“In the garden”. Big Bear, Trains and Flesh Eating Cacti – part III

I love a good arboretum. They’re a wonderfully cared for bit of “nature” in the middle of an urban sprawl. I’ve started creating an unofficial top 5 in the last year (The Spring Preseve in Nevada and The Los Angeles Arboretum topping that list). I purchased a family membership while at the Springs Preserve and was presented with a list of where the membership was accepted in different states.

So….the flesh eating cacti.

Backstory: When we went to the Los Angeles Arboretum my tough, strapping teenager reached out to idly touch a cactus. It was an overcast breezy day and this particular breed of cacti has long slender segmented branches. I was a few paces ahead trying to keep up with Cohan when I heard a terrified yelp. I spun around and my brave young man was staring horrified at the cactus.

“It moved!”

We looked at him.
Looked at the plant.
Looked toward the placard for any notes that declared:


So while hiding a smirk I reached out to touch it.
By now Brayden was mumbling how he swears it moved and we finally talked him into trying to touch it again.
He tentatively reached out…

nothing happened.

To this day his younger siblings tease him about man eating plants. “Careful Brayden this one looks dangerous!”

I mention the cacti incident because the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens have a large focus on native plants. So much so that the nursery on location sells the native plants five days a week (I can’t wait to go back for that especially!)

We walked the paths and while it wasn’t my favorite or the most striking of all of the arboretums I’ve ever been to it was a lovely breath of fresh air with the mountains peaking through the trees in the background. Also. Be prepared to hear “squirrel!” If you have children (or child like adults) with you. They’re everywhere and very cute.

From there we went to the Loving Hut. We thoroughly enjoy their food (although admittedly it’s not our “favorite”). They have several locations but please be aware that the menus vary.

Our last stop before the hour drive home was Viva La Vegan. This is one of those store that I wish
A. Had more produce
B. Was closer to our house.
Those are the only “complaints”. Otherwise this place is awesome! It takes all of the guesswork out of grocery shopping in regards to everything from pet food to shoes (Cohan got a fantastic pair of Macbeths). Every time we’re in the area we always make a point to stop in.

It was a wonderful trip but as always there’s no place like home.







“Don’t be silly you love trains.” Big Bear, Trains and Flesh Eating Cacti – part II

We took a lllooonnngggg time getting going on day 2. Star Trek was on and we were all lazing about enjoying our sprawling hotel stay.

Once we did get moving we were off to the Orange Empire Railway Museum. I have ALWAYS wanted to go but we are rarely ever out in the Perris area. This place is a must for anyone that either gets a kick out of trains, loves history, or has children (of any age) that are/were acquainted with Thomas the train or Polar Express. The whole of the place has such an old timey feel that I’ll have to let the pictures do most of the talking in this post. I’m also fearful of giving anyone who actually “knows” trains an anxiety attack by differentiating the engines by saying “the big steam one”.

We bought the family pass (which saved us $8 instead of buying a separate admission ticket for each of us) and wandered to the large storage building that holds a large collection of trains (some dating back to 1870). You can go through the building and read about the history of each great machine and even go into more than half of them (most still filled with the charming ads that graced their walls once upon a time). We then rode both of the trains that run on the main rail and depart every half hour. My face hurt from smiling as I watched how enchanted the kids were with being “in something so full of history” as Kap had put it.

There’s quite a lot to explore and we could have taken more time there but it was getting a bit warm (and we’re a bunch of wusses in the heat). So we headed back to the hotel with dinner and night swimming on the agenda.

For me the Orange Empire Railway was the highlight of the trip and would definitely go back. 20140221-100709.jpg20140221-100826.jpg20140221-100841.jpg20140221-100855.jpg20140221-100903.jpg20140221-100848.jpg20140221-100918.jpg20140221-100910.jpg20140221-100834.jpg20140221-100933.jpg20140221-100924.jpg

Big Bear, Trains and Flesh Eating Cacti – part I

I’ll be splitting this last weekends adventure into three parts over the next few days because (theoretically) you could pursue each of these destinations in three separate day trips (if you’re in the Southern California area).

We made our way up to Big Bear located in the San Bernardino mountains, about 100 miles from Los Angeles. Initially I had planned on spending the whole weekend up there.
In a cabin.
Snow falling gracefully outside…

I talked to my long time friend that lives up there year round and he said “Don’t bother. The weather has been awful this year.”

Sadly the snow has been few and far between this season. Which is unfortunate because the local economy thrives on the vacationers that flock up the mountain year round to enjoy the lake or the slopes. But when it’s too cold for the lake and the only snow to be found is man made and on the grounds of the ski resorts…meh. Not the country get away we were hoping for.

