Category Archives: Discovery and Exploration

August 28, 2008

the top five reasons sushi is the perfect baby food

My husband and I love to eat out at our favorite sushi restaurant at least once a week. At some point, my husband decided that this didn’t have to end even though we have a very active baby! We started taking her out for sushi when she was about 9 months old and now she is a regular! Here are our top five reasons why eating out sushi is perfect for families:

1) The food comes quickly! No worrying about packing extra food to tide your little one over, or stuffing them with the free bread. An order of edamame, the perfect finger food, is always available right away.
2) The portions are great finger foods. For beginners (early eaters): sticky rice and edamame are great. For more advanced eaters, grilled fish entrees (like hamachi), cooked sushi (like California rolls ) and veggie tempura offer a nice variety of healthy, easy foods.
3) A new place to play and explore. It’s a great new adventure with lots of things for toddlers to explore: the plates, cups and bowls are great for stacking, the chop sticks are a fun challenge (as long as you watch the eye-poking), and the hustle and bustle atmosphere is just noisy enough to drown out toddler complaints!
4) Mom and Dad get a break from eating kiddie food. While Lizzie is munching away on rice and avocado rolls, we get to indulge in our favorites, ocean trout and Atlantic char sushi!
5) Most importantly, we are introducing our daughter to a part of our life that is fun and enriching. We know that this will become an important family tradition that can continue as she gets older and more adventurous!

multicultural wedding

all dressed up and happy

Earlier this year our friends asked our son to be a participant in their June wedding. We were touched, and once we explained the honor to our son, he was excited to get a new outfit and hold hands with another little boy as they walked down the aisle together. My friend Anna was the bride, and she thoughtfully sent a navy bowtie with white polka dots for all the boys to wear. For our son’s wedding debut, I picked up his first pair of dress shoes, and my husband bought him a new suit. When the big day arrived, I think he was as excited as the bride and groom! He looked so proud and handsome.

As sweet as the children’s precious entrance and toddle down the aisle were, from my perspective, the best part of the day came during a key moment of the ceremony itself. Anna is Jewish, and her husband Kaamil is Muslim. She grew up in Santa Cruz, California, and he in Minneapolis, Minnesota, although his parents are from India originally. Anna and Kaamil had been married in a small, Muslim ceremony almost a year earlier. The day we were witnessing was a Jewish ceremony and familiar “American” reception, with a lot of Indian flavor thrown in: beautifully dressed Indian women in saris, marigolds all over, and amazing food for lunch. To close the ceremony and fulfill a Jewish tradition, Kaamil was tasked with smashing a glass wrapped in cloth. Our son was captivated by this and asked us about it for weeks after the wedding: “Why did Kaamil step on that glass? Did it break? Did anyone get hurt?”

Given his age, my son was not yet ready for an abstract discussion about tradition or religion. However, we thought he would understand that, “at some weddings, the groom steps on a glass and breaks it. That lets the guests know that it’s time for the party to begin.” But I think, for the children (and for many of the adults), the party really started when they laid eyes on the tower of coconut cupcakes and set foot on the dance floor. It was a fabulous day!

tips for camping with kids

We just returned from our first camping trip with the kids. I have such fond memories of camping as a kid in Texas that I wanted my husband and kids to have the same experiences. But camping as a kid is not the same as camping in the parental role. This time I was in charge of all the daily tasks and making sure we took everything we needed without being loaded down with too much stuff either. Our car can only fit so much!

I recently found a book called Adventuring with Children: The Family Pack-Along Guide to the Outdoors and the World by Nan Jeffery, Foghorn Press, 1990. It’s an amazing book filled with so many practical tips and details on all sorts of adventure traveling whether it be camping, canoeing, hiking, cycling, etc. There are special sections on traveling with babies, medical care and even education for those who want to travel throughout the school year. The sections on how to prepare and pack are thorough and well thought out. I found I had everything I needed without over packing. Can you imagine – I got clothes for a family of four for two weeks into ONE suitcase! This is a miracle to me who always seems to pack too much! I’ll definitely be following this packing guide for the rest of my travels.

