California: Queen Califia's Magical Circle Garden

On day four of our California odyssey, the boys and I explored Queen Califia's Magical Circle Garden. I first read about this place in Sunset a couple years ago and knew the next time I was in Escondido I had to visit. And since it had the word "magical" in the name, I knew Anders would love it.

Califia was a black Amazon queen for whom the state was named. I always thought California was a Spanish word. Califia ruled the terrestrial island paradise of gold and riches "on the right hand of the Indies." The legend was first popularized in the 16th century romance novel, Las Sergas de Esplandian, which received wide circulation in Spain.

Geologist John McPhee recalled the tale in his book, Assembling California, which the garden's artist, Niki Saint Phalle, read and drew upon when planning the garden. As a huge McPhee fan, I've read this book, but seemed to have forgotten this legend.

This is the only California project by Saint Phalle, and her last international project. There are nine large-scale sculptures, a snake that wraps around the garden wall, a maze entryway and native plants along the edges. And it's all mosaic.

We had a blast running around in here and playing games. Plus, it's located in Kit Carson Park, so there are trails, playgrounds and other recreational amenities to take advantage of.

I'm not going to lie, there are a lot of photos in this post. Probably more than you want to see, but this place was so cool, and so hard to capture in pictures.

Entering the sculpture garden.

You get to go through this cool maze to get into the inner garden.

At the Queen's feet.

He can hardly stand still for a photo.

Chillin' with the Queen.

Finn is yummy.

Anders, too.

That's Queen Califia's throne.

We played hide-and-seek. Due to my clever hiding, I hung out in this little spot for quite awhile. This game is a parent's best friend when they need a little alone time on a two week solo-parenting trip.

He found me.

Now we are all hiding.

No post would be complete without a few photos of the flowers we spotted along the trail on the short hike in and out.

California native
Permalink 06/01/11 12:04:41 pm, by Mel Email , 378 words, Categories: Beyond Greater Yellowstone, Roadside Attractions, Things to Do, Anders, Flora, Finn ,

California: Safari Park

It's been almost a month since my last confession... I mean, blog post. It's not that I haven't been doing anything worth posting about, rather, I've been doing a lot and not had time to post. Fortunately, Finn woke me up at 4:30 this morning and I can't fall back asleep.

During the last two weeks in May, the boys and I visited family and friends in California. And I took a ton of photos.

We flew into LAX, rented a car and drove down to Escondido, where we stayed at my grandparents' house. Grandma was waiting when we arrived (they live in an assisted living place, but kept their house). After a quick trip to the grocery store where I they had EVERYTHING, including sushi made right there, I whipped up a quick dinner for the four of us.

I grew up in southern California, so it's not like I'm not familiar with the place, but after ten years in Montana and numerous years in other small towns in Western states, I was a little overwhelmed by how much was available there. All sorts of yummy ethnic foods, huge grocery stores, a ridiculous abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Every little strip mall has an Asian food restaurant and a place to get your nails done. We were not in Livingston, Montana.

The next day the boys and I went to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, with a backpack full of delicious snacks from Trader Joe's. I bought an annual pass so we could go two days and not worry about seeing it all in one shot. The pass paid off after two visits (if Henry had been there, it would have paid off after one visit) and we can get into the Safari Park and the San Diego Zoo for free for a whole year. We figure we'll be back down this way to take advantage of it again.

Before we left the house, the boys got to watch a little t.v. They were thrilled, since we don't have one of those nifty contraptions at home.

We stopped by the assisted living place so grandpa could see the boys before heading to the Safari Park, but no photos of that event.

Anders was most excited to see the elephants. If he were writing this, he'd say, "you know they are my favorite animal."

It's practically like we were in Africa.

Playing hide-and-go-seek.

The three of us on safari. Note Anders' official-looking safari hat.

The gardens at the Safari Park hold more species of plants than the park houses animals, and a larger part of the budget goes to plants than animals. I knew there was something I liked about this place.

Gorilla gazing. Just don't look them in the eye.

Where else can you sit on the head of a rhino and not get gored to death?

Those are some serious Montana-winter legs there.

That evening my dad and Karen arrived at Casa Escondido (see how I used Spanish since we were so close to Mexico?). I whipped up another delicious dinner that seemed to surprise everyone; they get nervous when the vegetarian cooks for them.

The next morning it was back to the Safari Park, this time with dad and Karen who got to use the two free guest passes that came with my membership. Why would you ever pay regular price to get into this place?

I know I took some photos with dad and Karen, but they seem to have disappeared from my camera, so you'll have to wait until later in the trip to gaze on them. In fact, there seems to be a bunch of photos that went missing from that day. Maybe I had the camera set wrong or something...

Anders as a turtle.

Finn as a turtle.

Which caption do you prefer? "I really love my brother!" or "How do I throw this dude in the water?"

Even after two days, there were sections of the park that we never got to. Sadly, one of those sections was a big garden. We'll have to go back soon.

Permalink 06/01/11 05:04:03 am, by Mel Email , 687 words, Categories: Beyond Greater Yellowstone, Things to Do, Anders, Finn ,

Chestnut Mountain Trail (not as fun as it sounds)

A few weekend past, the boys and I wanted to get out and hike. We decided to try a new trail on the west side of Bozeman Pass called the Chestnut Mountain Trail. I didn't know a whole lot about it, but I knew where the trailhead was, which is basically all the knowledge I require before taking my little kids into the woods.

It was one of those hikes that began roughly and didn't get much better. Rigby started the morning off by pooping in the back of the truck. He couldn't wait four minutes while I got the kids dressed. Awesome.

There was a ton of poop on the ground at the trailhead (not from my dog, obviously). So, as I dealt with the situation in the back of the truck I kept yelling to the kids, "watch out for the dog poop!" and "don't move!" and "aahhhh!" Then I'd see them trip and fall inched from feces. Stressful, yes, But, no one stepped in poop--that I am aware of.

Yay! We found the trail.

Oh, that's the trail. Happy spring!

The trail was snow packed, but only the trail. Step half an inch off the trail and you were crotch deep in the snow. The trail wasn't wide enough for two people, even if one was tiny, but Finn insisted on holding hands. We took turns post-holing. When he went under, I'd pull him out, then dig his stuck boot out.

All the while, Anders yelled encouraging words like, "hurry up!" and "go faster!" And the dogs ran up and down the trail getting in our way.

Did I mention the trail is near the highway as it climbs what I assume is Chestnut Mountain? I almost couldn't hear Anders yelling at us.

(I imagine if you were walking at a normal pace, you'd get past the dog poop and the noise pretty quickly, but we were walking at Finn pace, so we spent most of our hike in poop and noise.)

After about a mile, Anders was over it. We had a snack and enjoyed the view. This was actually pretty nice. Then we headed back down.

It's all worth it when we get a snack.

Hide your food, people!

I love lichen.

Water break. Anders drank so much water that he had to stop and pee 6 times during this short walk. Brrrr

Anders was a little under-dressed, tired and dangerously close to a meltdown. I was able to keep him moving and not crying until close to the bottom. Then Diesel pushed him face first into the snow. Awesome.

Trail Creek

On the drive home, Anders said, "this is one of my best hikes ever." And I thought I had short term memory problems.

Warm, cozy and reading post-hike.
Permalink 05/11/11 12:00:09 pm, by Mel Email , 464 words, Categories: Montana, Hikes, Anders, Finn ,

And now you know the rest of the story

Apparently I never got the rest of the Easter photos posted. Better late than never ("better never late," we used to sing at day camp...)

Let us proceed.

We started the morning with an egg hunt. H distracted the boys while I placed the never-to-be-chicks in obvious places in the yard.

"Where could they be," wonders Henry.

Finn has a very assertive method for getting egg into basket.

Super cute in jammies and fleece.

Double fisted.

Bunnies that I smartly decided to knit just three days before Easter.

Finn's basket--bunny, book, Earth balls, chick socks, colored pencil...

Anders' basket--same as Finn's.

Finn peels eggs for egg salad. We ate that exclusively for two weeks.

After the eggstravaganza (sorry) H had to leave for Denver for a few days. The boys and I played (the hunt was at 7 am), read books and had lunch (guess what we had for lunch..). Then it was off to the park for the City egg hunt.

And I thought the hiding spots at our house were easy.

Pre-hunt tower climbing.

Happy hunters.

Chaos...I mean Anders and Finn with our friends, William and Logan. What could go wrong?

Working hard on the warmest day of the year.

More egg salad! Yay!

Do you like reliving the past? You can see photos from last year and the year before, which was so amazing that I had to blog in two parts. Part one is here and part two is over here. And don't forget 2008 when we were in Bariloche, Argentina.

Permalink 05/10/11 09:17:00 pm, by Mel Email , 253 words, Categories: Festivals/Events, Anders, Family, Finn ,

Henry is a rocket star

At the end of March and beginning of April, three big things happened to Henry.

Master of all art

First, he successfully defended his thesis and earned an MFA (Master of Fine Art) in Natural History and Science Filmmaking. He started this degree before we started dating (the second time) and somehow finished it while getting married, starting a business and having two kids. As someone who stressed out trying to finish a Master's while living alone with almost no other responsibility, I'm impressed.

Here's his thesis film. Unfortunately, I can't embed videos from Vimeo, so you have to head over there to check it out.

And here's what someone wrote about it. Oh yes, it's highly acclaimed.

And if you are in Livingston on April 27, you can watch it on the big screen at the BOOMA Film Forum.

Older man

Second, he had a birthday. This is important because for three months of every year he brags about being younger than me. Until the end of December, we are the same age and he can stop referring to me as "an older woman."

Award winning filmmaker

Third, the series of web films he made for Polar Bears International won "Best Web Series" at the International Wildlife Film Festival. We'll be going to Missoula in a couple weeks so he can attend the conference and accept the award.

If you want to check out some of those short films, go here. To get started, watch "Habits and Behavior" and "Conservation."

What's it like to be married to such a successful(and same-aged) man? Super wonderful.

Permalink 04/26/11 08:00:50 pm, by Mel Email , 265 words, Categories: Video, Family ,

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