Tag Archives: family time

Entertaining Family Favorite, Peggy Guggenheim

Today, we are revisiting one of our favorite posts about a trailblazer, tastemaker, trendsetter, and entertaining inspiration.

I’ll never forget the day I was introduced to Peggy Guggenheim.

It was an October morning in Venice in 1999. The weather was lousy. It was cold and damp – the kind of day that chills your bones. Venetians were out and about, wrapped in fashionable trench coats with the collars turned up to defend against the wind. I stood along the Grand Canal in my college-chic GAP hoodie, entranced by gondolas slowly bobbing on the steely water. Jagged waves lapped against sinking plaster buildings and everything was eerily gray, like a pastel drawing that had been washed away with a sponge.

At the time, I was an art history student living and studying abroad. For weeks I had been traveling throughout Europe visiting the most important works of art from antiquity through the Baroque. This journey had taken me to the Louvre, the Prado, the Venice Academy, and more. Quite honestly, all of the masterpieces were beginning to bleed together and I was tired. In fact, I wondered if I wasn’t having some sort of allergic reaction to old art, as I seemed to lose my energy every time I entered another museum. On this particular day, I was excited to be changing things up and visiting a museum of modern art, The Peggy Guggenheim.

I turned away from the cold air along the Grand Canal and entered her museum. Once inside my eyes grew wide as I took in the scene. It was as if I had entered another world. The Italian palazzo, which was had been her home from 1949-79, felt alive – it was breathing with bursts of vibrant color, undulating lines, splatter marks, and wild textures. The rooms did not feel “over stuffed” as some galleries do. Instead, each piece of art was given room to shine. I felt true joy as I examined works by Picasso, Dali, Kandinsky, and Klee.

An eccentric heiress from the United States born in 1898, Peggy Guggenheim’s interest in avant-garde art developed while she was living in Paris in the 1920s. It was there that she was introduced to writers and artists who were challenging social norms of the time. Peggy, who as a teenager shaved off her eyebrows to shock those around her, found kindred spirits in Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, and Samuel Beckett. It was because of these relationships that she began acquiring works of the Dadaists, Cubists, and Surrealists and abstract expressionists. Not an artist herself, this was Peggy’s way of becoming a central figure in this world of original, innovative ideas.

Peggy ran galleries in Europe and America. During World War II, she shipped a huge number of paintings out of Paris to New York City, protecting them from the Nazi war on Modernism. She gave Jackson Pollock his first exhibit, as well as several other artists whose work would influence modern culture. She had a terrific eye for spotting talent, anticipating the next “big thing”, and was happy to give her muses an international stage.

After visiting her museum, I became a huge fan of Peggy Guggenheim. I quickly devoured her biography Art Lover by Anton Gill. In 2015, a documentary film on her life was released: Peggy Guggenheim Art Addict, which features intimate interviews with Peggy.

Today a photograph of one of her cocktail parties hangs in my living room, reminding me to savor the simple pleasures in life.

Peggy loved being surrounded by creative people with creative ideas, and she was well know for hosting parties for her friends. It is said she usually served horrible food and bad wine, but people always attended her gatherings because they celebrated life. And that is what people loved about Peggy.

So often these days, if you pick up a book on entertaining you’d think you have to be a Michelin star chef in order to host an event. What if we just served mediocre food and cheap wine, and instead focused on building deeper friendships? Wouldn’t it be amazing to skip the fancy name cards, cloth napkins, and menus scrolled on chalkboards? Would the world fall apart? That is why Peggy is one of my entertaining heroes. Let’s celebrate idiosyncrasies. Instead of being shallow, let’s go deep where the most interesting connections happen.

Spending time with family and friends is one of the greatest pleasures in life. This year, I resolved to host more gatherings for the people I love, and to create more family traditions. It is time display my favorite pieces of art, serve imperfection on a platter, and spend quality time with the people who bring joy and laughter into my world.

