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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Happy Birthday Disneyland! 60th Anniversary

Walt Disney's Disneyland Diamond Celebrationtoday is marks the 60th anniversary of Disneyland! sixty years ago on July 15, 1955, Walt Disney opened the worlds most beloved theme park–which has created magical memories for people all over the world who have visited the resort. Disneyland is celebrating their 60 year anniversary with the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration. we visited the p;ark a few weeks ago too check it all out.

Disneyland 60th Celebrationas you can see, the diamond is the official icon of the Diamond Celebration–where the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park and Carthay Circle Theatre at Disney California Adventure Park have been magically transformed with glistening, gleaming, Diamond Celebration enhancements. Main Street, U.S.A. is also decked out for the occasion with shimmering banners and glittering decorations.

Disneyland 60th Diamond Celebration DecorationsDisneyland 60th Anniversary Main Street one of my favorite parts of the celebration is Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. i love how it has been decked out in diamonds, especially the sparkling turrets and royal blue banners and flags.Disneyland 60th Diamond CelebrationDisneyland 60th Celebration Sleeping Beauty Castle

and here is the back of the castle. Disneyland 60th Diamond Celebration Sleeping Beauty Castle BackDisneyland 60th Birthday

to commemorate 60 years of Disney magic, Disneyland Resort has created some special dazzling entertainment and sparkling surprises, including 3 new nighttime spectaculars–the Disneyland Forever firework show, the Paint the Night parade, and World of Color – Celebrate!

we really loved the Paint the Night parade! check out some of the photos we took.

Disney Paint the Night Parade Disney Paint the Night Electric ParadeDisney Paint the Night Parade King Triton Disney Paint the Night Parade Frozen Disneyland Paint the Night Parade SlinkyDisneyland Paint the Night Paradeand there are more ways to celebrate the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration. you can go to the Mad T Party Diamond Celebration, enter the Diamond Days Sweepstakes with a chance to win magical prizes including real diamonds, and purchase commemorative Diamond Celebration merchandise. (phot0 credit Disneyland Resort)

Disneyland 60th Anniversary Merchandise

don’t forget to get a sparkly treat! taste special cocktails, cupcakes, desserts, popcorn buckets and other diamond treats that are 60 years in the baking.  (photo credit: Living Mi Vida Loca)
Disneyland 60th Diamond Celebration Cupcake

it all started with a dream and a mouse, now Disneyland has become a place where children and adults alike come for magical memories and dreams. i know i will be bringing my boys for years to come.Disneyland Fantasmic Steamboat Willie

Happy 60th Birthday Disneyland!!!!

Disneyland 60th Diamond Celebration Ticket Booth

Family Travel: Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel

Point-Lobos-Reserve-Northern-California-Family-Traveli just recently wrote about our stay at the Hofsas House in Carmel, CA, and how much we enjoyed it. the stay was wonderful, partly because the landscape of Carmel is so breathtaking. the rocky ocean views are a little different the the ocean views you see here in Southern California. and it was such a treat to experience another set of ocean views in Carmel and Monterey.

of the three days we were in Carmel, we spent the good part of one of the days at the Point Lobos Reserve. it opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes 1/2 hour after sunset each day, and we arrived at the reserve mid morning. a single day-use parking pass runs $10.00.Point Lobos State Park Beachwhen you arrive, you can visit the information center and have one of the rangers steer you towards the trails you are most interested in walking and exploring. there are a lot of different areas that offer scenic views and interesting landscapes for you to enjoy. you could spend an entire day…maybe even two enjoying all that Point Lobos Reserve has to offer. they also offer guided tours and nature walks.Point Lobos State Park Informationthe first area that we explored was the Sand Hill Trail and Sea Lion Point. the trails are nicely manicured and it is a very easy hike (more like a walk) for this area. there are even handicap accessible areas along these trails.
Outdoor foundation spfwe were able to hike around, climb some of the rocky areas and look out at the different scenic landmarks. at Sea Lion Point you can look out and see hundreds of sea lions sun bathing on the little islands off the point. i suggest bringing binoculars with you so you can look out and see different wildlife such as the sea lions, birds and even whales.Point Lobos State Park MontereyPoint Lobos State ParkPoint Lobos State Park HikeCarmel-By-The-Sea-Point-Lobos-sea-lion-pointpoint loboswhile we visiting, one of the rangers had set up a few tables with informational books, different kinds of animal pelts, bones and footprint castings of the local wildlife. the boys enjoyed learning about the animals that lived around Point Lobos Reserve. the rangers are very helpful with any questions you have about the reserve. he recommended we head over to Bird Island, hike the trails around the that area and visit Pelican Point, China Beach and Gibson Beach.
Carmel Point Lobos Animalsit was lunchtime so before we headed over to Bird Island, we hiked over to one of the picnic areas and to have a picnic lunch. no we didn’t eat mushrooms, but we discovered these and many other cool nature finds alone our walk to the picnic area.

