Food, Uncategorized

Happy Pi Day

Sami’s first try baking a pie.

As today is 3.14, I would like to wish everyone a happy Pi Day. In honor of this irrational number, the ratio of circumference to diameter or a circle, many pie and pizza places, such as Blaze are offering 3.14- themed discounts. However, the way the Haas family commemorates Pi Day is by, well, baking a pie.

This year’s pie will be pumpkin, as that’s what I have plenty of in my cupboard. That, and Sami loves a good pumpkin pie. Other Haas favorites include apple, banana cream, cherry, and key lime. So in celebration of Pi Day, we will share one of our most beloved pie recipes.


Banana cream pie

This pie was voted best at our school’s first (and only) pie-baking contest in 2016. It uses vanilla wafer cookies for the crust to compliment the bananas.


¾ cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup flour

¼ tsp. salt

1 ¾ cup nonfat milk

¼ cup heavy cream

3 egg yolks, beaten

1 tbsp. butter

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 9” vanilla wafer crust

1 recipe whipped cream

3-4 bananas


  1. Prepare crust by crushing ½ boxes of vanilla wafers in a food processor about 30 seconds. Add 5-7 tablespoons of melted butter and pulse until cookies are crumbly and moist. Press cookie crumbles into a 9” pie plate and bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit . Set aside to cool.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in milks and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble. Cook about 2 minutes longer, then lower heat to medium-low.
  3. Stir in a small quantity of the milk mixture into the eggs to temper, then immediately add to the pan of milk. Add butter and vanilla and cook until butter melts into the mixture, then remove from heat.
  4. Slice bananas into the cooled pie crust. Top with pudding mixture. Chill in the fridge at least 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream.


Whipped cream:

1 cup heavy cream

¼ cup confectioners sugar

Combine cream and sugar and whip to desired consistency.


Have a great day. I hope you have a chance to enjoy some delicious pie!


Camping, Hiking, outdoors, Travel, Uncategorized

Another fun hike… and easy camping


About two weeks ago, a small brush fire at Eaton Canyon disrupted our usual Monday night hike up to Henninger Flats with our Boy Scout troop. Fortunately, our awesome L.A. County and Pasadena firefighters were quickly able to extinguish the wind-fueled fire before it got more than about an acre. The bad news was that folks were being evacuated from Eaton Canyon and immediately surrounding trails, which meant that we could not get onto the trail up to Henninger.

Not one to miss an opportunity, however, my younger boy went home with his buddy, a fellow Scout, to hang out before their patrol meeting later that evening. Which left myself and my older two, a Boy Scout and a Venturing Scout to figure out the evening.  Jacob and Emily both did not want to head home, and as Sami was having dinner with her uncle and cousin, we figured we would find another hike. After all, Los Angeles County is home to literally hundreds of trails. And I had already carb-loaded in anticipation of making a molehill out of a mountain.

But where to go? We had debated on heading up to Echo Mountain again, but darkness made it more difficult for us to get down the last time we headed up to the ruins. Instead, we decided to take the recommendation of the very knowledgeable Sheriffs officer, who recommended Chaney trail, about 5 miles from Eaton Canyon. So my two big kids and I loaded back into the car and headed to the trailhead. We were originally going to head up, toward Echo Mountain, but the high winds and chilling temps impeded our progress. We made it about 100 yards, then I made the executive decision to turn around. Especially since I was unfamiliar with the trail. And Jacob was in a short-sleeved tee with no jacket. So much for ‘Be Prepared.”

Still not one to give up so easily, even though by now the high schoolers were starting to get a bit whiny, we got back in the car, and headed down toward Millard Canyon. At the bottom there was a parking lot, and what looked like a serene trail. Ignoring the protests of my now unenthusiastic children, we hit the trail from the parking lot, and quickly came upon the campground.  There were a few campers on the Monday evening, and they said that the water fall was just a short hike from the campground. There wasn’t much wind down in the canyon, hence the temperature was tolerable, even for jacket-less Jacob. With a renewed sense of adventure, my Scouts and I hit the trail to Millard Falls.


