Johanna van der Sterre, children's book illustrator and Mama Goose customer

You know how sometimes kids tell you what they want to be when they grow up, and then they name something so clearly out of reach that you just want to gently pat their hands and say, “Oh, honey, let’s maybe think about a back up plan.”  Or maybe you don’t react like that —- maybe I’m just naturally a pessimistic crusher of dreams, but that’s how I respond whenever a kid wants to be a professional basketball player, or a ballerina, or a rapper.  Until recently, children’s book illustrator was on that list too — the kind of job that some people somewhere get to do, but nobody you actually know, so it doesn’t seem like a realistic option.

Johanna van der Sterre, real live children’s book illustrator, has changed that for me.  Johanna went from a kid who liked to draw to a student of fine art to a grown-up honest-t0-goodness published children’s book illustrator.  Her work includes Mendel’s Accordion by Heidi Smith Hyde, The First Christmas Present by Marilyn Sommerer, Fievel’s Flying Horses by Heidi Smith Hyde, and, most recently, Why Do I Have to Make My Bed? by Wade Bradford (due to be released next month!)  When she’s not working on a book, Johanna spends time with her husband and two children, and fits in some shopping at Mama Goose whenever she can!

Johanna’s illustrations are whimsical and engaging — grown-up art for a child-friendly environment, and are currently on display as framed prints for sale in the back hallway Goose Gallery.  If you’re interested in purchasing one of Johanna’s original pieces,visit her Etsy shop. Check out some of her illustrations below, and then stop by the Goose to see our entire selection.  (Look for “The Goddess” — it’s my favorite.)

"Little Flower"

From "Fievel's Flying Horses"

From "Why Do I Have to Make My Bed?"

-Meryl at the Goose


How many kids do you have, and what are their ages?

Two — Olivia is 11 and Geneva is 7.

To whom are you married?

I’m married to THE Mama Goose, Kelly Moreland.

Tell us the story of the beginning of Mama Goose, from your point of view.

Kelly and I were living in Burbank, California. Olivia was 3 and Geneva was on the way and Kelly was already a really devoted resale shopper.  There was a resale shop that we would walk by in Burbank, and Kelly was very intrigued by it.  She kept saying that someday she wanted to open a shop like that, but in her own way.

We moved to Ithaca in 2002, shortly after Geneva was born.  Neither Kelly nor I are L.A. people, and we didn’t want to raise girls there, with the car culture and materialism.  Plus, Kelly’s family is 3 hours south of here, and my family is 3 hours west, so Ithaca is both a wonderful city and beautifully located for us.

We arrived at the beginning of a very cold, snowy winter (one of the coldest and snowiest in the 7 years we’ve been here.)  Kelly was going stir-crazy watching after kids, and got it in her head that she wanted to open the store she’d always talked about.  Olivia was attending preschool at Corner of the Sky, and it was there that Kelly met another mom, Michelle Stuhr, who had been thinking the exact same thing and had started doing it on a small scale.   They started meeting and talking and decided they’d do it together.

Little Goose opened in December 2003, just a year after our move from California, on a true shoestring budget, about $3000 each from both parties.  It was a big hit from the day it opened.  After about a year, when Michelle’s circumstances changed, Kelly bought her out and soldiered forth as the sole owner of Mama Goose.

How involved were you with the Little Goose?  With the opening of the Big Goose?

I’m always kind of the lackey — I painted the big Seneca Street sign, which is now in our barn, put up the racks on which the clothes were hung.  It seemed like every area of the wall was a different construction, so that took forever.  I did stuff like that …put up some shelves and then got called in sometimes thereafter when other things needed hanging.

Soon into the Little Goose, Kelly and Michelle realized that they were going to outgrow that space, and started looking around for other places.  This looking stage took a long time, and in the beginning, they were looking for another quaint space, like a house, and I was pushing for a more traditional, open retail space.   We looked at many, many spaces, sometimes seriously, until finally we found the Bishop’s building.  I accompanied Kelly in looking at all the buildings, serving as the paperwork and finance guy, so Kelly could focus on the nuts and bolts of running the store.

How are things working out between you and Mimi?

