Christina Ries
Charmed
There's something so nostalgic about the tinny jingle of the ice-cream truck.It is the siren song of summer, of childhood.And since beoming a mom, I've never said no to it. We have plenty of restrictions, but somehow, it feels wrong to decline the ice-cream truck.It's visited our cul-de-sac several times this summer. Yesterday it arrived moments after the girls returned from a day at Namma's. They were euphoric.Before I realized what had happened, Jane had eaten the bunny's gumball... more
30 ways to seize the end of summer
We took the kids to Schulze Lake in Eagan, stood at the water’s edge and experienced a magical summer evening opening up before us.  It was one of those nights when you notice the cast of the light and the warmth of the breeze, when you sink your toes into the sand and time slows, when the kids can just be kids…and so can the adults... more
Toddler fun at the county fair
We took the kids to the Dakota County Fair in Farmington yesterday and had a grand time. I've written before about why we prefer the county-fair scene for toddlers: easy access, smaller crowds, all the food-on-a-stick perks. The Dakota County Fair ends tomorrow, but there are a number of county fairs in Minnesota remaining.... more
Fanciful frocks
Since my very first days as a mom, I have enjoyed searching for beautiful little dresses.  Most of the time, my girls are donned in secondhand play clothes. I'm frugal, and they're messy.But for certain occasions, there's something so sweet about putting them in a dress. It feels feminine and timeless. The bonus is they love... more
Mill City Farmers Market
We had a marvelous time exploring the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis last Saturday.  Perched on the banks of the Mississippi, with the Stone Arch Bridge as the backdrop, this is a bustling market for the whole family. It's open every Saturday through October from 8 am to 1 pm. The girls sampled maple syrup and... more
The story continues
I was folding sleepers for Archie when I did a double take. Those elephants and giraffes, in their light blues and navys, were familiar. Then I pulled up the picture: the first time Maria read to Jane, nearly a month old, the little Eskimo baby with the wild head of hair and sunburn.Sure enough, it was the same sleeper.I headed... more
Marching around ME The Great
I recently brought the kids over to my grandma's for a visit. It was heavenly! I'd been meaning to visit for some time, but life, as we so readily justify, gets busy. Finally we seized a rainy afternoon to swing by her cozy West St. Paul home. Stepping into my grandma's house always brings back the fondest childhood memories.... more
10 tips for berry picking with toddlers
Ted and I took the kids strawberry picking for their first time, and they had a grand time.We went to Afton Apple Orchard in Hastings, where we pick apples every fall. Their strawberry fields are on a separate, clearly marked lot just east of the main orchard. (We invited the talented Jeff Schad along to... more
Big, beautiful peony crowns for little, beautiful girls
I'm such a sucker for peonies. And for flower crowns.The combination is irresistable. So this morning I crafted a peony crown and took advantage of the June morning light to snap a few pictures. Last year I shared my 3-step tutorial to making super-easy flower crowns, and Moms, now is the season to try your hand at it! ... more
How to throw a fairy party
How do you throw a fairy party? "All you need is a little faith, trust and pixie dust," in the words of Peter Pan.Or, in the case of my daughter's 4th birthday party: tutus, wings and face painting. We rented South Valley Park in Inver Grove Heights for the big day, and the setting alone -- a playground in the woods... more
Savor the season
We were about to head into the libary on Thursday evening when the cherry-blossom trees out back beckoned to us, rendering the world pink and perfumed.They were too glorious to ignore, and Archie was snoozing contentedly in his carseat, so we paused our plans and played beneath their branches. It was heavenly.Eventually we headed... more
An afternoon at the Arboretum
We spent Friday afternoon at the Minnesota Landsape Arboretum outside Chaska taking in thousands of brilliant tulips. A total of 38,000 bulbs have been planted there, and now is the time to go! The daffodils are also in bloom, and the crabapple trees have blossomed, casting their perfume across the gardens. Throw in a favorable... more
Archie at 2 months
Archie is two months old today! It feels like he reached that milestone more quickly than either of the girls.He is such a sweet baby, full of smiles that utterly disarm. He's a "chub," as my grandpa so amusingly (and aptly) put it at Archie's baptism party. He clocks in at a whopping 14 lbs. 12 oz., which puts him in the 98th... more
Taking in the farm babies
We took our babies to see the farm babies at the Minnesota Zoo, and they were a hit!Watching the black lambs prance around was hysterical. It's almost as if they defy gravity.The goats were Janie's favorite. It costs just 50 cents to feed them -- a memorable experience for a toddler. We all enjoyed seeing the calves and hearing Ted'... more
Easter egg hunt at the James J. Hill House
I can't think of a more idyllic backdrop for an Easter egg hunt than the James J. Hill House. This spring the historic Gilded Age mansion is hosting two egg hunts on the front lawn. We attended the April 9 event; the second one will be on Saturday, April 15 from 10 to 11 am. (Register here. Cost is $8 per person, and each child must... more
3 under 4
The best word to describe our adjustment to life with three kids -- all of whom are under age 4 -- is juggle. It's been a juggle. An ongoing education in accepting the good-enough. It's OK if the girls go to bed one night without brushing their teeth. In fact, one night after Archie was born, we didn't even bother with... more
Baby name game
Here I am, 37 weeks pregnant, asking BabyNameWizard.com to generate sister names for Maria and Jane, my two daughters. Three come up on the lists for both girls: Elizabeth, Anna and Sarah. For a moment, I feel something loosen in me, a surrender: OK, we’ll just use one of these. We’ll let the experts decide for us. Only... more
It's a boy!
