slowpoke

Eating l\'escargot.On our first day in St. Antoine de Breuilh, my nephew, Tyler, dug up snails from the yard surrounding our gîte. The next day, he ordered them off the menu, simmered in butter and Court Bouillon.

The twelve-year-old and his brother spent the last vestiges of that first afternoon searching for snails. Tirelessly searching along the vineyard’s floor, feeling along the cracks of an ancient stone wall, my nephews collected a dozen of the creatures for closer examination. Blossoming scientists, they both embraced and recoiled from the touch of the slick creatures, laughing with amazement as they expelled their toxic-yellow discharge after prodding.

This behavior I could understand. They were snails. Part of their charm is their inherent ickiness. But eating them? Ew. No way.

Sixteen years earlier, I had taken my own first journey to France. I was the same age as Tyler. I was thrilled to try red wine, cheeses that could outsmell dirty feet and a variety of root vegetables that were cooked in butter and cream. But the mere mention of l’escargot triggered my gag reflex. No matter how succulent, how delicious the advertisements, there was no getting over the fact they were snails. Slimy, oozing, disgusting snails.

But even as my nephew held a particularly large garden variety snail in hand, he emphatically told me, “Aunt Kayt, I want to try snails.” My sister told me he had admitted as much before they even crossed the Atlantic. When I asked why, Tyler only shrugged. “I want to see what they taste like. French people must like them for a reason.”

Indeed. But still – they were snails. I have consumed all manner of crazy things – grasshoppers, meal worms, large red ants. But I’ve always stopped short at snails. After all, a girl has to have some standards. As such, I imagined that Tyler’s desire for l’escargot was no more than just a boyhood fancy. That perhaps he would have the moxie to order them but when it came down to it, he would be unable to take a single bite.

The next day, as we sat in a charming outdoor café in Saint Emilion, the moment of truth came. When the garçon came by, my nephew ordered himself half a dozen snails with a s’il vous plait. I broke out the video camera, expecting to soon see defeat.

When the snails arrived, I anticipated some hesitation, followed by some protestations and perhaps even a little vomit. But after some initial trouble with the specific utensils, my nephew took a big bite and pronounced the escargot as delicious. His appraisal was even enthusiastic enough to get his 6-year-old brother to give the snails a go. He also declared them good.

Tyler offered me one, too. But despite his and his brother’s encouragement, I still couldn’t manage a bite. The repulsion was just too strong.

It’s funny, so often with children we think we are there to teach them, to encourage them to try new things. But for all of my supposed worldliness, when push came to snails, I found myself showed up by a twelve-year-old and his six-year-old brother.

the top five reasons sushi is the perfect baby food

My husband and I love to eat out at our favorite sushi restaurant at least once a week. At some point, my husband decided that this didn’t have to end even though we have a very active baby! We started taking her out for sushi when she was about 9 months old and now she is a regular! Here are our top five reasons why eating out sushi is perfect for families:

1) The food comes quickly! No worrying about packing extra food to tide your little one over, or stuffing them with the free bread. An order of edamame, the perfect finger food, is always available right away.
2) The portions are great finger foods. For beginners (early eaters): sticky rice and edamame are great. For more advanced eaters, grilled fish entrees (like hamachi), cooked sushi (like California rolls ) and veggie tempura offer a nice variety of healthy, easy foods.
3) A new place to play and explore. It’s a great new adventure with lots of things for toddlers to explore: the plates, cups and bowls are great for stacking, the chop sticks are a fun challenge (as long as you watch the eye-poking), and the hustle and bustle atmosphere is just noisy enough to drown out toddler complaints!
4) Mom and Dad get a break from eating kiddie food. While Lizzie is munching away on rice and avocado rolls, we get to indulge in our favorites, ocean trout and Atlantic char sushi!
5) Most importantly, we are introducing our daughter to a part of our life that is fun and enriching. We know that this will become an important family tradition that can continue as she gets older and more adventurous!

multicultural wedding

all dressed up and happy

Earlier this year our friends asked our son to be a participant in their June wedding. We were touched, and once we explained the honor to our son, he was excited to get a new outfit and hold hands with another little boy as they walked down the aisle together. My friend Anna was the bride, and she thoughtfully sent a navy bowtie with white polka dots for all the boys to wear. For our son’s wedding debut, I picked up his first pair of dress shoes, and my husband bought him a new suit. When the big day arrived, I think he was as excited as the bride and groom! He looked so proud and handsome.

As sweet as the children’s precious entrance and toddle down the aisle were, from my perspective, the best part of the day came during a key moment of the ceremony itself. Anna is Jewish, and her husband Kaamil is Muslim. She grew up in Santa Cruz, California, and he in Minneapolis, Minnesota, although his parents are from India originally. Anna and Kaamil had been married in a small, Muslim ceremony almost a year earlier. The day we were witnessing was a Jewish ceremony and familiar “American” reception, with a lot of Indian flavor thrown in: beautifully dressed Indian women in saris, marigolds all over, and amazing food for lunch. To close the ceremony and fulfill a Jewish tradition, Kaamil was tasked with smashing a glass wrapped in cloth. Our son was captivated by this and asked us about it for weeks after the wedding: “Why did Kaamil step on that glass? Did it break? Did anyone get hurt?”

