Sunday, May 27, 2018

Dear Asher: 22 Months

Dear Asher,

Happy 22-month birthday! Now that the weather is finally getting warmer, you get your wish and get to play outside a lot more these days. You can never seem to get enough. You are such an outdoor kid. Last weekend we were able to introduce you to the pool. It took some time for you to warm up to the idea of the water, but soon you were ready to dive in the deep end (while holding on to mommy and daddy, of course).

You can now play with kids your age, and even some older kids. We had friends over for Memorial Day weekend and one of the little girls told her mom (hi Dani!) that, "Asher is a big kid like me." Yeah you are, kid!

Things aren't all sunshine and roses though. You've started throwing and hitting toys, and often you aim for people's heads. We had to leave a mom's group event because you hit two of the kids.

Your vocabulary is growing by the day. You said "I love you" and will now say it regularly, when prompted (click to see embedded video). I'm not sure you really know what it means, but I love it. You also say all the letters of the alphabet after me, but sometimes when you don't feel like it, you'll add the word "no" in front of all the letters. Like, "No, A. No,B. No, C." You'll do that all the way through. It's really funny.

I don't want to jinx anything, but we may have dropped the bottle. You have been drinking from cups for a while, but for whatever reason, you decided that at home you only wanted milk out of a bottle. We were literally down to one bottle, and we constantly lived in fear of losing it. That picture at the pool was the last time you asked for it, so fingers crossed this sticks.

You're also a classic little brother. That is to say, you're a nudnik! You chase Zahara around and want to be doing whatever she is doing. She doesn't always love that, which only results in you trying even harder to be with her. It's mostly entertaining for us, and we're glad that you two really do love each other.

Happy 22-months, Ash! We love you!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Lima in Two Days

When we were building our itinerary for Peru, we did a lot of research and asked a lot of friends how much time they recommended we spend in Lima. We got mixed answers, but the majority of folks said that if we had limited time, we should concentrate that time in the Sacred Valley. Lima, they said, is just a big city like most other big cities.

I think this advice was spot on; the Sacred Valley really was the highlight of our trip. However, there are some really great things to see and eat in Lima, and I'm glad we gave ourselves time to explore. Here are some of our highlights:

Did you know that the number five restaurant in the world is in Lima? Me either before this trip. Central, a restaurant that focuses on local Peruvian flavors is just one of a handful of phenomenal restaurants in town. Dan and I were lucky enough to score seats at Central, and I'll have a separate post about our ten-course meal!

La Mar
I loved everything about the food in Peru, but especially the ceviche (spelled cebiche in Peru); it's their national dish! My friend Jill recommended we visit the restaurant La Mar to try their cebiche, and I'm not kidding, it was the best I've ever had. It was so fresh and flavorful!

La Mar serves an appetizer of fried plantains and other root veggie chips along with three incredible sauces, and canchita, which are un-popped corn kernels. The canchita tasted like corn nuts--nice and salty. We also ordered a chicha morada, which is a non-alcoholic drink made from purple corn. It was really tasty.

The restaurant is colorful, and fun, and they have big signs telling you what's fresh that day. They aren't open for dinner and they don't take reservations, so get there a little before noon and you'll get in.

We liked this restaurant so much we went here twice! There can be a wait at times, so make a reservation if you can. Otherwise, you might be able wait in the bar while sipping a pisco sour.

What made this restaurant so great for us was two things: the bread and the veggies. Their trio of bread was perfection, especially paired with their sauces. And the veggie skewer was like magic. They imparted all the flavor of pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) into these veggies. The spices were so intense and flavorful that Dan and I thought about it throughout our trip and made sure to get it one more time before heading to the airport.

Apparently Chinese food (called Chifa) is also really popular in Lima. We tried it. I'd recommend skipping it. It was just like American Chinese food but with a bit of a Peruvian flair. You're better off just sticking with Peruvian food.

