Monday, June 28, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday: Patriotic Theme

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

There continues to be no theme this summer for Muffin Tin Mondays.
I chose patriotic theme because we won't be able to do it at home next week.

I made red, white, and blue kabobs.

RED: grape tomatoes, apples, and frozen strawberries
WHITE: lightly stir-fried tofu cubes and cauliflower
BLUE: blueberries

I asked Sissy why we were having a red, white, and blue meal; she had no clue.
So, apparently, it was a learning experience.

I cut the star out of a Ozery Bakery Breakfast Pitas (They had the Breakfast Muesli flavor.). The kids really like these a lot. They usually eat one warmed with Earth Balance stuck inside when we need a quick breakfast on-the-go.

I got the wooden party picks from Pier 1. A bag of 24 were only a couple of dollars.

The pinwheels really work.

Have a Happy 4th of July, if I miss getting to say that next weekend!

Sweet Art Bakery in St. Louis

Note: Trip was April 2010; I'm reposting an edited version from my other blog.

My brother-in-law Andy had been planning a way to make Cary's birthday special. He wanted to surprise her with a vegan weekend in Chicago. He knew he's not the best vegetarian restaurant partner...luckily, he knew the perfect person for the job. (Actually people, but our other sister Tracy bailed on us. And thankfully, my momma and dad were able to keep the kids so that I could go.)

Anyway, I drove up to St. Louis without her knowledge. I called Andy when I arrived at midnight, and he took their dog outside. I went back in with them, and I ran into the bedroom where Cary was sitting on the bed. She screamed and may or may not have let an expletive escape. Apparently, though, it's scary when an unidentifiable person wearing a baseball cap jumps on your bed. Hopefully, she was excited after the initial fright.

By the time we left for Chicago the next day, it was lunchtime so we stopped at
Sweet Art Bakery in St. Louis.

We love Sweet Art. I don't think it's been around for too long, it's really cute, and it's right up our alley. They have great sandwiches, etc...

and, of course, yummy desserts.

We may or may not have also got a few other vegan desserts for our car trip.

The following weekend, we headed back to St. Louis. Cary put together a successful 2nd birthday party for Winnie complete with beautiful decorations, cute snacks, and a loftful of guests.

Vegan cupcakes from Sweet Art to top it all off.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

This Was My New Year's Resolution Post

Note: This was my New Year's Resolution post, January 2010, on my other blog.
I'm reposting an edited version of it over here, as I am constructing this blog.

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to start eating more fruits and vegetables. Like REALLY start eating MORE. (To get healthy and to help me lose 15 lb.) I know I probably eat more (fruits and veggies, that is) than the average person (since everything I eat has to come from the ground), but honestly, it takes some work for me. If left to my own taste buds, I could survive on cold cereal and sandwiches. Top it off with a handful of chocolate chips. It's not that I don't want to eat more fruits and vegetables. I really do like them. I absolutely love a good salad or a good smoothie. There are many hindrances, though, like:

1) I'm a lazy cook.


2) I don't like going to the grocery store. (Once I'm AT the grocery store, I like it; I just don't like GOING. Because I'm also a lazy driver.)

Fortunately, I do have the natural desire for my family and me to be as healthy as possible. And if I read (and then research) about something that ISN'T good for me, that's all it takes. I don't want it anymore. The thought of eating something artificial or with trans fat, etc. sounds gross to me. I'm not tempted in the least.

Although it does have it's problems (socially, I can imagine I'm not the most fun person to hang out with, ha), I'm relieved I am OCD about food. Because if I wasn't, I don't know what would prevent me from stopping through Burger King like every day to get fries. And I have enough trouble losing weight the way it is. I'm just saying, I KNOW it's hard - all of it...losing weight, eating well (but we need to do it anyway!). I'm going to be trying my best.

This was our stash from Whole Foods last Saturday. Doesn't it just look beautiful? We bought much less processed/boxed food this time. I have a very bad habit of buying produce and letting it get buried and rotten in my fridge because I'm tired at night and reach for frozen Amy's burgers instead. I'm proud to say we ate almost all of it this week (and what little remained - juicing carrots, a couple of limes, etc. - is still fresh). One of the things that really helped was spreading it all out like this to dry (to keep the fridge stuff from going in wet and molding).We even had to go back to the store several times throughout the week for more fruits and veggies.

We've been having lots of smoothies and salads, and we've also made "spring rolls" using rice paper wrappers. If you have never worked with these, they're really cool.

They are hard like a chip and have to be soaked in water for about 20 seconds. Then just fill it with veggies (we used raw swiss chard, celery, broccoli, carrots, and avocado...and I chopped everything in the food processor ahead of time hoping it would make it easier to chew for the kids) and roll it up. The wrapper sticks together. It's such an amazing texture.

Dash, at first, asked if it was food, which is funny and totally logical. They're just like rice noodles, though, if you've ever had those. Totally plain and nothing weird (ingredients: rice flour, tapioca flour starch, salt, water). These can also be fried, if you prefer, but we haven't tried that yet.

On the side: Kristen's Cheezy Hemp Sauce, which I've mentioned before that we love. Also: brazil nuts, which are high in selenium and good for your prostate.

Those of you who have one of those.

The kids like it when I tell him why a food is good for you. I guess I must have told Dash once that brazil nuts are good for your prostate and had to explain what a prostate is, because he announced at dinner, "Daddy, Brazil nuts are good for your privates."

We've also been making lots of juice.
Fresh juice just smells so ALIVE. (NOT like dirt or whatever it is my Mom says it smells like. update: She says that isn't juice altogether that smells like dirt; it's only beet juice.)

We had QUITE a bit of excitement this week with the arrival of our new Blendtec blender.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

California Vacation

Note: I originally wrote about this trip as a series of posts on my other blog, March 2010. I am copying all vegan-y things over to this blog and slightly editing them/adding more food pics to them.

...and we're off on our much-anticipated Spring Break vacation! Yesterday morning, the kids were all gathered in the hallway around 7:00 a.m., whispering that it was the "day of our trip." They all gave me big hugs filled with squeals when I confirmed that it was indeed.
We were very proud of our little travelers. They were perfect. I loved seeing them with their backpacks charging through the airport. They wore their backpacks for over an hour before it was time to leave our house, even though I tried to tell them it wasn't time to go.
When Sissy (with her organic sucker) gets excited, she says, "I SO ES-ITED!" This was the first time she or Dash had ever flown. (Tornado had flown to NYC twice before, at ages 14 months and 4 years.) They were quiet, busy, cooperative, and thrilled about the entire experience. (And I had to keep a smile on MY face the entire time for their sake, despite the fact that flying FREAKS me out...I DON'T like it. I will do it, for the sake of adventure...but I don't like it.)

We arrived in L.A. at 9ish. Our big "excitement" at LAX was seeing "Millicent" (Lisa Goldstein) from One Tree Hill in the baggage area.

After taking the shuttle to pick up our car rental, we made a quick stop at Wal-Mart to stock up on drinks, soymilk, cereal, plates, and bowls for breakfast the next morning.

We stayed our first 2 nights in Anaheim at the Fairfield Inn & Suites/Disneyland resort. It is across the street from Disneyland's walls, and it was about a 5 minute walk down the path to the front gate. I took a mental note of a few that were even closer for next time, but this one was just great, too. It was easy to get back to the room for naptime, and it was only around $100/night.

The kids got to meet lots of characters like
Minnie and Mickey.
We got to the characters right at the start so there weren't a lot of people around yet, thankfully.

There was a lot of smiling anticipation all day...
lots of squealing and pointing...
and lots of oohing and aahing...
There may or may not have been an incident involving losing our 4 year old...and let's just say, security may have been involved...