In the dusk’s fading light, the trail reminded me of something I would see in a fairy tale. The hike was marked by lush and green riparian forest, against the background of the canyon itself. The excursion itself was a fairly easy one, a bit over a mile out and back, but there were stream crossings and smallish boulders to hop. There wasn’t a ton of water coming out of the 50-foot falls, which comes from a stream at the top of the falls. The small pool at the base wouldn’t be enough to wade in, but is is enough for kids to get dirty. For those who are more adventurous or just want more of a work out, the trail continues to Dawn Mine.  Maybe one day when we have more time, the older two and I will try that. But for the evening, the out and back from Millard Falls was adventure enough. It was great to try a different trail, and find a campground that is easy to get to for a simple family campout.


A few logistics: Forest passes are required, as Millard Canyon is located in the Angeles National Forest. These can be picked up at REI, the U.S. Forest Service, and other retailers. We went on a Monday night, but I have been told that the campground can get busy on weekends.  There are six campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis. The U.S. Forest Service indicated that the campground occasionally closes due to bear activity.

We were so excited to find this little slice of heaven within the San Gabriel Mountains. Happy trails!

breakfast, Brunch, coffee, Family, Food, photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Beachy vibes: San Clemente, California

Greetings! It has been a while since my last post. Much has happened between then and now, including my parents-in-law moving to their ‘new’ home in San Clemente.

It is a place our family frequented in past years, as the house belonged to the husband’s grandmother. Nevertheless, the change is bittersweet. Our family has  been fortunate to live in close proximity, within a mile of our parents/grandparents. The sad feeling is compounded by the fact that my mom-in-law is amazing. She truly was a fixture in our community with her constant involvement in our church and schools, long after her boys graduated and even as her grandchildren continued on in our school district. It is no wonder that we love her so much; she’s really just a fabulous person. She will be sorely missed by many in our community. On the flip side, visits to Grammy’s house aren’t so much over the river and through the woods.  It’s more like down the Golden State Freeway to South Orange County and to the beach. I guess I can live with that…

San Clemente is known best for its surfing, which is all year long.  Many go to catch waves at T-street, the Pier and more. This is all within a mile of Grammy’s house. There is a cute downtown area characterized, as is much of the town, by Mediterranean-style architecture, white stucco and red tile roofs. There are also some great places to eat (though my favorite Beach Garden cafe closed a couple years ago 😦  ).

After hearing much about Antoines, which boasts the ‘best coffee, best bagels, and best breakfast’ for the past eight years, we decided to try Saturday brunch there this past weekend. The girls and I took Grammy. We figured there would be a wait as Antoines is popular with both locals and tourists, but it wasn’t too bad (about 20 minutes), probably because it was 10:30 rather than breakfast time. The menu offered some tempting bagel selections, such as the avocado bagel, but no bagel orders came from our table on this trip. I went with the California Benedict, poached eggs, tomato, avocado, bacon and Hollandaise sauce on a toasted English muffin. I had the bacon on the side so that Sami could take it. I tend to prefer my Hollandaise to have a bit more citrus, but it was a good California Benedict. Sami loved the dark hot chocolate with its mountain of whipped cream. The prices were what one would expect being in a beach town, about $15 per person. I would go back and try one of their bagels.

We will certainly have more San Clemente adventures which will be shared on the blog. There are a few coffee shops and restaurants I would like to try on our future trips. Life won’t be the same not having the parents around all the time, but one really can’t blame them for retiring where they are. The view is spectacular.

Family, Kids, Opinion, parenting, Pets, Uncategorized, writing

Sami’s hammies: another pet story

The tagline for this site is “Four kids, a dog, and a squeaker in the San Gabriel Valley.” It goes without further explanation that the four kids are my four children, the dog is our Golden retriever, and we reside in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley. But what is the squeaker?

