A glimpse of Armstrong Redwoods and an even tinier glimpse of Jenner by the Sea

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, which is located a short drive north of Guerneville, about halfway between Santa Rosa and the Pacific Ocean. It is truly a magical place. In Santa Rosa it was hot and sunny, and the air was dry and somewhat polluted due to the lack of rain. In the redwood grove, the air is moist and fresh, and the atmosphere is so still and peaceful that you really feel like you are entering into another dimension. It is such a great place to go to shift your perspective and clear your head. You feel like a babe in the woods because the trees are so big. The best part is, it’s free (most state parks charge about $8 to park as a sort of entrance fee, which is well worth it considering what you get in return). You can leave a donation at the visitor’s centre before going in though.

The trees in this reserve are commonly known as coast redwoods but they are actually Sequoia sempervirens trees. Most of the area was covered in these trees before logging operations began in the 1800s. The ancient coast redwood is the tallest living thing on our planet – most of them live to be 500-1,000 years old, grow to a diameter of 12-16 feet, and stand from 200-250 feet tall. Some trees survive to over 2,000 years and are over 350 feet tall!

There is a short 1.7 mile trail that loops around the park and passes all of its main features including an outdoor amphitheater, self-guided nature trails, and different picnic facilities. There are also longer and more strenuous trails with elevation of up to 3.3 miles within the Armstrong Reserve, or for the more ambitious, you can start here and then hike into the rolling hills, forests, and grasslands of the adjacent Austin Creek State Recreation Area.

The foot of the Parson Jones tree, Armstrong Woods, CA

The Parson Jones tree is the tallest tree in the grove.

At the foot of the Parson Jones tree, Armstrong Woods, CA

Pegasus in Paradise felt she should provide a sense of scale for this tree!

Armstrong Woods, CA

I have no idea why I took this picture!

Shadow picture, Armstrong Woods, CA

Waving at myself in the long shadows!!!

Armstrong Woods, CA

I liked the high arbor that this drooping tree made over the path!

Armstrong Woods, CA

The way this vine is growing on top of that tree stump makes it look a little bit like a giant mushroom with a long skinny stalk 🙂

After relaxing in the stillness of the reserve for a while, my friend and I kept driving towards the coast as I wanted to go to a scenic overlook over the Pacific that we had been to before and really loved, but it was SOOOOOOOO windy and cold there we had to beat a hasty retreat (sorry I forgot to take some photos – my fingers might have had early stage hypothermia by then too and I wouldn’t have been able to operate my camera anyhow!!!)! It continually amazes me how different the temperature and winds are when I leave the area around Santa Rosa and head to the coast!

Instead we stopped in Jenner by the Sea, which feels like it is on the coast, but technically it overlooks a river, so it is a lot less cold and windy (yay!!!). Jenner is a sweet little town very close to where the Russian River meets the Pacific.

We sat on a picnic table and enjoyed these views while dining on a selection of the best vegan food Trader Joe’s had to offer that evening – crusty sourdough baguettes with California Estate extra virgin olive oil, raw sauerkraut with pickles, an avocado, and curried kale and cauliflower salad – yum!!!

View from Jenner at sunset, Sonoma County, CA

Looking out on to the Russian River from Jenner at sunset

View from Jenner at sunset, Sonoma County, CA

Nice view to dine by!

What a lovely excursion that was! Thank you for stopping by, dear reader!


Muir’s Tea Room – a slice of vegan heaven in Sebastopol!

Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh my friends….I can’t BELIEVE it has taken me so long to find this place, it has been open since shortly before I got here at the end of 2014! I had heard about Muir’s Tea Room on Facebook, but thought it was just a regular old tea house with some vegan options. Imagine my extreme excitement and urgent need to get there asap when I found out it was ALL PLANT-BASED!!!!! Woo-hoo!!! That makes it the only vegan restaurant in Sonoma county, which is a travesty that needs to be addressed asap by anyone other than me, hee hee….

Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Muir’s Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Muir’s Tea Room was opened in December 2014 and is inspired by John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. Owner Christine Dzilvelis and chef Tika Moon serve a traditional Scottish/English tea service with tiered racks, as well as lunch items such as sandwiches, soups, salads with home-made dressings, and traditional Scottish pasties. It is located in one of my favourite towns in the area, Sebastopol, right on Main Street, in a gorgeous restored 1892 Victorian house surrounded by lush gardens. The decorations are all nature themed and cute as a button, and there is also a gift shop filled with all manner of fascinating curios. And….more importantly – there are UNICORNS and MY LITTLE PONY items as well!!!! I felt like I was in a much more tastefully decorated and spacious version of my own lair!!!!

