Saturday, March 31, 2012

Parenting the "normal" way and my new favorite author Mayim Bialik.

You may or may not know that I am becoming a super-fan of Mayim Bialik.  Between being a television sitcom star, having a PhD (in neuroscience !!!), author, conservative Jew, Lactation Counselor and Attachment Parent I am intrigued.  I thought her blog post yesterday on kveller was interesting.   She was responding to media attention this week regarding Alicia Silverstone pre-chewing food for her child and January Jones eating her placenta.  I especially liked this quote:

Everyone has a line which, when crossed, makes them perk up their ears. For you, it may be me breastfeeding my 3-year-old. For someone else, it may be me breastfeeding at all (I know people like this). For you, me holding my newborn over a potty may be the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard of. For me, diapers for 4-year-olds sounds pretty outside of my comfort zone, as does not wanting to be close to your baby as much as possible. The point is, we all have an idea of what we want to do or what we think is “normal.” It benefits no one for us to turn someone’s choices or even eccentricity into a case for ridicule or judgment.

Exactly.  As I share life and community with other friends who are parenting we are bound to have differing views on so many things.  And believe me we do.  It makes for some very colorful conversations at our get-togethers.  I appreciate Mayim's point-of-view that we need to respect other's choices and be cognizant of our own "lines".  Knowing that we do things that others could be looking and laughing at (or judging) as well.

Another wise friend when referring to Attachment Parenting her 3 month old versus other options said the following:

I always pray that God reminds me that he is the one who attaches relationships and mends broken ones. And that no matter what method is used in life, my job is to point her to Jesus. And for now I see that as meeting every need, soothing every tear, and holding her as much as possible. Like Jesus does with us. - Laura G.


Attachment parenting may be "crossing lines" for you.  The fact that I keep getting up during the night over and over to hold and calm my 8 month old.  Or maybe it's that I breastfed my first daughter until 23 months, or that we cloth diaper.  Perhaps that I wear my baby and haven't used a babysitter since she was born. Maybe that we don't spank our 4 year old.  Or that we don't do Disney.  If you think all of that is just fine I bet I've got one that will make your "ears perk up a little", I do momma cloth.  There, now I've got you.  Not sure what momma cloth is?  Google it. ;)

I'm sure I'll be writing about our parenting choices more as I get through Mayim's book.  More to come!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fisher Price Fridays - Sesame Street Clubhouse

Welcome to Fisher Price Fridays, today it's the Sesame Street Clubhouse #937.  Mine says 1976 on the lithograph but they were actually made from 1977-1979.  I picked it up by itself (no extra pieces) at a garage sale.  It's a little beat up but I had to have it as this is one of the sets I have the most fond memories of playing with as a child.  We didn't own the set but someone in my life did because I remember all the little trap doors and what-not.

I had a few Fisher Price Little People (FPLP) Sesame Street characters from my childhood that I added to the set.  Also the Sesame Street garbage truck (it's not from this set, but from the Sesame Street Apartments #978).  The original Clubhouse came with a detachable yellow slide, jump rope, wagon, 3 snap together play tubes and a wagon spool.  

Of these pieces only Roosevelt Franklin (purple headed guy), Big Bird, Bert and Ernie came with the Clubhouse set. The other pieces came as a Sesame Street character set or with the apartments.  Sadly we had a Susan character but she is lost somewhere in the house.  I hate it when pieces go missing!  The original Clubhouse also had The Count and Grover.

The front of the house has a tire swing.  The blue roof (under the FP logo) flips up to have access in the house.  This is helpful as those little people get stuck in there!

The stairs lead to a trap door on the blue roof that sends the piece down a chute and out the side of the building (where it says "look out below").

The back of the clubhouse has a revolving green door.  On top you can see the yellow nest that turns by cranking the orange handle on the side.  The crank also moves a walkway that brings characters to the the slide where they drop down.  This is my daughter's favorite part of the toy.  It's sort of like a gangplank.

