Join us today as we meet one of my favorite local Moms, Diane Jennings of Luca Boutique. Luca has quickly become my go to place for amazing children's clothes at great prices. Diane's super friendly approach and and thoughtfully laid out store (it even has a play space with a gate!), makes shopping with my own small kids, really enjoyable. Diane lives in Somerset, MA with her husband and 7 year old son, Luke.

Kidoinfo: Tell us about your business.

Diane Jennings: Luca is a fun and fresh consignment boutique for kids located in the heart of Water Street, an eclectic shopping and dining district in Warren.  We carry premium and better brand children's apparel, baby gear and trendy maternity clothing for the stylish Mom to be! You'll also find a wide array of new accessories and gifts.

Kidoinfo: What inspired you to start your business?

Diane: I was compelled to re-invent the typical consignment experience from top to bottom.  As a frequent consignment shopper, I was disheartened with the majority of stores I visited and knew there had to be better way to both shop and consign apparel.

Kidoinfo: How did you start your business?

Diane: A close friend owned a small store and was looking to sell her business.  She approached me in 2010 and within 30 days I had rented a storefront on Water Street.  With unparalleled support of family and friends we opened in January 2011 and never looked back.

Kidoinfo: How do you balance work and family?

Diane: My husband and I are a team and honestly I  couldn't make it work without him.  He keeps me focused and grounded.  Communication and time management are essential for me.

Kidoinfo: Please describe a typical day.

Diane: Begins at 5:45 with lots of coffee!  We are out the door by 7:40 am on our way to school drop off.  I allow a cushion from 8:15-9am to allow for scheduled and sometimes unscheduled errands and am at the store no later than 9:15 to get ready for 10am opening.  Most days I am there until closing at 5pm and arrive home for dinner, homework, and extra curricular activities depending on the day.  After picking up around the house and attacking the never-ending laundry, it's time for some reading or TV watching with my husband then lights out no later than 10pm.


Kidoinfo: If you could give your past self (Pre-kids or Pre-business) any advice, what would it be?

Diane: Listen to your gut.  I read every parenting magazine, blog and website trying to be the best Mom I could be.  At one point we had a question about something (now deemed trivial but at the time seemed pressing) and my husband suggested calling the pediatrician.  I had an overwhelming urge to just stop searching outside myself to find answers and listen to my own thoughts and it worked.  We have an extraordinary 7 year old!

Kidoinfo: Where do you find inspiration?

Diane: Listening to those around me provides all the inspiration I need.  My family, friends, clients, and mentors, are part of my life for a reason.

Kidoinfo: What is the one kid or parent product that you could not live without?

Diane: My planner.  I am a visual person and I need to write everything down.  I've tried multiple electronic devices and they just don't work for me.  Seeing it in my own writing helps me to own my commitments and not over schedule.

Kidoinfo: What is your favorite children's book?

Diane: Being a native Bostonian- Make Way for Ducklings is an all time classic.

Kidoinfo: What do you do with your family on a rainy day?

Diane: Typically a rainy day equates to a pajama day with lots of cooking!

Kidoinfo: What is the last great non-kid book or film that you loved?

Diane: As an avid reader Cutting for Stone is one of my top 5 favorite books.  The story of twin brothers and how their lives twisted and turned was epic.  It stayed with me for a long time upon completion.  I cannot recommend it enough.

Kidoinfo: Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Diane: Red wine and a good book whether my feet are in the sand or in front of a warm fire always relaxes me.

Kidoinfo: If you had an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?

Diane: I would love to say taking that Pilates class I've been trying to get to for the last year, but most likely it would be catching up on my sleep!

Kidoinfo: Can you share a story that is symbolic of your dual life as a business owner and parent?

Diane: I meet so many amazing parents at Luca and have made lasting friendships as a result.  Meeting a fellow mother who delivered her daughter on the same day at the same hospital as my son stands out.  She has been a client for 3.5 years and now has 3 children!

Kidoinfo: How has the experience and on the job training of being a mom prepared or changed you in business?

Diane: I think we all need to be more kind and compassionate with one another. The so-called Mommy Wars can really take a toll.   I make it a point to let a Mom know that she's a doing a great job.  Whether it's a temper tantrum, potty training accident, or just an overall tough day, we all need to hear someone else has been there and knows "this too shall pass."

Kidoinfo: What is next for you and your business?

Diane: We are always researching new product lines to carry and ways to streamline our intake processes.  We plan to offer some innovative new products in late 2014 and perhaps another never know!

Luca Boutique is located at 193 Water Street, Warren RI 02885.  For more information check out Luca's website and Facebook page.

Today we invite you to pop on your hiking boots and load up your backpack as we introduce a wonderful local Mama.  Jeanine Silversmith is a writer, Mom of two kids and huge fan of nature, who aims to get more local families up and out into the great outdoors.  Jeanine lives in Wakefield, RI with her clan.

