Category Archives: Discovery and Exploration

August 13, 2013

“We Go There, Too!” with Natalia of CultureBaby

This past Christmas, I received a gift I’d been waiting almost a decade for… my husband took me back to Spain!

I am absolutely bananas about Spain.  Call it nostalgia: I lived there for three years as a child, and vacationed there frequently throughout high school and college.  But as is typical of your twenties, I never had the time or the money to make it back. But this past December, I got to return with my husband and toddler son, Xavier, to introduce them to Spain and fall in love with it all over again..

When people think of Spain, they think of beaches or exciting nightlife.  Neither being possible in December or with a two year old, we tasted many of the country’s lesser known charms.  On our circuit up from our current home base in Morocco, we started in Andalucia, visiting Ronda and Granada before driving through Alicante to ferry to Mallorca. Then back west again, we hit Valencia, Cordoba and Seville. Of all the wonderful memories we made, I’ll remember three things in particular.

1. Horsies

I’ve found that one of the best ways to involve a child in international travel is to tie it into their passion of the moment.  Though Xavier has since moved on to elephants, December was the month of the horse.

In many of the cities we visited, horse and carriage rides were among the most convenient ways to see the city, particularly given how rough cobblestones can be on stroller wheels!  Although they can be expensive, choosing at least one city to partake in a ride can be well worth the cost.  Everywhere else, we took time out to spot other carriages around town, ride carousel horses or book a pony ride.

In Cordoba, we visited the Royal stables for an equestrian show.  The beautiful animals and talented riders dance around the paddock to music and lights.  It was magical to see the wonder in Xavier’s eyes and yell  “HORSIES” every minute or so.  The horses can be seen training by day as well and an even larger show can be seen in Jerez.

In Seville, horsies were out in force for the Three Kings or “Reyes” celebration.  No one does festivals quite like the Spanish and kids are never left out, no matter how late they go.  On January 6, Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior arrive and are welcomed with a parade of mounted attendants and elaborate floats. It is an exceptionally raucous but wonderfully festive event.  If you are visiting Spain with kids, look to see if you can time your visit with a local festival; there will always be plenty to entertain the kids.

2. Pastries

One of my favorite things about Spain is the food.  Tapas, fresh seaside fish and a wonderful array of sweets.  But until visiting with a toddler, I never appreciated that Spanish food is as good in casual, fast food environments as it is in the finest haute cuisine establishments.  I am all for 5 star restaurants, but nothing puts a kink in the evening like playing airplane with your gourmet entree.

Spanish mainstay Paella was fortunately still on the menu for us.  Since it is served family style, it is easy to offer kids a smaller portion.  Moreover, the seafood version of the dish, although the best known, is by no means the only kind.  Chicken and even rabbit versions are also available.  We had our finest sampling in Valencia, Paella’s birthplace.

Elsewhere in Spain, Xavier enjoyed the Spanish pasties.  In almost any Spanish city, it is easy to find “chocolate con churros”.  The chocolate is not what you are used to, it is darker, thick as pudding and ideal for dipping fresh, hot, deep fried churros. It will never be part of a complete nutritious breakfast but it was a hit!

The island of Mallorca, off Spain’s eastern coast, has it’s own special and delicious tradition of pastries.  Our little man made a morning “ensaimada,” a curly, soft confection topped with powdered sugar, a morning tradition (hold the traditional accompaniment of café con leche).

Finally: Chorizo – it probably will land me in Bad Parenting’s hall of fame as the chewiest, saltiest most toddler inappropriate snack on the market today.  But I’ve got to confess to a very naughty pride in seeing how my little man took to this classic Iberian dried sausage.

3.  Time to Run

We have found that it’s best not to travel in spite of a toddler but to open yourself up to new experiences you might never have had traveling as a couple. Slow your pace, choose more open spaces, and try to act less like a tourist and more like a local.  Don’t make yourself a list of “must sees.” Linger in a park, seek out historical or cultural attractions with gardens.  Before we travel, we find it prudent to check in with a local parenting websites. You’ll find more off the beaten track walks and authentic experiences than ever before.

Our favorite moments were less about dragging our poor kiddo through world famous exhibits and more about watching him chase bubbles through a public park or collect oranges in the gardens of the famous Seville Alcazar. Don’t forget to celebrate the kid in you.  Indulge in purely childish pleasures like aquariums and zoos….you might find yourself wondering why you skipped them all these years.

Finally, the wonderful thing about Spain is how they welcome children at almost any event or occasion.  I was shocked to see that I was about the only parent at New Year’s Eve celebrations who had left their baby at home.  Even if there is a typically adult pleasure you are eager to experience, like a wine tasting, call ahead.  Odds are, children are accommodated.  For me, it was just one more reason to love Spain that I never expected.

