Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Volunteering for the local trails

I've been volunteering with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District for several years now, mostly doing trail patrol with an occasional day spent working on the trails.  A couple of months ago, they needed people for a video project, including a couple of mountain bikers -- so I rode up from home to meet them at Russian Ridge on the designated day.  Sort of entertaining, though I was glad I had ridden up since there was predictably quite a bit of standing around once I got there.

The result is here, if you are interested (click to watch the video titled "Room to Breathe".  There's a brief snippet of me being semi-coherent about why I like the preserves about 8 seconds in, and I'm also the the one in the green shirt riding in front under the title about 30 seconds in.

In other volunteer news, I got my Anvil Award last weekend, for patrolling every last trail in the district.  Even though you merely needed to do all the trails eventually to qualify, I thought it would be better to do them all in one year.  Silly me.  Despite my best efforts to stay on track with a spreadsheet and marked-up maps, I fell behind schedule and a last big binge was necessary back in July while Nim was in camp (racked up more than 36,000 feet of elevation gain and many many miles in 11 days!) They gave me a cute teeny-tiny little anvil and a gift certificate to REI, which I totally wasn't expecting.
There's a good comprehensive map of all the official trails here.  Note that most of the trails are quite nice, but there are also quite a number of steep, evil, dead-end stubs heading up ridges and down canyons. Those were the ones procrastinated until the end.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Three Misadventures in School

So, three misadventures in school today:
First, our math and science teacher, Ms. Kim, told us to bring a paper bag to cover our science textbooks yesterday so we could cover them today. Easy, right? Well, that part was. But then we went to get our math textbooks. Ms. Kim didn't know they were the new ones. Now we have to get another paper bag.
Second, at the orientation day they said brunch was $2.00 and lunch was $3.00. So I brought $3.00 for lunch today. But at the orientation day they were WRONG. Brunch is $2.25 and lunch is $3.75. A very hungry kid came home today...
Third, when I was unlocking my bike, I pulled the lock through the spokes and... it completely came (or really exploded) apart into 14+ pieces. There was the main cable and all the random little lock mechanism parts. Fortunately a kid I know, Kai, and his friends were there, and they helped me get all (or at least most) of the pieces. One kid said he could help me put back to gether, then said. "Wait. I see a spring. I don't know how to do that kind of lock. I went home and discovered that part of the lock had sheared off and we think a couple pieces are missing. Mom and I have declared the lock DEAD.
Count 'em fourteen pieces!

Mariam's Kittens

Hey everyone! Guess what! Mariam had four kittens this week! So cute :)

 The one with the blue ribbon is Snowy, the black and white one is Furball II, the colorpoint one (appears white in the picture) is Minty, and the calico one (appears brown in the picture) is Spice. My friends (who named them) will get to keep the kittens. But for now we're keeping them. I think Bobber's a little jealous.

Here's Mariam during playtime. Gosh, she looks tired! Must be the consequences of being a mom. These kittens have a lot of energy!

*Total SPOOF. Fyi Mariam is spayed. Our "kittens" are really my stuffed cats Silverfish (Snowy), Kitzer (Furball II), Simon (Minty), and Calico (Spice). My friends are NOT adopting them and Bobber is NOT jealous (as far as I know).  It's still funny!*

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Happy" and "100-candle" cakes

Lest any birthday cakes feel left out, here is the simple, but happy, cake we made for Chad on his actual birthday
chocolate chocolate chocolate

and the 100-candle joint cake that I made for Chad and his friend Dave together the following weekend.

I couldn't help it once I realized that the sum of their ages this year was such a nice round number, even though the tall skinny candles in the center started to deform and create their own wind by the time we got it all lit.
coffee with chocolate frosting for Chad; lemon/white wine/olive oil for Dave

I'm done with birthday cakes for a while, but still am in the process of making some bay nut pinwheel cookies to take for the welcome lunch for the teachers at Nimue's new school tomorrow.

My, what large everything you have

Some obligatory birthday photos:

I took Nimue to the zoo the day before her birthday.  It was amusing to note that she still enjoys the statues

as much as she did when she was 3 1/2.

Now at age 11, however, there are complaints of the "Toddler Apocolypse" whenever a preschool class approaches.  (I think I managed to stifle my laughter until the teacher, who heard the comment, couldn't see us any more.)

Yet another pile o' presents.  The highlight was that the box that May Contain One or More Elephants did not indeed contain elephants,

but rather a custom-by-dad-fabricated longboard with Space Kitty on the bottom.

