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Ideas for the Best Summer Vacation

It’s Summer Vacation!
Now what do I do with my kids?

Saying goodbye to the school year is a bittersweet deal for most moms I know. We’re all ready for a break in the routine, a chance to go on adventures, to have more time to play and fewer battles over bedtimes. It doesn’t matter if you stay home full time, work part-time, or work full-time – its still a juggling act, just a different one. As I write this, I’m staring down one more day of my kids being in school.  And I’m in semi-panic mode. I love this time of year but let’s be serious, it’s not for the weak. You have to gear up for it.

A few summers ago I put together a list of activities/events so I didn’t have to recreate the process each year.  In case you’re looking for things to add to your schedule, I’ve listed some below…I know I love hearing ideas from other moms on new things to try.

Make a To Do list. Add all the things you and your kids want to do for the summer. Make it fun and colorful and hang it where everyone can see it. These are helpful on days when they have a lot of energy and you’re out of ideas.

Summer camps - I usually start with special interest camps such as Girl Scouts, Robotics, Lego, etc. The list includes Parks and Recreation programs, schools, public libraries, children’s theatres, even the Animal Humane Society for budding animal lovers.  These are usually one week long, so it’s good to choose these first when your schedule is more flexible. 

Reading! Raised by a librarian, there’s a lot of reading happening at our house. In addition to reading together at home, reading programs are a great way to encourage your kids to continue reading over the summer so they don’t lose the progress they made in school.

  • Most public libraries have a summer reading program for a variety of ages. We’re also fans of the Barnes and Nobles program, where kids can earn a free book after reading/telling a favorite part from 8 books.
  • The more creative the event, the more interest you’ll get. Our Parks and Rec does “pop up libraries” weekly in a variety of playgrounds around the area…they show up with a big box of books and a craft for kids to enjoy. Take turns doing this with a group of moms if you don’t have one near you.
  • Find or create your own Picture Walk. Pages of a favorite book are removed, laminated and posted along a path so you read as you wander. Our library does this along the path that leads from their doors to the Farmer’s Market.  Easy to create your own!
  • Weekly story times at the library and Pottery Barn kids have been on our list for a long time. Check out local bookstores for times/ages as well.
  • We’re creating a Free Lending Library that we’ll have in our yard – we’ll fill it with some of our favorite books and then other kids can donate a book and take a book. It’s a great way to share books among the kids in your neighborhood. Throw in a few for the other moms as well. You can purchase kits for these, salvage something you own, (I saw a bread box version on Pinterest), or find plans online to build one. (Or hire your brother-in-law to build it for you.)
  • Check with a nursing home and/or assisted living facility about coming in and reading to the resident’s…great practice for your little readers with very grateful listeners.

Playgrounds - our goal is to pick an open morning and go to a different playground each week.

Beach, pool, splash pads – we’ll try to get to one of these each week.  

Visit the Zoo

Lemonade stand - include fresh cookies. (Ok to cheat and buy the dough)

Local and State Fairs

City celebrations – we especially like those that include a parade! Check out towns around you as well…our favorite is a Raspberry Festival.

Children’s Theatre events

Children’s Museums events

Food trucks – track down a favorite for a meal or treat outside.

Get physical! Play games, run races, ride your bikes, go for walks…keep ‘em moving. We got hooked on kayaking last summer – my daughter and I in one, my son in another…at 9 1/2, he was able to handle it well, which surprised me. We’d go around our favorite lake from the boat launch to the beach, play a bit, and then head back to the launch. By the end of last summer, it was getting awkward for me to paddle with both of us in the kayak because my daughter had grown so much…and she moves around a lot. This summer our plan is that I’ll tow her behind me in her large inflated pink flamingo. Should be interesting. If nothing else, we’ll entertain the families that live around the lake.

Don’t forget quiet time! Summer vacation is a lot of together time and we all need a break. Try not to overbook your days. And make sure everyone has 30 minutes or so (depending on ages) in their room or another space by themselves to just play or read quietly, to catch their breath from all the stimulation. And for you to catch your breath also!

Here’s to a wonderful summer vacation full of giggles and new memories!

 

 

 

June 15, 2019 by Diane Janowak

Time for a Summer Tea Party!

My daughter is always looking for a reason to wear her beautiful Strasburg dresses…an outdoor tea party has become one of her favorite excuses!

summer fun with girls tea partyThe longer days of summer lend themselves perfectly to setting up a simple tea party in a shady area or under a sun umbrella. While the typical setting is at home, this is also a great way to add some “quieter time” into a busy day of playgrounds, beach, etc. on family trips if there are little cousins together.

