Happy Hump Day!
I spent this past Thursday to Monday in Chicago for a mini get away and I think I have found my new “totally love” city! To be honest, I did not expect much as I have always regarded New York as the ultimate place to live it up in North America. But I think Chicago may be a rival! The Windy City has all the aspects of a great city to live in: Good shopping (Magnificent Mile!), it’s multicutural, plenty of mouth watering food (deep dish pizza, steak), amazing art deco architecture, and all of this is settled along a beautiful waterfront with plenty of green space!
For those with young children, Chicago is a kid friendly destination. If you ever go, here are 5 picks that are worth checking out.
1) Chicago Children’s Museum: You won’t need to worry about “boring” in this museum! Chicago Children’s Museum has three floors of exhibits and activities that educated children through hands on activities and play. Both you and the kids will learn new things here.
2) Lincoln Park Zoo: Sitting on Chicago’s lakefront, this zoo is easily accessible and all the members of the family will enjoy all the must-sees, including the Great Ape House, lions, a $12-million greenhouse with rain forests, savannahs and deserts recreated under a 45-foot high glass dome and more.
3) Tall Ship Windy: Have an aspiring sailor or even little pirate on your hands? Taken them for a sail along the lake shore on the 148 foot traditional four masted schooner. You can find this at the Navy Pier.
4) Navy Pier: This is the one stop shop for food, entertainment and a whole day of fun. The Navy Pier is Chicago’s lakefront playground offering 50 acres of promenades, shops, restaurants and activities. Rent a bike, hop on a boat cruise, see Chicago from the 150 foot ferris wheel, and then round out the day with a fireworks show that runs through the summer every Wednesdays and Saturday nights.
5) John Hancock Observatory: 94th-floor observatory with more than 1,000 feet above Chicago, it’s got a Skywalk for those who are daring and enjoy heights.
6) American Girl & Hershey’s: I know I had written top five picks, but as a girl, and especially one with a sweet tooth, I couldn’t resist including these last two in. American Girl is a little girl’s dream: Create a custom doll with choice of hair colour, outfits and more. When your little ones (or you) need a little pick-me-up after a long day of walking, head to Hershey’s for an ice cream or smoothie in store.
Check out www.chicagokids.com for more listings and activities.
-A snap shot of my trip:
While some have the luxury of fully decorating a nursery with a specific “baby theme” and worrying about having to completely redecorate later, most of us are looking for something cute and comfortable to welcome the new baby, but without compromising versatility. Here are some of my favourite Stork Craft picks and also a few decorating ideas that we have come across along the way for photo shoots.
1) Cribs: What’s better than a convertible crib that will take your baby into their teen years?
Short on space? In need of something that will take your child from baby through to the day you get to wave them off to college? The Portofino Crib and Changer speaks for itself.
Monza II 2 in 1 Crib is my favourite for anyone looking for a modern look. It’s a fun design that also lends itself to various décor themes. I can see this crib fitting right next to an Eames piece (for anyone who is a mid-century furniture buff), or go completely fun and modern like the images below from Sears.
If I had to pick a crib that gives great value for its overall look, I would have to say it goes to the Venetian 4 in 1 Crib. It’s fit for a little boy or girl, and that extra pyramid detailing along the front and the back rail is amazing! It can convert from crib, to day bed, toddler bed and then a full bed.
2) Organizer Changers: Changers are practical pieces of furniture, but traditional ones do not necessarily lend themselves to being useful beyond those diaper years. StorkCraft just launched its two models of changer organizers and now your changer can transition into a great cube organizer for toys and books.
3) StorkCraft specifically manufactures juvenile furniture, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t always on the lookout for awesome decorating ideas.
Colour: Not long ago we did a post on “The Concept of Colour”. While not everyone will want to paint the nursery walls a bright yellow, keeping the furniture and walls a neutral colour, but using accessories and bedding to get that wow factor is both economical and versatile.
Peel and Stick Wall Decals: What a great way to create a theme in your nursery without having to worry about taking up a big project! We recently put one up for our photo shoot and we think that it gives the room the pop that it needs. These peel and stick wall art stickers are easy to apply and most are removable. Just make sure to read the packaging and see if it says that the stickers are removable, if repainting is not something that you want to do down the road. Here are some from Target that we love.
While baby furnishings tend to come in classic finishes like white and wood colours, who says that you can’t go bright and bold with all your baby’s other accessories! Take Stork Craft’s Monza II crib and the Beatrice dressers in white, and accessorize with some statement pieces, like a patterned upholstered chair, rug or lampshade. We’ve chosen yellow as the theme and we love this new, bold colour-blocking trend translated from the fashion runway to the home! All the accessory items in the design board below can be purchased at Target. To see a list of Stork Craft dealers, click here.