We chose our first camping destination – the Italian Dolomites – because I’m currently 7 months pregnant and didn’t want to go anywhere too hot this summer. We also have friends living in Bolzano that we haven’t seen for several years. The southern tyrol region is bilingual German and Italian. We get by in Italian pretty well since it is so close to French, but our German is very basic! Fortunately between Italian and English we managed quite well and the kids enjoyed picking up a few new phrases in Italian and German.

I researched the campsites online and made reservations in advance for two sites, one each week. We didn’t want to be packing and unpacking too often. Both campsites were well equipped with bathroom facilities, dish washing and laundry facilities, mini supermarket and restaurant. I also specifically chose sites that had swimming pools since I knew my kids would want to go swimming every day.

Our first week in Bolzano was wonderful and we combined hanging by the pool with day trips into the surrounding mountains and lakes. The kids loved riding the cable cars up into the mountains and the pony ride we did one day. We even spent over 5 hours at the botanical gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle in nearby Merano and hiked all over the mountainside. I couldn’t believe the kids’ stamina for this kind of thing, but they loved it! It was a cloudy but dry day which made all the difference too. If it had been sunny, I doubt we would have lasted so long! Orlando especially liked seeing the Koi fish that looked just like the one on his tea t-shirt!

Our second week we went higher up into the mountains to a small town called Sesto. D goes skiing here in the winter with his buddies and the kids were very excited to see all his favorite spots. We were a bit surprised by how much colder it was at night, but fortunately we just added layers to our clothes as Nan Jeffery advised in her book and we were warm enough! The mountains were stunning and I look forward to returning again when I’m not pregnant so that we can do more hiking and adventuring.

Overall it was a great holiday and I’m happy to have made the investment in our camping gear. We’ll be able to affordably explore much more of Europe this way. Being in a campsite allows the kids to roam around and make friends with kids from many different countries – something that staying in a hotel or rented apartment can’t provide. Efficient packing meant only a few toys. It felt great to entertain ourselves with just a few items and of course makes coming home like returning to wonderland!

So where will our next vacation take us? Olivia declared that the perfect vacation would combine swimming with bike riding each day. We’ll have baby #3 by then as well, so I’ll have to readjust the packing a bit and get the bike rack onto the car too. Hmmm….another adventure for sure!

raising little citizens

At six months old, we took our twin boys to my family’s home in southern Switzerland. The boys wore Daily Tea one-pieces on our transatlantic flight. I would recommend it to anyone traveling with an infant. The fabric was very soft and comfortable, and the design made it super easy to change them – especially in a 2 square foot airplane bathroom.

Although the boys were too young to remember the sights and sounds, I can’t help but hope that some of the images and languages embedded themselves somewhere in the deep recesses of their minds. If I were to choose one memory for them, it would be our daily walks down the cobblestone streets of Lugano. With each son tucked snugly into a bjorn, we were stopped repeatedly by smiling Swiss women who would comment on our “belli gemelli,” in Italian or “susse Zwillinge” in German. My sons are now 2 years old, and we have not gone back, but there is plenty of time for future visits. For now, I hope to keep some of the language impressions alive by speaking German to them. Perhaps with our next trip they will be able to respond themselves when someone stops us on the street.

discover turks and caicos

Turks and Caicos is a peaceful Caribbean destination for families with small kids. Our week of vacation was spent on the island of Providenciales, where most Turks and Caicos resorts are to be found. Here’s a run-down of our top activities and outings with Grace, our 10 month old at the time. Although Grace would have been content to stay on the beach and eat sand all day, we got out and did quite a bit. We think these activities would be enjoyable for kids of all ages.

