Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Burrowing Owl Hike

The Cesar Chavez park near the Berkeley Marina, hosts a few Western Burrowing Owls each winter.  The burrow site is just above the bay, and right next to an off-leash dog park. Sounds a bit, um, incongruous, but nature is funny that way.

We headed out after school to hike out to see if we could see any feathered friends.

Who dressed the wee one????

At the Northeast end of the park was the cordoned off area protecting the owls.  We looked and looked, but apparently there are no owls this season. 

We still had a great time and the girls did fantastic on a 1.25 mile hike. 


I had just starting a bath for the girls when I notice Robin is being quiet. Very quiet.  I come into the kitchen and she's trying to scurry away, and is making her "I'm being sneaky" face. 

There's brown all around her mouth, and there's a wad of something brown and gooey in her mouth. 

Me: Robin, what do you have in your mouth? 
R: Nufin (mumbled through the crumbs of chocolate cake)
Me: Well, you're chewing something and you have brown all around your mouth.
R: (gulping down the last of the bite.  And by gulping down, I mean choking it down her throat. And opens her mouth to show me) See!  Nufin. 

Me: Mmmm hmmm. I see. 

Note to self: chocolate cake must be stored in a place higher than the reach of a child on top of the kitchen counter. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ladybug Hike!

My girls like ladybugs.  Really like ladybugs.  Who doesn't, they're the cheeriest and friendliest beetles around. 

So when my friend E told me about a short hike, practically in our back yard, that would reward us with thousands of ladybugs, all piled together I immediately said, "when can we go?!"

Just 2 miles from our house, as the crow flies, is Redwood Regional Park.  It's many trails wind through the rolling hills, ridges, and canyons that separate Orinda from Oakland. With oaks, bay and eucalyptus making the top of the hills fragrant, the bottoms shaded by serene redwood, Redwood Park offers many wonderful hikes close by. 

And every winter, between November and Feb, thousands, maybe millions of ladybugs descend on the park during their migration.  They stop.  They wait. They huddle.  They rest. I have no idea what they are doing there but it is quite magical.

We started off on the 3 mile loop at the Skyline Staging area, heading down the Stream trail.  The shaded, peaceful hike took us half way through the loop, where the Stream trail met with the Prince trail.

This was the place. 

There were thousands of ladybugs.  A red carpet of ladybugs. So many ladybugs!  

Mostly they were massed together in clumps along the ground, covering leaves, stems, branches.  A few were scattered along the trail and it made me nervous to step anywhere lest I smoosh some of these beautiful little beetles. 

The littles couldn't resist saying a gentle "hi" to one or two of the wee red friends. 

The ladybugs showed us which way to go.  How considerate. 

All too soon it was time to go.  We still had 1.5 miles to walk back, and it was mid afternoon.  We had another small snack and headed back up the Prince Trail, then back to the car via the Ridge Trail. If the girls and boys were tired their energy and spirit soon returned, as the Ridge trail is a favorite off-leash area for walking dogs.  We petted every single dog on the way back. 

I was so impressed with the kids.  Erin did the whole hike and never needed to be carried.  Robin only went in the Ergo a few times, and only briefly.  The other two boys we were with were just as energetic.  The 3 miles took 2.5 hours, but that included LOTS of stopping, examining, exploring.  We were all happy, and exhausted. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Super Date!!!! PHC!!!!

I'd imagine everyone has heard of Prairie Home Companion, but I guess I'd be mistaken.  A longtime NPR staple, PHC hits the airwaves live every Sat. evening, typically from Saint Paul, MN. But today it was in San Francisco. So we went with friends, wrangling all the teenage boys we could muster to look after 4 energetic girls, and enjoyed 2+ hours of interesting, topical, and funny entertainment.

Yay Dates!!!!

A crummy, blurry picture:

Really, there's a whole band, Garrison Keillor himself (Mary B, he looks just like he sounds), the other radio actors, the sound broadcast people, and an entire mens chorus.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Gotta Take The Bad With The Good

We went to a restaurant tonight.  And it was insanity. We left before finishing our meal, cutting the grilled-cheese dinner short and nearly threatening to never take the kids out to dinner again.

Later that evening I went my monthly Mom's evening get together.  There were 6 moms.  This is what everyone brought:

Yup.  Perspective. Again. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How To Make A Scientist

OK, we bought this kit from a friend's recommendation.  It came with everything you need on a wet bench: a beaker, flask, funnel, goggles, test tubes, test tube racks (very important), tweezers, beaker, magnifying glass.  And 10 experiments outlined on laminated cards. Granted, we'd already done every experiment on the cards, but because we now have the official tools of the trade, the experiments took on more luster. 

I walked them through 4 or so experiments on the cards, a bit concerned this would be a play land flop - an expensive toy that has about 5 minutes play time before ending up in the recycling bin.   

Then, a few hours later, the girls took the lab equipment into the bathroom and started running their own experiments. 

This is what I'd hoped for. Forget the laminated cards, we're gonna need more vinegar, baking soda, and food coloring!!!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Parenting Tip 104: Supine Supervision

Hat Tip: Uncle David.  Sometimes the best way to play with your kids is lying down.  And letting them jump/climb/wriggle/scribble/sticker/whathaveyou all over you.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Extreme Teeth Brushing

Do you read the blog Crappy Pictures?  You should.  The writer/mom has limited artistic skills and a fantastic sense of humor.  She posted this a few days ago about brushing teeth.

Which brings me to this:

Extreme, backwards-off-the-couch, bend over teeth brushing with light-up toothbrushes.  Yeah, it was an inspired parenting night.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Possibly the best doughnuts on Earth.

Especially when still warm from the fryer.

So the deal is the Dads bring the Kids in on Sat. mornings.  The few times I've brought the girls in, Chang the owner asks, "Where's daddy? What is he doing?"  We usually bring back a raised glazed or old fashioned.  

Not opened on Sundays.  Often closed on holidays, including a week or two at Christmas, Spring break, and during the summer. Hey, it's a family business!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Splashing in January

Yesterday we went to the Berkeley Marina to go play at their park.  It was a beautiful day, about  54F.

Whatever the water temperature was, the girls didn't seem to mind.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sushi Party Tradition

Today was my birthday!  Woot.  We had many adventures during the day (stay tuned for that post) but tonight was the traditional "roll your own" sushi party.  We actually kept it pretty minimal and only did nigiri, with 3 types of fish. My folks came, and my wonderful Sister in law Dawn brought her two beautiful boys, C and K. 

Me slicing the tuna:

New this year, and going on regular rotation at Casa de McMiller was spring rolls.  You know, those yummy, fresh-tasting, tasty appetizer-ey things you get at Thai places?  We made peanut dipping sauce too.  These were (a) easy and (b) da bomb!  Really.  And very, very easy to make. OK, some are not so pretty but our mouths didn't notice. 

We got the cake at the bakery section of the Asian grocery store.  Chestnut.  Mmmmmm.  It was really light and tasty, sweet but not cloying. 

So, smart readers. How old am I?

Of course, the girls helped me blow out the candles. 

A great start to the new year, a great start to my new year. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013