Camping At Buckhorn, Los Angeles National Forest

Camping trips are a nice bonding opportunity for the family. I felt that on our trip to Idyllwild last year, where it was only the four of us for three days doing everything together.

This year, we wanted to have a similar experience, so we decided to take the kids to the Buckhorn Campground in the LA National Forest. 2 hours from my house and 1 hour from Pasadena.

What is nice about Buckhorn is that you are truly “incommunicado.” As soon as you start climbing the mountains, cell phone service is out. It is just you, your family, your car, and your fears, so make sure you bring everything you need-including a book!

Buckhorn is a first come, first served campground. No reservations needed, but you need to arrive early morning on a Friday (8-9am) to get a site. If it is a busy weekend, like 4th of July, you better arrive on a Thursday.

The bathrooms are not clean, there are no showers, and no park rangers on site, so it is a pretty wild situation for those city people that like the city life, but the place is beautiful and “remote”- if you consider a place that is 45 minutes away from a 15 million people city remote. In my dictionary (and the dictionary of every other human being I know), not having cell phone service “classifies” a place as remote, or simply hell. If you are in the “hell” category, don’t go to Buckhorn.


This time, I wanted the experience of eating food to be a memorable one. There is no reason why you can’t bring nicer table clothes, serving plates, and food. I wanted to be able to have a nice meal, and that is what we did.

I like wildness with civility. Ugliness depresses me (I am a Taurus, there is nothing I can do to help this), so I made sure to bring a couple of things to beautify the table and my soul. It worked.

Good salads, appetizers, skewers, fruit, marinated steak were all part of the menu, and, for dessert, marshmallows (duh!) and cookies. Simple and sweet.

Wouldn’t you agree that one of the best parts of camping is eating (and drinking); well, in reality, one of the best parts of life is eating (and drinking), so I would recommend putting extra effort in that part of the planning.


In the beginning, it was a little difficult for my kids to entertain themselves. A bunch of nature didn’t seem to be enough to stimulate their creativity. Well, by the end of the camping trip they were making up games and having fun in such a beautiful and valuable way. That change made the trip well worth it.

We went for a couple of hikes and I was impressed at how much these kids can walk. One day we went all the way up a mountain, away from trails. Kids loved that. Another day we went to a stream, the kids were so happy going in the water naked and free.

As a side note, don’t forget to bring a small First Aid Kit. At some point, your kids will need a Band-Aid, so you better have it on hand. This is the voice of experience talking.

The trip was fun and easy. We are going to try to go camping again in September near Ojai.

Thanks for stopping by!

For more camping trips, here is a post about our trip to Leo Carrillo, Idyllwild, and Lake Arrowhead.

Let Us Connect:

Brunch at Gjusta – Venice, CA

Gjusta is a deli, bakery, and coffee shop in the heart of Venice. It has amazing food but it is pricey, although no more pricey than any other hot food spot in LA.

I would define Gjusta as a minimalist, tasteful, creative and mildly pretentious place… like almost every other restaurant around Abbot Kinney. I think this spot could be encapsulated in time as an example of what LA was trying to be in the 2010s.

Now that we have established these basic facts, let’s talk about the décor! I loved this place! The artisan style, big open kitchen, white marble tops, flowers, beautiful food, and open patio were a win, win for me.

The food was SOOOOO good. George and I had steak and eggs and my kids had a goat cheese quiche. Both these dishes were excellent, but the best one was the multigrain waffle. Gjusta has amazing pastries so you should try some if you head that way.

The patio in the back is beautiful and small so it gets filled up quickly. If you can avoid brunch or lunch time, please, do. It gets extremely crowded in there with huge lines and no spot to sit in. Luckily, We are morning people and I have small children, so we were ordering food by 7:30 am on a Sunday. A that time there were no lines, plenty of available tables, and the calming sunlight of the morning hours.

One interesting thing about this restaurant is that it has no sign outside. It is located in a big warehouse and it can be difficult to differentiate from any other building in the block if it wasn’t for the movement of people coming in and out of the place. Also, no more than one block away, you can find a large homeless camp, a sad reminder that not all of us have the income to spend $4 on a drip coffee.

Fran Camaj and Travis Lett, same people who created Gjelina, are behind Gjusta.

