Ecuador, Quito: By Jen Oliak

We started the Ecuadorian part of our trip in Quito. We stayed at the Marriott on Amazonas Avenue between the Financial Center and the Colonial City. We did a day tour in the Colonial City. On Sundays, the streets are closed to cars. People are in the streets dancing, singing, and visiting each other. The energy was palpable!

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The stories these men must have!

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This old man loved the woman dancing next to him.

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So many different styles of music

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We also visited the Equatorial Monument, 16 miles north of Quito, which is in the exact middle of the world at Latitude 0. It’s where we stood with one foot on each hemisphere (North and South)! We visited the Ethnographic Museum, which is inside the monument, where they show the history of the different Native American groups living in Ecuador.

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Heads of Kings were preserved and shrunk and displayed as a sign of respect.

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Guinea Pigs are a delicacy!

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Right Foot, Northern Hemisphere. Left Foot, Southern Hemisphere.

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On the Equator, an egg can be balanced on a nail due to the pull from both hemispheres.

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Water doing down the drain usually swirls right or left. At the Equator, it does not swirl at all.

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Jake attempting to balance the egg on the nail…

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Justin got it!

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On the Equator, it is nearly impossible to walk in a straight line.

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Justin had fun trying, despite losing his balance over and over.

We visited Quito because it was a gateway city to the Galapagos Islands. It was worth a 2 night stay in the city to explore the Colonial City and the Equatorial Monument. The city is full of history and an energetic spirit.

Read all about our trip to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu!

Palos Verdes Tide Pools: By Jen Oliak

Visiting California and looking for a ocean hiking destination? Come visit the Paleos Verdes Tide Pools! Check out all the wonderful things to see in sunny CA! #ozofsalt #palosverdestidepools #visitcalifornia

It’s Dave’s birthday today! We spent a tranquil day at the Palos Verdes tide pools (not Abalone Cove) that only fishermen seem to know about! If you are an adventurous family, definitely check this place out. There is so much to explore, and the views are breathtaking.

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This is the walkway to the trail down to the tide pools. The entrance is straight ahead past the bars. There is a dirt trail that leads to the bottom.


Enter at your own risk! Kids should be at least 7, as the trail down is very steep and slippery. You will need shoes with good traction. Can you imagine the view from here?

IMG_1755Looking fresh on the way down with picnic in hand. You should have seen me on the way up! Huffing and puffing, it wasn’t pretty.

IMG_1722We went at low tide to see all the sea creatures. No starfish today, but still plenty other animals to see. It feels like we are a thousand miles away from home.

IMG_1727Stella and Rosco came along. A bit hot for them today.

IMG_1738All ready for lunch.

IMG_1728Looking for treasures.

IMG_1733 Sea anemone. Justin and Jake would put their fingers in and they would close up around them. Fun watching the boys giggle as they did this.

IMG_1741 Baby crab. In the summer there are thousands but I guess in spring they are all tiny — this was the general size.

IMG_1731Baby crab leg nibbling at Justin’s finger.

IMG_1743Hermit crabs.

IMG_1749The walk back up is always dreaded but the kids seem to fly up.

IMG_1753See Justin at the top in the white Tshirt? Very steep!

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Click here for the trail head location since it isn’t marked. Walk to Seascape Trail and you should see the trail just beyond the railing. There is street parking in a residential area just near the trail. Hope you can find it! It truly feels like you are on an island far away.

Visit this oceanside treasure. Beautiful spot in California country. #ozofsalt #visitCA #familytravel

Best Ideas for a Family Vacation in New York City

Traveling to NY was such an adventure! Filled with food, fun, shopping, and popular desitinations. Check out what we did on our vacation to NY. #ozofsalt #bucketlist #newyork

We spent a cold April week in Manhattan. Despite the unseasonal weather, we had a perfect family trip in New York City.

Some tips if you are going with your family: Have a plan for each day. Think of one main attraction you want to visit, then plan where you will eat and visit around it. Most places need reservations unless it is super casual.

  • Decide if you will cab it or subway around during your trip. Subway rides cost us $11 each time we got off, as one ride is $2.75. A cab ride, unless we went a long distance, costs us about $15. You can get a subway pass for a flat fee, which is the way to go if you will be consistent with taking subways.
  • Wear neutrals like the locals. If you want to stand out, then go ahead and wear your pastels and bright colors. But New Yorkers generally wear black, black, and a little grey and brown.
  • Stay central to the areas you plan to visit. We love Central Park and the area around it in Midtown. It was also close to central subway stations.
  • Go when your kids are at an age they can appreciate the city. I saw some families with toddlers touring the town, and it did not look pleasant. It’s so much better with kids when they are at least 10.

Day 1: Arrival

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Central Park! This was the view from our room. We stayed in Columbus Circle at the Trump International Tower. The junior suite was perfect for our family. They have a nice indoor pool and a huge gym. Half of the building is for hotel guests, while the other half is for residents. It’s very close to main subway tops, is next door to the Time Warner Center, and is across the street from Central Park. It was perfect for us.

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Our first stop after checking into the hotel was The Plaza Hotel Food Hall. It received a thumbs up from all of the boys! However, I’m not sure about my $19 Pho noodle… This place is interesting to walk around, but the prices are pretty exorbitant. We bought frozen yogurt for $9.50 each. I give it a rating of “ok.”

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“Old FAO Schwarz,” is all I thought when I came to our second stop — the mid-town 5th avenue Apple Store. My kids loved it, but I didn’t get what all the hoopla was about. Interesting fact about this store is that they are open 24 hours, 365 days a year.

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Finally, our last stop for the day was Dylan’s Candy Bar. Overrated! But we had to come since it’s so famous for the kids – They loved it, of course.  for kids for parents – the prices are crazy

Day 2: The First Full Day

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First subway ride for the boys! Riding to Wall Street to visit the 9/11 Memorial. I felt cool for remembering all the transfers from when I lived here 14 years ago. The subway gives the feeling of being a local.

Prodigy piano player was playing in the subway station. The music was beautiful! I loved seeing the different artists trying to make it.


9/11 Memorial. I had mixed feelings about this fountain. Though it was a beautiful tribute to the victims, I wish the fountain exuded more feelings of hope. Instead, it was a swirl of water sinking into a dark abyss. Still, we had to see it in person and pay our respects.


It was hard for the kids to understand that they were standing where two huge buildings had crashed down because of terrorist attacks.


One World Observatory: It was a great place to show the boys what NYC looks like. It’s the highest point in the Western Hemisphere! I love their motto “See Forever.”

This guy was the speaker at the top of the freedom tower. I was so impressed by his enthusiasm and love for the city.


We rented this iPad that moved with us from viewpoint to viewpoint. When we would zoom in on a New York highlight, a recording would come on and explain the history behind the landmark. Very cool and very educational!

After all of this learning and exploring and seeing, we needed to get food into our bodies!

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Pellegrino restaurant in Little Italy. The food was as delicious as it looks! Prices were very reasonable too. If you love Italian food, definitely make a trip to Little Italy!


Our servers from the restaurant recommended La Bella Ferrara bakery. The “lobster tails” were to die for! It was a flaky croissant pastry filled with Bavarian creme. Yuuuuum! You know what they say — the locals know best!

We left Little Italy, and headed for Chinatown!


Look at all of these people playing Mah Jong! Dave dared me to ask if I could join in. ?


There used to be places that sold “designer” handbags, cough cough, but I guess there was a serious crackdown! Now it’s all little souvenirs and trinkets.

Day 3


Breakfast Croissants at Maison Kayser. Almost as good as Paris… Almost.


Math Museum! The human tree. The branches are little extensions of themselves. The shapes changed as the kids moved their arms.

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The bikes gave smooth rides, despite the bumpy curves in the floor and the square wheels. Why? Well, the square is four sides, and the circles are 1/4 of a circle in the same lengths. These two exhibits were our favorite. Not sure we would have gone to the museum for just these two highlights. I will have to give it a as we wouldn’t have visited had we known what we know after our visit. It is pricey at $15/adult and $9/child.

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Lunchtime at Fork and Spoon, a casual eatery on 36th and 5th. What a great selection of lunch food! We had Caesar salad, Pho noodle, Philly cheese steak and Udon, all at the same table. There are many eateries like this one in the area.



The New York Public Library was magnificent inside. We did not stay to look at books.


Dinner at Landmarc. It’s all about the cotton candy dessert. Dinner was good too!


Grom Gelato. Yes… the boys just had cotton candy. We were on vacation!

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View from inside Time Warner Building. Beautiful to look outside from this point.

Day 4


Momofuku Noodle Bar. This restaurant was recommended by a friend who loved it. It was all the hype a few years back when it first opened. However, we did not understand this place… The only way we could get a reservation was to reserve the chicken special. I assumed this special would include noodles and other items. I was mistaken. The meal was two cut up chickens, one spicy, one not. It came with mu shu pancakes, three sauces, and a bowl of vegetables. We were encouraged to make little chicken tacos with the ingredients, but we were confused. My older son would not eat it, so we ordered a bowl of plain ramen as well. It was so salty and had such an intense pork flavor. Justin and the rest of us could not eat it. The chicken meal alone was $150. We were very unsatisfied. I wish I had researched this restaurant’s menu before making a reservation.


Momofuku Milk Bar, a few blocks up from the noodle bar. All of the flavors were unique. On the left is their classic cereal milk flavor, which did taste just like milk from a cereal bowl. On the right is a chocolate malt shake. I read afterward on yelp; we should have gotten a crack pie. We didn’t get this place either.


Chelsea Skate Park: Jake brought his skateboard from CA because he wanted to skate in the City. He was working on his kickflip. It’s fun to watch how passionate he is about something. If your kid is really into skateboarding, this skate park is a . Otherwise, I’d spend your time on other NY highlights.

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He’s all the way at the far middle, giving me the stink eye for taking pictures while he is skating, as it “distracts him.”

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We walked through The High Line: an old elevated railway that was re-purposed to become a 1.5-mile linear park above the city in the Lower West Side. A beautiful walk.

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Shubert Theater, on the set of Matilda. We all loved the show! Little Matilda Aviva Winick was a great actress.


Times Square! The kids got a kick of the picture posers dressed as Batman and Chewbacca. Last time I was here, there were nude women who were being painted on by artists. My kids would have freaked out if they saw that LOL.

Day 5



Lady Liberty! How magical to see you in person. She is larger than life!

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Hello World! The base of Statue of Liberty.

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Ellis Island. The museum was very well done, and so educational. Justin is at the perfect age to appreciate this history. Jake enjoyed it too, but 6th grade age seems just right.


They wanted us to get the full effect of immigrant transport today. About 800 of us stood like cattle in the cold for 1.5 hours, waiting for the ferry back to Manhattan! We suffered! How was it April? Try and avoid the rush. Go early and leave early!

After herding around and finally getting back to Manhattan, we went to Sake Bar Hagi. We were hoping today’s lunch would be better than yesterday’s.


The soft shell crab did not disappoint!


Dave and I got the most delicious Ramen. Mine was spicy with seafood and kimchi. Yuuuuum. We were the only known non-Japanese people in this joint. A good sign of the food!

Time for dessert…


More candy… M&M world!

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And right across the street… The Hershey Store.

Day 6


I felt so cool running the Central Park loop in my New York Marathon shirt! Until I realized it was almost two years ago lol. Running in Central Park is invigorating! Run the 6.1-mile loop around the whole park, and you will feel great!

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Patsy’s Pizzeria, upper west side for some NY pizza. The crust was just perfect!


American Museum of Natural History. We spent most of our time in the Dinosaur exhibit. The takeaway message was that dinosaurs evolved into the 17,000 species of birds we have in the world today. We wished we had planned better for our time here. We would have visited the Space show and the Big Bang Theory. to visit the museum, for our visit because we did not plan our time or the exhibits we wanted to see.

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Lunch time! We lucked out with a very short line into Stardust Diner, where Broadway wanna be’s are wait staff, who sing throughout the meal.  Worth a visit if there’s a short line.

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Touristy, cute, talented. Food was a 5. I’m glad we went, but once was enough. The kids were not as amused as Dave and I. Next stop! More dessert…

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Serendipity, on the upper west side. The trick is to go to these crowded places between 4 and 5 to avoid the lines. We were seated right away and wow! The frozen hot chocolates and strawberry supreme were divine.

IMG_1518 (Edited)Huge Italian mall/grocery/eatery on 23rd and 5th. An experience for the senses!

IMG_1530Homemade Short rib tagliatelle, lasagna with beef ragu, pasta with marinara sauce, and pizza (Jake and pizza didn’t make it in pic). Soooooo delicious!

IMG_1575 (Edited)Jake skateboarding by the Flatiron Building, constructed in 1902! One of the tallest skyscrapers of that time at 20 stories. An icon of NYC.

IMG_1572 (Edited)Barneys: I wanted to buy something special as an NY token to take home, but ended up feeling overwhelmed by the fancy people and prices… so I left empty-handed.

IMG_1574 (Edited)I still have never taken a ride on one of these… I think I’d just end up focusing on the poor horses riding in circles and being cooped up in the city, wishing I could set them free.


Waiting for our family, Gabe, and Lauren, at Han Dynasty in East Village. Solid, authentic Chinese food.


We had to grab some dessert to bring back to the hotel, of course! Not as good as we expected. It may have been because we went just before they closed, so the items were not their freshest.  We needed to be rolled out with our luggage back to California! We had a wonderful, exciting, and very active trip in New York City. Our kids were the perfect age to be introduced to this wonderful city. They both gave the trip a big, and both would love to go to College there. I bet they would!

Is New York your next travel destination? Check out all thes NY hot spots on your next vacation to the big apple. #ozosalt #iloveny #visitnyc

Head Shots for Justin: by Jen Oliak

Everything you need to know about preparing for a photo shoot. #ozofsalt #photoshootprep #kidsphotos

Since Justin was about 8, people have been telling him he should be in pictures. He’s got that innocent face, but also possesses an exotic look. He got his dad’s good looks and facial structure with my Asian eyes and lips. I like to call him “Little Dave with an Asian flair.” A few months ago, Justin expressed his interest in trying some modeling.

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We jumped on this and hired Benjamin Benoit Photography to take headshots. We thought if Justin could build some confidence for himself, it would help him with the growing pains that come with adolescence. The tween to teen years are so tough. Trying to figure out who you are and to fit into the world, all while having your body and face change so fast. Remember your youth? I do. Mine was stormy. I wish I had role models and more positivity when I was younger. I am so glad Justin has people to look up to all around him.

One of my closest friends, Pauline Saltzmann is a fashionista extraordinaire (She is also a frequent author of the Style section of Oz of Salt). She went shopping with us to pick out some outfits for the session.

justin oliak model oz of salt

justin oliak model oz of salt

justin oliak model oz of salt

justin oliak model oz of salt

justin oliak model oz of salt

She picked a few looks: 1) Edgy 2) Sophisticated 3) Trendy 4) Preppy. Zara has a great selection of boys clothing, so we were able to find all our outfits there. For shoes, we picked up a pair of Vans and flip flops and were good to go.

justin oliak model oz of salt
Next was the haircut by a “real” salon. He rejected Super Cuts! This is in the waiting area right before the cut. He was so excited.

justin oliak model oz of salt

justin oliak model oz of salt

Jun from Kasai did a great job.

justin oliak model oz of salt

Day of shoot. Winds were 25 mph so we weren’t sure how this was going to go. But Ben said it would all work out, and he was right. Ben is not only a photographer but is also a successful model. He was able to coach Justin how to stand, where to look, how to hold his head and the way to smile. Justin was loving Ben’s tutelage.

justin oliak model oz of salt

And Fashion Director, Pauline Saltzmann was, of course, on site to manage Justin’s look.

justin oliak model oz of salt

justin oliak model oz of salt

justin oliak model oz of salt
justin oliak model oz of saltJennifer Oliak | OUNCE OF SALT

We ended up with some great shots, thanks to Ben! Brand Talent was the agency we were hoping would sign Justin. They loved his look, so we met with them in the beginning of May and it was a success. Justin is now represented by Brand! Justin is so excited. Look out world. A model is born!

Check out our first experience getting headshots and modeling images done of my son during his first photo shoot. #ozofsalt #kidsphotography #photoshoot

Fun Food for Kids – Panda Rice Balls: By Jen Oliak

Panda Rice Balls are the perfect simple meal that your kdis will love and enjoy. #ozofsalt #kidsmeals #recipes

My son, Justin is the pickiest eater I know. He doesn’t like his food to touch on his plate. He will not eat chicken or fish, pizza, hot dogs or hamburgers.  He does not like soup or any food with chunks with the exception of ground beef.

The only vegetables he likes are iceberg lettuce and grilled artichokes. Yes, grilled artichokes! His favorite food: pasta with butter and salt.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when Justin wanted to make these Panda Seaweed Rice Balls for dinner.

panda rice balls oz of salt

We bought the mold on Amazon .  It takes a few weeks to ship, so don’t expect 2 day shipping on this one!  But when we received it, it was well worth the wait.

A rice cooker is a great appliance to have if your family likes to eat rice. Nori can be purchased at Whole Foods or an Asian market.

Justin made the rice in the rice cooker, cut the nori into the the shapes from the mold for ears, arms, feet and tail, and was very precise in measuring the rice for the mold in order to make the perfect panda bodies.

We made some fried egg for protein to add to the panda rice balls. He ate so many I lost count!

He was so excited to make them that he made about 15 more for neighbors and friends!

panda rice balls oz of salt

One of his friends he delivered to, sent this picture.

If your kids like rice and seaweed, make some panda rice balls!  There are other shapes too on Amazon.

Have fun!



Easy and creative panda rice balls that are perfect as a quick meal for kids. #ozofsalt #dinnermeals #riceballs