Kidoinfo: Tell us about your business.IMG_4657

Jeanine Silversmith: I run RI Families in Nature (RIFIN), a family hiking club with the main goals of getting people of all ages to spend more time outdoors, explore RI’s natural places, and reconnect with and reap the many benefits of nature. I send out a monthly e-newsletter, lead a monthly hike, offer numerous resources on my website, and conduct educational workshops for community groups and teachers. I work part-time for the RI Environmental Education Association (RIEEA), helping to advance environmental literacy in K-12 classrooms throughout the state. In addition, I am currently writing a book.

What inspired you to start your business?

JS: I’ve always been passionate about spending time in nature, especially hiking. I’m less tense, more in tune with my body, and motivated to take better care of it. In particular, I love a good hike. Before children came along, I was an avid hiker — not an expert or anything — but it was a regular part of my life. Finding time and motivation to hit the trails was difficult once I had children. Then, in September 2008, I saw author and child-advocate Richard Louv speak about his bestselling book, Last Child in the Woods. In this ground-breaking work, Louv connects the lack of nature in our children’s lives to obesity, attention disorders, depression, and a whole lot more. Louv offered the idea of a “family nature club” as one way to schedule in the unstructured time in nature. The name “RI Families in Nature” popped into my head and I went from there.

How did you start your business?

JS: After seeing Richard Louv speak, I drove home, bought the domain name and spent the next couple of months researching places to hike in RI and learning how to build a website and send out email campaigns. My first hike was five years ago this month. It was scheduled a couple of hours after a snow storm ended. I was pretty sure I should cancel or at the very least, nobody would show up. My husband said simply, “We have to go.” And we did. And it was a beautiful, thoroughly enjoyable hike for my family of four. The next month, I posted my hike on and over 40 people showed up!


How do you balance work and family?

JS: I don’t know who said it, but I love the quote “There is no balance, there is only scheduling.” Everything, and I mean everything, is in my calendar. When presented with work related opportunities, I ask myself if it will first and foremost benefit my family. Leading hikes gets my children and me outside in the woods, so I’m happy to put in the time and energy to make that happen. With RIEEA, I feel like I am making a real difference in every RI child’s education and that keeps me going. In addition, my children are not involved in a tremendous number of activities — at least not at any given time — so I’m able to spend less time in the car, in a dance studio, and on a soccer field and more time at home.

Please describe a typical day.IMG_2694

JS: Waking up before the sun to exercise is a must. If I can get in a run or a trip to the gym before my kids wake up, then I feel like no matter what else happens I can handle it! After getting my kids on the bus, I make myself a cup of tea, prioritize my to-do list while my computer is booting up, and start working. I take breaks throughout the day to do small housekeeping tasks like prep dinner or run an errand. I work very hard to be done with my work and turn my computer off before my children return from school so that I can focus on their needs. If absolutely necessary, I will return to the computer when they are in bed. However, my husband owns his own orthodontic practice and puts in long days so we try to carve out an hour or so each evening just to be with each other.

Do you have any time-saving tricks that you could share?

JS: Laundry is the bane of my existence so I do whatever I can to stay on top of it. Usually I start a load while my kids are eating breakfast, transfer it to the dryer when I get back from the bus stop, and fold it during a conference call or while my kids are doing their homework. I also try to schedule meetings and appointments on the same day and in the same part of the state. I find spending a day or two traveling around and interacting with others makes the time I spend at home, alone, plugging away at my computer much more productive.

If you could give your past self (pre-kids or pre-business) any advice, what would it be?

JS: I think it would be to take a good, long pause each and every time anyone asks me to take on a volunteer task and critically consider if it is something I am passionate about and have the time and energy for. After my second child, I spread myself out way too thin. I think it was because I was sure I didn’t want to be home full time but didn’t know what the next step in my career should be.

Where do you find inspiration?

JS: Outside. I am always amazed by how everything falls into place after I hike, go for a run, play in the snow, or just take a walk with a friend.

What is the one kid or parent product that you could not live without?

JS: Hands down my cell phone. I am relatively new to the smartphone world and I was surprised at how it freed me from my computer. And the calendar app is my saving grace.

What is your favorite children's book or music CD?

JS: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss still gives me goose bumps every time I read it. Unless….

What do you do with your kids on a rainy day?

JS: We love to stay in our pajamas as long as possible, blast some good tunes, and bake something. And of course, we’ve also been known to hike or play in the rain.

What is the last great non-kid book or film that you loved? What made it so great?

JS: I just finished my first David Sedaris book, Naked, and found his wit and quirkiness fabulous. I also re-read Tolkien’s The Hobbit (for like the sixth or seventh time) mostly because there was so much in the film version that was contrary to my recollection of the book and I wanted to revisit it before the third and final movie comes out next winter.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?

JS: Oh, I hate to admit this, but my husband and I love watching Tosh. Because it often makes us laugh hysterically. Sometimes it’s just plain gross or offensive, but mostly it’s a welcome departure from the seriousness of life. Laughing is such a wonderful therapy.

If you had an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?

JS: Sleep! Although I try to go to bed early, I feel like I can never get enough sleep.VisitorCenter

How has the experience and on the job training of being a mom/dad prepared or changed you in business?

JS: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I am pretty intense and goal oriented. Motherhood has taught me to expect the unexpected and to embrace it. When my children were very young, there were so many times that my long list of planned errands, tasks, and/or activities were blown right out of the water because of an ear infection or a poorly fastened diaper or even just the realization that whatever it was, wasn’t working. I’ve learned not to get too far ahead of myself.

What is next for you and your business?

JS: I’m hoping to complete the first draft of my book and take on new challenges with RIEEA this spring and summer. For RIFIN, I am looking forward to the next five years and checking out some new hikes!

Further information about RI Families in Nature as well as upcoming hikes can be found at

Photo Credits: Jeanine Silversmith

Today we introduce Susan Pascale-Frechette, owner of Pods Swimming. Pods swimming is a Providence Area swim school for children aged 2 months-9 years. Susan can often be spotted poolside with her two young children (who are amazing swimmers) in tow. She lives in Barrington, Rhode Island with her husband, Marc and two children aged 6 and 4.

Kidoinfo: What inspired you to start your own business?
Susan Pascale-Frechette: Pods originated because I was a swim coach for the Ocean State Squids at Brown University. During the winter of 2006-2007, Brown University closed their pool and since I loved coaching, I felt I could better serve the Providence community by creating my own swim school. The swimmers at Pods are able to learn breath control and body position at 6 months old. It is very exciting to watch these swimmers develop.

Photo Credit: Jamie Pascale

Photo Credit: Jamie Pascale

How do you balance work and family?
Susan: I am fortunate to have a wonderful staff and family who helps me with my children. My sister Jamie is the Pods swimming program manger. She executes all jobs that I need help with every day. My husband Marc is an amazing cook. He prepares most of our family meals. I am also so fortunate to have a reliable, dedicated staff. In my absence, I can trust them. It allows me to be able to work on other aspects of the business.

Please describe a typical day?
Susan: Due to the facility availability of Pods, I do not have a typical day or routine day. Everyday of the week is a different schedule in my household. One day I may bring my children to school, then have an hour to work on the administrative end of Pods. Throughout that day, I may teach for 2 hours, pick up my children and then teach again for a few hours. Another day I may bring my children to school, teach for a few hours, have a meeting, pick them up from school and then take them to an activity and then go back to Pods to teach. I have learned flexibility is the key for myself and my family. Because we are not used to a typical routine, my children are able to adapt to whatever the day brings for us.

Do you have any time-saving tricks that you could share?
Susan: I believe organization is the key. I wake up and hit the ground running. Because every day varies for me, I make daily lists for my home and my business. I focus on the task at hand and complete it, then move onto the next one. I also make sure we have everything organized in my car for the day. Depending on what activity is going on that day and which location I am headed to, determines what I pack for the day.

Photo Credit: Pods

Photo Credit: Pods

If you could give your past self (pre-kids or pre-business) any advice, what would it be?
Susan: I started Pods when my daughter was 1 week old. So pre- business and pre-kids is the same chapter of my life. The advice I would have is learn to be flexible and adaptable. Business life can change by the hour. You have to be ready for anything the day may bring.

Where do you find inspiration?
Susan: I find my inspiration after learning about my own great grandmother, Margaret Lonardo. She was an Italian immigrant who had 5 children and a vision. Along with my great grandfather, Emilo, she owned a cigar store named Leo's on Atwells Avenue for 60 years and also managed apartment buildings. She wanted to give her family opportunity. By building a business and working hard she provided them with great educations. She also made sure she traveled to places she wanted to see and always made sure to prioritize herself. She felt you have to take care of yourself. If you are not happy and taken care of, no one in your household or business will thrive. What I have learned from her example is life does not just happen. You have to set goals for yourself and work hard to reach them.

Photo credit: Pods

Photo credit: Pods

What is the one kid or parent product you could not live without?
Susan: I could not live without baby wipes. They have many multi-purpose uses. I still use them even though Jillian and Evan are 6 and 4.

What is your favorite children's book or music CD?
Susan: Right now, my children's favorite cd's are Fireman Sam and The Little Mermaid.

