Thursday, 3 July 2014


Back to life, back to reality
--Soul II Soul

I've just spent a week outside of the everyday. I slipped past the mundane to a seaside fairy tale, where my meals were prepared, my rooms cleaned, my beds made, the sun was shining everyday and no one wore Wellies. Sun, sand, sea, wine, friends.

I've come home after this journey outside of the normal, and it's a challenge to adjust back to the grind.

"Everydayness" is a word that I find myself constantly using to describe motherhood. So much of it involves the repetitive and routine. After a brief taste of life outside of everydayness, it can be a bitter pill to catch up on work, answer emails, do laundry, dishes, and the school run. And do it again the next day. And the next. 

But if I reframe everydayness in my mind, duty and responsibility become a privilege. My labors of love began the moment I saw those two lines on that little stick. My payment for the bliss of seeing my three little Ps together, sun drenched, giggling with friends, and sticky from ice cream cones, is the work I do in the everyday. Not a bad trade-off.

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Thursday, 19 June 2014


If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
--African proverb

This is the not-quite fairy tale bit. I had many good intentions of writing ahead to give you something to read while we are away traveling,  but sick little Ps, solo parenting, and a hefty work load have won in the contest for my brain space.

But I'll get there, eventually. Thankfully, we are heading to Spain next week to soak up the sun, visit with some great friends, and recharge our batteries. On my return, I would love to talk to you about London, Bristol's Big Green Week and upcoming status as the European Green Capital, and a new essay I'm working on for The Huffington Post about simplicity, sophistication, and sustainability. I'll also post some photos from Mallorca and tell you a little tale about the Balearic Islands.

We'll talk soon. Play on.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

It's big. And blue.

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea,
To see what he could see, see, see,
And all that he could see, see, see,
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea.
--children’s nursery rhyme

My littlest P just celebrated her second birthday. She is obsessed with all things from the sea, so an ocean-themed book was a perfect gift. I chose Julia Donaldson’s Tiddler: The story-telling fish, illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Donaldson is well known in Bristol, especially for The Gruffalo, which is HUGE here in the UK. Tiddler has bright undersea illustrations, fun repetitive rhyming, and a celebration of the power of a story—a really great read.

I think about the ocean a lot. Growing up in Florida, it is an omnipresent part of life: you spend weekends at the beach, you watch hurricanes churn their way across the blue expanse to arrive at a surprise point on the coast, and everyone is saving for a boat. The ocean is in peril, however—acidification, sea level rise, mass extinction—it sounds like the plot to a thriller. 

Children’s wonderment at the big blue can be channeled into care for its future. Do you have any ocean book recommendations?

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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Writing for The Huffington Post

I've become a contributor at The Huffington Post, and my first essay is about how I managed our transition from the US to the UK (from a peace-of-mind perspective). Please visit the site and follow me over there as well. I would love your comments!

How to Survive an International Move With 3 Small Children

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Hablo Español

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"To have another language is to possess a second soul."

As part of my effort not to take myself too seriously, I am trying to learn to speak better Spanish. Full disclosure: I am not a newbie at this. My husband speaks only Spanish to our little Ps, so I hear the language spoken everyday in our home. However, I have always been, let’s say, reticent about speaking Spanish with him. There was an incident some years ago where there was a bit of poking fun, and I haven’t recovered. I abhor doing things I’m not good at. But I am declaring it “Time to Get Over Yourself” Day, and I am going at this undertaking in earnest.

Now the question is, how? My first step is to speak Spanish to the little Ps. I can dance like a full-on fool in front of them; they can handle my attempts at Spanish speaking. We’ve also instituted “Lunes Latinos,” meaning my husband and I only speak Spanish to each other on Mondays. These are now days that I take notes of all of the things I want to tell him that I can’t formulate in Spanish. I draft emails to send the next day. Cop out? Yes.

I suppose that at some point, I will have to engage in the world in Spanish, because that is the point of this exercise. I want to travel to South America and ask researchers there about the decimation of the rain forest, about the local remedies for teething, about what’s the best seafood to eat at what time of year. I want my resistant-to-Spanish six-year-old to see that I can do it.

Maybe a Spanish holiday is in order?

I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and tackle a project with a sense of play instead of with obligation, rote, or worry about failing. Let’s all fail fabulously or maybe succeed beyond our wildest imaginings. Just play the game.

Is there something you want to try, but are too self-conscious to give it a go?

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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Those Old Stones

“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn...Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” 
― T.H. WhiteThe Once and Future King

I find it amazing that there are still mysteries in the world. We have no idea how Neolithic people got the stones of Stonehenge here about 5,000 years ago, or why they did it. One story says that Merlin, the great wizard of Camelot, thought that the area should be a proper burial ground for the great men of Britain, and so he used his magical powers to fly the stones from hundreds of kilometers away to erect a great monument fit for kings.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Mrs. Gloom and Doom

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“All children, except one, grow up.” 
― J.M. BarriePeter Pan

Part of this journey that the little Ps and I are on is about seeing some of the beautiful things of the world. It’s important to me because I fear that many of them may not be around when my children are my age. Climate change is eroding buildings, monuments, seas, and finances.

I’m also trying to capture my children’s imaginations with the trips we take. I take great effort to frame each journey as an adventure, with accompanying tales and bits of interesting history. Most places we visit are exciting, so it’s not much hard work on my part.

But, there is a dark corner of my psyche that forces me to tell my little Ps to take note of these beautiful places, cement them in their memories, because theirs is a fragile beauty. I sometimes think I tell my children too much of the truth. I don’t want to rain on their parade, but I don’t want them to be naïve, either.

