Summer Staycation: Northern California

We presently call Northern California home, or more affectionately NorCal.  It is the northern portion of the state and includes the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento, two metropolitan areas. In far northern California lies the Shasta Cascade region, a wonderland of outdoor recreation – surely providing staycation opportunities for all interests. 

The Shasta Cascade region, covering 25% of California, offers everything from glistening lakes and world-class rivers to scenic drives and backcountry roads.  It is the perfect escape from the fast pace of city life providing something for everyone to discover and enjoy whether it be great recreation, adventure or pure relaxation.  norcal staycation

Snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes, prairie swaths of forest, volcanic landscapes; the Shasta Cascade region provides scenic vistas within just a few hours drive – ensuring the journey is half the adventure. Choose from a number of great opportunities in this diverse region to create a staycation of your choice 0r follow the suggested itinerary of the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association.  

Check out some of the fun NorCal excursions you can enjoy:

Discover the culture of the Coastal Native Americans, explore the Redwoods, and Pacific ocean beaches at Patrick’s Point State Park near Trinidad.

Lassen Volcanic National Park will amaze you with the variety of remarkable hydrothermal features.

With 27 miles of hiking trails, Castle Crags State Park will keep you busy all weekend.

Though the historic sailing ships, Lady Washington & Hawaiian Chieftain, call Gray’s Harbor home, they are often docked in San Francisco.

At Lucero Olive Oil, you can get a peak behind the scenes at one of the state’s most lucrative agricultural resources.

We never leave the bay area without visiting San Francisco Chinatown, one of our favorite places to do a little shopping and enjoy a delicious meal.

We enjoy the tour at Shasta Dam so much, we’ve done it three times!  As one of the largest concrete dams in the world, it is a must see!

For more NorCal field trips, check out my post 10 Free California Field Trips.

Free California Fieldtrips

 Other fun activities you may enjoy throughout the summer

no matter where you live include:

  1. Go to a movie.  Invite the neighbors for a block party, projecting the movie onto a rented screen or sheet hung between trees.
  2. Go antique shopping.  Seek out unique, locally owned antique and second-hand stores. You never know what treasures you might discover.
  3. Charter a boat & go fishing.  Go fishing with a guided fishing charter.
  4. Volunteer. Volunteer as a family at a local homeless shelter or work with the park service to improve trails.
  5. See a ball game.  The country is dotted with major and minor league baseball teams; get some sun, have a hotdog, and relax.
  6. Host a potluck or barbecue.  Have the extended family over for a reunion or host a block party.  Ask everyone to bring something and share.

For more staycation ideas, visit the iHomeschool Network’s Summer Staycation Link-up.

SummerStaycation

10 Free California Field Trips

To say we LOVE field trips is an understatement.   I have found that hands on learning and exploring makes topics more interesting and memorable for my children. Sadly, public schools are consistently cutting back on their budgets for field trips and other extracurricular activities. These one of a kind learning experiences are essential for a child’s development and some of my fondest memories from my own schooling. Being able to take field trips is actually one of the many reasons we homeschool.

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.  ~ Benjamin Franklin

Isn’t tasting freshly pressed olive oil at the site where it was made, listening to a Native American speak about his ancestors and share his knowledge of native plants, touching a plane that was used in WWII, or walking portions of the Cherokee Trail of Tears more exciting than learning about them in a book?

Today, I share with you some of our most memorable California field trips we have enjoyed this past year.

Free California FieldtripsLego Fun – Buddy is big time into LEGOs. When we are home he spends  hours playing with them so of course we had to visit Legoland when we were in Southern California.  While there, we stopped by Lego® Mindstorms® and signed up for a hands-on tutorial. The kids had a blast building and programing a computerized robot.  As a result of this experience, we are contemplating starting our own Lego League this fall.

Lucero Olive Oil – After trying our hand at harvesting our own olives recently, What to Do With Fresh Olives, I wanted to give the kiddos a taste of the agricultural sciences which brought us to Lucero for a taste experience we will not soon forget.

bird watching

Nature Walks  – Our Roots & Shoots friends have joined us on many of these adventures.  Our volunteer guide is very knowledgeable about birds. We look forward to her outings every month.

