This time of year there is so much to do, and we catch up with many people before the summer is out. The one big event at our school last Friday was saying farewell to the playground before construction comes in to take it away, tear down some trees and place our temporary school in the same spot as the playground. The new school will be built at the current location while our school of over 300 kids in their portable classrooms with a grass playground – it will be a tight fit I imagine! It is going to be our last and quite a dramatic year at school next year!
So Friday night I went out with my lady friends to enjoy cocktails and a lovely dinner at Scratch to relax. We all needed it, and this is a great tradition we have to 1. catch up with each other and 2. to celebrate each others birthdays. This pic was taken to remind me of the good times in Mountain View and the city I have called home for the last ten years – it is now time to go back to “our home” in Australia in 2018 and be with our families!
I have been studying mostly and writing my final two assessments worth 50% each on the subjects of mathematics and science, very current topics that I feel are so important in education. So I am enjoying the assessments but every moment of my time is spent studying and even in the evenings! So between social engagements (three last weekend) and my life and study, there is not much room for much else. Still, each day learning something new and making the most of every day encourages me to have still the energy to continue with the resistance. One of the ways I am giving back is to knit pussyhats for friends, and they can donate $ to a cause that needs it at the time – which indeed are many at the moment. My friend managed to find this gorgeous fuschia in my favourite yarn Malabrigo Rasta – here’s to taking it to the streets and continue to fight for our rights!
Last week marked the 20th anniversary of our beloved school Stevenson PACT Elementary School – it was such a fun filled event full of entertainment, dessert, food trucks, art – a mosaic, and what the kids loved most of all was balloon swords. It was hilarious to see all the kids out on the field sword fighting with balloon swords, and everyone was having such a grand old time doing it!
The alumni enjoyed seeing their friends who were at other schools and had an excellent time playing, and the adults of the community enjoyed catching up on life.
The school was decorated with some very thoughtful ideas like this tree full of favourite memories and the watercolour flowers made by the kids.
At the end of this week, we say farewell to the beloved spiderweb that I am climbing – it will be removed over the summer to place the new temporary school buildings in its place. It is such a fun play structure, and apparently, the new play structure is nature inspired so we will see how that compares to this super cool spiderweb.
In quiet times when not studying or driving the kids around I sit and knit and made a couple of pussyhats this week for one of our teachers – this is my son’s 1st-grade teacher who wanted a hat for herself and for her daughter. We saw each other at the Women’s March, and I suggested I knit a hat for her in the beautiful Malabrigo Rasta.
Saturday was a busy day with a yoga class and helping my friend out with a knitting party in the afternoon. So Sunday I really had to get into gear with my last 2 assessments for this teaching period and get on track and now after devoting a few hours of my mothers day to study I feel I can get through it all! Mother’s day was lovely with the kids making a beautiful spread of pancakes, kombucha and a cup of tea complete with flowers freshly picked from the neighbourhood. I said to Ash to come on a bike ride with me as I wanted to take him out for some exercise and we rode a nice 10 miles (16 km) out on the bay. The head wind was not very enjoyable, but it was so lovely to get out and about on such a beautiful day!
And there is my beloved bike on the trail with no one around, we found some binoculars and spotted a pelican – next time we will take our bird watching binoculars!
The wonderful summer heat was here this week for a fleeting moment and then by the time Friday rolled around the fresh winds came by in time for the Bollywood dance party organised by my friends as an auction item for the school! It was such a fun night with amazing food, cocktails and dancing! It was a gift to myself for submitting my second maths assessment a video presentation on a natural maths phenomenon, which I really enjoyed doing!
There was even a dress up corner where you could put on a sari and add accessories of bindis and bangles – we had so much fun! The drinks were flowing, and friends came from the school community, and we were ready to party 😀
Check out the dance floor action here in the video – I loved every minute of this.
Sunday we met our friends from Oakland at Sunol Regional Wilderness Area, and it was the perfect day for a hike with friends. The sun was out as were the butterflies and the bees! It took us a while to find the trail as we wandered along the creek for a while through poison oak until finally, we saw the up arrow!
Along the hike, we spotted so many wildflowers. I have no idea what most of these are called except for the milk thistle and the California poppies.
