When it comes to personal happiness, sometimes we all could use a little inspiration. In her new book Moments: Magic, Miracles, and Martinis($11.95, Turtle Spirit Press, 2016; 112 pages) local Marin author, mom, and tech company VP Amy Van Atta Slater shares the inspirational story of her unexpected journey to self awareness and the things she learned along the way.
Amy's story is personal and inspiring, and follows her struggles in the wake of her divorce and diagnosis with chronic Irritable Bowell Syndrome (IBS), as well as her role as a single parent and her father's battle with Lewy Body Dementia. Along the way, she shares how she learned to deal with each of these obstacles to make her journey a life-changing one. Some of the points she touches on that really resonated with me was her personal challenge to not complain about anything for 24 hours (try it some time—it's harder than it sounds!), slowing down and appreciating life, being authentic in your life and dealings with other people, gratitude for what you have in life, and what it means to really be happy.
Moments is a short and easy read, but dense with inspirational moments. You'll probably find yourself flipping back through it to re-read parts that are relevant to what's currently going on in your life. As a mom and fellow Marin resident, much of what Amy writes about in Moments really resonates with me, even if our lives aren't that similar. It's a highly recommended read for anyone looking for a little inspiration during moments of uncertainty in life. You're not going through it alone!
In many families—ours included—it can be a challenge to get kids to eat healthy. While our kids aren't particularly picky eaters, they do gravitate toward the kid staples like mac-and-cheese and pizza, but that all changes if we get them involved in the kitchen to try new things. That's also the premise behind the new book The 52 New Foods Challenge (336 pages, Avery, 2014; $20) by local San Francisco Bay Area author Jennifer Tyler Lee.
In this welcome addition to any parent's kitchen library, Lee offers a guide to getting kids to eat fresh, healthy, seasonal food by experiencing cooking adventures like exploring the farmers' market, growing food in the backyard, and of course making fun, delicious recipes together. This week-by-week guide features over 150 recipes and activities designed to inspire your kids' creativity and build confidence in the kitchen.
Dad's Playbook gathers together more than 100 inspiring quotes from the all-time great sports coaches. This makes a lot of sense, since dads do the same things that great coaches do: motivate, mentor, discipline, lead, inspire, teach, praise, and love. Tom's book contains bits of wisdom from coaches like John Madden, Vince Lombardi, Tommy Lasorda, Phil Jackson, and many others, and applies them to all aspects of fatherhood. The book also contains a foreword by 49ers hall of fame quarterback (and dad, of course) Steve Young.
Chinese New Year takes place this year on January 23, and one way you can get ready for the Year of the Dragon is by reading Oliver Chin's new book of the same name with your kids. The Year of the Dragon: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac (36 pages, Immedium, 2012) is the seventh book in this series by Chin, a local San Francisco writer and dad, and follows the adventures of Dominic the young dragon as he meets the emperor and empress, befriends a boy named Bo, and enters a paddle boat (a literal "dragon boat") race with a crew made up of Bo and the other 11 animals from the Chinese zodiac.
The Year of the Dragon does a great job introducing kids to the dragons of Chinese lore, and offers a gentle tale of friendship, teamwork, bravery, and acceptance. The illustrations by illustrator and cartoon character designer Jennifer Wood, who's done work for Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, are colorful and dynamic and add a lot of appeal for both kids and grownups.
School's only a few weeks away, and getting organized both for yourself and the kids is a must. Our favorite way to get organized is with the BusyBodyBook!The BusyBodyBook is a stylish and easy-to-use family organizer designed specifically for families. It allows you to keep track of the entire family's schedules at a glance, and it's something I can't live without. BusyBodyBooks personal and family organizers ($17.95) are available for both 2011–2012 school year (August 2011–August 2012) and traditional January–December, 2011 calendar yearversions.
In addition to their organizers, BusyBodyBook also publishes a neat "family central" wall calendar ($14.95) and an undated weekly grid pad ($12.95) that's handy for the fridge, your desk, a binder, or anywhere else that you need to keep track of your busy life.
