Friday, May 29, 2009

California State Parks- A Call to Action

save state parks

Imagine a trip down California's coast where beach after beach is closed due to lack of funding. Imagine driving out to see the desert in bloom only to find Anza-Borrego no longer open to the public. Imagine not being able to visit the very spot gold was discovered because there is no money to keep the park open. Imagine not being able to visit Mt Tamalpais, Angel Island, or Tomales Bay in Marin.  Imagine not being able to see Point Lobos or Pfeiffer Burns SP near Big Sur. No Pismo Beach. No McArthur-Burney Falls. No Poppy Reserve. No Torrey Pines. No Malibu Creek. No Mt Diablo. No Humbolt Redwoods. The list goes on and on and on. And the list could become reality. California is in a fiscal crisis. And the politicians are hitting us where it hurts. They are cutting teachers, corrections officers, firefighters, police and now they are cutting out nature. We CAN'T let this happen. Our kids NEED these parks. We NEED these parks. Most Californians live amongst the urban sprawl. We NEED a place to go where we can enjoy nature and all the outdoors have to offer. The legislature is trying scare us by taking away what we need the most. But consider these facts courtesy of the California State Parks Foundation:

FACT:    The General Fund budget that state parks receive account for less than 1/10 of one percent of the entire state budget. 

FACT:   Last year alone, there were over 80 million visitors to state parks – and all indications are that this year was going to be even higher.

FACT:    For every dollar that funds the parks, $2.35 is returned to the state's General Fund through economic activities in the communities surrounding the parks.

That means eliminating all funding for state parks could actually result in the state losing over $350 million dollars in revenue.

Not only would cutting the California State Parks be a travesty but its would just be reckless! We can't let this happen! You have a voice in this. Let it be heard. Take one minute to sign this petition. Join the Facebook group here. If you live in California, this effects you. If you vacation in California, this effects you. If you don't want to see California set a bad example for other state governments, this effects you. Together we can let the California Legislature we are NOT going to put up with their nonsense any more!

Dinosaurs in Laguna Hills

I love it when I find a park that is more than just a couple swings and a slide. I get tired of the same old thing so I assume my kids do too. The Dinosaur Park in Laguna Hills is definitely not the same old thing. Located next to the Community Center (which has a wonderful display of fossils inside) and sports complex, the park was built on one the most fossil rich spots in the US. It inspires little ones to do their own excavations and helps stir up curiosity in a world that lived long before even Mommy and Daddy were born.

There are bones to climb on and caves with fossils imprinted on them. The kids will love pretending to drive the jeep.




There are shades over a portion of the playground which is wonderful on those hot summer days. The play structures are lots of fun and I love the panels featuring different prehistoric animals.

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I am certain we will be back and now I understand why Dinosaur Park is the stuff of Orange County legend. Its just so dang cool!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pena Adobe

We have so many adventures that I haven't blogged about yet. So many places to share, so many pictures to bombard you all with. Some places are grand like Lassen (I will get to it Tamara I promise) or Muir Woods and others are small like Pena Adobe. We went to Pena Adobe to take some pictures of the kids dressed up like little prairie children. I had purchased the cutest little bonnets from a store on Etsy and my friend JK had sent Mari the cutest little Little House on the Prairie dress so it was a must that we put them to good use. Mari had other plans. She had absolutely no desire to wear that bonnet for even a second. And so the fight began. I tackled her, tied on the bonnet and demanded Paul shoot as many pictures as he could as quickly as possible. This was the best bonnet shot we got.


April 2008


And this is what we had to go through to get it.



Ben stole the show. He put on his best farm boy charm and gave me more than I could have ever hoped for.

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Not that Mari didn't put on some charm when she was forced to endure the torture of the bonnet.




