Monday, December 31, 2012

An Attempt at Fishing and a Family Trip to Point Reyes

Point Reyes Lighthouse
On the last post, I mentioned that we would have a fishing report.  So we did go fishing....and got skunked.  They had mentioning on the news for the previous week that the Fish and Game would be stocking local lakes on December 24th. So on December 25th, we took the kids fishing in the ponds at Heather Farms.  

Our kids are very dedicated fisher kids, so even with the temperature at 44-degrees and with showers, they did make it for about one hour; however, the fish were just not biting.  
This past Sunday we had the public speaker over for hospitality as well as our service group.  All went pretty well.  We are on a 8 week rotation and we are looking at doing this as a service group gathering.  We will see how it works. Beth made a chicken pasta pesto and her famous ham, cream cheese, pickle rolls which were great as always.

Today went took the family to Point Reyes.  Beth and I discovered the area a month a go and decided to take the kids there.  The elephant seals are pupping right now, and there were at least 100 at the grounds.  

This is also where Sir Francis Drake landed in 1579 to repair the Golden Hinde before the trek across the Pacific to the Philippines.  There was a lot for a history buff like myself, not so much for the kids.

After the elephant seal pupping ground, we went to the Point Reyes Lighthouse.  We were treated to eight grey whales on their migration to Baja.  It was an impressive site.  I have come to a realization that my kids are spoiled when it comes to whales. 

 I had lived 34 years before I had seen a whale in the wild in San Diego, Emma's first sighting at 18months old.  Then there was last year, when we went to Santa Cruz and saw the Humpback whales breaching off the pier.  It was really impressive.  Then there was the Humpback that was off of Ocean Beach last month in San Francisco.  He was just playing outside the break.  And then today, where they saw the additional eight.  I grew up thinking that whales would be extinct by the time my kids would be around, what a change.

After the lighthouse, we discovered a wonderful beach.  Definitely not a swimming beach, but the waves were wonderful.  I love the warning, beware of sharks, undertow, etc.  You know if you don't see surfers in the waves, this is definately not a good place to swim.

Our final stop was back at the Bear Valley Visitor center.  This time, we hiked over to view the Miwok village.  It was  nice hike, but the village was nothing to write home about.  I assume in the summer that there would be more interactive features or at least a docent, but not today.  The kids thought it was awesome though.

So the kids have one more week off for school and it should be good weather, though cold, for the rest of their time.  I go back to work on Wednesday.  It has been nice to have back to back four day weekends.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December Part 2.....

To follow up the last post, catching everyone up with what has happened in December, this post follows up with the last week and a half leading up to this past weekend.

So two weekends ago, Myles went to his first ever boys party.  He has been to parties before; however, this is the first time he didn't  have his sisters with him.  It was dinosaur themed at his friend Sawyers house.  Myles had been looking forward to it all week and had a great time.  Beth has been to similar parties with the girls, however, found out what a true boys party is.  Lets just say, it was a bit much for both Myles and Beth.  He did have a bit of fun, but he didn't understand why the other boys just wanted to wrestle instead of play games, sing, and dance.
Next, the week leading up to the kids winter break was filled with holiday recitals.  Since we don't celebrate the holidays, the girls got a couple hour break from school. 

For Sophie, this meant a nice run with mom in the hills near her school.  It had rained a bit a day or so before, so the hills were a little muddy, but she was definitely in her element.  For an added bonus, there were some wild horses on the trail.  Sophie is our horse girl, so this made her day.  The only problem they had was that her teacher had her take her shoes off before she went into class because they were so muddy.
For Emma, she went with Beth to Heather Farms to the rose garden.  It was a beautiful day for it.  They came across a plaque in the garden for the Latham Rose Wall.  Pretty neat.  Also Emma got a coffee ( no worries about stunting her growth - she is now officially 5') and peanuts.  The girl is eating us out of house and home! 

The kids also got their excellent report cards.  Emma is already reading at an eighth grade level, with her favorite books being anything Jules Verne, Old Yeller, the Yearling, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. She is also doing great in math, already doing algebra and dividing of fractions. Sophie is also a wonderful reader herself.  She has been also writing her own stories and doing great in Math.  Myles is doing well himself in kindergarten.

