Muir Beach.

Nestled below Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach offers one of the best spots to observe tide pools.

 

Muir Beach is a small beach that isn’t as crowded as other beaches. There is a small parking lot and basic restrooms on site. There is a pretty nice path that goes over a bridge and leads to small make shift boardwalk that extends onto the beach.

 
Check out these online resources from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to help identify creatures in the tide pool.
 
The size of the many jelly fish that washed up on the beach are impressive!
Rocks encrusted with mussels.
 
Something no one seemed to be able to identify on the beach was the “By-the-wind Sailor” (Velella velella [size: to 3 in.]). There were hundreds of them all washed up on the shore.
A few people that I chatted with on the beach said they resemble the bottom of a coke bottle. “By-the-wind sailors live far out to sea, but many get blown ashore in the spring. The angle of the sail may determine where they land. Those whose sails angle to the left are blown to our coast, while right-angled ones sail toward Japan. These jellyfish relatives use their tentacles to catch passing plankton.” -Monterey Bay Aquarium

You’ll find huge rocks that offer excellent climbing opportunities and nice trails. Be aware that there are no life guards at this beach.

 
Muir Beach is not a typical “sunny” California beach.
We brought our own sunshine.
Definitely bring a long sleeve shirt or sweater as it gets cooler. As we made our way back to our car in the evening, we passed by many bonfires on the beach where people were roasting s’mores.
 
The fog moving in.
To learn more about what happens in a tide pool, Scholastica offers a great free “read and learn” book for young children.
 



Canva.

 
 I love to take pictures and use software to edit photos and create designs. I also have a soft spot for cool new technology tools that infuse these two subjects together. This is why I’m doing a little happy dance about Canva!

While Photoshop and InDesign are still standard for more advanced professionals, Canva offers something with less of a learning curve. It also doesn’t come with a hefty price tag. Online collaboration is possible by sharing a link of your work-in-progress.
 
Canva has the basic design elements:
  • Images (you can purchase royalty free images for $1.00 each or upload and use your own photos and graphics for free)
  • Font Library
  • Templates (create from scratch or Canva has hundreds to choose from)
    • Social Media, Pinterest, Facebook Cover, Facebook Post, Facebook App, Facebook Cover, Real Estate Flyer, Presentation, Poster, Blog Graphic, Kindle Cover, Google+ Photo, Twitter Header, Invitation, Document, Card, Photo Collage and Business Card

While Canva does provide interactive tutorials on it’s site, I learn best by doing. Contact me if you would like to give Canva a try. I have 5 invitations to give to people who would like instant access.

Canva can easily be a hobby of it’s own! I really enjoy playing with fonts and while I’m not a professional graphic designer, I enjoy creating designs. Often, the designs I create inspire my writing. Below are some examples of designs I’ve created by using Canva.

 
 
 

 

Tilden Park.

Tilden Park is easy to get to from CA-24 and offers quite a scenic adventure on curvy mountain roads as you journey to your destination. Be sure to share the road and approach curves cautiously as there are a lot of cyclists. Even though it’s California, pack a sweater. It’s was quite cooler up in the mountains among the forest. We spent a total of 4 hours here. Be sure to take in account that if you want to see the 3 places featured on this post, they are at separate locations in the park and you’ll need to drive there.

1. Merry-G0-Round. This was our first stop! There was a place to purchase food here (along with restroom with running water) so we decided to have a picnic lunch here after riding the antique carousel.

$2 per ride or $10 for 7-ride ticket book.
They accept cash as well as all forms of credit cards.

This is for sharing! Cotton candy for $2.50 made right before you! 
 

2. Redwood Valley Railway. This was the biggest surprise of all. We really enjoyed riding in an open, mini steam train up in the mountains among the trees. There are covered compartments too. Everything about this attraction was low-key and fun! Trains run daily until 5p.m. June 16th – September 1st.  In addition, the train is open on the weekends from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (or dusk, whichever comes first). If you have a stroller, you’ll want to leave it in your car.

$3 per ticket or $12 for a 5-ride ticket
They accept cash as well as Visa or Master.

 
3. Little Farm. Though we love all 3 of these spots, the farm was by far their favorite! Staggered about on a hillside, the Little Farm offers a big hands-on experience. Kids get to see the animals up close and pet the cows and sheep. Don’t forget to bring celery or lettuce to feed the farm animals. I actually didn’t bring any food for the animals. A kind stranger shared her celery with the boys so they could feed the cows, chickens and sheep.

In the boundary of the farm is a garden for kids. We spend quite a bit of time wandering through the garden, checking out all the vegetables and fruit growing. From what was written on the scarecrow, it appears that they host an advanced farm class for kids.

Attached to the Little Farm is the renowned Environmental Education Center. Inside we would information on the East Bay Regional Park system, native animals and a few displays. Be sure to check out their monthly program and activities guide
The Little Farm is free.



Get Food Education in Every School: Join the National Initiative!

How does a garden grow? Through you!

The Edible Schoolyard Network offers an online tool in which you can search to see if any K-12 schools in your community are participating in a garden program.

As an assistant teacher at a Montessori school I once asked a group of children how pizza was made. One child confidently exclaimed, “A box!”  To be honest, while growing up I had no idea that my hamburger patty was actually a cow. Somewhere, among the isles of processed foods, we’ve disconnected our self from the very thing that sustains us and gives us life- our food. We’ve not only forgotten where our food comes from, but we now assemble it instead of preparing it.

