Babba’s away and I’ve been recovering from an infection so Mishy and I have been laying low these last couple of days and having a wonderful time doing nothing. On Tuesday, we went to Whole Foods for lunch and to buy Mishy ghee. She loves butter – it’s fat for her brain as it develops , yet she’s lactose intolerant. Whole Foods carries organic ghee, which is both lactose and casien free. After shopping, we sat and ate lunch at Whole Foods in one of their booths. Well, I sat as Mishy played peek-a-boo with a man sitting behind us. I love how she makes friends so easily and effortlessly. Every once in a while, she checked in on me, as any friend would do, and then resumed her game – until it was time for him to go. She waved good bye, he wave back. She hugged me and then started to play with someone else at Whole Foods, sensing I needed a bit more time to chew on my salad. I bought a huge salad at the salad bar because my eyes continue to be bigger than my stomach.

Mishy watching Christopher Hawkley Rollers at The Victorian during the Food Trucks weekly event

In the evening, we headed to the Santa Monica Gourmet Food Trucks on Main Street. The food trucks are there every Tuesday evening from 5:30PM-9:30PM at the same location as the Sunday Farmers Market near Ocean Park Blvd. We’ve been going there as a family since December and I wasn’t quite sure how it would be with just the two of us. We don’t really go for the food anymore, some weeks the selection at the trucks offers delicious and healthy food and some weeks, it is rather difficult to find anything we want to eat. An association of 120 food trucks randomly picks which six to eight trucks will be there that week. Some food trucks we love? Soule Food for their shrimp toastie and lamb gyro, Nom Nom Truck for their banh mi, Let’s Be Frank for their healthy hot dogs – they do exist and are delicious, if not expensive for hot dogs at $5.50 per dog. What brings us to the weekly Food Trucks, if not for the food? Mishy’s told me she has a boyfriend and his name is Christopher of Christopher Hawkley Rollers – who plays outside at The Victorian from about 6-8PM and then inside, starting at 9PM. Mishy says she wants to join his band and travel with him.

Christopher Hawkley Rollers

Before we left for the Food Truck, Mishy quickly changed her clothes and made sure she was wearing the shirt she painted at her birthday party – “So he’ll know who I am.” She had worn that same shirt the last time she saw him during her birthday week when he sang Happy Birthday three times and she couldn’t stop smiling. I felt like I was watching my girlfriend get ready for a night out on the town, except, my girlfriend has to sit in a car seat for safety and the law. When we got to the food trucks, there was no parking available in three surrounding parking lots. I asked Mishy if we could go back home and walk back in the stroller – it’s a 30 minute walk. She assured me we’ll find parking. As soon as she said those words, we did. I love how reassuring she is.

Mishy dancing with the shirt she painted

At the food trucks location, she immediately wanted to see Christopher. He was playing and she beamed when he welcomed her and said he missed her. She asked me to ask him where he had been last week – out of town – and also tell him she missed him too. She started to dance. I love watching her dance. The freedom of her moves and expression. Her joy at feeling the music. She invited me to dance and I did, but I became self conscious and started taking pictures. She let me be. (It’s funny. I dance all the time with her when we’re at children’s concerts, but when it’s sort of for adults – I have the thought in my head that I should be dancing better. I’ll get over it. One day. Perhaps it’s because I took too many structure dance classes when I was growing up.)

Mishy asked him to sing one of her favorite songs from his Comes Around Again CD, Home. He did and she was so excited, she laughed and jumped in one spot during the song. Anyone may get this CD at the Food Trucks by donation. He gave it to her for her birthday present and she makes us play it in the car all the time.

I love this picture of Mishy dancing

Once his set was over, she said she was hungry and we went to grab some food. While we stood in line, Mishy and I talked to two other girlfriends – two young women originally from Minnesota, who now make the Westside of Los Angeles their home. They have been friends since they were 6 years old. I’m hoping when Mishy’s older, we still can be friends and hang out at the food trucks. I will understand if she rather be with other friends she’s made, though.

For the rest of the days when Babba was away, we went horseback riding at Silver Horse Healing Ranch, toddler yoga at Kids Revolving Yoga, and grabbed absolutely healthy and delicious food at Fig during their Fig at Five promotion. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, from 5-6PM, all the food on their menu is half the price and you can order the food to pick up. Fig in Santa Monica is located inside the Fairview Hotel on Wilshire and if you want to pick up your meal, just call, order your meal, ask them when it will be ready – usually 15 minutes after you order and then while you are in your car on the way, let them know you’re on your way and they will deliver your meal to your car with even compostable cutlery. Don’t forget to tip well.

