Thursday, May 31, 2007

Up, Up and Away


The David Chien opening was really fun. I got to talk to David briefly and we will definitely be talking more soon. My favorite part of the opening was where the kids could decorate their own superhero capes. You will not be surprised to learn that Becca chose a black cape -- she is definitely the arch nemesis-type.

Yay Belgium

True story: I was sitting at the computer last night thinking, "I know I was gonna post about something..." I just remembered that I was going to post about how awesome framboise lambic is.

In addition to being (apparently) an amnesia-inducing agent*, lambic is also one damn fine beer. The makers must be aware of this, as they sealed the bottle with foil AND a non-twistable cap AND a cork, just for good measure. Good thinking -- I don't want the kids guzzling this one like they do all the others.

And on a related note, I need a new corkscrew for my birthday.

*Shouldn't there be a better word for this?

UPDATE: Ben may have found a word -- Lethean. Hmm... Lethean... hot or not?
UPDATED UPDATE: An anonymous tipster has suggested amnestic, which is supported by the Stedman's Medical Dictionary. Thanks for playing, everyone!

Somebody Lock Up Angela


It's a full moon tonight, kiddos -- the second full moon in May, making it a Blue Moon. If you're feeling hairy, it might be best to stay in.

What Papi Chulo Is...


Reading

Watching


Listening To

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ohmigod, DAVID CHIEN, y'all!


Sometimes the universe conspires to do good things.

Summer 2002-- The Rice Gallery, employer of one (very pregnant) mamacita, engages artist David Chien for its Summer Window installation.

April 2007-- Mamacita agrees to co-chair the Fall Festival at her children's school. A "Superheroes" theme is proposed.

May 2007-- David Chien debuts a new installation piece, "Superhero Alter Egos."

It would be SO COOL if we got to work with David Chien on a project for the Fall Festival. My heart is about to explode, I'm so excited. Everybody cross your fingers for me.

Bjork Called; She Wants to Place a Bulk Order

Good old Angela pointed me to the Virtual Shoe Museum, a place to spend many hours browsing. It's very Dutch avant-garde; it will remind you of everyone's favorite Icelandic songstress.

In return, I point her (and you) to Imagined Conversations: Bjork and Matthew Barney, and Bjork and P.Diddy. These have been around for a while, but they still crack me up.

Monsters


Sara posted about it on her blog, but I have to give it props here, as well. She had a "Little Monster"-themed baby shower. That was inspired.

BTW, I read the book Shrek today for the first time. It was so good! None of the smarminess of the movies, and none of the grossness, either. I might have posted before about how much I hate the Shrek movie franchise, but I tend to fall into apoplectic rage when I think about it, and the words don't come easily. So let me just say that I hateithateithateithateit. Needless to say, we have collected every motherf*cking Shrek toy from McDonald's over the last few weeks. Spoiler alert: they all belch. Très charmant.

So the take-away:
books about monsters--yay.
Movies about books about monsters--not so much.

What E & B are...


Reading

Watching

Listening To

Playing

Doing this morning: Bowling!

I'm Totally Signing Up Next Year

Wouldn't you like to know what fabulous prizes await Miss Texas USA 2008? Golly, yes!

Well, Miss Texas USA 2007 received ... a year of complimentary dental work, a "year of haircare and pampering" from a salon in Sugar Land, $250 in cosmetics, a "one-year supply of hair care products," various promises of nutrition counseling and fitness training, and -- these are the best -- "consultation in imaging and styling," "training in stage presentation and visual poise," and "on-camera training for Miss USA."

The cash prize? A $2,500 allowance. And what about that "scholarship pageant" business? Oh, she gets two scholarships -- from two different "professional development" outfits. Nothing toward an accredited program.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Having a Bad Day? I am!

Let's just look at some shoes.Cute!Cute!
Cute!Cute!
Cute!

I recommend the whole series at Nordstrom's "Metallics" page.

What mamacita is ...



Reading

Watching

Listening To

Cat Macros Will Take Over The World

I'm in ur internets, makin up songs!

via The Bald Heretic

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Note


In honor of Memorial Day, and in honor of the Sexiest Marine Ever, I direct your attention to AnyMarine.com. It's the site that hooks up civilians who want to send care packages to Marines. Follow the instructions to find a specific Marine and fill up a box with the supplies he or she is requesting. The instructions are kind of involved, and I know the post office is closed today; just promise me you'll do it some time this week.