 

Natalia is the founder and managing partner of CultureBaby. She started the company in 2011 when her son was five months old. On bad days, she puts the whole thing down to a fit of postpartum lunacy. But on most days, she loves seeking out new global products for CultureBaby and hearing from mothers worldwide about how they celebrate their culture and heritage with their kids. You can follow along on her adventures on The Culture Mom Chronicles. Follow her on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter!

August 8, 2013

Exploring Spain And The French Riviera

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).

Meet Tara, she’s part of our merchandising team. Today she’s sharing a piece of her trip to Spain and the French Riviera with us.

The last couple of years I have made international travel a must – This past summer I visited Spain and the French Riviera!! I started my trip in San Sebastian. It was a cute, beach town in northern part of Spain. The beaches were beautiful, the food amazing and the people know how to party and have a good time. On a Saturday night streets were filled with music, drinking and laugher until 6 in the morning. After getting a taste of the Basque Country, I took a 6-hour train ride, enjoying the breath taking Spanish countryside, down to Barcelona. There was so much to explore in the city. From all the amazing works of Gaudi, great neighborhoods to the beautiful coastline, I definitely will need to go back to see it all. Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia were by far my favorites. At Park Guell I felt transported into a different land with beautiful structures and was able to see the entire city from above. At La Sagrada Familia I stood in awe of the beauty of the light shining through the stain glass and the massive structure. I learned every part had been carefully thought out and designed down to every last detail. So incredible!!

I also enjoyed watching a futbol match, Barcelona vs. Brazil, in a local sports bar. It was interesting to find more Brazil fans than Barcelona in Spain! The energy while watching was unbelievable.  The food continued to be amazing, I was stuffed at every meal! After exploring for a few days, I continued my trip to Cannes, France to experience the French Riviera. It was a great place to end my trip; the last of my days were spent laying on the beach looking out into the Mediterranean, taking a break only to walk the adorable streets filled with shops. I made sure to enjoy a bite to eat at a quant beach café.

My last night there they had the festival of fire works and the sky was filled with light and music filled the air. It was the best firework show I have ever seen! I had so much fun and saw so many wonderful places. I absolutely love to travel and explore new things and I cannot wait until my next adventure!!

 

July 30, 2013

Diving Into Life’s Unexpected Opportunities; Peru.

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).

Meet Diane (she’s pictured below – the one in the middle!), our amazing marketing manager. Today she’s sharing her most memorable day from her Peruvian vacation with us on Studio T.

I love traveling abroad because it opens my eyes to new cultures, new people, and new adventures.  I am normally an organizer; my itinerary is methodically planned and set up prior to my departure.   This time, my travel adventure started out a bit reckless for me with a spontaneous invitation from my two friends to join them in Peru.  I thought, “why not?” Sometimes, you just have to dive into life’s unexpected opportunities! How could I know that I would get so much more out of it than I could have ever planned for? Here is the story of my most memorable and authentic day in Peru. It began with a bit of intuitive trust and a desire for adventure.

When we arrived at the Puerta (port) at Lake Titicaca at 7am, we had no tour planned, no ferry scheduled, and no time to do the standard overnight tourist stay on one of the lake’s popular islands. But, we were hoping to piece together a plan and a boat tour for the day.

We approached the first man we saw on the dock… keep in mind that between the three of us girls, we speak only broken Spanish and certainly no local dialect.  The man was small in stature and seemed to be in his 50’s or 60’s.  He spoke no English and very little Spanish, so even limited communication in a common language was out of the question. His native language was Quechua – a South American ancestral language of the indigenous people.  With hand gestures and the help of some of his friends, we were able to arrange a day trip to explore Lake Titicaca by boat with this local man whose name is “Victorino.”  We were able to discern that he would take us to visit the Floating Uros Islands and Amantani Island. But, that was all we could figure out from the conversation. The rest was going to be an adventure!  So, we put our trust in this weathered but gentle man and we journeyed on.

We climbed aboard an old, rickety, double-decker ferry and set off on our adventure. The 3 hour boat ride to the Uros islands was breathtaking.  The water was crystal clear and glass-like, and the snowcapped peaks on the horizon reflected in the water like a mirror.  The sky was the bluest I have ever seen with the contrast of the spotted bright white clouds to intensify the sky blue.

Sweeping views of the 3,200 square mile lake set at 12,000 feet above see level

Victorinio steered us toward the less-explored Uros Islands – the ones that few tourists ever visit.  Here we were able to walk around the floating islands made entirely of reeds.  When I stepped on the surface of the island, the water of the lake squished under my feet like a sponge.  It was like walking on a water bed. It was amazing to think of them floating out in the middle of the lake.  We even took a little ride on a canoe that was made of the reeds.

The Uros islands are floating islands made of reeds. The inhabitants of these islands speak Quechua and they make their living selling souvenirs to the few tourists who travel off the beaten path to visit these incredible islands.