So, how do I preserve the magic of youth and foster an attitude of being able to play in the world, while still making them aware that our actions make a difference in the world? One strategy I have is trying to balance the positive and negative. Our actions DO make a difference—sometimes positive and sometimes negative. When talking about climate change, for example, I don’t want to give them unneeded anxiety about the end of the world. I also want them to know that they can be the positive change.

I found a website that I use to highlight some positive and exciting news in nature, science, news, and technology that is designed to appeal to kids. Whenever Mrs. Gloom and Doom takes over parenting in my house, GoGo Planet is a good antidote.

I don’t know if I’m getting the balance right. I don’t know if what I’m trying to teach my little Ps is what they are learning, or if I’m damaging them or making them stronger by trying. But I’m doing my best.

Do any of you struggle with this issue? Do you have any resources or suggestions to offer?

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Friday, 30 May 2014

It's bananas! (Polenta, that is.)

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."
--Groucho Marx

I buy a lot of bananas. They are a convenient and portable snack, easy to buy fair trade and organic as much as possible, and there are weeks when we fly through five bunches. But then there’s the off week when the little Ps collectively decide they aren’t that into bananas, and I am left with a surplus. While everyone loves a good banana bread, I’ve got three loaves chilling in the deep freeze right now, so what to do with my extra ‘nanas?

My brother Alex is an amazing chef in Florida, and he gave me a recipe to solve this problem. Banana polenta. Sounds exotic, doesn’t it? This can be a sophisticated side for guests or for a regular Sunday night supper.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Czech us out...

Bůh trojici miluje. [All good things are three.]
--Czech proverb

The Czech story of Bruncvik is a journey tale, not far off the Odyssey model. Bruncvik sets off into the world looking for adventure, and finds it shortly. As soon as he comes to the sea, he and his men are swept away in a tumultuous storm, thrown ashore a dangerous island where Bruncvik is held captive, and after a daring escape, he befriends a lion who is his companion through more battles and the rest of his days. A statue of Bruncvik stands on the Charles Bridge, with sword raised aloft, fending off foes and water.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Bonjour, Paris

“When you get an idea into your head you find it in everything.”
 Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

I favor places that are neither too clean nor too dirty, that possess layer on layer of stories, histories, coupled with the feel of something new building on the old. In other, words, Paris. 

Paris is everything you think it is: Your fantasies of well-dressed women and swarthy Frenchmen, stunning architecture, amazing street markets, and blocks steeped in beauty and history, tinged by that hint of decay--a slight garbage-y smell, a decrepit balcony, urine-soaked metro, and the hint of a more interesting past impeding on a struggling present. It's a dream, a fairy tale in itself.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.”
 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

I have set a goal to stop taking everything so seriously. The past 18 months of my life have been excessively hectic, and some play has been sacrificed to seriousness (I’ve had quite a to-do list). I want to play more, say “yes” more, eat more ice cream, make up more games, pick more flowers, tell more stories, explore more places, and make more connections with people and ideas. Play requires you to live in the moment—how good would you be at it if you’re worrying about the laundry?—and I hope that this sense of being present permeates other spaces in my life. Play on.

Humble spuds

“I bought a big bag of potatoes and it's growing eyes like crazy. Other foods rot. Potatoes want to see.”
 Bill Callahan, Letters to Emma Bowlcut

Greek Yogurt Potato Salad

We receive an organic produce delivery every week, and in addition to the exotic veg that I have to look up on BBC Good Food, there are the inevitable potatoes. I am not much of a potato person, and my little Ps are not fans, so I’ve been looking for interesting ways to use up all of these gorgeous spuds.

I am a Greek yogurt person, however, and any chance I have to use it in an unconventional way, I take it. My Greek yogurt potato salad is the result of this fetish. (I also use Greek yogurt in baking, salad dressings, and marinades.)

Eat Me:

2 lbs. potatoes, diced and roasted or boiled
3 Tbsp. Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
3 stalks celery, diced
dill (chopped small handful fresh or 1 tspn. dried)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

(You could dice any crunchy, raw veg you like in potato salad--I like a bit of red onion or bell pepper as well, but it's also lovely and simple with just the celery.)

In a bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients save the potatoes and celery. Pour over the spuds, add celery, and gently mix to combine. I prefer to pour the dressing over while the potatoes are still warm, allowing them to absorb all of the dressing’s goodness. Eat at room temperature or chilled, to your liking.

Next "eat" post: my brother Chef Alex's banana polenta.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Adventures in Wonderland

“I don't think..." "Then you shouldn't talk," said the Hatter. 
― Lewis CarrollAlice's Adventures in Wonderland

Purchased at OxFam Bookshop, Bristol UK

We read classic chapter books. Rather, I read them to my little Ps. During the long, dark, rainy English winter, we would sit on the floor by the fire (as close as possible without lighting our hair on fire—it’s cold in these old English houses!) and read The Jungle Book. Frankly, the little Ps don’t pick up every detail of every page. There is a bit of tuning in and out as I drone on, but they’re all cozied up like a litter of puppies on the floor and we end up side-tracking into conversations about snakes and panthers and India. I adore these moments.

But now summer approaches, and long, bright days call for a new story. On a recent Saturday perusal of our local OxFam used bookstore, I picked up a tattered copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This is like finding a gold nugget to me. Much-loved old books tell more than their own story, but also hint at past adventures. Alice and the rabbit and the Queen of Hearts are our summer companions. We’ll be getting to know them as we pile into bed and read by the evening sun.

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