Mimi and I are doing well … I put on the same kind of hat for Mimi that I did for the Gooses, but in a much simpler, quicker affair.  It’s been much more hands on than the Big Goose renovation, because we wanted to do it less expensively, so I was rolling up my sleeves a lot more, doing the painting and putting together shelves.   Part of the effort to open early and effort to do things quickly has led to more responsibility for me, and there’s still a lot to be done.

So, you’re, like, a celebrity … you’ve been on the television and in the moving pictures and whatnot. Tell us about that.

I always enjoyed getting up in front of people – I did drama in high school, plays in college, and for 11 years worked as a repertory actor with the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble in Pennsylvania, where I acted, directed, wrote, designed, did a little bit of everything.  That’s where I  met Kelly, having already decided that I was going to move out to L.A., and she came with me.  We married out there, and lived there were six years and, in pretty short order, I became a blue collar character actor.  Everyone gets typed in L.A., and I was typed as an abrasive authority figure — high school principal, assistant district attorney, college professor … sometimes comic, sometimes dramatic, but always abrasive.

Could you please emphatically explain just how much you are NOT a professional clown?

I’ve never understood how anyone, especially anyone who has actually seen my show, can think I’m a clown.  I think of clowns with painted faces, red noses, and clown costumes, and I have none of those things.  I am a magician.

Like lots of little boys, I liked magic as a kid, then gave it up.  When I got the job at the theatre company in Pennsylvania, the first year I was cast in the children’s production of King Arthur and the Nights of the Roundtable, and they needed someone to play Merlin.  When no one raised their hand to say they had experience with magic,  I admitted that I goofed around with it as a kid, and they said, “OK, you’re it.”  My friend, who was a mime, told me that there was lots of work for magicians, and that if I came up with a show, he could refer people to me, since he got calls for magicians all the time.  My magic show debuted in 1987, and I’ve been doing it as a sideline project ever since.  I was doing birthday party magic as a sideline the whole time we were in L.A. – about 15 parties a month — and now that we’re in upstate New York,  I mostly do educational magic shows in schools and libraries.  I’m just about to kick off my summer tour, which is fairly light this year — 35 shows this summer compared to the 60 or so I’ve done in the past, leaving me plenty of time for long weekends of work for Mimi.

What’s been the most pleasant surprise about being a dad? The least pleasant surprise?

I think the most pleasant surprise is how greedy are my girls are to hear stories about when I was a boy, and sometimes to hear them over and over again, and then sometimes to have me tell them to my friends – that there’s a family lore that they really treasure.  I didn’t see that coming.

One of the saddest things for me is how they outgrow things and don’t go back.  Geneva, when she was first able to speak, called Olivia “Ya-ya,” and Olivia stayed “Ya-Ya” for some time until one Christmas Break when Geneva heard all of the cousins call her sister Olivia, and then she gave it up. I had really hoped that “Ya-ya” would be there to stay.

How do you feel about being a dad of daughters?

I was very relieved to have daughters, because I’m not a sports, guys-guy, and having been not a guys-guy in elementary school, I know how difficult it is to not be very good at football, or baseball, or basketball, so I felt very relieved and happy to be able to have girls.

How do you celebrate Father’s Day?

It’s always the NY Times in bed and coffee brought to me, and then we typically eat out.  This year, weather permitting, I’m going to read the Times, get out of bed, get on my bike, and bike to Aurora. Kelly and the girls are going to meet me at the Aurora Inn where we’re going to have the lovely Sunday brunch there, and then I’ll put the bike on the back of the car and we’ll drive home.

Any advice for dads-to-be out there? Or for magicians-to-be? Or, really, for anyone else?

For future magicians, I’d say to get experience as an actor first. One of the famous magicians, Robert Houdin, I believe, said that a magician is just an actor playing the role of a magician.  Where most magicians fall down is not in their technical skills, but in their limitations as an actor.

As for parents-to-be, aside from doing all of your shopping at Mama Goose, and this isn’t giant, uber advice or anything, but it works — get yourselves a copy of the soundtrack to The Music Man.  Lullabies don’t soothe babies.  You want a baby to stop crying — you put on 76 Trombones and bounce that baby around the room.

For more about David the Magician, visit his website to view video clips and learn about his summer tour.  For more about David the Papa Goose, stop by Mimi’s Attic or Mama Goose … he’ll be the one doing something extremely important in the background while the rest of us flit around and forget to say thank you.