At lunchtime, Ryan took the 2 little ones back to the room to get a head start on resting while Tornado and I drove 15-20 minutes to Costa Mesa to pick up the order we had called in to Native Foods. That's the round building. I love the little, pretty area where it is located. We had eaten there on our last trip to Cali. (It's all vegan!)

Tornado plowed through his veggies, fruit, nuggets, dip, and rice on the 15 minute drive back to the hotel. Perfect little meal for this guy.
I sampled a little bit of the peanut butter parfaits, chocolate pie, and cheesecake we were going to share for dessert. What none of us liked was the watermelon juice...I love watermelon, and I've never tried a juice I couldn't drink...but I couldn't get this one down. (It was free, though, for signing up for a Native Foods customer program.)
Ryan and I ordered the Chicken Run Ranch Burger and the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger with kale and sweet potato fries. (We usually always order 2 things and split them. Much more fun that way.) We also ordered the quesadillas as an appetizer, but in our excitement, we had really ordered too much food. That was okay, though; I had cold quesadillas for breakfast the next morning. They were a little soggy by this point, but I didn't care!

I think we spent close to the same amount of money on Disneyland snacks as we spent on our filling Native Foods meal. An orange, 2 bananas, and a Dasani cost $8. There is a little place (can't remember what it's called; it's too the left in the Tiki/jungle type area) that's great for buying fresh pineapple, grapes, watermelon - almost every kind of fruit you'd want - and bottled smoothie drinks, dried Apple Crisps, fruit leather, etc.

MY favorite Disney ride - and I think it's now the kids' favorite (Isn't it everyone's favorite?): It's a Small World. After Ryan saw Avatar (3 times), he just knows he wants to live in Pandora, which is his idea of a perfect world. I want to live in It's a Small World.

NEXT DAY: Whale Watching and Hugo's Tacos
Day 3 in California had us checking out of our Anaheim hotel and driving over to Dana Point Harbor. Many months ago, I won 4 Whale Watching Cruise tickets on Kristi's (she's a sweet, creative momma from Orange County, CA) blog, Orange Juice. I was thrilled to win a blog giveaway (no matter that the tickets had to be used in CALIFORNIA...I would use them...I just knew it!) Thank you, Kristi; we had so much fun! (and saved another $100...we just had to buy one $19 child ticket)
Here we were, leaving the harbor. I can't quite emphasize enough HOW MUCH my children (and husband) love animals - reading about them, watching shows about them...they BEG for any opportunity to watch National Geographic with Ryan in our bed. (It's one of the things we actually use as a reward or incentive.) I can only sit through about 5 minutes of a wildlife show before getting bored; I'm glad they take after Ryan on this one because although I enjoy an interesting 2 minute pop-in every once in awhile, I can't sit through a whole episode.

They're always excitedly rattling off cool facts that they've learned from these programs. ("Momma, did you know...") They particularly love marine animals, (and I think Ryan wishes he could have been a marine biologist) so it was definitely cool for them to go out looking for real sea life.
I'm not sure if there are whale watching cruisers who do not keep animal's interests in mind, but our crew seemed very respectful and conscious of what they were doing. They kept a mindful distance from the animals, kept the boat at a slow speed and didn't watch any group of whales for too long. They made comments about not wanting to upset the animals or interfere with their natural patterns. Seems like a better alternative to Sea World to me. Although my husband is practically a vegan, there are still areas in which I feel more strongly, and there are times when I have to compromise to fit his interests. GLADLY since he became a vegetarian after we were married, and I am entirely grateful for that fact.

The weather was PERFECT. We couldn't have asked for a better day.

We even got to see a bunch of sea lions up close. They were so cute! We saw them flipping around and playing in the water, at all points throughout the trip, too.

There were two levels on the boat. You can sit at booths up top or stand along the side down below.
They do not guarantee that you will see a whale during the trip. We got to see them a lot, though. The gray whales are passing through the California coats right now, on their migrating journey.
It was hard to get a good picture because by the time you see one pop up, you've missed the shot. We could see and hear the water spray up from their blow hole each time, which was cool. There were three of them in a group together.

The cruise was two hours long, and Sissy fell asleep during the last 15 minutes. The weather was so nice and breezy, I could have fallen asleep, too. I told Ryan we should start our own cruise adventure for people who just want to take a nap. We could just have a bunch of beds and hammocks lined up. I think it would be a hit.

So...Ryan asked me before we got on the boat if we should be concerned about seasickness. Tornado and I are the ones who usually get motion sickness. I told him we would probably be fine. For the first hour, I was thinking he had worried for nothing. And then it set in...ugh, I felt very seasick. I think if I could have just sat down the whole time, instead of walking all over the place, keeping up with the kids, I would have been okay. (But they did NOT fall overboard, Mom.)

Tornado started feeling woozy right about the same time that I did. He had to go to the restroom, and while we were in there...he puked. It made him feel a little better, but he was still a little out of it, as you can see (above). I think he even fell asleep on our way back into the harbor.

We had plans to hit the vegan pizza place on our way to the mountains, but we called and found out they weren't open yet that day. We checked my handy trip guide and found another place close to the freeway we would be traveling on: Hugo's Tacos.

It's a small taco stand with outdoor seating in Atwater Village. It's not completely vegetarian, but there is a list on the window of everything that is vegan. There were many items on the menu labeled organic, too, which I thought was interesting (cool!) for a place like this. I ordered the nachos with soy chorizo. The chips weren't the tastiest I've ever had, and they didn't necessarily feel healthy. I really liked the layer of organic white beans at the bottom.

They even had soft-serve! It was delicious!

We got back into the car for our (approximately) 5 hour trip up to Sequoia National Park. We stopped at Whole Foods to buy the food we would need for the next couple of days. (I wasn't relying on there being anything for us to eat up there.) I was trying to hurry, but it's really hard for me to hurry in a health food store. I love checking out all of the new products.

It was dark by the time we made it up the, it was an incredibly winding road. I'm glad we got to drive the road at night, actually, because it just seemed so enchanting. We were surrounded by these abnormally large trees and deep ravines. There was just so much wildlife and just so much green everywhere, lit by the moonlight...we half expected an elf or a Hobbit to pop out at any moment. It definitely made us excited for our next day.

The next day, it was interesting to witness in the daylight what we'd seen the night before...
We stayed 2 nights at the Wuksachi Lodge, high up into Sequoia National Park. This is the main building, and our room was in a separate building down the road a bit. It was only about $80/night and had everything we needed, even a fridge in the room for all of our food.
This was the walk from our building to the parking lot. Although it didn't snow while we were there, you can see how deep the snow is. They seem to do a great job keeping the roads and sidewalks cleared. (They generally require you to bring snow chains in your car because the weather is unpredictable.)
This also shows the depth of the snow. We were standing on a trail, but we were high above the fence.
That's Dash standing in front of the General Sherman, the world's largest tree.

We didn't get to see any black bears, like we had hoped (They said they were still sleeping...although there are bear warnings everywhere. You have to sign forms verifying you are aware of the risks of bears. You aren't allowed to leave any food in your car.), but we did see this character, who just sat and watched us. (I took this from my car window, by the way!) We also saw a fox.
I think the kids could have stayed for hours in this spot. They were pretending this was their house, and they were "decorating" it. They made so many trips in and out, collecting pinecones, branches, moss, bark, etc. to use for dishes, food, and decor for their home. How I wish we had a tree like this at our house!
This gives you a better idea of how big this tree was and how much room the kids had inside to play.
There is a gigantic snow play area...we couldn't pass up this opportunity...despite the fact the 3 boys were wearing...ahem...Crocs. We weren't quite prepared for all of this snow. I thought there might be a little snow on the ground here and there, but we were traipsing through snow several feet deep. (And also we just didn't have room in our luggage to bring everything that I would have wanted to bring.)

