Category Archives: Discovery and Exploration

April 18, 2014

Learning Languages

Meyer

Zid Zid Handmade Modern for Kids

I have been a fan of Zid Zid Kids for a long time, admiring the work of Julie and Moulay.  They create beautiful items for play and home, all made in Morocco by hand. I find the pieces and overall aesthetic to be so charming. 

Moulay and Julie live in Morocco and speak French, Arabic and Spanish to their children daily – so it was only natural that their next endeavor would be a creative hands-on language program for children! Petit Zarafa is a play-based multi-language learning subscription website for little citizens ages 2 and up.


My children have Chinese flashcards that they play with when their grandmother visits from Taiwan, but we haven’t picked them up in a while.

The combination of the activities with learning lessons, grasping different sounds with familiar tasks, is inspiring to me.  My kids love playing with games and are currently learning letters & numbers at their own schools – it will be interesting to see what they gravitate to most with this program.  In general, my kids love listening to stories… I’m sure my mom, a former French language teacher, would love to teach them French stories.  It would be magical if they could speak a little bit of French when we visit my sister in Europe this summer.

Are you teaching your children a second language? What do you find works best? I’d love to know!

April 12, 2014

Asia: Through the Eyes of Matthew and Adam

April 9, 2014

Going to Asia: Family Travel Tips from the Founders of Petunia Pickle Bottom

When we were getting started with Tea, we met Braden & DeNai Jones, the founders of Petunia Pickle Bottom, at a New York trade show. We connected instantly – fellow entrepreneurs building great products for mamas. Emily and I returned to our office in San Francisco to find a (surprise) floral arrangement from our new friends at Petunia! The crush was mutual.

Our paths continued to parallel not only through building our businesses, but also in building our families. Braden & DeNai also have two boys: Sutton (8) and Miller (6); just a year ahead of my two boys! I have enjoyed keeping up with their families these past few years – especially when they packed up their kids and took them to visit their vendor partners in Asia.

Now, it is my turn! Once each year, I travel with a few members of our production team to visit our partners abroad. It just so happened that my husband’s calendar opened up around the time of this year’s trip, so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity for a family vacation! Our boys are very excited about an extra long spring break.

As soon as we started planning the trip, the first call I made was to Braden & DeNai for advice, which was beyond helpful. I felt selfish keeping their suggestions to myself, so read on for the full details of my conversation with the Jones’ and get tips for your own kid-friendly trip abroad.

Leigh: David & I are concerned about jetlag for the kids. It’s one thing for adults because we can just push through as long as we have an extra coffee. But that doesn’t work for kids!
Braden: I try and put the family on a sleep schedule during takeoff to give us a jump on the time zone we are traveling to, before we arrive. That tactic seems to help the boys with jetlag.

Fun things to do in Hong Kong when you aren’t working?
Braden: There are some great activities we do to get the boy’s legs moving; we like the Tian Tan Buddha, we visit the HK Zoo or ride The Peak Tram up the hillside. Ocean Park was a big hit with the boys too. Most of the time we just enjoy walking the streets, exploring temples, and browsing markets and other nook and crannies of the city.

How about the food? My kids like some Asian food, but they tend to rely on their go-to favorites like Pad See Ew and avocado sushi – does that even count as Asian food or sushi for that matter?
DeNai: Our boys usually enjoy trying new foods, but for those times when they aren’t feeling as adventurous, Cup Noodles is always an option. You can get these just about anywhere or bring them with you. I also like to bring granola bars wherever we go as back-up. When I can find western grocery stores, I’ll stock up there on things I know the kids will like.

I’m excited to take our 7-year-old to our factory outside of Bangkok. I can’t wait to show him how clothes are made! Plus, we have known our partners and their families there since Adam was born. I think it will feel like a family reunion! Our partners in Hong Kong have invited my family to join for dinners too. It will be a pretty amazing “take-your-kids-to-work-day”! Any tips?
Braden: Honestly, it’s an amazing experience for everyone. We first brought our boys along so that we could work for several solid weeks without having to be away from them for too long. It’s a very family centric culture, so bringing our kids really enhanced our relationships with our colleagues, friends, factories and staff. The boys join us for work, dinner and entertainment, and our partners love to see Miller and Sutton grow over the years. As hard as it is for them sometimes, I will tip my hat to my boys for being along for the ride and being great sports about it.

The Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Shanghai airports are a lot bigger than San Francisco… Not to mention the number of people and languages! Do you have any practical tips?
Braden: A time saver I suggest, is to grab a stack of Customs Cards (Arrival or Departure forms) and fill them out before you are in the customs line. It’s much easier to focus on keeping the family together when you’re not fumbling with the papers and passports. I also memorized all of the passport numbers, saves time for border access and if you lose a passport.

How about hotel recommendations? Any specific kid-friendly, designer-y hotels? You two always seem to find the perfect stylish hotels!
Braden: Finding a room with multiple beds in HK is hard, but it can be done. Most websites only allow you to add one child (not two) when you make your reservations. I suggest making the reservation with one child and then explaining (with a smile) that you need a hide-a-bed for your second or third child once you arrive. On the Kowloon side we tend to stay at the ICON Hotel. It’s new, modern, has every amenity for a great price. On the Hong Kong side we have stayed at the Hotel LKF right above LAN Kwai Fong. At this hotel you are right on top of the party street, restaurants and activities. Other child-friendly hotels we have visited in Asia are: The Racha Hotel in Phuket, Thailand, the Osaka Hilton in Japan, the Lotte World Hotel in Seoul, South Korea, and the Hotel Majestic in Vietnam.

Tips for packing? We’re gone for more than two weeks and I can’t bear the thought of packing enough clothes for such a long stretch! I’m not worried about clothes for the kids because Tea has that covered! Always easy to mix & match, comfortable and great looking. Next time you go, promise me you will call so I can send some Tea for your boys – I would love to see your Instagram pics with your beautiful sons in some Tea!
DeNai: We always pack a lot of black and gray clothes for the kids because they hide the messes and can easily dress up or down. We tend to bring about four to five days of clothes and use the laundry service at hotels to refresh the selection. We’d love to dress Miller and Sutton in Tea next time!

How about emergency kits? And I mean all types of emergency: medical, long layovers, sleepless nights….
DeNai: I usually pack my Petunia Pickle Bottom Wistful Weekender for traveling. It has plenty of storage space and I have a handful of emergency-type items stored inside for the boys: everything from a thermometer and Dermabond (liquid stitches), to small toys and a travel art set to fight boredom. Oh and Cleanwell hand spray is the best germ spray out there!

You are amazing! Thank you! Such practical, helpful tips. I couldn’t be more excited. Keep an eye on my Instragram! I hope to have lots of pictures to capture what will undoubtedly be a crazy & beautiful trip.
Note: Tea is currently hosting a fun baby sweepstakes, which includes our friends Petunia Pickle Bottom. Please sign up for a chance to win over $3,000 in prizes. Perfect for new mamas!

March 6, 2014

Leigh’s Family Is Traveling to Asia, Share Your Tips!

What Should We See & Do in Thailand and China?

I fell in love with Thailand nearly 15 years ago. My husband and I had a six week trip bopping around Southeast Asia & the South Pacific the summer before we started business school. We visited Buddhist temples and rode elephants and ate our way through the country.

And now we return… with our kids!  Maybe it won’t be as romantic, but I have a feeling there will be a ton of falling in love. This time we’ll get to see the Buddhist temples, elephants, and delicious food through the eyes of our 5 & 7 year old boys.

After a week in Bangkok and Hua Hin, we’re heading to China!  We’ll visit Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Yangshuo — and we want advice! We have our flights and hotels booked, plus lots of time planned with our beloved Tea vendors. But there is a lot of open time for sight-seeing and digging deeper into the culture.

So please share any must-see sights or must-do activities!  I have loved reading through advice on Oh Happy Day and Design Sponge — what other blogs are out there with insider tips, especially with perspective on family travel?

