One of the best things about being in a babysitting coop is that you don’t have to blow half your date night budget on a babysitter. We just wrapped up a round of date-night swaps that we traded with four other local families — giving us four date nights (one per month) with free babysitting! It doesn’t get much better than that. Here’s what we did on our civilized, kid-free nights out.

Date Night #1: Dinner with Margaritas at Comal, Berkeley

Comal Berkeley

This upscale Mexican restaurant in Downtown Berkeley has yummy Margaritas. I recommend reserving a table in the main dining room. We didn’t have a reservation, but luckily snagged a table in the back section, which was kind of chilly and breezy on the rainy winter night that we went. The dining room also features refined acoustics so you can speak at a normal volume and still have a nice quite conversation.

Date Night #2: Dinner with martinis and wine at Corso, Berkeley

Corso Berkeley

An elegant Italian restaurant in Berkeley’s “Gourmet Ghetto,” Corso serves excellent martinis and features what I consider to be the best chicken dish in America (pictured). Unfortunately, the last time I had it it was slightly overcooked, but the time before that was exquisite! Baked in gobs of butter and served in its own tiny little pan this lovely little breast goes wonderfully with a glass of chianti classico.

Date Night #3: Dinner with martinis and wine at The Advocate, Berkeley

The Advocate Berkeley

Sister restaurant to Comal, The Advocate is a cosmopolitan new option in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood. Not only is it a great date night spot, it also has a nice bar for fancy mom’s night out drinks. The kitchen churns out delicious dishes like the classic cheeseburger — one of the best in the Bay Area — and a seasonal flatbread like the “flowers, herbs, and honey” flatbread pictured above. Yes, I had this and yes, I felt like a fairy queen eating it.

Date Night #4: Dinner with cocktails at Burma Superstar in Oakland followed by ice cream at Curbside Creamery

Burma Superstar

Known for their “tea leaf salad,” Burma Superstar enjoys cult status as one of the best Burmese restaurants in the Bay Area (In addition to this restaurant in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood, they’ve got locations in San Francisco and Alameda). But whenever we go, I can’t resist the sesame chicken and sautéed pea leafs. So good! Last weekend we also got the “sumosa salad,” which was yummy. I found that the “lychee cucumber mimosa,” which tasted strange at first, paired excellently with the salad’s savory flavors.

Curbside Creamery

We still had an hour left after finishing up dinner at Burma Superstar, so we headed over to Temescal Alley — a really cute industrial chic area just off busy Telegraph Avenue. Most of the shops were closed, but a handful of families and other couples were lining up at Curbside Creamery. A single ice cream cookie sandwich split between the two of us hit the spot — and check out the picturesque brick patio where we sat in minty green chairs beneath a rose trellis. It’s one of my new favorite places.  I think we’ll have to go back soon with the little one in tow.

Date Night #5: Oysters and Champagne at the Claremont Hotel, Berkeley

Claremont Hotel Oysters

While this wasn’t technically a date night, it was still a fun night out with my husband, mother-in-law, and 6-year-old daughter (it was actually her birthday!). But the setting was beautiful with the Claremont Hotel’s newly renovated interiors and spectacular views, and I think it would make a marvelous place for a date.

Do you have a favorite date night spot in the city where you live? I’d love to know!

[All images except the last two courtesy of the respective restaurants]

 

 

 

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One of the most delightful experiences I’ve had in the Berkeley community is as a docent for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association’s Spring Tour. This year, I won’t be able to volunteer, but if you’re free this Sunday, May 1, don’t miss this chance to get an exclusive peek inside 10 historic Berkeley homes. Each year BAHA focuses on a different neighborhood. This year’s event centers on the region just south of the Municipal Rose Garden and features houses designed by celebrated 20th century architects like Bernard Maybeck and John Galen Howard. It will surely be a treat to see these gorgeous architectural gems, and the gardens should be in their full springtime glory! We weren’t able to take photos of the inside of the houses last year, but here are a few shots I snapped outside.

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Car Sick Kid

For a travel-loving parent, there’s really nothing worse than being blessed with a child who suffers from motion sickness. Somehow, I have survived dozens of international flights and countless domestic flights, train trips, and car rides with a carsick kid. And really, when I say I survived, I do mean I survived and not she survived, because the kid will get through it, maybe even grow out of it like mind kind of did, but the parent will be traumatized for life.

Here are some ways our family learned to deal with motion sickness.

1. While riding in the car, sit in the back seat with your child and hold his or her head against the side of the carseat, covering the child’s ear with your hand. We happened upon this technique by accident one day and it proved to be a tried and true remedy for battling the carsickness blues. The comfort of your hand on their head also helps the child fall asleep faster, which is the golden ticket for parents of carsick children.

2. Make sure your child has something in his or her belly before they get into the car or onto the train or airplane. An empty stomach is motion sickness’s best friend, but so is a very full stomach, find the balance.

3. Always drive as smoothly as possible, especially around curves, turns, and while coming to a stop and then accelerating again.

4. Open the windows. Even in winter. Your carsick child needs fresh air above all else. If it’s freezing cold out, just crack the back window.

5. Give them periodic sips of water or something to suck on like a lollipop.

6. Play kids music, listen to an audio book, or come up with some other way to keep your child distracted from that pending feeling of nausea waiting to creep up at any moment.

7. When the nausea gets really bad get your child out of the car and let him or her lie down for a little while.

8. If your plans include flying, you’ll want to employ many of the same techniques outlined above (hand over ear, against your body; some food in the tummy), but since you can’t open the window, be sure the overhead air vent is blowing at full power.

9. If your child is under 2-years-old and breastfeeding, you’ll always want to nurse your baby at take-off and landing. But if your motion sick sweetie is over two, she’ll be in her own seat. Rest her head either on the armrest or against your body, and keep your hand against her head/ear.

10. When the flight attendant says it’s ok, you can put the armrest back up and lay your child’s head in your lap. Lying down always makes motion sick children feel better, and obviously helps them to fall asleep. Of course there are many long-haul flights when your child won’t be able to stay asleep the entire time. Pray that those flights will be smooth. In my experience, my daughter does fairly well on a smooth flight, but the most meager hint of turbulence will send her into panic mode.

11. Do not let your child walk up and down the aisle on a moving plane or train. My theory is that it has something to do with the size of the human compared to the size of the locomotive and the speed of travel, but for some reason, if my daughter walks in the aisle her head starts swirling and she plummets into a haze of motion sick madness.

12. Don’t give them medication unless you know for sure it already works for your child. We tried it once. She stayed awake the entire flight from Paris to Dallas.

And here are some things to pack in your carry-on: ginger snaps, lollipops, a treat for takeoff like M&Ms, pasta or bread in case they won’t eat the in-flight meal, a washcloth wrapped around an ice cube inside a ziplock bag — to cool off their face/head while they’re lying down, wipes, a few extra outfits, extra plastic bags, a bottle of water, some small favorite toys, some small surprise toys & activities, iPad or iPhone for in-flight distractions.

Does your child suffer from motion sickness? How do you deal with it? If you’ve got any other tips, please share them in the comments below. Thanks so much!

 

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Last fall, we had the rare opportunity to visit The Essig Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Berkeley. Not usually open to the public, we were able to take part in this special visit as members of the Lawrence Hall of Science’s family group on Meet-Up. On Friday, February 12, in honor of Charles Darwin’s birthday, the Essig Museum is once again opening its doors to the public. It’s a small space on the UC Berkeley’s campus, but their collection features a breathtaking assortment of rare species of beetles, grasshoppers, ladybugs, butterflies, moths, and more. Here’s a sample of some of the stunning specimens we saw.

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Be sure to reserve your space for one of the tours! You can get more info on the Essig Museum of Entomology website. And happy birthday Charles Darwin, who was born in Shrewsbury, England in 1809! Wouldn’t it be fun to do a Darwin tour one day and combine a trip to his birthplace with a visit to the Galapagos?

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Lately, I’ve rekindled my love for two old hobbies: reading and knitting. The project I’m most excited about is a “bicycling scarf” I’m making for Rama so cars can see him better when he’s pedaling around town on his 10-speed. I was thinking about using some kind of reflective fiber in the scarf, but they didn’t have anything like that at Jo-Ann’s, so I settled for this neon yellow (the photo doesn’t do the color justice — it’s actually a much more fluorescent hue.)

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To ensure that I actually get this scarf finished (as opposed to sitting in my knitting box for years and years like this green project pictured above), I formed a knitting club. It’s something I’ve always wanted to be a part of, but surprisingly have never joined. We meet every Tuesday night at the cafe across the street from my house. It’s perfect because I can put Elodie to bed and then run across the street for an hour or two for some tea, crafting, and conversation with friends while Rama gets some work done at home. If you live in the area, come join us! Or start your own crafty gathering in your own neighborhood. Maybe you’re already part of a knitting club, if you are, take a picture and tag it #nightknitting on Instagram. I’d love to see what you’re working on.

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Three years ago I moved to Paris for a year with an 18-month old girl. I quickly learned that there are places where children are welcomed with open arms (playgrounds, some museums), and there are many more place where children are frowned upon if they cause the slightest commotion (most restaurants and cafes). If you’re going to Paris with kids, I think this map will help you navigate the best places in the city to bring your little ones. Some of the restaurants I’ve included even have kids menus and high chairs (Le Pure Cafe) — a real rarity in the City of Light. And some of them were created especially for families (Le Petit Cafe du Monde Entier). And if you’re going solo, perhaps with an adoring partner in tow, I think you’ll find some nice spots to soak up the ambiance while indulging in some French delights (food, wine, eclairs). Take a look!

Click here to open the map in a new browser.

Berlin Living Room

Last week our former landlord from Germany came over for dinner. It was so nice to see him, and it made me think about the beautiful apartment we rented from him when we lived in Berlin. It was probably my most favorite place that I’ve ever lived.

We spent a lot of time in the living room, just working. I loved having a tiny little balcony where I could grow plants, hang laundry, or step out for fresh air and a view to the street below.

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We brought those IKEA sheepskins back to the States with us. They’re a little dingier now, but still cozy. The print came from a printing museum in Leipzig.

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The kitchen was so delightfully East German. Everything so compact but functional. When we moved in, much of the kitchen things were packed away in boxes. It was so fun going through them and discovering all these strange little gadgets. We loved the white mixing bowls so much that our landlord said we could have them, and we still use them here in California.

One of the best things about living abroad is getting a different perspective on life. When I think about being in that apartment I think about the serenity of the light, the echo of footsteps in the quiet courtyard where we all kept our bikes or took out the garbage, and the beautiful textures of the wooden floors and the jute carpets in the hallway. I’ll never forget that place, and am so grateful we can continue the relationships we formed there — even with someone like our landlord, who we hardly ever saw — but here or there, we’ll always have a place at our table for him.

You can see more photos of our Berlin apartment here on my flickr page.