It's a BOY! The refrain keeps ringing in my mind. After having two girls, these three words are so new and thrilling. When my husband announced them, they brought tears to my eyes, and I reached forward and pulled a beautiful baby to my chest. The dream of Archibald Kenneth has been in our hearts for many years. We've... more
Our Peppa Pig-themed 2nd birthday party
Peppa Pig made the perfect theme for Jane's second birthday party. It's a favorite of Janie's -- and of mine. The British show is refreshingly simple. I think the girls find comfort in its simplicity, its oft-played melody and tidy structure. The plotlines are fun with relatable family dynamics, including some subtle, gentle... more
The best present for a new baby
I am still pregnant. This past week has felt like an eternity.When I typed today's date at the top of this article, I wrote Feb. 27, 2018. That's how it feels. I've been nesting up a storm. Cleaned the refrigerator. Trimmed the girls' finger and toe nails. Had my eyebrows waxed. Purged the kitchen counters. ... more
The prettiest Easter dresses you ever did see
It's not too soon to start searching for the perfect Easter dress for your little girl! In a crowded market, these are the stand-outs.For more than a century, Feltman Brothers has delivered the most exquisite classic children's clothing. Theirs are the heirloom pieces you hand down generation to generation. And Feltman's new bouquet... more
Pregnancy update!
I had forgotten how the final weeks of pregnancy turn me into the boy who cried wolf. I’m almost 39 weeks along now, and every day I can feel the baby lowering. For a fleeting moment, the lower abdominal pressure can masquerade as a contraction.I keep telling my husband that labor feels imminent, even though my due date isn’t until Feb.... more
Birthday-party fashion for sisters
Long before I'd considered the date, the venue, the menu or theme for my daughter's second-birthday party, I determined her outfit.Priorities, people. Therese McInally's pinafores, which are sold on her Cottontail Etsy site and were featured in my fall fashion round-up, have long impressed me. What's more, she is a delight to deal... more
Everyday dresses for active girls
Introducing Smiling Button dresses -- frocks as cute as the name! There's something about these dresses that feels different, like they're designed to be played in and enjoyed, not just unveiled for formal occasions. As the website notes: "We create everyday dresses for little girls that make as much sense for the playground as they... more
Inside our hot cocoa stand
Years ago -- before I had become a mom -- I spotted a full-page magazine ad featuring a bundled-up brown-haired girl behind a hot cocoa stand, and I tore it out. I can't recall what the ad was for -- maybe an insurance company? But I remember feeling utterly charmed by the scene and wanting to file it away to try out one day as a... more
25 winter activities for toddlers
It’s tempting to hibernate during a frigid Minnesota winter, but your tots have just as much energy to burn now as ever.Making the most of the season, however, requires a bit of creative thinking — not to mention a lot of winter wear. I was reminded of this recently when I helped my young daughters run their very own hot cocoa stand... more
A very vintage Christmas
There's something about Christmas that invites nostalgia -- tales of years past, faded photographs and images that remain timeless. The idea of an old-school Christmas feels refreshing as we become increasingly high-tech. If you're looking to visually counter our screen-addiction this holiday season, opt for the vintage -- and let... more
Celebrate St. Lucia's Day, tap into tradition
Growing up, I was a huge fan of the American Girls -- particularly the book series. My favorite from the Kirsten collection was "Kirsten's Surprise," which tells of the Swedish family's first winter in Minnesota -- 1854 -- and their struggle to preserve Christmas traditions from home in a foreign place. Thirty-something moms, does... more
A holiday gift guide for everyone on your list
Based on reviews, recommendations and a few personal favorites, this comprehensive holiday gift guide should cover everyone on your list!Chief criteria for adult gifts was either practicality -- something super useful -- or comfort, for the person who has everything but could use a little R&R. Kid gifts were selected for their fun... more
Flower girl survival guide
We survived!In fact, the big day went as well as I possibly could've hoped.All year, Nov. 26 loomed large on our calendar. It would be the biggest day of our year, the wedding of my husband's younger brother. Much as I looked forward to this occasion, I also took a deep inhale: We're talking an out-of-state wedding where my husband... more
Admire the supermoon and taste a 'bimulous night'
Grab your aspiring astronomer and head outside: There's a supermoon! Because the moon's orbit has an elliptical shape, sometimes it is closer to Earth than other times. Astronomers call the closest-to-Earth moment the perigee. And what makes Nov. 14 special is that the moon "becomes full within about two hours of perigee -- arguably... more
The best fall fashion for little ones
I’ve combed lookbooks and mined the web. It’s time to present my favorite fall fashion for little ones!We’re talking fair-isle foxes, mouse mittens and pleated pinafores! Whether you’re heading to the pumpkin patch or snapping a photo for the Christmas card, there’s no better season to don your beautiful children in beautiful clothes.... more
The perfect autumn picnic
Summer may be considered prime picnic season, but Minnesotans know that autumn offers the most glorious opportunity to eat al fresco. If you're looking to make a meaningful memory as a family (and snag a gorgeous photo) without much fuss, now is the time to grab a blanket, fill a basket and search for a bright maple. They're at... more
Becoming a family of 5: pregnancy news
I'm so happy to share our good news with you: I'm pregnant!We are expecting Baby No. 3 in late February. I just popped earlier this month. My first time wearing maternity jeans was at our trip to the RenFest. (Isn't Maria's fox dress adorable? It's from Little Rabbit Wears. I'm obsessed with all things fox and will be blogging about... more
A wart-covered pumpkin to love
I've been on pumpkin look-out for several weeks now, and we happened to be at our local Cub the day the pumpkins arrived out front. I couldn't resist. I don't know why pumpkins make me so happy, but they do. I let Maria make a selection. She quickly zeroed in on a big pumpkin covered in warts. The only one with warts.In a... more
Celebrate Grandparents Day
There is no way I could ever repay my parents for all they have done for my children. Yet every time Ted and I drop the kids off and head out, they make it seem as if we are doing them the favor.Honestly, I’m behind by about 1.3 million thank-yous. Life just keeps rolling, and I try to file them all away in my mind to properly address... more
New Beatrix Potter book released today
Today brings exciting news for Beatrix Potter fans: Penguin Random House has released a never-before-published book discovered a century after it was written. Brought to life with illustrations by Quentin Blake, famous for his drawings in the Roald Dahl books, "The Tale of Kitty-In-Boots" is an instant bestseller sure to delight... more
10 things I buy at garage sales
Few phrases excite me more than "city-wide garage sale."And tomorrow is the opening day of Inver Grove Heights' three-day city-wide sales, which run from Thursday, Aug. 25 to Saturday, Aug. 27.Neon signs are starting to crop up at intersections, and my heart is aflutter. I picked up the $1 directory outlining the 47 participating... more
Fun at the county fair
We just returned from the Dakota County Fair in Farmington, which has become a tradition for our family -- just as it was for my parents, who took my siblings and me every year when we were young. The beauty of the county-fair scene is the ease and access -- simpler parking, smaller crowds, plenty of furry friends and fried foods.... more
Maria's beloved new mermaid swimsuit
The email arrived in all caps: "YOU NEED THIS FOR MARIA." And then, simply, this link.My fashionable friend Mollie is always scouring the interwebs for the best of the best, and she is kind enough to include toddler apparel on my behalf. When I spotted the darling suit, I couldn't resist its charms. Maria was even more... more
Rain, rain, stay here!
Some days you have to stop and let the kids play in the rain. For us, this morning was one of those days. Maria showed Jane the ropes. She studied Big Sister's technique. Reached for Big Sister's hand. And soon was off to the races! Then we met up with Cousin and Grandma for more rainy fun. (Grandma never let a... more
All the details on our mermaid party
When I talked to Maria about her third-birthday party, a theme immediately emerged: She wanted a mermaid party. For an almost-3-year-old, the concept feels as obvious as it is simply put, “a mermaid party.” No explanation needed.Mermaids have captured Maria’s imagination. We’re not just talking “Little Mermaid.” We read a variety of... more
How to make the easiest flower crowns
Flower crowns are having a moment.Suri Cruise, the 10-year-old daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, recently appeared in her mom's Instagram feed sporting a dainty purple-and-yellow flower crown.Tiffani Thiessen (better known as Kelly Kapowski) decked out her 5-year-old daughter and a group of frocked friends in flower crowns this... more
Getting started
I’ve become that mom who cannot stop talking about her kids. It’s gotten so obnoxious I’ve even begun meetings and presentations by whipping out photos. They’re just so important to me, so central to who I am. If you don’t know about them, you don’t really know me.I am passionate about my career as a writer. But becoming a mom has... more