Camping In Arrowhead – Our Last Camping Trip Of This Summer

We went for our third and final camping trip of this summer. (For more information on our other camping adventures, go here and here.) We went with friends to Lake Arrowhead for two nights and it was wonderful. We stayed at Dogwood Camping. It was a quiet and beautiful camping place with clean and comfortable bathrooms. The showers were warm and FREE. The only drawback was that we couldn’t light fires because it was too dry and dangerous in the San Bernardino National Forest.

If you want to go, I would recommend leaving at a low-traffic time (obviously). With no traffic, the camp is no more than 1 hr 30 mins away from the West Side, but, with traffic, it can take up to 3 hrs. We all know how annoying LA traffic can be!!!! The worst. If you’re leaving on a Friday, aim for leaving at 10 a.m, because then, after the packing panic, you’ll be on the road by 11 and that’s just early enough. George and the kids left at this time and it took them 1 hr 45 mins to get there. I, on the other hand, had to work late and left Los Angeles at 5pm. It took me 3 hours to get there. What a nightmare!

The thing about camping in Dogwood is that you are not really removed from civilization. Arrowhead is 5 minutes away, so, we woke up Saturday morning, ate breakfast – and went to town. There we walked around a little plaza of galleries and restaurants, the kids rode some rides in the park, and we had lunch at a nice restaurant in front of the lake. Should this be considered camping? Mmmm. Depends on whether you see the glass half full or half empty! I still give us a full camping credit for this camping trip, even though we enjoyed some urban comforts, like eating out letting the kids entertain themselves with what could be considered electronics instead of nature (half full, half empty!).

In our defense, we did go for a short hike, and the kids finally had a good battle with sticks and rocks while the adults drank beer and cooked dinner. Also, we slept in tents. Just in case you were wondering.

Camping with friends was very different than camping with our small family only, and I liked both trips in different ways. Going to Arrowhead with other people was fun for my children and easier on us, as the kids were easily entertained  by playing with each other. On the other hand, the closeness that our little family had by being forced to entertain each other in Idyllwild was a beautiful thing that I would like to repeat. Does any of you have any recommendations on where to camp next? Also, do you like better to camp with friends or family? and, why? I would love to hear.

Here are some camping tips if you are considering going to Dogwood:

  • Make your reservations well in advance for this camping location. You can make your reservations here.
  • Find out if you are allowed to do fires. If not, try bringing a gas fire pit! Yes, gas fire pits are apparently allowed, and they look pretty campfire from a distance.  Of course, not being able to light a real fire and bbq marshmallows is not the absolute perfect camping setting, but the gas fire pit is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
  • There are plenty of bathrooms everywhere so you don’t need to worry about making a reservation next to one, unless you have small children.
  • Campsites are big. You can usually fit up to 3 tents, no problem.
  • I would recommend sleeping on a blow up mattress! It makes your nights so comfy and nice.

Let Us Connect:

How To Choose A Piano (Music) Teacher For Your Child – Some Practical Tips

I haven’t met a child yet that is not interested in music. If you place an instrument in front of a kid, he or she is probably going to experiment with it and create sounds, so, I believe it is important to exploit this natural creativity in a manner that encourages children to be musical. Víctor loves music. Since he was little, he had very specific requests for the songs that I played in the car; and he’s loved sitting down in front of the piano for 20 minutes or more singing (or screaming) indecipherable tunes since he was 2. He also loves drumming as hard as he can, every morning, at 7am, and I am sure our neighbors love that!

Anyway, this kiddo turned 4 years old last July, and, after years of toddler music lessons he was ready for something more “professional,” so I started looking. I went to a couple of classes in different types of music centers and talked to a few teachers, but my intuition (yes, I use my intuition, as everybody should) told me none of them would be right. A lot of teachers focus on technicalities and I know Víctor wouldn’t care for that. I can’t imagine him being engaged with a class that emphasizes teaching where the C or D notes are in the piano.

In the middle of this search my brother Ricardo, a very, very smart and wise man, who happens to play piano like a professional, came to visit LA, and told me about a free book on the Internet that not only helps pianists to improve at a faster pace, but also helps parents choose the right piano teacher for their children. The book is called “Fundamentals of Piano Practice” and you can find it here. The specific chapter about teachers is here (you can read extracts of the book at the bottom of this post).