Lady WashingtonLady Washington & Hawaiian Chieftan – We were fortunate to happen upon these historic ships while in San Francisco one weekend.

Free California Field Trips

I have shared about some of our other field trips here, here, and here … but since I never tire of sharing, here are 10 more FREE California field trips you can enjoy:

  1. California Capitol – always FREE. The State Capitol Museum is open daily and offers free tours hourly; self-guided tours are also available. Reservations are required for large groups or sign up for a guided tour.
  2. Jelly Belly Factory – Learn the secrets to how we create the legendary Jelly Belly jelly bean, and discover why it takes more than a week to make a single bean.
  3. Nature Centers – California has many nature centers that do not charge to walk the trails. Some of these are Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim, San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center, and Turtle Bay Exploration Park.
  4. Historic Ships Dockside Tours – When in port, these historic ships are sure to impress. $3 donation suggested
  5. Bohart Museum of Entomology – Founded in 1946, it is located on the University of California, Davis campus. Dedicated to teaching, research and service the museum boasts the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and is worldwide in coverage.
  6. Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary – Housed in an historic Coast Guard Station, the exhibits highlight the amazing wildlife in the Gulf of the Farallones, the threats to the wildlife, as well as what people can do to help protect the sanctuary. Open to the public Wed – Sun from 10 am – 4 pm
  7. Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden – A living museum, having special collections designed to assist the teaching mission; offers free docent-led tours for groups of 10 or more.
  8. Santa Ana Watershed Association – Offers free environmental education programs taught by Naturalists who specialize in conservation, watershed issues & ecology.
  9. Fish Hatcheries – There are many fish hatcheries in California, including the Coleman Fish Hatchery in Anderson and the Mad River Hatchery in Arcata.
  10. Federal Reserve Bank – The San Francisco Fed offers one of the world’s foremost collections of historic United States currency and a look at cash processing too!  Free tours are available at the Los Angeles Fed as well.

Field Trip Planning Tips

Always check out the websites prior to your desired visit date and try to plan your visit around special programs or events.  Additionally, you’ll often find downloadable guides for kids and suggested activities with which to engage them before/after your visit.

Though the suggested sites listed here may not be in your proximity, you can use this list as a guide to find similiar sites near you.

Thanks for visiting. What has been your most favorite field trip so far this year?

Southern California Surprise Vacation

We (my husband and I) have been planning a surprise family vacation to southern California for some time.  In preparation, as our excitement builds, it was harder to keep our enthusiasm contained.  On occasion, we would ask the kids, “If you had the choice, where would you most like to vacation?  Yosemite or Disneyland?”  Surprisingly – or perhaps not so surprisingly if you know my kiddos – they would answer Yosemite.  We thereby began to wonder if shouldn’t rethink our vacation plan.  Heck!  We wanted to go to Disneyland … so we proceeded forth with thrusters.  🙂

Day #1 – Drive South

We woke the kiddos early Friday morning and informed them that we were going to southern California and would be spending time at Legoland and Disneyland both as well as a few other surprises.  You would expect that they would leap up and cheer ecstaticly but a las, their response was the complete opposite. They both sat on the floor and looked up at us with dismay, “Really? Okay.”

The first day we did a lot of driving.  Though we departed at 4:30 a.m., we didn’t arrive until nearly 3:00 p.m.  We laid down for awhile after we had checked into our hotel – I believe Patrick even took a short nap. We later walked down to Downtown Disney for dinner.

Day #2 – Legoland

Our true adventures began today with an excursion to Legoland.  As we awaited opening, the kids were bouncing with excitement.  Buddy even said, “I can’t believe I am here!  I’ve been wanting to go to Legoland all my life.  This is like a dream!”  Finally!! Some enthusiasm is revealed … phew! 🙂

The kids loved the park – they marveled at the life size lego sculptures and the city-scapes built with Legos.  Buddy said he’d like to expand his Lego city .. sadly, I don’t think he has much room in his bedroom.  They also enjoyed taking par in a robotics class whereby they learned how to use the Lego Mindstorms product to build and program a robot to do simple tasks.  I see a Mindstorms purchase in our future.

 

Day #3 – La Brea Tar Pits  Dinner at Medieval Times

We headed downtown Los Angeles for day #3 .. stopping at La Brea Tar Pits (we did a little letterboxing beforehand), the Los Angeles County Art Museum (to see the street lights – we didn’t go inside), Hollywood Blvd (we just drove through), and a little shopping (American Girl Doll Store, Apple, and Nordstrom’s Rack).

That evening we went to Medieval Times for a thematic dinner.  I found this to be a little cheesy but the little guy absolutely loved it!  “Mom!  Is this your favorite restaurant because it is mine?!

Day #4 – Disneyland

Our first day in Disneyland turned out to be much more crowded than I anticipated.  We had visited the park 5 years ago (Buddy doesn’t remember it) on the same weekend if I recall correctly, and there were few crowds.  Today .. turned out to be a holiday (ColumbusDay) on top of the fact that Arizona schools were on ‘Fall Break’.  Ah well …

We had to force Buddy to go on every single ride.  After his first ride in Legoland (which we also insisted he ride), we knew he would enjoy each one.  The Legoland coaster was a little more stomach churning than we knew the rides in Disney to be and yet after his first ride, he kept talking about how fun it was.  His fears just get the best of him and he’ll hold back so we knew it was the right decision.  If he hadn’t liked the ride(s), we certainly wouldn’t have continued to pressure him.

 

Day #5 – California Adventure

We loved California Adventure.  The new Radiator Springs area – particularly the new ride, Radiator Springs Racers – is awesome.  We all love Pixar movies so we like this part of the park the best.  We also love Soarin’ Over California and California Screamin’ (the only ride the kids did not go on).

While waiting in line (once to get into the park and again in a line for an attraction), we bumped into friends of ours from Central Oregon. It was great to catch up and hear news from home.   It is indeed a small world!

 

Day #6 – Disneyland

Though we enjoy California Adventure, we returned to Disneyland on our third and final day because there were more things we had not yet seen or done.  Buddy loved the Jedi Academy and was very pleased that he was NOT selected to go up on stage.  Darth Maul took a liking to him though and came over to where he was seated and interacted with him a couple times.  I was seated right next to him so I couldn’t get a great picture of them both together but you can see Buddy’s reaction (he’s using the force to repel Darth Maul) when he approached the second time.

 

Day #7 – Aquarium of the Pacific

On our last day, we ventured to Long Beach to visit the Aquarium of the Pacific.  We really enjoyed this one – the kids loved finding all the passport stations throughout the aquarium and embossing their books with the images.  Our little pirate climbed on board the ship outside immediately and as he stood on the bow yelling, “It’s a pirate’s life for me!” Sweetie pushed a button on this giant fish and it squirted him dead center.  His surprised reaction was perfect and we all about died laughing!  Fortunately, he took it good heartedly and even asked her to do it again. 🙂

Day #8 – Drive Home

Another long day of driving.  We were sad to leave but a wonderful family vacation full of memorable moments.

Scandinavia Day Thirteen: Fishing in the North Sea

We woke early once again … Arvid had warned us that we would be on the go everyday … and drove out to meet another cousin, Eivind, his daughter and parents at their summer cottage.  The plan for the day was to go fishing.  On the North Sea!!

Upon our arrival, we were greeted warmly by Eivind and his family. I was taken aback by how familiar Eivind seemed to me.  Funny how your mind plays tricks on you like that.  Anyway … his mother served us a delightful meal of smørrebrod and went out of her way to make hot dogs for the kids in case they weren’t fond of more traditional foods.  I tried to explain that it wasn’t necessary but she insisted.  As we dined, she brought out a couple of doilies she had made special as a gift for me.  I got all choked up!  She reminded me so  much of my own grandmothers.  I was so touched.

