Archive for the 'arts & crafts' Category

6 Snow-Day Pick-Me-Ups


DP in a cake? Why the hell not.

I’m back! Sort of. At least a version of me is — making a brief appearance.

It’s the first real snow of the winter.

And you know how I feel about that.

So, in the interest of maintaining my sanity, in true form, I’m turning to lighthearted distractions.

Current pick-me-ups include:

* this Dr. Pepper Oatmeal Cake with Coconut-Pecan Topping via Homesick Texan.

* Norma Kamali’s new line of adorable LBD’s (for every body type!) under $100.

* these kid-crafty DIY Chunky Bead & Button necklaces via Curious Jane + momfilter.

* this adorable Reine Mere Peg + Chalk Board from Basic French.

Reine Mere Peg + Chalk Board

I want. In my kitchen. Now.

* these Chelsea Heel Boots from Marais USA (I’m generally anti-ankle boots, but these I think I could get behind.)

Chelsea Heel Boot

* just knowing there’s the new AB-FAB waiting for me on DVR.

Stay warm! Fingers crossed the Year of the Dragon has some good sh*t in store.

I’m ready.



Portrait Press Fundraising: A Fun, Creative School Fundraiser

Portrait Press Fundraising

A cute tea towel with kids' original artwork? Yes!

As you know, we’re fond of creative school fundraising ideas around here. Remember that little event we planned back in April called Touch a Truck Brooklyn? Yeah, I thought so. We maybe mentioned it once or twice…. It was a big success, which was wonderful — we were so thrilled that everyone’s hard work paid off, that the kids had a great time, and that we made a nice amount of money to support the arts at our school! — but it was a LOT of work and required months of intense planning.

With the continued threat of major budget cuts these days, NYC parents with kids in public school are constantly on the lookout for creative, new ways to raise money, and you want to get the work-to-payoff ratio right. So I was thrilled to discover this year that fellow Brooklyn mom and P.S. 295 parent Monica Thurnauer had started a new business to do just that — help families fundraise in a more meaningful way. With that mission, Portrait Press Fundraising was born. We tried her concept at our school this year with fabulous, parent-pleasing results (see the photo above). You should, too!

Meet Monica — and Portrait Press!

Monica with kids

So, tell me how Portrait Press came to be.

When my daughter Frances, now in second grade, started school, I had no idea how much fundraising the PTA was expected to do. Being an enthusiastic new parent, I wanted to do my part, so I ordered a lot of school T-shirts for our family and various relatives. But after a couple of years, the T-shirts just started piling up in the closet—like I’m sure they do in a lot of other closets, too. That’s when I remembered a fundraiser from my own childhood that I absolutely loved. My mother, a principal in the UK, used to give it to me each year for Christmas: a portrait tea towel, or dish towel, as you’d call it here [a dish towel with kids’ original artwork on it]. It was useful and practical, but it was also quite creative and celebrated the community more than the usual school merchandise.

I decided to do the same thing for Frances’s class as a memento for the end of her first grade year. It turned out really cute, and the kids and parents seemed to get a kick out of it. When friends at other schools liked it and wanted to do something similar, I thought why not put up a website so that other PTAs could have their own Portrait Press Fundraisers. I still call them “tea towels”—it sounds a little nicer than dish towel!—and I’ve also added pillow cases and tote bags, too.

How does is work?

We worked hard to make the process as easy as possible. Basically, the parent who’s acting as coordinator for the project signs up on our website to receive the free kit in the mail. Once that arrives, they visit the classrooms and have the kids draw little self-portraits on small pieces of paper. When these are done, the parent coordinator sticks them onto the template included in the kit and mails it back to us. We email back a proof of the finished design; once this has been approved, we print it on the product of their choice (tea towel, pillow case, tote bag) in the quantity of their choice.

Just to make the process super-clear, I’m currently working on a video to post on our website to show how it works from start to finish. It won’t be in 3D or anything, but it should make it pretty foolproof.

How much time and effort is involved on the part of the parents organizing a Portrait Press fundraiser for their school?

It doesn’t take much time at all. Once you get the kit, the creative part in the classroom takes about 15 minutes for each class that’s involved. To arrange the drawings on the template takes another 10 – 15 minutes, and from there all you have to do is pop it in the mail back to us.

It’s very easy, and the students have a good time making their drawings, but most of all it’s a lot of fun to have an excuse to go into the classroom and interact with the kids. I really enjoyed that part of making the products for our school.

About how much does it cost the school (for production, etc.), and how much can a school expect to earn?

I’m very committed to setting the pricing so schools can at least double their investment. When I researched other fundraising products, I was surprised to see fundraisers where schools only stood to gain 25 – 33% profit from their efforts. Let’s say you want to do a pillow case with 150 portraits on it. The unit cost for 150 pillow cases—one per child—is $7.50 each, so the school can sell it for $15.

That being said, I’ve been surprised to see that some schools are choosing to make one of our products just to celebrate the graduation of a year and not as a fundraiser, in which case they can cover their costs while offering the products at a really low price.

I’m so impressed that you’ve launched a business to support our schools and children! Is this undertaking your new full-time job, and is it hard to fit in around family life?