Pena Adobe is located in Lagoon Valley between Vacaville and Fairfield and is a nice pit stop from the Bay Area to Tahoe or Sacramento. There are hiking trails and nice spots for picnics. If you are interested in more on the hiking in Lagoon Valley here is the link to my previous post. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oakland Zoo

From the time my kids could sit upright, they have been going to zoos.  I guess that's what happens when your mother is a complete animal freak. I swear sometimes I think I see Ben roll his eyes when we pull up to yet another zoo parking lot. He must wonder how many giraffes I have to see before I am finally satisfied (the answer, incidentally, is that I will never be satisfied so deal with it my boy). Mari is my little animal lover and shares in my excitement with each and every giraffe that crosses our path. Luckily, some zoos are built for those kids who need a break from staring into exhibits, hopelessly looking for that elusive bobcat. Oakland is one of those zoos.

This is not to say Oakland doesn't have some great exhibits. It most certainly does. I love how up close and personal we can get with the ring-tailed lemurs. I can't help but stare down the smiling alligator that lays so still it almost convinces me it can't be real. The kids love brushing the sheep and goats in the children's zoo. And of course, who can resist the long tongues and ever longer necks of the giraffes?


And even with all his excitement and animal interaction, sometimes a kid needs a break. He needs to run free, climb a few dinosaur eggs, and slide down a rabbit hole or two. This is what the Oakland Zoo does so well. It gives children fun and educational places to play without losing its identity. Kids can follow the animal tracks stamped on the concrete, climb on giant dinosaur eggs or slink through a tortoises shell. Children can run in the meadow while their parent's relax and they can look forward to a ride on the carrousel on their way out of the park.

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Then they can go back to getting excited over elephants and going ga ga over the gazelles. Perhaps they might even have so much fun that they will actually get along with each other. Hey, a mom can dream right?


Monday, May 25, 2009

Quail Hill




It wasn't long ago that South Orange County was nothing more than rolling hills, farmland, and citrus groves. My mom loves to remind me of this whenever we drive down to San Diego. Its almost as if her memories of speeding down I5 to bring homemade carrot cake to members of one of her favorite bands overcome her senses and make the sea of humanity that now exists seem to disappear. I live in that sea now. Waves of people in cars controlled by the ebb and flow of traffic lights, always in a hurry to reach their destination. Luckily someone saw the need to slow down and save some of the last remaining undeveloped land of  Irvine Ranch.  They saw the importance of saving what's left of these fragile ecosystems for the wildlife and people to enjoy forever. And in 2006, the National Park Service added Quail Hill to the National Natural Landmark list and therefore will preserve this land forever.

The trailhead at Quail Hill is located across the street from a baseball field and houses galore but it doesn't take long before the screams of cheering parents are replaced by the screeches of red tail hawks. The Quail Hill Loop Trail is an easy 1.8 mile hike where you can enjoy the rolling hills and take in spectacular  views of Irvine and surrounding communities. The trail is open every day from dawn to dusk and leashed dogs are welcome. In this age of technology you can even enjoy a cell phone audio tour of this trail by calling 949-743-5943. This is not a hike I would take on a hot summer day in July because there is no shade. But on a morning where the marine layer is just starting to break up and the air is cool, its a nice little hike.

Once a month something special happens at Quail Hill. The park opens up the open space portion of the land including Bommer and Shady Canyons. Normally you have to go on a docent led hike to see this land. We jumped at the opportunity to hike at a two year olds pace on this protected land. I couldn't help but notice the habitat restoration taking place and I look forward to seeing Mother Nature reclaim what is rightfully hers.


Ben got distracted by a puddle that he felt he must spend the entire day running through and poking with sticks so Paul had to bring out the big guns of parenting. He grabbed a long stick and told Ben he could have it if he managed to get it from Paul. So off Ben ran like a cheetah racing for its prey. Mari thought this looked like so much fun that she insisted we play the stick game too and we killed some serious distance in no time. Definitely saving this technique for future expeditions.

May 20098

We huffed and puffed up to the top of a large hill where we stopped to enjoy the views of Orange County with mighty Saddleback looming in the distance. The rattling of the grass and the songs of birds replaced the whoosh of the freeways and roars of car engines. We could have kept going all the way to Laguna Canyon if we wanted to but we had two pooped two year olds so we decided to head on back down the trail.


