Yes, We have no banana blooms…

posted by Lisa

…a story in pictures about desire lost and found.

Week 2 at the Koloa Sunshine Market, we came for the regular things: greens, radishes, mountain spinach, tomatoes, fiddlehead ferns, mountain apples, and a back breaking assortment of mangoes, papayas, pineapples, passion fruit, apple bananas.  Everything was rough and beautiful as always, and Ella and Finn knew their way around the small market this time, so they were excited to help pick out our haul and scavenge from table to table.  There was a lot of begging, and a lot of giving in on my part. They understand what a farmers market is from our life back home, so this was an adventure they could understand.  And if a part of their excitement about being on Kauai involved purchasing and eating lots of local (and new to them) produce, who was I to deny them?

We had to buy an extra pint of tomatoes and several more bananas to replace the ones that they ate while walking around, but we got all of the things we needed quickly (before they sold out), plus two beautiful sprays of orchids that lasted all week.

But, what I most wanted was a banana bloom to chop and stir fry, or chop and toss in our greens. I had wanted this all week, and I searched everywhere, and while there were several wild ones hanging from the trees, and more strewn on the ground outside the market, there were none to be bought.

Still, the trip was not without adventure for any of us.

We found this:

A soursop fruit, which was creamy and sweet and a little tart.  I liked it, but my family wouldn’t touch it. It stayed at the market.

Ella had great fun with our camera, snapping off two dozen pictures of the farmers and their goods. My favorite is this study in yellow and green:

And we enjoyed more coconut, especially when the man with the machete hacked ours open so we could eat the meat after the water was gone.

The machete was much larger than it looks, and shells did fly.

Then, we struck gold.

Across the path, Finn & my husband spied the sugar cane:

They bought and contemplated the sugar cane:

And Finn quickly appropriated said sugar cane. Because really, what is better in life than sugar in the form of a bat?

Why We Love France

posted by Caroline

Sure, we love the museums, the sense of history, the people (yes, I really do). The boys love the trains. But we also just really love all the chocolate. It’s available at every meal, whether melted into milk for chocolat chaud, baked into pastry for pain au chocolat, or tossed by the handful into cereals. (Special K with chocolate probably deserves a post of its own, except I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the stuff). Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, there’s always some chocolate nearby, and only a real crank would complain about that.

Star Light, Star Bright…

posted by Lisa

Kauai is supremely different from Northern California: climate, pace, vegetation, wildlife (yes, there was dinner among the geckos, and the frogs).

And I realized this year, that one of the most valuable things about our time here is the cultural difference. It’s not simply that we all slow down and spend lots of time together, and it’s not just that the kids get to spend all day at the beach doing fun kid things in the water and sand. But what was completely revelatory for all of us was that they could see–and explore–a whole new ecosystem, right in front of them, at their own level. Both kids snorkled and saw countless tropical fish. Ella learned to recognize and pronounce the state fish, humuhumunukunukuapuaa, and both went well beyond the standard, “It’s Dory!” or “It’s Gil” response to every tang and Moorish Idol they saw. Sea turtles swam right up to the beach:

Monk seals lounged in the sun for hours:

The lifeguards shared their lychees:

Which brings me to the point that the food we eat here is very different from the food we eat at home. Many of the hallmarks of our family food culture are the same: family meals, local produce, lots of fun experimenting with food. But the ingredients are really different, so while the trappings of meals are the same, and very familiar, the food is just simply really different. So it’s always a bit of an adventure–or, dare I say, a food vacation–when we sit down for a meal. And whatever we ate told us as much about where we were as the turtles and monk seals and humuhumunukunukuapu’aa did.

For instance, we took a short trip to the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, and had a nice time poking around the small working garden, where the kids drooled over the abundance of the mango tree, a new favorite thing (but, sadly, the pictures were lost). Then, we found the star fruit tree, which was also heavy with fruit, and more fruit lying on the ground.

As we were admiring it, one of the gardeners offered us a piece, “This is a sweet one,” he said, and when I held it up to smell, I inhaled a sweet, subtle, almost honey-like perfume. We took it home, and even though the kids thought it was still mostly alien, I sliced it after nap for snack. It was beautiful, crisp and sweet. Different, but oh, so welcome and refreshing.

That day, we ate stars.

Mission: Eiffel Tower

posted by Caroline

The first time we’d tried to visit the Eiffel Tower, we traveled via the batobus, which offers a scenic ride down the Seine.

Too scenic, as it turned out.

We arrived at 7pm and faced lines that snaked from the entrance back and forth all the way across the plaza. We were without sufficient food or line distractions to survive the wait, so we risked – and faced – the boys’ loud and bitter disappointment by turning back and regrouping.

The next day was stormy and windy and Eli didn’t nap. We debated: on the one hand, the weather might be keeping the crowds down; maybe a tired boy would be a docile and patient line stander…. But probably not, on both counts. We stayed home and cooked dinner.

Finally, we planned our ascent of the Eiffel Tower like mountaineers plan for Everest. In this case, Tony and I were the Tibetan sherpas, and the boys were Sandy Hill Pittman, who show up and have every desire met, needing only to put their bodies where they’re told and not use up too much oxygen. I was grateful they didn’t want cappuccino (although come to think of it, at the base of the Eiffel Tower, that would have been easy to provide).

We’d been advised that the lines are shorter in the late afternoon, so we waited until after Eli’s nap, hoping that the boys would be well-rested, the lines a little easier, and that we’d get up to the top and out before it was way too late for dinner (or even bed). We brought Eli’s view master and discs, Ben’s journal, 2 cameras (since Ben’s a big photographer now), and windbreakers in case it was cold at the top. More importantly, I spent Eli’s naptime packing up food:

carrot sticks, water bottles, baby bell cheeses, 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, 2 nutella sandwiches (never underestimate the motivating power of chocolate), 2 Z bars, and a ziploc bag of almonds and raisins. We set off at 4, arriving at the base at 5pm. Tony grabbed a bench with the boys while I staked out our place on line.

We didn’t make it out without any tears (from Eli, when I started walking down a flight of stairs holding his hand rather than letting him hold the banister):

But, we made it up, we made it down, and we made it back home, our backpacks empty, four and a half hours later.

cross-posted over at Food for Thought.

The Food I Carried

posted by Caroline

In some ways it felt wrong to bring food to Paris, but traveling with kids has taught us that if you’re going to uproot them from the familiar routine/beds/meals for a time, you’d better pack food. And before that, unless you’re staying with family, you rent an apartment or condo or house — anything with a kitchen– in which to cook it.

When we rent a beach house in the Outer Banks with my sister and her family, we fly east and then stock up on staples at the grocery store before driving south. We bring flour, sugar, olive oil, oats, cereals, wine, soy sauce, and  vinegars. When we visit friends in Chicago, we rent an apartment and stock up at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s the first day.

In Paris, we had rented a tiny two-bedroom apartment in the 6th arrondissement, but  I didn’t want to check a suitcase full of food, as Lisa did for her trip to Hawaii (though having spent two days looking for peanut butter, I may reconsider that next time!); frankly, I wasn’t feeling strong enough to deal with the French customs officials’ reaction to our boxes of cereal and packages of baked tofu.  Instead, tucked between the windbreakers and pj’s and t-shirts, I packed:

a gallon ziploc of oatmeal

a gallon ziploc of homemade granola

a dozen assorted Z bars and Luna bars

1 pound of roasted almonds

2 pounds of cashews (one salted, one unsalted)

1 package of raisins

1 package of dried cranberries

1 package of dried mango

Which doesn’t look like much, really, but we ate it all (except the mango), and could have eaten more.