Point Lobos State Park Northern California Family Travelfor lunch, we had picked up some deli sandwiches, fruit salad, pasta salad, quiche and treats from the 5th Street Deli in Carmel. there were lots of yummy and unique food items to choose from, including pre packed picnic boxes, so i highly recommend stopping by the 5th Street Deli and getting some lunch or snacks to enjoy while you are exploring Point Lobos Reserve. (expect to pay $8-15 per lunch with a drink at 5th Street Deli)

Carmel 5th Deli Picnic Lunch Carmel 5th Deli Rainbow Popcorn
the Bird Island area didn’t disappoint, the landscape was just like a painting. the water was emerald green and the contrasting white rocky cliffs were so beautiful.

we enjoyed looking down to China Beach and seeing a family of seals bathing in the sun. China Beach was closed, but the view was still awesome.
Point Lobos State Park Sealswe then hiked down to Gibson Beach to check out the white sand and crystal green water.
Point Lobos State Park Gibson Beachit was a bit of a hike down the steep staircase, but the beach was quiet and calm, and a fun place for the boys to run and play on. since the water seemed a bit rough, so we did not enter the oceans around Point Lobos Reserve.

Point-Lobos-Gibson-Beach-Bird-Islandwe absolutely loved our time at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. it is outstanding for sightseeing, photography, painting, nature study, picnicking, SCUBA diving, and jogging. not only is it’s natural beauty breathtaking, nearly every aspect of its resources is of scientific interest. you get a chance to witness rare plant communities, endangered archeological sites, unique geological formations, and incredibly rich flora and fauna of both land and sea.

point lobos carmel

if you plan on visiting Point Lobos Reserve, head over to the Point Lobos Foundation website to plan your visit, check out trail maps and get any information you may need. i highly recommend this area for anyone who love the outdoors and the beauty of nature and the ocean. it is great place for families and all skill levels. just remember to respect the power of the ocean, help avoid a disaster by keeping at a safe distance. and please remain on the designated trails within the wire guides, and stay away from the rocky cliffs as rock climbing is absolutely prohibited.

check out some of the fun we had on our family travels to Carmel-by-the-Sea
Dennis The Menace Playground – Monterey, California
Hofsas House Boutique Hotel in Carmel, California

also, check out another view of Point Lobos Reserve over at Nature Play Trips!!!! Michele is sharing some great photos and tips on her blog.

Family Travel: Hofsas House Boutique Hotel in Carmel

Carmel by the Sea Hofsas House Family Hotel copya few weeks ago, we packed up the boys and headed for a road trip from Orange County to the beloved town of Carmel-by-the-Sea which is located on the scenic coast of Central California about 2 hours south of San Francisco.  it took about 8 hours with LA traffic and down pouring rain to finally reach our destination hotel in Carmel, the Hofsas House, but the drive was nice and scenic. we arrived a bit later than we expected, but were welcomed with warm hospitality and felt like we had arrived at our favorite great aunts home. Carmel by the Sea Hofsas House Boutique Hotelthe Hofsas House would be considered a boutique hotel. it has German European architecture and showcases 38 spacious Bavarian inspired rooms that have a quaint vintage cottage feel. it is located in the heart of Carmel within walking distance to central Carmel between 3rd & 4th streets. it is family-friendly and pet-friendly.
Carmel Hofsas House Family Pet Friendly Hotel

