Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lake Time

This is a happy sight.
 
It means that the houseboat is underway for another summer session of camping on Pine Flat Lake.
 
We like to hang out on the Trimmer end of the lake, so it is an hour-plus cruise.
My sister's ski boat, of course, goes a bit faster!  Here's Scotty taking advantage of that with the wakeboard.
Go, Scotty, go!  Once we get settled in our spot, we get all the toys in order.
The "tube"...an essential part of modern lake time.
Kayaks--good fun AND good for you!
 
Mae trying the wakeboard for the first time.
Great success!
And here goes Abigail!  Now we have two boarders!
The kids all try to sit on the paddleboard at the same time.  Endless entertainment!
Karen doing field testing of her new favorite sunscreen:  Sun Bum.  Another great success!
 
We encountered a large rattler.  Too many kids/dogs/tents to just ignore him, so Gail took the matter into her own hands...


By stoning him.  To death.
Here's Karen swimming the knife and water over to the victor.
 
And here is my own precious baby sawing the rattle off.  Nine buttons.
Here are my parents on my Dad's 75th birthday!  Remember, Dad had major heart surgery in April.  His goal was to be healthy enough to spend his birthday down at the lake.  He made it!
And yep...he looks happy!
So many reasons to be happy and grateful and celebrate.  One of the best lake trips ever!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Morro Bay

Neither Mark nor I had been to Morro Bay, but it is a popular destination for folks in our area, so we decided to check it out for our second "home base" during our vacation.  Once there, we understood the attraction!  Beautiful little town with an Embarcadero lining the east side of the bay.  Grass-topped dunes of fine, soft, sun-warmed sand...the sort where you just HAVE to play hide and seek tag.  Otters floating on their backs, cracking mussels on their bellies and eating their dinner.  Yeah, it was a really great place to visit.  But also, it was a great place from which we could stage day trips. 
 
One of my favorites was a trip north to San Simeon.  We did not visit Hearst Castle, thinking the kids would not fully appreciate it, especially for the $$$ tickets.  No, we had a different destination in mind:  the Elephant Seal Rookery
The elephant seals have a favorite beach near San Simeon.  It was cold and windy, but absolutely incredible.
Apparently it was not as densely packed as other times of the year.  Most of the adults are off at sea.
This time of year, young males are practicing their sparring skills.
 
Their vocalizations were so deep and loud, it was really a spectacle!
We also enjoyed watching them flip sand onto themselves as they basked in the sun.  This visit really made me want to return for breeding season, when there are lots of males up to 16 feet long, fighting for the ladies.  And also I'd love to see the birthing season, with all the pups.

After we left, it was time to hit the beach, and we happened along the Hearst Memorial State Beach.
 
I had completely maxed out my camera with by now beloved elephant seals, but I have to share the beauty of this beach, so this is a photo courtesy of campingcalifornia.org .  It was such a striking mix of tree-topped bluffs, wide sandy beaches, and very blue water, protected from the wind and complete with a pier to explore.  I would definitely go back.

One day we headed south, to the south end of Pismo State Beach in Oceano.  This was a very fun day...we drove our truck right onto the beach!  The waves at this beach were deceptive.  They were fairly close together, so it didn't look great for boogie boarding, but guess what...they were a blast!
And look, I can give a first-had testimonial--that's me on the boogie board!
Actually, come to think of it, the waves were a little too much for the kids.  Mark gave it a try, but because he didn't have a rash guard, he was getting all scuffed up on his belly.  So maybe it was just me who enjoyed the water at this beach, but there were dunes to play in, and we spotted whales spouting and splashing just off the shore.  Incredible!

Another wonderful visit was to Montano de Oro State Park.  Definitely NOT a water type beach, except for the experienced surfer.  But lookit...
 

Yes, the giant slopes in Hazard Canyon were a huge draw for the kids.
And there were fantastic tide pools, which are a huge draw for everyone, but maybe I'm the biggest fan.  I could look at tide pools for hours.  Unfortunately, the highlight here was seeing a disposable diaper, and dozens of hermit crabs working on digesting it.  Not my favorite sight, but of great interest for the kids.  I know...if I was truly a good citizen, I'd have cleaned up that mess.  But I guess I'm publicly acknowledging my limits.
This was a free photo op on the sidewalk of the Embarcadero.  Mae really got into her role as Captian Hook!  The kids absolutely loved scootering around here, and after our farewell seafood dinner on the bay, we scootered/walked all the way out to Morro Rock.

Yes, I now join the throngs of my Central California compadres in making Morro Bay on my favorites list.  We'll be back!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Point Mugu

Five years ago, in January of 2009, we left the Air Force and headed off in our new home, the Surveyor.  We made a big loop across the Southwest: from Colorado Springs, down through New Mexico and Arizona, then from the bottom of California up to Chico, finally landing back down in Tollhouse, smack between Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks. 
 