Stork Craft does all of its photo shoots in house, so we have been trying to find creative ways to spruce up the walls for our shots. While computer graphics have come a long way, it’s just not the same as actually having the real elements there to photograph. A quick search on the web for easy and cost effect nursery decorating ideas are wall decals and below images show the autumn motive that we recently purchased and put up. What do you think? Do you have any creative decorating ideas for your nursery? We can’t wait to see how the new decorative element turns out for our upcoming shoot this Friday!
A photo shoot is the culmination of many months of product design, scheduling, and planning. Here’s a sneak peak at the behind-the-scenes and the resulting shots.
Our in house warehouse guys, Danny and Chico, are experts when it comes to understanding how all our products are put together. Here, they are working on setting up Stork Craft’s new Bradford Crib Changer in White. In our resulting shot, we have paired it with the Beatrice 5 Drawer and Combo Dresser.
The platform is where we do all our white background and 360 shots. 360 shots make purchasing a crib online easier as you can see the item from all angles.
A lot of straightening and tucking before a shot can be taken! Meet Stork Craft’s latest addition: Navy Caribou Bunkbed that is shown below as two separate twin beds.
TGIF! Have an awesome weekend!
Hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day!
Here in Vancouver, BC, where Stork Craft’s headquarters are located, we had an amazing few days of sunshine! Now if you have ever been to the Pacific northwest, you will know that we see more rain than sun, even well into late spring/early summer, so this sudden wave of summer weather arrived just in time for this Mother’s Day weekend.
The above pictures are a snap shot of Jericho Beach in Vancouver from Sunday. My husband and I arrived before noon when the park and beach were still relatively empty so that we could stake out a good spot to set up for our Mother’s Day bbq. By lunch, the park was filled with happy families and young children who were also out for a relaxing day.
Below is a pic of my mom and I at the same location, 25 years ago. I can’t remember for what occassion it was, or if any at all, but even after all these years, the beach is still a favourite of mine for family gatherings and activities.
Does your family have any special traditions or activities for Mother’s Day?
A couple weeks ago I came across Child’s Own Studio, as featured in Today’s Parent May 2012 issue, and was charmed by the idea of creating a custom soft toy based on a child’s drawing. What better way to encourage a child’s imagination and let their creativity bloom than for a child to see their drawing come alive? Oh how I wished I could be little again and request my own personalized stuffy!
Wendy Tsao, momprenuer and the creator of Child’s Own Studio came up with the idea of making “a recognizable comfort toy for a 4 year-old boy based on his drawing.” Since then, she has hand crafted hundreds of these custom toys, one by one, and has created a business that she describes, “celebrates children’s art and their imagination with every handcrafted one-of-a-kind soft toy.”
Stork Craft is thrilled to feature fellow “Vancouverite”, Wendy, as Stork Craft’s Mom of the Week and have her give us a glimpse into her life as a stay at home mom, as well as her studio where these wonderful toys are created.
-Name (Surname optional): Wendy Tsao
-Children/Child’s age: 9 yr old son
-Location: Vancouver, BC
-Occupation: Stay at home mom/creator of Child’s Own Studio
~Wendy and her son
The Low Down:
SC: What has been the biggest surprise about motherhood since you have become a mom?
Wendy: When I was pregnant, I remember discussing with my husband what I’d be doing with all the free time I’d have while the baby was sleeping. Ha! It turns out that not all babies sleep all the time. Instead, my son nursed All The Time. I remember having very little “free” time.
SC: How has your life changed since you became a mom?
Wendy: I’m a bit more cautious about everything. As a kid, I was such a tomboy monkey, always wanting to climb trees and seek out thrills, much to my mother’s exasperation.
The other day, at an amusement park, I went on a ride with my son, and I thought I was going to throw up after. Is this nature’s way of preserving mothers and making them more responsible, I wonder?
SC: What has been the biggest challenge for you in motherhood?
Wendy: Finding the time for myself and not feeling guilty about it. Also, learning to step back so that my son can figure things out on his own – I was so close to becoming a helicopter mom.
SC: How do you (or plan to) manage your work life balance?
Wendy: I had to wait until my son was school age, before I was able to focus on my own goals. Now I work while he’s at school. There was a stretch before Christmas, when I had a lot of orders to tackle and I was basically in my studio all day for a month. But I had prepared my family, explaining that I was going to be very busy for a few weeks. After, I sat back and realized that I really didn’t have to work like that. I could (and did) decide my own pace of work and life.
SC: Any advice for moms-to-be or new moms?
Wendy: I remember times when I felt isolated and overwhelmed. Even if you can’t manage to get together with friends, you can stay connected with social media. Try to see funniness in stressful child rearing times – there are lots of mommy blogs that poke fun at the day to day incidences that can seem so frustrating – read them and laugh.