On this past Friday, Sophie carried on with Emma's tradition of making and eating pancakes in her teacher, Ms. Cattalini's class.  Her teacher used to have the tradition but stopped after Emma's second grade class due to lack of parent involvement.   Sophie is really good at making pancakes, she helps me when I make them.   We get the market pantry pancake mix (just add water!) and embellish it with vanilla and cinnamon.  They cooked up three boxes, and the kids ate them all!

So this break, the kids will be doing a lot of reading, working on puzzles, and crafts.  Emma has been making bead necklaces while Sophie has been helping her mom on a Time Square Puzzle.

So that catches everyone up to Friday.  Look for the next post about fishing and other stuff.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

December Catchup Part 1

So to say we have been busy this December is an understatement.  Between winding up Budget and Planning at work and keeping busy during the weekends, I haven't had much time to post on this blog.  I was able to update the style of the blog, do you like it?  So this and the next blog will catch you up to what we have been doing up to winter break.

As the previous blog stated, we are now officially in our rainy season.  In fact we are facing two three storms this weekend that has closed I-5 at Lake Shasta.  However, for the most part, they have been major storms that push in for a couple of days followed by beautiful days of sun.

A couple of weeks ago, we decided to take advantage of a good day to take a hike by the Los Vaqueros Reservoir.  It is located just north of Livermore and just southeast of us about 15 miles (behind Mt. Diablo).  I was surprised to learn it was completed in 1997.  I wonder if it had anything to do with the earthquake swarm in the early 2000's (nerd me).  Emma was supposed to go on a field trip last year to the lake; however, got sick.  So finally we were able to make the trip out.

They have a nice, but small interpretive center there that talks about the history of the lake as well as the primary use.  This is a lake is a huge holding area for the Contra Costa Water district so that they can adjust the water quality through the year since they get most of its water from the Delta.  When the tides are high, the salinity of the water increases with folks not liking the salty water of course.

It is very pretty there with plenty of trails to hike.  We decided to follow the climb on the north side of the lake that took in sweeping views of the lake.  There were a lot of folks fishing there also (we eyed our fishing spots).  On the top of the trail, it had wonderful views of the Central Valley, the Snow Capped Sierras, and Mt. Diablo.  Beth and I could overlook the first quarter of the 50K we did back in April.  It is such a pretty valley, and now with the recent rains, the hills are turning green.  

The fun thing about hiking anymore with the kids, is that we basically look for hills to climb so we can run down them.  The overall climb was 1300 feet, which meant a nice run back to the car.  We did stop at the puddles to look at the wildlife tracks.  There were plenty of bobcat, coyote, and deer tracks.  Nothing bigger though (for shame).
I had the following Monday off.  The company had its holiday party the Sunday night before, and gave everyone else time to recover.  Well since of course we didn't go to the holiday party Beth and I took advantage of the kids being in school and did a run out of Castle Rock. The creeks were full which made for a great run. You can find the run detail on my other blog here.

I will leave you with a couple pictures from a recent break we took in field service.  Most of the time anymore, we go to the Chevron Extra Mile since we can get the kids what they want and the coffee is better.  So we haven't been to our old stomping ground (Sweet Affairs) in awhile.  So of course when we went there Myles wanted a cupcake.  You would think being six year, he would stop wearing his food; however, he is Myles and is always looking for a laugh. So here is the most recent picture.  Oh well....

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fun in the Rain!!!

We had a rainstorm and a half this past weekend!!  Keep in mind, what this really means it that we have really heavy downpours (in California terms) over 2 to 12 hours with breaks of sun.  This meant we got over 5 inches of rain in Concord over 4 days.  Keep in mind the entire total for November averages 3 inches and for December 4 inches.  But needless to say it was wet!

Now what did we do in the rain?  Well we run of course.  Well not really.  Plan was to have the kids run at the kids race held at the North Face 50.  This is the championship for the North Face trail series and is one of the few races where there is a nice purse for the winner.  So anybody who is anybody in trail racing is there.  It is a two day event, with the 50-miler, 50K, marathon, and marathon relay the first day, followed by the half-marathon, 10K, and 5K.

The challenge this year was that the course was so muddy that a few of the elite runners got lost, or had to slogged through the mud.  Our problem is that we didn’t get the e-mail to let us know that the kids race would be cancelled.  Oh well.  The kids were majorly disappointed until they realized that they could have just as much fun playing in the mud as running.  In fact they spent a bit perfecting the belly slide, then were asked by the announcer to demonstrate for the crowd (that was still there) the proper technique!   Needless to say, I have a feeling that our kid’s pictures now populate a few hundred peoples Facebook pages!!

We also enjoyed the walk back to the car.  It was along the course and we passed a few runners that were completing their run.  You could tell by the look  that they had really been pushed to their limit and then see the kids covered in mud and the biggest grin come over their face.

Then we faced the challenge of how to get the kids home in the muddy clothes.  The Headlands must have the blackest mud in the Bay Area, because it took three washes to get the clothes back close to normal and two baths a piece for each of the kids.  But in the end, we had a great time.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Drakes Bay Oysters and San Bernardino

A couple of weeks ago I posted how Beth and I traveled to Point Reyes and how I had a wonderful treat: Fried Oysters from Drakes Bay.  Little did I know that I would be one of the few to have some of the last out of the Bay.
Awesome Drakes Bay Oysters in all their goodness.

The Drakes Bay Oyster Company had a lease on National Park land which ends today and were given notice yesterday that that lease would not be renewed.  This means that they must cease and desist operations today have and have everything removed, including buildings, piers, and the 1 million oysters in the estuary, out by the end of December.  You can find the story here.

Well, I can chalk this up to a great memory with my wife as well as another part of history for the area come to completion.

Speaking of another memory, there have been a lot of stories lately about San Bernardio and how the city will be filing for bankruptcy.   In fact, the location of the first McDonalds sold for a little over $100K to someone who will now make it an unofficial museum.

Source: MSNBC
So when I came across this picture, it took me back to when my parents would go to the malls in that city and when my dad worked at General Tire.  It is of the Carousel Mall.  It took me back to when there was a petting zoo that would occasionally be brought end.  We went to it after a meeting once, still in our meeting clothes.  And all of a sudden, we heard Katie shriek as her dress she was wearing was being eaten by a goat!!!  What amazes me about this picture, besides the empty shops, is how it hasn't change in 40 plus years!

Other memories I have of San Bernardino was going to the Orange Show and the Orange Show parade, going to the car show with my dad followed by dinner at Sizzler, playing in the tire castles he would make when he would take me to work with him on a Saturday.  I also remember the time he told me to help an old man across the intersection.  I was about 8 or 9 and little did I know that the man literally did not have any eyes in his eye sockets as well as no tongue to speak.   Needless to say the old man frightened me and didn't want my help.  

I haven't been to San Bernardino in over 34 years, but I am always interested in whats been going on there.  So much has changed and surprisingly there is a lot that hasn't changed.

So now a couple of memories that will be more memories than reality.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Finally a Four Day Weekend!!!

It was really nice to have four consecutive days off last week. Since starting the new job, I haven’t really taken much time off, and the stress and anxiety of the new change was starting to get to me.  We spent much of it hiking and enjoying the time off.  Now Emma is off to 5th grade camp for 5 days, which means that it has been quiet around the house (Emma and Myles have a healthy competition going on). So what did we do with our time off?

So on Thursday, I got to sleep in for the first time in a while until 9:00 AM.  I can’t remember when my body allowed me to sleep in that late.  For breakfast we had red velvet pancakes with butter cream frosting.  We had gotten the mix at Target (Archer Farms) and it is excellent. 

We then went on a hike with the Berhens.  We normally get together at some point during the kids breaks for hikes, they have three kids all about a month a part from our kids.  We went up to Shell Ridge for a five mile loop.  The weather was perfect!!!  The leaves were changing, and the grass is starting to come back due to recent rains (in fact we should be really green after this weekend and our over 5 inches of rain).  The reason this area is called Shell Ridge is due to the fossilized shells found in the rocks there.  The kids love the area.