Veteran parents will probably remember joking about forgetting to pick up the manual for their new baby when leaving the hospital. Of course there isn't a baby user manual, but the Secrets of a Baby Nurse: How to Have a Happy, Healthy, and SLEEPING Baby from Birth(185 pages, Rising Star, 2011; $17.95), the new book by seasoned maternal-infant nurse and "baby sleep wizard" Marsha Podd, RN, might just be the next best thing! Marsha has over 20 years of experience working with parents and small children, and is the author of numerous articles, including guest posts on Marin Mommies.
In Secrets of a Baby Nurse, Marsha provides new parents with just about everything they need to know about their new baby, especially when it comes to sleep (both yours and the baby's). Her helpful advice and tips are the product of years of experience and plenty of scientific research. It's kind of like having your own personal baby nurse on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I really really wish I had this book when my kids were babies—I don't think my son slept at all until he was three (at least it seemed like it at the time).
Marin Mommies contributor, cooking teacher, and award-winning blogger Michelle Stern has just released her first cookbook, titled The Whole Family Cookbook: Celebrate the Goodness of Locally Grown Foods (182 pages, Adams Media, 2011; $17.95). If you and your kids love to cook together, then this is the book you've been waiting for! The Whole Family Cookbook contains over 75 family-friendly, kid-approved recipes, illustrated with beautiful color photos, that are easy to make, delicious, and healthy. Recipes are clear and concise, with color-coded instructions for kids of all ages. The book is also filled with Michelle's practical advice and tips on cooking with kids, culinary techniques, finding the best local and natural foods, green living, and more.
Chapters are divided into different cooking concepts: breakfasts, including crunchy granola, sweet potato biscuits, and an breakfast burritos; dinner fare like chicken pot pie with biscuit topping, miso-glazed salmon, and pumpkin ravioli; side dishes including oven-fried zucchini sticks, Mediterranean quinoa salad, and kale chips, mom-approved treats and desserts like lemon buttermilk sherbet, peaches and cream cobbler, and chocolate chip pumpkin bread; and finally, a collection of recipes for making your own pantry and refrigerator staples such as pancake mix, hummus, hot chocolate, and pesto.
Marin Mommies is happy to present the first in a series of book reviews by guest contributor Todd Pratum, literacy expert and founder of the the Pratum Children's Library in Ross.
Could it be, that in certain fundamental ways, ways heretofore never imagined by modern thinkers—but well imagined and known in times past, especially in pre-medieval and indigenous cultures—that babies and young infants are more loving, more sensitive, more altruistic than adults? That they are, in the words of author and psychologist Alison Gopnik inThe Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life (288 pages, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2009), “smarter, more conscious, more thoughtful than adults.”
Impossible? Preposterous? Delusional? Scientifically proven? This reminds of a famous line from Wordsworth, “The child is the father of the man.” While there are clunky dry passages where Gopnik is necessarily forced to present some particularly pedantic—but key experimental results, the bulk of this revolutionary book is wonderfully written, unveiling the most recent results of experimental child physiology, neurology and psychology, experiments most of which have only been conceived of in the last five years.
In today's economy, families are always looking for ways to maximize their budgets without skimping on the fun. That's why a resource like Free San Francisco: The Ultimate Free Fun Guide to the Bay Area (Corley Publications, 326 pages, $15.95) is a great thing to have around. While it's small enough to fit into a coat pocket, purse, or backpack, this pocket guide is filled with over 400 things for families to do all over the Bay Area without breaking the bank.
The book's sections cover the city of San Francisco itself, Bay Area venues ranging from art museums and galleries to nature centers and zoos to parks and historic sites, free activities like art walks, hikes, bike rides, concerts, and film screenings, and a roster of free or almost-free Bay Area events for every month of the year. It's a lot of fun to read to discover a new place to go or activity to do, and it's indespensible when out-of-town guests make an appearance.