Milestones for kids: Learning how to read

Malina reading

Over the last two years I have been the witness to a most amazing thing. I have watched my daughter Malina learn how to read. I have been reading for so long now that I don’t remember how it all started. In kindergarten they start with “sight words” which are simple words like and, the, or but.

Sight words

At her school while learning “sight words” each child received laminated index cards with stacks of 10 words at a time attached to a card ring. Weekly she would have tests on the new words and additional words would be added. It was wonderful seeing her learn all the words and I enjoyed going over them with her.

By the beginning of first grade she was reading short stories. Currently we are given homework assignments of reading at least 15 minutes each evening and are to mark off each day of successful reading on a calendar. After handing in the calendar the kids are given a certificate and a small prize. Hats off to all the teachers out there, you have done a wonderful thing of teaching our children.

Her school also has an “early literacy program” that runs for a year starting in kindergarten and continues on to first grade. Each student sits at a computer, learns phonics, writes stories, and is tested weekly on vocabulary sounds eventually writing sentences and stories. Her school has created a great learning environment.

Dr. Maggie's phonics books

Malina reads every day. We bought her some phonics instruction books by Maggie Allen, Ph.D. that she loves. There are 24 books total in the series and we have 8 of them now. I learned about Dr. Maggie at her daycare center. They were given a box of the books for free and shared them with students’ families in the lobby area. Seeing how much she enjoyed her first 2 books I eventually bought more from

When Max and I spell words to each other in front of the kids I have to be careful now, she knows what I’m saying!! The “ZOO” trip was not a surprise and when we are going to the “PARK” I no longer spell it out. We have books scattered throughout the house in three areas. The books keep on coming and we keep on reading. I look forward to my little man, Matteo, following in his sister footsteps and being the next reader in our family.

Matteo pretending to read

(day 80)


Come count with me (The Eiffel Tower)

Writing my blog the other week of Views of the Eiffel Tower I made a comment that I had at least 30 models of the landmark in my house. Well I thought it would be fun to do an actual count of visible Tour Eiffel’s (Eiffel Tower’s) and share my results.

The total came out to be 31! There are more, but I only counted ones currently in view. Here are photos of them!

The Kitchen

In the kitchen, everything is on the refrigerator, in the form of magnets. I like the picture, it’s us with Malina on the stairs of the Sacre Couer when she was a toddler.

The Living Room (4)


In the living room we have them scattered around: from on top the stereo made of wood, to a portrait, to my largest one that I sometimes light up at night, to a bunch of mini replicas. Note one is a pencil sharpener!

The Bathroom

In my bathroom I have just one Tour Eiffel and I placed it next to a photo of me doing a cartwheel at the beach.


In the kids’ room there are two: a framed postcard (notice the colors of the Italian flag on the braclet that Malina made sitting on it) and book character Madeline with a Tour Eiffel by her side.

My room (10)


On to my bedroom there are a bunch: on the wall a blown up photo, one Malina colored for me (Madeline again), a fun print from a friend, a painted plate from another friend, a portrait (that one is Max’s), a fun card that I often read for inspiration, can’t forget the earrings, the pill box, and a hand painted one from yet another friend, a few mugs from a friend, and one last glass replica.

I don’t collect Tour Eiffel’s, they just gravitate to me. When I see one it makes me happy and when I see the landmark in person I am even happier!

(day 79)

My best shot: The Perfect Dive

Man Diving

I took an awesome Spring Break trip with 5 friends to Mazatlan, Mexico during college. It was my one and only “big” spring break trip taken by plane and it was quite enjoyable. During the day we would lay out at the beach, swim in the nice hotel pools, and wander around town. I took this shot while walking along the coast. We saw someone about to dive as the sun was setting and by chance I caught her in mid-motion.

Food talk- Italian style!

Crescentine fritte time!

I have been thinking about putting together an Italian language lesson to share, but could not figure the focus until the other day. Many people love Italian food and I know how hard it is to go into an Italian restaurant in Italy and order a meal. This blog will give you some background on Italian foods, courses, and places to eat.

Tipi di Ristoranti (Types of Restaurants)

A ristorante is a restaurant

A trattoria is casual and less pricey restaurant

An osteria is even more casual than a trattoria and usually less expensive

A rosticceria specializes in roasted chickens and they are often displayed in the window. They offer buffet style dining and are many people use them for “take out” dining. You’ll find them busy on the weekend.