After the hike, we went over to their house for Pulled Pork sandwiches.  The  kids played on the Wii while the adults played cards.  It is a treat for our kids since we don’t have a Wii ourselves (nor are we ever planning on getting one).  It just was a nice relaxing day.

On Black Friday, we didn’t do our normal up at 3AM tradition, but again slept in.  We did go to Target later in the day for the Lorax movie.  I got busy in the yard, bagged up the leaves before they got out of hand and we had Papa Murphy’s for dinner.  We also had some pumpkin left over from Myles visit to Smith Family Farms, so I made a couple more pies.
On Saturday we went to Rock City on Mt. Diablo.  As we have blogged before, this is a wonderful place for the kids to explore.  It is on a section of exposed sandstone that has been carved by the wind and rain into tunnels and unique formations.  And since it is like walking on sandpaper, you have tremendous grip.   There was no stopping the kids, they were off in a second, climbing everything in sight.  It was really busy though so we went further down the trail where we knew there would be fewer people.  After we were done there, we drove to the top of Mt. Diablo.  The observation deck was closed; however, you still could see the snowcapped Sierra’s to the east, Sutter Buttes to the north, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge to the west, and Mt. Hamilton and the Tri-Valley area to the south.  

Finally on Sunday, we made turkey.  Even though we do not celebrate Thanksgiving, you can’t go this time of year and not take advantage of the prices.  I have also learned the secret of roasting, including moist white meat, a lot of juice for gravy, and fall off the bone dark meat.  I will post this secret sometime on the recipe site soon.  So now we are on the fourth night of turkey leftovers and loving every moment of it.

Emma returns on Friday, so I will post her water logged story shortly after.  I can only imagine how much fun she is having even though it is raining.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

First Kidless Weekend.....

This past weekend, Beth and I had our first weekend just the two of us since Emma was born.  We have in the past left the kids with a sitter overnight; however, this was our first two night weekend experience.  And it was a long time coming.
We didn’t go far, only over to Marin.  We stayed at the Tamwoods Hotel just north of Sausalito.  It was a nice hotel, and if it weren’t for the rain, have fun activities, like making S’mores over their fire pit, and bicycling along the Richardson Bay Trail.  When the sun came out, we had a wonderful view of Mt. Tamalpias

So we checked in on Friday and got a really good night of rest.  We slept in, had breakfast, then drove up the coast to Point Reyes.  I have wanted to explore this area for years; however, it is kind of tucked out of the way.  This is the area where Sir FrancisDrake landed the Golden Hinde in 1579 on the first successful circumnavigation of the globe by an Englishman (and by a captain, Magellan died in the Philippines).  This area was also the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  Being a fan (nerd) of both, I was so excited that Beth and I could explore the trails where history occurred.

We also had a wonderful lunch in Olema at the Farm House Restaurant.  This restaurant has been around since 1870, and we had our fill of excellent fish and chips as well as my favorite, Fried Oysters.  I have loved these little fried creatures since my parents took me and my sisters to Nanaimo when I was in second grade.  This is when I had an oyster burger and stayed at a hotel where they later made an attack of the killer ants movie.

Later that evening, Beth and I had dinner at Pasta Pomodoro.  The food again was excellent.  We haven’t eaten at that chain in quite some time but it was nice that we could just spend time enjoying a good meal and to talk.  We then went back to the room and snuggled in.

On Sunday, we slept in a bit (for us that is 7:00 AM), had breakfast, then drove home by way of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.  We made it back it in time to take the kids to Wreck it Ralph.  Very good movie, although a bit intense in parts for small children. 

So all in all, a really great weekend.  I am so happy we had this weekend to spend together.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Joshua Tree and Shadow Cliffs

So when I was a kid, my father and mother took us regularly to Joshua Tree.  What I enjoyed most about those trips was being able to climb over tons of sandstone.  In fact, I remember a number of times where I would try to follow him up the side of a stone wall only to get stuck halfway up.  Another thing I remember about these trips were how much my dad used to like to drive off the beaten path to find "short cuts".  These typically weren't and sometimes meant that we were driving down a Wash that looked like a road.