Yet another cake.  This time a Chocolate Volcano cake was requested.  Chocolate sponge cake filled with white chocolate mousse, covered with ganache and raspberry sauce.  Mmmm.
Happy Birthday Nim, just in time for school to start (tomorrow).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fun at Camp

       As I think you all know, I got back from camp last week. The camp was at a farm called Hidden Villa in the Los Altos Hills near our house. I was in the twelve-day-long Resident Camp, in Cabin Girls. There were four groups: the younger girls, Cabin Girls, the older girls, Vale Girls, the younger boys, Cabin Boys, and the older boys, Bluff Boys. But all the groups did everything together except during down time and of course sleeping.
       There were three counselors in each group and two program (or problem) heads. The Cabin Girl counselors were Clover, Shadow and Aussie. Just because you were in a girl group didn't mean you didn't have a boy counselor! Same with the boys. In fact, one of the Cabin Girls' counselors, Aussie, was a guy.
       In camp I even knew a couple of people. A girl, Beth, was in my choir two years ago (last year she moved out of Intermediate and up into Ensemble). Also, there was a girl in my cabin named Brindha that was in my tipi in Tipi Camp last year and her friend Natalie. Sadly, Bridha had to go home in the middle of camp because she had a fever, but I had other friends too. Maddie (a.k.a. Maddie-horse) in Vale Girls was nice as well as Stephan in Cabin Boys. (Though everyone else in Cabin Boys said he had a crush on me...)
       The food was generally pretty good and the kitchen made sure that the stuff with garlic in it was labeled and there was something else I could eat (yay!), and, much to everyone's dismay (and me rolling my eyes because of them) the kitchen used leftovers. Again, properly labeled.
        Every morning and afternoon we'd have a selection of activities to choose from. These ranged from pool to cooking to art to blaring music at the goats while taking them for a walk. My favorite activities were generally the hiking activities. On one hike with the counselor Captain Falcon, we made various animal noises at two other groups, played Telephone (ending up with funny phrases), Falcon saw a rattlesnake, had three people get stung by wasps, and had Falcon fall into a spiky, dead  manzinita bush. When I told the counselor Snoop, he said, "Epic."
        The other eventful hike was the next day. We were going to do a simple hike but then met up with Tipi Camp, who was going to do a cheesemoose hunt. (A cheesemoose is a rare kind of moose, made out of cheese, who lives only in the hills of Hidden Villa. To catch a cheesemoose, you do a funky walk while simultaneously calling "Muf-fins!") We hiked up THE EXACT SAME TRAIL I HAD DONE THE DAY BEFORE, holding these ridiculous lassos made of twine, and stopped occasionally when the Tipi Camp counselor, Mama Ladle (yes, it's a silly name, especially for a guy---a couple years ago he stole a ladle from the kitchen and at the meetings they'd be like "Where's our ladle?" and he'd have it and didn't tell anyone. I have no idea why 'Mama', though) would stop and say, "Look! Cheesemoose droppings! And we'd all look and there would be a little pile of cheddar or something. I made a friend in Tipi Camp on that hike--- his name was Kirin. Anyway, a little while down the trail, the kid behind me, Brennan, said, "Hey! A rattlesnake!" and everyone froze. Indeed, there was a rattlesnake beside the trail, coiled up and half asleep. Mama Ladle was like, "You three kids up there get farther up the trail," and Kirin, Brennan, and I went way up the trail. As we figured out how to get past the snake, a Tipi camper started crying. Poor kid. Eventually we all got across the trail and started hiking again. We hiked the whole trail without seeing the cheesemoose (phooey) but then saw it as we got back down to the farm. We ran after it. After catching it (and realizing it was Simba, another one of the counselors) we ate cheese and crackers. Yum!
         We didn't just have activities all day. We also had chores.  There were six chore groups--- the Righteous Rhubarbs, the Groovy Goats, the Kool Koalas, the Jiggy Piggies, the Wiggly Worms, and the Bodacious Bobcats. I was in the Groovy Goats (for some reason I'm always in the dancing/goat group; last year my chore group was the Dancing Goats!). There were six morning chores and six evening chores. The morning chores were Grounds Keeping (sweeping the Hostel area), Tub Scrubbing (cleaning the bathrooms), Trash and Recycling (bringing the Trash and recycling out to the dumpster), Compost (bringing the compost out to the compost heap), Sprinkles and Sparkles (cleaning up the art hut), and Dining Hall (cleaning up the dining hall). The evening chores, a.k.a. Farm Luvin' chores, were Goat Luvin' (milking/feeding the goats), Cow Luvin' (milking/feeding the cow), Orchard Luvin' (feeding the pigs and chickens in the orchard), Garden Luvin' (doing garden chores), CSA Luvin' (weeding/washing lugs/fetching compost), and Styments Luvin' (feeding the pigs and chickens in the fields). Groovy Goats  alternated chores the first week and did Trash and Recycling and CSA Luvin' the second week, except Thursday night, which was free pick and I did Styments Luvin'.
       The first thing  I said to Mom when she picked me up was, "I need chocolate." The only thing even remotely chocolatey was an Oreo on Saturday night. When we got home, Mom proceeded to make a chocolate-chocolate cake.