Given his age, my son was not yet ready for an abstract discussion about tradition or religion. However, we thought he would understand that, “at some weddings, the groom steps on a glass and breaks it. That lets the guests know that it’s time for the party to begin.” But I think, for the children (and for many of the adults), the party really started when they laid eyes on the tower of coconut cupcakes and set foot on the dance floor. It was a fabulous day!

tips for camping with kids

We just returned from our first camping trip with the kids. I have such fond memories of camping as a kid in Texas that I wanted my husband and kids to have the same experiences. But camping as a kid is not the same as camping in the parental role. This time I was in charge of all the daily tasks and making sure we took everything we needed without being loaded down with too much stuff either. Our car can only fit so much!

I recently found a book called Adventuring with Children: The Family Pack-Along Guide to the Outdoors and the World by Nan Jeffery, Foghorn Press, 1990. It’s an amazing book filled with so many practical tips and details on all sorts of adventure traveling whether it be camping, canoeing, hiking, cycling, etc. There are special sections on traveling with babies, medical care and even education for those who want to travel throughout the school year. The sections on how to prepare and pack are thorough and well thought out. I found I had everything I needed without over packing. Can you imagine – I got clothes for a family of four for two weeks into ONE suitcase! This is a miracle to me who always seems to pack too much! I’ll definitely be following this packing guide for the rest of my travels.

We chose our first camping destination – the Italian Dolomites – because I’m currently 7 months pregnant and didn’t want to go anywhere too hot this summer. We also have friends living in Bolzano that we haven’t seen for several years. The southern tyrol region is bilingual German and Italian. We get by in Italian pretty well since it is so close to French, but our German is very basic! Fortunately between Italian and English we managed quite well and the kids enjoyed picking up a few new phrases in Italian and German.

I researched the campsites online and made reservations in advance for two sites, one each week. We didn’t want to be packing and unpacking too often. Both campsites were well equipped with bathroom facilities, dish washing and laundry facilities, mini supermarket and restaurant. I also specifically chose sites that had swimming pools since I knew my kids would want to go swimming every day.

Our first week in Bolzano was wonderful and we combined hanging by the pool with day trips into the surrounding mountains and lakes. The kids loved riding the cable cars up into the mountains and the pony ride we did one day. We even spent over 5 hours at the botanical gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle in nearby Merano and hiked all over the mountainside. I couldn’t believe the kids’ stamina for this kind of thing, but they loved it! It was a cloudy but dry day which made all the difference too. If it had been sunny, I doubt we would have lasted so long! Orlando especially liked seeing the Koi fish that looked just like the one on his tea t-shirt!

Our second week we went higher up into the mountains to a small town called Sesto. D goes skiing here in the winter with his buddies and the kids were very excited to see all his favorite spots. We were a bit surprised by how much colder it was at night, but fortunately we just added layers to our clothes as Nan Jeffery advised in her book and we were warm enough! The mountains were stunning and I look forward to returning again when I’m not pregnant so that we can do more hiking and adventuring.

Overall it was a great holiday and I’m happy to have made the investment in our camping gear. We’ll be able to affordably explore much more of Europe this way. Being in a campsite allows the kids to roam around and make friends with kids from many different countries – something that staying in a hotel or rented apartment can’t provide. Efficient packing meant only a few toys. It felt great to entertain ourselves with just a few items and of course makes coming home like returning to wonderland!

So where will our next vacation take us? Olivia declared that the perfect vacation would combine swimming with bike riding each day. We’ll have baby #3 by then as well, so I’ll have to readjust the packing a bit and get the bike rack onto the car too. Hmmm….another adventure for sure!

raising little citizens

At six months old, we took our twin boys to my family’s home in southern Switzerland. The boys wore Daily Tea one-pieces on our transatlantic flight. I would recommend it to anyone traveling with an infant. The fabric was very soft and comfortable, and the design made it super easy to change them – especially in a 2 square foot airplane bathroom.

Although the boys were too young to remember the sights and sounds, I can’t help but hope that some of the images and languages embedded themselves somewhere in the deep recesses of their minds. If I were to choose one memory for them, it would be our daily walks down the cobblestone streets of Lugano. With each son tucked snugly into a bjorn, we were stopped repeatedly by smiling Swiss women who would comment on our “belli gemelli,” in Italian or “susse Zwillinge” in German. My sons are now 2 years old, and we have not gone back, but there is plenty of time for future visits. For now, I hope to keep some of the language impressions alive by speaking German to them. Perhaps with our next trip they will be able to respond themselves when someone stops us on the street.

discover turks and caicos

Turks and Caicos is a peaceful Caribbean destination for families with small kids. Our week of vacation was spent on the island of Providenciales, where most Turks and Caicos resorts are to be found. Here’s a run-down of our top activities and outings with Grace, our 10 month old at the time. Although Grace would have been content to stay on the beach and eat sand all day, we got out and did quite a bit. We think these activities would be enjoyable for kids of all ages.

