So there’s this little organic fresh and frozen yogurt shop on Emerson in Palo Alto called Fraîche. It sells probably the BEST frozen yogurt I’ve ever had (and, yes, I’ve been to Pinkberry!). Fraîche specializes in European-style tart yogurt. The yogurt base is organic, non-fat, and low sugar (I counter this by adding lots of Callebaut chocolate shavings). You then can add any number of delicious toppings like fresh berries, puree sauces, homemade granola, nuts, etc. We tried the fresh organic yogurt once, and I’ve got to say it’s SUPER tart. If you love that sort of thing this one’s for you...

On top of their awesome frozen and fresh yogurts, they have excellent organic micro-roaster coffee...nothing like a nice dinner and Fraîche for dessert...or in our case sometimes we skip dinner and go straight to dessert!

They are kindof cranky about photography in the shop (okay, really cranky), but I got this one of my dish before I dug in...

UPDATE: It's been almost 6 months since discovering the wondrous world of Fraîche. We are there at least three times a week...people yell at me for driving to Pali just for yogurt, but they don't understand...


KNOCK KNOCK fun pads

Okay, I’m a huge fan of all the Knock Knock products (they make great stocking stuffers!), but the “Don’t Kill the Kids” one is my favorite. I’ve left this form for babysitters and they’ve all thought it was pretty darn funny...and helpful! From practicalities like emergency numbers and bedtimes to absolute no-no’s, Knock Knock takes concise, straight-forward directions to a new level of cool.

Paper Source at Santana Row has a nice selection, and so does the Art Store on Van Ness in San Francisco.


Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo

This is a well known hang out for parents of toddlers in the Bay Area. If you have a kid under the age of 5 you’ve probably been here, but it’s worth mentioning for the newly relocated.

The PA Jr. Museum is a small, hands on, interactive facility full of kid friendly exhibits. Alexander especially likes the “plink-o” boards, and the ball tubes. There is also an outdoor zoo with ducks, fish, birds, and bunnies to look at.

Admission is free, but they request a donation to help fund future projects.

Also, Rinconada Park is located right next to the museum...great spot for after visiting the Museum since they have a nice little play park and picnic tables.


Strollers, Strollers, Strollers

When you’re expecting a baby, and start doing the “gear” research, there is no hotter topic than which stroller to buy. For some reason buying a stroller can be a very personal experience. For many, a stroller not only is used for the function of rolling their little one around saving arms and backs from premature aging, but it’s also a way to express something about yourself. If you’re hip and cool you might have a sleek modern stroller with fresh colors, if you’re sporty - a stroller with all-terrain wheels, or if you’re Boho-chic maybe you have a vintage refurbished pram. Whichever way you go, lots of parents-to-be get really stressed out deciding just which one they’ll buy...

To start, I think it’s best to define what features are most important to you. If you live in a city, and want a light compact stroller that you can take up and down stairs easily, a heavy jogging stroller with full tilt suspension probably isn’t going to be your best bet. Also, do you want a stroller that has options for a newborn (full recline)? car seat compatibility? “grow-with-me”?

Second, what will you use it for? Will you use it for jogging? Will you be primarily in the city where size and weight is a huge factor? Will you have a giant-ass SUV and no budget to limit you? Or will you be using it as a second stroller for the grandparents to take Junior out for a stroll? And if you’re on your second child, and you’ve been through say 8 crappy strollers (no joke), it’s even more important to find the right one the first time.

Lastly, you need to set a budget...strollers can run from $14.99 to well over $1,000. Buying a poorly made stroller can end up costing you down the road (I know!), so best bet is to buy a quality one. Quality doesn’t have to mean pricey, either. Resale value is also something to keep in mind if you have a little one who ends up rejecting his/her ride earlier than expected.

