Pic of the Week: Little Trump & Hillary

We’re the Mini Politico Party and we approve these masks!

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Pic(s) of the Week: Batterymate Bros

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For the uninitiated, the term “batterymates” in baseball means the pitcher-catcher duo in a game; while Troy and Xander are at different age levels during the more competitive
Spring season in Santa Monica Little League, they are teammates/batterymates on their
Fall Ball Avispas (Spanish for “wasp”) team. These photos show the sibling tandem in
action during last Sunday’s game vs. Culver City.

Pic of the Week: Greece the Great

My in-laws just returned from a trip to Athens; while “Athena” was all around them (the name of their hotel even had the word in it), Mr. V chose this pic of the Parthenon when I asked to post one of his favorite shots….

Guest Bloggers: Summer Fun Roundup

hotdog(EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is a report from budding family entertainment correspondents Athena (age 10) & Xander (8) highlighting a trio of summer vacation endeavors)

Yankees vs. Angels

By Xander Lippman

It was interesting because Angel Stadium of Anaheim was not like other ball parks (I’ve been to Dodger Stadium twice). There was a waterfall in center field, and there were empty seats in front of us so Troy and I sat there.

yankeesangelsBefore the game we saw the Yankees stretching along the first base line. After that, the game started with the Yankees batting first. It was really cool to see the players in person.

It was probably the 4th inning and we were all hungry so Troy and my dad went to get some hot dogs. We also bought snow cones and peanuts. We brought our own boxes of Cracker Jacks from home.

In the 8th inning people were leaving so I sat in a seat where a few foul balls were being hit, but I didn’t catch any. Even though the Yankees lost 2-0, it was cool to see them play. Overall it was a fantastic outing.

shamuSeaWorld San Diego

By Athena Lippman

While I was walking into the SeaWorld San Diego entrance, I got so excited about all the animals I would see and the rides we would ride.

There are all kinds of animals such as penguins, fish, mantas, sharks, turtles, dolphins, whales, flamingos, sea lions and more (and the pigs, cats and dogs that performed at the “Pets Rule” show were so cute!).

mantaThere are plenty of shows including the Blue Horizons Dolphin Show — one of my favorites of the day! The dolphins did flips, jumps and other tricks! There was also a Shamu show which was also really cool (we were lucky to see him because the giant killer whale is retiring this year). At the sea lions show one sea lion held a ball on its nose and then jumped in the water with the ball still on the nose.

There were also some rides: Manta is a rollercoaster where, after you exited the ride, you could touch baby mantas in a petting pool. Journey to Atlantis is a combination flume ride and rollercoaster that takes the boat up an elevator and goes on a wild ride! The Wild Arctic is a motion ride that takes you on a helicopter flight; afterwards, you can see beluga whales, a giant walrus, and polar bears in their natural habitat. It was amazing!

I also liked Shipwreck Rapids — a circular raft ride where you get super wet because you are heading down a path of flowing water.  The Sky Tower is a rotating elevator ride that goes up into the sky with 360-degree views of San Diego, and the Sky Ride is a cable car that brings you over the bay (it is a good ride to relax on!).

We also walked through some aquariums. I thought that SeaWorld was a very awesome and a really fun amusement park!

Six Flags Magic Mountain

By Athena and Xander

(Athena) My favorite rides at Six Flags Magic Mountain were Jet Stream and Goliath. Jetstream is a calm, relaxing boat ride at first but then there is a 6-story drop at the end and you get soaked. My dad’s Yankees baseball cap flew off while we were going down the drop.

(*EDITOR’S NOTE: After following “park procedure” by filling out a Lost & Found form online, my cap was never retrieved, even though we all spotted it on a concrete landing in a restricted area after exiting the ride. Thanks for losing my cap MM).

jetstreamGoliath is a whole different story. This rollercoaster reaches a top speed of 85 miles per hour. It was so fast that it blew back your cheeks and the wind was so strong that it literally held you down. Then there is a 260-foot drop, which was crazy! There were lots of twists and turns.  By the end of the ride my heart was beating so fast. Goliath was really fun. If you go to Magic Mountain I would definitely recommend this rollercoaster!

(Xander) I had 3 favorite rides: Twisted Colossus, Green Lantern and Full Throttle. Twisted Colossus was a really fast rollercoaster; first it was all bumpy with a huge drop. Then you go under another train. Then you attach to a different track and it’s the ride all over again.