A tea party guest list is a very versatile thing – it’s a great “event” to share with parents, grandparents, friends, cousins, stuffed animals…even the occasional little brother if he’s tolerated.

Fortunately, they’re also relatively simple to set up. Start with a date, time, and guest list. Will it be fancy dresses or come as you are? A drawing by the guest of honor with a few details can be hand delivered to guests, mailed, or sent via text. An outdoor party always seems more fun until it rains, so be prepared with a plan B for setting up inside if weather doesn’t cooperate.

A creative menu doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. It’s amazing how lovely peanut butter and jelly sandwiches look when you use a cookie cutter to shape them. Cheese and fruit slices are more appealing with fancy toothpicks. Fruit snacks arranged on a plate in a fun pattern are fun to set up and to eat. Single serve applesauce containers look darling with a bow around them. The “tea” can be a favorite fruit juice, lemonade, or any favorite drink. Colorful silicone cups are great for single servings around the table…like goldfish to make sure all servings are equal. One note of caution: when planning the food, consider the safety of the dress if it’s a special one. Extra cheesy goldfish might be a favorite snack but the regular little guys won’t leave an orange trail across the dresses. Save the messy ones for play clothes.

Have fun setting the table with your little one/ones! Don’t forget a sturdy tablecloth and fresh flowers in a (stable) vase to set the mood. If you don’t have a kids table to use or the regular outdoor table seems too big, try a smaller outdoor table with pillows on the ground for seats. (I have the Crate & Barrel Table in a Bag that sits 15” off the ground…it goes everywhere with us). If you have a regular kids tea set, that’s great…if not, throw together something fun for them to drink from. A nice pitcher can pretend to be a tea pot for the occasion.

Once your guests have arrived and are seated, silence your phone and savor the time having (or watching ) “tea” and snacks, making memories with whoever is seated around the table.

 

 

June 01, 2019 by Diane Janowak
Does my daughter need a slip for her dress?

Does my daughter need a slip for her dress?

In the past we’ve talked about how some dress manufacturers cut “quality corners” in their garments to eliminate costs and speed up the production process, taking the “fast fashion” approach to getting dresses to their stores as quickly as possible. Linings are removed, cheaper fabric is used, seams are finished with serge edges that are scratchy/itchy on tender skin. 

Enter the cotton slip. What seems like a simple garment actually has a big job to do. We know that all dresses aren’t created equal, so we designed a basic 100% cotton white slip with a slightly-lowered neckline to fit under a variety of dress styles, both ours and other brands. It’s finished with French seams for softness against tender skin. We also recommend using a full slip for a skirt that needs more coverage or is clingy as a half-slip creates too much happening at the waist.

Our dresses are finished cleanly, most with French seams, for softness against a little one’s skin. Yet sometimes heirloom fabric is lightweight and delicate-looking…with the sun or bright light behind it, it can be a bit see-through. Layer a cotton slip under the dress for more coverage if you’re concerned about family or individual photos on the beach. At the beach is not the time to discover the sheerness. An easy way to test this before photos is to have your little one go outside on a sunny day in her new dress and position her in different angles from the sun.

There’s a basic slip and a “show” slip that adds volume and shape to a skirt, increasing the twirl factor. That’s where our tulle slip comes in! While this slip also protects from itchy seams, we’ve added layers of tulle to give an extra “pouf” to any full-skirted dress…or skirt! Let the twirling begin!

February 01, 2019 by Diane Janowak
Why heirloom gifts are such a treasure

Why heirloom gifts are such a treasure

“Heirloom” is more than just a term we use to describe our designs. We truly appreciate the treasure of an item handed down through families and generations. Our dresses and boy’s items are created with a classic style and sturdy construction to age gracefully. Our freshwater pearl collection is created by hand to care for both the pearls and the strength of the strand together. We take our place in your families seriously and do our best to instill quality workmanship so those items can be treasured for many years…and many little ones.
November 30, 2018 by Diane Janowak

Tips for Getting the Perfect Family Photos

The holidays are coming and that makes a perfect time for the annual family photo! You've spend time on the perfect outfits and now you want the perfect picture. Here are a few things to remember for a smooth photo shoot. Hopefully you have no accidental face injuries or mud puddles nearby!