1. Iguana Island – This uninhabited island is a national park just a short boat ride from Providenciales, but with no domesticated cats and dogs the native iguanas have no predators and have taken over the island. They are harmless but fascinating and a short walk around the island’s boardwalk reveals interesting fauna as well as these dinosaur-type lizards.
2. Snorkeling – Obviously at 10 months Grace wasn’t up for this activity, but thankfully we had grandparents along. Our entire group (grandparents, Grace’s aunt and uncle, plus the three of us) took a boat trip to one of the incredible reefs off the island. We chose a glass-bottomed boat so even those who weren’t snorkeling (namely Grace and Grandma) still got a peek at the sea life below. The rest of us enjoyed some of the world’s best snorkeling in the warm clear blue waters.
3. Sapodilla Bay – Our resort was on the north side of the island on Grace Bay Beach. We rented a car for one day and drove to the south side of the island to experience the tranquil waters of Sapodilla Bay, affectionately called “Children’s Beach” by some. We had a little trouble finding the unmarked beach but finally found a small parking area which led us to the clear still water of the Bay. Unlike Grace Bay, which experiences small but constant waves, Sapodilla Bay is perfectly calm. The water is incredibly clear and shallow as well, making it possible to both see and touch bottom even 200 feet from shore. We floated, snorkeled, splashed, sat and soaked up the sun and the quiet of this hidden gem of a beach.
4. Conch Festival – Our visit to Turks and Caicos happened to coincide with the annual Conch Festival in November. Here all the best restaurants in town cook up their best conch (pronounced “conk”) recipes and for one price you get a ticket to try and vote for them all. Let’s just say there’s good conch and there’s really nasty conch. It was a packed event with live music and a conch blowing contest, in which my brother-in-law won second place!
5. Beach time – While there are diversions such as those listed above, the real reason to go to Turks and Caicos is for the beach. The sand is white and soft as flour. The water is warm and the waves lap the shore, never crash. Grace Bay Beach stretches for miles in either direction which makes for great walks. We saw families with kids of all ages and they all seemed to be having a wonderful time. For our family it was a tranquil, rejuvenating experience.

August 14, 2008

global fund for children’s guides to raising little citizens

At Tea, “For Little Citizens of the World” says it all. The “for” is at the heart of our work – it reminds us about the why.

At Tea we believe raising our children to be familiar with other cultures shapes them into better world citizens, conscious, aware, and mindful members of the global community. When we started Tea, we aspired to work toward this goal through our collections, bringing globally inspired designs to the world’s little citizens.

After a few seasons, we wanted to make our philosophy more tangible. We searched for a partner that had a similar point of view and found the perfect match in the Global Fund for Children.

The GFC’s inspiring work includes financing grassroots organizations that transform the lives of children around the world. They also publish beautiful books that make the foreign a little more familiar for our own children through pictures and stories.

The GFC’s books below are great ways to begin talking to your little citizens about the great big world:

Children from Australia to Zimbabwe

And the companion guide for parents: Raising Children to Become Caring Contributors to the World

August 13, 2008

exploring new zealand

We took our son Luke to New Zealand for seven weeks of exploring when he was 13 months old. I don’t know how much of the Kiwi culture he absorbed during that time, but he did display an innate ability to take long naps in a backpack during six hour hikes, to snooze through a helicopter ride with glacier landing, and to make it just fine sleeping through the night in any manner of pack-n-play, port-a-cot, or whatever sort of crib the bed and breakfast of the day could provide – so long as he was nuzzled in with his favorite blanket. And his parents learned that babies require a lot less gear than they previously had thought, that they are remarkably adaptable to drastic time changes and the obliteration of the daily routine, and that journeying to new parts of the globe with the newest member of the family only enhances the sense of adventure and camaraderie that motivates us to travel in the first place. Oh, and that those pull-down swinging bassinettes are an absolute God-send on overnight flights… as are portable DVD players… and the ability to breastfeed a toddler on a mountaintop or in a pub with minimal embarrassment. And the trip was enough of a success that, three months later, we took him to the Italian Alps for more of the same.

a globehopping little citizen

I realized then and there that our then-23-month-old, Milo is a true Little Citizen of the World. We were in a (perfectly engineered for strollers) taxi in London, heading for Heathrow, about to take the final leg of our 5-week journey back home to San Francisco.

