Mexico City!

One memory, that David and I re-tell over and over, was booking our first impulsive, international Thanksgiving vacation. I remember flying to Istanbul , awed by the flight’s generous food and movie options, looking at David and thinking, how thrilling is this?! In a few hours we would land in a completely new country, and experience a total adventure together.

I love Thanksgiving, but I also love the time and flexibility the holiday offers for international travel. We’ve been talking about Mexico City for years. Finally, this fall, with the dual forces of an expiring Southwest Companion Pass and my parent’s babysitting generosity, we committed to a trip.

Our vacation began Sunday night when Jackie and Jeremy kindly let us stay at their house. It was so nice to see them and catch up in their beautiful home, and it made the early trip to the airport much easier.

As we flew over Mexico City, I could not get over the city’s massive size. We got so excited flying over Chapultepec, a park we were eager to check out when we arrived.

Over the next four days, the city continued to dazzle. I couldn’t get over the energy in the city center, the incredible food, historic architecture and overall VIBRANCY everywhere. There was a lot to amaze, like:

Casa Decu: Travel  daydreaming is my favorite “hobby,” so our vacation roles are generally neatly divided: I research and reserve, and David navigates when we arrive. This time, David found the hotel, and it was just right. Casa Decu is on a quiet street, is bright and new, and breakfast each morning on the rooftop was a peaceful way to start the day.

 

The Condesa neighborhood: We were total tourists, and stayed in the Condesa neighborhood. It is not surprising the neighborhood is such a tourist hot-spot. With restaurants on every corner, tree-lined paths, and quiet streets with families and bicycles, it is a beautifully calm oasis in the middle of the thriving city.

Taco Tour! On Tuesday, our first full-day, David booked an afternoon walking tour with Club Tango Hambre. Our guide, Marianna, is a chef, and thoughtfully guided us through the city center’s street food.

We explored the Mercado San Juan and sampled juicy tropical fruits, mezcal, agua frescas and more.

I discovered I love nopales, and began ordering pretty much anything with them.

Of the 10 (!!) tacos we sampled, my favorite discovery was the was tlacoyo. A handmade blue corn tortilla, filled with beans, quickly pressed, with nopales, cilantro and cheese sprinkled on top. I keep looking at this photo wishing I could will it to appear in real life. That good.

ALL the restaurants. This was, hands down, our best food trip. Every meal was incredible, from the street food to fancy multi-course dinners. We made a reservation at Rosetta, and it was a beautifully romantic dinner.

Contramar lived up to the hype (yes, that is a whole fish). We also had incredible ceviche at De Mar a Mar, where we caught up with David’s awesome cousin, Tanya.

A few other favorites: Taqueria El Greco (incredible al pastor tacos), Pasillo de Humo (delicious Oaxacan soup), Fonda Mayora (the best breakfast pastries) and El Cardenal (a warm old school restaurant just off of busy Zocalo). Just realized, that’s all the restaurants we tried-they were all that good.

Bosque de Chapultepec: I love a good dose of shinrin-yoku, and the lush Bosque de Chapultepec was the perfect place for a forest bath.

We saw a fraction of the massive park and still walked for miles, admiring the trees and stunning castle views.

The juxtaposition of the hyper-modern skyscrapers along La Reforma against the trees below the historic castle was quite a sight.

Churros!! El Moro was just as delightful as everyone says and I only regret that I neglected to buy more chocolate while exploring the city.

Quality time: This was our longest trip together (four days!) since we became parents and it was SO NICE. We saw a lot, but we really didn’t run around trying to see everything. We took our time in one museum (Bellas Artes), got dressed up and relaxed at restaurants, and walked along the Paseo de la Reforma.

I heard an interesting parenting tip on a podcast recently. To survive parenting small children, the writer shared one recommendation: “keep your world small.” I completely agree. I’m definitely a better mother when I maintain minimal expectations, keep plans simple, and focus on delighting in Diego’s daily antics and our cozy life at home. This advice, of keeping your world simple and close is crucial for survival in those early months…and in later months, when sleep is still minimal and life gets demanding.

And yet…

This is one of the strange challenges of motherhood. Staying close makes for good mothering, but there’s a whole person beyond that mother. At my core, there’s a desire to explore, to seek out information and new experiences. To know there’s a large and dynamic and diverse world-and to be a part of it. To be completely honest, prior to this trip, part of me worried I would never tap in to that side of myself again. That I would never travel, experience different cultures, visit a completely new place. In retrospect, I realize that was totally irrational, but I need an experience to counter that fear.

The four days expanded my world, brought David and I much needed time together, and helped me feel more like myself. It may be years before we take another trip like this-it requires generous childcare help and is an indulgent expense-but the peace of mind and shot of energy it provided is immeasurable.

And the best part? Waking up Friday morning, refreshed from the trip, to the sound of Diego peaking out of his pack-n-play, calling “Mama! Mama!” I couldn’t wait to scoop him up. I’ve felt much more clear-headed and Diego-focused than before we left. I’m grateful my world got a little bigger, but so thankful to be home in our cozy world together.

