Tag Archives: Mill Valley

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A Neighborhood Walk Turns into a Hike to the Muir Woods, Thanks to New Book

We didn’t initially intend to hike five miles from our house to Muir Woods National Monument and back, but the first day of spring arrived quite beautifully and, inspired by the new book, We Love Nature! A Keepsake Journal for Families Who Love to Explore the Outdoors, by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer (illustrated by Denise Holmes), my daughter and I set off on a pretty and hilly local trail. We loved the idea of welcoming the season with a hike, as well as the notion of leaving right from our house and walking to the trail head. We thought we’d walk one way, and had arranged for a pick-up at the end of the walk.

Keffer and Tornio are the authors of  The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book, reviewed here last year, and their new book, which delightfully arrived in time for spring, expands nicely on their theme of providing easy ideas that families and others can use to create their own nature adventures. The book serves as a journal, as well, with questions that prompt readers to think, write and draw about their nature time.

Our first-choice activity from the book? “Hike on a trail near your home and write about what you discover.” We added some photos as well.

Anna and me, setting off on our adventure.

Pride of Madeira plants were sighted while climbing our first hill out of our neighborhood.

A kind and creative homeowner shows the way to the Dipsea Trail, a trail that winds seven miles from a canyon in our town of Mill Valley, CA, to the sea at Stinson Beach. We will take the Dipsea partway.

We entered Mt. Tamalpais State Park.

Anna is at the precipice, eyeing the trail below.

We descended into canyons of ferns, redwoods and bay trees.

We spotted a spectacular Douglas Iris.

And a Beach Morning Glory.

We made it to the Muir Woods, about 2.5 miles from the start, feeling pretty accomplished.

Muir Woods has lovely creeks running through it that are home to spawning salmon.

Muir Woods is also home to thousands of old-growth coast redwoods, the tallest living things in the world. This redwood feel on Winter Solstice, 2012. A sign nearby told us that it was an elder that had had a good life and deserved respect.

Tired, but also reenergized from being in the beautiful woods, we traced our steps back toward home.

The hikers, five hours and a great adventure later.

Prompted by the book, and this hike, we immediately planned our next one! A few days later, we took the Dipsea Trail in the opposite direction than we had the first time and went into our town for a shorter (but stair-filled) loop walk. Later, we plan to keep going on the Dipsea Trail, past the Muir Woods to the ocean (and take someone up on that ride home).

Some other adventures we are eager to try from We Love Nature! A Keepsake Journal for Families Who Love to Explore the Outdoors this spring and summer include:

Design your yard and garden to be butterfly friendly.

Experiment with starting seeds.

Reuse an object as a garden container.

Find inspiration from nature, and then create a piece of art.

Swim with your family or friends at a local lake, river or pond.

Discover the night sky through stargazing.

Can’t wait!

Would you like to win your own copy of We Love Nature! A Keepsake Journal for Families Who Love to Explore the Outdoors and a pair of KEEN shoes? Enter the Destination Nature giveaway today.

Other Slow Family posts you might like:

Join Project Feeder Watch and Other Fun Citizen Science Activities
How to Save Nasturtium and Other Seeds
Have a Cloud Race
Keep a Moon Diary
Nature Activities to Celebrate Spring

Origami Boat Race

My family has long been fans of making and sailing paper boats, an idea we got from our beloved book, H.A. Rey’s Curious George Rides a Bike. In the book, George secures a paper route, which leads him to make and sail a whole flotilla of folded-newspaper boats. Over the years, we’ve taken our origami boats down to a local creek, where they indeed sailed along once released, on the gently flowing spring stream. We were thrilled to learn that our local Mill Valley Public Library was teaching kids how to make their own origami boats (which they cleverly dipped in wax), before holding a boat race in the local creek.

What better way to celebrate Children’s Book Week than by making a version of Curious George’s paper boat and joining local children in releasing the boats into a creek for a race?

 

Follow these directions to make your own paper boat.

This activity was adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ fun family activities.

You might also like:

How To: Make a Paper Boat
Celebrating 100 Years of the Mill Valley Libary
Rich in Kindness, Poor in Money: All-of-a-Kind Family Children’s Book

 

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Empty Calendar, Full Days

Last weekend, we experienced one of the rarest of occurrences. There was not a thing on our family calendar. The coming weekend spread before us on paper, a completely blank pair of days. There were a couple of things we thought we might do. The annual Fall Arts Festival would be in our town, an unusually lovely art show with fine artists’ booths that wind along a path in a redwood grove. The Jewish New Year began Sunday night, and I knew I wanted to cook a special meal. But unusually, we had all of the two days and nights to leisurely do those things and whatever else struck us.

We rode bikes to the art show fairly early on Saturday. We immediately saw good friends and beautiful art and artists, some of which also appeared as old friends, as they’ve been happy fixtures at the Festival since we started attending 20 years ago, the very weekend we first moved to Mill Valley. The grove had the moist redwood-duff smell that I’ll always strongly associate with my first days here. Still other Festival memories? Being seven months pregnant and buying a backpack of books at the adjoining library sale and laughing that they were balancing me front to back, and taking Anna to the Festival the next year when she was almost a year old. (This picture was taken that day.)

