When the ground shakes, head for the ocean.

The earthquake didn't slow us down too much. That evening, we headed over to Malibu to eat at Neptune's Net, a famous little dive of a place right on the ocean. It's such a cool little spot. I think even Rachael Ray went there on one of her "$40 a Day" episodes when she visited Los Angeles.

If you ever get a chance to go, I highly recommend their a small bowl of their famous New England Clam Chowder, followed by an order of their famous beer battered fish and chips. (The Golfer and I split the fish and chips, which I also recommend.)

Afterwards, we headed up PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) to Sycamore Cove at Point Mugu to run around, build a little fire in one of the fire pits and make s'mores. It was the perfect ending to a California ground shakin' kind of day.

When you're a little boy growing up in So Cal, it's only natural to have an interest in surfing and any clothes or cool words related to surfing.

I've tried to explain to the Cheese that he has to master the deep end of the pool before he can tackle the Pacific Ocean. He agreed.


I've lived in Southern California for 2 years and 24 days and today I finally felt my first earthquake. It was scary and exciting all at the same time.

We were at home--the boys were playing upstairs, I was downstairs folding towels and watching "The Young and the Restless." Suddenly I heard this noise. It sounded like the boys were running upstairs...loudly. It was a loud pounding, rumbling noise that was only getting louder and stronger. It took second to realize that my skinny little boys couldn't be making that kind of noise. Then the house started to move and I quickly realized what was happening.

Now here's the thing. I grew up in Oklahoma. I'm used to weather/earth related excitement. I grew up taking cover in the bathroom, hunkered down with blankets and a battery powered radio. Give me a tornado siren and I know exactly what to do. But here I was with the ground shaking beneath me and I was clueless.

By the time I started yelling for the boys and making my way upstairs to grab them, they were already half way down to meet me. Their eyes were wide and nervous.

In the time that it took for me to say, "We're having an earthquake," it was over. I stood there on the stairs for a moment, waiting to see if anything else was going to happen. Nothing did.

The boys had lots of questions, very few of which I knew how to answer. The only thing that I told them was that if they felt anything like that again that the only thing they needed to do was find Mommy and Daddy. Beyond that, I really didn't know what to tell them except that we were fine and that everything was okay.

I've heard that you should climb under a sturdy table and have watched movies where people run under a door jam. My first instinct was to run outside, but I've now learned that that is actually a more dangerous place to be. Supposedly your bed, under the covers, is a good place to be--acting like a padded bumper car around your bedroom. Let's just say that if there was an earthquake bad enough to make my bed travel around the room hitting the walls, I'm not going to be thinking, "Wow this is fun! Just like a carnival ride!"

But as quickly as this earthquake happened--just a few seconds--I didn't have time to do any of those things.

I wasn't nervous until I grabbed the phone to call the Golfer, only to hear no dial tone. That didn't surprise me too much, but then when I couldn't get out on my cell phone either I was a little unnerved. The news was saying that the epicenter was close to the Golfer's office, and even though they weren't reporting any major damage or injuries I still wanted to hear my husband tell me that he was okay.

After twenty minutes or so, we finally connected on our cell phones. He was fine, having sat there in his office as his building swayed back and forth. Building are supposed to sway--that's not a normal thing, but apparently that's what it's like here in earthquake country. He agreed that it took him a couple of seconds (that felt like several minutes) to figure out what was happening. What can I say? We're just a couple of dumb Okies--we're a little slow.

You know when you stand close to a train track and can feel the ground rumbling underneath your feet? That's kind of what it felt like, except the feeling continued to get stronger and stronger until my house started to make strange noises. It was so bizarre!

So now that I am officially a Californian having felt a pretty good earthquake, I've got to read up on the whole earthquake safety thing. It might be wrong to wish for big aftershocks, but I have to admit I'd like to feel it again. I have a feeling that at some point, I'll get my wish.

I love L.A...even though I live 30 miles north in the 'burbs

The boys and I headed to the mall this morning as we waited for our car to be serviced. We have a really nice mall--a town center--with lots of indoor and outdoor shopping. As we walked toward the mall, I noticed all of the trucks and tents and cables and people walking around. It was obvious that something was going on.

The final tip off were the people walking around with fake babies in Bugaboo strollers. Yep, they were filming a television show outside of the mall.

I couldn't help but stop one of the workers to ask what they were filming. They were filming "Knight Rider." Remember the show from the 80's with David Hasselhoff? I guess they are bringing that show back, and according to one of the workers that I spoke with today, Val Kilmer will be the new voice of the talking car. Who knows (who really cares) but supposedly there's some announcement tomorrow and maybe that's it.

