Trekaroo I Love You Too!

I got named Review of the Day (for a Pittsburgh location, no less...fams will be proud)!

I stumbled across this great up-and-coming website the other day and got hooked. If Yelp and CitySearch got together and had a baby Trekaroo would be it. It's Yelp-Search for parents! What's not to like about that? I love Yelp, don't get my wrong, but this new site is where it's gonna be for the traveling moms and dads of the world. It's got a great, easily navigated website, and a boat load of great Yelp-like features (ratings, comments, photos, votes). Once they add the restaurant guide there's not going to be a parent activity/travel site that can touch it.


Mancala Love

I remember playing Mancala in middle school. We made a board out of egg cartons, and I fell in love. It was simple, yet addictive. Then after burning out on it, I totally forgot about it. While recently shopping for last minute Easter gifts, you guessed it...I saw it! You can buy Mancala boards made from all sorts of materials, but I bought a simple one from the Toys R Us' exclusive line that was made from bamboo (a sustainable resource). It's actually pretty nice, and entertaining me once again.

Hubs and I come from a long line of board game lovers so it was no surprise that Math was quite taken with the game. He and I were playing today (for the millionth time). He's getting good...so good he beat the pants off me twice! Maybe we should move on to chess soon?


Pasta Pomodoro and Pinkberry

Yesterday (and Saturday, too) we had dinner at Santana Row followed by Pinkberry. We were actually there only for the Pinkberry, but it seemed wrong somehow to spend all that time finding parking just for yogurt.

Pasta Pomodoro is our idea of fast food. We don't really like chains as a general rule, but there are a few local chains that we enjoy when we're looking for family friendly, yummy, and inexpensive. Pasta Pomodoro is great before a concert, for lunch, or just an impromptu dinner out. We've been to just about every location in the Bay Area, and the food is consistent, the waitstaff efficient, and the locations convenient. I really enjoy their salad and soup. Matthew likes the spaghetti and lasagna (he wants to be Garfield when he grows up), and The Hubs likes the portobella pasta.

After that we jaunted over to Pinkberry aka Crackberry. Pinkberry opened about 3 months ago at Santana Row. You know you're in the right spot when you run into a line trailing out to the street. Pinkberry is the hottest craze since pogs, but likely has enough staying power to last. I'm loving the new Pomegranate flavor and the chocolate shavings! Taste-wise I think it's almost as good as Fraîche, but Fraîche gets the extra thumbs up for being organic and having indoor seating.

Speaking of yogurt, my sister in law just started her own yogurt blog. Check it out here! She's also the creator of my new photo watermarks. Cute, no?


The One Eyed Monster

This the name my mother had dubbed the television during my youth. When I was an adolescent she relegated "One Eyed Monster" to something else entirely, but we won't get into that.

The Hubs and I both grew up with limited to no TV for a period of our lives. My Hubs grew up in the Oregon wilderness so there literally was no cable to speak of, and I grew up in Europe for several years where all programming was in German. Don't get me wrong...we LOVE television. We love movies, and sitcoms, and even a few of the dreaded reality shows. But now that I have children of my own, the monster of my youth has returned. It sucks my sons in and glazes over their eyes over in just a few short minutes with banal gibberish and flashes of color.

To counteract the addiction we've taken steps to reduce the lure. We bought a TiVo about 5 years ago...that cut down a lot on advertisements. We got an AppleTV about two years ago, that made it easier to limit shows to educational programs and movies. We cut our cable about 6 months ago, and so far we'd seen a greater reduction in the amount of tube time all of us are exposed to. I bought volumes of Fraggle Rock and Scooby-Doo and Wallace and Gromit in a nostalgic attempt to recreate the programming of yesteryear.

Alas, we're still a techie family. The Hubs works for Apple, and we have iPhones and iPods and iCrap coming out of our eyes, but I think I've finally had it. I'll admit it...too long has the TV been used as my 25 minute babysitter. I'm going to have to come up with some more creative ideas to keep the kids busy while I try to do my own thing around the house. I'm pledging a week to not use the TV at all. I'm going to need help! Advice? I need some!


Hat Happiness

I don't think it's a secret that I'm a huge fan of hats. My kids like them, too!

