I had a disastrously bad relationship in my early 20’s and as hellish as it was at least two good things came out of it; my hard earned resolve to demand better for myself and a newfound love for pupusas. Pupusas hail from El Salvador and were originally created by the Pipil tribe many centuries ago. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that they arrived here in el norte, carried in the hearts and stomachs of thousands of Salvadorans fleeing their tumultuous & civil war torn country. Since then, pupusarias have popped up all over the U.S. and are especially prevalent in LA, where this little gem resides.
Mi Carbonero Restaurant is similar to a lot of Latino owned restaurants around LA; every possible window surface is covered with flashy photo evidence of just how good their food looks, complete with a poster of international phone cards they also sell. You know, just in case you desperately need a phone card with lunch. The interior of Mi Carbonero is pleasantly cool, a dining requirement in the often stifling LA valley, where the temperatures can reach into the 90’s for days on end.
Pupusas are essentially stuffed tortillas, filled with all sorts of delectable combinations; my favorite being the tried & true Queso con Frijoles. That’s cheese and beans for my gringo friends. Once the pupusas are delivered to your table, you’ll get the traditional accompaniments, a cabbage slaw otherwise known as curtido and a tomato sauce. Now for all my pupusa eating novices out there, these two garnishes are as important to a great tasting pupusa as the pupusa itself and I dare anyone to argue otherwise. To find a pupuseria which produces both equally well is a perfect trinity, a trifecta of taste bud excellence and let me tell you, it can be damned hard to find. So I was pleasantly surprised when Mi Carbonero delivered just that. A tiny place in the sea of humanity that is LA, and I had found pupusa perfection. Now, if only I didn’t live 3 states away….
Mi Carbonero #1 Restaurant
11644 Victory Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91606
*Hours* Mon-Sun 8am-11pm
This past Valentine’s day, looking for a quick but not overly ambitious little day jaunt, we found ourselves pulling into the Breazeale Interpretive Center in the Padilla Bay Estuarine Reserve. After a curbside picnic in the warmth of the waning winter sun, we loaded up London in the hiking pack and headed down to the beach. The trail down is great, short & paved all the way, and it leads to a bird lookout above the beach before descending to the sand below via a spiral staircase.
Padilla Bay is a tidal bay which means that it floods during high tide and lies almost completely exposed during low tide. This allows the eelgrass which covers the bottom of the bay to grow unusually large, thus creating an ideal environment for many different marine animals and plants to thrive in. It is also an estuary, that murky no man’s land where fresh water and salt water meet. I’ve always liked estuary’s; a unique place where two worlds collide and somehow meld together to create a whole new environment. That and the mud. That silky, smooth, stinking mud which exists in estuaries the world over. I would have gladly let London cover himself head to toe in it had it not been high tide in February.
On our way back towards the car, London and I ducked into the Interpretive Center and were pleasantly surprised at all it had to offer. There are a few well done aquariums as well as a hands on learning room, with lots of things for kids to touch and explore all while learning about the local Padilla Bay environment. A little edification thrown into a Valentine’s day adventure? Now that’s my kind of romance.
Breazeale Interpretive Center
10441 Bayview Edison Road
Mt. Vernon, WA 98273
Open Wed~Sun 10am~5pm
My redneck mountain upbringing doesn’t readily lend itself to sampling exotic foods; it’s a failing I’ve tried to correct little by little over the years. I look with envy at others happily crunching away on octopus or salmon roe, seemingly oblivious to the fact that what they are eating is, infact, disgusting. Yet they look so fulfilled, so adventurous that somehow I can’t help but feel left out while staring down at my plate of familiar, predictably boring food. So this year, I’m determined to branch out my tastebuds and what better place to start than in the International District in Seattle.
As any adventurous eater can tell you, there are definite places to avoid while searching out ethnic food, so I always rely on a recommendation from someone who’s eaten at a specific place and survived. I friend of mine posted a photo of some succulent honey walnut shrimp from the Honey Court Seafood Restaurant awhile back and it intrigued me. I just couldn’t get that shrimp off my mind. So last Sunday, we headed down to the Honey Court for a taste of said shrimp and adventure.
The place was packed, which I took as a good sign and luckily the lobby has the requisite giant fish tank which seems to grace every Asian eatery from Seattle to China, so London had plenty of fish to stare at while we waited for a table. Keeping true to my vow of being a more adventurous eater, I ordered crispy prawns with green onions off the dim sum cart as soon as we were seated and they were straight up awesome. Fueled by my success in food cart pickings, Edgar chose a sticky rice packet which he said was great and I took his word for it. I couldn’t push my adventurous luck that far, at least not yet. We ordered more food, including that infamous honey walnut shrimp and as it piled high on our table, we realized that maybe we’d overestimated our eating abilities. Still, we wielded our chopsticks high and valiantly tried to finish our chow mien but in the end, we had to concede defeat. After all, we had to save some for dinner because who doesn’t love Chinese leftovers?
