It was my husband’s birthday over a month ago and we just never really got around to doing anything about it. We were down south, and while enjoying some time with family, had hopes of going out for dinner on our own one night, but it just didn’t happen. So when we received a generous coupon from the Steakhouse Grill & Bar at Deer Park Villa in Fairfax, California (buy one entree, get one free!) in recognition of his special day, we wanted to make sure to take advantage of it. But, you know, life happens and, before we knew it, the expiration date was the next day. We called to make reservations, checked if they were kid-friendly, and decided to give it a try.
I’ve driven by this place several times and always thought it was a private club or hoity-toity steak house. But, upon arrival, we were drawn into the restaurant by the beautiful grove of redwoods and lovely landscaping.
We chose to sit out on the deck and were walked through the brightly-lit and jovial bar to the outdoor patio area, which was covered for the season. We sat under a wonderfully warm heat lamp and were then left to peruse the menu.
Since the place is a steak house we obviously opted for steak and then sat sipping adult drinks while the tot enjoyed some fresh bread and listened to a guy quietly playing acoustic guitar in the corner. Our waiter was attentive and friendly, even as the dinning area began to fill. We ordered macaroni and cheese for our daughter as soon as we sat down and it was delivered to the table within 10 minutes. And it was wonderfully homemade and seriously ooey-gooey. Our steaks arrived not long after she had become engrossed in her dinner.
I’d love to share pictures of our dinners, but I learned something very interesting while documenting this tasty meal.
Steaks don’t photograph well in low-light.
You’ll just have to believe me. The steaks were delicious. Not just “good” delicious — they were the best-steak-you’ve-ever-eaten delicious. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked, and not hidden under sauces, wrapped in bacon, or topped with butter. These steaks were simply the best.
The dinner was finished with a big scoop of ice cream that came with our tot’s meal, and, by the time the last bit was licked from the bowl, we had enjoyed a fantastic family dinner at a fancy restaurant that lasted just about an hour and a half!
I’ll be honest, if we hadn’t have received the buy-one get-one coupon, we probably wouldn’t have ever checked the restaurant out. The steaks are delicious and the service is awesome, and you’re looking at $10 to $30+ per person for dinner entrees, which means there’s something for every taste. The kid menu was priced very resonably and offered pastas, burgers, and grilled cheese. And what’s awesome is the Steakhouse Grill & Bar has a tasty half-pound Angus cheeseburger that is amazingly priced under $10.
We look forward to eating at the Steakhouse Grill & Bar again sometime soon — and not waiting for a special day as a reason. We’re saving up to head back simply because the food was awesome, the ambiance fantastic, and it’s totally worth it.
*Just so you know, I wasn’t compensated to write this review. I did it because I really enjoyed eating at this restaurant.
At some point your tot’s scribbles turn into something more. They aren’t totally random loops and marks that mix together into a crazed collection of who knows what. My daughter just turned four and she’s finally making the progression into the preschematic stage of art. Emerging from that scribbling during her first few years of art creation are forms, somewhat realistic images, and stuff that actually makes sense when she tells me about her pictures. Yes, there are still going to be delicate moments when you have no idea what is on your child’s paper, but, before you know it, she’ll be seriously focused on details and recreating what she sees around her, also known as the schematic stage of art — or the “dramatic” stage of art. Kids sometimes get a bit frustrated during this time in their budding lives when things don’t turn out exactly how they would like it. But that is a post for the future.
The minute my daughter started actually drawing stuff, I new it was time to offer her lots of praise and encourage her creativity without any judgement. This is an exciting time for little ones, and allowing for exploration is essential. Instead of trying to corral the new talent, take a step back, asking questions later. Leading art activities offers your child new ways of looking at creating, but remember to keep your hands off — and your comments to yourself. I remember a kindergarten student of the past whom had spent a whole class period drawing a picture of a vase of flowers, very loosely based on a Van Gough art lesson. He was so excited about his very colorful collection of buds at the end of the lesson. Sure, there wasn’t much there other than several random circles and lots and lots of green and brown vertical lines, but he was PROUD of it. While beaming and showing it to his classroom teacher at the end of art class, she commented that it “needed a bit of work,” and that, “maybe next time it would turn out better.”
