Traveling with Children

by Rose Elder

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In the next few days I’m flying with both of my kids without my husband. I have been anticipating this trip since I booked it back in April. Alexander is such an active little guy and Nicholas started walking not too long ago, so they are unstoppable! I think more than the flight, what worries me the most is the check-in line. The specific airline I’m flying is a bit of a mess, but its the only one that flies directly to where I’m going. Last time it took over an hour to get checked-in!

In the line Nicholas needed a diaper change and Alexander was restless and needed to go potty. We had to push the stroller, carry the carseat and drag all the luggage. Every time the line advanced one foot, I had to do it over again. That time I was with Adam and it was exhausting for both of us. This time, no joke, I’m going to leash Alexander (with those backpacks that have a leash) and have Nicholas tied to the stroller. They can scream all they want, but I don’t want to deal with a child running away from me.

Then the security line. Get Nicholas out of the stroller. Fold the stroller and pass it through the x-ray machine. Every little process is a hassle! And then waiting another hour at the gate waiting to board. Alexander trying to play all over the dirty floor and I’m pretty sure Nicholas will second him this time.

Then comes the boarding. Re-pack the diaper bag and sit a screaming toddler in the stroller. Beg my 4-year old to stop running around. Then carry the diaper bag, fold the stroller, contain both kids until we make it to our seats. Oh my! Just writing about it is giving me a stomach ache.

I am currently downloading his favorite cartoons on my phone. I don’t want to carry a heavy iPad on top of everything else. I will have an array of snacks they can have on the waiting line and on the plane. I don’t want to deal with an allergic reaction by myself at the airport! I was also thinking of visiting the $1-$3 section at Target to buy little things they can entertain themselves with during that time. Fun stuff they haven’t seen before.

I am writing this post mostly because I need your advice. I have been a chicken and have never travelled by myself with my kids since Alexander was a couple of months old. I swore not to do it again! Please leave me your advice in the comment section at the beginning of this post. And wish me luck!

Happy Friday!

Visiting San Diego California with Children

by Rose Elder

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I want to start by mentioning some our great beaches. It is an amazing way of keeping kids busy for most of the day.

Beaches

Pacific Beach
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Coronado Island. Here you can arrive by boat via Downtown San Diego’s waterfront. There are several places that rent bicycles and you can cycle around the island. It is pretty safe because there isn’t much traffic around the residential streets. Then you can enjoy a treat at Hotel Del and get your feet wet at one of the most amazing beaches you will ever see.
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Downtown La Jolla has a beautiful area called La Jolla Village. The ocean view is incredible. There are several playgrounds and parks where your kids can run around. There is also good entertainment to watch the seals for free at The Children’s Pool. La Jolla Shores is a great beach as well, it’s very wide so there is plenty of space for the kids to build sand castles.
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Enjoy amazing gelato at Bobboi Natural Gelato 
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Windansea. You can watch some of the best surfers in the city ride waves at this beach.
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Stop at Caroline’s Seaside Cafe at La Jolla Shores for a nice lunch with an incredible view.
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Balboa Park

From museums to restaurants and playgrounds. Balboa is one of the largest parks in the country. It is worth spending a full day here. There are several museums catered for kids as well as playgrounds and great restaurants like The Prado and Panama 66.
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Have lunch at Panama 66. Very welcoming to families, good food and great beer. Alexander had 2 PB&J’s!
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Liberty Station

This is a whole development next to the San Diego Bay waterway. You can also spend if not a full day here, a good part of it. NTC playground is one of the coolest playgrounds we have in the city. Have lunch at Stone Brewery or Liberty Public Market. Visit Moniker General to do a little bit of shopping while enjoying good coffee. If you really want to keep the kids busy take them to Kidventures and Corvette Diner.
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NTC Park
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Liberty Public Market

The San Diego Central Library

There is a kids section at the library that is worth visiting if you are around. There are obviously many books as well as interactive digital tools. There are also reading times for kids, just look them up here.