A pizzeria specializes in pizza, but serves other types of food as well. I have eaten excellent pizza in Bologna, Firenze (Florence) & Napoli (Naples)

A paninoteca specializes in hot and cold sandwiches & beer

A tavolo caldo is like a cafeteria with food already prepared and ready for you to pick up. The business and university crowd can often be seen here on their lunch hour.

A bar specializes in coffee but usually has sandwiches, breakfast items and alcohol. It is a family place and children are welcome here.

A sala da tè specializes in tea and pastries

A gelateria, one of my personal favorites, specializes in Italian ice creams called gelato. On our last trip to Italy I don’t think we went one day without having a gelato!

Pranzo et Cena (The Meals of the Day)

La colazione – breakfast (please note that Italian words are either feminine or masculine and take the article “IL “ for masculine words and “la” for feminine words in the singular form). Breakfast is a light meal for Italians & a large ‘American style’ breakfast can be found in restaurants that mirror American culture.

IL pranzo – lunch, this meal is usually more than one course. My mother-in-law used to prepare lunch with a pasta (primo course) and a meat (secondo course) but Max had to tell her to keep it to one dish so I wouldn’t pack on too many extra pounds! Also please note that it is common to drink wine during lunch.

La cena – dinner. Multiple courses can be eaten during dinner with a different type of drink before, during, and after the meal.

Le portate (The courses)

Antipasto – appetizer

Primo – first course

Secondo – main course

Contorno – side dish (eaten with the main dish)

Dolce – dessert

Bevande – drinks

Types of drinks can include:

(1) L’ Aqua minerale (mineral water) can be naturale (without gas) or con gas (with gas)
(2) IL Vino (wine) – can be bianco (white), rosso (red) or rosé (pink)
(3) La Birra (beer) – One of the most common is Moretti. Of course they have non-alcoholic beer too which I drank during one trip to Italy when I was pregnant with Matteo.
(4) L’Espresso caffé (espresso) A few other types include:

(a) IL Caffé Americana (coffee)
(b) IL Cappuccino is common; usually drank in the morning.

Note: The types of caffé drinks goes on, and on, and on & the standard coffee in Italy is espresso.

(5) Liquori (liquor) A few types include:

(a) Grappa – (liquor made from left over grapes) very strong, it is digestivo (drank after dinner)
(b) Campari– an aperitivo (drank before dinner)
(c) Limoncello– made with lemon; see my post I love to eat authentic Italian food for a few more details on this item.

I Typi di Mangiare (Types of Foods)

Max about to eat 'carne rossa'

Max about to eat ‘carne rossa’

La Carne – (meat) Some types include:
(1) IL Conglio (rabbit)
(2) IL Pollo (chicken)
(3) La Carne Rossa (red meat),and my personal favorite is the last item
(4) IL Cingliale (wild boar) see my post I love to eat authentic Italian food for a few more details on this item.

Note: 75% of Italians like their meat prepared “al sangue” (medium rare)

IL Pesce –( fish) Some types include:
(1) IL Rombo (whitefish from the Mediterran Sea) – it is from aqua salata (salted water)
(2) IL Baccalà (codfish) – it is from aqua salta and preserved in salt
(3) La Trota (trout) it is a river fish in either aqua dolce (sweet water) or aqua salata
(4) La Triglia (red mullet) has a lot of omega 3 nutrients. – it is from aqua salata

La Frutta– fruit – most fruits are the same as in the U.S.A. They are seasonal and if something is available off season it is coming from another area.

A fruit unique to the country is amarene (an Italian type of cranberry, similar to a sour cherry)

Le Verdure– vegetables – most vegetables are similar to the U.S.A. One thing in Italy that we do not have here is cavolo nero (black cabbage). This item is grown only in Tuscany in the month of January. Italians freeze this vegetable to use year round.

For the sake of not making today’s blog any longer I will save going into detail about i fromaggi (cheese) and le paste (pasta) of Italy for a later blog! There are many types of both and I can easily devote an entire blog or two to these two types of food!

One last note on food, Italians love to enjoy their food, family, and friends. Meals are not rushed and they are a time to connect with everyone about the day’s events.

Buon appetito!!! (Enjoy your meal) And Max thank you for sharing information about your culture for this blog. “Ti amo”.

