Monday, April 23, 2018

The Top 100 Picture Books for Kids


We know roughly what the great works of literature are for adults and maybe for teens are, but what about for toddlers?

I posed this question to the world's greatest librarian, otherwise known as Leigh Maynard at the Hopkinton Town Library, about a year ago. Little did I know what she would do with it.

She took my question on as a challenge and culled several lists, pulling the best, and this is what she came up with: 

How cute is she?


I was elated - not only had she come up with the list, but made sure our library had all of them and helpfully collected them into one spot so I didn't have to hunt them down in the nether-most regions of the library while running after three toddlers.  There are many reasons why Leigh Maynard was voted best children's librarian in the state. This is one of them.

Lance, with his superhumanspreadsheetpowers, put the list together a format we could check off for our children. We now have our work cut out for us, and thought you'd enjoy getting your hands on it, too! (Click here for the list in printable format.)

Some of our classics - Beatrix Potter, Homer for children, A.A.Milnes, Aesops, Harold Bloom, and one of our many collections of fairy Tales.
Next up, a post about exposing and reading to your kids from the great classics, and the secrets I've discovered in making it part of the every day with toddlers.

What are your favorite up and coming classics?  I've pictured above one of our new favorites, Lola Dutch!


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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Antique Collecting: You Don't Need to Wait Till Your Kids Grow Up

Our dining table and chairs - when we have company, we pull this table out and chairs down to fill the room.
The last room in our antique home to be furnished is the dinning room, because it operated as our playroom.

Well, thanks to the ingenuity of my husband, it is now both a dinning room and a playroom - and a dinning room filled with antiques, no less.

Antiques and children don't normally go in the same sentence. The visceral response to their juxtaposition is "disaster waiting to happen!"

But, if you acquire the right kinds of antiques and keep a few things in mind, it is all possible.  Here's what I have learned:

1) Acquire the right antiques. This is not the stage of life to buy eighteenth century beauties. We eventually want an antique/good reproduction Tiger Maple farmhouse with green Windsor chairs, but not with our motley crew.

But mid-Century, Art Deco, Victorian, and even select early 19th century pieces depending on their wear can work just fine. Like the Victorian Larkin bookcase, below, which cost $170 from a consignment shop on Route 4 (aka "antique alley" here in NH). It had early veneers on it, but painted plus Spode hardware to match my china, it looks just fine.  Or the reproduction chairs, above, which we got for free down the road in a post-moving sale purge. And that skirted chair? Thrifted for $5. Clearly we won't care if a child trashes it!
 

Painted Larkin bookcase with every-day china, $5 thrifted chair, and a grandmother's tea caddy saved from rotting in a basement, stripped of its veneers and given a pain and varnish job.  

2) Go shabby chic 

Now the 1830's table, pine top and ash legs, was $800, definitely more than I'd feel comfortable having kids play with. Normally. But this was a one-time workbench, so it is already well-loved.  New crayon marks and knicks make it look even better.  Plus, I added two coats of clear varnish just to be sure, and purchased Currier & Ives laminated placemats for messier projects.  

Take-away: In this day and age of shabby/grandma chic, you can easily buy worn-looking vintage if not Victorian pieces for very little and not worry too much about the added love your children will bestow on them. 

tea caddy, wide pine floors, green milk paint
Currier & Ives laminated placemats

3) Vintage fabrics are often child-proof

I had a woven French table cloth from Les Peuces ("The Fleas") in Paris remade into a runner (used to be square - I had my seamstress pulled it apart down the middle seam and sew the long ends together). What you should know about those vintage weaves, or pure cotton muslims or even cotton-poly fabrics - most any stain is going to come out with a good soak with British Vanish (you can get it on Amazon here - so much better than OxyClean!). They don't make 'em like they used to!



1830s 7x2 workbench with vintage French woven tablecloth. 

4) Put the delicate stuff out of reach, and the toys within easy reach

So anything of some value in this room is either behind glass or out of reach. The glass cabinet in the Larkin locks (though I did replace the expensive Wedgwood fine china in the Larkin with our still-lovely Italian Spode every day stuff - just in case!), and those Tiffany lamps are super sturdy. The table lamp is put just beyond toddler reach, and the floor lamp is actually protected by both the table and the green sewing basket. I also didn't pay a fortune for them - both for $150 at a moving sale. The phone is vintage, but cheap enough ($20) that I don't need to worry about it with toddlers. 

Whereas the breakables are harder to get to, the more interesting toys are within easy reach, like the wooden toys in the vintage apple crates (20 BPS in London), or the marble works, legos, crayons, or play-do in the vintage blue box on the table ($10 at a local garage sale).   

