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Category Archives: California

A Golden Birthday for a Three Year Old

When your soon-to-be three year old says that all she wants to do for her birthday is walk on the Golden Gate Bridge, what do you do? Well, you walk that bridge!

She began requesting it in earnest as her birthday “party” after this trip, and only increased her pleadings with gusto, so we loaded up the car on her birthday weekend and made the drive down to the Bay area.

We stayed overnight in San Rafael on Sunday evening {so much more affordable than SF!} and drove down towards the City after the commuter traffic had subsided. It was a smart move driving in right as the parking lots opened at 10 as they quickly filled up within minutes of our arrival. It was also a wise decision to circumvent the weekend traffic — causes a lot less congestion headache!

Lucie jumped from the car, eager to begin the trek! {That pose is all her own.}

Her interest in bridges {and lighthouses} piqued by this book, after being introduced to it over a year ago, has not abated. She still squeals with delight each time she spies one as we pass by. This one is no different and now holds an even more special place in her heart as she walked across it!

We love making these memories with our girls.

And we couldn’t finish off the day without a sweet birthday treat. That banana split was a huge hit! What a goof.

Marin Headlands Adventure

After a short drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, we landed in the Marin Headlands. We had booked a night at the Hi Marin Hostel in one of their private rooms. It was a great fit for our family, with two bunks, one of which had a double on the bottom. The sheets and towels were provided so no extra packing {or laundry}! The annexed house had a communal kitchen, several bathrooms, a dining area, and sitting room, all of which made it feel like a home away from home. Sure, it wasn’t as luxurious as a hotel in the City, but it did the trick wonderfully for us.

We packed in our own meals {which was necessary given the nearest places to grab a bite were in Sausalito, about a 15-20 minute drive away}. I brought along leftovers from the previous night so preparation was super simple. It was very convenient to warm up our meal and eat right away after a long day of travel.

The girls were enamored with the beautiful sunset from our bedroom window as we wound down to go to bed that night. We had a positive experience with the other house guests honoring the quiet hours, and all was settled by 10pm.

Next morning, found us up early and eager to explore after a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola. Rodeo Beach on the Headlands was walkable from the hostel, but we chose to drive over so short legs could save up energy for other exploring that day.

It was a beautiful, peaceful morning with very few others out so early. We discovered a couple mussel shells washed up on the beach and attempted to hear the ocean by placing them to our ears.

Mid-morning found our stomachs grumbling for more grub, so we packed up our things and headed over to Sausalito. A little chocolate shop served coffee and buttery croissants, which was a perfect match for us. We sipped and munched on those, then enjoyed making daisy crowns and slingshots, and running around in the sun.

Lucie was being her usual, goofy self, making all sorts of her signature faces.

sisters in the flowers

We meandered a bit more around town to find a few additions to our lunch spread, including making a stop by the water to look out at the City across the Bay. Evelyn was practicing her photography skills every chance she got. A seagull, surprisingly, posed for her to take some shots.

Our final stop of the day was the Point Bonita Lighthouse. We picked up a Lighthouse Passport back in January when we went to the lighthouse in Pacific Grove. {The girls developed a great interest and love for lighthouses after reading this book.} This one proved a little trickier to grab a stamp for, and it was more harrowing to get to as well. The hours for this particular one are short–just a few, three days a week. We had to stand in line for about 20 minutes for a chance to walk across the narrow suspension bridge and explore. Certainly worth it!

Bye, bye, San Francisco Bay! Until next time!

Monet at the Legion of Honor

A few weeks ago, we headed down to San Francisco for a long weekend to see the special Claude Monet exhibit at the Legion of Honor museum. It was a collection of his early works–many of which I have not seen–so for this Impressionist aficionado, I was over the moon to view them.

The girls enjoyed seeing the collection too, and it was just the right length for shorter attention spans. {Although, Lucie slept through the first half in the Ergo with Steve carrying her. It was a pleasant surprise that she still fit inside!}

We read a bit about Monet together before visiting from one of my favorite childhood books, Linnea in Monet’s Garden. I’m pleased to say that the girls took to Linnea and her adventures in the garden just as I did when I was young.