The decision to name a vegan tea shop after a noted conservationist is extremely timely given the drought that California is facing right now. Animal agriculture is responsible for 47% of California’s water footprint, versus only 4% for domestic water use (Pacific Institute). The adoption of a vegan diet can save on average 600 gallons of water a day compared to eating a standard American diet (National Geographic). Because of how much food is cycled through animals to produce animal products, a vegan diet requires 18 times less land to produce than a meat-eater’s diet, and 3 times less land than a vegetarian’s diet (a vegan diet only requires 1/6 of an acre of land per year to feed one person) (Earthsave, PNAS, NSRL, Johnny Seeds). Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction (full sources available at the website for the excellent documentary Cowspiracy, which I recommend you watch at your earliest opportunity if you care about the earth. Also please check out the excellent work Truth or Drought are doing to raise awareness on this issue, and add them to your Facebook feed).

So! Without further ado…I present….Muir’s Tea Room…a story in pictures!!!

Outside patio, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

The outside tables are extremely pleasant, and look out over Main Street in Sebastopol and the beautiful gardens at the front of the house.

indoor dining area, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Part of the indoor dining area

Vegan baked goods, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

The dessert case

Genuto vegan gelato, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Genuto vegan gelato! Didn’t get a chance to try, sadly as too full from all the other exciting things I had!!!!

Nature themed gift shop, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Nature themed gift shop on one end of the dining room

Gorgeous china table settings, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Elegant and unique place settings – adore the deer napkin rings!

Here is the Close to Nature’s Heart tea rack, $21.95. Includes an endless pot of tea from a vast selection of tea flavours, 2 flavors of finger sandwiches (2 of each flavor), choice of cup of soup or house salad, scone w/jam AND assortment of petit desserts!!! Yeah, baby!!!! (click on any photo to see more details and a larger version).

And the soup, sandwich and salad combo with a pasty instead of a sandwich:

Here a few more pictures of the fanciful, creative and relaxing decor and some of the food:

Before leaving, I signed the guestbook which was being lovingly watched over by an awesome unicorn:

Guestbook, Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

A beautiful unicorn watches over the guest book

Christine, the owner of Muir's Tea Room, Sebastopol, California

Christine, the mysterious, benevolent genius behind Muir’s.

And managed to get a photo with Christine, the creatress of this magical place! Thank you to Christine and her friendly and welcoming staff for an amazing, enchanted visit to vegan paradise!!!

Muir’s Tea Room
Address: 330 South Main Street, Sebastopol
Telephone: 707 634 6143
Hours (watch for expanded hours including dinner opening coming soon! Yay!)
Tuesday- Friday 11:00 AM- 4 :00 PM
Saturday 9:00 AM- 5:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM- 4:00 PM
Monday- closed

Reservations are recommended for holidays and weekends. Also check their website for special events throughout the year.

Muir’s is also a Blue Ribbon Sponsor of this year’s Sonoma County Vegfest on August 15, 2015 in Santa Rosa! Yay!

A visit to Goatlandia, Part II – da chickens!!!

[TV Announcer Voice] Previously on Pegasus in Paradise, I recounted the first part of my visit to Goatlandia, a home and private animal sanctuary north of Santa Rosa, run by a cool woman I met online. This week I will continue this tale – far too much happened that day to fit in just one post!

After visiting the goats, we headed over to see the chickens. Before I talk about the chickens, please know that I am in no way advocating keeping backyard chickens or eating eggs. You can read more about why even eating eggs from rescued chickens is problematic in this excellent overview from the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary.

The chickens naturally broke into two groups, the ‘regular’ chickens (do you like my extensive knowledge of chicken breeds?) and the ‘silky’ chickens:


Chickens hanging out convivially 🙂

Chicken close up

Extreme chicken close-up! Strike a pose! Yeah baby!

Silky chickens!

Yes, these are also chickens!

Silky chicken

First person to find the chicken’s face in this picture wins a prize!

Silky chicken

Chicken: “Put me down you weird lady!!!!”

Silky chicken

Silky chicken photobomb!

