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Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve in the park

Our longtime babysitter Jill B. watched Astrid on New Year's Eve, and New Year's morning for us (so U. and I could go out and celebrate the New Year). Astrid cried and cried when we left so I had Jill take Astrid to the park and she took these pics of her there playing on the tire swing.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Murakami exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

The Murakami exhibit runs through February 11, 2008 at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
152 North Central Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90013
With U. being home for the holidays, we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity for all 3 of us to visit some museums together. U. thought Astrid would especially enjoy this exhibit with the Japanese animation, and bubbly/wacky/colorful cartoon characters.

"One of the most internationally acclaimed artists to emerge from Asia in the postwar era, Takashi Murakami effortlessly navigates between the worlds of fine art and popular culture and is best known for his cartoon-like, “superflat” style. This major traveling retrospective includes key selections spanning the artist’s career, from the early 1990s to the present. More than 90 works in various media—painting, sculpture, installation, and film—are installed in five sections, occupying over 35,000 square feet of exhibition space."

We had seen some of Takashi Murakami's artwork previously when it was included with the Ecstasy exhibit collection. Lots of mushrooms, and childlike fantasy including a floating bench that would slide across the room when you sat down and picked up your feet. I have to say that the Ecstasy exhibit was much more fun and overall more of an experience, than Murakami's stand alone artwork. In fact this time there was no floating bench which was a bit disappointing.
This sculpture is called "Flower Matango".

They had strict security, with multiple guards in each room at every angle, and no photographs were allowed, so I was only able to take this one photo. The room has smiley faced flowers galore right down to the wallpaper. Think 70's Brady Bunch on acid.
In this video, Takashi Murakami talks about the sculpture, the thousand different colors used, and the year and a half it took to complete.
Part of the exhibit also included an animated film called "Kaiai & Kiki". Cute animation about a couple of friends (alien cartoon characters) who fly over Japan in a living spacecraft that looks like a huge blimp. They spot a farm down below and learn all about how poop makes seeds grow, and are given watermelon seeds by a friendly farmer. They grow giant watermelons on their spaceship and come back to deliver them to the farmer and the village. In the end everyone is happily eating, drinking, and playing in watermelon.

There were lots of kids in there, including Astrid and she was riveted to the screen watching the film. Her shoes also got a lot of attention in that dark screening room. The flowers on the side light up and flash every time she takes a step. But as for the art itself, Astrid wasn't so interested.
You might be familiar with Takashi Murakami from his collaboration with Marc Jacobs, the artistic director for Louis Vuitton, in designing the colored handbags that all the celebrities were sporting a few years back. Part of the exhibit included a Louis Vuitton collection. To go from viewing kitchy pop culture, to then walking through a gallery with luxury French leather handbags was clashing to say the least. Props though to Takashi for being able to successfully market himself and his brand.

Unfortunately that also meant that there was nothing affordable in the gift shop. I had wanted to buy something for Astrid, but anything worth getting was super expensive. So I passed at the kitchy Murakami flower pillow that was over $100.

Mustard Seed Cafe - Sunday morning breakfast

We tried Mustard Seed Cafe in Los Feliz for breakfast this morning.

Mustard Seed Cafe
1948 Hillhurst Ave
Los Feliz, CA 90027

The highlight was the kid friendly restaurant with white butcher paper on the tables for kids to use their crayons to draw and color, and the kid pancake entree. For something like $2.25 kids get a big pancake (takes up the whole plate) with fresh strawberries and bananas on top (just plain with no unnecessary sweet sauces added). Perfect for Astrid.

(Another LA restaurant charged me $3.50 for Astrid's jello. So $2.25 for a healthy kid breakfast is a good deal in Los Angeles.)

Organic & Healthy
There were many organic ingredients and healthy selections on the menu. In fact I even think they spell out "all egg white" omelets (unlike diners that always give us the puzzled look when we ask for it, or charge us more which we always agree to do for the sake of our arteries and waist lines).

You can say that again
Oh and then U. and I were called "kids" by the waiter. "And what would you kids likes like to order?" The waiter deserved a big tip just for that comment, since recently my ego took a bruising when I was called "Mom" by a random sales lady. (Of course I was with Astrid...but still! Made me think of elastic high water jeans with white tennis shoes. I'm NOT that mom.)