We would be walking along on top of frozen snow, then our whole foot would disappear in a soft spot. We (at least) put plastic bags around our socks, which helped a little. (And I had bought those little packaged handwarmers, which were very helpful.) We were COOOOLLLLDDDD by the time we got finished - but no harm done. No hypothermia. No frostbite. Just lots of fun memories.
The view going down...we were going to buy a sled, which they had for sell (around $15). They happened to have one at the lodge that someone had left, so we were able to just borrow that one.

(Side note: they also had a lot of healthy snack choices, like bars and cereal that we would have been able to eat in the basement store of the main building. It also looked like there was a vegan choice on the restaurant menu.)
Needless to say, the kids have never had this type of snow experience before. (We live in Arkansas, where we get little snow at all. They don't really even sell sleds locally.)
And, of course, nothing says mountain wilderness like Chocolate Chunk Cookie, right? (We were excited about trying a new product we'd gotten at Whole Foods...eaten with a spoon right out of the container, of course.)

NEXT DAY: Leaving Sequoia and Veggie Grill
The next morning we made our way down the mountain. You can see several levels of roads from the far left side to the right. We got out at several look-out points to take pictures and soak in all of the beauty.
We stopped to use the restroom (you know it's a big, long mountain when it requires a restroom break) in the foothills area of the park, known as Potwisha. It seemed like all of the sudden that we were out of snow and in the midst of green grass and flowers everywhere.
We kind of wished we had been able to play in such a beautiful area yesterday when we were tiptoeing through the slick snowy paths.
Dash took some good pictures of us. He was turning the camera vertical and everything. (I'm posing with my arm out to make me look thinner. It worked, right?)

The road between Sequoia and L.A. is lined with orchards of all kinds.
Back in L.A...we stayed on the 4th floor of this apartment building. The Venice Beach boardwalk is right in front of these steps. We knew going into it this might not be the BEST place to stay with a family, but we really wanted to stay RIGHT on the beach, to make it easier with the kids. (My favorite place to stay in CA is Santa Monica; I think it's fabulous. However, even the beachfront hotels require crossing traffic and a bit of a walk to get to the ocean.)

It ended up being a fine place for us to stay, though. We had a full kitchen, fold-out couch and separate bedroom. One of my only complaints: there was no air conditioning (a lot of places along the beach don't have it because of the cool ocean breezes) because there were certain times of day we got pretty hot inside. (We weren't inside a lot, though, anyway.) Also, I felt like we had to "shush" our kids more than in a bigger hotel.
The hotel was old but renovated, with lots of remaining character, including the cage-type elevator.
After we got all checked in and unloaded, we drove to El Segundo, which wasn't too far away. (It took us awhile to get there because we took a wrong turn...Ryan was remembering once again why he hates L.A. traffic.) We ate supper at the Veggie Grill, and we loved it.

You can always tell when we are HUNGRY going into a restaurant because we order a lot of food. The kids loved being able to order off the kids' menu for a change. The kids' meal was veggie nuggets, carrot sticks or sweet potato fries, chocolate pudding, and lemonade. Ryan and I shared the Chickin' Caesar Wrap and the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin' Burger, which were both delicious. The kale with a special kind of sauce and sweet potato fries were yummy, too.

The largest Whole Foods in SoCal is located in the same shopping area as Veggie Grill. I ran inside and stocked up on a few items for our apartment. Like I said before, I hate having to rush while in a new Whole Foods. I would have liked to mull slowly down every single aisle, looking for products I've never seen. I actually didn't see that many new and different things. They do sell Daiya cheese, which was thrilling. They also had fresh pizza made with Daiya. And I had been wanting to try Amy's new rice macaroni and cheeze (also made with Daiya). It was delicious, but I only ate 2 bites because it has 520 calories and 22 grams of fat in one container. It was great for the kids, though.

