brazil and soccer

With Tea Collection’s launch of its Brazil line, instead of daydreaming about warm, sandy beaches or Mardis Gras and Carnival, my mind wondered to soccer. Let me explain … I have a preschooler in the house.

Our son will be four in a few months, and this fall he participated in soccer school, which involved a 30-minute group lesson once a week. The program was offered by Soccer Shots (, and he absolutely loved it. So much so that he asked his grandparents for soccer cleats for Christmas. The shoes did not disappoint—shiny silver with red accents; I want a pair in my size, and I could be the world’s worst soccer player. To round out the outfit, my husband and I added a Francesco Totti jersey and shorts. (Totti is apparently a star player for Italy’s SA Roma team, which of course I didn’t know.)

Sometimes, we spot soccer games on television, occasionally with international teams. Our son is starting to understand what a country is and where a few are located, as we work his world map puzzle (made by Mudpuppy) on the floor a few nights per week. The puzzle has great imagery for kids, including a soccer player situated where Brazil would be. The puzzle does not name countries or include borders; it only names the continents and oceans, which saves space for all of the colorful graphics. It is helpful, though, that soccer is so beloved all over the world, because I have an excuse to explain to him that the game he enjoys so much is also adored by children and adults in almost every other country on the map. I am actually looking forward to next year’s World Cup, both as an opportunity to watch fantastic soccer with my son, but also as a shameless excuse to sneak in some geography lessons. Goooooooooal!

how do you say “mother”?

Parvati (Hindu Mother Goddess)

At 4 months, Kai started to call me “Uma”, his version of the word. This sparked my interested in the linguistic origins of the word “mother”. It derives from the root “mater” which means measure. Other words with this common root are: matriarchy, maternal, and matron. Did you know that the word mama means “breast” in Latin? Go figure.

Check out the word “mother” in other languages:

– Mata (Hindi)

– Ma (Mandarin)

– Madre (Spanish, Italian)

– Imi (Hebrew)

– Okasan (Japanese)

– Makuahine (Hawaiian)

– Me (Vietnamese)

– Mamma (Swedish)

– Ina (Tagalog)

No matter what, the word “mother” in any language is powerful. Ask any child, I’m sure the word conjures up comfort, nourishment, and authority.

How do you say it in your household?

gather the women

A few weeks ago, I received an invitation addressed to “All My Amazing Women Friends.” I have to say I was honored to be on this list of women with a 50 year span of age, representing many different careers, religious beliefs, and family structures.

We met for an afternoon tea to discuss our roles as women in the world and to consider studying a book together by Jean Shinoda Bolen called “Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World” with the intention that the power of this group would do just as the title instructs and predicts. In the book Bolen says, the “energy of women together is generated by a mix of love, outrage, ideas, comments, infectious laughter, and a desire to make a difference.” From my experience at our recent gathering, this is indeed the case.

Bolen insists that there is need for women to work together to ensure the safety and security of our children and grandchildren as “more than half of the world’s children of more than one billion suffer extreme deprivation because of war, poverty, and HIV/AIDS.” When we can end the cycle of violence and neglect that allows a half billion children to be uncared for, traumatized, disempowered, and killed, world peace and sustainability can become a reality.

Sunday, March 8th is the 98th International Women’s Day. The day was established to celebrate the social, economical, and political accomplishments of women of the past, present and future. This year’s IWD theme is “women and men united to end violence against women and girls.” Why not use the occasion to take a bold step forward for world peace and an end of violence towards women and children by honoring this day? Even the smallest intention or action will make a difference. Light a candle, write a letter to Ambassador Susan Rice, representative of the United States to the United Nations, to ask for a 5th International Women’s Conference sponsored by the United Nations, or better yet invite all your amazing women friends to gather with the intention that peace and humanity can prevail on earth.

st. petersburg, russia with two toddlers

I grew up in Missouri. My husband grew up in Russia, and this is where his extended family remained. Now we live together in the Bay Area with our kids. In 2008, we packed up our 3 and a half and nearly 2 year old children and made the trek (24 hours door to door with two toddlers is officially a trek) to Saint Petersburg. Though the trip was not without its challenges, it was wonderful to experience Russia with the kids.

