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Friday 29 June 2012

A little more gardening...

Ava seems to have been bitten by the gardening bug lately.

As well as today's herb and tree plantings (which you can read about here) Ava has planted her own vegetable patch right in the middle of our lounge room. Now you might think that sounds rather messy but you see, these are special vegetables made with paper and markers. (On a side note, I really must get into the habit of using the word "marker" rather than "texta". No one here knows what a texta is. Must be an Australian brand name.)

These special vegetables popped up fully grown in the vegetable patch (a knit blanket) in the backyard of Ava and Lola's house (a fort made of chairs, tables, step stools, blankets and the couch).

Ava & Lola in their "backyard" with the vegetable patch

There are tomatoes on vines, carrots, lettuces, potatoes and even a pumpkin growing in the vegetable patch.

Vegetable patch

The girls have been harvesting their vegetable crop and making themselves salad.

Carrot, potato, lettuce, tomato and pumpkin

Delicious :)


A little gardening

When you live in an apartment with no outdoor space of your own planting a garden becomes a little tricky. Our apartment building has beautiful shared garden areas so we're surrounded by greenery but we do miss being able to grow our own veggies, herbs and ornamental plants.

Today we decided to start a few little gardening projects:  Grow A Tree and Eggling Crack & Grow.

First let's take a look at the Grow A Tree...

Ok, so as the name would suggest this isn't exactly a "little" gardening project. Especially considering that we're growing Giant Sequoias and Coast Redwoods - two of the largest trees in California! Of course, they start out little but eventually our trees will be too big for our apartment and we'll have to plant them in the ground somewhere. Maybe by then we'll be living in a house with a backyard - fingers crossed.

Our Grow A Tree kits

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Painting with Vegetables

Another day of Summer vacation; another craft project for the kids.

Today we painted pictures, however there wasn't a single paintbrush in sight. Today we painted with vegetables. Much more fun! The girls loved using something out of the ordinary for their paintings and it kept them entertained for much of the afternoon.

Bok choy roses

Thursday 21 June 2012

Sun Prints

Ava is on Summer Vacation at the moment so I've been preparing all sorts of fun craft/science projects to keep her occupied.

Yesterday was warm and sunny so we headed up to the roof deck to make Sun Prints.

Sun Print paper + Cheerios = Fun print

Sun Prints are basically a very simple form of photography. Objects placed on the special Sun Print paper will leave an image behind when placed in the sun for a small amount of time. The Sun Print paper is made by Lawrence Hall of Science here in Berkeley. We picked up a few packs on our recent visit which you can read about here.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Air Plant Workshop

Last week I got back into my floristry work. Well, kind of...

As we don't have any outdoor space of our own in which to grow a garden, I've been looking for ways to bring nature inside. Potted orchids, terrariums and air plants (Tillandsia) are slowly starting to fill our apartment with green. Last Friday evening I attended a “Tillandsia (Air Plant) Mounted on Driftwood" workshop at Utsuwa Floral Design in San Francisco's Japantown.

I'd been trying to get into one of the workshops at Utsuwa for months but they sell out rather fast. As soon as I heard about this particular workshop I signed up straight away. Past workshop projects have also included terrariums and bonsai.

The materials: air plants, driftwood, moss... 

Father's Day USA

Oops... once again I've written out a blog post and then forgotten to go back, add in the last few details and click the publish button!

It's not really Father's Day here anymore, but it was when I started typing this post...


It's Father's Day here in America.

Lucky Kim gets to celebrate Father's Day twice a year; in June for American Father's Day and again in September for Australian Father's Day. No fair! I only get one Mother's Day.

The upside (for me) to having two Father's Days a year is that I get an extra chance to work on gift and card ideas.

This year for Father's Day (USA edition) Ava and I decided to give Kim the gift of family bike rides. Ava drew some lovely pictures of Kim and the girls riding their bikes and I turned them into a gift pack.

Ava liked the idea of giving Kim a booklet of vouchers. I liked the idea of making him a card that entitled him to unlimited family bike rides. Something he could keep in his wallet and pull out every time he wanted to take the girls for a ride. We decided to combine the ideas and make both. Well, sort of.

We came up with the idea of the Mason Family Bike Club. Ava and I made ID cards for each member of our family and these were included in a Member Gift Pack with a dozen vouchers, each one good for one family bike ride.

The "Mason Family Bike Club"  member gift pack with Ava' original drawings

Friday 15 June 2012

Codornices Park, Berkeley

I seem to be on a roll with the playground posts tonight so why not add another one?

Here in Berkeley there is a hidden gem of a playground in Codornices Park. Ok, so it's not really all that hidden, but it's new to me.

A while back I read about some amazing concrete slides in San Francisco. For some reason I was talking to a staff member at our local Trader Joe's supermarket (local as in the supermarket under our apartment) about these slides and he mentioned that Berkeley has it's own concrete slide. Huh? How had that slipped past my radar? As soon as I got home I got online to find said slide - to the detriment of my perishable groceries which were left out while I scoured the internet! It turns out the concrete slide is located in Codornices Park, a favourite amongst Berkeley locals. Codornices Park was added straight to my "must do" list.

A few weeks later we happened to be catching a bus that went straight past Codornices Park. On our way home we stopped off and made a bee-line straight to the slide.

Now, although incredibly popular with kids, this slide is not for the faint of heart. It's 45ft long, barely wide enough for an adult's backside and made of skin grazing concrete. To avoid tearing off skin, and to make yourself slide faster, it's best to slide down on a piece of cardboard, especially if you're wearing shorts. We had no cardboard with us but luckily there's quite a lot of it left behind by previous sliders.

Ava slides down at high speed.

Dolores Park Playground

Time for another amazing playground, this time a little closer to home.

When we first moved to the Bay Area one of the first places we visited was Dolores Park in San Francisco's Mission District. It's an amazing park with sprawling lawns, breathtaking views over the city and some pretty interesting views of the (not always dressed) locals! One thing that was missing, however, was a playground.

Fast forward to April this year and a new playground has been opened in Dolores Park. And what an amazing playground it is. The kids absolutely love this new playground. I love this new playground!
We visited the new playground while attending the Cinco de Mayo Festival in Dolores Park. As you can imagine, the park was absolutely packed with festival goers. That said, the playground has enough to keep kids occupied even with huge crowds. I think the only thing the girls had to wait their turn for was the swing and the long slide. Other than that it was go, go go...

The playground at Dolores Park

I won't go into too much detail about the playground. I'll just let the pictures tell the story.

Dennis the Menace Park

Back in April we went for a short trip down to the beautiful coastal town of Monterey. The highlight of our trip was our visit to Monterey Bay Aquarium - you can read about it here. While the aquarium may be the biggest drawcard in town there are a few other "must see" places to take the kids.

Once such place is Dennis the Menace Park; quite possibly one of the coolest playgrounds ever!
This playground was designed by the creator of Dennis the Menace, Hank Ketcham who was a local in the Monterey Bay area.

Dennis the Menace Park

Now I must admit that not being a fan of Dennis the Menace I was a little skeptical when I heard the name. However, I'd been told by quite a few people that it's a great place. Well, they weren't wrong. This playground has everything: slides, tunnels, flying fox, swings, bouncy suspension bridge, rock climbing wall, a maze, plenty of things to climb, a weird spinning ride that I couldn't possible name...

Thursday 14 June 2012

Modern Communication

I thought I'd share this photo of the girls chatting to their Nanna through Skype.

Hello Nanna!

Got to love modern technology. It certainly makes keeping in touch with family and friends on the other side of the world so much easier. Between Facebook and Skype we're always up to date with news and the distance just doesn't seem so big.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Home Grown Pickles

As you would have seen in my last post today was Ava's pre-school graduation day.

Ava's teacher was also "graduating" from pre-school after 26 years of service. All the children and parents contributed to a group present, however Ava really wanted to give her teacher something special just from herself.

Ava's teacher really loves pickles. In the past Ava has given her teacher several pickle related presents; a simple jar of pickles for Valentine's Day and "Pickle Party Beans" (green jelly beans) for her birthday. We needed to come up with a new pickle themed idea for a graduation present.

As Ava's teacher is retiring and plans to spend her time gardening we thought she might like to grow her own pickles.  One jar, a few packs of Pickling Cucumber seeds and a half dozen hand drawn labels later and we had our gift.

Teacher Meri's Home Grown Pickles kit

Graduation Day

Today Ava graduated from pre-school... again.

I say "again" as Ava also had a graduation from pre-school just before we left Australia last year. This time though it was an official graduation with her whole class.

Ava's class made special graduation t-shirts to wear for their big day and performed a few songs for family and friends before receiving their certificates. It was all very cute.

"I am a promise with a capital P..."

Saturday 2 June 2012

Artichoke Flowers

Two weeks back I purchased a few bunches of artichoke flowers from my local fruit market.
My eye was instantly drawn to their dramatic, almost succulent like look. While they may look similar to succulents the artichoke flowers are not at all fleshy. Rather they are quite tough and spiky.
The colours worked perfectly for my living room and the flowers took pride of place in the middle of our dining table.

Spiky artichoke flowers

Fast forward two weeks and my artichoke flowers have changed completely. Just as I thought they were starting to die off the flowers decided to surprise me with purple petals coming out the centre.
The resulting look is much softer and adds a nice splash of colour to our living room. It's just like having new flowers.

Just like a whole new flower

The purple blooming out of the centre really shows that artichokes are a member of the thistle family.
I've always thought that thistle flowers make a beautiful (yet ouchy!) display.

Friday 1 June 2012

Lawrence Hall of Science

Time to cross another place off the "Bay Area with Kids" list...

A few weekends back we visited Lawrence Hall of Science here in Berkeley. 
Lawrence Hall of Science is actually part of the University of California Berkeley - let's call it Cal for short. Being a university town, a major part of Berkeley is made up of the Cal campus. And it is huge. 

Cal not only offers a learning environment for college students but is home to a large array of family friendly, community venues from Botanical Gardens, to sporting venues and science museums.

I wasn't really sure what to expect at Lawrence Hall but I had heard from other parents at pre-school that it's a hit with kids around Ava's age. Well, it certainly was a hit with Ava too!

Lawrence Hall is full of fun, interactive science exhibits that kids can get involved in. 

First up we made paper planes and attempted to fly them through targets. I say "attempted to" as I don't think we actually got any through the target! We had fun though and that's the main thing. 

This one looks like it might go through...

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