“Milo”, I said, “do you know where we’re going now?”
“AIRPORT!” he cried (we had discussed this at length previously).
“That’s right honey, but do you know where our plane will be going?”
“Madrid!”
“No sweetie-pie, we’ve been there already. Where do you think we’re going now?”
“Berlin?!!”
“Nope, not this time! We’re going home to see Penelope (our beagle).”
“New York!”
“Uh..no. We live in San Francisco. Remember?”
“Airplane go Denver?”
“No Milo. We’re going home to San Francisco. Remember your bed there with the monkey mobile?”
“Mino’s hotel big bed?”
“Not exactly – we’re going to our house in San Francisco with your own big-kid bed. Remember that?”
Milo wide-eyed, “No.”

alpacas in peru

My parents have joined a group of doctors and their spouses to build a partnership with a hospital and an orphanage in Cajamarca, Peru. They visit every couple of years, and over time they have developed quite a list of vendors of medical supplies that donate excess inventory for the hospital and a variety of donors who provide all types of supplies for the children in the orphanage. The doctors, including my father, go and train the local doctors on how to use the latest techniques and employ the latest in materials and medications in their surgeries at the local hospital. My mother has become involved in working with some of the spouses to build a relationship with an orphanage. The group over the years has provided the children with many supplies, including clothing, computers, books, etc. And they always manage to have a little fun during each visit. For example, this most recent trip they took all of the kids out to a movie and had a cake and ice cream party.

It all started when a friend of my father, originally from Cajamarca, had a vision of wanting to not only help his home town, but also to share his culture with his friends and colleagues in St. Louis. Over time it has built to be quite an operation, and they have set up a non-profit to accept the donations, etc. The trips have become for my parents much anticipated and cherished vacations full of music, laughter, dancing, and great food.

I was delighted to be able to facilitate sending some of our excess inventory from Tea’s Peru Collection from Fall ’07 on the trip that happened this summer. Alpacas are featured on a few of the pieces, including a fun graphic tee. The kids were incredibly excited to show the American ladies that they had some actual alpacas. The picture above features two of the boys from the orphanage posing with their local alpacas. Their house mother is in the background talking with the alpacas to ensure that they behaved for the cameras.

It has been a joy for me to watch my parents celebrate Peru so enthusiastically for many years, and it warmed my heart to see the kids with their alpacas.

dutch tulips

Our most recent family holiday was a long weekend in Holland to see the tulips in bloom.  We arrived a little too late in the season to see all the tulips in the fields, but we had a wonderful day at the Keukenhof gardens just southeast of Amsterdam. It’s a great place to visit with kids.  There are tulips from all over the world, as well as a wonderful petting zoo and fun playground for the kids.  Olivia loved taking photos of everything and both kids are pretty silly when we take photos of them!  Our favorite tulip was the ‘ice cream’ tulip.  We took our bikes along and went riding every day.  Holland is the perfect place to cycle, especially with young children.  It’s flat, easy riding and there are bike lanes and trails everywhere.  We stayed along the coast and were able to do some beautiful rides each day along with our daily ride into town to do our grocery shopping.  We even got to watch some gliders taking off and landing.  Olivia just received a new bike with gears for Easter and was really excited to be able to ride along next to us.  She declared she loved Holland because she got to ride her bike on the streets in town like an adult.  D and I ride our bikes through Brussels, but there are not as many bike lanes and it is too dangerous for us to let Olivia to the same.  When cycling in Brussels, I use my Dutch made “Bakfiets” which allows both kids to sit in a box in front of the bike.  It’s big and heavy, but very secure and I take the kids to school in it as long as it’s 10 degrees centigrade (about 50 degrees F) outside…and not raining!

We had a wonderful time in Holland and plan to return next year with all of D’s family.  We want to go at the time of the Tulip Parade which travels through the entire tulip producing region and is held when all the fields are in bloom.  And of course, we’ll take our bikes!

We’re off now for a two week camping trip to the Italian Dolomites.  It will be the first time we’ve taken the kids camping and they are so excited.  It’s already been an adventure getting all the gear and figuring out what to pack. But no more time to write about that now.  It will have to wait for our return!