I currently have two strollers. The first I bought was a Silver Cross Mini when our older son was 3, and we’d decimated 7 pervious strollers (yes, seriously, it was tragic). The fam and I were living in the city of Portland, and since he was no longer a baby I needed something compact, easy for him to get in and out of, and sturdy. I went with Silver Cross for a few reasons: the company has been established for over 100 years. Any company that’s been around making reputable products for that long must be doing something right. They offered more features for less money than a similarly equipped Maclaren Volo. And English Royals use them...dude, need I say more? The Mini lived up to all of our expectations...it had a decent sized cargo compartment for an umbrella stroller, full suspension (which was nice when getting on and off the train), came with a sun canopy, and had a nifty seat recline. Silver Cross doesn’t make the Mini anymore, but they did come out with a new line of strollers. The Pop is comparable to what we have now...only with better colors and removable, washable fabric! Still, about 4 years, 30 plane trips, 175 naps, and 1,000 errands later the Silver Cross is going strong!

Our second stroller came along with the second child. I researched a lot, and after seriously considering a Mutsy, we settled on it’s Dutch counterpart - a Bugaboo Cameleon. The husband liked it’s clean Euro lines, and easy maneuverability from the city to the park. I appreciated it’s bassinet, car seat adapter, and multi-function recline options. It has all the bells and whistles of a high end stroller like rugged, all terrain wheels and suspension which makes walking up on the trail behind our house pleasant, and trips to the Oregon wilderness bearable (yes, the in-laws live in the middle of nowhere...it’s awesome). Also, Bugaboo has a variety of great accessories like an obligatory foot-muff for the aforementioned Oregon trips and winter holidays back East. My only complaint is lack of snack tray (it's an American thing, I guess).

Never the less, there are TONS of great stroller options out there to meet all kinds of needs. I wish I was able to test them all out!

You can find Silver Cross prams and push-chairs at Baby Alula in Oakland, Baby Couture in Burlingame, and Talbot’s in San Mateo.

You can find Bugaboo strollers just about everywhere now, even Babies R Us!


Oopa Baby Slings

When I first found out I was pregnant there was only ONE thing that I told my husband I absolutely HAD to have...and that was this sling. Oopa slings are absolutely gorgeous, hand made out of the most luxurious materials, and have beautiful patterns and colors to choose from. There is also a generously-sized zippered pocked sewn into the tail to make holding your keys, phone, wallet, etc convenient. Being rather short myself, I opted for the “petite” size which was wonderful since most ring slings are made for woman of average height (You know you’re not average height when the tail drags behind you like Linus’ blanket).

A year and a half later...the thing is still going strong and looks brand new (and washes awesome in the machine)! I still use it on impromptu errands where I’ve forgotten the shoes and I am too lazy to drag out the stroller..which happens a lot, actually.

Due Maternity on California in San Francisco has them in stock, or you can order directly from Oopa’s website.

Boing, Boing - Sky High Sports

It’s getting cooler here in the Bay Area..and finding more indoor activities was a big priority for me this past month. There is a indoor trampoline complex in Santa Clara called Sky High Sports that fulfilled all of the requirements I was looking for (indoors, fun, and affordable). Alexander had a blast bouncing on the trampolines, jumping in the foam pit, and playing with the dodge-balls during their Monday Toddler Jump from 12-2pm. Yes, the place smells like gym socks, and yes, it’s during core nap-hours which I found a bit aggravating, but there is nothing quite like the joy of an exhausted toddler and 3 hours to yourself when he finally crashes.

Sky High also has an evening Tues/Thurs class called AIRorobics for adults...sounds like quite the workout!


Baby Ankle Bangles

I don’t like to admit it, but I see a celebrity and they have such a lovely accessory on their kid, and I can’t help but be compelled to buy it. This was one such purchase. Above are sterling silver ankle bangles. They have two little bells that are soldered on to an adjustable ring...so when your little one starts walking you hear a faint little jingle. They are very popular with Asian cultures so I wouldn't be surprised if you could find them in a upscale Asian or Indian jewelry shop.

I have no idea where you might find them in the Bay Area...I bought mine off eBay for about $10. baby emi also has beautiful heirloom quality versions of them, but they are a bit pricier.


de Young Fine Art Museum: Chihuly Extravaganza

Today we made the trek up to San Francisco proper to see de Young Fine Art Museum’s Chihuly installation exhibit. Dale Chihuly is a Tacoma, Washington glass blower who makes the most whimsically beautiful glass pieces I’ve ever seen. His work makes me think of something akin to a Dr. Seuss book, only better!

