Hiking, Organization, Pets, Shopping, Travel, Uncategorized

Great Hikes: Be Prepared

Welcome back to my two-part series on hiking with dogs. Today the focus will be on how to prepare for a hike with your best pal.

As with just about everything in life, there are some inherent risks in exploring the great outdoors.  Weather, unexpected terrain, wildlife (by which I typically mean insects, though we have seen a couple bears in Monrovia Canyon) can easily turn a pleasant day out into a practical nightmare. Fortunately, however, most potential issues are easily prevented with some preparation beforehand and consideration once on the trail. I cannot claim credit for most of these tips. Most of these guidelines are borrowed from Scouting.

Things to consider:

As mentioned in the previous post, keep in mind your ability as well as your dog’s. Research the trail ahead of time, taking into account distance, terrain, slope grade, and whether the area offers shade. Be sure to check the weather and other conditions, such as pollen, as this can impact your experience and safety. And always be sure to have a trail map.

Water and treats for my buddy

What to bring:

Much of this is based on the Boy Scout “Ten Essentials.” This provides a good guide for what to bring on a hike or day trek.

Food: Bring ample high-calorie trail snacks. Foods such as nuts, granola, or dried fruit are good picks. The kids and canine also like meat jerky.

Water: Hydration is key. Many issues that develop on a hike happen as a result of improper hydration. A rule of thumb is 16 ounces for every hour of hiking, however this can vary depending on the individual and weather. I’d say bring at least that, and hydrate ahead of time. If you feel thirsty, it’s already late. For your pal, REI sells a few products that can be used as a dog bowl. I personally like the Ruffwear quencher collapsible bowl. It’s easy to stuff in a daypack, and easy to clean after a hike.

First aid kit: A good hiking kit will have a wrap bandage, small ice pack, band-aids, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, antihistamine cream, and small packs of NSAID painkillers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) and Benadryl. REI sells day packing kits in soft pouches that are easy to clip to your daypack. REI also has a few ready-made kits for canines If applicable, be sure to bring your rescue inhaler or EpiPen as well.

What’s in your daypack?

Map and compass: Know and stay on your trail. This common sense advice given me long ago will keep you from getting lost most of the time. For those rare occasions when one might get lost, a map and compass can quite literally be a lifesaver. Any reliable compass will do, but I personally like a clear compass, as this is easier to line up with a map.

Attention-getters: We always carry both a whistle and a mirror.  The mirror doubles as a hygiene (or get Instagram-worthy) tool and a signaling tool, just in case.

Weather ready: We always carry sun protection and a hat, regardless of how much shade will be on the trail.  We also will carry ponchos and a lightweight jacket just in case. Weather changes quickly in many areas, so it’s good to be prepared.

This is not a comprehensive list of what one can bring on a hike. You know yourself and your pup best. I would not recommend bringing too much extra for a day hike. Too much extra weight can lead to added fatigue and a sore back. Also, remember to pack in and pack out.  Some areas will not have trash service along the trail, so bring bags (including poop bags) to carry waste out.

As we say in Scouts, leave no trace.  Take only photos, leave only footprints, and kill only time.  Happy trails!


me and my dogggggg
In the Angeles National Forest. Happy trails!
Hiking, Pets, Travel, Uncategorized

Great Hikes… with dogs

Welcome to my two-part series on hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains.  Owen, my golden retriever, and I have recently started hiking together.  I’m not entirely sure why we haven’t done more of this before; being out in nature is a fun way to bond with each other.  And it is great exercise for both dog and human. Owen and I seem to be happiest in the outdoors. We are fortunate to have a few trails close by that work well for us.  I take into account several factors when deciding where to go:

Trail width: As my pup is a 67-lb retriever, I prefer areas where the main trail is wide enough to allow two hiking pairs to pass comfortably.  We simply take up space, and he is heavy enough to be difficult to lift.  I also found that he likes to stay at my side as we’re going up a slope, rather than going ahead, so having the extra space makes things easier.

Water/stream crossings: My dog is supposed to be fond of water, but he seems to be ambivalent about it.  That said, he will go where I go, and will willingly cross small streams. Boulder hopping is fun, but it is a bit trickier for me when I’m with Owen.  I prefer more “boring” trails, with only a couple shallow stream crossings and not too many boulders.

Trail conditions: Owen does just fine on rockier trails, but seems to prefer smoother surfaces. He also is not too fond of steep hills, though he was able to complete a couple of those.  Let’s just say that both he and I were pretty wiped afterward.

Crowds: My dog and I can both be easily distracted.  He is great with people, good with most dogs, but reactive toward certain small dogs. For this reason, and our mutual enjoyment, I pick less the trekked areas.  We also go on weekday mornings when the crowds would be lower.