Address: 320 Sunset Ave, Venice, CA 90291
Let Us Connect:

Saturday Mornings At The Opera

In our search for trying to elevate our kids’ minds and souls, some friend and I took the children to the Saturday Mornings at the Opera back in April. Every season, the LA Opera does a couple of presentations at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion that are appropriate and fun for kids. The idea is to introduce them to this genre in a gentle way that would encourage them to see opera in the future.

We all know that opera can sound scary (and boring), so the Saturday Mornings at the Opera are a gentle way of brainwashing the youth into believing opera is just beautiful songs and comedy. You know they are bound to be disappointed the first time they see Wagner, but, hopefully, by that time they will be so addicted to it that they will keep on coming back for more… not minding the stress and tragedy. Aw! The beauty of misleading your children while you still can. stairs will lead you the way to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. theater opens its door at 10 am. From 10 to 11 there is a lot of action for kids -crafts, playing music, games, etc. We were one of the first people to arrive, so Víctor had the drums section all by himself. He is very musical and run to the drums as soon as he saw them. He sat down and played some improvised duets with some of the staff. is into everything Víctor does. He sat down next to his brother and did his best drumming with his small hands that have zero eye-hand coordination. It was all very cute. My kids are so lucky to have access to all these opportunities and adventures. Hopefully they take advantage of them and make a difference in the 1/2 hour later, kids were still time!

There were 4 different tables with crafts. The kids tried them all and had plenty of fun. nice woman played with my kids for 10 minutes throwing colorful handkerchiefs at them. Probably my kids’ highlight of the Look at that happy face! ends up every activity laying on the floor thinking about who knows what. this guy be any skinnier? I swear I feed him daily. LOVE! Now, to that Figaro

Finally, at 11am, the show started. It was located on the second floor, with plenty of sitting on the floor and chairs in the back. The production lasted only 1 hour and it touched upon 3 operas from French playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799) that have a character named Figaro in them -The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville, and The Ghosts Of Versailles-.

The show was energetic, fun and engaging. Thankfully, it was also in English (including the arias) so the kids could understand what was going on. They sat down for the whole hour paying full attention, including Max, and not one of them was ready to leave when it ended. SCORE!

The next shows are in Season 16/17, with tickets coming out in October. A long waiting time, but so worth it, plus the tickets are only $15! I am definitely taking the kids back, and I can’t recommend it enough for those of you in LA that are looking for  something fun to do with the kids.

Have a great weekend!


Also, a post about The Huntington Library and Gardens the Kidspace Children Museum, and, Nexgen Family Sundays at LACMA.

Let Us Connect:

South Coast Botanic Gardens – Nature Connects Exhibition

I was going to save this post about Nature Connects (Lego Bricks) Exhibition  at the South Coast Botanic Gardens for later, but then I decided I shouldn’t because the exhibit is ending this weekend -the last day is this Sunday, 8th of May – and, if you have young kids and live in LA, you should go!

I always think I know a lot about kids and family activities in Los Angeles, but this city never ceases to amaze me. There are so many fun places to go and so many things to do, that it is impossible to hit all the sweet spots. Luckily, Facebook is a good helper (sometimes) on this topic  and recommended the South Coast Botanic Gardens to me.

I love flowers and gardens – the Huntington Gardens are always on the top of my list of places to take the children – so when I heard that the South Coast Botanic Gardens was having a Lego Brick Exhibit, I decided to take the kids. Excellent choice.

These gardens are beautiful and easy to tackle. You can visit most of it in 2 hours or less, depending on how much you want to see, so it is doable for kids. We were interested in the Nature Connects exhibit, so we went searching for those 27 nature-themed sculptures made out of Legos and found them all. They are cute and the kids got super excited when they found one in the middle of the garden. Victor wanted to know how many bricks were in each sculpture, which is funny, as his 4 years old brain can’t really understand what 20 thousand means – for him, anything above 10 is too many numbers (his teacher asked him how old was his mommy, to which he responded: 5! – so, so cute)

Here are some photos in case you want to see (all of them were taken with my iPhone – I forgot my camera at home, duh!) This sculpture was my Max pretending to know how to read – with an upside down map. He insisted on holding the map and telling us where to go. At least he got the map being upside down part right… after a A shut out to my dear friend Janna, who reads this blog, and carried Max on her shoulders for most of our visit. Her beautiful hair paid the price. Love you,

Tips for your visit:

  • You can’t bring food inside the gardens – so don’t bring snacks.
  • You can’t buy food in the gardens. The gift shop at the entrance sells a couple of basic staples, but that is all, so, your kids should be well fed when coming.
  • The third Tuesday of each month is free, but, if you wait for the next free Tuesday, you will miss the Nature Connects Exhibit.
  • 2 hours is enough to see the exhibit.
  • There is a play area to build Legos at the entrance. You might want to let the kids play there for another while.