I’ve been working the whole time I’ve had kids, which makes doing things around family life a challenge, as I’m sure any working parent can relate to! Launching Portrait Press Fundraising is my main professional focus now, and my hope is that this will help me maintain a good family/work balance. The idea is that it will revolve around the school year, so summers will be slow and I’ll be free to be with the kids. Of course, in reality I’m sure there will always be things to do, but it still beats spending the summer in an office missing my babies.

Another important part of the business for me was that it have a social agenda. I wanted to show my own kids that we should work to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. When I hit on the idea of using profits to establish grants for the arts in schools and for overseas organizations that support education, I started really getting excited about developing the business [a portion of the proceeds from each Portrait Press Fundraiser will go towards a grant to support an arts education project] . That was the missing link for me, to tie in the company with the community for which it was designed and even beyond. Hopefully, as the business develops, it’ll be possible to communicate the values I want to promote more strongly to the kids that make the products, and there can be some really great creative collaborations happening.

The tea towels and bags that the kids made at our school were so adorable! Obviously, it’s a great idea and I hope other NYC schools will use Portrait Press, too, as a fundraiser — but it’s a fab project for any school! How are you getting the word out to parents nationally about Portrait Press?

Before having kids I worked in PR, back when PR just meant TV, radio and print. Now, marketing this project, I can’t believe how the channels for getting a story out there are pretty near infinite with the Internet. Wonderful blogs like yours are going to be really key. There is a ton of value in having real moms vet your product and give it their seal of approval, so I will be reaching out to like-minded, green, socially conscious blogging moms.

But there are also more conventional trade shows specifically for school fundraising. I took the show on the road in May and showed Portrait Press at a couple of these—it was my first experience of putting the product out there. Luckily, there were a lot of PTAs that loved and really “got” the concept. It was very cool for me to have moms tell me they loved it because of the creativity and the community angle, and also because the profits would go toward a grant, which really made it meaningful for them. Hearing my values echoed back at me from my customers was very gratifying! It’s going to be quite an adventure, and I’m thrilled for it to be underway.

Thanks, Monica! Amazing, inspiring, creative, smart — love Portrait Press, love that it was founded by a Brooklyn mom, and hope PTAs near and far will be jumping on board to fundraise with PP at their school!

Learn more on having a Portrait Press Fundraiser at your kid’s school.

Portrait Press Fundraising


Memorial Day Weekend, 2011: Governors Island, Baby!

Governors Island

Didn’t make it to Governors Island with your family last summer? Well, GET ON IT this year, people — it opens for the season this weekend!

Bike-riding, picnics, art, crafts for the kids, mini-golf, hammocks, giant swings, special events (there’s a Family Festival on tomorrow), a castle, fishing, and more. Major fun in the sun. Plus a ferry ride over and back!

Get the detailed scoop on everything to do from Mommy Poppins.

See you there!

May 21 & 22: Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas

Red Hook Lobster Pound

Photo via Red Hook Lobster Pound

We’re away this weekend, but if we weren’t, here’s what we’d be doing:

* ABTKids — The American Ballet Theater is hosting a special Saturday event featuring highlights from its spring season, plus a special appearance by Angelina Ballerina. At an hour long, this seems the perfect way to introduce little kids to the talented dancers at Lincoln Center. M. would LOVE it. via The New York Times

* Post ballet, come back to Brooklyn and spend a few quality afternoon hours at Smorgasburg, the fab new food-fest from The Brooklyn Fleasters. How excited am I that they’re launching this weekly event? VERY. There will be 100+ food vendors there, including the Red Hook Lobster Pound, (that’s one of their divine lobster rolls pictured above), Pizza Moto, Country Boys Tacos, Porchetta, and many more, both known and new. On the menu: fresh oysters, dumplings, ice pops, doughnuts, hello-summer-lobster-rolls, pork sandwiches, fish tacos, pupusas, hamburgers, sausages, sesame noodles, salads, and a whole slew of other delish stuff. Something to please every hungry member of your fam. Plus NYC chefs, Greenmarket farmers, and many manner of food purveyors selling yummy-ness to take home. Good times all around. And…. One of my favorite tot-spots, Moomah, will be conducting weekly kids-craft activities to divert the little ones while you and your partner take turns browsing and sampling.

Heck, yeah.

Happy weekend!

Great Valentine’s Day Cards for Kids

Why hit up the drug store when the creative folks on Etsy are churning out the CUTEST Valentine’s cards? Some of my favorites:

From Westmama in Portland, Oregon, a set of 24 modern cuties (5 cards each of the four designs) for $10. I love the letterpress look and rounded edges:

Itsybitsy Paper out of Greensboro, North Carolina has some sweet options you could personalize with your child’s name. These robots are fun and could be gender-neutral:

$20 for 24, plus 2 bonus teacher's cards

For those of you with horse-crazy kids (or if you’re just nostalgic for the cards we passed around when we were in grade school), Whatever Fits offers vintage-inspired Valentines — 20 cards, 4 different designs (only one shown here) plus a teacher’s card for $10:

Cowboy Horse Valentine's Cards from Whatever Fits

I’m intrigued by the Valentine’s cards from Olliegraphic that Melisa blogged about last week. They are completely customizable: age, hair, eye color, message, and much more can be set to match your bubs. Sweet Girl, below, is one of the cards available. Olliegraphic’s prices are a bit more expensive, but these cards are large enough to mail, and can be personalized with more than just a name. As a bonus, 10% of the proceeds from the sale goes to the Children’s Heart Foundation.

