Here comes the rain again

It was lovely to see the rain last week even though it was inside recess and I did not get to go out of the classroom to enjoy the fresh air of winter. The highlight was Thursday when I saw the sunshine at last which made me realise I probably would not enjoy endless overcast days without the sun!

With the kindergarten class, I work with I enjoy watching the kids interact during curiosity time – a time where they get to explore materials and create little stories with each other. We were lucky enough to have a light table in the room and I remember when I was at the Portland children’s museum and saw these Magna tiles on the lightbox it was just beautiful. Unfortunately, this lightbox needs a bit of a fix and we did not enjoy the light shining through these!

The scene above of the forest animals arranged in their territories was created by M and I love to see what she comes up with every day – there is even a bit of moss in the scene and the wooden circles make the best materials to create stories with for the kids.

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Thursday began the show at Mountain View City Hall where we hung the pieces for the art show which is running until January 26th, the range of work is incredible from the ceramics to the weaving and dying to photography and theatre. Our school is so lucky to have such a wonderful program for the kids to enjoy. We introduced a couple of new projects in sewing class this session an emoji keyring and a yarn octopus. The projects went well with most of the kids giving a personality to their emoji and the yarn octopus had a lot of braiding so the kids who could not braid were a bit stuck with this one. The quilt was also a new design creating community amongst the kids and switching out pieces to sew to create the 9 square pattern plus my co-lead kept track of each square so that the kids could embroider their initials on the square they made, even the leads embroidered their initial in the center, see the T and the G.

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Because of the rain, the kids wanted to have ramen and I flat out refused as I could not be bothered to go downtown to try and find parking in amongst all the tech heads who invade our downtown during the week. It is great for the business of the restaurants but I just cannot be bothered to wait in line for dinner and listen to a bunch of people talking about themselves. Anyway enough of my rant about downtown Mountain View, there are many people who love it for this energy but after work, the last thing I want to do is wait for ramen in the rain amongst a bunch of self-centred geeks. So I promised the kids I would make a vegan ramen and my fave is the Minimalist Baker vegan broth and we just add whatever we have in the fridge as the toppings. This has some mushrooms, radish, broccoli, capsicum and tofu and it was just divine. The plan is to make a big pot of it and have it in big Mason jar ready to heat up and add the Miso and the veggies, super easy weeknight meal.

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The other tasty dinner was a riff on the Japanese pizza I made last week using egg, cabbage and flour on the cooked vegetables and bake this in the oven for around 30 minutes at 375 degrees and there’s dinner a frittata (of sorts) with a ready-made salad. The leftovers are a perfect addition to a sandwich with some mayo – delish!

Stepping into the New Year

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The first week back got off to a good start with a package arriving from Australia from my sister with some super cool prezzos for the kids and the best surprise of all a pair of shoes from when I was in Grade 9! These shoes are vintage, they were from my mums family – either my nan or aunt which makes them even more special. They are just beautiful and are such a work of art in shoe design, I tried them on, and they were just like a Cinderella slipper way too small and too tight for my now flatter sole feet compared to when I was a youngin! So, for now, I will keep these shoes on show in my house as a piece of art from back in the day to remind me my love of shoes began a very long time ago 😀

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Last week I also began my 2nd half of the school year at my work as a Teacher Assistant at Ventana School covering for a maternity position until the end of the school year. I will be working with two amazing teachers in the Kindergarten and 1st-grade classrooms and I am so happy to be working with the kids too, they are just so sweet. I have forgotten how kids at these ages enjoy hugs and spending time with their teacher and in the classroom. In the Kinder class, one of my favourite things is the light table, and the kids were making up all sorts of wonderful stories with these little glass pebbles. I have to say a Reggio Emilia classroom is certainly a direction I would love to work in for the future.

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For the 1st grade classroom, there are rocks to explore and a glass container of mosses and lichen with lots of twigs and sticks, stones and many natural materials to use for when the children are creating stories. It is amazing what they come up with when you talk to them about what is happening in their creations.

The beautiful bead mobile on the left was created by the parents and the students with their intentions for the school year as a Back to School night activity. In the centre of the class the children created this branch, wire and bead mobile, I just cannot believe that I am working in a place with such an appreciation for nature and exploring – sometimes the serendipity of life takes you in the direction where you are meant to be!

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Going back to work full time for the next few months has also got me thinking about food planning a bit more and tonight I made a broccoli soup from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Soup book, the base for Vegan Ramen from Minimalist Baker and tonight’s dinner a rice and vegetable casserole. Plus my neighbour who is moving back to her amazing remodelled house has cleared out some jars from IKEA, and they are perfect for stashing a kale, mustard green and watermelon radish salad for the week and these jars fit perfectly in the fridge.

Last week I made this incredible Japanese Pizza Okonomiyaki from 101 Cookbooks as we scored a massive cabbage in our Imperfect Produce box and this is a perfect way to use up all that cabbage (I also have a small experiment of Sauerkraut happening in the dungeon).

So between organising some delicious meals for this week and food prep over the weekend, I wrote my second assignment for this teaching period creating a folio of resources for children with certain behaviours in the classroom. It feels good to have written my draft, and it is due next week, so I had better get into gear and start proofing this before I lose another weekend studying away! Not long now until I start the 3rd assignment which will be a case study in support children’s behaviour – whew, take a breath or two. In another 5 weeks and this subject will be over and I have a break for a couple of weeks. I have to say I am thankful for the Nintendo Switch and Just Dance to get me out of my study room and dancing in the lounge room with my family, it is such a great relase and excellent exercise!

Two O 1 8 make it great!

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Looking through the lens of last year made me realise that we all just carry on with our lives and make the most of the year even though there may be sh*t happening on the periphery. 2017 was off to a dodgy start but then with how everything panned out in the end life really kicked off into full motion and things are now moving along!

What makes me happy are these chickens! Who knew that I would end up being a chicken lady who absolutely adores the personalities of these little ladies. We visited them for Christmas day, and we had some kombucha scoby treats for them that they truly enjoyed. The stress these little ladies release is just the best, so when we move home, I am planning to have a small coop with a couple of ladies in the yard!

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Thankful for these Peaches as they have just rolled with the last 4 months of Mama working full time and juggling study fitting in family time when I can. This year is a plan for more of a work, study, life and dancing balance – hey if family time is stretched where we cannot get out of the house we have the Nintendo Switch and Just Dance 2018 to get us all up and about in the lounge room. Quality family time, after all, combining the love of the Nintendo Switch (purchased in Australia) who possessed my family with Zelda.

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We wrapped up the year with a fantastic spread of hummus and pita chips, kale chips, home cooked pizza (Ken Forkish’s dough), salsa and tortilla chips, vegetable lasagne and salad. For lunch, we enjoyed my hubby’s homemade bread, chips and these tasty little goat cheese mini quiches made with my fave dough from A Year of Pies. Missy rolled my dough and put it in muffin tins. I added the filling of goat cheese and leaves or zucchini and gouda, I have to remember for next time to grease and flour the muffin tins for an easier release of the quiche but all in all they looked so good on the table and were quite a treat. We made 32 and have a few left over for lunch this week at work, so that is perfect. Our NYE was a relaxed night with our friends from Oakland coming by after lunch and our neighbours and friends joining us later for pizza, it was a late afternoon and evening of fun dancing, gaming and chatting with old friends and new.

Heres to a year of good health, delicious food, family time, friend time and lots of dancing!

Adventure to Joshua Tree NP – Day 3

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Our stay at the Joshua Tree was wonderful as we were at the Atomic Tiki Ranch in Yucca Valley with its incredible collection of mid-century furniture and collectables with a tiki twist. We loved playing the record player with plenty of classic Hawaiian records to transport us to Hawaii and dance the hula around this super cool party house. Space was huge in the house with a dressing room in the master room with wall to wall mirrors and a huge closet. I imagine back in the day you could get dressed in there for your cocktail party and check your outfit, do your makeup and look fancy! We enjoyed the details in the kitchen with their collection of vintage cups and plates and its original oven in primo condition. I could see that a lot of love was put into this house to create this space and as I am a big fan of the mid-century furnishings and decor this was the perfect place to stay!

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Our last hike in the park was a small low key hike or two, and the weather was Blowing Sand and 4˚C during the day in the sunshine. We thought it should be alright in the sun?!? But no, the weather was windy, the wind was cold, so we had to put on our hoods our jackets were zipped up, and I also had a beanie on! Which is what is happening in this pic with my hood over my head to keep warm. The kids were active and jumping all over the rocks, so they managed to increase their body temperature, and even though we were in the Hidden Valley trail we still had the wind blowing in, brrr!

 

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Examining a prickly pear

 

Ash had bought the California flora and fauna book from the Visitor Centre with his Christmas money and was busy identifying the plants around the place. This was good to see as even though the desert is sparse, the fauna is so fascinating.

 

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Barker Dam with foliage in winter

 

Our other hike was the Barker Dam hike which was an easy loop just over a mile, but I somehow managed to lose the rest of the family in the hike as Missy was not too keen to hike in the wind. My problem is I usually hang back and take pictures and eventually catch up, but these guys were going so fast I kept on missing them at the vista stops. So I continued on following the path as it was a loop it was easy. The dam was very cool to see, and from there the trip back was through many Joshua Trees and distant desert landscape before I found the sign for the carpark.

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Close up of Joshua Tree leaves
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A majestic Joshua Tree with its many branches

The desert landscape was an inspiring place to relax and recharge with its magic and wonder over the land. I feel that winter or spring would be beautiful times to visit as the summer would be so hot!

The 741 km (461 miles) was so worth it as the kids like to break up the drive in the car and on our way back we were in another RV entirely off the highway for a bit but it was so good to discover a new town close to another favourite National Park of our Sequoia. This RV was very cosy with a gas fireplace all ready for us when we arrived in Exeter – we made it just in time for a sunset over the RV in amongst the citrus trees, this town is in the Central Valley – known best for agriculture production.

Missy found the cat, and we gave it some love while Ash enjoyed reading in front of the gas fireplace for the evening reading Warriors. For breakfast on the last leg of our trip home, we went into the town or Exeter and went to the Exeter Whistle Stop a diner that lives up to what American diners are about with endless cups of coffee and big breakfasts. My hubby enjoyed 3 plates of food that morning, and my breakfast was just right with 2 eggs, a muffin and a cup of tea and half a buckwheat pancake! The service was the best, and the staff were just wonderful with their hospitality, as soon as you walked I was asked: “What would you like to drink?” I responded with a cup of tea. It was delivered quick sticks in a teapot with a slice of lemon, our order was promptly taken by the sweetest lady, and we soon had a table full of tasty breakfast goods ready for the drive home. I highly recommend this place if ever you are staying in the Central Valley and going to Sequoia NP or Kings Canyon.

This trip was delightful with the adventuring into new territory and spaces and it really felt like a break even with all the time in the car, I had better get prepared as Australia has some even longer roads to travel with famous deserts of their own to explore!

 

Adventure to Joshua Tree NP – Day 2

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Checking out the map to the Joshua Tree NP for our next adventure we saw the 49 Palms Oasis trail which was a 3 mile out and back moderately strenuous hike with an elevation of 300 foot each way. We decided to do it based out our fitness level, BTW which is not very high! We saw signs at the beginning of the hike that said Don’t Die Today which was kind of scary but we were prepared with 3 bottles of water, and it was a nice 16˚ C (61˚ F), so it was not too hot. I would never attempt this hike in the heat, it would be dangerous!

 

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Barrel Cactus

 

The hike up was up many rock stairs, and up and up we went and saw some majestic views of the desert from up on high. The walk passed many barrel cactus with their red colour breaking up the red, brown and tan of the landscape.

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The 49 palms oasis

Wandering up and then down into a valley we saw this – a palm oasis in the middle of the desert. The funny thing is that came to mind was that I can see how mirages came to be with seeing something as unusual as this in amongst the rocks. The oasis is formed where uplifted layers of hard impermeable rock forces underground water to the surface. Within these oases, you can see the collection of water, and the sheer size of the palms is incomprehensible as they are gigantic. The palms are a welcome place to shelter and stay cool.

 

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Palms by the desert rocks

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We packed our lunch and water to have under the palms and enjoyed our time in this surreal land where you could feel the coolness of the trees and the water nearby. It was an absolute treat to experience this and learn about it from the ranger at the visitor centre. Such a fragile environment in a small canyon that provides habitat and diversity for the animals in the desert.

After lunch we wanted to see if we could see birds coming to this area due to the water, so we got out the binoculars to see what we could find. There was nothing very exciting just a couple of crows, still, it was a special place to take pictures with the sunlight streaming across the sky.

On our way back I wanted to capture the sheer grandness and scale of these trees, in the pictures you can see the trunks of the palms compared to my family walking by.

 

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Roadrunner!

 

After visiting the hike oases we ventured down to the other visitor centre to wander through the Oasis of Mara which was a home to the indigenous people. I highly recommend reading the story along the path as it is an artwork inspired by the native people – the link has an audio of the story which is a fascinating perspective.

Oh, and at the visitor centre, I finally saw a road runner in real life! It was very exciting as I had only seen this guy in a cartoon with Wylie Coyote and I never imagined a real roadrunner would look like this, they are absolutely stunning with their feathers and tail. We even saw it run in front of a car which was quite scary but he was speedy and made it to the other side – whew!!

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At the visitor centre, they had an amazing display of the desert plants with their names, this barrel cactus had such vibrant light shining on it that I could not resist taking a picture of its spiky details.

On our way back to the ranch we visited the Joshua Tree outdoor museum by Noah (recommended by our Air BnB hosts). This piece is called Carousel and in the centre are computers surrounded by many musical instruments and fabric that had been tattered and worn down by years in the outdoors.

There were so many opportunities to photograph the many pieces that were repurposed into assemblage where you could decipher a meaning or maybe not? Still, it was interesting to explore, take photographs and ponder the inspirations. I highly recommend this as an art experience if you enjoy repurposing and reusing, I really appreciate this approach as I do this myself in my textile creations so this was a place of true inspiration for me.

Adventure to Joshua Tree NP – Day 1

Our inspiration to explore National Parks this year is that we have a 4th grader and the National Parks have a promotion to get every kid in a park, so that was the impetus to get our kids and ourselves out exploring!

 

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The Almond grove at sunset

 

 

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A Peach in the Almond Tree
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The Almond Orchard next to the RV

 

We drove down via Shafter where we made an overnight stay at an RV to break up the trip, tired from the drive and wrapping up school and work we were ready to relax and we were in holiday mode at long last! With a beautiful sunset, we took a walk through the almond fields before heading on over to the RV for dinner of lentil shepherds pie heated up in the microwave. Our host made a huge fire to roast marshmallows for a treat, we stayed out there with the fire for a while until it was too chilly and we were back in the RV for some reading and sleeping. The stars were out and we enjoyed a dark sky with a sliver of a moon.

After our night in the RV we arrived at our next destination the Air BnB called the Atomic Tiki Ranch (I will feature in another post!) and settled in there before we headed out to the Joshua Tree National Park for our first day of adventuring in the park

We wandered down to the visitor centre to get a plan on what to see and do and our first stop was the Cholla Cactus Garden AKA the teddy bear cactus. As cute as they are, they are super spiky, there were so many in this area by the carpark with their shades of yellow and brown. There was a nature walk around the cacti and I just loved the changes in colour on the plant and the detail even in the dried up stalk of the plant – you can really tell this is a desert plant when you look closely. The kids also decided they wanted to do their Junior Ranger badges and this began their time researching and exploring!

 

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So many gigantic rocks to climb!
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Even little caves to hide in.
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We had our binoculars to look for birds or animals
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A circle called a Dike – features in rocks that are resistant to erosion
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Arch Rock

 

For our trip down from the gardens, we looked at the rangers recommendations and decided to explore other parts of the park so the kids could climb and check out smaller hiking trails for our first day. We found Arch Rock at the White Tank campground – it is a small walk but well worth the journey to see this incredible rock formation lying atop many other boulders, my hubby is in the pic and climbed up to go beneath it. I also climbed up to get up there but I had the camera so I couldn’t really capture myself up there, it was easy to get up but not so easy to climb down with a camera around my neck! Eventually, I just came down the way I went up and all was good, thanks to the help of Missy.

 

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Desert flora

 

The cool thing about the desert is its expanse but look closer and you find these amazing plants and even though they are dry from the heat they still look beautiful in the light.

After out Arch rock climb, we stopped off at Skull Rock and totally lost the trail so we had to climb in and out of the boulders to get back to the car. It was certainly a mission though I do recommend if you are climbing rocks be super careful with your camera and have somewhere to pack it safely. I had to hand my SLR over to my hubby to look after while I was scrambling up and down over the rocks to find the trail with my son. We made it to the top of a rock and it was very exciting!

For this trip, I have to break this up into smaller bite size days as I took over 600 pictures and it was really hard to edit it down to just a few, but these are my faves and I wanted to focus on the highlights of the desert landscape.

Adaptations

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Last week was a big one with beginning the week preparing for my last week in Arts Focus for the first session. Switching gears from a chaotic classroom and driving to work in the afternoon has been quite intense, bringing with it lots of excitement to the day and by Friday I am beat! We even ended up last week with a night out with the ladies to a Thai restaurant at 8pm, I was ready to be on the couch by then but I made it out till after 10pm and had a lovely time catching up with friends.

We did pipe cleaner dolls with the kids on Thursday at school and they loved them and I have a few for the art show come January next year at Mountain View City Hall.

I was always fascinated with this picture of this caterpillar when I was a kid and I found it again in a bugs book in the 1st grade class I help teach. I loved the detail in the colours and the body on this guy and always wondered about that massive enlarged face of the caterpillar, it still fascinates me to this day – maybe it is the colours of this guy?

As it turns out my work has asked me to stay until school is out for the summer so I am very excited about this wonderful opportunity to work with an incredible cohort of teachers and gain so much experience in this education journey. I will be covering a maternity position and be working with the kinder and 1st grade kids. Time to be a bit more organised and balance all the work with my study that I am a bit behind on 😦 This is the last week of school before the holidays which I am looking forward to as we are going to the Joshua Tree National Park!

Viewing the arts

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A week of art and craft happened last week with a field trip to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco on Friday with the 2nd graders.

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The kids had exploration one day of the week and created many fun objects, this doll was inspired by the pipe cleaner dolls.

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At the volunteer sewing teaching, we were working on LED cuffs, and these are examples of the Kinder and 1st-grade students.

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I was teaching the 2nd graders to make Gods eyes in their exploration time – so much fun yarn to make holiday decorations.

Friday came, and it was time for the field trip to San Francisco! The kids were very excited, and we drove up in the morning for a 10am Storytelling throughout the museum with volunteers. They told us many stories beginning with the story of Lakshmi and Diwali the festival of lights then we travelled to Indonesia to view Kris (daggers) and listen to a folk story and the last story was about Ganesh riding on a rat with his love of laddoos. Our storyteller Monique was so full of character and brought the stories to life!

After lunch and no running around the kids and their chaperones and teachers went wandering around the museum. We found many beautiful textiles, which I love plus little tiny colourful snuff bottles and this nephrite shepherd with his goats. The Asian Art Museum has something for everyone, though our 2nd-grade class maybe could enjoy it more if there were more Pokemon!

Couture Korea was an exhibit the kids really enjoyed with many kimono to view and also to touch with fabric samples on the information panel – the interactive was a plus with these guys! Of course, I really enjoyed it too being a textile lover and always wanting to touch interesting fabrics and seeing detailed clothing design. The majority of the pieces were silk and felt beautiful.

Come the weekend I enjoyed a white elephant exchange with my work friends and a tasty dinner of savoury crepes and potluck appetisers. Saturday was a bike ride day and catching up on study and Sunday the house needed a bit of sprucing up after I enjoyed a fabulous Thai massage at Sawadee down the road, it was well needed and has enlivened my soul, namaste.

 

Thankful for the relaxing times

What a lovely Thanksgiving break we had with a day out with friends in Oakland for a beautiful vegetarian feast of Quorn and all the trimmings with a yummy salad and vegan mango cheesecake I made for dessert. The cat stood in the pumpkin pie our friends made and they had mini pecan pies as well – we were well and truly stuffed by the time we left their house that evening.

The break began on Wednesday which made a total of 5 days of just chilling! I had to complete a paper for University on the Humanist perspective on behaviour in the classroom – whew! So that took up a lot of my time as I was exhausted from work. The bonus of Wednesday was that I chatted to our architect in Melbourne and viewed concepts of our house for the future – I was thrilled to see how beautiful it will be! Patience and we will get there, one step at a time…

Anyway back to relaxing! We booked a campsite from Friday through to Sunday for our time away at Samuel Taylor State Park. We arrived late on Friday with just enough light to find our little tent spot and heat up out leftover dinner of the Thanksgiving feast, so that was super easy. It did not take long to get into relaxing mode and realise this is it under the trees for a couple of days. The campsite was perfect for entertaining, and our friends were on the site right next door to us. The bonus was that the bathrooms were a quick walk down the hill, I would definitely book that site again in the future!

Saturday came, and we wondered what to do – the vote was to do something low key and relaxing. So we opted for a trip to the beach for the day. Our beach of choice was Limantour beach just a short drive away from Point Reyes Station. We had been to Point Reyes before, and we really loved our adventure there, but that was about 8 years ago when Missy was a baby, now look at her in the water enjoying the freezing cold Pacific Ocean. I wanted to feel the ocean on my toes, but I did not last long as it was ice cold! The waves were beautiful to see, and the kids enjoyed getting their pants all wet and playing hide and seek in the spiky grass.

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We packed up a picnic lunch of egg mayo sandwiches for me with some fruit and beers for the gang, and we just enjoyed listening to the sound of the waves and reading our books. Currently, I am reading Pie by Sarah Weeks, as my daughter recommended I read it! I have been really enjoying kids Graphic Novels and Young Adult books when I have the opportunity to read.

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My friend was reading this book called The Seed Collectors now if you look at the text of that book above I would say that is my family written in the book. When I looked at the family tree at the back of the book, my name would be Bryony in their family. This was really strange to see most of my family written about in a book, I will have to read it one day! Apparently, the kids have those names in the book as the names of the people in the family are named after trees and plants.

A highlight of the beach day out was seeing this guy with his rescue horses and riding them along the beach. One of the horses was just wandering around without a rope looking wild and beautiful! We patted the horses and chatted to the rider, and he said both of his horses were rescue horses. He told us briefly of the stories of the horse he was riding was super skinny when she was rescued. The red stallion was a rescue too, and he mentioned a tragic story about the horse’s parents (I would rather not hear if it is a sad story about animals). He gave me hope and faith in humanity that he rescues these amazing creatures and lets them run free to greet people with their incredible presence and energy.

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Here we are ready to leave the beach, it was such a relaxing day that we did not want to go but all good things come to an end, and we slept so well that night. The next morning we woke up to hear rain on the tent and feel a puddle forming beneath the tarp! We hightailed it out of there.

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The gang getting ready to leave the beach – boo hoo!

 

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Monkeys in a gingko tree
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Kids entertainment at the amphitheatre

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So Sunday morning we woke up to rain and plenty of it, so we packed up our gear and put all the wet stuff in the car and off we drove to the closest coffee shop before we headed home! It was such a beautiful time under the redwoods, and Samuel Taylor State Park is a super special park with hikes and beaches close by.

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Driving home on the I-280 seeing The Dish speaking to the Aliens