Summer fun in Maine and Downieville

As we head into the last two weekend trips of the summer, I'm playing catch-up.  Here are some highlights of Nimue's fun with grandparents this summer:

A new kite in Maine

Life in the pond to watch

included frogs (pictured), snakes, fish, and a mink.

We also found some frogs in the woods

hiked, laughed,

and climbed rocks.

Gran definitely enjoys her woods!

Shifting gears to Downieville, Nimue got to walk Linda's friend BJ's dog Rama

while Chad and I scoped out a new dirt road route in the high country.

We also hiked up the river to a hidden swimming hole and watched the hot, tired mountain bikers go by  on the trail above while we enjoyed the nice cool river.  You can't see this swimming hole from the trail, but we could see up to them.  Local knowledge is good!

More sightseeing and silliness

The last batch of Quebec photos, I promise...

Zoom in to spot Nimue in the longhouse at the Huron site in Wendake:

She was right under the canoe.

Later, she pretended to be an inukshuk

Lest you think Nimue was the only mimic in the bunch, here's Chad:

Nimue responds to parental goofiness by trying (and failing) to re-orient the cannon toward us.

A little bit of rain was not a problem.

We climbed the remains of an old mill along the Jacques-Cartier River.

Nimue played with dried-out mud

and we discovered a road lined with old bread-baking outbuildings.  If you look closely, you see that this one was built in 1652.
Chad and I rode by Montmorency Falls, where I noted that it looked to be about the same size as Snoqualmie Falls (default from my youth of what a waterfall should be).   
When I got home, I looked up the stats:
Montmorency Falls: 84 meters tall, 46 meters wide
Snoqualmie Falls: 82 meters tall, 28 meters wide
so my eyes and memory are not so bad.

Some nights Nimue was all to ready to go to bed,
 and some nights she wasn't!

Things one does at forts in Quebec

One of the things we enjoyed exploring while in Quebec were the star-shaped forts along the St.Lawrence, built back in the 1800's when the locals were worried about pesky Americans invading.  These fortifications were never used, but line the river in the region.

While we were in Quebec City, we took a guided tour of the Citadelle and Museum of the Royal 22e Régiment of the Canadian Forces.  Our tour guide was informative, funny, and clearly serious about the  national pride in the Royal 22e Régiment, who still are quartered on the site.  

We enjoyed the view,

learned about the buildings,

cannons, (this one looked like a bug to me),

and the people.

For all the national pride, there was still room for touristic silliness.


The goat, Batisse the 12th, is the mascot of the Royal 22e Régiment, was not out for all to see the day we were there, much to Nimue's dismay, so we had to make due with the pictures.

Nimue also spent some time exploring the ramparts leading up to the fort.
They warned one of the obvious, but didn't bother with fences to save people from their own stupidity. We thought the graphic was funny.

We also stopped by Fort #1 in Levis.  Here, we enjoyed a self-guided tour, and explored the ramparts looking back across the river toward Quebec City.

Bill and Faith check out the cannon.

Ma and Ni climb yet another set of stairs with tired legs

and Nimue figured out what one ought to do with a nice grassy slope in the sunshine.

When we got back to the bikes where they were locked to the fence, we discovered that the lawn had been mowed around them, leaving sticky green bits of plant matter everywhere. Not a recipe for Chad happiness, but at least it didn't affect the function in any way -- merely made the bikes a little bit dirtier. Better to be pelted with grass than cannonballs, I say.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cycling surfaces in Quebec

During our bike trip, we encountered a variety of surfaces on which to ride.  By and large, it was pretty good -- the Route Verte is generally well-routed along a combination of rail-trail conversions, quiet roads, and separated bike paths.  Here is a taste:

Many delightful gravel rail-trail conversions, either flat or very gently graded, often running through the woods or next to rivers (or both).  These are friendly to all and were my favorite :)

Some of these trails were paved, or as in this case, in the process of being paved

An occasional dirt road, haring off into the farmland.  This one wasn't on the map, but had a sign indicating that it was going the way we wanted to go, so we followed it, hoping for a shortcut to bypass a busy road in town.  I'm not sure it was any shorter, but it did bypass town, so we dubbed it an "interesting cut".

Most of the route was well-signed

 and had occasional interesting trail furniture to navigate through.

We went over a couple of bridges with narrow bike lanes going in the general vicinity of Quebec City

 including a bike-and-ped-only suspension bridge

 and also got to ride a bike trail under the bridge on our approach into Old Town.

Chad and I took a cute little ferry over the river at one point on our big ride day together.  More bikes than cars on this one!

And, of course, I picked a road with an egregious grade to get up to the hotel after getting off the ferry. (I did hop off for a bit, mostly because he likes to climb at a much faster cadence than I do on the steep stuff.)  These things just find me.