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.

Surprise food encounters

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We did a side trip to Adelaide and the pics were on my phone and I downloaded all the action today, now I can document the eating adventure we had with our family. We hit the airport nice and early for our flight to Adelaide from Melbourne and it was cancelled so we had a nice long 4-hour wait at the airport, it sucks when we could have been sleeping or watching Teen Titans at our other Air Bnb.

Anyway after exhausting all the fun stuff at Tullamarine airport including a Metalicus 90% off sale – a sad sale as they will no longer exist! I also found Pressed Juices who had the most delicious selection of juice plus many vegan and vegetarian options so I was happy. We were flying Jetstar only to change to a Qantas flight so we scored some extra food on the plane which was great. In Adelaide, we stayed at an old fire station which could sleep 8 people but it worked out as we were close to our relatives. There are my new favourite boots by the “fire hose place”. We enjoyed meeting our relatives at a cafe by the beach but it was ice cold to be anywhere on the beach so we stayed inside and enjoyed a macchiato and hot chocolate.

Oh and the cold does make me super hungry so I found this wonderful vegetarian option of beet hummus with halloumi and rocket topped with balsamic, yummo at the Grange Jetty Cafe.

We only had a couple of fun days with Grandma Jane and Grandpa Lloyd and Callie so we enjoyed as many eating opportunities as we could by visiting Sarah’s Sisters, a sustainable cafe way before its time with many vegetarian options on the menu and wine in a sunlit space by the nursery with an alpaca and chickens. I was hanging out for a salad due to the amount of junk food I have been eating whilst travelling. Missy is wearing the beginnings of a Totoro amigurumi I made for my nephew.

On our final day in Adelaide, we went out to Marion to check out the gallery and enjoy some more food with a latte and cappuccino with some yummy food before we hit the airport again. Australians really know how to make a good coffee!

Oh and our day out to the Botanical Gardens and Sugar Republic where our lunch was captured at a 24 hour ramen place called Shujinko where I enjoyed a cold ramen on a cold Melbourne day. The rest of the family had the ramen and really enjoyed it, though they always compare it to Sha La La in Mountian View where they have been spoilt. I wanted to document the many food dates we had in Adelaide and Melbourne that I had not covered as yet, ta da done!!

 

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.

Friends, Food and Family

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A whole week of planning with the kids as my third teaching period for University commenced. To start the week off, I said to the kid’s let’s visit my friend who manages a book store to stock up on your fave author David Walliams. The USA does not get his book releases as much as Australia. So we did that and went to the cinema on cheapo Monday at the Nova to see Chicken People. We loved it as we are all a bunch of chicken lovers and enjoyed the quirkiness of the chicken obsessed at a chicken show in Ohio and Nashville!

I had to balance some study time in with catching up with friends and their kids for the school holidays. There is nothing like art time and then playtime for the kids and wine by the Yarra River.

I started two units, so I had to devote some time to carving into the work for this week, so I spent a morning in and took the kids shopping in the city and on the way back we found a park to play in complete with a flying fox.

The big day last week was quite random as I wanted to check out the National Trust House property of the Rippon Lea Estate as it is Aunt Prudence’s house from the Ms Fishers Murder Mysteries series that I love so much! The bonus of visiting Rippon Lea Estate is there was a fashion exhibit Night Life focusing on clothing on the 1920s-30s!!

Oh my,  I had such a fun time with my friend checking out the clothing and accessories worn around Melbourne in the high times of partying and living it up in this fabulous city. I loved this era in fashion especially with the bias cut dresses and the beaded dress silhouette including the accessories!

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On our way back to the train station I found this very famous restaurant Attica in the streets of Ripponlea. I had only seen this on a show on Netflix and wondered where it was in Melbourne – the chef is very innovative and forages for a lot of bush food in the dishes and had me glued to the television when I watched it, and it did make me yearn to come back home.

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Oh and the dramas of public transport – we made it to North Melbourne, and one of the kids wanted to get off the train to go to the toilet, so we did with only two stops to our destination. Next train disappeared off the schedule, and the next thing over the loud speaker was we have problems with the train this evening we do not know when they will be running again, now this was 4 pm on a Thursday night – peak hour rush just on the horizon. So what happens next was this disjointed plan to get back to our place via the tram with everyone else leaving the city sardine packed into them as they travelled by. It was a difficult choice to make especially with having the kids with me, so we just walked to the 57 tram near the Victoria market and waited… and waited… it was two and a half hours later, and we were finally home. My phone was dead we got back to the house and plugged in to see what was happening with my dinner plans. So, of course, everyone else was in the same situation, so we just stayed in had a bitch session about how crap it was and had some pizza and wine and catch up such a way to end a Thirsty Thursday!

FriYay and I spent most of the day studying except for lunchtime when I met a friend for lunch in the city, and we went out to Lygon Street for dinner in the evening with my sister in law, her hubby and the cousins. The kids had already had fun though exhausting time with their cousins playing all day, so we had pizza and gelato and headed on home.

Another friend catch up on Saturday with a very old friend of mine from way back when and we went out for Laksa to a favourite haunt of ours from back in the day, the Laksa King and it still tastes amazing! After lunch, we wandered around the hood to check out the million dollar houses and matching fancy cars.

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It was back to school for the kiddos this week in Melbourne, so we had our goodbyes to the cousins and the animals at their house. The menagerie of cats, chickens and dogs was enjoyed by everyone. I will miss my friends and family, but I know I will be returning real soon and knowing this does not make leaving Australia to feel all that bad.

