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

 

 

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 – A cozy hat and a camp trip to Napa in a Yurt in the Rain

What a wonderful lazy week it was with having a Thanksgiving Break for the whole week. No school from Wednesday and hanging with the family and seeing Big Hero 6 – Amazing!!! Preparing for our Thanksgiving crab feast with a vegetarian main of Shepherds pie and desserts that included Cranberry Tart, Vegan Pumpkin Pie and Quince and Pear Crumble. We had a wonderful day with friends who came over from Oakland and we hung out and ate and relaxed and took the kiddos to the park to play after all the food we ate.

Cranberries waiting for their pastry bottom with some lemon zest

After the day was over we had to get ready for our weekend away to Bothe Napa State Park to stay in a yurt! Yes I was so excited to stay in a yurt again and I knew it was not going to be like the Mt Shasta fancy yurt experience which was 3 times the size of the yurt at Napa. On Thanksgiving Day my friends told us that it was going to rain on the weekend!! Oh that was not going to stop our weekend away…  What fun to camp in a yurt in the rain in California, a very novel idea indeed!!

Bunny sculpture in a winery

On our way to the state park we had some time to check out the mill and find out how flour is made. The Bale Grist Mill from 1846 still makes all types of flour and sells it for $5 a bag – my husband the bread baker was very excited! We took the tour of the mill and it was fascinating to see all the processes of the mill and chat to the docent who is a baker too. He had the tastiest cream puffs to sample left over from his Thanksgiving Feast.

The Mill powered by a 36 foot water wheel 

A stone that makes the stone ground flour 

Vintage Flour Sifters

Scored some Whole Wheat Bread Flour ready for an artisan loaf of bread

Milling today – How lucky were we!! 

Check in was at 2pm so we headed on over to the yurt and it was nice and dry. As it is winter the light is limited so we were getting the fire started early and starting to cook dinner. Lucky for us as soon as we had heated up our Thanksgiving leftovers and were eating it started raining so dessert was in the yurt – which prompted a song by the kiddos… dessert in the yurt, dessert in the yurt!!

Cranberry tart travelled in a lunchbox in the cooler 

The yurt had a a queen size bed and 2 camp cots for the kiddos inside so we bought our sleeping bags, pillows and blankets to keep extra warm. It was very cold in the yurt but as there were 4 of us when the door was closed it warmed up fairly quickly. We made it for dessert and as it was raining there was no hanging out with the campfire so we opted to go to bed super early – as early as 8pm!! Sleeping listening to the rain on the yurt was so relaxing until it got super heavy and then blobs of water from the trees above woke us up from our slumber.

The yurt in the morning

The yurt freshly rained on!

We headed over to Calistoga the next day for brunch and to escape the rain. We enjoyed the farmers market and had a lovely brunch at Cafe Sarafonia I ordered the Spinach and Portobello Benedict and it was just the right size and oh so tasty with avocado. We really enjoyed Calistoga and next time we go for a mud bath or a spa! When we wandered around and went to the Sharpsteen museum for some California history, they have a diorama of the town which is meticulously crafted and well worth a visit.  After the museum visit we came out and the sun was shining and our window for hiking was upon us!

A break under the old oak trees

Climbing a manzanita tree

An enchanted moss covered forest

Beautiful Manzanita shows its colour in the rain

A fun guy on a tree

A world of fairies and tiny mushrooms

The camp hosts dream Airstream! 

Oh and in between eating and camping I started making this wonderful hat out of my favorite yarn Malabrigo worsted. This pattern is Anjas Newsboy Hat and is meant to have a brim, unfortunately I ran out of yarn. Still it is a warm hat to wear as it covers your ears and this is a teeny bit loose but the yarn was challenged while it was being knitted in the rain and by the campfire. Still it is a super easy pattern to follow and cannot wait to make another one soon – this time with a brim!

Pink  malabrigo hat for the winter