Another Reason to LOVE California

there’s no hiding how much i love California. it has the mountains in the north…some even with snow, there’s the inland desert area with unique trees and cacti, beautiful sunny weather in SoCal, the most amazing coastline and the central valley filled with orchards and rolling hills. i believe that California is one of the most unique states in the U.S. it has unique landmarks, diverse geography and one-of-a-kind weather patterns….i love living here so much. which brings me to mention California’s produce. you might not realize this, but California grows most of the produce for the entire country. i recently had the opportunity to tour some of the California farms located in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys, and was once again blown away by the extraordinary abilities of our state.

with the beginning of the New Year, many of us have made resolutions to eat better and healthier. this probably includes eating more fruits and vegetables. did you know that California is the only state that can grow a lot of the produce we eat ALL year long?!!! it’s pretty amazing. California has pockets of land with unique climates that are perfect for growing produce for our country. California’s Imperial and Coachella Valley’s are so unique…they are one of two places on Earth that has a mediterranean climate. let me share a little bit about what i experienced in these special valleys.

Farm Tour of the Imperial and Coachella Valleys

to cut down on travel time, we took a small chartered plane from San Diego to the Imperial Valley.

the flight was short, only thirty minutes. if you aren’t familiar with where the Imperial Valley is located, it’s in southeastern Southern California, largely centered on the city of El Centro. it’s just north of the Mexican border, slightly southeast of Palm Springs, laying just south of the Salton Sea. as we flew into the valley, i was impressed to see the terrain change from brown desert sands to rows and rows of lush green farmland. what is this place i thought? how is it possible to grow such wonderful produce in the middle of the California desert.

the answer is – the Colorado River. the Imperial Valley is literally below sea level. the nearby Salton Sea was created by a flood of channeled water from the Colorado river into the Imperial Valley basin in the early 1900’s. the valley is bordered by sand dunes and mountains, and the Salton Sea lies within the borders. it is fed by irrigation drainage from farms served by the Colorado River – which is what makes it possible for farmers to grow produce in this desert oasis. i learned a lot of this information from Marion Champion, of the Imperial Irrigation District, and found it very interesting.

our first stop in El Centro was at Jack Brothers, one of the Imperial Valley farms. it was very interesting to talk to the farmers and learn how they farm in the Imperial Valley. the crops looked fantastic, and we were able to first hand how crops were harvested. every farmer has their specialty in produce the like to grow, some grow organic, some share fields, and they all work together as a big community.

we learned how they farmed using irrigation from the Colorado River. aqueduct channels help bring water from the river to the fields. the farmers have gotten really good at saving and recycling water from their fields. there is good and bad in this. good because they are saving water…but it’s a double edge sword, since there is very little water run off into the Salton Sea. now levels in the Salton Sea are dropping. so they are currently trying to figure out how to prevent this from happening. hopefully the politicians and land councils can figure out a way to keep the water coming to the Imperial Valley and also conserve water in the Salton Sea. this is really important.

many of the farms are family owned and passed down from generation to generation. this was the case for the next farm we visited, Lawrence Cox Ranches.

they grow a lot of the produce that we find in our grocery stores and restaurants. one of my favorites was the broccoli. it was so fresh and yummy eating it right out of the field.

we also got to see harvesting in progress. check it out….these workers are harvesting lettuce that will be distributed at Wendy’s around the country.

next, it was time to head north about 60 miles to the Coachella Valley to visit a couple more farms. an hour later, we arrived at Hadley corporate Headquarters, where we met with Albert Keck. Hadley’s grows some of the best dates. i remember visiting Hadley’s when i was little…we always got to get date shakes, dried fruits and nuts.

it was harvesting week at Hadley’s, so we got to see them packaging the dates for shipment, and talked about how they are grown, harvested and about the workers who make it all happen. it was great to learn that these workers love working at Hadley so much that they stay there many many years. the work is hard, but the pay is much higher than the norm.

the best part of the tour…we got to try some dates. yum yum! it was really awesome to learn about the date trees and how they only will survive and produce in a climate such as Coachella Valley’s. next time you are in Palm Springs, stop by and have a date shake.

our final stop was at Desert Mist Farms. we met with Jeff Percy while we enjoyed the view. rows and rows of produce. artichokes, peppers, blueberries, brussels sprouts and more.

i learned that in order to pick a good artichoke, you want it to be more tall than wide. the bigger the petals and the less there are from top to bottom, the more meat you get it. the petals should also be tight together, that means it was freshly picked. if you squeeze it, you may hear a squeaky sound. the best way to eat them is to cut off the top inch of the petals and to steam them for 20 minutes. now all i want to do is make some artichokes!

farmers are very proud of their produce….and they should be.

