Archive for the ‘Awesome Design’ Category

Since we’re raising a child in the digital age, and since he already knows how to navigate an iPad (don’t judge me on that one until you read my upcoming post on tech in our house), we like to make sure he has plenty of low-tech stuff to play with. Stuff he can be creative with. Blocks, vehicles, stuffed animals, yadda-yadda. But he didn’t have any play food, which a recent Parents magazine article singled out as a great toy for fostering creativity.

Here let me pause to say that yes, I do read Parents. Rather, I skim it and shake my head at the articles about insanely elaborate decorations for a one-year-old’s birthday party. And pieces about using navy blue eyeliner to make yourself look more awake. But they do run useful pieces like the aforementioned one on raising creative kids.

So off I trotted to Toys R Us. Once I located the play food (with the help of a sales gal — it was my first time there and my head couldn’t handle the onslaught of fluorescent lights and bright colors and brand names), I picked out something that looked fun and took it home.

The Boo loved the tiny frying pan and spatula, but he nearly bit through the sausage. The plastic was so thin I could dent it without much effort, which did not bode well for its life with a toddler who’s currently growing molars. So the set went back to the store and I came home empty-handed because they didn’t have anything that looked sturdier. Or maybe they did and I just couldn’t find it because holy cow, the number of things in tightly packed aisles. That place mussed my aura worse than the grocery store, know what I’m saying? Too many choices. Why do we need that many kinds of cereal? Or tiny Dyson vacuums? Yeah, they make tiny Dysons. Chew on that one for a bit, let me know how it sits with you because it gives me shpilkas in my genecktazoink.

Okay, I’m back now.

At home, I dug out the magazine that had spawned the quest and noted the brand they recommended: Learning Resources. And that, friends, is what I bought. It ain’t the cheapest, but the pieces are very sturdy and shockingly pretty and they offer a bunch of different fun sets.

I chose one with a mix of fruits and veggies and minimal junk food (because my kid already loves potato chips, thank you Daddy!) that came with a couple of baskets (because our space is small and I am a Virgo). My only beef with the set is that the baskets aren’t quite big enough to fit all the food in at once, but the Boo doesn’t care about that. He happily dumps them out and refills them over and over. He also adores making sandwiches and offering me bites of cookie.

And it’s not hard to pretend it’s a good cookie, either:


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I have a few key ploys for keeping Baboo (not his real name) happy while I cook or do dishes or one of my 88 chores in the kitchen/dining area where we spend a LOT of time. Chief among said ploys: Fun stuff on the fridge.

We had a few magnetized containers I felt were safe for him, so those have been up for a while. But I wanted something more fun and baby-friendly. After a brief Internet search I settled on these, from Geomag:


They’re meant as a farm animal play set, but they work really well as fridge magnets. The animals are soft molded rubber, so they’re nice for the baby to both grab and gnaw on. They’re made in Switzerland, and with European baby safety standards being what they are, I know they’re safe for him.

The rubber animal parts fit around magnetized balls, and they’re not that hard to pop off, which ends up providing more entertainment for the wee one. They come together to make free-standing toys, too, so he can play with them as he grows.


Bonus features: I can use them to teach him animal noises, which he thinks is hilarious.

They seem to be carried at quite a few places, and of course, Amazon has them.

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We ordered a two-pack of pacifier tethers back when the baby was itty-bitty. He kicked the binky habit at around six months, but we still use them to secure small toys to his bib or shirt. I may buy them for every expectant mother I know from now on, because they’re the kind of thing you need but serially forget to pick up. (Or at least, that was true for me.)

We have the Booginhead brand; you can pick some up here.

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In keeping with today’s theme of “nothing serious,” I offer you this glass.

For quite some time, this has been my bathroom glass of choice. Not long ago, I broke its mate, and I was very excited when my husband said we had another stashed in the back of a dark, high kitchen cabinet.

I like the sturdiness, the ridge at the top of the facets where my fingers can rest, and the lack of pretension about it. I also like that it reminds me of my late Aunt Antonia, who, if I remember correctly, had an entire set of these, both large and small. She was the arbiter of culinary taste in our family, a gourmet chef and professional caterer to whom great food and quality kitchen items were of paramount importance.

Whenever I visited her, I thought surely these must be the best everyday glasses there are, because they’re in her kitchen.