The boys work on getting us on the right track after we messed up the first attempt bush bashing through the woods.
Finally, we were rewarded with open fields of grasses and wildflowers, and my hayfever was in full swing with all the blooms and pollen flying around everywhere. We wandered up to the top of the hill to see the view of Little Yosemite with all the falls below us. Once we got down there, it felt just like Yosemite with lots and lots of people wandering down this one little goat trail to get to the falls and rock scrambling.
I don’t know if the hills on the left are being mined for rocks, but they do look strange. We wandered down many paths, to get to the falls and to check out the water and rocks. It was just beautiful though it would be lovely with not at many folks around so I opted to sit quietly under a tree in the shade for a while to just listen to the water.
The kids really liked rock scrambling around the falls that were not very deep – off went their shoes so they could get their grip on the rocks and explore the area. I enjoyed watching them on a rock as I had a camera that I don’t like to get wet or to hit against rocks, which was fine to just bask in the sunshine.
It was so fun to get together at last with our friends from O-town and enjoy a hike together amongst the wildflowers and the woods.
Finally, the weather has been consistent for the last few days and the weekend was just amazing! These roses are in a garden in the Los Altos Hills where the kids go swimming – the colours are breathtaking.
It is the best time of year to go bike riding as the wildlife and the flowers after the rain are super and there is also a super bloom that you can see from space. Now that the flowers are settled so is my allergies, so it was the perfect day to go riding on Sunday on the path where there were hardly any people and enjoy the peace of the bay. Check out that trail – there is no one there! This is off the main trail heading out to the Bay, but I allowed myself a short ride so I could get back home to clean out the garden and do some sewing and study.
Friday we picked up some Bantam chicks that have just hatched from an egg project from a homeschool family. The eggs were from a very special place in Sonoma where rare breeds of chickens are raised in an organic environment – they are closed to the public due to their breeding programs and having to keep the farm safe from any biohazards. Their collection of chicks and images on their site is so inspiring and make me want to move to the country to a yurt and raise chickens – it is always nice to dream! Still, we are fostering these chicks for the 4H poultry project where the kids will take care of them at home until they are ready to go into the coop with the other 2 bantam chicks. This time we are raising quite a few bantams, and it will be so exciting to watch them grow, they are quite small chickens but oh so cute! I love how the kids are so mesmerised by the chicks and how gentle they are taking care of them every day, 4H really is an incredible program for kids. The chicks sleep a lot of the time flat out on their bellies with their heads in front of them – I had no idea how chicks slept, and they are just gorgeous to watch and such a distraction.
Bella has been sad for the last month or so and has been hanging out with us more as she is really missing her brother Mack – they were the best of friends. She is such a loving cat when she wants to be and is sleeping on our bed a lot at night which we love! I am still missing my best cat friend though as each day passes, I think of all the good times we had together.
Another weekend away this time with the Camping Crew from our elementary school. We have a super team of Camping organisers at our school and they found this great camp location the Pinnacles National Park on the weekend of Earth day. We were warned that it would be busy this weekend but I did not predict the crowds we experienced on Saturday. Earth Day coincided with National Park week which meant that it was free to visit the park so it was packed, lucky for us we had a group camping reservation for 80 of us adding to the crowd!
We had visited the park in March 2013 with our camping buddies and the only thing I really remember from the trip was that our 2000 Honda Civic broke down on the way home. I tracked down video footage of what it was like exploring the caves back in 2013 with the kids so small! And home from the Pinnacles is close to a 1.5-hour drive and 90 miles (144 km) away we had to tow our car back home – thank goodness for AAA. Looking at a map of Australia – it is a similar drive amount from Melbourne to Lorne, and from what I remember we camped there too (B.K. Before Kids) in the rain.
It was just three of us exploring the caves this weekend as the older one stayed with his friend at the campground with the other families. Missy was very excited to see the inside of the caves and explore with her headlamp and of course, it needed batteries! Anyway, we powered on in the dark for moments in time until we came out of the tunnels and back out into the daylight after being in the caves, we all enjoyed exploring the caves with moss covered rocks and hearing a water fall, that I could not see.