What is the last great non-kid book or film that you loved?  What made it so great?
Susan: My favorite book that I have read recently, is The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. I enjoyed reading how challenging children, teaching them to learn to be independent and holding them accountable, allows children to learn self awareness and become problem solvers.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Susan: I have to say that a guilty pleasure for me would be having an ice cream sundae for lunch.

Photo credit: Pods

Photo credit: Pods

If you had an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?
Susan: I like to go to the beach. It is the one place I feel I can sit down and relax.

Can you share a story or anecdote that is symbolic of your dual life as a business owner and parent?
Susan: There is overlap when my children have to view a facility with me, watch a movie poolside while I teach a lesson, or have to help transport equipment. It is great that they are able to witness me working. At a young age they have realized you just work hard in order to own a home and live day to day life. It is a great lesson for them to learn. They also have had to learn patience. Life does not revolve around them. Their needs are met, but not instantaneously.

Photo credit: Pods

Photo credit: Pods

How has the experience and on the job training of being a Mom/Dad prepared or changed you in business?
Susan: I think having children of my own, I am better able to relate to swim school parents. I am juggling all of the same things that they are.

What is next for you and your business?
Susan: I would love to see Pods swimming continually educate the children and parents in Rhode Island. Many parents try to do everything for their child so they can to help their child succeed in life. I hope that we can make learning to swim one of the gifts they are giving them.

For more information on Pods swimming, please check out their website.

Home Work: Lessons from Work-at-Home Parents. This series of Kidoinfo interviews with parents, looks at how they manage to squeeze in work time at home (whether working for someone else or running their own business) along with juggling kids, home life, and childcare (or lack of it). Today we introduce Cindy Moser, a proposal writer for a healthcare company. Cindy lives in Cumberland, Rhode Island with her husband and 5 year old son.

Photo Credit: Cindy Moser

Photo Credit: Cindy Moser

How did you start working from home?
Cindy: I had a freelance writing business. The company I work for were one of my clients and I liked the team there, so when they offered a full time job writing business proposals for them that still gave me the flexibility of working from home, I jumped on it.

How do you balance work and family?
Cindy: Ha! Not always successfully! My job is deadline-oriented, so when I’m on a deadline, the family and home-care tasks fall by the wayside, or get picked up by my awesome husband. When I’m not on deadline, I have a lot of flexibility to prioritize the family aspect. It’s still really difficult though. It’s very easy to let work or family “take over” so that you neglect the other side. And when that happens, you can feel either like a bad employee or a bad parent.

Please describe a typical day.
Cindy: I made a few rules for myself when I started working from home. 1. No working in pajamas. 2. Pretend you are going to a real office, just with a short commute. So (ideally), I get up, shower, get my son ready for school and on the school bus. Then I throw in a load of laundry and do the breakfast dishes. By 8:30 or 9, I’m at my desk. Depending on whether I’m on a deadline or not, I will either work all day pretty much straight through, or do whatever administrative/background work needs doing, interspersed with errands, tidying up, the (far too) occasional workout, etc. My son gets off the bus at 3:15 and we have a babysitter watch him for the rest of the afternoon until around 5:30. Then it’s dinner, tub and bed.

Do you have any time-saving tricks that you could share?
Cindy: 1) Make a schedule for the morning and evening and stick to it as best you can. I find that it really helps my stress level to be able to follow a schedule. Also, when I’m not fully caffeinated in the morning, it helps to have it written down so I can make sure I’ve got everything under control. 2) Don’t over-schedule. My son was doing two sports at the same time for a while and it was too much for our family. I’m not really sure how families with multiple kids handle it. 3) Do a load of laundry every day. When you work from home, it’s so easy to take the time you’d use for a coffee break in the office to toss in a load of laundry.

If you could give your past self (pre-kids or pre-business) any advice, what would it be?
Cindy: Don’t judge. Everyone’s situation is different, and everyone is doing the best they can.

Where do you find inspiration?
Cindy: Since I work from home, I am able to get outside almost every day — if only to my back yard. Maybe it’s not really inspiration, but I find being outside in fresh air to be really centering. Just 10 minutes is all it takes for me. I have to remember to do that more consistently now that the weather is getting colder.

What is the one kid or parent product that you could not live without?
Cindy: My son is an early-riser and always has been. We got a My Tot Clock for him when he was very young (still in the crib) and taught him that he can’t get up or call for us until the clock turns yellow in the morning. We use it still today. When we don’t we risk getting up at 5 am. The Tot Clock gets us an extra hour of sleep, which is essential!

What is your favorite children's book or music CD?
Cindy: Oh, wow. So many favorites. Probably Flotsam or Tuesday by David Weisner, but we also just finished Little House in the Big Woods, and my son really liked that.

