Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Random J Photos

At the crummy Griffith Park Carousel. We also rode the Griffith Park & Southern train ride this day, and tried the pony rides (no go), and watched social dancers, and even saw two coyotes trotting down the road!

Jackson at "German Industrial Piercing Park" (not its real name) at Playa Vista.

Jackson practices his marching skills outside the Aquarium in Long Beach.

Jackson stalks the wild lorikeet at the Aquarium.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Happy Japanese New Year!

On Sunday we finished off our recent marathon of field trips with a visit to the Japanese-American National Museum downtown for their Oshogatsu (Japanese lunar new year) celebration. It was basically too crowded and Jackson isn't quite ready for craft projects yet, so it wasn't our greatest success, but the museum is beautiful, the event was excellent, even for a little kid (Dragon bouncy house! Snacks! Bang-bang drums!) and we'll probably do this again in a couple of years.

Jackson admires part of his osechi-ryori, which are the traditional foods of the Japanese New Year.
Jackson looks cute on the steps of the museum after the mochi-pounding ceremony and taiko drumming.
It's not all cute all the time people. Sometimes he's just a toddler! Hee. 

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Oh, Yes, More Trains

Went to San Pedro today to pick up a certain kid's DVD from the branch library there and took the opportunity to ride the--wait for it--Port of Los Angeles Waterfront Red Car Line {inhale}, which is a rescued and refurbished Pacific Electric Red Car that runs for four pointless but entirely charming stops along the main harbor of Los Angeles.

The fare is only $1 for grownups and free for anyone under 12, and you can ride all day once you pay up. Sights along the way include big big cruise ships, a fountain, several statues, a museum and L.A. County fireboats. Good stuff.

I told him he had to take out his binky for this picture, and he went for it. This is the southern terminus of the line, which has a nice spacious parking lot next to a fairly new and attractive park.
Riding the rails with my baby.

View across the street to the park, after we got back from our round trip.
View down the tracks toward the cruise ship terminal and Ports 'O' Call shopping center.

Picnic lunch at the station after our ride. Papa loves mango.

Dia de los Tres Reyes - Three Kings Procession & Street Fair, Huntington Park

So apparently, Epiphany, aka the Day of the Three Kings, or the Day of the Three Magi, or El Dia de Los Reyes, or El Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, is quite a big deal in the Spanish-speaking world. In some communities it's even bigger than Christmas, because Dia de Los Reyes is the day kids get their presents. In any case, while I was researching something else earlier this year I discovered that Huntington Park, which is a straight shot down Slauson from our house, has a big-deal street festival every year on Epiphany that includes a living nativity scene and live camels, plus special feast foods, and I was like, we are so going to that! And we did...

Dia de Los Tres Reyes: NOTABLE QUOTE

"Oh, he's so cute! He looks just like a little white baby!"


Three blocks of Pacific Blvd. were blocked off for booths, bouncy houses and a petting zoo! I'm pretty sure the donkey pictured below was there to be featured in the live nativity scene, but the crowds were so dense that we only got a distant glimpse of that and the camels. (Apparently if I'd known better, we could have gone to see the camels in their holding pen before they're trotted out for the actual process of delivering the Magi to the manger.) 

I can't believe I've never seen a tortoise at a petting zoo before. It's kinda brilliant. It doesn't run away and the kids can't do any damage!

This was a fascinating pile of sleeping puppies and Vietnamese pot-bellied piglets, but then the kiddo was distracted and thrilled by someone's balloon animal hanging overhead.


Jackson tried using a fork on his taquitos until I convinced him it was finger food. Meanwhile, I had a delicious bacon-wrapped hot dog. Seriously, the first person to wrap bacon around a hot dog should be identified and given a genius grant. And while I am disappointed to report that Paco's Tacos did not provide us with excellent customer service (grumble), the food was just fine.

Now, let's talk about the other food (not pictured), which is half the reason (besides the camels) that I wanted to go to this thing:
  • Rosco de Reyes: Rosco de reyes is the traditional celebratory bread-cake of Dia de Los Tres Reyes. I was largely unimpressed, although it was perfectly adequate. That said, I was finishing off our piece on the way home in the car (come on, sure, it was dry, but like I was going to toss a piece of cake?) when I bit into something hard. It was only then that I remembered the tradition of baking a trinket into the bread; he or she who finds it is said to be blessed for the coming year. So yay me, but the tiny albino baby Jesus is a choking hazard and I probably shouldn't have let Jackson nosh on this bread. Oops.
  • Champurrado: OK, champurrado is pretty good. Champurado is pretty much a hot-chocolate milkshake, but the thickener is masa, aka the cornmeal used in tamales, so it's kinda like drinking chocolate sludge with a tamale aftertaste. That sounds weird, but champurrado works quite well as a drink, and I'll look forward to encountering it again.
  • Hot Cheetos with Cheese: America, let's talk about obesity for a moment. I think I've found your problem: There is a street food called Hot Cheetos with Cheese, which is a constructed from a ripped -open bag of Hot Cheetos filled with nacho cheese sauce and handed over to the customer for eating with a fork. You can apparently use Doritos as a substitute for Hot Cheetos, if you so desire, or add jalapeno peppers if that's your thing. The teenagers on the street and my champurrado vendor swore it's good, but I mentally filed it in the same folder of terrifying foods as deep-fried Coca-Cola syrup and ran in the other direction.
Dia de Los Tres Reyes: FIRE ENGINE!

The Huntington Park P.D. and the County Fire Department came out to partake of the festivities, so Jackson got to high-five a real fireman and sit in a real fire engine. There was also a police motorcycle, police car and armored SWAT van, but the lines for those were too long so we stuck to fire engine.

They were giving away free bilingual children's books at one booth, so naturally we took one, because that's how I roll. Below, Jackson checks out the pictures.

Last but not least, Jackson liked the lights decorating the street and helicopters that swooped overhead now and again. The big downside of the night was the incredibly deafening banda music on every corner, but with a little advance planning next year we should be able to avoid going deaf and get to see the camels up close, whoo!

Madrona Marsh Tyke Hike, Torrance

Well, we made it back to Madrona Marsh in Torrance on Thursday for their "Tyke Hike," which happens the first Thursday of every month. It was a great trip, and the hike was perfectly calibrated for the littles. Not too long or too talky, with lots of sensory experiences ("Can you hear the bird even though you can't see the bird?" "Cockleburrs are prickly.") and good creature sightings. I even spotted a frog (although I couldn't catch the little guy) and whenever I'm in an environment where amphibians exist, I know someone is doing something right somewhere, because amphibians--with their permeable skins--are highly vulnerable to environmental disruptions. Anyway, even though this poor marsh is surrounded on all sides by commercial and industrial stuff (including, you know, an oil refinery), Madrona Marsh has a lovely collection of local flora and fauna, and while it wasn't quite a complete getaway into the wilderness, it was a super place to visit--much more open and relaxed than Ballona. We'll definitely be back in March and April, which I'm told is the "high season" for spotting ducks and flowers and such.

P.S. I forgot my regular camera so these are all fuzzy cell-phone pics.

"Turtle!" While we waited in the lobby of the nature center for the group to assemble, Jackson was delighted to discover three aquaria full of turtles: two with sliders, and one with two tiny baby desert tortoises eating broccoli. After we got back from the hike we explored further and found tanks with snakes, and a sensory box full of shed snake skins, which J got to touch and feel. The next day we ended up talking about skin (OK OK, fine, it was in the context of poo, but never mind) and Jackson busts out with, "Snake? Snake snake snake!"
Ranger/volunteer Daniel shows Jackson and the rest of the gang to hold up their special spotter cards and yell "I found it!" if they saw the thing on their card inside the gates of the marsh. I wouldn't have expected Jackson to process that instruction, but a few minutes later he held up his card to me and said, "Found it?" (We never did see any honeybees, though, which were what was on his card.)
This was a lovely little willow glade. For the kiddos, it was like being a forest, and as we ventured in further, there was a mudhole/pond, as well as wildlife like the aforementioned froggy!
Jackson listens while the very well-informed Daniel splains about ducks the group spotted, in this case Northern Shovelers that had taken flight to check us out.
Tired now. I fully expected to carry/stroller-push the kid the whole way, but he just took off marching, charging ahead with the rest of the group. He made it under his own power for a good 30 minutes, but the heat and excitement finally got the better of him, so I put him in the stroller for the return trek.
20 minutes per duck! Jackson really liked this display case because it had a daddy mallard, a mommy mallard and a baby mallard.

Can I just say that I adored the Madrona Marsh Nature Center?  Their display about the local ecology was just excellent, and it included a superb display of taxidermied local fauna. Honestly, I'd rather bring the kiddo here any day than take him to see the melodramatic creatures in the North American gallery at the Natural History Museum.

Kiddo was genuinely fascinated, and there was a ton of cool stuff to see and touch. (Among other things they had four animal pelts to touch and pet--for the record, skunk fur is incredibly soft!)

There was even a fossilized mastadon jawbone with huge teeth that had been donated by a retired science teacher who used to give her kids extra credit for bringing her their natural history finds!

In addition to the great display of dead stuff, they had small living animals (including the aforementioned snakes and turtles and an iguana) scattered around the center, as well as a lovely classroom and science library. The gift shop was closed for inventory, but I will so totally be going back there for nature-study paraphernalia in the future.

Anyway, this was great fun, and it's pretty easy to find, plus free parking, not too much danger, and great kid-appropriate natural science education. We'll be back!

Purple Brussels Sprouts?

They were selling "purple Brussels sprouts" at the farmer's market, but I suspect they're really just cabbage side shoots. Thoughts?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Art, Sponsored by Grandma and Grandma

In the midst of producing "White Board Scribble No. 1," Jackson stops to chat with our mail carrier.

Baby Jackson enjoys his new easel courtesy of Grandma Sylvia while wearing his art smock courtesy of Grandma Luise. Good work, grandmas, and THANK YOU!