Be-My-Valentine Bears


I find it a little hard to get worked up over Valentines Day, coming so quickly on the heels of Christmas. But Anouk really loves it, and is really excited about it, so I am trying. I've been slipping some of these Valentine bears in her snack for the last week or so, and they have been a big hit.

It's the easiest DIY ever: Teddy Grahams + red icing. The icing can get a little blobby which I am sure can be fixed in some way but I balk at spending too much finesse on something that is going to be eaten by a toddler in three seconds. Anyway, I just tell myself that the blobby hearts are anatomically correct ones, I am giving my kid a head-start on biology! #tigermom

Happy weekend!

Favorite kids books (vol. II)


Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio: So this might be the most adorable book ever. Two dog families find out that it's not what looks right that makes a family, but what feels right. We love the little Parisian touches, ooh lala.

I'm Not Bobby by Jules Feiffer: Rather than do what his mother tells him, a little boy imagines all the other things he could be besides himself (a rocket ship, a lion).

Gobble Growl Grunt by Peter Spier: My friend J. mentioned the other day that she searched high and low for a copy of this book when her kids were born -- A. and I came across it at the thrift store and brought it home for something like 10 cents. It's been worth 10 times that in the time we've had it. We love the whimsical way the animals are illustrated and the way they are grouped together on the pages according to the types of noises they make. I also like a lot that the quiet animals are represented, too.

Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier: Anouk loves reading this book, which is not one book but a bunch of little books sandwiched inside each other, growing progressively smaller like a literary matrioshka doll. We especially love Giant's teensy book right in the middle.

Hide and Seek Fog by Alvin Tresselt: This book is written by the author of White Snow, Bright Snow, one of our other favorites. I love so much the beautiful and descriptive writing of how a little village looks with the fog rolling in off the water and how it affects all the people who live in that village.

Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook by Shel Silverstein: I never ran across this Shel Silverstein when I was little. The poems are all the same kind of funny ones you're used to -- but the words have switched letters. It's a hilarious challenge to read.

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen: A town in Maine helps the animals that escaped off a circus ship hide from their mean owner. A. loves turning the pages and spotting the giraffe cleverly disguised as a clothesline or the elephant posing as a rock in somebody's garden.

Beach by Elisha Cooper: This is probably the most beautiful kids' book I've come across, with the watercoloresque illustrations of the beach. It looks so much like our beaches here in HRVA! The story is simple, basically describing what a day at the beach looks like, but that feels familiar too, and is probably why we love it. It scratches that can't-wait-for-summertime itch.

(to see vol. I of our favorite kids books, click here).

North Carolina Aquarium (Manteo, NC)


One of Anouk's favorite things to do on a weekend day is to go to the Virginia Aquarium in VB (we have definitely gotten our money's worth and then some from our membership). In fact, she loves it so much that James and I thought we would surprise her a few weeks back and drive her down to the North Carolina Aquarium in the Outer Banks as a treat.

The NC Aquarium is on Roanoke Island, near Manteo, just a little over two hours away from Norfolk. It's a nice drive -- there are plenty of places to stop on the way. Even in the off-season, the aquarium drew a good crowd, the place was full of people but not packed. There was plenty to see: we spent time looking at the fish (and alligators! snakes! adorable otters!), petted a few stingrays, and then were lucky enough to be able to see the sharks get fed. The staff were all very knowledgeable and able to answer every question we had (and there were a lot, Anouk might have gotten her aquarium love from me).

The real standout of the visit, though, was the sea turtle rehabilitation facility. Sea turtles from around the OBX area that are found sick or injured are taken to the NC Aquarium where they are treated and rehabbed before being released. You can tour the facility, and speak to the workers who help to treat the turles. We learned a lot about their habitat and the dangers these animals face, and then headed over to the play area, where A. practiced at being a turtle doctor herself.

The play area was really nicely done -- very clean and organized and easy for little kids but still engrossing for big ones. We saw kids of all ages in the white doctors coats, bandaging up their turtles before "releasing" them (aka sliding them down a trapdoor into a bin so they could pick them up and play with them again). Lucky A. picked up a sea turtle doctor kit from the gift shop, so the fun continues at home. Hurray for playing something other than Barbies!

Highly recommended for a day trip during your next Outer Banks vacation, or even as a standalone trip in itself (Manteo is pretty adorable any time of year).

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