There were many special stops on that trip, but one that really stuck with Mark was our stay at Point Mugu.  We stayed on the naval air station there, and the RV camp was right on the beach.  We had a primo spot, and an unobstructed view of the sun rising over Mugu Rock.  So it was only appropriate that we spent Father's Day this year revisiting Point Mugu NAS.   
This is not it.  But it is a handsome pose, yes?  This was our first night on the road.  We stayed at a waypoint at Pyramid Lake RV Resort.  Don't be fooled by the name.  Not a resort.  But it did have a pool, so after a long day getting the trailer out on the road, the troops were happy. 
THIS is it.  See?  Gorgeous. 
 What's this, you ask?  That little black dot just beyond the break is a dolphin.  It is my best picture, but the real-life experience was much better.  In fact, after a week on the road, all three kids (did I mention Scotty was along?) noted the dolphins in their top three highlights.  The kids spotted them splashing in the surf and riding the waves.  There is some thing so magical about seeing animals playing and relaxing in their natural setting.
 Ahem...Case in point.
 Everyone made their own custom loungers.
 And another highlight...the kite flying!  It was kind of an obsession on this trip.
Scotty shows his battle scar--he got a little string burn by his eye.
 
After three days, we bid a sad farewell to Point Mugu, and headed north.  That will be another post.
For now, I'll just note: "Mugu, you've done it again."
 
I've been waiting all week to say that!  ;-)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Mother's Day Rodeo

One of our May rituals is the Mother's Day Rodeo.  Although it is no longer on Mother's Day.  It is on Saturday, to preserve the sanctity of mothers and not make them watch goat roping on their special day.  It matters not to me.  We go, either day.
 
 Instead of Bull Riding, the contestants (high schoolers) ride cows. 
 But they are sometimes very testy!
 In a break from the norm, there was a female rider. 
 Although this cow turned out to be a "walker". 
 Here is the infamous goat-roping.  The poor goat was a lover, not a fighter.  As the announcer said, "Is that a goat, or a puppy with horns?"  These are controversial issues in rodeo events!
 Half time events included the stick horse race, and many, many mutton busters.  
I have a love/hate relationship with the hide race.  The galloping horse tows a kid laying on a hide.  It is exciting, but also can be nerve-racking...just like the cow-riding.

This year, a NEW EVENT premiered:  chicken chasing.  Very fun, but also a little nerve-wracking as I worried about the poor chickens.  They might have a heart attack!
 I so enjoy seeing our kids all lined up with their friends, spellbound by the chicken chase.  Maybe dreaming of the day when they, too, can be in the ring.
 Because here in Tollhouse, we dream big.






Saturday, May 24, 2014

Turning Ten

 
May is a month of huge significance in our house.  Mark and I were married in May.  The girls were born in May.  The two biggest and best events in my life--time to celebrate!  It is amazing to recall where we were ten years ago this month.

This is the third year in a row that we have thrown a simple but large invite-the-whole-class party at our house.  The girls basically wanted the same party as last year, with a jungle theme.  After my initial surprise, I went to work, planning decorations and games.  Here is our snack table:
 
Beetle wings (chips), piranha bites (goldfish), toasted grubs (veggie sticks), alligator eggs (Reeses puffs), anaconda eyes (grapes), monkey bites (donuts), jungle vines (um...do they have another name?  green licorice?), dried ants (raisins), toucan toes (gummy chicken feet--yes, there is such a thing!), and the coup de grace--python pellets (Sugar Babies).  We also loaded up the ice chest and made a sign designating it as "The Watering Hole". 
 
The girls asked for the same cake as last year.  My mom, the cake master, upped the ante and created this masterpiece!
 
We had twenty four kids in the house!  One lesson from last year was that I wanted to limit the "running around like a hoard of crazy weasels" time.  I mean...how many crazy weasels do you want on a trampoline at one time???  No more than eight, right?  So we broke the kids up into groups, and did games.  No opting out!
We did the towel toss.
  
 Beanbag toss--I taped a monkey face around the hole and called it "Feed the Monkey".
 We had a scavenger hunt--these kids are looking through our trash.  Kidding!  They are reading a message under the lid!
 And of course, seed spitting.  We gave prizes for each set of winners. 
 Then we had cake.  I'm happier than I look here.
  And then...the monster slip-and-slide!
We had a 6-mil sheet of plastic and a hose.  What more do you need?
Right...maybe some baby shampoo to add some more "slip".
 
And a huge running start!
 
The kids show up the next day all bruised and scratched, because after all, it IS just a regular hillside that they are throwing themselves down.  But they do seem to enjoy it!

So I'm noticing that I actually have NO PICTURES of MY OWN KIDS on their birthday.  You'll have to take my word for it.  They were happy!