Since day one, Dmitri, my husband, has always spoken with the children in Russian. They have a Russian nanny and many local Russian friends. So, the kids both speak in Russian as well as they do in English. It was such a pleasure to watch them naturally and easily interact with their extended family in Russian. They played games, laughed at their grandfather’s jokes, and chatted endlessly with their slightly older Russian cousin (age 8).

We enjoyed long strolls with the whole extended family in the beautiful parks in St. Petersburg surrounded by canals. We went to the zoo. We played in the neighborhood playgrounds. We ate yummy treats. Max discovered a pretty serious passion for Russian apple juice boxes (not really unlike juice boxes in the U.S., but in plentiful supply and at his reaching distance in his grandparents’ pantry), and both ate a considerable amount of Babuschka’s (grandmother, in Russian) borscht soup. It was a toddler paradise. The jet lag was a little crazy. Visiting almost the exact opposite point on the globe pretty much flips night and day. The kids got a little turned around. They’d be up one moment playing enthusiastically with their cousin, and then moments later crash into deep sleep. I was beyond exhausted, but I have to smile as I recall the trip. This is what it means to be a little citizen of the world – to be equally at home on either side of the globe at the tender age of 2.

indian food for babies

We started giving Moushumi our homemade Bengali food a few months ago. My mother was key in making this happen. She taught me some simple recipes that I ate as a little one – along with probably millions of other Indian babies! Everything is very mild, without any chili powder, but still packing lots of delicious flavors. I wasn’t sure what Moushumi would think, being used to Earth’s Best jarred foods, which are quite good, but comparatively less exciting. She loved it! Now she eats Indian food twice daily and even though she puts up with eating a jar or two when we’re out, it’s obvious that she prefers the food I make for her.

If you are looking to broaden your child’s horizons, and yours if you’re not used to cooking Indian food, here are a couple of easy recipes for you to start with.

Daal – Indian lentil soup (eaten with rice and vegetables)

1/2 cup red lentils

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/4 tsp salt (add more to taste, but a bit less than your taste)

2 cups water

Clean the lentils by washing them three times in cold water (just like rice). Add the water, salt and turmeric and bring to a boil. Turn to low and let simmer until soft and cooked – approximately 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how you like it. You may need to add some more water (boiling, if possible) if it seems to be getting too dry (or you can put in less water for a thicker daal). You can let it cool and blend it in the blender for a smoother texture if desired.

We boil some peas or green beans with some carrots and potatoes; flavor it with a dash of salt and mash it up to eat with the daal and soft-cooked basmati rice. My mom always says to add a smidgen of butter and taste it – “it must taste good to you!”

Basic Bengali Chicken curry (chicken in a flavorful sauce, eaten with rice)

One boneless, skinless breast

1 tbsp olive oil

1 pinch of whole cumin seeds

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/4 tsp cumin powder

2 tbsp finely chopped onion

1 tsp grated ginger

1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic

1/2 small tomato – chopped

chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Cut chicken into small cubes and mix with salt, turmeric, cumin and coriander powder. Let marinate for about one hour. Heat oil on med-high and when hot, throw in cumin seeds (if you can’t find cumin seeds, just leave it out). Let them sizzle for a few minutes and then add onions – with a pinch of salt, and fry them until golden brown. Turning the heat down a bit, add the garlic and ginger. When you can smell the lovely aroma, add the tomato and cook until it all mixes together. It’s hard to be precise, but approximately after 10 minutes, you will see that it’s very mixed up and looking shiny, because the oil is separating from it. Add the chicken and cook until no pink is visible. Add some boiling water to cover the chicken and lightly boil until the chicken is soft. You can add the chopped cilantro at the same time. You can also add a handful of peas, baby carrots and potatoes when you add the water if you want some veggies in the curry. Let cool and blend if you need it to be a smoother texture. By the way, if you would like to make this for adults, just add some chili powder to your marinade, a fresh green chili with the onion and do not add water. Just allow the chicken to release it’s own water while it cooks and voila – you have the sauce.

