We recently caught up with Jenny Cooper, the creative genius behind Crewcuts and mother of Walker, 8, and Miller, 5, at Seersucker in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Because we forgot to Google image her before we got there, we ended up sitting two tables away from Jenny for a good 15 minutes. We spent about 8 of those minutes admiring Jenny’s groovy pants and collection of bracelets–both leather and gold–bemoaning the dearth of good coffee shops with inspiring people-watching in our native Park Slope. Not only do we love her bohemian-chic look, but not surprisingly, we love the way she lives her family life—everything from her love of picnics to her indulgence in Star Wars the Clone Wars on Saturday.
What’s the typical weeknight routine? Since I come home later, around 7 or 7:30, my husband Holger has usually already fed them and hosed them down in the tub. Not really, but we do like to plop them in the tub after dinner. We pretty much always cook ourselves, with the exception of sushi.
Go-to dinner? Spinach pasta–pasta with spinach chopped so fine you can’t tell what it is anymore. It’s really tasty!
Go-to breakfast? Just discovered cereal!! And apples–I really try to get a protein and a fruit in there somehow, and the choices they consider acceptable are sadly limited.
Something you guys do food-wise on weekends? We like to go places, picnics are a favorite. And I’m big on using the kids as an excuse to go get chocolate croissants at Almondine in Dumbo. And now that Jacques Torres has an ice cream stand across the street my sweet tooth is getting completely spoiled! BUT as long as I get a little sweet in I usually try to introduce a new food, or “re-present” something that hasn’t made an appearance in a while. This weekend it was a whole fish, eyeballs and all, that they ate with tears of pity for the poor thing!
What’s your TV philosophy? I’m a bit anti-TV, in that I don’t really like to see my sweeties slumped in front of a glowing box, mouths open and drool forming at the corners (as much as they LOVE it!) but I grew up with a strict 1-hour-a-week policy and always felt deprived and out of touch. My parents kept the TV in a cabinet under the window and behind the sofa, so whenever they left the house I would hunker down, watch as much as I could of ANYTHING, but my mother would then feel the the tv to see if it was warm! I was always busted. So we watch DVDs, funny things like National Geographic, Pink Panther cartoons from Netflix, and kids movies at home to try and keep it low key. However, I’ve found that NOTHING can get in the way of their obsession with Star Wars the Clone Wars, so I’ve given up and we all watch the new episode on Saturday morning as a weekend treat. It sounds a little weird to make it a weekend treat but they go along with it and I think enjoy it more for it’s scarcity.
Public or private school, and tell us about your smell litmus test: We love our public school and feel very lucky to have such a fantastic option. I can’t say enough about how amazing the teachers are and how happy we’ve been with the quality of the education. We looked at all the public schools and many of the privates in our neighborhood and I’m ashamed to say I have a twitchy nose and would judge schools based on the smell of the hallways, which we all know! I’m happy to say P.S. 58 passed with flying colors.
Are you a birthday party person? I’m obsessed with birthdays–I think everyone should have a day just for themselves! One of my favorites was a Poison Ivy party that we had for Miller: We played pin-the-ivy-on-poison ivy, draped the house in ivy and gave out the decorations—pots of ivy with a lolly pop stuck in them as the goody bag. We also painted their faces with calamine lotion and nails with green nail polish! Another favorite was painting Walker’s Flash Gordon party, when we painted a cardboard rocket silver, and handed out bubble guns to all the kids. It was supposed to be outside but it started raining so we moved it inside at the last minute and wound up with a soapy, slippery slick across the kitchen floor from all those bubbles!!!! The goody bags were iron-on t-shirts with Flash Gordon’s red circle and lightning bolt. The kids were all wearing them at school the next day!
What websites inspire you for which parts of your life? There are so many amazing websites that approach filling the void left by Cookie; Small Magazine, Papier Mache, LMNOP. I usually end up wandering aimlessly on the internet, starting with Pirouette. Handmade Charlotte is amazing. I usually have a project or something I’m investigating, like hydroponic gardening last weekend, or a potential trip destination. My internet wanderings are often fairly specific; I try not to get too sucked in – the potential is there! Checking out Tablet Hotels is a vacation in itself, and I love Google Earth for the streetviews. I love Smallable for their online magazine and their vintage chairs. I love 1st Dibs and modern furniture websites. And I just have to add that I’m really excited about Momfilter – I love the travel and the emphasis on things/recipes/projects/places I haven’t seen before. It’s definitely going to be a regular!