Desert Mist Farms is part of Ocean Mist Farms’. you probably have come accross their produce in your local grocery store. be sure to try out their Season & Steam line of fresh vegetables if you see them. they make meal preparation easy peasy. and if you would like to read a little more about Ocean Mist Farms’ Natural Resource & Sustainability initiatives, head over to their website.

what an awesome experience to get to go on this special Farm Water Tour. it really is amazing what these farmers do and how they are able to farm in California. we really live in a magical place…i’m so glad to call California home.

Wanna learn more about California farming? Chelsea from Someday I’ll Learn was on the tour with me and wrote a great post about here experience. check it out – 7 Things I’ve Learned from Farmers

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Our Visit to SeaWorld in San Diego and Giveaway

a few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to take the kids to their first visit ever to SeaWorld in San Diego. we were invited to check out the park, the new improvements, shows and rides, plus take a tour of the SeaWorld Animal Care center. my boys were so excited because they love animals so much…and being up close to animals not only is amazing, but inspiring. these kind of experiences are what make people want to help the animals…and that is exactly why my kids love them so much. (make sure to read to the bottom for a great giveaway!!!!)

we started the day at the touch tank in the front of the park. there you can experience hands-on with the sea life. there are tiny fish that will suck on your hands and sand sharks. plus we got to see shark eggs with baby shark growing inside.

next up we met some land animals that were rescued by SeaWorld. a penguin and a screech owl. we were not allowed to touch the screech owl, but she was sure cute.

after learning about the land animals, we headed over to Dolphin Days, the dolphin show at SeaWorld. it wasn’t so much a show, but a learning experience about dolphins. we got to see different varieties of dolphins and pilot whales, and also learned how the animals are trained and cared for. did you know that the animals are only taught with positive reinforcement. there is no punishing them for not doing what the trainers want. everything the dolphins do is because they want to…and they looked so happy!

after the show, we got a special experience. we got to meet one of the dolphins…and wow, he was such a character. he let us feed him, take a picture with him….

and then he gave the kids a surprise LOL. SOAKED!!!!!!

when it came to eating and meals at SeaWorld, there are a lot of dining options including Dine with Shamu. our family got the All-Day Dining Pass which was perfect. you can get an entreé, a side dish and a non-alcoholic drink as often as every hour if you want. it’s a great price too. the kids were excited to get treats like these Shamu cookies!

one of the kids favorite parts of the day was visiting the SeaWorld Animal Care Center. they got to learn about the amazing things the SeaWorld team does to help animal around the world.

the goal of the SeaWorld rescue program is and has always been to medically rehabilitate and return all animals back to their home in the wild. on average, SeaWorld San Diego comes to the aid of over 300 to 400 marine animals every year – including sea lions, seals, dolphins, whales, sea turtles and sea birds.

we learned how it is important to keep garbage and plastic out of the oceans, and to make sure it is properly disposed of. when sea life ingests it, they can become sick. we also met one of the dolphins who was being rehabilitated.

SeaWorld San Diego has rescued more than 17,000 animals over the history of the park, and all the SeaWorld parks have rescued more than 30,000 animals in the last 50 years. the SeaWorld rescue program is a primary example of the passion SeaWorld has for the lives of all animals, and it was such a treat for the boys to ask the SeaWorld staff  questions about the animals.

you can’t go to SeaWorld without seeing the SeaWorld Orca Encounter. it takes place in a ginormous amphitheater where you learn about the Orcas, their history and behaviors. it’s not a show, more like an informative discussion. Orcas are so beautiful.

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Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in San Francisco Chinatown

last summer we took a road trip up the coast of California and stopped in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities in California. there are so many things to enjoy in San Francisco, from the Wharf, to the museums, to the food, to the architecture. there are also many streets or sections of San Fran that are influenced by different cultures – each one lined with stores, restaurants and architecture reflecting it. Chinatown happens to be one of our family’s favorite areas to explore. it is the largest China Town outside of Asia, and there are lots of unique things to see that are different from what we experience at home in our daily lives. we love all of China Town, but the boys most favorite part is visiting the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory – which you can probably guess…is a real life fortune cookie factory.

before i show you photos of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, i wasted to share some of the other photos i took on our way to it. as you most likely know, most travel around San Francisco is done by walking or public transportation. i really love this way of traveling around this city. that way you can take everything in and enjoy its unique charm. we took the trolley to the main entrance of China Town – which is known as Dragon’s Gate because there are two dragon statues. it is located on Bush Street. you can easily take a bus or trolley there…it’s very well known.
once you are at Dragon’s Gate, you can walk north towards the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory which is a few blocks up. the street is strewn with red and gold lanterns and building decorated in gold and dragons.

we let the boys stop in some of the stores and buy a few souvenir. these kitty chopsticks were one of their favorite purchases.

there are also some beautiful colorful murals painted on buildings along the way. there is also lots of yummy Chinese food. you can find both nice sit down restaurants, and also takeout. since we were on the go, we opted for a quick and easy stop. the boys got all their favorites…of course, noodles too.

and we had to stop at the Golden Gate Bakery for a sweet treat.

the last stop and final destination in Chinatown was the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. it is located in Ross Alley. don’t be shocked if this area looks a bit run down and run down. it’s old…and it’s an alley, but you are in the right place. there will probably even be long lines of people waiting to enter the old original store. it’s been around since 1962. if you look closely, you will see popsicle dad waiting in line!

once you get inside the entrance, you will see fortune cookies being made right in front of you. the sweet smell of baking fortune cookies is incredible. and they give you lots of samples to taste.

you get to see the entire process, from batter to fortune to folded cookie. first, the thin circular cookie is pulled off a hot press. next, a fortune is placed on one side of the hot, flat dough. 

finally, each soft, hot cookie is shaped over a steel rod into the shape of a fortune cookie. all of this has to be done very quickly, otherwise the cookie will harden before it is created into a  fortune cookie shape.

another cool thing – you can have you own fortune cookies made with your own special message put inside.we let each boy make some to give to relatives and for themselves. they thought this was so awesome.

and here is the final product! warm, delicious and ready to enjoy.

it was such a fun experience for the boys…and us adults to see the entire process of making a fortune cookie. they also learned a lot because we ask the store owners to tell us a lot of the history behind the store. it was very interesting.  the eating part was pretty great too!


here is a short video of our time at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

Popsicle Blog Road Trip: Lava Hot Springs

Lava Hot Spring Water Parkwhen we went on our famous road trip a couple of years ago, one of the places that we hadn’t expected to enjoy as much as we did was Lava Hot Springs. it’s a little town in southern Idaho about an hour north of the Utah/Idaho border. we only allotted for an overnight stay, but we wished that we had booked two nights. it’s a charming little city that is popular with tourists and locals, with lots of things to do including river rafting, tubing, swimming, hot pools, the sunken garden, shopping, dining and hiking. it’s known for its world famous hot pools, that are filled with natural geothermic spring water. the hot springs also heat the amazing Olympic Swimming Complex. this is the entrance to the city, it’s got to be the coolest entrance to a city that i’ve seen. just look at those waterslides!
Fun Places to Visit in Idahosince we were traveling with a travel trailer in tow, we chose to stay at the Lava Hot Springs KOA. you don’t have to have a trailer or RV to stay there though, they also have cabins and tent camping options available. the Lava Hot Spring KOA was pretty amazing. this is the first time we’ve gotten to camp on the banks of a river with our trailer. it was so beautiful and peaceful to sit outside our trailer and watch the river run by and also the beautiful nature landscapes.

Lava Hot Springs Idaho KOANatural Hot Springs Rafting RiverIdaho KOA Campgroundsthe Lava Hot Springs KOA has been one of our favorite KOA’s yet. mostly because we felt that we were at one with nature, and the Portneuf river was so beautiful. there were fire pits to cook on, and trails to explore. the KOA owners were so sweet and friendly and were  happy to show us the best places to buy things and explore. Travel in IdahoCamping in Idahoi think it would be so fun to stay at one of the cabins if we didn’t have a travel trailer. but i am not really a tent camper…but there was a nice area for tent camping.

Idaho KOA cabinsBest Idaho CampgroundsKOA Campgrounds in Lava Hot SpringsNatural Hot Springs in the United StatesLava Hot Springs KOA campsites in Idahothe next day was all about exploring Lava Hot Springs. early that morning, we headed over to the Lava Hot Springs World Famous Hot Pools. we were told that the earlier you go the better. this is because the pools get hotter as the day goes on due to the sunshine. the water from the hot pools comes bubbling out of natural underground springs, the hot water is laden with minerals, but has no sulfur so it doesn’t stink like most hot spring. over 2.5 million gallons of hot water per day runs through the hot springs and are diverted into the Portneuf River keeping the springs ever changing and clean. the spring’s temperatures range from approximately 102˚ to 112˚ degrees, so the water is almost too hot for little kids. it was almost to hot for the hubby and me, but we still had a great time checking them out. since the hot springs are open all year long, they told us that it is really fun to come when snow is on the ground. like a hot tub in winter.
Lava Hot Springs IdahoBest Places to Visit in Idahothere were 4 large hot pools that included a newer cool pool with a temperature of 102º. this is the pool the boys spent the most time in. it was a fun learning experience teaching the boys how that water was warmed naturally underground.Lava Hot Springs in IdahoLava Hot Springs Hot PoolsPlaying in the Hot PoolsNatural Hot Springs Public Pools Natural Hot SpringsLava Hot Springs Baths in IdahoHot Pools in Idahoafter checking out the hot pools, we headed over to the Olympic Swimming Complex. the Olympic Swimming Complex is the only facility of its kind in the Intermountain West. all the water is heated!!!!  have you ever been on a waterslide that has heated water?!!!  the  Olympic Swimming Complex has indoor and outdoor pools, diving boards and platforms, waterslides, a natural hot water spa, and the new Portneuf Kiddie Cove. the is something fun for kids of all ages.