 

 

Preparing The Kids For The Experience

I think a lot about preparing my kids for life. Education, manners, planning ahead, keeping an attitude of gratitude, etc, etc. Of course I like to think that I have a huge impact on their lives through all of the thoughtful preparation, but sometimes I admit to myself that I am just here for the ride. Every day is a new world and new discovery for a kid.

I remember my first trip to Manhattan. I arrived via the train, then transferred to the subway with a friend from Long Island. We came up the subway escalator and I just kept looking up and up and up. I was in college and I had seen a thousand pictures of New York, but when I came out of that subway station, I FELT it.  I felt the height, the energy, and the life of New York. I was in love to the bone.

So, no matter how many maps and documentaries we show our boys, I have a feeling that I can never fully prepare them for the size, energy, and life of Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

Of course I still have to try.  So here is the plan (and I welcome your feedback)…

  • We have a huge world map on the wall in the boys’ room. That helps a little with the context. At least I think so!
  • David found a great documentary from 2008 about China. It is certainly dated and the population numbers are probably 20% higher now, but it is well done and riveting for all four of us. I keep wondering if it is stealing the power of the first impression…. and then I remember my escalator ride up from the subway in NY for the first time.
  • Adam takes Mandarin at school four days/week. We are trying to use common phrases for familiarity:  thank you, hello, and my name is…
  • We order in Thai food regularly. Does that count?
  • I’m researching ways the kids can take pictures & blog on their own. Maybe Kidblog.org? I would love to see what pictures and captions they would post. Plus, their friends could write questions and comments, which could create a fun conversation.
  • Of course we have to expedite passport renewals. You can see from these pictures that not only are the passports expiring, but the photos are a little out of date!

 

 

Traveling with Kids Overseas 

I have been asking globetrotting families for advice about the travel itself. Here are the tips I have received so far:

  • iPads. How did parents travel before Apple? The trick is that the kids really like to stream videos on Netflix, which won’t be possible for much of our trip. So I need tips on apps–both educational and entertainment. I am just not sure Star Wars Angry Birds will get us from SFO to BKK!
  • Adjust clocks when you board the first flight. Easier said than done of course. We depart at 1:45pm which is 4:45am in Bangkok. So do we get on the plane and I try to convince the kids to sleep??  When I fly to Asia each year for work, I usually try to sleep as little as possible so that when I arrive at midnight at the hotel in Bangkok, I can crash — even though my body will think it is 4pm the next day. I’m hoping those iPads are REALLY entertaining.
  • Snacks. Snacks are actually the cure to many problems wherever we are! I’ve heard Clif Bars, Tic Tacs, and soy sauce packets have gotten many families through China. Rice is available almost anywhere and with soy sauce, we should be okay.

What else should I keep in mind?
Leave a comment below — I welcome all feedback & suggestions and can’t wait to hear from you!

February 18, 2014

Guest Post: Raising A Child In Morocco

Raising Kids in Morocco via Tea Collection

There is no denying that packing up a household and a family and transporting them across the world is a hardship… but when the destination is Morocco, and you have the good fortune to not just visit but live in this vibrant country there are many more delights than difficulties.

Many people asked us how we would manage with a young toddler in Morocco. It’s true that the usual protections you become used to in the United States (rubber playground floors, clean organic vegetables, etc.) are conspicuously absent in Morocco. But the warmth of the people, towards children in particular, and the wide array of experiences you can expose your child to more than make up for it.

There is so much to choose from… ancient buildings, bustling markets, tanneries, cafes, beaches and more.  Here are some of our favorites for kids from our year in Morocco.

Raising Kids in Morocco via Tea Collection

The Majorelle Gardens: Marrakech

Marrakech isn’t hot year round, however, the summer is particularly brutal. But even when the thermostat hits 105 in the busy media, the Majorelle Gardens beckon with a promise of cool shade and lots of running space!