A reminder: we at Mama Goose get to meet all sorts of wonderful people, either over the cash register or at the buying station. This Customer Profile series is our way of sharing that very enjoyable vantage point with you.  If you’d like to be a profiled customer, download our CPQ, and e-mail it to


How long have you been a Mama Goose customer and how did you hear about us? 

Since last summer, when I was shopping for maternity clothes.  I drove by many times, and came in when I needed pants that fit my third trimester body.    

How many kids do you shop for and how old are they?  

I have one child, a seven-month-old.   

Why are you in Ithaca?  

I came here for college in 1989 and never left.     

The thing that scares me the most about being a parent is.…  

not knowing the exact right thing to do all the time.    

The thing that brings me the most joy at this stage of parenting is….  

my baby’s laugh!   

One thing I learned from an older family member is….  

that sometimes babies need to cry, and it’s not necessarily because I’m doing something wrong.     

Before kids, I never could have fathomed…

that I would be dying to go to sleep by 10 pm.   

Most people in Ithaca don’t know that I once…  

drove across the country in a Monte Carlo.   

I have to admit, I love my… 


Write your own tagline or motto.  

Keep body and soul together.   

A recipe you’d like to share is….  

Spinach Basil Pesto  

Half a bunch of fresh spinach, one fresh basil plant (about half a cup of leaves), half a cup of walnuts, half a cup of parmesan cheese, one or two cloves of garlic, and olive oil.  Blend in the food processor, and serve with spinach fettucine.    

Name one grocery item that can always be found in your kitchen.  


Your favorite business in Ithaca other than MG is…


Are you on Facebook and/or do you Tweet?  

 Yes, I’m on Facebook.   

A group, club, organization, blog or business that you’d like to introduce and link to is…   

the Tompkins County SPCA.    


-Meryl at the Goose   



Week after week on Monday, I’ve shown you cute kids in cute clothes, and we ooh and ahh and want to pinch cheeks, and, overall, have a grand old time.   But what about the mamas who make those cute kids?  We sell clothes for them too, and those pregnant lady cheeks are worthy of pinching as well.  Just look at adorable Brittany below:

"I know!  This outfit is totally awesome!  Almost as awesome as I am!"

"How awesome is this outfit? Almost as awesome as I am, right?"

First-time mama-to-be Brittany, who is due in August, is pictured above in a Motherhood Maternity dress, size medium ($6.95), and a Motherhood Maternity sweater, size small ($6.95).  She’s wearing grown-up sized Tevas (our last pair in size 8, $23.98) and a $4.99 necklace from our accessories wall.   It’s a look that just screams  “Someone throw me a baby shower! I’m totally dressed for it!”

A back view of the dress pictured above. There's a bow. Cute, cute, cute.

While Brittany gamely tried on half of our maternity section, from Gap maternity jeans with a Pure T to a Liz Lange eyelet shirt and railroad-striped pants, we chatted.  I learned that she is somewhat new in town, having arrived this past August with her husband straight from Rome, Italy, where they were both teachers at the American Overseas School.  Here in Ithaca, Brittany teaches art at the Fall Creek After School program, while her husband molds young minds at New Roots.   When she’s not at work or shopping the Goose, you can likely find Brittany cooking, hiking, or doing prenatal yoga at Sunrise Yoga.

If this is starting to sound a little bit like a personal ad, I can’t help it.  My favorite part of working at Mama Goose, aside from the outfit-making, of course, is the opportunity to meet the many members of our community who frequent the store.  When a newbie like Brittany appears on the scene, my inner yenta comes out.  I can’t bear to keep my new friend to myself!   I simply have to share, and if I can work a Look of the Week into the introduction, well, then, double yay for me. 

Brittany in Motherhood Maternity jeans and a shirt by BUMP that reads, in sequins, "Baby Under Manufacturing Process." After our photo shoot, Brittany purchased that shirt for herself. If you want to get to know her better, either because she's obviously awesome or because you want to borrow that shirt, you can e-mail her at

-Meryl at the Goose

Blogling postscript:  I’ve also discovered that Brittany is a salsa dancer, chocoholic, and has recently returned from a bike trip to the Netherlands.  Additionally, she’s super crafty, and is looking for other mamas who want to hang out and make cute baby stuff & gear.   She’s also interested in doing a home-made baby food exchange in the fall … a little bit like Kelly’s Dinner Co-op, but for wee ones!

