#27- In the Time of Tulips

It should be no secret by now that Tulips are my most favorite thing. I often reference “in the time of Tulips” because I once was reading a excerpt on Dutch history when Tulip bulbs were as valuable a commodity as money itself and the time period, including season reference was “In the Time of Tulips.” The mass variety of colors and styles, of course, attract me, but also the cleanliness feel of Tulips is also attractive to me.  They seem so orderly and neat, with little fuss or mess to them.

After visiting the Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley two years ago, I couldn’t get the image out of my mind.  I was so drawn to it that I at several points found myself looking at job opportunities in the area…. all for the sake of being closer.  Clearly I was being a little nutty and in order to talk myself back to reality, I decided I’d have to do the next best thing-  plant MORE of my own (#27 on my list).  I already had a bed of tulips from the year before, and had taken a few leftovers and put them in the ground around the yard as an experiment to see if they too would grow and/or get eaten.  After one full successful season I decided this January to take the plunge and buy out all the area home gardening stores. (side note: 135+ tulips on clearance for $25 total! SCORE!)

This was a gamble that gave me mostly positive returns.  Gamble, because I should have planted my tulips in November. I was already about 2 months behind. Gamble, because who knew how long those bulbs were sitting at Lowe’s & home depot… potentially rotting away.  I’m no botanist but a few just didn’t seem right. Gamble, because shortly after spending a whole afternoon planting 135 tulips…. California went about another 6 weeks without rain. I was a bit flustered. I didn’t want all my efforts, and a bucket list item, to become a flop.

But finally… FINALLY….. I saw sprouts. I counted over 60 sprouts in one area, another 30 in a second area.

There’s no rhyme or reason to my planting other than I put a bulb where ever the ground was soft enough for my shovel to dig in a decent hole. I am pretty pleased overall, because clearly where there was once no color…. happiness has bloomed.  I love it so much I think I will plant 100 more this fall!  They’ve all been blossoming at different times, so I think these pictures might be as good as it gets.  But you get the idea.

There were a few factors for the bulbs that didn’t make it. 1) The ones I planted closest to the bunny patch seemed to have been eaten as soon as petals began poking out.  A handful were lost to these furry friends.  2) My puppy loves tulips, too, it turns out.  He loves sticking his nose deeeep into the pollen-filled centers and wriggling his head all about, forcing some to fold out and lose their shape early, snapping off. 3) I had to choose between being grateful for a husband who mowed the “lawn” or pouting over a patch of tulips that were sacrificed for his efforts. It is what it is.

One day, I believe I will cover this world in Tulips.  I envision tulips sprouting up sporadically along my empty country road, living harmoniously with all bunnies and deer so that I can enjoy them to and from town each time I drive. Where ever we wind up retiring to, I might just have my own Tulip valley. A girl can dream, right?

#40- The Oakland Zoo

It’s hard watching the news every night and then trying to convince yourself that there is anything of decency across the Bay in Oakland. But since moving here, I’ve come across the occasional mother who chats about her recent trip to or her membership at the Oakland Zoo, and seeing as I am a BIG fan of wild life animals in general (and thus, the zoos I am limited to visiting in order to see them), I thought we could brave a trip to check it out (#40- visit the Oakland Zoo).

And I am so glad we did!  We pulled Natalie out of school a little early on a Monday, and showed up about 1.5 hours before they closed, which I think worked to our benefit. It was sunny and peaceful with only a handful of visitors.

I was immediately excited to see they had all my favorite animals: Giraffes, Lions, Zebras, Elephants, tigers, Alligators, Kangaroos, etc. They even had one kind of baboon species I had never seen before!  I couldn’t tell you the name, but that ass is one I won’t soon forget:

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At first I thought one guy had a really bad case of hemorrhoids or tumors growing on his behind, but it turns out the entire gang sported the same shiny raw pink skin tone underneath their tails.  That can’t feel good!

This was Holly’s first time to the Zoo, and she got a real kick out of some of the exhibits.  I have to say, I am thoroughly impressed with how updated, clean and lively the place seemed.  Way better than the SF Zoo.  Not as good as San Diego (obviously) but probably on the same par as Sacramento. I could definitely enjoy more trips to this place in the future.

To me, the only thing better than the Zoo would be an actual African Safari adventure.  That’s on my ultimate bucket list!

#71- Visiting Daffodil Hill

I had actually been to Daffodil Hill once before, about 6 years ago. I was on Maternity leave with Natalie and in a desperate attempt to quiet a baby, regain my sanity and get out of the house, I made the drive out to see it after remembering the hill being referenced by a co-worker. On a good note: it was a weekday midday, Natalie was in a great mood and it was an overall enjoyable experience.  On a sad note: not knowing what to expect, I had no camera (6 years ago I did not have a smartphone),no company and no food. We showed up, it was quiet, empty and sunny.  I remember sitting on a bench, nursing Natalie and enjoying the sights but then ultimately leaving early, hungry and with nothing to show for it.