Now here's a question that has been nagging at me: why do the troops need us to send some of this stuff? I get that some of the requests are strictly morale boosters (magazines, handheld games, etc.). But why do the Marines need us to send them Q-tips, toothpaste, sheets, or sunscreen? Why aren't we providing those things as a matter of course? Those are things they need in order to do their jobs.

You remember those old bumper stickers that said, "It will be a fine day when our schools have all the money they need but the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber?" Is this what we really wanted?

BTW, it was 113 degrees in Basrah today. Just FYI.

Weekend Wrap-Up

We had a good time this weekend at Red Hill, which is now officially the Redneck Capital of the United States. How come nobody ever told me that rednecks have their own tribal tattoos? They look soooo delicious on a flabby bicep the color of a marshmallow. Rowr.

Now I need it to PLEASE QUIT RAINING in Houston so I can send the kids OUTSIDE tomorrow.

If You're Not Eating a Watermelon Today, I'm Not Sure There's Much Hope For You

Mark Twain was right:


It is the chief of this world's luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took; we know it because she repented. --- Pudd'nHead Wilson

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Thin Man


Today is the birthday of Dashiell Hammett, author of The Thin Man, among other books. I LOVE the Thin Man series of films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. If you aren't too wrapped up in your Memorial Day weekend, you should check them out. The rapid-fire dialogue is so good because the actors have great chemistry -- I read once that most of their scenes were done in one or two takes. The series is funny, glamorous and suspenseful; don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting to host a Nick and Nora-themed cocktail party after watching them.

Pentecost


Today is Pentecost in the Christian calendar. There is a tradition at my church to celebrate by wearing red. Other cultures have interesting rituals regarding this day. In parts of Europe, the Monday following Pentecost is a holiday.

I plan to celebrate the day as a heathen, camping in the woods. But if I were headed to church, this dress (above) would be a nice choice.

And these shorts, from Olive Juice Kids, would be so adorable on Big E.

This dress, with its red poppy trim, would make Becca look improbably innocent.

Papi Chulo, as the resident redhead, could sit this one out.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Off to Red Hill



Okay, folks, I'm off to Red Hill to go camping with my family. I have two posts ready for tomorrow, and if all goes well our old friend, John, will put them up for me. I'll be back Monday. Have a good weekend!

For Your Jackie-in-Skorpios Moment


These are some of the most beautiful sandals I've ever seen. Très chic! I'm not sure about the practicality of ordering them from Greece, but it's pretty tempting. Check out the others on the site, too.

via Bluelines


10 Things I Didn’t Know Last Week


1. Marilyn Monroe is buried in a Pucci dress.

2. Nutella was invented during World War II when pastry maker Pietro Ferrero mixed in hazelnuts to stretch his cocoa supply. via Martha Stewart Living (print only)

3. A sunflower raising its head indicates rain.

4. Anthropologists say that in every culture in history, children have played the game hide and seek.

5. You can use a green plastic strawberry basket to make kick-ass bubbles.

6. Omphaloskepsis is the technical term for navel-gazing.

7. Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight, Moon, took a creative writing class from Gertrude Stein.

8. Imelda Marcos still has 5,000 pairs of shoes.

9. Houston is the third-worst speed trap in the United States.

10. Although people from the Channel Islands are British citizens, they do not have freedom of movement or employment throughout the European Union.

Am I blowing your mind grapes?

Hat tip to the BBC, who have their own 10 Things.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Desert Island Discs

The first time I heard of the show "Desert Island Discs" was when I saw The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard at the Alley Theatre [sic]. Henry, the playwright, having been invited as a guest on the show, is afraid that his real answers -- all pop music -- will seem like "reverse snobbery," so he forces himself to listen to classical music so he can give more refined answers.

Having been cornered by Angela to answer the Desert Island question, I am also in a fix. As far as books go, the best answer I can come up with is The Bible. Now, you have to know that I am a deeply unreligious person. I picked The Bible because 1) it is long; 2) it has a lot of stories; and, most importantly, 3) I haven't read it yet.

I recognize that "The Bible" is the single most boring answer possible for that particular question. I can't think of anything else that wouldn't exacerbate my misery at being stranded on a desert island, though. Most books, music, etc. all bring back a flood of memories that I wouldn't want to live with. You will see that, in spite of my exterior, I am really a ridiculously emotional person. If you scratch my surface at all I am a hot mess.

So anyway, coming back up to the surface:

Music: Something by Marvin Gaye
Book: The Complete Poems of Elizabeth Bishop [Disqualifying “The Bible” as a lame answer]
Movie: The Godfather
Food: Nutella
Beverage: Arnold Palmer
Alcoholic Beverage: Bellini
Magazine: Vogue

Famous Female: Jill Conner Browne
Famous Male: Lord Byron

And the bonus round:

Fictional Characters: Patsy and Edina from Absolutely Fabulous

5 Dinner Guests: Diana Vreeland, Jane Austen, Nora Ephron, Molly Ivins, Judith Martin

Favorite TV: My favorite t.v. show of all time is probably Newhart. But the desert-island-homesickness thing comes into play again, so I pick … Astros games.

Okay, Pixie Wrangler -- happy now?

First Day of Summer Vacation


Yesterday was Emmet's last day of Kindergarten. This is a picture taken in the school's arboretum at his class party yesterday. Only 95 days until school starts again!

GENIUS!


A peel-and-stick chalkboard from Wallies.

Via Apartment Therapy: The Nursery and Bohemian Funk

From the minds behind Flav-Or-Ice: Sipahh Straws, which contain gel capsules of flavor (chocolate, strawberry, banana or cookies-and-cream). The straws flavor milk but use less product, and thus less sugar, than traditional flavoring methods. Available at Walgreens. I hope Clark Griswold got a raise for this one.

Blister cushions stay on better than Band-Aids, are way more comfortable and make your blister heal faster. But you know what's totally wack? New-Skin Antiseptic Liquid Bandage. Cut your foot off at the ankle with a chainsaw and it would be less painful.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Birthday Boy(s)

Happy birthday, Bob Dylan.

(Yeah, you too, Michael Chabon.
But you know you'll always be listed second, right?)

Summer Preview


Summer is almost here, and I'd be lying if I said I were happy about it. It's already pretty ding-dang warm and humid. Still, for some reason no doubt related to my overall geekiness, I always get excited about a change in seasons. I have my recipes separated by season, and I have a different candle to burn every season; new seasons call for rotating clothes and purses; new t.v. shows and maybe a new iPod playlist. I'm feeling a very Mexican summer coming on:

The Oaxacan dress
(they're anywhere from $50-150 online;
I got mine at the Fiesta supermaket for about $20)
Mrs. Meyer's Lemon Verbena Cleaning Supplies
(useful if I ever decide to clean anything)

And boy do I wish I had some zinnias growing in my yard.
I've settled for using this image as my desktop background:


(BTW: This image is from a blog called Gardening While Intoxicated)

Of course, margaritas, guacamole and shrimp campeche are a part of my life year-round. I would try limiting myself to the summer months, but we could never stand to be apart for long.

The Road to Hell

I think it's probably a good idea, from time to time, to review some of the stellar pieces of advice I have offered in this forum and assess their viability. I shall rate them on a bullshit scale, where 1 is kitty litter and 5 is the Augean Stables. To wit:

1. I did not make it to the Farmers' Market at all yesterday, in spite of my statement that it was my "mission" for the day. I went to the mall instead. BS Rating: 3

2. I wore the sandals I mentioned in the Mom Shoes post to a gravel-lined playground yesterday. I got gravel all in my shoes and was totally miserable while I was there. BS Rating: 4

3. Two of my friends have bought new bras lately, well under $39, and they both look like they've lost 10 pounds. I, however, still need to replace my expensive, stretched-out number from almost 4 years ago. Total hypocrisy! BS Rating: 5

More LOLs Pls KThx!!1!

I know you all think I've gone off my rocker, but it gets better: LOL Presidents!




*Please tell me you've heard of lolcats.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Camping


So, I'm going camping with my family this weekend. I wouldn't really call it a family reunion, since we see each other constantly, but it is a pretty fun time. Matt, E & B and I will not be roughing it in a tent -- we will be sharing a hotel room with my parents and Nonnie. We will spend all day and evening at the campsite, though. The hotel is just for sleeping (without bugs and with air conditioning, thankyouverymuch).

We never make anything more gourmet than fajitas; cold cuts figure prominently in the weekend menu. Still, Chow has a special section on campfire cooking. I'm thinking that Boozy Campfire Cheese is something I need to look into.

