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{Review} Big Basin: Our Family’s Big Adventure

16 Aug

Every family has that one story.

You know, like our dad friend who traveled with his four sick kids on a transatlantic flight and had to sit in a layered mess of spit-up, vomit and diarrhea for the entire flight while he tended to his brood single-handedly.

After today, if there was any doubt whether we’re really and truly a family, there isn’t any now.

The day started out nicely.

Low 70s, sunny skies, a cool breeze:  the perfect day for light hike and a picnic under the redwoods at Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

I drove, instead of Hubby, since the road through the mountains is so windy and I’m very prone to car sickness.  The drive was easy enough, though a bit long for my young ones.

When we finally arrived, Jane and Sam took to the forest, running around and exploring every nook and cranny:

It was difficult, but Jane managed harrowing escape from some trolls living under a bridge:

We looked for insects and I pointed out the various trees and plant growth along the path:

Upon spotting a rock covered in green moss, I asked: “What do you think that is?”

I think it smells like allergies,” Jane replied matter of factly.

After our picnic, we planned to stop for ice cream at the General Store.

Good thing we didn’t.

On our drive home, just as we had made it down the 45 minutes of winding road into the flatland of Saratoga proper, Jane yelled,

“Look at Sam!”

Hubby and I whirled around to see Jane pointing at her little brother who had fallen victim to the sway of the windy roads (and my speeding).  We stopped the car and then heard gurgling noises from Jane’s side.

Who knew that a 2.5 year old’s stomach had a two gallon capacity?

My only consolation:  Jane’s sympathetic reaction to Sam’s plight must mean that somehow – somewhere way down deep – she likes, and maybe even loves, her pest of a brother.

Luckily, it was only a short 15-minute straight shot home and I dunked them into the tub as soon as we arrived home.  Looking at their poor, pale little faces, I thought I would jump in, too, and play with them to make up for putting them through the day’s ordeal.

I stepped into the tub and felt the soap underfoot.

It must have fallen down from the soap dish and gotten a little soggy from the bath.  It squished between my toes, so I bent down to pick it up.

It wasn’t soap.  And there was a whole bathtub full of it.  Apparently, I was right – the misery of the car ride that Jane and Sam shared did indeed bring them closer together.  Minutes earlier while I was putting their soiled clothes into the washing machine, I had heard them curiously giggling together (instead of the usual clobbering and crying from Jane trying to drown her brother in the bath).  I now realize that the children were conspiring to seek revenge for my car-sickness-inducing driving through a cleverly crafted Simultaneous Number Two plot.

After everyone was cleaned up, I gave Jane a recap of the day, including the last two messy events, and asked her what kind of day she had.  “Was it a good day?”

She smiled quietly and said,”We had a big adventure.”

Details for your big adventure:

Happy Trails!


Koi Fish at Hakone Gardens

7 May

I finally was able to make good on my promise to take Jane to feed koi fish!  We visited an old favorite Saratoga spot of mine from childhood:  Hakone Gardens.

This is a great place to see and feed the carp and visit a beautifully landscaped Japanese Garden (a nicer, calmer atmosphere than Kelley Park).

But you’ll have a very tough time with a stroller since there are so many stone steps and the gravel is not that easy to travel on.

Still, it’s very worth the visit if you’ve never been and are willing to carry your not yet walking infant.

Check out the tea houses as a possible venue for your next event rental.  We attended an engagement party here and it was quite a lovely and intimate setting.  More info for your visit here ($5 admission).

Koi Fish at Kelley Park

5 Mar

Jane has an elephant’s memory for promises and usually reminds me, “It’s a promise,” when I ask if she wants to do something.  She doesn’t stop reminding me of the promise until it’s completed.

Last week I promised her we would see koi fish on the way home from SFO, but the San Mateo Garden Center was closed when we visited, so I had to make good on that promise this week.  Since my family used to visit the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Jose’s Kelley Park to see the hundreds of wriggling koi fish when I was a kid, I thought that would be a good bet.

Little did I know that the Koi Herpes Virus (KHV) had hit the ponds and all 500 of the koi were dead!  Apparently, someone in the community introduced a foreign carp carrying the virus into the ponds and wiped out the entire population.  So, poor Jane walked around the Garden calling, “Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy!” to no avail.

We made up for it with a peaceful picnic on a knoll overlooking one of the ponds and lots of duck-watching.

Then, after an hour of running up and down the Garden’s gently rolling slopes, we sat down next to these marvelous tree roots for a break.

Jane found some magnolia pods for us to hammer open for a fun counting game with the orangey-red seeds we banged out.

Verdict: Even without the koi, I’d recommend the Japanese Tea Garden and Kelley Park.  It has the cleanest park bathrooms you’ll ever visit and so many open spaces and hills for your little one to run her heart out.  It was a challenge to get up and down some of the hills and stadium-like steps with Sam in the stroller, but you can avoid taking those paths altogether if you want a nice smooth stroller ride.  And if your toddler needs her animal fix, just visit Happy Hollow Park & Zoo* until the koi return later this year.  Now, to find the next Japanese garden to close the koi fish promise out!

*Tip:  Visit on a weekday and before the summer season hits to avoid nightmare parking, overly hot weather for the little ones and the crowds.

I heart Ikea

3 Feb

A godsend when I was in college and needed to cheaply outfit my pad with a what-was-then-thought-to-be cool aesthetic of modern, colorful furniture, rugs and unnecessary knickknacks, my-oh-my did I fail to see that this was just the TIP of the Ikea iceberg!

If you have no idea where to take the kids on a rainy day, when it’s too dark outside for the park or if you just need a place for them to run off a little steam, Ikea is (again) a godsend.

Just the word “Ikea,” casually uttered in a quiet conversation between adults, sends my toddler into a downright tizzy, screaming “I-KEE-ah!  I-KEE-ah!”  Both my kids are too small to gain entry into the formal kids’ playzone, but just walking around the different room displays – apparently – is pure heaven.

We’ve spent countless hours getting in and out of the toddler beds in the children’s showroom (yes, sounds incredibly unsanitary and completely against my germaphobic ways) and trying out all the tot-sized table and chair sets.  Trying to get my toddler off the floor model mini-slide is next to impossible, save for the times I bribe her either with “fench fies” at the Ikea cafeteria or a ride on the “enevato” or “escado.”  Yes, Ikea boasts not just an elevator, but an escalator, too.  If you didn’t already know, these are the ultimate in toddler fun.

The cafeteria, while maybe not the most nutritious if you’re a dieting mom, like me, is great for the kids because 1) it’s cheap (and many times free!) and 2) it’s easy.  Jane sips that lingonberry juice like there’s  no tomorrow.  And yes, she drinks it out of a straw instead of her infamous bottle that she would sooner die than part from (even though she’s already two . . . shhhhhh, don’t tell the pediatrician).

It’s still not too bad a place to pick up some home furnishings on the cheap if you can figure out what’s a quality piece for the price.  We purchased the Hemnes dresser and daybed for our toddler’s room and are quite pleased.  In fact, the daybed has an enormous amount of storage space and a trundle bed feature, which will be great later on for sleepovers!  The Leksvik toddler table and chairs was also a great purchase:  nice warm-colored wood that withstands crayons, fingerpaint, banging, scraping and oily, sticky foods no problem.

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