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2009 September | giggle blogs | giggle Blogs

Archive: September 2009

September 30, 2009

Famille Summerbelle Paper Cut Maps

These paper cut maps from Famille Summerbelle are beautiful. Available in London, Paris and soon NYC, they all have wonderful character details of each city including landmarks, people and neighborhoods. I’m very tempted to get one for Ezra’s room.


September 29, 2009


After a week traveling in Europe, I am once again humbled by the linguistic abilities of the rest of the world. As Americans, we are spoiled that the global community has adopted English as its second language of choice. My wife and I have long wished our son would learn a second language while he still has the gift of a young and sponge-like mind.

 We came out of the gates strong. After a few months at home with our newborn son we both had to return to work and thus needed some help. We were lucky that we were close enough that my mom could take him two days a week but a nanny was still needed for the other three days. We found a wonderful Nicaraguan nanny that we insisted speak only Spanish to him.  He (and we) enjoyed this three day a week immersion for over a year. We added to this reading at least half his books to him in Spanish and we were well on our way to bilingual bliss.

 As they always do, circumstances changed upsetting the apple cart in a big way. Fast forward to years later with us in New York and a trip to Chevy’s being the closest we get to Spanish in our house. To be fair, my wife has high school Spanish in her back pocket and can speak the language better than she gives herself credit for. I have what remains of my Spanish learned from children’s books including foods, farm animals and clothes. Not super helpful.

 As we reveled in our return from Europe and the inevitable silliness with our little man, we came across a new version of an old game, the tickle game.  Everyone knows this game where we tickle our little one until they are hysterically gasping for mercy after which they want it to immediately restart.  As a newly traveled man of the world, this time I insisted that all begging for mercy or any other form of communication be done in Spanish. Amazing how fast your six year old (or probably anyone being tickle-tortured) can learn words while laughing like a hyena who can’t breathe and trying to remember to say “tio” (uncle) or “no mas” (no more). So while my wife and I dream of our house sounding like a United Nations General Meeting, maybe we can just laugh ourselves a few steps closer to a bilingual household.

September 29, 2009

Daddy Moseley

What fun to see Jonny Moseley (he and his wife, Malia, prepared to give birth with McMoyler Method in SF) at the Bay Club in Marin, where he was working up a sweat in the weight room — literally propelling himself from one corner of the room to the other!

Trying to respect his work-out time as well as his celebrity status, I approached him and said “are you Baby Moseley’s Dad?” He responded with his million dollar smile and we went on to chat about life with Jack, who at two, is evidently zooming faster than even Jonny can keep up with!

September 28, 2009

Why I Got Into Designing Nursery Furniture

Come, I want to show you something. I want you to see the room that got me into the children’s furniture business.

View of the childrens playroom on the 'Normandie', from 'L'Illustration' magazine, 1935

View of the childrens playroom on the 'Normandie', from 'L'Illustration' magazine, 1935

There’s not a lot the French didn’t do right in the 1930′s, and the whole “l’art moderne” modernist movement was distilled into the design of the great ocean liner Normandie. The interiors of this ship epitomize the best of 1930′s modernism, and continue to exert a profound influence on design today. The spell they cast is compelling in part because of their too brief moment in the world: launched in 1935, the Normandie was destroyed by fire at her NY pier in 1942. So these are sort of ghost rooms, like an Astaire/Rogers movie set. They did exist, but so fleetingly we never got to see them grow old. They are always in that mythic newborn state, where you can almost smell the fresh paint. This makes them easy to dream about.

For me, right up there with the famous 300-foot long Dining Room, and the Winter Garden, is this—the Children’s Playroom. I remember thinking about this image, which I had seen in books as a child, and it cast a strange spell over me in which I became convinced that this must have been the most fun possible environment ever constructed. It helped with the fantasy component that it was on a ship. Later, as an adult when I was asked to do a really wonderful nursery for a decorating client, this was the room I brought them and said “Let’s do something that makes you and your child feel the way I do when I look at this.”

And soon after that, in 2002 when I started designing my first line of baby furniture—Moderne, named appropriately to channel this image and everything it stood for—this was the room I designed that furniture to go into. Look at the combination of sophisticated architecture with playful decorative overlay:

On the curving wall, with straight-up ocean liner windows and modernist sconces which could be anywhere, a painted large-scale yellow grid suggests a trellis which disguises the scale of the room and makes it shrink, seeming kid-sized. It also looks like maybe a child painted it on his own, as does the sweet climbing plant illustration over by the puppet theatre…

But not on this ship: At the top of the room, instead of a crown molding, the frieze of trunk-to-tail Babars was painted by Laurent de Brunhoff himself. The playful script which runs between the images is the epitome of both stylishness and innocence, a combination of things which I think this room does extremely well.

