Journey to a new destination

Last week it was time to say farewell to my life as a teacher assistant and get back to my life as mama and student. I made little gifts for the 14 1st graders I worked with by getting them a ball of yarn each to do finger knitting over the summer. And for the kinder kids I made them a kumihimo loom with some extra thread to practice counting and to get crafty.

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The staff at Ventana sent me off with this lovely book as a farewell gift, it was sad to say goodbye to all the lovely people who work there. This dinner is a beyond meat sausage with porcini mushrooms and fennel over a bed of brown rice noodles.

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This amigurumi koala was made for our sitter and friend L who looked after the kids while I was working. I was so lucky to find her to take the kids to their after-school classes and the like and take care of my kids as if they were her own, they will really miss her too!

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Saturday I was ready for some me time so I got on my bike and rode the trail on a cloudy morning. I found this little guy moving fast as ever on the trail.

Saturday we headed on over to Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa for a group camping with our school. It was a great weekend away and perfect timing to get away. We stopped off at Petaluma for some delicious pie for lunch both savory and sweet. For dinner it was a potluck and I made a mexican inspired black bean salad which disappeared quickly.

As the group site was booked up when we decided to go we stayed at this beautiful cabin for $98 a night (including reservation fees) – in the pics you can see the interior with a bunk bed and a double bed so it fit the 4 or us perfectly. Friends of ours joined in the fun and camped next door, so a total of 8 people can stay at this spot. There were super cool details, with solar lights on the balcony, a little broom cupboard, a table for your goods plus a seat for your bags so it was super spacious inside. We sat out on the balcony in the morning and enjoyed a mug of oatmeal with mixed nuts and maple syrup watching the hawk hanging out in the tree.

Before we left we went on down to the lake for a swim as it was a hot day and met an evil swan guarding the canoes, kayaks and SUP boards. The kids enjoyed the cool water and if you were there all day you can hang out at the water park for $10.

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We are now back in our regular routine of feeding the chickens and doing the chores each week, it was so good to see the little ladies out and about dust bathing in the sunshine.

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Back to mama time and time in the kitchen I made this delicious crumble with coconut whipped cream and nuts. It feels so good to be free with my time and I am thankful for the time I had with my work but I really appreciated to be a master of my own time now.

 

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

 

 

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.

 

 

Secret Yurt Camping in the SF Bay Area

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Spring Break last week and we managed to literally get away from the crowds and be the only people camping in a Yurt in a location just over 1 hour away from our house! Now as I write this it seems impossible to get away from ALL the people in the Bay Area because where ever you go within an hour or so from your home there is usually many more Bay Area folks camping or doing whatever within your vicinity.  Never in our camping experiences, have we gone away especially during a break from school and been by ourselves! Just to have that experience was incredible so before I spill the location be sure that you don’t mind setting up camp next to a graveyard on an abandoned Naval Base!

This beautiful part of the Bay area was in Vallejo on a peninsula called Mare Island named after the white mare who swam to shore after her ship was sunk. It is a place of beauty and solitude with the added bonus of yurt camping with all the gear supplied including a gas grill and a super clean porta potty close by.  The view from the top of the island is of 7 counties surrounding the island and right by the lookout is an art installation called the Spirit Ship in honour of the Naval families who once lived here. Spring brings the beautiful poppies, and the smell of wild fennel was in the air.

Surrounding the Mare Island Preserve are barbed wire fences – man I thought I was in a detention centre in Australia when I saw these familiar eucalyptus trees. But no, looking through the fence I found abandoned houses and buildings still needed to be cleared up by the US Federal Government due to munitions being left behind – I imagine that is a huge task and they have better things to focus on at the moment!

Wandering through the preserve right by the graveyard are some beautiful roses right in bloom for spring and for the two days I loved taking pictures of them in the different light. The graveyard was so peaceful and so old – graves dating back to 1856, this is the oldest Naval cemetery on the West Coast.

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My hubby and I wandered to the top of the hill of the afternoon we arrived – the kids get a bit mad about walking up hills, but we know better. The bonus when you climb a hill is always the view, and this panorama is what I saw when I was up there, surrounded by water most of the way with land on the horizon.

 

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Yurt party with Pusheen
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Old Tennis Court Yurt

 

Then we came back down to set up the Yurt for the evening. This yurt is made by a local Vallejo yurt maker Yurtastic, and he used billboard fabric for the exterior, roof and floor. What an excellent idea, the light is bright inside, and we had Dory on the floor from Finding Nemo.

Oh, and did I mention the views from the top of the hill, the Spirit Ship in panorama with the detail of the floor beneath the Spirit Ship with nature growing up around it.

Dinner was homemade lentil rolls we heated up on the gas grill – it acted just like an oven! On the side, we had watermelon radish and ate by the candle light of a citronella candle as there were quite a few mozzies though they did not bother us that much.

 

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Messy Missy in the truck
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The Spirit Ship at Sunset
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Inside the Yurt at night – complete with fairy lights

 

In the evening our lovely host Myrna took us for a spin with her dog Nitro down to the bunkers. We sat in the back of the truck and saw this island in the light of dusk with the beautiful colours all around. Myrna was the best and so thoughtful with her organisation for the yurt supplies in the outdoor kitchen including an outdoor screened tent, so we were mozzie free. Nitro was the sweetest dog who loved pats and was ever so friendly with all of us, we had such a fun time together.

The next day was Thursday, and we were on our own on after a night of rain over the yurt we thought our riding plans were busted but no, the sun came out, and we borrowed bikes – yes bikes were included in the trip! So we went riding to look for the entrance to the San Pablo Bay Trail entrance and back again. The visitor centre was a place full of Mare Island history including treasures from one of the original residents who grew up on the base and donated her doll and Kanga and Roo from her collection. The other bonus of the visitor centre apart from its massive size is the resident cat Linus, who reminded me so much of my little buddy Macaroni. This guy loved pats and would come up and purr near us, and we happily patted him and gave him love.