I was crushed.
I’m sure he was too.
This is a precious time for little kids, and most hit this sweet spot around three to four years of age. This creative stage of art lasts until kids turn seven, or even eight, or nine. There’s no definite timeline, and each kid is different. But it’s a great opportunity to do some encouraging preschematic art activities with your child that will hone her budding skills while giving her the opportunity to be creative.
One of my favorites is drawing flowers in a vase. We happened to have several bouquets around the house that were ready for the trash. I popped a few blossoms in a small vase alongside a small potted plant for inspiration. Then I offered my tot a selection of oil pastels. Using oil pastels instead of crayons allows your child to explore using something other than crayons or markers, and they make really vivid dark lines that work perfect for the next step. Without offering your child too much direction, talk about the parts of the flower and what shapes they resemble, while encouraging your child to just draw the outlines of the flowers.
Once your little one is happy with her flowers (and vase if she’s interested), swap the oil pastels for watercolor paints. If your child is still getting used to dipping and painting, run a drizzle of water over the paints, which will wet them slightly, making it easier to paint. Now your child can start painting the flowers, staying in — or out — of the lines. Let your child make the decisions when selecting the colors for the flowers, if there’s a background, or any other details for finishing the painting.
When your child is finished, ask her if she would like to tell you anything about her creation. Hey, she might just tell you that it’s a vase of pretty flowers. But if she goes into detail, take a few notes and later, once the paint has dried, you can write all the special things she had to say on the back of her artwork.
Find the perfect spot to display your child’s artwork so she knows you think she’s a fantastic artist.
I love cooking with my tot and have been exploring the wonders of the kitchen with her by my side for quite some time now. But there are times that I would love for her to get out of my kitchen and do some pretend cooking on her own. But the other day, when she was insistent on making some sort of treat, I caved. Well, yeah, I kinda wanted some sort of treat too.
We didn’t have much for tossing together something super sweet, but did have a few basics that, once expertly mixed together by my tot, would be just fine. And I’ve discovered that it doesn’t really matter what we make, or how it tastes, she usually eats it if she made it. There are a few things I’ve learned from inviting my youngster into the kitchen:
-The first, and most important, is to NOT worry about the mess. Really. You’ve got to let it go. By containing the potential disaster, you’re able to make clean up less time consuming. I try to have all ingredients, mixing spoons, bowls, measuring cups and spoons, and damp paper towels at the ready so I don’t have to leave my tot while she’s mixing.
-It’s probably not going to taste amazing. Even if you measure everything exactly, when cooking with kids, stuff just happens. Your tot may give the salt shaker an extra sprinkle, the oil may be drizzled too long, or something may be forgotten in the chaos. Guess what? Your kid won’t care — she’s excited about the process, and doing some actual cooking. So try not to wrinkle up your nose and dig in, which will show your child that you are impressed with her budding culinary skills.
-Keep it simple. Please. Now is not the time to try making perfectly cooked macaroons or something you’ve never attempted before. Stick with things you’re comfortable cooking and baking so your little one isn’t overwhelmed with the idea of getting in the kitchen.
We made these super easy and wonderfully adjustable peanut butter cookies the other day, and not only are they tasty, they are healthy. So grab your little one and get in the kitchen!
1 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup oats
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt
1 cup flour
(You could add chocolate chips, a dash of cinnamon, raisins……)
Preheat your oven to 350˚F.
It’s as easy as helping your child measure and add the ingredients as they are listed to a mixing bowl. Our rule is that there is no taste testing after the egg has been added to any recipe, and to HOLD the BOWL while stirring. I try to stand back and let her at it. Yes, sometimes I need to give a helping hand when measuring and adding ingredients, but letting your child figure it out makes cooking together really special.
The dough holds together really well, making it perfect for rolling in balls and then pressing flat with your fingers, which is why we decided to call them finger cookies.
For extra sweetness, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sugar or drizzle with a bit more honey. Pop in the hot oven for 12 minutes, let cool, and enjoy.
What’s your favorite kid-friendly recipe? Leave a link in the comments below!
Now that the holidays are over and everything is getting back to normal after all the crazed present opening, it’s interesting to see which items hold the tot’s interest. She still loves all the plastic animals and dinosaurs, and playing the matching game in her own special way, but the one thing that she’s still reaching for is her new camera. A few months ago I did a post for LilSugar sharing cameras fit for little hands and had focused on suggestions from friends and good reviews when I put the collection together. So when I decided to get one for the tot as a special birthday gift (her special day is right after the holidays), I already had one in mind.
And then I went with something totally different.
It was pink, I liked the square shape, and although it didn’t get great reviews on image quality, the camera sounded like it was indestructible. Hey, I’m not looking for museum-quality prints, I want a camera that isn’t going to break the first time it gets dropped.
And it was on sale.
Today I wrangled the camera out of my daughter’s hands and downloaded the pictures (SIDE NOTE – the camera does NOT come with a USB cable, but does work with a standard siz. If you’re not PC (like me) you can’t download the funky photo editing stuff, but, hey, my tot wouldn’t have a clue how to use it.) and was surprised and impressed with what she’d taken pictures of and the quality of the camera. My daughter loved seeing her pictures and helped me select a few favorites:
Here’s a picture of the hubs and I,
her new tent,
the decorations from her birthday party,
Sid the Science Kid,
our cat by the fire,
her spot on the couch,
and a self portrait.
So, yeah, she’s not great on standing still while snapping, but she’s dropped the camera, bashed it into walls, been walking while taking a picture and fallen down with it, and I think it even took a tumble down the stairs the other day.
Still works wonderfully.
The picture files aren’t big (640 by 480 pixels), but prints good quality 4 by 6-inch pictures. The camera also makes slightly annoying noises when in use but does turn off on it’s own so you don’t burn through batteries. Equipped with an easy to use zoom (which my daughter totally doesn’t get) my husband enjoys taking pictures with it too.
I love that she is still excited about taking pictures and is learning to look at things in a new and interesting way. I’m planning on printing out her favorites and creating a gallery wall in her room. I’ll keep you posted…
I’d normally be sharing pictures and recipes from my Thanksgiving feast right about now, but this year we are postponing our turkey making until the weekend. Instead we acted like today was just like any other day, which didn’t stop us from being seriously thankful. It turned out to be a glorious day, making a trip to the beach the perfect way to spend the day together as a family. Kehoe Beach is tucked away in West Marin past Olema and through some of the most glorious cow fields I’ve ever seen — and I’m from Wisconsin.
After walking a short trail, flanked by some of those seriously happy cows, you come over a ridge to spectacular stretch of beach that seems endless, and it is also dog friendly. This was the first time we’d taken the tot on a “hike” and she loved every minute of it. We checked out worms on the trail, barnacles on the beach rocks, inspected the various footprints in the sand, and determined the water was way too cold for any swimming…
Happy Thanksgiving — I hope you all had a wonderful day!
(Get ready for turkey pictures on Sunday…)
*And thanks to the husband for the awesome pictures.
Yes, that’s right. We just took our tot trick-or-treating for the first time. She’s three, almost four, and we haven’t attempted the whole trick-or-treating-Halloween-pumpkin-carving thing at all. She had a bit more interest in the pumpkins at the grocery store this year, and had learned more about Halloween while at preschool, but had no desire to wear a costume at all.
Taking a toddler out for her first night of treat gathering is also a unique thing. My child was totally clueless. We attempted to prep her before the adventure, stressing to say, “trick or treat” when accepting goodies and offering a “thank you” once the candy was in hand.
Yeah. That didn’t happen.