General information:

9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (last ticket sale at 4:30 PM)

Monday-Sunday: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

The Garden is open to the public 364 days a year and closed Christmas Day.

26300 Crenshaw Boulevard

Palos Verdes Peninsula, California 90274

(310) 544-1948

Foundation Members: FREE

Adults: $9

Seniors (62 and over): $6

Students (with ID): $6

Children (5 – 12): $4

Children (4 and under): FREE

Let Us Connect:

Los Angeles Times Festival Of Books

I took the kids to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this last Sunday and we loved it!

This festival happens once a year at the USC Jefferson campus. We had been a couple of years before and had fun, but didn’t love it because the kids’ were too little, it got too crowded and it was so hot. This year was different. The kids are at the right age to pay attention to book readings and shows for a long period of time, it rained this weekend so the weather was cooler, and…they placed a tent above the audience on the Children’s Stage that protected us from the hot April sun (I hope they keep on doing this every year).

By now, I know the tricks on how to have comfortable outings with the rascals. My first tip for any event or activity is to be there early! This helps me avoid the crowds and allows for fun without having to fight for space or finding your children.

(BTW, we saw children wearing bracelets with their caregivers’ phone numbers annotated in them in case they got lost. This idea is GENIUS and I will implement it from now on when going to events like this). LOVE! get there we took the metro. This was an adventure on itself because we don’t ride in public transportation often (sigh!). I know we should, but public transportation in LA can add 30-45 minutes to your commute, depending on where you live and at what time you are traveling.

The kids loved riding in the “choo-choo” train, until they didn’t love it anymore and got restless. You see, in the metro they are not restrained to their car seats and this sense of freedom can give them a false sense of independence that cause them to refuse to ride on your lap or hold your hand, which undoubtedly ends up with a child on the floor when the metro suddenly brakes, which undoubtedly makes everybody around you stare at you silently saying “YOUR CHILD IS GOING TO DIE.” Sometimes I feel like saying to this people: “my child won’t die, but he will get hurt and that will probably stop him from being such a monkey in the future and teach him to hold my darn hand when riding the darn train,” but those kind of common sense lessons for children can’t not happen in public spaces like this because people judge… oh yes, they judge!

Our first stop at the festival was the children’s stage. It was early in the morning so it was easy to find front row seats. We stayed there for a long time because the shows never stop. The have one after the other, and the kids loved them all – book reading (from book authors), music, and dancing. More love! awkward

After that, we needed a break from shows so we went looking for children’s books booths. My favorite one is always the one from La Librería, the best bilingual bookstore in LA. They have the most beautiful books and the owners are so sweet and helpful. We stayed there for a while. The kids browsed through some books, we bought some others and then kept on walking around the USC campus. finally made it back to the children’s stage for the “Dinosaur show” from the Natural History Museum, which was very popular with the kids. We managed to sit on the ground in the front and Víctor absolutely loved it. Max got a little bit scared but he is a brave child so he stuck to it (not easy to see a big t-rex moving 5 feet away from you). After the show, we went home. 3 hours of fun went by so fast. It was a wonderful outing. Here are some photos riding back in the metro. Reading books and eating popcorn kept the kids busy and well behaved for the 20 minutes it took to get back to the Culver City Station.

Also, Víctor likes wearing mismatched socks. I think it is very, very cute… and convenient, because I can NEVER find matching socks in my household!!!! Can you?

Here are some tips in case you want to go to next year’s festival with kids:

  • Be there early to avoid crowds
  • Bring your own food and water. There are not many food trucks and the ones that are there have long waiting lines.
  • Take public transportation. It is hard to find parking.
  • The entrance is FREE, so this is an affordable activity.
  • The festival is better for kids 2/3 and older

Thanks for stopping by!

Let Us Connect: