Buffalo Bills Brewery and Zuckersüss

Let me preface this by boasting about my father-in-law. He is the Grandpa of all Grandpas...he is a big-rig truck driver! This might not sound like much if your a mom without boys, but if you do have boys you know what I mean. The In-laws were in the restaurant industry for most of their lives, but when they sold the business/semi-retired Grandpa decided to try something out. Something he's always wanted to do since he was a little boy. And my little boy gets major benefits out of it :0)

One benefit is Grandpa's truck route often brings him down through the Bay Area so we get to see him quite often! And another benefit is we get to go to our favorite East Bay restaurant, Buffalo Bills Brewery, when he drives into Hayward. This weekend we got the added bonus of my MIL, too. And since she has heard lots about our eating at Buffalo Bills, but never been, of course we had to take her!

Our family is pretty fond of pub/brewery dining. For one thing, the food is almost always affordable and it's usually pretty good (especially if you have picky eaters). Secondly, brewpubs tend to be rather loud so you don't have to worry about your kids making too much noise. And lastly, brewpubs specialize in alcohol...what's not to like? Buffalo Bills satisfies all these qualities, and the food is actually better than pretty good...it's downright great! We've yet to have a bad meal here, and the service is always very friendly.

I'm actually not a beer drinker, but the Hubs and his parents are serious beer connoisseurs (no, all three of those aren't just for him!).

Teriyaki chicken sandwich (without the sandwich). Comes with caramelized onions, grilled pineapple, mushrooms and potatoes, and two dipping sauces.

Matthew likes BB's pepperoni pizza. Alexander had a kid's cheese quesidellia with fruit.

After dinner we headed across the street to a new frozen yogurt shop that just opened. It was called Zuckersüss, and they touted organic self-serve'n'weight European style tart yogurt. Zuckersüss also was sporting a baby grand piano in the corner, some rad throw-back tunes, and some pretty swank furnishings. Initially when we arrived their card machine was down, but we got some cash down the street. The owners were so incredibly sweet (hence the name) they offered us ALL free seconds for the price of one to see if their card-reader was back up and running! Unfortunately, we were so full we didn't get to take them up on their offer!

Math really got into the whole serve yourself thing. He's got more toppings than he does yogurt.

Gotta say, this was really good (and I'm a die-hard Fraîche/Pinkberry fan).


Wiggling Works!

My wiggly kid during morning calisthenics

"Stop wiggling, and pay attention!" How many times have you as a parent said this? If you're the mom of a "wiggle worm" you know what I mean. Homework time is a chore, teachers mention your child can't seem to sit still and concentrate in class, and you can't help but feel that your child is a bit more sensitive to his environment than most (these are the shirt tag haters and the toe seam complainers). Kids wiggle. It's a fact. But some kids wiggle more than others, and sometimes those wiggles take over all other forms of concentration. Most kids don't have sensory integration issues, but I'm always surprised how many parents don't know the helpfulness of OT for typical kids. In comes the Movein'Sit, because sometimes a little movement is all you need (any of you leg jigglers out there can relate).

The Movein'Sit is an inflatable air-cushon with little nubby bumps all over it. It helps improve proper posture while sitting, and provides just enough "wiggle room" for children with attention and sensory integration issues. My son liked that he could wiggle just a tiny bit without anyone noticing, and it helped him get the wiggles out without being a distraction to anyone else.

You can buy the Movin'sit via Berkley's Beyond Play website.


In-law Interludes

The in-laws dropped in for a surprise visit today and yesterday. A visit from the in-laws, I'm happy to report, is actually a good thing in my book! We had the whole day together so we decided to spend it up in The City. Being rather limited on time, we did one touristy thing and then one "off-the-beaten-path" thing. Our family is comprised of serious foodies. The in-laws have spent the better part of their lives in the food-business (owning both a coffee/patisserie house and a restaurant) so it's no surprise this day was full of feasting. We made our way to the Ferry Building Marketplace and comprised ourselves a fabulous make-shift lunch fit for any foodie, and then headed our way to Caffe Trieste, a funky little coffee house with excellent java.

The Ferry Building is a veritable cornucopia of high end foodstuffs. From caviar to wine this place has got you covered!

Caffee Trieste is located right around the corner from the Ferry Building in North Beach (aka Little Italy). There are cute outdoor bistros and romantic cafes lined all along the streets. Crowds seemed to be mostly locals milling about enjoying their afternoon riposo...perfecto!

