Monthly Archives: February 2009

February 19, 2009

kid-friendly sf foodie tour

Who says San Francisco is only for DINKS (Double Income No Kids)? For those of us with little ones there’s plenty to eat around town during our staycations. For a low-budget foodie tour, follow the itinerary below, it’s been kid-tested:

Little Saigon, Tenderloin—If you can handle the gritty neighborhood, the Tenderloin is the place to visit for authentic, healthy, and cheap Vietnamese food. For a $2 lunch, stop by Saigon Sandwich (560 Larkin St.) for hearty and fresh banh mi (viet-style baguette sandwich) At dinner time, I highly recommend Pagoloc (655 Larkin St.) Back in the 80’s, only local Vietnamese knew about this delicious family run restaurant. Now everyone will wait in line for a table. Try the seven courses of beef that includes making your own rolls with grilled beef. No worries, there’s plenty of veggie dishes too.

Clement St. (between 2nd and 9th Avenue)—Considered the mini-Chinatown of the City, this charming street is full of good treats minus the tourists. Look for Good Luck Dim Sum (736 Clement St) with all their tasty dumplings and baked goods displayed in the window. Kids will love the coconut buns, sticky rice, and shrimp dumplings. To satisfy a sweet tooth, walk a few blocks and visit Genki’s Crepes at 330 Clement St. The store offers made to order dessert crepes, Japanese snacks and toys, and international drinks.

May’s Coffee Shop, Japantown—Sure you can visit J-Town for sushi, but there’s something sweeter waiting for you. Only locals know about the fresh baked Taiyaki offered at May’s Coffee Shop (1737 Post St). It’s basically a pretty fish shaped waffle filled with sweet azuki bean paste. Hot ones come out every 10 minutes and they sell out before the end of the day.

Joe’s Ice Cream, Inner Richmond.—I grew up around the corner from this classic family owned ice-cream parlor located at 5351 Geary Blvd. It’s complete with hot dogs, grilled cheese, waffle cones, and chocolate covered bananas. Any scoop of ice cream can be hand dipped in chocolate. Joe’s is unpretentious and made for kids. Be sure to take a seat on the stools along the windows and people watch while enjoying a sundae.

February 18, 2009

capoeira

*This is actually written by my husband, David. Capoeira is one of his great loves.

One of the most amazing imports from Brazil to the U.S. in recent years has been capoeira, an athletic game that is part sport, part dance and part martial art. Capoeira academies are springing up in most major cities, and offer a fascinating glimpse of Brazilian history, music, and culture, while at the same time providing a fun way to get in shape and also learn self-defense.

Capoeira is “played” when two people enter a circle of on-lookers, and engage in an unchoreographed dialogue of movements. As the circle sings in Portuguese, and plays traditional instruments, the two players move to the rhythms in a fluid interaction of kicks, swaying torsos, and amazing acrobatics. At times the music is slow, and the game is playful and low to the ground, at other times the music accelerates and the interaction becomes more martial and can appear quite dangerous, although in fact movements are exquisitely controlled and violence is not the goal.

Capoeira was developed by African slaves in Brazil, and may have some of its origins in African traditions. The way that martial elements are concealed as a dance may also reflect the conditions under which the slaves trained for self-defense.

How does one “win” a capoeira game? On the one hand, the game is played for the sake of beauty, and also communication, just as two ballroom dancers communicate with each other in a conversation of subtle and dramatic movements. On the other hand, capoeira introduces an element of treachery in the midst of the dance; players are looking for a chance to tug at a supporting leg with one of many different techniques, so that the other player lands sitting on the ground. The most important rule in capoeira is to avoid sitting, and avoid having the other player sweep your legs. A well-executed leg sweep is perfectly timed, so that someone lands softly. Both players, and the crowd, recognize the skill of the player who is successful in sweeping the other. Mastery can also be demonstrated by complicated acrobatics, or by catching the other player with a kick; it is good form to pull the kick at the last moment to avoid hurting the other player, and good form for the other player to acknowledge being caught.

Capoeira is also an ideal activity for children. Many academies have special children’s classes, for children as young as five years. The combination of music, athletics, and culture is sure to be a blast for little ones. If they can play, then they are ready to start playing capoeira.

