Sunday, June 27, 2010

Do I Know Enough People to Win?

Wow. This has been fun, but at the same time a bit frustrating. (Yep...Jennifer B. That's me.)

I think I've bugged everyone I know about this contest, and the votes are working! We've stayed in the top 7 spots for two weeks now. Our highest place: 4th. Now we're holding steady at 6th. But in the end, only the first-place spot will take home the prize. There's no prize for second.

Tonight, however, I learned that a lot of my friends and family haven't confirmed their initial vote. The confirmation e-mail is either sitting in their spam/junkmail folders, or never made it through their auto spam filters at all. Without confirming their initial vote, none of their efforts work through the system!

If you'd like to support our effort, find the easy-vote ballot here. Every e-mail address is allowed one vote PER DAY throughout the contest period. Whoever comes out on top Sept. 5 is the winner of the grand prize. The rest of us just go home.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Best Family Adventure Summer Hiking Series - Poly Canyon

This week's hike was a perfect mix of kid-friendly exploration, great weather and womanly camaraderie. What a fantastic group showed today, including my sister in law and her family who were down for the week from Santa Cruz.

We gathered at the gate to Poly Canyon, then took the stroller-friendly hike up the graded dirt road to the Design Village. There we hefted the super lightweight jogger stroller over the livestock discourager (a path through a curved wall with a turn too tight for most cattle and horses) and carried on to the structures.

The kids had a great time exploring and climbing, picnicking and exploring some more before meeting up with the friendlier set of free range horses. Then we started our trek back down the canyon where we enjoyed some creek exploration before finally calling it a day.

This was a great group, wonderful hike, beautiful weather. We missed some of the families who had joined us before as they enjoyed their own summer travels and look forward to them joining us again in coming weeks.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Best Family Adventure Summer Hiking Series - Coon Creek

This week, we gathered at the trailhead for Coon Creek in Montana de Oro State Park. We had a much better showing than last week's Red Rocks hike with most of the families from the first hike returning for another go. I'll attribute largely to Coon Creek's proximity to SLO which is where most of the returning hikers live.

This was a pretty long hike in, largely because we kept stopping - to enjoy blackberries, explore the creek, check out bugs and flowers, and finally to climb our destination oak. We were fortunate that one of the kids pointed out a side trail into the creek. Our play time break gave a couple of additional families who'd arrived at the trailhead later than planned time to catch up.

Most of us made it to the oak tree that is always my final destination on this trail. One had to turn back to make an appointment in town. My girls and I stuck around to enjoy lunch and relax a bit before the quick return straight back to the trailhead.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Want a Pony Ride, Little Girl?

I've used this blog space largely to share our family adventures and my views on homeschooling and some random rants. I hope the information I've shared here has helped other families make their own great schooling decisions, plan their own great trips, enjoy a giggle or an outright guffaw.

Now, I'm hoping this blog will help our family turn a dream into reality. YOU can help! It's just a click away! (Yep...I'm asking for help.)

Let me explain.

Ever since I was a little girl I've wanted a horse of my own. Forget pony. I wanted a full-size horse. (What can I say? I'm always looking forward and at my growth rate, I wasn't long for the pony world.) I always imaged I'd settle somewhere with enough space around the house where I could manage to make that dream come true.

Enter my daughters, both of whom have discovered horses and enjoy any time they can find on horseback.

We've thought about acquiring horses and making a go of it, but we live on a .15-acre (that's POINT 15 acre) lot in a homeowners association that doesn't allow small farmyard animals, let alone hay-burning, manure-making modes of transport. Paying someone else to allow us to keep horses inconveniently away from our home doesn't make sense. Plus, we have nowhere here to store a trailer or other matters horse related. (No trailer parking in the street OR in our own driveway, and our side yards are so narrow there's no way a trailer of ANY description can be hidden behind the side fences. I can barely get our trash can to fit through the gate on garbage day.)

So we started looking. And looking. And doing the math. And looking some more. And saving some more. And doing more math.

There are lots of restrictions in our search - chiefly drive-time to work. No change of job is planned to accommodate this move, so the move will have to accommodate the current place of employment. We are in the process of trying to buy a lot outside town here to get the girls some more space (and a living room in which we can better entertain). The lot we're looking at will take a LOT of work, but I'm not afraid of that. In fact, the thought of putting that kind of sweat equity into a place like this thrills me.

But, really, what it all comes down to (besides the will, which is certainly here), is cash. Cold, hard, cash.

I think I've found a way to make this dream possible!



I don't believe I've ever entered a "popularity contest." It's just never been my strong suit. But I came across this contest which basically will give the significant (to us, anyhow) cash prize to whichever entry can garner the most votes! Anyone can vote for any of the entries at any time, and as often as ONCE PER DAY! Come Sept. 6, 2010, the participant with the MOST votes wins!

