The Brooklyn Playground

This post is a collaboration with a new and talented photography friend, Mariliana Arvelo. With six days left in New York City, her pictures of my boys and I in our daily visit to the playground mean more than anything. xo

I've grown to love Brooklyn playgrounds with a fierceness. When you don't have a backyard, and your baby is scootering naked across your new chaise lounge, the playground becomes an all-inclusive oasis. A place of freedom, hard truths, broken toys. The land overflowing with organic snacks. What I didn't realize was what a gathering place of awesome grown-up humans it is, too. Not only did my oldest get to interact with (correction: steal from) kids of all different ages and backgrounds, I got the lucky chance to get brave or be lonely. And I'd rather be Chatty Kathy and try to reach out than be Lonely Mom any day. (Lonely Mom is so, so sad. She's come and gone, but ugh, she's sad.)

I have met the most amazing people at the playground. As I'm typing, I'm visualizing dozens of them—one of my most recent favorites was a mom from my new neighborhood. Just before I slipped Silas into the swing, she pulled out an already damp wipe from her jacket pocket and wiped a muddy puddle from the base of our swing, saving our first kind-of-Spring morning from cold, crying abyss. From that second, we were friends. Co-parents, almost. Our kids 'played' together. It was more about us tracking them under the monkey bars, through the slide—while coming in and out of conversation about our impending move to San Francisco, her story of going back to art school, our kids' milestones. Next to the giant X-O-X-O spinning blocks, we talked about how it's hard, like really, really hard sometimes, to just live here. To be a mom and try to feed and protect our tiny humans. To feel such love and such frustration with a place. The ups and the downs and taking chances on a thankless city year in and year out. And she said it so perfectly, almost in a whisper like she was honoring the confidants we had become to each other, It's New York. We're here. It's amazing.

And it is. It is so amazing. 

So many thanks to the amazing Mariliana who captured these amazing photos of my boys and I at one of our last playground jaunts in our neighborhood, ever. It's home away from home, where my monkeys get the monkey out; the place where we get some sunshine after picking up a couple chocolate chip cookies at Choice. (Which, of course, my new friend at the playground recommended. They are as good as or better than warm Jacque Torres cookies!) I have never worked with a photographer who understood wild and skeptical toddlers (Silas) and completely indifferent babies (Sondre) so well. Mariliana is a DELIGHT to work with. If you live in the New York City area, or will be here visiting, I highly recommend Stylish Hip Kids Photography for capturing your family or a big event. Thank you, Mariliana!

And for fun, our favorite playgrounds in Brooklyn in order:

The Nature Playground at Prospect Park (a park made out of fallen trees from Sandy. it even has a sand pit!)

Pier 6 Water Park at Brooklyn Bridge Park. (Head out early on a Saturday morning, bike along the water, eat a croissant at Mazzola's in Carroll Gardens for breakfast and a Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory cone for lunch, and have a totally magical family morning.)

Underhill Avenue (lots of toys for little babies to play with)



Alt Summit NYC Recap, and The Difference Between ALT SLC & ALT NYC

This post is for anyone wanting to know more about the Alt Summit blogging conference. If you want to read more about Alt, here's Five Tips for Alt Summit, a recap of Alt Summit NYC, a recap of Alt Summit 2013, and a declaration that bloggers are so much more than bloggers. Thank you so much for visiting and I love your comments.

All photos by the wonderful Alt Summit photographer, Justin Hackworth

Whew! I was fortunate enough to attend Alt Summit NYC last week and I'm excited to share a few pictures from my day at the Martha Stewart Headquarters with all the other Alters.

I got to Alt halfway through the day so unfortunately I missed Grace Bonney's wonderful talk, crafting time, and a delicious lunch. The first thing I caught was a panel on social media with social media directors from Warby Parker, MooMah Magazine, and Lucky Magazine, moderated by Gabrielle Blair. (Great recap of the panel here.)

Following the panel, there was a 9 x 5 panel : Nine NY-based speakers speaking for five minutes each. This was a genius idea! I loved hearing from so many speakers and it kept the ADD at bay. And! So awesome that my husband, Keenan, was presenting.

He spoke all about online youth culture, improbable artists, and why the internet has made it possible for people who would've never been artists or perhaps never had a creative outlet, to become super successful tastemakers and creators. He surprised everyone by even tearing up half way through as he shared the personal stories of several teen "improbable artists" that inspire him online—I know how passionately he feels about the good and the possibilities that exist on the internet. I feel the same way. He briefly mentioned Days, a visual diary app he and his amazing team launched one month ago, and it was so fun to have so many people come up to us afterward to ask questions or give feedback on how they love the app

After a brief break (during which Keenan and our friend Danny admitted that they felt like they were at an awesome baby shower:)), we met again for the final speaker: Garance Doré. I admit I was unfamiliar with her blog until the conference. Shame on me! She was flawlessly candid and beautifully French, and I loved all of her business advice. You can read more about what she said here.

Then, the party didn't stop as we headed to another room decked out in true Martha Stewart fashion. It was so over-the-top beautiful. 

I reconnected and bonded with the other Design Mom contributors—Amy Christie (DIY), Gabrielle Blair (The Design Mom herself), Amy Hackworth (Family, Parenting, Life).  Missing Carter Higgins (Children's Book guru), Lindsay Johnson (Living Well Series), and Raleigh-Elizabeth (Food and Entertaining). I love how this picture captures just how excited we were to be together in person. It's a really amazing thing to collaborate every day online and then *finally* get together in person. I always love running into Brooklyn friends like Mim, Mara, and Jenny (though I didn't get any pictures!) and meeting new and awesome people like Chris, M.J., Ellen, Paige, Molly, Dervla, Jessica, and Cigall. It was also fun catching up with friends from ALT SLC like Haeley and Rashi.

I loved ALT NYC and am so impressed with the organizers behind the event and their impecccable attention to every tiny detail. It's an exquisite experience.

In case you're interested, I created a short Q&A all about Alt Summit based on some discussion with friends and questions other bloggers have been asking me about my experience at the conference. After I attended ALT SLC, I wrote something I titled Not Just Bloggers Anymore that made big rounds because it wasn't a typical ALT recap. It's what I had to write instead of a rundown on business cards or outfits. I also wrote something about being terrified to act on a good idea, which readers loved. I can't tell you how many people have emailed or talked to me privately about this exact feeling. If you have any questions, comments, or tips, leave a comment at the bottom or you can send me an email at koselicummings @ gmail . com. 

On the Fence about ALT in general? 

If you're on the fence about whether to purchase a ticket for ALT SLC, or a little lost in the blogging world, you may like my tips for Alt Summit NYC and a post about why bloggers are so much more than bloggers these days. Blogging conferences have the power to jumpstart your creativity, re-evaluate your business goals, and connect with people you should be connected with. It's also an incredible way to make friends that love the same things you do—which is super powerful whether you're a huge blogger or just starting out. If you can go, go. And if you want a ticket, you have to get it FAST the day it's available. They sell out in minutes.

Did you prefer ALT SLC or ALT NYC?

I attended ALT SLC in January 2013 and now ALT NYC in June 2013. To me, the two felt very different. The NYC conference was a one day conference only 45 minutes away from my house: the SLC conference was a solo, red-eye flight with my toddler and several days of 5:30 AM-11:30 PM networking. (Not to mention commuting in blizzard-like conditions!) The branding is similar, the people are still just as kind, and the topics and speakers were just as on-point. Both are super exciting to participate in and both have incredible networking opportunities. NYC feels small compared to SLC—in scope, venue, and in number of participants. It just depends on your budget and business needs. That being said, I loved being completely immersed at the SLC conference—I attended alone, packed everything I needed for the day (I commuted 40 minutes by car each day), and just made friends and learned all day long. It was heaven for me. It was a welcome change from my distracted day-to-day as a mom and part-time writer and I honestly didn't think about anything but the conference until the fourth day when I suddenly missed my son like crazy and raced back to my parent's house to cuddle that baby like crazy. If you can go, go! If you're on the cusp of starting your own business or blog and you need that final push, Alt Summit is it.