There was another traveling exhibition that involved random pieces of artwork(?) plopped down in random place inside and outside the museum. That’s Evelyn sitting next to one right out front. She was very entertained by the sculpture pieces, and confused {as we were} about the randomosity of the ones we saw inside. Her questions increased tenfold and my inability to answer did the same.

We ran into our wedding photographer in front of the museum where she was shooting a couples’ engagement photos. We hadn’t seen her since she took our maternity photos when I was pregnant with Evelyn. She does such beautiful work, I wish she lived closer to us so we could have family photos done by her again.

Our trip to SF also included a wonderful picnic on the bleachers that overlook the Bay, and a quick run through Ghirardelli Square with chocolate samples, of course!

One of the little shops on the Square had this tic-tac-toe game created with rocks and washi tape. The girls were in love. We’re searching for suitable flat rocks to make some of our own.

We crossed over the Golden Gate towards the end of the day for more adventures which I’ll share in my next post….

#write31days ~ day 7: our favorite autumn activities {7QT}

1. baking
It probably comes as no surprise that my favorite autumn activity is baking. In my food blogging days, I think my greatest collection of recipes was during the fall months. The spices used, the warm foods with the onset of cooler weather, the delight of turning the oven on when the house isn’t already a toasty 85 degrees.

rolling out dough

Here is a collection of some of my favorite autumn baking recipes:

pumpkin pecan scones
chai spiced granola
pumpkin gingerbread cookies
soft ginger cookies
mendicino pumpkin muffins
pumpkin chocolate chip cookies 
pumpkin crunch granola
coconut chai coffee cake
pumpkin protein bars
apple cider donuts
pumpkin spice donuts

2. Apple Hill
If you are not in close proximity to Apple Hill {or a place like it}, I’m sorry. There is nothing quite like this location of all-things-apple that affords you the ability to go apple picking, munch apple donuts dunked in a cup of warm, fresh cider, pull apart a gooey apple cinnamon roll or fritter, or sip a glass of cool, crisp cider {of the alcoholic variety}.

apple hill treats

It is an annual tradition we’ve been doing since I was a tot with my grandparents and are now passing on to the next generation.

{I’ve got a great collection of apple recipes for you here if you like that kind of thing. ;)}

apple picking

3. breaking out the warm drinks : alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike

I drink tea year-round, but the delight factor is turned up a notch of that first cup in the morning when you wake up to the chill of an autumn morning. The chai comes out more often too.

cloves

oranges and cloves

My husband has a knack for making some wonderful libations in the fall/winter months as well. He’s especially good with glühwein {mulled wine}, which we like to fill our thermos with and take on a walk through the golden, rouge leaves falling. 

In preparation for the holidays, we begin testing out our eggnog making skills. We can never get enough of this smooth drink.

4. pumpkin picking at a farm {or enjoying our homegrown ones!}
Of course, the fall wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a pumpkin patch or two! We like to visit Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm in our area. There are so many great activities for the kids, including a trampoline covered in hay, a petting zoo, and a train that takes you on a tour around the farm. The hay ride out to the patch and back for your pumpkins is a huge highlight of the day.

pumpkin picking

This year, we grew some of our own pumpkins too which we are very excited to finally display {they’ve been chilling in the linen cupboard since early August due to mama’s too-early plantings}. We just took them out yesterday to add to the fall decor on our porch. It’s so much fun for the girls to see the pumpkins they grew from seed. They are very proud!

5. decorating
On a related vein, I can’t wait for the opportunity to pull out all the warm colored decor to sprinkle all over the house. Our resident porch scarecrow is a favorite, and we enjoy picking out various squash, gourds, and Indian corn for a natural display at home.

porch scarecrow with pumpkins

6. hiking
We are fortunate to live in an area with hiking trails aplenty. Fall is my favorite time of the year to go meandering through the hills, observing the changes of the season.

hiking on the trail

taking a walk

7. watching fall sports : futbol and football

Both Steve and I were soccer players growing and intend to introduce our daughters to league play when they are old enough. {If they decide to take it to the next level will be determined by their interest.} The family enjoys going out to watch other family members play. This year our nephew is playing and being coached by his dad and uncle. We watched his first game a few weeks ago.

