Even though summer is winding down, there is always time to fly a kite. When I was young, my first kite was a replica of Snoopy. This was one of my favorite gifts from my father. Snoopy lasted for about two weeks until he was caught in a tree.
Last week, I relived my childhood and bought Kai his first kite. When we passed through Point Reyes Station, I picked out a tie dye octopus kite for our flying adventure at the awesome Into the Blue toy store.
Kids and adults have been enamored by kites for centuries all over the world. Believed to have originated in China almost 2,000 years ago, every country has unique kites. In Viet Nam where money is scarce for many families, children make kites out of plastic bags and thin strings. In India, travelers can find Hindu inspired kites at the festival of Gujarat. Here in Berkeley, there is a magnificent festival that welcomes some of the world’s largest kites. There is nothing like looking into the sky and seeing hundreds of kites flying so freely.
Whether you’re big or small, make some time for kite flying in a meadow or beach nearby.
Before flying a kite, you can review the Beaufort Scale to determine wind speed:
Santa Cruz has more to offer than the beach boardwalk. Even if you can’t do an overnight, it’s possible to do a bunch of fun stuff on a day trip. When we visited last weekend, I noticed lots of families hanging out everywhere. Definitely a kid-friendly beach town!
Here’s a quick itinerary:
-A must see is Natural Bridges Beaches. It’s not as widely known as the Boardwalk beach or even Seabright Beach. NB is small and sweet. There are literally rock formations that create bridges in the water. Even better, there is a visitor center and a trail that is home to monarch butterflies in the winter.
- For the gardener in you, visit the arboretum at UC Santa Cruz. Their land has a world class living collection and their garden store always has plants for purchase at excellent prices.
-Marianne’s ice cream is a locally owned parlor with original and homemade flavors like lavender and ginger. In a big group, try the giant sundae that comes with over 10 scoops!
- Skip the Borders and head over to Bookshop Santa Cruz on Pacific Ave. has something for the whole family. It’s one of the best independent books stores around and still thriving. They have an extensive children’s book collection with books from many cultures. There’s a cute play area for the young ones too.
-Ride the Giant Dipper. You can still stop by the boardwalk for an hour to get in line to ride the big dipper. Just buy tickets and enjoy!
- Snack on fish tacos! Local fish make tasty tacos and they’re real easy to find. I recommend snapper and salmon tacos at Taqueria Santa Cruz
-The kids will love Pizza My Heart. They have plenty of veggie and vegan options for the super health conscious!
Let us know if you have any favorite Santa Cruz spots to share.
In two weeks, we’ll be taking off to Japan to explore Osaka and Kyoto. I’ve been to Japan before but without a baby boy. Even then, the hustle and bustle of a big Japanese city can be intimating. I’m most excited to explore the hot springs culture, eat a bunch of ramen and sushi, and buy things from vending machines. Japan should be a load of fun for baby Kai who will be 11 months when we arrive. I’ll keep you posted on my adventures when I arrive, but in the meantime here are some things that are on the itinerary:
Some of the travel ideas, I found in this cute and insightful book Japan for Kids: The ultimate Guide for Parents and Children
SpaWorld Osaka Japan, I have high expectations for this place. It will be fun for the whole family with three floors of onsens from around the world. On the third level, there is a full water park amusement pool for the kids.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan- It’s known to be the world’s largest aquarium complete with exhibitions of Japanese rain forests, California Coastline marine life , a giant Ferris wheel, and IMAX theater.
Ryoan-Ji Temple Kyoto-Here we’ll find one of the most beautiful Zen gardens which will be perfect after a day of sightseeing.
Japanese Supermarkets—I’m excited to find fresh bento boxes and cool baby food at the supermarket. He’s especially fond of rice crackers, and there’s no doubt we’ll find tons to choose from.
Stay tuned for photos and reviews of the places mentioned above.
Kai’s favorite book right now is a wonderful story written by Karen Katz, Can You Say Peace? Even at 9 months, the colorful characters in the book resonate with him. Kai’s face lights up when I pull this book off the shelf and he laughs with excitement. Without leaving Kai’s room, we travel to 11 different countries and catch a glimpse of each child’s life with their own families. His favorite children in the book are Sadiki from Ghana who says “goom jigi” and Kenji from Japan who says “heiwa”. We have such a good time reading and learning to say peace in multiple languages. It’s never to early to teach our children to wish for non-violence around the world.
Of course, Katz isn’t able to cover evey single country. Here are some other ways to say peace:
Hoa Binh- Vietnamese
How do you say peace in your language?
Our world is shifting and more modern moms are looking back to homemade remedies. Forget reaching for Tylenol or Vicks which seem to have mysterious side effects. I wondered why I couldn’t take these medicines while pregnant. Maybe the side effects of modern medicine are no longer worth it.
In countries where Western meds are expensive and inaccessible, women always relied on natural cures. Why not give traditional remedies a try?
Here are simple cures from your kitchen cabinet or garden that can help everyone in your family no matter what age.
- A bit of olive oil will cure baby’s cradle cap. Apply directly on the scalp and let it soak overnight.
-Turmeric mixed with warm milk can soothe a cough.
-Steam kumquats with a bit of rock sugar will relieve congestion and excess mucus in the throat.
-Ginger tea made simply by boiling water and fresh ginger can rid a cold or tummy ache.
-For insect bites or small scrapes, fresh aloe vera comes to the rescue.
-Drizzle cornstarch on a skin rash and it will go away.
