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Latest Posts

Oct 09

A Close Up on Our Favorite Farm Store

by Stacey

Before we moved to New Jersey, I was very confused by all the different food stores my mother in law visited each week. In Richmond, we went to Ukrops and we could find everything and anything we wanted. Then we moved here and I understood. We shop at Stop and Shop for all the basics. We go to Trader Joes for all sorts of awesome things. And when it is open, from spring to late fall, we go to Demarest Farms. Demarest Farms is easily my favorite place to be. They have amazing fruits and veggies, delicious baked goods, a perfect salad bar and yummy heat up meals.

Today I was at Demarest Farms and I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

Here are a few of my favorites…







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Oct 08

Raise a Reader from A to Z

by Stacey


I recently sent the piece of writing below out in to the vast world hoping it would be picked up for publication. When it wasn’t, I was sad at first but then realized I had my own publishing platform right here. Just another reason to love my blog, I suppose…

When I sat down to write this piece, I wanted to convey some of the simple things parents can do to raise a reader. Interestingly, just yesterday  I read a Salon article titled “My Kid Doesn’t Like Books and It’s Okay.” After reading this, I am sensitive to the fact that there are kids who are not going to be readers no matter what happens in their house. What I write below are simply a few ideas I have tried over the years both in our family and with clients. Enjoy and let me know what you might add to the list.

Raise a Reader from A to Z

Raising a reader can be as simple as A, B, C. Explore the suggestions below and watch your readers grow.

Allow your child to decide what books they want to read. Giving children control over what they read is a powerful step in raising children who choose to read.

Build a home library. Strong readers come from homes that are full of books. Buy books from book stores, yard sales and second hand stores and borrow books from the library.

Carve out special times during the day to read out loud. Breakfast and bath time are non-traditional read aloud times that can make reading fun for children.

Design your home with plenty of space for books. You can use baskets, shelves or book cases but include books in your design.

E-readers are great motivators for developing readers. Embrace this new technology.

Find books that everyone in your family can enjoy. Building a shared dialogue around books is crucial for raising a family of readers.

Give books as gifts. Pair a book with a fun toy or experience that relates to the book.

Have discussions with your children about what they are reading. Turning reading in to something social is a fun and easy way to engage readers.

Investigate new literature. While it is always tempting to share our childhood favorites, there are incredible new books being published every year. Check out annual awards and children’s literature blogs to find new titles to love.

Join a book club.  Find friends or library groups and turn reading in to a social activity.

Know what your children love. If they have a hobby or a topic that fascinates, find books on that topic.

Libraries. Go often. Borrow regularly. Make library visits a part of your weekly schedule.

Move and read. If your children have a hard time sitting still when you read aloud, let them move. Building with Legos, drawing or dancing can actually help young children to focus on the story you are telling.

Notice the types of books your child gravitates toward and provide more of the same type of books for your child to explore.

Organize your books with covers facing front. Children often need to see a cover to be drawn in to the possibilities of the story.

Prove how great reading is by reading. Children who see their own parents reading, are the ones who tend to be readers.

Quit books that you don’t like. If you have chosen a family read aloud that you thought would be hit but it turns out to be a yawn, stop reading it. It is important for children to understand that reading brings pleasure so if a book is not making your family happy, find another one that does.

Reward children with reading. Let children stay up late as long as they reading, reward children with new books instead of treats.

Spend money on books. Children understand that we value those things on which we spend our money. Set aside a small amount of your family budget for purchasing books.

Talk about the books you are reading. Share the favorite part of the novel you are reading. Read aloud from an interesting opinion piece and ask your children if they agree. Talk about your favorite books when you were young.

Understand that all children learn to read and to love reading at a different pace. Allow children to develop literacy skills at their own pace.

Visit author events at local bookstores. Meeting authors is a wonderful way to turn children on to reading or on to a new type of book. Hearing the author read the words they have written or draw pictures from the book is a powerful way to expose children to real-life literacy.

Wonder out loud as you read. Show your children what good readers think while they are reading. Say things like “I wonder if James is really a good guy?” or “I wonder why the author chose to set this book in the jungle. I wonder if the story would be different if the characters were farm animals instead?”

Explore many different genres. There are many children who dislike fiction but love non-fiction and vise versa. Make sure you expose your child to all different types of books.

You can model a love of reading in your house. Read, share what you are reading and talk about the books you love.

Zero in on what your children love about books. Do they like to read on their own, hear you read aloud or just enjoy the illustrations? Celebrate the pieces of reading that your children already love and watch this love grow.

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Oct 07

Quiz Day: The When Version

by Stacey


I have been posting quizzes for the past few weeks as I participate in Big Picture Classes’ Quizapalooza. This week’s version of the quiz focuses on ‘when’ questions.

Here goes…

When is the best time of day? I love the way the light looks right around 8am at this time of year. Things are still quiet outside but the sun is up and the light hits the walls in our front room in just the right way.

