Bugs at the Rose Garden

Rose Haven Heritage Garden

We found a lovely new place to go and enjoy nature. Oddly, it’s in our own town and we had no idea it existed…shame on us! Rose Haven Heritage Garden is a public garden and home to over 1600 roses of varying kinds. They are interspersed among other flowering plants, succulents and even a small vegetable garden.  It is all maintained by volunteers of the local rose society. 

We attended the March program which focused on garden bugs. The kids got to hear a short talk on beneficial versus pest insects that can be found in the garden or yard. There was also a table of various insects to examine and a knowledgeable volunteer to give the kids info on what they were looking at. My daughter’s favorite was the compost worms box. The children were invited to dig around and search for worms and grubs.

Rose Haven Heritage Garden

They also received a checklist of nine different bugs and had the opportunity to walk the garden and try and spot as many as they could. The kids were encouraged to pick up any nature bits lying around the grounds to use in a following art project.

Rose Haven Heritage Garden

Rose Haven Heritage Garden

Our kids were having too much fun exploring so we didn’t make it to the sit-down-and-craft part of the program. However, we took home our nature finds and J had a great time creating a ladybug picture on her own. 

Rose Haven Heritage Garden

Many thanks to the sweet and patient volunteers for hosting this event. We are looking forward to our next visit…maybe bring a picnic lunch and our nature journal. 🙂

 

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Dripping Springs Nature Walk

 

 

Dripping Springs

My hubby has been very busy lately, not only with work, but he is one of the musicians for the Southern California tour of LES MISÉRABLESIt is an incredible opportunity for him and I’m bursting with pride…but it’s a lot of hours of rehearsal and shows.

We’ve been missing him for sure, so on his first weekend off, we decided a day out in nature was in order. We took a drive to  Dripping Springs, a little campground tucked away in the Cleveland National Forest. We’ve camped and hiked there before and it’s usually very quiet…exactly what we needed. 

We enjoyed a picnic lunch and let our little one run up and down a hill, peer into several hollow logs and just explore.

Dripping Springs

 

Dripping Springs

We walked along a dry river bed and looked for pretty rocks and found a few that were eye catching, to say the least. 

Waterfall & Shoe Rock

Waterfall & Shoe Rock

We found lots of lichen and moss that were interesting to touch and look at. 

Dripping Springs

Dripping Springs

We pretended we were pirates looking for treasure and drew maps in the sand.

Dripping Springs

I can’t imagine a better way to unwind after several weeks of a tightly packed schedule, than to walk in the wilds and listen to the gentle sounds of nature.

Dripping Springs

 

A Day With Pirates!

My daughter LOVES pirates…truth be told so do I! We especially love the world of Peter Pan, Captain Hook, fairies, mermaids and all the magic that goes along with it. We of course watch lots of Jake and the Neverland Pirates  too. Yes, we love pirates. It was therefore a necessity that we attend Pirate Days at the San Diego Maritime Museum. The collections of the Maritime Museum are vast and engaging. One of our favorites, among the many incredible ships there, is the Star of India. Built in 1863, it is the world’s oldest active sailing ship. It is a beautiful vessel inside and out. Many volunteers were hard at work cleaning and maintaining her in the midst of festivities and tourists. I was surprised that my three year old daughter stopped to take a look at almost every display. She was fascinated with everything on the ship…from stem to stern, so to speak. San Diego Maritime Museum Pirate Days There were also plenty of pirates on board that were ready to engage in sword fights and playful banter. My daughter, J, wore her finest and was ready to join the crew! She was picked unanimously as the winner of the girls costume contest. I think she charmed just about everyone on board! 🙂 San Diego Maritime Museum Pirate Days One of the activities was a scavenger hunt that had you follow clues through several ships. Your prize for all of the effort was a visit to the magical mermaid grotto set up on the Star of  India. This was very enchanting for J! San Diego Maritime Museum Pirate Days The mermaids handed out jewels and a coveted key necklace to her. San Diego Maritime Museum Pirate Days It was perfect, for she was sure it opened a treasure chest somewhere on board. This necklace is so special we have since redesigned a new and stronger chain of beads for it. It gets worn regularly! San Diego Maritime Museum Pirate Days Besides exciting encounters with the buccaneers, there were also other re-enactors aboard the ship HMS SurpriseAn admiral made his rounds and hosted a “dance” with ladies and gentlemen in period dress.  San Diego Maritime Museum Pirate Days   San Diego Maritime Museum Pirate Days The San Diego Maritime Museum is a wonderful opportunity to experience hands on history. There are many educational opportunities for the family. They have many exciting events to attend throughout the year. It is a great day trip and makes for a fun homeschool field trip as well. San Diego Maritime Museum Pirate Days

San Diego Safari Park 3-16-14

A beautiful Sunday visit to the San Diego Safari Park.

