Tag Archives: Kerstin Rao

Roundup: Valentine’s Sand, MoCA Music, Aspetuck’s Digital Hike …

Some folks expressed their Valentine’s love yesterday with flowers. Others used chocolate.

One intrepid person took to the sand:

(Photo/Rachel Rothman-Cohen)

So the very romantic (and real) question remains: Which of these 3 expressions of love — flowers, chocolate or a heart in the sand — lasts longest?


MoCA Westport’s 2023 Music at MoCA Concert Series features a diverse line-up: 10 jazz, world music, folk and classical performances.

Collaborations include Jazz at Lincoln Center, East Coast Contemporary Ballet and the Charles Ives Music Festival.

The schedule  (all concerts begin at 7 p.m.):

  • Saturday, February 18: Talisk (Scottish folk)
  • Friday, April 21, 2023: Eddie Barbash (jazz)
  • Friday, April 28: Cuatro Puntos: Contemporary Ukrainian Composers (classical)
  • Friday, May 12: Ameen Mokdad’s “The Curve” with Cuatro Puntos (classical)
  • Saturday, May 20: A Tribute to Joni Mitchell by Michelle Pauker
  • Saturday, June 10: Jazz at Lincoln Center Emerging Artist: Vanisha Gould Quartet (jazz)
  • Saturday, July 8, 2023: Jazz at Lincoln Center Emerging Artist: Summer Carmargo (jazz)
  • Tuesday, August 8, 2023: Charles Ives Music Festival: “(Re)Imagine, an Evening of Engaging Chamber Music: (Classical)
  • Saturday, October 14: “Desde Adentro – From Within” by East Coast Contemporary Ballet, Alturas Duo and Callisto Quartet (dance)
  • Saturday, November 18: Artem Kuznetsov – 2022 Heida Laureate (classical)

Click here for tickets and more information, or call  203-222-7070.

Michelle Pauker — a star last year — returns in 2023 to MoCA. (Photo/Dan Woog)


The Westport Fire Department is always training.

Yesterday’s session: positioning the ladder truck, and rescuing someone from a window.

Firefighters did not have to go far. They did it right outside headquarters, on the Post Road.

(Photo courtesy of Westport Fire Department)


A “digital hike” seems oxymoronic (and not particularly daunting, or fun).

But Aspetuck Land Trust is offering one on March 15 (noon), and it’s both educational and, yes, fun.

Land protection specialist Adam Goodwin will help attendees learn about open space, land in our region, and the green space that is the “lungs of Fairfield County.” The focus will be on Aspetuck’s preserves and trails, and how they connect the region.

Click here to register for the “Lunch & Learn” websinar.


In 1929, the Westport Garden Club was among 31 charter members of the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut in April 1929.

Beginning in 1982, the Federation has hosted a flower and garden show in Hartford. For this year’s event (February 23-26, Connecticut Convention Center), club members Kara McKenna Wong and Kelle Ruden will enter floral designs as novice designers.

They’ll also be preparing for the Westport Garden Club’s 100th anniversary show next year. Kara and Kelle will work at the Hartford show as horticulture volunteers, learning the flower show ropes. Club members will travel to Hartford, to cheer them on.

At the show, they can also visit Kerstin Rao. The Westport artist/ calligrapher/former Bedford Middle School teacher will exhibit her Vivid Cottage stationery.

The Connecticut Flower & Garden Show includes 23 live gardens and landscape exhibits; over 12,000 square feet of design, horticulture, botanical arts and a photography competition; over 80 hours of seminars and demonstrations, and hundreds of booths.

Click here for more details on the show.

A few of Kerstin Warner Rao’s flower-themed greeting cards.


The Westport Transit District celebrates Presidents Day with free Wheels2U on-demand, group ride, door-to-train platform shuttle service this Friday and next (February 17 and 24).

The normal fee to and from the Westport and Greens Farms stations is $2.

WTD director Peter Gold hopes riders will take advantage of the free service to head to New York for a staycation, shopping, museum or Broadway visit — or traveling between Westport and the city for work.

Riders use the Wheels2U Westport app to request a pickup  between 5:45 and 10 a.m., and 4 and 9:30 p.m., for rides between either train platform and their front door. Pickups for trips to the stations should be requested 20 minutes before normally leaving to drive to the station.

For more information about Wheels2U, including how to download the Wheels2U app and book a ride, click here. For more information about the Westport Transit District’s services for the elderly and people with disabilities, click here.