What do you do with your kids on a rainy day?
Cindy: Since my son is in school, we’re mostly talking about raining weekend days, and while I’d love to say that we go to museums or something like that, often, we end up running errands. If we’re home, we draw, play hallway bowling with random objects, have sword-fights with our foam swords (best Five Below purchase ever) and watch movies.

What is the last great non-kid book or film that you loved? What made it so great?
Cindy: I really liked The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro. It wasn’t the best-written book I’ve ever read, but the story was really compelling and I find the whole Isabella Stuart Gardner heist story fascinating.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Cindy: Chocolate, naturally.

If you had an extra hour each day, what would you do with it?
Cindy: Exercise. It’s the one thing I regret not having enough time for. I always feel better when I do it, but I’m so inconsistent about it.

Can you share a story or anecdote that is symbolic of your dual life as a business owner and a mother/father?
Cindy: One time I had an imminent deadline. I needed input from a subject matter expert on the software my company sells, so I was on the phone, but it was also shortly before dinner time, so I remember being on the phone, on my headset, while pounding out chicken breasts with a mallet. I pulled it off well, but you’re always doing two things at once, which is tricky.

How has the experience and on the job training of being a mom/dad prepared or changed you in business?
Cindy: It’s definitely made me more generous and understanding. I used to be pretty unforgiving when people’s lives collided with their work responsibilities. Now, having been there, I get that it’s always a juggling act to get through each day.

Joe&Sparky_low_res_coverJoe and Sparky Go To School Book Launch Party!
By Jamie Michalak, Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
A hilarious back-to-school adventure–inspired by a Rhode Island school!
When: Saturday, September 7 from 1-3pm.
Where: Barrington Books- 184 County Rd, Barrington, RI 02806
Cost: FREE

Joe and Sparky Go to School is the third book in the Joe and Sparky series. Reviewers have compared the unlikely pair to Frog and Toad, Bert and Ernie, and Amelia Bedelia. How would you describe Joe and Sparky?

Jamie: Joe Giraffe is a thrill-seeker who likes to stretch his neck and see the world. Sparky Turtle, his safety-conscious buddy, would rather hide in his shell. Of course, Joe won’t let him, and so together they get into endless trouble. Especially when they pose as students in an elementary school.

Is it true that Joe and Sparky Go to School was inspired by a Rhode Island school?

JamiecolorJamie: Yes! After spending time with kids in elementary schools as a visiting author, I wanted
to see what would happen if Joe and Sparky went to school, too. But I was stumped on the story’s conflict until my son came home from Sowams School, in Barrington, wearing a star sticker as part of their S.T.A.R. incentive program. (Students earn stars throughout the day for doing good deeds.) Aha! I thought. Joe and Sparky will each try to earn stars, with Sparky succeeding and Joe, well, not so much.

I hear that the class pet in the story is based on an actual Barrington resident.

Jamie: Yes. Rudy, the Guinea pig who lives in the Children’s Department of the Barrington Public Library, makes a cameo appearance. Kids love Rudy.
Speaking of kids, you have two boys, ages 7 and 9. Do they provide any inspiration for your writing?

Jamie: Absolutely! They’re always giving me ideas for stories. Being young boys, they’d been asking me for years to write a scene about Joe and Sparky in a bathroom. So Joe and Sparky now spend an entire chapter in the boys’ restroom—making toilet paper scarves and discovering that schools have a “magic pond.” (The water disappears, and then . . . it magically comes back again!)

What’s it like to work with Frank Remkiewicz, best-selling illustrator of the Froggy picture books?

Jamie: A dream! When I first saw Frank’s hilarious sketches for Joe and Sparky Go to School, I laughed out loud at every page. He totally gets the story’s humor, and I always love seeing how he’ll extend the text with visual jokes.

What’s the target age group for the Joe and Sparky series?

Jamie: Ages 4 to 8. The books are Early Readers, which means they’re heavily illustrated with four short chapters and a limited vocabulary. So you can read them aloud to younger children, while older kids can enjoy them independently. They’re especially recommended for reluctant readers.

How did you come up with all of the funny elementary school sayings that the teacher, Miss Hootie, uses in the book?

Jamie: I asked a group of my teacher friends for the expressions they use most often to get children’s attention in class. Teachers have the best sayings. Like “Clap your hands, stomp your feet, put your bottom in your seat!”

Barrington Books is hosting the official Joe and Sparky Go to School launch party on Saturday, September 7 from 1-3 p.m. What can kids expect?

Jamie: Cupcakes, giveaways, face painting, crafts, games, and treats! We’ll also be raffling off a school author visit and signed books for the winner’s classroom. It’s a back-to- school celebration. And who knows? Maybe the party’s guests will inspire the next Joe and Sparky book!

By Bernadette Noll

Of course the song says it’s easy. And in our hearts and minds we really want it to be, but in reality, easy can take some planning. When everyone’s in school for months on end, we can idealize the long summer days, the day trips, the stack of books we’ll read, and all the people we’ll see, now that our schedules are free from school and all its commitments.craftzine summer intentions

But when the reality hits, it can be more than frustrating when we realize the extra meals necessary, the messes left in every room, and the days that turn into weeks that turn into months where the things we have on our mental to-do list just don’t get done; even when the to-dos are fun things.

bio pic square bigSo here, in no particular order, are 10 things you can do to help you make your summer more joyful, more intentional and more full of the things you want to do, the people you want to see, and the places you want to go...
  1. Celebrate the transition. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or expensive. It can be as simple as berries and whipped cream for supper or an evening outing to the playground. Talk about the highs of the school year and dream about the summer ahead.
  2. Make a Summer Intentions Poster. A few years ago, I co-created this summer intentions project as a who/what/where and when for summer plans. It can be as crafty as this one or as simple as a piece of cardboard the idea being that you have a place to turn when inspiration needs a little jump.
  3. Embrace boredom. At the same time that we need to set some intentions, we can also allow a little boredom. Sometimes when my kids are bored I think I need to fix it. Instead I’ll  embrace it as the incubator for creativity, new projects, and brand new recipes or their next brilliant idea.
  4. Create a list of summertime responsibilities. These might be new things or reminders from last year. Daily or weekly. Things like hanging up your own beach towel or cleaning up your own mess in the kitchen. Hang them somewhere visible, in prominent and likely places.
  5. Perfect the blitz. Though messes are more in the summer, so is the desire to let it go a little more. In my book, Slow Family Living; 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect and Create More Joy, there is a method called The Blitz. This is a way of tidying the house in just 15 minutes, all hands on deck, timer set, so you can get it done all together and move onto more important things like hanging out. There is no time like summer for implementing this great tool for getting things done.
  6. Determine summer screen rules. Figure out what will work for you and get input from your children too. In our house we each have a certain amount of solo screen time and certain hours of the day that are completely screen free and even one day reserved for all-the-screens-you-can-watch.
  7. Hang a big summer calendar. Sure your virtual calendar is great but for the sake of stirring up some fun anticipation, create or buy a giant paper calendar with ample room for lots of fun.
  8. Laze about. In all the planning and plotting and intention setting, allow a little room for lazy afternoons. For your kids and for yourself as well. The older our kids get, the harder they work during the school year, so let summer serve as a time for them to recalibrate, rest, relax and fully integrate all the information that is constantly coming at them.
  9. Anticipate joy. This is my own personal goal after a gentle reminder from my 13 year-old. When I walk into a room where my kids are playing or hanging out, I will try to remember to anticipate that all is well.
  10.  Get outside! I am convinced that parenting is easier outside. And though I’m an advocate all year long, I am especially a fan of parenting outside on a hot day right next to some body of water — be it baby pool, ocean or something in between!

Bernadette Noll is a freelance writer and the author of the book “Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy”. She lives in Austin, Tex., with her husband, Kenny, and her four children. Find her on Twitter @Slowfamilymama and at

Today, I introduce a new food & family interview series with Skill It. - Anisa

Feeding Traditions is a series of interviews that explore the rich connections between food & family. When we talk about food, we are often talking about our history, culture, and traditions.  Why do we eat what we eat?  Who taught us how to cook?  What recipes are linked in our minds with special occasions and everyday dinners? And what memories and skills do we hope to pass on to our children?

Feeding Traditions will give us a peek into our neighbors’ kitchens and celebrates the work we do to gather our loved ones around the dinner table. And it highlights the memories we all have formed around spending time with friends, family, and food.

Today Skill It interviews Line Daems. Line lives in Arlington MA with her husband and two children, ages 15 and 17. She is the co-owner of Kreatelier, an innovative textile product design studio, located on Hope Street in Providence RI, that sells their own originally designed products, handmade works by other artists, and a select group of other well-designed items including; bike baskets, totes, toys and organizers. They also provide home interior services and there is a beautiful space for classes and birthday parties.

Skill It: How would you describe your food culture and traditions?

Line: I’m Belgian and also lived in Germany and France before moving to the US. Living in different countries has given me different views. Wherever I lived I enjoyed getting to know local dishes together with friends and family. Eating together has always been a way to spend time with each other and celebrate important occasions. I guess we share traditions from everywhere, so we appreciate long sit down dinners with several courses and good wines, but also simple, easy, last-minute or potluck meals. Having fresh ingredients to prepare healthy meals has always been important.

Skill It: What is your earliest memory of family dinners?

Line: I have always had family dinners, and the evening sit down dinner has always been a time for catching up and making plans.

Skill It: How old were you when you first made something on your own in the kitchen?  What was it?