February 11, 2009

michelle obama’s quote in vogue

I love her attitude and perspective, and BTW, I loved her choice of designer for her Inauguration Day outfit – citron wool lace dress & coat by Isabelle Toledo. I’m so exited to watch how she evolves the role of the first lady and the perception of the White House.

So I was elated to read this today on style.com:

Just as Hillary Clinton took Chelsea along to Europe and Africa when she was off from school, Mrs. Obama anticipates traveling with her own daughters during school breaks. “I’ve been grateful that my girls have been able to see parts of the country that I’m just seeing at the age of 44,” she says. “It’s not only seeing Paris, London, and Rome. It’s also the remote places…exposing them to what we hope all kids will have: a feeling that they are citizens of the world.”
- Michelle Obama in Vogue, as reported by Andre Leon Talley

She so eloquently expresses what we want for every child wearing Tea. It’s so powerful to witness the creation of global awareness in the next generation.

The rest of the article: http://www.style.com/vogue/feature/2009_March_Michelle_Obama/?mbid=sn

 

rock on with alphabet rockers

For urban parents and toddlers who can’t connect with folk singers, you can now wave your hands in the air and dance to kid-inspired music.

A few months ago, I took baby Kai and my niece to watch Alphabet Rockers at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley. When we walked into the performance area, we noticed that the soulful hip- hop style of a show attracts a very diverse crowd. The group rocked it with a beat boxer, DJ, and two vocalists. The ABC’s and 123’s come alive with groovy beats that gets everyone up from their chair to dance. Don’t miss them on February 15 in Berkeley at Ashkenaz, skip the Baby Einstein DVD and head on over.

learning to eat fake sushi

My husband Jeff always swore that our kids would grow up exposed to many different types of cuisine. He was particularly sensitive to this because he has always felt somewhat cheated as a result growing up on bland boring English food. My Mother-in-law dislikes any type of seasoning including garlic. It wasn’t until he was in his twenties that he tried different types of food and hasn’t looked back since (he’s somewhat of a foodie). Since we eat various types of ethnic food regularly there was no question that our daughter Zoe would as well.
As a first birthday gift Zoe received a wooden toy sushi set. It’s an adorable toy. At this time she was just starting to eat finger foods such as peas and o-shaped cereal and wasn’t quite ready for anything quite as large as a piece of sushi. But she quickly became somewhat obsessed with the sushi toy. She’d point to it and say “sushi, sushi” asking us to take it down from the shelf. She loved to try to pick up the sushi pieces with one Velcro chopstick tip attaching itself to the Velcro on the sushi piece. She loved taking apart the sushi pieces and reattaching them to a different piece of rice. She also loved pretending that she was eating it by putting a piece to her mouth and smacking her lips.

A few months later, pregnant with Zoe’s sibling-to-be, I went through a bought of first trimester sickness. The only thing I could eat for a couple of weeks was veggie sushi rolls and I craved them constantly. We made almost daily trips to the café area of Whole Foods for veggie sushi rolls. Many nights the three of us went out to our local Japanese restaurant for “sushi” which again meant avocado rolls for me and Zoe and “real” sushi for Jeff.

Over the course of these two weeks Zoe became obsessed not only with her sushi toy but also with the food itself. Now that I am over that phase we still eat sushi pretty often –partially because Zoe requests it. When I ask her if she wants to eat lunch she asks “sushi?” When she’s playing with her toys and sets the toy people around the little toy table and chairs and I ask “Zoe what are they having for dinner?” the answer is always “sushi.” Since the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests waiting until at least age four to introduce raw fish, for now the only thing in her sushi rolls is avocado or cucumber. However, I hear that in Japan both pregnant women and young children eat raw fish as long as it’s not tuna or other high-mercury types –so maybe we’ll both be eating a spicy scallop roll earlier than I had thought.

a day in dc

We’ve had such a cold and icy winter in Central Pennsylvania; we jumped at the chance to take a weekend trip to Washington DC to relieve our cabin fever. On Sunday, the temperatures shot up to the 50s and we were within walking distance to the zoo. As we walked leisurely up Connecticut Avenue, joggers ran by with short sleeves and some even had shorts on. I almost expected cherry blossoms to burst out from the trees because it was that kind of day…bright, clear, and shining.