1. Iguana Island – This uninhabited island is a national park just a short boat ride from Providenciales, but with no domesticated cats and dogs the native iguanas have no predators and have taken over the island. They are harmless but fascinating and a short walk around the island’s boardwalk reveals interesting fauna as well as these dinosaur-type lizards.
2. Snorkeling – Obviously at 10 months Grace wasn’t up for this activity, but thankfully we had grandparents along. Our entire group (grandparents, Grace’s aunt and uncle, plus the three of us) took a boat trip to one of the incredible reefs off the island. We chose a glass-bottomed boat so even those who weren’t snorkeling (namely Grace and Grandma) still got a peek at the sea life below. The rest of us enjoyed some of the world’s best snorkeling in the warm clear blue waters.
3. Sapodilla Bay – Our resort was on the north side of the island on Grace Bay Beach. We rented a car for one day and drove to the south side of the island to experience the tranquil waters of Sapodilla Bay, affectionately called “Children’s Beach” by some. We had a little trouble finding the unmarked beach but finally found a small parking area which led us to the clear still water of the Bay. Unlike Grace Bay, which experiences small but constant waves, Sapodilla Bay is perfectly calm. The water is incredibly clear and shallow as well, making it possible to both see and touch bottom even 200 feet from shore. We floated, snorkeled, splashed, sat and soaked up the sun and the quiet of this hidden gem of a beach.
4. Conch Festival – Our visit to Turks and Caicos happened to coincide with the annual Conch Festival in November. Here all the best restaurants in town cook up their best conch (pronounced “conk”) recipes and for one price you get a ticket to try and vote for them all. Let’s just say there’s good conch and there’s really nasty conch. It was a packed event with live music and a conch blowing contest, in which my brother-in-law won second place!
5. Beach time – While there are diversions such as those listed above, the real reason to go to Turks and Caicos is for the beach. The sand is white and soft as flour. The water is warm and the waves lap the shore, never crash. Grace Bay Beach stretches for miles in either direction which makes for great walks. We saw families with kids of all ages and they all seemed to be having a wonderful time. For our family it was a tranquil, rejuvenating experience.

fall 2008’s inspiration: norway

flying into NorwayIn May 2007, Emily and I headed north to explore the vast country of Norway in search of inspiration for Tea’s Fall 2008 collection.

This was my first visit to a Scandinavian country and I was expecting clean and modern aesthetic. Upon landing in this rich country, I was instantly taken by the enveloping evergreens and the woodwork, immaculate even in the airport.

I knew that this was a country that respected its natural resources and proudly celebrated them through craft. I could not wait to see what we would find…


We began our trip in Oslo, visiting museums and taking in Norwegian metropolitan culture.

One notable stop was the Norsk Folkemuseum, which featured 150 reconstructed townhouses, farm buildings, and churches from Norway’s past.

Here, we discovered a style of folk painting called Rosemaling (see below). This style of painting emerged in Norway around the late 18th century. Artists from the more rural areas in Norway would travel from home to home, painting interior walls and furniture. The homeowners would provide warm shelter and food for these artists in return for their services.

The color and detail of these scroll-like floral designs were captivating in beauty and impressive in coverage.

Later, we found that this painting style influenced embroidery in Norwegian folk costume. This discovery inspired us to come up with our own modern interpretation.

(Norwegian Folk Embroidery and Tea’s Inspired Print)

(Below from left to right: Tea’s Rasmussen Floral Dress and Elina Embroidery French Terry pants)

We also found that hand and loom weaving have been a native tradition in Norway, often done by families in times of celebration. There are many different types of traditional weaving, but 2 examples stood out, Billedvev (pictured here), a pictorial tapestry…

…and Rutevev, a geometric style (below).

These flat woven textiles were typically done in village homes found amongst the fjords. We were fascinated by the textures and colors in these textiles, so we headed north in search of some to make our own.

By chance and through a little help from friends that we met along the way, we ended up at the Stalheim Hotel.

A beautiful hotel set atop a 300 meter high cliff, not only does this hotel boast amazing views, it also has a spectacular collection of Norwegian crafts and a reconstructed folk village.

The varied patterns and color we found in Stalheim’s collection of textiles inspired us to interpret them in rich sweaters and bright plaids.

(above: Norwegian woven textiles)

(Above from left to right: Tea’s Stalheim Fairisle sweater, Aurland plaid shirt, and Ingrid Jacquard sweater)

(Emily and me at the lookout from the Stalheim Hotel)

It is hard to be in fjord country without going on a fjord tour. We were in luck as we were close to one of Norway’s most famous, the Sognefjord. It is of the longest and deepest in Norway, an inlet jutting over 100 miles into the country and over 4000 feet deep.

You can’t deny the beauty and massive landscape surrounding you in Norway. We tried to capture this feeling through voluminous silhouettes in this Fall’s collection like the Aurland Plaid Dress and Fjord Coat (both pictured here).