You might event want to stop at Petco Park to watch The Padres play baseball if they are in season. They have a kids section with a huge sandbox and tickets are pretty cheap, around $10-$15.

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The Coaster to Solana Beach

A fun experience for the kids can be taking The Coaster train that departs from Santa Fe Station in Little Italy, to north county. Stop at Solana Beach and walk around Cedros Street. They have amazing little boutiques and galleries. Solo is for sure my favorite.

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North Park

North Park is this hip neighborhood where a lot of young families live. They have several restaurants with kid areas you can check out. You can go to the free arts and crafts Saturday afternoons at ChuckAlek where you can enjoy a beer while your kids have a great time. Before or after you can stop at Encontro or Waypoint Public to have a nice meal. And please stop by Pigment, this amazing boutique I make any excuse to go to.
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South Park

You can visit South Park after going to North Park or vice versa. They are pretty close to each other, maybe a 5 minute drive. Here you can walk the streets, stop at Station for a burger. Station is a pretty cool place with a kids area, so its always busy. Visit The Gold Leaf and Junc Boutiques. Then have an ice cream at The Daily Scoop on Juniper or a chocolate dessert at Eclipse bar and bistro.

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The Childrens Museum 

Located in Downtown San Diego. It is pretty amazing, super modern and ample. Many hands-on activities for the kids. I believe it’s $8 per person to get in.

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The San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo if you have the time it is incredible. It is huge, so it will take you all day to see it. The only problem with the zoo, if you care, is that in the summers it is packed. It is honestly hard to walk around. I try to go with girlfriends early mornings in the fall.

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The Waterfront Park

The Waterfront Park is located in Downtown San Diego west of Little Italy. It is one of the most amazing parks you will ever visit and it is free! They have a huge area where the kids can splash and a playground with fun and creative structures. If you have the energy take a 20 minute walk to The Headquarters and have lunch at Puesto. Great Mexican food! Don’t forget to walk around Seaport Village after your meal.

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Cabrillo National Monument

The views are out of this world. I can go on and on on the history here, but what you need to see is the views of downtown San Diego and the bay, the light house and visit the cemetery on your way out.

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I really hope this answers some of your questions on what to do when you visit this amazing city with your families.

What are some of your favorite spots in San Diego?

 

An ACE vacation

wallA couple of months after Alexander was born Adam and I took a much needed weekend vacation. When you have a baby that cries every evening non-stop for the first three months, you need a break! Both of our families live in other cities and we still haven’t been brave enough to hire a nanny—Alexander had to fit in our plans.

Adam is a very resourceful husband, he knows pretty much everything that is going on—I don’t know anyone that reads more than he does. We really enjoyed our stay at the ACE Hotel in Portland OR, so he looked into the ACE Hotel in Palm Springs. An early reservation and a short two hour drive and we were there!

As soon as we arrived at the ACE Hotel (a renovated Howard Johnson), a couple of guys in skinny shorts, tank-tops and gelled hair were stepping out from the lobby. We parked our SUV (in front of some vespas available for rent), anxious to register and start our weekend.ace

Adam booked an amazing suite with a private patio and a fireplace. If you have a baby that has to nap and you still want to have fun, this is the way to go! Most amazingly the room happened to be right in front of the gated pool, so our baby monitor worked in the pool area! Their bedrooms are pretty cool in a different way, but don’t expect a beautiful suite with crisp white linens. The room gives you the feeling of being inside a tent, we had our own record player and our low bed was framed with old shots of Palm Springs.

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Cuddling time
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The private patio of our room and the fireplace

 

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The rooms

People that stay at this hotel are young; Lots of hip couples and groups of friends. Everyone seems to be playing a part. I remember telling Adam “I feel like we are in a movie set”—Everyone staying at the ACE is so fashionable in a very individualistic type of way. Some girls are throwing around a big colorful plastic ball around the pool. Some people are playing chess in a shaded area while others are getting ice cones with vodka. Other couples like us were enjoying a beer as

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Coffee from the Kings Highway. Picture taken right outside our bedroom.

our baby monitors were silent and their DJ’s music rocked the place—Nobody cared.

