The Adventure of our 2017 Christmas Tree

The Holidays couldn’t come any faster. This time last year we were still in Thailand and we didn’t get much of a Holiday season at all. So this year the anticipation for Thanksgiving, getting a Christmas tree, and enjoying the Holidays became high.

Today we planned to get our Christmas tree from a farm in Los Gatos. Getting there didn’t happen as smooth as we hoped. When we started our car it didn’t sound well. We ordered some Starbucks and while we picked up our drinks, Andrew popped the hood of our car. He found out that we had really low oil. Almost non-existent. (Yikes!) Not to fear – we were close to an O’Reilly’s and he grabbed a couple quarts to pour inside the thirsty engine. We stood around and sipped our Holiday drinks in the Starbucks parking lot.

Then we hit the freeway. It was about a thirty minute drive and we were a mile away from the farm.

There are signs to turn right for Frosty’s Christmas Tree Farm (where we were headed) and four other tree farms too. Sadly, the road was blocked and closed with giant orange cones and construction trucks. There were no other farms this side of the mountain.

Instead of turning around google maps gave us an alternate route – 18 miles and 31 minutes away. We continued and twenty minutes on a very windy road we realized it was more construction to a dead end. Thanks, Google Maps.

So we turned around a little car sick and a tad bit disheartened. Once we got closer to the major freeway we got  full cell phone reception again and thank goodness for Yelp, found another christmas tree farm on the other side of the freeway.

We were determined. Insert: Patchen Christmas Tree Farm.

LRG_DSC07725LRG_DSC07724 2

We were greeted by a very nice gentleman (the owner) who gave us a saw, and brochure on what kind of trees they have growing, and how much they cost. Each tree is color coded, and this determines the rate for each tree. There are minimum costs for each tree – no matter how short or tall they are. $60, $70, and $80 respectively.

LRG_DSC07577 2

It was beautiful, and enjoyed the fruit trees that were planted sporadically throughout the property.

LRG_DSC07549

LRG_DSC07517 2

We searched and searched!

LRG_DSC07538

LRG_DSC07515 2

LRG_DSC07563
My younger sister Chelsea reading the rings on a cut tree stump.

LRG_DSC07582 2

A worthy contender.

LRG_DSC07592 Finally, a tree we all agree on! Either that or we were getting tired and hungry. (Maybe a mix of all three.) It’s cute and round, and minimal. Somehow we are attracted to minimalistic trees.

LRG_DSC07590
Really excited to take this home… and use the saw.

LRG_DSC07602 2
Andrew makes the first cut.

LRG_DSC07621 2
Chelsea contributes.

LRG_DSC07623 2
I get in on some of the action, too!

LRG_DSC07626 2

LRG_DSC07628 2

The tree is cut and Andrew goes down to get it netted. The owner complimented that our tree was cut clean. Good teamwork!

LRG_DSC07739 2

We get a box of twine (inclusive with the rate) and tie it to roof.

LRG_DSC07744

Patchen Farms is a fun place. Not only do they have a lot of trees to choose from, there is a huge space to hang out, and shop. There are picnic tables to sit at if you pack a lunch.

You can spend almost the whole day here.

We visited on a Monday before noon, and there was a handful of other people there. A great experience as we felt like we had the place mostly to ourselves.

They accept credit cards + cash.

LRG_DSC07736

Photos of tree and the cutest helper. Our ornaments are a collection of sentiment, from places we visited or personal memorabilia. Except that gold snowflake, its there simply because its cute.

LRG_DSC07750

LRG_DSC07754

LRG_DSC07755

LRG_DSC07756

LRG_DSC07757

LRG_DSC07746

LRG_DSC07751

Happy Holidays everyone! 

Advertisements

Camping @ Sequoia National Park

This weekend we packed up the car to meet our friends at Sequoia National Park. They’re traveling through the United States on a road trip, and we were happy to meet them. The drive to the park is gorgeous, lots of beautiful hills and greenery.

IMG_3499 2.JPG

As we approached the park we drove through the fog. It made the forest look ethereal.

IMG_3509

We got to our campsite and realized we were missing one backpack with all our gear (sleeping bags, tent, sleeping pads + pillows). GASP.  So here we are walking through the campground to find our friends!

IMG_3534

IMG_3537IMG_3544

Forgetting our backpack was something to laugh about. Instead we slept inside our car. Thankfully our friends had two extra sleeping bags, and I had three blankets so we worked with it, and survived!

Monday morning we woke up to a winter wonderland. Andrew started a fire and we cooked breakfast.

IMG_3650IMG_3612IMG_3614IMG_3600IMG_3608
IMG_3615IMG_3595

IMG_3621

 

Always have to have bacon. Also: mason jars are great for just about everything.