So on a recent visit to Castle Rocks, both these memories came flooding back.  We thought it would be fun to take the kids across the top and then down the crags that make up the mountain.  To get there meant running out a couple of miles which Emma and Sophie had been itching to do.  We also came across a family of deer on the way out.  The fall colors were definitely on display. 

We were going to take them down the path Beth discovered last month; with the only problem being that we got lost coming down the hill. This meant training the kids how to do a little bit of rock climbing.  Everything went well with only Beth spraining her finger.  Myles especially had a great time, crying after we were done because he wanted to do it again.

Also, on October 31st, we kept the kids home from school and I took the day off so we could go fishing at Shadow Cliffs.  I had heard the trout bit was good due to a recent restocking.  Well we didn't come up skunked; Myles caught his first trout and it was a beauty.  It was about 12 inches long and he reeled it in all by himself!!! 

Last weekend we volunteered setting up for the Save Mt. Diablo , Trail Challenge.  The kids love to help so they definately went to work.  And they got a free running tee-shirt, and Brazen Racing hat out of it to boot.

Finally, I also got around to making pumpkin pie out the pumpkin Myles received at his Smith Family Farms field trip.  It is kind of sad to think that this was the last time our kids would be going on this trip and the last time I would get a pumpkin from there.  You can find my recipe here

So many memories have been made the last couple of weeks.  I hope the kids remember them like I remember my Joshua Tree trips with my family.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rocky Ridge, Sandcastles, and a Whale of a Time!

We had a pretty fun weekend, with a lot crammed into the weekend.  We ran the Rocky Ridge trail run for the fourth year, went to Ocean Beach for a sandcastle building contest and saw a whale in the process.  On Sunday, Beth and I did a hill running clinic that she had gotten me for our anniversary present.   

So Saturday, we got up early for our trail run.  Emma and I would do the 10K (6.2 miles) that included over 2,000 feet of elevation climb.  Sophie and Myles would do the 5K (3.1 miles) with Beth running with them for motivation.

We love this run just because of the challenge and the crisp autumn air.  It is run through the Las Trampas wilderness at the end of Bollinger Canyon Rd..  On this day, it included being fogged in on the ridge for Emma and I.  It kind of reminded me of when I would ski in Washington in the fog.  It was definitely refreshing.  I completed the course in 1 hour 11 minutes and Emma completed it in 1 hour 28 minutes.

At this race, Myles wanted to run much of the race himself.  The lower part of the course runs through a bunch of oak trees and is very much like a roller coaster.  Beth would wait at key points for him a long the trail   One of the things he loved doing is passing every runner, then turn around and say "boo!" and then giggle to himself and run to the next runner and do the same.  All the runners he passed got a major kick out of it.  Sophie had a wonderful time herself.  She has been running this course by herself for a while now, and did an excellent job.  All three kids came in third in their age division.

After the race, we drove into San Francisco for a sandcastle building contest.  I had seen an advertisement for it on a billboard on the Embarcadero earlier in the week.  It was on Ocean Beach and was to benefit the arts program of 33 different elementary school art programs through corporate sponsors. There was a lot to see.  

Half way down the beach though, we noticed a bunch of people gathering along the shore.  Come to find out, it was a huge humpback whale that was frolicking in the surf.  I am not sure if he came in for a closer look to see what all the commotion was or if he had found a tasty meal but he sure put on a show.

On the way back home, I then stopped to show Beth and the kids the feral parrots of San Francisco over by the Ferry Building.  After living here for thirteen years, I discovered them this year on the way to and from my work.  You can find their story here.  We could only find three this time; however, there are over 100 that live in and round Justin Herman Plaza.

On Sunday, Beth and I got up early  for a hill running clinic held by a couple of runners who do ultra-marathons.  Originally, Beth and I were going to spend the night in Marin; however, finances dictated otherwise. However, it was fun to see the different techniques that each use so that they limit their injuries on their multiple 100 mile runs they do each year.

Talk with everyone soon.