When you visit Morocco with a child, particularly a toddler, keeping them off the ground is key given the number of mopeds, donkeys and carts that are competing for the limited alleyway real estate. But in the Majorelle Gardens, it is strictly pedestrians only.

The Gardens were designed by a french expatriate and were loved and owned by famous designer Yves Saint Laurent. It houses various species of plants and birds as well as a museum of Berber Culture. It is a beautiful introduction to Morocco for all ages and a welcome oasis of calm.

Raising Kids in Morocco via Tea Collection

The Old Kasbah: Aït Benhaddou

If you want to get up close to the Morocco of legend, then you have to head to Aït Benhaddou. There is something for children of all ages. The little ones will love the (mostly) empty, winding alleys up to the fortress and older ones will be thrilled to know they are standing where the stars have stood since films and series from Gladiator and Game of Thrones have come here for the ancient backdrop. You can even stay in an 11th century mud brick Kasbah (watch out though… no electricity!).  The best part of our little one? Your baggage porter is your local obliging donkey. We named him Hercules.

Raising Kids in Morocco via Tea Collection

The Clock Cafe: Fes

There is of course no better way to get to know a country than through its cuisine. If you have an opportunity to visit a Moroccan restaurant near you, be sure to indulge in a fragrant Tagine (pressure-cooked, spiced meat dish) and any of the sweets on offer.  In Morocco, the best food is to be found in a family home. But one restaurant that came close for us, was the Clock Cafe, deep in the Fes Medina. The Clock has reinvented many traditional dishes and offers menu choices like a camel burger, which is sure to thrill your adventurous eater.

Raising Kids in Morocco via Tea Collection

For the more squeamish, there is delicious almond milk, Moroccan salads and other delicacies! Don’t miss out.

 

Natalia Rankine-Galloway is the founder of CultureBaby; seeking out new global products and hearing from mothers worldwide about how they celebrate culture with their kids. You can read more about her personal adventures at The Culture Mum Chronicles.

January 13, 2014

San Juan del Sur; A Beautiful Fishing Village

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Katy and Laura, two of our design veterans here at Tea, traveled to Nicaragua for sun, surf and sand.

We had no plans for Thanksgiving and after another summerless year in San Francisco, a tropical holiday sounded like just what we needed. We both had been hearing a lot of great things about Nicaragua so we decided why not? We planned a brief but action filled four day trip.

San Juan Del Sur

Day 1:

We arrived in Managua and drove two hours to San Juan del Sur, a beautiful fishing village forty minutes north of the Costa Rican border. The town is surrounded by lush volcanic mountains. There are several well-known surf breaks nearby.

San_Juan_Del_Sur2

We settled into our hotel, had our first rum (Flor de Cana) and coke and signed up for that evening’s sailing trip.

Sailing

Day 2:

We started our day with an early morning yoga class in a treehouse with cool breezes off the Pacific. We assumed we were in for a nice relaxing morning, but we happened upon a very challenging class that kicked our butts. After waddling back to our hotel we relaxed in one of our hotel’s three infinity pools. As we were sipping our pina coladas in our swimsuits, a Nicaraguan television reporter and crew asked us to be interviewed. Kara, Laura’s sister, gladly obliged.

Pool Side

Day 3:

We jumped into the back of a pick up truck with five other novice surfers and headed to Hermosa Beach, a long, white, sandy cove with perfect beginner waves and crystal blue water. That crystal blue, warm water also attracts many stingrays and jellyfish. Our surf instructor started our surf lesson by teaching us the “stingray shuffle” – our new favorite dance. As soon as he said stingray –Katy thought Laura would run for the hills but she braved it and landed her very first pop up!