IMG_3578

The day included walking to see General Grant, one of the biggest and oldest sequoias.

thumb_DSC00442_1024

thumb_DSC00524_1024thumb_DSC00493_1024thumb_DSC00487_1024thumb_DSC00588_1024thumb_DSC00591_1024

General Grant is 267 feet tall and 1,650 years old!

thumb_DSC00516_1024

thumb_DSC00519_1024

We took a walk through a fallen sequoia, which is apparently the only way they die. They are indestructible otherwise, surviving rot, insects, and fire.

thumb_DSC00593_1024

thumb_DSC00598_1024

thumb_DSC00608_1024

Afterwards we took a drive to see a waterfall. The drive up there was gorgeous as well. It was beautiful, and the rivers running alongside the mountains were a sight to see. So much water!

 

thumb_DSC00766_1024thumb_DSC00805_1024

thumb_DSC00734_1024thumb_DSC00828_1024thumb_DSC00882_1024thumb_DSC00888_1024

Unplugged for a couple days, hanging out alongside a campfire (cause it was so cold), and being with friends make for a great trip. Aren’t our friends the cutest?

My favorite part of the trip was watching the kids and Uncle Andrew have an intense snowball fight.

IMG_3709IMG_3721 2IMG_3719

The last two times the Warriors won the Finals we were camping the night of their championship game. Coincidence or a sign of good luck? 😉

Good tips:
– Get gas one more time before getting into the park. That way you have enough gas to visit other parts as it’s really big.
– If you’re headed back to the South Bay visit Cutija Taco Shop in Los Banos. One word: CARNE-ASADA-FRIES!

zu-odjjra0w-annie-spratt

Two weeks out of the hospital and I continue to get stronger everyday.

This week I have more energy and was able to do things I enjoy like bake, visit Savers (I need more stretchy pants), and I walked around some stores like Target and Safeway with and without a cart for support. Yesterday I was able to put a load of clothes in the washing machine, and prepare my own meal.

I started doing some chair yoga.  The repetitions of contracting muscles and deep breathing has helped me work towards the goal of standing straight while walking and breathing well. It’s healing.

Still a little slow while walking and getting up the stairs but the more I walk and move, the stronger I get the following day. My abdominal area is still healing and a little sore. My DR wants to set up an ultrasound in three months to make sure the cyst is fully resolved.

Many people have suggested to dig deep into this time. I’m learning how to live slow with more peace. How to live with a heart wide open, without fear or worry, and to not sweat the small stuff.

Sometimes people hurt us and we can stay mad or hurt for years, carrying that around like baggage without even knowing it. Gossip, strife, anger, jealousy, competitiveness, being judgmental or overly critical ruins relationships faster than anything, and it’s junk.

In my thinking, if you have the choice to treat someone any way you want, why would you choose junk?

Life is so precious and love beats it all. Not to mention for those of us who are disciples of Christ, love is a command and the number one thing that is evident of the Holy Spirit living in us.

This time has shown me the depth of my husbands commitment to me. It’s given me a great appreciation for my  friends who are so generous, and so kind, and so loving. And in the face of extreme adversity had my back. My family who came together to help both and Andrew and I, and made sure I have everything I need for optimal recovery. Their generosity is unmatched. I can’t put a price on people like that.

My mom has been here nearly 10 days to stay with me as my caregiver while Andrew went back to work. She has helped and encouraged me to get back to normal daily activities. She reminds me of the progress I’ve made daily and reminds me not to worry about tomorrow, but to focus on today.

Even though this was hard, coming out of it, I see my life and it’s so much brighter. It’s fuller, and it’s freer. For that I am grateful. I hope to keep this perspective for a long time.

A Quick trip to Cambodia

dsc08759

 We had a three days in Cambodia over Thanksgiving weekend. We like to travel smarter, not harder, and maximize our time wherever we are. This  means avoiding crowds, when possible, and being prepared so we can swiftly get through the airport and into the city! Here are some tips that helped us on our visit.

  1. E-Visa 
    Since our trip to Cambodia wasn’t decided until we got into Thailand, we didn’t get a visa from the U.S., instead we applied for a visa online. This included taking a photo with our camera and uploading it with our application. It takes up to 3 days to approve.
    Total cost $40
    If you don’t get a Visa online, you can apply for it as soon as you land. So you wait in line for your Visa, then another line for customs. When we arrived at the airport, we only had to wait through one line since we had our E-Visa’s.
  2. Ankor Wat Sunrise
    The building to purchase an admission pass to Angkor Wat is 10 minutes away from the temple itself. To go straight from your hotel to the temple in the morning, its best to purchase your admission ticket the afternoon before your sunrise. We were picked up at 4:40am, and arrived to get Angkor to witness the sunrise. 
    $20/ 1 day pass
    $40/ 3 day pass
    $60 / week
    Rates might increase significantly by February 2017
  3. Bring Cash USD
    The currency for most tourist places, like Siem Reap, is the US dollar. Have smaller bills to carry for tips. We use our Charles Schwab debit card when abroad because we get reimbursed for the ATM transaction fees.
  4. Transportation.
    The driver we got from the airport was very nice, and offered to be our driver for the rest of our trip. We agreed, and he had good tips on certain sights. He had an SUV with A/C. If you don’t mind not having A/C, and want a more Khmer experience, tuk tuk drivers are also available for hire.Always, always ask how much a tour or ride is going to cost before agreeing to get into a vehicle or go on a tour guide, unless its a metered car.
    For more clarification, ask how long a trip take. Efficiency is not common in developing countries, and communication with a language barrier can be a problem.Speak simply, listen well, and enjoy your time!

