So. It’s been awhile. Aka our journey to Jim Morrison’s cave.

I haven’t posted in the blog for…well…a thousand years.
We’ve hiked, loved, learned, lost and have grown in the last year. As we all know I love hiking, I love adventuring with the kids and I love taking pictures of the people I love in the great big outdoors. That’s part of the reason I could never be a “professional” photographer. I only like taking pictures of what I like and I don’t follow the formula of what makes a good composition in a picture. I don’t even know if that’s phrased correctly, see! I even lack terminology. 
Also, I’m lazy.
So Kap and Co have been fighting some intense colds that they caught somewhere so my original hiking plan fell by the wayside because it contains river crossings and a lot of miles. My second choice was at too high of an elevation for their awful post nasal situation so we went with choice number three, an easy 2-3 miles to Jim Morrison’s Hideaway in the Malibu area.  

 Getting there is pretty easy if you follow these directions http://www.newgirlsguidetola.com/do–see/jim-morrison-cave. I stumbled upon her site accidentally and I was so glad I did. The topographical picture showing where the cave is in comparison to the spiral rock formation helped us get there fairly easily and then we were able to help about 6 other people get there. 

The entrance is tight and not for the claustrophobic (I’m VERY claustrophobic so I only got brave on my second try). 

 FYI this graffiti saying this is not the way to the pink cave is a liar. Tricky tricksters.

 Kap and Co did not want to go in the cave but they LOVED the sandstone formations that are sprinkled around this trail.  

    
 Kap kept climbing to the top of various rocks and exclaiming “this is so cool!”. Which as a mom that has to sometimes drag her kids on hikes that’s music to my ears. 

By the way I totally don’t like The Doors. I tried. 
Just, meh. 
But! 

Cool cave Jim, 

cool cave.

 
  

  
Picture by Cohan

    
   

Picture by Brayden

The spiral rock formation made by who knows who is pretty great and really close to the cave 

 

  Picture by George

 

Ps I recommend getting there EARLY (we left our house by 6:30 which had us at the trail head by 7:30). By the time we left between 10-10:30 there were about 12 cars in the lot and a swarm of people. 

In other words, no thank you. 

So go early! 

Unless we plan on going then you can head down around 10 or 11.

  

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The evening I flunked being a mom

So my youngest wanted this book that he saw at a little shop called Home Economics that we go into every so often.

He has been asking me to get this book for him

ALL.
WEEK.
LONG.

I called the store today and asked them to put it on hold for us. Cohan was beyond thrilled and he walked around the farmers market with it clutched to his chest, beaming, asking if he can read it when he got into the car.

I smiled feeling like I hung the moon and like I had fulfilled my motherly win for the day…

The book has the most adorable cover. A cute chubby, cartoon dog with a red foil heart in a speech bubble over him.

Then we got in the car.

Mischievous giggles sounded behind me.

Soon I heard my oldest with a smile saying “um I think that has the S word…”

*even more uproarious laughter from my youngest*

I intervened, grabbing for the book, saying “no no let me see it. I thought it was just a book about a pet dog.”

I flipped to the next page and the cartoon dog was accosting a Honda and shouting four letter words.

It was hilarious.

I had also flunked as a mom (for the day).

The kids were absolutely cracking up and I was thinking of ways to put stickers over the non kid friendly words.

The author had no idea it would be purchased as a children’s book. I don’t think the shopkeeper had any idea it wasn’t a children’s book.

At the end of the day I had still flunked yet I haven’t heard my children laugh that hard in a long time (and our house is positively bursting with mirth).

Ps I’m fully anticipating people that don’t know what it’s like to truly parent to take great offense to all of this instead of seeing the humor behind good (yet failed) intentions in parenting.

Remind me to tell you about the time my mom took my brother and I to the rocky horror picture show in Berkeley. We all thought it was just going to be watching a movie….she still refers to it as the night she flunked motherhood.

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Paper mâché Easter eggs – an alternative to dyeing hard boiled eggs.

So since becoming vegan holidays have been a challenge. I’m not talking in the traditional food sense but just traditions in themselves. Buying pounds of butter for Christmas baking and buying dozens of eggs to dye for Easter…I was a vegetarian for 14 years prior to making the switch so I could always cut corners because “it’s not meat.”

Now….Easter is around the corner (for us it’s today because the little ones will be at their dad’s) and I needed a project that agreed with my new outlook (I’ll be honest I shudder to think of what I’ve consumed in the past).

Sorry, no soapboxes I swear.

I found this craft and it’s a really fun (and messy!) DIY paper mâché Easter “egg.”

For the most part it’s very easy and kids of all ages can participate (the “glue” is mostly flour and water).
Now, I need you to take “messy” and really make your peace with it. Seriously. If you have the kiddos in their “good clothes” and you’re one of those spic and span moms you’re going to want a tarp and gloves. I also doubled the recipe below because we had about 9-10 “eggs” to make

I am not a spic and span mom.

Let the festive mess begin!

