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Today was Elodie’s last day of preschool. Two years went by in a flash. It was a magical time.

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of playing…

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and sleeping…

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and painting boxes…

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and fishing for marbles…

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and basking in the California sunshine…

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And I feel so blessed to have found such a wonderful school for our girl. And I am so grateful to our parents for making it possible. Thank you Grandma Futaba. Thank you Grandma Cait. Thank you Captain. We love you! And we’re ready for Kindergarten!

All photos courtesy of Griffin Nursery School.

Hello Kitty Ten

Last week we embarked on our very first camping trip as a family. We booked a Sunday night (since weekends in summer fill up as soon as reservation windows open), at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, about an hour north of Berkeley. Since it was such a quick trip, it was good to not be very far away from home. We actually almost forgot our tent! Thank goodness I remembered to ask Ram if he had packed it in the rental car, before we got on the highway.

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When we pulled up to our redwood-shaded campsite, we saw that our friends from San Francisco had already set up their tent (right next door), and were playing in the creek down the hill behind our sites. It was a perfect campground for kids. Elodie and her friend had so much fun wading in the ice cold stream, dragging the Hello Kitty tent around, and later, making s’mores. I didn’t sleep fabulously, despite my brand new double air mattress, which fit perfectly in our tiny 2-3 person tent, but that didn’t dissuade me from making plans for our next camping trip, which we booked this morning — Pinnacles National Park! It’s going to be hot, hot hot, but we’re hoping to see some shooting stars during the meteor shower, which peaks tonight!

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I can’t wait to discover more great California campsites! Do you have a favorite? I’d love to know.

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My husband, Rama and I enjoy a type of travel known as “coffee tourism.” It’s not what you’re thinking. We don’t go to places like Costa Rica or Ethiopia to see how coffee beans are grown and harvested. We go to coffee shops. He, to drink the coffee. Me, to indulge in a little coffee shop atmosphere and complain about the poor selection of teas (coffee shop bastards! Don’t even try serving me your one type of tea in a pint glass!)

I don’t drink coffee. But I do love me a good coffee shop. And one of the most adorable, prettiest, sweetest ones I’ve ever visited, was, of course, in Japan.

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I read about Little Nap Coffee Stand in Kinfolk Magazine, so when we went to Tokyo last spring, we made a point to venture to the slightly out-of-the-way location on the western edge of Yoyogi Park. We were both over the moon when we got there because not only did they have really nice coffee, they had even nicer ice cream! I had some kind of amazing flavor like rum or something, and it was definitely one of the most delicious things I ever ate. Artisanal. In every sense of the word.

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elodie at Eiffel Tower

Last summer we spent two weeks in Paris. While Rama was off doing some music stuff, Elodie and I spent a particularly lovely day together.

We walked across the city, from the 10th arrondissement to the 7th, to pay our respects to the Eiffel Tower. Or I should say I walked across the city, while Elodie snoozed away in her stroller. And the timing couldn’t have been better, as soon as we arrived, she woke up.

“I see that we got there already,” she declared upon waking.

“Got where?” I asked.

“The big house!”

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As you can see, we had lots of fun at the big house. Thanks to a man selling ice cream (not pictured), and a water gun.

Since we had such a long walk back (I don’ttake the metro in Paris by myself with a stroller), I wanted to get an early start, so we set off back across the city after soaking up all the delights the Eiffel Tower had to offer (no, we didn’t go up, despite the desires of one little person).

We walked along the Left Bank of the Seine for a while, and saw people picnicking at long tables after work. The wine was flowing.

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Then, we found a super cool playground right along the riverbank!

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Elodie wasted no time going all “Cirque de Soleil” on it. (Her dad’s side of the family was in the circus).

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Then we said “goodbye” to the kind Mr. Zebra who was keeping an eye on the place, and set off across the river.

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Thankfully, Elodie kept the villains at bay with her trusty water pistols (shaped like a dolphin and a fish).

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But she just couldn’t shake that feeling that we were being followed. Spies are everywhere in Paris!

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Finally, we found some peace and quiet at a nice spot called Cafe Diana. It’s an open-air restaurant right in the park, and we got a primo table for two overlooking a darling duck pond. Few restaurants in Paris are kid friendly, but this one was as good as it gets. Everything went smoothly, and our waiter didn’t give us any trouble, though I’m pretty sure he’s in the French mafia.