Without a stroller or a backpack, I was forced to walk at Jude’s pace. And even though cars whizzed by and almost everyone we passed was on their Bluetooth walking furiously or running past us, it made me appreciate the pace of a 3 year old. We noticed special rocks. We smelled the delicious foods from other cultures…Thai, Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean. We listened to noises that were unfamiliar to our non-urban ears..honking cars, sirens, helicopters, a street performer greeting passengers exiting the metro with the soothing sounds of classical guitar. Every now and then, Jude would stop and do some sort of yoga move spreading his legs as far apart as he could just to be silly, and we would say, “stretch” together. Mostly, we held hands, strolled along and appreciated each other’s company as the world sped past us.

We arrived at what turned out to be our only destination for the day, The National Zoo. The National Zoo features animals from around the world, and it is a great way to expose children to all the different biomes and unique habitats that exist if world travel isn’t in your budget. Jude asked, “What’s that sound mommy?” Throughout, you could hear the harsh sound of animal caretakers scrapping ice off the animals’ outdoor enclosures. Even though the weather was so nice, many animals were still inside, but we found pleasure in searching for the animals in various exhibits designed to mimic natural habitats from around the world whether they were inside or out. I realized that in order to see if Jude could see what I was pointing out to him, I’d have to squat down to his level. I decided that it was fun to look at the exhibits from his level made a mental note to do that more often in our everyday life. I let Jude chose our path and pace through the zoo. Oddly we spent the most time watching the 2-toed Sloth, who was actually quite active, and never made it to see the lions.

At the end of the afternoon, we sat on a cold granite bench in the metro station watching the red numbers go from 5 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1. We watched other trains come and go and Jude remarked “Those trains have coaches.” When our train came, we climbed aboard and took our seats. I looked around at the passengers. One older lady with a guitar case was reading the Upper Room. A young African American man wearing a uniform of a security guard nodded off. Two well dressed Asian men conversed in a language that no one around them understood. I looked over at Jude. He had a big smile on his face. He was content to be riding on the train.

I remembered what that was like as a kid….to be happy doing just what you are doing. I was glad that I didn’t try to stick to my original plan for the day which included a trip to Chinatown and the National Building Museum. I was thinking of my normal pace when I thought we could do all that. Although, it was a shame that we didn’t get to see the Chinese Dragon in the Chinese New Year parade, I was content knowing we had enjoyed the day at a pace that allowed us to be fully present, aware, and admiring of the diversity of all the life around us.

detox your toys

Is your house being taken over by giant plastic toys that sing and squeak and talk? Are you worried about mysterious chemicals and potentially toxic paints? Are you curious what it may be like to live without them? Yes, it’s possible! We made a decision to buy only wooden toys made with non-toxic paints and lacquers for Moushumi before she was born. This was prompted by the scary news that even long-trusted companies such as Fisher-Price have had recalls due to lead in recent years.

We have let our friends and family know that we prefer these sorts of toys, sometimes by saying just that, and in other cases more subtly by saying “check out these great toy sites: oompa.com and moolka.com!” Those are great sites for non-toxic toys and there are others as well – you just have to research a bit. A particularly nice feature of these sites is that you can see where the product is made as well as the safety criteria it has met. In fact, both sites have ways for you to actually pick the country of origin. There are Haba and Kathe Kruse from Germany, Vilac from France and Green Toys from right here in the U.S. among lots of other unique brands from around the world.

We also feel like we are making some progress towards being more “green” by using toys made from environmentally friendly materials: wood rather than plastics. For example, one of our favorite companies, Plan Toys, uses only non-toxic materials, recycled and recyclable packaging with soybased inks for printing, synthetic free rubberwood, formaldahyde free glue, and so on.

The wooden toys from these companies address our safety concerns, but they also look great, and never seem to take over the way plastic ones seem to. They often come in modern, chic styles and win awards for design. It’s a far cry from the quaint craft-shop look (nice in its own way, of course) that you might ordinarily associate with wooden toys. Many of the toys are so cool that adults want to play with them, too!

While at the beginning we were a bit daunted by the thought of avoiding ubiquitous plastic toys, it has turned out to be quite easy, and rewarding to do so. We look forward to using these durable and healthy toys for our next child, and even perhaps passing them on to our grandchildren.