Category Archives: California

California Capitol

We stopped by the California State Capitol on our way to San Francisco.  We were there about an hour, and took the guided tour.  I supposed the biggest thing for the kids was that they recognized the Governor from Kindergarten Cop.  HAHA.  The tour guide tried real hard, but she was a bit dry for the kids, and not too well informed.  The statement “this is a stronghold for democracy” and others to that point were made frequently.  I stopped Corbin from correcting her that we’re a republic.  The safe that was in the treasury office was another thing that she speculated on that wasn’t based in fact.  There’s a picture of a women on the safe who’s showing some cleavage above her long victorian gown.  Well, during the time that the treasury office had first opened, the women weren’t even allowed to show their arms to the men and had to hide behind a screen to wash their hands.  She thought that the woman in the pic was trying to say “times will change”.  Well, the truth of it was, the safe had a date stamp on it of 1875.  The treasury office was opened about 1906.  Well, in 1875, the style was still low necks on long dresses. By 1900, it had been replaced with the high necked dresses mostly associated with Victorian modesty.  Times, yeah, they changed.  As they always do.  The world is always in flux, modest followed by immodest followed by modest again.  Here’s hoping by the time my daughter is in high school, modesty will be back in style.  HA HA.  There were a few other mistakes she’d made, but these were the ones I remember the most.

The capitol building itself was a bit smaller than the Texas one, and while I’d parked only about a block from it, I actually had to follow signs to find it, as there were other buildings close in and taller!  When we were inside, and the tour was wrapping up, Tristan said “what about the rest?”.  Umm…honey, this is it.  Things are bigger in Texas!  HAHA!

It had been redecorated in the original Victorian decor, and they had used many witnesses, pictures, and journals to attempt to get it as right as possible to what the original building looked like.  The staircases were beautiful, and I liked the lamps and the ceilings in most rooms.  However, the floors were a bit dizzying to me, personally.  Which is one thing about Victorian decorating, more was more!  I like the vast majority of the style, but some of it can go overboard for my tastes.  I like cleaner lines and not so many patterns.  I guess the best way to put it is the difference between being in Buca di Beppo and a white linen 4 star restaurant.  I tend to be overloaded by a lot of stimuli, and it unnerves me to be in certain places too long with a lot of visual and auditory stimuli.  (BTW, I love buca di Beppo, but we tend to go after Tae Kwon Do at about 8:30 at night when there aren’t a lot of people and it’s calmed down a bit.)

I was disappointed that we weren’t allowed on the Senate or House floors, just in the public viewing area above, but you could still get a good view.

One other thing that was a bit of a joke…..in Texas, if you carry, they check your license and you don’t have to 1. wait in line or 2.go through the metal detector.  In California, no carrying allowed.  And yes, as it typical with me, I had to walk through it about 4 times to get it to not go off.  Maybe it’s the super-wire in my bra!  HA HA!

It was cool to check it out, and now Gabe is saying we should try to see em all!  I didn’t have the heart to tell him we might have to go through Canada to get to Alaska!  HAHA!

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California Campsites

BANNING KOA

We stayed here two nights.  It was about 30 minutes to Yucca Valley, where we had family, and about 2 hours the back way to Big bear Lake.  It was ok, but there were definitely a lot of long term guests there.  The best thing was the park area since it was directly across from us and we didn’t have to worry about the kids going by themselves.  The reason we stayed here was because we were afraid to try to get up to Big Bear Lake in our big rig (still being newbies), and most of the other campsites in the area cater to 55+ only.  So not a whole lot of options in the Palm Springs area.  I don’t really recommend this place.  Not because it’s horrible, but it’s not worth the cost.  Fees in the $40’s.

 

KOA SANTA PAULA

 

We  were here a month.  It’s located about 15 minutes from Ventura, 30 to Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Camarillo, and Santa Clarita.  45 to Thousand Oaks and Sylmar.  This park was just bought by KOA in March.  There was a lot of construction going on.  We were in the first spot when you come in, which is a large pull through.  There are four sections of the park for RVs.  Each holds about 15-20 RVs.  The last one, which is right before theRV storage yard, is usually used for long term stays.  We were told when we first got there that they don’t usually put long term guests, let alone ones with children in the first area.  I don’t know why they let us in the end, we weren’t pushing it at all.  But apparently, the first section is typically not even used for children at all.  I don’t know.  The two middle sections seemed to be used for weekend guests.  There are also teepees set up with cots inside to rent, a few cabins, and a park like area that will be used for tents only (it was closed when we were there).