NEXT DAY: Farmers' Market, the Beach, and Lots of Food
Saturday morning, we started off the day at the Farmers' Market in Santa Monica, just down the road from where we were staying. We bought some citrus fruit, olive bread, and sun-dried apricots.

Tornado was very proud of his apricots. (I need to figure out where to buy such fresh sun-dried apricots. They were so much better than dried apricots you buy in a package.) It was the one thing he picked out, and he (with the help of his siblings) devoured them as soon as we got to the car.

I'm envious of the people who always get to shop at farmers' markets in California.
Next, we headed to Madeleine's Bistro in Tarzana. I think this was the restaurant I was looking forward to the most. We didn't go last time we were in CA because the boys were younger, and we were worried about their behavior in a more elegant establishment. (Ryan and I always seem to order the same type of sandwich; they're just so good. We're like Joey on Friends with our sandwiches.) However, there was nothing to worry about because we were the first ones there upon opening, and it seemed very relaxed and fine for kids when we were there.

Tornado always orders mashed potatoes and gravy, any chance he gets.
They were in love with getting to use the little serving pitchers.

Sissy had one, too, for her syrup.

I think everything we ordered was brown or white...yikes...we totally carb-ed out on this meal.

I ordered the crepes because I've never had them at a restaurant before. Two thumbs up.

We also ordered their version of beignets. (I am still not entirely certain how to pronounce that word; I just felt like I should order them because I've never had them, and I always read about people eating them.) I liked them. They were a cake-doughnut, nothing too out of the ordinary, but the cooked apples that came with them made them yummier.

I wish we could have came back to Madeleine's for a later meal to try some of their other fancy vegetable dishes.

Ryan and I ordered fresh juice (his was apple, and mine was carrot/apple/kale/celery) to help us feel better about consuming all of the white and brown food.

We headed back to our apartment and spent the rest of the afternoon playing on the beach.

We headed back to our apartment and spent the rest of the afternoon playing on the beach.

I forgot to mention this: as soon as we had gotten off the airplane and were getting our rental car, Dash had gasped, "LOOK! Palm trees!"

After we got cleaned up, we drove to Cruzer's Pizza in Los Feliz. I guess they started adding more vegan products, and their sales went up so much, they decided to become entirely vegan. I was pure giddy to try this place. It did not disappoint. I wish we could have went back another day (to try the calzones and other yummy-looking choices). Ryan picked the BBQ pizza.

Tornado chose pineapple and "ham." (I don't know if I had ever had pineapple on pizza before, and I am now a big fan of it.) Dash wanted those "round, red things" (pepperoni) on his half. Sissy and I just shared with everyone else. This pizza definitely lived up to the hype that I have been reading about. While I was picking up the pizza, a man was loading up some bread they make for the restaurant next door, and he let me have a piece; yum!
CRUZER'S: 10 thumbs up from our family.

Our plan was to take the pizza to the nearby Griffith Park Observatory. We got so lost trying to find the pizza place (I will NEVER go to a big city without GPS AGAIN.), that the little ones fell asleep in the car, it was dark by the time we made it up to the observatory, and it was sooo crowded up there. The only parking spots were probably a mile away, on this narrow, curvy road. We just couldn't imagine walking that road with the kids at night. We just got a 15 second glance at the stunning city view as we drove past, then headed back down the hill and ate our pizza in a random parking spot somewhere.

Animal Acres, The Getty Center, and Real Food Daily
Los Angeles is this great city with a seemingly endless list of things to do, yet it's surrounded by such beautiful, diverse habitat: ocean, mountain, forest, desert, etc. That is one of the reasons I love it so much. See all of the cars? That is the reason I have not been able to convince Ryan to move there.
Sunday, we drove to Acton, which is about 45 minutes from L.A. That is where Animal Acres farm sanctuary is located.

They were having a special event/open house to kick off the start of a new season. I had envisioned a peaceful picnic on the lawn before we played with the was anything but peaceful. Not 15 seconds after we sat down on the grass and spread out our food, we were invaded by this chicken. I kept trying to throw a chip off in the other direction, but she was fast and persistent.
We quickly picked up our stuff (not easy with several plates) and moved to these chairs. Mrs. Hen was joined by her chicken friends, and they were all relentless. We were cramming down our food as quickly as we could because they would fly up and try to eat it right out of our hands. It was annoying, but in defense of the little boogers, it IS their home, and we were merely guests.
Besides, I would much rather have one meal interrupted by these critters than to have them stuffed into cages like these for their whole lives. (picture borrowed)

lots of animals to pet and play with

The pigs (hogs?) were huge. One of them got spooked when several people were around it, and it suddenly took off without warning. Its hip barely bumped Tornado, but they are so big, it completely knocked him off his feet. (could have been bad if it stepped on my skinny little guy)

I love pigs, though. We were watching an Animal Planet show on pigs in our lodge, and they were so incredible. Pigs are SO smart, so sweet, and so trainable. They were picking letters out of a pile with their mouths IN ORDER, spelling words.

The turkeys were sweet and gentle.

Doesn't this dude (or girl, I don't know) have the most incredible hair?

This is what it looks like on the outskirts of Los Angeles (on the way back from Acton).

We stopped at The Getty Center (an art museum and more) on the way back. It's so cool! (Look at this picture.) You have to park at the bottom of this hill (mountain?), and a (driverless) tram takes you to the museum at the top. The building is amazing, and the views are stunning. (I really need to pull out my thesaurus. I feel like I keep saying "good" and "amazing" and "cool" and "delicious" while describing my trip.

Sissy was pretty "ho-hum" about the art until we passed this piece. She audibly gasped and wanted out of her stroller. She immediately went into dance mode again.

There was a huge Leonardo da Vinci exhibit while we were there. We talk a lot about artists at home, but Dash's class recently did a "Marvelous Masterpieces" unit at school. He learned a lot about different artists so it felt very relevant to him. He recognized "Irises" by Vincent van Gogh, who he knows as the guy who cut off part of his ear.

the garden area

another view

We walked through the museum, around the gardens, and played in the Family Room (where there are different interactive kids' exhibits) until closing time. I would like to come back another time when we can look at everything.

The kids decorated masks in the Family room.

Later... while we were waiting on our table at Real Food Daily, we walked around the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. We bought a cinnamon roll to share from the Real Food Daily bakery, located next door to RFD.

See - Tornado ordered mashed potatoes and gravy again (AND a club sandwich). I was really excited for him to order a club sandwich because he always sees sandwiches in books and on t.v. (like Scooby-Doo) and wants to have one, too.

I was disappointed in my ordering choice at RFD. I got the burrito, which I thought was going to be more like an enchilada covered in sauce. But really it was just like a burrito I eat all of the time at home. It wasn't that it tasted bad at all; I was only disappointed that it wasn't what I expected. It was huge, and I didn't eat much of it (getting to the end of our trip, and I'm starting to feel a little full).

I think Ryan made the better choice above.
I like Real Food Daily (we ate here a couple of times on our last CA vacation); it's in a great location in Santa Monica.

Newsroom Cafe, Robertson Boulevard, The Bonnie Hunt Show, the Beach, and Planet Raw
Monday was our last full day. While we were driving to brunch, we got a glimpse of the Hollywood sign. The boys knew what it was, and they had wanted to see it. They recognized it from the Looney Tunes movie and from Tom & Jerry, etc.

We ate lunch at Newsroom Cafe.