The next stop on our tour was to the island of Amantani. The vastness of this island could not be deciphered upon first glance because of the mountainous landscape. When we got off of the boat we hiked up a steep hill – behind us, a panoramic breathtaking view of the lake. We trustingly followed Victorino up cobblestone paths through a tiny village. The people who live here fully sustain themselves with resources found on the islands. It was a walk back into a simpler time. Victorino welcomed us into his own family’s home where the walls were made of adobe, and the doorways and ceilings low. One tiny room housed Victorino, his 3 children, his brother in law and his grandson. Such a simple structure with minimal comforts, but with million dollar views of the massive lake.

The view from our lunch table.

As house guests, we were seated at the brightly colored table while the rest of the family sat down on a mud bench beside us in the kitchen area. Victorinio’s daughter had prepared us a homemade feast – she presented us with a traditional quinoa soup, fried trout, root vegetables, potatoes, cucumbers and coca tea.  The soup was a meal in itself and full of flavor!

After lunch, Victorino’s son showed us around their little village – pointing out the Plaza de Armas, the school, and the quaint homes. We spent the entire afternoon sightseeing and communicating effectively without a common verbal language.

When it was time to leave and head back to the mainland, Victorino sent us off with his son-in-law who escorted us to the ferry. The ferry carried the local people of the Amantani Island to the mainland. We climbed on board, unsure of where we would end up.  We had put our trust in Victorino’s family and so we continued on with his son-in-law. When we docked, we looked around and it seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere. By now the sun was on it’s way down, and we were a little uneasy about how we were going to get back to our hostel. Within a few minutes, out of what seemingly nowhere, appeared a van that would take us an hour down to the road to Puno, our final destination.  As the bus stopped to pick up locals making their way home from a long day, we imagined we looked a bit out of place with our fair skin and North American features.  We hummed along to the radio with a feeling of pure contentment from the unexpected adventure of the day.

What began as an uncertain, haphazard attempt to tour the islands turned into an unexpected, incredible, authentic, one-of-a-kind, adventure!  It was the most memorable and heartwarming day of our entire trip.  Not only did I have the opportunity to see new cultures and new people, but I experienced the local lifestyle on a personal and intimate level.  Victorino and his family will forever be etched in my heart and mind for taking us under his wing, showing us his corner of the world, and welcoming us into his home.

 

July 24, 2013

A Parisian Affair

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).

Ana, who handles all things photo, took a getaway trip to Paris!


It has become a little tradition for me to visit Paris in May! It’s my birthday month, Roland Garros happens and I get the chance to spend time with my sister and my two year old niece. Win-win all around! This year I got the chance to land in Paris on my birthday and as a special treat I got to pick up my niece at the Crèche, her day care. It was so special to see her happy face in person instead of our weekly Skype sessions. She might have had a little shock to see Tata in person and not on the computer screen.

For the first time in years, I was able to experience life more as a Parisian than a tourist. Spending Saturday morning at the park with my niece watching all of the things she can do – never taking her eye off of the Ménage, knowing it would open soon. Her and every other child in the park waited for the lady who operated it, knowing soon they’d have to run to grab their favorite seat on the merry-go-round. That afternoon we stopped by my sister’s usual spot for cheese, fruits and vegetables.

Another day we decided to venture to the Jardins des Plantes to visit the zoo. It took a little while for my niece to warm-up to the park, but the minute we bumped into the local manège she was ready to go explore! We walked around the botanical gardens and then explored the zoo. The day flew by and I missed the chance to see the exhibit of the evolution of men… But there’s always next year!

Of course, I couldn’t miss the chance to watch some tennis. So rain and all, I spent 2 days at Roland Garros watching some great tennis. This is the only grand slam I’ve ever been to so I can’t compare to the other ones, but I will say it’s a very special place to watch tennis. I always get tickets for P.Chatrier, the main court, and then spend the day watching a few matches there, then jump around the annex courts. This year I got to watch Ferrer front row on court #2 and he made it all the way to the finals. I also was able to watch Federer, my dream is to watch Nadal so I’ll just keep going back until it happens!

On my last day, I had to get a bit of fashion in so I went to explore the Paris Haute Couture exhibit at the Hôtel de Ville. From the minute I walked in until the moment I stepped out, I was completely captivated by the pieces and how the space was designed. It was amazing to see how dresses were grouped by style, not years or designers, and for the most part they looked current, not dated at all. My one regret was not bringing my sketch book, but I ended up scribbling some sketches on my exhibit guide!

 

Special discoveries on this trip:

  • Librairie Gourmande: I’m no cook but spent over an hour going through all the cookbooks!
  • Palais de Tokyo: We checked out a special Chanel No.5 exhibit one night at 10pm. It was pretty cool to be in a museum that closes at midnight and then be able to have a drink!
  • Mariage Frères: I’m don’t drink Tea, but I wanted to bring back a special tea as a gift since my sister recommended this place. The packaging is beautiful and the recipient of my gift gave it five stars!

