Tuesday, August 26, 2014

if this isn't nice, what is?

i was at a birthday party this past weekend and was having a conversation with an acquaintance of mine. i don't really know what we were talking about but it revolved about being grateful for our lives - all of it - the good, the bad, and the ugly. she mentioned a phrase from a kurt vonnegut story that her husband would say when they were having a sweet family moment and it made me tear up. i'd been looking for something to sum up all of the moments i've been having lately and this seemed perfect...

"if this isn't nice, what is?" 

just a sentence to help pause and take stock of how terribly beautiful this human experience can be. i hope that i can incorporate this into my daily lexicon.

here is the full passage:

one of the things (uncle alex) found objectionable about human beings was that they so rarely noticed it when they were happy. he himself did his best to acknowledge it when times were sweet. we could be drinking lemonade in the shade of the apple tree in the summertime, and uncle alex would interrupt the conversation to say, "if this isn't nice, what is?" 

so i hope that you will do the same for the rest of your lives. when things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, "if this isn't nice, what is?"

- kurt vonnegut (by way of mylissa - thank you)

photos from a trip i just took to bainbridge island, i can't wait to share the photos!

Monday, August 25, 2014

paris (avec des enfants) part 1

ahhhhh this post is going to be long. mainly because it's for my memory. i was so excited to bring the girls to paris, especially elodie. the idea of teaching her to use a map, navigate the metro, see the eiffel tower...well, i won't soon forget it and hope that i can bring both of them back as they grow. i'd love to walk down the same streets with my twenty five and twenty two year old daughters and point out where they were when they were mere children. such a wonderful thought. we really tried to limit ourselves to one big activity a day even though there were so many tempting itineraries and things that i wanted to see. i've been to paris several times while living in france and in the years following my stay. i thought back to what the wow moments were to me and built our days around revisiting those things.

we arrived mid-afternoon after taking the tgv from london. i love train travel and all the different train stations in europe. we checked in to our airbnb just around the corner from la bastille (technically still le marais.) i actually prefer staying nearer to la bastille. it's so vibrant and the grand boulevards are close to the canals and the seine. we were walking distance to the picasso museum, all the great restaurants and shops in le marais, as well as some good shopping (bon ton and merci were highlights!)

i would highly recommend renting a flat while in paris versus staying in a hotel. airbnb in paris can be a bit maddening as it seems parisians (and i obviously might be generalizing, this was just my experience and an experience of a friend who was also looking at the same time) are a bit slow at getting back to you and don't update the calendar frequently. i finally was able to book a flat after contacting the host several times. it was worth it in the end but a bit hard! anyway, i digress.

i loved having a cheese shop, bakery, charcuterie, and even an organic store (called bio in france) within walking distance. we were always picking up lovely things for our meals and became friendly with the local merchants.

day 1 highlights//

my husband's a coffee snob to the nth degree so each day we literally planned our itinerary around our espresso. thankfully it worked out.

we started out with a stop at télescope coffee before heading to the musée d'orsay. we took a roundabout walk through jardin des tuileries then across one of the many love lock bridges (this one was la passarelle de solférino rather than the structurally challenged pont des arts) but that's what paris is all about...rambling flâneur style.

it was hard to choose just one museum while in paris. with a five year old and a toddler (and a laundry list of activities) it was just the way it had to be. musée d'orsay is an easy winner as it's a stunningly beautiful structure (an old train station) as well as chock full of all impressionist masterpieces.

tip for families: don't wait in the long queue right at the entrance of the museum, rather head over to the far right entrance which is for vips/wheelchair accessible/and in small print...families.

it was a rather moody day and we walked along the seine back to our flat. that night we made a big pot of soup, gave the girls a bath, and stayed up with friend drinking wine and eating cheese until the wee hours. home sweet home in paris.

day 2 highlights//

again, we chose a cafe with great reviews. this time, coutume instituutti which was in the institut finlandais near la sorbonne. perfect espresso. definitely worth the trip.

