Meet Two Columbus-Area Moms Who Dish up Real-Life Advice for Kitchn and Cubby
Sometimes the internet feels like a competition. Faith Durand and Thao Thai prefer to eschew Instagram perfection in favor of down-to-earth tips for making meals and raising kids.
In the era of internet parenting, there is a constant bombardment of ideals—from what the house should look like, to how children should dress, to the picturesque meals that should be on the table (never mind the challenge of getting kids to eat them). Often, looking at such images can feel more overwhelming than inspirational.
After years as editor-in-chief of Kitchn, the popular online food magazine, Faith Durand decided to create a parenting website for moms and dads who crave more down-to-earth ideas and advice. Durand, a Central Ohio mother of two young girls, wondered “how to create a home that I feel really happy with, but that my kids are also at home in.” Since Kitchn is part of AT Media, which operates the home décor and organization website Apartment Therapy, it was a logical fit. A weekly parenting newsletter, Cubby, debuted in October 2020.
Now a full-fledged website, Cubby provides content such as what to cook, how to organize your living space and what to do with kids. “We are really committed to exploring what the family home and family home life is for all kinds of families,” says Thao Thai, Cubby’s managing editor and a Lewis Center resident.
While the parenting experience can vary greatly depending on where families live—setting up a play space requires a different strategy for small city apartments than for larger suburban homes, for example—Thai aims to keep the universal experiences of raising kids at the forefront. “Everyone has to go through potty training,” she says.
Something else that’s universal for families is the need to eat, and that’s where Cubby’s connections to Kitchn come in handy. Durand, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, says her readers are always looking for “one more easy dinner idea.” Simplifying mealtime is something Durand has been espousing for a long time. “My big mantra at Kitchn is, ‘Easy is not dumb. Easy is smart,’” she says. “Don’t feel bad about yourself that you did something easy, feel really proud.”
As parents of young children themselves, Durand and Thai understand their audience. Durand says they approach their jobs with the idea that “we’re learners just along with you.”
“Our editors are all parents themselves—some are single parents, some are … same-sex parents, parents who are working in intergenerational households,” Thai says. “What we want to give the sense of is that, ‘We are in the midst of it with you.’”
Cubby’s catch-all aesthetic appeals to mother of three Ojus Patel, who is also a contributor to the site. “Reading Cubby, I never feel less than or like I can’t keep up with the newest and latest—I just find ways to support the life I already have and love,” she says via email.
Settling in Central Ohio
Though AT Media is headquartered in Manhattan, Durand and Thai have chosen to make Central Ohio their home.
Raised in Pataskala, Durand moved to Florida after graduating from Ohio State University and returned to Columbus for what she thought would be a temporary stay. More than a decade later, she is still here with her family, and they love exploring the city. “We are huge, huge fans of the conservatory,” she says of Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. “I think the conservatory children’s garden is … one of the most special places.”
In their free time, Durand and her daughters, Thea, 5, and Petra, 3, love sampling local restaurants. Her girls are fans of everything from shrimp tempura at Akai Hana to Wendy’s Frostys (although Durand jokingly laments their preference for vanilla over classic chocolate). When they want to eat near their Clintonville home, pancake balls from Katalina’s and Winston’s waffles are favorites, and Durand is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Destination Donuts on North High Street.
Durand is also invested in local institutions. In 2019, she was the featured chef for ProMusica’s annual Culinary Capers luncheon fundraiser, for which she created a grazing board that served as an edible centerpiece at each table, Mary Yerina, past president of the ProMusica Sustaining Board, says by email. “[It was] beautiful, tasty and really unique!”
Thai first lived in Columbus about a decade ago while studying for a Master of Fine Arts at Ohio State. She moved around frequently after graduation and found that other cities felt either “too big or too small.” When her husband got a job opportunity here, she was ready. “I was so excited to come back,” she says. “I’ve always loved how Columbus feels like a small town inside of a big one.”
Thai loves the “warm and friendly” community of Lewis Center where she has settled. Her family likes to spend weekend days at Olentangy River Brewing Co., a kid-friendly coffee shop and brewery, where they’ve gotten to know the baristas. An “avid sewist,” Thai also enjoys making clothes for herself and her daughter.
As the holidays approach, Durand looks forward to celebrating and is also considering what she would like her daughters to learn about generosity toward others.
Thai reminds parents to extend that generosity to themselves. She says one of the lessons of the pandemic is “letting go of … the things that feel extraneous and embracing the things that feel true and meaningful.” In other words, you don’t have to do it all just because you did so in the past. Talk about the traditions that matter most to your family, then enjoy those fully rather than wasting time on less important things. Now that’s a useful parenting ideal.
This story is from the Winter 2021 issue of Columbus Parent.