Carmel by the Sea Hofsas House vacancywe chose to stay in one of the Hofsas House Family Suites. this was awesome because the kids got their own room and bathroom. our package included a wine (we chose sparkling cider) and cheese welcome, which was enjoyed by our in-room fire place that made the room cozy and warm.
Carmel by the Sea Hofsas House fireplace

accommodations at the Hosas House are homey. you feel like you area staying at you great aunts home. the style mimics the outside of the hotel, quaint with vintage charm. the family suite is furnished with two queen beds and a king sized bed. it is also fairly roomy with two bathrooms and a kitchenette. free wifi and cable are also included.Carmel Hofsas House Family Suite HotelCarmel by the Sea Hofsas House kitchenette

European details are found throughout the hotel.
Carmel by the Sea Hofsas House detailsfrom the decor, to the architecture….carmel Family Traveland the window panes.
Carmel by the Sea Hofsas House windowa continental breakfast is served every morning at the Hofsas House, a perfect amenity for family travel. the family can grab a quick breakfast on your way to enjoy all that Carmel has to offer.
Carmel Hofsas House Continental Breakfastyou can request freshly brewed coffee, tea, juice and even hot chocolate.Carmel by the Sea Hofsas House breakfasta nice assortment of local bakery-made danishes, yogurt and fruit make a nice start for the morning.
Carmel by the Sea Hofsas House Continental Breakfast

there are lots of great things to do in Carmel which i will write about in separate posts, from wine tours, to strolling and shopping in the charming town, to hiking at Point Lobos Preserve, driving the 17-mile scenic drive, heading up to Monterey or just swimming in the Hofsas House Pool. it is heated all year long for your enjoyment. and if you are heading out to one of the excursions mentioned above, make sure to stop by the front office. they can provide you with maps, and unique information to make your trip more enjoyable. you can also check out binoculars, flashlights, sand toys, frisbees and even blankets.

Carmel by the Sea Hofsas House Heated PoolCarmel Hofsas House Flowersafter a day of fun, in the evenings, you can stop by the Hofsas House office and grab a warm snack like a cup of coffee, apple cider or a cookie…or two! take it to-go to enjoy while taking a stroll in town or relax by the copper fireplace and chat with other travelers. Carmel Hofsas House Snacksone of the options that you can choose to purchase at the Hofsas House is a Beach Fire & S’mores Package. it comes complete with firewood, newspaper, matches, everything you need to make s’mores including roasting sticks, and a couple of blankets. you can then take it and head to one of the designated beaches along the Carmel coast. you are allowed to build a fire anywhere you would like along the beach…and it is an experience you won’t want to miss.Carmel Hofsas House Smore Kitthe beaches are quiet and magical. imagine sitting cuddled up to your loved ones by a fire, listening to the crashing waves. we had the entire beach to ourselves. this had to be one of our favorite experiences in Carmel.
Carmel by the Sea Hofsas House Smore Kitthe Hofsas House has been owned and run by the Theis family for over 60 years. the staff and owner Carrie, makes your stay homey and enjoyable. they’re very helpful with everything thing you need. this is the owner, Carrie. her mother was the original owner of the hotel. i loved hearing about the origins of the hotel, her mother, and all about her passion of running a boutique hotel. Carmel Hofsas House Ownerwe would definitely stay at the Hofsas House again. the family suites are a big plus with a family because it is nice to have a separate room from the children. also, the staff at the Hofsas House made us feel like family…and we enjoyed their company. Carmel-by-the-Sea is a very special town. the feel, the architecture, the people, the nature. it is a place you want to visit again and again.