The Pinnacles on Earth Day 2017

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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!

 

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Scooting around the campground
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The potluck area and the other group camp where we saw California quails

 

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Our group campground hangout

 

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.

 

 

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 week of films and Lake Chabot

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Last week was Ski Week a week off school just for fun – for everyone in the Bay Area, this is your chance to go skiing with everyone else in the Bay Area, whoo hoo! Unfortunately, it was not so exciting for us last week as I had to study for a literacy and a math exam and both the kiddos were sick, boo! So towards the end of the week, the kids had gifted me their germs, and I was down, and so were my study plans!!

Most of the week it was raining so we started the week off with the Lego Batman movie which was a lot of fun, though not as good as the Lego movie. Tuesday we saw A Dog’s Purpose which was beautiful and made me cry throughout the whole film even though I knew what was going to happen! Any film with animals being harmed or dying is difficult for me, and I knew it was going to be a hard film to watch as the trailer made me cry. And as I was feeling pretty crappy by the end of the week I went to see La La Land instead of going to yoga class Saturday morning. I really enjoyed it as it resonates with you afterwards. I enjoyed the spectacular cinematography, music and dance routines, so much of it to love and the costume design of Emma Stone’s wardrobe was stunning and so yellow – my favourite colour.

 

So with such a lazy week of attempted study and sickness and movies, we really wanted to go outside in the sunshine on Sunday. I had a long-standing date with our friends from Oakland, and we had planned a rainy day activity to the Exploratorium, but we were not too keen to spend $100 plus for a day out. Lucky for us it was a sunny Sunday, and we were busily texting and calling Sunday morning to reschedule our plans to an outside activity. As some of the roads had been closed off due to the storms our first choice, Sunol was not accessible, and in the end, we stuck with some East Bay Parks to find a central location for both of us to drive to. We really enjoyed the hike around Lake Chabot Regional Park as it was an easy drive for us and there are many rolling green hills to wander around chatting and catching up on what has been going on in our lives.

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The kids even gained some energy being outside in the sunshine and enjoying the time with their long time friend from the East Bay, they were powered by jelly beans.

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Lots of Turkey Vultures were to be found flying around the lake and look at those green hills.

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We ended up doing a 3-mile hike – not a big hike for us, but we really enjoyed being outside in the sun and soaking up some Vitamin D.

We wandered through lots of oak woodland as we hopped off the main trail to go up into the hills above the main trail. The guys led us on some random trail for a bit of excitement, but hey it actually did lead us back to the main trail! I loved the shape of the big old oak trees up on the hills with lots of amazing green grass with thanks to the rain. The rain also filled up the lake above some of the banks to see the jetty and the seats nearby underwater. Lots of fishing opportunities to be had here with some quiet little fishing piers to check out along the way.

Thank goodness for blue skies and sunny Sundays, I loved the day out and felt so much better. As you can see the kids still enjoyed a workout after our little hike at the exercise area by the lake. This is a super special place to hang out for the day, and I am so happy that we were out and about with our friends enjoying the sunshine!

It’s a sun sunny day!

 

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Enjoying the rays with the family

 

As the rain has been keeping us inside most of the time for the last couple of weeks! Sunday was literally a sunny day so we took full advantage of the morning and went for a wander to explore more of the bay. Over the week a friend of mine told me about a park with amazing views of San Francisco, Oakland and the bay where she volunteers to feed a feral cat colony! I was so excited so we went on a mission to look for it via Seal Point Park and it is right next door to Ryder Park – named after my nephew! It is a dog park with a hill with sweeping views of the Bay all around. Plus the added bonus is that the trail is perfect for riding so one day we will have to catch the Caltrain over there as it is 12 minutes away from the stop – it is a 21-mile bike ride via the Bay trail from Shoreline Park, whew I get sore legs thinking about it!

The pics above are from the top of the hill and looking down onto the sights, like San Francisco on the left behind all the fog. On the right is a pic of some of the sculptures along the trail.

Now, this is what we need more of here where I live super cool looking interactive sculptures. The two discs act like an echo chamber and it’s so good to go in there and sing! This lotus looking sculpture looks like it would spin if it is windy!

 

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A giant pokemon in real life in front of the binoculars
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Attack of the wild fennel
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The San Mateo Bridge and a fishing bridge (the old bridge!)

 

We decided to go and find Project Baycat to see if we could see any cats but unfortunately, they had partied Saturday night and there were no cats to be found. I will just have to go with my friend when she volunteers – I can’t wait! Still, it was a lovely morning to spend with the family in the sunshine.

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A beautiful Hindu statue of Vishu, the protector and preserver of the universe, and when someone places his statue at a particular location, it means they’re asking him to watch over the place and its inhabitants, and to ensure harmony – sweet!

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And did I say planes – all of the planes that come into SFO fly directly overhead so if you are into watching some planes, check out this Seal Point Park right next to Ryder Park – the water park in the summer!

 

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The bearded chicken!

 

And speaking of volunteering – this bearded chicken was left by the farm where our coop is and she has been adopted to our flock! In times like these, giving back at a local level is the best thing. I donated cat food to Project Bay Cat and I am still making pussyhats for my friends who supply the yarn and they donate to a non-profit for the hat. My favourite gig of the week volunteering with the kids and teaching them sewing. It is the best thing to see them create with a needle and thread, and a lot of the time I even learn from them!