Lava Hot Springs Swimming PoolsLava Hot Springs Olympic Swimming ComplexFun Places to Visit in Lava Hot Springsthe Olympic Swimming Complex’s free form Olympic-size pool holds nearly a million gallons of warm, crystal clear water. the outdoor shallow end offers toys for younger swimmers and little slides. it was a pretty popular place, there were lots of people at the complex, most had blankets, umbrellas and picnics set up on the lawn. i only wish they had something like this where i am in Orange County!Lava Hot Springs Olympic Swimming Complex in IdahoIdaho Olympic PoolFamily Travel in Idahothere are some exhilarating waterslides that are fun for the whole family, including small slides for the kiddies. the speed slides’ six-story body flumes send riders screaming into the refreshing runout below. but beware, the 60 foot drop is not for the faint of heart! two curly tube slides are great for children, splashing them around and leaving them laughing as they splash into the shallow runout at the bottom.

Idaho Heated Water SlidesIdaho Olympic Pools Water SlidesFun Waterslides in Idahothen there are the diving platforms. they don’t have these at waterparks in California! it’s a thrill for those brave enough to leap from its 5, 7, and 10 meter heights. four springboards flank the platform tower making this a diver’s paradise. no one in our family was brave enough to try any of the platforms out, but it was pretty amazing watching those who were, dive off of them. and in case you were wondering, you have to sign a waiver in order to be allowed to dive off them.
Lava Hot Springs Water SlidesIdaho Waterslidesthe Olympic Swimming Complex has two indoor areas to enjoy as well, a large lap pool, and the Portneuf Kiddie Cove. my boys enjoyed playing in the cove once they had gotten a little too much sun. there were fun thinks to play with such as water features, slides, fountains and smaller pools.Lava Hot Springs Olympic PoolIdaho Recreation SpotsIdaho Olypic Swimming Complex Children's PoolsIdaho Olympic Swimming Complex Children's Poolsanother thing we did was visit the Sunken Gardens. they were pretty and fun to explore. i did take some photos, but for some reason i can’t find them. however, one thing we didn’t get to do in Lava Hot Springs was go tubing on the river. all over town you can find rafting tubes for rent. you can take them into the slow moving Portneuf river rapid and ride them for about 5 blocks. there are designated entry points to enter and exit, and once you float down the entire way, you can do it again until you a tired. we would have loved to try this, but time was short and we thought Vann, our youngest was too young. but next time we are in the area, we are going for sure! Lava Hot Springs Inner TubingNatural Hot Springs RaftingNatural Hot Springs Rafting in the United StatesIdaho Hot Spring AttractionsLava Hot Springs Tourist AttractionsLava Hot Springs River Rafting

we had the best time in Lava Hot Springs and we were sad to say goodbye. but there was still a lot of traveling ahead and adventure to be had. so back on the road we went on our way to Yellowstone.

Lava Hot Springs City

check out some more of our Popsicle Adventures during our summer 2014 road trip through Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Yellowstone:

Where We Traveled
How We Traveled
Tahiti Village – Las Vegas
Denny’s and Fremont Street – Las Vegas
Cedar City KOA
Fort Zion – Utah
Zion National Park – Utah
Kanab – Utah
Historic Parry Lodge – Kanab, Utah
Coral Pink Sand Dunes – Kanab, Utah
The Real Up House – Herriman, Utah

Our Family’s Visit to the Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California

Family Guide to Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove

from the moment i found out about the Great Wolf Lodge, i knew that i wanted to take my family on a vacation there. it was about four years ago when i read a post on another blog about the Great Wolf Lodge in Texas. it looked AMAZING…like a rustic lodge with amazing experiences for kids and a giant indoor water park. at that time, there were only seven Great Wolf Lodges in the United States, but the ones in Texas and  Seattle were the closest to us here in California. unfortunately, our family was never able to travel anywhere close to any Great Wolf Lodges. so imagine my excitement to find out that one would be opening in Southern California!!!!! Garden Grove in Orange County to be exact.

we anxiously watched the construction and even went on a hard hat tour while the work was in progress. atlas, it was finished and recently just opened this past February. my family finally got to take that vacation, or should i say “staycation”, to the Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California last month!

we had an absolutely fabulous time. all of us….parents and kids. it was more than i had thought it would be. and so that you can see what to expect when you stay at the Great Wolf Lodge Southern California…i’m going to share some….okay A LOT of photos from our visit.  click here for discounts and deals to stay at Great Wolf Lodge Southern California.

Great Wolf Lodge Southern California review

the Great Wolf Lodge is unlike any other hotel or resort in Southern California. its 100% geared towards families – everything you need is right there in the resort, from food, to entertainment to the hotel rooms. you can eat, sleep and play and not have to worry about leaving the resort until your stay is over. kids are allowed to do what they do best, just be kids. it’s okay to be loud, run and have FUN. and be prepared for lots of it.

when we walked in the lobby, we were greeted into a grand lodge…with vaulting ceilings, a gigantic stone fireplace that is used as a gathering place for bedtime story time and dance parties, and wilderness murals flanking the walls.

The Entrance to the Great Wolf LodgeGreat Wolf Lodge StaircaseGreat Wolf Lodge Staircase DetailGreat Wolf Lodge BenchGreat Wolf Lodge Fire PlaceGreat Wolf Lodge ChandalierGreat Wolf Lodge Lobby

i immediately felt my kids excitement as we entered. they wanted to start exploring right away! so we quickly checked in and headed up to our room to put away our luggage. everyone who is staying in the room is given a wristband that acts as your room key. it allows you access to the water park, and the coolest thing is not ever having to worry about losing a room key. this saved me so much time…you don’t even know!

the rooms are fun…decorated in rustic cabin style. there are many types to choose – from standard to deluxe. we happened to stay in a “Kid Cabin” which has a separate area for the kids with themed wallpaper and creatures on the wall that have special effects when you wave a MagiQuest wand at them.
Great Wolf Lodge Towel WolfPlaying in the Kids CabinGreat Wolf Lodge Bunk BedsKid Cabin at the Great Wolf Lodge

the rooms were cool…but not where we wanted to spend the day, as there were so many more things to explore at the GWL. we changed into our swim suits and headed out…..straight to the water park! because that’s the main reason why you stay at GWL. when you enter the water park, the kids get measured and given a color coded band that lets you and the lifeguards know which rides you are safe to ride on. you can also get pool towels.

Height Check for Slides at the Great Wolf LodgeTowels at the Great Wolf Lodge

check it out! how fun is this water park. there are slides for every age, Fort Mackenzie with lots of water features and a giant bucket that pours water every few minutes, a full-sized wave pool, places to splash, swim and climb…and sooooooo much more!!!! the water is heated to 84º and the air is also a nice 84º. you don’t ever have to worry about rain, or putting on sunscreen.

Lily Pad JumpingFort MackenzieKid Waterslide at the Great Wolf LodgeWave Pool at the Great Wolf LodgeSouthern California Water ParkSlide Tubes at the Great Wolf LodgeRainbow Slides at the Great Wolf LodgeSwimming in the wave poolLazy River at the Great Wolf LodgeWater Snake at the Great Wolf LodgeFamily Raft at the Great Wolf Lodge Southern CaliforniaRaft Slides at the Great Wolf LodgeFun Water Parks in Southern California

my boys’ favorite ride was the FlowRider. a wave simulator that you can surf on. and no, there is no extra cost to ride it.

Wave Machine at the Great Wolf Lodge

my hubby loved the Wolf Tail slide that basically drops the floor out from under you in a 20 foot drop into a water slide. yikes…i didn’t try it, but he sure loved it.

Expert Waterslides at Great Wolf Lodge

Vann and i spent a good part of the time in the kiddie area which had slides, pools and fun toys to play with that were just his size.  you didn’t have to worry about the big kids being too rough in this area.

baby water park area at Great Wolf Lodgebaby Slides at the Great Wolf LodgeSplashing at the Great Wolf LodgePool Decorations at the Great Wolf LodgeKiddie area at the Great Wolf Lodge

finally, not all of the water park is indoors. if you need some fresh air, head outside and enjoy the outdoor splash pool.

Outdoor Water Park area at the Great Wolf Lodge

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