Sunday, November 30, 2008

Angel's Camp

We had the unexpected delight of joining two other families for a weekend at a resort in Angel's Camp.  The kids were thrilled to spend time with their friends and to explore the gold country. David and I were happy to get some work done at the condo while the kids were off with their friends and still have some great times as a family and with friends!

John soon became a favorite with three-year-old Ariel.  On our last day together, they were all but inseparable.  It was great to see this nurturing side of him.

As we left the resort, the kids posed by the sign.

We drove to San Andreas to visit the Calaveras County Historical Museum.  There we explored Gold Rush history and learned about the infamous Black Bart, a gentleman bandit who never harmed the drivers or passengers of the Wells Fargo stagecoaches.  He was eventually caught and spent some time in the jail, which was out back of the museum, before he was transferred to San Quentin.  

The courtroom upstairs had once been used for filming an episode of the "Little House on the Prairie" series starring Michael Landon.  I doubt that court case was anything like the one the kids acted out.  Judge Joshua C. presided over a case where Zach was accused of having defaced the George Washington portrait and the U. S. flag.  Prosecutor Joshua questioned Shannon, one of the witnesses in the case.

The kids posed in the garden out back for some pictures.

All of the children enjoyed browsing in the bookstore where we learned that Mark Twain spent some time in Calaveras County at one time.  Amy bought the book The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and we look forward to reading it ourselves.  So that's where the frog theme throughout the area came from!

We then drove over to Columbia where the fall colors were everywhere.  The kids enjoyed sugar plums and other chocolate delights from the Candy Kitchen.

However, their favorite activity was playing a spy game on the huge rocks at the entrance to the old gold town.

Painting Pottery

One of our favorite art places is Aran's Art Studio in Castro Valley.  On Friday, 11/21, we invited Shannon's friend Emily along as a belated birthday gift, to paint her own pottery.  She chose a little dish and a cup with fall leaves around it.  Here are the girls picking out the colors they want to use on their pieces.  Shannon painted a beautiful fairy and an ornament which turned out to be a birthday gift for me.

Emily's mom had great fun helping her with the sponge painting.  

Joshua painted a beautiful vase with landscapes from his imaginary planet Braughnt while John tried his hand at glass fusing.  I painted a spoon rest for my kitchen. 

While the last of the painting was being finished, the kids played Apples to Apples with other kids that were also done with their projects.  

Aran's is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon!

Oakland Youth Symphony

Every year we try to get to at least one of the Youth Symphonies offered in the Bay Area.  On Tuesday, 11/18, we attended the Oakland Youth Symphony at the Marriot Center.  

Here are the kids waiting for the event to begin.

The theme was centered around the percussion section of the orchestra.  We had great fun learning about the different instruments that are used to create those interesting sounds during a song.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Carmel-Monterey-Santa Cruz

For David's birthday this year (10/24), he wanted a get-away for just the two of us.  One of his favorite things to do is sit and watch waves, so we sent the kids off with friends and family and headed down to Monterey Bay.  We found a great hotel in Marina, well within driving distance from the places we wanted to see and yet far enough away from the touristy places to get a good price.  

On Saturday, 10/25, we drove down to Carmel where we had a fantastic oyster bar lunch. After walking around Carmel at bit and visiting the beach, we started out on the 17-mile drive which ended in Monterey.

The entire coast was shrouded by fog which gave us some beautiful pictures nonetheless.

Here's a picture of the lone cypress tree.  The fog only added to its singular beauty.

David thoroughly enjoyed watching the waves and walking out on the rocks.  The sea breeze is always refreshing.  Just behind David on the right is a large rock sticking out of the ocean.  It was covered with sea lions barking like crazy.  What a sound!

On Sunday, 10/26, we had brunch at Capitola-by-the-Sea at the Shadowbrook Restaurant, the place where David proposed to me 18 years ago on his 30th birthday.  You see, his birthday each year is also an anniversary of our engagement.  Has it really been 18 years??

This restaurant is incredible.  First, you walk down a path through a gorgeous garden to the restaurant, which is sitting right on the banks of the lush Soquel Creek, which drains into the ocean just a ways further down.  

The food was delicious, and the view was romantically tranquil.  After brunch, we took the tram back up the hill to the parking lot.  Wonderful memories of a special night!

Next, we ventured into Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz Harbor for small crafts.  We watched sailboats coming and going and walked out on the jetty to the lighthouse.

On our way back onto dry ground, we found that the replica of the Nina was in the harbor.  This would have been a good time for the kids to be with us as it was a ready-made field trip.

Pumpkins at Arata's Pumpkin Farm

On October 10 we drove across the Bay and down Highway 1 to our favorite pumpkin patch:  Arata's Farm.  There is a huge straw maze, covering 2.5 acres, that the kids love to run through with their friends.  Every year it is a different pattern, so they can easily spend an hour in there and still find their way out...several times. 

After a picnic lunch, Shannon and her friends chose pumpkins to bring home.

It was a great day with our friends.