” Here are a few things they’ll love. Clockwise, from top left:

1. Clever eyeglasses holder. $18 at Uncommon Goods.

2. “12 Ways You’ve Made a Difference Journal” includes prompts like “The best advice you ever gave me” and “I don’t tell you this enough.” $28 at Uncommon Goods.

3. Vintage-style phone. $60 at Crosley Radio. (Technically outside my price cutoff, but there’s an under-$40 version at Brookstone, and handset plugins are a great choice for grandparents with smartphones.)

4. Heating pad for neck and shoulders. $37 at QVC and elsewhere.

5. Pocket Posh puzzle books. This is the word-search version, which I actually once gave to my grandmother, but there are crosswords, sudoku, and many other variations. $8 at Amazon, and I have also spotted them at Barnes & Noble stores.

6. Gauze floral jacket is both stylish and an easy layer for anyone who has trouble with buttons. $33 at Pearl River.

7. Ken Burns “The National Parks” DVD. $33 at Amazon.

8. Solar radio, for outdoors or power outages. $19 at Edmund Scientifics.

9. Nostalgic candy. $13 at Tiddle E Winks.

10. Center: “Wise Women” book. $8 on Amazon. 

Dec 212012

Christmas is practically upon us, but I still haven’t run out of guides! There are a handful more, so I’ll keep scheduling right up through the weekend. Consider it inspiration for birthdays, other holidays, or next year?

Holiday Gift Guide -- More for Kids

Clockwise, from top left:

1. Garden in a box. $13 at Uncommon Goods.

2. Oudordodo deduction game for ages 4+. $12 at JouetsChooChoo.

3. Colored bubbles. $10 at Think Geek.

4. 3D bug book. $14 at Amazon.

5. Cardboard play town. $19 at My Sweet Muffin. (See also: The very cool MOMA Play Town.)

6. Beginner jigsaw puzzles. $13 at Petit Collage. (See also: Tiny wooden puzzles in a box.)

7. Automoblox. $10 at Moolka and elsewhere.

8. Reusable sticker pad — home and furniture. $6 at For Small Hands.

9. Cool Japanese wooden robot that folds down into a cube. $30 at Emmo Home.

10. Bird wings. $16 at Magic Cabin. (See also: Butterfly wings.)