We are fortunate to have FC that started her a few years ago, the Sacramento Republic FC. Steve went with a few of my brothers to watch one of their first games, and we’re hoping to go together soon on a date night.

College football viewing runs deep on both sides of the family, with the biggest rooting happening behind USC, Stanford, and Notre Dame. It makes for some exciting Saturdays during these fall months.

playing in the leaves

 

What are some of your favorite autumn activities? 

{Linking up with Kelly this week over at This Ain’t the Lyceum. Go there for more of 7QT!}

Springtime Snow at Serene Lakes

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

Serene Lakes - May 2016

We’ve been going, going, going around here lately, so when we found ourselves with an empty weekend, we seized the opportunity and ran up to the cabin for a quiet weekend on the lake. This time of year is more of an off-season so it was quite ‘serene’ save a few year-round locals.

We took a long walk around the lake with the girls who impressed us with their endurance, making it at least three-quarters of the way {about 2 miles} around before asking for assistance.

The snow was still abundant so Evelyn was happy to begin her notorious snowball fights with us. Lucie especially enjoyed finding streams of snow melt to throw rocks and pinecones into. There was ample opportunity so lots of stop-and-go as we went along.

We found many groupings of daffodils just beginning to bloom, which was rather funny to us as they bloomed in our area about mid-February. But, there, they are just now having the opportunity to peek through the ground as the snow melts away.

Large sections of the lake have melted, which Evey was rather disappointed about as she wanted to ‘skate’ across again. I’m rather looking forward to the summer season, to taking boats and paddle boards out, splashing on the shore with the girls. It’ll be here soon enough.

Bouquets to Art & Afternoon Tea

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

This past weekend I went with my mother and a friend to visit the annual Bouquets to Art exhibit held in April at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. {We’ve been trying to make it for quite a few years now and we were finally successful!}

The way the exhibit works is that floral designers in the area are each assigned a piece of art from the permanent collection to imitate/convey in their own way through a floral arrangement.

{We were there on the second to last day so many of the arrangements were looking a little less than perky.}

Some of the pieces were rather loose interpretations. Some classic. Some downright silly.

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

Bouquets to Art - De Young 2016

We finished off the day with an afternoon tea at the elegant Palace Hotel. Although meager, the treats were exquisite and perfectly presented. And you can’t beat the ambiance of this beautiful hotel.

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco

 

 

Linking up with my first {pretty, funny, happy, real} over at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

Fun with Cousins ~ 7QT

About a month ago, we spent the weekend hanging out with Steve’s sister, Nancy, brother-in-law, Elliot, and their boys, Danny and Ben. The boys are just a few months older than both the girls. It’s a lot of fun when we get together! We had a grand time exploring the East Bay area where they live. Here are seven things the cousins enjoyed doing together:

One) Riding the steam train at Tilden Park

train-at-tilden-park

train-at-tilden-park

mama-and-lucie

train-at-tilden-park

train-at-tilden-park

train-at-tilden-park

train-at-tilden-park

Two) Going round and round on the carousel at the park–several times!

carousel-at-tilden

 

carousel-at-tilden

carousel-at-tilden

carousel-at-tilden

 

carousel-at-tilden

carousel-at-tilden

Three) Eating pink popcorn

pink-popcorn

pink-popcorn

pink-popcorn

Four) Picnicking in the park on Jewish deli sandwiches complete with fresh pickles

jewish-deli-dip

Five) Ice cream sundaes at Fentons

ice-cream-at-fentons

ice-cream-at-fentons

 

Six) Petting cars that look like zebras

zebra-truck

Seven) Park play {well, that was only with daddy and mommy but it would have been twice as fun with cousins!}

swinging-with-daddy

seahorse-ride

sand-play-shadows

 

 

Linking up with Kelly for 7QT this week!

Here’s to Summer!

Summer hit with a vengeance the past few days.

Temperatures soaring near 100. The impossible dream of cooling off the house at night with the windows open. The roar of heat that blasts you as you open the car door to get inside. The need to drink gallons of water to replace all the water you’re losing from sweating.