Party at Peggy's House

Fabulous Peggy

Peggy Guggenheim in Venice

Simple Vacations Are Rewarding, Too (no matter what your Instagram feed tries to tell you)

We’ve just returned from a vacation in New England. Over the past week we wound our way from Kennebunkport to Portland, Maine and then on to Boston, Massachusetts. Our vacation was simple and included fresh sea food, trips to the ocean, and long family walks.

While we were away, I saw many of my friends posting photos of their adventures, too – from Mexico, to Florida, to Italy – families are taking this time to get away, explore, and unwind. Travel is a wonderful way to bond as a family, gain an appreciation for the world around us, and learn about different cultures. In an increasingly global society, travel prepares us to work with colleagues, customers, and collaborators from other lands. And as Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

However, to reap the rewards of family travel, you don’t have to take an elaborate or expensive vacation. Jet setting families look pretty on Instagram, but many of us don’t have the funds or the time to set off on an around-the-world tour. In fact, a “staycation” or short trip can give us the same benefits. So friends, don’t fret about keeping up with the Joneses. Create a special experience that works for your family. This is something I know a thing or two about.

When I was a kid, my family couldn’t afford many long distance vacations, but we did have one fabulous getaway each summer. One of my favorite family traditions! My parents would cram sleeping bags, pillows, food, games, drawing pads and a box full or markers into our 1980s station wagon and we’d drive three hours to a placid lake in northern Wisconsin. There we would pitch a tent and cook our meals over an open flame. At night we’d lay near the empty country road that ran along our property and watch stars shoot across the pitch black sky. And before bed, we’d tell ghost stories with flashlights under our chins while munching on Jiffy Pop.

At the lake, my brother and I lived in our swim suits and always smelled like a mixture of Coppertone, Off!, and algae. There were no cell phones, no flush toilets, no showers, and we were in heaven. Those rustic, “roughing it moments” – as my dad referred to them – are some of the best memories of my childhood.

Tent camping taught us to appreciate nature. My dad would take us on hikes through pine forests in search of deer tracks. We would catch grasshoppers and learn how to tell time by watching the sun. On the shores of the lake, we would find snails and my mom would tell us about the escargot served in France. My brother and I would wrinkle our noses.

Those long summer days were filled with teaching moments. It was where I learned about the glaciers that once covered Wisconsin and the importance of freshwater lakes. We learned about the logging industry in our state and toured paper mills. If we ever complained about being bored, my parents would hand us the drawing pads and markers and tell us to make art.

Next time you’re planning a trip, think about something simple and close to home. Head to a museum, a State Park, or go camping in the woods. Encourage your children to put down the electronic devises and spend time with their imaginations. Help them expand their understanding of the world through fun, hands-on learning. Make it an annual trip, and start a new family tradition.

Happy traveling! -Mara

A Note To My Brother, As We Celebrate His Wedding

This past weekend in New Orleans, my brother married a woman who is by all measures his perfect match – artistic, glamorous, well-traveled, loving, and generous. Their ceremony was stunning and I will share all of the details in an upcoming post, but first I wanted to take the opportunity to share a reflection about my brother, Seth.

One of the reasons I love writing about family traditions, is because of all of the fun and magical moments I shared with my brother growing up.

For as long as I can remember, Seth has been the most influential and inspirational person in my life. Though he is two years younger than I am, his emotional maturity far surpasses my own – and it has always been that way.  As youngsters, I was the loud one – the child who defied authority, was careless when sharing my opinions, and lived to have fun. My brother was introspective, thoughtful, and always sensitive to the needs of others. As we grew, we each found greater balance – his seriousness rubbed off on me, and conversely, I’d like to believe that my irreverence helped him laugh a bit more freely.

