From the category archives:


Spain with kids

by Lee Rose Emery

With Spring break around the corner, if you can swing it, why not consider a European family vacation! Here’s a link to a piece I wrote about our recent trip to Spain for family travel site,, which I hope will inspire you. We have found that our family’s European holidays have created so many incredible memories. I hope you have the chance to create some European adventures of your own.

“Barcelona and Madrid are two very different cities, but both offer wonderful cultural opportunities for families to explore while in Spain. I’m so glad we had a chance to visit both destinations with our kids recently. Here are some highlights of our fun-filled Spanish cultural extravaganza.


Madrid with Kids Itinerary Highlights

Hotel Ritz

We kicked off our trip at Hotel Ritz by Belmond. Staying at this landmark hotel with my 20th-century kids made us all reflect upon a bit of European history. The hotel was commissioned by King Alfonso XIII in 1910 and is one of the grand luxury hotels of Europe. The lavish interiors and the scale of its grand salon, where we sipped tea upon our arrival, gave us a glimpse of a bygone era. Breakfast in the elegant dining room in the mornings was a treat as well, and of course the world-class “ritzy” service for which the Ritz is famous certainly allowed us to experience the royal treatment firsthand. We stayed in two beautiful adjoining rooms, ideal for a family of four.

The Prado Museum

The Prado Museum is next door to the Ritz Madrid, and its vast painting and sculpture collections — among the most extensive in the world — are impressive. Although the kids did not have a huge amount of patience for classical painting (or “old-fashioned art,” as they call it), a wide range of kids’ art books and toys in the museum gift shop piqued their interest.

Picasso’s anti-war icon, “Guernica,” which hangs at the nearby Museo Reina Sofia, did wow them, however. I think they will always remember the powerful and expressive black and white images.

Palacio Real de Madrid

Palacio Real de Madrid

Palacio Real de Madrid, the city’s royal palace, is mind-boggling in size and extravagance. Standing in the Spanish royal halls and touring the enormous private chambers brought the power of the monarchy to life. The elaborate interiors, decorated with floor-to-ceiling fabrics, mammoth crystal chandeliers and intricate antique furnishings, are incredibly grand and a must-see.

Retiro Park

Retiro Park, also a short walk from the Ritz, provides endless opportunities for family fun. The park is abuzz with rowboats, places to run and play, and bustling cafés to enjoy lunch or a hot chocolate. We brought a soccer ball and spent a day weaving in and out of the well-manicured maze-like paths.


Barcelona with Kids Itinerary Highlights

Barcelona a little over an hour from Madrid by plane, was the next stop on our Spanish holiday. The city feels quite urban but is perched on the Mediterranean Sea. The fact that we could go to the beach in February was a real treat. It wasn’t balmy, but it was warm enough to kick a soccer ball around and feel a light sea breeze. Barcelona is also a great city for walking, with many vast pedestrian areas. We loved strolling up the famous Las Ramblas boulevard, people-watching and snacking on churros dipped in chocolate along the way.

Splendom Suites

Staying at Splendom Suites, an aparthotel in the Eixample district, really made us feel like locals. The neighborhood was residential and quiet, yet near enough to many impressive sights, including Gaudi’s eccentric masterpieces a short walk away. We had a two-room apartment, which was well designed and tastefully decorated. It had a complete kitchen (with a Nespresso machine for Mom) and even a washing machine. When traveling with kids like mine, whose churros dipped in chocolate wind up dripping on shirts, that can be a lifesaver.

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La Sagrada Família

La Sagrada Família, Gaudi’s magnificent cathedral, is a sight to behold. Construction on the building started in 1882 and is not yet finished. It has a contemporary design, which especially appeals to kids. Standing inside the white stone structure, flooded with colorful reflections from vibrant stained glass windows, really is otherworldly. The artistry made a powerful impression on all of us.

Park Guell

Another Gaudi masterpiece is Park Guell. There are many lovely paths for walking, benches for picnicking and even some little cafes where you can dine with a panoramic view of the city.

Picasso Museum

Wandering through Old Town’s narrow streets, window shopping and ducking in and out of tapas spots, was also great fun for the family. The Picasso Museum is tucked in the Born (Old Town). It’s small, so you can see the whole museum in less than an hour, making it an easy family-friendly cultural stop. My kids loved seeing his early sketches.

Palau de la Música Catalana

One of our favorite sights was the music center, Palau de la Música Catalana, which has to be the most fanciful modernist building in Europe. Its elaborate mosaic pillars and a stunning stained-glass dome window inside make it a spectacular place to visit, or better yet, see a concert.

barcelona football with kids

FC Barcelona Football (Soccer) Match

Deluxe accommodations, museums and palaces aside, if you asked my kids which cultural experience in Spain was their favorite, they’d vote hands down for the FC Barcelona football (soccer) match at Camp Nou, Barcelona’s impressive outdoor stadium. Team star Leo Messi made a hat trick, and though we were in a crowd of nearly 100,000 people, of course the kids like to believe it was just for them, in honor of our family’s visit to Spain.

TIP: Purchasing tickets to La Sagrada Familia, the Picasso Museum and FC Barcelona matches/Camp Nou will help to ensure access and save time standing in line.

Want Help Planning a Family Vacation to Spain?

Need more comprehensive guidance? CB! Vacation Consultants specialize in helping families book travel to top destinations around the world. Our expert consultants do everything from recommending and booking accommodations (including a qualified options not featured on Ciao Bambino) to developing comprehensive multi-stop itineraries, including activities and vetted guides. For more information and to request assistance, go to the CB! Vacation Consultants page.

Relevant Links:

Best family hotels and things to do in Spain with kids

Best family hotels and things to do in Madrid with kids 

Best family hotels and things to do in Barcelona with kids

Tips from a local: Best things to do in Madrid with kids 

Introduction to Barcelona with kids

A guide to Barcelona’s beaches

Editor’s Note: The Ritz Madrid and Splendom Suites provided Ciao Bambino with a media package to facilitate our review. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Lee Rose Emery. 


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skinny-coconut-oil-pulling-8-5_grande If you frequent health food stores you may have seen a lot of coconut products lately: cooking oils, body butter, lip balm and more. It seems like there are a million and one uses for coconut oil. It’s touted as kind of the miracle nut/fruit/palm. But not all the products you see on the market are created equal. I was so happy when the folks at Skinny & Co. approached me about testing their new line of coconut oil based products.

Skinny Coconut Oil is a small batch, extra virgin, cold pressed coconut oil, made with nothing but 100% pure, raw, pesticide free, wild coconuts from the pristine jungles of Vietnam.” The company is a small family business dedicated to sustainability.

My favorite coconut oil from Skinny’s line has peppermint oil in it. It can be used for oil pulling (slosh it around in your mouth and then spit it out – sounds odd, yes, but it works great.) Doing so promotes gum and teeth health. Coconut oil is also soothing to dry skin. Skinny & Co’s body butter too, is super moisturizing and has a mild scent, which I like. I rub it on my sons feet, which get very dry, and I have seen that it really makes a difference.

Coconut oil can moisturize hair, face and skin. You can also use it for cooking or add it to a smoothie. I love that all the Skinny & Co. products are completely edible. Putting products on our skin that are filled with chemicals is a terrible idea, especially when the skin is our body’s biggest organ. Skinny & Co’s products have absolutely no additives, and are a raw, which means the oil has not been heated to high temperatures. It’s the only raw coconut oil on the market, making it the purest as the nutrients have not been compromised  by overheating.


Skinny & Co. also sells a sugar scrub with a hint of vanilla in it that smells so delicious that it’s hard to decide weather to use it in the shower or take a bite of it. (Which of course is also okay.) It has a lovely texture and washes off easily. After using the scrub, my skin feels soft and supple.

I feel really strongly about giving my family the best and healthiest products I can find. I am happy to know about Skinny & Co, as I know that from now on, it will be our first choice in coconut oil products.

To learn more about where to buy Skinny & Co. coconut products near you click HERE, or you can order products directly on line from their website.


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Screenagers Documentary Review

by Lee Rose Emery

AR-160129887I just had the opportunity to screen the very topical documentary made by Delaney Ruston, called Screenagers. This provocative film explores the impact that screen time and media addiction has on kids today. This is one of the most relevant parenting issues of the day, and managing kids’ media habits is a huge challenge facing modern parents and teens. Delaney, a doctor, and concerned Mom, like all of us,  is attempting to find the balance between allowing her teens access to the devices they desire, while, at the same time trying to set reasonable limits to encourage them to use the devices responsibly. I can’t think of one parent I know that doesn’t struggle with the challenge of monitoring kids and their screen time.

In the film, Delaney interviews neuroscientists who study the teenage brain who, like her, are concerned about the impact of prolonged screen exposure and its effects on kids’ ability to concentrate. What’s scary is that these devices are still relatively new, and we really don’t fully know the long-term effects of screen exposure. Still, well over half of America’s teens have smart phones. Another frightening statistic is that kids spend, on average, 6.5 hours a day on screens, not including classroom or homework screen time! Kids themselves, in the movie, talk about how they have trouble focusing at times. One boy in the film even had to be checked into a treatment facility to recover from a video game addiction that resulted in his failing out of college. The experts in the film reiterate that addiction is addiction – regardless of the substance. In other words, the brain acts the same way whether it is craving drugs or screen time.

I watched the film with my son, and it sparked such an interesting discussion at our family dinner. One of Delaney’s personal solutions was to instigate “Tech Tuesday” where the weekly family dinner topic in her home, is about how technology is affecting their family’s lives. I recommend seeing this film, either with your family, or your school. Details on community screenings can be found on the Screenagers website. Setting boundaries and limits around technology for adults as well as children is an issue that is unique to this moment in time. The consequences for parents not being “tech savvy” in this regard could have severely detrimental consequences on the health and future of our children. Why not have a family screen night and watch this documentary together? It may be one of the most important and thought provoking family movie nights you have all year.

From the website. “Every week, screenings at schools, churches, synagogues, youth groups, Girl Scouts, community centers, companies and all kinds of organizations around the world mean that more and more people are seeing this film and talking about the important topics it raises. If you don’t see a screening you can attend, learn how to host one in your community.”


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Holiday Cheer

December 22, 2015 Uncategorized

One of my favorite things about the holidays is decorating gingerbread houses with the kids. I’d like to tell you that I make mine from scratch. But I don’t. I buy a kit. I’d like to tell you that ours looks like this one on the left, but it doesn’t. We bought our kit at […]

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Deck the Halls at Disney Hall, Los Angeles

December 4, 2014 Play

One of my all time favorite things to do with the kids is to go to a concert at Disney Hall. My Dad is an opera buff and I remember as a little girl he would take me to Lincoln Center in New York and then later, when we moved to DC to hear music […]

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LEAF College Savings Gift Cards – A great holiday gift idea!

November 6, 2014 Uncategorized

*this is a sponsored post, but as always, the views and opinions on are my own. Thinking about how much it will cost to send my two kids to college is enough to make my head spin in spite of the fact that they are still years away from enrolling. Still it’s never too early […]

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Schoola – a new way to raise money for your school and save on kids’ clothes

March 18, 2014 Uncategorized

Here’s a multifaceted way to help parents save money, clean their closets and raise  money for their schools. We all know how expensive shopping for growing kids can be , buying  gently used clothes is a great way to save. Not only does Schoola sell gently used clothes, but the way they collect their inventory […]

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Cabrillo Whale Watch

January 30, 2014 Uncategorized

It’s easy to get stuck in the carpool lane and forget that there is a big ocean right nearby. The next few months are a great time to see some Pacific grey whales migrating off the California Coast. We had great luck one morning when the kids were smaller actually seeing a whale leap through […]

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Pelada – great family movie

September 3, 2013 OPINION

Every now and then I come across a great family movie that I have to share with my readers. The family recently watched the documentary called, Pelada and I highly recommend it. It is the story of a young couple who were college soccer stars, but did not make it to the professional circuit. It […]

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Tip of the day: 5 things you should know before you start a blog

May 23, 2013 Uncategorized

Many people have asked me advice about blogging. There’s more to it than meets the eye, and I have a few tips that I put together for Mom’s Going to Find Out, Laura Wallis’s Mom blog. Laura is a web guru, and also has a very informative website called Web Navigator Gal, which provides a newsletter […]

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