But we’ve had an odd phenomenon the past week or so too. Humidity. Thunderstorms. Rain. How grateful we are. Every drop counts.

California is in it’s fourth consecutive year of severe drought. The ponds are non-existent, the lakes have turned into ponds, in some spots the rivers are just a trickle. It is a little hairy-scary.

We were planning on a large-scale garden this year, but as I watched the scant rain fall from the sky over the past few months, I began paring down my ambitious plans. It takes a lot to feed those thirsty veggies, especially when the earth is already parched.

splash-pad-splashing

We had a grand time visiting the few splash pads last year that were not shut off due to the drought. Thank the Lord they keep the recirculating ones running because life would be rather unbearable if we couldn’t get some break from the scorching temps. No sprinklers on the lawn as we’re not even supposed to water it, but just let it go brown. {Not too hard for ours considering the pine needles on top do a superb job of blocking half the sunlight.} We’ll be getting crafty with water play. Perhaps getting a soak down when the few plants we have need to be watered. Or taking out the kiddie pool for a splish-splash afternoon.

kiddie-pool-fun

My in-laws, who are close by, also have a wonderful pool the girls and I can sneak away to during the day or grab daddy to tag along in the evenings.

splashing-daddy

This summer will probably look like:

early morning trike riding

trike riding

sidewalk chalk painting

chalk painting alphabet

stick wielding

stick wielding

watermelon munching

watermelon-munching

bubble popping

bubble-popping

bonfire watching

bonfire

river sitting

river-sitting

beach digging

beach-digging

sunset gazing

sunset-at-the-station

fountain watching

fountains-in-roseville

whipped cream smashing

whipped-cream-smash

library visiting

horse-at-the-library

pie making

peach-pie-heart

afternoon napping

afternoon-nap

smoothie drinking

smoothie-drinking

ice cream eating

ice-cream-yum!

and let’s not forget: gin-and-tonic sipping {for mommy and daddy, of course!}

gin-and-tonic-season

SLO Living

If we could pick up our things and move anywhere in California right now, we would probably land in the little town of San Luis Obispo. Affectionately called ‘SLO’ by the locals the acronym is a fitting alias for the town. There is a certain ease of life there that is hard to find in California. Most of us are living at a rapid pace. Head into a city and that pace will multiply times a hundred or so. SLO knows how to take it down a notch…and enjoy life while they’re at it.

beach-SLO

We stopped through on our way down to Los Angeles a few weeks ago to visit with my brother, Caleb, and sister-in-law, Sadi, who are currently living there while he goes to school at Cal Poly.

We happened to be there on Mothers’ Day and my brother had some grand activities planned. {At least in my book! And since I was the only mother present, I can vouch that it was a fitting celebration. ;)}

mothers-day-wine-tasting

Baileyana Winery is, perhaps, the most family-friendly winery I’ve ever stopped into. We took the girls with us into the tasting room, an adorable yellow building that looks like an old school house, and they were perfect angels put up with our sipping while being bribed with bunny crackers.

wine tasting sidekicks

wine tasting SLO

wine-tasting-mothers-day

We chose a delightful white and took it out to the grassy area beside the building where the girls could run free {mostly} while we enjoyed the wine and some snacks.

wine-mothers-day

There was also a bocce ball court nearby that several groups were enjoying. At one point, a family came out with a soccer ball to play a pick-up game. The girls wanted to join in but I was afraid they might get smooshed by the bigger kids. So they got to watch attentively from the sidelines. Another family brought along small containers of bubbles and passed them around which, of course, thrilled all those under ten to the nth degree.

running free

running-free

Aunt Sadi won the day with Evey when she brought out the temporary tattoos and they placed matching ones on their arms.

temporary-tattoos

It was such a gorgeous day!

mothers day wine tasting

slo-country-roads

We hopped back on the long, winding roads to make our way closer to the coast. No trip to SLO is complete without a visit to the beach. Caleb explained to us that there were several good ones in the area but you chose depending on what type of weather and what crowds {or lack thereof} you were willing to put up with. His favorite — the quieter one — was Montana de Oro, and, lucky for us, the sun was {unusually} shining there that day.

