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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Today I love... kids stuff and hot baths

Where was all this when I was a kid?!

I love children. The problem is - when I shop for gifts for the kids in my life, I sometimes want to keep the stuff or buy two of everything, so that I could play with it too. I am not talking about toys that are super-electronic or have lots of blinking lights and loud noises. But LEGGOs, Tinkertoys, Hot Wheels? Bring it on!

Good children's books are also high on my favorites list. While books in general were plentiful at our house when I was growing up, some children's books didn't become available until the fall of the Iron Curtain. I didn't read the full version of Winnie the Pooh, Moomin Troll series and Carlson Who Lives on the Roof until I was fifteen. So, I am still a sucker for a good book, even if the age recommendation on it reads "5-7".

I do love toy / book combos - it's fun to be able to interact with the book's character and enact the story. I gave this one to my nephew Liam for his second birthday. After all, who wouldn't want to know how dinosaurs say goodnight? Liam's vocabulary was still somewhat limited at that point, so he named the dinosaur "Dude" and made him a favorite bedtime toy, along with a large stuffed frog Annie. For quite some time after that, when Liam felt sleepy he didn't ask to go to bed instead, but said, "Dudeannie" instead.

Unfortunately, I didn't discover the Tickle Monster set until Liam got older - I would have loved to use the tickle mitts on him. He is still ticklish, but the book would be too "young" for him (we are well into short stories now). If you have small children, test drive it for me and let me know how it went.

I love Metropolitan Museum of Arts - the museum itself and the online store. It is not an inexpensive place to shop, but all their offerings are beautiful, unique and high-quality. Discovering that they have a huge children's section (Metkids) was a pleasant surprise ...and a source of frustration, because I immediately wanted one of everything. There are toys, art and crafts supplies, puzzles, building sets and, of course, books.

If I absolutely had to pick a favorite (and, oh, what an agonizing choice that would be), it would be the "Museum" book sets: Museum ABC, Museum 123, Museum Colors and Museum Shapes - in other words, everything you need to give your little one the basics of reading, math and geometry through art.

"There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them" - Sylvia Plath, author of The Bell Jar

I agree. We can't always afford a full-blown spa trip (although I personally believe companies should pay for associates to go to a spa as part of promoting mental health and work/life balance), but a nice hot bath can help one recover from just about anything: from a day-long project business requirements meeting to a particularly brutal martial arts class. With a few thoughtful details, you can make it almost as good as a five-star spa.

Bath salts have been proven to reduce all manner of aches and pains. Depending on your gender (and personal preferences), you can go dainty with something like Grove Park rosemary salt or uber-tough with Vermont Country Store's Tired Old Ass Soak.

If you want to make your bath fun in addition to luxurious and relaxing, you have got to try these fortune cookie fizzies. As they dissolve and infuse your bath water with lavender aroma, the little laminated fortune strips float to the top. Knowing Acacia for a very positive seller, I am quite certain that there is no chance of your getting a bad fortune out of this fortune cookie.

Not all good things are expensive, but sometimes one does have to pay for quality. It's not a bad thing, as long as the object in question is carefully chosen and is truly worth the price. Jimmy Choo shoes? No. Marc Jacobs bag in limited edition purple? Too much. Chocolate Fetish ecstasy truffles? Oh yeah... To elevate your bath experience to truly stellar heights, consider adding a glass of champagne and a box of these babies. Sure, most save champagne and chocolate truffles for Valentine's Day, but why reserve such treats for couples only and limit yourself to one day a year? Honestly, aren't we already ruled and regulated enough? There is no law against treating yourself - trust me, you won't regret it.

Images courtesy Acacia, Signals, Metropolitan Museum of Arts store, Grove Park, Vermont Country Store, Soft Surroundings, Chocolate Fetish

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