Bollywood and Into the woods

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The wonderful summer heat was here this week for a fleeting moment and then by the time Friday rolled around the fresh winds came by in time for the Bollywood dance party organised by my friends as an auction item for the school! It was such a fun night with amazing food, cocktails and dancing! It was a gift to myself for submitting my second maths assessment a video presentation on a natural maths phenomenon, which I really enjoyed doing!

 

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The ladies ready to drink
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It’s selfie time 
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Enjoying cocktails together! 

 

There was even a dress up corner where you could put on a sari and add accessories of bindis and bangles – we had so much fun! The drinks were flowing, and friends came from the school community, and we were ready to party 😀

Check out the dance floor action here in the video – I loved every minute of this.

Sunday we met our friends from Oakland at Sunol Regional Wilderness Area, and it was the perfect day for a hike with friends. The sun was out as were the butterflies and the bees! It took us a while to find the trail as we wandered along the creek for a while through poison oak until finally, we saw the up arrow!

Along the hike, we spotted so many wildflowers. I have no idea what most of these are called except for the milk thistle and the California poppies.

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The boys work on getting us on the right track after we messed up the first attempt bush bashing through the woods.

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Finally, we were rewarded with open fields of grasses and wildflowers, and my hayfever was in full swing with all the blooms and pollen flying around everywhere. We wandered up to the top of the hill to see the view of Little Yosemite with all the falls below us. Once we got down there, it felt just like Yosemite with lots and lots of people wandering down this one little goat trail to get to the falls and rock scrambling.

I don’t know if the hills on the left are being mined for rocks, but they do look strange. We wandered down many paths, to get to the falls and to check out the water and rocks. It was just beautiful though it would be lovely with not at many folks around so I opted to sit quietly under a tree in the shade for a while to just listen to the water.

The kids really liked rock scrambling around the falls that were not very deep – off went their shoes so they could get their grip on the rocks and explore the area. I enjoyed watching them on a rock as I had a camera that I don’t like to get wet or to hit against rocks, which was fine to just bask in the sunshine.

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It was so fun to get together at last with our friends from O-town and enjoy a hike together amongst the wildflowers and the woods.

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 – The Airport Sling from On The Go Bags

I would have to say this project took me longer than a week to complete but I have to say that I am happy that I finally completed it! A lesson in all new tricks and techniques from the great book On the Go bags. It took me a while to understand how to apply the exterior pocket with zip to hold your passport and papers with a pen holder – now I will be well and truly organized for our trip to Australia in the Summer which was the inspiration behind making this bag. I accidentally made it taller rather than wider but it worked out well as my purse to hold cash and credit cards etc is a rectangle so it is perfect! I really like the fact I have reduced the amount of crap I carry around – yay!! And I feel so organized with those exterior pockets one for the phone and the other side for my glasses. 
This little pocket stores my phone

At the moment my glasses go in here but I will be sticking the passports in there too! 

For the Easter weekend I booked a cabin 6 months ago when the California State Parks had their sale as Samuel Taylor State Park is a popular destination for people who live in the city of SF. We travelled up to 2 hours to get there in bad traffic on a Saturday afternoon but still it was so worth it! The cabin is amazing – I have to say it is the best cabin I have stayed in at a State Park, the last time we went cabin camping I was freezing, this time – no way as there was an electric pot belly stove to make the cabin nice and snug. I loved the cabin and just outside our own little fire ring, picnic table and little BBQ (where you have to bring your own briquettes). We had a lovely beet felafel with goat cheese wraps in foil cooked on the fire with a salad for our easy dinner. For dessert we had banana boats which is a banana sliced in the center to make a boat then tuck in some chocolate chips and marshmallows wrap them in foil and have it all melt together – yum!

Our dinner beet felafel wraps and wine from Chile

The kids at the beginning of the hike find a California Poppy
In the afternoon before dinner we decided to go for a hike up hill to Barnabe Peak 1446 ft (447 m) high – which is 2 miles up and up and up the fire trail. At times we looked up and thought we are never going to make it as you can see from the pic below, Ash was ready to give up but we kept on powering on! I was dragging behind taking the pictures and it wasn’t until I said hi to a Michael Franti lookalike that said to me ‘almost there’ was when I felt the inspiration to keep on going to the top. Once we got there the winds were strong and the fog was rolling in – still it was an amazing 360 degree view and worth the hike! 

I can’t walk anymore!!

Green to the horizon

Feeling the wind as we are nearly there!!

You can just see the sea on the left

Looking out 

Heading on back down with views of the Kent Lake spillway

Going back down was fast though it was tough on the feet to stay balanced and not fall down the trail. We certainly slept well Saturday night with a few aches and pains in our legs.

An Indian Painbrush flower

As we were going down we saw lots of wildflowers in amongst the green – lots and lots of California poppies which was a real treat!

There they are little specks on the trail! 

Think we missed seeing this sign on the way up! 

Happy to be back in the cabin with this heater!

We had to enjoy the campfire not just for cooking but for hanging out with – it was super warm but the cabin with its coziness of the electric stove tempted me inside. Also I had other plans to do and that was to chat to the Easter Bunny about surprises for Easter morning 🙂

Burn baby burn

A story about the foxes

Surprises from the Easter bunny – eat my little friends he says and here are some eggs from my chicken friends, fair trade chocolate of course!

All lined up behind the blinds

Excited to find these goodies from the Easter bunny

We were sad to say farewell to our Fox Den – it was just an overnight stay but it felt longer and we are now walking that little bit slower and breathing deeper, as taking that time out in the woods was so relaxing.

The beautiful new cabin at Samuel Taylor State Park in the Madrone Campground

The log dude not the log lady?!?

After eating all that chocolate the kids needed to work it off with another hike to the beach – this hike was an easy one straight up to the beach via the Abbotts Lagoon Trail. I was hoping to see more birds but we just saw some hawks overhead – the dunes were closed off as the habitat of the endangered Snowy Plover, those guys are so cute and tiny. The kids decided they wanted to make some art from driftwood on the beach so Ash was on a mission dragging logs and finding sticks and Missy was digging holes for their collaboration piece they left behind on the beach.

Working together on a mission
 
All done – take this pic from the front Mom!

Fields of California Poppies