The food is pretty outstanding too, we were quite impressed by their pool menu’s fish tacos. They were nice and crisp, and the
pico de gallo was nice in there. Their mid-century diner, Kings Highway, was pretty amazing too. Adam and I partied at the room’s patio the previous night so I had some good chilaquiles the next morning—they were much needed. They have good coffee too, very uncharacteristic of a diner, so we were grateful. Adam still wants to go back to try their date shake.

Soon the weekend was over and the three of us drove back home. We stopped at Koffi like we always do on our way out of Palm Springs and then took off. After that weekend we were renewed and finally felt human again.

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Au Revoir Palm Springs

My Mexican craving

Carne asada torta. Barrio Star.
Carne asada torta. Barrio Star.

I moved to San Diego roughly six years ago after visiting a couple of friends that live here. I had never been to America’s finest city before but something about how this city made me feel captivated me and I never left. I went back home, packed a larger suitcase and said goodbye to my family and my old life. 6 years later I look back and realize it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I have Adam and Alexander— and on top of that, great Mexican food!

Some Mexican dishes are very elaborate and difficult to prepare. The ingredients are not easy to find either. In México we not only have jalapeños, serranos, chipotles and habaneros—we have guajillo, chile de arbol, chile ancho, pasilla, morita and piquin, among many many others. Mexican dishes sometimes combine more than 20 ingredients just to make a sauce! To satisfy my Mexican food craving, filling a tortilla with cheese won’t always do the trick, so I rely on the hundreds of Mexican restaurants that we have in the city.
When I moved to San Diego one of my fears was missing my native Mexican food. When I was younger I would visit San Antonio quite often and I was never impressed on their take on Mexican food. (It was many years ago and I am sure it has evolved.) Moving to San Diego I expected something similar, but to my surprise, they had not only done a great job with their Mexican restaurants, they had also created beautiful, Mexican-inspired “SoCal” food. I put together a short list of some of my favorite spots closer to home (downtown-midtown) for you.
Here some of my favorite SoCal/Mexican restaurants and what I like to order at each one of them:

 

Sitting down:

  1. La Puerta– This is a downtown San Diego restaurant-bar. Their food is surprisingly good as well as their micheladas! The place is fun, lively and usually pretty crowded. You might have to wait 20 minutes to be seated. The only downfall is that the music is super loud, so if you are looking to have a quiet dinner this might not be the place for you.

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    Puesto Tacos
  2. Los Arcos– This is a delicious Mexican chain that opened a location in Chula Vista, CA. When I heard it had opened I was so excited! This is a casual place that I recommend for lunchtime. Definitely worth the trip (only abou t 10-15 min from downtown San Diego). Their ceviche and shrimp tacos are amazing. Their “clamato” is great if you partied the night before—this is Mexico’s version of a Bloody Mary. For dessert please order their banana cream pie, it is the best one I’ve ever had.
  3. Mama Testa– Cute little spot in Hillcrest. They have good taquitos, cochinita pibil is great here. Their beans are pretty tasty too. They have an extensive variety of salsas and that always makes it fun! Their name, along with many items on the menu, are full of obscene wordplays when translated into Spanish.
  4. Barrio Star– Most of their food is a little bland, but their carne asada torta and their pozole are worth visiting for. The place is very cute too. They have good drinks and the ambiance is great. Service can be pretty slow, so don’t go if you want a quick bite.
  5. Puesto– I haven’t been to Puesto yet but I trust the people who have recommended it. The place looks very cool too. A friend really recommended their Mole Poblano.
  6. Cantina Mayahuel– I know a lot of friends that love this place. I was not impressed with their tacos but their other dishes look really good.
  7. Candela’s– Very expensive but generally good food. Good ambiance with a bar-dancing area.
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La Puerta

Fast food options:

  1. Las Cuatro Milpas– It is a San Diego classic. They are famous for their “rolled tacos.” They are good enough.

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    Everyday line at Las Cuatro Milpas
  2. Santana’s– Guilty as charged! I love their machaca taquitos and their carne asada quesadilla.
  3. Rubio’s– My Mexican friends might kill me for this one but their gourmet tacos are really good. Their salsas aren’t bad either.
  4. La Fachada– I have to confess I have never been but I have heard wonders about their food and will go the first chance I get.
  5. La Posta– This is a little 24 hours joint that you order through a window. Adam says they have by far the best California burrito in town. You will have to trust him on that.

I am sure I am missing many more. but if you are visiting San Diego or living in midtown-downtown area and you are craving Mexican food these places might do the trick. Please let me know your own picks, I always love to know about more good Mexican food close to home.

French Macarons

In 2007 I discovered the famous French macarons. I visited Paris with my parents and we were in a macaron-mission, we visited some of the well known “Maisons du Macarons”: Laduree, La Maison du Chocolat and Fauchon. I am sure there are several more that we missed out on, Macarons being so trendy in the last decade. Fauchon Macarons

Recently I woke up with the idea that these beautiful and delicious pastries couldn’t be that hard to make. I  watched numerous you tube videos and read many recipes. I even went to Anthropologie and bought this cute little book called “Les Petits Macarons.”

Gathering the ingredients was not an easy task, but I finally completed the list with the powdered egg whites purchased at Whole Foods.

The main advice from every site and book was to pound the tray with your raw macaroon rounds. Pound it hard several times so the macarons would set and no air bubbles would break them during baking. I followed all the advice, I promise (most of the time I tweak recipes). I was not prepared for what came next. After all the hard work and  money I was pretty frustrated. This was the result after trying to bake them three times:

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Ok, so lets try one more time as I learn about my mistakes. Finally, a leap of faith.

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And no, they are not even close to the beautiful French Macarons. My personal experience has been pretty frustrating, I usually do not like to lose in the cooking field, but I might just have given up on these delicious little creatures. Next time I visit France, or New York now that La Maison du Chocolat has several locations in Manhattan, I will not think twice about paying for a delicious macaron. Leave it to the professionals.

Tip: Trader Joe’s has decent macarons in their frozen dessert section. Great flavors!

Chez Georges, Paris

One of my favorite places on earth is and will always be: PARIS.

I know it might sound like a cliché and not a very original choice, but I have been coming back to the City of Light since I was a young four-year-old. There is this je nais se quoi about its busy streets, packed sidewalks, smelly subway and cigarette smoke that I seem to enjoy.

My last visit to Paris was with Adam, my husband, we spent a short week discovering “new” (to us anyway) breakfast spots, bars and restaurants, as well as visiting the old. Adam and I have our birthdays very close in dates, three days apart, so we decided to visit Paris for my 30th birthday and his 34th. One of the places I always long for is a small, hidden restaurant, “Chez Georges”. I thought this would be the prefect spot to celebrate Adam’s birthday. I was right — he still talks about it. Unlike the expensive and exclusive restaurant Arabelle, at Hotel Plaza Athénée, Chez Georges is a small eatery that Parisians visit mostly on their lunch hour on weekdays. This hidden restaurant hosts business locals every “après midi.” The place is nothing special — it’s a long, crowded and slightly dark place with mirrors along the walls — but the traditional French food is decadent, and the smells of the meat, vegetables and red wine surround the small space. The waitresses are also part of the whole “French” experience — the kind you only see at the movies: Motherly ladies wearing long skirts and long aprons — very friendly, luckily because the menu is exclusively in a hard-to-read, handwritten French. Our waitress recommended the profiteroles for dessertProfiteroles, cream puffs with warm dark chocolate sauce on top;  everything you can imagine and then some. Sorry about the not-so-great photo, it was clearly taken with our phone, most were.

In your next trip to Paris, make a small space in your schedule and have a meal at Chez Georges. We didn’t make a reservation so it can be a last-minute plan as well.

Chez Georges 1,rue du Mail, 75002 Paris, France (Opéra) 01 42 60 07 11