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Interview – Lisa London

BookWe all think our kid should be a star and in that regard I spoke with author and Casting Director Lisa London about her new book, From Start to Stardom.

1: If your child expresses an interest in performing, what are a few things on any parent’s “must” list?

I would first recommend that the parents get their child involved in acting class or a performing class (could be a singing class, an improvisation class or a scene study class). This is a good way to see if their child really likes it and will follow through with the commitments of a class.

If they do like it, and continue to be enthusiastic about acting, they can check out their local community theater and see if there are opportunities for their child in that arena. Then they could look into agents for kids in their area. We do not encourage families to pack up and move to LA in the beginning of their journey, just because their child keeps saying he wants to be on TV.

2: Is there a way to make a child understand the difference between art and fame?

This is certainly a challenging concept to get across to a young child. But it is so important for them to understand you can’t study to be famous. I think it is important to work on your talent first and foremost. Fame comes in time if that is what is meant to happen. You can only work hard and become the best actor you can be.

3: Is it possible for Hollywood insiders to tell when it is the parents who actually want the fame and not their child?

We discuss this in the interview with an agent. We strongly encourage parents to be sure the desire to pursue a career is their child’s goal and not a lost one of their own. Because sooner or later the child will come to resent their parent for pushing them to do something they don’t like and it will not turn out well for anyone.

I have experienced auditions with kids who really don’t want to be doing this and you can tell by their performance and what they say because they aren’t giving it their all.  They would rather be doing sports or something else besides acting.

4: What advice would you give parents on how their children can/should deal with rejection?

Parents should discuss this with their kids upfront before they go on auditions. Don’t take it personally!! What is most important is that your child does the best audition they can, because, as Casting Directors, we always remember a good audition even if they don’t get the role.

A child should have the attitude that it is a fun adventure to meet someone new and have a chance to show their talent…And then after the audition, it’s off to do something else! The last thing a parent wants to do is grill their child on the audition and have them go over and over why they didn’t get the callback or the role.

5: Are there certain steps that parents should take to keep their kids grounded to avoid the pitfalls that many child stars find themselves in?

If they are so fortunate to have such a talented child, it would mean the child has been getting parts and building their career for a while. This is when the work needs to be done. As they are becoming successful, it’s important to stay in very good communication with your child and the rest of the family, so you don’t get caught up in all the hype!

Being on a set, child actors are given lots of attention and special privileges. They have candy and junk food available to them all day. If a parent doesn’t run good control over what the kid can have, or keep their head on their shoulders, it can be disastrous. Putting in this discipline early will create an atmosphere of care and attention from the parent that will ensure them to be the voice of reason to their child and help keep them from making disastrous choices later in life.

About Lisa London:

Lisa London Blue shirt for WebDaughter of one of Hollywood’s most successful TV directors, Jerry London, Lisa London grew up on her father’s sets, experiencing the demands of directing and acting first-hand. She has worked with major studios and networks, including Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Happy Madison Productions, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, VH1 and many more.

Interview – Jason Carter Eaton

how_to_trainI hope you enjoy my interview with author Jason Carter Eaton. It is hard to come up with a new take when dealing with children’s stories, but his new book, How to Train a Train is pretty innovative.

Since trains are very popular among the preschool set how did you approach writing about them in a fresh way?

Honestly, I love kids’ books and I love trains, but the one thing that’s always bugged me is how few train books are funny. Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic train books out there: Freight Train, The Goodnight Train, and just this year we’ve seen Brian Floca’s amazing Locomotive, Eliza Cooper’s Train, and the bestseller, Steam Train, Dream Train. They’re all fantastic…but none of them are real comedies. In fact, I have a hard time thinking of any truly hee-larious train books (though I’d love to be pointed in their direction if you think of any). I don’t know why, probably because most publishing houses’ sales departments think no kid over 3 still likes trains. And look, it’s true that that’s probably the target age. But what we discovered is that if you write a funny story and don’t dumb it down, younger kids will still get the humor and older kids will totally enjoy it, even if it’s not something they would normally seek out.

How difficult is it finding a balance between humor and emotion in a children’s book?

