Comfort in the redwoods

A big week last week with celebrations for our newly minted 13-year-old – he had no idea about his present which we have purchased for his school in Melbourne as the kids bring their own device (BYOD). It certainly was a huge surprise to him – when asked what he got for his birthday he mentions it last in his list of gifts as it is something just for a special day! I love that about my kids they really are not that focused on consumer items and appreciate what they receive, thank goodness after living in this area where consumerism is everywhere and everyone has to have the latest tech gadget. Our house has one TV but everyone has a computer, mmmm maybe we have been sucked in too, so much for my anti-consumerist rant!! One of his fave things now are YuGiOh cards and has spent most of his birthday money on them – at least it is something that is creative and has a math component to it, so win win!

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After all the fun celebrations of the week, we took it easy and went camping with our school for one night under the redwoods. This was my first time visiting Portola Redwoods State Park and it was just beautiful. We were in two group sites called the Circle and the Point and it was surrounded by massive trees and right by the creek.

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My daughter took me on a walk through the obstacle course to get to the creek and we found one of the heroes of the redwood forest the banana slug doing his morning duty.

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Looking up high so many tall trees and the energy in amongst the green in the morning was so relaxing. I felt a bit stiff in my body as my mattress had sunk to the ground and it was freezing so in the middle of the night I got up and blew up my mattress and found myself in the same situation come the morning, blah!

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We had a couple of friends take us on the 1-mile return hike to the Old Tree, it was a very special hike leading to a very old redwood that 23 kids circled around on the docent-led hike the day before.

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Massive fallen trees provided many spaces to jump up and walk upon – these are 10-year-olds hopping upon this giant log.

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The sun was peeking through the trees in the morning and we really enjoyed the energy of these tall trees.

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Finally, we made it to the tree and my son is trying to climb it, I gave it a huge hug and said farewell to the redwoods. This is something I will really miss when we go back to Australia but there are other old trees that I can enjoy in the forests around Australia.

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This sign has the info on the age of the old tree at over 1,200 years old protected and living in a State Park. As ambassadors of the environment, our job is to take care of our earth so we can all enjoy the air that we breathe thanks to the trees.

This week before my CSA delivery came the fridge was empty and as my daughter is out on science camp it was a prime time to get into some beets! I made an amazing coconut milk (from coconut milk powder) beet latte for lunch and for dinner I found the Beet Balls recipe in my Samurai Salads book – I think I will have to look at it for more inspiration for autumn dinners. The beet balls were made with lentils and are the perfect addition for a wrap or crumbled into a salad.

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.

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

 

 

Welcome to the Geodome

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Check out my acorn cap!

 

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.

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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

 

 

An RV in the Redwoods

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After a couple of weeks of preparing for a couple of exams and finally completing them, it was time for a bit of rest and relaxation. Timing was perfect as California State Parks Foundation invited us (as Legacy donors) to a morning with the elephant seals on Saturday, so we booked an RV in the redwoods with Air BnB in Bonny Doon which was 30 minutes away from Ano Nuevo State Park where we went on our elephant seal tour.

We managed to find some delicious pie fro Pie Ranch – a place I have wanted to check out for ages and whose philosophy towards food is totally aligned with mine. And of course we had to buy some pie – we scored the lemon and the honey oat which were both super tasty with a cup of tea. We enjoyed the time in the RV catching up on knitting, reading, playing Nintendo, listening to audio books and generally relaxing under the redwoods.

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Saturday morning we had our early morning hike to Ano Nuevo State Park to check out the elephant seals. We had a funny and knowledgeable docent Ben who gave us the full history and life cycle of elephant seals and how their numbers went from near extinction to what they are now close to 2,000 seals just on this stretch of this State Park!

I had my 28-105mm lens to capture these guys – we got so close to them, and I managed to get some incredible shots. Of course, a telephoto would have been the best as I had lens envy every time I saw one sitting atop a tripod. But still, our docent said we did not really need it, as there were so many and they were so close to people. I was so happy to get some beautiful shots of these vulnerable creatures. There are many ways they are vulnerable ad they risk getting eaten by white sharks on their migratory route, the males have to prove their dominance amongst the harem of lady seals, the females develop a baby every year by mating with many males, the weaners are left on the beach to practice swimming and then they too will migrate miles and miles through treacherous shark infested waters to eat deep-sea fish and squid and hopefully come back to the same beach, the saddest seals are the  non-dominant males; they will just starve themselves to a certain point on the beach until they feel it’s time to go and eat and then come back for another mating season – the life of an elephant seal, who knew…

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On top of all the fun of seeing the elephant seals and the area being a wildlife refuge we saw so many birds and among them the great pelicans in their flying formation. The views over the dunes and around the sand were just breathtaking, and we were very lucky to score some sunshine on our walk with the seals.