Weeks before our trip, we would talk about what we were going to order at the restaurants. (Yes, I looked at menus online almost daily, leading up to the trip.) Tornado had immediately declared he wanted to order "soy drumsticks." (Sissy always said "pink icecream.") I have no idea where he got this idea, if he's had them before maybe, or if he just thought regular drumsticks looked fun?? I knew we HAD to find them somewhere, though. I asked on a vegan message board where I could find soy drumstix, and someone told me they had them at Newsroom. They were, indeed, a hit.

Check out the size of the pancake that was served to Dash. We had no idea it was going to be that big. Everyone else had tastes, but he ate a LOT of it himself.

I ordered the tofu scramble with potatoes and greens.

Ryan got a veggie burger. NOTE: You would want to doublecheck to see if this veggie burger or the soydrumsticks are vegan or vegetarian. Ryan isn't always a strict label-reader/incessant waiter questioner, like I am, away from home. And Tornado doesn't seem bothered by hidden ingredients, either, so in situations like this when he really wants something, we don't fret over it.

Sissy said, "Take a picture of my food, too." (She got the hummus and vegetables.)

After we ate, we did a little window shopping as we walked down Robertson Boulevard, where Newsroom Cafe is located.

I was feeling the need for a little Mommy alone time, and my husband was lovely enough to provide it. I got a ticket to The Bonnie Hunt Show, and Ryan took the kids back to play on the beach.

I had a lot of fun watching the talk show taping. I've mentioned before how much I like going to these (I've been to Regis & Kelly, Jimmy Kimmel, Dave Letterman, Jane Pauley, Dr. Phil, and Jay Leno.). It's free, and it's interesting to see what goes on "behind the scenes." And you get to see "celebrities," which is a bit of silly fun.

I like Bonnie Hunt. The first guest was...wait for it...THE FONZ. (giggles, squeals) Henry Winkler seemed like a very sweet man. He was promoting the next volume of his Hank Zipzer children's book series (And I got a free copy!).

The next guest was...wait for it...THE SANDMAN (from Spider-Man 3) - Thomas Hayden Church. More affectionately known to me as Lowell from Wings. I was addicted to Wings during the summer of 1995. I remember coming home between shifts at Stoby's and watching it. I had a bit of a crush on Lowell, with his little cap on.

On the way home, we got raw/nutmilk shakes at Planet Raw in Santa Monica. I wish we could have eaten a full meal here. The menu looked so fun. I had really wanted to make it to a raw restaurant, but we just ran out of time. I did get to buy some more glass straws, which they had for sale at Planet Raw.

Our last morning we spent packing, tidying up our apartment, and trying to eat up what was left in the fridge, etc. Ugh, it is so depressing to throw away good leftovers, etc. (It's also depressing to throw away a whole, perfectly-good bottle of water before going through security at the airport - only to walk 30 feet and have to purchase another bottle.)

Before we left, we went up on the roof of our apartment building to enjoy our last ocean views of the trip.

I wasn't really ready to leave California. There were still so many things on my "to-do" list. So many more fun kid spots. So many more restaurants.

Funny story: We were going to (but didn't) meet a friend of mine from highschool, and he and I were messaging each other. I asked him how he felt about going to a vegetarian restaurant. He responded something like, "Wouldn't it make more sense to eat at a restaurant that had everything?" (I guess it was his understanding that vegans only eat iceberg lettuce salad or whatever meager offering is at a "regular" restaurant.) My reply was, "I don't think you understand...the main reason we chose L.A. as our vacation destination is - the restaurants."

I would seriously move to California tomorrow if my husband would only go with me. :)

We felt very fortunate that we were able to enjoy good weather all week. (You know, besides making my boys traipse through the snow in Crocs.) No big rainstorms or anything to put a damper on our fun.

Special thanks to Quarrygirl and her readers on her forum, Britt at Sick of Lettuce, and to Lex at I pored over their sites for weeks (would it be pathetic if I said months?) before our trip to help decide where we wanted to eat and visit. :)