I just ran across Leo Babauta’s post on Keeping A Simple Home with Kids at Zen Habits. It’s a couple years old but not dated at all: great tips for small habits you can adopt as a family to keep things streamlined, no matter what your feelings are about minimalism. “A home for everything,” and “Go for quality,” are two of my favorites. The latter is the basis for my own site, after all!  They may seem self-evident but I have to keep reminding myself of them when I’m tempted to fill up closets and hang onto little cheap toys that accumulate like dust in the corners. Everyone can use a good purge everyone once in a while, right? I’m doing mine in the dining room today!

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I’ve just discovered Leander, and I’m a little bit in love. OK: a lot in love. All the pieces are beautiful: minimalist Scandinavian design in natural woods, light colors and lovely curves. I know I’m a bit behind the curve, so to speak, because they’ve been available stateside for a couple of years, but if you’re also unfamiliar, allow me to introduce you (and your baby) to their line.

The hanging cradle was their first offering and is both pretty and practical. You can suspend it from the ceiling or – better – hang it from the sleek, beech tripod and have the flexibility to move it as needed. It rocks, literally and figuratively. My only reservation – as ever – is that cradles (and all infant beds) have a very limited span of usefulness, so it may be a better use of your baby budget to spend on a crib instead (unless, of course, you plan on having several children, in which case a cradle could be a great investment and space saver.) At $350 though, it’s not completely ridiculous to consider getting one. (You can always re-sell it. Or convert it into the best cat bed ever.)

If you prefer to jump directly to a crib, Leander makes those too, albeit at a considerably higher price point. Their curvy bed converts from a crib to a to a toddler bed to a junior bed. The junior bed transition is a nice feature since most conversion cribs leave three sides of crib bars in place, which might not be welcome reminder of babyhood for older children. It’s also five or so inches shorter than a US standard crib. At $1500, it’s considerably more expensive than most budgets can handle, but if you have generous grandparents who are into design, maybe this will top your wish list.

Their matching changing table – also curvy delicious – has a uniquely small visual profile for this notoriously bulky piece of furniture, and I love that. We chose the Stokke changing table for similar reasons (as well as the fact that it converts to a child’s table) and have been glad not to manage a giant block of a dresser in Astrid’s room. The Leander table also converts to a small desk, but is nearly as expensive (about $1000) as the crib, so again, a big investment.

(I’m still on the hunt for a low profile, high design changing table for a reasonable price. Do post a comment if you’ve found one.)

The Leander high chair is the final piece of the set. We have the Svan, which also converts to an actual chair, and had looked at the Stokke (same deal), but I think the Leander chair has the sleekest profile of all three and, if we weren’t within reach of being out of high chairs entirely, I’d spring for this one.

In amongst the expensive baby clutter in the marketplace, it’s a joy to find such beautiful form and function. You made my day, Leander!

Check out Leander’s store locator for your closest location or websites that carry their line.

Bubbles!

April 13, 2012

With a two year old, bubbles are on the menu every day. They have been for a while. And babies love them too. So stocking up on bubbles, especially novel ones, especially ones that don’t spill, especially ones that are easy for little ones, is a part-time job. Well, OK, less than that, but still.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not crafty (in the arty way or in the guile way. I am a terrible liar. In case you ever need me for a surprise party or to back up your story, just don’t even bother to ask because it will end in someone’s tears. Or just a lot of confusing explanations.) But I had to go to Michael’s for some basics and ran across a huge selection of crazy-cheap bubbles. Who knew a craft shop sold bubbles in the first place??

Regular bubbles, bubbles in tubes with Easter bunnies on the wands, big wand bubbles for the park, and little tubes of those plastic bubbles that you can stack on your finger but which leave a weird residue when they pop. They were, like, $1. Or $2 for the big bottles. Absurd. And way cheaper than anywhere else I’ve seen. So go stock up there and no more bubble-hunting or paying Walgreens $7 for some silly little bucket that won’t last the afternoon. You might want to wait a week or so to head out there though: I think I bought all of them.

Michael’s Arts & Crafts, find your local store 

Last year, Astrid’s birthday party was a little bit of a circus. An awesome fun circus, yes. Also, enough people (40) and kids (12) that we couldn’t manage making the food, wrangling the drinks and baking the cake ourselves. (The party sort of doubled as a housewarming so, no, it wasn’t one of those crazy $40,000 Sweet Sixteen things!) Since I love Kara’s Cupcakes, I ordered mini cupcakes from them instead of making them at home.

