Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Recycled Chinatown Gate

Chinatown Gate

Lunar New Year celebrations are underway, and I hear the sounds of firecrackers almost nightly around our neighborhood. This is a great time of year to go visit the Asian communities out west to eat, shop, and learn more about the rich and varied Asian cultures. Earlier this week, I posted a list of some of the many, many events being held throughout California.

This is a photo of a miniature San Francisco’s Chinatown Gate. It is part of the Golden Gate Railway Garden Exhibit featured at the Golden Gate Park Conservatory of Flowers through April 19. The model railway has replicas of all the San Francisco landmarks made out of recycled materials. So you’ll get to see the ferry building made out of cheese graters,  or the Golden Gate Bridge made out of strings of beads.

This is a great stop if you have a train-obsessed child, and if you love to feel as if you’re in a warm, tropical jungle even when the bay fog is creeping up outside.

Another excellent reason to visit the Conservatory before February 8, is to see their Lunar New Year inspired flower displays. Of course, when you’re done, you will want to go and check out the real Chinatown Gate. It has a lot less computer chip and a lot more dragon.

This post is linked up to Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday. Go there to check out all the other photo fun.


Tips for Toting Cameras

img_1488Today’s tip is about finding other uses for your socks and clothing accessories.

If you stuff you cameras inside your backpack like I do, you could wind up with a camera covered in backpack grime. This grime is an especially damaging mixture of Goldfish cracker crumbs, sand, crayons, and tissue fuzz.

One solution is to carry your camera bag inside your backpack. But I know you don’t need any additional weight or bulk, as your backpack already weighs a ton.

The simpler solution is put your camera inside a sock. I like the simple white ankle cut, but you might opt for a fancier wool blend. You can even use the winter hat your child refuses to wear to protect larger video cameras.

It’s hard to look chic when you’re pulling your camera out of a sock to snap a picture of the Eiffel Tower, but I’m sure your days of looking like a chic jet setter are on hold for now. Don’t kid yourself.  You’re still the lady with Goldfish crackers in her purse.


Cool Kids’ Guide to Lunar New Year Events in California


j0341754.jpgWhat are the cool kids doing this month? It’s all about the ox.

The lunar new year is underway, and here in the United States there are many events families can attend to celebrate. Check your local museums, zoos, and libraries for some worthwhile choices.

Here’s a round-up of some cool kids’ events in California:

  • At the San Jose Discovery Museum they’re celebrating the Year of the Brown Earth Cow on Saturday Jan. 31, and Sunday, Feb. 1 with crafts, performances, and exhibits.
  • In Los Angeles’ Chinatown the Golden Dragon Parade will be held on Saturday, Jan. 31.
  • The mother of all Chinese New Year Parades in the U.S. is the one held in San Francisco’s Chinatown, on Saturday, Feb. 7.
  • Spend the day at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco for the Year of the Ox Celebration on Sunday, Feb. 1
  • Spend a day at the L.A. Zoo and check out the Lunar New Year celebration on the weekend of Feb.7-8.

Learn and Do:

  • Learn about the Chinese Zodiac
  • Go to your local library and check out some books about the Lunar New Year. Check out this link for a list of great books.

Grandma-Friendly: Charles M. Schulz Museum

Charlie Brown attacksMy mom made me do it. I’m not really the type of girl to drive 2 hours just to go to the Charles M. Schulz Museum. Really, I’m much cooler than that. 

My mom, a fan of Peanuts cartoons, had been wanting to visit this mecca of all things Snoopy for years. So one summer day, I finally agreed to go with her. My mom, my six-year old son, my sister, and I all packed into the car and headed to Santa Rosa, California.

It ended up being cool enough, even for a hipster like myself.  The museum has a few permanent exhibits highlighting the original cartoon drawings of Charles M. Schulz. Most of the exhibits are not really kid-friendly, so I had to guide my son and read the cartoon strips with him. We both got a few laughs and I enjoyed pointing out the process that Schulz when through to get to the final product. If you’ve ever had to talk a little perfectionist off the ledge because his art project didn’t turn out as he envisioned it, then you will appreciate this as well.