Westport Country Playhouse’s Script in Hand reading of Theresa Rebeck’s thriller “Mauritius” (March 13, 7 p.m.) has a special twist.

It’s directed by the playwright herself.

Rebeck has written for stage, film, TV and novels. Her 4 Broadway plays make her the most Broadway-produced female playwright in recent years.

“Mauritius” is a thriller. It’s also infused with wicked humor.

Click here for tickets, and more information.

Theresa Rebeck


Westport resident Dr. John J. Williams died peacefully last week.

A graduate of St. Peter’s College, Georgetown Medical School and Fordham Law School. he was a decorated combat veteran who served in Vietnam as a surgeon.

He trained as a urologist, and was on the faculty at Cornell. He was also a member of the Connecticut Bar. John and his family split their time between New York City and Westport.

He is survived by his children John (Chie), Paul (Leslie) and Valerie (Gary); grandchildren Owen, Sachi, Charlie, Harry, Luke and Johnny; brother Robert and sister Kathy Dalton. He was predeceased by his wife Jean.

Visitation is today (Wednesday, February 15, 4 to 8 p.m., Harding Funeral Home). A funeral mass will be held tomorrow (Thursday, February 16, 10 a.m., St Luke Church).

Dr. John Williams


Nothing says “Westport … Naturally” more than an early sign of spring.

Bob Weingarten spotted these optimistic shoots, on Hillandale Road.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)


And finally … on this day in 1764, what became the city of St. Louis was established in what was then Spanish Louisiana.

(From here to St. Louis — and far beyond — “06880” is “where Westport meets the world.” Please click here, to help us continue our work. Thank you!)

Kerstin Rao Helps Save The Children

When she retired in 2021 after 34 years as a teacher — including 2 decades with Bedford Middle School’s Workshop program for gifted students — Kerstin Rao did not slow down.

Nearly 40 years after leaving art behind for a career in education, she created a small business. Vivid Cottage is an online shop for art, stationery, home goods and gifts.

Kerstin Rao, with her prints at the Westport Book Shop.

She also blogs, hoping to inspire other woman-owned businesses. Whenever she can, she shares uplifting stories.

Like this one, about the power of giving back, and giving thanks.

Though her expenses still exceed her income, Kerstin never misses a chance to help children in need.

When she drew a sunflower bouquet the same day Russia invaded Ukraine — and then learned that sunflowers are a symbol of that embattled nation’s identity — she knew she could do something for Ukrainian children and families.

She designed sunflower-themed individual and boxed cards, and tea towels.

Kerstin Rao’s sunflower card.

At the end of June she sent 10% of the profits — and a hand-written card explaining the “sunflower” concept — to Save the Children, the international organization long headquartered on Wilton Road, now in Fairfield.

Whatever goes around, comes around.

A few days later Kerstin received her own note.

Save the Children CEO Janti Soeripto thanked Kerstin warmly for her contribution. She added:

 I wish you all the best in your young venture. Your inviting website is very creative and I have no doubt that through it and the many places your work has exposure around the region, your enterprise will grow like the lovely flowers portrayed in your products.

Kerstin — who calls herself a “little” CEO — was thrilled to hear from her big” counterpart.

But the big CEO was thrilled to be the recipient of such a thoughtful donation.

It takes a village to save the children, for sure.

(To sign up for Kerstin Rao’s art newsletter, click here.)

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Ted Diamond’s Legacy

Kerstin Rao retired in 2021, after 2 decades as a teacher in Bedford Middle School’s gifted program.

Among her many wonderful experiences was the chance to meet World War II Army Air Corps combat navigator Ted Diamond. He died on Tuesday, at 105.

The longtime Westporter — who (among many other accomplishments) served 3 terms as 2nd Selectman — made quite a mark on Kerstin’s students.

And on her. She writes:

When I read on “06880” that Ted Diamond had passed, I found my heart filled with gratitude for the brief times I got to know him during his Veterans Day visits, when I taught at Bedford Middle School.

For at least 2 decades, possibly longer, Bedford’s 8th grade social studies teachers have organized visits by local veterans each November. The impact of these visits is often profound. Students would come into my classes the rest of the week bringing up points the veterans had talked about, wondering what they would have done if they were in the same situation, and curious about ways to serve the country.

Kerstin Rao and Ted Diamond.

My classroom was usually the gathering place as veterans arrived. The PTA would put together a breakfast, and the vets used that morning time to catch up with longtime friends. There was plenty of talk of grandchildren, ailments, and some razzing between the branches of service. However, I also observed how the older vets were genuinely curious to hear from the younger service members about their experiences.