Carmel by the Sea Hofsas House Review

for more information about or to make reservations at the Hofsas House in Carmel, visit their website.

check out some of the fun we had on our family travels to Carmel-by-the-Sea
Dennis The Menace Playground – Monterey, California
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve – Carmel, California

{disclosure: we were invited guests of the Hofsas House and received our stay complimentary. all thoughts and opinions are a bazillion times my own.}


Family Travel to Dennis the Menace Playground in Monterey California

Dennis the Menace Playgroundthis weekend we headed up the coast of California to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a charming little seaside town just south of Monterey. a town flanked by beautiful rocky beaches, cottage style houses and vintage old town charm. during exploration of the area, it was recommended to visit the Dennis the Menace Playground in Monterey, a well-loved playground originally established by Hank Ketcham, the creator of the comic strip Dennis the Menace. and since the boys had already spent a good amount of time in the car driving to Carmel, we felt this was the place we should go to let them run around.Dennis-the-Menace-Park-Monterey-Californiathe Dennis the Menace Playground is a pretty fantastical place. children can play to their hearts content, running across suspension bridges, and jungle gyms with the soft breeze of the ocean hitting their faces, which is just a skip and a jump from the playground.Dennis-the-Menace-Park-Bridge-Montereyif you get the chance to visit the Dennis the Menace Playground, plan on staying awhile because there are many things to explore and play with in the park…Best-Park-Dennis-the-Menace-Monterey

like wiggly slides… Dennis-the-Menace-Park-Slidesgarden mazes….Dennis-the-Menace-Park_Mazerock climbing walls…Best-Dennis-the-Menace-Park-climbing-walltunnels….Best-Dennis-the-Menace-Park-Montereyand twirly, whirly, spinning poles.Dennis-the-Menace-Park-Northern-Californiaa large sunshine play structure is the focal point of the park, part of the original playground equipment from when the park first opened in 1956.

Dennis-the-Menace-Park-Sun-Slidea truly awesome roller slide runs down the hill and through the center of the sun. speaking from experience, it is fun for all ages! even adults can enjoy this slide…it is worth the bumpy ride.Dennis-the-Menace-Park-Roller-Slide when you get tired of playing and need to grab a drink, stick your head into the famous Lion Drinking Fountain. it has been one of the playground’s icons since the beginning.


two more original features of the Dennis the Menace Park still reside onsite. and old lion that was the original lion water fountain, and Steam Engine 1285. park visitors used to be able to climb and play on the steam engine replica, however due to safety concerns, it is currently fenced off. however they are still pretty fun to look at. Dennis-the-Menace-Park_Lion PLUS….i wanted to share this great ball kit we brought with us to play at the Dennis the Menace Playground. it is the Sportime Physical Education package with fold up storage case by School Specialty. it was the perfect park buddy, as it includes everything you need to play all the sports your kiddies love. the kit come with everything you see here, it is playground quality, and a great set to have not only for park play, but home play as well.

school-specialty-physical-education-ball-kitwe just love this ball kit. especially the bouncy ball and jump plus, the fact that is comes with a football, foam soccer ball, foam softball, and a frisbee, there is something for everyone to highly recommend it, and if you are interested i getting this set for your kids or someone you know. i would recommend it for ages 0-10+. you can purchase it here for a great price. please note that these are fun play balls, not regulation style balls. they are perfect for fun

the boys played and played. with the balls, on the swings, on the jungle gyms, in and out the tunnels and though out the entire playground. being able to explore a park with so much history was a real treat. not only is the Dennis the Menace Playground a wonderful place to play, it is located within El Estero Park which also has some awesome amenities like a skate park…Best-Dennis-the-Menace-Skate-Parkand a lake the wraps around the Dennis the Menace Playground. you can rent a paddle boat and paddle around the lake on a boat shaped like a swan.


visiting this little gem of Monterey was one of the highlights of our trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea. the boys played to their hearts content…even until the sun started to set beyond the oceans of Monterey. i highly recommend stopping at the Dennis the Menace Playground with your little ones if you are in the area. click here for more information about the Dennis the Menace Playground.Dennis-the-Menace-Park