Ben and I held hands and ran down the hill. He giggled the whole way down and asked for more whenever I stopped to pull up my sagging pants or dodge a kamikaze mountain biker.


Mari was not as big of a fan of the downhill portion and cried for Daddy to pick her up and carry her down while Daddy got horrified glances from women who were convinced we were torturing our children. Soon we were at the bottom and Mari redeemed herself by once again showing her love for all things outdoors by prancing down the trail and enthusiastically oohing and aahing at her little discoveries along the way. Watch out Quail Hill. We will be back. And we will be bringing canines.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Mission Viejo Street Painting Festival

Have you ever received one of those email forwards filled with amazing pictures of works of art created with chalk on sidewalks? I am always impressed at what artists can do with a little sidewalk chalk and imagination. Well at the beginning of the month we had the pleasure of seeing some of these artists putting on a terrific (and free!) display at the Mission Viejo Street Painting Festival . We went to the first day of this two day festival and watched the artists start their incredible pieces of art.

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As we walked in a very nice couple walked out and gave us all their food tickets so we enjoyed a tasty sausage sandwich lunch and the kids got to have their very first snow cones! Obviously, the snow cones were a hit!

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Another cool thing about the festival was that they had an area set up for kids to create their very own works of art.


And I have to give a shout out to my friend Tamara who makes these fabulous custom shirts. I love mine! Check out her etsy store here.


My only regret is that we didn't go back for day 2 to see how everything turned out. Next year!


Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Day in Marine Del Rey

LA is weird. One second you are in the ghetto, the next you are surrounded by million dollar homes. Regardless of the socio-economic level of any given neighborhood, one thing is constant. Traffic is a bitch. Where else can you sit traffic at 3AM because a car chase is speeding on down the 5? Given some of its less than desirable qualities, LA does have some great weather and fantastic beaches.

The other day I decided to head up to Marina Del Rey and pay my brother a visit. His apartment (that he pays both of his arms and legs for) is conveniently located across the street from the marina which conveniently has cute little beach and playground.


This beach is more like a lake than the ocean since its at the marina. This is boring for surfers but pretty great for parents since they can let their kids play in the water without fear of them being swept out to sea. It isn't the prettiest beach I have ever been to but the kids loved wading safely in the water and then running back up the beach to go down a slide or take a quick swing. Plus they enjoy the view of all the boats in the marina. You can make a nice afternoon of it at the Marina Del Rey Beach and dine at the Cheesecake Factory which is on site. Or grab a piece of cheesecake and bring it back to the beach if you would rather sit and enjoy the rays.


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I have to end this post with a couple pictures of our time at Chris's apartment. The kids were in love with his kitten. The kitten was not nearly as impressed with Mari and Ben.

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We ended our day with Chris because he had plans. He had to put on his purple jumpsuit and head off to Lebowski Fest. Yep. I did say purple jumpsuit. Here are shots of him dressed as Jesus from the Big Lebowski. Enjoy!

May 20095

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Edna Spaulding Nature Tail

You may have noticed I have a bit of a love affair with O'Neill Regional Park. I can't help it. I love driving back into the canyon and escaping into a world free of traffic, cookie cutter houses, and cookie cutter people. I love watching my children get excited when they spot a squirrel under an oak tree or gasp when a horse trots by on the trail. I love seeing them play with rocks and sticks instead of plastic and I love that we only have to drive a few minutes to escape to another world. So for Mother's Day I had to hit up a trail at the park.

The Edna Spaulding Nature Trail is a short 1 mile hike up into the chaparral covered hills. It is a narrow trail which keeps mountain bikers and equestrian riders off the trail. It is a bit rugged in parts but my two year olds handled it just fine. In flip flops I might add (though not recommended). The incline is slight and the views are wonderful. I imagine in early spring this hike would be covered in wild flowers. Even though things are starting to brown in our neck of the woods, their was still plenty to look at.