There is a small laundry room which is right across from the first spot….which made laundry SOOOO much easier.  They are showers, but they were being redone at the time.  There is a horseshoe area across from the two middle sections, and a park at the bottom of the hill.  THe park had a few play type things, a sandbox (which I found glass in and apparently the previous owners had just gotten sand wherever and didn’t care if it was used as a litterbox or not……hopefully this will be changed), a jumping pillow and rock climbing wall.  THe last two were only open on Saturdays, and cost $5 to use per day per person.  The jumping pillow was sorta like a bounce house without the house part, it was just this HUGE thick plastic sheet that was buried around the edges, and there was a compressor that led to it to inflate underneath the plastic.  Pretty cool.  Unfortunately, the whole month there, we only used it twice.  Cool idea, but not much use as there must be a worker there at all times for it and the rock wall.

Other than the construction, this park was wonderful for us.  The owner and staff were amazing to us and my kids, and the people who we met were fantastic as well.  The views was gorgeous, looking out over farm land in the valley.  The site was gravel and very wide.  The only issue being that it is on a hill and so our steps were very high, which caused problems with my husband’s grandmother, and I’d assume would cause problems with other older people.  So if you’re retired and stopping there, make sure you look at the site because some are flatter than others.  The landscaping was beautiful, and lush.  Personally, I fully enjoyed looking out the window at the hummingbirds, and going on walks and looking at all the different plants they’ve put in.  I’m sort of a sucker for plants, so it was great for me.  I’m sure the kids got tired of my constant “look at that succulent” comments.  HA HA.

We would definitely stay here again and I’m looking forward to seeing the progress the next time we’re in town.

 

Exploratorium in San Francisco

We went to the Exploratorium in San Francisco.  The only thing I would’ve changed were my plans.  In the end, we only spent about 3 hours there.  We hit Alcatraz in the morning, the Aquarium on Pier39 midday, and then the Exploratorium.  There was SOOOO much to see and do we could probably go there once a week and never get bored.  Everything from perpetual motion to visual eye tricks, they explain the mysteries of science and how things work.

In my opinion, the best thing that I saw there were the chicken eggs.  They had 4 “test tube” chicken eggs, fertilized at 1, 2, 3-4, and 5-7 days gestation.  They were place in a saucer under heat lamps and there was a miscroscope over them so you could see better.  Day  looked like an egg.  Day 2, you could start seeing the blood vessel (little red lines).  Day 3-4 you couuld see the heartbeat, with you’re naked eye!  Day 5-7 with your naked eye, you could clearly see the fetus, as well as a fully functioning heart (the difference being day 3-4 you could see something moving rythmically, day 5-7 you could make out the different parts actually pumping).  It was really amazing to see life at such an early stage!

Not too many pics compared to how many I would’ve like to take because so much of it is hands on movement/experience.  It’s really something you have to go and DO.

Alcatraz

We went to Alcatraz while we were in San Francisco, Ca.  You can see the ruins of the Warden’s home, the other old buildings with moss growing on the roofs, the lookout tower, the showers, the galley, and a few cells.  There are also a few pics of the spacer used in an escape attempt.  The Audio tour was really good and kep the interest of my youngest two (aged 5 and 7) for three quarters of the way through.  The last few minutes were a bit annoying because of their desire to no long be listening, but it was still really good stuff!  The boys (aged 9 and 10) got a huge kick out of it and learned a lot (they’ll listen to anyone but me!).  ON a side not, here’s a fun fact.  The island Alcatraz sits on was literally a ROCK!  When people first set their sights on it, there was no dirt and no plant life.  It was a huge rock of an island.  Talk about heavy duty prison reinforcements!

California Restaurant Reviews

COPE’S KNOTTY PINE CAFE

1530 Norris Rd, Bakersfield, CA

Average of $8/person after tax and tip.

Very good homestyle breakfast.  huge portions.  Relaxed/cowboy style decor.  Very friendly staff who went above and beyong to make sure our needs were met, which for a family of 6 can be a lot.

CAFE PESCATORE

2455 Mason St., San Francisco, Ca (Fisherman’s Wharf area)

Average of $17/person after tax and tip.