Loi Kathrong // Yi Peng

 We had the pleasure of being in Thailand during Loi Kathrong & Yi Peng so that means floating lanterns!!

img_8515

This was our second experience with sky lanterns. The first time was two NYE’s ago. We walked around the street markets and purchased one from a vendor. (30 baht / a little less than a dollar). Then we walked inside a temple gate, set a flame to it, and asked a nice looking, trust worthy stranger to take our photo. People are doing the same thing all over, and lanterns are released sporadically.

img_8518-2

This time we got referred to a tour company via our AirBnB. We paid for tickets to this event, and traveled from the city to a village by bus. This was different than the last time because this time there were 500 of us gathered together, and the idea was to release the lanterns at the same time.

img_8523-2

We were told to wait until the speaker told us to let go, because there’s a certain “wow” factor when the lanterns go up simultaneously.

img_8522-2

It’s happening, semi-simultaneously. 😉

img_8521-2

 I released my lantern, and looked up to see the most beautiful sight.

img_8513-2

Hundreds of illuminated lanterns against the dark sky.

The closer ones pulsating a yellow flame, and others gently gliding in the background.

All moving together in perfect rhythym.

img_8511-3

They looked like jelly fish swimming in the sky.

img_8517-2

Then I had this moment of ” I can’t believe I am witnessing this with my own two eyes!

img_8525-2

A gentle reminder that little moments like these are worth the exploration, and enough beauty to make your jaw drop and put butterflies in your stomach.

img_8526-3

#thatglowtho

Tickets $50/each
includes
round trip bus ride (30 minutes each way)
1 sky lantern + 1 lathrong (not pictured because we didn’t participate)
1 souvenir (small lantern ornament and coin purse)

Dinner from local vendors $3
 fried banana
noodles
a bag of chicharron (so random, I know!)
1 bottle of water

//

I highly recommend experiencing this!
The date is different every year, because its based on the full moon on the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar, on a Western calendar it falls somewhere in November.

//

Photography: Andrew Brown
Shout out: to Mary, my generous co-worker & dear friend for gifting us this experience.
for more information on our AirBnB & the tour company
email: kalaniandandrew@gmail.com

Big Sur


Big Sur is intriguing. Marked with history and landscapes where the mountains and the ocean meet, it’s beautiful all right.

We left a little before 8am with hardly any traffic. On the way we stopped in Carmel at  La Sala’s Bi-Rite Market for sandwiches. (Thanks, Yelp!)  Grab your bread first, take it to the counter, and choose your meat, and fixings. The employees were really friendly & nice. You can grab snacks, and drinks, too.

Back on the road like a kid in a candy store, we stopped at several locations of the freeway. The view was incredible and the fog was rolling off the mountains.

Big Sur, no wonder everyone loves you.

DSC01436DSC01444DSC01464

Our destination was Julia Burns Pfieffer Park. We parked outside of the entrance and to our surprise, we were right outside of McWay Falls.

IMG_2338

We went through the entrance of the park and walked down to the falls. It’s breathtaking. With no public access to the beach its no wonder why it looks pristine.

Felt a little hungry so we ate our sandwiches with this view. (Sandwiches were great, would definitely recommend visiting La Sala’s!)

IMG_2352

In the 1900’s there was a house built here and this was view outside of the bedroom window. Talk about a million dollar view! Even cooler, she was a Mrs. Brown. 🙂

IMG_2356My best friend and I – she’s a silly one.

Further down there is another look out with a couple of benches to enjoy the view.

DSC01539

Onward to the hike!
This trail has it all: clear water running through, and beautiful trees everywhere. We passed a couple spots with picnic tables and grills.

DSC01622

DSC01631

The trail is paved with plenty of shade. It goes uphill with 1600 elevation gain so plenty of water and good socks + shoes are a must!

DSC01669

In 2008 there was a wildfire leaving some of the trees with burnt markings, and hollow inside.

DSC01672DSC01677
Trees unveiling history. The texture is so beautiful.

DSC01635DSC01653

We had such a great time, and will definitely come back.

DSC01718

DSC01697

DSC01735

DSC01685

DSC01647