So then, we've got our car back and are heading home. Sure enough, right there in our neighborhood are more trucks and film workers, obviously filming something in our neighborhood. Not sure what they're filming, but according to our city's film office, they are currently filming "Big Love" and a couple of movies that I've never heard of "Best Foods" and "Against the Dark" and a commercial for Direct TV. There's no telling what they're filming, but don't think I won't be watching "Big Love" very closely when the next season airs.

We might live 30 miles north of Hollywood, but there's plenty of television and movie excitement right here in my backyard.

And amazingly enough, I haven't been discovered...yet.

Works for Me Wednesday: Good Things folder

I've ripped things out of magazine for years. A good recipes, a parenting tip, whatever might come in handy at some point in time. But after a while, those magazine pages start to pile up and before long you have so many stacked up you don't ever bother going through it all.

A couple of years back I started putting all of my "Good Things" in 3-ring binders. Using page protectors, I'm able to keep them clean and organized. I have one for recipes, another folder for general house/entertaining stuff. But the folder that I am the most proud of is the folder full of good things for kids.

I've broken the folder down into four categories:

Section #1 (separated by dividers) is kind of the catch-all. All of the parenting ideas that you see in magazines. You know the cute ideas but you know in reality will never happen? That's where those go.

Section #2 is kind of like section #1 except it's all about fun crafts to do with the kids. I can't say that I've ever used a lot of the ideas that I have in here (isn't that what preschool is for?) but it makes me feel like a good mother just to have 'em.

Section #3 is a good one. These are fun recipes that only a kid can appreciate, like a cupcake made to look like a basket ball hoop (for March Madness) and doughnut holes made to look like acorns (for fall break.)

Section #4 is my favorite. It's the party section. All of those cute ideas that you see for birthday parties go in here. Some of the cutest birthday cake ideas that I've ever taken credit for came from this section.

I can't say that I look at this folder weekly, but I do take it off of the shelf with my recipe books and other "Good Things" folders occasionally to flip through it. The best part is having a place to put that recipe for cupcakes that look like corn on the cob.

Organization. It's a good thing and it works for me.

Old Frames and Old Magazines Make New Art

This isn't really housework--more about house decorating--but it was still a house project that I tackled, so I think it works.

I had these bird prints hanging in my kitchen. They go all around the backsplash, underneath the cabinets. I hung them there because the granite only goes about a quarter of the way up the wall and the wall looked very blank.

The Golfer has never been too crazy about the bird prints. He says they look like an old lady's house (which makes sense since they came from my step-grandmothers house--who by the way had great taste.)

Then in a recent copy of Better Homes and Gardens I saw a girls kitchen decorated with vintage copies of Gourmet magazine. The covers were framed and looked both vintage and modern at the same time. Very cool.

So I found some old copies of Gourmet magazine on eBay. They aren't very vintage, but I bought all 12 copies from the year 2000--the year I got married--which I thought was cool--for only 99 cents.

Being the good recycler/reuser that I am, I decided that there was no reason to buy new mats and frames when the ones I had worked perfectly fine. So I carefully removed each bird print (there were 6 in all), cleaned up the glass and the frame, and carefully removed the magazine covers that I wanted to use. I used removable acid-free tape to secure the cover and...tada!

I think they turned out fabulous and only cost me 99 cents (plus $8.49 in shipping--but still, all for under 10 bucks!)

Bye-bye birdies!

It's all cuteness and pink!

So I finally got my last check from Disney--the last big money from the big mouse.

I've gotta tell you, I liked getting those checks. For a writer it was decent money for simple, bi-weekly work. It made me feel like I was financially contributing to the family--made me feel not so guilty about the little now and thens that I bought...well...now and then. Plus, getting a formal check with Mickey holding up a big globe made me feel pretty cool.

When we bought the new house, the Golfer and I discussed getting a little help to help me clean the house every other week...now and then...and agreed that my Disney check would pay for it. Basically, I'd work to have the house cleaned so I could work. Made total sense. When I was "released" from my bi-weekly job, there went my bi-weekly help.

The Golfer must have felt sorry for me about the whole thing, because he told me that I could spend my last check however I wanted. Even though there were all sorts of things that we needed to buy for the house, things that we wanted to save up for, he told me to splurge on myself.

See why I married him?

Like any good bag-whore, my mind reeled with the possibilities. Maybe the Gucci that I've always wanted. No, too expensive and would look odd being carried next to my "Recycle Today for Tomorrow" T-shirt. Maybe a Kate Spade. Not as expensive--a nylon tote seems more eco-friendly than Italian leather.

I got online and searched. And searched. Browsed through Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom's without ever leaving my desk, which by the way, was specifically invented for mothers like me who aren't quite brave enough to take her young children into a handbag section of a high-end department store to browse around.

