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Our Savorite Things

What's your most important childhood keepsake?

What's your most important childhood keepsake?

When my mom was only 13-years-old, her mother died after a painful battle with cancer.  Her father got remarried to a woman who, to put it mildly, was not the warm and fuzzy type.  When my mom left for college, her stepmother got rid of all of my mom’s personal treasures.  All of them.  So I don’t have her blanket.  I don’t have her stuffed animal.  I don’t have the t-shirts she loved.  I don’t have her camp letters.   It’s not surprising, then, that these personal family mementos would take on significance to me and be a driving force behind the founding of Savor.  My mom never pushed me too hard to edit my treasures because she knew the pain of losing them all.  

Lacking almost anything from her childhood, my favorite treasures are from my own.  One is something my mom created, and one is something that I created.  The first is a letter that I discovered pretty recently.  It’s one she wrote when my twin sister and I were just over a year.  Even though she’s describing our eating habits and temperaments as babies, she could have written it last year because it’s so dead on about our personalities today.  This one-page letter tells me more about myself than my whole baby book of statistics (which is fairly detailed considering we were second children and twins to boot!). 

The other treasure  is my collection of travel journals.  I created them when I was on big trips, including my first airplane trip to California, then on bigger trips, like to Israel and France.  When I was 6 on the California trip, they were mostly pictures and some rough descriptions.  Around third grade, they became more lists cataloging things we did (First we went here, then we went there.)  

As I got older, they got more sophisticated, more about my reactions to what I was seeing, less of a tourist brochure.  I remember the trips I made these journals on more than other trips I took, even though I was much older.  I loved reviewing them when I was growing up, as they instantly transported me back to whatever magical place I had visited. 

As a grown up, I love sharing them with my kids. We can’t ever put ourselves in our kids’ shoes entirely, but capturing my own feelings experiencing the thrill of travel for the first time-- finding a great bakery, seeing a beautiful garden, and, yes, even visiting art museums--reminds me what things are exciting when you’re a kid.  It makes more sense to me why the success of a trip can be directly proportional to the proximity of the gelato stand to our hotel.  And seeing the world through my young eyes builds their anticipation about travel all the more.

We want to know what your favorite keepsakes are, from your childhood and your own kids. 

Fourth of July Treats to Savor

Fourth of July Treats to Savor

Our Favorite July 4th Super Simple Desserts

If you've waited til the last minute, these desserts are simple ways to fire up the crowd and get a great look.

Jello Firecrackers

The key to these red, white and blue jello firecrackers desserts is the plastic shooter glasses we serve them in.  They serve the dual purpose of showing the colors off and not being too big, so your dessert goes further and people don’t feel guilty sampling everything.  Most folks add a white layer that’s either milk with plain gelatin or a more fancy lemon layer.  But, if you’re in a rush, you can skip that layer and just do red and blue jello.  If you’re really in a jam, you can use a can, which is certainly simple.  But fresh cream is so much better, and by putting it into a plastic ziplock bag an snipping off the corner, you can make it look just as pretty as the canned version. 

Red, White, and Bluewiches

If you put out a bunch of different deserts, almost certainly, the home-baked chocolate chip cookies will disappear first. Our red, white and bluewiches give a little July 4th flair to this crowd pleaser.

For the cookies we mostly follow the famous Toll House recipe with a few key tweaks: we use large fleur de sel instead of regular salt. We also try have the dough sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours before we bake them.   And this last point is key: we bake them only as much as you need to for them to stay together (but do make sure they stay together). No one ever complained a cookie was too gooey.

When the cookies are cool enough to remove easily, simply scoop ice cream between and then roll in red, white, and blue sprinkles.  A dessert that your crowd will melt over.

Watermelon Stars

Ok, we don’t claim this is really baking.  But it’s always nice to have a non-sugary dessert.  And it’s worth bearing in mind that a little creativity can make something a little more every day feel festive.  We got a star cookie cutter, which are pretty much available at every grocery store near the holidays, and we used it to create watermelon stars. We just sliced rounds of watermelon and pressed in the cutter.  They looked great on the place and were gone almost as fast as the cookies 

Sunday Night Dinners–The Importance of a Family Meeting

Sunday Night Dinners–The Importance of a Family Meeting

Last year, we were lucky enough to see best-selling author and New York Times family editor Bruce Feiler, who has done an intense study of what makes families happy, found models of what works.  One of the best things about his talk (and his books) was that it doesn’t seem so hard.  He gives you manageable chunks of ideas, and lots of specific tips that seem eminently doable.

Feiler’s philosophy is rooted in the group dynamic practice of “agility.”  The best organizations (and, as it turns out, the happiest families), have “teams do things in small chunks of time, adjust constantly, and review their progress frequently. Ideas don’t just flow down from the top but percolate up from the bottom. The best ideas win, no matter where they come from. . . . Agile families have a system to change and react to family chaos in real time.”  

