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Pismo Beach 2018

It looks like our Pismo trip is turning into an annual tradition which is fun, but also unfortunate since we're escaping the bad air due to fires. Last October, after several days of bad air quality due to the Napa and Sonoma fires, we left town and headed down to Pismo to visit Chip and Julie. We stayed at a great airbnb and had nice weather. This year, the Butte fire up north had already given us 6 days of bad air quality before we decided it was probably time to leave town again. The boys had not been outside for PE or recess for that whole time, we were bringing them right home from school to stay inside, and the same for Colette. For the first time, the air had crept into the purple -- really bad. Once they canceled the boys' school and all other SF school that for the next day (Friday), we started researching to get away. You either had to head to Tahoe (mid-50s) or as far as Pismo Beach (about the same distance but warmer) to get 'green'/good air. We explained to the boys that we're the lucky ones -- we weren't affected by the fire like all of those who lost their homes, and we have the  means to be able to book a last minute trip.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field on Thursday in 'purple zone' air

We drove on Friday and the air was absolutely awful for the majority of our trip. Then we arrived around 2pm to clear, sunny skies and were finally able to be outside. We rented the same condo we did last year during the fires. We spent the afternoon at the beach and got a nice sunset, then headed to Chip and Julie's for pizza.

Saturday was another beach day -- it was really the only thing the kids wanted to do. In the afternoon we met up with Chip and Julie again and went to a winery 10 minutes from their house to sip on a bottle of rose while the kids kicked the soccer ball around and Coco sat at the table with us and played with a little lego house Simone had brought. As long as she has some little characters, she's happy!

We ran some errands on the way home -- the air wasn't looking any better in SF so had extended our stay until Monday so needed to pick up food. We grilled that night. There was a lot of back and forth with my family. My brother was already in the Bay Area with his family, and my sister was planning to come up with her family from LA but with the horrible air, we were all reconsidering.

On Sunday, we decided to take advantage of being so close to Santa Barbara (still 1.5 hours away but better than the 5+ hours from SF) and take the kids for a visit. We stopped off in the Danish town of Solvang and the kids loved that. There were quirky toy stores and great bakeries. We also go freshly made pretzels. Next we drive the 30 minutes more to SB. It was fun for me to drive around campus and see how things had changed. They just opened a new children's museum down there that I thought the kids would love but all they wanted to do was go to the beach so I found a spot, Shoreline Cafe, where we could eat on the beach. The food was good and the kids had a blast playing. After much back and forth, it was decided that my parents would come down with my brother and his kids (Elizabeth was still working) and their dogs. And my sister would also come Monday with her family. They booked hotels room and we were finally all set.

Monday morning we knew we had time before the others came, so we stopped at Avila Valley Barn, which we had last been to when the boys were 18 months old. Even at 5, they still loved feeding all the animals and running around the hay maze. They have an awesome bakery and produce market so we got some stuff, including two pies to have for dessert that night.

Next, we drove about 20 minutes to Morro Bay, stopped for lunch at an awesome taco shop (the scallop tacos were so good!) before checking out their beach. We had fun playing frisbee and the kids found friends who were exploring the tide pools.

We made it back to Pismo right as the others were arriving and after a quick quiet time, headed to the beach with all the cousins. So much fun! I love seeing everyone together. My sister's boys, while getting older and not super into family vacations at the moment, are always so great with my kids. Dave stayed behind and grilled up sausages for everyone for dinner. It was nice to have the space of the condo so we could host the 15 people.

We were lucky to get sunny mid-60s days. The kids even went in the ocean (though were very cold afterwards), but I was perfect in yoga pants and a tshirt.

We spent the morning at the beach, then went back for a short quiet time before heading over to my sister's hotel, the Lighthouse Suites to swim. That place is awesome and we'd definitely consider staying there for a shorter stay where we don't need a kitchen. They have affordable 2-bedroom 2-bath suites, a pool, it's right along a cliff so you can take walks overlooking the water and it has a super fun games area with a play structure, spinner, multiple ping pong tables, giant chess and connect-4 and badminton courts. The kids had a blast and then we headed back to the condo where Dave had made tacos for everyone. A fun night of hanging out again, playing games with the cousins. The air was still bad in SF, but rain was predicted for Wednesday so we were all checking out as planned. My sister would go back to LA and the rest of us would head up to the Bay Area.