Normally it’s tricky, but it was pretty simple for this one because at its heart it’s just the story of a boy and his dog. Or girl and her dog. Or rather, kid and his or her dog-like locomotive pet. And for anyone who has had the honor of rescuing or finding a dog, you know just how much joy and emotion is built right into the core of that experience.

When you write a children’s book how much do you keep in mind that an adult has to actually read it too?

Um, a lot, now that I have my own kids I have to read it to. Seriously, I learned the lesson the hard way by writing my first book with, well, all the beautiful, enchanting, rococo words I wanted…and then got stuck reading a book with about 50% too many words for the next decade. Seriously, if you’re a children’s book author with kids, read it to them first. If you’re childless, find one—seriously, they’re everywhere—and read your book to him or her first. I guarantee you’ll get an honest response.

Has your work in the entertainment business influenced your children’s books?

Only insofar as I try desperately to write enough children’s books that I won’t have to work in the entertainment business. Or at least, I’ll only have to work on the projects I find interesting. I much prefer books to film, if for no other reason than because when you sell a book you know it’s going to come out. Selling a movie script is like getting a Wonka bar. It’s great, and it’ll make you kinda happy for a little bit, but more likely than not you’re it’s going to end with the sad realization that there was no golden ticket.

That said, I think that I really learned how to write from story while working in film. To a certain extent, story is story, so it doesn’t really matter what medium you’re taking as long as you understand pacing. But I think film is generally much more rigid in its storytelling, so it was a good place to really work on tight act structures and character before getting a bit more be-boppy and loosey-goosey with my books.

What are some of the differences besides the obvious in writing books for children and adults?

Well, I’ve never really written for adults, per se. I’ve written for very immature people in their 40s, and certainly there are some 20 year old man-children out there who have read and enjoyed my less classy work, but the truth is I really don’t have anything all that important to say to grown-ups. I guess the only message I have to say to them, I say by way of what I choose to write: Don’t grow up.

Do your kids understand that you write children’s books and if so do they ask to be in them?

They’ve understood what I do since Ice Age 3 came out. And they thought that was kinda cool. But having their names on the back cover of How to Train a Train just blew their little minds. It honestly made the many, many years of living off ramen noodles as an impoverished children’s book author totally worth it.

What’s it like doing a book tour for a children’s book?

I suspect it’s amazing! If you run into Jon Klassen or David Shannon could you get a definitive answer for me?

Interview – CelebriDucks

ducskBath night in our house has always been something of a challenge as LTD first does not want to take one, but once in the tub he doesn’t want to get out. When you think of kids and bath time I’m sure the rubber duck instantly pops to mind. I hope you enjoy my interview with the President of CelebriDucks Craig Wolfe:

What draws someone to the world of rubber ducks?

People love rubber ducks…all ages!  It’s just such an iconic toy that was actually invented in America.  People love ducks in general…they are fun, whimsical, walk funny, are soft, round, and cute.  Virtually every one grew up with a rubber duck and almost every home in America has one!

Can you tell me a about how you decided that the ducks would be “Made in America?”

I was already considered the finest custom duck manufacturer in the world.  But bottom line, I wanted to do something right and make some kind of difference in the lives of people here in America. I got so tired of seeing the loss of jobs and industries in the USA and everything being outsourced. It was very sad to see so many Americans loosing their jobs. I saw companies unwilling to take the risk of bringing their manufacturing back here. For me, it was very important to bring a whole industry back to America.

Thus, I finally decided that I had to do something. The rubber duck was actually invented in the USA. Now every rubber duck was being made overseas. We decided to bring the whole rubber duck industry back here and are now the only ones making them in America once again! We’re actually making them in New York City where as it turns out some of the first rubber ducks were invented in the 1800’s!

What are some of the most popular ducks?

You would laugh, but Mr. T is probably are top selling duck worldwide!  But people really love that Wizard of Oz rubber ducks and also our new 100% made in America Pork Chopper biker duck that we first started making for The Harley-Davidson Museum here.  Betty Boop has been in our line from day one and right now, the Cupcake themed duck we do sells out of every store we put him in!

Can you make a custom duck of anyone or anything?

Oh yes, this is our specialty.  If you look at the custom duck section on our website, you will be amazed at the variety of work we have done from penguins on ice floats to Manta Rays on rocks to tugboats, barges, college mascots, etc., etc…..it is endless…no limit to what is possible!

How do you decide which public figures or celebrities become ducks?

I usually go with what moves me….it may not always be the most popular, but if I think it is relevent and cool, then i want to add it.  I always get feedback from friends and co-workers.  That’s how we came up with our whole Canard (French for duck) themed line of ducks….our Cupcake, Cococa, Cabernet, and Cafe….all based on all my loves!….plus the BBQ Holy Smoker….well, he’s a pig, but seems to fit!   And then there are classics like Shakespeare which I thought was timeless…we have sold thousands and thousands of him over the years.  Often people come to us asking to be added to our line so that is how that happens…and often they go on to be very popular like with The Blues Brothers that we now sell at all the House of Blues around the country.

Which is your favorite duck?

I love chocolate, so our Cocoa Canard duck holding that big chocolate bar in that gorgeous gift box is one of my favorite ducks.  We do all our artwork and sculpting on all our ducks here, and now do final production on ones such as the Pork Chopper here in America.  I just love that guy!!  He is amazingly cute.



Interview – J. Scott Fuqua

Calvert CoverI interviewed author and illustrator J. Scott Fuqua about his book, Calvert the Raven in The Battle of Baltimore. The book focuses on Baltimore during the War of 1812 to teach history student Daniel that despite what he believes history isn’t boring.

Is it difficult writing to a young audience in terms of tone and maturity?

Not really… Maybe I’m just immature, but it’s easier, and often a bit more comfortable to write from a child’s point of view. I actually enjoy approaching the world in a wondering, concerned, confused, and very wide-eyed way. It’s just cool to be able to see something amazing for the first time, to acquire knowledge so easily, and to speak your mind about topics that you don’t understand or find boring. At the same time, I in know way believe that kids are all the same. I know that many young people are cowed by anxiety, social issues, and stress at home. Still, there is a magic and joy to youth that I try to acknowledge. In other books I deal with the more difficult issues, subjects that also come to me without too much difficulty what with the fact I had a very difficult and unique childhood.

The War of 1812 is not well remembered what made you focus on that?

I focused on the War of 1812 for two reasons: The first is because it is always sort of thrown in with all that junk around the 4th of July, the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary war. But it really is it’s own thing. War had changed. This country had changed. At the same time, the United States was walking the line between success and failure. It was a strange, very important moment in history for the world that very few people acknowledge. And the second reason I focused on the war of 1812 is sort of my own hang up. I believe that kids and their parents sort of relegate the birth of this nation to mythology, to huge important people doing huge, breathtaking things, the type of which nobody in this day and age could ever manage. But this isn’t true, so I tried to show the readers and Daniel, the boy in the story, that life then is as real as life now, that everyone, from kids to adults, was at risk, that real people sweated in their wool clothing, that real people fought exhaustion, pain, fear, and discomfort to do something, on an individual level, that is about finding the emotional strength necessary to make something that is unlikely, like a victory in Baltimore, come true.

There are probably a ton of ideas you have for children’s books, how do you decided which ones to actual write and illustrate?

I decide what to write by choosing the stories I like the most. But I’ve always written what I’ve wanted. I’ve always done that. I mean, writing is not a hugely lucrative career, so, if you can’t live in an exclusive neighborhood or go out to dinner at expensive restaurants (which I wouldn’t want to do anyway), then you might as well do what you want. Also, I write very issue driven work, the type of books and stories that deal with the things that I feel are important for kids and adults to consider, like race, mental illness, bullying, history, capitalism, and even death. I mean, I really do what I want to most of the time.

Which do you find more challenging the writing or the art?

Well, to be honest, writing is harder. Writing is about a few things, saying well and saying correctly and, most importantly, saying uniquely (or oddly, which is what I attempt to do). Strangely enough, I don’t love singers who have typical pop-star voices. I can’t stand them. I want something different and original, even if it has a few warts. I’m the same way with writing. So writing can be harder, while the art feels more like exciting, difficult, and sometimes maddening play. I enjoy the art enormously, because when I produce my art, I just let my brain go and try to create something that is always visually surprising. So both writing and illustration are wonderful professions, and rewarding in their very different ways, yet I find writing more challenging and difficult than illustration. It just is.