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Thanksgiving 2018

It’s back to reality after a nice, long Thanksgiving break. David and I actually got to go on a Real Grownup International vacation to Mexico City, and I can’t wait to write all about the incredible city. We also were able to spend a few restorative days at my parent’s house, bookending our trip in Irvine. Here’s some memories from Camp Dewberry:

Diego and I flew down early, and were lucky to have a whole row (THE BEST). Diego immediately dug in to his favorite reading materials.

And quickly resumed his daily Dewberry routine: running around the neighborhood with his shopping cart, playing basketball, destroying Duplo towers, and reading pop-up and Spot books over and over and over.

We enjoyed a few beautiful walks around Crystal Cove, always a highlight of a trip to Irvine.

Janou, Max and MaryJo cooked an incredible Thanksgiving dinner, full of beautiful fresh produce from MaryJo’s farm. We got back super late Thursday night, and enjoyed the incredible leftovers the rest of the weekend.

Before our flight Saturday night, we checked out Centennial Farm, and Diego ran around, reveling in the sight of the lambs, cows and pigs.

Our flight home was PACKED, and the Oakland airport was bananas. It was a reminder how nutty holiday travel can be and I was grateful we had such a short flight and trip home.

It was especially nice to have a quiet Sunday, just venturing out to TJs and a Christmas tree lot.

Don’t let this minimalist tree fool you, it’s actually embarrassing how much we spent on basically a branch and a few green sprigs. I’ve been reading about the Christmas tree shortage (interesting economics lesson: 2008 recession = farmers cut back on planting. Fast forward 10 years, there’s now a dearth of mature trees). Anyway, it’s all worth it, as I’ve relished the last few nights, curling up next to it the twinkle lights, George Winston music playing, working my way through Becoming. Hooray for holiday hyyge time :)

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Holiday brunch at the Grand Californian

I’m learning that spontaneous outings are with a toddler are rare-most events require nap-planning and a lot of logistics. But when it does work out, there’s immense joy in spontaneity. On Sunday, we were lucky enough to enjoy a unplanned holiday brunch at Disney’s Grand Californian hotel.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve always loved special outings to Disneyland hotels, and have dreamed of one day taking Diego to Disneyland. I’m in no rush to take him to the actual theme park-the cost, the crowds, the fact he’s far too young to get it-it’ll be a while until we do the whole thing.

Still, there’s something undeniably magical about Disney at the holidays. We were in Irvine this weekend, and I decided to check out reservations at the Storyteller Cafe. It was totally booked.

Thankfully, my parents and David were game to wing it (realizing just how planned out my average day is when a reservationless morning at Disney feels like really living on the edge). As we pulled up to the hotel around 9, the Cast Member asked, “Do you know what day it is today?” No idea. “It’s the big guys birthday! Tell Mickey, Happy 90th!”

There was a totally reasonable wait for a table, and we walked around Downtown Disney for a bit. Diego went bonkers with excitement in the Lego store-it’s wild that he’s at an age where he’s starting to recognize toys and stories.

The character breakfast is certainly a splurge, but worth it. Diego was cautiously mesmerized by the characters, slow to warm up to them, and then clapping along with the Zipadeedodah character parade. I think he found the other children as exciting as the characters-I love watching him interact with the world.

And, it was so nice to be in a restaurant that completely caters to children. Usually, if we all go out, I’m slowly doling out raisins or goldfish one by one, we’re coloring like maniacs to keep Diego entertained, and then eating as quickly as possible/taking turns before we wrap up the meal. And, this is not a Diego critique-he’s (usually) a pretty good restaurant companion! But it’s the reality of being 20 months old and trying to sit still. Anyway, all to say, it was a delight to slowly enjoy the meal, watching Diego’s face light up in wonder, totally entertained, and never worry when he dropped food from his high chair.

All in all, two big thumbs up to the Mickey’s 90th birthday and brunch at the Storyteller Cafe.

After breakfast, we admired the Christmas decorations in the lobby. The hotel is gorgeous and the decorations are equally stunning. Watching Diego check out the tree really put me in the holiday spirit. Getting very excited to enjoy the season together!

And the best part? After all that holiday hoopla and excitement? We still made it home in time for his nap :)

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Baby shower weekend

This weekend, I had an interesting (and delightful!) experience attending three baby showers in a 24 hours. Going in to the weekend, I hadn’t expected to be so moved by the events, but man, they were beautiful.

Diego and David with his cousins, celebrating Alina’s baby-to-be :)

Our state is currently reeling from multiple horrific tragedies and ongoing wildfire destruction. The fires were constantly top of mind, with so much smoke, the city smelled like a campsite and the sky was completely hazy.

It’s difficult to be positive, or even future-thinking, when so many are facing such harrowing circumstances. And that’s probably ok-I think it’s important to be aware and thoughtful of reality.