Perfect Family Photo Tips

7 Tips For Getting the Perfect Family Photo:

1. Have a Plan

We can’t stress this enough! Occasionally you can get lucky with that perfect shot on the fly, but for the most part, planning makes perfect. Or as perfect as one can get when it comes to family photos. There are so many things that go into this that could have a post of their own. Your photographer or Pinterest should be a great help for choosing the right location, the right clothes and props or posing ideas. Include the family as much as possible so they have a vested interested, perhaps making them a little more cooperative.

2. Keep it Simple

This is a family photo and you want to see the people, not necessarily the setting. Look for open fields, an old brick wall or even the side of a rustic barn to keep your photos distraction free. Closeup shots are often the best family photos anyway.

3. Schedule When Kids Are the Happiest
This mostly applies to infants and toddlers because if you have teens and wait for them to be happy, it may be years! Just kidding – but if you can work around the kiddos routines, the better the photos you are going to get! We can almost promise that it will be a disaster if photos are scheduled during little Johnny’s nap time. Also make sure everyone is well fed. You don't want to document the memory of the time everyone was "hangry".

Fun Family photo ideas

4. Have Some Fun
Use props to liven up a shot or lend some creativity for the Christmas Card photo. Try different positions, don't be afraid to lay down or use chairs or even a ladder for height variations. Let the kids play and have fun. Family photos should be about capturing a memory and it will be a much better one if the kids aren't constantly being told what to do. Some great candid shots can come if you let them play and be natural. 

5. Coordinate, Don’t Match
You don’t want your clothing to be a distraction and if everyone is in red or white, that’s all people are going to see! Take the time to plan coordinated, not matching outfits. Use a few different colors and don't be afraid to use different shades of the same color.

6. Don’t over pose
Enjoy the time and you will see it in your faces. The more natural you are, the better the photos will turn out. You don't want any weird overly posed arms or the totem pole look were everyone is standing too straight. Don't be afraid to bend and arm or leg a little. 

7. Choose the Right Photographer
There are a lot of options out there with different cost structures. Talk to or meet with the photographer and make sure you click. If you feel more comfortable and have similar styles, the photos are much more likely to be what you want. If you just go the cheap route, you may end up hating them and leaving them in a drawer. Don't waste the money, go with your instinct and find the right photographer at the right price. 

Enjoy the time as a family!! Here's to hoping your family photo session is a success!

Shop the Holiday Collection! Shop Boys Matching.

November 19, 2018 by Strasburg Children
The Art of the Needle

The Art of the Needle

The history of the embroidery needle and the beauty it leaves behind is actually quite humble. The various stitches we see today started out as simple tools to tailor, mend, or reinforce clothing and home linens. These stitches helped develop sewing techniques for construction as well…and as those stitches were practiced and improved, the idea of decorative stitches to create art took hold. Embroidery became a version of folk art as most cultures and countries created a style of their own. These techniques were treasured and taught to younger generations to keep the craft going.

embroidery by handExamples of this popular decorative stitch have been found as early as the Warring States period in China, dating back to the 5th-3rd century BC.  Depending on the time, location and materials available, embroidery was controlled by a few experts or a wide-spread, popular technique. This flexibility led to a variety of styles, from elaborate to simple.

Elaborately embroidered clothing, religious objects, and household items were often seen as a mark of wealth and status. In many cultures, embroidery was a skill marking a girl's path into womanhood as well as conveying rank and social standing.

The embroidery process changed drastically with the development of machine embroidery. The earliest transition to machines combined embroidery completed on machine looms with teams of women embroidering textiles by hand. This process first appeared in France in the mid-1800s. Embroidery completed only by machines quickly followed, bringing access to this art form to the masses.

Fabrics and yarns used in traditional embroidery varied from place to place. Wool, silk, and linen fabric and yarn have been used for thousands of years. Embroidery thread is also available in cotton, rayon, and novelty threads. Ribbon embroidery uses narrow ribbon in silk or silk/organza blend ribbon, most commonly to create floral motifs. Other materials can be incorporated into the design as well, such as pearls and beads.

At Strasburg Children, embroidery has always been an important detail in our designs. When our company was created in the late 80’s, we fell for the charm of embroidery being done in its original form…just two hands, a needle, and thread. And that’s how our embroidery continues to be created to this day…in the loving hands of our talented artisans. For us, the balance of using new technology to reach our customers combined with the old-world traditions of hand embroidery seems to be the best fit for us. We hope you appreciate that detail as much as we do.

November 05, 2018 by Diane Janowak

Keeping Everyone Jolly For the Santa Photo

This is my 11th year getting little’s dressed up and heading out on a Santa photo adventure.  Given the holiday shopping crowds and number of other Mama’s attempting the same, put some planning into your trip before you leave home. Here are some helpful tips that I’ve learned (some the hard way!) that will hopefully keep your adventure fun and tear-free.

It’s not always realistic, but try to scout out the Santa location ahead of time. You can’t be sure you’ll see the same “friend of Santa” as my children call them (how else could Santa be everywhere and still mind the shop? They’ve decided his friends help and then give him the info at the end of their days) but the décor will be the same and varies widely among locations. Ask the Santa helpers if there’s a time that is slower/calmer for you to try and if Santa always wears the same outfit. I once wanted to walk away when I saw Santa’s “casual Friday” outfit but the kids were too little to risk going somewhere else without a meltdown.

Go when everyone will be at their freshest, including you. If you were up most of the night with a little one, it’s probably not your day to go.  Check the hours for Santa and then make your strategy. Be there when it opens if you don’t have a morning napper, schedule the trip soon after your little one wakes up and eats if you do.

Snacks are key! Keep them healthy and avoid sugar so your little’s don’t crash just as you hand them to the Jolly Old Elf.  You might need the sugar treat for a bribe at the end if they do well! Same with water...keep them and you hydrated.

If you have a crier, team up with the photographer – place them on Santa’s lap and then happily, slowly back away from them while talking, singing, whatever it takes. Once out of range, they need to snap the shot. If all else fails, include Mama and/or Daddy in the photo this year!

Bring an extra outfit. Nice clothes and coordinating outfits seem to be magnets for snack drips, mud puddles, diaper disasters.

I’m of the camp that the occasional bribe isn’t a bad thing. This is where the yummy sweet snack comes in handy. Have them earn it by playing nice with Santa.

Each year I’ve purchased the Santa photo, framed it, and started a gallery that comes out and is added to with each Santa visit. The kids and extended family love seeing them each year and its become one of my favorite parts of decorating our home for Christmas.  Even Lucy, our French bulldog, had her photo taken with Santa and is part of the gallery now. Don’t forget to find a Santa event for your pet also!

Lastly, be realistic as you hand your darling child/children to a complete stranger in a funny outfit.  It might stress you at the time if they melt down, but they probably won’t be traumatized as you swoop in to rescue them and it makes for an adorable and real photo. And those are the fun photos to bring out when they’re older!

Good luck and Happy Holidays!

 

November 01, 2018 by Diane Janowak
Celebrating Grandparents Every Day

Celebrating Grandparents Every Day

National Grandparents Day might not carry the importance that closes schools or slows down the mail, but to parents and littles, fondly referred to as “grands,” it’s a day of great importance as we honor our national treasures. The treasures within our very own villages, who add a layer of richness to our individual and collective families. With healthier lifestyles adding to our life longevity, more children’s lives include great grandparents as well. Four generations gathering together is such a blessing! How perfect that the official flower attached to the day is the lovely forget-me-not!

Rather than the occasional family visits and adventures that most of us remember as children, more grandparents are now embedded in the daily worlds of their children and grandchildren. Some do before and after school care while parents work, volunteer in classrooms and on field trips, cover the soccer and piano practices. Some are the primary care givers during the work day, while others live with their families or have taken over the parenting role completely.

The benefits to everyone are profound. Being “one layer removed” means guiding words from a grandparent might land softer than the same words from a parent. With a less stressful schedule, grandparents typically have more time to just play. Grandparents are a great source of family history, telling stories parents may have forgotten or don’t have the time to tell. Family values and traditions are passed down from grandparents and new traditions and idea passed up from the youngest family members. 

For grandparents, being actively involved in family is a large source of happiness, it keeps their brains and body busy, and is a great deterrent to depression. For parents, it offers a sense of security and support in our busy world. Grandchildren benefit by learning to communicate with adults other than their parents, gaining wisdom, having a better a sense of stability and safely. Kids who have involved grandparents have a lower level of depression as adults, an amazing benefit. It’s an incredible win for each member of the extended family. 

So thank you former President Carter, for declaring the first Sunday in September after Labor Day to be National Grandparent Day back in 1978. It’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate those who raised us and continue to be a source of love and guidance in all of our lives.

 

At Strasburg Children, we send out a special message of love and thanks to the Grandmas who call to share that they dressed their children in our clothing as they were growing up and they’re now back to choose designs for their grandchildren!   You have no idea how much these calls warm our hearts…we love hearing from you.

October 01, 2018 by Diane Janowak

The Many Blessings of April

The month of April will bless us with the opportunity to celebrate with our families not once, but twice – both being occasions we hold close in our hearts. (And fortunately for my daughter, both involve a Strasburg Children’s dress.) We’ll lead the month off with Easter, celebrated by attending church as an extended family in the morning, followed by a meal prepared together and an Easter egg hunt before heading home. In an interesting twist, Easter shares the spotlight with April Fools Day…could make for an interesting Easter egg hunt!

The second, tied closely with the Easter season in the Catholic Church, is our daughter’s First Holy Communion.  I find it fascinating to learn how different religions develop the sacraments that build their foundations. In the Catholic Church, it’s the sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist – that layer our foundations. The faithful are born anew by Baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation, and receive in the Eucharist the food of eternal life. First Holy Communion is the common name for the first time someone receives the sacrament of the Eucharist. Since the Eucharist is the central focus of the sacramental life of the Catholic Church, this is an event of great importance.

Traditions surrounding First Communion include large family gatherings and parties to celebrate the special girl or boy following mass. Girls often wear white dresses, to symbolize purity, along with a veil or floral wreath and white gloves (long or short). Boys typically wear either a suit or dress shirt and tie with dress pants. Many families have a portrait taken with the child wearing their special clothes as a keepsake of this important day.

So it’s time for us to narrow our choices on what Strasburg Children dress she’ll wear on her special day! Our top contenders are Lulu, MaryBella, Audrey, Caroline, Blair, Mary, and Virginia. Silk or cotton? Simple and elegant or the added charm of smocking and embroidery added by the hands of our artisans? We’re spoiled to have so many stunning options and relieved to know that each one is a wonderful choice. Next is the floral wreath choice, which will be worn with my short wedding veil. Gloves or no gloves? Add the white Mary Jane shoes with a bow and we’re ready for her big day!

Wanting this to be more than just a day, a dress, and a party, I found some great suggestions from other moms for making this day special and one that we’ll all cherish the memories of.

Make a First Communion banner. With a little felt, ribbon, and a wooden dowel, you can create this with your child to commemorate their special day. In our church, the banners are hung outside the worship area for a few weeks so everyone can see them and pray for the children. They hang on the pews where our families sit the day of their First Holy Communion.

Have a special First Communion breakfast that morning. I’m stealing this idea for sure!!

Give a timeless gift they can hold onto forever, such as a cross necklace and bracelet, prayer book, rosary, crucifix, or Bible. When they wear or use their gift, they’ll remember that they received it on their First Communion. If you get a prayer book or Bible, you can have their name and the date engraved on the cover at many Catholic shops for around $5.

Celebrate! Whether this is a celebration in your home or a larger event at a restaurant, this is a great way to show your child that this is an important day of celebrating them! Many include a celebration cake. For my son, I decorated cupcakes with white frosting and arranged them in the shape of a cross on a large wooden tray.

Light their Baptism candle at your celebration. Traditionally, Baptism candles were lit at special occasions such as Baptism anniversaries and First Communion brunch/dinners. Then at one’s death, the candle is lit and allowed to burn all the way down.

Say a special prayer for your child at dinner with your family. One mom found this prayer, which I thought was wonderful:

Remember how He broke the loaf made from golden wheat, and said, “This is my body.  Take this bread and eat.” Remember how the sun-ripe grapes taken from the vine became a cup of blessing:  “Take and drink this wine.” Remember how a cross of wood became a symbol of Christ’s giving of himself to us-the greatest kind of love. Remember Jesus’ love for you today as you receive His bread of life, His cup of grace…Remember and believe!

Have your child get their items blessed by the priest. After they receive their gifts, take them to Mass with you the next Sunday and have your child request that the priest bless them.

Congratulations if your April will include these blessings as well! Let’s take the time as busy moms to take a deep breath and cherish this day with our little ones.

March 21, 2018 by Diane Janowak

Keeping Your Heirloom Dresses Beautiful

All of our designs are made with heirloom-quality fabrics and details, with the idea that you can pass the dress or Christening gown along to another sibling, family member, or even to the next generation. If the garment will be worn within a few months, hanging it on a padded hanger in a cloth garment bag will keep it clean and safe…make sure you wash or clean it first.  If it will be longer, it’s best to store it off the hanger. It doesn’t take much time and effort to preserve these garments properly for the next wearer - but it does make a huge difference if you do.
January 31, 2018 by Diane Janowak