If you find this to be overwhelming, trust me, after you do this a few times – you will become a pro! Also, I make enough to last for several days so I’m not spending too much time cooking. And, of course, you can change it around to fit your taste buds – a little less cumin, a little more coriander, etc. I hope that your baby enjoys these recipes as much as mine.

wabi sabi

cover to book Wabi SabiWabi sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that is really more of a feeling than just an expression or description. It is beauty that is simple, unrefined, natural, ephemeral. It is the feeling you have when you find a leaf in fall that is shades of red and orange and yellow and maybe even has a little hole edged in brown; or holding a piece of handmade pottery in your hand and taking that first sip of warm tea in the morning that stirs your senses and warms your soul; or when you look out and see in the distance a peaceful gray mountain with a foggy mist clinging to the top and hear unseen geese honking. Many of tea’s designs evoke a sense of wabi sabi. That is probably one of the reasons I was initially drawn to tea clothing for my son. I appreciated the colors, softness and straight-forward designs that are uniquely tea and uncommon in the world of children’s clothing.

On a recent trip to our local, very rural library, I unexpectedly discovered a children’s picture book called Wabi Sabi written by Mark Reibstein and illustrated by Ed Young. In the story, a cat named Wabi Sabi tries to find out the meaning of her name. She asks all her friends what wabi sabi means, and then she ventures out further in the world to find someone who can explain the meaning. Everyone she asks replies “That is very difficult” and gives her a tiny piece of the answer in the form of a haiku. She finally discovers the meaning of wabi sabi by experiencing it. And in reading the story you and your child will do the same.

The book has beautiful art collages. Each page has a haiku in haibun form (a short prose passage sets up the haiku). Japanese calligraphy is written in the margins. These are actually haiku that are translated in the back of the book. This is not your ordinary children’s book. But nevertheless, my almost 3-year old was completely absorbed as I read haiku after haiku. Sometimes I mistakenly believe that complex thoughts and art are beyond my toddler. But really I think if we as adults could appreciate art and words like a toddler must, we might have an unanticipated deep understanding of truth. That is, in one sense, the beauty of wabi sabi.

hello hoi an

If you’re considering visiting Viet-Nam, a must-see is the lovely coastal town of Hoi An located in Central Viet Nam.

The best way to arrive is to take a train from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. I recommend the sleeper train, it’s a bit cozy but you get amazing views as the train passes through rice fields and vast flatlands with water buffalo.

The people are charming and less likely to upsell foreigners. There are abundant tailor shops and art galleries that won’t break your budget. One of my favorite shops is Hoai Ngap (Reaching Out )Handcrafts, a gift shopped filled with fair trade crafts made by artisans with disabilities.

The cobble stone streets make it a pleasure for walking or biking amidst the ancient Japanese and Chinese style architecture. Kids will love drinking fresh fruit shakes on the beach or even taking a lantern making class in town. At night, the town is picturesque with several outdoor cafes and strings of colorful silk lanterns illuminating the streets.


The women at the market place will tempt you with fresh marigolds and lotus flowers and even offer you fresh slices of mangosteen and sweet lychees.

Officially Hoi An is listed as a UNSECO heritage site. Unofficially I can tell you this place has a lot of heart. Look for my auntie and grandmother who make banh mi (baguette sandwiches) with a slammin’ secret sauce. Their stand is near the south entrance of the marketplace on the river. Grab sandwiches to go and hop on the ferry for a breezy tour of the scenic Hoi An River.