Did you doodle as a kid in class and if so did you send copies of your books to the teachers who told you to stop?

Doodled all of the time… I couldn’t hear well if I wasn’t doodling, then, in order to keep my attention, the teachers would tell me to stop or take away my drawing paper and I went nearly deaf. Nothing made sense anymore.

As for going back and giving teachers who told me to stop doodling one of my books, I haven’t. However, once I enjoyed telling a former teacher that I had become a successful writer. The reason I was so happy is that I am dyslexic, and, in high school, a few teachers kind of shook their heads and thought I was a lazy at spelling and memorizing math formulas, and believed out-loud that I wouldn’t amount to much in regards to an education or intellectual acuity.  And that teacher was one of those individuals, the rat.

You have an affinity for Maryland, will you be making a children’s book of The Wire?

Hmm, a children’s book about the wire. Maybe. Well, at least about kids and the hopelessness of living in a world overrun by violence and joblessness and drugs. I’d like to write something like that, because, no matter what kind of information folks unfamiliar with city life are presented with, when they don’t see it personally, they can’t as clearly understand how oppressive and impossible it is to overcome a world like that. Of course, I think there is hope, but I don’t think we’re doing a very good job of getting that across right now. I mean, if I could earn seven dollars an hour dunking frozen French fries into bubbling oil tanks or a few hundred in an afternoon selling, I’d probably start selling too. Of course I wasn’t presented with this scenario as a kid. I can still imagine the calm of a decent home. I knew I was going to college. So, the question becomes: What if you didn’t know where you’d be in a few months (dead, jailed, fearful, bullied, trapped, hungry) much less four to five years from now?

Interview – Scott Bedford

Made By Dad Cover.inddI interviewed Scott Bedford from the What I Made blog and author of the new book “Made by Dad: 67 blueprints for making cool stuff.” The book features cool projects you can make with your kids. But don’t worry the book also includes drawn instructions so you can’t screw them up (which I did, ugh me and glue, don’t get me started).

How important is the comic book ethos to your work?

Even though the hand drawn instructions that accompany all my projects could be described as being cartoon like, it’s actually the project ideas themselves that have been more inspired by the comic book ethos. I grew up with Whacky Races, Stop the Pigeon and Roadrunner cartoons – I loved the crazy machines and gadgets portrayed in them and tried drawing my own, and when I was a bit older making them in my Dads workshop. The One-TON-lampshade is definitely “Wile E. Coyote” inspired!

What or who or some of your artistic and DIY influences?

I really can’t underestimate the influence of the Hanna Barbera Whacky Races cartoon – I spent endless hours as a kid trying to draw my own machines, I guess that’s how I developed a drawing style that is somewhere between a technical drawing and a cartoon! As far as DIY influences go, there are just so many sources of inspiration these days – whether it be Make: magazine, instructables.com, or unique blogs like Bent Objects. However, I never start there. For me projects begin organically, perhaps something just pops into my mind, or my boys are doing something that triggers an idea, either way, I very rarely start by looking at what other people are doing first, I prefer inspiration to come at a more sub-conscious level.

What was your initial motivation in creating your DIY craft world?

Two incidents got me back into making things. Firstly, to keep my son from getting bored on a visit to Starbucks I made a little house from the wooden stir sticks – it worked, he spent 10mins trying to make his own one and this became one of the first projects I blogged about. Secondly, my same son had to build a spaghetti and marshmallow tower (with the help of parents) as part of a school science project – his tower won, and I decided to share the design with the blogosphere, this continued the chain of events that eventually ended up in the creation of “Made by Dad”.

I know we can’t pick favorite kids, but do you have a favorite project (Mine is the 1-Ton Lampshade)?

Ha ha – yes, it was the last project I made, and it’s one of my favourites as well! The “Bunk-bed communicator” also tickles me, as does the “Eating Nemo” project, which was much adored by my two nieces (to my surprise).

From some of your designs it feels like you may have gotten hurt a couple of times creating these crafts, is that true?
Oh… I hope I haven’t created the impression that these projects are dangerous! No, I survived all 67 projects with nothing more than a paper-cut – but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to be careful when using equipment like a craft knife or hot glue, however, with close supervision even older children can be shown how to use these tools safely.

What are the rules for how long parents need to keep an art project?

Wow… that really is the million dollar question! For us space is a key factor in deciding what stays and what goes. Drawings are easy to pack away, so we keep lots of those, small crafts (such as fridge magnets made out of modelling clay) are also kept. However, things made out of cardboard boxes and toilet rolls have their moment of glory on the shelf before eventually finding their way into the trash (but only after a proper photographic record has been made!).

Interview – Matt Baier Organizing

Welcome to the fourth conversation in the Beyond the Car Seat interview series. A house with even one kid can be a hectic chaotic mess and no where does the chaos reign supreme then in the toy department. Professional Organizer Matt Baier offers some solutions to dealing the kid clutter from the bedroom to the playroom.

What are the challenges you see with kids rooms?
Inappropriate storage solutions. It’s not always laziness that accounts for a messy room. Sometimes it’s structural. For example, if a lidded laundry hamper is located across the room behind a closet door, the floor is going to win, every time. This seems to apply, not only to the stage where the child is supposed to put clothes in the laundry, but to the stage where the parent is expected to put clothes in the laundry.

Can you really organize toys?
Sure, but don’t look to the traditional toy box. What makes toys so hard to organize is the wide variety of sizes and shapes. Big cars and trucks may not fit in a toy box, but they can be parked in a garage area. Toy sets with little pieces are easier to store in clear plastic drawers, than in the packages they came in. In both cases, reveal don’t conceal. Not only will kids be less inclined to play with toys that are hidden, they will also be less inclined to put something away, where they can’t see them.

What do busy parents most need?
What I see missing the most is a plan for circulation. Circulation prevents accumulation. Movement, from one reliable stage to the next, needs to be built into every organizing system, whether it’s for clothes or toys. Distinguish between items that need to be easily accessed, items you are keeping just in case, and items whose value has passed.

What about all those crayons?
Again, I like the rolling towers of clear plastic drawers for crayons and other crafts. The storage is as visible as possible. The drawers are a generous size for each category, but set useful limits. The smooth plastic surface make it easy to adhere labels, further assisting you in keeping categories straight. Use a label maker. Post-it notes are too tempting for little hands!

Professional Organizer Matt Baier and his team declutter and organize homes and offices in Connecticut and New York. Click here.

Interview – KOMPAN Playgrounds

Welcome to the third conversation in the Beyond the Car Seat interview series. LTD loves to go to the playground and one of his favorites is Bruce Park in Greenwich, CT. Unlike my days on the playground the little guy has access to cool designs and futuristic playthings, but he is still lukewarm on the swings. I spoke with Michael Laris, Concept and Design Creation Manager, KOMPAN A/S about what makes their playground equipment so awesome.

Is it as much fun to work at a playground company as I think it is?

That of course depends. There are times when it is like any business, full of politics and focus on earnings and such. But the root of what we do is sincerely meaningful and all of us working with product innovation do it because we feel we can make a positive difference. And, yes, that is fun. We are free to think about children and how they experience the world, to observe what they do, how they grow and communicate, and this is very joyful. We also work with many students, design interns, and this can be very fun — joking, creating crazy things, trying out new play — very fun.

But I would say it’s ‘serious fun’ because play is extremely important and not expendable in any way. So this is the fine line of our job, balancing the lightness of ‘fun’ with the seriousness of ‘life learning’.

How much has playground design changed over the years?

The first designated play areas came around the 1900s as safe places for children to be, as the streets had become so chaotic. They were filled with rows of metal swings, slides, and very ‘engineered’ climbers. Really just functional hardware.

Then there was a period in the ‘50-‘60s where artists, architects, and landscape architects got involved and designed play equipment that incorporated both aesthetic and child development values.