Here's a few new hats that are fresh and fun for upcoming sunny summer days.
These are a staple for the pool and the park. They're light and fast drying, hold up to sand and chlorine, and stay put on Junior's head. Can be found at Mel Cottons in SJ and PA Sport Shop and Toy World, Sports Basement Presidio in SF.

Isn't this the cutest? And it's reversible!

My sons have an endless supply of newsboy caps. They're timeless, and they always look good dressed up or down. Found at Janie and Jack.

Now for the Moms:
Lacoste Sun Hat is not only sporty and cute, but functional for tennis lessons and the pool! Can be found at Valley Fair, Union Square in SF, and Stanford Shopping in PA.

This one is sweet and has a vintage throwback feel.

And the omg hat...isn't it fab? Found at Saks Fifth Ave.


Pretty Pictures

I've spent my day searching how to combine photos. Finally figured it out. Check it:

Taken by my 8 year old son with a tripod and some good lighting :0)

Cool Cuffs

I'm really loving cuffs lately. I don't why. Maybe it's because they look kind of alternative, but are easily mixed with more traditional casual wear.

Anyway, here's an awesome one by SouleMama...she has far superior sewing skills than I, but this is so cute and fresh and easy looking.

I might try to tackle this one this weekend.

Here's a more simple one I made out of my son's old necktie.


The Cheese Board Collective

So after my romp around Cal, I made arrangements to meet up with my neighborhood mom pal, bookgroup compadre, and friend, Ariele. Okay, let me start of by giving you some amazing background about Ariele.
  • She's sharp as a tack funny and smarter than most everyone I know.
  • She grew up in Berkeley going to a hippy dippy school across the street from where her dad started Berkeley Free Clinic.
  • For many years she was a HS Math teacher providing progressive education to some of the most depressed schools in California. She speaks of her old students with nothing but heartfelt love and admiration, and she has an innate understanding of teenagers few can fathom.
  • She's a true, blue friend. And for the life of me, I couldn't imagine my first visit to Berkley without her!
So we met up at The Cheese Board Collective, she with her two boys and me with mine. After the greetings we got down to business. Ariele promptly handed me a shopping bag (she came prepared!), grabbed us a playing card, and started piling her arms full of the most amazing looking pastries and breads I've ever laid eyes on. CBC make all their own baked goods on site, and there is a constant overturn of hot crusty goodness every few hours. The cases also had a wide variety of olives, French and local honeys, and other noshes. Since CBC is a co-op they take their cheese very seriously. It is mandatory that you "try before you buy" so when our card was called we spent the next 30 minutes trying every cheese known to man...and then some! You wanna try a cheddar? Well they have like 20 different varieties of varying sharpness, some with chives, some without, some white, some yellow. Wanna brie? How about a stinky one? How about a blue that's creamy? How about a crumbly blue that's slightly different in texture, but very different in taste? It went on and on like this. I was starting to get scared...the wrapped packages of cut cheeses were piling up, and it didn't look like we had any sign of stopping soon. Ariele assured me it was all good, and kept on ordering. Finally, when the tally was rung up I balked...it coudln't be that cheap! So I added another three selections to top it off. We weren't allowed to tip the proprietors, but they said we could donate to the homeless initiative they support instead. After this, we stopped next door to the produce co-op and bought some fruit and berries. Then again next door to the Cheese Board Pizza. There was a live jazz duet playing while we waited in line to grab a few slices of the daily offering. Finally, we took all the kids by the hand and walked a half block up to a fenced in park. We found a big tree and set to work on our impromptu picnic.

I can't imagine a better first trip to Berkeley, and I'll be back soon for sure.

Walk from Cal to the Cheese Board.

That's a LOT of cheese.

If you pull the Joker you get to skip to the head of the line.

Freshly baked bread...and it was hot, too!

Weird ass cow bread god?

Cheese, glorious cheese!

Our cheese pile...we're about halfway done at this point.

Best pizza I've had in a long time! Zucchini, red onion, feta, with pesto and pignoli nuts.

Don't I look manically happy?

Cal Day at UC Berkeley

This is a shame, but for the past three years I'd yet to set foot in Berkeley. It's not that I wasn't interested, it's just that I've been busy exploring all other aspects of the Bay Area, and the opportunity just hadn't presented itself yet.