You will need:
1 cup flour
2 cups water
1 pinch table salt
1 large mixing bowl
Balloons (I used 3″ balloons)
Tissue paper, cut into small strips (teacher supply stores sell the big craft packs for a couple of dollars in a bunch of different colors)
Mason jars or cups with small openings.

You can also grab some glitter, sequins, yarn etc for decorating. We used glitter. The herpes of the craft world. Don’t worry I do not divulge this nickname to the children.

Mix the flour, water, and salt in a bowl until smooth. Separate into several other bowls to cut down on the inevitable “my turn!”

Blow up a balloon until it is egg-shaped and the desired size.
Using your fingers (be prepared, it really does get messy), spread some flour mixture on the balloon. Dip strips of tissue paper one at a time into the mixture and lay flat across the balloon. Continue until you have covered the balloon completely. Repeat with 6 to 8 layers of tissue paper. You can smooth as you go.

On the final layer you ca use your patterned tissue paper, glitter, yarn, sequins, and string make to get fancy.

When you’re done put your “egg” on top of a cup. Let harden for 8 to 12 hours.
Pop the balloon using a pin and remove the deflated balloon.
Boom! A new “egg” tradition!

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“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.
Win!

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:

THIS CACTUS WILL EAT YOUR FACE OFF. DONT EVEN GLANCE AT IT.

So while hiding a smirk I reached out to touch it.
Nothing.
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.

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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?

Eh.

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).

Now.
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.

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Hollywood, wizards and science. “Alchemy sounded like a good idea at the time.”

I’ve lived in California my whole life and there are several things I’ve never done. One of them being the hike up to the Hollywood sign.

A few friends at the office did the hike not too long ago and they said it wasn’t a challenge in the slightest but that it could get crowded.

They weren’t kidding.

We left our house at 8 am and got up there about 9 after meeting up with our friends who were joining us for our adventure today.

And may I say; God bless Super Bowl Sunday! There was NO ONE on the freeway (a superb piece of idea validation from my sister). Regardless the lot at the top was still full (it only has ten spots anyway). The website http://hollywoodsigntrip.com has the best directions and tips for the trail. Check it out and take some notes, trust me you won’t be let down. It’s practically step by step and made my planning incredibly easy.
The hike was only about 5 miles total and honestly the most difficult part was walking up from the car to the trail head.
Irony.
Side note: the houses up there are fantastic. Unpretentious but still striking. The kids and I remarked several times that if all of LA looked like that we’d actually be tempted to move.

From there we went to Muse on 8th http://museon8th.com. We had been here before and I’ll admit we had a far better experience the first time. The cashier was incredibly nice but flustered from being busy so half of our order was wrong. And our friend got her meal 20 minutes after everyone else did and it was the wrong item.

I didn’t correct him out of pity.

They have a fairly decent vegan and vegetarian selection as well as several gluten free options. I really like the place as a whole. If they could get their act together they’d be pretty unstoppable.

It’s only a half mile from Muse to Whimsic Alley http://www.whimsicalley.com so we walked over, enjoying the surprisingly brisk and cloudy day. Whimsic Alley is a favorite of ours (even though some HP guilds in the area have warned us against the owner, please know it’s in the back of my head every time we go). They have a great selection of Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who and steam punk merchandise. The little mice love stopping in and have never once not asked for something while we’re there.

Next was the California Science Center http://www.californiasciencecenter.org. I love this place. I love that it’s free, making it accessible to everyone. Parking is $10, cash only but admission is absolutely free. The only downside is that some of the people that go are a bit unmindful of their children. Seriously. I almost got outspokenly catty but refrained *deep breath*.

Now. A few words from the little mice themselves about their favorite moments at the Science Center.

Brayden said his favorite part of the science center was the Kelp forest that’s found on the lower level.

Kap said her favorite part was looking at all of the space models and the interactive exhibits.

Cohans favorite part was touching the star fish.

My favorite part was just enjoying the people (the people that weren’t annoying, and actually watching their children. I’m sorry but I feel I should stress this.) the people that were truly there to experience what the world has to offer, what we’ve discovered as a whole and those sharing it with their children. That was awesome to be a part of.

Notes for next time: get to the Hollywood hike earlier, skip Muse and just spend the extra $10 to eat at Doomies http://m.yelp.com/biz/doomies-home-cookin-hollywood and maybe enjoy the Science Center on a weekday.

All in all an exhausting but incredible day.

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Sierra Madre to the Los Angeles Arboretum

In a perfect world I would have planned something a little more “Christmas-sy” for our adventureday with the little mice. The only downside to a Christmas adventure the weekend before the actual Holiday is that EVERYONE is doing it, which means it’s probably going to be crowded.

In other words:
No thank you.

So we instead traveled 45 minutes north of our home to Sierra Madre, a little town at the foot of Mt. Wilson that doesn’t have a single stop light but does have a Starbucks.

