Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Gasolina Cafe: A Taste of Spain Just Around the Corner

Hidden in plain sight on Ventura Boulevard is the delicious Gasolina Cafe. I've driven past Gasolina Café many times and always told myself I would stop by. I quickly realized I was missing out of some great food and the best lattes in the valley.

Chef and Champion of season one Food Network’s Cutthroat, Sandra Cordero, heads Gasolina Cafe by adding a little something extra to every dish. You can't quite put your finger on it, but it's pure delight. Sandra runs Gasolina along with her husband actor/writer, John Hensley who has added his own creative decor to the restaurant.

Sometimes something simple is what you need. Since I am always on the go, my first taste of Gasolina was a latte and the PAN CON AGUACATE ($5.50). I am hooked!! First let me start with the lattes. The best! The PAN CON AGUACATE, perfection. I mean it's bread with avocado on it, simple right? I tried making this at home for my husband after my visit and it's was just not he same. Chef Sandra Cordero puts her own spin to it by adding radish, olive oil, sea salt, a little something else. When I asked Sandra about how this dish came to be, she told me that it almost didn't make the menu. It is something she likes to make and just added it on at the last minute. I am truly thankful for this. I kept asking friends to join me for coffee just so I could get my Gasolina latte fix.

The next step was trying it out on my daughters, Abbey and Madeleine. They, like any 4 year-old or 6 year-old, can be picky eaters. Abbey decided she would sit on the counter facing the front of the cafe. Madeleine and I sat at the table next to her. Abbey took her job as a food critic very seriously and our dinning adventure began.

Madeleine and I shared my favorite dish the PAN CON AGUACATE, PAN CON MERMELADA and BOWL OF SEASON FRUIT ($6). Madeleine ate it her way by taking everything apart and eating each item on its own... and enjoyed it. I fruit was delightful, no unripened cantaloupe. It was sweet strawberries, blueberries and cantaloupe  

Abbey decided on scrambled eggs with avocado and berries. Again, Chef Sandra takes something simple and adds her Food Network champion touch to it. I want to tell you how amazing the eggs tasted, but I didn't get the chance to try them- Abbey ate them all. After, she said, "Mom, can you ask the Chef Sandra how to make these eggs? And then can you make them like this for me?"

While Abbey enjoyed her meal, Madeleine and I ate everything on our end except for the radish.

After our meal, Chef Sandra treated us to the girls to CHURROS CON CHOCOLATE ($7.50). Can't go wrong with a churro. Abbey loved it without the chocolate and Madeleine loved to dip.

On the weekends there is different set menus of Chef Sandra's picks. This was a great time to do a ladies night out. My friend Jenifer Breman and I went on a food adventure at the Gasoline Café. We experienced appetizer special.   Note to guest, just because it's par fe style doesn't mean you wont get full. We started to take smaller bites half way through the evening to make sure we tried everything on the menu.

CROQUETAS DE BACALAO with LEMON AIOLI. Jen and I loved guessing what was in this dish. It was such a great start to our evening. Creamy, flavorful and delicate.

MORCILLA WRAPPED IN CHARD LEAVES with VINAIGTETTE: I couldn't wait to try this. I took a bite so quickly that I almost forgot to take this picture. The vinaigette wraps up the flavors perfectly.

 SPANISH GARLIC SHRIMP, perfectly seasoned with a little kick.

 FABADA ASTURIAN BEAN STEW with CHORIZO - love the little crunchy bites of chorizo. Not to salty, just right.

 PARARAS BRAVAS - The crispy outside of the parapas misleads you to believe that the inside is too. Once you bit in to it's tender and moist in the inside. Jen and I had the same reaction to this... "How did she do that."

It was a great evening for great food and great company. Nothing better then to end the evening with a special dessert of I best describe as a mini donuts that melts in your mouth.

Where: 21014 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills
Times: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Saturday and Sunday
Customer service: Great Service
Kid Friendly: I recommend it for young children over 5 years old for breakfast and lunch. It's off Ventura, so kids should be able to sit and enjoy great food.. not a play area. Dinner I don't recommend children. Not out of the question, but please review set menu before bringing children.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Future President: Cat & Jack

It's not just the boys that wear inspiring clothes. Cat & Jack at Target has some very empowering messages for all kids, all girls. We just have to wait a couple more decades to make this one possible.