First we stopped at the Metreon to partake in my favorite wood-fired pizza at Firewood Cafe. I know the Metreon location is kindof a tourist destination, but I love their pizza, and the atmosphere is very kid friendly. The Castro location is also very kid friendly! Anyway, we ordered two Italian sausage pizzas, one pepperoni, and my sister ordered the turkey sandwich. We all were very pleased with our selections, but for me, the spicy olives are the best part.

Then we set off to de Young. We weren’t too smart with our planing. If I were to do it over again, I’ve have ordered tickets ahead of time using WillCall via Ticketmaster, but the show itself was fantastic! My older son (7) really enjoyed all the different ways the glass was molded into things he recognized (shells, flowers, etc), and my toddler liked all the brilliant colors. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to bring strollers into the exhibit. They had a free coat check, and I was thankful I remembered to bring my ring sling.


Swanton Farm Organic Strawberry Picking

Yesterday we made our way to Swanton Berry Farm along the coast right outside Santa Cruz. A friend informed me to call ahead before we made the trek down since the weekend crowd can clear out the strawberries pretty fast. Swanton had an updated voice message explaining exactly what the crop was like, how many were ripe, etc. Since we were only planning to gather a few pints before the babies got tired it turned out to be a perfect day for us to go. The farm was easy to miss since my GPS directions took us in the back-way, and it didn’t look like much from the outside...just a little farm building amidst a big barn surrounded by tractors and backhoes. But the kids and the moms all had TONS of fun! We went on a Tuesday so there was next to no one there (not even a person to man the cash register!). The bigger kids (5 and 7) had a lot of fun hunting, and the little ones had a lot of fun eating. The whole farm runs on the honor system...and Alexander had evidence all over him. We left a few extra dollars to compensate for our ill gotten gains, and then we headed to Zachary’s for brunch.

I’ve been to Zachary’s Restaurant a few times, and it is an awesome diner to take kids. Friendly staff, inexpensive kid-friendly meals, and lots of character. We bustled in with 5 kids and 3 strollers, were promptly seated, and the waitress was very sweet and helpful. All in all...it was a great day!


Pirate Paradise

During the summer Stanford University Varsity Fencing Team and Sailing Club get together and host a week long “Pirates Camp” for kids, ages 6-10. The camp offers a bunch of scheduled events and games (treasure hunts, dress up, pirate talk 101), and an hour long fencing lesson to boot! This is probably one of the most creative camps out there! The team has also started offering birthday party packages as well!

Registration starts in the beginning of the year, and usually fills up fast - too fast for us this time :0(

Diaper Days

This is a totally awesome idea! You get to go to a grown up movie WITH your kid(s), and no one is going to complain if they eat, whine, yowl, or show off an exorcist-style vomit session (well...maybe the latter). Strollers are not allowed in the auditorium, so it’s probably a good idea to do the baby wearing thing. I tried this out with Alexander awhile back, and most of the kids were downright angelic! I must admit, I also enjoyed seeing a movie that didn’t have a lovable cartoon character as the lead role for once. This is also, hands down, the best way to see all those chick-flicks that your husband would rather eat glass than sit through.

The movies are shown at Camera 7 Pruneyard in Campbell (at 12:30) on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month. Additionally, Diaper Date Night is now offered twice a month if you and the hubby are feeling particularly ambitious.

Details can be found here or you can join the Diaper Days Yahoo Group for more info!


Mountain View Summer Concert Series

Math dancing with his cat

Last night we went to a concert at Cuesta Park. It was a cover-band of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. We packed some blankets and a picnic dinner, and the kids had a blast dancing and playing in the nearby park next to the stage. Only drawback was no alcohol allowed in Mountain View public parks. In all, though, it was a pretty fun night.


Caldrea Sweet Pea Laundry Products

I first heard about Caldrea Laundry Products from my sister-in-law who was working at a fancy boutique during her summer break from college. She went back to school taking with her a bottle of Caldrea stain remover since she liked the smell. While finishing up a pen and ink project for an art class she knocked over an entire bottle of black ink onto her dorm room carpet. Ewe. Anyway, she promptly squirt a bunch of the stuff on the nasty blackness that was now sure to be her lost deposit, and 10 minutes later the stain was gone. She got that deposit back in full at the end of the year, too!

So after hearing the rave reviews of this miracle stain remover I had to try it for myself. I’ve got two kids, and a husband after all... I absolutely love the stuff. We have the whole “Sweet Pea” line from the laundry soap to the diaper Surface wipes....it smells incredible, and it does a great job of cleaning up after the mess that is my family’s wearables.

My mother-in-law is still trafficking it down to me from Oregon (no sales tax!), but I do know Giggle in SF and Walnut Creek both carry a complete line.


Baby Those Legs!

I absolutely love BabyLegs®! They’re so practical and have such fresh and cool fabric colors and designs. When Alexander was crawling they were great for protecting his chubby knees! Lately, since he’s outgrown his winter wear, we’ve been using them as additional layers during cooler evenings at the park.

I recently saw BabyLegs® for sale at Target, but I’ve also seen them sold at Nanoo at Santana Row in San Jose. Lullabye Lane in San Bruno also sells them!

UPDATE: I'm wearing these as arm-wamers at ZUMBA class...Love them!


Happy Hollow

Happy Hollow is a little amusement/theme park and zoo in San Jose. It has been around for like 50 years...I have friends who are lifetime locals that remember going here as children. Lacking any nostalgic attachment, it's a little strange seeing this place as a grown up. The park is very dated, and the buildings looked like they needed a fresh coat of paint. Food was standard vendor fair. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't anything to rave about either. BUT, I will say the puppet show captured the kids attention, and it was lovely to stroll around the grounds on a nice sunny day.

Boys waiting for the show to start.

Love the booties

The Stage

UPDATE: Happy Hollow is currently closed down for a complete redesign and will be re-opened Fall 2009.


Young Chefs' Academy

When our son turned 7 he asked for a Ratatouille Party. I highly suspected most kids his age wouldn't want a bowl full of eggplant - I could be wrong, though! So we went with a Pizza party at Young Chefs' Academy in Sunnyvale. Chefs' Academy is a cooking school that is equipped with kid sized tables, cooking utensils/hardware, and great teachers.

When the kids came in they were given a chef hat to design. We had the soundtrack from the movie playing the background, and a Wisconsin Cheese hat as a decorative centerpiece. Then the real work began...the kids started by washing their hands (my MIL teaches nutrition - this is a very important first step!). Then they were taught how to make pizza dough. The kids were able to roll out their dough and add the toppings they liked. I was shocked how many kids tried adding things most wouldn't expect a kid to eat: olives, mushrooms, onions, etc. While the pizzas were baking the kids played some games, and the adults partook in the appetizers I brought for them. When pizzas were finished the kids got to cut up their pizzas with pizza wheels, and then ate some very yummy ice cream cake :0)



Okay, so the name just sounds dirty...like something that should be found in a sex shop. It sounds even dirtier when inquisitive people ask what it does. "It's an oral stimulator." The looks I've gotten! Anyway...

The back story: Our older son had sensory integration issues when he was younger (just another aspect of raising a special needs child), but I must say this thing really helped him a lot. He stopped chewing on his sleeves and his neckband for one. He also stopped gagging from eating certain textured foods like applesauce.

The Z-Vibe is a pen-like wand that vibrates, offering oral sensory input. It was designed by a speech pathologist, and has been used by Occupational Therapists and SLPs for a long time. It's FDA approved, made of aluminum and medical grade plastic, and latex free.

So then comes young Master Alexander. Teething was a pain in the neck....so I dug back out the Z-Vibe. He loved, loved this thing for his sore gums. It was also a great distraction at restaurants when he'd just about had it and was on the brink of a fussy fit, too :0)

Beyond Play in Berkley sells them via their on-line website.