beach-SLO

We did a lot of splashing in the waves. Evey was cautious; Lucie was racing it head-on. Pretty much sums them up.

beach-SLO

beach-SLO

Lucie couldn’t get enough of the sand! She would rather fry like a lobster than be pulled away from the blissful feel of it running through her fingers.

beach-SLO

beach-SLO

What a wonderful way to spend Mothers’ Day!

beach-SLO

At one point, Caleb took Evelyn over to make castles in the sand. They built one for Pooh Bear and one for Tigger and one for Piglet and one for Kanga and one for Roo and one for Elsa and one for Anna and so on. Because it is important for everyone to have their own castle! They worked really hard. It was cute. 🙂

making-sand-castles

We even managed a whole group photo thanks to a park bench!

beach-SLO

Oh, and Lucie decided Uncle Caleb’s and Aunt Sadi’s would be the perfect place to take her first steps. We were sitting around chatting when she suddenly stood up and took about five steps across the floor like it was no big deal. Special moment for Caleb, who witnessed it, as he doesn’t see them too often and he caught one of the biggest milestones of her life!

first-steps

Thanks, Caleb and Sadi, for the wonderful time! Can’t wait to do it again soon!

{And a very happy birthday to Caleb whose birthday happens to fall today!}

Fr. Junipero Serra: A Vital Part of California’s Heritage

Sometimes I find myself complaining that the United States seems to be lacking in heavenly friends {i.e. saints of the canonized variety}. But, in truth, there are more than I realize. Actually, one happens to be resting in the terra firma {although I’m not sure how firm it is due to those shaking quakes} of Northern California.

He’s kind of a big deal here out West.

Blessed-Junipero-Serra-

 

Blessed Junipero Serra {soon-to-be SAINT come September} started the movement and founded many of the beautiful missions that run up and down the coast of California.

I’ve long had a devotion to this California missionary. He truly is “one of the founding fathers of the Unites States” as Pope Francis recently called him, having established community and culture here in California during the 1700s. These little communities erected around the missions helped in both the material and spiritual welfare of its citizens, providing refuge from an oftentimes hostile environment out on the frontier.

The Franciscans of the missions provided instruction on useful life-skills. They aided in the development of technology of the day. They provided medical services for those who were ailing. And like many of the monks who came before them, they helped preserve texts and the sacred music of the Church too. All of this in addition to sharing the Gospel of Christ with those they encountered.

*****************

Recently, the US Senate proposed and voted to remove Junipero Serra’s statue from the nation’s capitol, claiming he wasn’t a suitable representative of California. It is a great insult to our nation’s history, and especially that of California, to even suggest removing it. His influence was great in the founding of this state, and as San Diego’s Bishop McElroy recently pointed out, he is representative of the ever-growing Hispanic population residing in our state having come here from Spain himself.

It is unfortunate that our Senate must engage in revisionist history in order to push their agenda. And all of this is happening just as Pope Francis is preparing for his trip to Washington D.C. in September to canonize Serra.

“What made Friar Junipero leave his home and country, his family, university chair and Franciscan community in Mallorca to go to the ends of the earth? Certainly, it was the desire to proclaim the Gospel ad gentes, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ: a gift that he had first received and experienced in all its truth and beauty.”

Junipero Serra had a missionary heart. He gave up much to serve the people of the Americas and bring the Good News to this nation. I’m sure his actions were not always perfect, but his intention to bring a better life and share Christ with others was full of greatness.

Let us pray with the Holy Father for an extension of this upon our country once again as we prepare for Fr. Serra’s canonization.

“We ask the Risen Jesus, Lord of all ages, that the life of our American continent may be rooted ever more deeply in the Gospel it has received; that Christ may be ever more present in the lives of individuals, families, peoples and nations, for the greater glory of God. We pray too that this glory may be manifested in the culture of life, brotherhood, solidarity, peace and justice, with a preferential and concrete love for the poor, through the witness of Christians of various confessions and communities, together with believers of other religious traditions, and people of upright conscience and good will. Lord Jesus, we are merely your missionary disciples, your humble co-workers so that your Kingdom may come!”

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