By helping children cultivate a connection to our  food early on through garden programs that are integrated into school curriculum, we create a whole child approach to education which promotes overall health and wellness. With the abundant environmental problems and health issues facing local and global communities (like diabetes, obesity, malnutrition and nature deficit disorder, to name a few), now more than ever, we need an onsite school garden to not only pique our curiosity but to foster intergenerational learning. School gardens facilitate a partnership with teachers, parents and community members. These hands-on, teachable moments aren’t limited to the garden but reach beyond into kitchen and the lunchroom.

Beyond Veggies! After picking the green beans from our garden, my eldest (then 7 years old) took it upon himself to sort them by size.

This of course isn’t to say that you still can’t or shouldn’t have a garden at home. One thing I learned working in the classroom was that if you grow it, odds are, the kids are going to eat it. As my children’s first teacher, I instituted this at home. I credit it to why my kids have adventurous palates and have always enjoyed a plethora of vegetables.  However, not every child has access at home to such opportunities. To ensure that every child shares in the magic of the garden, an onsite school garden is ideal.

 
Flower arranging using fresh flowers from the garden at school (age 3). Beyond care for their environment,  it helps a child develop fine motor skills, it spatial abilities and engages them in early mathematical concepts. 

The outdoor environment and school gardens of the first two schools our children attended greatly influenced our decisions to enroll them there.  While I gardened with them at home and encouraged them to help in the kitchen early on, it was important to us that the schools they attended valued the connection to our earth and food. While my children do not partake in the school lunch program, I remain an advocate for better nutritional standards in the national lunch program as well as access to organic, fresh produce. With organizations like the  National Farm to School Network leading efforts by empowering schools, children, parents and communities to make informed choices, I am hopeful that it will be a reality for all schools one day.

 
Kids can cook! Our youngest (then 4 years old) after harvesting a cucumber in the garden, he peeled and cut it for snack.
 In the past, if a school didn’t have a garden, I would have been rather hesitant to enroll our children. However, the school my children will be attending in the fall does not have a garden. It’s not that the school doesn’t want a garden. They hope to one day have one. I hope to be the person that helps the school get their garden started.
 

With a recent move, we were only able to plant in containers this year. Here my oldest is tending to his tomato plant while my youngest samples a piece of cilantro- all before breakfast.

 
With so many online resources available, I won’t be re-inventing the wheel, but rather connecting the dots. While we all can’t be Alice Waters, we sure can be inspired by her! As a matter of fact, yesterday I attended a webinar presented by Lilia Smelkova, Food Day Campaign Manager at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The event was co-sponsored by edWeb.net, the Edible Schoolyard Project, the National Farm to School Network, and Life Lab. This webinar focused on ways to inform people about the various resources available, ways to get schools involved and connected with the national Get Food Education in Every School initiative.
 
Every October 24 marks Food Day events all over the country. How is your school, organization or community participating? The Food Day initiative is a call for Americans to come together by celebrating and enjoying real food in addition to being catalysts for improved food policies.

While a student at St. Catherine University, the Food Justice Coalition hosted a “Get Local” picnic on campus. Of course, you could simply bring a basket of fresh vegetables from your garden to a neighbor and strike up one tasty conversation. Or, spend some time cultivating a garden and make a deposit into your future health bank.

 

The great thing about the programs that are already in place, like the Edible Schoolyard Berkley, is that it shows us all first hand that these programs really are applicable anywhere.

For more ideas on how you can get involved in Food Day, online networks, resources for school gardens and professional development opportunities, visit these websites:

  • Food Day. “Food Day is a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy,
    affordable, and sustainable food.”
  • National Farm to School Network. “Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.”
  • Edible Schoolyard Network. “…connects educators around the world to build and a share a K-12 edible education curriculum.”
  • Life Lab. “Bring learning to life in the garden!”
  • California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. “Our vision is an appreciation of agriculture by all.”
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “IATP works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.”
  • EdWeb. “We help educators share ideas to improve teaching and learning.”

Thank you to Lilia Smelkova, Food Day Campaign Manager at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, edWeb.net, the Edible Schoolyard Project, the National Farm to School Network, and Life Lab for the informative webinar on Food Day held on July 16, 2014.

3 Healthy Salads to Make Summer Sizzle.


With a little choppin’ there’s no stoppin’ you from enjoying three healthy, no fail salad recipes that taste like a little bit of summer with every bite! Many friends have asked me for the recipe for these three. I have tweaked the first recipe according to the needs of our family. I’m sure you’ll add to your creative touch as well!

1. Herbed Rice and Spicy Black Bean Salad.

Hands down, our favorite family salad. I’ve been making this for the past 6 years. Originally, I stumbled upon this recipe on AllRecipes.com. I’ve taken it to pot lucks, served it up with a side of grilled salmon and eating a bowl full of lunch. The most consuming part is chopping up all the veggies. However, it’s worth the work. 
Above: The ingredients in this recipe were doubled.

 Ingredients:


The Final Product!
I seriously combine ALL the ingredients together in a big bowl. I add the dressing at the end. I play around with the cayenne pepper (some days we like a little more heat) and I always use fresh herbs. Chill before serving. This makes about 8 cups.

2. Summer Chickpea Salad with Honey Garlic Lime Vinaigrette.

Chickpea lovers unite! Run, do not walk to your grocery store to get these ingredients so you can make this recipe today. Thanks to “How Sweet It Is”, no tweaking of any sort was needed for this recipe. Perfect!  

3. BLT Salad

Summertime….and the eatin’ is light. Our family doesn’t consumer beef or pork products for health reasons. (I haven’t had beef or pork in about 15 years.) So, naturally when I saw this recipe from “How Sweet it Is,” I knew I could substitute the pork bacon with turkey bacon. The end result…heavenly. I should have known it would have been a winner after tasting her first recipe (above). You may want to play around with the dressing. I’ve actually substituted Brianna’s Poppy Seed Dressing.