When is my favorite season of the year? Right here and right now. I always used to think that I loved spring because it was my birthday season. And then I loved summer because summer is easy to love. Now though, I know I love fall the most. I love September for all the new-ness it represents and I love, love, love fall weather. I love the colorful leaves against the blue sky. I love the fact that you can wear just about anything and be comfortable. I love the fact that you don’t need to use the heat or the air conditioning.

When is my busiest time of year? This year my busiest time was most definitely the beginning of school. With Caroline starting middle school and my volunteer responsibilities at Katherine’s school, I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I am glad to say (knock on wood!) that things are beginning to feel a bit more in control.

When am I most productive? I am neither a night owl nor an early bird. As a result, I am not productive in the early morning hours or late at night. With my current schedule, I would say I get the most done in the mid morning.

When am I completely comfortable? I am completely comfortable, wearing soft clothes, snuggled on our couch or in our bed  with a heavy blanket and a good book.

When do I feel out of my element? I really don’t do well in large crowds or with lots of noise. Being stuck in ‘people traffic’ on the sidewalks of NYC is one of my least favorite things and I hate being at loud parties when you can’t talk to the person standing next to you.

When do I feel on top of the world? I love talking with small groups of friends or reading on my own at home. When I first heard that extroverts are energized by being with people and introverts get their energy from being alone, I became a bit confused. I always considered myself an extrovert but as I get to know myself better, I know that I am a mix of both.

When do I need help? I need help when I have too many balls in the air at one time. I tend to say ‘yes’ way more than I should and I always feel grateful that I have friends that come to bail me out at just the right time.


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Oct 06

The Weekend Papers: Fifth Edition

by Stacey


Every so often, I like to write about the newspaper articles that have caught my eye over the weekend. It feels like ages since I last sat down to write such a post and it turns out, it has been. When I looked back in the archives The Weekend Papers: Fourth Edition was posted on July 7th. It seems that perhaps the busy-ness of summer followed by the craziness of back to school cramped my newspaper reading just a bit! I have certainly read the paper since July but apparently not in a way that seemed meaningful enough to document. So here goes…

Forty Portraits in Forty Years written by Susan Minot features Nicholas Nixon’s ‘Forty Years with the Brown Sisters.’ Over the past 40 years, Nixon has photographed his wife and her three sisters in the same group pose, once each year. This life long project will be featured this fall at The Museum of Modern Art and the sampling of pictures on the pages of the magazine make me anxious to see the full exhibit.

The New York Time’s Modern Love essay is often one of my favorite parts of the weekend papers. This week’s At the Hospital, an Interlude of Clarity by Brian Gittis was no exception. Read on to see what happens when you fall on a glass and rupture an artery on your fourth date.

I wrote here recently that Lily King’s Euphoria is one of my favorite recent reads. I was excited, therefore, to read her piece Would Marriage Ruin Everything in this week’s NYT review section. Having read Euphoria, her personal experience with marriage was all the more interesting.

Crossing Class Lines by Stephanie Cote summarizes research conducted on how people befriend (or don’t) people from different social classes. According to this research, even those few people who befriend those in different social classes due so with difficulty. These friendships, researchers say, are fraught with tension and misunderstanding. What a sad statement this is to me. I wonder what can be done to change this as I believe that economic inequality is the greatest social injustice in the United States today. How do we fix this if we can’t even befriend those in differing class groups?

The way we could choose to spend our final days is beautifully explored in Atul Gawande’s The Best Possible Day. This surgeon, in his research, has come to believe that medical science may have it wrong. He writes of his daughter’s piano teacher and the way she stopped fighting and finished her life living, teaching piano and loving the music that had made her life.

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Oct 01

Picture Books: Why We Should All Be Reading Them

by Stacey

There are a few things I wish I could be paid to do. Being a student is first on the list. I would have degrees in literature and writing, art history and photography and on and on and on. My other ‘wish it was a career’ is ‘reader of book lists.’ I love, love, love book lists. I read them all the time and create my own lists from them. Books I want to purchase, books I want to borrow from the library. Books I think the girls would like. Books that would make good gifts.

I recently stumbled upon a great list at a new-to-me blog called Heise Teachers & Writes. This post is written by the middle school language arts teacher all of our children should have. This teacher plans to read a picture book every single day of the school year. And her students will be so much the better for it.

Picture books get such a bad reputation once children can read on their own and for the life of me, I do not know why. There are many, many picture books that are amazingly important for all readers to know. There are books full of important messages. Books that provoke thoughtful dialogue. Books that ask and answer tough questions. Books that are funny and make us laugh out loud. And these books come in small packages, wrapped up to be loved in short stretches of time.

The picture book should become the best friend of every busy parent. So in other words, picture books should become the best friend of every parent. I love reading aloud and we make time to read aloud chapter books whenever possible but I know once the school year, soccer season, dance classes and nightly independent reading homework begin, there just won’t be the time we need to enjoy a chapter book. Too many nights will be lost in-between readings. We will loose touch with the characters and forget the plot. Once this happens, I dive in to picture books in the morning if there is a second at breakfast, in-between math and word study homework if we need a break. In other words, whenever we have a quick five to ten minutes of time.