Tuesday morning, Dave and I were busy getting everything cleaned up and out of the condo, then we headed over with everyone else to my sister's hotel for more swimming and playing until starting the drive home around noon.

The kids all had so much fun together and it was such a nice surprise extended family vacation that we're considering making it an annual tradition. Dave and I hosted, sort of last minute since my parents no longer wanted to host after being gone, a simple Thanksgiving. I missed the deadline for Whole Foods but luckily was able to get a cooked turkey from our favorite roasted turkey sandwich place. We all made some simple sides and had pies from Avila Valley Barn. It was low-key but perfect. Dave and I were exhausted after the busy trip and all the hosting but it was worth it, and he was a great sport about it.

Apple Hill 2018

When I started thinking about taking the kids back to Apple Hill, I was bummed to see that my Evernote with all my research from last year had been deleted. Then I remembered I did a blog post so that definitely helped set the agenda for this year.

Apple Hill is crazy on weekends pretty much from September to December so I was trying to figure out a time for us to go. They didn't have a Monday off in October, but they did have two Thursdays -- one for conferences, and one the day after Halloween.We headed up on Thursday and made it quickly, with a stop in Folsom to charge the car and have lunch at In n Out. Then we continued 20 miles more and started at Apple Ridge Farms.  The boys liked mining for gems, Coco liked throwing rocks. She also loved arranging all the Christmas decor in the gift shop with Dedee. The boys and I played hide and seek in the maze for a long time, Coco joined in at the end. They had a lot of fun and were a dusty mess.

Next, we went on to Mill View Farm, which I didn't even know about last year and hadn't been written up anywhere. I came across a mention of it in a review and while the farm itself didn't have much, they had an old town built out for kids to play in and the boys had a blast playing Cops and Robbers. There was even a pirate ship. George asked to go back the next day but we ran out of time.

The kids were starting to get cranky and by this point it was almost 4pm so we thought it was time to go check in the hotel. We got everyone up in the room with some popcorn from the lobby and then had some time in the pool (but mostly hot tub) while I went to pick up the pizza. It was about 6:45 by the time we got upstairs for showers and shows. It had been a big day and no one had napped in the car since we drive before noon, which I thought would work to our advantage having everyone in one room. I got C down fairly quickly in her travel crib by the bathroom and the boys watched shows for awhile but their pull out couch was uncomfortable and I ended up waking up multiple times - to take G to the bathroom, to separate them when they were fighting because someone was on their side, etc. So we survived just fine but I definitely didn't sleep well and I don't think the boys did either.

We woke up and the kids got to have breakfast at the buffet in the pjs -- homemade waffles, hot cocoa and whipped cream. Then we packed up and were at our first farm, High Hill, by 9:30. This is the main farm with lots to do, but most of it didn't open until 10am. We got a couple of donuts and walked around by the pond, then watched the ponies get hooked up for the pony rides. All three were excited to ride, but William really was most interested in fishing. We got two poles but G quickly lost interest so William and I kept trying. We quickly caught, and then lost, one big one, but while I was helping William, one started biting on my line. In the end, we caught 3 fish total but stopped there since you can't throw them back... you have to pay to have them cleaned and then you can choose if you take them or not. It was already close to $50 for the three so my mom took them home, we'll see how they turn out! We got apple cider milk shakes (so good!), before getting in the car and driving over to Delfino Farms.

This one was pretty quiet but had a really pretty view. William was into the corn maze but the others weren't, so we kept walking to see the farm animals, then headed back up for a treat in their bake shop. William got his first caramel apple!

For our last stop, we went to Rainbow Orchards as I had read they make their own corndogs, George's favorite. We got some for lunch, as well as a cinnamon sugar apple donut (the best we tried!) and then got everyone ready for the drive home. I stopped by one other place that is known for their pies and got a frozen one to take home, so we'll see how that one turns out in a few weeks.

We were really lucky and had very little traffic on the way home, especially for a Friday. We left about 1:30 and were home by 4:30 and all three kids slept until about 4:00. They were crazy and had tons of energy last night, but I think everyone needed a good rest so it was worth it.