Amazingly, after getting a bit of face paint, our tot jumped right into her Halloween outfit and was ready to head out. Our town turns main street into a trick-or-treater’s paradise and shop owners offer candies to tots as they walk by. It’s perfect for little kids and the street was packed. We walked up to the first spot to stop and my child seriously freaked. She hid behind me, wouldn’t move, didn’t talk, and literally tried to crawl me. I pulled her aside and we took a moment.
I got down to her level and asked her about what was going on. She didn’t seem to like all the attention being on her when walking up to a person with candy so I offered to say trick or treat with her. We cautiously walked up to the next spot and she hid again.
So, at this point, I pulled her aside again and talked it through again. The thing about little tots is that sometimes it just takes a bit more coaxing to open up. And, hey, I said if she wasn’t up for it, we could head back home.
Nope, she wanted to try again, which we did. This time she didn’t hide behind me, I held her basket for her, and she slowly walked forward for a treat.
Then she was hooked.
As we continued down the street she started speaking for herself and began offering a quiet “tanks” after receiving a treat. And as she became more comfortable I reminded her that taking a treat before being acknowledged wasn’t polite, not to grab, and that saying thank you was a must. While we walked through town, I loved seeing her opening up, feeling more comfortable, and understanding the give-and-take of the whole thing.
After making our way up and back I was exhausted, our tot had a glazed look in her eye, and we were all ready to go home and enjoy a few treats.
If you’re heading out for a night of trick-or-treating fun with your tot for the first time it’s a good idea to prep your child before the adventure so she has a basic idea of what’s going to happen. Reading a Halloween trick-or-treating book helps, as well as explaining that talking to strangers in this situation is okay. Along with begin lots of fun, trick-or-treating is actually a great way to encourage your child’s language and communication skills, and get a handle taking turns.
Understand that your tot may not be into it and don’t force it. We really wanted to have a great time trick-or-treating with our daughter, but we exchanged “that look” the second time she started freaking out, understanding that we might have to grab her and go if her behavior didn’t change. The last thing you want is for your tot to have unhappy memories about Halloween adventures.
Set limits before hand on how much candy your child gets to eat after trick-or-treating. Our tot wanted to sit down on the sidewalk and eat her candies the minute after they landed in her basket, but we reminded her we were going to keep walking, enjoying our Halloween adventure, and at home we’d have two of her trick or treat candies.
And, amazingly, we did.
We have this spot at the top of the stairs on the side of our living room. It’s a “spot” we have no idea what to do with. It isn’t really part of the living room, not big enough to do much with, and has been the home to several different things, including a large plant, small bench, and mini pool table — all of which just sat there doing not much of anything.
I was getting really tired of just looking at that empty corner and watching it become home to a happy family of daddy-long-legs.
I was also getting a bit tired of the tot’s toys ALL OVER THE PLACE.
She needed a solution. I needed something. We talked about getting a toy chest (I had visions of pinched fingers), we dreamed of putting together a built-in bookshelf-slash-seating area (I had visions of power tool mishaps), and we chatted about buying furniture (and I had visions of lots and lots of fighting). So the corner sat deserted, the cat turned the mini-pool table into her new favorite lounging spot, and I kept vacuuming up the spiders.
While at O.S.H. picking up who knows what, I spied round cuts of plywood and knew I had to make a play table. But how to make it cool… Then we spied the big spools used for holding rope and I batted my eyes and inquired if we could have an old one. It was my lucky day and we headed home with the round and a spool.
After a nice sanding, and a coating of white stain, the husband took over and screwed the spool to the round and we had a table. I had plans for adding another round base to make the table sturdier, and to touch up the paint, but the tot had other plans. She got busy working the minute it was brought into the house.
Once she was tucked in for the night, I added a few other cute items around her area so she’d stay interested for more than a few days. On the other side of the play corner is our entry way buffet (that houses a bunch of the hub’s old CD’s) that will be cleared out for her toys so the area is comfortable for her to play and stay organized — and I’ll be able to slide the doors so they will magically disappear.
So for less than $20, we reinvented a spool into a fun play table that will hopefully be used for years and years.
