Vitaly Caffe, Costa Mesa

“Not good ice cream…like in Germany

That’s what S said when we took her to the Sprinkles ice cream shop in Newport Beach. I agree; its not worth the hype, and so we went without one of our favorite outings for a while. That is until Vitaly Caffe opened in Costa Mesa’s The Camp. Now we can get real Italian gelato (gelato is very popular in Germany); the best we’ve ever had on this side of the world.

See? It was so good they would hardly even let me take a photo of it.


And don’t leave without trying some of their cookies. These are the only three that survived the car ride home…and I didn’t even share with S. They were just too delicious. From the top going clockwise:  dama, baci di dama, and my favorite,  cantucci cookies.


We’ll be fitting in as many visits as we can during our remaining time here. Along with many trips to the gym.


Hello Dolly!

I’ve always known that the Irvine Regional Park has  horses. What I didn’t know is that they also have mini ones.


Meet Dolly, S’s favorite. The Li’l Sebastian to her Leslie Knope. She loves this little horse so much she was willing to wait until Dolly was done with another little girl instead of riding one of the other equally mini and adorable horses.


I love that they let the parents lead the horses. Love love love. Jon is less enthusiastic. He considers horses to be large rats and tried t convince S of this, as well.

I don’t think she’s convinced.


sand and sea

With only three weeks to go, we’ve been filling our time with as many activities as possible. There is nothing worse than running out of things to do before a move and just sitting at home, staring at boxes and thinking about all of the things you would like to get out of them. Especially for a three year-old who will suddenly think of toys she hasn’t played with in over a year, but will need it RIGHT NOW or the world will end. WHERE IS MY SQUEEKY GIRAFFE?!?

So I finally gave in and we spent a day at the beach.



The beach was, um, ok. I think if I were able to just sit quietly and read a book I might enjoy it, but as it is I am much more terrified of the giant waves whisking my little girl away to a watery grave  and the weird germs that are most definitely  lurking in the sand just waiting to make someone sick.  Ok, so maybe I like the beach as long as I don’t have to touch the beach.

Oddly, I feel much calmer by lakes. I am from Michigan after all.

Nixon Presidential Library, Yorba Linda

As you may have seen on my Instagram (check out my new sidebar!), my love for presidential libraries does not discriminate, which is why we took a little trip over to Yorba Linda to check out the Nixon Presidential Library.


Its a small place with not a lot of fanfare. There were maybe seven or eight other visitors when we arrived. S wasn’t particularly interested in our 37th. In fact, the first thing she asked when we went inside was “Where is ‘Rock Omama’?”

We managed to find a little bit of him.


Other than that, her favorite part was the presidential helicopter. She’s certain that every helicopter is actually Marine One coming to say “HI!” to her.


This helicopter – referred to either Army or Marine One depending on the pilot – was used by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. After spending some time in storage, one of Nixon’s former pilots had it sent to the library for display.

While the helicopter was S’s favorite, mine was the model of the East Room.


The museum also has the usual campaign history, clothing worn at historical moments, and of course a hallway devoted to the Watergate scandal conveniently located at the very end of the gallery after the rooms extolling Nixon’s work abroad. To see everything only took us an hour and a half and, despite not being 37s favorite sort of people, a nice way to spend the morning and get out of the usual Orange County scene.

Laguna Beach

Time to start saying “good-bye” to all of our old hangouts. Although, this time I won’t be missing much.

I’m sorry. I’m just not a California girl. I like wearing sweaters and snow. I like not having to think about whether or not its too warm to get a hot coffee. I miss not having to specify that I want hot coffee.

Most importantly, I don’t like driving. California is all about driving.

There are, of course, a few exceptions. Laguna Beach is walkable and very popular – two things you can see in this horribly shot photo I took while getting pulled across the street by a three year old.


We spent four hours walking around, peeking into little shops, and checking out the menus at restaurants we probably won’t have time to visit before we leave. We went to the playground and told S there would be a “next time.”


We still haven’t really been to the beach. You know, with swimsuits and everything.

Maybe next time.

Would you like to read some of my posts about leaving Berlin? Klicken Sie hier oder hier

memorial day in LA

We went to Los Angeles on Memorial Day to take S to the tar pits and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It was not a success.

This is the only photo of our very brief stroll by the tar pits. S thought the “funny water” was too smelly, so we headed next door to LACMA.


While we’ve had many successful museum visits in the past, this one was not happening for us. I completely blame this installation, which S dubbed “Noodle Forest.” It was too much fun to waste time looking inside, so Jon and I took turns.