Green Lantern was a very weird ride. First you go up. Then you go backwards. Then down, spinning around throughout. The whole ride is over in about 30 seconds.

Full Throttle was my favorite. A girl says, “3, 2, 1, go!” and you blast off super fast to start. Then you go upside down. Then you keep going super fast. Then an announcement says, “Enjoy the ride!” and you go backwards. You keep going fast and there is a huge drop. Then the ride is over.

Pic of the Week: ‘Amazing’ Camp Pick-up

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Spotted this banner in front of Gersten Pavilion at Loyola Marymount University after picking up the kiddies from tennis camp one recent July afternoon. Not sure if the campus was serving as a “Detour” or “Road Block” and was perhaps even more curious what the Chinese Phil Keoghan looks like! Minutes later, we passed by a black SUV with one of the teams and camera crew. TAR is one of our favorite reality TV shows so you can imagine our excitement over this brush with TAR China!

Driving Mr. X

The little quips started in 2012 at five-years-old and ran through 2014; then the classic “Xanderism” made its triumphant return in 2015. Now that he’s 8, I’m inclined to give Mr. X’s humorous wordplay a more age-appropriate title:  X-Claims? Yep, that works for me.

So we’re heading to summer camp one recent morning when he begins contemplating the rules of the carpool lane.

What if there’s only one person in the car?

You can get a ticket and pay a fine.

Introducing the “X-Claims”:  Do dogs count?

Becoming Your Dad

Every dad has traits – good and not-so-good that define him. And then there are those little idiosyncrasies that you inherit from the guy that fathered you. Just recently, two such quirks that would definitely be considered “learned behavior” made me stop and question: am I turning into my dad?!

IMG_1476These two are pretty straightforward: My dad used to walk through the house turning off the multitude of light switches that were on when nobody seemed to be occupying or using said space as he announced to anyone who was within earshot that we were wasting electricity. I’ve come to realize that I just recently started doing the same thing (just this morning I shut off a half dozen lights before leaving for work), but I merely mutter things like “Electricity doesn’t grow on trees you know!” under my breath. So not completely like Grandpa Florida and certainly less effective!

The second example is much more sentimental. To this day, my dad puts family photos and other heartfelt notes on the visor of his car. Just last week, Athena gave me a little piece of artwork she made with “#1 Dad” written on it. Hmmmm, where should I proudly display this as a constant reminder of what great little kiddies I have? ON THE VISOR OF MY CAR, OF COURSE!

Thanks for those two traits that remind me of you, dad, and Happy Father’s Day to both you and dad-in-law Mr. V.!

Pic of the Week: “Train”ing Day

This shot shows our return to Bergamot Station in Santa Monica after trying the new Metro Expo line to Downtown L.A. (with an added graphic touch from my fave new Over app).


Food for Thought: Perfectly Playa

Urban Plates' light fixtures are a cool design element

Urban Plates’ light fixtures are a cool design element

Our clan is a good fit for Urban Plates and Lyfe Kitchen – much like the two fast-casual restaurants are well-suited for the health conscious, entrepreneurial residents they serve at The Runway mixed-use complex at Playa Vista.

Ordering, paying, grabbing a table, digging into your savory food, and splitting as soon as you’re done is a great set-up that is growing in appeal for me (there’s also Hop Doddy Burger Bar just a half block down from these two spots that utilizes the same approach). Urban Plates has various stations where you slide your tray cafeteria-style and watch the cook prepare hand-tossed salads, hand-carved sandwiches, flatbreads and other various comfort foods. Like Hop Doddy we’ve been here twice and chose communal high-top tables for our size group, sampling each other’s dinners both times: Moroccan Chicken Braise, Asian Chicken Salad, BBQ Turkey Meatloaf, Margherita Pizzette, mac & cheese and an Urban Kids Plate with grilled steak, one hot or cold side and a chargrilled focaccia.

