Friday, September 28, 2012

One Kings Lane Prints by Lulu DK

I love the vibrant colors and designs in today's One Kings Lane print offerings by artist Lulu DK....

Monday, September 24, 2012

2012 Emmy Gown Review...

I realize I am by no means the official fashion police by any stretch of the imagination....but just thought it would be fun to give some commentary here...


The top of my 'best dressed' list goes to Jon Hamm, naturally

My FAV dress of the evening....I loved Padma Lakshmi's bold, cheerful tangerine hue and figure-flattering silhouette

Although I tend to dislike busty figures in plunging strapless gowns such as these, I think Kat Dennings (whom I love) looked stunning in this one. I loved the geometric lines of the gathered fabric and modern design of her dress

Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka is so adorable in this age-appropriate full skirted, simple silhouette

I love the color and interesting large scale print of Ginnifer Goodwin's dress...I just wish it did NOT have the asymmetrical hemline

Love the emerald green color and design of Allison William's peplum strapless dress.

Lucy Liu adorable in this fun, disco-ball-inspired strapless dress

Love the bold citrus yellow color and simple design of Julie Bowen's dress, but NOT her hair style...perhaps better up?

Loved this free-spirit hippie-ish design. on Leslie Mann, esp with the turquoise jewelry

Love the color of Lara Spencer's gown, but the ill-placed black lace shoulder creates confusion b/w a sporty vs. romantic vibe

Loved Portia de Rossi's unique, interesting nude colored pant/dress/jumpsuit

Beautiful gown and color is very pretty on Sarah Hyland, but did NOT love the ringlet curls

Very cool dress, but did not love it on Edie Falco, particularly...too young for her

My JUST-SO-SO's...

This gown was just so-so....white color was not as flattering as other colors would have been on beautiful Jessica Pare...

This style looked better on live footage versus photograph...but gown did not excite me...Heidi Klum is always beautiful, however!

Pretty and simple sequin gown, but perhaps too droopy on top for Kerry Washington's petite frame

Sofia Vergara is always gorgeous, but this gown could have been simplified a bit....too much going on, very mermaid-ish

Not a big fan of this grape-jam colored gown, but simple style is pretty on Tina Fey...CORRECTION: After seeing this dress in other photos, I have concluded it is a prettier burgundy red versus grape-jam purple 

Style and color are pretty on Julianne Hough, but wasn't a big fan of the seemingly sheer turquoise fabric over neutral under-layer....cheapens the overall appearance of the dress

LOVE the color, but the style of Julianne Moore's gown was just TOO much....the high-neck + long arm should have yielded a more simplified skirt, or full skirt should have been paired with a more simplified top...too much fabric!

LOVE the color of Claire Danes' dress, but I have seen more flattering maternity was a little awkward and sloppy, like she half-tucked her top into her skirt...

LOVE Revenge's Emily VanCamp, but not so much this dress on her...could have been pretty, but the strange lines around hip area seem unflattering...

This neutral colored gown did nothing for adorable Amanda Peet....

Nicole Kidman: This gown has potential, until the designer created the weird wings down her legs....throwback to a 1980's Thunderbird sports-car with the eagle on the hood, perhaps?

Looks like Zosia Mamet is going to a Star-Wars-themed costume party....

Although Ashley Judd is one of my favorite actresses, it appears she is headed for a Disney-princess-themed costume party?

The criss-cross design repeats here, but wasn't a big fan of January Jones' gown...too harsh and stiff looking

Kristen Wiig's T-length is too casual for the occasion....also, the nightgown-ish style looks more suited for a baby shower or walk on the beach

The dress itself is not bad, but paired with Kelly Osbourne's matching hued hair, just throws the entire look off....

Love, love, love the color (esp on Julia Louis-Dreyfuss), but the top seems ill-fitting....makes her boobs look awkward

Very ill-fitting on Christina Hendrick's curvy figure...belt looks like it is squeezing her too tight

Colors are pretty on Julianna Margulies, but too Laura Ashley bedspread-ish...didn't you know several people with similar bedding for their college dorm rooms?

Elisabeth Moss: reminiscent of an 80's Laura Ashley prom dress, perhaps?

The criss cross web-like effect of Hayden Panettiere's gown could have worked if the under-layer was the same blue hue...the nude under-layer just does not work...

Criss-cross motif again...looks like Glenn Close just stepped through a large black yarn spider web at a Halloween haunted house....

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mac's Annual Speech

This is our 4th year at Ruffing Montessori, (RM) and I am blown away year after year by the principal, John McNamara's (Mac's) speech at the annual 'Back to School' night.  Due to my husband's busy work schedule (often traveling), he has yet to attend one of these presentations.  Yet, every year I regret that I did not videotape his speeches, since they are so interesting, insightful, and inspiring.  The following is a VERY rough (and lengthy) summary of what I learned from Mac's speech.

Some background perspective...

Particularly as parents with traditional educational backgrounds (mine in Catholic/private, my husband's in public), prior to discovering RM, we had limited knowledge of the Montessori philosophy.  I have found that the BEST way to learn about this method is to listen to Mac speak, if given the opportunity.

As a side note, I am a believer that multiple forms of education are likely effective and successful....They probably have various pros and cons when compared with one another, and furthermore may be more/less beneficial, depending on the nature of the child.  I suspect no ONE form is superior over all others.  Fortunately, we live in a part of Cleveland that has very highly regarded public schools.  I am sure that we would find them to be stellar in their own right, if we had opted to send our children there.  Yet, we stumbled upon RM during our tour of local preschools, and have gradually fallen in love with its format and philosophy. Therefore, we have decided to continue into the elementary phase, though very different and less 'traditional' than the schools we personally attended as children.

Learning about the Montessori philosophy is particularly interesting in light of current education debates.  Just recently, the Chicago teacher's union went on strike for the first time in twenty-five years, keeping students out of school for a staggering seven days.  Among other issues, teachers are unhappy that their evaluations are too heavily based on their students' standardized test scores.  It seems that an over-emphasis on standardized tests, (though well-intentioned to ensure quality education is provided to all), often backfires via an undue pressure on teachers to 'teach to the test'.  Similarly, this test-centric culture seems to interfere with students' intrinsic motivation to learn for the sake of the material itself.

Some notes from Mac's speech...

Mac illustrates the basic premise behind the Montessori philosophy that intrinsic/internal rewards are more motivating and productive for learning in the long run than external rewards (grades, gold star, cash, etc.).  He references various studies and focus groups, both of children and adults throughout various countries, and how they behave differently (less productively) when offered a reward for doing their work....the reward often crowds out the inherent satisfaction of doing the work...ultimately causing the person to lose interest in the work itself, particularly in the long run.  I have read various articles and books on this subject, and it simply makes sense.

He also discussed that these external rewards tend to stifle the creativity that is otherwise developed through problem solving, a natural passion for learning, discovery, etc...The student often will only do the work needed to get the A or to memorize/pass the test, as opposed to taking a more authentic approach, being genuinely curious and interested in learning, and taking pride in their work.

For example, he illustrated this concept with a recent debate among his 8th grade students on the various ways to approach a math problem.  Since it was longer multiplication, there exist various ways (i.e. Way 1, 2, and 3) to solve the problem in your head.  He asked one student, "How would you go about multiplying A x B?" student said, "Well, I would solve it via Way 1"...another student said, "Why wouldn't you solve it via Way 2", and a third student said, "Wouldn't it make more sense to do it via Way 3?"  All are valid approaches to reach the correct answer, yet since the three students learn in different ways, the different approaches made the most sense to them individually.

I am not sure what I was more impressed by: the fact that three 8th graders were genuinely, actively engaged in such a math problem-solving discussion, or the fact that the teacher was encouraging their creativity to discover the problem via the unique method that made the most sense to them individually (as opposed to just memorizing the 'correct' answer, for testing purposes.)

As all 8th graders give speeches upon graduation, he described a recent graduate's speech.  He mentioned four points that the student discussed for reasons she appreciated her RM education...

1 - Solid Work Ethic/Love of Learning - RM taught her to take pride in her work, enhancing her intrinsic desire to learn, work, grow, and be productive.