Whenever I could, I brought my sketch journal. I quietly sat in the back of different classrooms as the vets shared their stories. Some years I made drawings of the men and women as they spoke, jotting down the insights that moved my heart. I’m glad I captured a sketch of Ted and some of his thoughts in my journal.

In 2016, Ted told how some men in his unit held deep racial biases. But when they were pinned down and the Tuskegee Airmen saved their lives, those biases were obliterated.

Kerstin Rao’s 2016 journal includes a sketch of Ted Diamond, and some of the important ideas he shared with Bedford Middle School 8th graders.

In 2017, he brought a photo of his unit. He pointed to a few faces, saying this one was from Michigan, this one was from Colorado. He said he could have brought photos of his wing shot off, or the engine of the plane across the way on fire, but to him, this was the single most important picture. He wanted the students to understand that no matter where we are from, we are one country, working together.

A photo Ted Diamond (top row, 2nd from right) shared with the students.

Ted Diamond stood out to me because every year, without fail, his stories focused on our shared humanity. He had a graciousness and gentle humor that made his listeners lean in. He took us into the moment during pivotal times of his World War II battle experiences. He always left us with the message that we have far more in common than we realize, and this is where the true promise of our country resides.

In my lifetime, I’ve never witnessed such bitter division in America as we have lived through these past few years. Nationally and locally, I am troubled to notice a greater willingness to violate the rights of others, speak in inflamed rhetoric without a willingness to listen, and openly expressed innuendo that violence could be inevitable.

Violence is not inevitable.

Discord is not inevitable.

When we pause a moment, we realize that we dishonor the legacy of our veterans if we allow our country to erode from within. I heard this expressed by several veterans over the years. If Ted has left us a call to action, it is this: Each of us has a choice. We could pull further apart, or we could strengthen our country by working together. We can choose integrity, understanding, and connection which becomes a service to our country.

For this message which guides my own path forward, I am truly grateful. Thank you, Ted.


Ted Diamond’s family is still preparing his obituary. But they sent along a few photos. Here is a century-plus, of a well-lived life.

Ted Diamond is the youngest child in this photo.

Ted Diamond, as a World War II Army Air Corps combat navigator.

Ted and Carol Diamond’s wedding. They were married for 75 years.

Ted and Carol Diamond, and their 2 sons.

Carol and Ted Diamond.

Ted Diamond, looking pensive.

Ted Diamond, with his great-grandson Peter.

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Roundup: Grace Salmon Park, Garbage, Gerber Baby …

The other day, David Meth was at the transfer station. He saw a resident take 2 perfectly good children’s bikes from her SUV. He writes:

“I offered to take them to Cycle Dynamics because Charlie, the owner, donates them to churches in Bridgeport. However the attendant, who was very nice and very afraid to get in trouble because there are cameras everywhere, refused to allow me to take them because they were placed on the ground near the attendant’s booth.

“These bikes were in excellent condition. Why allow them to be trashed? Why not have an area to ‘exchange’ items that could sustain a small economy elsewhere, yet are thrown away here without another thought. It is very wrong.

“Cardboard, glass, cans and paper are recycled for future use. Food scraps are recycled. Leaves and brush are recycled. Why not recycle perfectly good, even repairable goods and equipment, to benefit others?

“This is an awful policy in a town that prides itself in helping others. It can be changed, and it should change soon.”

Sign at the transfer station.


Speaking of trash:

A reader who loves Grace Salmon Park — but thinks it needs a bit of care — sent several photos of benches overgrown with weeds. Here are 2:

He adds: “Want a seat by the river? Bring your Claritin.”


Ann Turner Cook — the original Gerber baby — died Friday. She was 95 years old.

The reason that’s “06880”-worthy is that — nearly 100 years ago — the iconic sketch was “born” here.

In 1927, artist Dorothy Hope Smith made a charcoal drawing of her 4-month-old neighbor, Ann Turner. Ann’s father, Leslie, was an artist too; his comic strip “Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy” ran in 500 newspapers every day.

The original charcoal sketch of Ann Turner, and Ann Turner Cook today.

The original charcoal sketch of Ann Turner, and Ann Turner Cook in 2010.

The next year, Gerber needed a face for its new line of baby foods. Smith entered her simple drawing in the contest. She competed with elaborate oil paintings — but the company loved it. By 1931, Ann Cook was the “official trademark.”