We picked up our food and headed to Douglas Park, where we sat and watched the ducks and played in the playground while eating roasted tomato soup, braised chestnuts, miso eggplant, scallops, and pastaless lasagna. We had plenty of left overs, which Babba enjoyed when he returned.

While I really liked being with Mishy and she with me, she told me on the eve of Babba’s return that her favorite time is when we are all together. “Me, Babba, Kitty, Momma – a family – all the family.”

Details:

Santa Monica Food Trucks

Tuesday from 5:30PM-9:30PM at The Victorian on Main Street. Their are many public parking lots in the area as well as meter parking on the street.

Christopher Hawkley Rollers

http://www.christopherhawley.net/

Silver Horse Healing Ranch

http://www.silverhorse.org/

Kids Revolving Yoga – tell Tiffany, M.J. sent you. She might give you a special rate. I believe 3 yoga classes for $25.

http://kidsrevolving.com/Kidsrevolving/Welcome.html

Fig Restaurant

http://figsantamonica.com/

Bonus Photos:

Here are some photos of times we were at the Food Trucks with one of Mishy’s friend, John Cariani.

John carrying Mishy at the parking lot of The Food Trucks

Mishy and John running at The Food Trucks

Still running.

Ordering at No Tomatoes!

Who's the birthday girl? Matt asks Mishy to be his helper.

Our daughter turned three and she wanted a party. Fifty of our friends and my mom came to celebrate with us. Matt, from The Reptile Family brought many amphibians, reptiles, and arachnids to entertain and educate all our guests. He was a sensation.

Matt shows J a scorpion.

L looks to see what's in the basket.

Cockroaches!

Mishy has 5 frogs on her. We had to keep them wet so her dress got wet. She didn't mind.

Mishy touches a frog.

Y holds two lizards.

Matt shows L a geeko.

Gentle touching.

Fascinated by another lizard

Mishy picked 3 friends to hold an iguana together

Feeding snakes banana

A turtle

Watching the turtle move

This was Babba's favorite part of The Reptile Family

Matt had to remove the snake from our necks to let it pee and poo. The snake's pee is solid white and gooey yellow. They poo every 1-2 weeks.

Babba carried the snake around his neck for as long as he could. Long time friends, Joan and Beth look on.

S and Beth get a closer view of a snake while Mishy and others watch a snake on the grass.

Blowing out the candles.

Success!

Mishy just after she blew out the candles.

The children and adults painted t-shirts and puppets to take with them.

Mishy's new friend, John Cariani - Babba's long time friend. He's a Tony nominated actor and playwright of the most produced play in America. His play, Almost Maine, is more produced than Shakespeare's Mid Summer Nights Dream.

After the party, Mishy and friends played with chalk while others played upstairs and in the backyard.

Details:

Matt from The Reptile Family

http://www.reptilefamily.com/

Hire them! They make things very easy, are reliable, dedicated, and make a very unique experience which children and adults will remember. One child brought home an imaginary turtle and it still lives in their place. They also offer special classes for all ages.

Catering was by Maggie’s Tapas. Delicious food and healthy too. We ordered two party platters from them. They deliver too.

http://maggiestatas.com/

Cupcakes were from Vanilla Bake Shop and Yummy Cupcakes. Both are in Santa Monica and other locations in Los Angeles. Vanilla Bake Shop has baby cupcakes which went very fast. So fast, I had to ask a guest to take a cupcake from his hand so Mishy could have one. Yummy Cupcakes has vegan cupcakes.

Vanilla Bake Shop

http://vanillabakeshop.com/

Yummy Cupcakes

http://www.yummycupcakes.com/

The cake was from Angel Maid Bakery in Culver City. We ordered the strawberry shortcake. On Mishy’s first birthday party, we ordered the guava passionfruit cake, which I thought was very yummy. Angel Maid is a family owned business which makes a special effort for customers and they make beautiful custom orders which are reasonable.

Angel Maid Bakery – Here’s their Yelp review, with all of their details

http://www.yelp.com/biz/angel-maid-bakery-los-angeles

Fabric paints we got from Jo-Ann’s Fabrics.

http://www.joann.com/joann/home/home.jsp

Mishy holding on to a chicken.