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Once again I would like to encourage people to look for a bit of nature close to home. Even in the busiest of cities, nature is never too far away.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesdays for Tuesday

$3000. That was our goal. And we reached it! Great job everyone! Thank you for your donations and congratulations to those who won some fabulous prizes. A special thank you to Debi who tirelessly worked to make this Blog Party such a success. Our hope is that we can make this an annual event and next year we will have even bigger and better prizes which will lead to more and more donations. We are making a difference with every dollar. We will continue to work together to kick cancer's butt!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mother's Day, Double the Adventure style

I didn't have the typical Mother's Day. Of course I am not the typical mom. I am not a champagne and chocolates kind of girl. And my dear, sweet husband knows this. So what did he get me for Mother's Day?

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That's right folks. A dozen roses, a 12 pack of beer and some Jelly Bellys (which have most recently been used as my main motivator to get Mari to go pee pee in the potty). Yes, I know some women would smack their husbands upside the head if this was what they woke up to on Mother's Day but it was right up my alley. Then Paul got to work making me a nice bacon themed breakfast. Since I can't remember the last time Paul cooked anything besides grilled cheese I felt this deserved a picture as well. So I give you Paul with his signature cheese ball thumbs up cooking breakfast:

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Then in typical Mother's Day fashion the kids got hopped up on powdered donuts and fought over a stuffed elephant.

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My mom and brother came over and we headed out for a picnic in the park and a nice hike in O'Neill Regional Park. Mari even went on the big girl swings all by herself for the first time.

May 2009

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We closed the day with some yummy Italian food my brother brought back from a restaurant. I stuffed myself with carbs until I could barely budge, watched some tv, and called it a night. Good times. Good times.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Loose Teeth Vintage Inspired Sundress with Petticoat GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Loose Teeth Vintage Inspired Sundress with Petticoat GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

And the winner is...

Kim! Congrats Kim. You were the last person to enter and your number (25) got picked by I assigned each entry a number 1 through 65 randomly and then used to pick the winning number.

Thank you to everyone who entered and donated to the cause. I hope you all feel like winners for doing some real good (cheesy I know, but true).

Kim, please email me and let me know which National Geographic subscription you would like and include your address and I will place the order today. I hope you love your prize as much as I do!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tuesday Blog Party- Enter to Win!


Tuesday Blog Party Blog Post Header

From now until May 12th, I am holding this give-away to help benefit the Tuesday Fiona Whitt Foundation.
Tuesday was the beautiful twin daughter of my dear friend JK who bravely fought and sadly lost her 8 month battle with stage 4 neuroblastoma in January of this year.
My friends and I from Jess' multiples group have decided to put together an annual blog party to help raise funds to fight pediatric cancer, specifically neuroblastoma, as it is the least funded of ALL cancers yet one of the most fatal. A tragedy if you ask me. We CAN make a difference.

I am giving away something near and dear to my heart. A book that I have spent countless hours natgeo scanning over and plotting future adventures with, the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States, This book is awesome. It is the best resource for planning a trip to a National Park and a great read. Of course the book I will be giving away is the all new and improved 6th edition and not my tattered old thing.

In addition to the book I will also give away a ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION to the National Geographic Magazine of your choice whether it be National Geographic, NG Traveler (my personal fav), NG Adventurer (my other personal fav) , NG Kids, or the all new NG Little Kids. Check them all out here.

How do you enter to win such fabulous prizes? All you have to do is donate $1 to the Tuesday Fiona Whitt Foundation. That's it. A buck. If you want to donate $5 you will get 5 entries. If you follow my blog (remind me in the comments section) or start following me (let me know in comments) I will give you another entry. But you have to donate to the fundraiser to get the extra entry. Twitter about the Tuesday Blog Party and I will give you 2 entries. Post about my giveaway and you get 3 more.

Also, head on over to the Tuesday Blog Party to see what other fantastic items are being auctioned off by clicking the image below


There are lots of great auctions going on and all it costs is one dollar to enter each one.
If you would like to make one donation, instead of many individual donations, please feel free to donate however is easiest for you.
If you end up donating $10, but only find 5 auctions you are interested in, you can use those additional dollars as additional entries :)

Thank you so much for supporting a great cause and remember to have fun!
Good luck!