At the same time, wallowing in misery doesn’t help anyone, so it was especially nice to be distracted by such joyful events this weekend.

And what joy! Over the two days, we saw friends and family, which is always the best tonic.

Diego and Colin at baby Cora’s Sip and See

Beyond the buoying effect of gathering together, was the extra joy preparing for these sweet babies. As we were unloading pink gift bags at Katie’s uncle’s house, and looking around the long table of joyful family at Tia Sonia’s, and watching giddy toddlers on tricycles at the Hirsh home, I felt this overwhelming sense of…I know it sounds cheesy…but love. So many acts of love and hope, of people gathering together to say, “Hey, baby! We’re so excited for you! And we’re here for you and your family!”

As someone who did literally nothing other than show up, I’ll say it takes a lot of work to put on a baby shower. And what is love if not putting in work to show someone you care?

Last night, as we passed around the sweetest handmade stuffed rabbit, cooed over the tiniest little headbands, and gushed over the tear-jerking power of the Nancy Tillman books, my heart felt full and hopeful for the future. While vitriolic Twitter spats and terrifying news personalities can lead me to think everyone is awful and we’re headed for doom, seeing all the love and care and effort this weekend certainly challenged that narrative.

It was a beautiful weekend. Today, we observed Veterans Day and the three of us spent the day together.

We mostly stayed home-my attempt to find an indoor play place open on the holiday was unsuccessful-but it was nice and cozy.

We started the day with a rare treat: brunch at Rockridge Cafe. We walked around the neighborhood for a bit, before heading to Trader Joe’s and hunkering down for the day. We watched a zillion SNL re-runs, read the paper, cooked, and had a lot of time to just delight in Diego.

Hoping the fires are soon contained and praying for recovery for all impacted.

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October

Hmmm….October. I generally love this month-leaves, sweaters, fall-the whole thing. Looking through photos, there were many happy moments. At the same time…October hit me like a ton of bricks. Think the compounded exhaustion and current world tragedies caught up to me. Thankfully, I’m feeling a bit better and just grateful for friends and family to lean on when I get overwhelmed.

Anyway, the beginning of the month was kind of a fog. We spent the second half of the month traveling and at my parent’s house, and I think the break in routine (and break in childcare responsibilities) helped. Here’s some moments I want to remember from October:

1) First trip to the Little Farm: Add this to the list of Why Did it Take us so Long to Get Here places. So close, so easy, and for Diego, pure MAGIC. He was positively gleeful feeding that cow.

2) Sunday dinner and babies!

The Dillons had us over for dinner and made an incredible feast. Mushroom bread pudding! Homemade sauerkraut! Perfectly mixed cocktails! Just a simple Sunday night dinner. Diego is now old enough to start recognizing his friends, and he was delighted to play with them.

3) #LiveLaughSarkar:

Ashley and Jay got married! Their wedding was spectacular, at a gorgeous estate in La Quinta. It was beautiful to see the joy they both shared, and the energy at the wedding was contagious. Ashley has an incredible, professional eye for design and everything was visually stunning. We would have traveled anywhere for the wedding, but it was really special to have an excuse to spend a weekend in Palm Springs!

4) La Quinta weekend:

My parents kindly watched Diego, and David and I got to spend the wedding weekend relaxing at the pool in La Quinta. It could not have come at a better time-the abundant sunshine, delicious food, and festive distractions really lifted my spirits. Also-THE POOLS. The resort has 41 pools! And they are all gorgeous like this! It was incredible to relax and spend time with David.

5) David’s birthday!

David turned 34 during our Southern California travels, and we celebrated with a BBQ at my parent’s house. You know when you feel like a photo really captures someone’s real smile? I love this photo, because it’s so authentically David. He loves cuddling with Diego, and you can feel his serene joy in this moment.

6) Dinner with Katie :)

The best part of a work trip to Alexandria, VA? Dinner with Katie! I think it took the server five trips to our table before we finally looked at a menu, we were distracted with chatting. I swear, Chardonnay tastes better when catching up with Katie Burch.

7) Pretty Potomac Views:

The conference was in a bit of an odd location for transit, but it was right by the Potomac. The water views were gorgeous.

8) Diego at Camp Dewberry:

Diego was in Irvine for a week and a half, and he has an absolute blast. Check out his pride with all his shopping cart goodies!

9) Crystal Cove:

On Sunday, the three of us took a walk around Crystal Cove. I try to get there anytime we’re in Irvine-it’s my second favorite place in the world (between UCLA and Fed Hill in Baltimore). There’s really nothing like breathing in that fresh ocean air.

10) Desert Botanical Garden:

I had a few hours before a flight home from Phoenix, and the wizards at TripAdvisor recommended the Desert Botanical Garden. It was worth the trip, particularly at the end of the day. There were so many families taking Christmas card photos-and of course, the lighting was stunning!

And the next day, it was Halloween and now here we are: NOVEMBER. November, November, November. Lots of tension, lots of stress, very very anxious about Tuesday…

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