Today, through Elsa Inc., a not for profit organization to help rescued animals, I organized a homeschool visit to a rescue animal ranch in Malibu at Big Heart Ranch. There were 80 plus people who joined us today to touch, pet, hug, and learn about animals. Here is my photo journal of our day. What the photos don’t include is the art station and the seed planting station. Mishy and I were very busy relating to the horses.

Some of the group relating to the alpacas, deer, goats, miniature horses, and horses.

All the children and adults were able to go inside the stables to have intimate contact with the animals in their own space and time. The animals at the ranch include: Captain, the grandson of Secretariat, who was bred to be a champion race horse, but had other dreams of his own, two alpacas, two goats, a deer, two miniature horses, many chickens, whose eggs a lucky few were able to take home with them, and many other horses, including Snowy, Big Red, and Brava. After the ranch visit, Mishy sat on my lap in the car and thanked me.

Chickens laying eggs. They had a need for privacy.

Some guests playing on the tractor

E and R feeding Macchiato, an alpaca

Petting Captain, Secretariat's grandson

Brushing Big Red

Mishy picking out a horse brush

Children playing in the sandbox over looking the Pacific Ocean

Picnic tables over looking the Pacific Ocean

Mishy brushing Breezy, a miniature horse

Mishy brushing Breezy's tail

Children feeding Breezy

Children, including Mishy, leading Breezy back inside the stable

Mishy saying one final good bye to Breezy, and thanking Susan

Children saying their final farewells

Details:

Susan, who heads Elsa Inc organizes a few annual events at two ranches in Malibu, as well as classes focused on healthy ways of communicating with animals and getting back to nature for children aged 5-13 years old called, Unplugged Youth Adventure. She is open to organizing events for schools and homeschoolers alike.

http://www.elsainc.org/elsainc/Welcome.html

Bonus photo:

Mishy fast asleep during the car ride home.

Mishy made her Babba wear both her hat and his.

My husband was away in Singapore for five days. While that doesn’t seem like a lot of time, it was difficult for both Mishy and me. We don’t have any babysitter or family around, and my daughter is not enrolled in preschool so during that time, it was just me. While I don’t traditionally get a lot of time to myself when my husband is around, those few minutes here and there and the occasional evening when my husband takes our daughter to the playground, are times I need for myself – to re-group, get refreshed, and do things for me. (While those things for me tend to be blogging or organizing field trips, it still is my time.) My husband has gone on short business trips before. Maybe it was the distance and the fact that on two days, we didn’t have any correspondence with him because he was on a plane and maybe it was also because I was busy putting the final details of our daughter’s birthday party – and maybe because we usually go on long trips together – this time, it was really hard on all of us to be away from each other. When my husband landed, from a private plane no less, my daughter was very excited to see him and we made our way to the Arboretum of Los Angeles County – a place we had visited before as a family.

There are many things I love about the Arboretum – the freely roaming peacocks, the tram that takes you around the area, the easy parking, the gift shop where you may buy some beautiful flowers and cacti, the waterfall, the beautiful plants, and plenty of grassy areas to run on. (They also offer children’s programs such as story times and host special events such as weddings.)

Mishy and Babba running around in the wedding area.

Mishy and Babby looking at the pond while the geese lay on the grass.

Details:

Arboretum of Los Angeles County

http://www.arboretum.org/

Bonus information:

The arboretum is very close to our favorite dumpling place in Los Angeles – Din Tai Fung. We headed there afterwards where Mishy let the hostess know on the way out, “I really like your food. You know how to make noodles and dumplings.” We usually order the fish dumplings, shrimp rice cakes, steamed vegetables, sesame noodles, and red bean dumplings. The sesame noodles have a kick to it.

http://www.dintaifungusa.com/

Here’s Din Tai Fung’s review on Yelp:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/din-tai-fung-dumpling-house-arcadia

When Mishy was younger, we visited all of the gardens in the Los Angeles area, including Descanso Gardens – which is a beautiful place for young and old. On the weekend of March 19th and 20th, Descanso Gardens will be holding their annual Cherry Blossom Festival. It tends to be  a big deal with traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, Japanese cooking demonstration, cherry trees for sale, cherry blossom walks, bento box lunches and cherry-themed cocktails at our Camellia Lounge. Fun for young and old.

