Posted in family and home, Lifestyle, My Why, Travel Log

Going to the Snow

Going to the Snow

How our day trip to Donner Memorial Park reminded us to stay resiliant.

Miles, my 17 year old, pointed out to me that only in California do we say things such as, “going to the snow.” The snow is not so much a place as it is a weather condition, but despite that, in California we “go to the snow.” Growing up this phrase meant my family was going to pack up in our mini-van and drive up the mountain. Usually it was a couple of hours until we found a spot, conviently located close to the side of the road. Then we would hop out of the car to go sledding, make a snowman, and then go home. Say what you will about my home-state, the ability to drive equal distance to the snow or the beach will always be one of the main reasons I continue to reside here.

One such trip to the snow as a child occurred in the late-80’s, early 90’s, when my family spent the day at Donner Memorial State Park. Located off of Interstate 80, this park has a small museum and statue memorializing the fate of the Donner party, who got snowed in at this particular location while trying to migrate to the west. They got stuck, people died, and some of those people got eaten. 7th grade me, along with my 3 brothers, made LOTS of jokes while we were at the location. But the magnitude of this event has always stuck with me. Especially when you take into account the fact that the memorial statue is built to represent the height of the snow these pioneers were stuck in. It’s leaves you awestuck at the fierceness of nature and at the resiliance of humans when faced with a seamingly impossible task. 22 feet of snow stopped those pioneers in their tracks. And still, with the help of others, they made into the North Valley of California. Not how they had planned, but they persisted.

The Miller’s at Donner Memorial in 2021

The Nelson's at Donner Memorial in the late 80's early 90's

So, when my kids asked to go to the snow a couple of weeks ago, this was the obvious choice. It took us just a couple of hours to reach the park, which was teaming with people in the parking lot, but which was spacious enough to let us all comply with social distancing guidelines. The snow there on this day, wasn’t as tall as the statue, in fact it was only about a foot or two deep, but it was enough ot make some snowballs and have a couple failed attempts at snow angels. Most important, it got us out of the house for awhile. With all that 2020 had thrown at us, any excuse to get out into nature is a welcome excuse.

As soon as we got out of the car I was hit with the cold-clean fresh air; such a welcome change from the indoors. I was instantly relaxed. The kids too seemed to relax just by the mere fact that they were outside. We walked over to the monument and spent just about an hour in the snow. We tried our hardest to make snow-balls, snow-angels, snow-anything really. The absurdity of chunking out ice and then throwing rock hard bits at one another had us all laughing out loud.

Unfortunately, the snow was not fresh and there was far-less than 22 feet of it. We really didn’t mind the lack of resources. The important thing was we were outside and we were making do with the circumstances as they were dealt us. With everything my kids and husband have had to deal with over the last year, quaratine, staying at home, grief over the life we used to live, my kids rarely get the chance to just be kids anymore. And with Miles about to go on to college, he rarely lets himself act his age. For just a little bit, my kids and husband spent time just being themselves without a worry for all of those problems waiting for them once we returned.

Going home, we felt a bit lighter, refreshed by the outdoors, and grateful that we live in a place where such day-trips are possible. One thing is for certain, in 2021 I am grateful for the ability to “go to” just about anywhere. Getting there may not be what we planned, but we’ve made it ours just the same.

Looking for more informaiton on Donner Memorial Park? Here is the link to the website: Donner Memorial Park

Posted in family and home, Lifestyle, Motivation, Travel Log

Geneva: Who knew traveling and dining in the City could give us the best souvenir we could ever imagine?

Night or day, transportation and food in Geneva did not disappoint.
While it was easy, it was still COLD.
After all, we were in Geneva in the winter!

In preparing for my family’s trip to Geneva, one of the things I repeatedly came across was how expensive the city was. And really, the cost of food was a bit of a shock; however, it was worth it. Oh. So. Worth. It.

Perhaps to offset that, Geneva provides some of the most efficient and wide-spread public transportation I have ever experienced. Now don’t get me wrong, I live in a small town in Northern California where public transportation isn’t really a thing. But even with my relatively limited experiences with big-city transport (think San Francisco, Boston, Chicago), I was impressed.

As an added bonus, most hotels in Geneva, including ours, provided public transportation passes to their guests during the duration of your stay. This was especially important to us as we were technically staying outside of Geneva proper, in the smaller township of Meryn. Daily trips into the city only took us about 20 minutes, or perhaps a little longer if we were going outside the main area of the city.

The transportation system was entirely in French, however, the lines running in and out of the city on both the trams and buses were super easy to understand…and since I’m a bit of a Type A personality, Google Maps also kept us on track.

Once inside the main part of the City, the Jet D’Eau (or “Old Spouty”) really acted as a gauge for where we were. This fountain, located in Lake Leman, started out as a pressure release valve for the City’s water system. Now, it is a giant symbol of Geneva proper and can be seen throughout the entire city for the most part. We had fun trying to find it where ever we were and often used it to walk back to the tram station we used most often called “Bel Air.”

Jet D’Eau in the morning

One of our favorite thing to do as a family was to meet up with Jason after he was done with work to eat a meal at a cafe or restaurant. We would often pick a small eatery close to where-ever the kids and I had been that day and Jason would hop on the tram to meet us.

A word of caution, food is on a strict schedule in Geneva.

Fondue on our final night

Breakfast is typically open from 7am to about 9am

Lunch from 12pm to about 2:30pm

One of our favorite cafes had a
rabbit theme. How could you
resist taking photos?

Dinner starts at 6pm and goes until about 2am

These were not negotiable. So we learned rather quickly to time our meals to the schedule of the restaurants.

However, dining in Geneva was so much different than what my family typically experiences. Usually we eat a meal in 20 minutes to 45 minutes at a restaurant. In Geneva we were expected to be there at least an hour or two. I got the impression that we could have stayed for 3 hours and still have been fine. And we would always have to ask for the bill; once you were there to eat, you were there for the duration. My family really embraced this style of eating. In fact, now that we are home, the kids have asked for us to have a longer meal once a month so we can spend some time at the table “like Geneva” and just catch up with one another.

These two aspects of any city are essential to having a smooth and pleasant vacation and my family was more than pleasantly surprised by both. More importantly, these practical and necessary parts of our trip gave us one of the most valuable things we brought home. A genuine understanding of why slow family meals are important; a cultural insight that I am so glad we have brought home to our little family.

Posted in family and home, Lifestyle, Travel Log

Geneva: History Comes to Life with La Escalade

Here we are in front of Jet D’eau (or “Old Spouty” as we came to call him throughout the week). This truly is a symbol of Geneva. Throughout the week we used it to get our bearings and to remind us of what an amazing adventure we were on.

Sometimes an opportunity comes along you just cannot refuse. This happened to my family in December when my husband was asked to teach for a week in Geneva. We jumped on the opportunity to take the kids; even though this was definitely not a trip we had planned for at all. Geneva has never been on my radar as somewhere we would go independent of a larger trip to Switzerland. Finances were also a concern given the fact that we had done zero planning in advance for this trip-which was scheduled approximately 4 weeks before we left.

In fact, immediately I was faced with the choice: Do we do an in depth week in the city or do we tackle a more broader trip with the kids (and without my husband)? I knew nothing about Geneva, other than it housed the United Nations AND that it was the hub of Swiss banking. However, given time constraints and the fact that we did want to actually hang out with Jason after he was done teaching for the day, we opted to dig deep into the city of Geneva.

I am SO glad that we did!

First of all, every year Geneva celebrates in its Old Town the Fete De La Escalade, which commemorates the City’s victory over a Paris invasion in 1608. This festival just so happened to be the weekend we arrived. It involved patrols of the Old Town by soldiers in period clothing (a portion of Geneva that is filled with cobblestone and notably, St. Peter’s Cathedral), demonstrations of drums, sword fighting, mulled wine and sausages, a SECRET TUNNEL only opened one weekend a year, and ends with a giant bonfire at the base of St. Peters. Approximately 600 volunteers march through the city to ignite the fire and celebrate their continued independence.

Oh and let’s not forget the chocolate sculpted cauldrons with sculpted candy vegetables that you break open with a sword in celebration! We got in on the action ourselves by buying a small pot and breaking it open with Maizy’s Swiss Army Knife!

The City was full of Chocolate Shops selling these beauties! We opted to get our’s at the convenience store call Migros. It quickly became one of our favorite places to stop and get a snack.

I would say one of the highlights of the festival was the free access to the bell towers in St. Peter’s Cathedral. If you arrived after 2pm you were given access to all three. This involved what seemed like a never ending ascension into the towers by winding cobblestone and rock stairways. There were three separate towers: The original bell tower (which was complete with hand rung bells), the mechanical tower, and the watch tower.

We stopped for a photo during our never ending climb.

St. Peter’s Cathedral served as a lookout for invaders and was continuously manned until after the end of WW1. The bell in that tower was used to warn the city about fire and invasion up until that time.

What an experience we had being thrown into the heart of this truly Genevian celebration. Geneva is primarily a French speaking town; although we were able to communicate just fine with our limited French ability (think Google translate) because most people understood and spoke English as well. Regardless, our experience with the festival was truly magical. We felt like we got to see a glimpse into a side of the City not available any other time of the year.

Posted in family and home, HD Beauty, HD You, Lifestyle, Travel Log

Day Tripping: A Family Hike in Chico’s Seed Orchard

Who knew there was a Seed Orchard in Chico, California? Anyone? I certainly had no idea what a seed orchard was, much less that there was one in Chico, California. That is, until I scrolled across a video posted by @explorebuttecountyca this week:

As a lifelong Butte County resident I had never heard of this place. So, this Sunday, we took the opportunity to take the kids and explore this hidden gem. Turns out the Chico Seed Orchard is part of the Mendocino National Forest and is 209 acres designated to plant breeding, research and introduction for different plants all around the world. It is also a place to preserve two of our areas most common trees: Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs. There happen to be seed orchards all around the State! They have a secondary function of recreation-which was exactly why were were there.

First of all, this place is literally tucked away in South Chico behind an industrial area and between several homes. You park outside the chain link fence surrounding the area and walk in to the facility. They have a short hiking trial that meanders alongside Camache Creek. There are no shortage of picnic tables and benches to sit at, making for a great environment should you want to escape into the trees for a bit. The water was swift, cold and intense; probably because of the intense snow pack we have up in the Sierra’s right now.

The path is paved; however, the trees themselves are quite overgrown, making for a beautiful and peaceful walk. We encountered several groups while we were out there, mostly having a stroll and watching the water, just like us. While we encountered many different types of trees along the walk, it was difficult to ascertain their unique features because of the overgrowth. I found that aspect of the walk beautiful. Nature overtaking nature as if it were going to go back to its original form one way or another.

The kids’ favorite was the large bamboo growing right behind the Ranger’s station (which was a rather adorable main house and outbuilding). Of course we stopped and did our best tree poses in the bamboo, while Jason zenned out on a bench carved out of a log, while watching the water just roll on by.

Jason’s zen. The sounds of Camache Creek

It took us about an hour to walk the whole path and to check out some of the orchards that were clearly designated for tree production. We saw lizards, birds and squirrels everywhere and the place was so quiet. As we were leaving several groups had entered the park with food, clearly intending to spend a quiet Sunday with the trees.

More information on the Chico Seed Forest can be found HERE.

Posted in HD You, Lifestyle, Motivation, Self Care, Year of Self Love

Week 23: Change your space, change your perspective

In law school I would find myself spending an obnoxious amount of time, right around finals, cleaning my apartment. At the time I thought it was a classic avoidance technique…I will clean so I don’t need to focus on what really matters, my studies.

Today I think what was really going on was much different. You see, in law school, I would spend an entire semester cramming my head full of terminology, case law, statutes, common law and the like into my brain. My brain would be full by the end of the semester. No more penguins could fit on that iceberg come May.

In fact, towards the end of the semester I was known for forgetting the name to common household items (it was a spoon) AND for putting stamps on the wrong side of the envelope. Too many penguins on the iceberg resulted in good penguins jumping ship!

Anyway, what I really think was going on during these cleaning frenzies was that my mind needed a fresh perspective and by cleaning and reorganizing my living space, it was allowed to take a breather and have a fresh perspective, so that my brain could organize and focus.

That is what the year of self love challenge is focusing on this week. Take some time to rearrange your living space. It could be your bedroom, office or even the bathroom. Buy a new bedspread. Get out a different set of dishes.

What ever it is rearrange the living spaces in your life differently to allow that fresh perspective to sneak in. Your brain (and those penguins) will thank you for it.