All that considered, here are just a few picks for my favorite hikes with my dog:

Gabrielino Trail, Sunset Overlook to Gould Mesa- Owen and I had fun on this nice flat hike, part of the Lower Arroyo Seco trail.  The picnic area at Sunset Overlook overlooks Jet Propulsion Laboratory. We took the small side trail from the Overlook down to the main, paved trail.  The trail is wide as you cross the bridges, allowing for good space between groups. We explored some of the smaller side trails, which followed a small stream. There was a lot for him to explore and sniff out, and the trail was quiet and pleasant in the morning.

Sam Merrill Trail, Echo Mountain- The trailhead is at the top of Lake Avenue in Altadena. We’ve only gone part of the way up the mountain together. The trail begins fairly wide, but gets more narrow as you get higher.  Owen wasn’t quite sure what to do as the trail got narrow. He tended to want to heel, but I needed him to go forward, as there wasn’t enough room for him to stay at my flank.  I’m sure this is something that would improve with practice. What I really like about the trailhead area itself is that there are some fun areas to explore before hitting the actual trail up the mountain.  We went around the ‘meadow’ area and hiked up some of the small side trails. We didn’t meet with many people on the smaller trails, so space wasn’t a problem, even as it got narrow.  However, this would not be true on the main trail.  Sam Merrill is not as popular, as say, Eaton Canyon, but it does get quite a few visitors.

Mt. Wilson Toll Road, Henninger Flats-  The hike to Henninger Flats Campground from the bridge is a strenuous 2.8 mile all uphill torture trek that I hike once a week during our Scout hiking season, and about every other week or so after. Every time I head up, I wonder why I put myself through that kind of pain, but the hike really is a fantastic workout. If you and your pup are up for a challenge, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the San Gabriel Valley and LA Basin in a quiet forest setting. The hike itself is not shaded, but the trail is mostly smooth and pretty wide. I’ll confess that Owen and I together haven’t made it to the top; I’ll say that I’m still ‘conditioning him.’  The tricky part for me is the downhill.  I would not recommend this hike for dogs who have a very strong pull because it is easy to lose footing on the down slope.

There are a few fun hikes that can be done with a canine companion, however are not on my recommended list.  Eaton Canyon is nice and very popular, but is heavily trafficked.  On a busy day it’s tricky enough with kids, more so a dog (though some might have the opposite experience). Chantry Flats to Sturtevant Falls or Hoegee’s Campground is also a popular choice. These can be great hikes, however I would not recommend them on a hot day.  There have been instances of dogs being injured because the paved portion can get very hot. And depending on prior rain fall, there can be a lot of poison oak growth.

Dogs are required to be leashed on all of these trails at all times, regardless of obedience level or temperament. Also, you know your dog best, so do your research and choose trails that are suited to your dog’s (and your) activity level. It also is important to bring enough water for the both of you. On that head, the next post will be on what to take along on a hike with your buddy. Here’s to exploring the great outdoors. Happy trails!


Kids, Money savers, Shopping, Style, Travel, Uncategorized

Saving money Saturdays: the Citadel Outlets

Happy Tuesday! I know it’s not Saturday, but we took a trip to the Outlets on Saturday, so that counts. Sort of.

Take a trip south on the Interstate 5 from Los Angeles, and you’ll see a set of peach-colored buildings with Babylonian-style architecture.  This is where you want to stop.

The Citadel buildings have an interesting history.  The site was built back in 1929 as the Samson Tire Company, and at the time, was the largest tire manufacturer west of the Mississippi. It became Uniroyal Tire in 1962.  Manufacturing ceased in 1978, but the site was purchased by the City of Commerce in 1983 to prevent its demolition. Today the site is a mixed-use facility with offices, the Doubletree Hotel, and L.A.’s first and only outlet mall.

I love the Citadel Outlets for two reasons: One, it’s only about a 20 minute drive from my home, even with the characteristic horrible L.A. traffic.  Two, the Citadel features many of the stores where I would typically shop. All three Gap brands are carried here, as are luxury brands Coach and Kate Spade, and business attire essentials Ann Taylor, Van Heusen, and Tommy Hilfiger. These are just a few of the 130 brands one can find at the Citadel.

As with any shopping trip- outlet or otherwise- be sure to do your due diligence and compare quality and price. Certain stores such as Kate Spade carry both items that are designed specifically for outlet stores and past season merchandise. Others, such as the Disney Store, have sales that are not much different from the typical retail store. You’re not always guaranteed a bargain just because you’re shopping at an ‘outlet.’ That said, with a little research and some willpower, you can score some really great deals. Okay, a lot of willpower.

Happy Thanksgiving? The Citadel is all decked out with plenty of time for the Christmas holidays.
Museums, photography, Style, Travel, Uncategorized

The Huntington Library: a photographer’s dream

Huntington Library
The chalice is also a PokeStop

One of my favorite day hangouts is the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens, located in San Marino, California. It’s a bit over a mile from where I live, and relatively quiet most weekdays. It’s perfect for a morning walk or to entertain the kids on no school days. It is also a great place for photography.