I love the space in this room - it feels so simple and roomy, even though its a relatively small room.



5) Hide the ugly! 

If you are worried about the aesthetics of combining antiques with childrens' paraphernalia, you can either purchase vintage/homemade/wooden toys as I mostly do, or you can hide stuff away. Writing desks/Larkins are amazing for this purpose. The kids know right where to look if they want to draw, use a workbook, do a puzzle or color.  



6) Train your children. My kids are kids, but I hope they are learning to care for the nice stuff, and begin to discern beauty from the not-so-beautiful. I've written on this before, but I think it is am important piece of a child's education to learn what beauty is and how to define and identify it.

Question: Are you waiting to collect, or have you figured out ways to go for it, and not keep your nice stuff in storage?  Would love to know what you do!


Sunday, January 28, 2018

2017 Toler Top Tens



1. A new job for Lance. Our biggest news of 2017 is that Lance took a job with a new financial institutions-focused investment firm in Greenwich, CT. We are grateful to have found a short-haul flight that cuts Lance’s weekend commute from 14 hours to six.

Super excited to see daddy at work (really!).

2. Learning to survive as a family of five. While Lance works during the week in Greenwich, Lorianne has learned to manage our farmlette in New Hampshire solo with three energetic children.
doing well some days

And not so well other days
We were grateful for so many extra hands to make this year possible, including those of our family (such as my mom here) and friends that feel like family.

3. Lorianne hosting an academic conference at the Palace of Versailles, podcasts available here



4. Gideon learning to read. Though he hasn’t quite mastered Shakespeare, Gideon has started to read. 

5. 730 books read. Between the two of them, Lance and Lorianne read 30 books and nearly 700 to Gideon and Esther (Ingy has yet to sit through an entire book…). 

Henniker, vintage books
6 – Only one in diapers! If you don’t count sleep-time pull-ups (otherwise it’s still a depressing three!), we are down to only one diaper-clad babe. Huzzah!
vintage kids
Can you guess which one is still in diapers? :-)
You got it, Esther spent a lot of the year naked - and luckily, most of it NOT in front of the house!
7. LOTS of Travel. In addition to work travel, Lance clocked 21 round trips between Greenwich and New Hampshire, and Lorianne 7. We traveled to Utah in the Spring for the funeral of Lorianne’s beloved step-mom, Janet Tanner, and Lorianne returned in July for her 20th (!) high school reunion while Gideon and Esther had the time of their lives at the Toler family farm in Idaho. Lorianne also took the kids to the Berkshires for a family reunion and to DC in November.   


My step-mom's funeral was an occasion that brought all surviving siblings (I've also had two siblings pass) together. Love you, Janet!

Major fun on the farm!

Where this family all began...

At the Jefferson Monument
At the Bronx Zoo with daddy
tantruming toddler while visiting with mommy's friends on Capitol Hill
t

Old Sturbridge Village with Daddy
8. Home and garden renovations. We settled into our New Hampshire farmlette a bit more by adding built-in Scandinavian beds to the childrens’ room upstairs, erecting a fence, putting up a play structure and bunny run, and taming the wilds around our home into beds, gardens, and berry patches.  Torrential thanks goes to Lorianne’s dad for three trips to New Hampshire to act as our master builder.

our new Scandinavian beds - we love them!

my dad, my hero

new (old) swingset
le bunny run


the new herb garden!


not quite what our berry patches look like, but soon!

9. Lessons in the Fine Arts. In addition to soccer and swim lessons, Gideon has loved starting piano lessons this year. We signed Esther up for an adorable tap, ballet, and gymnastic class, and Gideon essentially signed himself up, too. His eagerness to dance has been a lesson for mom and dad in modern parenting. J

10. Ingy learning to walk. Much to our chagrin, Ingy is our earliest walker, and mastered the strut just before her first birthday. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Marital Recipe for Saying "I'm Sorry" from a 4 Year Old




"Under the law of the Lord, a marriage, like a human life, is a precious, living thing. If our bodies are sick, we seek to heal them. We do not give up. While there is any prospect of life, we seek healing again and again. The same should be true of our marriages, and if we seek Him, the Lord will help us and heal us." Dallin H. Oaks, "Divorce" (Oct 2007).

Today I am extremely grateful to be married to someone who believes and lives this quote.

I learned a means of seeking the Lord and applying this quote in my marriage recently. The other day, I overheard a friend guide her four-year-old through apologizing to my son. It went something like this:

"I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry for what?"

"I'm sorry for taking your truck."

"And then?"

"Will you forgive me?"

"Yes!" from Gideon.

"What can I do to make it better?"

This question took my son off guard and softened his little heart as he had to think for a minute what would supply adequate restitution.

