Apple Hill

On Monday, we headed out to Apple Hill in an attempt to avoid the crowds.  The kids and I had planned to go the week before on their early release day but we called ahead and were told the apples wouldn't be ready for at least another week.  We thought we would be timing it just right but were surprised to find when we arrived at our normal u-pick place (Denver Dan's) there were practically no apples at all.  One of the ladies working there told us they'd had a bad season, winter to three days of summer and then back to snow.  She said the apples still tasted just fine but were small and blemished.  We grabbed a bag and headed out in the hopes that we'd be able to find something.  We managed to fill a bag but they were definitely not the same apples from years past. 
 The kids were asking for apple cider and we were directed to Bolster's, the next orchard up the way.  It was a totally different story at Bolster's.  They had just opened their apples up for picking two days prior and the trees were full.  The apples still weren't the normal beautiful Apple Hill apples but we had a fantastic time.  The weather was beautiful and we had the place to ourselves.
 It was Jacob's first time picking apples and he was more interested in swatting at them than plucking. 

When he did manage to get one from the tree, he looked at it for approximately two seconds and then tossed it on the ground, sending a sister scrambling to grab it and stick it in the bag.  The girls loved using the apple picker for those hard to reach apples.  They could have happily picked all day long.

I love this expression.  It usually means, "I'm about to do something I know I shouldn't.  Are you going to try and stop me?"

We bought a little apple cider on our way out and were sharing one cup between the five of us.  Jacob couldn't be bothered to wait for his turn and so Doug gave him a little from the jug.  He apparently really likes cider.
We had noticed on the way in that Larsen's Apple Barn was open.  In the past on our visits, it either hasn't been open or was just overcrowded.
As there were no cars, we stopped in and were pleasantly surprised to find a little farm and antique museum in the back. 


At their bake shop we picked up some apple, walnut, and chocolate chip cookies for the road.  They were delicious!
The lady in the shop offered the kids free caramel apples which they happily accepted.  Anna was hoping the caramel would be sticky enough to pull out her two front teeth as they're both crazy loose right now.
We also grabbed an apple pie to have after dinner with a little caramel.  It was alright but definitely not our favorite. 
I had wanted some apple goodies from Mother Lode's as they have delicious apple everything but they were closed.  To be honest though,  it's just downright hard to beat the apple pies from Bishop's Pumpkin Farm right down the road.  I was so happy that we had another fun Apple Hill experience as we've learned on previous visits that if you don't time things right, it quickly goes from Apple Hill to Apple Hell!  This was more like Apple Heaven with a just a few blemishes here and there. :) 


Gracie's Round-Up

This summer the girls attended a drama and music camp at a local church.  The week long seminar culminated in a show called "Gracie's Round-Up".  The girls had so much fun and made a lot of new friends.  The kids were divided by grade and there were about 66 kids in all.  Anna was chosen to be one of the three Gracies in the production and Lauren was picked as "kid #2".  As they both had speaking parts, I was so incredibly nervous that Sunday morning.  They both pulled it off and acted like it was no big deal while their mom was a melting lump of worry about to pass out in the audience.  It was amazing how relieved I felt when they each said their lines and I could go back to just enjoying the show.  
Beau:  Ms. Gracie?
Anna (as Gracie):  Yes, Mr. Beau Vine, one of my favorite cowpokes of all time.

Beau:  I, uh, I uh seem to have lost about 1,000 of your cows.
Anna:  Oh my, 1,000 cows!!
Beau:  I'll do anything, Ms. Gracie.  Be patient. If I save my money for a year, I can buy a cow.  That cow will have babies and then those babies will have babies.  In just 122 years, I'll be able to pay you back.
Anna:  Here's what I'm going to do.  I'm going to tell myself, "Gracie, Beau here is a man in need of a second chance." Then I'm going to tell myself, "Self, it's true alright, here's a man in need of some help and you're the one who is going to give it to him, Gracie Goodheart."  Then I'm going to have a laugh with myself and say that you can go Beau, your debt is forgiven.

Beau:  What??  You mean, I don't have to pay back the 1,000 cows?
Anna:  How could you ever do it?  No sense even trying.  Just see to it that you spread some of this kindness to your fellow cowpokes, that would make things better around this ranch of mine.

Next scene:
(Beau is asking the sheriff to arrest his cousin for not paying him back a dozen eggs he borrowed.)
Beau: Tell 'em Ms. Gracie, we don't steal around here on the ranch!
Anna: You good for nothin' cowpoke!
Beau:  Heehee!
Anna:  I'm talking to you, Beau.  Couldn't you have forgiven Luke his debt of a dozen eggs, just like you were forgiven 1,000 head of cattle?  If you won't forgive your cousin, I won't forgive you either.  Sheriff, take this man away until he's had a change of heart.

Singing "Yahoooo, this is Gracie's Round-Up."

Lauren's class:
A different Gracie:  What do you want to be?
Lauren (as Kid #2):  I want to be a police girl (it was police officer but she improvised. :)

Later in the same scene:
Kid #4:  They certainly are a good looking group of people.
Lauren:  They might even get other people to come to your ranch. 

Singing "Please don't make me a hobo!"

We were so proud of both of them.  They just blew me away with their confidence. ( Public speaking is not one of their Mommy's favorite things to do. )  Daddy had little vases with flowers for both of them for after their performance.  We'll definitely try something like this again next summer.  It was a ton of fun for the girls and I had a week's worth of free mornings to complete our 2009 family album.  Win-Win for everyone! 



We had a very laid back Labor Day weekend.  Doug took the girls to the water park on Saturday and Sunday we headed to Sausalito for the day.  Doug has planned most of the day trips this summer and I thought I'd take a turn.  He's done a great job of keeping us away from crowds and I was hoping to do the same.  Somehow though, I managed to get us there right in the middle of a huge art festival.  It was just too crowded to do a lot of the things I had planned but we still managed to do a ton.  I had read so much about the houseboat communities in that area and was anxious to check them out.  We started the day at Waldo Point Harbor on Liberty Dock.

Jacob had grabbed my keys from the truck and was running all over the pier at 90 mph.  Any time we tried to take the keys away, he screamed like an eagle at the top of his lungs and collapsed in a heap.  We finally let him have them but had to follow him like hawks.  I was sure either he or my keys  were definitely going to end up in the water.  It was almost a military operation between the adults in passing the baby off to one another.  D: "You have the baby."  S: "I have the baby. Check."  Here he is with the tube of chapstick we bribed him with to get the keys back.  Then we had to work on getting the chapstick away as he kept trying to bite chunks out of it.

  The houseboats are all so different; some very ecclectic and others quite elegant.  The docks were covered in flowers and knick-knacks. 

 Anna and Lauren were determined to take some of the knick-knacks home and we had to make them empty their pockets of shells, chalk, and flowers. 

We met one pleasant gentleman who gave us a little tour.  He pointed out several homes called "arks", and from what I could gather they are houses that floated into the area but no longer have a barge and are now on pilings.  Several other houseboats have WWII landing crafts as their base.  He mentioned that those homes without some sort of protective base have to be removed periodically to be checked for teredo worm damage.  Apparently teredo worms are like the termites of the sea.  I kept looking at one home in particular and thinking it reminded me of something.

  It finally came to me.

Do you see the resemblance? :)

We headed into the main part of town but didn't get to wander too much because it was nearing lunch time.  We're always well warned by the little ones that noon is approaching.  We did get to do a little window shopping on the way to our restaurant, however.  Anna found a mermaid Christmas tree and has already asked for one in her room come December.

 They also had a tree that snowed on itself, quite ingenious.  There was a little pipe at the top that spewed snow up and out and it trickled down.  Probably not the best idea for our family currently with our one man wrecking crew running around eating everything he finds.

I had two restaurants picked out for lunch but both had lines out the door.  We decided to wing it and came across a nice little spot with seating out back.  We didn't get the clam chowder I was hoping for but the food was still very good.  While waiting for our dishes, there was a little hand-holding going on...

as well as a little lemon tasting.

We walked out to the water and watched the ferry coming in from San Fran while we shared a little ice cream.

This was the view across the water.  You can see Alcatraz and the San Fran skyline in the distance.

Afterwards we drove out to the Marin Headlands where we visited The Marine Mammal Center.  It's a wonderful place that takes injured or sick animals and nurses them back to health.  They have a small learning center where the little ones can go to see pictures of animals that have been rescued as well as feel pelts and see whale and sea lion skulls.  You can head outside to view some of the current patients from an overlook.  Anna and Lauren were bummed out they couldn't get as close as they wanted.  The folks working with the animals though were going to a lot of trouble to make sure they took the greatest care of the animals.  They wore special suits that they scrubbed down in between visiting pens.  There were also entryway mats in front of each pen filled with a bleach and water solution that the doctor/volunteer walked through each time.  When feeding the animals, they also used a large board to separate themselves from the (in this case) sea lion to ensure the animal wouldn't become accustomed to getting food from humans.

Our last stop (or so we thought) was Battery Mendel around the way.  We passed by the Nike Missile Site, a missile firing battery from the Cold War that has been turned into a museum. There were 280 Nike missile firing batteries built and operated in the US between 1953 and 1979.   This site is the only restored Nike Missile battery in the entire country.

 Doug and I talked about making a return trip this way sans kiddos and trying to make a stop at the Nike site as it is open for touring on certain days.  The kids really liked Mendel Battery and had fun exploring. 

It's such a beautiful location.  Here's the view to the West...

 And the East.

There's a smaller shot in the battery collage up top that shows the southern view across the bay with a fun Golden Gate bridge perspective.  We thought we were going to be done after Mendel but instead we took the peanut gallery to the beach "just to look".  I should know better.

 It is physically impossible to be at the beach and not "fall in".

 There were a lot of accidents that afternoon.  By the time we got back to the truck, both girls were soaked.  Jacob wasn't sure what to think at first.

 He contemplated the situation for a few moments, noticed the girls picking up sand and decided that must be the "thing" to do while at the beach.

 He developed a routine.  It went something like this: Grab sand...

Run to the water...

Throw sand into the water...

Wait for the water to get closer...

And run away as fast as possible!

Repeat over and over and over.  We were very impressed with Sausalito and would love to go back on a day when the crowds aren't so thick.  The kids enjoyed themselves too but their favorite was of course the beach (Rodeo Beach) at the end of the day!

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