Anyone armed with an iPhone or other digital camera will find no shortage of subjects within the grounds, which also provide serene backdrops for photos. My favorite photos are of the kids running the green expanses that also offer views of the LA basin. Professional photography and filming are permitted, however are by appointment and require permits.

I will allow the photos to speak for themselves. These were taken using an iPhone 5S. I’m hoping to get a DSLR for Christmas (fingers crossed). But even with a so-so camera, the Huntington photographs well. I hope that you’ll have The Huntington on your must do list if you’re ever in the Pasadena area.

Visit huntington.org to plan your trip.

breakfast, Brunch, coffee, Food, Kids, Style, Travel, Uncategorized, wine and drink

Girls’ Weekend with my favorite ladies

Another weekend is come and gone, and this was one for the books. The boys in our family each left for the weekend one at a time, starting with the husband on Friday, the younger boy Saturday before dawn, and finally my high schooler in the early afternoon. I call it ‘bachelorette weekend’ whenever the boys leave: the girls and I visit museums or other locales the guys think are either lame or too far to drive then come home for some hardcore scrapbooking and wine while binge watching movies the guys think are too girly or lame.

This weekend was not much different, except that I had to remember what time each of them were set to leave and make sure they and all their related gear got to the correct dropoff points. But after the morning’s drives we were able to enjoy a sweet Saturday- just  the ladies.

We started our girls weekend with brunch at one of my favorite spots, Magnolia House on Lake Avenue in Pasadena. It was the first time I  brought the girls, and they loved it. Sami especially liked the avocado toast, a slice of sourdough with a generous heap of avocado and topped with almonds, pickled onions, and burrata cheese. I was a bit skeptical of her choice (I usually get the huevos rancheros), but it was really good. Our server was very sweet and patient with Sami who sometimes has anxiety over those seemingly minor decisions such as what to eat.  I would not call Magnolia House ‘kid-friendly,’ especially for younger kids. It has a really trendy vibe and full bar with some interesting cocktails (of which I did not partake on this trip), so it’s definitely better as a grown-up girls’ brunch or date night. But Sami, who is 10, did just fine. Brunch was followed by some shopping on Lake Avenue. Emily scored a pair of Steve Maddens at TJMaxx for under $30, and Sami picked up an adorable Halloween costume at  Pottery Barn Kids.

The afternoon and evening hours took us further from home. We spent the rest of our glorious Saturday in Malibu. After driving the windy, but beautiful Malibu Canyon Road, we found ourselves at the famed Surfrider Beach, part of Malibu Lagoon State Beach. We were excited to explore the tide pools and observe the sea life that lived among the rocky pools. The girls went between playing in the waves and exploring the area. It was a beautiful, blue-sky day, significantly cooler than the 90-degree San Gabriel Valley- perfect for a day at the beach.

After playing in the ocean for a couple hours, we walked the sagescrub lined paths to get back to PCH and headed to the Malibu Pier. The Malibu Farm has both a cafe that serves coffee and snacks and a full service restaurant. Both are located on the pier. Reservations are recommended for the restaurant, though we were able to move ours forward. The Malibu Farm, as might be assumed, specializes in fresh dishes made from organic ingredients. I wasn’t really hungry after a really late lunch/snack, and so wanted dessert. Sami ate in the car on the way over and Emily lost her Subway sandwich to a seagull, so the girls were ready for dinner. And dessert. After some indecision and much debate, we finally ordered two kids meals with orzo pasta and two desserts, an organic soft serve and the grilled chocolate cake. The kids pasta was very good, and not too salty as many kids meals can be. To me the soft serve tasted like Costco. Though the girls really enjoyed it, I was less impressed, especially when the cheapskate in me remembered that I could get twice as much ice cream for $1.35 compared with $6, organic or not. But the grilled chocolate cake… What can I say other than it was heaven on a plate. The texture was perfection- thicker than your usual cake, but light enough to just melt in your mouth. It was served over a sea salt caramel drizzle and a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream. For $10 it was a splurge, but it was large enough to share among the three of us, and it was a chocolate masterpiece.

The Malibu Farm’s price point is for me on the higher end of my scale, but I would definitely return. The food was delicious and the portions generous.  We took home half of Emily’s kids meal, and I was able to share some of Sami’s. There are a few things I’d like to try the next time we go, such as the lemon basil ice cream and the berry merengue. Our server was really great. He made good recommendations, and was super friendly toward a trio of indecisive and somewhat giggly (but otherwise well-behaved) girls. And the view of the Pacific Ocean is just spectacular.

This is just a snapshot of what one can do on a visit to Malibu, a city that boasts 21 miles of scenic coastline. There are many dining and shopping options, along with museums such as the Getty, and hiking in the Santa Monica mountains. And while I didn’t do any hardcore scrapbooking, Emily did stay up to binge watch “Gilmore Girls.”