Top & Jeans: Cat & Jack by Target
Necklace & Hair Clip on teddy: Gymboree
Shoes: Target

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Cat & Jack Fashion

This little tiger likes to roar her ABC's with her fashionable Cat & Jack by Target gear.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Llama Llama Author Anna Dewdney Dies at 50

We all know her books and we know her rhymes, sadly we must say goodbye to Llama Llama Red Pajama author Anna Dewdney. I like many mothers and children are heart broken with this sad news.

Dewdney lost her 15-month battle to brain cancer on September 3rd. Her final request was that in lieu of a funeral, she asked fans to celebrate her life by reading a book to a child. And that is just what I did tonight.

"Sit down, put a child on your lap, and read a story," she wrote. "Have fun. Read in character and use funny voices... Laugh and cry. Be human, loving, and strong, and that will allow the children in your care to be human, loving, and strong. Perhaps, the next time those children feel like hitting or pinching someone, they'll hold off and ask for a hug from you instead." 

Before she captured our hearts she was capturing the hearts of her students. She was a daycare provider and teacher before becoming a full-time author. She knew what the kids loved. "By reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human," wrote Dewdney in a 2013 op-ed for The Wall Street Journal about the importance of reading. "When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else's eyes."  

She was also a dreamer. Success didn't come quickly. Her manuscript for “Llama Llama Red Pajama” languished for years, she said, before Viking, an imprint of the Penguin publishing house, picked it up around her 40th birthday. And how did the phrase Llama llama come about? “Whenever we passed a field that had llamas, I didn’t know what llamas ‘said,’ so I said, ‘llama llama,’ ” she told the Brattleboro Reformer of Vermont, “That’s how it started. Now I know that llamas don’t ‘say’ anything, actually. Unless they are in my books.”

We will continue to see Dewdney's work. A Llama Llama series will soon be coming to Netflix. The new animated will be based on Dewdney's books and Jennifer Gardner will voice the Mama Llama character. It is set to premiere in 2017. 

"The entire Penguin Young Readers family is heartbroken," said Jen Loja, president of Penguin Young Readers, in a press release. "And as we grieve, we also celebrate Anna's life, in dedicating ourselves to carrying forward her mission of putting books into as many little hands as possible. We will miss her so, but consider ourselves so lucky to be her publishing family and her partner in her legacy." 

Dewdney is survived by her partner, Reed Duncan, two grown daughters and by millions of fans that will carry on her love for reading.

Friday, July 22, 2016

L.A. Zoo: Lions, Tigers and Dinosaurs Oh My!

The L.A. Zoo is always a great place to take the kids. I love it because it's a learning environment and the kids love it because they get to see all the animals. This year the L.A. Zoo has kicked it up a notch with a temporary "Dinosaurs: Unextinct at the L.A. Zoo" exhibit. What a summer of fun this is making.

As we made our way to the zoo early this summer, my daughters noticed the posters for the "Dinosaurs: Unextinct at the L.A. Zoo" exhibit. It was our first stop as we entered the zoo. With excitement we entered. Quickly my daughters smiles turned into jaw opening stares. The Dinosaurs are so life like that they took my breath away. There are 17 animatronic creatures on display. Each is life size and you can see how attentive to detail the creative team was. As I walked though the exhibit I had that moment of,  'what if they were real how do I get away from them.'  I would like to tell you that, like we do at all other animal areas, I stood there reading the facts to my girls, but I didn't. The girls made sure we stayed right in the center and kept walking. 

one of two water spiting Dilophosaurus
You may remember the Dilophosaurus from Jurassic Park as being able to spit venom. Well at the L.A. Zoo it spits water and to my girls it may well have been venom. It caught them by surprise and this mommy had a laugh at their expense. As I mentioned each dinosaur has great detail from the scaly skin to  sharp teeth. Each dinosaur has a special feature such as moving eyes (that feel like they follow you), mouth opening, heads turning, roaring noise and more. Each one gave us a little feel at what it would be like to live during their time.

Above is the Stegosaurus robot that the children can each take a turn at moving different parts.  It also, shows the children all that is behind each dinosaur for those future engineers.

Don't miss this great photo op with the life size Pachyrhinosaurus

This sight of the Tyrannosaurus Rex lunching on a Triceratops really gave us a taste of the Jurassic time.