Check it:
These would make such cute baby shower favors!

At this stand all I could think about was mushroom lasagna.

Cheese, glorious cheese!

Olive oil much?

Our lunch: Acme Bread Co. selection, Mt. Tam brie, St George cheddar, 3 peppercorn salame, Sicilian cracked olives, and extra virgin olive-oil for dipping.

Mocha and a cappuccino.


Stroll Around My Hood...

Here's a little photo tour of my neighborhood...spring has sprung!


The Play Store

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with an associate at The Play Store on University Ave in Palo Alto. She was very gracious about letting me take pictures, and answered all sorts of questions about their stock and play philosophy.

The Play Store is a small independent toy store for children of all ages. It is unique in that it almost exclusively sells natural, wooden, and/or organic toys and accessories. I was also told they don't buy from any one particular region (though European toys seemed to have a heavy influence). Instead they specifically chose items based on child-centered functionality, and quality. The Play Store has a Waldorf inspired methodology regarding their beliefs about play and learning, and also believe that toys should be made to grow with a child (not ceasing to be useful after a certain age).

The associate also emphasized that safety was very important to them, and they did not purchase from countries known to have toxins in their paints. In fact, they try to veer away from paints all together, and mostly stock items that have been naturally dyed. And on top of all these great perks, they store has a conscience, too! They only purchase from companies and sources that treat workers fairly, and are environmentally friendly.

The store itself is very child-friendly, too. They have a wooden train table set up with a simple assortment of Plan City and wooden train pieces. Alexander spent much of his time playing there while I took some photos of the rest of the space...

Busy playing

Front of the shop

For the budding culinary virtuoso

Adorable wooden foods

Beautiful and naturally dyed wooden vehicles

Organic baby section. The Play store also partners with a local woman who makes unique knitwear, too!



I was back in Pali this afternoon with a friend and her son. We call the kids Alex ^2 or Alex squared because they both have the same name. They're pretty different in many ways...my Alex is short and chubby, her Alex is long and lean. My Alex is impulsive and mischievous, her Alex is thoughtful and intelligent. But, both our Alexes are VERY cute, and it's cool to see their budding personalities take shape.

Anyway, we did our usual park routine, and then hit up Thaiphoon for lunch. Thaiphoon is located on Emerson a block off University. It's a nice little restaurant with polite, efficient service. The hostess was very accommodating on seating, and we choose to sit outside since it was nice out. The lunch menu was extensive, and most meals (consisting of soup, salad, main course, and rice) cost around $8-$10. The kids behaved, the waitstaff was attentive, and we enjoyed a nice relaxing meal in the warm California sunshine. Bliss...

Veggie soup was light, and a slightly spicy. Very nice.

Isn't this pretty? I like how it came bento style, and was just the right amount of food!

Alexander enjoying his meal, eating like a civilized child for once.

Alex waiting for the bill.


Useless Usables

I've had two babies, and with both of their arrivals came a lot of "stuff." A lot of stuff I needed...stuff that I had to have in order to care for and raise a baby. One would think after the 6 years I had to get used to the first kid, I'd have learned a thing or two about what I needed when the second one came around. Nope. The pricey lesson was: junk gets shinier and the packaging gets spiffier, but in the end it is still the same junk you bought before.

Let me enumerate some of the best examples of useless usables so you might save yourself the same follies (starting with most useless first):

1. Wipes Warmer: I bought this for the second child because I felt guilty the first one didn't have one. The point of this contraption is self-evident by it's name, but the actual execution of the thing is lacking. First off...yes, the wipe is warm for the first .2 seconds, but the moment it's completely out of the warmer it's cold. Second, many of these warmers cause your wipes to go drier than the Sahara Dessert, thus rendering whole packages of wipes unusable. And lastly...I can't think of a 3rd reason because the first two were reason enough not to buy.

2. iCrib Sound System: I bought this for the second baby because I liked the idea of playing customized playlists. This purchase was in conjunction with the Symphonic Ultra Deluxe Brain Boosting Mobile, and the pull string musical hippo that was already attached to his crib. There was no auto-shutoff for the iPod so the battery died every-day, and I always forgot to charge the battery so the thing sat on the edge of the crib (making sheet changes almost impossible) for the better part of a year. I just recently took it off...if anyone wants a free iCrib let me know.

