Picnic in the Park

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Ever since I moved in with Payam I’ve been a stickler about making a meal plan. Every Sunday I faithfully write it on white board in the kitchen for everyone in the family to see. I’m kind of obsessive about and it has been becomes a source of stress for me. Mostly this is because I have kids who like wildly different foods and I’m pretty much guaranteed to have at least one person unhappy with me every day of the week. It’s like planned failure every damn day.

Why do I care so much? I don’t know. My parents served me fish sticks and I survived. But I guess I’ve got some lofty ideal in my mind and I’m having trouble letting that go.

If I ask the family for help with the weekly plan that doesn’t work either. Everyone in my house is a visual eater (including Payam) which means they can’t imagine what they want to eat unless they can see it.  They swing open the pantry door and hem and haw but nothing ever comes to them.  They stand in front of the refrigerator: same story with cold air wafting out.

A fully photographed menu would work awesome for them but I’m not up to creating that. I’m a graphic designer and photographer by trade but it would be epic amounts of work.  Can you imagine the weekly versions? TV commercials also work amazingly on them but I’m not up for eating pizza or fast food every night of the week either. Did I mention that one of the kids loves Olive Garden and the other does NOT. One of the kids loves In-N-Out and the other does NOT. You can guess which one is which.  Bottom line: I’m never going to make everyone happy.

Payam says to make what I want and call it a day. I’m trying to work on that. Some days I win at trying and I even get compliments on my cooking (which is like heaven opening and harp music playing). Most days I don’t win.
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One of my weekly plans was a picnic dinner. It was actually kind of brilliant.  I’m often out walking the dogs around dinner time and I noticed that the weather is absolutely lovely around six. The heat of the day has finally dissipated and the light is really pretty and golden, shining through the trees and making long shadows. It’s really a great time of the day to be outside and not inside cooking.

And the dogs love it too!

I decided to cut my losses, get drive-thru fast-food that everyone likes and meet up at the park. We took the dogs, leashed them to a nearby barbecue and had a perfectly nice dinner with no one complaining. It was golden.

picnic-3Then we played soccer…picnic-4and took a walk around the lake…picnic-5

The kids were happy and didn’t spend the whole time arguing with each other…

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Dogs were walked. People got exercise…picnic-7

Pokemon were hunted… it was just really, really nice. picnic-9

I’m not proud of the fast-food part.  It was delicious like only McDonald’s french fries and a two cheeseburger meal can be, but of course I wish I had packed gourmet sandwiches that were a bit more healthy or even picked up some take-out that was a little less cholesterol-filled but it was quick and easy and most importantly, family-pleasing.

I’ve since organized a healthy homemade sandwich picnic for the beach and that went a little less smoothly (sand, dogs, chaos…) but it was still was really nice. I’m working out the kinks. But if I can write anything about this experience it is my old mantra that I write about over and over here. I must make the effort. Getting outside for dinner before winter sets in is totally worth the pain in the neck of planning it.

Is there a support group for meal-planning? I’m thinking I should start one.

Last Summer Hurrah at Dinkey Creek

cabin-at-dinky-creek-3School is about to start so we squeezed in one last camping trip into this short but very hot summer break. I can’t believe how fast it’s slipped by already. It seems like yesterday we were mapping out all the activities we’d do and now it’s almost already over.  We have a few more fun things up our sleeves but overall we’ve done a lot this summer and I’m feeling pretty good about it. These kids better not come up blank if they have to write a “What I did this summer” essay, that’s all I’m saying.cabin-at-dinky-creek-1Payam has friends up north who have connections at Dinkey Creek so we stayed at a sweet cabin in the woods. The girls were a bit disappointed that we weren’t tenting it this time but I was just fine with a nice cabin with a clean bed and a warm shower.  Give me some trees, a campfire, a glass of wine or a warm cup of coffee in my hand and I am the happiest camper ever.

cabin-at-dinky-creek-2It was my kind of roughing it. And of course nobody complained about the abundance of wifi.
campfire-at-dinkyAh… the campfire. What’s not to love?
cody-n-bug-n-joon-in-the-creekThe next day we took the dogs to the creek and Cody was in love instantly. He is such a water dog. You can’t watch him without feeling your own heart explode with joy when you see how much he loves the water.cody-n-bug-in-the-creekSometimes he would just walk up to the water and lay down immediately, like he was sighing inside to have finally found his natural habitat.cody-n-joon-in-the-creekSometimes he’d high center himself on rocks and just lay there. This dog was completely at home in the stream.cody-river-dog-1Cody butt.
cody-river-dog-2The girls and the dogs could have played in the creek all day and they kind-of did. I secretly wish we lived here and this is what they really did all day. I bet Minecraft addiction wouldn’t even be a problem here!cody-river-dog-3“All I need is this river and this stick”, says Cody in a Steve Martin voice from “The Jerk.”river-bugRiver, river, river… or maybe I should say creek, creek, creek. The water level is pretty low but not as bad as we were afraid it might be with the drought that just keeps going on in spite of the wimpy El Niño year we supposedly had.
joon-at-dinky-creekJoon being cute….river-rats-2After the river-romping, everyone was wiped out.sleepy-river-dogsEspecially the dogs.

The dogs love camping.  In fact, I think they are a bit depressed that we are now home in boring old suburbia. They stayed outside the cabin most of the day, lazing around in the dirt or hiking around with us and then they slept uncrated (!) at our feet in the loft at night. It was their first night sleeping indoors with freedom and I’m super happy to say that it went pretty smoothly.  They were tied to the railing by their leashes so it wasn’t complete freedom but I had worries that they would gnaw at the carpet or find random socks to eat and they didn’t! They were perfect little puppy angels.  They were also very tired puppies which makes for very good puppies.

See that scruffy mutt? Take a good look at him because he doesn’t look like that anymore. That’s a camping dog right there.
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The next day, right before we had to hit the road to head home, we took a quick hike up to an old milling camp that was built in the 1920’s. It was a dry, dusty hike but so worth it.

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The whole camp is preserved remarkably but yet not protected. It’s open for anyone to wander around and I couldn’t believe how untouched it was. There were even old rusty cans on the store shelves. If this existed down here in Southern California it would be a camp of homeless people or meth labs or burned down completely. It was a photographer’s dream location. There was a tiny bit of tagging inside some cabins but most of it was as if it had just been abandoned in the 30’s and never touched again.

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Cody was kind enough to pose for me.

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He’s such a pretty boy.

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Whiskey too.

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Whiskey is so funny with his scruffy fur that grows over his eyes. He constantly looks like an old stuffed animal that has been well-loved and not washed.
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So anyway, the mill. We went inside and it was huge. It was dark and all these little holes in the exterior shot tiny beams of light down onto the floor. It was so pretty and expansive, it kind of felt like you were stepping into a cool, dry, dusty observatory and the tiny beams of light looked like stars.
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The inside of the mill just added to my  photographer’s dream location. If I lived here I would come back constantly to shoot portraits. Bug took one of me but of course I don’t like it much because you know, I’m old and vain and stuff.
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I really love this time we had at Dinky Creek and I’m always going to hold a special spot in my heart for this road going down to the creek and this cabin. It was cute and little and just right.

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And these people!  They are always so good to us! Until next time guys!cabin-crew-2

It was our last camping trip and it was short and sweet and to the point. It was perfect for making good memories so we can start another year of the regular boring old grind. Just kidding! We love school too but you know what I mean, it’s nice to end summer feeling like you did a lot. Like we tied a bow on it.