Naomi and one of her four girls.

How long have you been a Mama Goose customer and how did you hear about us?

I remember hearing about MG opening from someone at my oldest daughter’s pre-school.  She said something like, “Did you hear about the new used clothing store for kids? The owner is really nice and the clothes are well priced and in great condition!”

How many kids do you shop for and how old are they?

Four daughters — ages 11, 9, 4, and 18 months. You’d think the younger ones could just wear hand-me downs, but often things are out of season or just worn out and we have to start fresh (with gently used clothes from MG, of course!)

What are your favorite kinds of purchases at MG? You’re biggest “score”?

This winter I got boots for the three oldest girls, all at the coat sale. I bought four pairs, not quite sure of some sizes, and only returned one pair.

And then I bought four pairs of shoes for my youngest daughter. We didn’t know her size because we adopted her from Ethiopia. So I emptied out the bin of shoes and bought an assortment. Two fit her, and the others I donated to the orphanage she was in.

Why are you in Ithaca?

My husband and I moved here 14 years ago. He works at Cornell and I work at Tikkun v’Or (Ithaca Reform Temple). We had lived in other central NY cities and love Ithaca the most.

When I get a minute to myself, the first thing I want to do is …

A minute to myself — did you see that I have four kids?! If I do get a minute to myself, I usually take a shower or go to sleep. Or I go to work, which isn’t really by myself, but at least it puts me in the company of other adults.

On a typical day, when I’m not with my kids, I can usually be found …

Yup, still with my kids. Or in the shower.

I know I’m having a bad day when …

I drink more than two cups of coffee. I really shouldn’t have so much, but sometimes I really need it!

The thing that brings me the most joy at this stage of parenting is …

watching when my girls are all getting along well and playing together.

One of my child’s favorite book or toys is …

Art supplies. All my kids like to draw, color, and do craft projects.

Before kids, I never could have fathomed …

how many loads of laundry I would do every week.

Two things that are different about me than five years ago are …

I’ve turned 40, and doubled the number of children in my house.

Most people in Ithaca don’t know that I once …

frequently protested animal abuse at fur stores, circuses, and donkey basketball games.

I have to admit, I love my …

immersion blender. It’s great for easy soup-making.

Can you name one grocery item that can always be found in your kitchen?

Goldfish crackers. Can’t live without them. And all kinds of cheese.

What is your favorite business in Ithaca other than MG?

Autumn Leaves — for books to go with the clothes from MG.

Are you on Facebook and/or do you Tweet?

I’m on FB but I do not Tweet.

Do you have a group, club, organization, blog or business that you’d like us to introduce and link to?

It’s not my blog, but one I read regularly:  It’s for parents who are committed to raising children with an anti-racist outlook.

Hope you all enjoyed meeting Naomi — I know I did.  We here at the Goose get to meet all sorts of wonderful people, either over the cash register or at the buy station.  This Customer Profile series is our way of sharing that very enjoyable vantage point.   We’d love to know more about you, so if you’d like to submit your own Customer Profile Questionnaire, download it here, and e-mail it to

Meryl at the Goose

Kristina, her daughter Topenga, and her son Lucas

Ithaca is a small town.  No, this isn’t a post about stating the obvious, it’s about one of the characters that inhabits the small town.  I’ll call this person the “stalker-friend.”  Let me explain. 

If you spend a fair amount of time in Ithaca proper, you start to see the same faces over and over.  Some of them aren’t particularly memorable or intriguing for any number of reasons, but some of them are.  Some of those faces, each time you catch a glimpse of them, convince you more and more that you and that person were clearly destined to be friends — otherwise, why would fate continually throw you together?  (Reminder: it’s not fate.  “It’s the whole 10 square miles surrounded by reality” thing.) 

I, myself, have become the stalker-friend several times.  Most recently, I stood in awe in line at Urban Outfitters behind a woman with her two small children.  The kids, looking to be about the same age as my two youngest — 1 and 3 — were in a double stroller and their mom was in an adorable hat.  I was in Urban Outfitters for the third time in two days, trying desperately to return something but having failed twice before because I thought, foolishly, that I could accomplish the errand with a kid or two in tow.   