In college, I would return home on weekends to find my brother reading the collected works of Emerson, Thoreau, and Krishnamurti. He would tell me how inspired he was by philosophies that encouraged aligning ones life to the needs of the world. That is why I was not surprised when, after completing his degree in architecture, my brother fit his belongings into a backpack and moved to Africa to spend a year living, learning and volunteering abroad. An artist, Seth would share his experiences traveling across West Africa through exquisite pen and ink drawings. He also captured the sounds of his journeys, recording the noises of traffic, birds, drums, and voices.

That same year, I married the love of my life and began my own adventure. Our childhood was over, and my brother and I were venturing out on different roads.

As adults, we have spent more time apart than together – but wherever he happens to be, a piece of my heart is there too. And though we travel unique paths, I am grateful that our roads converge at the most important times. This weekend, as I watched Seth marry an extraordinary woman who shares his joie de vivre, my heart was full. You want the best for the ones you love most in the world, and I know that in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined anything better for him.

Congratulations, my dearest friend. What a beautiful life you have created.

seth-and-masha

 

 

To My Daughter On Her 7th Birthday

My Strong Willed, Spirited Girl:

Thirteen years ago, if someone had asked me about the best day of my life, I would have told them about the moment I met your father. From across a crowded room, we fell in love at first sight and I knew my life would never be the same.

Twelve years ago, I would have told them about the day I married your dad on a pink sand beach. Looking into his eyes as the ocean waves rolled upon the shore, I saw a future of endless possibilities. I still do.

Seven years ago, of course, I would have told them about the magical day that you were born. Now that I know you, I’d say it was a perfect entrance. Quick and timely, right on your due date. I know how you hate to be late to a party! That was the day I realized how far my heart could stretch and how deeply and fiercely I could love.

Today, if someone asked me about the best day of my life, my answer would be different. Today I would say that the best day is the one that I am blessed to be living right now. Each and every minute that I get to love you and your dad, and feel your love in return is a celebration. My life is no longer defined by single, once-in-a-lifetime events, but instead measured by the beauty of ordinary moments that bring us together.

Your laughter, your smile, your dad’s bad jokes, our hikes in the woods, our dinner table conversations…those little things have become the most extraordinary pieces of my life. And every morning when I wake up and I see your faces, I know that THIS is going to be the best day I have ever known.

I am a lucky woman. You have transformed my world and taught me so much. I am constantly in awe of your capacity to love, your ability to learn, and your desire to work hard. You are thoughtful, hilarious, and creative beyond belief. You inspire me to live my best life and to reach further than I ever thought possible.

Happy birthday, my love. Thank you for making every day the best day of my life.

-Mom

Happy

Inspiring Books for Children: Must-Haves for Your Library

Happy holidays, my dear friends! Today’s post gets away from the hustle and bustle of the season and focuses on a really fun topic…children’s literature. So take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy!

As adults, I think that one of the greatest gifts we can give children is a well curated book collection. Really great literature helps youngsters develop vocabulary, build imagination, and explore the possibilities of the Universe. I have read countless books with my daughter and today’s post shares our very favorites.

Each of the books below has been selected based on the beauty and importance of its message, and the quality of its images. As a mom I have picked books that will not only be interesting for the young people in your life, but will make reading out loud a pleasure for you as well. In fact, you will actually look forward to reading these over and over again. And with each turn of the page, you will know that you’ve given an amazing gift to the young person in your life.

1.) The Zen Series by Jon J. Muth

These beautiful books (Zen Ties, Zen Shorts, Zen Ghosts, and Zen Socks) follow the adventures of a Giant Panda named Stillwater and the human children who live next door. Stillwater helps his young friend’s navigate the ups and downs of childhood by sharing lessons derived from Zen Buddhism. These books teach about compassion, kindness, sharing, and letting go of the things that don’t matter.

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2.) This is the World by M. Sasek

Is there a more stress-free way to travel than taking your child on vacation through the pages of a book? This is the World compiles some of M. Sasek’s greatest travel books in one masterwork. The illustrations and stories – which are now at least 50 years old – continue to teach children interesting facts about some of the world’s most famous monuments, cities, and spaces. It has gotten my daughter interested in traveling to new destinations and learning more about foreign cultures.