Up on the ceiling, a disciplined layout of rather utilitarian modern light fixtures interplays with a very cheerful painted moon and stars, as though those two things were always intended to work together…glass globes and the mural which picks up their pattern.

Which came first?

I don’t know what those big blue designs are on the carpet—maybe birds, as I think I see some feet—but you KNOW they’re something great. Not one part of this room was overlooked in being designed to provoke games, giggle or wondrous contemplation.

Here’s the thing about the success of all this in the Playroom on the Normandie: It is not dumbed down because of its being for the use of children, and those children will not have one bit less fun in it because of the sophistication of its design. This is precisely what I hope Netto furniture has been about, and this is the room that got me thinking about that design goal in furniture for children. There’s a very successful marriage here between the sleek and the handmade which I think is one of the most elusive things to pursue in product design—but especially in the case of children’s products, one of the most worthwhile. I wanted to write my first blog entry as a love letter to this Lost Room on this Magical Ship because I owe it the most. More than almost any other picture I have carried in my head, it has given me an amount of inspiration over the years I can never pay back…

And since it is not a very well-known thing, I thought you might enjoy looking at it too. Don’t you want to go play in there? (In a whisper): “I’ll meet you over by the mechanical horses…”

September 28, 2009

Green Nursery Interview: Mary Tyler Johnson

This blog will occasionally feature guest interviews from parents like you. My hope is that it will be a helpful way to share specific information and experiences.

For our first, it seemed fitting to start close to home – with my own wife, Mary (bio at end):

In creating the nursery in your home, where did the goal of creating a healthier / greener nursery rank for you?

Creating a greener / healthier nursery was one of my top priorities when our son was born. I wanted to make sure I was bringing my child into the safest, healthiest environment possible.

What were your main reasons for this?

My primary reason for creating a greener / healthier nursery was health, and more specifically, indoor air quality concerns. (I really don’t mean to scare but indoor air pollution has been linked to a variety of health effects including asthma, learning disabilities and cancer).

And, I wanted to avoid the use of toxic materials in items such as carpeting, furniture, window treatments, etc.

I also tried to think through the impact on the environment by purchasing materials that were more sustainable, like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood and bamboo.

What were the easiest & hardest aspects of creating a healthier / greener nursery?

In 2006, when we created our son’s nursery, there was much less information available and far fewer green products on the market. The easy part was identifying what I didn’t want. The hard part was deciding what I did want.

But there were some easier choices. For example, I purchased a green, flame retardant-free, crib mattress and organic cotton bedding. A baby spends so much time in the crib, that the materials you use can make a big difference. I also tried to limit the amount of plastic we used, particularly the less healthy and less environmentally friendly ones. Shatter proof glass, stainless steel, wood and other natural materials are great alternatives to most plastic products. And, in order to limit exposure to harsh chemicals both while I was pregnant and after our son was born, I switched all our cleaning products to eco-friendly ones.

What is your child’s favorite aspect of their nursery?

That’s an easy one….his toys!  And, at the end of the day, it is my least favorite aspect of the nursery!

It is interesting to see that the toys that have stood the test of time – meaning they have retained Reeve’s interest and haven’t fallen apart – are the most simple and most often made of natural materials such as solid wood, organic cotton and wool.

What resources did you rely on in creating a healthier/greener nursery?

- The Green Guide

- Environmental Working Group

- Environmental Working Group’s  Safe Cosmetics Database, Skin Deep

- I guess it goes without saying that I relied a lot on Q Collection Junior.  I think it was very fortuitous that Jesse was working to develop the Q Collection Junior line when we had a newborn baby – the health and environmental issues were that much more real for us.

If you were to make 3 recommendations to a family just starting the nursery process, what would they be?

1)     Take your time in finding the best products. You don’t need that much, especially in the beginning.  Simplify!

2)     Focus on these three key things:

- Paint: Choose No or Low VOC paints…open your windows while painting.

- Rugs: Choose area rugs instead of wall-to-wall or carpet with that rubbery backing that off-gases for months.

- Furniture: Look for solid wood and proven non toxic finishes.  If you can smell it, it probably isn’t good.  Avoid those high gloss lacquer finishes and avoid plywood (usually contains very unhealthy glues).

3) Most importantly, remember that it is really easy to over-think things and get stressed.  No one product or decision is going to make the difference.  It is lots of little steps over time add up to a healthier, greener nursery. It took us a long time to figure it all out and no one is going to be perfect.  Ask for advice from friends and take advantage of the various non profits out there offering help. Above all – savor this time and enjoy being a parent!