What should I wear? 

Something that makes you feel bangin'. That was hard for me to do at Alt NYC because I'm six months pregnant and in that weird in-between stage, but I did the best I could. I really think spending a little money and making sure you love every detail of your outfit goes a long way in an intense social situation like this. You don't want to be fussing or worrying about anything during the conference. That's time wasted! So buy those shoes or splurge on that gorgeous black dress if it helps you feel confident. The SLC conference requires several outfit changes for all-out evening parties each night—NYC is one outfit for one day.

A few tips on what to wear:


*All-black is slimming and looks chic and pulled together in pictures. I LOVE Gabrielle's jumper, and I also always love a perfect pencil skirt and button-down collared blouse. It ALWAYS looks so good.

*Statement jewelry and lipstick can add a pop in photo booths,  

*Stuff a light pair of comfy flats in your bag, but wear your favorite shoes the majority of the time. There's a lot of sitting.

All that being said, beware of rumors that Alt is all about fashion or looking perfect. It's a business conference, not a beauty pageant. It's so important to stay true to you and your own personal style. You don't need a whole new wardrobe or the perfect highlights—honestly, that's time and money wasted if you don't have a purpose for attending or haven't done your research on the speakers and those you'd like to connect with. Research first, fashion second. Dress for yourself, not for others.

What about business cards? (!!!!!) 

I have to laugh because everybody goes c-r-a-z-y about business cards at Alt. It's a little funny considering actual printed business cards are a bit dated (though I do love them!). But it's become a staple of Alt to exchange business cards with almost every person you meet. A clear, beautiful card that clearly states your blog or business, your name, and some contact information is most important. But there are so many variations of a business card that pop up at Alt it's seriously incredible. As long as it's true to your brand and business and isn't too huge to fit in someone's bag, go for it. :) 

Pro tip: Do your research! Try to get to know the names + blogs of the biggest bloggers who will be attending the conference so you don't find yourself slipping them a business card without any idea that they could be a future mentor for you. It goes a long way when you know a little about someone or their work when you're introducing yourself! On that same note, don't ignore anyone. Learn to slip in and out of conversation gracefully, but remember that this is a very tight knit community with a lot of super talented, super hard-working individuals who are (or are on the cusp of) doing amazing things. Always respect what others are trying to create and never doubt their sincerity. 

What should I pack? 

Ez of Creature Comforts pulled together a comprehensive list here. I'd also add an extra pen, snacks, (I have hypoglycemia so this is a must!), two pouches for your business cards AND for the cards you collect, lipstick and a compact, and a list of Twitter handles and email addresses of those you want to connect with while at the conference.  At ALT SLC, I wasn't staying in a hotel downtown so I had to pack everything I needed each morning. I stashed my evening clothes and freebies by the coat rack every day and it was totally fine. The bathrooms at the Grand America are big and gorgeous—plenty of room for getting ready for the evening parties. Or you can make friends with someone staying at the hotel, like I did with the awesome Gay last year, and change there. All in all, don't stress the changes. It's not a big deal when you're there and in the mode.

Any other tips/questions/comments on Alt Summit in general or on specific elements of the conference? I'd love to hear! 



Bloggers Unite! Five Tips for Alt Summit

This post is for everybody thinking about attending/prepping for an upcoming Alt Summit blogging conference. I wrote it in preparation for my first Alt NYC in 2013. Since Alt was such a game-changer for me, I thought I'd share a few of tips from my Alt Summit SLC experience. (You can read my other posts about Alt Summit here (Alt Summit NYC Recap and a few tips), Alt Summit SLC 2013 here, and a post triggered by a theme at the 2013 conference that bloggers are doing (and should be doing!) so much more than blogging called Not Just Bloggers Anymore. Hope you enjoy! Would love to hear your comments!) 

