Craft & Folk Art Museum – Shop

One of my favorite things about a museum is the gift store. There, I said it. Consider me shallow, or just honest, but I love browsing through the beautiful things they carry, almost as much as I like looking at the art or bones. In these stores I find things that are different, beautiful, and interesting. Also, I enjoy buying books about the exhibitions I just saw, this helps me remember the exhibition like a hoola girl souvenir helps me remember Hawaii and enjoy it again later on.

Short detour: After two kids my memory has taken a turn for the worst, and I am afraid I will soon lose my mind. It seems that just forgetting my keys and cell phones is not enough nowadays; my brain now wants to punish me by making me forget names and stories I used to know and that made me feel smart. I blame the sleep deprivation. Is there anybody else out there losing his or her neurons? Or is it just me? Is my brain going to come back? Or, am I going to have dulled thinking abilities for the rest of my life? Please, let me know if you have the same issues. –End of the detour

In any case, buying books or beautiful things that remind me later of that particular visit to the museum, which otherwise blends and disappears into all the other visits to the museums, helping me stay engaged and connected with the art – or bones, I suppose, long after the visit.

A month ago, I went to the Craft & Folk Art Museum to see the Chris Francis shoe exhibition, which was amazing. Sadly, it has ended already so, if you didn’t make it, you missed your window of opportunity. In any case, after seeing the exhibition, I made my way to the shop, my happy place, and discovered one of the most beautifully curated museum shops in LA, and believe me, I know, as I have been in almost all of them several times.

It is a small shop, but it has handpicked items that go hand-in-hand with its mission of showcasing hand-made designs. They are beautiful, simple and a pleasure to look at.

Here are some of them, and, as you can see, they are not terribly expensive. What do you think? Do you have a favorite item?

Mt. Washington Blue Bell – $ Mt. Washington Pottery White Bell – $ Brass Salad Servers – $ Iringa Basket – $ Telephone Wire Woven Basket – $ Dani Ban Lotus Earrings – $ WV Craftworks Indigo Stripe Coffee Mug – $ Chan Natural Dyed Scarf – $ Fait La Force Whale – $ Wooldbuddy Neddle Felting Kit – $ Tagua Nut Necklace – $

Let Us Connect:

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:

République – An Awesome Restaurant In Los Angeles

How good is République? Well, according to the experts, me being one of them, this is one of the best restaurants that has opened in LA in the last couple of years.

My skeptical and intelligent readers may point out that I have two small children and, therefore, not many opportunities to try a lot of new restaurants and make these kind of broad-reaching claims, but my assertion is that top-top quality food is rare, but you know it when you find it. So superbly delicious, you know you don’t need a lot of places to compare it to. Also, the décor is gorgeous, simple, and elegant, and they claim and achieve a “relaxed yet refined atmosphere.” is no secret that my favorite meal of the day is brunch, for a variety of reasons: first, the hungrier you are, the better food tastes, and in the morning you tend to be hungrier after 12 hours of, well, fasting.; second, you have all day to digest the food which helps you sleep better at night because I am one of those people that can’t sleep well with a full tummy; and thirdly, because starting to drink at noon is just a good, sensible, way of spending your Sunday, and, finally, because this is the only time of the day where you can eat pastries to your heart’s content, and eating a bunch of pastries is and essential part of the full République experience. Don’t try and reason it out. This place is just awesome. Forget about your Paleo Diet, low carb diet, or any other-wise high sensible diet that discourages sugar, and open your mouth for a taste of awesomeness. from the pastries, for something savory, I would recommend getting the Smoked Salmon Tartine and the Wild Mushroom Toast. Now, just remember, before taking that first bite, breath in, breath out, relax your muscles and really enjoy greatness, because there is a chance, if the chef is on, your mood is good, and your choices are decent, that this is one of those few truly great dining moments in your life.

I guess my point is, take the time to savor the food, otherwise ,what is the point?

Thanks to Walter and Margarita Manzke, the chefs of this restaurant, for opening such a wonderful place.

PS: That model that appears in the pictures is my beautiful and smart friend, Yassi. I can’t claim curls like that.

République LA, 624 S. La Brea, Los Angeles, CA.


Let Us Connect:

Visiting Atwater Village

I had been hearing about the cool stores in Atwater Village for a while, so when a couple of friends wanted to go there for brunch and check out the stores, I jumped right in. Eating and shopping – awesome combination.

Talking to girlfriends is the best. It is well-known science that women are excellent communicators who enjoy sharing absolutely everything there is to share….well, at least my friends do, and I love that, so brunch with friends is always a delight. We ate at the Village & Bakery Cafe, which is really good. It has a relaxed atmosphere and great pastries. Perfect place for family brunch; really bad place if you are in a party mood that requires mimosas… because they don’t sell alcohol. Yes, not the best for girls brunch out, but at least the food was great.

Altwater Village is surrounded by super trendy neighborhoods like Silver Lake and Glendale so a lot of hip stores are popping up there. After eating, we crossed to Potted, a gorgeous store specializing in outdoor living items. It was simply amazing! I wanted to buy everything they had for my own house. No filter. Everything. Lots of planters, plants, as well as some furniture and vintage décor.
After visiting this store, we drove straight to Glendale Blvd., in the heart of Atwater Village. The Atwater “downtown” is not longer than 2 or 3 blocks, and it is not crowded. It feels like a small village in the countryside instead of some intersection in the middle of LA. It has easy access, available parking, and a few amazing independent stores. My favorites were: Grain, Treehaus, and Individual Medley.

Also, for those of us that are obsessed with thrift stores, there is an “Out of the Closet” branch right in the middle. It has clothes mainly, which is not my thing. I prefer looking for cool vintage decorations for my house, so I was done browsing really quickly and decided to go to Proof Bakery, right next door, because when does Sunday bruch officially end, right? Proof Bakery was amazing. The peach galette I ate was perfection, so buttery, sweet and crispy. I am planning to go back there just to eat it again. It is worth a trip. Coffee was great too.

All in all, Atwater Village is a perfect place for a weekend outing to eat good food and find inspiration in all the cool, eclectic stores. Go now, before more stores open up and it becomes the next Beverly Blvd. Simplicity doesn’t last in Los Angeles.

Let Us Connect: