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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

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I loved the zoo train as a kid, too.
I loved the zoo train as a kid, too.

A trip to the zoo is all about the choo-choo

On a recent trip to the Milwaukee County Zoo, I was blown away by the improvements. I hadn’t been there in a long time, and the cat house and the aquariums -- the zoo grounds in general -- were much nicer than I remembered. I told my friend, "I actually don’t feel that bad for the animals."

Although my sons had a great time running around and checking out the animals, every time they heard the train whistle, they asked if it was time to ride the rails. ("Can we ride it now, mom? Can we? Can we?")

Finally, I abandoned my practical course and cut back to the front of the grounds to hop the train. The boys loved every moment of it, from choosing which train car to sit in (they tried out three or four cars before picking the one closest to the engineer) to waving to every person they saw during the ride.

That night, when my husband asked them about their favorite animal at the zoo, Kai said, "We rode the train!" It’s true: for many little people, a trip to the zoo is all about the train ride, with the carousel coming in a close second.

Cempazuchi: Yay or nay for los niños?
Cempazuchi: Yay or nay for los niños?

Are these restaurants kid friendly?

October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!

Sometimes it’s obvious which restaurants are appropriate for kids and which ones are not. Obviously, youngsters are welcome at most chain restaurants like TGIFriday’s or The Chancery, but potentially less welcome at a place that’s fancier.

Some Milwaukee restaurants, however, are questionable as to whether or not kids are welcome. Recently, I considered bringing my kids to a few restaurants that are more "grown up" eateries, but wondered if we would get looks of disgust.

I recognize it depends on the age of the kids, the way they behave and how busy the restaurant is, but in general, do you find any or all of these restaurants to be appropriate for children?

1.    Emperor of China, 1010 E. Brady St.
2.    Roots, 1818 N. Hubbard St.
3.    Comet Cafe, 1947 N. Farwell Ave.
4.    Cempazuchi, 1205 E. Brady St.
5.    Marchese’s Olive Pit, 1100 S. 1st St.
 

For best results, avocados used for guacamole must be perfectly ripe. (Soft but not mushy.)
For best results, avocados used for guacamole must be perfectly ripe. (Soft but not mushy.)

Daily dish: Chunky guacamole El Condor

October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, special features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food. Bon appetit!  

Do you remember El Condor, the Mexican restaurant on Downer Avenue that during the ‘80s was below the space currently occupied by Café Hollander? (It was a laundry mat back then.)

El Condor -- one of Milwaukee’s few "walk down restaurants" like the now-defunct Ardor -- was known for their great guacamole, and here's the recipe. (It might be a slight variation since this recipe probably traveled from friend to friend.)

Although the recipe calls for five avocados, feel free to cut it in half. However, if you’re serving this at a party, you’ll want to spring for all of the ingredients since your guests will devour every last green smidge. Guaranteed.

Chunky Guacamole El Condor

Ingredients:
• 5 ripe avocados, cubed
• 1 1/2 tsp. salt
• 2 tsp. pepper
• 2 limes, juiced
• 1 tbl. vinegar
• 3 tsp. chopped cilantro
• 1 tbl. oil
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 1 or 2 jalapenos
• 2 small tomatoes, chopped

Directions:
Mix, taste, adjust accordingly if needed and serve with lots of tortilla chips. Occasionally, I add garlic to this recipe.

They really are kinda cute.
They really are kinda cute.

Praying for a hamster?!

Parenthood makes us say and do things we never thought we would, and last night was no exception.

Without going into too much detail, my son’s new hamster, Lavender, was clearly dehydrating. My son absolutely adores this twitchy-nosed fuzzball, so despite terrible after-work traffic, I rushed the rodent back to the pet store.

"Come on, Lavender," I said in my head. "Scamper away from the light, little buddy."

So I’m talking to a hamster now? Hell, yes. I would pray to the Patron Saint of Rodents, if I knew of one. After all, my kid is weeping.

The ironic part is that I’ve never been much of a critter person myself. I might have had a gerbil or two as a kid, but I’m not one to fill my space with furry things. I prefer plants and people.

But this, like most aspects of parenting, has little to do with me.

It turns out, the hamster has "wet tail diarrhea," a condition I’m told is serious but potentially treatable. Unfortunately, Lavender has to undergo two weeks of antibiotics, and there’s no guarantee she’ll pull through.

It just might be little Lav's time to visit the sprawling Habitrail in the sky. But I really hope not.

While I’m quietly and proactively researching ways to talk about death with little kids, my son is X-ing off the days on our family calendar until Lavender comes home. The sight of this is quite possibly the most heartbreaking part of it all.