1) Wear something you feel amazing in. Spend a little money and wear the skirt that you know looks *amazing* on you, or that blouse that has the perfect sweetheart neckline. Do your make-up, do your hair, and do all the little things you might do to treat yourself before a very special event. (Manicure, haircut, hair masque, eyebrow threading, etc. Whatever.) I'm not a high-maintenance girl but I always wear a little more make-up and make sure every piece of my outfit won't give me a second thought. It makes the WORLD of difference when you're not fussing with your hemline, or hiding your peeling nail polish. Feeling confident allows you to take the focus off of you, and puts it on others—which is where you should be investing all your energy at an event like this. 

2) Bring beautiful, clear business cards. 100-125 should be plenty. Bring one pouch for cards collected, and one pouch for your cards. Bring a pen to jot down notes on your meeting/that person/things you don't want to forget directly on the card. This is so, so important! My friend Miranda from One Little Minute brought a college ruled notebook and took notes throughout the day and every night on every person she met and everything she learned. You'll totally forget everything by the time you get home so make clear, detailed notes about each person you want to reconnect with. You will not regret this, I swear. If you have time, also add every person you meet on Twitter, or people you want to meet with at the conference beforehand.

3) Be able to describe what you do and what your blog/business is in one clear sentence. If it's undetermined, that's okay! Just make one clear statement about what you're in the process of making.  It's a Hello/Elevator pitch in one. Make sure it's short and sweet. 

4) Research, research, research. Know who's sponsoring your dinner, who else will be there, and the ins and out of the location, dress code, etc. Find out who else is attending Alt (especially those you admire, the speakers, or possible collaborators) and connect within the next few days via Twitter or Email. (If you haven't already!) When you're at Alt, text, tweet, or email those you want to meet and make it happen. To top that off, bring a notebook and jot down all the Twitter handles of the bloggers/sponsors you'd like to meet with. Then, when you're available to meet, send a quick DM or email. This worked like a charm.

5) Be a confident floater. I love a person who you can float from one person to the next, pull others in, step away when it's time, and most important, just be fine alone. You'll exchange more business cards, meet more people, and have more fun if you're confident and independent. I attended Alt SLC alone, like a lot of attendees, and it was THE BEST THING EVER. I saw a few friendly faces from Brooklyn and Salt Lake City, but other than that I was a free bird. It opened up my time and energy to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to. This led to meeting some incredible bloggers that I may have not met otherwise and making some really, really amazing friends. On that note, do not be scared to introduce yourself to whoever you'd like to meet, however amazing/talented/beautiful you think they are. You do not want regrets the next morning, my friends. And if you do not say hello to ______ when she was standing right in front of you, you will regret it.

I really do feel like ALT SLC was a game-changer for me and really pushed me to put some ideas in motion that I was absolutely terrified to act on. I'm sure I'll feel the same encouragement and sense of community at ALT NYC this week. Ok! I'm super excited for Thursday. See you all there!

P.S. — Will I see you there? I'd love to meet you. You can catch me at @OriginalKos or email me at Koseli Cummings @ gmail . com. If I knew what I'd be wearing, I'd drop a hint so you can find me but seriously, just look for the pregnant girl in heels.


Oliver Jeffers' Wallpaper

A wall should not be blank unless you intended it to be.

Oliver Jeffers is a children's book author and multi-talented artist. He collages, paints, designs, illustrates, and builds. People like him inspire me and make me feel like I haven't done much in my life, but in a good way.

I want Land of Nod to help me transform our bedroom closet into a miniature napping room for our son and paper the interior with this birdie wallpaper. It doesn't matter how small it is if there's thought in every detail, right?