Photos of/ in different types of restaurants:

Gelato time - good stuff from a 'gelateria'

Gelato time – good stuff from a ‘gelateria’

Max outside a traditional 'Osteria'

Max outside a traditional ‘Osteria’

Waiting for my tea to brew in a 'bar'

Waiting for my tea to brew in a ‘bar’

Kids start drinking early in Italy! 'bar' time

Kids start drinking early in Italy! ‘bar’ time

(day 77)

I blast my car stereo when I am alone

My Music Collection

As a mom I am a chauffeur to my children. We start each day with drop off and end nearly each day with pick up. (Max fills in the gaps). Somewhere along the way I have 10 minutes alone. It is a quick 10 minutes, but it is 10 minutes x 2= 20 minutes total each day (drop off & pick up) so I take it and enjoy it. I love music and I still love to listen to it on the rather loud side when my “little ears” are not with me. The other day I had on ‘Blink 182’ and I was one of the happiest people on my drive to work.

The loud music just happens from time to time. I have also discovered that my music is actually sometimes inappropriate for my children. I am not sure how that happened because I have never been one for ‘wild music’, but sure enough there are some warning labels on my CDs. I save this music for my alone time, or for when I am at the gym listening to my iPod. My husband is amazed sometimes when he goes to move my car and hears how loud I had my stereo on the evening before. He is also amazed by the genre of music that I listen to; go figure.

My children still listen to most of my music; it’s not like they have a choice! I listen to the local alternative radio station, but also like some of the classics. Two classic bands that my kids love are ‘The Beatles’ and ‘Queen’, not bad at all. They know the words to their songs better than I do at times.

Now we are listening to and learning about pre-teen music. It started last summer when Malina went to summer camp. They listen to music while changing for swim time and she all the sudden came home singing songs that I did not know since they don’t play them on my radio station. Just as I began with my first record ‘Michael Jackson’s’ Thriller I now have purchased ‘Justin Beiber’, ‘Selena Gomez’ and ‘One Direction’ for Malina. She and her brother Matteo jam with the teen stars of today and the classics of yesterday. So, when I have my alone time I will continue to blast my music from time to time, with the windows rolled down, and a smile on my face.

(day 76)

Quick guide – what to do in Paris

L' Arc de Triomphe

I created this list of things to do in Paris when my friend Patty was stranded in Paris for a short period during the volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland back in 2010. All flights were cancelled and it took awhile after everything cleared for flights to be rescheduled.

She sent me a message via Facebook for help knowing that I love Paris and would have some good suggestions of things to do with her family during her unexpected extra time in the city. I have edited the list a few times since sharing it with co-workers and a boss for their trips to Paris. Today I am sharing with you; enjoy exploring my favorite city.

Hi Patty:

Here are some fun things to do in and around Paris (in no specific order); I haven’t done a few of these but all are highly recommended. If you need any other suggestions or have questions on these suggestions let me know.

I hope you’re enjoying your extended stay in Paris. I am soo jealous. I told Max where you are and said to him just imagine if we were stuck in Paris like that! I still dream of relocating there again; who knows maybe one day!


Relaxing in le Jardin du Luxembourg

Relaxing in le Jardin du Luxembourg

Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg)- a park, my favorite to just relax! 5th arrondissement (district) (“5éme =5th district- all abbreviations for location will be like this).

Outside of the Musee d’Orsay

Outside of the Musee d’Orsay

Musee D’Orsay (small museum, impressionist painting); 7 éme

Monet's water lilies in the Musee de l'Orangerie

Monet’s water lilies in the Musee de l’Orangerie

Musee de L’Orangerie (Monet’s water lilies are here; absolutely spectacular); 1 éme

Château de Versailles (Louis XIV’s fabulous palace) there are beautiful gardens and tours of the palace. Outskirts of Paris.

City of Giverny (go see Monet’s home & gardens that inspired his paintings) Outskirts of Paris.