Low Point
U. said the coffee was gawd awful and did not enjoy his food. He said his food was just all around terrible. Weird since my omelet was fine. Not great, but fine. I enjoyed Astrid's pancake more than my entree.

Will we go back?
Not sure. Maybe if it's just Astrid and I. But it wouldn't be our first choice. On Hillhurst we usually go to Home or Alcove, but we're always trying out different places. (That Vegan restaurant on Hillhurst is also good for lunch or dinner.) We're always on the quest for a good breakfast place - good coffee, good food, organic preferred and easy going with the kid. So the weekend quest for a good breakfast cafe continues.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Visiting Watts Towers (day after Christmas)

Over the holidays U. wanted to show Astrid something of cultural relevance so we visited the Watts Towers, in the Watts district of Los Angeles, California. Sitting next to the statue in front of the museum.
The Towers were built by Italian immigrant construction worker Sabato ("Sam" or "Simon") Rodia in his spare time over a period of 33 years, from 1921 to 1954.
The sculptures are constructed from steel pipes and rods, wrapped with wire mesh, coated with mortar. Rodia called the towers Nuestro Pueblo, meaning "our town." Rodia built them with no special equipment or (so far as is known) predetermined design, working alone with hand tools and window-washer's equipment. Two of the structures reach heights of over 99 feet (30 m).

Rodia decorated his structures using found objects: bed frames, bottles, ceramic tiles, scrap metal, sea shells, and damaged pieces from the Malibu Pottery, where he worked for many years. Green glass includes recognizable soft drink bottles, some still bearing the logos of 7 Up, Squirt, Bubble-Up, and Canada Dry; blue glass appears to be from milk of magnesia bottles.
There's not a lot known about Simon Rodia, but a lot of speculation on why he started the towers and then abandoned them after working on them for 33 years. He was severely depressed after the death of his daughter. Rumor has it that he became an alcoholic and this was the reason his wife took their remaining 2 sons and left him, and he never saw him family again. Maybe he was manic? Maybe it was cathartic? He worked on his towers after work and on the weekends for 33 years and never finished. Some think that his intention was to live there. (There is a bathtub.)

But whatever the case, he had a vision and his work is beautiful and inspirational. Today it's an oasis in a harsh inner city where you see more barbed wire than beauty.

Simon Rodia is quoted as saying, "I wanted to do something...something big...and I did it."

According to Wikipedia, Rodia reportedly did not get along with his neighbors, some of whom allowed their children to vandalize his work. Rumors that the towers were antennae for communicating with enemy Japanese forces, or contained buried treasure, caused suspicion and further vandalism.

In 1955, Rodia gave the property away and left, reportedly tired of the abuse he had received. He retired to Martinez, California, and never came back. He died a decade later.
Here Astrid is standing in front of some African instruments in the adjacent museum.
The curator of the museum was nice enough to explain and show us a 15 minute video about the Watts Towers and Simon Rodia (pronounced incorrectly by the documentary narrator as Rodilla, the name that was given to him by Simon Rodia's Spanish speaking neighbors, but incorrectly pronouncing the silent "L").More art work inside the museum.The outside wall of the building is decorated with tiles. Astrid is pointing out the car.The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.Astrid striking a pose.

She's so used to having her photo taken that now when she does something cute she says, "Mom, take a picture!"Astrid wanted to sit on each colored rock.Going to sit on the green rock.Sitting on the red rock.

I've been to Watts Towers and the museum before, but it was the first time for U. and Astrid.

If you're planning on visiting the towers for the first time, I would recommend you go on a weekend, or call ahead of time to schedule a tour. Otherwise, you will not be allowed to walk inside, and can only see the structures from the outside parameter.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Astrid wearing a Santa hat

I thought the "I know it all" stage came later

"It's not funny. It's FUNNY!" (This is her response when told it's not funny.)

"It's not 'Weihnachten', it's 'Christmas'!" (Weihnachten is Christmas in German.)

"No mommy. Rose!" (Astrid has gotten it in her head to call me "Rose". When I correct her and tell her I'm mommy, she tells me I'm not mommy that I'm Rose."

"No baby. I Astrid." (When she found the right puzzle piece I said to her, "Good job baby." She responded that she's not a baby; that she's Astrid. Sheesh.)

"Not Angel. Just Astrid!" (Astrid called for her Papa and he responded, "Yes my angel." Astrid in turn said she was not an angel and her name was Astrid."

"Papa you have to share!" (As you can guess - said when she can't have something.)

Riding her new bike up at The Griffith Park Observatory (with a view of the Hollywood sign)

Playing with her choo choo train, fire truck, and police car

German pancakes for breakfast on Christmas morning

U. made homemade German pancakes for our Christmas breakfast this morning.
Fresh fruit preserves (jam) is spread over the pancakes (instead of maple syrup). Yum!
Astrid calls them "kaycakes".
She's getting better and better at feeding herself and using utensils (without making a mess).
I love kaycakes and milk!
You can see the framed photo I mentioned in a previous post, in the photo above.Lately Astrid likes to set her teddy bear (or dolls) in her chair (after she's done eating) and feeds them breakfast.

Opening Christmas Presents

U. got up at the crack of dawn (before Astrid woke up) to light all the candles downstairs to make it a magical Christmas for Astrid this morning. He wanted to make sure that when Astrid came down the stairs her face would light up when she saw all the candles, and presents under the Christmas tree. So as soon as I heard Astrid stirring and calling for "Papa!" I got out of bed too and we all went downstairs to open Christmas presents.
The first thing she noticed was the bike.
Couldn't resist and had to immediately sit on it and ride it.
It's a cute pink bike with a basket on the front and back. She loved it.
Although technically it's her second bike. My mom (Grandma) bought her a bike for Christmas as well, but because we wouldn't be seeing them on Christmas, she bought it for her weeks beforehand. We keep that one over at Grandma & Grandpa's house, but needed one that she could ride at home too.
Just a couple things to note about the tree. U. went to get more lights for it this year and found this neat webbing of lights that drapes over the tree. It makes setup and cleanup a whole lot easier. As for decorations, we got out just a few to decorate the top. Reason being we couldn't find the box of Christmas decorations in the garage. (It's probably buried under all the kid junk that we need to sell.) But it worked out well since we didn't want Astrid playing with them and breaking them. So just a few on top was enough to look at and we were able to find her "Baby's First Christmas" ceramic baby shoe ornament that I had custom made for her when she was born in 2005.
This little Santa who plays a guitar, dances and sings, was given to me as a gift by one of my students. Astrid loved looking at it but was scared to touch it. Finally she got over the worst of her fear and was able to push the "on" button.Checking out her new wheels.
Opening her present.
A set of wooden trains and cars.
Kissing Papa's chocolate Santa.
A wooden puzzle of all 50 states that make up the United States of America.
Astrid was surprisingly good at opening her presents. First she would remove the ribbon, then the wrapping, and even get into the box itself to get to her gift. What a change from last year when we had to keep her from putting the tissue paper in her mouth.
It was sweet to see her tearing into every present.
Christmas is all the more special with a little one. It's the wonderment a child has that makes Christmas magical.
It looked like a ton of presents under the tree, but it really was a lot of smaller things and things that Astrid needed (like clothes and pajamas).
Wearing her snowman Christmas pajamas on Christmas day.
Astrid kept shouting "Presents!" all excited.
More warm pajamas!
Adept at opening boxes.
After Astrid was done opening her gifts, she also wanted to open U.'s and mine.
U. with his Christmas gift.
Playing with her Chinese checkers.
She loved moving the little colored pegs around.Playing with her wooden alphabet puzzle.

At this stage (2 1/2), puzzles were a must this year. Astrid LOVES puzzles and will devour any puzzle she sees. So hopefully the ones I got her for Christmas will be good for hours (or minutes) of amusement.

U. also got the photo of Astrid and I (that I use for my profile) blown up and framed - for me as a Christmas gift. It's one of my favorite photos of us together. I'm thinking of hanging it in our hallway.