A Piece of Family History

November 30, 2010

85 years ago Adam's cousin, Abe, started up the Harlem Globetrotters. Tonight we watched them play in a high school gym on an American base on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Ocean. Pretty cool to watch a piece of family history in action and still going strong. If you ever get the chance to see the Harlem Globetrotters, do it or at least watch this. They are amazingly graceful, funny, and full of spirit. Tonight made me very proud to be an American and a part of this Jewish family.

Visiting The Prado with Kids

November 29, 2010

One of the highlights of our recent trip to Madrid was our time at The Prado Museum. Our Spanish friends kept insisting we shouldn't bring our kids, but I am so glad we stuck to our plan and brought them. It's one of the reasons we work so hard to travel with our kids, especially during our time here in Europe. 

Growing up with two artists for parents, we spent a lot of time in museums and galleries. My first trip to the Louvre was when I was three and my sister was one and just starting to walk...pretty cool place to take those first steps. We took family trips to see specific shows and even spent an entire summer traveling by train to visit some of the best museums in the States. Our visits weren't just spent wandering aimlessly through gallery spaces, my parents talked with us about what we were seeing, we read books, we made our own drawings, and bought post cards of our favorite pieces to hang up at home. And so I follow in my parents' foot steps and feel strongly about taking our kids to art museums and letting them see masterpieces up close and personal.

Here are a few things that made our visit to the Prado such a success:

1) Reading
In the weeks leading up to our trip, I ordered several books about Spanish artists that I knew we would be seeing at The Prado. As I already mentioned, Katie and the Spanish Princess was a perfect fit for Camille. She also loved reading the Katie books that are set in England which we read during our trip this past summer. It is fun to see how the paintings literally come to life, quickly pulling Katie and the reader into their stories. I highly recommend the Katie series for all families, but especially those planning trips to Europe. For school age kids (and adults, too), I highly recommend this series of biographical books. They are concise, but entertaining and educational. Noah loves these books. He gobbled up the Goya and Velazquez books and while touring the Prado he kept telling us stories of the artists. I really was impressed by how much he absorbed and how excited he was to see some of the paintings he had read about in real life. 

2) On-line Tickets
I know The Prado is one of the top museums in the world so I shouldn't have been surprised to see the long lines of people waiting to buy tickets, but I was. I am very glad we decided to make use of this modern advantage instead of waiting in line with two kids who I am sure would have quickly become bored and antsy. That would not have been a good start to a museum visit. Kids are free so when you purchase your adult ticket, also "purchase" the free ticket for your child.

3) Timing
We bought tickets for the early morning and I think that was a good decision. During our first hour in the museum, we had most of the rooms to ourselves so the kids really got a chance to see artwork without the big tour groups that started appearing later in the day. Early in the day also meant our kids were more focused, less whiny, and actually very pleasant. After our first hour, we took a break had a very nice breakfast snack in the museum restaurant which had a great selection of fresh fruit, pastries, drinks, and delicious tortillas.

4) Musuem Map
One of our first stops in the museum, was the information desk where we picked up a map and a children's packet. It is wonderful to see how many museums have packets specifically for kids. The Prado packet was in Spanish, but was still easy to figure out. But actually it was the museum map that turned out to the be the most exciting thing for us. On the back of the map were tiny snippets of paintings (Noah is holding this in the first pic) and the room number where they could be found. It was essentially a ready-made scavenger hunt and it quickly turned our visit into an exciting adventure. We each picked several paintings that we wanted to find and then worked our way through the museum on a quest to see the whole painting. 

5) The Gift Shop
We concluded our time at The Prado with a visit to the gift shop where each of the kids chose a large print of their favorite paintings (which are now hanging above their beds). The gift shop also has a nice selection of art books for all ages.

6) Play and Eat
After a good couple of hours at The Prado, we happily followed the Delicious Baby's advice and headed across the street to the playground and VIPS (next door to Starbucks). Both were perfect post-museum spots. 

And here are a few more helpful links
The Artful Parent and Tinker Lab: visiting museums with kids
Travel for Kids in Madrid (other cool spots near the Prado) 
10 Tips for Visiting The Prado

This is a fairy.

November 28, 2010

While I was working in the yard this weekend, Camille built a sweet little fairy house at the base of the tree in front of our house. She then marched inside, created this drawing, asked me to dictate the above letter, and carefully placed it inside her house. This morning she found a very tiny little note written to her from the fairies. She was ecstatic and so was I. It reminded me of Noah having a very similar experience at around the same age. And now that I think about it, it was kind of around the same time of year, too. I guess it is official: we don't do Santa, but we do fairies and I love that.

Giving Thanks

November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010
Sicily, Italy

Making Menorahs

November 24, 2010

Take a look at what we have been up to over at The Magnifying Glass. Hard to believe Hanukkah starts next week!