Line: I was 6 and made a cake on my own. I had received a children’s cookbook with simple step-by-step recipes and proudly made all of them. I strongly believe that if children are exposed to cooking and get some guidance, they are capable of creating lots of dishes!

Skill It: Who taught you how to cook?

My mother, grandmother & some wonderful cook books.

Skill It: How do you balance work, food and family?

Line: I don’t think I have been able to perfectly balance work, food, and family. I came to the conclusion that it all depends on how you want to live, what you want to do, and what is important to you. So sometimes I just have to accept the imbalance. In our family, food and family meals are important. Depending on all our schedules, some days will be more balanced than others. Breakfast and lunch are easy. There is always fresh food to make a simple healthy breakfast or lunch and this can take as much time as we decide we have. Family dinner can be tricky. We came up with a system that the 4 of us have to cook dinner at least one evening. This works well most of the time. It requires some organization but at the end it is great not to be in charge of dinner every day. My husband and I do the grocery shopping. We usually spend more time at the table during weekends which is nice to catch up with each other. I try to plan free time to spend with my family but work for Kreatelier often interferes. I love my business and work and sometimes have a hard time balancing it with family life.

Skill It: What meal do you “pull out of thin air” when you come home late without a plan for dinner?

Line: A simple salad with fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, lettuce, chicken breast, depending on what is available, accompanied by bread. Risotto is also a quick and easy meal that can be modified depending on what’s available in the kitchen. Cheese and bread is always quickly arranged. We recently bought a panini machine. It is great to combine whatever is available, add some fresh herbs and create a warm delicious panini accompanied with a salad! Pasta with pesto & some freshly grated parmesan is also one of our favorite quick dinners. You can see that we are used to pulling a meal out of thin air quite a lot…

Skill It: What is your favorite comfort food?  Is it a family recipe?

Homemade minestrone soup using fresh vegetables and herbs accompanied with warm bread. This is such a delicious soup and the kids can warm up a bowl when we are not at home.

Skill It: Do you have a traditional recipe from your childhood that you still make for special occasions or holidays today?

Line: Chicken slowly cooked with Belgian endives served with French gratin potatoes. The basic recipe is light cream, curry, chicken tenders & Belgian endives cooked together slowly for 2-3 hours. Children typically don’t like Belgian endives but in this dish, the bitter taste of the endives is gone.

Skill It: As a parent, what one dish have you learned will bring the whole family running to the dinner table?

Pasta with fresh home-made pesto (basil and spinach), oven baked tomatoes and grated cheese.

Skill It: Where do you find inspiration, culinary or otherwise?

Line: Everywhere! When something captures my attention in magazines, restaurants, during dinners at a friend’s house, or when traveling, I immediately make a note to remind myself of simple and wonderful ideas, culinary or otherwise!

Skill It: Have your children expressed an interest in helping in the kitchen? What have you taught them to make?

Line: Yes, both children love to cook and experiment. It is clear to them that we all are busy and this will probably never change, so the habit of helping and cooking in the kitchen is indispensable. The first thing they learned was baking eggs and making smoothies. Now, they can make pasta and rice dishes and love to experiment with the food available and leftovers, something we do a lot!

Skill It: What do you hope your children will learn about food from you?

Line: I hope they learned and will keep up with the importance of buying and eating fresh food. It seems easier to order take-out food or buy ready-made food (with artificial flavors etc) and not bothering cooking to save time, but it’s not. In fact, time should be reserved to prepare and eat a fresh meal; it should be part of the day. Getting together to cook and have meals with family and friends are the most precious and important moments in life!

Skill It: Is there a piece of kitchen or cooking advice you would like to share with other families?

Line: I think it is important to always have certain basic food available in the kitchen, and then be creative in using whatever is there. We always make sure we have fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh bread (that we make ourselves), herbs, fresh cheese, pasta and rice, olive oil, milk and butter. Nothing can go wrong. We have different herbs and some vegetables in pots on our deck which we can see from the kitchen. It is inspiring and they are used every day in different ways. It is important that every family member feels responsible and is involved in cooking so it never becomes a stress factor for one person.

Skill It: Is there a question you ask your kids at the dinner table most nights?

Line: "How was your day?"

Skill It: What one thing about food and eating do you most want to teach your children?

Line: Buying and eating fresh local food and making time to cook and eat are an important part of taking care of yourself, the people around you, and your environment.