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I am not a visual artist by training, but I am a bit of a design freak in that a well thought-out object can make me go “ooh!” This shape sorter, which my online shopping maven of a husband found, does that — for the baby as well as for me.


It’s made by a British company called Tolo Toys, and the sucker is sturdy. Like, I could probably sit on it without damaging it, and I am not a dainty person. The six shapes have beads inside them, and each one makes a slightly different shaker sound, which the baby loves to bits. He’ll spend quite a bit of time banging them together and squealing, which is entertaining unless I have a headache. They’re also nice and smooth, so they double as teething toys.

Here’s my favorite design feature, though:


See that lid? To an eight-month-old, it’s a separate toy, and so is the bucket that’s created when you take it off. My kid spent a good 20 minutes investigating those two things last night. He was all like, “Two new toys! EEEEeeeee!” And the kid was tired. As an official Old Mom, I’m telling you: A toy that can do that is worth a few extra ducats.

The only problem with this toy is that it makes me want everything else the company makes.

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We received this book’s cousin, Little Bee, from my sister-in-law, who chose it because it was much beloved by both her girls. She would have passed her copy along, but the bee had been drooled on too many times to count, and board books are not technically machine washable.

When I learned there was a whole series, I resolved to get at least one or two more, because my son was gaga over the bee book. Wiggling the finger puppet holds his attention and gets him to engage with the book. The illustrations are cartoony-simple and full of contrast — again, great for holding the baby’s attention.

But what I really like about these books is the writing. I know. Crazy, right? Bear with me.

The lines rhyme without being saccharine, there’s a simple storyline (in this case, the fish going to sleep), and the word choices relate to the animal. So Little Fish contains words such as ocean, splash and tails. And the author (there’s none listed on the book) does all of this in only 45 words. As a writer, I find that impressive. As a mom, I appreciate the effect: A fun reading experience for both of us.


In St. Louis, the full line of 21 books (or damn near the full line) is available at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s gift shop. Reading through them is fun, quick, and a great way to make sure you don’t get stuck reading something you don’t like 88 million times. Like the thing about flies in the spider one. Ick.

Happy reading!

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This lithograph was a baby gift from a good friend and her husband. It’s by W. Myers and is called “Your Move.” The nursery was previously known as the Indian Room because of, duh, all the Indian artwork on the walls. We are not the redecorating types, so this print was the only addition, and it fits in nicely.

I feed the baby in that glider, and when he seems to be done I turn him around to face me, partly to cuddle him and partly to see if he needs a burp. About a week ago, he looked up above my head, got a huge grin on his face, and then started giggling. He now does this after every feeding.

Easily the best five parts of my day.

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My husband has a sweet and creatively gifted coworker who knitted this sweater for our baby. People who can knit impress the hell out of me because I’ve tried, and failed, and I know it takes talent, precision and patience to do it well.

Even though this is newborn-sized, the A-line design means it still fits. I love it so much I will put it on him until it won’t button up any more.


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I’ve been reading to the baby for quite some time now. When I started he was, of course, oblivious, but he slowly cottoned on to the fun of reading with Mama, which is the whole point of waving a book at a two-month-old, yes?

Trucks Go, by Steve Light, was given to me by my mom and is one of his favorites. My aunt and uncle were visiting when she gave it to us, and I was commanded to read it to him on the spot. This was, I confess, super fun.

There are eight trucks in this board book, each with a distinct set of sounds to read. That’s it — nice and simple. Here’s an excerpt: “The box truck goes CHUGGADA-CHUGGADA CLANKITY CLANK.” Hilarious, no? And the baby giggles when I jiggle him around while I’m making the truck noises.

The watercolor (I think) illustrations are sweet and engaging, and the large words make it really clear to him that the clumps of shapes I point to go with the noises I’m making. (This also means I don’t need to squint to see them.) Bottom line: This book is entertaining for both of us, which is what I want reading to be about at this stage.

This book would make a thoughtful gift for an impending baby, or an excellent addition to your baby’s library. Anthropologie carried it this summer (weird but true) or you can go here for it.


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Now that the weather is cooler, the baby is spending more time in his sleeper pajamas in the morning. And since he’s on his belly quite a bit these days, these are my favorite. Because why shouldn’t I get some amusement out of my baby’s clothing? And he definitely digs the fun feet. My only gripe is that the sizes stop at nine months.

You can find them here.

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