This weekend, we joined younger families in taking in a sweet and magical marionette show (its qualities only enhanced by being performed in what is known as the “fairy ring” of redwoods). I marveled at how very enraptured and still the audience of small children was as they sat on their tarp and on tree stumps. Other talented friends of ours, father and daughter Austin and Caroline de Lone, sang and played a variety of instruments through a fabulous set to which other of our friends wandered over, lured by the beautiful music. We saw more friends and got into long, deep discussions under the trees.

The looseness of the day called for meandering. There was a bliss to the spontaneity and complete lack of schedule. We didn’t have to be anywhere else, then or later. Still later, we ran into another friend while buying food for a simple dinner and ended up inviting her over. This so rarely happens — people call first and plan and shoehorn events into busy schedules far in the future. And yet the way the whole day played out struck me as the way things are supposed to be. This certainly seemed like a way to build community, by taking the time to stop and engage with people we meet in our daily travels.

 

Sunday brought more relaxation. We read. Anna did homework and worked on her essays for college. We leisurely planned dinner and I went shopping and later made two of my favorite dishes, Chicken Marbella and honey spice cake. Michael made mashed potatoes. At one point Anna called our attention to colorful oak leaves that were falling and swirling in the wind outside, and we all talked about how much it looked and felt like Fall.

At dinner we talked about the New Year and the big change to come of college. We dipped apples in honey to signify a sweet new year. We lingered at the table an especially long time, precisely because we had time. We even cleaned up in a leisurely way.

While many people relish an empty calendar, still others are afraid when confronted with one. Both of these extremes should tell us something. Lots of us are so conditioned to being booked up that free time is a rarity, and sometimes even a burden. This weekend showed me that an empty calendar can result in exceedingly full and rich days.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

 

Spring at the Bird Café and Bird Feeder Activity

We’ve had some lovely birds greet us this spring, more than in recent memory. They feast on our seed — bars of Birdola songbird and gold finch feed that fit in a wire-cage bird feeder (though you can make your own feed, too. A recipe follows.)

Our visitors this year include the blue Western Scrub-Jay, the very cheery House Finch, and a young Titmouse. Which creatures are visiting you?

This is a really easy bird feeder to make:

Pinecone Bird Feeder

You’ll need:
• Pinecone (you can substitute a toilet-paper tube)
• 2′–3′ of string
• 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, peanut or other nut butter, suet, or lard
• 1/4 cup cornmeal or oatmeal
• 2 1/2 cups mixture of birdseed (e.g., sunflower and millet; check your local  nursery for suggestions), chopped nuts, and dried fruit
• Mixing bowl
• Plate, shallow dish, or pie tin
• Spoon or butter knife

Tie the string around one end of the pinecone.
In mixing bowl, combine peanut butter or other spread with meal.
Spread that mixture over the pinecone with the knife or spoon.
Pour the birdseed and feed ingredients onto the plate. Roll the pinecone in the seeds.
Hang from a tree branch or window eave.

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

 

 

New Year’s Resolution: Spend More Time in Nature

Happy New Year, Dear Friends!

I recently had the opportunity to take two very special hikes on Mount Tamalpais, the mountain near my home that is laced with trails for seemingly every mood and workout. One I took when one of my closest and oldest friends came to visit, and the other I took on Christmas Day with my husband Michael. (Unfortunately, Anna had to stay home that day with a bad cold.) Both hikes prompted me to make a pact with my family – we’re going to take one new hike a month and discover a new trail (and perhaps an old favorite here or there.) We count among our blessings the fact that we live in an amazingly rich place with tremendous natural beauty and well-maintained access that allows us to enjoy it.

As with most New Years, I resolve to spend meaningful time with family and friends, improve my health and well-being, and partake in activities that feed the soul. Spending time in nature fulfills all three, while profoundly and, often mysteriously, filling the personal well of wonder and awe.

Andrea and I enjoyed the Matt Davis Trail on Mt. Tam, a winding trail that traverses the mountain before dipping down to sea level:

A friend on the trail, Yukiye:

Michael and I hiked Blithedale Ridge, a shoulder of Mt. Tam that afforded great views of the mountain and lots of camaraderie and cheer among fellow hikers, mountain bikers and family groups who were out a misty and pleasant Christmas Day.

For more ideas about getting into nature, especially with kids, or starting a family nature club, see the Children & Nature Network. I also have a lot of ideas on my Slow Family Resources page.

As always, thanks for joining me on this journey. I wish you time in nature, and all else that fills your soul, in 2012.

You might also like:

Happy New Year: Celebrate with Traditions from Around the World and at Home
Wildflowers in Bloom
Hooray for Stewards of Trails and Open Space

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

Photo Friday: What’s in Your Mailbox?

I don’t know about you, but for me mailboxes and the mail they contain are a source of delight. Even, and perhaps especially, in the age of e-mail and junk mail, it’s a wonderful treat to receive a hand-written note or a postcard from an exotic place that someone took the time to write.

As a bonus, in the town where I live, these sweet mailboxes are somewhat typical. Because many houses are on hills, groups of mailboxes sit on the street above or below. Many are decorated personally and whimsically and it’s delightful to come upon a painted or glittery or otherwise personal one while on a walk or ride. (And, yes, ours depicts a 50s auto flame-job – not quite sweet but not menacing either.)

In an act reminiscent of  writing to pen pals around the globe as a child, my dear friend Elise from New Zealand (whom I met online) and I have been exchanging weekly postcards across the internet ethers. As it happens, we just exchanged photos of our actual mailboxes, or letterboxes.

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also enjoy:

Photo Friday: Mouth Watering Watermelon
Flea-Market Inspired Spring

Celebrating 100 Years of the Mill Valley Library

 

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in an old-fashioned party to celebrate my wonderful town’s library, which turned 100 years old. Originally built as a Carnegie Library, in what is now a stately brick house, the Mill Valley Public Library has grown from an institution with 750 donated books to one with 132,000 books, a digital collection, a team of librarians, and live offerings almost every day it’s open, from noted local authors to pre-school story times, to performances outdoors and in. No wonder our library thrives while others around the country are forced to close. Hundreds of visitors per day find it relevant and exciting, a true community hub.

It was terrific then, and very fitting, to honor the library’s Centennial with a gathering in the grove of redwoods that adjoins it. There was a free and continual program of old-time music, a birthday cake, announcements and proclamations, sodas and hot dogs, crafts, library trivia contests, and games, which I led with Research Librarian Cara Brancoli and which, in keeping with the historical spirit, included Tug-of-War, Three-Legged Races, Sack Races, and Egg-and-Spoon Races. We also had jacks and hula hoops out for free play. Wonderfully, many children, especially the smaller ones, rolled the hoops, just as children may have done 100 years ago.

It was truly lovely and warm (in spirit, if not temperature.) Liz Greer of Mill Valley Life took some wonderful photos that really captured the event, as did Hans Roenau in the Mill Valley Patch.

Photos: Top, Liz Greer. Bottom, Ken Friedman. Others: Susan Sachs Lipman

 

 

Photo Friday: Tamalpais Motel at Dusk

I’m not sure quite why I can’t resist lingering over a neon roadside sign at dusk. Nor why I find some to be just a bit forlorn. Perhaps it’s the gulf between the sign’s bright promise — in this case evoking our local mountain, given the Native American Miwok name meaning “coastal mountain” — and the reality of a motel, or a bar, or an eatery that’s seen better times. Or maybe it’s just the time of day, the light, the glory and wonder of neon, and the beckoning of the open road, none of which ever grow old.

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

Photo Friday: Ghost Sign
Photo Friday: San Francisco Storefront

Snapshot: This Moment. 9.16.10

{this moment}

Yesterday, I went for a hike near my house in the mid-afternoon. On my return to the car, at precisely 3 p.m., I heard chanting coming from the woods. A lovely lone male voice, the chanting sounded vaguely Middle Eastern, with haunting notes that were close together in the scale. I stopped and stood in the fog to listen. This man emerged from the woods — rainbow-laden, strewn with bells, tassels and pouches. Eyes closed and continuing to sing and (I took it) pray, he made a left turn and continued down the popular trail.

“This Moment” is a Friday ritual. A photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment that I wish to pause, savor and remember. It is inspired by Amanda Blake Soule and legions of lovely bloggers.

I hope you’ll be similarly inspired and leave a link with your own “moment.” I’d love to see it.

I hope you have a wonderful and soulful weekend.

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Make a Honey Spice Cake for a Sweet New Year and Fall

depotpumpkin

Honey is one of the world’s oldest foods. Ancient Egyptian tomb reliefs from as far back as the 3rd millennium B.C. show bees being smoked from their hives to produce it. Nomads and traders helped honey’s popularity spread worldwide, while it remained a prevalent sweetener in the Middle East, where it still often, and wonderfully, appears in Mediterranean, Arab and Jewish dishes.

Jews around the world traditionally celebrate their new year (which this year begins at sundown tonight) by dipping apples in honey, and by eating honey and spice cakes, the better to usher in a “sweet new year.”

And lots of people ring in Fall by making honeyed cakes of wonderful harvest ingredients like pumpkin, and warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.

This terrific and tasty honeyed spice cake recipe is from the San Francisco Chronicle. The resulting cake is at once dense, moist, and extremely flavorful.

Of course, you don’t need a new year or season to make this cake. Its firmness and ease of slicing makes it a natural for school lunches and after-school treats. It’s loaded with healthy ingredients and happens to taste especially good.

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman:
Pumpkin spice cake at the Mill Valley Book Depot


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