California State Parks Foundation had set up a luncheon for us back at the barn, and we had the option of going back via the beautiful beach but to stay back 25 feet away from the elephant seals. We found one, and he looked like a rock on the beach. The beach was just so beautiful with its many rock collections and colours. The bonus was getting back to the barn was crossing New Years Creek without getting wet feet! Even though the water did not look very deep – you had to navigate your way around without getting too wet which added to the excitement.

We finished our hike just after lunch, so we had a whole afternoon to chill out, so we wandered over to Pescadero Marsh to see if we could find any birds. The kids were a bit excited and scared them off, so we decided it was a good place just to chill out on the grass and watch the clouds in the sunny afternoon sky.

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The evening after our trip out to Ano Nuevo and Pescadero ended with some rain, so we relaxed in the RV enjoying the sounds of the rain through the redwoods and on the roof. Such a perfect family getaway amongst nature.

A piece a Week – A lesson in Kombucha Brewing!

Last weekend we had friends visit from Seattle and our friend brews Kombucha back at her place and shared some Scoby with me to make some! I found a great tutorial on the Kitchn after my friend explained that all I need is to follow these instructions:

Ingredients:

4 x tea bags 
1/4 cup sugar
water 

How to:

brew tea and wait for room temperature to add scoby
scoby should multiply in a couple of days
taste tea and bottle kombucha

Yep it is that easy! 

This week was big as my husband turned 40 and we went away to Carmel to stay at a yurt for a family getaway to relax and go to the aquarium for his birthday! I have to say it was super fun to hang out at the aquarium for a whole day and eat dinner locally at this great restaurant called Peppers MexiCali cafe in Pacific Grove and head on back to the yurt for a hot tub at sunset – perfect! On our way out of Carmel on Saturday at the Earthbound Farm Stand less than 5 minutes away from the yurt we found Camp Vintage – an antique show held each year in the Summer. What perfect timing as it gave us an opportunity to wander around and see what we could find. I was on the lookout for a container for Kombucha and I found this super cool ceramic bean pot from the 1950s!
That Kombucha is a brewing

Batch number 1 and number 2 in the bean pot ready to go! 

Bottled Kombucha – trying a fig flavour and a ginger flavour

At our getaway in Carmel we wandered out to the aquarium for the day and saw such amazing creatures – it really makes me want to protect the ocean. The mission of the aquarium to inspire conservation of the oceans and they have me totally in line with their mission. I loved being immersed in an underwater world for the day and I had my SLR with me and here are my favorite pictures of the day.

Welcome to my world  says the Crystal Jelly

This puffin can fly underwater – it is amazing to watch

I loved the subtle colors on this squid

The flamboyant cuttlefish in all their glory – I could not believe how small these guys were!

Sitting in a giant clam

The color on this sea anemone are inspiring – what can I make with these colours? 

The birthday boy having a rest by the ocean

My favorite animal the sea otter under the water – looking so peaceful!

I loved this so much, a quote at the tentacles exhibit – marvelous indeed, Aristotle 

Missy as a diver in the aquarium shop!

Every time I stay in a yurt I just want one even more – which is a good thing as it will encourage me to save and manifest that yurt in our future so we will have that yurt (or yurt village) of our own one day! To sleep in a yurt is an experience everyone should have and the feeling of living in the round has a profound effect on your soul.

Morning light and playing Bananagrams

Inside the yurt with the Solar Skylight Arc – I imagine an artists studio with this amazing light!