There is also an attached merry-go-round in the back.  I can tell from experience if you spin it fast enough the pieces will fly out. ;)

Gotta love the lithographs on this set.  "Cookie for President" and "Bert loves pigeons".  Adorable!

I actually remember Gordon and Susan from watching Sesame Street as a kid.  How cool that they have FPLP that look like them.  Oscar (the grouch) is a great piece too.  The top goes up and down and stays up by giving it a slight twist.  Interesting fact, the original Oscar trash-cans had handles on them, but they phased it out around 1978.

Gotta love Bert and Ernie.  Thanks for coming by, see you next week on Fisher Price Fridays!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Have you tried the buttermilk ranch dressing yet?

I made a lovely salad tonight with the magenta batavian head lettuce from this week's CSA box.  I had whipped up some of my now famous buttermilk ranch dressing yesterday to put on top.  This time I was able to put fresh parsley (from the CSA) and chives in it.  

I have to confess that I ate the entire salad and then licked the bowl.  Yes, I licked the bowl.  That is how good this dressing is!

I am going to try to contain myself from getting more out of the refrigerator.

That is all.

If you haven't tried the recipe yet you can find it here

chocolate chia seed pudding

You had to have seen this coming.  My obsession with chia seed puddings could not be complete without a chocolate version. :)  So far I've shared coconut vanilla and shake it up vanilla recipes.  Both excellent, but sometimes a girl needs some chocolate.  Am I right?

I searched the internet for a chocolate recipe and couldn't find one that was just right.  For starters so many people out there want to use sugar alternatives such as stevia, agave and even maple syrup.  I'm a sugar kind of girl.  I may use honey here and there but I like sugar.  Usually organic cane sugar but still sugar.  I also don't have almond milk on hand and most of the recipes called for that.  So I did some experimenting and came up with my own.  Of course if you are in the stevia-almond-milk camp you are welcome to substitute. :)

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
1/4 cup chia seeds
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 heaping Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients (or shake in a jar if you prefer) and let sit for 10 minutes.  Stir (or shake) again and put in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Eat once the chia seeds are nice and thick.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Berry Banana Chia Seed Smoothie

I made a smoothie, and yes, it had chia seeds in it.  I can't help myself, those little chia seeds are amazing.  Although I do prefer them in vanilla or coconut pudding.

But I digress.  So this smoothie was packed full of lots of good things.  Including spinach.  Yes spinach.  I'd read that in smoothies you can't taste the spinach so I thought I'd give it a whirl and it was true!  Nary a spinach taste to be found.  I also added ground flaxseed, a dash of chia seeds and honey to sweeten the deal.

Berry Banana Chia Smoothie
1 1/4 cup frozen fruit (I had blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and a couple pieces of peach)
1/2 a frozen banana
1 cup of milk
1Tbsp ground flaxseed (I didn't measure, just put some in)
1Tbsp chia seeds (also didn't measure this)
honey (to taste)
3/4 cup fresh spinach

Put the spinach on the bottom, then the fruit and toppings.  Add the milk and give it a whirl. Voila, a yummy smoothie!  You could use any combination of frozen fruits of course.  I think I'll try strawberry, peach and blackberry next time.

I shared some with my 4 year old and she said it was good.  I think we'll be doing more smoothies around here, easy and a great way to pack in the fruit and veggies.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Braised Greens with Carrot Ribbons

This weeks Chow Locally CSA box included a "braising mix".  I was completely unfamiliar with this term and after learning that it was a bag of "hearty greens" meant to be cooked with liquid I did some recipe research.  I found one here that also allowed me to use one of the gigantic carrots from this week's box.  The recipe required minimal prep and was eaten by the entire family.  Success!

Braised Greens with Carrot Ribbons
1/2 of a yellow onion, sliced into thin half moons
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 pound of braising mix (the entire bag from the CSA box)
1 1/2 cups water or broth (I used chicken stock)
1 carrot (2 if they're on the smaller side)
1/8th tsp garlic powder
1/8th cup red wine vinegar

  1. Heat a heavy bottom stock pot over medium heat.  Add 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, onion, garlic and a pinch of sea salt.  Stir to coat the onion and heat until soft and translucent.
  2. Chop the braising mix into 2 inch chunks.  
  3. Add the braising mix and the 1 1/2 cups of water/broth.  Stir frequently for 1-2 minutes until the greens are wilted and wet.  Cook on medium covered for 8-10 minutes.
  4. Uncover and give the greens a stir.  They should be just peeking out from the liquid.  Leave the pot uncovered and cook for 8-10 more minutes.
  5. Meanwhile use a vegetable peeler to make long ribbons out of the carrot.  Aim for about 1/2 to 3/4 a cup of carrot ribbons (loosely packed).
  6. Add the carrots, garlic powder, red wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp sea salt and 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Stir to combine and simmer for a couple more minutes.
Serves 2-3, double the recipe if you have more greens and a bigger family.  I had a 1/2 lb bag of greens so it was perfect for us.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Chia pudding is my new passion

I'm all about chia seeds.  So far I've only indulged in chia puddings, although I've heard that chia seeds can be used in everything from smoothies to muffins.  For now I'm trying puddings one at a yummy time.

Last week it was vanilla coconut pudding.  Coconut flavor and I go way back so it was a easy winner.  Being ready in 10 minutes was a plus as well. This week I tried a recipe that took a bit more patience as the waiting time was over an hour. Ah, the torture.  It was worth it however.  I can't get enough of the tapioca-like texture and the creamy vanilla flavor.  I made another batch this afternoon and did twice the recipe so that I can share some with my daughter.  And so I have more to eat!

Shake it up vanilla chia pudding
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp chia seeds

1. Add all the ingredients to a jar and cover with lid.
2. Shake ingredients until well mixed.
3. Let sit for 10 minutes and then shake again.
4. Put in the refrigerator for 1 hour (if you can stand waiting) or until chia is thick.

Ono with cilantro lemon-butter sauce

I made the best Ono with cilantro butter sauce this weekend.  I had intended on making Ono with a white-wine sauce but it was a bust.  I had tried the same white-wine sauce recipe earlier in the week with salmon, but that was an even bigger bust.

Why try again you may ask?

Good question.  Here's the truth, cooking with wine is a very new endeavor for me.  Before recently I always substituted wine with chicken stock.  Neither my husband or I appreciate the taste of wine (shocking I know, but true) so we don't have it around the house.  I decided to pick up some cooking wine at Trader Joe's after I started cooking more recipes.  I asked for recommendations and they suggested I use the cheapest stuff ($2 a bottle).

Fast forward to this last week.  I pulled the white wine out of the fridge and I'm guessing that it was way expired.  I'm not even sure but all I know is that the white-wine sauce (which came highly recommended by reviewers) was beyond disgusting.

I tried again after buying a new bottle of wine but it still tasted pretty bad, although not as bad as the other batch. My guess is that we just don't appreciate the taste of white-wine sauces.  That or you need a different/better wine for this recipe.  Feel free to chime in if you have any words of wisdom on this subject.

Now back to the good sauce.  After the second batch was a bust I whipped together a quick lemon-butter sauce that tasted amazing.  Why have I not done this before?  I highly recommend giving it a whirl if you haven't experimented with butter sauces.

Ono with Cilantro Lemon-Butter Sauce
Bake Ono at 450 degrees for approximately 15 minutes.

Sauce Ingredients
3 Tbsp butter - melted
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp chopped fresh cilantro

Mix together all the ingredients.  Break up the fish and pour the sauce over it.  I recommend an Ono, Ahi or Mahi but you could try it on other fish as well.  You could also try using different herbs, perhaps parsley or chives in the sauce.

How easy is that?  I found my Ono at Costco by the way.  It was reasonably priced and the fillets have not disappointed.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Radicchio & Spinach Salad with Mushrooms & Sunflower Seeds

Yesterday I picked up our Chow Locally CSA box.  I'd missed a couple weeks because of travel so was happy to see all of the green again.  I was also very happy that they'd arranged a new pick up in my area, a pick up that happens to be at a local coffee shop.  Organic veggies and fresh iced-coffee?  Yes please!

As usual the box included some veggies that were new to me, or at least ones I haven't cooked with before.  This time the UV (unidentified vegetables) were french breakfast radishes, radicchio and a braising mix.  I decided to jump right in and use the radicchio for dinner.

This radicchio was a green variety rather than the more typical purple.  It looked more like a cross between chard and kale.  According to my Chow Locally fact sheet radicchio is full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C & A and minerals.  

After a little googling I chose a Radicchio and Spinach salad.  The radicchio is a bitter leaf, but the dressing made it just right.  If you remember from my post where I shared my favorite (and very popular) buttermilk ranch recipe I am very particular about dressings.  The dressing for this recipe was light and not too sweet.  I found the dressing recipe here btw. 

Radicchio & Spinach Salad with Mushrooms & Sunflower Seeds
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 oz spinach (I used baby)
1 medium sized head of radicchio torn into bite sized pieces
4 oz of mushrooms - sliced
1 green onion - minced
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (I did roasted and salted)

1. Whisk the first three ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Gradually whisk in oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Combine radicchio, spinach and all remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
4. Add dressing to taste, toss to coat.  I prefer to add dressing with salad on my plate, but you could mix the entire bowl as well.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Roasted chicken with lemon garlic green beans

This recipe was a lovely surprise last week for dinner.  I threw it together at the last minute and found that it was both easy and tasty, a perfect combination for me.  I found the recipe from Real Simple here.  Of course I made a couple changes, for starters I halved the recipe.  Since we are a family of 2.75 (2 adults, 1 child and 1 baby) I didn't need 4 chicken breasts.  Now that I know how fabulous this recipe is I might double it next time so that there would be lots of left-overs.

Roasted Chicken with Lemon Garlic Green Beans
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon - 1/2 thinly sliced, 1/2 juiced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 pound trimmed green beans (I used frozen)
4 small potatoes (I used 2 red and 2 purple)
2 chicken breasts

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Coat a medium baking dish (I used 2.5 quart corning wear) or cast-iron skillet with 1/2 Tbsp of the olive oil.  Arrange the lemon slices on the bottom of the dish (doesn't have to cover the bottom).
  2. In a large bowl combine the remaining oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.  Add the green beans and toss to coat.  Using tongs remove the green beans and arrange them on top of the lemon slices.  Add the potatoes to the same olive oil mixture and toss to coat.  Using the tongs arrange the potatoes along the inside edge of the dish or skillet on top of the green beans.  Place the chicken in the same bowl with the olive oil mixture and coat thoroughly.  Place the chicken in the dish or skillet.  Pour any of the remaining olive oil mixture over the chicken.
  3. Roast for 45-50 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  
  4. Serve immediately.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fisher Price Fridays - Play Family School

Welcome to the 8th week of Fisher Price Fridays.  I've already introduced you to the farm #2555jetport #933A-Frame #990camper #994various baby toysplay family house #992 and last week the houseboat #985.  Whew, that's a lot but I have quite a bit more to go!

Today I'd like to show you another classic, the 1971 Play Family School #923.  The school was the fourth Fisher Price Little People (FPLP) playset created after the house, farm and garage.  It has many pieces (63) including alphabet letters in a tray (and some extra letters too), numbers in a separate tray, chalk and an eraser, playground equipment, student desks (4), a teacher desk and chair, four students and a teacher.  I have most of the original pieces and a couple extras (an extra desk and a student).  I do not have the original eraser or chalk.

The letter and number trays slide nicely inside the school.  The door flips down to provide a chalk board to write on.  The white roof is magnetic for the letters and the numbers.  The bell on the top of the roof really works.  It is a marvelous set!  The older versions of the set have the Fisher Price lithograph on the inside roof flap.  All the sets had a Fisher Price lithograph on the outside of the roof as well (mine is missing).

The original students were wood. I added an extra one in the back since I had an extra desk.  Inside the school house there are lithographs of a wood floor, shelves with books, a globe, two mice in a cage and a chalk board.  Plus a couple silhouette paintings of presidents.

The teacher looks kind and is happy to start the day.  Her desk has a lithograph of papers and of course an apple.

When the set is ready to be carried the roof folds down to keep the side closed (magnetically).  It is a pretty heavy set to carry around.

Each side has detailed lithographs. This end has a view inside the classroom and a ruler.  Also notice the momma bird with her nest and baby birds.  So cute!

Looking thru the windows are the students.  Check out the angry boy in blue and the little guy with a hat peaking behind the teacher's desk.

Of course you can't have a school without a playground.  This set came with a slide, merry-go-round and a swing-set.  My daughter especially enjoys playing with these pieces.

Looks like school is over for the day.  Thanks for coming by, see you next week!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Have you heard of Chia seeds?

Every time I write or say chia I can't help but hear "cha-cha-cha-chi-a" in my head.  You know, the jingle from the chia pet advertisements.

Now you'll be hearing it in your head as you read the rest of this.  Sorry. ;)

So have you heard of chia seeds?  I just recently read about them in my friend's Kymm's blog.  She'd added them to a smoothie.  Then I saw some recipes on pinterest and my interest was peaked.  So this week when I was at the health food store I picked some up from the bulk dept.

Do you know why chia seeds are the next best super food?  They are an edible seed that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (even more than flax seed).  They are also rich in antioxidants, don't have to be ground to be beneficial (like flax seed again) and have many nutrients such as fiber, iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, niacin and zinc.

If that wasn't enough they can also do a magic trick.  Yes, those tiny little seeds when added to liquid form a gel.  This gel in the stomach then slows the process of digestion which helps stabilize blood sugar.  Amazing!  It helps with weight loss because your stomach feels fuller with the little gel seeds yet there aren't any additional calories.

And did I mention that they can taste good, sort of like a tapioca texture?  I'm sold!

I did a quick search for chia recipes on Pinterest and saw pudding come up many times.  I tweaked a recipe to what I had on hand and made this amazingly tasty pudding.  It was creamy with a bit of a crunch.

Chia Vanilla Coconut Pudding

1 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup coconut milk
smidgen vanilla extract
1 tsp sugar

Just mix the ingredients and wait a few minutes and voila, yummy pudding!  Seriously, it is so good I wish I had more coconut milk on hand.  According to what I've read you can also use almond milk or cows milk to make pudding.  But there is something special about coconut milk.  You may want to double or triple the recipe (which is for 1 serving).  Don't say I didn't warn you. :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Flower Fields - Carlsbad, CA

We stumbled upon The Flower Fields last week in Carlsbad California.  I wrote about our stay at the West Inn & Suites here.  It was while checking in that we learned about the flower fields.  The fields just happened to be in season, which is only from March 1st - May 13th.  They also just happened to be only a mile from the hotel.  So on our last full day in Carlsbad we decided to check it out.  

When we were there 30% of the 50 acres were in bloom.  Some fields looked like this one, just starting to show their blooms.

Many fields looked full and vibrant like this one with open flowers.  I loved how they looked like a rainbow of different colors.

So many beautiful photo opportunities in the fields.  I couldn't resist having the baby get at eye level with the flowers to see what she'd do.  She tried to eat the flowers of course, but we got quite a few photos before any serious damage was done to her or the flowers. ;)  And yes, she's wearing the beautiful sweater I wrote about here from Melissa Grace Knits.  It was perfect for slightly chilly day.

The flowers are called Giant Tecolote Ranunculus.  I wasn't familiar with the ranunculus as they don't grow around here in Phoenix.

The purple color was my favorite.  So rich and vivid.

The Flower Fields offered tractor pulled wagon rides around the fields.  Perfect if you wanted to see all 50 acres without walking them.  We hoofed it ourselves, but the wagon looked fun too.

The 4 year old's favorite parts were the playground and the passport activity.  They had 8 stations with different stamps to put on the "passport".  She was SO excited about finding the different stamps and doing it all by herself.  

The playground was pretty special too.  Besides normal play equipment they had old houses and pieces from a now retired California amusement park called Santa's Village.

We had a lovely day at The Flower Fields.  Go check them out if you can!

And yes, we may have driven back with a little ranunculus plant for a friend.  It won't live long in Phoenix but they can enjoy the blooms for now.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sending pretty packages, aka - how to reuse envelopes and boxes.

I am a bit of a re-user.  I come from a long line of re-users.  For example, my mother saves the produce bags from the grocery store by winding them on (old) paper towel holders and then reuses them.  She was into reuse-recycle before it was popular. ;)

So I have a tendency to want to reuse items rather than toss them.  In this case mailing envelopes and boxes.  I used to just painstakingly tear off the prior labels and cross off the words on boxes or envelopes and then attach my own labels.  But then one day I had the bright idea to decorate the envelopes with pretty papers to match the theme of what I was mailing.  Whether it be Christmas, new baby, birthdays, etc.

Today I mailed two baby related gifts.  I blocked off the addresses by putting paper over them but you can get the idea.

Here's what I do.  

Step 1: Start with a used envelope.  Take off any easy to remove stickers if you want or just leave them on.
Step 2: Cut out pages from magazines, catalogues or even the coupon inserts from the Sunday paper.  My favorites are travel magazines and kids catalogues (Pottery Barn Kids or The Land of Nod).  J.Crew is a great resource too.
Step 3: Size the pages to fit the majority (or at least the written/stamped on parts) of the envelope or box.  Make sure to have a part for the return address.
Step 4: Use a blank 3x5 card or a white section of a magazine to use for the address and return address.  Sometimes you can write directly on the photos if they aren't too busy.  I was able to do this in the package with the baby on it that I sent this morning.  Then use clear packing tape to tape the pieces and address label parts to the package.  Step 5: Fill your package and impress the Post Office workers and all your friends.

I checked with the local PO and they assured me that sending decorative packages is just fine.  As long as the addresses are clear and easy to read you are good to go.

Monday, March 19, 2012

West Inn & Suites - Carlsbad, CA

I'm going to jump around a bit on our trip to California and skip ahead to the second hotel we stayed at. Yesterday I told you about how we stayed across the street from Disneyland, today I'll tell you about our hotel a little farther south in Carlsbad.

We chose Carlsbad on a whim.  We had decided to head to San Diego after Anaheim and so I asked friends to recommend a place to stay.  They suggested Carlsbad (instead) and the West Inn & Suites so I booked a room.  Best decision ever!  We LOVED this hotel.

Hotel Review:
The hotel was beautiful, family friendly, well equipped and comfortable.  It was close to local attractions like LegoLand, The Flower Farm (seasonal, I'll write about that later) and the beach.  It was a pretty quick drive (30 miles) to the San Diego Zoo.  The staff was very friendly, helpful and went above and beyond.  I could tell that it wasn't a chain hotel, the people that worked there seemed like family.

They have a heated pool that was heated to 85 degrees.  So even though it was only 69 and sunny out I braved it and took the girls for the swim.  I say brave because living in Arizona I usually don't go swimming unless it's at least 90 degrees outside!  However, the pool was so nice and warm that we had a fun (but quick) swim.

It was the baby's first time in a pool.

The pool had many toys to play with, lemon ice-water, towels-a-plenty and a waterfall.  

The hotel had other family friendly amenities like cookies and milk at night, a large library of movies to borrow (and each room had 2 DVD players and tvs), toys in the library and beach toys to borrow.

The suites were very comfortable.  A king size bed in the back and a pull out sofa in the front.  Lots of space to play/make a mess.  The bathroom had Aveda soaps and lotion and big bathrobes.  The kitchen area had a refrigerator, small microwave, small sink and a coffee maker that made really yummy pod coffee.  At night they would do turn down and leave chocolate toffee cookies on your pillow.  Yum!
But wait, there's more! ;)

Free breakfast.  And this time the breakfast actually tasted good.  They had many options including hot and cold foods and a lovely dining area to eat.

So you can see why we were so happy there.  The West property had two restaurants, a fancy steak-seafood restaurant (not the family type) and a bistro that seemed to be hopping all the time.  We got take-out from the Bistro and it was delish!

The weather was lovely all during our stay until the day we left.  This was the view from our window on the last wet morning.  We didn't make it to the beach this time (too cold for us) but I hope that we can go on our next visit.

The girls playing on the big bed.

I'm already planning our next trip out to Carlsbad!  Stay tuned for a review of The Flower Fields.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

We stayed across the street from Disneyland but didn't go in.

Say what?

Yes it's true.  We stayed directly across the street from Disneyland California but didn't go into the park.

Crazy?  Maybe, but we had a good reason.

We drove from Phoenix to Anaheim this last week to meet up with some friends of mine who were visiting CA from Hawaii.  We wanted to be in the same hotel as them so we were at the Best Western Plus Park Place Inn and Mini Suites since that's where they were staying.  When we met up with them they'd already gone to the park two days so it wasn't like I told the 4 year old tough-luck or anything like that.  In fact, she didn't seem to mind (or understand) at all what she was missing.

Instead we all went to Knott's Berry Farm together and she had a blast!  She went from ride to ride and unlike her mother she didn't have any issues with motion sickness.

Why no Disneyland?
We're just not ready to take our 4 year old to Disney.  She wouldn't know who most of the characters were anyway since we don't watch Disney cartoon movies and don't talk about, buy or promote the princesses.  In fact until recently we just referred to them as "pretty ladies" when she received presents with Disney princesses on them.

Why no princesses or characters?  Good question.  Initially I didn't want to deal with the little girl princess mentality I'd seen around.  I couldn't stand the "I'm the Queen/Princess that's why" onsies I'd see on babies.  I didn't want her to grow up into an entitled or spoiled child.  Later I didn't want our house teeming with paraphernalia that had characters on it.  Any characters, not just princesses you won't find Dora around here either.  I also wanted her to have her own imagination, not one influenced by the prince meets princess stories.

However, that said her friend who is very into princesses and who has visited Disney many times is one of the most creative and imaginative children I know.  So there went that theory. ;)  As parents all we can do is the best we know how.  Hopefully we haven't scarred her being princess-free.  For now we avoided Disney but I'm sure one of these years she'll be going to the "happiest place on earth".

Hotel Review:
Here's the skinny on the Best Western.  The main appeal to this hotel is location, location, location.  It is directly across from the Disney gate.  This means quick to walk to, but also lots of traffic (cars and foot), loud fireworks sounds at night (at first we thought our neighbors above were heavy footed, ha), and high priced parking ($8 a day).  It is right next to many restaurants including Tony Roma's, McDonald's, Subway, CPK, Ihop and PF Chang to name a few.

The hotel was clean and offered "suites" which meant a small microwave and refrigerator.  It also had a pull out couch that the 4 year old slept on, which was very lumpy although she didn't seem to mind.  The staff was kind and helpful, the free breakfast was free (that's the only good thing about it).  All in all a pretty decent place to stay.  Nothing special but remember you're there for the location right?

When we were preparing to leave the hotel another guest chatted me up while jocking for my excellent parking spot.  He asked if we'd had enough Disneyland.  When I replied that we hadn't actually gone to the park he looked at me incredulously and said "did you know it is across the street?"  Ha!  I should have told him "why no, I was wondering if it was near here", but I didn't think quick enough for that.

Perhaps next time we visit Anaheim we'll visit Mickey's house and not just his neighborhood.

Stay tuned for more reviews from our week in California including Knott's Berry Farm, The Flower Fields at Carlsbad, the San Diego Zoo and the West Inn and Suites to name a few.

My friend Sherry and her kiddos who came all the way from Hawaii.  We had just eaten at Ihop and you can see the Best Western hotel sign in the background.