Monday, January 12, 2015

Spring 2014: Long weekend camping at Sequoia National Park

This is a late post so my apologies. We always think of how it is that campers go out of the comfort of their homes and live in the wild for one unique wildlife experience. And so we made our camping quest finally come true. Wildlife camping for real! Three adults and four small kids with the youngest still on potty-training (during that time - and yes we survived!) went camping for the first time. The result? Not too bad for the first time campers.

According to our calculation, we will arrive the national park around five in the morning if we leave Orange County right after dinner and that's what we did. It was just perfect as the kids were asleep the whole duration of the trip. It was a good 6-hour road trip and no one seemed to complain (except my restless leg syndrome).

We had to be very early in the camp site because we do not have a reservation. It is said that spring and summer are the most popular seasons to camp so the campsites will all be full. First come, first serve basis applies to those who have no reservation. We arrived at the place before five in the morning and they were not kidding when they said we have to be there early. Luckily, we were able to find a perfect spot to put up our tent.

Good morning giants! We meet again!

We took a nap and woke up at the first sign of the sunlight. The temperature was really cold. We left Orange County with an extremely warm weather forecast but in the mountains the temperature was frosty.

Our ever reliable grill stove.

Cold morning!

Sequoia National Park is indeed one of California's pride and joy, a land of giants that is genuinely enchanting.  There are no words to describe how beautiful nature is in this side of the globe. Old and insanely large trees seem to tell stories of people and life that existed a long time ago.

Our tent stood up in a spot no less than 100 feet away from the wash room and rest room. Exactly the convenience I hoped for on our way to the mountains. There were also spouts in each campsite only intended for hand washing. Beside our tent is the storage box to seal the smell of our food and toiletries which will help prevent the presence of unwelcome guests. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are also known for bears coming down the mountains but we came there early spring so aren't they still in hibernation? Maybe not.

Our 8-person tent just some few walks away from the wash room.

Thou shalt not forget to store food, kitchen utensils, and toiletries inside this box.

There will be no cellphone signal or whatsoever so we left our mobile phones off to save battery. We instead brought our two-way radios for communication. There were many hiking trails to follow but we chose the easiest one for the kids.


The General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world.

The Twin Giants

The kids bravely took off their shoes and played in the running stream. They love the coolness of the water that tickles their young feet. I say it will be one of the best spring vacations the kids will remember as they grow older for that day, we discovered that they not only love the experience, they look forward to more camping!

Very cool running water.

So never leave children unattended at all times!

Why hello there giant pine cone!
Seven days earlier, we checked out our favorite stores REI and Bass Pro Shops for the camping gears we needed for our camping expedition. And these are the things that came with us to the land of the giant forest:

8-person tent
Sleeping bags
Air bed
Air pump - make sure it is fully charged
Heater for the tent
Spray bugs
Hand warmers
Thick and water resistant jackets
First aid kit
Poison Ivy Ointment
Bath wipes
LED flashlights
Two-way radios
Paper plates
Plastic cups
Plastic spoon and fork
Trash bags
Canned goods
Reusable bottles on the go for hiking
Gallons of purified water
Jug for the water
Wood - available at the park store
and of course as what they say, the camping is incomplete without smores.

This baby works wonders.

My youngest now is potty-trained so we have a list of camping activities to experience this year. Our next camping expedition will be this coming spring and summer with our favorite youngsters of course. Will keep you posted! =)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy 2015!

It's been a year since I last checked in. The cobwebs dwelling in my blog have spoken. I should put more meaningful stories about traveling with small kids. That, my friends, will be one of my aggressive new year's resolution. I will try my best to magically manage my time as a working mom at night, student by day, and a traveler with kids during weekends. Having said that, I will now list the stories I want to share in my blog about the places we've been. I cannot wait!

"It's a small world" at Disneyland during Christmas season.

Happy New Year my dear readers! =)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Family vacation: Road trip from Southern California to Portland with kids

It took us quite a few years to make this trip happen. Considering the long hours on the road and traveling with two small kids make it a bit more challenging. Hubee and I have wanted to visit Oregon before winter to witness the glory of its fall foliage and of course the beauty of nature outside sunny California.

Just looking at our itinerary a day before the trip looked excruciating enough. Twenty-eight hours at least on the road is not a joke so I packed all the stuffs that our toddlers would be needing inside the van to prevent or at least minimize boredom that might lead to the dreaded tantrums. Fully-charged iPads, coloring books, DVDs, snacks, you name it we got it. It wasn't bad though for more than a day of road trip, we had a number of stop overs. We stop, take some few walks, breathe fresh air, and shoot pictures. The girls loved it as much as we did. The sceneries were simply breathtaking! I suddenly remembered our trip to New Zealand four years ago. Now thinking it's been a while maybe a plan to visit middle-earth again wouldn't be such a bad idea. Going back, I don't regret traveling by road for more than a thousand miles away from home for it was truly worth it.

Our first stop was at  Redwood National Park. I thought I've seen the tallest trees in Yosemite until we came upon Crescent City. Being in this forest had a slight creepy feel that a bunch of giants do live in this place. The trees are enormous and as old as time can tell. The girls stayed in the van too tired to go out and too overwhelmed to get in touch with nature. "Mommy, why are these trees so big? They don't look real anymore." Indeed they do.

We braved the drive-through Chandelier Tree which is about 2,400 years old. It's amazing how these trees survived time and witnessed the real life stories of people who have lived thousands of years ago. If I have the power to make the trees talk, I would be living half of the year in that forest just to listen to their stories without reading history books.

We left Orange County right after dinner and arrived Portland just in time for supper.  The weather was absolutely fantastic. They know we're coming so it did not rain at all! 3 nights and 4 days wasn't really enough but it was a good vacation to experience a bit of Portland.

The people were really nice. It was more like a laid back type of lifestyle and all you can see pretty much is nature. And as what we expected, golden leaves were everywhere! The girls were so thrilled to play with the maple leaves on the ground. We thought we were a bit late because some of the trees have fallen off their leaves on the ground.

The style of the houses were different from the kind of houses we have in Southern California. Most of the roofs were pointed and the garage is not attached to the main house. I have to say that I would keep on coming back to Portland for nature exploration. Who knows when the kids have grown up maybe the option of living in Portland is open.  Did I say Oregon is free of tax too? =)

On our first day we went to see the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge. Locals and tourists were everywhere but not nearly as full as what the visitor information staff claims during summer. It was in the middle of October when we came so the season was about to go low.

The Japanese Garden was amazing! The red and golden leaves together in one garden is just so fascinating. Skip the Rose Garden in early autumn or you will be disappointed. The roses are not in for the season so go straight to where the action is.

From the parking lot we had to ride the free shuttle bus all the way up to the Japanese Garden. We wanted to walk but we have kids and we did not bring the stroller with us so we took the easiest way up.

The next day we took the kids to Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, something the kids would enjoy more. They had fun exploring inventions and those colorful springs that pump water whatever they call it. The best part I love was the Sherlock Holmes Exhibition where everyone was invited to solve a mystery. Half the day we spent at Woodburn Premium Outlet. Ok, don't get me wrong but coming from California, tax-free on everything is something that we don't normally experience everyday or at all.

On our last day in Portland we went to The Grotto. We met a fellow Filipino who happened to be the parish priest. He was so warm, hospitable, and speaks fluent Italian. Outside the church was quite a big field with a center stage and some bench. They were beginning to put the Christmas lights and wreaths around the garden in an early preparation for the holiday season. Just few steps away from the stage is the elevator that took us up to the grotto. There we saw the monastery perfectly stood in the quiet and serene forest where the sound of the birds and the flowing stream are music to the ears.

We stayed at our favorite hotel Residence Inn for more comfort. Two bedroom suite with a day bed is big enough for everyone in this trip. On our way back home we took the I-5 and dwell on the road for about 18 hours. We just made our route back home shorter that going up. Portland is such a nice place with friendly faces. I am happy we finally made this trip happen and most of all with the people whom we share our common interests: Food, Travel, and Nature. =)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Product review: Sassy Grow Up Cup

My eldest daughter is turning 5 in a couple of months and my youngest will be 3. Kids just grow up so fast sometimes I am amazed that we are able to keep up with their growing years despite of how ruggedly busy this world is.

Three weeks ago, my kids were using Tommee Tippee and Nuke tumbler cups but now I switched them to Sassy Grow Up Cup thinking that it's time for my little girls to graduate from sippy cups and get used to real drinking glass. I have no problem with sippy cups really (hello, I'm a lover of sippy cups). It's just that I think maybe it's time for them to drink milk from the glass before leaving the house and going to bed at night. Just the idea of no more sippy cups to clean in the sink along with the dishes is another piece of heaven any parent wishes to graduate.

So, I tried (many times!) giving them the milk in a glass but they would  just not take it. I still wanted them to drink milk and it is a problem to me especially with my youngest who is presently going through potty training. In short, too much stress is not good either. Amazingly, there's an answer to everything (thank heavens!)

Presenting, the Sassy Grow Up Cup. Tadaaa! Yes, it is spoutless! And they can actually drink anywhere around the rim. I had a flashback then that Philips AVENT Natural Drinking Cup had the very similar cup couple of years ago (and they still do) because I had my youngest used them when she was less than a year old but for some reasons she didn't take it so we switched her to Tommee Tippee. 

It is easy to open and close the lid. You just have to hold the middle handle and twist. I observed my girls carefully when they drink their milk lying down. So far so good. These cups don't leak when being used however we discovered the issue of leaking when the cups are turned upside down. The reason is when the soft lid is being pushed or lightly pressed the liquid comes out. That's the mechanism of this cup. So always check if the cups are in the right position.

I find them easy to clean too just separate the soft lid from the hard one to evenly clean the milk residue. Sometimes I use toothpick to remove the stubborn milk residue around the rim. It is easier to clean them under running water.

I use my favorite Sassy No Scratch Bottle Brush to clean the cup.

Sassy Grow Up Cups are available in different colors and comes in pack of two. I bought mine at ToysRUs and they are also available at Amazon. From a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a 9. It's not insulated which makes it a negative factor for me, but heck this one has no spout so I'm happy my kids were like drinking from a cup while putting themselves to sleep at night. :)