There is an art activity room, that had different drawing projects set up for anyone to try, some cartoon drawing books to guide you, and a Peanuts video to watch. We spent over half an hour in this room, mostly because my son is a bit of an artist, so he really wanted to try some Charlie Brown drawings. 

The gardens made for a fun stroll. This is where you will find many Peanut-theme statues, and even a holographic Snoopy. Out in front of the museum there is a Snoopy-shaped maze. The Redwood Empire Ice Arena is right across the street from the museum, and inside you will find the Snoopy Chalet (a.k.a. the restaurant). 

My mom got her Snoopy fix, but my son was a bit dissappointed when he figured out that was all there was to the museum. I think he was expecting some sort of Snoopy amusement park. Oh well, at least the grandma was happy.

Charlie Brown and I are participating in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday, go there and check out all the fabulous pictures.

Things To Do
Santa Rosa

Sculpting the Perfect Lunch Break at the San Diego Museum of Art


You might want to sit away from the water, if you have little waders.

You might want to sit away from the water, if you have little waders.

Where do you go for a lunch break after a busy morning exploring Balboa Park or a wild one at San Diego Zoo? When your traveling companions are the worlds’ most discerning but impatient eaters, then your restaurant choices are usually limited to places that serve french fries with everything. So when I find a place that leaves me with a dreamy look in my eyes, and keeps my little guy happy, then I feel it is my public duty to pass along the information. 

Take a lunch break: Put down the fries and chicken strips and get some fine grub at the Sculpture Court Cafe at the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. 

What you’ll find: Surrounded by sculptures in a peaceful courtyard, you can have a meal that will make you remember your lunch days before kids. You know, the days where you actually got to linger over coffee. Well order away from a delectable, but affordable menu and then go and sit with a view of some Rodin sculptures to wait for your food. It’s fast food for the artsy folk. 

The big fuss: I know that they call it the soup of the day because it’s not meant to be around everyday, but I would do anything to have myself some of the chicken curry soup again. They have good choices on the kids’ menu as well, but of course they are still kids’ choices. My son had the fancy, all-natural hot dog with a side of fancy chips. Maybe he didn’t have fine cuisine, but at least he got exposed to fine art. One out of two isn’t all bad.

Useful tidbits: The entrance to the Sculpture Court Cafe is independent of the San Diego Museum of Art, so you can go even if the museum is not part of your day’s outing. Of course if you do want to take in some fine art, the third Tuesday of the month is free. The cafe is only open for lunch, between 11 and 3, Tuesday through Sunday. (619) 237-0675

The Cool Kids’ Guide to Inauguration Day Activities

What will the cool kids be doing this week? It’s all presidential.

Go to the library and check out some of my favorite presidential books:

  • Duck For President by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin. It’s smart, funny and good for kids of all ages.
  • Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope by Nikki Grimes and Bryan Collier. One of the first children’s books out about our new president.


  •  Write a letter to President Obama
  • Read President Obama’s letter to his daughters
  • Go to PBS Kids and hear what other kids are telling President Obama he should focus on as President, and than add your two-cents.
  • Go to Enchanted Learning for some good printable activites about President Obama
  • And then you older kids (parents!), watch this video The 39 Words That Make a President for a bit of history.

Look Out for Whales at Point Cabrillo Lighthouse


Point CabrilloIt’s been a whale of a week. I’ve been teaching all about those biggish mammals, and it got me to thinking about where I could go see them. The closest I’ve been to whales was when I saw some tricky orcas at an animal park. But I’d love to see these guys out in their Pacific home. There are a lot of options for whale-watching tours all along the Pacific. I don’t do well on boats, but I’m willing to brave it. Just in case I lose my courage, I found that there are plenty of places you can see these migrating mammals from land. You’ll need a bit of patience, some good binoculars, and a picture-perfect location to do your viewing from.