After lunch, we walked down to the dock and donned life vests.  I honestly don’t recall the last time I tried to fish with any success, I believe I was about the same age as Sweetie is today.  I hoped they weren’t relying on my skills for our evening meal.  One of the most intriguing things was what we used to fish … I neglected to take a picture myself but I was able to find these images online … the image on the left shows a traditional wood contraption (by welsh-witch at DeviantArt) while the image on the right shows a more modern, plastic one just like the ones we used (from Shelby & Kjerstin’s Scandinavian Adventure).

   

Sweetie was delighted to make the first catch of the day.  Buddy, fortunately, didn’t give in but forged ahead confidant that he, too, would be successful.  Good thing … for he brought in the largest fish.  Sadly, the adults went home with empty hands.

When we got back to the house, Asbjørg & …. were awaiting us.  The munchkins immediately ran up to … to share with him the fish they had caught.  It was heart warming to see how quickly they had bonded with one another.

We then drove down to Tore’s home where we met the rest of his family (his son and wife) and enjoyed a small family reunion.  Another cousin, Paul, joined us and we feasted on a lovely dinner.  
Papachango (as I’ve begun to affectionately call my spouse), however, was whisked away shortly after our arrival to attend a soccer game with Reidar,  Brann vs. ??    From what the boys told me later, it was a great game with Brann bringing home the win!! Yippee!

Scandinavia Day Twelve: Our Ancestral Home in Grotness

We awoke and enjoyed a delightful array of breakfast foods that Arvid laid out for us … bread, a little shrimp leftover from the night before, canned sardines, cereal, a variety of cheese spreads and jellies.  We enjoyed our meal and then packed a light lunch to take with us.

We then drove east and somewhere along the way met another cousin, Tore Furevik and his daughter Ingrid, whom accompanied us on the days adventures.  For better comfort, DH moved into the car with Tore and I was then able to sit in the front as Arvid drove … much easier for conversation and map navigation – which became my duty.

We met up in Tørvikbydgd (I believe) and took a ferry across the Hardangerfjord to Jondal. It had been drizzling all morning so the views of the fjord were less than desireable but no one complained.  Growing up on Oregon coast … cloudy skies and rain was familiar.  Upon docking, we continued on our journey and now drove south to Grotnes.

 In Grotnes, we met yet another branch of the family tree each descended from Hans Asgaut Samsonson Grotnes (1830-1906) and Guro Olesdotter Oyre (1832-1922) …  Marit and her daughters Elisabet & Ashild.  Hans Asgaut and Guro had ten children, one of which was my great, great grandmother, Martha Kanutta who was born 26th May 1860, and carried the name of the place they lived at the time, Grotnes Hill.  She was the third child of ten (Marit and her girls are descended from the fourth child, Arvid and Reidar from the ninth child, and Tore and Ingrid from the fifth). 
At the age of nine Martha became a baby tender on a farm called Akre near Grotnes.  She took care of the farm hands’ children as both father and mother had to work.  As she grew older she became a milk maid, also doing such work as wool carding, weaving, and knitting. She worked at this place for about eight years.  Lars Kanutta Berge (born on the 1st of July 1855, in Lofthus in Hardanger) came to the farm two years after Martha and worked there for six years.  They were then married and few years later emigrated to America following Martha’s eldest brother, Samson.
It was here that we were given a tour of the original homestead (Hans and Guro’s home is pictured above).  You can see the fjord in the background.  From what I understand, the house had been remodeled at some point along the way and additional rooms were added.  Originally, it only a single room.   

From here, we drove a little farther south to a small private dock where we boarded a small fishing vessel  to continue farther along the fjord to Ænes to see the church where Hans Asgaut and Guro were married.  It was an incredible experience … and though some small changes had been made to the church as well, it was like we had traveled back in time.  Arvid explained that Hans Asgaut was ahead of his time in that he was an avid journalist.  He wrote extensively about his daily life as well as kept copious details about his business transactions.  He was a cobbler by trade and would row a small boat back and forth across the fjord to reach his customers.