Circuito Magico del Agua
This was a fun evening activity. I had no idea what to expect, but I should have known it would be cool based on the fact this water park holds a Guinness World record for largest fountain complex in a public park. Shows are at 7:15pm, 8:15pm, and 9:30pm and entrance is only 4 soles ($1.20). We went for the 7:15 show and there was a pretty good-sized crowd. I was really impressed by the water laser show as it told the history of Peru. I, of course, also loved the rainbow fountains.

We did a ton of walking in Lima! It's a great city in which to stroll. Some of my favorite areas were along the water in Miraflores (leading to the Larcomar shopping mall); the Kennedy park, which is famous for housing tons of stray cats; and downtown Lima with the gorgeous Plaza del Armas.

See our other stops in Peru:
Getting to the Sacred Valley
Machu Picchu
Moray and Maras
Horseback Riding in the Sacred Valley
Cusco and Pisac

We Went to Peru!

Dan and I went to Peru!! If you know me in real life, this is not news. I've been talking about it incessantly for months. It was so exciting to get to travel for real again! My wonderful in-laws agreed to watch both kids while Dan and I had an adventure. How lucky are we?

Dan and I love traveling and have been to more than thirty countries together. We've done everything from a very low-budget backpacking trip (Southeast Asia), to a fancy 5-star cruise (Baltics, Egypt, honeymoon), and everything in-between. This time, we wanted to go a little more high-end to celebrate our ten year wedding anniversary. Technically it's not until September, but why not celebrate the whole year long?

My company was running a promotion to give its employees status on American Airlines, so we started our trip in luxury. I mean, traveling without kids is luxurious enough, but we also had lounge access, which was perfect for our three-hour layover in Miami.

We got into Lima pretty late on our first night and went straight to our hotel. Our days were a perfect balance of sight-seeing and relaxing. Of course, I'll tell you all about each stop, but here was the overview of our ten-day itinerary:
Day 1: Fly to Lima; arrive at night
Day 2: Lima
Day 3: Fly to Cusco; taxi to Ollytaytambo; train to Aguas Calientes
Day 4: Machu Pichu; train to Ollytaytambo
Day 5: Sacred Valley
Day 6: Cusco
Day 7: Cusco
Day 8: Cusco; fly to Lima
Day 9: Lima; fly home at night
Day 10: Arrive home
In a word, Peru was FANTASTIC! It completely lived up to all expectations. The food was incredible, the views can't be beat, the history was fascinating...I loved it all. I can't wait to tell you more.

In the meantime, here are a few teaser pictures, with much more to come!

Miraflores, Lima

Outside of Cusco

Machu Pichu

Salinas de Maras

See our other stops in Peru:
Getting to the Sacred Valley
Machu Picchu
Moray and Maras
Horseback Riding in the Sacred Valley
Cusco and Pisac
Cusco and Pisac

Monday, May 14, 2018

Quirky Teacher Appreciation Gift

Last week was teacher appreciation week. I appreciate my kids' teachers all year round, but its nice to have a day to show extra gratitude.

This year, Dan and I decided to get Pintrest-y with our gift. We knew we were going to be in Peru and could grab a cute item for the teachers there. We played around with a few different ideas, but when we came across these leather notebooks in a local market, we knew we found a winner.

Peru has a long history with llamas and alpacas. The Incas used these animals to help them carry their goods in the steep terrain; they also used their wool for clothes, their meat for food, and their fat for making light.

So, we made this pun: "Soon alpaca my bags for kindergarten, but I'll never forget you."

We made one for each of her teachers, along with a hand-decorated card from Z. It was a quick, easy project and I love the way it turned out. I hope they love it as much as I do!

Click here for a FREE printable version of this teacher's appreciation card.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother's Day 2018

Happy mother's day! Dan and the kids made sure my day was great. I hope you had as lovely and relaxing of a day as I did!

First, I got to sleep in until 10 am! Of course, now that I'm old I can't actually sleep in, but at least I could lay in bed and read while Dan took the kids and made me a gourmet breakfast. The cutest little Pegasus came in to let me know when breakfast was ready.