SC: Do you have any recommendations on any baby products that you can’t live without and that every mother should also have?
Wendy: There are so many products out there now – the industry has really grown, and I think I am officially out of touch. I remember that a baby carrier was a must-have ( see how out of touch I am?).
~Here’s where the magic (and a lot of hard work) happens! Wendy’s studio.
More about Child’s Own Studio:
SC: We love what you have come up with for Child’s Own Studio: “…make a recognizable comfort toy for a [child] based on [his/her] drawing”! What is the process that you go through to translate a 2D image into a 3D plush toy? Are there certain techniques that you stick to or is it inspired differently by how you feel and materials each time?
Wendy: Sometimes the drawings come with the young artist’s notes which I follow. Otherwise, I look at the drawing and see what details are the most appealing, and make sure to highlight them. Every project is unique and I respond to each one differently. I have no rules nor formulaic approach. I do tend to favour some fabrics, but I can also try something “different” occasionally. It’s hard to explain how I make these soft toys, because I’m not consciously thinking about the process. I just “do it” and if it doesn’t look right, I will modify or fix it or even, start over.
~Hope Peacemaker by Olivia, age 8
SC: Any projects so far that are particularly memorable or stand out to you as a favourites?
Wendy: I don’t have a particular favourite project or memory, because as soon as a project is done, it’s done. I send the softie off to the child, where (I like to imagine) they are busy in their world of play. I then start working on the next one. What’s really neat is checking my Flickr photostream to see which projects get favourited by visitors.
SC: What is the biggest challenge in the whole process of making one of the toys?
Wendy: The biggest challenge is staying true to the child’s drawing while making the toy solid and durable for a child’s play. Both aspects are equally important, but the latter takes precedence.
~Scary the Dinosaur by Oliver, age 5
~Polly Peanut Butter Bee by Joel
-My guilty pleasure is… eating out AND ordering a dessert.
-My biggest influence as a mother is… giving hugs and support when my son is feeling down.
-My favourite beauty buy is… getting my hair done – I found this hairdresser who does a fantastic scalp massage when she washes my hair, that I practically fall asleep.
-If I was stranded on a deserted island, I would need to at least have… wait, are we assuming that I know how to survive on a deserted island? If not, then I would need to have a book called How To Survive On A Deserted Island.
-Favourite restaurant: the little Chinese diner down the street.
-Favourite place to take my child/children to: anywhere we haven’t been to before. We really enjoy exploring new places.
-Top children’s store: You mean after Stork Craft? IKEA (One of my son’s first words)
~ By Jayme, age 5
The Simple Things
Remember those days, before the internet, when research for an elementary school project always involved the use of the Britannia Encyclopedia set and sifting through piles of yellow bound National Geographic magazines? Oh, how I date myself! Over the course of lunch today, one of my colleagues mentioned that his niece, who is currently in elementary school, works off an iPad in class now. Each child is given an iPad that is connected to the teacher’s screen at the front, and this is how they learn! It brings to mind my last flight to San Diego where just about every toddler on board had a pair of headphones hooked up to a smart tablet of some sort. They were all watching a movie or playing a game. Talk about how quickly technology has revolutionalized the way students learn, children play, and the way us “adults” go about work (That Blackberry that never stops buzzing!).
While all these gadgets have provided us great conveniences and entertainment like never before, it makes me nostalgic for the old fashioned things. I’m one of those “old school” kind of people who still believe in the magic of cutting up construction paper, and playing make believe with stuffed animals and pillow forts (Take a look at this awesome concept by Child’s Own Studio of turning your child’s drawing into a real toy, as featured in Today’s Parent Magazine, May 2012 issue!).
Stork Craft is a juvenile furniture manufacturer, but we can’t resist having our own version of a classic children’s entertainment piece in our product lineup: The Stork Craft Rocking Horse. This beautifully finished wooden Rocking Horse by Stork Craft, with its soft mane and tail, is sure to please any little cowboy, or princess looking for her pony! Featuring long runners to maximize safety and with generous seating room, this rocking horse is sure to be your little one’s favourite accessory (Here’s a list of retailers where you can get yours!).
What are some of the simple things that you remember from your own childhood that you have fond memories of?
Sleigh cribs have always been a great classic style. With the amazing response that Stork Craft has been receiving for the Tuscany and Verona convertible cribs, we are excited to be launching the new Stork Craft Modena 4-in-1 crib. It will be sold online at your favorite retailers very soon!
The Modena crib and Aspen 5 Drawer in cherry finish, perfect for any little boy or girl’s room.
The Modena crib and Aspen Combo Dresser in white finish.
Have a great weekend!