So I jumped on Expedia (It’s my go to for travel planning, and no I’m not paid to say that. They actually have no idea I’m talking about them *bwahahaha*). I booked a room in San Bernardino at the foot of the mountain. This also gave me the breathing room to create other plans in the Inland Empire that I had always wanted to do but never got a chance to.
Aaaannnnndddddd it was way cheaper.

We stopped at Lake Arrowhead on the way up because I had always wanted to walk around their little village. I hesitate to write anything “negative” but the whole place was only “ok”. The views of the lake are awesome and the shops we did go into were charming but on the whole I didn’t feel inclined to stay.

One of the upsides of our stop in Lake Arrowhead was an impromptu hair cut for Co. This kid has been wanting to “grow his hair out” for as long as I can remember. We got out of the car and I looked at his sweet face and said “ok kiddo, I know you want to grow your hair out but we need to trim it up, make it all one length while it grows out.” He sighed and I explained I’m still in support of his decision to express himself through his “look” but that he was looking like a ragamuffin. We stopped into Rumors and my initial impression had me asking “is this a place were a child can have their hair done or is it a bit too spa like?”. Seriously, it’s that cute. Furthermore it has some major TARDIS action going on, it’s far bigger on the inside once you walk through and has quite the pretty view of the lake. The gals there were more than accommodating and very sweet about our mob of 5 coming in and crowding up the place. I’m awful with names but I want to say Cohan’s stylist is named Julie (cute, friendly, blonde with a forearm tattoo). Co got exactly what he wanted, she kept the length as much as she could and I got a little boy who didn’t look like a stand in for Oliver Twist. I’ll be honest it’s the best trim I’ve seen on him in a few years.
It’s completely rational to make the trek up the mountain to get my hair done by her too right?

We left Lake Arrowhead and made it to Big Bear. I’m notorious for packing picnics (eating at restaurants gets pricey for all of us). So we sat at Boulder Bay munching happily, watching the ducks and enjoying the crisp weather. The park is very pretty but can get a little busy. I can’t imagine it during a peak season.

We then went to the Big Bear Discovery center . I imagine this place would be fantastic for little ones (we got through it pretty quickly and still enjoyed ourselves thoroughly). The main center has a couple of small exhibits about local wildlife and vegetation and there’s a back portion located outside with a few hands on displays that had us getting creative and laughing.

Next was Juniper Point .The gate wasn’t open so we parked along the road (several other cars were there so we assumed it was ok, I don’t know for sure so please do this at your own risk). We didn’t go down the whole trail because we were meeting our friend at 4:00 so we just wandered and enjoyed being out in the (paved trail) scenery. It’s a gorgeous spot and while it isn’t exactly roughing it it’s a good way to stretch your legs if you have small children in strollers, joint problems or have older people in your party.

We made our way to Sandy’s a sports bar that our friend favors. Don’t let the bikini clad gal on their website fool you, in my experience the establishment is kid friendly, reminding me more of the breweries in NorCal or the old style pubs across the pond. The food is fairly typical bar fare (they do make attempts at vegetarian options, vegans like myself are far more limited, I had the veggie sandwich without mayo or cheese). They have a full bar, tv’s on most of the walls tuned to a wide variety of sporting events, friendly staff and most importantly (to my little mice) a game room. Four pool tables, a handful of arcade games etc etc. more often than not we end up in there for a solid hour after we eat.

We finished our night on the mountain playing Cosmic Golf. A truly treacherous game for people with depth perception problems *shyly raises hand*. It got chilly pretty quick and the course (while 18 holes) is pretty small. Regardless of weather or size that was one of the highlights of our day. The kids were especially excited at the prospect of being outside in the black lights playing mini golf, the novelty of it didn’t wear off for them. A word to the wise. It’s cash only and also score cards don’t exist. There was a review on yelp, one of those cranky reviewers that have oodles of time to just talk trash and get labeled as “elite” that was FURIOUS about the lack of score cards.

It’s cosmic golf, were you expecting to take this PGA serious?

Us less competitive folk? We had a ball.

We made it down the mountain and to our hotel at about 9 pm (and even got upgraded to a full suite because they had overbooked, thank YOU Hilton).












We love, Love.

I know that a post about our Valentines day a full week later seems silly but our decorating idea (I thought) would be fun to do again for birthdays, a random Tuesday, anniversaries, a good report card etc etc.
Sooooo here we are!

We started the night before on February 13th by having friends over to celebrate a birthday but also to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. We sat around the fire pit laughing for a long time and after the little ones were in bed I worked on their present/decorations as the night went on (a fairly decent display of time management if I do say so myself).

Before we went to bed we grabbed the balloons (hiding stealthily in the car) and then set to decorating. Everything looked so festive and lovely I’ll admit it felt like Christmas. Here’s the “how to”. It’s super easy but a little guidance never hurt anyone right?

