Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nice Peaceful Week

We had a nice week, which included cleaning the pool, having some friends over for to roast hot dogs and S'Mores and enjoy association.  Myles had his first traumatic bee sting.  And we did a couple of nice runs - one around the Lafayette Reservoir and an 8 miler around Walnut Creek.  Nice to have a  nice weekend like that every once in a while. 

For pictures of this week, check out Beth's Blog.

That's pretty much for this week.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Heritage Day at Borges Ranch

So last week saw the girls finish their last week of school, which was a busy week for Beth.  Sophie had a end of the year party, which Beth helped out with followed by a Gold Rush Day for the 4th grade class.  The kids panned for "gold" painted rocks, sang songs of the era, and ate picnic food.  This included the 40 hot dogs Beth got up early to cook.  The kids got awesome report cards and are on to 3rd and 5th grade next year.

So needless to say, SCHOOLS OUT!!!

What this means is a lot of swimming, playing, and some day trips and running on the weekends after field service.

So first up was a a trip to Old Borges Ranch.  This is located about 15 minutes away from the house in the Shell Ridge Open Space.

This was a ranch that was founded in the Mt. Diablo foothills in 1896.  Heritage Day happens once a year and is sponsored by the Walnut Creek Open Space Park District, and 4-H.  For $5 we were able to take a tram up to the ranch, the kids got to ride ponies, learn about honey bees, watch country clogging, disccover what create oak tree galls (more on that later) and tour the homestead.

All off this while it was 108-degrees out!!!  Yes it was the hottest day of the year and loved every minute of it!!!  Nothing that a cool ice cone or lemonade couldn't rectify.

What we learned this trip though was very interesting.  Have you ever seen the spheres that hang on Oak Trees?  I always thought it was some sort of growth that was due to an imperfection in the tree or disease.  However, we learned that these spheres are created by the oak tree when types of bugs leave their larvae on a leaf or branch.  So that the larvae doesn't enter into the tree, the oak creates this perfect covering for the larvae to live.  What is even more interesting is that the shape of the oak gall will change dependent on the type of bug it is protecting.  Sometimes they are round, sometimes the shape of a Hershey's kiss, sometimes a prickly ball.  So here the obvious questions are:  How does the oak know what type of gall to create for the type of bug?  And why does it do it?  And why so many different intricate shapes? Could this have happened by chance? Things that make you go Hmmmmm........

Saturday evening, Beth and I had our first date night in a couple of months, and we certainly needed it.  Between me out of work and the death of her grandma (and dealing with the associated family dynamic) has been extremely challenging. So we spent the evening getting an awesome dinner at Cheesecake Factory and saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I typically do not recommend movies; however, we definitely liked this one.

After meeting on Sunday, we took a peaceful run around Lafayette reservoir.  It was now in the low 70's, an ideal time for running and this also allowed the kids to appreciate further the animals on the trail as well as playing at the play structure.

That sums everything up.  Oh, one last thing, at work this week I learned and used Skype for the first time.  It is a free video conferencing program on the web which requires you have a camera on your PC.  We now finally have an account.  Do you Skype?


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fort Point Weekend

 So this weekend was free entry weekend at most National Parks.  Since the Bay Area is surrounded by many National Landmarks, like Fort Point, Muir Woods, Alcatraz there were many choices.

Since we were definitely on a budget this weekend, it made for a fun weekend.
 So the plan was to visit Fort Point, followed by a day at Ocean Beach.  However, what is tricky about the Bay Area is that, while it can be in the 90's at home in Concord, it can be in the high 50's - low 60's at the beach.  This was the case this weekend.

As a bonus though, we came across the Athletes Village as well as the finish line for the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon.

This is includes a 1.5 mile swim from a ferry positioned next to Alcatraz, followed by a 18 mile bike ride from the Marina Green, through the Presideo and Sea Cliff, down to Golden Gate Park, and back. The race concludes with an eight mile run, from the Marina Green, through the Presidio, down to Baker Beach, up the Equinox Steps ( 400 steps up the cliff) and then finish back at the Marina Green. 

I would love to do a triathlon; however, I am not sure this would be the one.  This is not for the faint of heart.  Between fighting the currents between Alcatraz, combined with the climb out of Baker Beach, this is a serious Tri.
 We finally made it to Fort Point.  This fortress was originally built by the Spanish in 1763 to protect the advance of Russian expansion towards Alta California.

Later, once California became a state, this Fort was built in as it stands today to protect the San Francisco Bay entry.  Interestingly, it was completed in February 1861, two months before the siege of Fort Sumter, which was the beginning of the Civil War. It was realized at the battle of Fort Sumter that walls found in these forts could not withstand rifling cannon fire.  So Fort Point was the last fort of its kind built and remains the only fort to remain in such pristine condition.

 Above Fort Point is the Golden Gate Bridge.  Some of the best pictures can be taken from this vantage point, especially from inside the Fort.

For you Alfred Hitchcock fans, this is where Kim Novak supposedly leaps in to the Bay to be rescued by Jimmy Stewart in the pivotal scene in the movie Vertigo.

So, you can imagine, between the heights of the Forts, bridge up above, and the spiral staircases on either end of the fort, we definitely felt like we had to keep a close eye on the kids.  Myles wanted to climb over everything.  Sophie enjoyed the art exposition that was happening to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge.  What she especially enjoyed was the crape paper dresses.  The detail on these dresses were spectacular - you wouldn't know that they were made from material

Emma is at the stage that she really enjoyed the museum aspect as well as the California State history.  She is completing fourth grade so she this was the year she learned  what made California the most populous state.

 In fact on Tuesday she went on a field trip to the Sonoma Mission and General Vallejo's home and barracks.

Thursday included Gold Rush Day, which Emma got to pan for gold (painted rocks).  Later that evening, Emma and Sophie participated in the Woodside Elementary talent show.  For more on these events, check out Beth's Blog.

So we finally made it to Ocean Beach, spent approximately an hour, freezing as the kids played in the sand.  They originally wanted to body board; however, the surf was too rough and if there aren't any surfers in the water, it is probably a good idea to stay out of the water.  

These were the things that kept us moving forward this week.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

May 2012

So May meant learning all about open access online publishing of scientific research.  I am really enjoying my new job, it is exciting, challenging, but something I really can relate to compared to the wine industry.

That said, we did a lot as a family this month.  

Click close to read the yellow sign, funny for a restroom!
It began with Beth, Emma, and Sophie running the Divas San Francisco 5k.  They were able to run with our friend, Mrs. Not That, a sister from the Menlo Park congregation, and her granddaughter.  Emma was a beast.  The problem was that the course was not well marked so she ended up running with others an additional .25 mile; however, finished respectably under 30 minutes.  Beth ran with Sophie and really had a good time.

The above picture is kind of funny, especially when you don't realize that it is for the sewage treatment plant near the starting line.  That said, why run a race that begins and ends at the plant?

Beth learned how to make tutu's from scratch so everyone truly was a diva for the day.

This led to a race I was looking forward to, the Wildcat 10K.  Beth would run (walk) 5K with Myles, Sophie ran the 5K by herself and came in a respectable 1hour 1 minute.  This 5K featured 1K feet of elevation change so they did a wonderful job.

Emma and I ran the 10K.  This featured over 2,000 feet of elevation gain.  She did wonderful and completed a little over 1:30 minutes.  In fact we caught up and passed Beth and Myles on the 5K course.

The following weekend we took the kids and Kona up for a hike nearby at the Castle Rock Recreational Area.  It was a hot day, and there was still water in the creek, so the kids took full advantage.  The trip was pretty uneventful until we got home and we heard a scream from the bathroom.  Emma had found a tick on her leg.  I then found another on her shoulder.  Kona had an additional 8 ticks.  The great news was that the were dog ticks and had not begun feeding.  I latter learned that this is going to be a really bad tick season.

Last weekend we went to Shasta Lake.  We have never been on the lake during this time (and will probably be the last).  The lake level was 5 feet from the tree line, so this would have been ideal "tieing up to the trees" if we were in a houseboat.  We love camping up at Shasta; however, we typically go in August when the fishing isn't the greatest.

The campground was a bit noisy at night; but that is to be expected when you realize that people who go camping that weekend are compacting a week of vacationing into 2.5 days.  The big issue we faced was the downpour we had on Saturday.  We were fishing a couple of minutes away when it began and we raced to batten down the hatches back at camp.  This meant that it took until Monday before the fishing returned to normal.

Emma did end up catching two bass (her first) and I caught one.  Sophie didn't catch anything, which was a disappointment for her since she prides herself as being the one who catches the most.  Overall though it was a short trip and made us look forward to our longer summer trip.
One of the highlights of the trip is also going to the amphitheater at the campground and learn about the different things at the lake.  Last summer it was about the mines located at the lake and the caverns.  This weekend featured a lecture on bald eagles.  Sophie volunteered to demonstrate what an eagle was like, which required her to dress up as an eagle.  Always up for the roll, Sophie really enjoyed herself.

That basically sums up last month.

For more pictures check Beth's blog here.

Or our picture site here.