All of the chickens lay eggs in these little nesting boxes, except for one rebel chicken who lays eggs behind a tractor in a barn. Hee! Apparently, if you don’t remove the eggs from these nests, they will stop laying eggs as they only lay enough eggs to get a full nest. Another interesting thing I learned about chickens recently is that you can get a contraceptive implant for them them that lasts 6 months and will stop them from laying eggs (it’s called Deslorein). This can be used in cases where the chicken’s body can not withstand the stress of laying so many eggs:

Free living chickens, like all birds, lay eggs only once a year (usually in the spring) and only enough to ensure the survival of their species—an average of 10 to 20 eggs. Domesticated hens have been selectively bred to lay between 260 to 300 eggs a year. As a result of being genetically manipulated to produce an unnaturally large number of unnaturally large eggs, laying hens suffer from a host of crippling disorders of the reproductive tract, many of which can be fatal. (Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary)

Deb said that the chickens really loved eating their eggs, so I took a little video of them in action:

Chicken eating its own eggs

Nom nom nom…

By giving the chickens back their own eggs, it helps them to restore some of the vital nutrients (calcium especially) that are lost during the egg laying process.

After chillaxing with the chickens, we headed back to the garage to look at some of the interesting things going on in there:

Car door decor, burning man bicycle

Stuffed toys! In the garage! Fun!

Burning man bicycle

Sorry this picture is blurry! Deb took this bicycle to Burning Man Festival with her 🙂

Vegetable oil car fuel

Deb had one of her cars converted to run on biodiesel, which she gets from the restaurant she works at (boxes on the left). I wonder if the exhaust smells like french fries?

Then we hung out for a while on the deck and chatted while her sweet dogs kept us company:


“Don’t forget about us doggies, weird lady!!!”

I was grateful Deb was able to fit me into her busy schedule – the next day she was driving to Half Moon Bay (quite far) to pick up the latest member of her family, Sheldon the pig:

sheldon the pig

Fast forward a month or so later, to Sheldon the pig happily settling in to this new home. Who’s a handsome devil? 😀

On the way home I stopped to look at the memorials at the site of a fatal head on collision earlier that week. One man tried to illegally pass a row of cars, and collided with another man coming from the opposite direction, killing both of them and a dog :-(. So many crazy drivers out there, it’s scary! Makes me glad I don’t have a car, even though if I did I would be better protected on the road than I am on my bike!

Memorials at fatal car crash, River Road, Santa Rosa, March 2015

Memorials at fatal car crash, River Road, Santa Rosa, March 2015

Memorials at fatal car crash, River Road, Santa Rosa, March 2015

Do any of you have any funny chicken stories? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and see you next week, when I will be talking about my buddy. Scrawny the Squirrel.

A visit to Goatlandia – Part I – da goats!

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a magical land north of Santa Rosa called Goatlandia! I connected with Deb, the creator and caretaker of this awesome home / private animal sanctuary via a vegan accommodation page on Facebook a few months ago, and while the accommodation didn’t work out, she kindly said I could come visit – yippee!

And so it was that I set off with some trepidation on my bicycle on a muggy Saturday in March. The trepidation was not to do with visiting Deb, it was to do with this being the first time I had tried to take the bus with my bicycle. The buses here that go between towns have bike racks on the front, but I had never used them. Thank goodness there was a young lad also waiting for the bus who helped me get it on the racks! The first one I tried was too small, the second one was taken, and then I put it on the third one in the back, which was the right size, but I put it on backwards so it had to be flipped around (goldilocks and the three bike racks!!!!  And as the man helping me said “You sure have a big-ass bike!!!” – he wasn’t wrong, hee hee!!!

Sonoma County Transit bike rack

This is the bike rack I had to wrangle with except that the middle rack had a bike on it. the coolest part is I get to ride free as a college student! Thanks Sonoma County Transit! Image from Metro Magazine.

Anyhow…what an adventure, I had to bike the last half of the way on some busy roads, but I eventually arrived safely!!!

The Pegasus in Paradise mobile arrives at goatlandia and is greeted by Phoenix the dog

The Pegasus in Paradise mobile arrives at Goatlandia and is greeted by Phoenix the dog!

The proprietress of Goatlandia

The lovely proprietress of Goatlandia with some of her lucky companions 🙂

After some chit chat in Deb’s beautiful kitchen over vegan apple oat muffins I had baked for this momentous occasion, we ambled off to the pasture to meet the goats. The goats were obtained from a local goat dairy farm. Either because they were male or if they were female, because they had some sort of defect with their reproductive organs that meant they would not be good milk producing machines. Not everyone realizes that in order to steal milk from animals to sell to humans the animals have to have babies on a regular basis. These babies are then taken away from their mothers almost immediately birth so humans can steal their milk. If they are female, they usually end up as dairy slaves to replace their mothers, who are trucked off to slaughter once their production declines. If they are male, they are usually killed shortly after birth, either for meat (if you eat cow’s dairy you support the veal industry) or often just to be thrown away in the case of male baby goats, because there is not enough demand for their meat. You can read more about goats here and see an industrial goat dairy in action here.