We took a leisurely stroll through the Wings of the World aviary and enjoyed some close and personal attention from the many Golden Breasted Starlings. They were quite eager to have their portraits taken!

Safari Park Golden Breasted Starling

We watched the elephant keeper talk. It’s always very informative and fun. Showing off their stuff today was Swazi and her baby Qinisa.

Safari Park Qinisa

Swazi received an elephant pedicure.

Safari Park Swazi

And Qinisa got a little trunk wash.

Safari Park Qinisa

Safari Park Qinisa

Kastan the Caracal was the featured animal encounter near the African Outpost. He is such a beautiful wild cat and always astounds with his jumping prowess.

Safari Park Caracal Kastan

Beautiful spring blooms were on display throughout the park.

Safari Park Fortnight Lily

Safari Park

The meerkats were out and about and being cute as usual.

Safari Park Meerkats

The cutest of all, though, are the two new  lion cubs Ken and Dixie. They are currently in the zoo nursery area and guests can see them playing, eating and sleeping. They are full of lion personality and a pleasure to watch and photograph. Every time we visit they are noticeably bigger!

Safari Park Lion Cubs Ken & Dixie

 

 

A Few of Our Fall Activities

We don’t really get going full swing into autumn here in Southern California until around the end of October.  September is usually quite hot where we live and it’s hard to feel the full spirit of the season when it’s still pool weather. I love autumn, though, and couldn’t resist doing some crafting and cooking.  Now that the weather is finally getting crisp and cool, I’m really getting that cozy happy feeling!

We have made several projects as well as a few trips to our favorite orchards and farms and I thought I would share a few of our fun fall activities.

Nature Walk and Fall Nature Jar Activity

My daughter and I love taking nature walks together. I am trying to encourage a love of nature, gardening, plants and animals, etc. and I don’t have to try very hard. She is interested in learning about anything and everything when we go on our walks or to a farm. For this, I am very thankful. I’m thrilled to see her curious about and excited by little things like leaves and snails.

Fall Jar Craft

On one of our walks we decided to bring along a bag and collect a few “nature bits.” I found a lovely idea for Fall Sensory Jars and knew this would be a great project for us to try.  I used super glue to seal the lid for some extra spill protection.  I took my photo with the jar upended for aesthetics, but I would recommend displaying right side up for further spill protection! 🙂

Apple Picking

One of our favorite places to visit in the fall is Oak Glen. Going up to the mountains to pick apples means autumn! We spent the day with friends and took in all of the delights this wonderful little town has to offer, including raspberry picking,  the best apple cider in the whole wide world and the always wonderful Riley’s Farm.

Oak Glen Apples

Oak Glen Raspberries

Riley's Farm

Riley’s Farm

Tin Can Jack O’Lanterns

One of my favorite crafts we made are the jack o’ lanterns (appropriately) from reused pumpkin puree cans. The step-by-step tutorial can be found here. The results of the project are so very cute and it’s satisfying to gaze upon the little glowing faces at night. This craft is a job for mom or dad! Punching the holes is WORK! I tried drilling and hand hammering them into the can and both were equally laborious. Also, make sure to hammer down the sharp edge of your can lid to avoid painful mishaps. This project can be as cheap or as costly as you want to make it. I used leftover paint and bought battery operated tea lights at my local dollar store (2 for $1) for each lantern. It’s definitely a worthwhile project, just not one to do with little kids…BUT, they can enjoy the fruits of your labor as they gaze upon the pretty glowing faces and marvel at Mama’s creative skills! Right?

Jack O' Lantern Cans

Pumpkin Patch

Autumn fun and activities wouldn’t be complete with out a trip to the pumpkin patch! We have a few farms nearby that have annual pumpkin picking and other delights for the fall season. We usually visit one or all of them. I have to admit, my fun is photographing my beautiful daughter’s enjoyment among all of the gorgeous pumpkins, colors and scenery of the farms.

Pumpkin Patch          Pumpkin Patch           Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Patch

I hope that all of you enjoy the season and the beauty it has to offer!

San Diego Safari Park 4-28-13

Our trip to the Safari Park this past Sunday was all about the cheetahs! We saw plenty of beautiful and exciting things, as we always do, but the cheetahs stole the show.

These two were lounging in their enclosure when we first walked up. They looked quite majestic stretched out under a shady tree.

WAP 4-28-13 (4)

Then, as we were about to take off, two keepers entered their area. This caused a bit of a stir, with one of the cheetahs showing a bit of teeth.

WAP 4-28-13 (5)

The two keepers stayed off to the side for a while, but the big cats kept an eye on them.

Keeping watch on the keepers

This was exciting for us, because it offered a great photo opportunity. It was also nice to see them walking around instead of two napping cats…which is what we mostly see. And, my daughter could get a good view from the stroller as well.

WAP 4-28-13 (6)

We enjoyed a terrific lunch of chicken and honey mustard dipping sauce with a side of coleslaw made with homemade mayo. It certainly gave us plenty of energy for more walking and running…

IMG_1540

and more running…:)

While J was running her daddy silly, I was able to get a few pictures of some lovely giraffes quietly eating and the rhinos enjoying a cooling mud bath.

Giraffe Tripod

WAP 4-28-13 (8)

The newest baby rhino, I believe his name is Kayode, was also out with his mama.

WAP 4-28-13 (10)

He was galloping and playing…much like my baby!

WAP 4-28-13 (9)

Right before we left we saw an animal encounter talk with a beautiful Tawny Frogmouth. He was very dignified and had such an “owl-y” expression!

WAP 4-28-13

There is always something fun and exciting to see at the San Diego Safari Park!

Lizard Wizard Birthday Party!

My nephew just turned five and for his birthday party my sister booked the Lizard Wizard. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, this company comes out to your house or party location with a collection of reptiles for the guests to experience and learn about. As I mentioned, this was a party for a five year old boy…of course  he loves spiders, snakes and bugs! I was a bit hesitant, though, but was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I actually had seeing and learning about these creatures. My little girl, on the other hand, was little miss adventurous! She couldn’t wait to hold a bug, touch a snake or grab a frog! I was quite proud of her! 🙂

To start things off, the kids got to hold some frogs. Some were small and sticky and some, like this guy, were large and slimy!

Michael Jordan the Bullfrog

Michael Jordan the Bullfrog

My daughter couldn’t wait to let the giant cockroach climb on her…(insert mother shudder here). Actually, this was a pretty popular, many of the kids wanted their chance to wear a cockroach brooch!

Cockroach Brooch

Cockroach Brooch

There were also several volunteers, including my sister and mother, who wanted to have a tarantula placed on their head.  My 2 year old was eager to get close to this one because it was an “itsy bitsy spider.” Hmm, there’s not much itsy, or bitsy about him, methinks.

Tarantula Hair Accessory

Tarantula Hair Accessory

The kids got to see a few kinds of lizards and even a skink that would stick out his tongue and give a kiss. He was a lot of fun and I captured the best expressions on their faces in pictures!

Lizard Wizard 7

Then came an array of snakes for everyone to hold. The boys loved this! I have lots of pictures with snakes wrapped around arms and fists and triumphant smiles. The girls are quite the opposite.  All of  those photos show frightened and repulsed expressions…yet they jumped right in there! This is one of the things I marveled at with this party. Everyone was involved and excited to learn and experience these creatures!

Lizard Wizard 2

Lizard Wizard 4

The Lizard Wizard team also set up a little petting zoo for the kids to interact with some frogs and turtles and even a baby alligator.  They showcased a huge 45 lb turtle, Tonka,  who quietly sat in his bucket while all the kids helped wash his shell. This was a brilliant idea! I can’t tell you how exciting it was for all of them to help clean the turtle.

Turtle Wash

Turtle Wash

Lizard Wizard 5

Lizard Wizard 3

Then came the pièce de résistance, Popcorn the python. Everyone was fascinated by this beautiful creature. Even I let them drape Popcorn around my shoulders, because, really, when do you ever get the chance to do that?

Lizard Wizard 1

This was easily one of the best parties we’ve had. Every kid there was interested and having fun with the animals…even if they were a little scared! We had quite a range of ages, as well, and all enjoyed it. We got lots of positive feedback from the guests. The Lizard Wizards themselves were very professional and knowledgeable about every creature they exhibited. They were two young adults, but they did a fantastic job interacting with all of the children. You definitely get the sense that they love and respect all of their creatures. I can’t say enough good things about this party and I’m sure my sister will be hiring them again. If you have a chance to have a Lizard Wizard party or a similar company near you, please give it a try. You’ll probably be just as surprised as me and all the other squeamish mothers at our party, at how much fun you have!