I personally LOVE Sierra Madre. Brayden pointed out how some of the residents can look at you a certain way if you appear too “left” (apparently a lady was whispering viciously about George’s Anti-Flag hoodie. Take a breath, honey. It’s a band). The area does have a very quaint and untouched feel about it. Everyone has a dog and you can tell what breed they are (in other words, no mutts) and I have never seen so many salons and nail places on one block (do the women do anything besides primp here?). That’s the only (truth be told) downside. It feels like old town “Stepford”. I was unaffected but Brayden and George seemed to be very conscious of it.

Just felt I should prepare you.

ANYWAY.

The boys really like it and unaffected Kap and I loved it. We stopped at Bean Town http://www.beantowncoffeebar.com (one of our favorite spots for breakfast when we’re in the area). They have a fantastic selection, reasonably priced, a great atmosphere and friendly staff (the gentleman that helped us was wonderful AND was wearing a Ghostbusters shirt that looked like Venkman’s uniform, see, not all “Stepfordian”).
Brayden had a breakfast burrito as big as his forearm, George had oatmeal with almonds (you had a choice of almonds, fruit and/or raisins), Kapples had a blueberry muffin, Co a chocolate croissant and I had “the veggie”. It’s pretty friendly to meat eaters and vegans alike. Win-win.

We then walked up the main streets, looking at the storefronts, admiring the nativity scene and loving the little churches on opposite sides of the street (one simply gorgeous with it’s white steeple, the other an impressive, garland bedecked stone).
This isn’t a town that sticks out as a tourist attraction. It just simply “is” so don’t look for anything fancy to entertain you. They have a Christmas Carol production at the old theater (I heard Tom Hanks filled in for a friend one year, if that stuff impresses you).

We found our interests lie in the Memorial Park and Lizzie’s Trail Inn Museum.

Across from the churches is the Memorial Park. It lives up to its name. It has a cannon at the entrance and a memorial nearby honoring those that have served. The playground is like any other in a well maintained neighborhood but the craftsman style homes surrounding and the gorgeous colors in the trees this time of year made it feel worlds away. We played and laughed and then started the short trek back to our car.

On our way we saw an adorable shop called Belles Nest http://www.bellesnest.com. I stopped in because I have had the most difficult time finding a Christmas present for my Grandmother. The entire shop is wonderful, full of everything from notebooks, to jewelry, to a small clothing section, hand made soaps to tea spoons. We all enjoyed it immensely but fell in love when we found the small garden area.

*happy sigh*

Needless to say, I found something for Grandma.

On to the Lizzie’s Trail Inn Museum!
http://www.smhps.org/museums.htm
We arrived and I immediately thought “wow, this must be a busy place”. There were a lot of cars parked along the street and we parked a little ways away. I figured out that the Mt Wilson trail is nearby. This side of Sierra Madre, only 5 minutes from the Main Street, feels like a whole other town. The vibe is a bit more country and if you pass the museum and go further down the road, the streets narrow to almost one lane. The houses are tilted up hills in a way that reminded me of Big Bear and the back road to the Sequoias.

The Lizzie Trail Inn used to be the only place you could stop and get a bite and something to drink before or after climbing to the peak. There’s also a bit of history that, during the prohibition, they had a moonshine operation.
The museum itself is small and crammed full of original artifacts from when the Inn was in operation (not much about the moonshine gig). Upon arriving we were greeted by, I’m assuming, members of the Historical Society. I don’t recall the man’s name but he had a lot of information about the history of the establishment and the construction of the telescope on Mt. Wilson. Everyone was incredibly friendly and not one had an elitist attitude and were thrilled the kids took an interest in the very old pinball machine (“It doesn’t have paddles so it was really a gambling machine”). It was a lot of fun and they accept donations but don’t tell you to do so (which made me donate more honestly). It was a short stop with only a couple small rooms to read through (there are a lot of panoramas containing detailed written histories of the pictures on them) but a great experience. We would definitely go back when we’re out that way.
Please note: the operating hours are from 10-noon every Saturday.

Our last stop was the Los Angeles Arboretum http://www.arboretum.org/index.php/visit/. We love the outdoors and we love nature so walking into this place was quite the treat. We had been to the Spring Preserve in Las Vegas, the Botanical Garden in Encinitas and the Arboretum in Fullerton several times. This one, located in Arcadia, is pretty incredible. It has free roaming peacocks that are really everywhere (Co counted 20), the Queen Ann House and coach house which are incredible (Kap exclaimed several times how her house “WILL look like this”). Some of the sections were under construction but we still walked through and explored most everywhere, including a stop at the aptly named Peacock Cafe, where the birds must be used to being fed portions of people’s lunches (they watch your every move from 2 feet away). The kids were a little annoyed that I got all hippy on them and wouldn’t allow them to give the birds “people food”. We stopped at the gift shop and I got a reasonably priced succulent arrangement. They have a pretty great variety of gifts and they’re not the garden variety kitsch either. They’re gifts you would be stoked to receive!
We headed to the car and the kids all chattered excitedly about how much fun they had and asking when we could come back.
It was wonderful.

Christmas-sy? No.

Full of peaceful, nostalgic, whimsical family time? Yes!

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