After loving our trip to Skagit Valley to see the Tulip festival in 2012, I was musing to myself that I wish California had more colorful sites to see such as that.  This musing brought about 2 resolutions: 1) plant my own tulip field ((#27) and 2) revisit Daffodil Hill (#71). This time better prepared!

This time we brought company, we brought picnic lunches, we brought a camera, we brought cute Easter Sunday Dresses for photo ops and we carved out a good chunk of our day to make this trip!

I don’t know the entire story behind Daffodil HIll, I’m sure it’s a nice one.  I mean, who plants THOUSANDS of Tulips on a big hill, throws in some farm animals and port-a-potties, picnic benches and other amusement goodies and then lets the public in for free? Who does that?  We were commenting to eachother that these owners could easily charge something as simple as $2-$5 per person and make millions.  It seems. Despite going at a mundane time, it was still busy with visitors.  Older visitors who loved commenting on our girls outfits & disrupting any chance at getting all 3 to just look at the camera & smile. Oh well…. We are so glad Daphne & Jessica came with us- it was great visiting, and extra special for Jess since Daffodils have been the main theme for Daphne’s nursery & such.

Tulips will still be my favorite, however, and I will one day have my own Tulip Hill of sorts.  And I will be charging ;)

#83- Traeger :)

Can you tell who’s dog this is?

We’ve been wanting a family pet for quite some time.  We temporarily cared for a German Shorthaired, Simone- a great dog!- while my friend went through an ugly divorce. We all loved Simone and were sad to see her go, which left us longing for ‘someone’ to call our own.  Add to the fact that Holly was over the moon with excitement just with the mention or the sight of a pet and we knew we had to give it a try, hence making it #83 on the bucket list.  I’ve always been wary of the commitment, personally, and I regularly critique people who center their entire worlds around what their dog will allow them to do or not do. But I reasoned we weren’t going to be one of those families, I wouldn’t allow it so why not?

We spent probably the last 6 months visiting different shelters around the Bay Area & Sacramento. With no luck- the pickings were limited to chihuahuas and pitbulls, or older mutts who lost an eye/ear/leg somewhere in their long and undoubtedly adventurous life. I wasn’t too particular, I thought.  I just wanted a young dog with good  manners and good genes. Buying a puppy seemed out of the question since most breeders wanted upwards of $500+ and we aren’t those kind of investors.

As we were headed home from Yosemite two weekends ago, we were completely surrounded by farmland and on more than one occasion saw the family farm dog running loose.  Blake commented that out here, 5 hours away from the Bay Area, there might be a stronger chance of finding what we wanted. We stopped for lunch in Turlock and decided to take a peak at what was available….. and there they were: the most adorable litter of 6 male boxer puppies. SOLD! $60 in fees and we had ourselves….. Traeger. We named him after our BBQ pit (which we love just as much it seems).   2 weeks in and he’s seemingly perfect.  Sleeping thru the night starting on night 2, no potty accidents in the house since day 3 and he’s so very gentle and cuddly with the girls…. I’m hoping he sticks!

#24- Yosemite

I was surprised with a birthday gift this month with a trip to Yosemite (#24 on my list).  Yosemite is one my more favorite, less visited places in California for the same reasons as every other outdoorsy person.  I wish I could say I’ve been here multiple times, however total trips can still be counted on just one hand.  The last time being when I was pregnant with Natalie, which made for some great photo ops, but not much hiking.

Although, I will likely make another stop through Yosemite at some point during 2014 because I also have on my list #2- visit Bodie & Mono Lake.  Which is on the other side of Yosemite, but currently almost unreachable since the one and only main road to it is closed.

Yosemite is as beautiful as I remember it (ahhhhh cliché) and my breath was once again taken away when we emerged from the other side of the tunnel and had grand sweeping views of El Capitan, Half Dome & Yosemite Valley.  This place is truly expansive (if you didn’t know that already) and it probably takes either multiple trips or a full week stay to truly appreciate all it has to offer.  While we hiked one area and I examined a map of different options, I told Blake one day- maybe when our kids are pouty teenagers- we need to book a week and hike the BIG trail, the one that takes you above El Capitan & Upper Yosemite Falls.  14 miles round trip!  This time, we stuck to what Natalie could handle and what my hips could handle with Holly on my back.  Last time I visited, we only made it halfway to the top of Half Dome. The way I see it,  there are LOTS of great GOALS to set within Yosemite!

I do think if it weren’t such a windy, long drive to get there, and if there weren’t such a ridiculously small time frame window/opportunity to book a campsite I’d be here at least once every summer.  Maybe our next move will be closer to this place ;)

#53- Running, full Circle

Back when I was working on my Master’s Degree, I did much of my specialization in relational (hidden) aggression in adolescent girls.  Basically, why mean girls are mean girls and what it would take to change that.  In the course of my research, I came across an amazing non-profit organization called Girls on the Run (GOTR).  My love-at-first-sight was doubled, seeing as it was a Girls’ Empowerment program as well as a running program. I vowed to myself that one day I would be a part of, and coach with, this program (#53 on my list).

I feel like this point in time is really an ideal time for me.  In recent years, I’ve mulled over the meaning and motivation for my running. Having been a runner myself since age 10, I have met every goal I’ve ever wanted to meet in regards to my fitness. I have 5 marathons under my belt, have participated in countless Fun Runs (I pride myself in running the very first Run to Feed the Hungry in Sacramento 19 years ago) have traveled halfway around the world and back to “compete” and now…. what? I had scoffed and turned my nose up at these themed runs, after reading an exposé in a Fitness magazine about it just being another trendy thing fattening the pocketbook of someone capitalizing on “Fun” runs by making fools out of people standing in line waiting to belly flop into mud or run around wearing ugly prom dresses with zombie make-up on and binge drinking afterward, so… those were out of the question. Had I passed my prime? Jumped the shark?  Kicked the bucket?

In the back of my mind for the past decade, however, has been GOTR. I believed in its message and knew it was everything good because I had lived it myself. Running from an early age on gave me a confidence, mental endurance, self-awareness that I don’t believe I would have really gotten anywhere else had I not joined a running team. GOTR is running combined with group discussions on self-esteem, relationships, bullying, health, etc. I knew I wanted this for all girls, not just my own. Seeing as my small little town had no cross country team, and no sports programs at all for youth until HS, I knew this was as good a time as any.

I went out, spoke at the PTA, spoke with the District, solicited the help of the other social service agencies and put a request out for other co-coaches.  The response was overwhelmingly positive and within weeks I had 3 other co-coaches, full weekend training under our belt and I presented the idea to the students shortly after.  I still remember the day my Running Coach came to my classroom and invited me & my peers to join- it was life changing, clearly. To fast forward 20 years later and find myself doing the same thing, just shows you never know how and when you might make an impact.

We now have a team of 10 girls (a feat in itself seeing as there are only 16 girls in the whole school that are of the right age range requirement) and have been practicing twice a week for the past month!  These girls are nothing short of AMAZING.

Girls on the Run Bay Area Pesca

This has been significant to me in many ways.  Being able to provide this kind of program to a group of girls who otherwise have little-to-no resources available to them I think is so much more powerful than if I had done this program in an affluent community with an abundance of programs (fitness, arts, camps, etc) already available.  Anywhere else this may have been viewed as just one more item to list off on a child’s resume of extra-curricular activities.  Here, these girls are incredibly grateful and genuinely joyful to be a part of this.  It’s thrilling. It’s also significant to me because I have repurposed my running to serve a community that I love.  No longer is it my self-serving hobby, I am mentoring and empowering young girls to do and be their personal best (a huge GOTR message) and I feel motivated all over again to run.

#68- The Melting Pot

I put #68 on my list (take the girls to the Melting Pot) for a few reasons.

1) Natalie always bugs us to come along on our “date nights”

2) At the time, I thought melted cheese and melted chocolate couldn’t be a wrong way to go with my picky eater.

3) How fun is fondue?! I think it’s a great alternative and an interesting one for kids to be a part of.

4) It’s where Blake proposed to me, so …. why not share it one day with our girls?

We opted, for practical reasons, to not bring Holly this time.  She herself is a complete maniac when it comes to food so I feared trying to explain to her that she couldn’t drink the cheese or had to wait till it cooled down seemed past her comprehension.  Not to mention how hot the pot gets.  It would be one big recipe for disaster.

Natalie was thrilled to have a special night with just the three of us.  She got dressed up, felt fancy and was on her best behavior. When it came to the cheese, however, she was not having it.  I suppose it would have helped if she didn’t see the ingredients going IN to the pot.  It was a total turn off for her. I wasn’t going to let this ruin our night, however, so we compromised and gave her a plate of all the dippings (carrots, broccoli, apple, bread, etc.) and agreed that if she ate all that she could have the chocolate fondue…. which of course she  feasted on. Didn’t need to ask what her favorite part of the night was!

In hindsight, I probably would have waited another few years to take her.  It might help if she outgrew some of her pickiness when it comes to the food because really, melted cheese is NOT that bad.