“With love” balloon decor

You’ll need
•construction paper in a color of your choice
•metallic sharpies (or colored markers)
•small paper clips
•balloons filled with helium (quantity is up to you and you can pick either latex or Mylar) Dollar Tree and Party City sometimes have great deals.

Now. Assemble!

Step one: fold construction paper in half (unless you’re super talented and can cut your desired shape evenly proportioned). I made my heart shapes about the size of my hand. Make as many (or more) than the balloons you purchased.

Step two: take all of your cut outs and start writing your “I love you because…” On each one.

I wrote everything from
“I love your smile”
“I love the stories you tell me about your friends at school.”

Step three: use paper clips to affix the heart to the ribbon “tail” of the balloon.

Step four: If there are extras use them for additional decorations (windows, doors, mantel, etc)

The little mice loved it and while they didn’t tear around the room reading about how wonderful they are, I did catch them reading and smiling as each new one caught their eye.

I have seen similar projects using pictures and the effect is equally adorable. I would love to try that someday.

We lazed about all day, watching various Valentine Peanuts specials and concluded our day with a four course dinner at our favorite restaurant The Healthy Junk who had put together a beautiful candlelit setting that had our little ones especially impressed.

I must have heard “Which fork do I use?” At least four times.

After dinner we finally saw the Lego movie! It was very entertaining and as funny as I hoped it would be. Our youngest is still singing the theme song and it’s been DAYS.
“everything is awesome!”

All in all a day to celebrate not just romantic love but all forms of love is always an excellent idea. A feeling so warm and fuzzy that I’ve caught myself thinking of ways I could bring it to our everyday lives.











Saints be praised! An update on the Disneyland menu

In my last post

Being an unhappy Vegan at the happiest place on earth. | The Pollyanna Complex

I was all sorts of frustrated.

There is good news though! My friend told me about a burger at the Carnation Cafe (on the left side of Main Street before the candy shop) that is actually billed as “Vegan”. We set out to try it and were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t a hockey puck type patty on a stale bun. It’s a black bean patty, lettuce, tomato, pickled red onions and a chipotle vegan mayo. It was very good (I’ll admit a bit too spicy for my taste but considering I was calling a potato on a stick a “meal” when we were there Monday night I have absolutely no actual complaints). The burger and fries came to $11.99 and I recommend checking to see if reservations https://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/disneyland/carnation-cafe/ would help procure a table a bit quicker (we wandered around for about 20 minutes waiting for ours).
The other plus? The waitress was awesome! She warned us about the oil possibly being cross contaminated with dairy etc. I may have died and gone to heaven for a bit and the clouds were made out of Veganaise…

Also I am happy to report: the famous Dole Whip is 100% dairy free *swoon*



Being an unhappy Vegan at the happiest place on earth.

To start off, I’ve read a lot of negative press, tweets and Facebook posts etc about being vegan.
Id like to set some things straight. I promise I’ll get to the Disneyland portion after my “three things”.

#1 I don’t force a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle on my children. I look at it as I look at religion (which I have beliefs in). I give them the tools to understand and appreciate all walks and styles of life and let them decide what’s right for them. I know it sounds like hippy nonsense but if my daughter wants to grow up to be an animal rights advocate and my sons the next Ron Swansons’ so be it. They are children. Not puppets or dolls. They eat very healthy and I have to encourage them to make more healthy choices sometimes (“no you can’t have two cheeseburgers, one is more than plenty”.)

#2 I’m not wealthy. Some people are under the impression that if you’re vegan it’s because you can afford “that kind of food”. Not entirely true. I budget to be able to afford more fresh produce and often. I’m talking a TON. I should just own a farm.
I don’t care or look down on anyone that takes their kids to Mcdonalds (besides, did you see my comment above about cheeseburgers?). They’re your children, not mine. I know how busy life gets so keep soldiering on no matter how you do it sister. We’re all in this together.

#3 I don’t care if you’re not vegan.


I really don’t care.

I’m not going to preach at you or make you feel guilty for your dietary habits. It’s not my place to do so. I was a smoker for a llloooooonnnggg time (I quit 2 years ago and have not even had the occasional “social” cigarette. Hard core baby). It always amazed me what people felt they could say to me about my body. “Do you know what that’s doing to your insides?!”
Like I didn’t know? I knew.
Trust me, smokers see the same anti smoking ads everyone has seen. But it’s my body and at the time it wasn’t on my list of importance of vices to quit.

Bottom line: I’m a firm believer in “to each his own”


First off I LOVE Disneyland. I’ve had a pass more often than not since I was 5 years old. I even worked at Disneyland in guest services for a couple of years (I still point with two fingers and call people “guests”). So please know I’m not knocking Disneyland or those that consume meat, gluten cheese etc etc.
Please see above “I don’t care.”

