Author Archives: eliac

Taste for Me, Treat for You

 Cookies1

As an adult in a hyper-packaged, hyper-processed time, I lament often about how little young people learn about life skills such as cooking, cleaning, car and home maintenance, and more.  RibbonCuttingYoung people are busy busy busy with athletics, social groups, and homework, but in my opinion, it’s smart to tack one more thing onto the list: chores.  Growing up, chores included tending the garden, 

doing the laundry, washing dishes, painting the house, cleaning the car, cleaning my bedroom, making my bed, and cooking meals, often all in one week.  We’ve started our kids off early by teaching them to clean up their toys and making Monday into Max’s Monday, when he is responsible for preparing and serving dinner (we’ll start Holly in the next year or so).  Add to that irregular tending to the garden, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathroom counters, and we’re off to a healthy start.

 

The holiday season marks the beginning of a time when chores also serve a new purpose – to remind us that we need not pay exorbitant amounts of money for great gifts, and that clean, gently used toys and clothes are a great gift for someone in need.

 

 

Yesterday’s 3rd Annual Stroller Hikes Crafting Party was very well attended, at Sports Basement in FinishedJars 2Sunnyvale.  Well over 130 cookie and cocoa mixes were assembled, kids had fun, and Jim did a paramount job of inspiring young and old to pitch in and help clean up all of our fallen flour and marshmallows!  It was grand watching some new cooks and some old ones measure carefully or scoop with abandon, check off check boxes, curl ribbons, and liberally taste all the while.  We had M & Ms, chocolate and butterscotch chips, and cranberries – plus a generous spread of snacks provided by Sports Basement.  If kids didn’t know they liked cooking before coming, by the end, they were having fun, particularly with cheek-fulls of marshmallows!  I was also surprised to find the kids loving our aliquots of salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon, which I had prepared ahead of time in tiny eppendorf and falcon tubes  — I told pleased parents that they would be seeing them again in ten years, when the kids made it to advanced science classes in high school or college.

 

Max and Holly are excited to give their hot cocoa mixes to their 

teachers, and I’m thrilled that they can give a modestly priced but sentimentality rich, homemade gift, rather than have to dig deep in my pockets to buy a gift to say thanks to their numerous teachers (22 teachers in all).  We are thrilled to have a couple extra to keep for themselves – as tasters up until our event, they developed quite a knack for a perfect cup of chocolate, trimmed with peppermint and plain marshmallows, or several dashes of cinnamon.  If you are interested in making the mixes for yourself, but could not attend, I’m happy to share the directions for each of the mixes — e-mail admin@strollerhikes.com.

 

My kids are also starting to prep for the impending influx of material goods later this month.  We shopped Toys R Us for gifts for needy kids, for Giving Tree, which helped fuel the questions: “Can I have that?  How many days until Christmas?  Can I see Santa before Christmas?”  We brought stacks of games and some infant clothes to the Cupertino Community Center and the YMCA, and donated cans to a food drive at Max’s school.  Now we’re on to cleaning up used toys that we can drop off at the Sunnyvale Community Center, and given to more needy people.  When we talk about how some kids won’t be able to receive presents, because Santa doesn’t know where they live (they are homeless), Max gets very generous, wanting to design and pass on Lego Creations, or give up other toys.  Holly, always watchful of her brother, follows suit, with arms full of stuffed animals or books.  We won’t necessarily part with all they provide, but it’s endearing to see them so willing to help other people.  Fast forward ten years, and I hope we can tack one more chore onto their lists: selfless support or giving to others, where they can help build a house with Habitat for Humanity, build a footbridge or maintain a trail in a local open space, prepare food at the soup kitchen, clean up trash at the creek, or more.

 

Have a happy, healthy holiday!

 

-Debbie (Founder and President), Max (6), Holly (2), and Andrew

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Preparing for the Season

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After Halloween every year, time seems to speed up.  One factor that causes this is the shortening of days – the amount of daylight is less, and days can feel shorter when cold or rainy weather shuts us indoors.  When those clocks shift, as they did last week, evening comes far too quickly, and those of us working full time jobs start feeling guilty for simply coming home to sup, then put the kids to bed, with no daylight left to play outside, or fit in a later-night barbeque with friends, like we do in the summer.  On top of all of this, holidays and social obligations begin to abound later in the year, and with this, a sense of urgency for putting together hostess and holiday gifts.