At the hot tub relaxing at the sunset – my fractured toe enjoyed this time out to heal

A piece a Week – An anniversary getaway in Sebastopol in pictures


For our 9th wedding anniversary this year we wanted to check out Sebastopol at an Urbarn Farm Air BnB. This gorgeous craftsman house we stayed at came complete with chickens, bunnies, a cat and a hot tub for relaxation. We had such a relaxing time reading, hanging out in the hot tub eating delicious meals with fresh eggs from the chooks. The kitchen was a dream to cook in with a beautiful view of the back garden and a kitchen island with draws for organization – the best was the gas stove! Our place has electric only so it is always a treat to be cooking with gas especially when cooking is a favorite thing to do. For the first dinner when we arrived we had this leek, olive and tomato rice salad with feta and hard boiled eggs with a glass of Pinot Noir from Sonoma County – a splendid beginning to our getaway!
Dinner inspired by this Brazilian rice dish 
On our first day out into downtown Sebastopol – just a walk away was a trip to the Barlow – an up and coming local food, art and retail area. There was a Mexican place I wanted to check out called Cinco but it still is a work in progress – always next time… we had some lunch at Zazu Kitchen and Farm which is great if you like meat and pig especially – so it was not a good choice for me being a vegetarian – pretty much every dish had a pig meat product to accompany it. I ended up having dessert for lunch made with local goat cheese so that worked out fine! My husband had the pastrami sandwich which he said was a bit too chewy. 
Happiness is sunny sunflowers!
An apple processing plant converted to a collection of local delicacies 

Coming home in the afternoon we hung around in the garden with Tiger Lily the cat of the house – she is such a sweet pussy cat! The garden was beautiful with a veggie garden out the front with the chicken coop.

Tiger Lily

Hydrangea in bloom

Zucchini flowers

A pollinator in action!  

The chicken whisperer

Feathery chicken bottoms!

Fresh eggs every day!

Our bounty from the garden

The weather was perfect!
The kiddos enjoyed being farmers for the time we were away and spent a lot of time with the chickens and in the hot tub! The hot tub was at the end of the deck with lots of sunshine in the afternoon to relax and read – we all enjoyed catching up on our reading! My summer reading is The Hunger Games trilogy that I am really loving. The films are also superb with the costume design! 
The little farmers with the bounty

The kids in the hot tub

Snowy (the kids named him) the chicken

Albert – named after Albert Einstein as he is such a smart chicken

Ash is now on Harry Potter number 7 – with each book we get to watch the film!

Venturing out to Sebastopol in search of more goodies we found Screamin’ Mimis ice cream for a treat and just around the corner this amazing mid century modern furniture store Retrospect where we found this wooden chess set in a box for Ash for his birthday. I loved it and would have bought furniture if we had the space – there were a couple of sunburst clocks which are hard to find! The store was curated beautifully with found art on the wall by the owner – definitely a gem of a vintage store.

Enjoying ice cream at Screamiin’ Mimis!

Dinner was across the road at Sushi Tozai – fresh, local and organic where possible and it was indeed! The cocktail I had a cosmo made with Soju which was super strong accompanied with the rainbow roll made with fresh fish selected by the chefs! I of course enjoyed the ceramics, I need to chat to my teacher on how this soy sauce pot is made 🙂

Sushi Tozai – right across the street, now that was a score!
What a rainbow roll – delicious!!

To say a fond farewell to this lovely house that inspired us to own a craftsman house and become urban farmers – maybe one day in Portland??

Saying farewell to this beautiful house! 

While we were in Sebastopol I had read about Bohemian Creamery in the local paper The Bohemian and wanted to check out the goat milk frozen yoghurt (lavender and agave which took me to the Shasta lavender farm) and of course the cheeses! We were very lucky to taste the cheeses before we made our choices but the one which stood out for us was the Cowabunga with the goat milk caramel in the center – perfect for an after brunch treat. Overall this is a foodie paradise full of people who are super friendly and relaxed – Sonoma County is the place for me with it’s local philosophy with food that I love and appreciate! 

Looking forward to enjoying this bounty of cheeses from water buffalo, goat and cow

It was close to lunch time by the time we left so we had one more stop downtown at the local Ramen restaurant. All I can say is it was perfect with all the veggies and seaweed with the crispy tofu and egg being the stars of this Ramen bowl!

Vegetable Ramen just to visit Sebastopol for!

As we were waiting for the Ramen restaurant to open we wandered to the local crystal store called The Uncarved Block and found our souvenir of our adventures an egg shaped crystal all the way from my favourite state in Australia, Tasmania made from Atlantisite, Serpentine and Stichtite. The store was beautifully laid out with places where crystals are found in the world which was fascinating! And at home I found the perfect nest for the crystal on the bookshelf – perfect for our adventure with chickens!

Our souvenir egg from the crystal store The Uncarved Block all the way from Tasmania, Australia