-Place a bundle of fresh lavender on the bedside to relax and sleep tight.
-Black sesame seeds are known to help children who may wet the bed. Roast the seeds and sprinkle them over dinner.
For further reading on holistic cures, I recommend reading The Book of Herbal Wisdom.
Please share your family remedies with us too!
Ditch the bags and go for a box. I’m not talking about your regular American lunch box. The bento box is an option that kids will love for its unique style and cool factor. Your kid doesn’t have to be Asian to carry one either. I know you’re use to eating sushi and teriyaki out of restaurant bento boxes, but sandwiches and veggies work in them too. Each compartment will keep sandwiches, fruit, and cookie in their spot without the use of Ziploc bags. What an easy way to go green!
Bento boxes are a common way to eat lunch around Japan whether in school, on transit, or on a family picnic. Most boxes are beautifully lacquered while others are printed with popular Anime characters.
You can also wrap a furoshiki (pretty small cloth) around the box that can act as a place mat or napkin too.
Where to get a box:
Any Sanrio Store
At 4 months, Kai started to call me “Uma”, his version of the word. This sparked my interested in the linguistic origins of the word “mother”. It derives from the root “mater” which means measure. Other words with this common root are: matriarchy, maternal, and matron. Did you know that the word mama means “breast” in Latin? Go figure.
Check out the word “mother” in other languages:
- Mata (Hindi)
- Ma (Mandarin)
- Madre (Spanish, Italian)
- Imi (Hebrew)
- Okasan (Japanese)
- Makuahine (Hawaiian)
- Me (Vietnamese)
- Mamma (Swedish)
- Ina (Tagalog)
No matter what, the word “mother” in any language is powerful. Ask any child, I’m sure the word conjures up comfort, nourishment, and authority.
How do you say it in your household?
The best way to arrive is to take a train from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. I recommend the sleeper train, it’s a bit cozy but you get amazing views as the train passes through rice fields and vast flatlands with water buffalo.
The people are charming and less likely to upsell foreigners. There are abundant tailor shops and art galleries that won’t break your budget. One of my favorite shops is Hoai Ngap (Reaching Out )Handcrafts, a gift shopped filled with fair trade crafts made by artisans with disabilities.
The cobble stone streets make it a pleasure for walking or biking amidst the ancient Japanese and Chinese style architecture. Kids will love drinking fresh fruit shakes on the beach or even taking a lantern making class in town. At night, the town is picturesque with several outdoor cafes and strings of colorful silk lanterns illuminating the streets.
The women at the market place will tempt you with fresh marigolds and lotus flowers and even offer you fresh slices of mangosteen and sweet lychees.
Officially Hoi An is listed as a UNSECO heritage site. Unofficially I can tell you this place has a lot of heart. Look for my auntie and grandmother who make banh mi (baguette sandwiches) with a slammin’ secret sauce. Their stand is near the south entrance of the marketplace on the river. Grab sandwiches to go and hop on the ferry for a breezy tour of the scenic Hoi An River.
Who says San Francisco is only for DINKS (Double Income No Kids)? For those of us with little ones there’s plenty to eat around town during our staycations. For a low-budget foodie tour, follow the itinerary below, it’s been kid-tested:
Little Saigon, Tenderloin—If you can handle the gritty neighborhood, the Tenderloin is the place to visit for authentic, healthy, and cheap Vietnamese food. For a $2 lunch, stop by Saigon Sandwich (560 Larkin St.) for hearty and fresh banh mi (viet-style baguette sandwich) At dinner time, I highly recommend Pagoloc (655 Larkin St.) Back in the 80’s, only local Vietnamese knew about this delicious family run restaurant. Now everyone will wait in line for a table. Try the seven courses of beef that includes making your own rolls with grilled beef. No worries, there’s plenty of veggie dishes too.
Clement St. (between 2nd and 9th Avenue)—Considered the mini-Chinatown of the City, this charming street is full of good treats minus the tourists. Look for Good Luck Dim Sum (736 Clement St) with all their tasty dumplings and baked goods displayed in the window. Kids will love the coconut buns, sticky rice, and shrimp dumplings. To satisfy a sweet tooth, walk a few blocks and visit Genki’s Crepes at 330 Clement St. The store offers made to order dessert crepes, Japanese snacks and toys, and international drinks.
May’s Coffee Shop, Japantown—Sure you can visit J-Town for sushi, but there’s something sweeter waiting for you. Only locals know about the fresh baked Taiyaki offered at May’s Coffee Shop (1737 Post St). It’s basically a pretty fish shaped waffle filled with sweet azuki bean paste. Hot ones come out every 10 minutes and they sell out before the end of the day.
Joe’s Ice Cream, Inner Richmond.—I grew up around the corner from this classic family owned ice-cream parlor located at 5351 Geary Blvd. It’s complete with hot dogs, grilled cheese, waffle cones, and chocolate covered bananas. Any scoop of ice cream can be hand dipped in chocolate. Joe’s is unpretentious and made for kids. Be sure to take a seat on the stools along the windows and people watch while enjoying a sundae.
A few months ago, I took baby Kai and my niece to watch Alphabet Rockers at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley. When we walked into the performance area, we noticed that the soulful hip- hop style of a show attracts a very diverse crowd. The group rocked it with a beat boxer, DJ, and two vocalists. The ABC’s and 123’s come alive with groovy beats that gets everyone up from their chair to dance. Don’t miss them on February 15 in Berkeley at Ashkenaz, skip the Baby Einstein DVD and head on over.