This woman, however, was completely rocking her mommy shopping trip.  As she paid for her bounty, her children sat quietly, playing with individual toys while their mom leisurely fished out her wallet, chatted with the salesperson, and calmly packed each item at a strategically located place in the stroller.  When my turn in line came, this magical mother and her perfect children strolled happily out of the store, and I stared, open-mouthed, as they left.   

I continued to think about this woman over the next couple of days, including on a drive to Mama Goose  one morning.   Kelly Goose had recently ordered me business cards, and I was berating myself for not giving one to Urban Outfitters SuperMama.   But, thanks to the magic that is Ithaca, I walked in the door and there she was!  I immediately chatted her up, and after several “accidental” run-ins at mommyspots all over town, I am able to present her to you!  Meet Kristina…. my own personal super mom.  I’m proud to call myself her stalker-friend.  

How long have you been a Mama Goose customer and how did you hear about us?  

We have been MG regulars since we moved here in August of last year from Seattle, Washington.  MG’s location was a prime reason we picked our current neighborhood:  I wanted to be able to walk to amusing kid friendly places like MG, especially during the winter.*   There are awesome stores very similar to MG in every neighborhood in Seattle.  I wanted to feel at home a bit by remaining connected to the second- time around, sustainable, community oriented focus environment. 

*Blogling note:  Kristina definitely accomplished this goal!  She and her kids were frequent attendees at the Winter Sprouts and Storytime events this January and February. 

How many kids do you shop for and how old are they? 

Two kids:  Lucas Jordan West, 3.5 years old (B-day August 19th) and Topenga Natalie West, 16 months old (B-day October 24th) 

What are your favorite kinds of purchases at MG? You’re biggest “score”? 

Having sold almost all our belonging (clothes, furniture, toys, etc.) before leaving Seattle, almost every toy and piece of clothing in the kids’ closets is from MG.  The all-time best I would say though is this beautiful, pristine, shiny, bright yellow, chrome-accented ride-on taxicab from BabyStyle.  It was $25 and it was SO ours.  Love it!! 

Why are you in Ithaca?

My husband, David, was accepted to Cornell in the Urban Planning Graduate Program.  Being born and raised on the West Coast, moving here presented a one-of-a-kind adventure for us. 

When I get a minute to myself, the first thing I want to do is

RUN AWAY!  I need to make sure I get the time to be in a completely different venue with completely different people regularly so I don’t get stir crazy as a stay-at-home mom. 

On a typical day, when I’m not with my kids, I can usually be found …

Knitting/crocheting at knitting groups or at Barnes & Noble, or, when TOTAL escape is necessary, at the movie theater. 

I know I’m having a bad day when …

all of the following things happen at once:  I know what I need to be doing to cope better but I just physically can not seem to make that happen frustration spurring a constant feeling that I just need to scream and or throw something; I’m counting down the seconds until the husband gets home.  This triad is bad news.  

Something that scares me about being a parent is …

sending a “flop” product out into the world because I screwed up something key in child development.  I’m most afraid of doubt being present in my kids’ lives.  I want them to be powerfully kind and self-sufficient individuals who never lack confidence. 

What are your children’s favorite books?

Lucas is currently a huge fan of Usborne’s First Encyclopedia of the Human Body.  The Usborne Encyclopedias are simply fantastic — everyone has to give them at least a looksie at Alphabet Soup. (Blogling note:  Mama Goose has at least one kicking around the board book section right now too.)  Topenga loves this book called Baby Knows Best. She carries it around and if we sit down for even a second she insists we read it over and over again.  There’s a picture in it of baby is dropping food on the floor from their high chair, and she finds it fascinating.  She sits and stares at this image…I wonder what she is thinking…the whole exchange just cracks me up! 

One lesson I learned from an older family member is …

it is way not okay to refuse to apologize to a child just because he’s a child (learned from someone who believes the opposite.) 

Before kids, I never could have fathomed 

drinking coffee each and every day. 

Two things that are different about me than five years ago are …

compromise, compromise, compromise…. I guess that’s three things. 

Most people in Ithaca don’t know that I once …

was a mildly successful singer/dancer/actress in California. 

I have to admit, I love my …

 magic eraser.  It really IS magic! 

Someday I hope to return to …

Seattle, Washington to live; Rome, Italy to visit. 

Do you have a motto or favorite quote? 