Dinner Drop

There is a great tradition in my neighborhood of Dinner Drops. When a family has a need, usually after the birth of a baby, one really organized neighborhood mom coordinates a bunch of other neighborhood moms in dropping off dinner to the family. Sometimes the dinner drops are every night for two weeks, or every other night for a month -- the interval varies. I didn't live here when my kids were born, but know that every family on the receiving end of a Dinner Drop is grateful for it.

Tonight is my turn to drop off at a family's house. It will be my first Dinner Drop. I'm thinking about making chicken cacciatore. I would deliver it with some cooked spaghetti and -- do I need to make a green salad or garlic bread? Letitia made cacciatore for a drop at another family's house this week. We don't really keep track of what the other moms are bringing over. I thought that the families would be getting sick of casseroles, but it turns out that there is a lot more diversity than that -- soups are also popular, and some people go all out with roasts and side dishes.

I've heard a lot of noise about how women tear each other down. I just want the world to know about a way that they help each other.

What Papi Chulo Is...


Wednesday Farmer's Market

My mission for today is to track down the lady from Words & Food at Bayou City Farmers' Market and thrust dollar bills at her until she hands over some of her lemon hummus. I'll also be on the lookout for the guy with unpasteurized goat cheese.

Do you think tomatoes are too much to hope for?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Purple Haze


Bill Cunningham's contributions to The New York Times are always fun. I especially like this one. Click on the picture to go to the NYT website.

What E & B are...


Reading

Watching

Playing

Taking Care of The Girls

I like Ellen Warren's shopping column for the Chicago Tribune, but I have to disagree with her on one point, here: $39 is absolutely not "too much" to spend on a bra. I am vehement about this. Bras are support for The Girls. Proper support means that you look and feel better. $39 is a bargain for what you are asking a bra to do. Think of it this way -- you are attempting to carry 5 pounds or so of human tissue in an elastic slingshot all day. Do you want to give this job to the lowest bidder? I will acknowledge that those who are less endowed may find happiness at a lower price point than those who are more endowed. But, even worse news, Ellen: you need many bras. You need to change them out every day. Yes, you will have to invest in your bras. [Perhaps you will have to cut back on the Hummel-wannabees.] It will be worth it.

P.S. Hi Angela! Your favorite topic!!

Monday, May 21, 2007

More Good News, Letitia

Gawker Media's new website, Jezebel, claims to be about "Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women." Is it Sassy for grownups? Only time will tell. Fingers crossed.

Good News, Letitia


Last summer the FDA finally approved Mexoryl (generic name: ecamsule). It is a sunscreen that blocks UVA rays more effectively than anything previously available on the market. [Older sunscreens were formulated to block UVB rays.] The only downside is that L'Oreal has the patent for Mexoryl. Right now they are only offering it as a moisturizer, and only in their Lancome line, not the less expensive L'Oreal line. Mexoryl is also available in Anthelios brand sunscreens. Either way, you will pay about $35 for 3.4 ounces. Still, the approval of Mexoryl is good news for my pasty friends.

Crocs for Kids: The Debate

Pro:
Colorful
Easy-on/off
Ventilated
Easy to clean

Con:
Overpriced (and I can't bring myself to buy the Payless knockoffs)
Not sure if the kids can walk in them
Slippery when wet?

Comments welcome...

What mamacita is ...


Houston on the Tee Vee


Tonight at 10 p.m. I will be watching a show on Channel 8 called, "Houston: Hot Town, Cool City." It is a locally-produced film about the hidden wonders of Houston and what makes Houston a good place to live.

I know you're thinking that the show has potential to be one of those dreary booster productions that defensively point out that Houstonians don't all wear cowboy boots and own oil wells. I HATE it when people get defensive about Houston -- I mean, it is what it is, and if you can't see the value in that, then you don't deserve to live here. One reservation I have about the project is that it claims to be about the part of Houston that is "under the radar," but really -- who hasn't heard about the Menil Collection?

Still, I just watched the trailer and it looks like a pretty straightforward film of some influential Houstonians talking about a few of the city's cultural institutions. I'm sure I will learn something I didn't know.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Forgotten Props

I have done you, my (two) faithful readers, a disservice in neglecting to link to Nicole, who started the tag about Your 5 Favorite Restaurants in Your Town. You should check out her list -- she's in Sydney, and her food favorites are nothing like mine. She loves Korean and Japanese food.

In fact, below is the full list of my predecessors in this tag. Thanks, Nicole!

Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)
ML (Utah, USA)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
tanabata (Saitama, Japan)
Andi (Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
Todd (Louisville, Kentucky, United States)
miss kendra (los angeles, california, u.s.a)
Jiggs Casey (Berkeley, CA, USA! USA! USA!)
Tits McGee (New England, USA)
Kat (Ontario, Canada)
Cheezy (London, England)
tafka PP (Jerusalem, Israel)
Liza ("Northern" Israel)
Beth (Dublin, Ireland)
Emily (San Francisco, CA, USA)

The Mighty Have Fallen

Sad news: Rom the Space Knight has suffered a serious injury. He lost his right leg when Matt accidentally ran over him with the lawnmower. We are consoled by the fact that he was injured in the course of play, instead of moldering away in a garage somewhere. He was rushed to Walter Reed Medical Center our kitchen counter for surgery, and it looks like his right leg will have to be completely amputated. Does anybody know where we can find a 3-inch-wide wheelchair?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tagged: Jumping on the (Chuck) Wagon


I wasn't tagged by Emily, but I can't remember ever waiting for someone to ask me my opinion, so why start now?

Step 1. Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person who tagged you. Include the city/state and country you’re in.

Mamacita (Houston, TX, USA)

Step 2: List out your top 5 favorite places to eat at your location.

Raven Grill -- logical to include this one, since I go there all the damn time. It's not even about the food so much as the friendly atmosphere, really. Though by no means should you go through life without trying the baked brie with olives, the molten chocolate cake (a cliche that they do exceptionally well) or the peanut butter pie. Not to mention the Sunday brunch: Eggs Benedict with ancho chili hollandaise and green chili cheese grits? Yes, please.

Spanish Flowers -- as good as (or better than) any other Tex-Mex in the city. This is the first place we went when we got back from Italy last month. Right now they have fresh strawberry lemonade that is to die for. Also, I hear they might have these frozen alcoholic drinks called "margaritas" or something. I should probably check that out.

NY Pizzeria -- love the sauce and the crust, plus the house salad is great. Conveniently they have a lunch special with a slice plus salad. Geniuses, they are.

Tony Mandola's Gulf Coast Kitchen -- love the garlic bread and the shrimp & crabmeat spaghetti. Love them for naming a dish "Coon Ass Cole Slaw," although they have since changed it to "Cajun Cole Slaw." I've never met anybody who was offended by the term "coon ass," but maybe they got complaints.

Houston's -- I know it's a chain; bite me. They have excellent french fries and homemade lemonade. One time they had crabcakes that were so good I would have sold my children into slavery for a second shot at them. [Seriously, any takers?]

Honorable mentions:

Niko Niko's -- every place else, a gyro is just a gyro, but here they really are better. This is a pretty new one for me, so I need to do more exploring, I think. Field trip!

Mission Burritos on Durham -- one of my favorite places to eat, less for the food than for the kids' playground. Good sangria, though.

Cafe Express -- used to be one of my favorite places, but the food just isn't what it used to be. I still go there periodically in hopes that the situation has improved. The only things worth ordering now are the Shrimp Campeche and the brownie. Also, delicious tea + unlimited lemons + Splenda = a NAP (Near-Arnold Palmer). So that's one perfect meal there.

Step 3: Tag 5 more people.

Alrighty -- I tag Angela, since she's lived here for so much of her life and probably knows where to go; Girl con Queso, because she obviously has her priorities straight, and she also lives here; Sara, since I'm in her town all the time; Cajun Boy in the City, because I'd love to hear what he has to say (if he's Cajun, he knows good food), and last but not least Foodmomiac -- she's been in Chicago for only a couple of months, but I know she already has the best places scoped out.

My Big Lunch Date


Yesterday was the first time in a loooong time I ate lunch at a place that didn't have a kids' menu. I had been wanting to try t'afia for a while. The owner/chef was nominated for a James Beard award, and she runs the Midtown Farmer's Market. The big deal at t'afia is Friday's prix fixe lunch, which is why I was there.

So for the first course I had sweet and sour shrimp soup. Which was ... so help me, there is no other way of saying this ... interesting. It seems like it was Indian-inspired, with curry and coconut milk, but there was also a muddy taste that reminded me of gumbo roux. It was somehow neither bad nor good, just entirely unlike anything I've ever had before. John had the arugula salad in vinaigrette with white chocolate shavings. He won the first round: that salad was delicious. The white chocolate shavings weren't too sweet, so they came across as a creamy type of cheese.

For the second course I had a fried soft-shell crab with french fries and a bit of purple coleslaw. The sauce for the crab was some sort of creamy mustard with ... curry? I couldn't quite tell. It was good, if a little tame. The frying was well done. The potatoes were thin, just like I like them, but a bit limp. [Do I sound like the pickiest wanker of a restaurant reviewer? I'm afraid I might.] The sauce for the fries was ketchup. Heinz, I believe. John's second course was swordfish paillard with sun-dried tomatoes. It was delicious. Again, John won that round. His fish came with some sort of squash gratin, which I did not try but he seemed to enjoy.

Finally, we both had the chocolate bread pudding. I'm not a huge bread pudding person -- I like it, but it stops there. Still, our other choices were lemon-thyme sorbet (which I wish I could say I tried, but I chickened out at the last minute, hesitant about the thyme), and peach crumble. All I can offer in my defense is that I don't like peaches. I don't pretend that it's a reasonable opinion, but there it is. Anyhow, the bread pudding was pretty good. I thought that they were a bit stingy with the sauce (as they were in the second course), but I'm kind of piggy about sauce.

I'm really glad I went to lunch there. For the first time I had the feeling about food that one has about unconventional art, or clothing, or music: the thoughts provoked by the art are enjoyable in themselves. One needn't always reach for those things which are more immediately pleasurable. I appreciate, for example, the combination of Indian and Gulf Coast elements in the soup -- our areas have similar climates, so it's natural to look at fusing the two cuisines. I'm not sure that the end result was at perfect pitch, but in a way that's beside the point.

Anyway, before I get too hifalutin, I should point out a couple of things: first of all, I have no background in cuisine of any sort, really. It is certainly an uninformed opinion that I offer. The second thing I need to disclose is that I had fast food nachos for dinner.

Addendum: t'afia had a lovely vanilla-infused iced tea, but they did not have lemonade. Quel dommage.

But Will He Wear a Hairnet on His Chest?


Oh my God, y'all! Tom Ford is going to be on Martha next Tuesday! He's supposed to make pralines! Do you suppose he's ever cooked anything in his whole life? Guess we'll have to watch and see.

via The Daily

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mom Shoes

Cookie magazine, how I love you. But you are so totally wrong about mom shoes. Those mentioned in the accompanying article are even worse.

First of all, you have set the parameters at "styles...that allow you to chase after your toddler on gravel-covered playgrounds but still retain some fashion dignity." You seem to think that this necessitates shoes without laces. Why? I learned to tie my shoes in kindergarten, and I've been practicing ever since. If you want to keep gravel out of your shoes, laces are your best bet, really. [It's usually mulch instead of gravel where I live, but same principle.]

But let's accept your challenge for now: dignified shoes without laces. No problem. The problem is with the shoes you selected. Let me say, for the record, from the highest mountaintop, that sneaker-flats hybrids (a.k.a. sport utility flats, pictured above) are ugly. U-G-L-Y/ You-Ain't-Got-No-Alibi, ugly. Furthermore, the peep-toe flats you mentioned are wholly inappropriate for the task.

What to wear instead? I am partial to boat shoes -- those have a little dignity. [They have laces, but you don't have to tie them every time, so does that count?] The Tsubos you dismissed out of hand aren't so bad -- two velcro straps don't really seem that intimidating. My favorite shoes of all: driving mocs. No straps, no ties -- you should be so excited, Cookie. No one is making really great driving mocs right now, but these (below) are pretty cute. Depending on how athletic your time at the park is, they could work. They're definitely cuter than the flats you mentioned.
Cookie, you don't seem to think you're cool enough for Pumas, but I suspect that has to do with a lack of advertising on their part rather than a lack of coolness on your part. And if you're really cool (which I am not) you could also pull off Vans.

Now I will address a topic close to my own heart: What to wear with capri pants. [How did I know you have capri pants, Cookie? Because they hand them out in the maternity ward, that's why.] Capri pants require special consideration so that you do not make your legs look like tree trunks. It's all about lengthening the line, so you need a shoe with a low vamp -- not necessarily toe cleavage, but something close to it. Those mules are OUT, Cookie. Jack Rogers sandals would work, even though they're not really made for walking the city streets all day.

Just keep all this in mind when you go shopping, I implore you.