In addition to the Stegosaurus robot the children can each practices dig up fossils. This was a great resting stop for us moms, because the kids really enjoyed this activity.

Specially trained guides are around (not always) to educate you on some current facts that even us adults may not know. Such as did you know that, "longstanding assumptions that dinosaurs were predominantly green or gray (shades that would have allowed them to blend into their environments) are being challenged by theories that color may have played an important role in dino society" according to our guide. He went onto tell us that, "the dinosaurs that they are certain of (color wise) are the ones with feathers, as the feathers have maintained some of the color." This would be the case of the Utahraptor, my daughters biggest fear.   

scarier in person

We make a detour though the "Dinosaurs: Unextinct at the L.A. Zoo" exhibit just about every time we are there and the girls love it. They have sure been frighten, but now my daughters are more into dinosaurs then ever. You never know when a little detour can make for great memories.

At the end of the day the L.A. Zoo has something for everyone. And for us moms trying to get a workout in, this is your our door gym. Remember the sun screen and to stay hydrate. This is one roaring adventure.

Something that I just came across and is worth a visit is the California Condor area. This indoor learning/ activity area is location in the building to the left as you exit the Dinosaurs: Unextinct at the L.A. Zoo gift shop. I hate to call this a play area, but it really is just that. This area is dedicated to learning all about the Condors. There is scavenger hunts, dress up as a condor, a clinic and the whole place is free for climbing. This is an interactive and learning area. The last time we were there the staff members were amazing. One helped my daughter find "food" for the condors and then took her to the vet area.  

++ Note the "Dinosaurs: Unextinct at the L.A. Zoo" exhibit is an addition $5 cost per person (in addition to regular zoo admission and membership). Children under 2 are free.

Friday, June 24, 2016

AmiGami: Craft Review

Summer is here and that means it's time for some summer crafts. Our latest find is the AmiGami pets by Mattel. It's all about encouraging the little ones to be creative and use their imagination. 

I purchased two AmiGami (Giraffe, Horse, Bird with bird house and Cat) for each of my girls to get them started. I thought it would be a prefect project for my five-year-old, Abbey. She loves having little pet toys and crafts. This is the prefect combo.  I wasn't so sure about my three-and-a half year old, Madeleine, since the packaging says 6+.  I found out the hard way that she was more then ready.  Many of you moms may have experienced this moment, when you get into your child's project a little too much and sorta do it yourself. Well, that was me and I paid the price, Madeleine screamed and screamed that I did it all for her. Abbey gave me that look of 'boy you messed up mom.' I found a way to regroup and get Madeleine crafting again. Honestly, I need to get one of these for myself. Now they keep asking for more. And yes, more are on the way coming.

Madeleine enjoying her AmiGami butterfly ring
Because my girls are a different age the AmiGami, I think, works for them differently. For my five-year-old it helps her be creative. There are many cut out parts. Several have a matching pair, many don't. There is no cookie cutter guidelines to follow you just curl, clip and create away. This allows the older ones to use their imagination It's all about being creative. For my youngest, I think that it helps her strengthen her hand and finger skills. The pieces are smalll, but not too small for them. And of course they will get creative.


The first step is to punch out the paper parts and strips. For those kids under five-years-old, I suggest helping them with this process.

You can use the curling tool on the strips before or after you have put them on the pet. You use the little pins to attach the paper parts on to the plastic figure. You can layer as many as you like and simply clip on the pin then pop into the figure. What my five-year-old taught me is that with some after the first layer you can do a second layer. Most pets come it extra pins & clips. It’s really easy to use and reuse. Best of all the pins clip on and off with ease.

With the second pets I let them do it by themselves and they had a blast. With Madeleine I have to be close by to give helpful "suggestions." Sometimes she just likes to take it all off and play with her pet without all the bedazzle. Either way she is happy.

There is a variety of AmiGami pets kits that come complete with strips of paper, stickers, pins, curling tools and other little embellishments. They vary in prices starting at about $3.30 and up. Best of all they are reusable. Each pet has a variety of paper bedazzle so that your child can create something new each time.  

We are loving our new find and enjoying gettiing creative. Hope you do too!

Monday, June 6, 2016


Let's talk about choice. A woman has the right to choose not to have a child without being judged. I am not talking about abortion. I am talking about deciding to just not have children. The fact that this needs to even be discussed sounds crazy right? Recently I read an open letter by Joy Bryant on on her decision to not have children- or should I say a letter telling people to stop pushing their choices on her. I, like many of you, have children, but I respect her choice and know others that also share her point of view.

You may recognize Joy from a variety of movies and TV shows. To many she is best know as Jasmin on NBC's Parenthood. She has played a mom five times and therefore, many people think she would make a great mom. Crazy right? Yet, she is still not interested in the role of full time mom past "cut." I am not sure when I made the choice that I wanted children. I wasn't the type of girl that talked about getting married and having babies. At some point I just knew that it was the right choice for me. I am sure that at some point Joy Bryant made that same discovery about herself of not wanting children. Neither of us is wrong, we just know what we want. I am married and have two kids. In a way it's what society expects from me. I am ok with that, because I made that choice. What Joy is finding that she is constantly being questioning on her choice to not have a child. There are the usual comments, "But you'll have beautiful children!" Which this may be true, but as Joy likes to point out, "This one is the most ridiculous of all the reasons given to me, and it is also my personal favorite. So I should have kids just because they would possibly be beautiful (and, let's not forget, smart and athletic)? I should commit to one of the toughest jobs in the world, all for the sake of populating the planet with a super-human specimen of good breeding? No, thanks. I'm good." This I think this a comment we moms love. This is a hard job! And sometimes what gets you through it all is knowing that you love this child and that this is the choice you made. This was our choice, dirty diaper and tantrums, this was our choice. It's your life, if you don't want the job don't submit your resume and no one should judge. 

There are many woman who have had unwanted babies. Are they a better women because they fulfilled what society said their role is... to be a mother?  I asked a dear friend, Julie Grace, who has also chosen not to have kids about how her role as a woman in this society has changed by not wanting to have children. "Living life the best way you can should be every humans goal. However, there are certain societal expectations for women, or "roles" we are expected to fill. Whether you are a mother, a sister, a friend or a wife, you can be a "mother" to people without birthing them. I care for and try to nurture all of the people in my life, blood or not." Taking that one essence away from the picture doesn't make a woman less loving or nurturing, just not a mother. 
Julie at the top of a mountain in Kauai

Some may succumb to the pressure of having kids. Will that make then a good mother? I read a comment on Facebook from a woman that thank goodness these woman don't have kids. If they did they would abuse their children. I will argue that many woman choose to have kids and yet are abuse parents. "It's frustrating when people try to put me in another category because I don't have kids (I'm somehow not normal). Or people assume since I don't have kids, that I don't like kids," Julie says "It has nothing to do with not being a loving person. It may actually be the smartest choice a woman can make if she is unsure if she wants a baby. Are they wrong or selfish? I actually believe they are being selfless. They are choosing to follow their own path and not a life they didn't want for themselves. Just because one could breed a child, doesn't mean they should. We have all seen those parents or know those present that are just not present in their child's lives. Why put that on someone? Parenthood is a life long commitment with many up and downs physically and emotionally.
It took a lot of therapy and a deathbed reconciliation with my own mother to realize that she wasn't the monster I made her out to be. She was just a human being who made shitty choices that deeply affected me. I wouldn't be that kind of mother. My grandmother, on the other hand, was all sacrifice, putting the needs of her kids and then me ahead of her own, going without to make sure everyone had what they needed. She died of a broken heart. I wouldn't be that kind of mother either. So on the scale of martyr to monster, I'd probably fall somewhere in the human range. I'd be a "good enough" mother. Still not a good enough reason for me to actually be someone's mother. I'd be a good competitive eater, too, doesn't mean I should.
                                                    ~ Joy Bryant
I know several wonderful woman who are happily married who do not have kids by choice. They are caring, loving and smart. Do I think they have everything they need to be a great mom? Yes, I do. Do I think more of them because they choose not to have kids? Yes. One was a former boss of mine. Whenever someone was having a baby she would make the cutest baby blankets. She is happily married and they are enjoying their life together. Julie our dear friend has also made the choice to not have children. She too is happily married. Unlike Joy Bryant who doesn't, as she says, "breed," Julie is curious about being pregnant, "People usually tell me how life-changing (pregnancy) it is, and express how it is magical and amazing and I'm missing out. I have always thought being pregnant would be an amazing experience. I would love to be pregnant, and know the feeling of having life inside me, I just have no desire to raise a child in this world."
Joy with her TV family on Parenthood
"But you'll have beautiful children!" 
This one is the most ridiculous of all the reasons given to me, and it is also my personal favorite. So I should have kids just because they would possibly be beautiful (and, let's not forget, smart and athletic)?
I should commit to one of the toughest jobs in the world, all for the sake of populating the planet with a super-human specimen of good breeding? No, thanks. I'm good.
But I guess I can't blame them, right? I mean, they look at me and my tall, handsome stuntman husband and can't wrap their brains around why we would purposely waste such prime eggs and sperm, the selfish people we are. I guess I'm the selfish one, because I refuse to be the vessel through which mankind is delivered from its mediocrity.
                                                    ~Joy Bryant