Waiting for me downstairs was a true feast. Homemade potato pancakes with smoked salmon and caviar; fried eggs; an English muffin; fruit salad; a pot of Yorkshire tea; and champagne and orange juice. Of course, being a mother means giving Asher half my English muffin and fruit, and giving Z my flowers to put in her room.

The kids made me adorable hand-made gifts including a bead necklace, a paper flower, and some great art work. Then, Dan took the kids for a walk and sent me to get a pedicure. The salon gave all the women flowers. How sweet is that?

I spent the rest of the day at a birthday party with Z for one of her friends. While she played, I got to catch up with my friends. All-in-all, it was a wonderful day. Thanks, family!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Passover 2018

Happy spring, everyone! Even though Mother Nature can't figure out what she wants (70 degrees one day, snow the next), I'm still happy about the change of seasons. As you know, spring brings one of my favorite holidays, Passover. This is actually my 7th Passover recap on this blog. That's nuts!

Most Passovers follow the same script (literally! The Haggadah!). This one wasn't too different, except that my phone died right before Passover so I don't have any of my own pictures of the trip. I have a couple from my sister to share though. Here are some highlights from the holiday:

Getting There and Back
This year Dan's work schedule meant that he had to come later and leave earlier than we were initially planning, so I took the kids down on my own. It was my first time flying by myself with the two of them, and it actually went really well! Dan dropped us off at the metro in the morning on his way to work. The flight wasn't too bad--especially because we had a row to ourselves, but the seat belt sign was on the whole time, which meant Asher couldn't walk around.

The way back was a little more eventful. Again we got a row to ourselves, which was awesome. And again the plane was really bumpy, which was less awesome. The kids did so well for most of the flight, but sadly Z got sick at the very end (really turbulent landing). Thankfully the plane was filled with really nice people who all jumped in to help. One passenger even held a screaming, kicking Asher while I cleaned Z up. Though the ending wasn't ideal, I'm still pretty proud of how we all handled both flights. Now that I've done it once, I am sure I can do it again. That feels good.

To me, Passover is all about family. Sadly I lost my uncle earlier this year. I knew Passover would be especially difficult because he always led the first night seder. My cousin planned on flying in from Colorado with her daughter so that she and Asher could play. They're only a couple of months apart and have only met once--last year at Passover. Well, poor Phoenix got sick and had to miss out on the seder. At least we got most of us together for a really nice, meaningful night.

I love the Seders. I love the food, the songs, the stories, the people...all of it! First night is always family and second night is friends. This year, Zahara stayed up for both seders and was able to fully participate. You can imagine how proud I was hearing her sing the 4 questions. Asher even stayed up for a lot of the first night. It was wonderful having them there.

The second night we started a fun new tradition: a make your own charoset bar. Charoset is a sweet mixture of fruits and nuts. This year, we put out a bunch of ingredients, including apples, pears, walnuts, dates, apricots, cinnamon, and grape juice. It was really yummy and really fun.

I wish I had more pictures of Asher helping me make the chocolate mousse, or dad leading two great seders, or Zahara singing the four questions. But, there's always next year. As we say at the end of each Seder, next year in Jerusalem!

Read previous Passover posts:
2017: Life Updates
2016: Passover 2016
2015: Passover Recap
2014: Passover in Paris
2013: Passover PreparationPassover Musings
2012: Happy Passover!Road Trip

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May Thoughts by Z

I love that Zahara can easily flip between silly and smart. It's one of the things I love most about her.

Thought 1:
Z (to me): Do you know how to read a curse of Hebrew?
Me: Do you mean cursive Hebrew?

Thought 2:
Z: I want to learn all the math and all the planets so I can say it while I'm floating in space.

Thought 3:
Dan captured this video the other night while reading a bedtime story to Z. It's too good not to share the whole thing. Here, Zahara explains why wizards are actually called lizards.

(If you are reading on your phone you may have to click through to the website to see the video, or click here)

See previous Thoughts by Z here