Nicaragua Surf

After swallowing a few liters of salt water we decided to rehydrate at the beach bar where we ran into some friends we met at our hotel, including the international sea bean collecting champion. Don’t know what sea beans are? We didn’t either but we got some excellent field based learning.

sea-beans Day 4:

We hired a driver to take us inland to Mumbacho Volcano. He spoke no English, we spoke barely any Spanish but got some good practice. We had some very amusing “conversations”. We took a moderate (hard) hike through the cloud forests (literally we were in a cloud on top of a lush volcano). Everything was wet and super slippery. We ended the day with a few bruises but the monkeys, butterflies and amazing views of Lake Nicargua made it all worth it.

mumbacho_monkey

 

 

January 8, 2014

Sayulita: Culture, Exploration and Family

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Cristina , who helps create beautiful product (with exceptional fit!) here at Tea, spent a week in quite Sayulita, Mexico with her family.

Our family was in need of a vacation (not having taken one since before our daughter was born). It was important to us that we went somewhere we could relax, yet share with our daughter a little culture and sense of exploration. We settled on Sayulita, Mexico an eclectic beach and surfing village with exceptional people, arts, activities and culinary offerings.

1_Countryside

A 45 minute scenic jungle drive along the Pacific coastline from the Puerto Vallarta takes you into Sayulita.   The small town consists of 3 to 4 main streets all centered on the village square with a striking church.  All destinations are within a few minutes walk to the beach.  The city is full of wildlife, especially iguanas.

Sayulita, Mexico via Tea Collection's Studio T

The landscape of the village is stunning with cobblestone roads, colorful houses and aging patina everywhere.  All of the houses had thatched roofs and palapa open air verandas.   We stayed up the hill from the city center; after one trip navigating the steep hill with our toddler we realized we needed another mode of transportation.  We rented a golf cart! The golf cart is Sayulita’s choice of transportation due to its small size and resource needs.  Our daughter loved riding on the back with her grandmother.

Sayulita, Mexico via Tea Collectino's Studio T

Our morning walks would usually take us to ChocoBanana for yogurt and granola or a smoothie.  Another favorite was El Espresso for huevos a la Mexicana, coffee and a mango smoothie.  Then off to the beach, yoga or a hike!

Sayulita, Mexico

The beaches are beautiful; you could either head out to the main beach off the city center or explore a more remote destination.  The main beach offered beach chairs with shade umbrellas from beachside restaurants which included food and drink service. This busy location provided much activity with good surf, fishing and many beach patrons.   Another nice location was Playa de Los Muertos on the south end of town and usually frequented by locals for swimming with low surf and riptides. You had to search to find it but were greeted with dramatic views and a colorful cemetery at its entrance.  We walked around awing at the beauty of the memorials.

Sayulita Beach via Tea Collection's Studio T

Sayulita has a few yoga spots but a favorite for the location, studio and talented teachers was Pariseo Yoga.  Nara the owner and the other instructors are very gifted providing challenging yet relaxing classes with modifications and tips on how to better your practice.  I highly recommend joining Nara and crew on the mat.

Yoga in Sayulita, Mexico via Tea Collection's Studio T

The village was sprinkled with shops of artisans, surf shops and small boutique clothing shops.  We came across many talented artists of different styles creating traditional Mexican clothing, jewelry, colorfully fabrics and hand crafted folk artifacts. We loved speaking with the individual artisans about their crafts and learning their process. Tallulah enjoyed watching them create and seeing the animal inspired hand crafts.

Food Stand in Sayulita, Mexico via Tea Collection's Studio T

At dusk the town square turned into a large social gathering for the locals and gave the children an opportunity to play in the cooling temperatures. The local children would bring bikes and scooters to ride around.  Our daughter enjoyed joining in on the fun and we enjoyed taking in communal feeling of the village.

Kids Centro, Mexico

On the last day we adventured by boat touring Marietas Island and other sea side attractions.  Once at the island you could either swim or kayak to the beach.  The beach was only accessible through a rock sea tunnel.  The water was crystal clear and full of sea life.  My husband and I were able to do a little snorkeling while our daughter played with grandma on the beach.

Marietas - Sayulita, Mexico via Tea Collection's Studio T

This vacation gave us the opportunity to share a little bit more of the world with our daughter and my mother.  As a family it is very important us that we broaden our perspectives together while adventuring and learning about the world we live in.  My hope is that through our travels we will all learn how to fully embrace life while on the road and home.