Dad of the Week: Pete
Up to now, Stork Craft has featured a Mom of the Week for the past few weeks (Which we love!), but we figured, why not change things up a bit and feature a dad? Better yet, let’s feature a dad who has recently become a grand dad, and who is also in the juvenile products industry! Meet Pete: Business man, husband, father to two grown up sons, and brand new grandfather to a four month old granddaughter.
Ever the smooth talker, Pete is the sales man that could probably get into a conversation with just about anyone on anything (I think out of everyone that I talk to over the phone, on average Pete ranks the highest when it comes to calls per day! Haha!). But even as a natural conversationalist, Pete advises that every caregiver needs to keep in mind that “…you have two eyes and two ears, but only one mouth…use them proportionally”. In the same way, even when the Blackberry is ringing off the hook and buzzing with email notifications, this dad knows that it takes conscious effort to put family before work.
For the majority of our readers who are parents of young children, the days can seem long and the nights even longer. This is especially true with a new born that requires changing and feeding every few hours, or a fussy toddler who is teething and learning to sleep on his/her own. Despite the spent energy and hectic schedules though, cherish every moment because babies do grow very quickly into young adults! As Pete, and probably every parent that has waved their children off to college and beyond observes, time is the one thing that you can never get back to spend with your kids: “Now that they are grown, “the shoe is really on the other foot”, as I try to get more time with them than they have to give to me.”
-First name: Pete
-Children (or Grand-child’s) age: Step-son 27, Son 21, Granddaughter 4 months
-Location: Greensboro, NC
SC: What was the biggest surprise about fatherhood when you first became a dad? What about becoming a grandfather?
Pete: The biggest surprise was learning how little you actually know about the new children in your life. Every day was a trial and error to see what worked and didn’t work, along with what they liked and didn’t like. As a new grandfather, the biggest surprise is that the likes/dislikes and works/don’t work are again different from what you did with your own children.
SC: Looking back, what has been the biggest challenge for you in fatherhood during your children’s early years? Has this changed since they are now grown up?
Pete: The biggest challenge was balancing my time between work and family. While critical to build a career to support them, I had to learn that it was more important to give them as much of my time as possible as well. Now that they are grown, “the shoe is really on the other foot”, as I try to get more time with them than they have to give to me.
SC: As a granddad now, if you could travel back in time a few decades to give yourself some advise when you were a young father, what would it be?
Pete: It’s so cliche, but true – you really need to enjoy those early years when the children want so much of your time, because those days do go by so fast.
SC: How did you manage your work life balance between being a father and businessman while your children were growing up?
Pete: It was actually easier in those days. Technology has actually made things harder for this generation. Except for business trip weekends, weekends were for family; nights were as well. When the kids were very young, we didn’t have cell phones and Smart phones to allow us contact at night and on weekends. Email was also in its infancy, so we weren’t as accessible as we are today.
SC: Any advice for fathers-to-be, new dads, or even dads who are becoming grandfathers?
Pete: For fathers, make time with your family that doesn’t include cell phones. Put it away for certain periods of time, so that you can devote your full attention to your family. For grandfathers, learn the salesperson’s rule – you have two eyes and two ears, but only one mouth…use them proportionally. Allow your children to make their own decisions and mistakes – allow them to use you as a sounding board, but try to not tell them what you did or what you would do in each situation.
SC: Since you are in the juvenile products industry, have you seen any big changes in products since you first started and now? If so, what are some of them?
Pete: There are almost too many to name – in general, there are so many products that weren’t available when my kids were little. My kids slept in drop-side cribs, which aren’t available anymore. The car seats they use today are safer and have more features than the ones we used. There is also such a variety of strollers available that my son has multiple ones for the different activities he, his girlfriend and the baby are involved in.
SC: Do you have any recommendations on any baby or children’s products that every parent should have?
Pete: First, remember that the nursery is more about mom than the baby. Purchase furniture, bedding, and accessories that you will enjoy, as you will spend so much time in the nursery [during] the baby’s first few years. Also, buy as good a mattress as you can – your baby will spend 50% of its first two years on that mattress. Last, buy as good a car seat as you can - the safety of our children is so important.
-My guilty pleasure is…
finding a pick-up game of basketball, football or soccer with the neighborhood kids. Not very guilty, but a great way to spend a weekend afternoon.
-My biggest influence as a father is…
helping my kids make their own decisions. As an insider/outsider, you can help them understand the potential consequences and positives that happen with each decision. Then, you can watch as they make their final decisions.
-If I was stranded on a deserted island, I would need to at least have…
my health. I would need to find activity, or I would go nuts. Finding another human would also be helpful – communication and companionship are too important to me.
-Favourite restaurant to take the wife out to:
Positano’s or Sal’s, two local Italian restaurants with great food and management that is easy to get to like
-Favourite place to take my grandchild to:
We haven’t gone anywhere yet, but I’m looking forward to taking her to the pool and to the beach.