Then, prompted by the homeschooling thing, I saw an add through the Society for California Archaeology that UC Berkeley would have a "dig day" through the Archaeological Research Facility. This sounded great since I have a budding archeologist/Indiana Jones wanna be under my roof. Little did I know, that this "dig" was in conjunction with Cal's largest annual event of the year. Cal Day is a collection of activities, lectures, events, and open exhibits for the whole public, and reportedly drew in more than 35,000 people (now I feel like it was a small miracle I even found a place to park!).

We arrived promptly at ARF at 9:00, and were greeted by a really sweet PhD student who explainted to Math all the ins and outs of grid system mappings, excavation, and why archaeology is important. He also made a clay pot, and had a great time learning about what it takes to be a "real life" Indiana Jones.

After that we went around exploring the rest of the campus. I had some major nostalgic moments surrounded by all the old buildings, nerdy undergrads, and excentric professors. Since it was an event day the public was free to wander into all the museums, buildings, and labs. We had some majorly good tailgate chicken kabobs while we waited for my friend to arrive. Math picked up a stuffed tiger with the "Cal" logo emblazoned on a little blue shirt from the school store. Why a tiger was even availiable for purchase is beyond me, but I went with it (it was Mom and Me time afterall). So desipite the massive crowds, and the fact I have no ties to UC Berkeley at all (and kinda felt like a fraud for lapping up the school pride)...it was a really nice morning!

Learning the ropes

Inside the Anthropology Museum

I love collegiate gothic buildings

This is the kind a thing you see in college towns


Plane Pains...

So I'm kindof addicted to Facebook and recently saw this defense comment response to a status complaint about children on planes:

"My kids have flown all over the place in both coach and first class, including Hawaii 3x and have been complete angels. It is all in parenting. You must have things to keep them occupied and entertained. Sorry you have had bad experiences, but it's not all children."

I've gotta say I totally relate to the complainer, not the defender. Having fulfilled both roles as a parent and innocent patron (who's had her seat kicked for 5 straight hours), I believe when it all boils down; traveling with kids via air is pretty awful. There's the packing of all necessities for the flight, the prepping to the airport, the crazy security lines, the medicate vs don't medicate battle, the actual flight, the lack of services to help parents with small children. I mean the list goes on and on.

Here in the Bay Area, with parents flying all over the place both internationally and domestically, would you take offense to this? Does bad behavior on a flight really equate to bad parenting? How could the airline industry help accommodate parents and non-parents alike?


Shameless Shooting Shoutout

Seems like everyone these days is a budding photographer. I don't claim to be one, nor even close by any standards, but I really do enjoy it a lot! I'm also enjoying the learning process even though it's grueling...sometimes it seems like great photographers don't want to share how they do it, and the others want you to pay for it, lol. But, there's a wealth of information and technique tips if you know where to look!

I love the Pioneer Woman. She breaks everything down into easy to follow directions - recipes, decorating, heck, even Photoshop! She had a guest blog post by a photographer who did a tutorial on doorway photography. I tried it out...so fun! So cute!

Lens was an 85mm fixed, 1.8f. ISO 200. I used Photoshop to sharpen up the eyes and a minor boost, but the lighting is all natural :0)

Silliman Swmming

This week has been spring break time for all the local schools in our area. Since we rather unexpectedly started doing the homeschool thing it was fun to enjoy our usual after-school friends for lots of fun activities during the day.

5 other moms and I caravaned up to Silliman Activity Center in Newark on the East Bay yesterday. Why we had to go by caravan I still haven't figured out, but it was kinda fun, lol.

Silliman is an indoor aquatic park with a variety of different entertaining features for your water babies (or kids). There is a zero-depth entry pool with a play structure full of slides, water fountains, and water cannons. A lazy river with inter tubes to ride on, a large lap pool, a hot tub, and a giant double water side. Math was SO disappointed he wasn't tall enough to slide yet (48 inches, he was 2 inches shy!). There were some very nice features such as the family changing rooms (complete with private shower, hair dryer, and changing station), and the food was pretty decent as well. I think the main drawback was we went during spring break and it was packed!

