Beginning Each Day In The Garden

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Entertaining Family in the Garden

Wisconsin is my home, and one of my favorite things about this beautiful place is the vibrancy of each season. I love them all, but today summer has my heart. As the weather warms, my living space expands into our gardens and it becomes easier to connect with nature on a daily basis.

I like to begin each day by enjoying a cup of coffee on our back patio. As I take my first sips of the morning, I am serenaded by a couple of cardinals that have nested in a nearby tree. Drops of dew have gathered making leaves glisten and flowers sparkle. As the sun rises, the world has an ethereal hush and my mind is quiet.

Humming birds, monarchs, and honey bees are already hard at work. I watch them tend to the garden and try not to disturb their habitat.

I am lucky to watch over this place. Our little piece of the world.

Entertaining Family in the Garden 2

Entertaining Family: Garden Gate

Entertaining Family: Rain Garden 3

Entertaining Family: Leaves of Green

Entertaining Family: Rain Garden 2

Entertaining Family: Wild Ginger

Entertaining Family: Rain Garden

Entertaining Family: Raised Beds

Entertaining Family: Container Garden

Entertaining Family: Pink and Purple Container

Entertaining Family: Iris

Entertaining Family: Peonies

 

Making A Day At The Art Museum Fun For Kids

Art museum security guards tense up as soon as they see my six-year-old coming. She is a disastrous mix of loud, bouncy, and unpredictable. I, of course, delight in her spiritedness and curiosity, but not those who have been entrusted with protecting national treasures worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. They do not find her the least bit adorable.

But listen here, friends! Those suspicious gazes and narrowed glances won’t deter us from developing my daughters appreciation of art! After all, the security guard is just doing his job, right?

The Milwaukee Art Museum 1

So, before we go any further, allow me back up and explain why art appreciation is important to me as a parent, and as a person….

I am someone who has always been surrounded by art. My family is a motley crew of painters, designers, writers and toilers. When I was a child, my mother’s favorite line was: “Creative children are never bored. If you’re looking for something to do, go draw.” Best. Advice. Ever.

As an adult, I apprenticed under a master artist, learning to draw and paint in a classical style. Eventually I studied art in various parts of the world before getting my master’s degree is in Art History with an emphasis on ancient Chinese archaeology. Because art has been such an important part of my existence, I want to share this passion with my little one.

However (and maybe you’ve noticed this, too) very few art museums scream “kids zone!” Many have hushed hallways, objects that MUST NOT be touched, the aforementioned scrutiny of security guards, and artwork that is hung for people 5 feet and taller. Some art museums do have children’s galleries and art stations, which are lovely and appreciated. But, at the same time, I want my daughter to experience important collections from Egyptian antiquities to Flemish portraits – from German Post-Impressionists to American modernists. I want her to walk the same halls that I do, with a shared sense of wonder. And so we have learned how to create a kid-friendly day at the art museum!

Here are some tips for making an art museum visit engaging for your little one:

The Milwaukee Art Museum 3

Move at your own pace.

Some people feel that they need to take in the whole museum in one day, or view a gallery frame by frame. Not in our family. We believe in quality over quantity. If our daughter only has the attention span to take in three paintings and a photograph, that’s fine with us. I would rather have her passionately study a few works, than mindlessly take in a thousand. At this age, it is not about teaching her to distinguish a Rembrant from a Renoir – it is about developing her inquisitive mind.

Feel it (but don’t touch it).

I once had a boyfriend ask me what he was supposed to feel when he looked at a painting. What in the world? I thought to myself. After all, feelings are deeply personal. Your reaction to a painting and my reaction to a painting may be incredibly different. I can’t tell you WHAT to feel. We broke up.

Learning from that experience, I encourage my daughter to get emotional about art. I ask her to walk through the gallery halls until she finds a piece that moves her. When she sees it, she stops. Then we talk about the artwork, how it makes us feel, and why.

Laugh.

If you want a child to remember an experience with a certain level of fondness, make it fun! On our trips to the museum, we like to create silly background stories for some of our favorite works. Or see how many paintings we can count that have an apple or a crow as part of the subject. Or sometimes we choose to recreate a pose from a Rodin sculpture. Little ones deserve to have fun and play injected into everything they do!

Be kind to the security guards, even if they don’t trust your kid.

“Hello! How are you today? You spend a lot of time in this gallery – do you have a favorite work of art?” Nothing wins someone over like a little bit of kindness. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try.

Share your enthusiasm.

In advance of our trip, I choose one masterpiece to show my daughter on our visit. I will do research on that piece and then, once we get to the museum, share what I’ve learned in the form of a story (so that it holds her attention…no lectures, mom). It is rewarding to be able to share my passion with her.

The Milwaukee Art Museum Art Center

Do take advantage of the kids spaces.

If your art museum offers a kid’s gallery or activity center, take advantage of those areas. After exploring the galleries, there is nothing that our family enjoys more than creating an art project inspired by our favorite masterpieces.

Follow up at home.

Sometimes my little one will ask me a question about symbolism or style, and I don’t know the answer. We will make a note of it, and then do internet research when we get home. Other times, we may be moved by a style of art (Fauvism or Cubism, for example) and then go home and create artwork inspired by that creative movement. It is fun to continue the adventure in our own space.

We obviously also let her wear a princess crown to the museum, which never hurts! I must say that most places become extra-extraordinary when you’ve got a crown…

I hope these little tips will help you on your next trip to the art museum. If you move at your own pace and tailor the experience to your child’s interests, you won’t get tantrums and boredom – you will get engagement, excitement, and active learning. Most importantly, it will be a trip that is enjoyable for both children and adults.