First and foremost, I was not paid in any way, coerced, asked, suggested, or even chatted with about this post from anyone at Dream Lite. Nope. In fact, the last thing I would have ever imagined picking up for my tot this weekend WAS a Dream Lite. And it all started with a bit of bribery.
I bribed my tot.
There’s been a lot going on lately, between starting a new preschool, having a new schedule, me not having as much time for her lately, and my husband’s commute pretty much being THE WORST lately, I was starting to seriously twitch every night at bedtime when she tossed her regular nightly fit.
We try to stay away from watching the big TV. We catch Sesame Street in the morning, maybe a bit of Sprout in the afternoon, but not much else. So when my tot started asking for this so called “dream light” thing, I had no clue. I made up songs, hit her up with some imaginary play (still trying to figure it out) and then one afternoon I finally caught the commercial (after I had left Poppy Cat on too long…). Dreeeaaaam liiiiight, DREAAAAAAM light. You know it if you’ve seen it.
And then it got it.
This was a great opportunity to bribe my tot with a toy (which is something I really haven’t done before) and go with it. I was done with the hours of listening to the whining, the trying talking to my tot in the same tone of voice she was using, the yelling, the serious grey hairs that were popping.
So I did it.
I told her if she behaved herself at school like a big girl, was nice and quiet at bedtime, I’d pick her up a Dream Lite. Well, low and behold, the tot held up her part of the bargain, so the husband and I found ourselves searching around our non-box-store-allowed town for a crap-tastic Dream Lite. After picking the coveted thing up, we headed home, loaded the thing up with batteries, and then listed to the tot complain about how it didn’t work AT ALL.
Finally it got dark out and then the magic happened.
She was amazed, in love, in awe. Honestly, we were too.
There’s no way you can share pictures (because taking pictures in the dark just doesn’t work) but all I know is that my tot LOVES going to sleep, falls asleep, and the husband and I sneak downstairs to check out the glowing stars too.
Thank you Dream Lites.
Today was awesome. We hit our local farmers market, splurged on goodies, and decided to head out for a picnic. Our plans were to meander around Muir Woods and then enjoy a picnic at Muir Beach, or on the lawn at the Pelican Inn, but we totally spaced on the fact that it is LABOR DAY WEEKEND, which means everyone in the area has plans to do the same thing. So, after a long drive (that should have only taken minutes), we decided to turn tail and head to another spot and see what might happen.
Tucked under the Golden Gate Bridge next to the Discovery Museum (which is also awesome!) is a marina and pier surrounding Fort Baker. We snagged one of the very few picnic tables and enjoyed eating all our goodies while waiting for the bridge to pop through the rolling fog. After a leisurely lunch we strolled the pier to see if anyone had snagged some crabs or tasty fish.
There’s no fee to check this area out and, if you’re brave, you can stroll along the bike path all the way up to the bridge and then walk the span. This is a popular area for tourists that rent bikes, so be ready to battle for walking space. But the views are spectacular, and if you’re coming from north of San Francisco, it’s basically free.
*I’d love to take credit for these pictures but I actually only took the first one, but my husband took the rest.
Today we spent the entire day at the Oakland Zoo. We’d never been there so weren’t sure how things would go but were pleasantly surprised by happy animals, friendly people, and lots and lots of open space to wander. We even enjoyed a decent meal, got to meet a snake, and loved the petting area. We went to the San Francisco Zoo last year and were not that impressed. The penguins seemed sad (and their area was dirty), the lions wouldn’t even look at anyone, and it seemed small and frustrated. Yeah, yeah. I know, the whole “zoo” thing. But I was happy to learn that many of the animals at the Oakland Zoo had been rescued from circuses or homes/ranges that thought they could raise a chimp…
If you’re in the Bay Area, the price of admission is totally budget friendly ($9.75 for kids over 2, 15 and up for $13.75 – with a $7 parking fee), and you can bring your own lunch or pick something up for around $6 per person, making the Oakland Zoo is a great way to spend a leisurely day. There are tons of benches for sitting and relaxing, a play area for the kids, lots of tables for eating, and a fantastic children’s educational area.