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3.) Journey by Aaron Becker

Aaron Becker has created a timeless work of art. Some people may be skeptical about this book at first because there are…gasp!…no words – but that becomes a part of the enchantment. The stirring and emotional images help children create their own narrative. This book helps kids understand and express emotions and it puts them “in the driver’s seat” as they become the story’s author. Adults can help guide young storytellers by asking probing questions that dig more deeply into each image.

Every time a child opens this book, they are creating a new adventure.

Journey Cover

Journey

4.) Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl

The ABCs are so much more fun when you are learning about feminists that have changed the world! Angela Davis, Dolor Huerta, and Billie-Jean King are just some of the “rebels, trailblazers, and visionaries” captured in this important book. My daughter and I love reading the biographies together and then taking time to have deeper conversations about what we’ve learned. But rest assured, this book IS NOT JUST FOR LITTLE GIRLS! It should be on the shelf of every family that believes in equality – and every family that wants to raise interesting children (boys and girls) who feel empowered to change the world around them. Thanks, Aunt Masha for such a great gift!

A is for Angela

My Morning Routine

I believe that the way I start my day has a lasting impact on my mood and energy level. Having a positive, predictable, joyous routine in the morning is something that is very important to me.

In our home, my husband is the early riser. He wakes up with the sun and is showered and dressed before I lift my head from the pillow. His cajoling is my favorite alarm clock.

After I set my feet on the floor, I am off to wake our little one. Her sweet smile sets the tone for my entire day. For many years, I would pick her up from the bed and carry her around in my arms, but now she’s getting too big. Instead, we race each other down our creaky old staircase and into the kitchen where we gather around the island for breakfast.

My husband always hands me a mug of strong, dark coffee. The smell, taste, and warmth bring me to a deeper level of consciousness. One inhalation of the steam rising from my cup and I’m prepared to face the day.

Breakfast is relaxed and casual. As we eat, we recap our dreams and talk about the day ahead. My daughter will usually try to convince us to let her stay home from school. We will usually say no.

There is time for one PBS show, and then we finish getting ready for our days and begin heading out the door. My daughter with her backpack, my husband with his messenger bag, and me with my bright red tote.

We all pack into my station wagon and then head to school. After walking our daughter to her classroom and giving her a big hug and kiss, we journey back home. I drop my husband off at his car. We kiss and wish each other a good day. He drives to his office, and I drive to mine.

And that’s it. Everyday of the work week.

I’m calm. Relaxed. Ready.

Bring on the challenges of the day….

Family “Field Trips”

I’ve noticed that sometimes busy families get stuck in ruts….parents working all hours, kids plopped in front of screens, fast food served on dinner plates…everyone is together but not really together at all.

To keep our family playing, talking, and bonding, each weekend we take family “field trips.” Just like the exciting, fun-filled trips we took in grade school, these outings are designed to get us exploring and playing together…really together. They get us out of our daily routines, help us facilitate rich interactions, and allow us to build lasting memories.

We usually head outdoors and visit our community’s natural resources, living museums, and free play areas. During these “field trips” there are only five rules: 1.) no electronic devices, 2.) have fun, 3.) get messy, 4.) try to learn something new, and 5.) run wild! And yes, princess dresses are perfectly acceptable attire.

Our daughter loves the uninterrupted time with mom and dad…and we love sharing our passion for nature with our little one. We’re creating healthy traditions that, we hope, our daughter will continue when she has her own family.

Here are some photos from a trip we took this past weekend…a forest hike followed by playtime along the shores of Lake Michigan. Free, fun, and fabulous.

Entertaining Family wants to know, what does your family do to stay connected?

Waves along the shore

Chair in the woods

Butterfly

Father daughter bonding

Paths in the sand

Rocks on the shore

Standing on the tip of the world