 

I’ve always been exceedingly frugal when it comes to spending.  In college and grad school, $20 was my limit for single-item spending, be it for clothes, entertainment, or a holiday turkey.  It’s been hard to let go of such frugality as I approach the end of my fourth decade of life, but even back then, things sort of fell apart this time of year.  With the holiday panic upon me, and a long list of people to put together gifts for, I’d easily spend well beyond my usual means, dipping into my savings account, or keeping a credit card balance into the New Year.

 

 

This all changed when I started getting better at making holiday gifts, and having little ones to securedownloadincrease the sentimentality of gifts, helped a lot too.  For the last two years, Stroller Hikes has hosted a holiday craft workshop at Sports Basement or our house, and it’s been a pleasure folding other Stroller Hikes families into the good, messy fun of making gifts for others.  The first year, most of our holiday cookies got consumed by their bakers, rather than passed along as gifts, but last year we had fun whipping up reusable produce and sandwich bags, salt scrubs, felt coasters, magnets and ornaments, plantable seeded flowers, and wine glass charms (photo above of some of our samples).  This year, we’ll work on cooking kits (for oatmeal cookies, multi-bean soup, or peppermint hot cocoa, for instance).  I’m still setting up dates, but look towards early December for an afternoon/evening craft event.  This week, I’ll send a poll out to see what days/times work best for folks.  The event will be open to the public, so anyone can come, but please RSVP once that date is established (in a couple of weeks), so we get enough supplies for everyone.  We’ll suggest a small donation to pay for the supplies, for all attendees that plan to make gifts to bring home.  More details to come, as we get this nailed down.

 

Last year, it was a relief to take advantage of our craft day to have the kids whip up all of the gifts for their teachers, some of my work colleagues, and some friends and relatives.  Everyone enjoyed what we had produced, and we even had extras to use, ourselves!

 

Looking forward to getting crafty with you!

 

-Debbie (President and Founder), Max (6), Holly (2), and Andrew

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Full Circle

SHLosGatosCreekTrail

I visited my grandmother on Monday.  She’s experienced a rapid decline in health over the last month, so I wanted to take the opportunity to visit and spread a little love.

 

Grandma has always been such a spunky little thing, with a stubborn, opinionated streak, witty sense of humor, and plenty of creativity for all things domestic.  She taught my mom to be the tough-as-nails, never-afraid-to-be-dirty, loving caregiver she is today, and I’d like to think some of this rubbed off on me, too.  She was always one for a good jigsaw puzzle, singing round the organ, or tasty recipe.  We’d giggle at silly things Grandpa would do, and she was always ready with a story about where we were from – who was family, and how hard so many of our ancestors or neighbors had worked.

 

Grandma started fading noticeably a few years ago.  She used to swim and walk often, and tended her garden and kitchen in a manner far surpassing the likes of Martha Stewart.  There would be occasional lapses in conversation during our annual or bi-annual visits, and she seemed a bit more frustrated with the world.  She quickly resolved that swimming was too much.  Her walks became shorter.  She had a fender bender and gave up her license.  She stopped volunteering so much.  She stopped cooking most foods, and began forgetting things she had done thousands of times before – how to cook rice, for instance.

 

On Monday, I visited her in her home of just a short while – a room at a very nice senior residence, specifically designed for elderly people with mental limitations.  The cutest little grandma you can imagine still had a hop in her when I walked into her room – but she didn’t quite have the strength to jump up from her seat.  Still, she was happy to see me, and she was pleased to receive my gifts and hugs. 

 

As we spoke, I saw words rattle around the room – some would make their way to Grandma’s ears, and settle well with her, others seemed to catch her confused.  Like a very young child or an English Language Learner, she was all at once engaged and unengaged in the conversation around her.  Her happiness turned to concern, then dismay, then hope, then subtle fuzz.  She took a couple of naps during our visit, and seemed genuinely grateful when I left, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t know who I was.

 

As I drove on to my mom’s house, I thought a lot about our interaction.  If you’ve followed the popular “Benjamin Button” or read other literature on aging, some people postulate that very elderly people are really not so different from very young children.  They need a lot of help from others to carry out functions many of us take for granted, and comprehension can be spotty.  But they still grow from and appreciate love.  I’d like to think that deep inside Grandma still can recall some of the most vivid, wonderful things in her life, that she has a unique perspective that helps her enjoy the world, that she is still passionate enough about some things to crack a witty comment or make a bold, opinionated statement.  But watching those words scatter around the room as we spoke, finding very little purchase, made me feel like perhaps her mind had faded far beyond what my optimism would have predicted.