View of Montmartre from  the basilique du Sacré-Coeur

View of Montmartre from the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur

Montmartre Area – La Basilica du Sacre Coeur church- “Sacred Heart Church”; an artsy area; avoid at night; 18 éme

Galeries Lafayette (Department Store)

Galeries Lafayette (Department Store)

Galeries Lafayette Department Store– has incredible ceiling!! Check out – the Opera de Paris is right by there too; sometimes you can get a tour of the inside; 9 éme

La Samaritaine Department Store – has a rooftop restaurant w/ a great view; 1 éme

Latin Quarter – college area; it’s fun to walk along the streets here & if you like gyros you can pick up a gyro and French fry sandwich with a soda relatively cheap! 5 éme

Rue Mouffetard Open Air Market

Rue Mouffetard Open Air Market

Rue Mouffetard– open air food market, one of the best & my favorite one in the city; 5 éme

**I love the 5 éme district. We stayed here last time we were in town & I have almost always stayed in this area!

Going Below the city– I love the undergrounds of cities!!
A) The catacombs; 14éme
B) The sewer system; ‘‘Musée des Égouts’’; 7 éme

On a side note the American Church of Paris (address: 65, Quai d’Orsay) is near the sewer museum if you want to go to a church service in English!!! They also are a great resource center.

Paris Mosque– “Mosquée de Paris” You can go have mint tea here; it’s a real treat; haven’t been here in at least 10 years myself!
(Muslim Restaurant de la Mosquée de Paris (tel. 01-43-31-18-14)). The restaurant adjoins the courtyard of the mosque and is open daily from 12pm to 3pm and 7 to 10:30pm)

Take one of the open in the back Metro buses to a destination and back. It’s a great “free” tour! You can buy a Metro map at the Paris Tourisme Office on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées as well.. it is so worth the few Euros they charge.

By now you should have a weekly/ or monthly metro pass so you don’t have to pay each time? If not go to a big metro station and someone can help you all buy one.

A natural disaster lead to an extended stay for my friend. I hope to see Paris again in the next few years with my family and visit some of these spots, in particular Versailles where I haven’t been with Max & the kids. I would also like to go to Parc Asterix (amusement park) where I have never been.

Us with the Tour Eiffel

Us with the Tour Eiffel

(day 75)

Family hike in the Santa Monica Mountains

Starting our hike

The kids and I ended the President’s Day holiday weekend with a hike. I was not quite sure where to go so I researched online for hikes off of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). I have taken the kids to Will Roger’s Park in Pacific Palisades to hike and wanted to try something new. Taking in distance and parking fees into consideration I opted to go to Temescal Gateway Park, also near the ocean in Pacific Palisades, for the hike.

Preparing for our hike I went to the kitchen and packed lunch for the day. I made sandwiches with Oroweat bread, collected snack size applesauce & fruit cups, Pirates Booty, raisins, grabbed some rainbow Goldfish, and made a trail mix for one last treat. After visiting the bank for some last minute parking cash (& free lollipops for dessert) we headed on the road taking the 10 Freeway, to Pacific Cost Highway, to Tesmescal Canyon Road.

At the end of the canyon road we located and parked at the Temescal Gateway Park, actual location: 15601 Sunset Boulevard. There were two parking lots and I opted for the one closer to the mountain. I noticed the payment drop box as pulled into the second lot. Note to self, make sure you bring exact change; I was lucky and had $7.00 in addition to the $20.00 I had taken out from the ATM.

The trailhead

We made our way to the Temescal Trailhead and opted for the 1 mile waterfall hike that I had read about online. I picked this route as the Ridge Trail Junction and Loop trails went straight up the mountain and I was reminded of what Max had said before we left the house, “Do not let the kids fall off the edge of a cliff”.

Lily the dog

We started out with one family ahead of us on the path. They had their dog named Lilly with them. They were quite friendly and our paths crossed each other for a short while. Hiking I’ve never ran into so many people in my life as I’m used to taking paths less traveled you could say. Taking the kids here was good though because it was not a hard hike, but I did not like having to stop frequently to let others pass by since my little ones are slow (perhaps I’m a bit slower now too). With that being said everyone was quite friendly and had encouraging words to share with the kids. Next time we stop at the Temescal Gateway Park I think we will try the loop when the kids have more experience hiking.

As a side note we did make it to the waterfall, and I thought it was the first of two since it was more like a ‘sink faucet running’ than a waterfall. To the credit of the waterfall we haven’t had much rain in Los Angeles recently. After briefly stopping on the bridge we continued up the mountain (on the loop) and headed back down when someone asked me if we had already seen the waterfall. We ate lunch on a rock by the bridge, relaxed some and headed back to the car. The hike took us around 3 hours to complete. I would not recommend going here in the afternoon, there were even more people than in the morning.

Lunch break

Lunch break

The path

Off the hiking path

(day 74)