I instantly loved this little apology recipe, believing it to be perfectly doctrinally accurate, and asked if I could borrow it.  My friend then opened up about how incorporating the above had improved her marriage. I was struck.

Turns out, it is scalable for big boys and girls, too. It is a simple, effective recipe for apologizing in marriage, and can turn a trite phrase into a powerful tool for good.

More, repenting and forgiving in this simple way is a powerful method whereby we invite the Savior into our marriages and allows Him to heal and seal us His - it is His means of life support for any trouble, large or small. I testify that it really is that simple and and that beautiful, and challenge any reading this to try this simple recipe today and see what comes!






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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Nursery Reveal: Creating Light out of Darkness

bright color nursery, antique bed, sleigh bed

I have found immense joy in furnishing and decorating our home. I am a super cheapskate, so it presents a wonderful design challenge to create beauty and comfort with minimal funds. 

But creating for me is also a method of self-care. I learned this from an extremely creative aunt who struggled for years with immense challenges and coped in part by digging into her creative side (and digging her soul out).

I've had back-to-back challenges in my life since I was 17, each more difficult than the last and prompting a new area for growth, the present not excepted. 

Perhaps that's why I am a serial entrepreneur. I'm not content professionally unless I am creating-an organization, an event, a community. 

In my personal life, I'm also continually creating. It is my lifeblood and an incredibly important and happy outlet for me. The last two years it has been creating a home here in the woods of New Hampshire. I've almost started from scratch, as we took relatively little furniture with us from London (and got rid of almost everything before hopping the pond in 2009). This has allowed nearly wholesale curation of toys, books, and furniture. 

As of today, I have completed decorating a second room in our home, the nursery/upstairs guest room. Currently Esther sleeps there most nights, but you'll see she has her own room-within-a-room. 

What do you do as creative outlets? Where do you find your peace and joy amidst your troubled waters?


there are five pillow depths here to make this bed a comfortable daybed/couch!

the coffee bean sack pillow-case along the back is mirrored in the trim of the aqua  pillows

cast iron rings and a branch taken from the surrounding woods hold the quilt up (there is another branch and rings along the back - not an easy thing to find a straight, 7' long, 1" diameter branch - if you try to replicate this, get 2" rings!)


I've shown these on the blog before in our London nursery reveal, but I continue to love them - 2 pounds each from a local artist in London. I should have purchased more!!



Failed to post this on my dump finds from two weeks ago!


this train has a story - I saw them one day for $25 total at the Davis flea market down the road (I had seen equivalents for $1,000 along Route 4 in New Hampshire) and didn't have any money on me. I was going to buy them the next time, but it was raining that day and no one was there. I thought it was history, but the man held on to them for months and tracked me down one Sunday because he recognized Gideon's hat, and sold them to me for the same price. I was elated!)

I love this lamp I found at Savers in Manchester! I had to get it rewired and find a shade for it, but thought it worth it!








The vintage trucks come from Grandpa Toler's toy chest) and are my favorite vintage toys in our collection






don't worry, doors stay open while she sleeps!

Sources for this room were IKEA (bookshelf, organization boxes underneath the bed, most of the bed linen and pillows, crib, multi-colored pillow on the large rocker, and colored frames), Company C (designer rug $200, yellow pillows $30), TJ Max (aqua pillows, $30 and $13), country curtains (pom pom cafe curtains - thank you, Amy at HomeGlowDesign!), the lovely folks at Antique Bed Mattresses (the unseen but oh-so-important custom mattress inside that antique yellow bed!), a host of Etsy shops - House that Lars Built (Color Wreath - well, Brittany gave me this when visiting her in Denmark, and I treasure it!), AdyEscalante (wrought iron rings,  PetejaFiberWorks (the pom pom pillows), AlysVintageAlcove (the antique, handmade double wedding ring quilt), a host of vintage and antique shops/shows - Brimfield (the small chair in the closet, the antique large train, Noah's Ark, abicus), Portobello Road (the wooden diaper box), Davis, NH flea market (train on top of bookshelves), Sage & Twine (birdcage lamp), Horse Stalls at Camden Markets (green crates), Upcycled (red desk), eBay (my antique rocker friends got me for Gideon's baby shower - love!, Gideon's vintage London bus), an antique shop along "Antique Alley" on Route 4 in NH (yellow chippy bed - don't worry - I had it shellacked!, $90!), Grandpa Toler's toy chest (the vintage semi trucks - aren't those sweet?), the dump (the candy machine and the red reading lamp), and a few handmade, homemade items (the bunting, the sheep pillow, the coffee-bean sack pillowcase, the horse on the small rocker and the doll on the large, and the red pillow in Esther's crib).