The island is full of eucalyptus trees, and after the rain, it smelled of Australia – like I was home. Wild is where nature is at here in this part of the bay with the poppies growing in between the railway tracks. And the kids enjoyed having stick fights with the wild fennel, and that kept them occupied as I wandered the graveyard to see what history this place held. As we were interested in seeing the birds, Myrna loaned us her binoculars so we could watch the baby osprey and the osprey who nests there. This is the view I had through the binoculars to observe the baby birds way up high. We also saw snowy egrets, blue jays, wild turkeys and turkey vultures who call this place home. In the evening we heard the sound of the coyote talking and yipping to each other, lucky we were tucked away in our beds in the Yurt.

 

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The outdoor kitchen setup
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The lovely Linus the cat
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At the visitor centre
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By the campfire

 

We had one last visit to the visitor centre and an evening by the campfire (there are no other places on the island where a campfire is allowed as it dangerous) with Myrna and Eric (another volunteer who shared so much interesting information on photography and nature). We washed the dishes and lay cleaned them and packed them away neatly and off we went to see Linus and the ephemera at the visitor centre. The collection of teacups was beautiful and the evening before Myrna and I shared a pot of rooibos tea in a cup and saucer – very fancy! The fire was perfect for our marshmallows, and we enjoyed learning about the history of Mare Island and its inhabitants.

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Soon it was time to leave, and the preserve was open to the public, we wandered down to check out the bunkers the view and got this great picture of all of us in the massive bunker (built during the mid-1920s to store munition). The bunker we checked out had astroturf on the ground and digital print of the first cave painting from Lascaux, France. A bunch of folks had a caveman dinner in the bunkers which explains the paleo inspiration.

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And there is Dory on the floor – we were so happy to enjoy our couple of nights getaway from it all. If you are keen to check it out and visit Myrna and Nitro the dog, go to Hipcamp where you can find this yurt and the other romantic yurt for two further up the hill. If your camping party is big just camp in the bunker and watch the sun rise, so many options to camp and support the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve.

On our way back the sun was shining I took some pictures of the beautiful chapel with its Tiffany windows – you can visit the church with a guided tour which is $5, the kids were done, but I would have loved to have seen them. On the way home, we opted for a walk just below Mt Diablo in a place called Shell Ridge Open Space Preserve where we found a ranch complete with chickens and a sleepy rooster. It felt we were away from civilisation for longer than two days, now that is what I call a break from it all!

Back to study for me as I have an essay tomorrow and Assessment 2 is just around the corner!

A piece a week – Another cross back top with fabric from Sri Lanka and Indonesia

As I really liked the pattern from last week I wanted to try out another top as I find that I am happiest when making clothes! Maybe it is because that was what I first learned to do when I started sewing. I have such a stash of fabric that is calling to be used and I need tops for the summer, so why not! The fabric that came out of my stash this time is fabric my uncle bought me back from Sri Lanka – which I love and another fabric I found on free cycle – some batik fabric from Indonesia. When I pieced them together I thought what a wonderful idea of putting these islands together – one day I might feel like Sri Lanka and another day could be Indonesia. Both hot and tropical so that is something else I really enjoy – come to think of it I don’t know if I could handle the humid tropic heat anymore! Living in California has spoilt me big time with it’s wonderful weather 😀

Back to the fun of making this top again – I decided to redo the neckline and make it higher so it sits better on the shoulder and it sits very much like a trapeze top now which I like as it will be cool for the hotter weather. The fabrics go together very well and even though there is a lot of black that is fine as it will go with many different colored pants or skirts. Anyway enough of my wardrobe and updating – it is fun to do and maybe this well I will work on something new.

The back of the top with the Sri Lankan elephants

The front of the top with the Indonesian batik – the pattern is gorgeous

The side view with a bit of the Sri Lankan fabric peeking though

The Sri Lankan fabric in full view from the front. 

Last week flew by and I had a full weekend of camping and taking a walk about Sutro Baths in San Francisco starting at Lands End. It was just beautiful as you could hike up in between the Monterey Cypress and get the perfect shot of the Golden Gate bridge. The camping was pretty awesome at China Camp with a near full moon and being out in front of the fire. The smell of the campfire just takes me back to summer and the knowing that there is more to come makes me so happy. I love being outside and it is a small price to pay to be sleeping on the ground in a tiny tent with my whole family – it is such an amazing thing to do for your soul. We had a whirl wind journey as we had planned to go Friday but the traffic was a nightmare so we went first thing Saturday morning and the day was absolutely perfect with sunshine a a teeny bit of fog when we were walking around.

The afternoon at the campground we set up camp and had a couple of glasses of wine prepping a chili for dinner – super easy to throw a vegetarian chili on the open fire but be careful of the beans. The evening dessert was the hit of last summer – Campfire Cones. This time we threw in some Girl Scout Thin Mints and marshmallows and that was enjoyed by all even without the melty chocolate minty marshmallow combo. On the way back home Sunday, we stopped at China Camp – an old shrimp fishing village from the 1800s. There will be a next time – as the camping was super and I have a couple of good spots we would like to stay at next time we go there and definitely check out the hiking around the camp sites. One thing I remember was that I heard frogs singing away in the evening – what a perfect sound to sleep by!

Through a tunnel at Sutro Baths to see the rough surf
A stunning grove of Monterey Cypress tress
Action by the kiddos on the hike
A perfect day with the Golden Gate bridge
Our camp site and tent – fly less, what’s going on it isn’t even Summer!
The kids on the beach at China Camp
Sunday and the bridge is shrouded in fog – and we hear the fog horn