The only thing she sat still for – sneaking sips of my coffee and the fresh “oreo” from Coffee and Milk (not pictured, because, well how long do you think cookies last around stressed out grad students three year olds)



Monday was a free Target family day, but if you’d like to take your kids to the museum, the NexGen program is great. Members must be under 17  and get free general entry for both themselves and an accompanying adult. I enrolled S when she was only a few months old and despite not living in LA (or, for a time, California) we’ve used it two or three times.

Of course, if your child is anything like mine, you’ll probably be fine just sitting by the  fountains outside of the gallery.


The Orange Circle

Somehow the stars alined and I managed to finally get Jon to go down to Old Town Orange with me and possibly browse a few antique stores.

It was, however, too much for these stars to ensure that S would also be so willing. Either way, we still got to walk around a city’ish environment and poke around. We also got surprisingly good barbecue.


We just happened to park right across the street from Smoqued, a restaurant that bills itself as “classic BBQ with a California influence.” Although the only obviously California part of the restaurant was the list of local beers and the gentrified surroundings. Jon is counting the days until he can have the brisket sandwich again. I liked the smoked chicken – S liked it more – and I’m intrigued by the promise of hand rolled pretzels.

Having an almost three year old tagging along deterred me from poking around the antique shops that dot the circle and seem to be the main draw of Old Town Orange, if not for tchotchkes than at least for those pretzels.


goat vs. elephant, round III

We went back to the Goat-Zoo-not-an-Elephant-Zoo (round II here). We had an intense discussion about the differences which can effectively be summarized with the following pro/con list:


– The Elephant Zoo has elephants.

– Its in  Germany (a place I was recently informed is “The best home” and all other homes current or otherwise are “icky”)

– You can pet the goats.


– The OC Zoo is in California, which is not Germany (see pro list)

– goats are not elephants

Now for some visual evidence:




She seems to be enjoying herself, yes? Don’t worry, she reminded me that she liked it even though it was just a goat zoo.

Also, she would like there to be ponies next time.  She has some very high animal-viewing standards.

halloween at the not-a-zoo

It took a while, but I finally got S to go back to the Orange County Zoo. I do, however, have to refer to it as the “Zoo without elephants.”

Today was the zoo’s annual Halloween event – something I’m sure helped make up for the lack of pachyderms in S’s opinion. It was also her first time trick-or-treating.

It didn’t take long for her to catch on.

The thing I really like about this event – other than the fact that its safe and I used to volunteer there – is that not all of the treats are candy. We have a little collection of halloween themed toys now – including a bendy pumpkin-man that S had been talking to all day. More fun than a snickers bar that’s gone in two minutes and sends you bouncing off the walls all afternoon.

And the dress? Yes, my little girl is dressed like a princess, because that’s what she wanted. She loves Rapunzel, she can summarize “Tangled” complete with songs, so when it came time to pick a costume, I surprised her with this one. She had fun with it. That’s all that matters.

disney store, south coast plaza

One of the activities I lined up for S and I’s alone time included a visit to the grand re-opening of the local Disney Store. Having never done something like this before, I thought arriving twenty minutes early would be more than enough. I even felt sheepish walking into the mall that early until I saw the enormous crowd hovering around the Disney entrance. Apparently, twenty minutes early is only enough to get you into the back-up line; we were ushered by some very cheerful people to another area in the mall, behind an escalator. A “cast member” told me that people had been waiting since before 7am. 7AM! I’m a little scared to find out what these people would do when actually at Disneyland.

We waited for forty minutes to get into the store – only after we were moved from B-line to A-line did I realize that we had been waiting to go into a store that we could simple stroll into any other day of the week and have more or less the same experience. S had a good time, though, and she was so well behaved that it had me thinking that Disneyland might not be such a bad idea. Then I came to my senses and decided to save that one for the grandparents.

(I also may or may not still be terrified of people in animal costumes.)

One thing that really struck me while waiting in that line wasn’t the way the children were behaving, it was the adults. While we were waiting, employees handed out mouse ears and sticker sheets to keep the kids happy. The kids. You know, they’re really little and have short attention spans. It was the kids who were begging for more toys – it was the adults. I was appalled by the number of parents who did not ask, but demanded more free stuff, sometimes out right lying to get it. There was a family of five standing in front of me and they were handed five mouse ears. The mother stuffed two hats in her purse and shouted for two more. She counted the members for her party and held out her hand in perfect disdain, trying to make the man feel stupid enough to hand out more. He paused for minute, obviously remembering that he had handed her five hats just a few minutes ago, before handing her a few more with a shrug. Then there were the parents who walked up to the woman handing out sticker sheets to the kids,pausing to ask them about their favorite Disney movies, demanding she hand them multiple sheets. No one said please or thank you. It was just “need” or “want.” It was just so odd to see… and a little embarrassing.

It was another moment of culture shock and one I really wasn’t expecting. Is it California? The US? Or does free stuff just bring out the worst in people?

At least we put our stickers to good use.