I had the Caesar Salad which came with slices of sardines and parmesan on top.  very strong tasting, which I loved, but beware if you don’t care for the strong taste (which Gabe doesn’t).  Had the Robusta Pizza which was good, but not anything hugely special.  This restaurant was located below our hotel and after getting lost in San Francisco trying to find the hotel (yes, GPS again), it  was convenient.  The staff was very helpful, although if we’d come in the middle of the rush instead of 8:30 at night, we’d probably had gotten less attention.  The table looked nice, but on closer look, the table cloth was covered with paper.  For us, this was a huge perk in that the whole family got to color while waiting for food.  Some “kids menus” aren’t that interesting to the kids, but I have to admit, even I had fun coloring the table.

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MANDARIN BUFFET

55 Rolling Oaks Dr., Thousand Oaks, Ca

Average $12 after tax and tip.

We were out Christmas shopping, in the rain, and desperately needed to eat something.  I used my GPS’s option to find food and this was close by and a buffet, which the kids love.  So we stopped by for lunch (after driving around for a minute because the GPS said it was down the other way).  After tasting many different buffets, both American and Chinese, I generally feel that the food is average-subpar.  But the price and excitement from the kids makes up for this.  The Mandarin Buffet has excellent food!  We all loved everything we ate!  It was clean, the staff was friendly, all in all, I would definitely go back.  It’s right off the 101, and since it’s located in a business park, during non-business hours, there’s lots of parking if you’re in your rig.

WOOD RANCH BBQ

Several locations through the Ventura county area, including Ventura, Camarillo, and Moorpark.

This is a local chain.  Because we’re Texans, we love BBQ!  🙂  In Texas, there’s just about every type of BBQ, and most places pride themselves on homemade sauces and rubs.  However, this is the ONE place we love that isn’t in Texas.  So, if anyone with any clout is reading this…..Texas would LOVE your restaurant! 🙂

Average is about $15/person after tax and tip.  I’m sure you could go cheaper, but the steaks are really worth the price.  The rolls are amazing and we usually dip them in the BBQ sauce on the table (which might sound gross, but go and try it!).  The tri tip is typically what we get and is really yummy, along with the sweet smashed potatoes, which are the best I’ve ever tasted and have tried several times to make them myself and have always missed the mark.  All of our food is, of course, covered in their BBQ sauce.  I recommend buying it and keeping some at home.  The times we’ve flown out to California to visit family, we typically buy the big family pack meal and bring it home in an ice chest (gotta love the confused looks I get while it gets scanned in the machine to make sure it’s not a bomb…..and then questions like “aren’t you going to texas?  Isn’t Texas sorta known for it’s BBQ?  Why are you shipping it?”).  We love, love, love Wood Ranch and we stop by at least once everytime we’re in the area.

LOUIE’S CHINESE RESTAURANT

3538 Manthey Rd, Stockton, CA

Average $8/person after tax and tip.

We got the family style meal for three, and it would’ve fed 6-7.  It was just me and the kids and there were enough left over for one or two more adults.  The food was probably about 3 out of 5 stars, but the service was good and we got our food very quickly.  It isn’t right off the freeway, but also not too hard to get too.  We ate here because of the reviews on Yelp that said it was decent food served very fast.  We were on the road and didn’t have a lot of extra time, but fast food isn’t too palatable to me.

CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES CAFE

Average of $10/person after tax.

Got sandwiches and pizzas.  3 out of 5 stars for the food.  It was better than I thought it would be, and also cheaper than I thought it would be.  The workers working the cafe were very helpful, and I saw several parents being helped to their tables, including me.  I cannot say enough about how helpful this simple act is.  Our children are a bit older and can technically hold their trays.  But in our experience, 1 out of 4 trays ends up being dropped.  And when you’ve already paid for the food and are starving….well, it’s neough to send a mother into tears.  I know that I don’t have to clean it up, but it’s a huge pain in the butt! (To hear more, see Golden Corral in Texas.)  But as soon as I had the two trays and was about to pick them up and take them to check out, there was another lady there grabbing one.  While checking out, she grabbed straws and napkins for us all, and then helped the children look for a place to sit for all of us.  I thought “WOW, how nice!”.  But while sitting and people watching, I noticed this is just what they do.  How nice to see so many young mothers feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of feeding their brood in a crowded cafeteria, pushing a stroller, holding another child’s hand, trying to balance the tray on the stroller’s canopy, just to be helped by some angel of a worker when she needed it most!

BEACH STREET GRILL

380 Beach st., San Francisco, Ca (Fisherman’s Wharf)

Average of $15/person after tax and tip for breakfast.

We were greeted warmly by what could only be described as an Italian Patriarch.  he stopped by the table several times, seemingly delighted with my childre.  Our waiter was also very friendly, talking about how he and his wife were wanting to start a family of their own, and wanting to have 5 children.  of course, this seems a bit much to me in a city like San Francisco where everyone lives in a 5 story walk up with all of 800 sq. ft (this is probably not true, but it seemed as such), not to mention the driving conditions are not great for larger cars!  But, his joy was infectious and I left feeling more blessed about my children than I did walking in that morning!

The decor was red and white potter style dishes, including a nice creamer cup in white.  I don’t know if this was primarily just for the Christmas season, as they were also very decorated for that, or if this is their typical decor, but I personally loved it and felt as if I was just visiting some friends for breakfast.  I had the Crab Eggs benedict.  Very yummy and rich….I could only finish about half!

TRISH’S MINI DONUTS

Located on Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf

We got two 24-count baskets of mini donuts and between the 5 of us didn’t finish them all.  More filling than you’d think.  Very good and well priced!  About $5/person for a meal, or less for just a snack.

Jelly Belly Factory Tour

This place does have a cafeteria/food court style eating area, which we didn’t use because it was late afternoon.  We did the tour which last about 45 minutes and was prety fun.  From the vantage point above the factory floor, it seems like you’re looking down on a sea of Jelly Bellys!  My son volunteered for a fun test during the tour.  They told him he had carmel corn, and when he ate it and said “Disgusting!”, the tour guide said “actually, what you just ate is Moudly Cheese.  It looks like Carmel Corn, so be careful if someone ever offers you Carmel Corn.”  She went on to list the other looks alikes (licorice and skunk spray, for example).  He was a bit upset and I just shrugged my shoulders and said “well….don’t volunteer next time.”  lol  I bought 5 bags of Belly Flops which are the ones that don’t come out perfect.  They cost $6/each and weigh 2 pounds.  Well worth the money!  We love Jelly Belly but it’s so expensive it’s really a luxury.  I’m hoping these bags will last awhile, although I’ve already begun to notice just how addictive they can be!

While we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the factory, we took a few outside.  Those pictures down of John Wayne and others are made from jelly beans!  Pretty impressive!

California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco

We hit this wonderful place on the way home from San Francisco.  Wednesdays are free, so if you get the Go Card, be aware of that. If I would’ve known that, I wouldn’t have gotten the Go Card because we ended up spending about $20 more because this place was free.  lol  Anyways, it was set up with different “eco-system” areas.  There was a tidal pool area (which we never got to), a four story rainforest, an aquarium (which was way better than Pier 39 one….one more reason to skip the Go Card if these are the places you’ll be going), a snow area, and a living history museum of Africa.  In the later, we got to see the penguins get fed and learn about them…lots of fun!  Only thing is, you have to sit down so everyone can see, and Tristan was on my lap for about 30 minutes.  By the time I went to get up, one entire leg from toe to hip was completely numb and I couldn’t walk!

First couple pics are of the kids in the snow area playing with the blown in snow, and then of the penguins.  Next comes the rainforest.  Inside, I heard lots of people saying things like “it’s so hot in here!”  and “it’s so humid!”.  The kids had spent the last few days complaining about how cold California was! HA HA!  I thought the rainforest felt like a May day in Houston.  It was wonderful!  In fact, there was a particular spider, the Orb spider, that was in the Madagascar level that I’ve seen at our house and have in fact killed a few myself.  Madagascar my butt!

The rainforest had a water feature in the center and the levels gradually went around it and up.  There were butterflies flying around, which was lots of fun.  The aquarium is under the rainforest and if you look carefully at the pics looking down, you can people under the fish.  And if you look at the aquarium photos, you can see the rainforest above it.  Cool set up.  In the rainforest, the snakes were all lively, and the lizards and frogs were such gorgeous colors the camera doesn’t do it justice.

In the aquarium, there were two specimens that were knew to me.  One are the sand eels.  They were about the size of a night crawler, and they bury themselves in the sand, popping out their heads to look for food  that happens by when it’s safe.  The other were the upside down jellyfish.  These are typically found the in mangrove swamps in Florida.  They lay “upside down”.  Sometimes, a crab will pick up one and put it on his back as protection, as the jellyfish does sting.