In the mid-‘70s a new wave came in called Post & Platform, where play systems were made from a series of decks, posts, barrier walls, roofs, and where many different activities such as slides and climbers could be attached. This type of system still dominates in much of the USA.

But in 1998, a new type of system, FreeForm Play, was developed (KOMPAN’s GALAXY products), which was a play sculpture made of many activities linked directly together – no floors or walls. It allowed free movement and choice for the user. There were many entry points rather than just a few and the play came right down to the ground so that both disabled and able-bodied children could play side by side. The FreeForm category of play equipment has now been copied and expanded upon by all major play equipment companies in the world.

The latest major development has been the integration of interactive gaming in the outdoor environment — I can say more about this later — but yes, there has been much change, but at the same time, many adults are nostalgic and still request a slide for the 8-year-olds. But these children want more and they have moved forward, as has the world around them, and we believe that if we want to provide meaningful experiences, we must also relate to the time in which we live.

Are there certain ‘must have’ things on a playground that people won’t let you leave out, slides for instance?

As just mentioned, many still do request slides and they are important, especially for the 2-4 year olds. The experience of letting go, the rush of sliding, the joy of being met at the bottom is a great achievement for a child. Sliding (and swinging and somersaulting and spinning) are sought out by children as these motions help to develop a strong sense of balance — so again, play is not just for fun, it is life and body learning.

There are other trends that go through the industry. At the moment many adults are requesting ‘nature’ in the play area even if it is fake nature — components that imitate natural elements but are made out of concrete or plastic. I believe this has to do with both a nostalgia for the past and a realization that adults have allowed children to stay inside, making it easier for the adults to keep children safe and supervise them. Thus, we have placed them in front of whichever screen works best to keep them occupied and out of trouble.

Then, there are the adults who seek something new, as they believe we must continue to inspire children if we want them to continue to move and play in the outdoor environment. This group is supportive of using technology to inspire and to respect the children as they are today.

Is it hard balancing the fun aspect of design with safety concerns?

Firstly, there is nothing more important than safety. Not that a child should never get hurt — they will, but we must do all we can to reduce major injuries. The strategy is to eliminate foreseeable hazards while still allowing a child to try and learn about how to manage risk without coming into danger. We don’t want to overprotect them — the play area is the best place to learn about what a child can manage and what they can’t and maybe they can next year — but at the same time, the play area is the one place where children are encouraged to try new challenges and the equipment and the site must be safe. Again, fun and life learning need to be balanced.

In the product development process, this is always a challenge, but a challenge is good. It pushes us to be even more creative. One of the reasons that KOMPAN GALAXY (mentioned above) was developed the way it was, was because the safety standards had become so limiting. Many of these safety rules were based on products with platforms. For example, if you have a platform you must have a barrier of a certain height and so on. We decided to eliminate the platforms and thus the barriers as well, and we created an entirely new category of play equipment — FreeForm Play.

Another layer to it is that there are several different safety standards around the world and we aim to fulfill them all as well as live up to some of our own standards which might not be described — many times when we innovate there are no clear guidelines that apply, so at these times we must use an assortment of guidelines, as well as our own 40 years of experience.

What do you think the future of playground design holds?

Well, this is sort of a trick question : ) We in the playground industry need to make things that are significant. There is an epidemic of obesity, an increase in isolationism, a decrease in body strength and speed, and a rise in ailments like Type 2 Diabetes and sense deprivation. We have let our children down. We have deprived them of good health, motion, social activity, and free play. Now and in the future, play is not just for fun. It is part of a cure to re-strengthen the next generation. So the future of playgrounds is to be more appealing than TV, more engaging than video games, and give more meaning than being alone with a computer.

This means we need to use relevant design, form, technology, materials, color, activities, and all this must be placed in an appropriate environment. Outdoor play needs to be available outside the boundaries of a single playground. Play must be available where we are. It must speak to us, engage us, and inspire us to move, to explore our abilities, to learn about ourselves and to meet others, to relate, to cooperate, to negotiate, and to have fun, and laugh, and smile. More of this in the future, please.