 “The decision to have a child is momentous because it is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body” – from the book Protecting the Gift by Gavin De Becker 

Do you have any great quotes from your kids?

Lucas:  “It’s okay to yawn when you are trying to wake up but you shouldn’t yawn when you are already awake ‘cause that wastes electricity.” 

Do you have a group, club, organization, blog or business that you’d like us to introduce and link to? 

I am studying to become a Bradley Natural Childbirth instructor!  When the training is complete, I would love to post my link so that all those interested in Natural Childbirth can find me and hopefully participate in the ongoing course I will be teaching!    I am also on for all you knitters/crocheters out there

Kristina's Facebook profile picture: a beautiful, nurturing, magical mama just like Kristina herself

I hope you all enjoyed meeting Kristina.  If you ever want to check her out in person, just head to the Goose on a weekday morning — chances are she’ll be there.   As she said to me this morning, flanked by Topenga and Lucas dressed in head-to-toe Mama Goose clothing, “Oh, yeah.  I’m all up in this place.”  Love it, love her, and so will you! 

-Meryl at the Goose

Well, golly, Mamas —  we got ourselves a celebrity customer!  The lovely Katherine Center, creator of the inspiring video above, is also the author of two novels, the mama of two kids, and a customer at the Goose when she visits Ithaca every summer!  She was kind enough to take time out from writing and parenting to fill out our CPQ, and is planning on stopping by the store this summer to share some more wit and wisdom with us.  For those who can’t wait ’til summer, read more about Katherine below.

How long have you been a Mama Goose customer and how did you hear about us?

My parents-in-law live right near the old location.  We spend at least two weeks in Ithaca every summer, and we always make a point of visiting Mama Goose.

How many kids do you shop for and how old are they?

Our kids are 4 and 6 now.  But we’ve been shopping at Mama Goose since before our littlest was born.

What are your favorite kinds of purchases at MG? Your biggest “score”?

The summer I was pregnant with our son, I came in one time looking for boys’ clothes.  I had saved all his big sister’s clothes very carefully—certain, for some reason, that our next baby would be a girl.  So when it was time for boy clothes, I made a trip to Mama Goose and found so many cute things I practically needed a wheelbarrow to haul my finds home.

Why are you in/do you come to Ithaca?

My parents-in-law have lived there for about the past ten years.  We have always loved Ithaca—it’s a perfect change of pace from our lives in Houston.   And now that we have kids, we are very committed to making it up every single summer.  The weather’s so great in the summer in Ithaca, and there are so many amazing things to do.   We look forward to it all year.

When I get a minute to myself, the first thing I want to do is ….

sleep.  Or read.  Or check my email.  But mostly sleep.

On a typical day, when I’m not with my kids, I can usually be found .…

writing!  I spend almost every spare minute that I’m not parenting writing.  As the dishes in our sink will confirm.

The scariest thing about being a parent is .…

the distinct possibility of worrying myself to death.

One of my child’s favorite book or toy is ….

Legos.  And Harry Potter.

I have to admit, I love my .…

Internet connection!

Do you have a recipe you’d like to share?

One of our favorite Toddler Finger Foods is to take a little lump of cream cheese and put a bunch of straight pretzels in it and call it a birthday cake.  Then the kids eat the “candles.”  Always a crowd-pleaser!

Can you name one grocery item that can always be found in your kitchen?


What is your favorite business in Ithaca other than MG?

We are huge, crazy fans of Silk Oak!

Are you on Facebook and/or do you Tweet?

Yes!  I’m on Facebook, and I Tweet, too!  @katherinecenter

Do you have a group, club, organization, blog or business that you’d like us to introduce and link to?

Well, I’m a novelist, and I write bittersweet comedies about love and family and motherhood.  My first novel is The Bright Side of Disaster, my second is Everyone Is Beautiful, and I have a third, Get Lucky, coming out in April.

I’d love for folks to visit my website at

I have a blog there, too that I update at least once or twice a week.

And that’s Katherine, just another fabulous Goose customer.  Her Mom 2.0 video was so inspiring to us, that we’ve launched a Mama Goose YouTube Channel with Katherine’s video at the helm.  I’ll be adding all sorts of other videos in days to come, so if you have something you’d like to share, leave it in the comments below and/or e-mail me at

-Meryl at the Goose