June 18, 2013

‘Across the Street, Across the Globe’ with Andrea Howe of ForTheLoveOf.net

Today Andrea Howe from For The Love Of, is sharing one of her favorite spots in Los Angeles – Olvera Street. Be sure to follow along Andrea’s SoCal adventures on Facebook and Twitter! Thank you Andrea for spending the day with Studio T!

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I was lucky enough to be born and raised in Southern California, and feel fortunate to be able to raise my own kids in such a beautiful, interesting and culturally diverse part of the country. While Southern California may be known for its palm trees, lovely weather and laid back lifestyle, I’m happy to say that we also are rich with history and amazing cultural experiences. Growing up, one of my favorite places to go was Olvera Street, a Mexican marketplace located in the birthplace of Los Angeles.

Set on a small street in the oldest part of Downtown Los Angeles, Olvera Street is surrounded by historical buildings, beautiful adobes and Grand Central Station. The last time we visited, we took the Metro from our home about 15 miles outside of the city, into Grand Central Station. While we weren’t as adventurous this time around, being that we had an extra travel companion by way of a young baby, we can’t wait to take the train in again. Public transportation is a way of life for many different cities around the country, but for us Southern Californians, we rarely travel outside of our car. It’s a worthwhile experience to offer the kids though, even if it’s only intermittently.

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Olvera Street offers visitors shopping, dining and entertainment experiences rich with Latino and Mexican culture and traditions, and I grew up going there on school field trips and occasional shopping excursions with my mom. We took our kids there a couple of weeks ago and I had the best time showing them around, talking to them about my experiences going there as a child, and giving them a bit of a history lesson.We shopped a little, listened to mariachis, and practiced a bit of our Spanish with the vendors. As native Southern Californians, it’s essential to at least know some basics in Spanish, including gracias, de nada, and come estas. The kids can also count to twenty, and eventually we’ll get them to 100.

While we live just outside of LA, our central location to both Los Angeles and Orange County, make short trips into the city easy and always a good experience. Our trip was only about 3 hours long from door to door, but we were able to introduce the kids to a plethora of sensory experiences they wouldn’t normally get if we just stayed in our neighborhood. On the way to Olvera Street we pass the tall skyscrapers of Downtown LA and the architectural marvel that is the Walt Disney Concert Hall. We can point out the transportation hub of the city; Grand Central Station, and the original Postal Headquarters, just across the street.

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Once we’re at our destination, they smelled the warm scents of fresh homemade tortillas cooking, heard a different language, listened to music they don’t normally hear, and saw the representation of a culture in its purest form. I am truly grateful that we can offer these experiences to our children such a short stop from home.

We finished off our trip by introducing them to horchata, a sweet beverage made of water, sugar and ground almonds, and taquitos from Olvera Street’s oldest taquito street vendor. The thing I love most about coming to Olvera Street, and now taking my kids there, is that things don’t really ever change and the same restaurants, vendors and trinkets and toys they sold when I was a kid, are still around and for sale now. There’s something so comforting and nostalgic about that. On one particular trip to Olvera Street when I was about 13, my mom and I visited a candle shop, the only one at the time, to carry sheets of beeswax. We were making our own homemade candles to give as Christmas gifts. That shop is still there, over 20 years later.

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If you’re visiting Los Angeles, or are a local but have never been, I can’t recommend taking a trip to Olvera Street enough. It’s fun for the kids and the grown ups, and gives you a rich experience in history, tradition, and culture.

Our top 3 places to visit in Los Angeles for a rich cultural and historical experience include:

Los Angeles County Museum Of Art (LACMA) – LACMA is devoted to collecting art from around the globe and focuses on pieces that will represent LA’s unique cultural diversity. There are so many great kid friendly exhibits that you can stay and visit all day without the kids ever feeling like they’re in a stuffy museum. It’s a favorite of ours.

La Brea Tarpits – located right next to LACMA, the La Brea tarpits is a museum that displays ancient treasures right where they were discovered and is a fascinating place for kids to explore the results of years of excavations.

Natural History Museum Of LA – From the brand new dinosaur exhibit to the dark halls displaying animals from around the world, the Natural History Museum is a vast museum offering many exhibits to explore but in a very achievable and manageable way to do as a family.

 

[Shop the look: Lychee Twirl DressTutu Print PoloUbuntu Stripe Hooded Romper]

 

June 10, 2013

“We Go There, Too!” featuring Jill Amery of UrbanMommies.com

We go there – we explore and dig deep into other cultures. We know you go there too. This new series will feature stories from world travelers; they’ve taken their first flight over seas with little ones, they’ve traveled back to their native country to introduce their children to grandparents, they’ve packed up only their necessities and traveled to developing countries. Here, you will find their stories and learn about how they’re going there too.

Kicking off this series, we have Jill Amery of UrbanMommies.com sharing her trip to Liberia. It wasn’t necessarily an easy one, but you’ll see that it was a trip that’s changed her life forever. Thank you Jill for sharing your story with us on Studio T!

I had the privilege of traveling to Liberia in February as a parent ambassador for Right To Play, an organization that helps children learn crucial life lessons through sport and games.  The experience affected me deeply and I can still smell the heavy West African air.  The kids who touched my ‘soft hair’ and reached for my hand are now part of my history.  They grace screensavers and watch me from silver frames.  The polish of the silver juxtaposed with what I witnessed is disconcerting and constantly reminds me to not take my blessings for granted.

The adults and teenagers I met in Liberia had experienced terrible things in their lifetimes with a war that ended very recently.  Some had lost parents and raised themselves.  Most had a loved one who experienced sexual assault.  And every adult associated with Right To Play worked tirelessly to restore hope for the next generation.  Every day the same volunteers (many had no employment themselves but chose to devote their days to teaching children through Right To Play activities) emerged into an empty space and performed magic.  It was like a slow motion film.  The waiting children would all turn, smile and organize themselves into a ‘great big circle’ so they could begin.  The rhythms of their responses to the leader of the game formed a percussive music.  The empty, litter-filled space had become vibrant and full of life.

When I think about the diversity in cultures brought to mainstream culture by Tea Collection, I smile.  Each outfit I see my kids wear reminds me that we are all connected in this small world.  The women of Liberia donned incredible colors and patterns.  Their bright eyes and huge smiles pierced through the grey sand and cracked concrete.  Standing in front of corrugated metal shacks with red, yellow and purple wraps, these women provided what mothers always do – hope and comfort.  Dressing my boys in similar colors and styles gives a nod to these women;  A sign of respect and awe.  And these women deserved nothing less.

One sign on the side of the road has haunted me since my return.  This one advertisement was a definition of ‘Mother’: a person who ‘makes something out of nothing’.  That is exactly what I witnessed.  These women generated a meager income buying bleach in bulk and selling it in small bags, buying a case of water packets and a block of ice and hoping for extreme heat so they may sell a few individual bags of water to quench thirst in their community.

Hope resonated everywhere – through the games, the smiles, the handmade toys and the tiny children playing hide and seek with this North American girl who seemed so different.  I was brought back to the basics of life:  drink fresh water, keep your clothes and environment clean to prevent disease, help your neighbor.  A young boy bathed meticulously in a large bucket by the side of the road.  A woman carrying a huge bundle on her head picked over potato leaves in a market to find the best choices for her family.  It was all about hope.

As a mother, I can make a promise.  I will never stop visiting other cultures and allowing them to penetrate my own motherhood.  I will share the songs and bright fabrics with my children.  I will try to not take my life for granted.  And more than anything, I will remember that hope is all one needs.

 

June 6, 2013

Our Top 10 Children’s Apps

 

We’d be lying if we told you we never pass our little ones a smart phone or an ipad to keep them entertained. The truth is, sometimes it’s just easier – especially when traveling! With so many game apps available today, we thought it would be fun to share our top 10 favorite apps with you. They teach new languages, allow world exploration, help quiet loud nights, and make fractions fun! And remember, while a lot of these apps are over $0.99, in the end you’ll appreciate the ad-free, no fuss design the cost gets you.

Do you have a favorite that you don’t see here? We want to know! Leave a comment below.

1. Sleep Pillow Sounds $1.99 – Although this isn’t a game your children can play, we thought it was important to include. It can be hard to sleep in a new bed with unfamiliar sounds when traveling, but with the help of this app the foreign sounds will be quieted. We consider this to be a must when traveling with children.

2. Endless Alphabet free – We must warn you that skipping the ad before you hand your device over to the kids is key to this ‘free’ app, and once you get to the drag and drop screen you might not want to let go! The idea is for your little one to match the letters on the screen to create a complete word. The longer you keep a finger on the letter, the longer the letter is sounded out (maybe headphones would be best in public?) and once you’ve completed it, the definition is acted out by your new colorful monster friends and you’re on to the next!

3. Toca Kitchen $2.99 – Your children will be preparing 12 different ingredients 180 ways in no time! Since this app isn’t a timed game, there’s no pressure to get to the next level – they’ll able to explore at their own pace. Prefer a vegetarian mode? No problem, they’ve got you covered!

4. Barefoot World Atlas $4.99 – Travel the world through your 4 inch screen with this beautiful app. Geographer and BBC TV presenter Nick Crane will be your guide as you fly around the (3D) world exploring oceans and continents, meeting different people and learning about their way of life. Explore and discover the big world we live in.

5. Petting Zoo by Christoph Niemann $0.99 – You may know him as an illustrator from The New Yorker, but here you will see his illustrations come to life through alligator’s teeth as guitar strings and octopus arms as a mandolin. It’s silly, charming, and perfectly entertaining.

6. Stack the Countries $1.99 – A wonderful way to help your little ones learn country capitals, landmarks, and geographic locations. Want to start smaller? Try the Stack the States app.  They’re simple and effective!

