To Dis(ney) or Not to Dis(ney)

You must know it by now. I’m not a theme park person. Yet, ironically, I keep visiting them. Don’t take me wrong, I used to love Donald Duck shows as a child and Little Mermaid’s story sure made me cry, but I never dreamed of shaking hands and taking pictures with a person dressed as Cinderella. It wasn’t in my childhood or culture. But now, as I’m raising my own children in the US, numerous theme parks are definitely a part of their culture, even if they are not a part of my parenting plan.

If it was solely up to me, we wouldn’t come close to any of the magic lands, worlds or studios. I think our local fairs provide enough thrill for my little ones.  But it’s not up to me only. My boys have already gotten a taste of amusement parks on our extended family vacations. Us not going was not an option. I couldn’t deprive my children of the time with his cousins and grandparents. It was like catch 22. I know that for my sisters-in-law a week in Orlando was a perfect choice. My niece is an expert in fairies and princesses, and my nephews love roller coasters and movies. But my children shy away from rides and are either unfamiliar with or uninterested in most of the Disney productions. My older son watches Power Rangers and the younger one is into Thomas. No, we have not seen “Frozen”. In other words,  the prospect of elbowing my way from Aladdin to Dumbo and idling away in queues, in 90 degrees Florida sun, for the sake of zero degree fun was not really appealing to me.

But we tagged along. One day pass. For the sake of our family vacation.  The park was according to expectations: hot, crowded, noisy, overwhelming with the sheer number of underwhelming attractions,  full of junk food stands and overpriced souvenir stores….   While I looked like doing a thing from other people’s bucket list, the little girls in tiaras and gowns and their moms in Minnie Mouse hats and graphic shirts were having a great time. Go figure! My husband kept insisting that regardless of what I thought of the whole experience, our boys liked it. Until my overheated and exhausted children confirmed otherwise. The highlight of the Disney World was for them… a monorail. I guess taking Caltrain would be cheaper. And as far as another family vacation, I am voting for dissing Disney Parks and going with National Parks.


Great People I admire of whom I want my children to know: Iker Casillas

Obviously, I’d love to be a hero in my children’s eyes. Even better, a super-hero. I’d like them to see me as an embodiment of virtues.  But I know that sooner or later they will see me through. Next to my strengths, they will discover my weaknesses and they will have nothing else left but love their mom with all her flaws. But they will still look for their heroes elsewhere and I will support that. I want my children to learn from other people, to admire the great minds and be inspired by success.  And if they happen to need any guidance in their hero hunt, I will have a little list of great personas ready for them. From my accepting grandmother to modest Jamie Oliver,  I wish my kids could find their talents, strengths and humbleness inspirational.

Considering the heat of the World Cup, it is only natural to start the list off with a footballer, whose charisma brought me under his spell, even though I’m a very casual football enthusiast. I’m talking of course about Iker Casillas. Regardless of what happened in Brazil a few weeks ago, I can’t stop admiring living football legend.

The first time I heard of Iker Casillas was during the 2008 Euro Cup. He caught my eye as he reminded me of my brother. The more I was watching him, though, the less I was thinking about his seemingly familiar features and the more I was getting intrigued by his outstanding qualities. I couldn’t believe that with all the attention he’s been getting and a long list of honors and achievements, he has somehow managed to remain genuine, hardworking and so utterly humble. There seems to be nothing arrogant about him. He intimidates, but only with his massive talent. He strikes, but with focus and composure. Over the years, this outstanding goal keeper has so consistently proven his greatness that even the unfortunate tournament in Rio can’t take the glory away from him. What happens in Rio stays in Rio and Iker Casillas should stay in Real Madrid and La Roja. If he chooses so. We deserve to see more of this most inspiring goalkeeper. I hope we will.

And I hope that, like Casillas, my children will choose hard work and humbleness as a way to reach their dreams.



Meet Choco Chanelle

“Mommy, why don’t you sing a song like that?” my son asked the other day as we were driving and “Fancy” was playing on the radio. What was he trying to say? I do sing to him and he often points out that he doesn’t like it. I asked for clarification. In his mind, I should come up with a hit song in order to make lots of money. For toys. I commended my son for his entrepreneurial and out-of-the-box thinking, but I had to disappoint him. My career in music is quite unlikely. However, I asked him to wish me luck in writing. Perhaps my new book, “Choco Chanelle”, has a chance to become a bestseller?

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to Choco Chanelle, a famous cake designer from Ganache. Her desserts are not only tasty, but also tastefully clad: elegant chiffon cakes wear silky gowns and cupcakes sport feathered hats. The people of Ganache love the sweet fashionistas as much as Choco’s scrumptious story about how she had blended haute couture into her cake mix.

A sweet story for anyone into cakes, fashion or both. This whimsical tale is deliciously illustrated with mouth-watering watercolors by a San Francisco artist, Nathalie Fabri.  A reading treat that will satisfy your little reader’s sugary cravings the way a real cupcake would, minus the sugar.

Available on Amazon. Check it out and let me know how you liked it!


(Un)Happy Meals?

No, no, I haven’t given up on this blog. I’ve just given in to the power of my allergies, colds, busy agenda and a few minor projects that inhaled all my writing time and energy in the recent weeks. May was surprisingly a very busy month for me.

But now I’m back with a few thoughts on the topic that has been making me boil over for a while. I was procrastinating with writing about it but  Michelle Obama’s recent setback in Congress reminded me that the issue can’t wait. I’m talking of course about the public school lunch menu.

I fully agree with the First Lady. We can’t play politics with our children’s health. Child’s obesity and bad eating habits are not just theories. These are scary facts. There is no place for lobbying, marketing campaigns and cost cutting in the school cafeteria. It’s about nutritious lunches for growing children and developing brains.

But unfortunately, not only. Surprise, surprise, children have taste buds! Next to being nutritious, the food must taste good as well!

When I first saw how the hot lunch works at my son’s school, I couldn’t believe  my eyes.  To begin with, there is no canteen on the school premises. The food comes pre-packed. Children pick up their lunch-boxes in a big meeting room and eat their meals anywhere on the campus.  Just to give you an idea, the lunch looks like an airplane meal. Economy class that is. It comes on a paper tray/plate and consists of a handful of deflated,  lettuce/veggie mix, packaged dressing, a little box of milk and the main meal, which is a foil-sealed, hot mystery: pasta, pizza, and even corn dogs, to name just a few. How healthy is that? What did they serve before the new guidelines?

Honestly. Really? Could the school lunch look less appealing?  How can a child take to eating healthy fare if the healthy part of the meal is so tasteless? Do you really think a seven-year old is going to eat raw broccoli and enjoy it? I’m not saying  let’s go back to the old junk version of lunch. What I’m saying is that the whole attempt to make the school canteen food healthier has turned out a little undercooked.  Is changing whole milk into low-fat better for children’s brains? Ask any dietician. Is replacing sugary soda with artificially sweetened one helping children focus better? Ask any ADHD counselor and offer your child water. Does pizza sauce qualify as a serving of veggies? Ask anyone from out of the country. How about a refreshing tomato & cucumber salad with greek yoghurt? Roasted carrots with a bit of butter anyone? Yes, butter. Not butter flavor. Baked sweet potato wedges? Italian wedding soup with spinach and meatballs? Any soup perhaps???????  Tasty and nutritious options are endless and it only requires a bit of common sense, creativity and real food to come up a nutritious menu that tastes good.

To conclude, I think the First Lady should stick to her guns. She is definitely on the right side of the debate. But I wouldn’t waste my time arguing with lobbyists and ignorants. I would hire a few good chefs to create healthy and delicious menu that no child will be able to resist. It’s certainly not a mission impossible.