we then headed to cathedrale notre dame de paris. francesca and i walked to the seine and watched the boats and an accordion player while michael and elodie waited to get in. then we joined them inside while a mass was taking place. it was so beautiful to hear a chorus singing while walking through such an important piece of history.

afterwards, we headed back to le marais so that i could introduce my family to one of my favorite lunch spots from my early twenties...l'as du fallafel. there is always a queue up the street but it goes quickly and is worth the wait. it was exactly as good as i remembered and i loved seeing elodie sitting on the street corners with a half dozen parisians and other tourists digging into her falafel sandwich.

that evening we went to montmartre to see the basilique de sacre coeur and to have dinner at le refuge des fondues with our friends brian and bri. i stopped to pick up some strings of lights for elodie's room from le case de cousin paul which was right around the corner. it's so fun to wander the streets of montmartre!

stay tuned for part 2 in paris...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

hello sunshine

i'm probably the only mother who is not mad for moccasins. they just seem so impractical for a new walker...but i had to make an exception for these yellow ones from the coral pear. so good! also, check out her belly. sigh.

Monday, August 11, 2014


four days in london. this could call for a million different itineraries but we were largely led by children and friends in making our decisions.

the first few days we stayed at the ace hotel in shoreditch. my husband michael was playing records and elodie and i were able to go downstairs to the lobby to have a little date and watch him play. what great memories!

we found it so easy to get around on the bus and the tube. shoreditch had so many cute shops and restaurants. typically i stay closer to hyde park so it was a nice change.

on the first day, with jet lag in full effect, we went to one of my favorite restaurants in london - morito - the less fancy sister restaurant to moro (which i equally adore). it was such a perfect welcome to london and, even though elodie was fast asleep on her papa, we had a great date!

the day after we flew in was my husband michael's birthday and we celebrated by going to big ben and the london eye.

that evening, we celebrated my husband michael's birthday with a tableful of friends at tayyab's, a very traditional punjabi restaurant in whitechapel. we ordered one of everything it seemed but my very favorite dish was the lamb chops.

london has some of the best children's shops (besides paris of course) and i loved stopping at caramel baby & child. this is one of my favorite brands for children and i found some lovely clothes for the girls. it also doesn't hurt that the notting hill location is directly next door to ottolenghi. i also wanted to visit la coqueta kids but was sidetracked. hope to get back soon!
one of my closest friends, emily, lives in london right on hyde park and we visited the peter pan statue in kensington gardens. i have vivid memories of visiting with my father and it was so special to bring elodie and francesca here. we had a lovely lunch at lido cafe at the serpentine. emily always remarks that i have the best luck with weather when i visit her. i hope i never break the streak.

i took the girls to the tower of london on a late afternoon and they had fun running amok, taunting the tower guards, and gawking at the crown jewels. definitely a great museum for young ones as it is mainly outdoors.

the last full day we decided to go to the british museum and see the mummies. i have been several times and it never gets old to see the rosetta stone or the pieces of the roman antiquity.

we were so lucky to be able to stay with friends this time around. we stayed with our friend courtney from babyccino and had such a lovely visit with her family. truly grateful for a home cooked meal and to see the children romping around together in a brief rain shower.

the only thing i missed was making reservations for tea at the orangerie (or the wolseley for that matter) but we ended up having a perfectly lovely tea at the british museum anyway!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

seattle bound

i'm headed to seattle this week. it's such a beautiful time to be in the pacific northwest. it's currently 95 degrees and quite muggy in los angeles. hoping for some fresh seafood, long hikes and lots of time with family and friends. i wish i could just come back at the end of october! 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

summer mornings

the weather has been horribly muggy lately and that means all outdoor activities have to happen either in the morning or in the later afternoon. as soon as we get up i get the girls dressed and head straight to the park. our favorite local park of late has been lacy park in san marino. elodie has been practicing the scooter and wanting to ride her bike and there is a lovely little play structure nearby. i know at five and a half that she should be done with the training wheels but not sure she is ready. any tips on this mamas?