Víctor is younger, so some of the advice on the book doesn’t apply, but at least it gave me the knowledge to start looking for the right teacher. I knew, after reading the book, that I wanted Víctor to have a teacher that specializes in beginners and small children, and that focuses on memorization (even though reading should not be dismissed). Also, right now, Víctor learns better in group settings, so I wanted him to be learning with other children and I wanted to be involved.

After searching for a while, I found the answer in a special teaching method called Play a Story. This method is based on improvisation and letting students explore the piano and play as they please, while teaching music concepts as they go. In the first lesson, Víctor learned the difference between high and low notes on the piano, and had to imagine how to play some notes in the way an animal would sound. How does the elephant sound? How does an ant sound? … You get the idea, don’t you? You can imagine how easy it was to get Victor to practice the 5 minutes a day he is required to. Actually, with that homework, he could have played hours if I had a long enough list of animals. Also, we had to listen to some music on the web, and paint a picture based on it. Lovely! If you are interested in finding teachers around your area, you can go here. To learn more about this method, go here.

For now, at this age, this method is working. Víctor seems to be engaged and ready to go to his class. Also, he is learning basic concepts. I will keep you updated as the year goes by, but, in the meantime, I have to say that I am really excited about his teacher and this method.


Here are some of the extracts I found most interesting from the book “Fundamentals of Piano Practice.”


“Musical training is most rewarding for the very young. Most babies exposed frequently to perfectly tuned pianos will automatically develop perfect pitch — this is nothing extra-ordinary.”


“… total music education (scales, time signatures, ear training [including perfect pitch], dictation, theory, etc.) should be an integral part of learning to play the piano because each different thing you learn helps all the others. In the final analysis, a total music education is the only way to learn piano.”


“Children should be tested for their readiness to take piano lessons at ages between 3 and 5. The first lessons for beginners, especially young children under 7 years old, should be brief, 10 to 15 minutes at most.”


“Do not feed them music just because it is classical or it was written by Bach. Play what you and the youngsters enjoy.”


“Youngsters develop in spurts, both physically and mentally, and they can only learn what they are mature enough to learn.”


“For at least the first 2 years of lessons (longer for youngsters) teachers must insist that the parents participate in the teaching/learning process.”


“Most importantly, it is the parents’ job to evaluate the teacher and to make proper decisions on switching teachers at the appropriate time.”


“Teaching babies and adults is different. Adults must be taught; in young children, you only have to awaken the concept in their brains, and then provide a supportive environment as their brains take off in that direction.”


“The Suzuki violin method emphasizes playing from memory at the expense of reading, especially for youngsters, and this is the best approach for piano also.”


“It is easier to practice reading after you can play reasonably well, just as we learn to speak before we learn to read.”

Let Us Connect:

Raising Bilinguals – La Librería

In our household, I speak to the children in Spanish, and my husband speaks to them in English. Also, we live in LA, so they get to hear both languages frequently from a lot of different people. They are being raised as bilingual kids.

There are a lot of studies that point out the benefits of having dual languages since birth, like improving cognitive skills, and possibly shielding against dementia, but for me the benefits fall more on the practical side. Half of my kids’ family speaks Spanish only, and a big part of their heritage is knowable only through them. The children will never understand who they (and I) really are if they don’t speak Spanish.

Our pediatrician told us that language development for bilinguals is actually similar to monolinguals, which meant that my kids should be hitting at least the minimum mark of words for their age, but neither one of them have been exactly an early speaker. I guess, stretching it, my kids have kind of been hitting those marks, but with a lot of leeway.

I remember Víctor being 14 months and pointing to a dog on the street and actually saying the word “dog” loud and clear, only to have his mother (me) say back to him “Sí, perro.” He did not say “dog” or “perro” again for another year. Not kidding.

When we went to his 18 months doctor appointment his pediatrician asked me if he was able to say six words so I wondered if “yes,” “sí,” “ya,” “a=ha,” and “no” counted for anything. I quickly answered “yes” just hoping the problem sorted it self out in the future. Luckily it did. Víctor is now 4 and has a good grasp of both languages, even though he speaks mainly one: English. Max, my second child, is in the same boat. He has fewer words than other kids his age but at least he understands two languages. When people ask me if he is bilingual I say he is really a no-lingual. I wonder if other parents have experienced the same thing.