 

 

 

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Elodie had a hard time pulling her size 3T kitty cat shirt off over her head tonight, so we ordered some new outfits in size 4T. All on sale at Old Navy.

1. Ponte Leopard Print Dress ($14) for days when she needs to be a “cheetah.”

2. Roll Sleeve Graphic Tee in Printed Bottom ($8) with Jersey Leggings in Denim ($4.47)

3. Roll Sleeve Graphic Tee in Gray Heather ($8) with Jersey Leggings in Black ($4.47)

4. Jersey Leggings ($4.47) in Fuchsia Generation and matching Long-Sleeved Tee ($4.47) for days when she feels like being Holly Shiftwell from Disney’s Cars movie.

Unfortunately, I’m not making any money from this post, but if anybody wants to sign me up for affiliate marketing I’ll take it :)

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I spend a lot of time walking in my town. And I don’t just stick to my neighborhood, Elmwood, I traipse all over the place, from Downtown Berkeley to the Gourmet Ghetto, and up the hill to the Claremont Hotel area. As I go about my promenade I take in the stunning architectural eye-candy, in constant awe over the magnificent places some lucky locals call home. Among the grandiose houses of Berkeley, California, this stunning Beaux-Arts beauty perpetually catches my eye.

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Awash in bright California sunshine for much of the day, its cheerful facade positively gleams each time I stroll by. It is without a doubt the kind of home I’d be delighted to come home to every day. Wouldn’t you?

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Neoclassical architecture was all the rage in France in the 1800s when Napoleon Bonaparte came to power and kicked off the Empire Era. Inspired by the ideals of ancient Greece and also seen as a backlash to the more elaborate rococo style that preceded it, the characteristic ionic columns and stately balustrades quickly infused England, and eventually made it over to the United States. Antebellum plantation houses of the American South come to mind, and of course there’s The White House.

The interesting thing about Berkeley architecture is that it’s so mixed. A single block might feature beautiful examples of Neoclassical, Victorian, Spanish Colonial Revival, and of course Craftsman — a style the city is particularly known for.

Over the next few months I’ll continue to feature outstanding examples of Berkeley’s fabulous residential architecture. And though I pretend to be an expert, the truth is, I’m a complete novice, a pedestrian enthusiast if you will, so if you’ve got anything to add to the conversation, please do!

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We are in France! On Thursday, while Rama set off for a concert in Belgium, Elodie and I embarked on our own adventure to visit some friends in the lovely town of Chantilly. Just a 25-minute train ride from Paris’ Gare du Nord train station, Chantilly is the horse-breeding capital of France and is home to a beautiful chateau. Since all that rococo detailing isn’t very conducive to sticky four-year-old fingers, we didn’t go inside, but instead spent a few glorious hours exploring the vast gardens. First stop: the cafe.

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According to the English language brochure, a series of rustic, English-style cottages were built on the grounds in 1775 for the Prince of Condé. They now house a restaurant, so we headed over to taste the authentic whipped cream. “Chantilly” means “whipped cream” in French, and was actually invented here. Elodie’s chocolate chaud came with a wopping dollop of thick, rich, buttery, cream that tasted more like cream cheese frosting than ready-whip. Decadent indeed!

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After our afternoon treat, which they call “gouter” en francais, we set out to find the children’s play area. Down a grassy path, over a wooden footbridge, and past a wide field, we were met by a flock of carved and painted wooden sheep. So sweet! The enchanting playground also featured a series of tiny wooden houses and grass-covered mounds of earth that formed a swirling pattern that was so fun to run on. An adjacent labyrinth was created for a prince’s birthday party. I read that when the children made it to the center of the maze, they found a table piled high with sweets and treats. We were nervous about getting lost in the labyrinth, so didn’t venture inside, but I once heard that if you run your hand along the right side of labyrinth, you will eventually find your way out.

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Our friends are hoping to move back to the States soon, so who knows if we will ever go back to Chantilly, but we’re so lucky we had the chance to visit. And if we do make it back to that delightful town just north of Paris, we’ll certainly return to the chateau and while away an afternoon like happy French royals.

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