San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers

Last Wednesday, the kids and I set out on a field trip to the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. I’ve been to the Conservatory several times and it’s one of those special San Francisco places I adore. The kids have never been — not really. We did take Wyatt once when he was a little baby so we could see the world’s largest, stinkiest flower — the corpse flower — but that doesn’t count because…you know…infant.

San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers

I’d be lying if I told you the kids were fully on board when I told them we were going to look at flowers for half the day. My boys are not big horticulture enthusiasts despite my best efforts to get them excited about plants and flowers. But as they spotted the Conservatory through the trees after a short walk through the woods, they started to come around. Isn’t it beautiful? (In case you’re wondering, the panes of glass on this giant greenhouse are whitewashed so all the plants inside don’t burn up.)

Scenes from the Conservatory of Flowers

We were primarily there to check out the current special exhibit, “Stranded!“. We are all addicted to survival reality shows — Naked and Afraid, The Island, Alone and, our favorite, Survivorman — so this exhibit was right up our alleys. It turned out to be a little more Gilligan’s Island than I was expecting (see the coconut radio in the top left photo), but it was fun and I learned that bromeliads are an excellent place to find fresh water if you’re stranded on a tropical island.

Scenes from the Conservatory of Flowers

The rest of the Conservatory is filled with thousands of gorgeous flowers. There are orchids absolutely everywhere, along with gigantic — and very old — plants that towered above us in the main atrium.  Of particular interest to my boys were the meat-eating Venus Flytraps and pitcher plants — though we never managed to find any that were actively eating bugs. The water room is my special favorite, though I was disappointed that the giant lily pads I’ve seen in past visits weren’t on display this time.

Because we were at the park for most of the day, we needed packed lunches so of course I took the opportunity to make us a flower bentos! (As a boy-mom I need to seize every flower lunch opportunity presented to me!)

Flower LunchBots Bento for the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers

Our three lunches were pretty similar, but they were all presented a little differently because we each used a different LunchBots bento box. Augie’s was packed in the LunchBots Quad. He had mini-peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cucumbers — both stamped with little flower cutter/punches. ( I can’t find the exact cutters I have online but they are similar to these.) He also had a grape “flower” with a strawberry center packed into a silicone baking cup, mini saltines and some strawberries.

 Flower Bento for the SF Conservatory of Flowers

Wyatt’s lunch was packed in our LunchBots Trio. He also had PB&J (cut with a larger flower cutter), his own grape flower in a silicone baking cup, strawberries, mini saltines and cut and stamped radish slices.

Grown-up Flower Bento for the SF Conservatory of Flowers

I packed my own lunch in the mammoth LunchBots Cinco box. I had dried apple chips (which I shared with the kids), ranch dressing (for the veggies), a grape flower, strawberries, a mix of carrots, radishes and cucumbers, tuna salad (in a big pink flower cup) and mini saltines for eating it.

San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers

We ate our lunches on a hill next to the big field outside the Conservatory which was almost as pretty as the green house itself. There were tiny little daisies all over the soft green grass (a rarity in water-starved California) and it was a beautiful, sunny afternoon. Perfect!


Assemble a kit with beach essentials and keep it in the trunk of your car to streamline trips to the beach -- works for the pool too!

When I moved to California from Iowa almost 25 years ago, I was sure I’d be at the beach all the time. Constantly. At least once per week. But reality didn’t match my expectations. In fact, for the vast majority of those years (20 of them) I barely even visited a beach once per year.

Here is the truth: it is HARD to go to the beach. Being at the beach is fun! Getting ready to go to the beach is tons of work. There are so many necessities to gather up, children to dress in swimsuits, and snacks to pack. Sometimes it feels like I spend more time preparing for a trip to the ocean than we spend at the beach itself!

Or at least it did, back in the olden days. A few years ago, I figured out a trick that streamlines beach prep and makes it simple to just get our suits on, grab a few towels and GO.

The key is to pack a big bag with all the essentials for an afternoon at the beach at the very beginning of summer and then leave it in the car at all times. I stuff mine with toys, sun protection and portable snacks (we love the snacks from Horizon Dairy because they are yummy and convenient), then stash it in the trunk.

BONUS: with the exception of the sand toys, the stuff I keep in our beach kit is the exact same stuff I take to the swimming pool. Double time saver!

Keep a bag stocked with essentials in your car to streamline trips to the beach

Here’s what I keep in my beach kit:

  • A beach blanket (background in photo above) — I picked mine up at a tourist-trap, road-side store in New Mexico when we drove cross-country ten summers ago. Because it’s made with a loose weave the sand shakes out easily and it dries fast too.
  • Floppy sun hat — I only keep one of my hats in the bag because the kids wear their baseball caps pretty much all the time.
  • The beach bag — Bigger is better. I wish mine was slightly larger so I could throw all our beach towels in it when it’s time to go, but it’s not too bad to put them in a second bag. I also wish it was a little cuter, but it was a freebie so I’m not going to complain.
  • Snacks — A must! We all get hungry really quickly running on the beach and playing in the water so I always keep snacks in our bag. Horizon Fruit Snacks and Apple Fruit Crunchers satisfy our sweet tooth and because they’re individually packaged they keep well even if they’re stowed in the trunk for a few weeks at a time.
  • Baby powder — The best sand remover in the world! Rub some on your sandy feet and legs and it just falls off.
  • Sunblock — This bottle stays in the bag at all times
  • Toys — A ball for playing catch, shovels for digging, and some smaller cups and containers for building sand castles. I often raid our recycling bin for the cups — the bigger sour cream containers are good scoopers and yogurt cups are great for adding details to sand castles.
  • A  towel — We grab our big swimming towels along with our swimming suits if we are making a dedicated trip to the beach, but I still like to keep one towel in the bag for spontaneous stops when we are heading home from somewhere else. We use it to dry our feet after wading or to dust the sand off after a walk. (And you wouldn’t believe how often you’ll use a towel in the course of daily life if you have one stowed away in your trunk.)
  • Goggles —  These also live in the bag full-time so they don’t get misplaced in the house. We use them occasionally at the beach, but we always use them at the pool.

Keep a stocked bag in your trunk for easier trips to the beach (or the pool!)

Once everything is stuffed into the bag, I tuck it in the corner of our trunk where it’s out of the way. I keep a few bigger sand toys in there too. (Yes, we have FOUR buckets. Wanna make something of it?) And this summer I bought myself a beach chair which I am also keeping in the trunk. Unlike my beach bag, the chair is kind of in the way, but it is so comfortable when I’m sitting on the sand that I’m willing to put up with it.

Keep a bag stocked with essentials in your car to streamline trips to the beach (and the pool!)

When we return from our outing I wash anything that needs washing, replace the snacks and then take it right back out to the car. Easy peasy!

How do you streamline trips to the beach or pool? I’d love to hear your tips!

Keep a bag stocked with essentials in your car to streamline trips to the beach (and the pool!)

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Horizon Organic. The opinions and text are all mine.

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The Week in Bentos: Day Camp 2015

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A few months ago I started making ham and cheese crescent rolls for the boys’ lunches (and many, many after school snacks). Whenever I post a lunch with one of these rolls in it, I get a few questions about how I make them. They are ridiculously easy! So easy, in fact, that I decided […]

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