What’s a typical weekend like? A typical weekend involves a fair amount of doing nothing. Everyone is so busy during the week so I think we deserve at least one day to vegetate. Or, in Walker and Miller’s case, hop around the apartment re-enacting the weekly clone wars episode in their pseudo British accents. And I sit on the sofa staring at them. After that we like to get outside to Dumbo or a day trip to Harriman State Park for a runaround.
Any family rituals you carry on, or that you have created? The tickle monster? Does that even count? Miller hides when I come home and I chase them around the apartment tickling them. My favorite game.
On a rainy/freezing day we…go out in the rain. And then cook something treat-like, cookies, brownies or even just make rootbeer floats.
What are you listening to these days? I like to listen to what the kids are listening to and, fortunately, I like a little poppy, hoppy music. Their school’s anthem is Taio Cruz’s Dynamite and, I have to admit, it gets my toes tappin’! And yes, I am embarrassed to admit it!
What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list and never gets crossed off and nags at you? It’s endless!!!! I have a very long to-do list! I have lights that need hanging, we’ve been planning a toy stoop sale for 2 years (to get money to buy more toys!) for sure photo albums but they’ve been slipping off the list altogether! I like painting the house different colors and trying to grow an “Amsterdam garden” in pots outside our apartment. (When we went to Amsterdam 2 summers ago the houses and houseboats were all teaming with lovely leafy potted plants all around—quite amazing and lush in an urban setting—see picture below) But basically I don’t like leaving things hanging, so if it’s not done in a couple of years I scratch it off!
Of course we’re obsessed with the look and feel Crewcuts and the spirit, creativity and whimsy behind it. What are your big influences? I feel very lucky to be able to spend my time doing something I love, so that in itself is probably the biggest inspiration. And the people I work with! Everyone is so talented and passionate about what we are doing! We are always looking for and at objects, places, design of any kind that feels new and interesting while always keeping an eye for what feels “real”. Clothing has such a rich history that it feels good to tap into that. I think my grandparents had a huge influence on my thinking about clothes – they were always impeccable and didn’t have a huge assortment, but it was always both old-school and unique. And when I had kids, I had a hard time finding clothes that looked like that. I wanted clothes that would be around for the next generation as well.
Top 3 favorite books—for your kids or yourself? I think Harry Potter gets the credit for really turning Walker onto reading so he would have to be up there, but we have a strong fondness for Roald Dahl and Asterix and Obelix. We’ve been reading Asterix and Obelix at night amid gales of giggles. For myself I’m reliably obsessed with anything from Soho Crime, a small publisher of good old fashioned mysteries, many set in foreign places, lots of Norwegian authors, some Australian and Janwillem Van Wetering, who has the coolest Dutch detective duo.
Do you have a fail-safe beauty product or routine that just makes you feel armed for the day when you leave the house? Not really – it’s pretty slapdash in the morning. Something I’ve recently discovered is perfume – I found myself on a subway about 2 months ago and a man walked on who smelled so lovely I leaned toward him and instantly relaxed in an aura of cedar, lavender and maybe cinnamon (?). It completely transformed my morning and I’ve been regretting ever since that I didn’t ask him what he was wearing. So I’ve been trolling scent counters, something I’ve never done before.
Best family trip we ever took was…The boys immediately said “the Bahamas!” which involved overcast weather, an electricity outage at the rental house that prevented the bathrooms from working and a relocation to the only other room available on the island which was in a slightly seedy motel. The picture below was the only semi-sunny day and the wind almost blew me and Miller to the next island! I think we may have slightly differing opinions about the best family trip! But we try new destinations whenever we can so hopefully the best one will always be the next one!
(Above picture is Miller and I sitting at a bus stop in LA when we were stranded in LA coming back from Palm Springs. We had returned our rental car and decided not to get another for just a few days. Buses are so easy in Brooklyn we figured we’d try out the LA buses. A bit more of an adventure and rather time consuming since LA is so large, but overall successful! They had these enormous articulated buses and the boys would dash for the seats in the center articulated bits! They loved it!)
Tell us about these pictures you sent us: It’s wonderful having a photographer husband—we have so many amazing pictures of the kids that give me such a warm feeling in my belly when I look at them. But he never takes pictures when I want them so we have very few of my favorite birthdays—he’s usually busy making espressos for the adults!