 

So what can she enjoy, if she lacks her old perspective?  Next time I visit, I want to take her for a walk.  Mom says she might refuse, but I want to try.  After months of snoozing, and doing little, I recall each of my kids starting to perceive their worlds.  To see the light between tree leaves, dew on blades of grass, varying tones of greys, browns, and greens.  To feel a breeze on a cheek, to hear the whistle of birds, chirp of confused crickets.  I recall vividly the first hike at Los Gatos Creek Trail (towards Lexington Reservoir) when Max responded to his first squirrel sighting (photo of that moment, above).  He sat wide eyed and excited, shrieking and flailing his arms about, as a bushy squirrel jumped from tree to tree above the trail.

 

When we laid Grandpa to rest years ago, I found solace in the fact that he was buried beneath a tree.  He’ll always have those leaves, that dew, those greys and browns, chirps, and whistles.  Even if we cannot follow a conversation, assemble a jigsaw puzzle, or recall a story, we can all appreciate nature.  It’s what brings us full circle.

 

Debbie (Founder and President), Max (6), Holly (2), and Andrew

 

p.s. Just heard from mom, and Grandma has a new light in her eyes.  She may very well enjoy that walk at Christmas!

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Full Circle

SHLosGatosCreekTrail

 

 

I visited my grandmother on Monday.  She’s experienced a rapid decline in health over the last month, so I wanted to take the opportunity to visit and spread a little love.

 

Grandma has always been such a spunky little thing, with a stubborn, opinionated streak, witty sense of humor, and plenty of creativity for all things domestic.  She taught my mom to be the tough-as-nails, never-afraid-to-be-dirty, loving caregiver she is today, and I’d like to think some of this rubbed off on me, too.  She was always one for a good jigsaw puzzle, singing round the organ, or tasty recipe.  We’d giggle at silly things Grandpa would do, and she was always ready with a story about where we were from – who was family, and how hard so many of our ancestors or neighbors had worked.

 

Grandma started fading noticeably a few years ago.  She used to swim and walk often, and tended her garden and kitchen in a manner far surpassing the likes of Martha Stewart.  There would be occasional lapses in conversation during our annual or bi-annual visits, and she seemed a bit more frustrated with the world.  She quickly resolved that swimming was too much.  Her walks became shorter.  She had a fender bender and gave up her license.  She stopped volunteering so much.  She stopped cooking most foods, and began forgetting things she had done thousands of times before – how to cook rice, for instance.

 

On Monday, I visited her in her home of just a short while – a room at a very nice senior residence, specifically designed for elderly people with mental limitations.  The cutest little grandma you can imagine still had a hop in her when I walked into her room – but she didn’t quite have the strength to jump up from her seat.  Still, she was happy to see me, and she was pleased to receive my gifts and hugs. 

 

As we spoke, I saw words rattle around the room – some would make their way to Grandma’s ears, and settle well with her, others seemed to catch her confused.  Like a very young child or an English Language Learner, she was all at once engaged and unengaged in the conversation around her.  Her happiness turned to concern, then dismay, then hope, then subtle fuzz.  She took a couple of naps during our visit, and seemed genuinely grateful when I left, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t know who I was.

 

As I drove on to my mom’s house, I thought a lot about our interaction.  If you’ve followed the popular “Benjamin Button” or read other literature on aging, some people postulate that very elderly people are really not so different from very young children.  They need a lot of help from others to carry out functions many of us take for granted, and comprehension can be spotty.  But they still grow from and appreciate love.  I’d like to think that deep inside Grandma still can recall some of the most vivid, wonderful things in her life, that she has a unique perspective that helps her enjoy the world, that she is still passionate enough about some things to crack a witty comment or make a bold, opinionated statement.  But watching those words scatter around the room as we spoke, finding very little purchase, made me feel like perhaps her mind had faded far beyond what my optimism would have predicted.