7. PBS Parents Play & Learn free – This interactive app is specifically designed for parents. Providing you with dozens of games, you’ll be able to connect every day “teachable moments” to math and literally skills, making trips to the grocery store more exciting for everyone! This free app can be toggled from English to Spanish – perfect bilingual families!

8. Learn Spanish free – Or Japanese, French, Italian, German, Mandarin, or Portuguese with each MindSnack apps. With 9 different games, your children will build essential vocabulary and conversational skills. Unlock levels as you progress and watch your avatar grow smarter and brighter!

9. Peekaboo Barn $1.99 – Although language packages (other than spanish) are an additional $0.99 per bundle, we think this app is a wonderful way to learn animals and the sounds they make. You can also record voices so friends or visiting family can capture their own voice for your children to hear.

10. Oh No Fractions! $0.99 – Math isn’t always a favorite, but with this app it’s easy to see how fractions compare, add, subtract, multiply, and divide through visuals. Keep track of your child’s progress with the statistics feature. The design is sleek and simple, and will have fractions learned in no time!

 

June 5, 2013

‘Across the Street, Across the Globe’ with Bonnie Rush of A Golden Afternoon

In our new series, “Across the Street, Across the Globe” we hope to prove that you don’t always need to travel internationally to expose your children to other cultures. We’ve reached out to some of our favorite bloggers to find out how they’re raising little citizens of the world in each of their hometowns.

Today we have San Diego native, Bonnie Rush from A Golden Afternoon, sharing her family’s favorite spots. Be sure to follow Bonnie’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram. We’re also big fans of her Pinterest board! Thank you Bonnie for sharing your world with us – we can’t wait to take a trip down to San Diego and explore!

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San Diego is full of amazing sights and sounds for kiddos and adults alike! Although we are a young city, we still hold pieces of history which connect us to the rest of the world and cultures of long ago. Philadelphia may be laden with cobblestone put down by men during the time of our founding fathers, but Cabrillo discovered San Diego long before William Penn was even alive. It just took a few years for anyone to actually live here, but who’s really counting. I love that my kids can be in this one city and yet still learn so much about the world around us.

As a homeschooling family, we have the opportunity to use San Diego as our living history book and are able to explore pieces of land that crazy important people have stepped foot on. I’d love to share some of our favorite spots that help my little ones understand more about that big world out there with different countries, languages, and even food (my favorite topic!).

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Presidio Park. I’d have to start here because this is where our city began. I love that the Junipero Serra Museum is so humble and yet can offer so much in the way of beauty and also history. It’s a GORGEOUS place for a family picnic, as you can see the ocean and the area where Spanish monks came through on their first journey through the valley. Trust me, it’s an amazing place to sit with your kids and take in our city. I love opening a map and talking with them about which countries the explorers came from and which ones finally staked their claim on our city. After, you can drop down below to Old Town, check out what life was like when our city was born, and grab a pair of trendy Minnetonkas for everyone, to finish off your visit.

Scottish Highland Games. Part of exploring culture is exploring where your own family came from. For us, that means heading up to the way North of San Diego to Vista and the Scottish Highland games. It’s a lot of fun even if you don’t have Scottish blood. You can listen to plenty of bagpipe music, eat a meat pie, watch the sheepdogs work their magic on the sheep, and enjoy the games. Who doesn’t love a good ol’ log throwing competition?

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San Diego Museum of Art: Art museums are definitely a go-to for soaking up culture and history in any city. The San Diego Museum of Art is a modest size, but that makes it perfect for kids. It still has many famous works of art like my daughter’s favorite, Degas and his perfectly poised ballerinas, my son’s favorite, Duque de la Roca (whom he believes is George Washington), or mine, Matisse’s beautiful bouquet. They don’t walk in feeling over-whelmed because of a huge building with endless flights of stairs and thousands of people waiting to run them over. Don’t get me wrong, seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre was amazing for me, but kids can get taken aback by the hustle and bustle of a HUGE museum. This museum also has a fun kids game where they use cards with a small picture of a piece of art used to search for the real piece somewhere in the museum. My kids love it!

Balboa Park offers a FREE day (that’s right!) every Tuesday for residents and military which is a great help. Go to this link for a PDF with things to do in Balboa Park with kids. We love this place because you can walk to so many fun spots in a small surface area. You can find a huge fountain to amaze the kids, good coffee, gardens for wandering (where we took our wedding photos!), and plenty of art and culture to soak in. Balboa Park also houses International Cottages for many different countries, with festivals and events being hosted for each country all year long! The San Diego Art Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden mentioned in this post are both in Balboa Park.

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San Diego Public Market and the Little Italy Mercado are two of my favorite stops. Food is an important part of our life as a family, as we cook and eat at home most of the time. One single bite of food can bridge the gap between countries. Between these two markets, you can taste authentic African, Italian, French, Thai, and fair trade coffees and teas from the other side of the world. It is very important to me that my little ones try new foods. I just ask them to try one bite. Sometimes we are all surprised when a new food for them becomes a favorite., like sushi.

