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!

 

2017 The year of exploring new frontiers

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This year I am on a mission to visit places that we have not explored before and this means getting out a map and going OK this is something different let’s give it a go. So today we visited a place we have been before for camping and a picnic but never for a hike!! The hike within the park is an area called Phleger Estate that was saved with the help of the Peninsula Open Space Trust in 1995 protecting the second growth redwood forest for future generations. Coming from Washington State with all the green and visiting this preserve after the rains we appreciated seeing the green on the trees and the water in the creeks here in the Bay Area at long last!

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The highlight of having the rains and the creeks full of water is locating these little fellas, the California Newt – with the amazing camouflage they are quite hard to find as they blend in with the undergrowth but we did manage to find two. We may be going newt tracking as there will be more to be found in other parks around the Bay – especially Butano State Park. They are very hard to photograph too even though they are quite slow they easily get lost amongst their surroundings.

I took out my 50mm low light lens into the forest today to see how it performs under the shade of the trees and I am so impressed! I would have many more beautiful shots if I had thought of this when we were in Washington recently as the overcast day combined with the shade of trees made it pretty tricky to take pics. I love the detail of this lens especially for close up images of moss and fungi and I found so many after the rain.

 

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Entering the Golden Gate National Recreation Area – need to find more hikes
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Brilliant white fungi
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These are so special with the way they grow – so inspiring for textiles
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The creeks are flowing beautifully
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The mossy grandfather tree with the second growth redwoods behind
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After the storm, this tree came down across the trail
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Close up of a redwood cone and its babies

 

As an example of some of the images taken today with the 50mm fixed lens – you do get stuck sometimes if you want to capture more in the frame but it worked today for the subjects of close-up foliage and landscapes of the river. The trees can be tricky with their height depending on your angle.

In the BA Hiker info page, there was an emphasis on the signposts on the trail so I had to take a picture of this one with the horse and the Indian. As we were wandering through the trail I saw power lines going through and what is a power line without a pair of sneakers hanging from them – this runner must have had enough!

 

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Pegasus with a wig
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In honour of David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch?
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Yum homemade granola and yoghurt
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Excited for his burger and chips!
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Everything has to have a side of bacon for this girl!
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Nothing like an ice cream for the Lady Liberty herself!

 

After our hike as we were in Woodside we visited a legendary cafe – (again something we have not experienced) for lunch. This place is called Buck’s of Woodside and they serve breakfast until 2:30 pm on public holidays so we were sorted following our hike. They did have a delicious choice of meals for lunch on the menu too! It is a place where my Uncle would just love as it reminded me of his House of Vintage back in Australia. What a collection of stuff in there and there’s a whole catalogue of it on the website as an added bonus the food was fresh and tasty and the service was excellent! (This is saying a lot for an American restaurant – usually, service is pretty mediocre, I come from Melbourne where the service is exemplary).

On our way home from hike and lunch it was our day to spend time with the ladies – the chickens, and they were so excited to get out into the sunshine and do their chicken yoga in the grass and run around. Here is Missy with her new chicken MichelleBella. And of course, as I had my camera I could not resist the goats on the farm!

 

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Oh, look at this cute pygmy goat!
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Ash hanging out with a baby goat

 

New Year, New Beginnings

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This is the year 2017 and time for all those resolutions and all that jazz that never manifest. Last year I was supposed to play my ukelele but did I even pick it up and learn one song – no! I love my ukelele and it is so good to own one and I do need to make time to play if only there were more hours in the day, then maybe?

Now it is back to reality and to regular routine… I have my two subjects a week for this teaching period plus 3 assignments to complete in the next 2 weeks so my time is very limited to socialising and the like. I still need to get out and exercise for my mind, so time on my yoga mat and dancing are priorities. I am really enjoying studying and it gives me a sense of purpose and a goal (at the end of a very long tunnel!) My first group assignment is going along well and it was not as hard as I perceived it to be in fact communicating across the world online with different timezones is so do-able, every day it is done in business which makes me wonder why do business folks still have to have face to face contact and jet around the world constantly? Anyway, that is not my worry, I have to get this blog post written and get on with my reading and weekly tasks for this week for my Education degree…

Our new years eve this year was just the four of us enjoying a lovely dinner of DIY pizza, cocktails using Sonoma organic ginger vodka, loganberry liqueur from Whidbey Island distillers and lemon shrub I made over the summer and tonic water – they went down a treat. A collaboration with my hubby where he made the meringue and I decorated the pavlova sans the cream (as I forgot) turned out to be quite the success. It went down a treat and we shared it with our neighbour who also is a fan of Australia – my good friend in Australia said to me the pavlova was super easy to make and she is a Kiwi and it turned out to be so, though he did spend a lot of time with the hand mixer (I hear the Kitchen Aid is the biz!!).

For New Years Day we mixed it up a bit this year and we abandoned the idea of brunching with friends and decided to start the year off with something we have not done in the 10 years we have lived in the Bay Area. Why we have not done this is a complete mystery but as it turned out the 1st day of the year was a perfectly, clear, sunny day to walk the Golden Gate Bridge! Every time we drive over it seems so surreal that we are living here – well we live in the suburbs of San Francisco so it is not like living in a city! Anyway, I will not complain, I do love the sunshine 🙂 To start the year off on something new was a bold move for us and we plan to do many more adventures like this in the time we have left in the United States. That is if my plan works to escape and head on back home!