One of the cornerstones of creating an agile family is instituting a weekly family meeting.  Bruce credits it as being among the most impactful ideas they introduced into their lives since having children.  With such a recommendation, we decided to give it a go.  And, as I said, it didn’t seem that hard to get going.  

We gather over Sunday night dinners, since it’s a good time to be able to plan for the week.  We like to start positive, so we first do a go around of saying what we liked best about the week or the weekend.  We often talk specifically about what worked well in our family that week.  Then, we do a go round about what didn’t go so well.  It seems to help our kids be open about what they are struggling with because my husband and I certainly have no shortage of things that we feel we could do better.  And they are not always earth shattering things.  Sometimes it’s just being better about putting your shoes away when you come in the house.  One rule we try hard to stick to, but that is a challenge for my kids, is sticking with your own issues.  (“I know what your goal should be,” they not-so-helpfully intone to their sibling.)

While we don’t do it every week, it certainly has made a difference in how our family relates to each other the weeks that we do.  Just the symbolic act of having goals of what you’re going to work on and writing them down together makes you a more mindful family citizen, more concerned, and more engaged. 

And just to make sure everyone’s focused, we end the meetings by distributing that week’s allowance, but more on that later!

Preserving Baby's First Photo

Preserving Baby's First Photo

These days, the first photo of our little ones emerges before they do: the sonogram. As you may have noticed, they’re not printed on the most sturdy of materials. Indeed, the Scrapbook Preservation Society (SPS) has gone so far as to call them “unstable.” How do you ensure that you can preserve that photo as a memento for the longer-term? According to the SPS, in addition to keeping the original one, you should also photocopy it onto white, archival paper. Alternatively, you can scan it on a laser printer, which uses the same processes as a photocopier. Be sure that you don’t keep it under PVC, they warn, as that will destroy your photos. Instead, rely on the polypropylene covers that are in many albums already.  

If you’ve never seen the site, it’s worth taking a stroll through the SPS site. Even for non-scrapbookers, as we are, it had a trove of great information about how to ensure your precious family memories make it to the next generation. When we go to the photo album or craft sections of stores and manufacturers throw around terms like “acid-free” or “archival,” it can be hard to know what you can really trust, and what you really need to spend extra on to ensure your items are protected. The SPS site cleared up a lot of these buzzwords and gave us answers for how to protect our photos, what we should look for on packaging, and how to store our albums.

After all, we'd like to share Baby's first photo-op when he or she is all grown up. 

Travel Journals: Enjoying the Ride

Travel Journals: Enjoying the Ride

I took my young children to Paris for spring break last year after we went to see their grandparents in the UK.  A lot of folks asked me whether or not my kids were too young to get much out of the trip, whether they were bored or not excited about what we did.  I traveled a lot when I was little, and I’m grateful that my mom gave me the idea to keep a travel journal from a very young age.  This kept me invested in all the activities we did, and it did the same thing for my kids.  When I was younger, journaling meant collecting “stuff,” tickets, postcards, menus, whatever I could get my chubby hands on.  But the collecting itself gave me a focus when I was at a cathedral or a museum, and, as important, an activity to do when we got back into the car.  As I got older, I added pictures and descriptions.  In my early teens, the journal started to become more of a traditional journal, a place to reflect on the experiences I had, more than just a travelogue.  It is a fact that the trips I kept journals on I remembered better than those I didn’t.

I got my kids excited about the journal idea on the plane over.  As soon as we hit the airport, I gave them new notebooks and a special pen for my older daughter, colored pencils for my younger one.  We didn’t feel pressured to write every day or keep every last item.  But even my six-year-old went excitedly from room to room at the Pompidou center, first figuring out what to draw and then sketching her favorite piece for about 20 minutes.  

And as much fun as these journal were at keeping my kids engaged in what we saw, they have been even more fun after the trip.  The best part was comparing their views of what we’d seen to what I’d written in my journal on my first trip lo these many years ago.  Reviewing the journals lets us relive the trips we took.  

Here are a few we liked, although we are also partial to the basic black and white composition books:

  • Nichols does these lovely “little adventure journals.”  He hand cuts tiny pieces of paper to make each picture, and each journal comes with 25 collage illustrations inside.
  • Martha Stewart, as always, has a great DIY travel journal that seems easy enough that even we could do it.  You can do it with your kids to build anticipation for the trip. Doesn’t seem too hard, even for us!  
  • For the tweens in your group, a simple personalized rainbow journal would do the trick. Here's one we liked from Frecklebox.

    Happy travel journaling! 

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