I had the money for all of two days and it was starting to burn a serious hole in my old tote bag. But this money was significant. It was money that I was still very proud to have earned and I wanted it to go to a good cause--do something to better my world, not just make it look better.

So, I started given the whole thing some deep thought. Why not take this money, money that I had earned writing, and use it to buy something that would help me earn more money writing. And then it dawned on me. A laptop. I would buy a new laptop. The laptop that I had was six-years-old and didn't have a wireless card in it. So basically, it was useless. And heavy. And old looking. And not nearly as cute and inspiring as the pink one that I saw in Best Buy recently.

Currently, I am writing this in my bedroom far away (okay, down the hall) from our home computer. It's a cute little Sony that's all girly and pink.

I'm not sure if it will help me get any more writing jobs, but like any new toy I am anxious to use it and any good writer knows that you can't get any writing jobs if you aren't writing everyday.

This little laptop makes me want to sit in Starbucks for hours on end,maybe even finish up the young adult novel that in it's fifth revision and could be pretty darn good if I would just bite the bullet, get off my fat butt and finish it. And then maybe some big publishing house will discover me and want to publish everything I have and the Los Angeles Times will beg to run my column...daily! and then other papers will see it and want to follow their lead and I will finally achieve my dream of being a nationally syndicated columnist. All because of my new cute little laptop that inspired me to do my best work EVER!

Take that, you big ol' dumb mouse. Take that!


"and on that farm they had a blast...e...i..e...i...o!"

When I first told the boys last Thursday that we were going to a farm, they were less than thrilled. I told them that there would be farm animals and that we got to pick our own fruit and vegetables and that it would be awesome! but all my talk did little to enthuse them.

Then we got to the farm and all that changed.

My friend Jenn had told me about Underwood Family Farms before and I had seen pictures of her daughter picking strawberries there. It looked and sounded like so much fun, when Jenn invited us to tag along last week I wasn't about to refuse. It didn't disappoint.

We bought bags of carrots for $1 to feed the animals. The kids could put the carrots into these tubes that shot the food down to the animals. Less risk of tiny fingers being mistaken for the carrots I guess.

The Monkey chased this poor peacock around for a while. Since this was a family farm for children, I figure the peacock was use to it. Notice the big sign about safety. I think the Underwoods are a little paranoid. I guess I would be too if I was running a business filled with farm animals and small children.

After a quick climb to the top of a haystack...

...it was time to head out to the fields to pick some fresh fruit and veggies.

The Cheese was all business when it came to picking strawberries. He had his own plastic basket that he completely filled. The Monkey picked a few...but he ate them all before getting them into his basket.

Next were the raspberries (we ate as many as we picked) followed by zucchini, cucumbers, yellow squash, green leaf lettuce, Romain lettuce, and finally...


After a picnic lunch and playing on the farm's playground, we headed home to clean our treasures.

I showed the Cheese this strawberry that he had picked. Isn't it the most perfect little strawberry you've ever seen? Who knew that I could be so giddy over freshly picked fruit?

This was the head of Romain lettuce that I yanked out of the ground. We had it for dinner and it was fresh and yummy. (The Golfer thought I had lost my mind when he saw that I was taking pictures of lettuce in the sink.)

I've had many great experiences since moving to California...regular trips to Disneyland, the beach, Coronado Island, Legoland, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Carmel, etc...etc...but this little day trip over to Moorpark to visit Underwood Family Farms ranks right at the top.

Kid-proofing your home? Whatever.

Like most new moms, I was vigilant about baby-proofing my house. I made sure all of the outlets were covered, all of the lower level cabinets and drawers locked. I moved all of the medicine and harmful chemicals well out of reach and covered the the corners of tables with bumper pads.

But apparently baby-proofing and kid-proofing are two different things.

This morning the Golfer took the boys to the park to play, giving me the wonderful opportunity to be alone...so I could clean the house in peace.

Like most cleaning moms, I had the television on to keep me company. Flipping through the channels, I stopped on Rachael Ray's daytime talk show. There was a very interesting discussion about causal sex, and even though the subject no longer (if ever) applies to me, I thought I'd stop and give a listen.

But that wasn't the part of the show that interested me the most. The really interesting part of today's show was a segment titled "Kid-proofing your home."

The story was about a woman named Dawn who, God bless her, has four young boys. As the camera toured her house, she showed the audience where the boys had broken windows, ripped up carpet, broken furniture, etc. I was horrified!

The worst part was when she took the camera crew outside to show them part of the siding that the boys had beaten with their dad's golf clubs. There were large indentions where the golf clubs had hit the siding.

Obviously, these kids have one hell of a follow through.

The poor mom, Dawn, just looked exhausted and at her wit's end. And who could blame her. Being a mother IS exhausting, especially if you are living with demon children.