The Japanese Tea Garden is a beautiful and peaceful part of Balboa Park. My kids love the koi pond as well as the rock garden. Having visited Japan, I think this lovely place reflects the gardens of Japan well. I’m thrilled for the places, even small ones, where my kids can see what parts of a foreign country would be like. You can grab some tea to drink for an even more authentic touch. An expansion is in progress so there will soon be more to love!

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Sushi Mura. We love this traditional Japanese style sushi restaurant because the food is fresh, the rice is very well prepared, and they make their own soy sauce. Plus, it’s casual enough that the kids can come, but my husband and I can still enjoy a great meal (and an extensive sake menu). My kids didn’t always love sushi, but after years of ordering teriyaki chicken, they took more and more of those one bite testers and finally fell in love with it. If your kids (or you) don’t like seaweed, you can always order it with a soy paper wrapping which tastes like nothing, but holds the other delicious parts of the sushi together just like the seaweed would. My kids love the salmon roll or the rainbow roll, if we let them have it on a special day.

For food reflecting the Portuguese and Italian fishing communities of old San Diego, a fast-favorite of ours is Roseville Cozinha. Also located at Liberty Station, this restaurant is comfortable and delicious. Our favorites are the wood oven-roasted whole shrimp with chili, parsley, and garlic as well as the salt cod fritters with lemon aioli and arugula. The kids get to color on the paper table covering which my boys love!

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The New Children’s museum. For something more modern and unique, the Children’s museum is a great place to stop by. We love their hands-on approach towards creativity, community, and culture. My kid’s eyes are always opened wide to the world around them after paying a visit there. They did things right by allowing the kids to explore with their hands instead of limiting them to their eyes, as in a typical museum. While each museum type has its benefits, the New Children’s Museum will mix things up for your kiddos with something for everyone to explore. Plus, there is a VW bug you can paint outside. What kid wouldn’t get a thrill about that?!

Whether out and about or at home, there are so many ways to bring the world into your home and to your kids. The most important to me is living as an example to them. If they don’t see me trying new things and exploring, they will eventually lose interest, as they start to form their own values and traditions based on what they observe. All of our children are little sponges, just waiting for the next exciting thing to soak up. I love seeing them try new languages, foods, and learn how people around the world live. As adults, we have such an exciting job! We get to show the kids in our life how to be explorers, by going out there and navigating our own city!

 

April 25, 2013

Equipo McKinstry en Mexico!

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).

Amy McKinstry, Senior Sales Executive of Department Stores here at Tea, traveled with her family to Mexico to enjoy sandy shores and ancient ruins.

When my husband and I were deciding where to vacation this year with our kids, we went back and forth quite a bit.  France was high on the list, having never been to Paris (shameful, I know) and also wanting to see the French countryside as well as the beaches.  We considered Portugal.  We talked about local destinations in the US as well but having not been on a proper vacation for several years, we wanted to go a little further away – insisting however, on a combine of relaxation as well as some great cultural influence (sitting pool side in the confines of a massive resort was not what we had in mind.)  So we landed far, but not too far – on Soliman Bay, Mexico.  Probably one of the best kept secrets on the Maya Riviera (about a 90 minute drive south of Cancun)  Soliman Bay is a secluded beach just 10 minutes from the magnificent beach town of Tulum – and with so many terrific cultural activities to choose from on any given day!

I feel compelled to first paint you a mental picture of Soliman Bay – a beach so beautiful and secluded that we were challenged to find even 2 more people sitting on the sand or kayaking in the crystal blue water on a regular basis.  Kayaking and snorkeling became my every day exercise and source of meditation – I found myself in “vacation mode” nearly the moment my toes hit the sand.  Palapas (the Mexican thatched roofs) dotted the beach and each villa (be it modest or luxurious) had its own unique beauty and charm.  A little hut at the end of the beach referred to as “The Fish Shack” served lobster, ceviche and ‘the like’ on modest plastic tables under palm trees and could rival the very best seafood restaurants in Manhattan.  Our kids swung on hammocks and played in the sand at our feet as we waited for our food and enjoyed some cold Modelos.  Needless to say, we were happy campers and gloating over our choice of destination almost immediately…

Of course, we soon felt the need to explore the area and with some guidance from a good friend who had been drawn back here year after year, we enjoyed a few wonderful experiences worth mentioning.

The Tulum ruins (again, just 10 minutes from our location) was our first stop.  These ruins sit along the shore of Tulum and are one of the few elevated locations along the coast (so the views alone, as you can imagine, were just beautiful.)  With a terrific Mayan tour guide leading the way (Senor Miguel) we learned about the significance of each ruin, their location within the walls of this
“city” and the carvings and traces of paint that amazingly still remain on so many of the ancient walls.

