Archive for July, 2012

All weekend

The Berkeley Kite Festival. See the website for more details.

Saturday 28th July

11am-noon it’s Barnyard Buddies time at Ardenwood Historic Farm

11am-8pm it’s the Redwood City Blues and BBQ Festival. It promises activities for kids. See here for details.

Sunday 29th July

11am-noon there’s an insect scavenger hunt for kids at Ardenwood and from 1.30-3pm you can help with the wheat harvest.


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Saturday 21st July

You can go berry picking at Ardenwood Farm, 10.30-11.30am.

Sunday 22nd July

The Grand Opening of the new Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve EcoCenter.  This is a free event, 1-4pm. See here for more details.

Target Family Days in Redwood City is sponsoring a Wildlife extravaganza, 11am-3pm. More information here.

There’s another Bluebird Discovery Day at Edgewood Park, 10am-2pm.

From 1.30-3pm you can watch the wheat harvest at Ardenwood Historic Farm.

Advance Notice

The Midpeninsula Open Space Preserve is offering a 2 mile, docent-led, kids hike aimed at 6-10 year olds on August 4th. You do need to make reservations for this, and reservations open 19th July. These hikes always fill up quickly. See here for details if you’re interested.

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The Patagonia 50% off sale starts today. If you’re looking for some technical outdoors gear head over there quickly while the full range of sizes is available.

This stuff is cute and just lasts and lasts and lasts.

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and last week we found a gem when we walked out to the tafoni sandstone formations in El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve.  The trails here are wide and secluded–perfect for toddlers–and this one ended in a spectacular destination that was interesting for the whole family.

The Monkey on a sunlit path


I learnt all about local geology and ‘tafoni’ (the little crevices and pocks in the sandstone) while the boys had fun wild-life spotting and running along the windy path.  It’s a bit of a trek at 2.2 miles, but highly recommended for the keen preschool hiker.

sandstone formations in the wood

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Tickets are now available for Roaring Camp’s ever-popular ‘Day Out with Thomas’ event. See here to make your reservations.

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Saturday 14th July

There’s lots going on at local zoos this weekend. For older kids (4+) it’s camp out night at Oakland Zoo: $75 per person for members and $85 for non members. You do need to register for this event. Find the website here. At San Francisco Zoo, it’s the Teddy Bear Festival. See here for more information.

There’s a bluebird celebration at Edgewood Park (Redwood City) for kids aged 3-7 (plus caregivers) from 10am-noon. This free educational program sounds like lots of fun and includes a guided walk, a talk and an art project. Find the details here.

Ardenwood Historic Farm has a full July program. On Saturday there’s a Barnyard Buddies Event from 11am-noon.

Sunday 15th July

And on Sunday at Ardenwood there’s the Great Sunflower Project Bee Count from 11am-noon where kids can learn about bees and their work and in the afternoon (1.30-3pm) it’s the wheat harvest where you can marvel at the farm’s antique thresher (something my toddler boys really like to do!).

Enjoy Family Gold Rush Adventure Day in San Jose. See here for event details.

And remember Sunday is the Hidden Villa Summertime Open House (if you booked your ticket last month anyway!)

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After picking berries at Swanton Farm, we decided to explore Pigeon Point Lighthouse State Historical Park as it was just too breezy to sit on a beach (our original plan).  This historic lighthouse is a fun destination for kids and adults alike and we spent a good ninety minutes poking around the site and exploring the park’s short coastal walkways.

Pigeon Point is a cove full of history. I never really think of the Gold Rush as a naval event, but of course it was as the sudden and dramatic population growth in California post-1850 brought increased shipping to the area.  Pigeon Point itself acquired its name from the calamity that led, in part, to the building of the lighthouse. In 1853 the Boston-based clipper the Carrier Pigeon ran aground and was wrecked. In the following decade, as the volume of shipping along the coast increased further, three more ships were lost on the point and it came to have a reputation for being particularly dangerous. In 1872 the lighthouse was built to help ships navigate these treacherous waters.  In the following decades a small Portuguese whaling factory also sprung up in the cove, the remnants of which can still be seen on the rocks if you look carefully below the wildflower walk lookout.

The main attraction

While you can no longer go into the lighthouse itself, it is spectacular from the outside, and there are fun displays about the history of the lighthouse and the surrounding area in the outbuildings. You can also see a giant example of a Fresnel Lens which our three-year old found fascinating. And operate fog horns ‘through the ages’ which both The Monkey and The Puppy Dog loved. There is also plenty to see outside the lighthouse buildings. There’s a short walk among the clifftop flowers, spots to watch the spectacular waves breaking on the crags below, and a viewing platform for harbour and elephant seal and grey, blue, and humpback whale spotting.  We spent a long time with the boys watching three seals play in the water and the waves breaking on the rocks, which of course led to hundreds of questions from The Monkey about what made waves, whether seals get cold, what seals eat and where they sleep, what lighthouses are for etc? Very educational.

Studying the waves

There is also beach access to the tiny Whaler’s Cove from just outside the park. This is a cute little spot, but only a tiny area of sand lies above the high tide line. Plus, it’s usually much too cold and breezy on this stretch of the coast for sunbathing…

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One of our favourite things to do in the summer is to head over to a local ‘u-pick’ and load up with berries to freeze for the winter.  Usually we do our beloved Live Earth Farm’s strawberry u-pick, but we had to miss it this year due to a clashing engagement.  I’ve tried Webb Ranch Farm but have not been that impressed: no strawberries and an admission fee just to pick on top of the price you pay for the actual fruit just seems wrong to me.  So this year we drove out to Swanton Berry Farm near Santa Cruz to try our luck there.

Swanton is a no frills, low-key, traditional kind of place and lots of fun.  You just turn up, collect a box, and head right out to the fields where the berries are plentiful.  Payment is on an honor system — you weigh your own fruit and just leave the correct change on the counter — so make sure to bring cash.  In fact, bring extra cash, as there is little chance you’ll walk out of their farm shop without also buying some of the farm’s jam, pies, and crumbles.

Mmmm. So many to choose from.

The berries were good, though not as good as Live Earth Farm’s (but then no berry I have ever tasted compares to Live Earth Farm’s strawberries) but it was really nice to pick fruit with a sea view.  And the kids loved it. I think we’ll be back up there for blackberry season in a few weeks.

For more information on opening times, find the farm website here. I guess prices may vary over the season, but I thought the $2.50 a pound they were asking for organic strawberries this weekend was quite reasonable.

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This week we spent a glorious, sunny afternoon on Venice Beach at Half Moon Bay. Usually I let my kids play in the run-off streams on the beach there. I know there is a chance of the water being contaminated, but I’ve always considered it a very low risk. There are now signs at the beach, however, warning about high levels of contaminants in this run-off so we decided just to play in the surf for a change.  I have to say that the warning has made me a little more cautious. A spot of internet research makes me think the risk is probably still small, but worth thinking about. If you’re heading to a local beach that usually has a ‘run-off’ creek or lagoon and you want more information about whether it’s safe to let your kids play in the water, you might want to check out this website which provides beach/creek specific information about current water quality

The Puppy Dog musing on creation and his place in it

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Not too much. It’s a quiet weekend after this week’s celebrations. There is one fun-looking guided hike at Big Basin. Other than that, I suggest it’s a good weekend for the beach or berry picking.

Saturday 7th July

At Big Basin Redwoods State Park there’s a Family Discovery Walk at 1:00 pm. Join docent Norm Beeson for a fun-filled family walk and investigate the mysteries and wonders of Big Basin’s redwood forest. It’s an easy, one-mile roundtrip walk that lasts about 1.5 hours.  Meet at Park Headquarters.

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