Interview – Così Restaurants

Welcome to the second conversation in the Beyond the Car Seat interview series. The Mommy and I often enjoy eating out, but with LTD getting increasingly both more mobile and vocal our options are limited. However, the one place we have found that meets all our needs is Cosi. Not only do they have a kid friendly set up, they also offer a free rewards program that includes 10 entrees and the 11th is free. I spoke with Bob Speirs, vice-president of operations, Così Restaurants about Cosi and why it rules.

What would you say is Cosi’s kid friendly philosophy and how did the company arrive at it?
At Così, we’re always working to create an atmosphere unique to the neighborhoods where our restaurants are located and that serves the guests the visit us. For many of our restaurants, this means ensuring that a mom and dad who want to have a great salad or a worldly sandwich also have options for their children that provide choice and taste.

How has the response been to the family atmosphere?
Our guests have overwhelmingly supported the environment that, for many, goes beyond standard options for families with children.

What is the most popular kids item on the menu?
Our guests have many favorites. While there isn’t a clear standout in the kids menu, pizza is always going to be a favorite with the kids and our recent introduction of Così Thin Crust Flatbread Pizza has been warmly received.

Of course, popular with parents are our other options that they can feel good about giving to their kids like fresh fruit, baby carrots and non-fat milk.

Is there anything coming up in the future involving the kids menu or activities?
Like the rest of our menu, we’re always looking for improvements based on the feedback of our guests and our own desire to continually improve the Così experience. We recently held The Così Little Chefs contest that gave our guests and their children an opportunity to submit a new menu item to us. We’re working now to see how the winning entry may work its way to our menu.

What happens when adults, like my wife, want to order off the kids menu?
We’re certainly flattered to think that our kids menu is good enough to satisfy adult tastes.

PS: Am I the only one who orders my son the fruit cup?
The fruit cup is actually a very popular choice, so much so that we’re looking into seasonal fruit options for the summer like seedless watermelon.

Interview – Greg Stones

Welcome to the first conversation in the Beyond the Car Seat interview series. The Mommy and I first peeped Greg Stones’ work at the SoNo Arts Celebration in South Norwalk, CT.

“Zombies Hate Technology”

Could you briefly describe your background and how you came to join the art world? I graduated from Bates College in 1996 with a BA in Studio Art. While at Bates, I worked primarily in oil, as Bates offered no watercolor classes. I was also the cartoonist for the school paper, and hoped to become a professional cartoonist in the mold of Bill Watterson or Gary Larson, but those hopes were dashed when I sent my comic strip to numerous newspaper syndicates who all agreed that though the writing was strong, the artwork was not. When it came time to create a body of work for my senior thesis show, I decided to paint nineteen miniature photo-realistic watercolors. Much to my surprise, seven of those paintings sold at the opening, which made me realize that I might be able to make a living selling my artwork. In the fall of 1996, I participated in my very first art festival. The booth fee was $200, and I sold exactly $200 worth of paintings. Despite the less than promising start, I kept at it, and now participate in 40 art festivals a year all over the eastern United States, and am a regular artist at the Blue Heron Gallery in Wellfleet, MA.

Could you briefly describe your style/influences and the process or materials? I describe my style as brightly morbid. I use pleasing, soothing colors and scenes, and then add odd twists featuring penguins, zombies, nudes, and other pop-culture characters that bring their own interesting baggage to each painting. I work with opaque watercolor, because it has the flexibility of being either delicate or strong, depending on the needs of a given visual situation. Though I cannot site any direct influences, I definitely enjoyed Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” in high school, and in college I admired Edward Hopper. These days, I try to limit my exposure to other artwork, because I don’t want to be influenced.

Your titles are funny and I think equally important to your pieces. Which comes first? Sometimes the title comes first, and sometimes it comes second. It depends on the scene.

What do you think of your work going up in kids’ rooms? Based on how much kids enjoy my work, I think it’s great when parents expose them to my paintings. Obviously not everything that I paint is completely kid-friendly, but kids should be exposed to as much art and as many different kinds of art as possible.

“Penguins Hate Zombies”

“15 Penguins, 1 Poop”

“Sheep Escaping Bigfoot”

“Penguins Hate Zombies”