I would like to welcome new contributing writer, Carolyn Dalgliesh, a professional organizer and “sensory” mom. She is the founder & owner of Systems for Sensory Kids, a leading-edge organizing model that teaches parents how to tap into systems, routines, and visual aids to organize and empower their rigid, anxious, and/or distracted children. Carolyn also does professional home and small business organizing through Simple Organizing Strategies. A native Rhode Islander, she lives in North Kingstown with her husband and two children. Although I long for a break from the school-year bustle, “sensoy” kids and others often benefit (and even thrive) on a bit of structure. I welcome Carolyn’s advice on how to “organize” our summer. - Anisa

We all crave those lazy days of summer, especially kids as summer means less work and more fun! While many "sensory" kids (like those with anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADD/ADHD, Asperger's, learning challenges, or Sensory Processing Disorder) are relieved to have less stress and academic work, the summer brings up a common challenge- managing unplanned and unstructured time.  The good news is you can help all types of sensory kids manage summer downtime with a few simple tools.

Managing Unplanned Days

Our main goal here is to provide a visual map, set expectations ahead of time, and give some choices.  These tools help our distracted child stay on task, help our anxious/overwhelmed child know what to expect, and help our rigid child know the mix of desired and undesired activities.

Tap into simple strategies to help your "sensory" child this summer - map it out, set expectations, and provide visual choices for the sometimes  challenging downtime.  Here’s to simple sensory solutions for peaceful summer days!

Totally awed and humbled that I've been granted "Superhero" status thanks to the folks at Batchbook. In honor of National Small Business Week, they selected me as one of their customers they feel deserved this award because of "my unflinching work to make the small business universe a better place." Although I'm not in the same league as The Avengers (as my sons pointed out, since I do not have a cool suit like Iron Man or Black Widow and I did not gross a bazillion dollars last weekend), I try my best to make my community a better place by connecting families with local happenings and fun things to do with their kids offline. I first learned about Batchbook shortly after I launched Kidoinfo and realized I needed a better way to manage the myriad of people I meet on the playground, around town, and online. Thanks to Batchbook, I have made many new friends and business connections and am able to manage these connections to better run my business.

As a thank you, Batchbook delivered these awesome cupcakes to my doorstep yesterday. Deliciously made by Sin. Read about all five Superheros here.

From the Batchbook blog
Superhero Contest Winner: Kidoinfo

Our Superhero of the day is our longest running Batchbook customer (not counting my own account and my mom’s). Anisa Raoof, founder and Editor-in-Chief of, first learned of Batchbook at our alpha launch in May 2007 at the local Providence Geeks meeting. And she has been helping us build, brainstorm and improve our product ever since.

You may have noticed that we are honoring Superheroes who not only are pursuing a life passion, but who have been successful in building a sustainable business around that passion. It has been a joy watching and benefiting from never ending stream of useful information that Anisa’s Kidoinfo website and events generate. Started in 2007, is an online parents’ guide to Providence, R.I., brimming with information, creative ideas, things to do, places to go and links to local family resources. It is the go-to resource for the Providence kid-friendly scene and now the trusted partner of the local children’s and art museums.

Anisa and her Kidoinfo family have created an exciting community here in Providence dedicated to sharing information and creative ideas for families of all shapes and sizes. Her business has become an invaluable resource for families and is a critical tool for local venues to get the word out about the offerings they have for the Providence community. She works with an army of well versed parents to gather information and share it with the community. The mother of 10 year old twin boys (who produced and directed Batchbook’s one and only commercial film), Anisa has built an amazing business around her family, her community and her love of both.

Superhero: Super Hip Mom
Superpower: Work/life consolidation
Headquarters: Her imagination
Sidekicks: The wonder twins
Motto: Make parenting easier, fun and cool.

Meet Teny Gross. Read his Meet-A-Parent (MAP) interview here.

traditions: tips / resources

1. Jewish stories from the PJ library program
2. Temple Emanuel website:
3. We read to our kids every night.
4. We go on nature walks.
5. We work in our garden.
6. We go to peace events.
7. We vote together.
8. We have an annual block party and community pot lucks.
9. The kids see us sharing with neighbors.
10. We have an open garden and open home philosophy with our neighbors, sharing food and cultures.
11. Our kids go to the International Charter School where they learn to speak Portuguese and are immersed in Portuguese culture.
12. We do not hit our kids.
13. We are not afraid to set limits, bed time, homework time, appropriate behavior etc.
15. We incorporate traditions from multiple cultures in our family by doing Jewish, Christian and secular stuff, and spending time with people from many cultures.

alternatives to participating in traditional holidays and commercialism:

- Set limits and establish a sense of proportion. Holidays always evolve, and are a mix of traditions (Christian holidays for example are a mix with Roman traditions). Our kids write letters to Santa and know that they will get 1 gift from Santa only and a few from us.  (Luckily for the kids, their grandmothers do not always comply.)
- We get our Christmas tree on the weekend of our anniversary to share this special time with the kids.  We buy the tree that we think no one else will pick.  We choose the one that is crooked or homely so it has a home for the holiday.
- We do not give presents for Channuka.  We celebrate the Jewish traditions in a noncommercial way.

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