If you would like to enter the chance to win 2 passes to visit Descanso Gardens any time – not just for the festival, please make a comment. If you visit their website –  http://www.descansogardens.org/ – and make another comment, you will gain an additional entry. (We will be visiting the festival because we are members of the Los Angeles Arboretum, which has a reciprocal agreement – that is another reason why I love being a member of museums and other cultural institutions.)

Good luck. The contest ends midnight, March 1st, 2011.

Watching the bottle nose dolphins swimming by the boat

Every year from December to April, it’s grey whale season in Southern California. This past Friday, on the way to San Diego, Mishy, Babba, Babba’s cousin, Rebecca, who stayed for a night with us, and me set sail on the Nautilus, Newport Landing Sportfishing’s second whale watching boat. What I like about Newport Landing Sportfishing’s whale watching adventures is that it’s pretty hands off. There isn’t constant narration – which I appreciate because I like to hear the waves and take in as much as I can of the natural world – even on a boat run by a motor. We are notified when we are approaching sea life. The engines were turned off so we could simply watch and enjoy and delight in being so close to some of the worlds most intelligent animals and  the most intelligent mammal – dolphins.

Once the dolphins passed us, we are left alone to enjoy the sea air, watch the gentle, ocean waves – it was a beautiful and calm  – and if we got peckish, grab a snack at their snack bar or nosh on the bagful of snacks I brought along. We all shared in two potato and egg burritos at the snack bar which were quite tasty, if not overly healthy – the potatoes were frozen hash browns cut up – to make it somewhat healthier, we asked for no extra salt or pepper since the hash browns are well seasoned.

Bottle nose dolphins swimming beside us.

While we didn’t encounter any whales, we did see about 50 bottle nose dolphins, who swam beside us, and  jumped up in the air. We also saw sea lions lying on the back of a docked boat and on a buoy. Was it disappointing to go whale watching and not see any whales? Not at all. It was enjoyable to be out on a boat and enjoy the sea air. It was so relaxing that both Babba and Rebecca took a short snooze while Mishy and I watched the houses which dotted the shore.  I asked if this was normal not to see any whales and was told it all depends on the day.

Right now, Newport Landing Sportfishing is offering a special deal on their whale watching adventures – $15 instead of their normally priced $30 for a 2.5 hour trip. Here is the link for more details – you may have to cut and paste:

Newport Landing Sportfishing

http://www.newportwhales.com/newport_beach_whale_watch_offer.html

For more information on Newport Landing Sportfishing, here is their website:

http://www.newportlanding.com/

We parked on the street for free – be sure to read the signs. There is lot parking available for $10 a day. Once you park, there is about a 7 minute walk – please take that into consideration. If you experience motion sickness, eating ginger and standing outside is helpful. They do sell motion sickness pills. When we went on the boat, the ocean was very calm.

(Our time on the boat was complimentary.)

Tall Ships – Ventura

January 11, 2011

Practicing our sumo stance - similar to surfing

On Sunday, we had an adventure on the high seas where some of the fellow travellers dressed up – yes, a loving father dressed up as a pirate ala Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribean. We were lucky to board the Tall Ship, Lady Washington, to join the crew on a 3 hour historic re-enactment of what it would have been like to sail the seas in 1790. It was filled with merriment, laughter, dancing, music, relaxation, and learning. Mishy says she would love to work on a boat one day.

The Tall Ships will be in Ventura until January 17th, 2011 and then they move onwards to San Francisco. They offer a variety of programs for schools and homeschoolers on the weekdays and on the weekends, they have two adventures planned – Adventure Family Sails and Battleship Sails. The prices run from $35-$60/person and everyone needs a ticket.

passing by some sea otters

Helping put down the sails

The cannon - to be fired later - 3 times, bring earplus!

Mishy and Babba connecting out on the sea

Dancing

Showing us the depth finder

Showing us the device that finds out the terrane of the water

Preparing to raise the sails

Raising the sails

The Boat

Details:

http://www.historicalseaport.org/

Bonus photos:

After we reached land, we decided to have some lunch. Sunday was a special Greek holiday and we were lucky enough to participate and view some traditional Greek dancing by children at The Greek At The Harbor. When I was growing up in Toronto, my best friend, Cali, is of Greek heritage. I was welcomed into her home by her parents and I spent a lot of my pre-teen and teenaged years surrounded by her warm family. This reminded me of their spirit.