The answer is simple.  The “squeaker” is Sami’s hamster. The hamster does change from time to time, as their lifespans are fairly short. Since the inception of the blog five months ago, there have been two hamsters- Almond Biscotti and Peppermint Mocha.  Both Syrian hamsters of the genus Mesocricetus, they are what you’ll typically find at any pet store. Our always come from the PetSmart in the Hastings Ranch area of Pasadena.

hammy 1

The hamster stories are rather unremarkable, except that Sam seems to choose hamsters that end up developing a bit of personality, perhaps in keeping with their Starbucks-inspired names. Almond Biscotti liked to rest atop her terrarium, wedged between her water bottle and the lid.  She also had free run of the house during out week-long trip to Disney World last year.  We were standing in line for Jungle Cruise when I received a call from our neighbor’s son who was watching the pets for the week. My first worry was that something had happened to Owen, but no. Almond had escaped and was nowhere to be found. We arrived home at the end of the week to find a couple of clever hamster traps, a bathroom littered with hamster droppings, along with a hammy-shaped gap in the bathroom door she created to either get in or out of the room.  I suppose at least she kept her mess in the bathroom…? And go figure, I found Almond in a corner of my bedroom the night we got home as I was about to turn in for the night. After ten minutes, moving the heavy wood dresser, and two shoeboxes, the husband and I caught Almond.  He woke Sami to show that her hammy had been caught and placed back in her home, and all was well. Until a few months later with I found that she had been hiding inside a chest of Ikea Alex drawers in the girls’ room. She had made herself a little nest, which explained why she seemed to be able to disappear when our neighbor would come to check on the pets.

But our favorite hamster was Chestnut Praline Latte. Her time at the Haas home extended one year from early 2016 to 2017.  This hamster was special, a really sweet hamster who never bit or squealed, but had a penchant for escaping. And hiding in the most interesting places.


One morning the kids for whatever reason decided to have Chestnut run in her ball. She was left rolling about the house in said ball as I made the carpool rounds. I returned home to find an empty ball and no hamster. A thorough search of the house and the faint sound of scampering lead me to the most difficult, worst possible spot to access: behind the refrigerator. Our fridge pre-kitchen remodel was wedged in a space created by an old cabinet and an awkwardly placed wall dividing the fridge space and the washroom on the other side. To move the refrigerator forward enough to access the back required shimmying the appliance between that wall and another awkward cabinet, with a maximum of three inches total to work with. Shimmying completed with the help of a friend, sure enough Chestnut was having a ball in the disgusting confines of the bottom of the refrigerator.  This became her favorite hiding spot up until the kitchen was remodeled and the old fridge with a cardboard backing was replaced with a hamster-proof LG side-by-side with a metal back.  Post remodel, we found her hiding with Sami’s stuffed animals after returning home from the Sierras, in the linen closet with the blankets, and in a Longaberger basket.

But for all the crazy hamster adventures, Chestnut was probably the one Sami bonded with the best. Sam would take her out and play with her for hours. This hamster was also the first pet that she had actual charge of.  She had to feed and water her, play with her, and make sure that her bedding was clean and dry. While Sam couldn’t quite clean the terrarium by herself, she was able to initiate the process. In short, Chestnut Praline was instrumental in beginning the journey of helping Sami to learn responsibility.  She was also the one to give her a first lesson about grief.  Chestnut Praline finally passed away in 2017. We noticed that she was not her typical active self, and seemed to be struggling, though she had been fine earlier in the day. Sami tried to feed her and warm her up, but to no avail. Chestnut would pass later on in the evening. Her ‘funeral’ would consist of a decorated shoebox with a Tsum Tsum and some food and her older brother playing Taps on his trombone as she was taken to her semi-final resting place, and many, many tears.