Some things that are nice to know beforehand:
  • No outside rafts, floats, or swim fins are allowed (Silliman provides inter tubes for the lazy river and life vests of varying sizes (though you can bring your own vest)).
  • Apparently you're not supposed to bring outside food, but we saw lots of people who brought their own healthy snacks.
  • You need to ask the front desk to un-lock the family changing room, and bring shampoo unless you don't mind using hand soap.
Alexander right before we had to switch out the swimmies for a life-vest

The giant slides

My reward


I'm Wasted on Boys

It's been no secret my desire for a daughter someday. So much in fact that we are hoping to adopt from Korea sometime in the next few years. I'm adopted from the country myself so I think it's predestined to be this way...a sort of closing the circle if you will. Recently, I think this desire has reached all new heights. We've been invited to an astonishing number of girl birthday parties this past month, and I've gotta say I LOVE girl birthday parties! It gives me an excuse to get in touch with my fru-fru side. This has been compounded even further by my newly contracted crafting condition. So what does a craft-sick mom with a fru-fru side make the girls in her sons lives? Well, tutus of course!

I found some simple "how-to" instructions on RookieMoms here. I took it a step further by doubling up the amount of tulle (to make them fluffier) and adding some ribbons of varriying widths and colors as well. Paired with a cute, inexpensive top these make the most fabulous, one-of-a-kind gifts! They can be worn over jeans, leotards, sweats...Hell, I've half a mind to make one for myself!

Poor Alexander - he was my test manequin. I had to make sure it was going to fit, right??? ;0)


A Week in Silicon Valley on Rookie Moms

A bit back I was tickled pink when asked to do a guest "Spend a week..." blog piece for Rookie Moms. My piece detailed a week-long series of outings here in The Valley, and it's up on their site now!

Whitney and Heather are two cool ladies living in San Francisco. They write a fresh and cheeky blog about all sorts of parenting and kid related topics. Their frank anecdotes on being a mom are refreshing, quintessentially real, and a daily read for me. And as if the blog isn't enough, these ladies found the time to write a handbook which I think would make a very excellent baby gift for any mom-to-be!


Calling All Moms....

I've been on the hut for some really cute mom calling cards. If you've never heard of mom cards before they are basically business cards with your kid's names and your contact info. This card thing brings back memories of reading Little Town on the Prairie and the name cards Laura used to exchange with her friends. Her mom gave her some money to purchase them and she was so tickled about it. I am, too!

Anyway, in these modern times, I am often at the park, or at a playdate, or at a class and invariably I run into a cool new mom and we hit it off. Then one of us says, "We should totally get together! What's your number?" And I never have a pen, and I've usually forgotten my phone (which is a crime according to my husband). So I think I have a real need for these ;0) Stash a few in the diaper bag, you know? I bet these would make a really sweet baby shower or new mom gift, too!

It's down to these two options. They're both awesome for different reasons. Which do you think?

I really like these cards because you can add photos! And the prints are really fresh and modern.

And then I saw these on Etsy, and they are really cute in a sorta Victorian vintage sortof way.

Tough decision!


Alviso Bay

This weekend we took a little walk around Alviso Bay. The marina is a 5 minute drive from our home. As you approach Alviso, crowded industrial tech buildings give way to cute little beach houses and small owner-run restaurants. It's a place that time forgot in many ways, but has a very East Coasty, Cape-Cod feel to it. Alviso was once a booming port that shipped agricultural products all over The Valley, but then in 1864 a new railroad line was put in. Alviso's become a veritable ghost town compared to it's micro-chipped neighbors over the years, but is listed on the National Register as a historic gem.

Alviso now attracts nature lovers and health enthusiasts from all around. One can capitalize on the miles and miles of dirt trails surrounding the bay. There are thousands of acres of marshes and salt ponds. Wildlife is dense, and bird-watchers would probably find this place paradise. There are informative plaques explaining more about marshes and indigenous species of plants and animals, too.

We had a nice time walking around the desolate, windy bay. After exploring a bit it got sortof creepy how devoid of human life the place was, but in a beautiful way. It seemed strange to find so much nature right in the backyard of the largest tech community in the country. But, it was a lovely way to spend some weekend family time apart from the computers and video games and televisions and iPods and iPhones and AppleTVs and DVRs and DVDs and CD-ROMs and Facebooks and Twitters. Apparently my camera was spared such neglect, though ;0)