The solution, of course, is written on my T-shirt:

Goat ear photobomb

The goat and the dog are telling me they agree with the message on my t-shirt: ‘Go Vegan And No Body Gets Hurt’. Also note the goat ear photobomb!!!!

Okay, proselytizing over! Back to my visit…I had brought some tortilla chips (it is apparently the goat’s favourite snack!) and some carrots. Deb said the goats wouldn’t eat the carrots but I could bring them for the horse. The goats loved the chips so much, one of the naughtier goats reared up and knocked me over to get more! Luckily, there was a fence behind me, so I didn’t have to suffer the pain of a butt bruise!!!

Goat saying hello!!!! (either that or cvan I please have some tortilla chips?)

Goat saying hello!!!! (either that or ‘can I please have some tortilla chips?’). Check out the funky beard!

Goats feasting on tortilla chips

I ❤ the cloven hooves!

Goat with hooves on table

‘Garcon! Could we get more tortilla chips, here, tout-de-suite, sil-vous-plait?’

Goats eating chips

Eventually the goats realized it would be easier to reach the chips if they ate ON the table, not AT the table!

Gaggle of goats

A gaggle of goats gathered enjoying their chips 🙂

At the same time as all this was going on, Magic the horse was observing the scene peacefully from behind the fence separating us from the adjacent pasture, being adorable, and also intermittently snacking on the carrots:

Horse nose

Extreme horse close-up!!! So sweet!!!

Horse head

‘Hello – my name is Magic and I happily accept carrot and apple donations!”

Pretty horse

It was impossible to get an awesome photo of this beautiful horse as it was behind a fence!

Once the tortilla chip frenzy had died down, Deb and I were able to enjoy some chillout time with the goats:

Goat stealing food from pocket

I had carrots in my pocket for the horse, but the goats picked them out, then dropped them on the ground in disgust….

coco the goat eating a carrot

…except Coco, who was happy to eat them. Go Coco!

inexplicably lactating goat

This goat was mysteriously lactating, even though she had not given birth…

goat with gopher ears

These little ears are called gopher ears 🙂

Toggenburg goat

I believe this chilled out dude or dudette is a Lamancha Goat.

Oak trees with weird fungus

I find these growths on all the oak trees here intriguing, apparently it is some sort of fungus, the green one is the fresh one then it dries out to the beige/brown colour.

Two goats and a woman

Thank you to these two cuties for posing so nicely with me!!!!

Wow! What a fun time! But that was only the first half of the visit! Talk about a lot of excitement in one day!!! Come back next week for part deux!!! Thank you Deb for hosting and thank you treasured reader for for stopping by Pegasus-in-Paradise-land!!!

San Francisco I love you so!

Hello dear reader, as promised this week I will be talking about the fun trip to San Francisco that the Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) International Student Office took us on after orientation, on January 8, 2015.

We met at 8:00 a.m. (ack!) at the Junior College and after a brief delay to pick up one student by the fairgrounds as his taxi didn’t show up, were zooming towards San Fran in two white vans (we self selected ourselves into a boy’s van and a girl’s van, which I thought was funny!). I was elated to be given co-pilot duties so I got to ride shotgun. Woot woot! It is about an hour’s drive from Santa Rosa to San Francisco, and reasonably scenic in places as well, going through some rural areas around Petaluma and other parts of Sonoma county, then through the rarefied air of Marin County (one of America’s top ten richest counties, with an average annual income of $128,544), then after going through the Rainbow Tunnel you see the Golden Gate Bridge coming up before you. Here we stopped at the Golden Gate Recreation Area for one of many photo opportunities. The light wasn’t the best at that time to get the bridge in the shot but it was still a beautiful view!

Patti, Sophia and Melissa

With my new buddies from orientation, Patti and Melissa, in the morning on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge

Once we arrived in town we drove through the pretty marina district along the waterfront and parked near Fisherman’s Wharf, where we took more group photos before going to see the sea lions as a group.

SRJC international student group shot!

Peg Saragina, the directress of the international student program, (in red on the left) was one of our wonderful tour guides and very fond of group shots. Here is our Pier 39 group shot! Photo credit: SRJC International Student Program Facebook Page

Sea lions at Pier 39

The awesome, fun sea lions at Pier 39. They haven’t disappointed me yet! (okay I have only been to see them twice, but still – credit where credit’s due! Hee!)