In this particular post I hope to address two things. My low blood sugar fueled tweet from being unable to find a vegan option at Disneyland last night (I know, I know, not only first world problems but also very stereotypical California problems). Secondly I’m looking for legitimate tried and true vegan options that I may not know about (please comment below, any and all ideas welcome)!

As a vegetarian I never had any problem finding stuff to eat (and if you’ve seen my waistline you know that veganism isn’t hurting me either). Especially at Disneyland (can we shout vegetarian “Mickey soft pretzels” ladies and gentleman?! I miss those) but as a vegan I’ve had hummus. No joke. Hummus and apple chips and as of last night the vegetable skewer from the Bengal bbq in Adventureland.

Last night I had everything all worked out. I would get the vegetable gumbo in a bread bowl from the Royal Veranda at New Orleans square and then we would troop down to the Hungry Bear in Critter Country. Simple enough right?
So I waited in line at the gumbo place and something made me ask the gal if everything was vegan. She said “well I think the gumbo is but let me ask about the bread bowl.” The bread bowl was not. She did offer to give me the gumbo in a cup for the same price. A nice gesture but…yeah.

So with a cheerful face the kids and I walked down to the Hungry Bear, which was closed.
Ok. Let’s try plan B and C. Both of which I was told had vegan options. Turns out it was the same story at both. Vegetarian options yes, vegan no. So with a smile (I’ll admit plastered on) I got the kids settled in at the Golden Horseshoe in Frontier Land munching happily, waited for George to arrive and I struck out for the Bengal BBQ to get vegetable skewers. I wasn’t in the mood for vegetable skewers. Yes I’m aware that I’m ungrateful.
My blood sugar perilously low I took to social media to vent my frustration (when people have drinks or if they haven’t eaten they need to have their phones taken away).
A friend of mine informed me (via Facebook, linked to my twitter that there actually is a “Vegan burger” on Main Street at the Carnation cafe. Good to know for next time considering that all the other veggie burgers in the park are “vegetarian”. So…me, miss super positive, was a veiled sort of grumpy at the happiest place on earth feeling thoroughly chagrined with the knowledge that there are plenty of people across the world that would not only love to be at Disneyland on a Monday but would also love to have anything to eat at all.

Talk about perspective.

Secondly, after hearing my tale of “woe” I would like to know from everyone what YOUR favorite vegan places to dine are at Disneyland. I know there are some in CA Adventure but we only get over there about half as often as the original park.

Stay positive friends ❤️


Big kids, abandoned bunkers and blue skies: White Point Nature Preserve

In an effort to broaden my horizons I’ve tried to become more accepting of any activity near the coast. I love Northern California and it’s dramatic, yet sleepy, coastline. Central California, the way the fog creeps around corners of trees where their roots meet the sand.

But Southern California beaches?
The coast 15 minutes from the place I call home?


Truth be told it probably has more to do with the personalities that populate that area of this great state and the lack of conscience when it comes to bulldozing a preserve or wetland to put in more mini mansions or overpriced condos…

I digress.
(It’s not positive to grumble at an entire strip of a county that consists of 4 cities and it’s inhabitants is it?
Apologies. Apologies…)

A friend of ours grew up near Palos Verdes (about 45 minutes from our home so not in the area of my previous rambling rant) but had mentioned how she had never quite explored the trails around the area. She had mentioned two. One of which was quite a bit shorter than our norm but fit everyone’s time constraints


White Point Nature Preserve http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/white-point-nature-preserve-palos-verdes-peninsula/. On the website you can find directions for how to get there, the history of the preserve as well as maps and additional pictures and visiting information.

If you’re looking for a hike to get away from civilization and to challenge your mountain legs this hike is not for you.

The houses crowd in around the preserve so you never feel like you’re really in the great outdoors. It’s relatively easy, mostly paved and only about a 2.25 mile loop. This is a great one to take young kids on. We had the big kids with us (our oldest and two of his friends).

The upsides. The view from the top of the hill had us pretty speechless and reminded me of the untouched central coast and the abandoned bunkers along the backside of the preserve were just eerie enough to have three teenage boys intrigued. The history of the place (detailed on little placards along the way and also narrated for us by our other friend reading from his iPhone) is pretty interesting.

At the bottom of the loop (or beginning, depending on where you started from the parking lot) there’s a small, well run, nature center and native plant garden (a current obsession of mine since I decided to kill our backyard for a water conscious outdoor space). The ranger on duty was well informed, friendly, helpful and knowledgable about the history of the area. The nature center is filled with activities that young children would enjoy as well as some interactive exhibits that adults can appreciate.
Over all we only spent a little over an hour and a half exploring and felt that we had covered everything.

It was a nice trip to somewhere new and it was interesting enough that Id like to take the little ones back sometime.