Mary Tyler Johnson is an environmental health consultant focusing on the links between exposure to environmental toxicants and a variety of health outcomes in women and girls. She serves on the boards of Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health and the Health and Environmental Funders Network.

Mary holds master’s degrees in both public health and public administration from Columbia University. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Mary and her husband, Jesse Johnson, live in New York with their son, Reeve.

September 28, 2009

Fire Season

You know you live in Southern California if…

You walk outside in the morning and it smells like someone was roasting marshmallows all night!  That’s right…it is officially fire season in southern California!  What does this mean for you and your little one? Always make sure to check the air quality before leaving your home. This is a great website to make sure air quality is okay: http://cfpub.epa.gov/airnow/index.cfm?action=airnow.local

It’s also recommended to have a good air purifier! We recommend the Blue Air Purification System.  It can purify a room up to a 175 feet!  This purifier also has the HepaSilent filtration. It’s so quiet, you wonder if it’s on! Don’t forget an extra filter!

September 27, 2009

Just My Size: My Perfect Tote

Finding the perfect bag always reminds me of the Three Little Bears: “This bag’s too big. This bag’s too small.” And occasionally, if you’re lucky, you’ll find one that’s “just right.”

So many totes are close but just don’t quite work for one reason or another. But my Orla Kiely vintage fabric tote is definitely just right for me.

Unlike movie stars, most of us don’t change our bags to match our outfits every day. So my tote sees lots of use as the perfect solution for juggling work and motherhood in NYC. It’s a stylish workhorse with a little bit of a sense of humor that’s just my style.

These bags come in gorgeous colors (mine is kelly green), and I love their eclectic sensibilities. Orla Kiely uses daring combinations of patterns and colors that few other designers can pull off so stylishly.

Her brown & orange leaf pattern has become close to mainstream among stylish NY women. And while I’ve always admired the look and feel of her designs, my vintage fabric tote was my first. I had no idea that I would love her practical sensibilities just as much as her design aesthetic!

  • The cargo space is roomy without being too big, and it has an open top with an optional snap for easy access. It also has an internal zip pocket and two small open pockets (one inside and one out) for smaller items.
  • It’s got super strong handles. I seriously could not break this bag…and anyone who knows my work schedule knows that’s a testament to its construction.
  • I love the wallet tether because I don’t have to worry about losing my wallet. (Ever lay an open tote under your airplane seat then have to rummage around on the floor to retrieve your belongings?)
  • The laminate-like glossy finish makes it easy to wipe clean and keeps it looking fresh and fabulous even after you’ve been through some adventures together.

My Orla Kiely is my “just right”…I just wish I could buy another one exactly like it!!

September 25, 2009

Human Response to Pain

When you think about it, we humans make noise in response to pain…the last time you were hanging pictures in your living room, and accidentally hit your thumb with the hammer, did you respond with a breathy “he-he-hoo-hoo?” I don’t think so. You uttered a few choice words, and made a loud “aghhhhh!” sound. Which is exactly why McMoyler Method recommends moaning in response to labor pain; patterning what we do in response to other kinds of pain in our lives.

Does moaning take the pain away? No. It does, however, give the brain something to do in response to the pain. Expectant parents can practice the moaning response; start by humming, you will notice a reverberation in your chest, now allow your jaw to unhinge, so that your mouth is slightly open, now when you hum, it comes out as a soft moan.…

Moaning is a natural phenomenon. Think about the morning after the New Years Eve party, when you sat in the privacy of your bathroom with the NY Times for half an hour. Or the Mexican vacation that ended up with Montezuma’s revenge-these were not necessarily silent situations; they are often accompanied by a moaning of sorts, which is the body’s response to discomfort or pain.

Take a peek at www.thebestbirth.com DVD to see couples actually practicing deep, guttural moaning sounds in response to intense contractions.

September 25, 2009

wee see

Speaking of simple (see Ali’s post about the infant stim mobile), wee see is a dvd collection based on just that idea. Simple graphics and sounds to engage with baby. I would love to see an infants reaction to these, I know I enjoy them myself!

wee see – collection two from Rolyn Barthelman on Vimeo.

September 25, 2009

there’s a pumpkin patch…

Fall is definitely in the air.   With the autumn colors, distinct scents and crisp weather during this time of year…it’s simply just the right time to visit a pumpkin patch!  On Saturday October 17th from 11:00am-4:00pm at the Old Greenwich School…located on 285 Sound Beach Avenue you can select your very own pumpkin.  There will also be other activities…including a dunk tank, bake sale and raffle.  This is the perfect opportunity to bring your entire family and participate in this wonderful school fundraiser while kicking off the gorgeous fall season.  Once you get home…you can simply enjoy the creative moments while carving and decorating your unique pumpkin!  What a fabulous family project.  Happy fall!