Our Downtown Los Angeles Trip, April 2018!!! With all my Pics. :)

Our Downtown Los Angeles Trip, April 2018!!! With all my Pics. :)

My husband said we could come with him on his trip. He had a week-long educational conference in Los Angeles, a city I had never been to before. The hotel was already booked and his flight paid for long in advance.

“Are you sure? Don’t you want a reprieve from screaming children who interrupt your sleep? We would all be sleeping in the same hotel room after all. Why don’t you just go alone this time?”

“Why don’t you guys come? The hotel is going to be the same price whether you all come or I go alone. It would only cost me a couple extra hundred bucks for your plane tickets. The baby could sit on your lap.”

I weighed the pros and cons. I knew how much work it would be to pack for both myself and the children. But I’ve done it multiple times before, right? I knew that lugging all the extra baby stuff around– car seats, car seat bases, a double stroller, baby carriers, diapers, bottles, formula, baby cereal, bibs and cloths and tons of extra baby outfits would be overwhelming. Of course, this doesn’t include all the contraptions I would bring for myself.

Eating out for all 3 meals (even if only “cheap” fast food) would add up fast. On the plus side, we would get room service every day. The children and I could explore downtown in the double stroller and experience the city-life, albeit temporarily. Meals would be no- fuss, no preparation or clean up– just throw away the packaging and wipe off the kids’ hands and faces. Finito.

“Oh, all right. If you insist. We would love to come.”

On my “list of minuses” I didn’t factor in the flight. What could possibly go wrong on a short two-hour flight with two tots?

THE FLIGHT

My husband and daughter sat next to each other on one row and I clutched onto our 6 month old across the asile. We sat next to an over-sized lady who was spilling over into our space.

Unfortunately for her, this meant my son would be thrusting his little feet into her fleshy sides throughout the flight. She didn’t appear to be the child-loving type either– as she squeezed herself against the window, hoping to merge into the the airplane wall and disappear from existence.

This doesn’t even begin to describe the misery my son inflicted upon this poor woman. Picture, if you will, an intensely high-pitched, screaming intermingled with an annoying whine, that lasts for almost 1 hour straight. It wasn’t just our airplane neighbor who experienced the cacophony of the flight. My baby’s screaming was enough to inspire the agitation of everyone on board.

Even the flight attendant tried energetically to distract the baby–offering him crackly packages of pretzels or crinkly plastic cups to play with. “Won’t he take one?” She pleaded, as he threw the items onto the center aisle.

The baby refused to breastfeed. No matter how many times I tried, my efforts were met with even louder squeals as he pulled away. He’s not a pacifier baby either. My daughter was the same way.

On the other side of the airplane aisle, another battle was ensuing. My 2 year old was furiously trying to unbuckle her seat belt and jettison herself out of the seat. She was vigorously kicking her legs on the back of the seat in front of her. I’m sure a mild amusement to the passenger seated here. *Sarcasm*

My tot was requesting that the overhead light be turned on, then off. On, then off. She wanted the window shutter open, then closed, open, then closed. Repeat 693 times. My poor husband.

Once our flight from purgatory landed, we piled the taxi high with suitcases and baby equipment. Thankfully paradise was waiting for us.

We got to stay in the luxurious Biltmore Millennium Hotel in downtown LA among all the skyscrapers. This is a gorgeous hotel that is infused with art deco architecture. Shiny marble floors greet your feet. Bell Hops jump out of no where to grab your belongings and make your dreams come true.

There are towering ceilings in the lobby and hallway that lure the eyes towards paintings and sculpturesque adornments that flaunt every surface. For a fraction of a second, you feel like you’re in a European cathedral.

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The next day, I took the kids outside our hotel for a spin in the stroller–something I would do every single day, all-day, until the day we left.

Clementine is California ready! Now to explore outside our hotel 🙂

One of the first things you notice about downtown LA–besides the exquisitely beautiful buildings, palm trees and perfect weather–are the bums. Demographics are ALWAYS the first thing I notice anywhere I go.

And you guessed it, I noticed right away that these homeless individuals were disproportionately MALE.

Throughout millennia, men have been more likely than women to fight in battles; many becoming wounded veterans. Men have been the ones to work in some of the most physically unbearable jobs like building cathedrals or castles with heir bare hands until old age, and then dying with little more than a legacy of brutal, laborious hardship (at least in Europe, that is). If you haven’t noticed, the male gender is ALSO more likely to be in prison or homeless– at least compared to their female cohort.

Does this reflect some sort of over-arching social inequality for males in modern society? Homelessness occurs for a variety of reasons of course–criminal history, physical disability, poverty, mental illness, a history of laziness or bad luck–and let’s not forget one of the biggest reasons–ADDICTION–but the gender issue is clear. I SAW MANY MORE HOMELESS MALES THAN FEMALES ON THE STREETS. Does mental illness disproportionately affect males? Many questions and thoughts like these were assaulting my consciousness.

I wanted to check out Skid Row and find out if my male-to-female ratio suspicions regarding homelessness were accurate. I pushed the double stroller in every direction within a 3 mile radius all over Los Angeles this past week and became familiar with the names of every street, but we never made it past Main Street (the tough area, let’s just say).

One evening, my husband was out for a conference related dinner, I strapped the kids in the double stroller for a night ride. We explored more territory and came across an incredible bookstore called, “The Last Bookstore“–I highly recommend taking a peek at this charming spot if you’re in the area. It’s quaint and stuffed with splendid books–both new and old. The cashier countertop is propped up by hundreds of old books. I even purchased a couple of books for the kids and came out with one for myself called, “The Perfect Nanny”, an international bestseller.

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We found another amazing art deco building one day. Check out the stunning architecture and colors here:

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I also took the kids to the LA public library. These were the murals on the walls inside the library:

…and the library courtyard garden was a delightful space for honing those Zen moments of contemplation.

Of course, we couldn’t leave without an arm load of goodies from the library bookstore.

We also spent an overcast day at the beach in Santa Monica.

And I made sure to take the kids to any park I could find in downtown LA anytime we encountered one.

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Finally, on one of our walking excursions we found this neat HUGE antique shop, “Olde Good Things“. I regret not buying the cool antique globe I found.

We also went to Hollywood where we walked along the famous path of stars and Universal Studios too. What fun! I just LOVED the Simpson’s ride. Los Angeles was much better than I had expected it to be.

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Surprised it’s not destroyed!?!?

One day I pushed the double stroller into the LA Fashion District where there are material and fabric shops galore.

Pushing the kids around in the double stroller was entertainment for everyone. People stared in partial disbelief combined with surprise. Everywhere we went people were EXTREMELY KIND to us and made whatever necessary accommodations for the children.

FASHION DISTRICT, DOWNTOWN LA

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Notice the kitty cat sleeping beside the sewing machine.
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No Cereal in Cupboard? Granola from Scratch.. Plus- Our Tomato seeds have finally sprouted!

No Cereal in Cupboard? Granola from Scratch.. Plus- Our Tomato seeds have finally sprouted!

Now that I figured out how to make blog posts on my phone I can make content while I nurse my baby. But he’s super interactive with hands flailing the whole time. We will see if I can complete this post.

I’d like to blog 2-3 times each week if I could find the time– but for now, I’m staying committed to my 1x per week at least– no matter how bad or weird it is. Blogging is as much about getting into the groove as it is about the content.

To preface this post I’d like to be clear that I never really follow recipes, so I apologise for not being very decisive with the instructions. I just can’t get myself to do it– I feel like I’m locked in a straight jacket. Plus, l always learn something memorable when I make a mistake.

Today I woke up to find our 1 cereal box was almost empty. While disappointing, it wasn’t tragic.

I realized that I had a variety of on-hand items that might be concocted into granola.

Things like: oatmeal, shaved coconut, pecans, walnuts, dark chocolate, flax seed meal and wheat germ. Honestly, these were all I had. My raisins had been depleted a couple weeks ago and I didn’t have any dried cranberries or pumpkin seeds that so many recipes suggest. Oh well. I had enough items to make it work. A practical point in being creative, for me, is figuring out strategies to use what l already have– for as little money (and as few trips to the store) as possible.

The main thing you need to make granola is oatmeal. I found some random items here:

Recipe:

3 cups oatmeal

chopped walnuts (3/4 cup more or less)

chopped pecans (3/4 cup more or less)

Coconut flakes (I used 1/2 to 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup flax seed meal

1/2 cup wheat germ

Brown sugar (to your preference)

Broken up dark chocolate bar (or chips or whatever you have)

Dollop of honey

Splash of vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1/4- 1/2 cup vegetable oil

300 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes? Or whatever. Just don’t burn it.

Mix everything up:

Spread on cookie sheet:

And store your freshly baked granola in an airtight container.

It tasted delicious! Now to store by in the pantry. 😀

In other good news? Guess what? Our tomato plants that we planted from seeds are finally growing! You probably remember this blog post: Greenhouse where we planted them.

Well here they are. Tiny tomato plants finally popping out of yogurt containers. They’re growing!

Canary Islands Vacation! April 2017

Canary Islands Vacation! April 2017

We just returned from a trip to the Canary Islands—a group of Spanish islands off the coast of North West Africa. This vacation marks the finale of our 3-year tour in Europe.  Initially, my husband planned a fantastic cruise that would shuttle us from Venice Italy to Haifa Israel and then back again through the countries of Greece, Croatia and Montenegro.  Having an ambitious toddler changed our plans drastically. Cruise ships offer tiny rooms, extremely tumultuous dining environments where food and people are flung in chaotic disarray and off-boat excursions that require you to disembark the ship as early at 7am.  It would be too stressful. We wanted to end our adventure here in a relaxing place, without any hotel or country hopping as we usually do.