Tuesday's List

November 23, 2010

What does it say about you when your to-do list starts with "Find the snail eggs"? Between making a costume for Squanto (Noah's role in the Thanksgiving Play), making menorahs, and trying to get Hanukkah packages ready to ship, I somehow lost the snail eggs. More specifically two African snail eggs from Noah's classroom snails. His teacher offered them to us yesterday with the comment that they make perfect pets and then she quickly followed up with "But do not let them escape!". The kids were so excited to have their first official pets and I somehow lost the darn things before they even hatched. Guess who is going to be up late tonight searching for snail eggs, sewing (or more likely just stapling!), and making gingerbread for the first time ever. Yes, that is on the list, too. Have any advice on that? Is it just me or does it seem like the to-do lists get a little wacky around this time of year?

Recently I have been enjoying Aimee's List-It Tuesday posts. One day I hope to find some time to sit down and whip up some fun, interesting, and cool looking lists, but for now I am back to snail egg hunting. 

***The snail eggs have been located! Check that one off of the list.

Silly Bands and Dirt

November 22, 2010

Today marked the start of a new school garden. Purple Sicilian cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, tulips, daffodils, allium, and bearded iris. Working with the kids today brought back good memories of this special garden and this and this. It also made me realize that silly bands, muddy hands, and baby plants make me very happy. So what's making you happy during this week of Thanksgiving?

In Search of the Spanish Princess

November 21, 2010

Here's the scariest thing that happened to us while we were in Spain: we lost Camille. Seriously, we did. We were spending the day in Madrid with our Spanish friends. Admiring the beautiful buildings, the plethora of green spaces, the museums, and the very talented street performers.  We all crossed a busy street, stopped to admire one of those street performances and then we realized Camille was not with us. My heart stopped. I really think it did. We all burst into action. Calling her name, searching, calling louder. Adam and Nando ran back across the street we had all just crossed (did I mention it was a very busy street?) and there they found her sobbing in the arms of a very kind Spanish storekeeper. Relief, tears, disbelief, and more relief....she was back in my arms and stayed there for the rest of the day. I got lost when I was five...wandering around the campus where my dad taught. I still remember how scary that feeling was and now I know what it feels like as a mama. It's still a scary feeling. 

And here's the tie in to the title of this post: the above picture was taken the next day very close to where Camille had gotten lost. It's across the street from the Prado where the real paintings of the Spanish Princess Margarita are on display. In the days leading up to our trip, Camille couldn't stop talking about the Spanish princess thanks to this book (we love, love this series of books...more on that later). I am happy to say that we did indeed find the Spanish princess: the paintings and our very own sweet, Mei-Mei.


November 20, 2010

A castle perched on top of a hill, old walls, twisty streets, and a dramatic roman aqueduct...this Spanish town has a ton packed into it and like El Escorial it is worth the day trip from Spain. We got there late in the day because we had an amazing and very leisurely lunch at El Rancho (about fifteen minutes outside of Segovia). It really was one of the best meals I have ever eaten. Here are some tips on visiting Segovia with kids.

El Escorial

November 19, 2010

 Magestic, both literally (the Spanish royals are all buried here) and architecturally, El Escorial is an enormous and important historical site surrounded by mountains on one side and rolling countryside on the other, it's worth the day trip from Madrid. My favorite spots were the library and the Hall of Battles. After winding your way through the impressive halls, treat yourself like royalty and eat at Charoles.  And if we make it back to El Escorial one day, I would love to do this bike trip with the kids.

An On-going Exchange

The highlight of our recent trip to Spain was a very special re-union and a good ad campaign for the positive benefits of cultural exchange programs. While in high school Adam was an exchange student in Spain. At the end of his summer program, he met a Spanish boy on the plane who was preparing to start his exchange experience in the States. They started chatting and soon realized that Nando was actually going to be attending Adam's high school and living in is small California town. They quickly became friends, classmates, and soccer team mates. After his year in California, Nando returned to Spain and Adam visited Nando and his family during the following spring break. And then eighteen years passed. 

As we were planning our trip Adam pulled out a small business card he had kept all of those years. It had Nando's picture, his full name, and the name of the Spanish rotary club that sponsored his exchange year in the States, but there wasn't any contact information. Adam quickly jumped on the internet and the phone until he was able to track down some contact information. A few days later Nando and Adam had their first phone conversation in eighteen years. There were tears, laughter, and a very generous invitation to have us stay with their family during our time in Madrid. And that is just what we did. 

The tears, the laughter, the hugs, and the hospitality continued to overwhelm us once we arrived in Spain. Nando is now married to a wonderful woman, Theresa and they have a delightful six year old son, Pablo. His parents and brother also quickly made us feel right at home with amazing nightly dinners, lively viewings of Spanish soccer games, and even some flamenco dancing in the living room!  It turns out that Nando is now the Vice-Mayor of his hometown. He proudly showed us around the town and the various projects he has been a part of during his term. He took us on fabulous day trips to the beautiful towns on Segovia and El Escorial. He arranged for Noah to play in Pablo's soccer game on Saturday morning with all of the other six and seven year old boys in town and presented Noah with a special Spanish soccer ball. Theresa surprised Camille with her very own flamenco dress and taught us all a few moves. Despite, the language barrier, Pablo made our kids feel right at home. Soccer, swords, and silly faces can obviously overcome any barriers! As we watched our children play together, we started to speculate about what might happen ten years from now...perhaps another generation of exchange between our Spanish and American families, wouldn't that be wonderful?

Recycled Turkey

November 18, 2010

 We got back from Spain last night and had a fabulous, fabulous time until we walked through the front door of our house and poor Camille started vomiting and couldn't stop. That did not make for a nice night after a long day of traveling. So today Camille and I stayed home, played go-fish, read Amelia Bedelia, and made a turkey. A spontaneous--use what is lying around the house- turkey! Isn't he funny? We went a little crazy with the magazine "feathers". Who knew tearing colored pages out of magazines and rolling them up could be so much fun?  The buttons are from my sweet, button-loving girl. Camille has a growing button collection and it made me smile when I overheard her asking Noah to add buttons to her Chanukah list. I promise to post pics and stories of our Spanish adventures soon, but for now: gobble,gobble!

Recycled Turkey:
paper bags
newspaper (for stuffing the body)
one rock to weigh down the body
egg carton (eyes and beak)
magazine pages rolled and taped into tubes: "feathers"


November 9, 2010

"Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it." Eudora Welty

We are headed to the land of Ferdinand, tapas, and Picasso. Stay tuned for stories of our Spanish adventures when we return next week.

Camille 5

November 7, 2010

A birthday morning interview with the girl who has been signing all of her recent drawings with "Camille 5". We all had fun hearing her responses and taking a peek at Noah's interview at the same age. Happy Birthday, Camille! I have a feeling five will be a very big year for you!

L: What are you going to do now that you are five?  
C: Draw a spider and I want a guinea pig because I am sure that I can feed it. Please, please! And I want to learn how to jump rope. 

L: What is your favorite food?
C: Couscous and corn and tofu and sushi and I think I might like pumpkin pie.

L: What do you worry about? 
C: Bugs. When I get older, I won't be scared of bugs.

L: What do you want to be when you grow up?
C: A babysitter because I like to read books to little kids.

L: Who is the funniest person you know?
C: Daddy when he tells me jokes

L: Who is the smartest person you know?
C: Noah

L: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
C: New York City. I want to skip in New York City.

L: Anything else you want to say about being five?
C: No

Charming Cefalu

November 5, 2010

Fresh seafood, pleasant beach, twisty little streets, nestled on the edge of the Madonie Mountains, it is easy to see why parts of Cinema Paradiso were filmed here...can't wait to return.

November List

November 4, 2010

Reading: The City of Falling Angels, a perfect follow up from our recent trip to Venice and Stuff White People Like  a laugh out loud, must share with others kind of read (I like the book version even better than the blog).

Growing: Our Fall/ Winter garden.... Lettuce, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and onions are all getting off to a good start. The basil, zinnias, and marigolds are still going strong and the parsley is so out of hand that it is growing in the yard like grass and we have to mow it to keep it from taking over!

Gifting: The Magnifying Glass is starting up a wonderful new series just in time for the holidays: Gifts from Nature.

Choosing: Remember those choose your own adventure books? Noah recently became hooked on this great series of history books created in the same format.Highly recommend them. He's also hooked on any books by Dav Pilkey, but I have mixed feelings about recommending those.

Sewing: Felt tea party food for Camille. I am back on a bit of a felt food kick. Maybe I'll figure out a way to make some cute canoli ornaments or pizzas or ravioli...gotta get started on holiday ideas

Viewing: Mr. Bean. The kids can't get enough of him and I have to admit that I find myself laughing out loud, too. Can't wait until they are ready for Fawlty Towers. I have such good memories of laughing with my family while watching those episodes. Same with the Pink Panther movies. And speaking of movies...we recently saw Nanny McPhee Returns and we all loved it. Really loved it.

Missing: Louisiana. It's on my brain/heart a lot lately. Missing my family. Missing the music, the food, the fall festivals. I've been tuning into KRVS which sometimes help, but sometimes makes me even more homesick. Wishing we could be home for the upcoming holidays.

Eating: Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. It's that time of year.

Welcoming: three brand new baby boys! Samuel in North Carolina, Landon in Virginia, and Sebastian in Florida.

A Halloween Birthday Party

November 1, 2010

Cupcakes made by Nana, balloons by Poobah, a bouncy house, friends in costumes, pumpkins, and trick-or-treating! It was a week early, but lots of fun and so good to share it all with grandparents. Halloween is even sweeter when you are about to turn five, dressed as a mermaid, eating lots of candy and surrounded by people you love.

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