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The views from the bridge are absolutely spectacular and on a day with zero fog and sunshine, it was just amazing to see what this city has to offer. I loved the views of the bridge walking under it and I loved to admire the incredible engineering. The cables viewed from the walking paths with their curves were to behold and the view of the city just wonderful – it is such a beautiful bridge and a glorious bay it is no wonder that people love living here!

Here is a rare image of my hubby and myself finally in front of the Golden Gate Bridge – we had some time to talk about our future while we were away on vacay. Time alone without children screaming the background or media to distract us – now we know where we both stand it is up to us to take life where we want to go. The future can always be scary so a bit of investigation in the job market and where we are both going in life has to be examined before any big decisions are made! The love locks we found on the Golden Gate are from lovers who have used a lock as a symbol of their love and then thrown away the key – what a sweet gesture, I thought it was for suicide victims whew thank goodness they were not as that would be a lot of unnecessary deaths of couples!

I really enjoyed the light of the day the other day with the bridge and wandering along being together as a family. This holiday has really brought us together and it is so good to see the kids in a relaxed mode and enjoying each others company which is why I captured this pic of the two of them chatting away, they are both growing up so fast! Oh and check out the tunnel we had to travel through to get to the bridge, it is quite the adventure going into a little Hobbit tunnel.

So to new beginnings and how to move along 2017 in such a positive light! I plan to do more photography, ride my bike often (see this ride across the bridge for a bit of a long day of riding!) and bake more – this is a clafoutis that I made from apple and berries and it was divine. It is such a simple recipe I found in Sunset magazine using my Vitamix and oh yes I need to use my blender to make smoothies and all that goodness. Really it is so important to stay positive and full of light in the coming year and be there to support each other – I don’t want to mention here why but I think most people know the doom that exists on the horizon.

Giving Thanks!

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In these times of despair, it may be hard to focus on the positive. This time of year with Thanksgiving it is a time of giving thanks to the many aspects of your life or even your year to propel you towards 2017 full of positive vibes. Seriously, we as a group of people who care need to stand together in spite of all the barriers that we see ahead and believe that we can do this. I have even made a calendar of positive affirmations for each month to get us through the coming year ahead and I believe that if you focus on the positive good things will happen.

Of course, I give thanks to the amazing family of mine that consist of our unit of four with the 2 cats. It is grounding in my life to know that whatever happens we have each other living in peace together. So much turmoil around in my circle of friends means that the relationships you do have that work give you focus on cherishing your own relationships. And in the analogy of tending to a garden – give it lots love and attention and your garden will blossom.

We have some good friends here who are like family to me and we are lucky to have each other and I am thankful that we have known each other for over 10 years and have grown with our children who still love to spend the time with each other. We enjoy camping adventures together and hiking and of course eating so we will be spending thanksgiving together relaxing, playing games and catching up.

So there are many things that I give thanks for this year? The community seems to be up there for me with having the support of a group makes a heck of a difference in your day to day life. The school my daughter attends are my people. We are all on the same page about the involvement of education for our children and the future they will have with the approach of hands-on learning. Everyone works together to make it work. And we are there for each other, from my experience living here with no family you create your family from your community around you.

This is why I choose to give back to the community at the local library and teach sewing skills to a group of people who have come to the classes since they began last year. I am so happy that the program at the library we started last August has become really successful with wait lists for the programs as they fill up fast. We had 9 people at the infinity scarf program last Tuesday – the bonus is that we have 8 sewing machines now so there is less waiting around. Next month the program is making holiday decor out of felt with lots of hand sewing and experimentation with fabric. I am loving this opportunity to inspire people in the community and those who want to try something new and instilling the confidence in that they can make something and be creative.

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The opportunity to go home over the summer and spend time with family and friends has been an incredible experience for me. In a sense, it has been a literal “homecoming” for my life and where I want to be in the future. I am thankful for the family I have in Australia and how loving, caring and genuine they are – being so far away AND for so long it was hard to grasp and remember the love. But going home to be with my family was the best thing I have done for myself, my family and the future. The knowing that we can go back every year now until we leave will be something that I look forward to every year. I truly miss my family and it is really hard to be so far away but thank goodness for FaceTime we are just a phone call away which makes it so much easier.

Seeing our friends when we went home was a homecoming in a similar way – again our friends we have known for years and will be friends for as long as we live. We have had many experiences in our past together before kids and now most of our friends have kids we are like one big family together again living away from our families whether they are in another country or another state in Australia – it is still not that far away for them. The time we spent together is something that I will remember – as having close friends means that even though we spend time together when we meet up it feels just like yesterday when we saw each other. Thankful for having friendships like these means a lot to me.

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One final thing I am thankful for this year is the opportunity to study – thanks to a good friend of mine who planted the seed in my mind I decided to attempt a degree in education. And now I am on my third week of the course and it is intense and very exciting at the same time. It is incredible how inspiring a degree can be especially if it is something you do at a semi-professional level. Learning the background and studying online is another experience in my life that I feel has aligned at the right time and even though this is challenging with everything else in my life I do find the time to study! It will be a long journey ahead but oh so worth it for the future – education is something that everyone needs and it should be a necessity of the population, not a commodity (I will not open this kettle of fish here now – this has to be a positive post!)