A DIY buddy of Rachael's showed the audience ways/tricks to kid-proof your home, like cutting out stains in the carpet and changing out your windows with shatter-proof glass.

Uh, yeah...whatever.

How about this idea for kid-proofing your home? How about teaching your children that it is not okay to color on the walls or destroy furniture? How making it crystal clear to your children that you will make them live outside with the dogs if they continue to treat their home with such disrespect?

Just a thought.

I'm not claiming to understand what this mother lives with day-in and day-out, and excuse me for saying it, but where the hell was this mother when her children were beating the sh*t out of the side of the house? I don't claim to keep an eye on my boys 24/7, but if they were beating the house with their dad's golf clubs so badly as to leave permanent marks, I think I'd know about it.

So here's my kid-proofing tip of the day: If you teach your kids from the git-go that coloring on the walls is NOT okay, then most likely you won't have to spend money on expensive, ugly wallpaper that is washable.

Just a thought.

Cutest rooms in the house

Finally have the boys rooms picture worthy. They, of course, ended up being the cutest rooms in the house which only makes sense since my boys are by far the cutest members of the family.

These first two pics are of the Monkey's room. Since his brother moved into his own room, I turned the bottom bunk into a cool fort. Whenever it's quiet in the house, he's usually in his fort quietly playing. It doesn't happen often, but it's such a beautiful thing when it does.

The framed artwork was all done by the Monkey at pre-school. The cheap frames came from IKEA, allowing for me to have so many. I love that he's still at the age where his art is still so abstract. There's feather painting (painting with feathers), fly swatter painting (painting with a fly swatter), and bubble wrap painting (you guessed it--painting with bubble wrap.)

This is the Cheese's room that he's waited so patiently for (his bed has been in storage for the last two years.) He picked out this darling comforter set--A Solar System Adventure--from The Land of Nod. Very cute and very worth the money.

(All of those figures on his bed are Planet Heroes from Fisher-Price. If your little boy hasn't discovered them yet, introduce them to him. They've taught my boy more about the planets than I've ever known.)

I had saved the globes from my teaching days and came up with the idea to use them instead of buying a hanging solar system. The Golfer was a big help with the fishing line. I made him move each of these several times until they were exactly where I wanted them. (He was a very good sport.) I think it was worth it though.

Now we just have to pray that they don't fall on his head in the middle of the night.

1-800-Pet Meds

I've heard about pet insurance, but I've never actually given it much thought. We already pay insurance for our home, our cars, and our lives. Pet insurance just seemed like one more monthly bill that I would have to moan and groan about paying.

Freddie went for his yearly exam last week. He was going to be boarded while we were out of town, so I scheduled his exam at the same time. On top of the $20/day boarding fee, he needed his shots, some blood work, and his teeth cleaned. The whole thing was going to cost me twice as much as I was prepared to spend. I told the vet to keep him and give him his shots, but the teeth and blood work would have to wait.

We come back into town, bringing along with us our Dalmatian, Daisy, who my sister-in-law had been taking care of for the last two years. It was hard leaving her behind for that long, but Dalmatians and townhouses don't mix.

So it was now time for Daisy's check-up, making sure that she was all up-to-date so we could get her California license and registration. The state of California is very big on licenses and registrations and isn't afraid to smack you with a bunch of late fees if you drop the ball.

I took both dogs in--Freddie for his teeth cleaning and blood work, Daisy for a few shots. By the time I got out of the vet's office, the receipt was two pages long.

Turns out, Freddie had 3 rotten teeth that had to be pulled which cost an extra $65 on top of the $165 for the dental polishing. His blood work, necessary for the dental cleaning was $85. Thank God they don't make dentures for dogs or I'd probably have to buy them too since Freddie now has problems keeping his tongue in his mouth due to his lack of teeth.

Apparently, Daisy has a flea problem, which means Freddie now has a flea problem. So they were both left at the vet for flea baths which cost $30 a piece. Because of the fleas, they are now both on medication to prevent further infestations (are you itching and scratching yet?) which cost $50 a piece.

Are you feeling bad for me yet? All I know is that all of the money that I spent at the vet yesterday could have bought me a Gucci bag. A really nice Gucci bag.

Don't get me wrong. I love my pets and want to be the best pet parent I can be. But it's hard when your pets can't look at you and say, "Don't pay for that. I feel fine." Like with Freddie's rotten teeth. The vet said that I could either wait and let them fall out on their own or have him pull them. Well, there was no real way of knowing if his teeth were causing him pain, so we decided to pull them.

Now he's in pain for sure. I know because I was sent home with two bottles of pain medication that I have to give him twice a day for the next 10 days. Is there anything worse that trying to give a dog medication? I don't think so

So here we are--flealess, toothless, and $700 lighter.

Sorry, kids, no groceries this month. The dogs need their meds.