She was on every Gerber ad, and on every package, since.

But no one knew her. In fact — in an effort to appeal to both sexes — for many years Gerber did not even say if the baby was a girl or boy.

As years passed, several women claimed to be the Gerber baby. To end the discussion, Gerber paid Turner — by then married, named Ann Cook –$5,000 in 1951. That’s all she got — no royalties, nothing. (It’s better than Smith, though. She earned just $300 for her efforts.)

The Gerber baby at work -- and all grown up today.

The Gerber baby at work — and all grown up, some years ago.

Cook left Westport long ago. She had 4 children, and spent 26 years teaching literature and writing in  Tampa. After retiring in 1989, she wrote 2 mystery novels.

But nearly a decade ago, when she was 88, she was rediscovered. Oprah profiled Cook on her “Where Are They Now?” series. Huffington Post picked up the story.

Neither Oprah nor HuffPo mentions Westport. Nor does the official Gerber website. ( For a full obituary, click here. Hat tips: Deej Webb and Jonathan McClure)


“Challenger Recognition Day” is always fun.

The Westport Baseball program for players with disabilities includes an announcer introducing each batter, and calling play-by-play. Dustin Lowman did the honors, and hit it out of the park.

A pizza party ends the day.

Congrats to all who made yesterday possible — and a tip of the baseball hat to all the players!

Jonah Atienza and his dad. (Photo.Beth Cody)


Yesterday’s 1st-ever Drag Show was anything but a drag.

A sold-out crowd at MoCA Westport — including many families with young kids — enjoyed 4 drag queens who strutted, danced, engaged the audience and even provided a bit of LGBTQ history.

The event was sponsored by Westport Pride. Next up: a townwide Pride Month celebration on Jesup Green, next Sunday (1 to 3 p.m.).

Getting in the swing of things. (Photo/Jerri Graham)

Weston High School senior Zac Mathias served as MC. (Photo/Jerri Graham)

Ambrosia Black (Photo/Jerri Graham)


The Westport Book Shop’s guest exhibitor for June is Kerstin Rao.

Known to many for her years as a gifted teacher of gifted students at Bedford Middle School, Rao is displaying 4 prints, plus a QR code through which you can see each piece being created via time-lapse video.

Rao’s work is hyper-local. Her pieces begin at the Westport Farmers’ Market. They’re scanned in Westport, and printed in Norwalk. Her art business, Vivid Cottage, offers luxury stationery and home good based on her original artwork. It’s available online, and at the Westport Book Shop.

Rao majored in fine art at Vassar, and earned a master’s in special education at Bank Street College. She moved from teaching to art during the pandemic. She also volunteers at the Westport Library, facilitating author panels and book talks, helping and helping plan events. She was a founding member of Westport’s Maker Faire.

Kerstin Rao, with her prints at the Westport Book Shop.


Speaking of art: MoCA’s next show — “Women Pulling at the Threads of Social Discourse” — is a collaboration with The Contemporary Art Modern Project (The CAMP Gallery) and the Fiber Artists Miami Association. It explores how female artists, utilizing textiles as their medium, subvert the social expectation of crafting by lambasting this soft medium with political and social awareness.

It opens June 30 with a 6-8 p.m. reception, and runs through September 4.

Several local artists are in the exhibition, including Camille Eskell, Susan Feliciano,  Sooo-z Mastropietro and Norma Minkowitz

For more information, email liz@mocawestport.org or call 203-222-7070.

“Red, White, and Pink: The Colors of Politics” (Laetitia Adam-Rabel). Thread, yarn, ink, acrylic on canvas.


On a windy, rainy Friday, Westporter Nathalie Jacob was on a boat with a friend. Suddenly — off the Darien shore — she realized her Gill sailing jacket (with iPhone 11max in its pocket) was gone.

She figured a gust of wind blew it into the water. The weight of the phone must have pulled it to the bottom of the Sound.

Her friend tried “Find My Phone.” Nada. Nathalie figured it was gone forever.

But 12 days later, her husband got a call. The caller said he’d spotted the jacket that day, in Westport waters — a mile from shore. He found the phone, took it home, plugged it in — and called the emergency contact number on it.

That’s right: After nearly 2 weeks in salty, wavy water, the iPhone still worked.

The jacket was full of live crabs and seaweed, Nathalie adds. But after 3 washing cycles, it’s usable too. She loves her Gill jacket.

PS: She brought a bottle of whiskey to the man who found it.