Sweet Girl cards, Olliegraphic, $33 for 20

6 Things to Do with the Kids in New York City During Christmas Break

Christmas break = fun, presents, and holiday food, but it also means no school. You’ll be staring down long cold-weather days with the kids, and I bet you’re starting to sweat it (all the new toys can only take you so far). I’m giving the sitch some advance thought so I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Here’s my list of things to do — let me hear what’s on yours, too!

Moomah craft

Let your kids create a winter log cabin at Moomah in Tribeca.

Make a cool craft at Moomah

We do a lot of easy, homespun crafts, so I decided to take a look around for a cute one to do over the holidays. A real project, rather than the usual I-make-it-up-as-I-go BS. I looked. And I looked some more. But, I have to say, I was freaking intimidated by most of what I saw out there. I just cannot see myself doing all of the necessary prep — buying tons of special materials, measuring and cutting, even sewing for God’s sake. So screw it. Let’s go to Cafe Moomah instead, where I can pay for a genius, way-creative project that someone else has come up with! (Check out the cool winter log cabin above — impressive, huh? ) All of the materials are there for you. And there’s staff on hand to help direct the kids. And there’s good coffee.

Take the kids to see MOMENTUM at the New Victory Theater

Live music, dance moves, cool visual effects — sounds awesome! It runs through January 2 and is suitable for the whole fam. Buy tix here.

Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes (photo: Kevin @ Closet Cooking)

Make dinner with the kids

On the menu: Sloppy Joes from Dinner: A Love Story. At dinnertime, I am usually shooing the kids out of the kitchen so I can focus and get food on the table ASAP. But during the holidays, when we don’t have to stick to such a strict dinner-bath-book-bed sked, maybe I can loosen up a little. I know they’d love to help make a dinner from A to Z, and this looks like an easy recipe to try the “cooking with kids” thing out with.

Hit a museum during free museum hours

NewYorkology has a great, updated list of museums and cultural institutions that have free or pay-what-you-wish days and times during the winter.

Big Apple Circus

Go see the Big Apple Circus

I’ve heard for ages how great the Big Apple Circus is; now may be the time to try it out. Mommy Poppins says this season’s show is fun and “fast-paced… with one surprise after another.” Also, that it’s small and intimate. I think the kids would love it.

Blue Bell ice cream

(flickr photo: jonny.hunter)

Head to Hill Country Barbecue

In case you missed it, I’m from Texas. And I can tell you Hill Country Barbecue is the real deal — the dry-rub brisket and sausage from legendary Kreuz Market in Lockhart never disappoint. Lots of sides, a huge open space, and Blue Bell Ice Cream for dessert (yep, it’s made in Texas) make it a super-easy lunch spot with kids. Weather permitting, you can let them romp for a few minutes before or after in the not-too-far-away playground in Madison Square Park.

Have fun!

Other ideas for cold-weather fun:

Children’s Museum of the Arts

Brooklyn’s BounceU

The Polar Express 4-D Experience at The Bronx Zoo

(Sloppy Joes photo, Closet Cooking)

November 6 – 7: Weekend Links for Brooklyn Mamas

tiny prints JOY

from tiny prints, "Snow Spangled" in red.

October and Halloween are behind us now, which means you know what — time to start thinking about holiday cards! I know, it seems harsh. Lucky for me, I have a wife who loves thinking about this stuff. She doesn’t find it at all overwhelming. Amazing, isn’t it?

Anyway, like it or not, it’s time, so check out the awesome round-up of some of the cutest holiday cards from tiny prints, minted, and others over at Mom Finds.

And look at these adorable personalized greeting cards that @DailyCandyKids Tweeted about earlier this week. Click around a little bit — you get to choose your child’s hair and eye color, hair style, expression, clothes, and more in a cute illustration. Sort of like creating a personalized paper doll of your child. I find them oddly appealing.

More things I liked this week….

Oh, the pre-baby preconceptions we have about what kind of parents we’ll be and what kind of kids we’ll have…. Then you actually have the little sh*ts and you’ve got to deal with reality. See what the adhocMOMS have to say about the whole sad situation (it’s very funny and involves Mini Boden. You will like.)

Winter’s coming — you need access to awesome indoor activities at your immediate disposal. So is the Trailblazer membership to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum worth it? Brooklyn Based spells it out for you (and I’m leaning towards “yes.”)

And if you’re looking for a fun indoor activity for Sunday, consider this unusually cool one: Fall Family Day at the Museum at Eldridge Street, via Mommy Poppins. Check out a beautiful, brand-new stained glass window designed by Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans and let kids enjoy hands-on art activities, including making their very own rose window.

Happy weekend!


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