Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sonoma Coast State Beach

The great thrift store find

What I'm getting from eating on the road

Lisa's boys--Train Town and the pool

Muir Beach and Muir Woods

Wine country

Although we've been in Napa for several days I haven't found the energy to update the blog until now. Actually I still don't have the energy, but it has to be done before I get too far behind. Backtracking, we spent another day in San Francisco with Dave last Friday and he took us to Muir Beach in Marin County and then to Muir Woods to see some redwood trees because the kids have been watching a DVD that mentions the trees and they've taken an interest in them (hooray for strewing!). Dave was an expert host and even drove the car so I could be spared the agony of trying to use the clutch on a 45% grade hill. OK maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration but the hills felt like they were more like 75%! We left San Fran for Marin in sunny hot weather but true to the Bay Area as soon as we approached the Golden Gate Bridge the air was fog soup. On the bridge we couldn't even see the top of it through the fog. It was funny because when I saw the roll of fog over the building tops the first thing I automatically thought was "fire." Since I haven't seen moisture of any kind for half a year my brain wasn't wired to assume as much. But it was dark grey fog and the beach was also thick with it. The beach was also quite chilly but that didn't stop the kids from running around in their swimsuits and splashing in the tide. We all had a good time and the kids even made some friends.

The woods sounded like a good idea when we set out for them but by the time we finished the 10 minute drive the kids were spent. Scotty refused to get out of the car but finally agreed to go in for just a minute. It was worth the hassle to see those magnificent trees! I know he will remember them for the rest of his life just like I did after seeing them as a kid.

Saturday morning we spent getting organized to leave for Napa and then made the easy and beautiful 90 minute drive to Lisa's house. Once again the bridge was foggy so we never really did see it. The Napa valley is so pretty with all the vineyards and little farms everywhere. I love how the fences are lined with roses, all in bloom right now, and there's no junk anywhere. The other nice thing about this area is that there are still little villages with active downtown areas and there is very little sprawl. When we got to Lisa's we found the boys swimming in a small inflatable pool in the backyard so the kids immediately jumped in while Lisa showed me around. We had a low key but wonderful meal and then walked with the kids to the neighborhood park. A great day.

Sunday Lisa and the boys took us to Train Town in Sonoma where Scotty got to see his second working steam locomotive of the trip. We rode the train and a few of the rides. The kids went on their first rollercoaster ride and Scotty liked it so much he went a second time by himself! Afterwards we ate a picnic at the town square and got some ice cream. That evening Lisa and the boys left for Santa Rosa for the week and we stayed behind to house sit. I spent some time online looking for some things to do around here and discovered that there is a Jelly Belly factory close by. And since I was in Napa I figured I should stop at at least one winery so I made plans to do that as well.

Monday was a bit of a challenge though, as the Jelly Belly place was quite crowded and we had to wait in line for the tour. Then they made us wear these silly paper hats and Scotty was very upset about that. He managed to get through it and of course enjoyed seeing the factory in action with all its machinery, but we still had to cut the tour short because Eliza had another very public meltdown. I'm remembering vividly what three is like these days! I tried to feed them at the cafe but the food was awful, even the pizza (how do you mess up pizza?), so we left with two bags of candy and three grouchy moods. A drive and a nap for Eli helped us get through the afternoon and the brief stop at an organic vineyard and that was about it for us that day. We all fell into bed early, exhausted.

Yesterday was a fine day. We started the day at COPIA, a place I had just seen featured on the show Top Chef, where they were holding Napa's weekly grower's market. Lots of ripe berries, apricots, plums, lettuce, onions, and even some tomatoes were available along with some delicious pastries and coffee and live music. The weather was overcast but just warm enough and the flowers from COPIA's gardens were blooming and very fragrant. It was a beautiful place and we spent a lot of time in the children's garden. Afterwards we did a little poking around in downtown Napa and found a neat little thrift store. It was there that we made an incredible purchase--a complete Chaos Toy set for $5 (normally $125). Well when I got it home I started to understand why it was given away, because while it's way cool for the kids it is a lot of work for the grownups! We spent all afternoon setting it up and watching it run. It's basically like those perpetual motion ball runs you see at science museums. Finally, inspired by Lisa's kitchen I made us some grilled salmon for dinner. Another great day.

Which brings us to today! This morning we woke up at 5:00 to drive 90 minutes to the Sonoma Coast State Beach. The reason for the early start was to get there for low tide so we could go tidepooling. We were rewarded with some amazing wildlife--starfish, sea anemones, hermit crabs, sand crabs, lots of other crabs, sea squirts, mussel colonies, tidepool sculpin, sea slugs, turban snails, beautiful sea grass and kelp, and all of it completely to ourselves! We spent two hours exploring the tidepools and then moved to another beach that was perfect for sand castles and splashing in the water. And the weather was, of course, overcast and foggy. Still we had a fabulous time and Scotty declared it the best beach ever. Tomorrow will be a day to recoup and get ready to move to Maria's place near Laytonville on Friday. There's no internet up there so I probably won't post again until we're on our way back down. For now, enjoy the pictures!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

San Francisco


Eliza decorated her face with markers in the car


We've been having a great time here in CA. Tuesday we made it to Monterey and went straight to the beach where Eliza saw her first ocean. We didn't have much time there but we had a good time in the sand and splashing in the cold water. Afterwards we ate dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company which was Scotty's choice and great fun. The place is full of Forrest Gump trivia and despite it being a touristy chain the food was delicious.