Nathalie Jacob …

… and her Gill jacket and iPhone.


Staples High School’s senior prom — the first “normal” one after 2 COVID years — was held last night at the Greenwich Hyatt.

Most attendees were too busy having fun to take photos. But “06880”s great senior intern, Lyah Muktavaram, sent this photo along.

I’ve heard from 3 students who were there that it was a great one. I’m sure when they wake up — late this afternoon? — they’ll enjoy this image.

(Photo/Lyah Muktavaram)


Nile Rodgers’ home here is still on the market.

To avoid realtors being there when realtors showed potential home-buyers through the house — or, more probably, because who can turn down an invitation from Buckingham Palace? — the international recording star/producer was in London, not Westport, last night.

He had an important gig: performing at Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee coocert.

Just one more day in the life of our soon-to-be-former neighbor.

Nile Rodgers, at the Queen’s Jubilee. (Photo/Ellen Wentworth)


Former Westport Woman’s Club president Natacha “Nat” Sylander died last month. She was 86.

The Auburn, New York native earned her bachelor’s degree in hotel management from Michigan State University. She then moved to Chicago to work at the Palmer House.

In 1960 she married Dick Sylander, and became a mom. In 1967 the family moved to Westport, where they lived for 44 years. She was a teaching assistant at Bedford Elementary School before starting a company with her husband in 1976. R.L. Sylander Associates did custom computer circulation fulfillment. They ran it for 25 years, until they retired.

Nat was active in the community, including president of the Westport Woman’s Club and chair of the Yankee Doodle Fair. She was a member of the St. Luke Church choir for many years. She was a wonderful cook and loved to entertain, with a flair for storytelling.

She is survived by her children, Rick of Milford, Karen of Chicago and Beth of Long Island; as well as a grandson, Owen Hammond, serving overseas in the Army.

A funeral service is set for Saturday, June 11 (11 a.m., St. Luke Church) with a Mass of Christian Burial. A reception follows immediately. Interment will be private. Condolences may be left online. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Westport Woman’s Club Scholarship Program, 44 Imperial Ave, Westport, CT 06880.

Nat Sylander


This guy crawled onto Molly Alger’s deck, then posed for his “Westport … Naturally” closeup:

(Photo/Molly Alger)


And finally … one famous “baby” deserves another:


Hate Has No Home Here

The weekend’s horrific events in Charlottesville shined a spotlight on the despicable, bigoted, anti-American groups and individuals now crawling out from under the rocks where they’ve hidden for years.

It also gave fresh momentum to a no-hate movement that’s been building here in Westport.

Earlier this summer, Bedford Middle School teacher Kerstin Rao visited Evanston, Illinois. She spotted several lawn signs:

Kerstin was staying with her husband’s cousin. Both men were born in India. Like Kerstin, her husband’s cousin is in a mixed marriage.

Pushing a stroller with her relatives’ infant daughter, and seeing similar signs on every street, gave Kerstin a “truly inclusive” feeling.

She vowed to bring that feeling back to Westport.

Online, she found the website for what was becoming a national movement. Organizers laid down a few simple rules: It could not be a fundraiser; it could not be political or partisan; the original design could not be altered, and the yard signs had to be sold at cost.

“This is truly a grassroots effort to show our welcoming hearts,” Kerstin says.

She learned that a few areas in Connecticut already had signs. She bought one from a Milford friend.

When Kerstin wrote about the movement on Jane Green’s “Westport Front Porch” Facebook page, the response was immediate. She organized a meeting at Barnes & Noble.

Baker Graphics offered a great price for printing. Steam Coffee at the Greens Farms train station offered to sell the signs to commuters.

The group that met at Barnes & Noble last week loved that the project is non-partisan. They vowed to include people from a wide spectrum to help spread the “no hate” message.

On Sunday, Kerstin and her husband Vijay brought their red-and-blue sign to the demonstration on the Post Road bridge:

“Peace is non-partisan,” Kerstin notes. “We are not affiliated with any political party, religion or cause. We just want to put a message in our neighborhoods that hate has no home here.”

She adds, “As a teacher, I imagine students of various backgrounds heading back to school, maybe feeling nervous. Maybe this will be their first year in Westport schools. The thought of them looking out their bus windows and seeing so many welcoming signs — well, that is really wearing our hearts on our sleeves.”

(The no-hate group has set up a fundraising page (click here). Donations will pay for printing only. To volunteer for the effort, email hhnhhwestport@gmail.com.)