Pinnacles National Park unique rock formations were created from a volcano which eruped 23 million years ago. The movement of the earth created talus – broken rock fragments that have collected over the years to make the caves. It was crazy to look up and see a massive boulder held up by an arrangement of rocks below it.
It was the perfect hiking day but there were so many people on the trails as well so we went back. We wandered a bit more and we ended up taking a loop turn back to the entrance. On the way back to camp, we did wander by this mini cave that Missy worked out that birds lived in by the amount of poop residue on the ground.
The rock formations are like pieces of nature art with their colours and textures. I especially loved this rock with the coloured lichen of yellow, orange and green. This rock looks like a dinosaur mouth next to Missy who was excited to have found another small cave.
The photo opportunities were endless at the park and unfortunately, the sky was a bit overcast which was a shame as the rocks would be amazing with a blue sky behind them. The colours and formations of the rocks were amazing. As we were camping we hung out at the pool afterwards where a few kids were brave enough to go for a swim in a cold pool. It was hot enough for a t-shirt and skirt but not hot enough for a dip in a cold pool for me!
Such a beautiful spring weekend to be away and enjoying a National Park on Earth Day 2017 and hanging out with friends from school. It is always a perfect way to relax as the kids entertain each other and the adults are free to chill out and do whatever.
Spring Break last week and we managed to literally get away from the crowds and be the only people camping in a Yurt in a location just over 1 hour away from our house! Now as I write this it seems impossible to get away from ALL the people in the Bay Area because where ever you go within an hour or so from your home there is usually many more Bay Area folks camping or doing whatever within your vicinity. Never in our camping experiences, have we gone away especially during a break from school and been by ourselves! Just to have that experience was incredible so before I spill the location be sure that you don’t mind setting up camp next to a graveyard on an abandoned Naval Base!
This beautiful part of the Bay area was in Vallejo on a peninsula called Mare Island named after the white mare who swam to shore after her ship was sunk. It is a place of beauty and solitude with the added bonus of yurt camping with all the gear supplied including a gas grill and a super clean porta potty close by. The view from the top of the island is of 7 counties surrounding the island and right by the lookout is an art installation called the Spirit Ship in honour of the Naval families who once lived here. Spring brings the beautiful poppies, and the smell of wild fennel was in the air.
Surrounding the Mare Island Preserve are barbed wire fences – man I thought I was in a detention centre in Australia when I saw these familiar eucalyptus trees. But no, looking through the fence I found abandoned houses and buildings still needed to be cleared up by the US Federal Government due to munitions being left behind – I imagine that is a huge task and they have better things to focus on at the moment!
Wandering through the preserve right by the graveyard are some beautiful roses right in bloom for spring and for the two days I loved taking pictures of them in the different light. The graveyard was so peaceful and so old – graves dating back to 1856, this is the oldest Naval cemetery on the West Coast.
My hubby and I wandered to the top of the hill of the afternoon we arrived – the kids get a bit mad about walking up hills, but we know better. The bonus when you climb a hill is always the view, and this panorama is what I saw when I was up there, surrounded by water most of the way with land on the horizon.
Then we came back down to set up the Yurt for the evening. This yurt is made by a local Vallejo yurt maker Yurtastic, and he used billboard fabric for the exterior, roof and floor. What an excellent idea, the light is bright inside, and we had Dory on the floor from Finding Nemo.
Oh, and did I mention the views from the top of the hill, the Spirit Ship in panorama with the detail of the floor beneath the Spirit Ship with nature growing up around it.
Dinner was homemade lentil rolls we heated up on the gas grill – it acted just like an oven! On the side, we had watermelon radish and ate by the candle light of a citronella candle as there were quite a few mozzies though they did not bother us that much.
In the evening our lovely host Myrna took us for a spin with her dog Nitro down to the bunkers. We sat in the back of the truck and saw this island in the light of dusk with the beautiful colours all around. Myrna was the best and so thoughtful with her organisation for the yurt supplies in the outdoor kitchen including an outdoor screened tent, so we were mozzie free. Nitro was the sweetest dog who loved pats and was ever so friendly with all of us, we had such a fun time together.
The next day was Thursday, and we were on our own on after a night of rain over the yurt we thought our riding plans were busted but no, the sun came out, and we borrowed bikes – yes bikes were included in the trip! So we went riding to look for the entrance to the San Pablo Bay Trail entrance and back again. The visitor centre was a place full of Mare Island history including treasures from one of the original residents who grew up on the base and donated her doll and Kanga and Roo from her collection. The other bonus of the visitor centre apart from its massive size is the resident cat Linus, who reminded me so much of my little buddy Macaroni. This guy loved pats and would come up and purr near us, and we happily patted him and gave him love.
The island is full of eucalyptus trees, and after the rain, it smelled of Australia – like I was home. Wild is where nature is at here in this part of the bay with the poppies growing in between the railway tracks. And the kids enjoyed having stick fights with the wild fennel, and that kept them occupied as I wandered the graveyard to see what history this place held. As we were interested in seeing the birds, Myrna loaned us her binoculars so we could watch the baby osprey and the osprey who nests there. This is the view I had through the binoculars to observe the baby birds way up high. We also saw snowy egrets, blue jays, wild turkeys and turkey vultures who call this place home. In the evening we heard the sound of the coyote talking and yipping to each other, lucky we were tucked away in our beds in the Yurt.
We had one last visit to the visitor centre and an evening by the campfire (there are no other places on the island where a campfire is allowed as it dangerous) with Myrna and Eric (another volunteer who shared so much interesting information on photography and nature). We washed the dishes and lay cleaned them and packed them away neatly and off we went to see Linus and the ephemera at the visitor centre. The collection of teacups was beautiful and the evening before Myrna and I shared a pot of rooibos tea in a cup and saucer – very fancy! The fire was perfect for our marshmallows, and we enjoyed learning about the history of Mare Island and its inhabitants.
Soon it was time to leave, and the preserve was open to the public, we wandered down to check out the bunkers the view and got this great picture of all of us in the massive bunker (built during the mid-1920s to store munition). The bunker we checked out had astroturf on the ground and digital print of the first cave painting from Lascaux, France. A bunch of folks had a caveman dinner in the bunkers which explains the paleo inspiration.
And there is Dory on the floor – we were so happy to enjoy our couple of nights getaway from it all. If you are keen to check it out and visit Myrna and Nitro the dog, go to Hipcamp where you can find this yurt and the other romantic yurt for two further up the hill. If your camping party is big just camp in the bunker and watch the sun rise, so many options to camp and support the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve.
On our way back the sun was shining I took some pictures of the beautiful chapel with its Tiffany windows – you can visit the church with a guided tour which is $5, the kids were done, but I would have loved to have seen them. On the way home, we opted for a walk just below Mt Diablo in a place called Shell Ridge Open Space Preserve where we found a ranch complete with chickens and a sleepy rooster. It felt we were away from civilisation for longer than two days, now that is what I call a break from it all!
Back to study for me as I have an essay tomorrow and Assessment 2 is just around the corner!
What a lovely collection of books and placing Myths right next to the Orwell book 1984 is pretty funny as 1984 does not really feel like a myth anymore! Still, the legends are the books next door a bunch of Star Wars parody books – yes more humour is what we need. Now on to last week that went by in a flash! It was a night of teaching double drawstring bags at the library followed by my birthday then a night out to the Arts Focus exhibition, and then Thursday night it was PBL (Project Based Learning) night and Open house at school. Friday night I still had to polish up my science essay so I could submit it this week! Just too much – I think I need to stop and breathe, which is why I went to Yoga on Saturday!
The double drawstring bag sewing workshop at the library was a hit with a full class of 12 students who were eager to get their bags completed. We have 1.5 hours in the community room – so it is over pretty quickly. A lucky few did get them done, but lucky the library has open hours for sewing over the weekend and during the weekend for the students to complete their bags. The prep for this workshop is just cutting the fabric to size, and lucky my friend gave me a box of fabric I could use for this class that was just perfect.
Myth – I do not like alcohol! I have not been drinking as I need a clear head to write essays and focus on my University work, but it was lovely to have just one cocktail and feel pretty good! A fact I do love food, feeling uninspired by the Bay Area offerings for food locally I opted for a ‘sustainable seafood’ restaurant called Pacific Catch that opened up in the local shopping centre. Ideally, I am wanting one of those fantastic Portland restaurants that serve alcohol and raw vegan, local, organic food, but alas that is not to happen here, it’s more about the beers and the burgers – boring! Anyway, I will be back home in Melbourne soon and the food there is the best. Still, I had a lovely feast at Pacific Catch with some appetisers starting with some Poke – absolutely delicious! The coconut shrimp – very moreish but not too good for someone who doesn’t eat fried food too often. My main was fish tacos served with black beans and creole fries, yummo! Though the fries had to be passed on to my hubby and the kids as they were too much fried goodness for me. Afterwards (as there were no real exciting dessert options at this restaurant) we wandered downtown Mountain View to my fave treat place – Alexanders Patisserie and had a lemon tart and some other incredible mascarpone based deliciousness! Such a lovely evening of eating with the family 😀
Wednesday was another night out with the Arts where I have a job of interviewing the kids for a newsletter article about the joys of the Arts Focus program. A program entirely run by parent volunteers who teach in the classroom for 12 weeks of the year – with an exhibition in between each one. A totally immersive hands-on experience with art that the kids absolutely adore. I am so happy to be a part of the team and teach the kids sewing. This program has inspired me to do my Degree in Teaching for when we return to Australia, though I have less than 4 years or so to completion. I am enjoying the classes, and it is quite exciting to use what I have experienced and bring it to my lessons. I am learning so much new information, and I love it. Now back to writing my World of Maths essay about ‘How Constructivism is the best way to teach math.’
Experiences are what life is about for us as a family and finding places to stay where we can relax and unwind from the daily grind is something we aspire to. To celebrate another April birthday, I wanted the experience of staying in a geodome for the weekend. We found this beautiful geodome out in the Santa Cruz mountains complete with banana slugs and a rushing creek right by – this all appealed to our back to the earth lifestyle, so I booked it pretty much after we had spent a weekend in the caravan in the redwoods the month before.
This space was incredible and so peaceful to sleep in – the owners of this geodome found it on Craigslist. They purchased it from a family who were living in it in Watsonville, who had they had their 2nd baby in the dome 😀 Previously the geodome was living in a commune in Sonoma, what a life and experience this space has had!
The kids really enjoyed jumping around in the creek – note to self, take the water shoes for everyone whenever there is water as no doubt they will get their shoes wet! And looking underneath the redwoods, we found a few banana slugs.
The geodome had a guidebook on what to check out in the area, and we decided we wanted to go for a hike taken care of by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz – called Byrne-Milliron Forest. This hike was highly recommended in the guidebook and only 30 minutes away down the hill near a town called Corralitos.
It was a hard ask for one of our little hikers who does not like going uphill but when you go uphill there is always nice views to be had. We found a plaque at the AJ’s Point of View dedicated to a steward of the forest, who had looked after this forest for 27 years – such dedication and I truly understand what he meant by magical. The hike was just over 3 miles to a white redwood tree – it was uphill for a while, and then we found the view!
When we reached a place on the map called AJs Point of View it was filled with art created by locals artists using nature and a mailbox full of books and journals (where you could write an entry) donated by Jeff Helmer, the forest caretaker. The added bonus was water where you really needed a refill after the uphill in the sunshine on a warm spring day.
We got in touch with our wild side when travelling from the AJs Point of View as the trail narrowed and crossed a creek. We had to use a rope to jump across to the foot trail surrounded by wildflowers and sorrel, this is where the magic happens.
In the sunlight, these little blue flowers were lit up like little fireflies in amongst the green. To walk on this narrow trail led to the white redwood where the trail ended. The trail went up and down, and at points, it was steep and hard on the knees and legs!
And eventually, we took the trail up from where the kids were done up to the white redwood to this chair that read ‘For the Glory Not the Gold’. This is what being in nature is about to me feeling it within and in communion with the natural embrace of the green of the trees.