And it was 10 enthusiastic thumbs up for Lyfe Kitchen, where the food and drink is a bit more organic. Co-owned by Top Chef Masters alum Art Smith (we tried LK for the first time at its Culver City location), my Faye’s Grilled Cheese ranks up there with one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had, with its house-made pimento cheese, thinly sliced tomato, arugula and sprinkled with parmesan (459 calories/620 mg sodium); at six bucks, this was a good value so I went for the sweet potato fries on the side for $2 more. A varied menu features everything from “Shareables” like Spicy Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps and an Edamame Hummus Plate to “Handhelds & Sides” like Mahi Fish Tacos and Roasted Brussels & Squash. “Little Lyfers” can choose from a handful of dishes including pancakes and “Unfried Chicken Strips.”

Pic of the Week: Pretty Portugal

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Longtime family friend and former neighbor Sheba texted me this screensaver-worthy shot
from an annual hiking holiday with friends: while it may look and sound a bit like the
Palos Verdes Peninsula here in SoCal, it’s actually The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region known for its sunny Mediterranean climate, beaches and golf resorts.

Food for Thought: Superba Food+Bread

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Talk about a place that has it all – inventive food, excellent service, laid-back atmosphere, hip local vibe – Superba Food+Bread (yes I’m about to go there) is superb-a.

We took Irene here for an early breakfast to kick off her festivities-filled Mother’s Day and it was a hit from start to finish: service was spot-on and our server gifted Irene with a house-made bag of granola to mark the special day at the end of the meal.

All of our uniquely-conceived dishes were equally delicious, including a Croque Madame featuring the sunnyside egg set into the top of the bread and boasting a smoked ham, gruyere and tomato bechamel mix, and a “Hangtown Fry” with soft scrambled eggs, mushrooms, onions, bacon, potatoes, chilis and a crispy oyster.

We sat at a corner banquette (the space is divided into indoor/outdoor dining areas separated by a garage door) with an outward view of all the action going on under the high, exposed-beam ceiling; for guests on the go, there’s a baked goods-filled case along the south side of the restaurant where they can quickly choose a baked-on-premises item, grab a cup of coffee and park themselves at communal seating in the front instead of getting table service.

Locals from the neighboring sidestreets must love walking over to this cool spot (there’s also another location at The Point in El Segundo).

Turning Japanese

UNLIKE ’80s BAND THE VAPORS, Tokyo is certainly no one-hit wonder. While we chose our sightseeing itinerary wisely during our recent spring break trip, we would certainly have to return again and again to even crack the surface of the many wonders that make up this dynamic international metropolis.

IMG_0873IMG_0428But perhaps one of the best parts of our hand-picked endeavors was the journey getting to each place – we practically mastered the city’s spotless subway system during our week in Tokyo (with a big nod to Tia Janet, Irene’s sister/ex-pat who provided day-to-day guidance until we spread our wings and went solo on the last few rides!) Following is a breakdown of our subway escapades:

TOKYO METRO TO GINZA: We kicked off our trip with a little shopping in this district, beginning with a stop at a tea house, a look at the Kabuki Theater, and, of course, a visit to the Sanrio store so Miss A could pick up some Hello Kitty items!

TOKYO METRO TO HARAJUKU/ YOYOGI PARK: This metro line let us off right at the entrance to Yoyogi Park, one of Tokyo’s largest city parks with its sprawling, scenic grounds. This was a great place to people-watch and a handful of actual wedding processions in the main temple area made for great photo opps. Adjacent to the park is the popular Harajuku district, where we happened upon another event in progress: the Japanese St. Paddy’s Day Parade on Omote-sando Boulevard (holy culture clash!) After charging up our devices at an Apple store, we had some energy left for one more sight just a short walk down the street: the Nezu Museum, where Xander led us on a follow-the-leader nature walk through the museum’s meandering gardens (see X’s sidebar below for a detailed report!).

IMG_0546TOKYO METRO TO SHIBUYA & JR LINE TO TOKYO STATION: This day saw us tackling two different subway systems as we first took the metro to Shibuya Crossing; rumored to be the world’s busiest, this five-way intersection is famously known as “The Scramble” – a dazzling array of giant video screens and neon, with people coming from all directions at once during every light change while skillfully dodging one another. After that, we hopped on the JR train to the massive Tokyo Station so we could get the boys some souvenirs at an official Pokemon store located in the bustling underground arteries. How we even found the tiny Pokeman stall was an amazing feat in itself so after tracking it down we rewarded ourselves with lunch at Curry House, where the boys and I sat at the counter and had Tonkatsu (pork cutlet with panko breading covered in an umami brown gravy!) while Miss A and Irene dined at a table for two.