To find my picture, just click on the "alphabetical" tab and page through to my entry - "Jennifer B." You'll see
<------------- this photo. (And, no, apparently I have no shame, nor pride when it comes to making this family dream come true!) Today, it's on page 8 of the alphabetical list, but it's moving as more people enter. Or try to find it on the leader board under the "most popular" tab. (Today, it's the 11th place entry right there on the front page of the Popular section! Almost to the top!) Then, just click on it and enter your e-mail. They'll send you a confirmation e-mail the first time you vote to make sure you are a real person, so watch your spam filter/box for the confirmation.

If we could win this sweepstakes, it would SURE help in our effort to find some space, which would, in turn, finally allow V to have a dog, E to have a tree in which to swing, me to have that horse and Mr. B to have some peace.

If you have time today, please vote for my photo. If you have a little time tomorrow and the next day, or whenever you log on again, and can vote again, that would be great. Please "share" with all of your friends to expand my voting pool, too!

And if we can pull this all together, we'll gladly give our supporters turns on horseback once we're settled in the new place this big win could mean for us!

Thanks for your support!

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Best Family Adventure Summer Hiking Series - Red Rocks Swimmin' Hole

After last week's super hot hike just south of SLO, we figured it was time to head for the swimmin' hole - Red Rocks on the Upper Santa Ynez River upstream from Lake Cachuma. It's a relatively long drive from, well, just about anywhere, but the hike is short and the cool water is usually a wonderful reward.

We didn't have a great showing for this hike, which was too bad because it's really a great spot to play. The girls and I waited at the trailhead for awhile, then headed up the river to our favored beach where we enjoyed a picnic before hitting the water.

Unfortunately, last week's temperatures didn't hold out and a cool wind blew up the canyon. It subsided shortly after we met up with a mom and daughter hiking team we'd originally met on our tour of Arroyo Hondo. They had come up from Goleta to join us! We all enjoyed a dip and the girls found some waterlogged logs that were still floating. They joined the logs and climbed aboard to use it as a paddleboard all over the swimming hole. (We hope they're still there when we return.)

The only downside to Red Rocks is that it's a known party place for young, alcohol-driven, trash-throwing partiers. Next time, we're bringing trash bags. I think we could pay for our gas for the trip out with all the recycling we could haul back with us. Very sad.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Best Family Adventure Summer Hiking Series - Johnson Loop

This summer, the girls and I...wait. I mean I have committed to leading a family friendly outing every Thursday this summer. (The girls, of course, are along for the ride, and the hike, and whatever other adventures we find along the way.) The girls and I used to hike every week, but we've fallen out of that habit in recent years as other obligations (classes, travels, social events) began to fill the calendar. But with the release of each "Best Family Adventure" book I've heard from fans that they'd like to hike more regularly but that they need either the security of a buddy to go with, motivation of a friend on the trail with them, or just someone to show the way. So, when it came up again one late night, I started scheduling.

The first Best Family Adventures Summer Thursday Hike was held on June 3. I chose Johnson Loop south of San Luis Obispo because it's newer than the first edition of "Best Family Adventures: San Luis Obispo County," and I'd heard a fair bit about it. All reports were that it would be a mellow enough loop for a gaggle of kids. Plus, with the print run coming to its end, it's probably time to start researching again for the second edition.

It was incredibly warm (some might even have called it downright hot) right off the bat. But we persevered and celebrated shade when we found it. We had a really nice group show up, and E was particularly enamored with a boy her age who also likes to tell stories and explore. Once they figured out they shared a common interest to talk about along the way, they were off and running.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Summer Solstice Beach Bash

After a very windy spring, the marine layer has finally made a comeback. Yep, summer's on it's way and the Best family plans to celebrate with a beach bash on June 21, Summer Solstice. Please join us!

I know...that's a Monday. But here's the deal: the kids will be out of school, so bring 'em down to the beach whenever you can make it; we'll be there.

If you have to work 'til 5, no worries! We'll stay 'til way after dark playing in the sand, the surf, and certainly cooking something fantastic over the fire.

You have to get up early Tuesday? That's fine, too. We won't strap you to your chair and make you stay (though I suspect you won't want to leave once we break out the s'mores).

Oh, speaking of food and fire, here's the low down:
The Best family will arrive early in hopes of securing a fire ring. (No fire ring=no fire.) We'll be set up by lunchtime, and then hang out for the day. BYO food to cook over the fire (or not), favored beverages (no glass), chairs if you need 'em, camera, sunscreen. We'll bring toys, but if you have some special toys/games, bring 'em along.

What's the point, you say? To have fun, to enjoy the beauty our Central Coast offers, and, most of all, to celebrate life with friends whom we don't see often enough.

Please join us. We look forward to seeing you there!

Oh, and if you haven't already figured out exactly where we'll be meeting, drop me a note and I'll provide further details. Looking forward to seeing you there!

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