Today, Sami has her Peppermint Mocha, a sweet gray hamster we picked up just a couple weeks ago.  I do feel that it is good for her to have a pet of her own. The lessons on responsibility, along with lessons of love and care are ones she can carry with her. And hammies are just too cute!

sami hammy


Family, Opinion, Pets, Uncategorized, writing

Happy Gotcha Day, Owen!

the day after
The day after we brought Owen home.


Yesterday marked five years with our golden-haired pal, Owen.  Yes, I’m talking about our fun-loving, active, sweet, and slightly (though sometimes more than slightly) mischievous Golden retriever.

We adopted him in January 2013 at the Pasadena Humane Society.  We first saw the Golden on Saturday the 5th, shy and quiet, as he retreated to the back of his kennel.  The sign on his bars showed clip art of a happy doggo radiating hearts and reading “I will love you forever.” There was no hope at that point of our adopting him as he already had a full waitlist. So we moved on and met a large, but very sweet and playful German shepherd puppy. As the husband had a lifelong love of German shepherds, we decided that he would be the next addition to our family.  We just had to show up at the shelter the next day when he would be cleared for adoption.

Well, unfortunately, we missed him.  We arrived at the Humane Society just fifteen minutes too late. The beautiful German shepherd had been adopted, and as the other dogs who would fit with the ages of our children (pit bulls and their mixes were not adoptable by families with children under eight) were already fully waitlisted, we left with much sadness and no dog. Even a promised lunch at In-n-Out or McDonalds did nothing to raise morale that day.

The following Monday, I was back online searching our local shelters to find our next best friend.  Pasadena had just received a lovely cream Lab who reminded me of our first dog, Maxwell, who had passed away some years before. I called the Humane Society to inquire after Princess. I was told that (thankfully) she was chipped and was going to be released to her family, but that the Golden retriever we were interested in was possibly free for adoption.  Two families on the waitlist had dropped off, and the third was on the fence about waiting for another dog who had just come in. I would be in that morning to hopefully meet our new dog.

I arrived at Pasadena less than 15 minutes later and was lead back to the Golden’s kennel. It was empty. The counselor figured he had been taken on a walk, however as we walked toward the family meeting area, we saw that he was being shown to the remaining person on the waitlist.  I told the counselor that I would wait to see what the prospective family decided.

It must have been only about five minutes of waiting in the lobby, but it felt like hours as I waited to see whether we would be able to adopt this dog, or if I would have to return home sad again with no furry buddy. Finally, the adoption counselor who was showing the Golden came back in saying that the other prospective family had indeed decided to wait for the other dog, and the Golden retriever was now free for the Haas family to meet.

I got to meet the shy, timid retriever first. He was a bit cautious around me, but perked up when I started throwing him the ball. His lack of aggression and playful streak gave me the impression that he would be a good fit to our growing family.  All that was left was for the husband and kids to officially meet the dog and for us to sign the paperwork.  We returned just before closing that same day, and the rest is history. The Lord certainly has a way of bringing sweet blessings into our lives, and Owen is definitely a blessing. We are thankful that Owen Parker Allen has now been a Haas for the past five years.

Life hasn’t been quite as idyllic as I’m making it seem.  Owen did need some training to break some bad habits, such as digging and overexcitement when meeting other dogs.  He also had a ton more energy than it seemed when he left the shelter. Turns out he was not a timid dog, nor was he as old as first gauged. But he is so sweet, and very intelligent. And he loves people, especially his people. Just about anyone who comes through our gate is his new best friend. And his playful personality has added brightness to the interesting bunch of characters that is our family.

That sign hanging from his door at the Pasadena Humane Society has proven true thus far.  “I will love you forever” from the happy dog radiating hearts and brightness. Happy anniversary to our Owen.

good boi
Sit. Stay. Good boy. Owen and me today.


Animal shelters are great places to find your next best friend.  Both of our dogs came from the Pasadena Humane Society. or your local shelter’s websites are good tools to help start your search. Happy tails!