Neta, Mitte

Oh, Neta.

After a very hot Schifffahrt down the Spree, I insisted on stopping at Neta for lunch. Like most Americans, I have a strong possibly ironic relationship to Mexican food. There cannot be enough of it and it can’t be spicy enough. A terrible lack of good Mexican food is the scourge of most European expats. So it was a surprisingly hot day – we’ve had more than enough of those in Berlin – and we’d just gotten off of a boat. I hate boats. I needed comfort.

So off to Neta.

At 12:30 there was only one other table, which should have been enough of a warning, but I reasoned it away with the the idea that its Sunday morning and most of Berlin is either still asleep or nursing a hangover over brunch.

I can’t say there was anything I enjoyed about the meal. The tacos were overstuffed and cold and Jon’s burrito came with the wrong filling. We very quickly decided that Delores is the better Mexican option in Berlin — although we still have to try Maria Bonita or Chapparo.
The boat ride down the Spree, however, was a big success for those of us who enjoy water-related activities. S spent the entire hour incredibly transfixed on the water.

Our boat, with Reederei Riedel, started outside of Hauptbahnhof and sailed east just past the Nikolaiveirtel. There are plenty of other cruise companies should you have a more specific wish to see something. We were just looking for something new to do with S. The hour-long ride was a little too long for her (there were a few babies on board who were very vocal about just how long it was), but she found the experience interesting enough and now we can check it off of our Berlin list.

Next she wants to take a train trip to a new city. Where should we go? S doesn’t care as long as she’s in the train for a long time!


The District

My S is a city girl. She is never happier than on a train or Bahn. 

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We took her to see “Rock Omama’s” house, because they talk a lot on her fish-price phone. In fact, he is the only one who ever calls. She was really bummed when we couldn’t go inside (Although the White House is once again open to visitors, tours need to be scheduled six months in advance through your congressional representative. I just wanted to get away from the ‘burbs and into the city and I wanted to do it soon).

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We dealt with the disappointment with a trip to her favorite restaurant: Vapiano, a German chain of Italian restaurants. You may remember it from all of the times we ate there in Berlin (and Dresden and Stuttgart.) In fact,we are Vapiano connoisseurs. As such a connoisseur, I can assure you that the American iteration is just as German as its German cousins, meaning you can get decent Italian food there. Much better than some of the typical red sauce joints that abound in Baltimore.
Do you remember bunny pizza? S does!
And to make up for the lack of presidential sightings, S and I shared dessert before heading back to die Bahn. 
There are multiple Vapiano restaurants in Washington, D.C. should you be as weird as we are. Parking in DC may impact whether or not you are able to send your child to college. We park in Maryland and take the metro.

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.

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.

Going to Market at the Great Park, Irvine

I’ve been trying to think of things I like about California, but the list isn’t very long. One item on that list that I’m not sure about is the local farmer’s market and anyone who’s been to a market in Europe probably knows why. But what’s great (and its a little bit hard for me to say that about anything in in southern California) about the markets here in Orange County are, well, the oranges.


You don’t see that in Berlin.

The Great Park market isn’t out usual, but we gave it a try for the food trucks. Jon is oddly fond of them.

This is his favorite.


As the name implies, Barcelona on the Go serves spanish food. Jon usually goes with the paella – its good and I don’t just mean good for something that was cooked in the back of a truck. Its really good. They haven’t been serving it at the farmer’s market, though, so Jon has been going with the sirloin with chimichurri. As I hinted at before, I am not as in love with the orange county food truck scene, but I gave this one a go.


Meh. The pizza oven inside the van is impressive. but I didn’t love the pizza. It looks pretty, though.



The garlic knots were the real breakout star. Yum.


Every last one was gone and thanks to the parsley aka “yucky green things” I didn’t even have to share with S.



Don’t worry about her, though. She eats blood oranges by the dozen.


The Getty Center, Los Angeles

We tried to get back into the swing of things, but after four months without a museum visit, S wasn’t that into it.


It didn’t help that we went on a positively frigid day. Well, frigid for the Angelenos. We were ok without coats. They were in parkas.


We went in February – instead of waiting for a nice, sunny day when you can see everything from the San Barnardino Mountains to the ocean – because we wanted to see the Renaissance exhibit before it closed. I should have known that the altars would need to be in low-light and I should have known that S would not like that at all. So Jon saw “Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance” and I whisked a nervous toddler to the end of the gallery where we looked at key-chains in the gift shop.

We made it up to her with a trip to the family room. Its a small room towards the back of the museum complex with 4 or 5 play areas loosely based on the collection.

We drew bugs




made a mask,



and played with foam noodles.





Then we decided we’d come back on a sunny day. There’s nothing like the Getty on a beautiful day.





UCI Arboretum for Love the Place You Live

I’m a huge fan of DesignMom and of her “Love the Place You Live” series. I haven’t added my own post since last February. Last February! Pretty shameful when you write a blog dedicated to exploring where you live. So when I saw the call go out for new links, I knew I had to put something together – especially now that we’re settled in our new place.

So, last Saturday, on our way home from our usual mix of farmer’s market/Costco shopping, we noticed a sign for a plant sale, and having a very sad looking spot near our front door, we decided to make a quick stop. Emphasis on the “quick” since our trip to Costco resulted in our having enough yogurt to feed a horde preschoolers.

The University of California, Irvine Arbotetum is a research center and garden featuring both native California and South African plants. It something we’ve been driving past for years, but have never made the time to visit.

While we didn’t find anything for our door (too much shade), we did find a new place to run around. Hurrah for not being a shopping mall.

Of course, we’re not exactly in Berlin anymore.


You can read my first Love the Place You Live post here

The Bowers Museum, Santa Ana

I’ve been looking forward to the Bowers Museum for months now, ever since I first saw the current exhibits – Fabergé and Madeleine Albright’s “Read My Pins” collection – listed on the website.  We’ve been there once before, just before we left for Berlin, but I don’t know much about the place or how it came upon two such wonderful exhibits, but I’m very glad. It gave us a chance to have a “normal” day.

The exhibits were the perfect size – just big enough to feel we really saw something, but not too much for S. And, of course, she was very in favor of seeing all of the “jew-wuh-wee.”

As you can see, she even wore some of her own.

This was my favorite, the Empress Josephine tiara, commissioned for her as a present by the Tsar Nicholas II upon her divorce from Napoleon.


Despite the many carats and colors of enamel, this was still S’s absolute favorite part of the museum…


of course.

a day in Laguna

A few days ago we took S down to Laguna Beach to look around the boutiques  see if she would like the ocean. Really, Jon just wanted to know if she liked it; I already knew I didn’t it, so why would my child? Its dirty, stinky, and you have to sit outside in the sun. No, thank you. But, being a little bit of both of us, S had mixed feelings.

First, here is the outfit she chose for our excursion:

That’s a black and white sweater dress layered with a black tulle skirt and pink leather flats for a pop of color. Yes, she was told where she was going and  she still didn’t feel comfortable dressing down. (We didn’t wear bathing suits, because we weren’t sure how long we’d stay).  At this point, she is all about staying near the boardwalk, in other words, TEAM MOM.

Eventually, Jon coaxed her down to the water. It was terrifying….

until it wasn’t.

Once she realized that she liked it, she asked for flip-flops like Daddy, and suddenly, her ensemble became a little more California-appropriate.

On the plus side, those pink flats really were on borrowed time and losing them to the ocean (she got a little too close and the tide swept right up to her knees) finally gave us an irrefutable case against them.

As for me, I’ll be the one huddled under the enormous beach umbrella, dreaming of more leather shoe friendly places.