Honey Court Seafood Restaurant
516 Maynard Ave South
Seattle, WA 98104
Hours: Open 11am~2:30am Daily
My son London has a lot of hair and it’s beautiful. It’s shiny & soft and full of baby curls, hence I could understand my husband’s hesitation at loping it all off. Yet after a few, “she’s so cute” comments and some solid competition for Cousin It’s hairdo, I had decided that a little trim, at least, was in order. In fairness, I should really give the credit for making this decision to my mom, who has told me incessantly that London’s hair in his eyes all the time was a form of child cruelty. My habit of always forgetting to bring toys for London anywhere we go must just slay her. Li’l Klippers, a kids hair salon located on the 2nd floor of the Wallingford Center in Seattle, was just the place for this time honored toddler rite of passage. After all, a baby’s 1st haircut instantly turns your chubby cheeked infant into a independent & grown up toddler, and a proper setting for that kind of transformation is essential. The salon is darling, with different wooden characters to sit in, plenty of books to read and a bright, vibrant atmosphere. After choosing the boat to sit in, London settled in like a champ and let Melissa, the stylish, work her magic. She was great with him and handled the paparazzi burn of our camera flashes like a pro. When it was over, she gave us a little card with a few of London’s fallen locks, a sweet touch to pine over one day when he decides to shave his head in teenage rebellion.
1815 North 45th Street
Seattle, WA 98103
*Located inside the Wallingford Center on the 2nd floor*
I am the last person on this planet to rush to a mall for entertainment but I have been keen to take London here ever since he learned how to walk. The first time I set foot in Kids Cove was a few years back with a heathen child I was nannying at the time and though I secretly tried to fade into the gaggle of new moms out of shear embarrassment over the child’s monster like behavior; I was impressed with the Kids Cove. It was bright & clean & fun to look at and it occurred to me that someday, I would like to take a non demon-child there to enjoy it.
Flash forward some 5 years or so and there we are, my cool kid and me, sizing up the Kids Cove on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. It was as big and colorful as I remembered and now, having joined the mama ranks, I found it even more appealing. There is a bench which surrounds the play area and only one entrance, which makes a possible toddler escape just a little bit harder. The play structures are soft and the floor is padded, with neat little cubbies for shoes lining one wall and built in hand sanitizers. All in all, Kids Cove puts most other mall play areas to shame. I mean, how can you compete with a crawl-thru ferry and sandcastle slide? You just can’t.
Kids Cove @ Bellevue Square Mall
NE 8th Street & Bellevue Way
Bellevue, WA 98004
*FREE* 3rd Floor~Near Macy’s
I used to live mere feet from this park, and many of my favorite childhood memories are wrapped up in its shrubbery. I perfected my tree climbing skills there, picked blackberries off it’s slopes and roared with laughter the 4th of July my daredevil uncle caught it’s grassy bank on fire.
Though spread across only 5 acres, Grand Ave Park is long & narrow and beautifully maintained, so it gives the illusion of being much bigger than it truly is. The city of Everett acquired the land in 1906; it was sold to the city by the Everett Improvement Company for the grand total of $1. Many stately houses line the east side of the park, including the home of Henry M. Jackson, a US congressman and senator. His house had been built by another Everett notable, William C. Butler, a conservative Republican banker who had had great influence over Everett’s early development. When Mr. Jackson, a Democrat, purchased the house in 1967, he was said to have savored the irony of owning the house of the tight-fisted ‘ol Republican not only because of their political differences but also because he had delivered newspapers to that same house as a child.
Grand Ave Park is probably not the place you’ll want to visit for a toddler playdate or a power jog. There’s no playground or plastic jungle gym or batting cages. Just a long expanse of beautiful views, big trees and green grass. When I walk along its promeade, looking down on the twinkling lights below, I can nearly imagine myself eleven again, running ahead, wild & free. It’s a mirage that I’m always grateful for.
Grand Avenue Park
1800 Grand Ave Everett, WA 98201
Before London came along, the only way I would have stumbled across this Seattle tradition is if I snuck into the hotel lobby to use its bathroom. Once the kid appeared on the scene however, every free, possibly entertaining event in a 100 mile radius piques my interest, so off we went to size up the Sheraton Gingerbread Village. This year marks its 22nd year of sweet success and as we ambled through the gawking crowd; I could see why. It is a sugary marvel; from working ferris wheels to enchanting lighting, the six displays are architectural wonders.
The displays are built as a fundraiser for Junior Diabetes research which seems like an oxymoron being that they are built of sugar and all but who doesn’t love gingerbread houses & no one gets to eat these, diabetes or not! Our dear little friend Jordyn was recently diagnosed with diabetes, so London of course donated his future tooth fairy money to the cause.
The Gingerbread Village is free, open 24 hours until Jan. 5th and oh so sweet. The hardest part of our visit was trying to keep London from crawling under the velvet rope and devouring the whole thing, something I’m sure the Sheraton would frown on.
Downtown Seattle Sheraton
1400 6th Ave
Open Nov. 25th~Jan. 5th
24 Hours a day, 7 days a week
I may be a bit bias as the Centennial Trail literally runs right by my house, as in across the street from my front door, but I think it’s one of the better paved trails around. It runs for 29 miles, from Historic Snohomish to just north of little ‘ol Bryant, passing thru both Lake Stevens and Arlington along the way. Following former railway lines, there are benches, picnic tables and even a drinking fountain or two sprinkled along the route.
When I was a kid, long before cell phones and motorized scooters, my cousin and I would meet up on the trail & have picnics. He would call from his house in Lake Stevens and I would answer at my house in Snohomish & after a brief discussion of who was bringing what to the trailside grubdown, we would hope on our bikes and take off towards each other. We would meet someone along the way, pull our dusty bikes over and eat whatever food we were able to smuggle out of our respective houses. Then we would climb back on our metal steeds and pedal back home again.
That kind of childhood freedom makes me nostalgic not only because my life now has far fewer bicycle filled days but also because I fear that carefree freedom, which should be such an integral part of childhood, is fast disappearing. Though London is too small yet to even ride a bike, I hope to someday cover all 29 miles with him; from Snohomish to the Nakashima Farm which marks the end of the trail. And, in the spirit of raising an independent young man, I might even let him ride a bit ahead of me.
Runs from Snohomish, WA
to Nakashima Farm, north of Bryant, WA
It was a dreary Northwest afternoon today, and instead of risking being stuck in a midday monsoon on a walk downtown, I did the next best thing. I drove the 8 blocks or so it takes to get from my house to the downtown bakery, stuffed both mine & London’s face full of buttery carbs and felt chubbily guilty afterward. But hey, it WAS sort of raining.
Anyways, the scene of the crime: Snohomish Bakery at First & Union. A super imaginative name as you can tell but I guess they wanted to be clear about where they are in case any adventurous outsiders get lost. It’s in Snohomish, on First & Union. Clear? Aside from that little bit of idiocy, the bakery itself has a nice ambience, with hardwood floors, a large outdoor patio and french cafe music lilting though the place.
London and I split both a plain croissant and the bread pudding; and yes, I did feel guilty afterwards! Guilt for the nearly empty nutrients I was wolfing down sure, but mostly because this pretty much summed up our lunch today. Good thing it was tasty. The croissant was solidly good, not the best I’ve ever had but flaky and buttery; the two factors required of all croissants worth their salt. The bread pudding was the clear winner of the two; sweet but not overly so, with a hint of orange and chock full of raisins, apples and pecans. So with the nuts and fruit, I pretty much covered three food groups right? Maybe it wasn’t such a bad lunch after all =)
at First & Union
101 Union Ave
Hours: 8am~6pm Daily
Ah storytime. Some kids love it, some kids turn into obnoxious, bedeviled little noisemakers who spew a plethora of mundane questions the second a book is opened. Luckily, London is in the first category…most of the time. Obviously, I want him to love reading, unlike his father who believes that cracking open a car manual is akin to reading War & Peace; so storytime is a big seller for me. I am not however, one of those parents who will gleefully read a 10 word board book over & over again…once a day sure, then it’s hidden deep in the recesses of his closet till at least tomorrow. Googling, soft spoken storytelling is usually not for me. So story time on a 125 year old tugboat naturally caught my eye. Did it offer books of substance, normal voices and something cool for me to look at besides a multicolored floor mat? It did and then some.
The Arthur Foss was built in 1889, and besides towing boats up & down the Columbia River and running supplies to miners up in Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush, the little tugboat was also featured in the film Tugboat Annie and did a stint in the American Navy during WWII. Not a bad piece of history to learn your ABC’s on.
Story time lasts about 30 minutes & then you and the munchkin are free to cruise the boat. There are no bathrooms on board but the MOHAI cafe is located mere feet away, with a large, clean bathroom free to use.
Arthur Foss Story Time
Every 2nd & 4th Thursday of the month ~FREE~
11am aboard the Arthur Foss
Located behind MOHAI
860 Terry Ave North