This is a photo of Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, just north of Mendocino, California. You can see gray whales on their migratory route from Alaska to Mexico and back again. We visited the lighthouse during the summer, when the whales were long gone. But we did some hiking on their beautiful trails, and visited their small museum. The museum has a few exhibits, a gift shop, and a salt water aquarium in a small building just outside of it. My son still talks about this memorable visit.

You are more likely to see the whales in spring when the mother and calves make their way back up north, hugging the coast for protection.There is Whale Festival at the lighthouse on the first and third weekend in March, with docent talks and kids’ activities.

Now I have another reason to return to this peaceful place in spring.

The lighthouse and I are participating in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday. Go on over there…o.k. I know I’m fascinating, but you can always come back here for more. 

Pit Stop: Ikeda’s California Country Market in Auburn

It’s ski season and many northern Californian families are loading up the kids’ snowboards and heading up to the ski areas on Donner Summit and North Lake Tahoe. But where do you make a pit stop with a car full of hungry kids? Here’s one of my favorite places to make a stop (and judging by the crowds, many other people’s favorite as well):

Make a Stop:  Ikeda’s California Country Market is located off of Highway 80, just take the Bowman or Foresthill exits in the city of Auburn. 

What You’ll Find: This is both a small market and a diner. The side with the market has all sorts of goodies: fresh produce, fresh pies, and some frozen chicken pot pies to take with you to a condo or cabin. During the holiday season, it is a good idea to order your pies ahead of time for pick-up. The diner serves your standard burger, fries, and onion rings. If you’re looking for something a bit healthier try their terriyaki bowls. Don’t forget to pick up a slice of pie for dessert, and during the summer try the frozen fruit slushees.

The Big Fuss: The pies rock the house! 

Useful Information: 13500 Lincoln Way, Auburn, CA, 95604   (530) 885-4243

Tips on Tuesday: Olympic Geography Lessons

  • When the Olympic Games come back around, make sure you let your child sit in front of the T.V. for hours to watch endless coverage of Michael Phelps and perky gymnasts. You have to let your child watch more than two hours a day to see the learning benefits. Your child will learn the names and flags of countries that even you have a hard time finding on a map.
  • Pat yourself on the back for being such an awesome mom. Then take your child’s newfound flag knowledge and put it to good use. Have your child sit next to you when you play Geo Challenge on Facebook and help you beat all your friends on the flags section of the game. Seriously, all those flag colors and stripes can be confusing to a brain wasted away after childbirth. You need all the help you can get. You will have more quality time with your child and teach him all about being a winner. That is what the Olympics are all about.

Of course there are even cooler ways for kids to practice their geography skills without opening up a Facebook account. Here are some of my favorites: 

Go to Enchanted Learning World Flags and you will find dozens of resources, including flag print-outs, activities, and games.

Go to an all-time favorite: National Geographic Kids for good online games. They are mostly suitable for second grade and up.

Go to Kids Geo for some simpler country and map online games.

Cool Kids’ Calendar

What are the cool kids doing this week? Here’s a round-up of some worthy California events for the family.

  • An Enriching Experience at San Diego Zoo: January 16 and 17 is an Animal Enrichment weekend at the zoo. The animals get special enrichment activities where they have to figure out new tricky activities or toys. During these weekends, there is a schedule of talks for different animals throughout the day. Animal Enrichment weekends are usually held the second week of the month except January, March, and September.
  • Flashback to the 80′s at the Exploratorium: The 2009 International Rubik’s Cube Competition is being held at the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco on Sunday, January 18, 2009. Anyone can enter; registration starts at 10 a.m. You still have a bit of time to practice, so check out some step-by-step instructions for solving these puzzling cubes. They lost me on step 2, but I’m sure you’re all smarter than I am.

   Rubik's cube.svg