Let me say up front that this, at $2/cupcake, is not an inexpensive commitment. But at that point, for us, it was the right choice and made for a more relaxing party.

I’m not an across the board, indiscriminate cupcake fan, so Kara’s is really the only place I get them. (Miette and Mission Minis’ are too dry.) Yeah, that’s a little snobby, but when you can get a kickin’ cake for so much less, a cupcake has to really be in it to win it.

Karas’ are always moist, the frosting is creamy (or fluffy in the case of the chocolate velvet and sweet vanilla), and their decorations are very cute and non-Disney for a little ones’ party. We did a jungle animal theme that included elephants, giraffes, lions…and a dog. Come on: Tarzan might’ve had a dog. You don’t know.

If you’re ordering more than a few, order at least 24 hours ahead (preferably a little more to ensure your order takes priority). Remember to specify your preferred decorations and it’s probably best to decide on your flavor assortment before going in – or just download the order form and email it to them. (They also do cakes of all of their flavors if you decide to go the cake route after all.)

Nice perk: if you order from the Chestnut location and ring them just before you get there for pick-up, they’ll bring your order out to the curb so you don’t have to brave Marina parking.

Kara’s Cupcakes, 3249 Scott Street (between Lombard and Chestnut), 415 563-2223

OR

Ghirardelli Square, Plaza Level, 900 North Point, 415 563-2223

(Mon-Thurs 10am-8pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10pm (9 in Ghiradelli Sq), Sun 10am-7pm)

It’s not pretty, but the San Francisco Public Library has put together a decent page of all the story times for all kids’ ages at all of their branches all in one place.

I haven’t been super thrilled with the woman who does the story time in Potrero (she’s a little too low key for me and for Astrid) but I hear other moms love her, so I guess it’s just a matter of taste. I’m planning on trying out some of the other ones that are close to us.

If you love your local library’s story time, would you post a note please and let everyone know? I know I’m not alone in wanting to have a go-to list of places to take Astrid when we’ve run out of ideas!

SFPL story time listings, some for babies, some for toddlers and some for preschoolers

Cards and Invitations

February 17, 2012


You’re either the kind of person who sends printed birthday invitations or you’re not.

Subcategory of the former: the kind of person who designs your own and and prints them at your home printing press, including a perfect, tiny dried flower affixed by hand to the inside next to a tasteful shot of your little one looking serious and not in need of toys that take batteries. Alternate subcategory: the kind of person who has scrapbooking supplies on hand and enjoys a nice afternoon at a flat table with bric brac and glitter.

Let me be clear: I am the kind of person (second child, a little OCD, only ever had two birthday parties that I remember) who sends printed invitations. I am not the kind of person who has any facility with a printing press or a glue gun or knows anyone who will hook me up with their own skills in that department for cheap. So I use Tiny Prints for Astrid’s birthday invitations (and our Christmas cards and my shower invitations and birth announcements) and I love them. They have charming card choices and a meticulous process and, since they’re located in the Bay Area, their turnaround on my custom orders is ridiculous. Like, I have the prints in my hands in a week or less. But the main thing is that I love the cards themselves.

So if you’re looking for a place to print lovely invitations relatively inexpensively and quickly, consider them. They rock.

Tiny Prints, birthday party invitations starting at about 80 cents each, envelopes included

San Francisco: H&M

February 15, 2012

Hooray for the Swedes! H&M has opened a big baby/kids section on the third floor of the Westfield Center, just outside Bloomingdales. (Borders’ old space, I think – sad to see them go…)

While I’ve loved their kids clothes (especially the pricing!), braving the Powell St. store’s crowds, disorder, and unbelievably cramped kids department has put a damper on my willingness to shop with them. You have to really want it to go over to Union Square at all, let alone join up with the tourists and lunchtime shoppers on H&M’s crowded floors.

The new space is the opposite of all of that: open, organized and well-folded, you can see everything they have and – amazing! – if they have your child’s size. This would seem like a basic store requirement, I know, but apparently not when you can get a tiny floral shirt for $4.95!

Enjoy!