I’m not going to lie, flights to all the places we’ve travelled (and we’ve travelled a bit) are not always pleasant with a squirming toddler aboard our laps. And it isn’t the crying or screaming that really gets to us—never has been. Dealing with a crying baby is quite easy. The bigger issue is the baby’s literal inability to hold still—for one second. She’s always been squirmy and hyperactive and sometimes so strong it’s hard to hold her down. She fights to jump and move and run, run far away from us. This means a lot of energy is exerted in the process of keeping her within our tiny space. We are exhausted from physical exertion by the end of the flight. Not to complain though….my husband is an amazing trip planner and decides all our trips and destinations. The baby and I are the lucky ones who get to go along. We LOVE IT—especially once off the plane! Thankfully, all the places my husband chooses are ones that seem interesting or fun—he’s not picking places like North Korea or China after all.

The Canary Islands was the perfect consolation prize for our change of plans. We spent our time on the island of Tenerife. This island is an extremely popular destination for European tourists and Russians too. Huge numbers of British tourists make their way to these Spanish speaking islands every year.  It is very uncommon to find Americans here though. We didn’t meet or hear a single one during our visit. Shopkeepers and hotel staff were always shocked (and sometimes dismayed) to discover we were Americans. The Canary Islands is like Europe’s Hawaii.

Favorite Part of Trip

My husband’s favorite part of the trip was going up to the top of Mt. Teide—a 12,000 ft. active volcano with incredible views of the Island. He also enjoyed our visit to Loro Parque (we all did!). Such a lush and verdant zoo—the vegetation and landscaping makes you feel like you’re in a manicured rainforest. This place features a ton of parrots from all over the world as well as dolphin and Orca Whale shows.  Yes, for those of you wildlife activists, Loro Parque is one of the only places left in the world where Orca Whales are still in captivity and do performances with their trainers. It’s quite surreal to see one of these shows. We were close to the last ones seated and were forced to sit in the wet seats. Those whales will drench you if you’re not wearing a plastic parka. Thankfully, the day was hot and dry. My favorite part of the trip was walking along the promenade near the ocean, afternoon tapas, going for non-alcoholic cocktails in the evening and swimming in the ocean.

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BEACHS

Although packed with beach bums and half naked tourists, Tenerife has beautiful and perfectly clean beaches. Crystal clear aquamarine waters transition into cobalt blues. On a bright day, the colors are magnificent. You will see topless women everywhere of all different ages.  We found a couple beaches with gentle, friendly waves and shallow areas for our baby to play. She loved playing with her sand toys and dipping her toes in the waves. My husband and I took turns baby watching and swimming in the ocean. It was blissful.  Our favorite beach was Playa Pinta.

FOOD

Tapas and cocktail bars are scattered all over the promenade that runs adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean. Island cuisine is something we will miss.  After a week of fresh papayas, fish and lean meats, we feel detoxified. They make an assortment of mouthwatering dips and sauces here too. My favorite was the spicy pimento sauce—a fiery sweet sauce with notes of both savory and sweet.  I can’t even begin to describe how delightful it was to have buffet dinners in our hotel every morning and evening with every food item imaginable. It was great to not have to wash dishes or clean up the table every night during our vacation.

Climate

The climate here is the best in the world. It’s almost always sunny and warm with a temperature in the 70’s.  An unusual aspect of this climate were the hot desert breezes that must originate from the Sahara itself. Everyone knows what a cool breeze feels like. Hot breezes are a pleasant surprise.

Shopping And Stuck-Up Shopkeepers

There were lots of gift shops for tourists as well as luxury shops with designer purses, shoes and apparel.  There is an extraordinarily beautiful beach in Tenerife called “El Duque”. The baby and I walked down to this beach as we heard that it was rated #4 on this island. We also trekked through the luxury/designer shopping district near this stunning beach. We must have walked into a wealthier district. I must say, the shopkeepers in this area are extremely snooty. They glare at you like you’re a fat, aging, frumpy, poor woman when you walk into their stores. It’s understandable, I guess. Some of the items were thousands of dollars. One piece of stolen merchandise would really put a dent in their weekly totals.

We got glared down and followed around by one security guard who thought I was there to steal designer clothing. Don’t even get me started on how many shopkeepers told me they had “bigger sizes in stock for someone like me”. No. They did not think I was pregnant. When I told them that “I was pregnant” they sincerely looked at me in a “Yeah, right” kind of way. Not kidding. They must have heard my American accent and immediately thought, “You fat American”.

Forget Americans being “superficial” and “obsessed with looks/weight/appearance”—in our many experiences in Europe, Europeans are ten million times more concerned with these things.

Overall

The Canary Islands were a gorgeous place to vacation. Sunny and beautiful; it has lovely beaches and incredible volcanic terrain intermixed with a Sahara Desert look. There is so much to do. You can go to water parks, hike around Mt. Teide, see lots of wildlife or enjoy the sunny warmth and a nearby beach. Tenerife has wonderful paved paths and walking areas for pushing a stroller. It is a very child and family friendly place. We loved our vacation to the Canary Islands. This was the very first trip where by the end we weren’t saying to ourselves “I’ve had enough” or “I’m ready to go home.”