Wednesday we spent the morning and early afternoon at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is my all time favorite aquarium. The exhibits were beautiful and the kids really enjoyed it as well. Eliza's favorite part was Nemo and his Dad (some little clownfish) and Scotty's was the section of the old cannery where the aquarium is now housed. They have preserved several of the old boilers and machinery from the cannery and have them on display. But he liked the fish too, he says. After that we had a pretty easy drive to San Francisco where we are now staying with my old friend Dave on a ridiculously steep hill right across from the Anchor brewery. We can see the Bay Bridge and some of the bay from his front balcony. Today Dave was brave enough to escort us by car and then on the BART downtown for a cable car ride to Fisherman's Wharf and a stop at the Cable Car Powerhouse where there are some giant wheels moving the cables throughout the city. Very cool. As an unexpected bonus the BART and the cable cars were free today because it was a clean air day in the city so we saved over 40 bucks! Tomorrow we hit the beach for the day. The weather has been unusually warm and sunny which has the locals complaining a bit but it's great for tourists.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Boy heaven

Cocktails in the club car

It's pretty cool, but nothing like a steam engine!

Happy boy on the train

An engine on display at the depot

Finally on the road

After a long week at the Flamenco Festival in ABQ (taking one class every morning and attending three performances) we finally left for our summer road trip right after my last class Saturday morning. We had an easy drive to Flagstaff and the kids were great thanks to the DVD player and They Might Be Giants. We really enjoyed the hotel pool in Flagstaff, where Eliza is proving to be quite the water rat already. She absolutely loves diving under the water and does so over and over again. Scotty on the other hand still won't put his whole head under, but he's been inspired by Eliza and is starting to practice putting his face in the water. At this point I think Eliza is probably a greater risk for drowning though, because while neither can swim at least Scotty exhibits some caution!

Sunday we spent the day riding the Grand Canyon Train from Williams, AZ to the Canyon. We rode the 2.5 hours each way in a restored Pullman Club Car (which had a bar--yahoo!) where we listened to live music on the way out and were entertained by bandits on horseback who borded the train and "robbed" us (for tips) on the way back. It was loads of fun for all three of us. The canyon itself is as gorgeous as ever but we didn't spend much time at the rim during our 3 hour layover because we had lunch and then watched them switch the engines on the trains. There are two trains per day and each one gets pulled by a diesel engine in one direction and a steam engine in the other. So at the Canyon they switch engines. We waited about an hour in the hot sun to see the big steam engine get coupled to our train. It was totally worth the wait. Scotty got to see the eccentric move in slow motion during the switching and then while on the train we were able to see the engine at full speed when we turned. The car we were in had windows that opened too so we got the whole experience with the sounds and smells of the engine and even the occasional spray of mist. Very fun.

Today we had a very long haul from Williams to Bakersfield, CA. It was about 450 miles and took an entire tank of fuel, which is more than we usually use for that distance. I think it was because we crossed the Mojave in a raging headwind so with the AC running the whole time plus a few climbs into that wind we burned through it fast. Most of the scenery was hot dry desert, and it was neat to see some Joshua trees and some giant wind farms in the mountains west of Bakersfield. The kids were great again though and we only stopped twice during the 6.5 hour drive. Turns out they were saving it all up for the hotel though, because once in our room they went nuts. Some good food, a swim, and a movie saved the evening.

Tomorrow we head to Monterey to see the Aquarium and, finally, the Ocean!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Homeschooled best friends (with chicks, of course)

Here is Scotty with his best friend Dan, also a homeschooler. Both boys happened to be wearing their T-Shirts from the 2005 Live and Learn Conference which we went to last Fall. This year the conference will be in Albuquerque! Check it out here

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Some recent Eliza art

Love is in the.......

Well, it's in the air AND in the water. Chris played guitar last night for a friend's wedding on only 1 hour of sleep because he had been up all night Friday on the river. The minnows finally spawned! They collected nearly a million eggs which is even more than they can hold at the facility. We are all very relieved that they caught the spawning event this year and that minnow season and the accompanying constant phone calls and nights away are nearly over. The wedding was fun too--Chris played beautifully and we enjoyed an evening out together without the kiddos, a rare event for us.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Poultry parade

Oh, how the kids love their birds. Chicken and duckling holding is a daily event around here, one which has to be supervised because Eliza is still sometimes too rough with the little ones. Our chicks are now about 6 weeks old and growing like crazy. We have started to notice real differences between the breeds with regard to personality. The Andalusians are tough and fast and like to escape. The Ameracaunas are very easygoing and happy to cluck around the yard without freaking out. Scotty's favorite chick is a huge Ameracauna who he calls "Big Eyes". The Wyandottes are very docile when being held but the cockerels are the biggest aggressors within the flock.

Even more fun lately have been the baby ducklings. We have three Rouen ducklings who are just delightful! They are much more attuned to the humans in their lives than the chicks, and will peep at us when we walk by their brooder (which is currently on the kitchen counter) if their water is low or they want to go for a swim in the cistern. It is so much fun to watch them swim and eat all the cottonwood seeds floating on top of the water. Then suddenly they'll all get the urge to dive. For two weeks old they are FAST little things! The funniest thing though is that they are bullies! When they encounter a chick (twice their size) they just go nuts trying to attack them. The three of them will deliberately strut over to the chickens as if they are looking for a fight.

Chris built a portable brooder so we can move them around the fields. When they are fully grown we hope to let them range free on the pasture, hoping that they will use their brooder as cover from hawks. We may give them a large portable perimeter fence to protect them from dogs--we'll see how it goes.