IMG_0604IMG_0600TOKYO METRO TO TSUKIJI: This day was easily the highlight of our holiday for me: the Tsukiji Fish Market (pronounced skee-jee). From the very moment we walked through the main entrance and saw the chaotic activity, I shifted into “how-awesome-is-this” mode; being alert is the name of the game here what with the market being a flurry of activity – trucks dropping off their morning deliveries and countless forklifts zipping around. Once inside exploring the aisles of fishmongers busy at their stalls, it was sensory overload (it was overwhelming just deciding where to point the camera next). I could go on and on about this place so I’ll just mention that we purchased a handful of the meatiest oysters I have ever slurped and enjoyed them right there on the spot! (extremely early risers can make a reservation for one of the daily live tuna auctions at 5 a.m.!) Just outside the market, we also tried a variety of street food including fried octopus and other assorted fish on a stick. Back at home base in Roppongi Hills, Irene went to a “sisters” sushi dinner while I took the kiddies to an excellent soba noodle restaurant (more on that in Troy’s sidebar).

OEDO LINE TO SHINJUKU: Nearly veteran subway riders at this point of the trip, the Oedo dropped us off right near the main gate of our destination: Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. It was a beautiful day to take in these beautiful grounds, complete with massive cherry blossom trees, koi ponds, a traditional teahouse and spectacular greenhouse (see Miss A’s sidebar).

IMG_0912OEDO LINE TO RYGOKU / EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM: The Edo’s permanent exhibition offers an engaging look at the history of Tokyo (known as “Edo” until 1869) via interactive exhibits, scale models and life-size dioramas – perfect entertainment for kids and adults alike. In fact, after Tsukiji, this was probably my second-most favorite sightseeing activity in Tokyo. We sat in actual rickshaws, walked through a mock Japanese house and marveled at models of villages and assorted other Edo-period culture. There was so much to see here that we took a break to have our last Tokyo lunch at the 7th floor restaurant.

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Out of service, what the….?

Packed with daily commuters, our last subway ride was smooth — a sharp contrast to the ride over to the Edo, when, a couple of stops before the museum, we had an entire subway car to ourselves just before our train was taken out of service and we were asked to switch to a different track.

KIDDIE SIDEBARS

By Xander, 2nd Grader

IMG_0477So have you ever played Follow the Leader? Well if you haven’t, I will take you through a journey to the Nezu Museum in Tokyo. First I guided my family through a secret pathway. When we were walking, we saw a tiny Japanese lizard. The museum was very different than museums in the U.S. Athena loves to take pictures so she took a nice one of Troy and me when we were walking. We saw koi and when you talked they would come to you. When my dad told me to bring us to a bridge, that’s just what I did. There were also really cool plants. When we were walking, we saw super cool statues. Then we went back inside. I led everyone up some stairs to visit some cool rooms. There were rooms downstairs too. One was very hot. And that was Nezu Museum!

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By Troy, 6th Grader

IMG_0671When we walked into the restaurant, there was slurping all around me. I could smell the mouthwatering soba noodles that were being made fresh. As I sat down with my brother, sister and dad, I couldn’t wait to eat! We sat in a booth with a table that was close to the floor, and we knelt on cushions. We also took off our shoes because of the Japanese custom to remove them. We all ordered hot soba: mine came with herring and scallions, Athena’s had a fried egg on top and was the restaurant’s traditional soba, Xander’s had seaweed in it and my dad had a curry soba. We also learned the correct way to eat soba. The dinner was amazing and delicious.

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By Athena, 4th Grader

IMG_0757I saw a beautiful cherry blossom tree but the flowers at Shinjuku Garden were just as beautiful. Shinjuku Garden is one of the biggest parks in Tokyo. The garden had gorgeous flowers such as sakura (cherry blossom), yellow flowers with tall green stems and white flowers with some pinkish petals and more. I saw more than 20 varieties of flowers. There were different kinds of gardens: a French Formal garden, an English Landscape garden and a Japanese Traditional garden.

There was a really big grassy area for people to have picnics and to relax. There was a huge temple where people would come to take pictures. It had a very good view of the Shinjuku park. There was also a tea house and many ponds with koi fish in them. At the end of the tour we went into the greenhouse. Inside this glass building were many tropical plants, cactus, a waterfall and a pond with lilypads. It was a very fun experience and I had a historic time!