When I read Mrs Heise’s list, I knew I would find some new favorites. Here are a few that we have  particularly enjoyed:


Pardon Me! by Daniel Miyares is a story with limited text but a big story. You think you have this little parrot figured out but just wait. There is a surprise ending…


Picture Day Perfection by Deborah Diesen is the perfect read for picture day or any day. This one will make you laugh out loud and then smile softly at the end.


Flight School by Lita Judge is ‘follow your dreams’ penguin-style. I loved the story but it is possible that I loved the illustrations even more. Who knew that a penguin could be so expressive!


The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat is a celebration of imagination and who doesn’t need that every now and then.


This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris shows us that we can do anything we put our minds to- even if we are a moose.


Fireboat by Maria Kalman is the true story of the John J. Harvey, a fireboat brought out of retirement to fight the fires in the Twin Towers. Katherine told me this is the kind of non-fiction she likes, “You know, the kind that’s like a story.”

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Sep 29

Another Monday, Another Quiz Day

by Stacey


I think Monday’s are going to be quiz days around here. At least while I am participating in Big Picture’s Quizapalooza.

Here’s another “Last Quiz.” Last week’s was about people. This week, things.

What is the last good book I read? The last book that really stuck with me was Euphoria by Lily King. I’m not going to say too much more about it because I’ll be reviewing it at Great New Books next month.

What is the last memorable movie I watched? We watched Good Will Hunting on tv right after Robin Williams death. I love, love, love that movie each time I see it. The scenes with Robin Williams and Matt Damon in therapy are some of my favorites of all time.

What is the last article of clothing I purchased? I bought a dress on Saturday in a panic that I was going to be too hot in the outfit I had planned to wear to an event we were going to that night. It was in the mid eighties on Saturday but it turns out it does get cooler in the evenings in late September so that dress will be returned today.

What is the last gift I gave? I suppose it’s not surprising that books are my go to. Last night I brought my mother in law a board book called A is for Activist.  My friend Sally at The Curious Reader knows that my mother in law likes all things ‘social justice’ so she was sure to share this one with me on my last trip to the store.

What is the last gift I received? I think it was probably my birthday present from Rob this spring. Tickets to see Billy Joel. We have yet to pick a date and actually do it. I think there are only a few shows left. It’s time to get on this one!

What is the last creative project I completed? I put pictures in a photo album a few months ago and I think I was on a high from project for months. Time to play picture catch up again.

What is the last song that got stuck in my head? Rob recently made a super fun playlist of all our favorite songs from the last few years. Not sure why but one of my least favorites is stuck- Lady Gaga’s Applause.

What is my last photograph taken or shared? The picture above. We went to my in-laws for a delicious spaghetti and meatball dinner last night and there was whip cream for dessert. Katherine was so excited to help make it that I had to snap this picture of her. She was moving quickly so it’s a bit blurry…

What is the last meal I prepared? I made sausage and bean soup yesterday that will be for dinner later this week. I don’t really like sausage unless it’s in soup and this is a good one.

What is the last store I visited? See above. Anthropologie in a rush to find a temperature appropriate dress.

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Sep 22

The ‘Last Quiz’

by Stacey


Every few months, I like to take an on-line class at Big Picture Classes. These classes always provide inspiration for blogging or picture taking. This round, I am enrolled in Quizapalooza with Angie Lucas so be prepared for lots of quizzes here over the next few weeks

I love these kinds of posts and I always think it is so fun when a blogging friend is inspired to write their own similar post. I hope to hear lots of your answers in the coming days…

The ‘Last Quiz’

Whom did I last speak to on the phone? I talked to my mother earlier today. We were trying to find a weekend for her to come down and visit. It is truly crazy how busy fall weekends can be.

Who is the last person I hugged? Katherine. She is my snuggly girl!

Who most recently asked for my advice? Caroline. Middle school comes filled with lots and lots and questions.

Who is the last person who cooked for me? My friend Nicky. For local friends, Nicky is the owner of the Proper Kitchen. Two days a week, she cooks delicious meals and delivers them to customer’s doors. Her food is completely delicious and I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it is to have a home cooked dinner ready to put on the table with no effort after an afternoon full of soccer practices and dance classes. Let me know if you want Nicky’s contact info!

Who went with me to the last movie I saw? Last year, I participated in a great group that showed matinees at our local movie theatre during school hours. I think the last movie I saw in the theatre was Philomena with this group. It seems like I might be due for a trip to the theatre. This is Where I Leave You is calling my name!

Who was my most recent lunch date? I had lunch just last week with my friend Donna. We have known each other for quite awhile now so it is always great to see her and pick up right where we left off, often months before. This visit was especially fun because I was able to see pictures of Donna’s brand new granddaughter.

Who is the last person I apologized to? Katherine is reading over my shoulder as I write this so I asked her if I had apologized to her recently. She said no but that I apologized a lot when she had strep and missed the first two days of school. So true.

Who is the last person I felt envious of? No one specific but at the moment, I am envious of the people who are able to say no. This certainly is not a skill I seem to possess at the moment!

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