For more parenting fun, check out this post on inspiring books for children.

The Simple Pleasure Of Cozying Up At Home

Hello dear friends! I can’t believe that we’re already heading into the final days of January. In keeping with this months theme of “comfort”, today’s post is all about relaxing at home.

As some of you know, in addition to blogging at Entertaining Family, I am the executive director of a nonprofit organization which means that my work days are fast-paced and challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. My husband also has a demanding career as a creative director with clients spread across the country. We’ve designed our home to be a retreat from the world. It is the place where we escape the daily grind and slip into a routine of slow, easy living.

Our old Victorian house, built at the turn of the 20th century, is a grande dame from another era – filled with high ceilings, hardwood, and natural light. Over the past ten years, we have taken care to restore our home’s regal beauty while also making it a cozy urban oasis. To do this, all of the alterations we’ve made pay homage to the age of our home (trying to incorporate fixtures and finishes that fit a Victorian), while creating function for modern living. In the end, we’ve created spaces that allow us to connect as a family, entertain friends, and enjoy a simple and casual lifestyle. It’s the kind of home where you can kick off your shoes and get really comfy.

Throughout the years our home has certainly evolved with us. If you had visited us a decade ago, you would have found the space of a young couple that was on the go. There was no television in sight, travel magazines were strewn across the coffee table in anticipation of our next trip, martini’s were neatly placed on top of coasters, and the two people inside were totally tuned into each other. Today, while we’re still tuned into each other, we’re now a family of three….okay, four (two parents, one first grader, and a fluffy cat). Our house is definitely “lived in”. We have cozy couches and floor cushions galore. An entire corner of our living room is occupied by a delightful assortment of toys and games. And our coffee table is no longer home to travel magazines…instead it serves as a coloring surface for our little one.

Living Space

Coffee Table Creativity

Dining Room

Our dining room table is the heart of our home. My husband, daughter, and I delight in preparing meals together and then taking time to savor our creations. During the week, the table also doubles as “the family office”. It is where we spread out homework, check emails, play board games, or write posts for Entertaining Family. It can get a little messy at times and you know, that’s great. I’ll take it as a sign of creativity and a life well lived!

This is also the space where we host dinner parties, one of our favorite pastimes. We love to have guests relax around our table sharing food and stories. At this time of year, as the cold weather lingers and the days are short, we find it even more important to connect with loved ones who bring warmth and sunshine into our home.

Room for Friends

On weekends, there is nothing more enjoyable than sitting down with a good book. My husband and I are both avid readers and collectors of literature – and now our daughter is taking up this passion, too. On any given Saturday or Sunday, you can find us cuddled up in a quiet corner reading an engaging story.

Reading Time

Coffee and Books

This year we turned our fireplace mantel into a small library featuring of some of our favorite works, which means a great read is always within arms distance. My husband and I can pick up a novel or page through a design book, and there are plenty of titles for our daughter to enjoy. Books are stacked vertically and piled horizontally, and the bindings add new visual interest to this living room focal point.

Fireplace

Book Collection

Peter Pan

Of course, one of the best parts of having a home is filling it with love. In our house, love comes in the form of many beautiful faces. From sleep overs, to dance parties, to coffee chats and dinners…over the years friends and family have dropped-in or stayed for extended periods of time, all filling our space with laughter and joy. If anything makes me want to cozy up at home, it is spending quality time with my people.

Playing (photo by Seth)

Laughing (photo by Masha)

Dance Party

Family

As I reflect on our home, there are two words that come to mind: comforting and restful. It isn’t a formal space. It isn’t perfection. However, it is a place that reflects our love of family and leisure. It is a place to retreat from the world and celebrate the simple pleasures in life.

For more posts on our home, check out our rain garden or this piece on creating a home.

 

 

Finding Balance in Life: Coffee Meetings With My Kiddo

I’ve always been a working mom, and at times it has been incredibly trying to juggle all of the demands of my life. When my daughter was a toddler, she’d often ask me why I couldn’t stay at home with her. “I don’t want to go to school. I want to be with you!”

Her protests would break my heart, but I was confident that going to work was the right decision for me, and for our family. I just hoped I’d find strategies to make it easier.

In those early years I had a really stressful job and on most mornings I’d be racing around our house getting dressed, rushing through breakfast, and trying to get out the door to make it to my first meeting on time. My little one would look up at me with her big brown eyes and ask why I had to leave so soon.

“Mommy has another coffee meeting,” I’d respond, kissing her rosy cheek and giving her a reassuring smile.

One morning my daughter gave me a very stern look and in a loud voice shouted, “I want a coffee meeting with you!

That demand made me stop in my tracks. My two-year old had no idea what a coffee meeting was, but she knew that it must be important – and she was missing out.

So from that moment on, we began scheduling regular “coffee meetings”. They are on my calendar, highlighted in my daughter’s favorite color. They are never cancelled or rescheduled. Hand in hand we head to a neighborhood cafe before school, on a vacation day, or after a ballet lesson. I usually order an almond milk latte while my daughter gets a flavored steamer. We sit for an hour or so, talking about our favorite things and making plans for the future. Sometimes we color or read together, play My Little Pony, or explore a book store. Our meetings focus on the important work of childhood.

Having these special moments with my daughter is something that I cherish. It has definitely helped me find more balance in my life. Now my daughter is fine when I say Mommy has another coffee meeting, because she gets coffee meetings, too.

Ready to order

The perfect steamer

Enjoying my life

Mom drink & kid drink