3. Shopping cart cover: This is just another cumbersome thing you have to carry with you (and most of them come in the most hideous fabrics/patterns). If your concern is germs, most shopping centers have a anti-bacterial wipe you can cleanse your cart with if it really bugs you. If you must cover your shopping cart, though, just use your sling, or a blanket, or anything but this useless piece of fabric.

4. Baby bathtub: What a gigantic waste of plastic! And I bought two, one for each! They both got too big to be washed in the tub for longer than a few weeks. By the time they were both 2 months old, half of baby was submerged in a pitiful amount of dirty water, and the other half was freezing cold. Rinsing was a pain. I abandoned both tubs after several washes and went right back to my mom's old standby - the sink. The baby tub sat in our unused guest shower gathering mildew before I finally threw it out to sit in a landfill for a gazillion, billion years *ashamed of myself*.

5. The bath thermometer is another ridiculous purchase. Put hand into water...if it's cold, add more hot water. If it burns off your skin...DON'T PUT YOUR KID IN, and seek medical attention.

6. Pee-Pee TeePee: Okay, I'll admit these are really, really cute. Diaper changes don't take that long, and it's pretty easy to just place a wipe over Junior's wee-bits while you get on with business.

7. Diaper pail: Our diaper pail is the thing that diapers get placed on top of. If you put a dirty diaper in one (I've tried both popular brands, Dekkor gets points for having bio-degradable liners), it's only a matter of hours before it stinks up the room, floor, and house. There is a reason for modern indoor plumbing, and it's the same reason why excrement should not be wrapped in permeable plastic and forgotten about for days on end.

8. Sleep positioner: Okay, this thing just turned out to be plain dangerous. I remember walking in to check on my infant, and he'd managed to wiggle in such a way this thing was pressed up against his face. Sure it was made out of a NASA space aged material that was supposed to be "breathable." It still freaked me out. Just keep the crib empty (forget the cute little bumper, too).

9. Video/Baby Monitor - We paid something like $200 for a top of the line infant video monitoring camera ($50 extra because it came with color). The colors were bad and looked like it was in black and white, anyway. Unless you live in a 6,000 sq ft house, or your kids sleep on a separate floor, the likeliness of you being unable to even hear your baby is low, especially if they are sleeping in the room next to yours. I found it particularly distracting trying to sleep when I could hear every snarffle, snuffle, and sigh coming from the next room, too. Alas, ours ended up on Craigslist, but fetched a decent resale price. I hate to say it, but if you really need a video monitor go to Costco or Walmart and get a camera surveillance pack. Same thing, less moolah.

10. Infant carseat: We bought an infant carseat both times because it was nice to be able to snap-and-go from the car to the stroller. In the long run, though, I wish I'd just bought a top of the line convertible car-seat. They last from infant to toddler, and really it was more often I was transferring our youngster from the carseat to the sling or his full recline cot anyway.


Aqui Cal-Mex and Powell's Sweet Shop

This weekend we met up with some friends in Willow Glen for dinner. We arrived at Aqui Cal-Mex on the early side. Saturdays can make for some pretty busy dining on Lincoln, so we saved ourselves the hassle of finding seating by arriving at 5:30. All of us being night people this timing equated itself to a relatively late lunch, but I digress.

Aqui's is known for serving healthy Mexican fusion foods, hence "Cal-Mex." They boast all natural, organic ingredients, and daily and seasonal offerings. If you're looking for authentic Mexican food this definitely isn't the place, but the grub is tasty and the margaritas are large. The kid's menu is affordable, and I like they offer a side of beans, rice, or fruit along with the main meal.

We found a table in the corner, and there was a huge supply of high-chairs that basically shouted "kid friendly!" Alexander set to work on some guacamole and chips, and Matthew slurped up his rootbeer in 30 seconds flat. Jesse and I both ordered margaritas (his strawberry, mine blended with salt). I have no idea what is in these badboys, but they are good..and your face goes numb in about 15 minutes. The sangria is also pretty tasty.

I've tried a lot on the menu at Aqui's, but the turkey meatball stroganoff special I had last night was pretty much awesome.

After dinner we sidled over to Powell's Sweet Shop. Entering Powell's is tantamount to stepping back in time. Victorian England comes to mind. Charlie Bucket would not feel out of place in this shop (not surprisingly, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory plays on a movie screen in the back of the store). There is candy everywhere; some of it mainstream, some of it nostalgic, some of it obscure, and all of it mouth-watering.

Both of these shops are located on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen, San Jose. Powell's is also located in Burlingame and Los Gatos.


Springtime in Cali

Day at the park...