When I read the above in Joy's letter, I thought that above was a low blow. First I think this is between the couple and not anyone else. Don't think this at some point wasn't a conversation. Joy mentioned that they did talk about it he is ok with her choice. My mother once told me that before marriage a couple should talk about kids. If it's very important to one person and not to the other then they should let the person go. They will always be yearning for that child. If one is fine with the choice then enjoy each other and don't have kids. It's no one's business but their own.  There is no victim- only a choice for them both.
I know people don't mean any harm, but this really shouldn't be an issue at all, because what I choose to do or not do with my womb should be of no concern to anyone but my husband. While he would like to have kids, he loves and respects me enough to understand and accept my decision: that I don't want to be a mother, that I don't want to have children, that I don't have the need to breed.
I'm going to say that one more time:
I don't have the need to breed. 
                                                     ~ Joy Bryant
"I can honestly say I am curious how things would be if we had a child or two. I would love to see his eyes in the eyes of a child, and I have no doubt we would be great parents" says Julie, "Not curious enough to do it though. I was lucky he didn't want children either, so it didn't affect our relationship at all. I love my husband and our life together. For some reason, I simply don't feel a desire or biological pull to procreate." 

Are they being selfish? I hear that often when describing woman who don't want to have kids. It's partly true. "In my late 20s, as my high school and college friends were beginning or expanding their families. I realized I wanted the freedom to go where I wanted, when I wanted and explore this planet as much as possible," Julie says "I saw the day-to-day grind my friends with kids went through and was thankful I didn't have those responsibilities." But don't they owe it to themselves to be happy even if that doesn't mean having a baby?

Maybe Joy and Julie ask themselves the question of  "what if?" Julie said, "When I first graduated college, I was in a long term relationship with a man 4 yrs older than me. He was ready to 'settle down' and get married, buy a house and have children; basically he wanted the 'American Dream.' I loved him and thought I wanted that too, just not then. I was 21," Julie says, " I decided to do some traveling first, and once I saw the world and the wonderful and scary things outside my own little 'American Dream' bubble, I started to question whether I wanted to bring more children into this world" 

What is sad is that the negative comments or pressure is coming from other woman. Many woman have chosen to not have kids and have a career. Many men have too and they are not judged. In fact the baby question rarely gets asked to men. Being in a very distinguished job position Julie says, "I think we are slowly gaining equality in the workplace, and some of the women who have chosen to pursue career over motherhood have lead the way. This is not an exclusive club though. May women can do both, and do it well. Many women do not have a choice. I thing society is slowly learning that raising children isn't a mother's "role" any more. There are many stay at home fathers, Aunts, Uncles, same-sex parents and grandparents helping to raise the children. Motherhood isn't just for women any more." So woman, before judging, think of those women who have paved the way for us to have those jobs, to make those choices. If not for the women of today then for the women of tomorrow.
"Also, choosing not to have children doesn't exclude me from being a mother either. I am a mother to my pets, my friends, my home and even to my inner child" ~ Julie Grace
Woman who don't want children realize that it just isn't the right choice for them. That doesn't mean that they are less of a woman. Maybe we should be sending them a thank you basket that reads: thank you for not adding to our over-population; thank you for not being a so-so parent; thank you for not adding your child on the preschool waiting list ahead of mine; thank you for helping us conserve water and above all, thank you for knowing yourself xoxo