On the return voyage, the sun peaked out for a short time and we ventured out onto the deck of the ferry where I took this picture of Arvid, Ingrid and Tore.  We stopped in Norheimsund for dinner … pizza … where I was delighted to hear Eros Ramazzotti music play. Our gracious hosts had done so much to plan this wonderful day and truly treat us like royalty … so DH and I had to get a little sneaky in order to pay for the meal.

When we returned, Arvid’s son and grandson were at the house.  MeiLi was smitten with her cousin with whom she enjoyed playing games, browsing the web and generally being silly.  She asked for his address and will hopefully begin a lifetime correspondence.  

Scandinavia Day Eleven: Edvard Grieg’s Home & the Floibanen

We awoke aboard the Hurtigruten and enjoyed a light meal that I had packed onboard.  We spent the morning enjoying the views from the observation deck and working on our journals.  Oddly, another passenger – an older gentlemen (a description I now am not certain applies to this man) – whom sat a few chairs from us stared at us the entire time (for hours!).  He would occasionally turn to his companion when he was addressed but he didn’t take part in conversation of any sort and even stranger, made no discernible facial expression.  I wanted to go up to him and inform him that he had it all wrong .. the attraction was beyond the window … not aboard the ship.  Please stop staring, sir!  I should have taken his picture, I now suppose.  Anyway …

In the early afternoon, we came into Bergen harbor.  Bergen was perhaps the most anticipated destination of our entire Scandinavian tour as it is here that we would be staying with family and meeting many relatives that we in fact had never met previously.  It took awhile to disembark as the crew insisted we in order of the level our cabins were located to alleviate confusion with our luggage.  We thereby were able to see Reidar (the one cousin we had in fact met a few years ago when he came to Oregon) from the observation deck as he waited on shore for us.

We were welcomed with a warm hug (he is much like a gregarious and jolly uncle) and our tour of Bergen was underway.  He first took us to Troldhaugen, the home of Nina and Edvard Grieg. Built in 1885, the couple lived there the last 22 summers of Edvard Grieg’s life.  In May of 1928, Troldhaugen became a museum.  After WWII, permanent employees were hired to manage and operate the museum which then consisted of the villa, the composer’s hut and the gravesite.  In 1985 the concert hall, Troldhalen, was inaugurated and in 1995 the museum building opened.  We enjoyed the permanent exhibit in the latter, purchased a CD of Grieg’s music and spent a little time exploring the grounds and original buildings.

We enjoyed seeing the photographs and gifts Grieg and his wife had received from friends and family.  Most notable was a painting of children playing that he and his wife had purchased after the death of their only child.  Proving he was a little boy at heart, Reidar reached out and played one brief note on Grieg’s piano, receiving a scowl from the interpreter leading us on the tour.  I was just glad it wasn’t my little one .. he later said, “I couldn’t resist. I was in his home. I needed to play even if just one note.”

From here we ventured to the Fløibanen Funicular, one of the most popular attractions in all of Norway.  Only 150m from the Bryggen wharf (which we had explored briefly beforehand), the ride to the top of Fløyen mountain (320m above sea level) takes only a few minutes.  The ride itself was spectacular and the views improved as we got closer to the top.  Unfortunately, it was raining while we were there but it certainly didn’t dampen our spirits.  Had we had more time, it would have been nice to take advantage of the vast number of hikes on the mountain.

Thereafter, we drove out to Frekhaug to meet Arvid, Reidar’s brother, for the first time and to enjoy dinner together. Arvid came out to greet us with big hugs and told the kids that it was tradition for children to run around his house three times before coming inside.  I joined in and the four of us were off on a giggly jog of the perimeter.  The kids loved it and forever they were smitten with one another.

Arvid prepared for us shrimp and a roast chicken. “Just in case you didn’t like shrimp, I needed something else,” he explained. “They aren’t traditionally served together.” Shrimp is a traditional Norwegian dish in the summertime.  Pre-boiled and served cold, you simply peel them one by one and eat them.  Following Reidar and Arvid’s example, we spread butter on a piece of white bread, laid out a few shrimp and then squeezed a little mayonaise (from a tube) and a twist of lemon on top.  I think this might be my favorite Norwegian dish .. simple and delicious.