Here are some of the trees of this 2nd growth redwood forest, there were many trees like the 600-year-old white redwood that were taken from here, but over time their little tree family had grown around them. Ash is sitting there by a burnt redwood not wanting to go any further – a lot of these trees we had missed going on the track to the white redwood as we had to watch where our feet when we were walking.
What an incredible discovery weekend for all of us all the while mourning the loss of our beloved cat Mack. We had a fire for him by the geodome and enjoyed some peace contemplating the good times we had together.
The geodome had a journal for all the guests to share their thoughts and illustrations of their time. The kids shared the two at the top, and the illustration below was my favourite by a very talented artist.
Even where we parked the car was a geodome for the kids to play on – Ash with his new friend the bird we found at a church charity sale where everything was free!
On Sunday we went to Sunset State Beach for a bit of beach time – living by the beach most of my life I feel very much at home when we visit, and it was so good to walk in the ice cold water checking out the sand dollars.
We honoured our furry friend at the beach by saying goodbye in the waves and remembering our love for him.
It is with so much gratitude that I enjoyed this weekend and am celebrating my birthday writing this today for all the wonderful experiences we have together as a family. Soon we will be homeward bound in Australia where we can start some new adventures. My love is with you for all eternity and beyond, Namaste x
My little buddy I will miss you so much you were my light, my love and my rainbow and you will forever be in my heart. We have been through so much together, and you have listened to so many of my stories and shared my thoughts through your cat telekinesis. I feel that sometimes you knew what to do whenever I was sad or lonely. You made me feel so happy with your purrs and your love. I will never forget you. We saved you from a big fat cat called Sumo who was bullying you at a share house in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. Then you came to live with us and join Scrap who was the tuxedo friend of yours who after a while you two became best friends (until Scrap passed at a lovely age of 17 years old). I still remember the conversations at Bimbos in Fitzroy with my friend over pizza when he was telling me about you and how exciting it was to adopt you and bring you into our family over 12 years ago. How we came about to call you Mack – a Macintosh was one of my favourite things being a graphic designer, so it was pretty cheesy that name came about (though some will argue another story). We enjoyed our time in Flemo where I bought you a neon pink collar, even though you were a boy and I even bought a cat harness in the hope we could go strolling under the plane trees together. Alas, that plan was foiled as you were an independent kitty and wanted to climb trees and sleep in the rosemary. When I was pregnant with Ash and came home from work and lay down through sheer exhaustion, you were there with me hanging out and purring on the bed. Then came Ash and both you and Scrap were a bit disturbed about this small human in the house and soon you realised they were no threat and accepted him into your cat tribe. The kid who was pulling your tail still you lay there until you could stand it no longer and soon both you and Ash understood how to be friends. Not long, we moved you and Scrap to our next home where you were settled for just a short period of time before we whisked both of you over to California to live a cat’s dream in the sunshine and redwoods. I imagine the groomed grass felt amazing under your paws and the sunshine on the balcony was divine. Soon another little human came into being, and Missy became the cat girl who growing up with you has become a true lover of everything cat. She just used to hang out with you and pat you and you knew after the first time with a tiny human that it was time to hide if things got a bit rough. After living in an apartment complex with way too many dogs it was time, we moved again to our current house with a nice big fence to sit upon and watch the squirrels and birds from up high in your own little garden. The garden was a blessing with its plants to hide in and the afternoon sun where you enjoyed your days. Soon another kitty came to rock your world – a kitten called Bella, she was found abandoned and we adopted her after Christmas and she became your BFF. The way you two lay together grooming each other, she really loved you as her cat brother. I really enjoyed the time when you just lay upon my desk and I studied with you sleeping next to me, and I could pat you whenever I wanted and talk to you, and you would understand – even reading out my essays to you and you sharing your fleas with me. Even when I was sewing you were near my machine catching the fabric on the other side. Your presence is missing in my life, my feline friend. I came out to see you in the garden the other day and you did not respond when I called your name – not even an ear wiggle, then I felt your cat body, and it was so cold. Your body all but an empty shell but your cat spirit will live in our hearts forever. We love everything you gave us as a pet and a best friend and thank you for your beautiful, friendly cat soul and all the love you shared with us – we love you! Now I know what it means to say, Mack forever xo