2 - Learn from your Mistakes, and furthermore don't be afraid to make mistakes.  Often you can learn MORE through the correction of your mistakes than from getting it right the first time....Also, unlike a more traditional school format, the kids are given the responsibility to correct their errors until they UNDERSTAND them (as opposed to never re-working the answers they got wrong on a test, therefore NOT learning from their mistakes).

Mac likes to re-state the following saying: 'Anything worth doing is worth doing well' - as 'Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly'...Moreover, tackling something you KNOW you are going to do well often does not yield as much growth as when you take risks, and attempt to learn/discover/figure out problems that seem like a bigger challenge...In other words, if there is a risk you may do it poorly, it is worth doing.

3 - (can't recall #3, bear with me!)

4 - Trust and Respect...she said she felt that coming to RM was always an enjoyable experience because the teachers treated her with trust and respect like an equal, not like a child.  The school also has a close-knit, family-like environment where the kids feel at home.  Learning about character development, good citizenship, and treating others with respect are just as important as academics.  From a very young age, the teachers at RM have given her responsibilities and through these responsibilities she gained confidence and a love of learning.  He emphasized the saying that 'When you leave, people often don't remember what you said, or what you did, but how you made them FEEL'....

As a sidebar, I have found with my own children that on the days I can be most patient, loving, and kind to my children, the more they WANT to behave well, so as to NOT disappoint me or disrupt this caring/warm environment....Yet, on the days I am feeling stressed, frazzled, and on-edge w/ the kids, I tend to distance myself and be less engaged...naturally, the more they misbehave...because either they are just trying to get an emotional reaction (negative is better than nothing at all), or they just want to see what they can get away with...

I often speculate this phenomenon will likely apply (with greater stakes) to the daunting teenage years....I suspect the kids who have a warm, trusting, relationship with their parents are less likely to rebel and experiment with alcohol or drugs because they don't want to disappoint their parents.  This seems to go hand in hand with the ever-important family meal....Family experts claim that children raised in families that gather for a daily family meal are LESS likely to rebel/experiment with alcohol and drugs than children raised in families that do not.  If the parent rules with a cold iron fist, with little trust/respect for the child's ability to make their own decisions, the teenager is more inclined to seek an escape, push the boundaries, figure out a way to get around the rules, etc.  Whereas, children who are trusted and given more autonomy to make responsible decisions are guided by a fear of disappointing or disrupting their relationship with their warm, loving, parents.

Another thing Mac discussed was that we, as parents and teachers, can learn a great deal from one another by sharing ideas and resolutions, particularly due to the 'can't see the forest through the trees' phenomenon.  When we are too invested, too emotional, or too close to a problem, it can be more challenging to come up with an effective solution.  Studies show that when two different focus groups are given a theoretical problem to solve: Group A is told to 'envision YOU are the person WITH the Problem X' and Group B is told to 'imagine you are HELPING a person with Problem X' - the larger majority of Group B successfully solved the problem because they can distance themselves and offer a better perspective.

I had never heard of this study, but I have often felt it as a parent.  Over the last couple years, I have been involved with a neighborhood parenting-related-book club.  As I read these books, the theories presented most often make sense on paper, but I find that putting them into action is the hardest part.  It is one thing to understand the healthiest/most effective approach to parenting on an academic level, quite another to put it into practice.  I am sure that when parents look back on their experience, they have a better view than when we are 'down in the trenches', emotionally frustrated/spent/invested in our parenting situations and challenges.

I am so thankful to have the opportunity to learn from John McNamara, and the rest of the staff at RM.  This crazy journey of parenthood did not come with an instruction manual, and even if it had, I suspect John would encourage us to seek our own methods and resolutions.  Through this process, we may even achieve the ability to write our own unique manuals, yet I suspect only from a distance, long after are children are grown.

Campbell's Celebration of Andy Warhol

Earlier this week, as I was hurriedly rushing about Target in the 17.5 minute window allotted to this errand, I had to take a double take as I passed an end cap filled with bright, colorful, color-blocked Campbell's soup was such a beautiful display! I stopped for a second to check it out.

Campbell's has produced these limited edition tomato soup cans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Warhol's famous work, "32 Campbell's Soup Cans."  The soup labels also display some of Warhol's famous quotations including "Pop art is for everyone", referencing a widely held belief that with respect to art, his work has bridged the cultural gap between socioeconomic divides.  As the most well known artist of the Pop Art movement, Warhol is known for finding inspiration in simple, everyday items such as the Campbell's soup can (of which he apparently ate every day for lunch for 20 years), to use as his subjects in his bold, colorful, dynamic works, making his art relatable to both art collector and commoner, alike.

Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Can, 1965

Andy Warhol's 32 Campbell's Soup Cans, 1962, he created this series via printmaking technique on 16x20 inch canvases, one of each variety of soup. Initially displayed in the Ferris Gallery in L.A.

Target's colorful current display of limited edition soup cans, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his '32 Campbell's Soup Cans'

Photo obtained from, of Andy Warhol gathering up Campbell's soup cans (presumably for his famous work??), at N.Y.'s Gristede's Supermarket

According to Katherine Dorsett Bennett's CNN article, "Andy Warhol's '15 Minutes' of Fame are not up yet"...

"This week, 1.2 million limited-edition cans of condensed tomato soup with labels inspired by his Pop art go on sale. The specially designed Campbell's soup cans pay tribute to his lively color palette, using orange, blue, pink and teal to spruce up the familiar design. The labels commemorate the 50th anniversary of Warhol's famed art piece "32 Campbell's Soup Cans.""

Interestingly, Campbell's has traveled full circle in this current celebration of the iconic artist.  According to USA Today's article, "Campbell Channels Andy Warhol for New Soup Cans"...

"Campbell Soup's embrace of Warhol's iconic imagery is a switch from its initial reaction to Warhol's use of the cans in a painting, when the company considered taking legal action before deciding to see how the paintings were received by the public.
"There's some evidence to show there was a little bit of concern," said Jonathon Thorn, an archivist for Campbell Soup. "But they decided to take a wait-and-see approach."
By 1964, however, the company realized the paintings were becoming a phenomenon and embraced the depictions. Campbell's marketing manager even sent Warhol a letter expressing admiration for his work."

From a business perspective, Huffington Post's Priscilla Frank discusses the role of stellar marketing in her article, "Andy Warhol vs. Robert Cenedella: How Branding Made Warhol (And Cambell's Soup) A Star"....

"Both Target and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are honoring Warhol this month, in an appropriately Warholian elimination of the space between consumerism and art.Target has released limited edition Warhol inspired soup cans while the Met is exhibiting 60 artists influenced by the Pop Master. To be honest, not only had we not heard of Cenedella, but we didn't even know Heinz made soup! Looks like Warhol turned out to be the victor.
And yet Kitman insists that not only was Cenedella a better artist, but Heinz a better soup. According to Kitman, the two budding painters debating soup quality over drinks in SoHo multiple times, a priceless image to be sure. Yet while the two were getting buzzed discussing which soup was paramount, Campbell's was busy using Warhol's work as their ticket to soup-perstardom. The Campbell's marketing team ate up what Warhol was dishing out, turning his sarcastic commentary on consumerism into a brilliant cultural takeover. In Kitman's words, praising the overlooked Cenedella-Heinz combo: "The painting is better. The soup is better. The only thing better about Warhol's tomato soup was the marketing campaign."

In honor of this creative celebration, I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes for Tomato-Cheese-Tortellini Soup, which I often make more as a pasta by reducing the qty of broth....SO easy and SO delicious!!

tomato-tortellini soup
Recipe from
Cream cheese and tomato soup make a rich and creamy base for this four-ingredient tortellini soup recipe that can be prepared in just 15 minutes.

Tomato-Tortellini Soup

by12 people

Servings: 4 servings
Total Time: 15 mins
Ingredients on sale: 1
Related Categories: SoupTomato SoupTortellini

  • 2  14-ounce cans
    reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1  9-ounce package
    refrigerated tortellini
  • 1/2  of an 8-ounce tub
    cream cheese spread with chive and onion
  • 1  10.75- or 11-ounce can
    condensed tomato or tomato bisque soup
  • Snipped fresh chives (optional)


In a medium saucepan, bring broth to boiling. Add tortellini; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. In a bowl, whisk 1/3 cup of the hot broth into the cream cheese spread until smooth. Return all to saucepan along with tomato soup; heat through. Sprinkle with chives before serving. Makes 4 servings.