Weird bread statues

We passed this place on the way to Pier 39, it’s called Boudin Bakery and they make bread animals in the window and one of the bakers wears headphones and exhorts you to come inside to sample their wares. On the left is the burnt end of a giant bread alligator’s tail!

Then we were free to go off on our own for about 4 hours. I walked to Telegraph Hill and climbed up to Coit Tower with a few other students, all the while on the lookout for wild parrots, having recently watched the documentary The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. They tend to hide in people’s backyards though, so it’s not that easy to just see them while on the public parts of the hill.

Interesting coyote sign on Telegraph Hill

For some reason, this is the only picture I seem to have taken on the way up and down from Coit Tower!

I then went off on my own on foot back towards the Marina district, as I wanted to go to this new vegan restaurant I had read about called Seed + Salt. On the way I went through the zig zaggy bit of Lombard Street and stopped at XOX Truffles for a chocolate infusion.

Looking west on Chestnut Street

The view west down a hill from Chestnut Street, on my way to lunch.

Refueling stop at XOX Truffles

I got a very brief chance to practice my French when I stopped into this truffle shop, XOX Truffles, on my way to the Marina district from Coit Tower. They have 3 flavors of vegan truffles, chocolate, orange and coconut. If you buy a coffee you get a free truffle! (a good deal as the coffee is very reasonably priced)

I thought this was an interesting tree! Anyone know what it is?

An interesting tree that I spotted outside of an elementary school on my walk! Anyone know what it is?

Pretty trees in front of San Francisco house

I liked the purple flowers in front of this house. How cool would it be to have these outside your window at home?

After enjoying a delicious vegan Eggplant BLT (the bacon is made with eggplant) and some free cookie samples at Seed + Salt and getting some cauliflower couscous salad to take home for later, I walked back to meet my group along the waterfront. I wished I had had more time to hang out on Chestnut Street in the Marina district where the restaurant was but sadly I had to go. There is a very funky, upscale vibe there and I particularly liked the yarn bombed tree in front of Seed + Salt which was done in all my favourite fluorescent colours.

Eggplant BLT from Seed + Salt

My lunch at Seed + Salt! This was an Eggplant BLT made with gluten free bread that was actually crusty and good and ‘bacon’ made from eggplant. I also took home a great cauliflower couscous salad (the cauliflower was the couscous) with sumac dressing.

I wandered around Fort Mason on the way back, as Mark Bittner, the parrot expert had recommended that as a good place to see the wild parrots. However, while it was interesting and pleasant with the vast tracts of grass and huge trees, still no parrots. I did hear many other birds though.

Looking for wild parrots at Fort Mason

Looking for wild parrots at Fort Mason…no luck…boo-hoo!!!

Then I stopped at a beach in the ‘Aquatic Cove’ where I watched birds for a while and was amazed to see a man swimming. There is a swimming club and a rowing club next to this beach.

On the drive back we were offered to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge! I never expected to get that opportunity! What a treat for a walking enthusiast like me!

Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge!

On the way home we were offered the opportunity to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge! I was the only one who took it literally though and everyone had to wait for me (whoops – sorry!). It was about a 3 mile return trip. I did a lot of walking on this day!

Lime Point Lighthouse

Lime Point Lighthouse, on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. My international student office friend told me her son had to go and camp there with his class and pretend to be guarding the land behind it as part of a class historical field trip! Scary!

The Golden Gate bridge is the second most second-most used suicide site in the world, after the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge in China. The deck is 245 feet above the water and it takes 4 seconds to hit the water. Only 5% who jump survive the initial impact. (Wikipedia)

The Golden Gate bridge is the second most second-most used suicide site in the world, after the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge in China. The deck is 245 feet above the water and it takes 4 seconds to get there. Only 5% who jump survive the initial impact. (Wikipedia)

San Francisco from the from the Golden Gate Bridge to

The view towards San Francisco from the from the bay facing side of the Golden Gate Bridge (the side facing the Pacific is closed to pedestrians)

Interesting bird near Golden Gate Bridge

I think this is a pelican? I wish my camera had a better zoom lens!

View towards Marin County from the city side of the Golden Gate Bridge

View towards Marin County from the San Francisco side of the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco – je t’aime! I hope we will meet again soon!

Thank you to the SRJC International Student Office for making this lovely day possible!