Another great experience was our visit to a Spider Monkey Sanctuary that had only been open to the public for about 6 months.  This property, spanning 67 acres of jungle, is a safe haven to protect this dwindling species of monkey.  The kids enjoyed feeding these amazing creatures (they took peanuts right out of their little hands) and just watching them in their habitat.  We hiked the property to also discover small alligators as well as a Cenotes (the underground rivers which are a very popular attraction in the area and are often referred to as the sacred waters of the Maya Riviera.)  My husband and I reluctantly jumped into the Cenotes with the other in our group (and if you knew us, and our collective fear of heights and small spaces… you’d be impressed.  Trust me!)

And of course, there is Tulum… a more perfect beach town I challenge anyone to find.  The beach itself is just beautiful – eco friendly and relaxed, it is a beautiful hybrid of an authentic Mexican surf town, and the most sophisticated of locations all in one.  Local artisans sell the most wonderful handmade jewelry on the streets and airy cabanas and palapas line the beach along with amazing bars and restaurants.  A great spot during the day or for a night out – heavenly!

We were inspired daily during this trip with the cultural as a whole – the vibrant colors of their textiles, hand embroidery, Mayan art, beautiful architecture, amazing food and the graciousness of the locals.   So many little things brought me back to Tea’s visit to Mexico and the wonderfully authentic details that they included in their designs just a few seasons ago (and before that, during their first visit to Mexico back in the earlier years of Tea!)

In short – it was a wonderful family vacation full of relaxation, culture, amazing food and fun activities.  I am also so grateful to Tea for reminding me, through their own inspiration & travel, to always recognize the small, beautiful details of the world around us – in every culture.  It is such a special place to work and such a special practice to pass along to our children.

So if you are considering a trip to this region of Mexico, I’d say… pack your bag.  Go there.  ENJOY!


March 25, 2013

Global Baby Girls

Global Baby Girls

We are so pleased to share with you the latest book from The Global Fund for Children (GFC). Global Baby Girls is more than a collection of beautiful, close-up baby portraits from around the world–it bears an important message that, no matter where they are born, “girls can grow up to change the world.” We asked staff at GFC and our staff at Tea Collection, “Why do baby girls matter to you and to the world?” Be sure to share your thoughts with us as well!

“My daughter, Talia will be seven weeks old on Friday, March 22nd. I could never have imagined feeling such a fierce and intense love. Talia is a global citizen who is strong, bold and bright. Like all baby girls everywhere, she is a blessing to our community and the world over!” –Maya Ajmera,  The Global Fund for Children

“What would this world be without little Princesses? Not the spoiled, holier-than-thou type. The little Princesses who grow up and explore the world around them… The ones who realize they’re just a little piece of this giant puzzle and they’re determined to make their mark on the world. They seek out challenges and are inspired by other cultures, they learn new languages and dream of one day ruling the world. They then raise their own little Princesses, encouraging them to dream big, see big and never lose faith in big hearts.” –Jessie Bandy, Tea Collection

“Baby girls matter to me and the rest of the world because they hold our future in their tiny little hands.” –Sandra Macías del Villar, The Global Fund for Children

“Baby girls are a powerful force for the future. Given support and the tools to succeed, baby girls will grow up to change the world! They will become mothers, sisters, best friends, students, teachers, leaders. They will stand up for what they believe in, they will initiate change and they will fuel growth. They will set the course for generations to come. Each baby girl has a whole world of possibilities ahead of her. And, that is incredibly inspiring.” –Diane DeRousseau, Tea Collection

“Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of.  But that old-fashioned adage leaves out the gritty, the bold, the brave, the determined, the free-spirited, the sporty, and the clever.  Today’s baby girls might grow up to be the President, teachers, sports stars, doctors, nurses, artists, and moms – and everything in between.  The possibilities are limitless for so many, but not for all. The most important thing is that every girl everywhere can reach her full promise with all the access, choice, and opportunities she needs to do so.  A girl’s potential should not be defined by where she is born, but determined by her limitless dreams and by the pathways we help create that lead to them.” –Victoria Dunning, The Global Fund for Children

“I do not have a daughter but I have two younger sisters and I remember my excitement when each sister was born. I remember carrying my sister on my hip and feeling a protective pride in this fascinating creature, so full of possibilities. I loved my role in showing the world to them, teaching them how to read and climb trees. Baby girls matter, just as baby boys, because they represent our future and, as society becomes more progressive, their opportunities to lead, influence and change the world are limitless.” –Lydia Bruno, Tea Collection

“Baby girls matter because today, more than ever before, they have the power and opportunity to shape the world we live in and make it better not only for future generations of baby girls, but for babies of all genders and backgrounds. I am raising my “baby girl” (now 7) to be mindful of the privileges she enjoys, growing up in the U.S. today, thanks to the tenacity, energy and spirit of those who came before her. I’m hoping she will strive to pay it forward.” –Esther Buss, Tea Collection

“Baby girls are a promise for our future. They are future mothers and providers for their children. And we need to make sure our baby girls know their innate power to shape the world for the coming generations.” –Teresa Weathington, The Global Fund for Children