To incentivize Spanish learning I try to buy Spanish books to read to my children but they are really hard to find. Even in the Los Angeles Library, the stock is limited and not much fun. My family in Chile always sends me books, but I was hoping to find a better selection in LA, a city with an almost 50% Latino population. In this search for better Literature I went to the LA Book Festival a couple of years ago and encountered La Librería.



Their booth contained dozens of small treasures: beautiful books for children with wonderful drawings from Spanish-speaking authors.


They have a brick and mortar store that we visited a couple of weeks ago. Víctor loved the books, as he always does, and I fell in love with the concept behind the bookstore.


jestcafe-lalibreria04This is not only a perfectly curated store but the owners are active community members that promote children’s literature in Spanish by contacting schools and libraries, and participating in book fairs and cultural events.


After speaking to one of the owners, Chiara, for a little bit, I felt the passion behind their business and started wishing I had come up with such a wonderful idea. This is a terrific way of promoting our beautiful culture in Los Angeles.   I highly recommend it.




La Librería

4732 1/2 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016

Let Us Connect:

Garden Concerts for Kids at the Getty

Summer in LA is fun — so much fun that I wish we could stay here during July and August and go away on vacation during the winter. I have children so I gravitate towards kid-friendly events. For example, we really like the Garden Concert for Kids at the Getty Center (not to be confused with Getty Villa). Every year they do concerts for three weekends in a row at the end of July and beginning of August. They are located in the gardens of the Getty Center and the line-up only has musical groups for kids! It is a mellow event, it doesn’t get too crowded, and they even provide you with blankets. The only thing you have to bring is picnic food and your children, and, while they dance, you can take a nap in the soft, trimmed, green grass. It is pretty fun. Also, the Getty Center is so gorgeous that any excuse to visit it sounds good to me.



Entrance to the Getty museum is free, but parking is $15, which I am always happy to contribute given all the benefits I get from this place.

This year we arrived a little bit late to the event. For some reason I have been mixing times and dates lately; I think it is related to multitasking and not concentrating on one thing at a time, but that is the subject of a different post where I complain about how my brain has been slowly dying since I had children. My friends tell me that it comes back… eventually; I am skeptical.



Even though we were a little bit late, we found a perfect place with blankets to sit on. The kids loved it. This is the first year they enjoyed it so much. Víctor was concentrated and really listening to the music while Max was dancing and making sure everybody was looking at him. We went with friends; some of the adults fell asleep, others fed the children, and others, like me, took pictures of the whole ordeal. I like to take the kids out of the house because they are easier to keep entertained and happy. My husband is more of a homebody and would like for us to stay at home more often but I happen to think that being inside a house a whole weekend day is worse than being eaten up by squirrels very, very slowly.



Here’s a great bonus, if you think about it: The tram ride up the mountain to the museum and back is really cool, and it’s a train of sorts, and you know who really loves trains? Kids. Kids love trains. Mine, anyway, are obsessed with them. Going up the hill and looking out the window while screaming ‘choo-choo!” is one of life’s small joys.


jestcafe-victor5Once the concert ended, we stuck around to enjoy the view and the garden while the kids ran around being rambunctious, as always. If I had had more energy, I would have gone to take a quick peek at Degas’ “Russian Dancers” which is on loan to the Getty until the 11th of October. Oh well, a good excuse to go back soon.

jestcafe-getty7  jestcafe-getty12

jestcafe-getty11 jestcafe-getty2

Let Us Connect:

Women – The Strong, Nurturing And Beautiful Kind.

Lately I have been feeling very proud of being a woman. I have been reading some books on feminism (aka. the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men) and I have come to understand better our role in society and the cultural baggage that defines us.

Just to be clear, I do not think that women are better than men in any way. On the contrary, female and male energy are one. It is stupid to compete, but it is important to bring out those qualities that make us women and share them with the world. We need more nurturing, love, empathy, strength, caring, communication and understanding, and it is up to us, females, to provide these (mainly).

Anyway, I don’t want to get too serious but I feel inspired today. I will be posting more on the books I have been reading soon. In the mid-time, here are some pictures that celebrate women, and remember, let’s be good to one another. There is no need to compete.

Image sources: 1)2), 3), 4), 5), 6), 7), 8), 9), 10) 

Let Us Connect: