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:

Idyllwild Park Camping- Because We Are Not Afraid Of Nature (Or Dirty Children)

After our adventures camping in Leo Carrillo, we were ready to try camping again. It is true, Víctor was pleading to go back home at the end of that camping trip, but in general the experience was positive for us (I can’t say the same about all my friends).

This time, we decided to go for 2 nights. We looked for another place to go that was close to LA that seemed fun and closer to nature and we found Idyllwild.


Call me ignorant or whatever you want but I had NO idea such a place existed southwest from Palm Springs. After an hour and a half of driving we were still at the bottom of the mountain surrounded by scorching heat and desert. I started freaking out about having to camp in horrible high temperatures with two sweaty children (I am not the kind of person that feels comfortable in extreme weather, hence, West LA is my home town), but just then we started going up and up the mountain. It was a steep mountain; in 30 minutes we were a mile in the air, at the camp, surrounded by tall trees in a perfect 75 degrees Fahrenheit kind of weather. Lovely.


The nice thing about Idyllwild camping is that it is close enough to the town that if you happen to need a coffee at 6 o’clock in the morning and your husband is still sleeping in the tent with the kids, you are able to sneak off and take a 10 minute drive to get your fix. Now, if you don’t want to have anything to do with urban life, you can just stay at the camp and enjoy the silence. In this camping trip we felt more removed from the city and we took many (short) hikes with the kids. If you decide to give Idyllwild a try, I would recommend reserving a campsite near the bathroom. Some sites were far away from them and it could be a problem, especially when you have kids with urgent needs.




As soon as we got there we unpacked our stuff, built our tents and set out for adventures. The kids were in heaven. You could tell from the beginning that they were really enjoying themselves. The beauty of camping is that it forces you to be with each other, to connect with your children and significant other. No computers, TV shows or any entertainment that is not each other or rocks to throw at your sibling.



I saw Víctor gain some independence. In one of our outings he decided to go ahead and walk back to camp by himself without waiting for us. For most kids his age that might not be a big deal but for Víctor, with his cautious and gentle nature, that was a big step to self-assurance.



After two days camping the kids were filthy. I sometimes think they start transforming into dirt so we went to take showers. YES! Idyllwild camping has warm, hot, rejuvenating showers. Don’t forget to bring quarters to be able to enjoy them. I would also recommend bringing some kind of table cloth. The tables were not very clean. Also, don’t forget the marshmallows, because even if your kids don’t eat them (my kids wouldn’t even try them), it is a lot of fun cooking them. Fire + Sugar= perfect combination.



This trip was highly successful and convinced me to do this more often. We just need one more camping trip before the end of the summer and one of my summer goals will be completed.

To make camp site reservations go to this website.



Let Us Connect:

Camping With Family And Friends- Leo Carrillo

Most of my LA friends hate camping. As one of them said, “I just don’t see any reason why giving up the comforts of city life is in any way fun.” Others are even more blunt and just admit they are ‘not into nature’. George and I, on the other hand, love camping, mainly as a way to get out of our routines. I have realized that small changes like this enrich my life and help me find my center. Travel in general does this to me (and to everybody really, so don’t be lazy).

We used to go camping a lot before we had kids and we recently decided to try going again. Our kids are older, 1 and 3 years old, so we felt intrepid, but still wanting to move cautiously, as good campers should. We invited a bunch of friends and went for only one night as an experiment, with the idea that even if it sucks, well, it’s just one night. Especially if we go close, right? Do you follow the reasoning? This is why we decided to go to Leo Carrillo, just 20 minutes north of Malibu on the Pacific Highway. We arrived at 2 pm and were gone the next day by 11am. A non-committal activity that can easily be quickly wrapped up at any sign of danger or pain.



Anybody that is reading this post and is unsure of his/her comfort breaking point, just do what we did. Of course, make your reservations months in advance for the summer months and borrow your camping gear from friends so you don’t end up buying a bunch of equipment you will never use again in case you don’t like it. Go for one night, bring an air mattress and put a pad on top of it. Air mattresses suck a lot of heat from your body if you don’t have a pad on top, and the real appeal of car camping is that you can camp in relative luxury. Treat yourself to a fat foam pad on top of the mattress and you’ll feel like a Bedoin King.



Each camping site in Leo Carrillo allows for 8 people but, depending on the camping site you can fit up to 5 tents. Here is a map of the campground. The sites in the middle are the biggest ones and almost all of them have shade. Choose a site with shade! Specially during the summer. You can find this information in the details of each site. Don’t worry about where the bathrooms are located, the campground is not big and bathrooms are always close.

The best thing about Leo Carrillo is that the beautiful beach is a convenient 10 minute walk. There are tide pools and the kids can find a lot of animals when the tide is low. North of the big beach, right next to it, is a sandy small beach and I highly recommend it. The whole place is so beautiful. I loved it.



The worst thing about Leo Carrillo campground is that is not the cleanest and it is not very quiet. Also, you are bound to have a couple of encounters with some drunk people, either strangers or members of your own group. As a chilean, I don’t mind people not behaving exactly the way they should by social standards, but some Americans have a low tolerance for people not following the rules or being somehow disrespectful. Well, if you are this kind of person, don’t go to this campground. We had a great time with the whole experience but, at the same time, I couldn’t 100% recommend it if you don’t like to be bothered. Some of my friends, for example, found that some of our neighbors were noisy and rude but I didn’t care. I loved the whole thing. I slept better than I had in years. And after 10 pm campground regulations require quiet so don’t worry about having to deal with noise all night.





The next day I had to catch a plane at 3 pm so we left in the morning, but we got enough joy out of it that we decided to do it a couple more times during the summer. Wish us luck!

Let Us Connect:

Holy Cow- Damn Good BBQ in Culver City

I am married to the ultimate BBQ guy. When he barbacues, which he does often, all my friends fight each other to make it to the guest list. His meats always come out tender, flavorful and cooked to perfection. He is so good he has a You Tube TV channel with BBQ recipes. If you don’t have a clue about how to cook a good steak, don’t worry anymore, just watch a video or two from his channel and you’ll soon be moving to Kansas City and opening a barbecue restaurant. I regularly use his techniques with excellent results even though I am a mediocre cook.


So, I was really excited to hear that Holy Cow was opening a restaurant in Culver City. It is not easy to find good American/Texas BBQ in LA. For starters, the places that I do know are kind of far away. It must be because everybody in West LA seems to think that meat is the biggest culprit for unhealthiness in this holy city. A mere glance, they say, will send you straight to hell. Well, people, let me tell you, I am still alive and ready for all the meat that Holy Cow can provide.


We went the day after it opened. We ate ribs, pulled pork, and brisket and they were delicious. We left nothing on our plates and we begged for more. George is relieved that he doesn’t have to smoke every weekend now to have decent meat. I am relieved that I don’t have to smell smoke in my yard 10 hours a day every weekend. It is a win-win situation that will save my marriage, no doubt about it.


Also, it is family friendly which is a big plus for us right now. Sometimes I feel self-conscious going into restaurants with two small children and having people stare at us , waiting for the chaotic debacle that will surely ensue. Even though I have become less apologetic about the fact that I happen to be a mother (and everybody has a mother, people!), I still worry sometimes… but that is a topic of another post.

It makes me happy when good restaurants open in our neighborhood.

ribs HC1

Holy Cow

4130 Sepulveda Blvd, Suite B

Culver City, CA, 90230

Let Us Connect: