Archive for August, 2009

August 23rd, 2009

Aftermath of the night of the arts

The annual night of the arts was held in Helsinki on Friday evening and night. We visited several places around the downtown with the whole family, and thus were forced to focus on earlier shows. We had good time, had a hearty Italian meal in La Famiglia, and then strolled around the city from happening to happening.

Some of them were purely commercial, like being able to purchase pocket books with 20% discount in Academic Bookstore — and to listen to Jörn Donner to speak about his relationship with Ingmar Bergman while browsing the titles. Others were, honestly speaking, crap disguised in art, and then there were several touching, funny, and whimsical shows in really unexpected places.

Our focus was on children friendly ones, and we didn’t go to see any show that required being able to sit still for a certain period of time. Aapo and Niilo participated in a Picasso workshop before I joined the group — having had some quality time with my client. Then we visited a performance that felt just odd and cheap, and finally ended up to an art gallery that we’ve never visited before on Uudenmaankatu.

There, we spotted an extremely good looking painting and ended up purchasing it. I paid a visit to the gallery today to pick it up for checking whether it would fit inside our house, and after finding out that it fit, Sanna returned it while popping over to an aerobics (are these things called still aerobics?) session — it was a bit bent (the painting, that is), so they need to straighten the frame.

Pretty expensive gig; four meals, six books, and one painting. Not bad in about three hours with children.

Colourful stuff for kids

Giggle is a good-sized children store in the heart of SoHo district, rubbing elbows with haute couture brands, galleries and trendy cafés. And it fits there well, the stuff they sell are of excellent quality, well designed, and inspiratory. The items are also very colourful, and still looking good.

Giggle store in New York, NY

There is stuff to cater most parts of children’s life, from eating and sleeping to bathing and travelling. They have also toys. Unlike almost all toys sell in big toy stores, these do not make sounds — which is pretty blissful for the parents. As in most shops in SoHo, the service is excellent. They tolerate also running and screaming children very well.

www.giggle.com, 120 Wooster Street, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 334 5817

Pizza and pasta for the family

When travelling with children, you start to appreciate hassle-free and easy-going restaurants. California Pizza Kitchen is one of my favourites in this sense in the US. They have excellent food that is tasty for adults and children alike, the service is usually fast, and they bring a set of crayons and an activity booklet to kill the time while waiting for the food.

Their pizzas are surprisingly good, and the list is very versatile. I haven’t tasted their pastas, but couple relatives have tried them and found them tasty. Children menu is shorter, and filled with the usual choices — the playfulness CPK has with the main menu has somehow got lost. Which is sad, as at least our boys are keen — sometimes — to try out new dishes and tastes.

www.cpk.com, 201 East 60th Street, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 755 7773

August 16th, 2009

Weekend of code

I’ve had a rare luxury of being able to code during the weekend. Lately, we’ve been busy at work, and I’m helping in the crunch mode. I’ve got also a couple of gigs that have been hovering around for a while, and I’ve finally pushed them to the finale.

Besides these, I’ve also worked on some hobby projects of mine. Maybe all this is possible due to boys growing up and being able to play together for more than five minutes, or Sanna spending time selling used children clothing in the local Internet marketplace. Anyhow, I don’t complain — besides I would not have time for that, need to continue coding.

Family fare

The Old Spaghetti Factory looks like an stereotypical chain restaurant outlet from the outside, but don’t let the looks guide you wrong. The food is actually pretty good there.

The Old Spaghetti Factory in downtown San Diego

The restaurant is one of the best places to eat in downtown San Diego when travelling with children. The food is easy to eat, and our kids loved the selection. Service is fast, and courteous, and they bring bread to the table pretty much immediately. This helps to control the usual restlessness of small travellers while waiting for the main fare.

The prices are decent, too, and the portions are big enough to satisfy a bigger hunger.

The restaurant was renovated into an old brick building in the Gaslamp Quarter, and the ambience was excellent, somehow fitting to a new world Italian restaurant. Would not work in Italy, though.

www.osf.com, 275 5th Avenue (in the Gaslamp Quarter), San Diego, CA, USA, +1 619 233 4323

Luxury in luxurious settings

When visiting Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive is a must destinations for anyone interested in haute couture or luxury. Among the shops, Hermés of Paris is one of my favourites, as their stuff is subtle, very well made, and I’ve always got excellent service.

This time I visited the shop to buy a mother’s day present to my wife. While not being a typical customer in my baggy jeans, one child sleeping in a stroller and another, younger one, trying to escape continuously from the shop — I still got plenty of attention, and the clerks continued to diligently serve me while I was dashing to the front door and back to the counter.

The store itself is quite huge, and there is a good selection of goods available — probably there is a lot of rich (and famous) people around to upkeep a constant flow of trade.

www.hermes.com, 434 North Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, CA, USA, +1 310 278 6440

August 11th, 2009

Going to Amsterdam

My travelling seems to be on a high gear this year. KLM approached me with their mass mail, and provided such a nice price to Amsterdam that I was bound to buy the flights for me and my wife for an extended weekend in early Septemer. My mother-in-law will arrive to take care of the boys while we are gone.

After booking the flights, I was negatively surprised with the hotel prices in Amsterdam. Any decent hotel costs a fortune, and there seems to be no limits when checking prices of five star hotels. At the end, we selected a small design oriented hotel that offered two local bikes for a day, as part of a package.

I’ve been in Amsterdam last time in 2001 or so — probably the city has not changed that much, but it is always exciting to visit places that you haven’t been for a long while.

Art at downtown

The Museum of Contemporary Art is what downtown Los Angeles has to offer for people interested in arts. For such a big metropolis, it is not that much. If you tune down your expectations from MOMA or San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the museum is quite a nice experience.

MOCA courtyard in Los Angeles, CA, USA

As name implies, the collection is for contemporary art. Expect to see a lot of video art, and pieces that some people would not call pieces of art at all. There are some big names, such as Rothko, but also a lot of new finds.

The museum is pretty compact, and it is easily toured in an hour or two, unless you watch every video installation. There is also a café with both cold and hot food, and a decent museum store.

The surroundings of the museum are quite nice, and easily explored by foot — but you pretty much have to arrive by a car. There is parking space available in the nearby Walt Disney Concert Hall. Remember to validate your parking ticket when buying museum tickets, there is a good discount available.

www.moca.org, 250 South Grand Avenue (near Walt Disney Concert Hall), Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 621 1745