 

So what can she enjoy, if she lacks her old perspective?  Next time I visit, I want to take her for a walk.  Mom says she might refuse, but I want to try.  After months of snoozing, and doing little, I recall each of my kids starting to perceive their worlds.  To see the light between tree leaves, dew on blades of grass, varying tones of greys, browns, and greens.  To feel a breeze on a cheek, to hear the whistle of birds, chirp of confused crickets.  I recall vividly the first hike at Los Gatos Creek Trail (towards Lexington Reservoir) when Max responded to his first squirrel sighting (photo of that moment, above).  He sat wide eyed and excited, shrieking and flailing his arms about, as a bushy squirrel jumped from tree to tree above the trail.

 

When we laid Grandpa to rest years ago, I found solace in the fact that he was buried beneath a tree.  He’ll always have those leaves, that dew, those greys and browns, chirps, and whistles.  Even if we cannot follow a conversation, assemble a jigsaw puzzle, or recall a story, we can all appreciate nature.  It’s what brings us full circle.

 

Debbie (Founder and President), Max (6), Holly (2), and Andrew

 

p.s. Just heard from mom, and Grandma has a new light in her eyes.  She may very well enjoy that walk at Christmas!

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Secrets and Skies

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Years ago, IBM owned substantial acreage around their San Jose facility off Bailey Road, and took extensive security measures to make sure civilians did not come close to this research facility, where even today, cutting edge research in biology, chemistry, physics, and computer science takes place.  At least a decade ago, they released some of the land to Santa Clara County as an easement, permitting mountain bikers, equestrians, hikers, and runners, to take advantage of this hilly landscape just Northeast of Calero Reservoir, and not far from the main part of Santa Teresa County Park, such that this acreage is listed as an adjunct to Santa Teresa.

 

This Fortini/San Vicente trailhead is a favorite of Stroller Hikers; it’s hills are not nearly as steep as some of the hills along the trails of Santa Teresa from Santa Teresa’s main entrance, and this side of the park gets much less use.  We typically hike the low ridgeline near the perimeter of the park, passing urban farms, stables, an old barn where we’ll sometimes see a farm cat or hear an owl, a fun Madrone Tree good for climbing, and drier areas rich with serpentine and sage, then take a break beneath Coast Live Oak Trees, near the creek.

 

 

This week, Holly and Max were super excited to hike, and when Liza, Sasha, and Nico showed the 001same enthusiasm, we decided to conquer the mountain biker’s hilly paradise by zigzagging up from the trailhead.  The kids were amazing – Sasha, Nico, and Max bounded up the trail, like billy goats with no intimidation about the climb or rocks, and only excitement about how high we were getting in very little time at all.  Sasha kept proclaiming, “I can see Russia!” and Max commented about how our car was as big as a Matchbox Car from the overlook we stopped at, to catch our breath.  Holly and Nico spotted horses in their pastures below, so small I had to squint to find them.  Getting to what I thought would be the top, the kids urged us on, and we finally stopped for a snack break near a funny metal sign mounted to a rock (pictured at right) that certainly has a story behind it: “Skanka, will you marry me?”

 

 

Refreshed with snacks and water after a mere ten minutes, and seeing the black rainclouds over StankaCupertino move Southwest towards the coast, Max and Sasha ran ahead, over the ridge and down the other side, only stopping briefly to smell a Bay Tree and get off the trail to let some mountain bikers pass. 

 

It was at this Bay Tree that we saw IBM’s green roofs, not far from us, on an adjacent ridge, with Bailey Road between (you can see it in the following photo).  Did IBM still have security watching those fences?  Old, faded signs abounded, reminding us to not cross the fences.  Max kept mistaking them for maps, calling out to us “follow me – let’s read this map!”  Who knows if someone was watching, or he lingered close to one of those signs for too long, but just a couple minutes after we had re-reached that Bay Tree on our way back to the cars, a slick, black helicopter whirred not more than a couple hundred feet overhead, and quickly circled back.  Everyone was excited to see it, but what was it doing?005

 

It continued circling the area as Sasha and Max raced back to the cars.  Max fully expected the helicopter to land on the road and come to interview the two of them, asking something like “Wow – you kids are fast hikers.  What are you two doing all the way out here by yourselves?”  (His 6-year-old pride shines through, huh?)

 

No helicopter landed, and by the time Liza, Nico, Holly, and I had rejoined Max and Sasha, the helicopter had flown away.  

Curious… and quite exciting for young kids with adventure on their minds!

 

We hope you can enjoy your own adventure soon!

 

-Debbie (Founder and President), Max (6), Holly (2), and Andrew

 


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