Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park: Annual Church Camping Trip

It's time to share my annual church camping photos here. If you are interested in last year's, the post is here.

This year the campsite chosen was SUGARLOAF RIDGE STATE PARK located in Kenwood, CA - which is right in the heart of the beautiful Sonoma Valley wine region. I have never heard of this park until this time. The difference with this trip and the previous camping trips is that there was an observatory inside the park and that we had been also booked for a group tour with the observatory. Exciting isn't it?

So we camped on July 22-24. I had some trepidations because heat up to 100F was expected throughout the weekend. We knew for a fact that one of those days, the heat did reach 100F. I thought that I would skip a hike and just go for a wine tasting on one of those hot days. Well, I did manage to get a hike on a trail that looped about 3-4 miles, I'm not sure, but despite going early in the day the sun was still bearing down on us. It was just HOT. The reward for our hike was all the wild blackberries and cherries we could reach and eat.

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My home for the weekend.

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The breakfast crew. The structure in the back is the observatory.

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And scrambled eggs.

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Stopped to pick wild blackberries on both sides of the bridge.

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Nearby we spotted a tree full of fruits (cherries).

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The meadow.

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Pebbled path.

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I love this tree.

Once we got back to the car, we drove straight to town or anywhere nearby where we can have a little wine tasting. Our first stop was at a winery that is beautiful, but charges $20 per tasting. We did not want to pay for tasting; there are free tastings to be had, so we googled it. Likewise, lunch first was on our mind. Don't want to taste with an empty stomach.

About 10 miles away we stopped at El Brinquito, a grocery store that also sells all the Mexican goodies you crave. They have a bbq setup in the parking lot and a lady makes tortillas in front of the store. We all had 2 tacos each ($1.75 per).

We drove about 20 minutes to reach the beautiful Jacuzzi Winery for free tasting. Upon arrival, the tasting rooms (wine and olive oil/balsamic vinegar) were packed, so we chose to explore the building and the grounds. When we returned from our exploration, we saw that we could easily conduct our tasting. We had a flight of 5 wines to taste and in the end the husband and I bought a bottle, while the couple we went with picked up two.

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Awesome no-frills tacos.

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Back in the campgrounds, while the cooks grilled chicken, the kids played pickup soccer and the adults chatted lazily. It was still hot. At night, we had a wonderful, fascinating, and educational tour at the ROBERT FERGUSON OBSERVATORY. They gave us a brief lecture on Astronomy 101 and were available for questions. We looked through two telescopes and got to see stars, clusters, nebula and Saturn with its rings, and many more. It would be my first time to see through a telescope and get a lecture from those who know about these things. We were able to see the Milky Way through the naked eyes. Unfortunately, there were no photos taken during all these. I was so engrossed that I did not think about photography.

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We were told that we were the first church group to book a night sky class of sort and that we seem to be a fun, diverse group.

Since this was a church camping, we had to have a service on Sunday.

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And we don't leave without a group shot.

By the way, on Saturday night, the moon rose behind the hill somewhere around the 10-11 pm and it was so beautiful.

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Another summer, another camping trip in the books.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Annual Chocolate Extravaganza

Once a year our church produces a fundraiser that benefits both the church and the local high school's music and art program. This year was the fifth year we hosted the fundraiser. I remember when we first conceptualized this fundraiser, I was a member of the vestry (then still called Bishop's Committee) and how tough it was to get it off the ground. Meetings were held every week starting in January and the fundraiser was on the third week of June. It was one of the toughest things I have participated in, but 5 years later the members of the planning committee hold a handful of meetings before the event. The head of the committee and the members got the process right down pat that everything goes as intended without all the meetings.

We are a small church, but the members are always willing and ready to participate in the event. Members enter their chocolate creations, sweet or savory, for the public to judge which is the best for the night. Last year, my beautiful green tea truffle earned me a first place in the Taster's Choice Awards. I did not place this year, which was expected because my choice of recipe did not wow me either.

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In the first hour of the event, I was able to mingle and taste and have my fill. There are auction tables in addition to food tables. Once the tables start to close, I go in the backroom where I man the till so I miss a lot of the action in the second half of the event. I was able to listen to the music without watching the performers. The high school kids are so talented. Each year, a new batch of musicians come and perform and they are all show promise. Talking to their beaming parents was what I enjoy most especially when these parents show their surprise that our church help fund their music and art program. None of these kids nor their parents attend our church.

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The event is an all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet. No savory entries this year though.

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And my entry from last year and this year.

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2016 entry - white chocolate lemon ball. Way too sweet even for my sweet tooth.

2015 entry - green tea truffles. Weak green tea flavoring for my taste, but others think otherwise.