Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Railroad Excitement

It was a long, wonderful Presidents Day weekend. We’re not sure why it is that so many more businesses here in CA observe the holiday, but we’re not complaining. And, we are pleased to report that we put the long weekend to good use.

On Saturday, we headed for Felton, CA and the Roaring Camp Railroad. They run steam engines up into the mountains and also down to Santa Cruz. The mountain excursion is considerably shorter (and the only line running this time of year) so we took that one.

Arriving early, we managed to spend a lot of time collecting rocks, watching ducks and turtles, getting hissed at by geese, and generally wandering the grounds. The place looks like it could get really, really busy in the high season, but it wasn’t too crowded when we were there, which was nice.

When the train pulled up, everyone made a mad dash to claim seats together. We were a little slower, but it all worked out okay. As an added bonus, we got to sit next to a really nice puppy named Dakota who licked Elise every chance she got. (awwwww/eeeeeewwwww). Our engine was an oil burning steam engine, the oldest of its kind still operating. It was an 8 car train, with all of the coaches open except for the last one which was covered. We even had a cool little diesel back engine. Our great interest in the goings-on of the Island of Sodor really informed our experience...

So, the train pulled out and chuffed slowly up the hill. Sloooooowly. The redwood forest was beautiful and cool, and we all had a fun time looking up at the really, really tall trees. Interestingly enough, as we got going the exhaust from the engine got to blowing things out of the trees so we had lots of nice leaves and such land on us.

We trundled over a trestle with the sharpest turning radius anywhere in North America, which was exciting. We also learned that redwoods open the pores on their leaves to soak in hundreds of gallons of water in the form of mist from the sea at night. Cool!

The reason we needed the back engine, it turns out, was that the switchbacks part way up the mountain can only accommodate a six car train. So, the train was split up to navigate the switchbacks and then reconnected. It was pretty cool.

After the train trip, we had a leisurely lunch (not very good-next time we’ll definitely bring a picnic of our own) and Elise got looking kind of sleepy. So, we stopped for coffee and directions and headed for home along the Pacific Coast Highway (CA Hwy 1).

We drove along the coast from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay. “Beautiful” just doesn’t do it justice. There are small farms along the way so you can see green fields that end at the edge of big stone cliffs with waves crashing below. There are hills and trees and beaches and more fields all along the way, but pretty much the whole time you can look across to the ocean and watch the waves crash on the shore. (Unless you’re driving-then you kinda have to watch the road some.) At one point we drove through dense fog, and then a few miles later it was bright and sunny again. As we drove the rest of the way home along 280 (which is also pretty scenic at this time of year) we agreed that we can probably “get by” living within an hour and a half of such amazing countryside.

The rest of the weekend’s adventures pale by comparison, but suffice it to say we had a good time and are coming at this week well-rested and full of excitement about the great things we’ll be seeing and doing as the summer approaches.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Big Kid Things

This is our week for trying big kid things. After some really fun playdates last week, we realized that Elise is ready to tackle a few more challenges, so we’re off and running.

Efforts include taking more walks without the stroller, letting Elise be responsible for the items she wants to bring with her and practicing using the potty chair. Maybe it’s too much all at once. The plan is to help Elise have some self-determination and prevent (or at least minimize) some of the ongoing battles for control. We hope to report great strides in the near future...

In other news, Heather attended the first annual Santa Cruz Jugband Jubilee this past weekend. The music was good and people were nice, especially after they heard her play jug. In even bigger news, the Hump Night Thumpers (Heather’s former band) WON the 25th annual Battle of the Bands in Minneapolis. They have carried home the coveted traveling waffle iron trophy, much to the delight of their adoring fans everywhere.

We’ve been watching the weather back in Chicago and wondering when the snow and cold are going to end. That’s crazy! California has been an adjustment for us, but we’ve taken to life above freezing (and above zero, too) pretty readily. Stay warm out there, friends!

Hope your week is going well!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Grandparents Schmiedeskamp

“Gamma Saow and Gampa Kawuw” came to visit this weekend, and did we ever have a good time. From the very beginning, Elise suckered them into building with Tinker Toys and reading library books. (Quick trivia: Heather used to work at an office housed in the former Tinker Toy factory.) We spent a lot of time playing at home and hanging out at parks. Grandpa Karl has infinite patience for playing in the sand, and Grandma Char knows how to do cool craft projects.

After we left the grandparents at the airport this morning, Elise said, “Maybe we can see them tomorrow.” When Mommy explained that Grandma and Grandpa were on their way home to Montana, Elise burst out with, “I don’t want to miss them goodbye!!” We stopped at our favorite coffee shop and had a scone while we talked things over.

Between having Grandma Judy here from Pennsylvania a few weeks ago and having the Schmiedeskamp grandparents here this weekend, Elise has been enjoying a lot of grandparental attention. It’s going to be an adjustment getting back to “regular” life.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Happy Groundhog Day!

Rumor has it that Punxsutawney Phil did NOT see his shadow this year, and spring is right around the corner. Huzzah! Hooray! Spring is good.

It has come to our attention that we’ve been neglecting our blog of late. Our faithful readers will no doubt be glad to learn that we intend to do better. New readers will no doubt be glad that we haven’t been posting much because that means less reading to catch up.

We were going to say that things have seemed like slightly less of an adventure since we got settled in here, and that is why we’ve felt less need to write about the “moving to silicon valley” experience. That’s not true, though.

Since Santa’s visit, lots of interesting things have happened. Elise has founded a new cult/religion based on making offerings of dead leaves to Santa in hopes He will be pleased. We’ve met oodles of new friends. Andy has been to India. Grandparents have visited. All of this plus we’re already two weeks into the one-month cold that has a good portion of the Bay Area population in its grasp.

Since last Groundhog Day, we’ve been to London, lived in temporary housing for 5 months (4 in Chicago, 1 in San Jose), got Andy a fabulous new job, fixed Heather’s hernia, watched Elise turn into the fabulous young lady you see pictured above. What a year! We’re hoping this year is also fun and exciting, but maybe in different ways.

Elise’s Grandma Judy visited while Andy was in India, and the Schmiedeskamp grandparents are on their way for a post-Groundhog Day visit. It’s a good time to be a little girl.

We hope that our Groundhog Day letter has reached many of you, and if by some chance it has not please let us know and we’ll put a copy in the mail. Aside from this brief lapse of the New Year, we really do update this blog pretty often, so don’t be shy about subscribing to the RSS feed!

Happy February! Go Bears!!!!!!