Last week, I organized a field trip to Fillmore Railway and Fish Hatchery. It’s a 15 minute ride on a vintage train to a fish hatchery where children use dimes to pay for fish food to feed trout and see some herons on the other side of the fence. Then, it’s a 15 minute ride back to the railroad station. Here are some pictures of our adventures on that day.

All aboard the train!

I was nervous we were going to miss the train. While we left early and initially thought we were going to be early, we got caught in terrible traffic. On the 405 freeway, there were two car accidents. We moved 2.5 miles in 45 minutes. Once we cleared the accidents, I drove incredibly fast with Mishy telling me to go faster and faster – she didn’t want to miss the train either! While I am not going to tell you how fast I went because eek – what if someone in law enforcement is reading this – it was so fast  that I was able to get to the Fillmore Railway with 10 minutes to spare.

A view from the train.

We had never been to Fillmore or driven along the 126 West Highway. It is a beautiful drive, passing orange farms, Lake Piru and nurseries. Fillmore itself is a quaint town that seems to have retained all of its charm. It’s filled with antique shops, tasty Mexican Food restaurants, and a City Hall with nice bathrooms and of course, the vintage trains. Mishy said she wanted to move to Fillmore and I entertained the thought. (We’ve been having a great deal of problems with our landlord where the police were called last month because the manager committed battery against me. We’ve been dealing with ongoing harassment, child harassment and endangerment for two years now. My husband even got bitten by a dog while protecting our daughter’s friend who was over and playing the backyard. I will write a post about all this in the future once our case with the City Attorney is resolved. Needless to say, my family has been thinking about moving.) Fillmore seemed like an ideal place to live.

Mishy, with purpose, walking to the fish hatchery.

Once the train stopped, we got off and walked a short couple of blocks to the fish hatchery. I forgot our dimes. Sarah and family, who joined us on the field trip offered to give us her dimes and together with what seemed like our endless supply of dimes, we fed the fish.

The trout jumping for food.

Mishy loved throwing large handful of fish food for the trout. She eventually threw her cup into the water. She said she wanted the fish to eat all of the crumbs. Luckily, the cup was non toxic.

Workers cleaning the hatchery.

The herons and ducks waiting for the fish.

On the other side of the fish hatchery were herons and ducks, enjoying their luck at being so close to a fish hatchery and waiting for some escaped fish. It was incredibly peaceful watching them. They were as equal a draw for the children’s attention.

Now for some details of the train:

Horses on top of the windows of the train.

One of the cars.

Mishy hanging out on a chair in the train.


A ceiling fan in one of the cars of the train.

Mishy jumping on another train seat.

The train also featured a car that was completely outdoors. I was too busy enjoying the train ride to take pictures of that car.

While it was a bit of a long car ride for us – normally, it would take just over one hour, but took us an hour and a half, it really was worth the traffic to experience the train ride, fish hatchery, spend time with friends, and get to visit Fillmore.


Fillmore and Western Railway



Cows grazing.

I arranged a field trip to Amy’s Farm – an organic farm in Orange County with produce and animals – including chickens, horses, cows, pigs, and worms. Here are some photos of our time there.

Children grooming the miniature horse, Crystal.

Mishy hearing the plans of the tour.

Mishy loved meeting Heidi, our tour guide. She wants to return to the farm, as long as Heidi will be leading the tour again. Thank you, Heidi, for an informative and enjoyable tour.

Walking towards the organic fields.

Smelling and tasting the organic herbs.

While the children were tasting the organic herbs and delicious cauliflower, Heidi was showcasing the organic produce and picking some salad for Honey Bun.

Feeding Honey Bun part of the organic salad.

Petting the sheeps and goats.

Mishy after she pets the animals.

Feeding the chickens some greens.

Heidi gave each child and adult some greens to tear up and feed the chickens.

Getting ready to milk Honey Bun.

Mishy and Heidi milking Honey Bun together. Every child had a turn. Adults too. Mishy took my turn.

Thanking Honey Bun.

Digging for worms in the compost. We found a dozen.


Amy’s Farm






Norton Simon Museum

May 22, 2011

I arranged a field trip to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA. Here are some pictures of our time in the sculpture garden.

Mishy by the lily pond, eating her red apple.

A mother duck with her ducklings.

Mishy with Y and J watching the tadpoles.

Mishy and I love going to art galleries. I let her decide what she wants to see and then we talk about what we see in the paintings and sculptures – the different colors, shapes, what she sees in the painting, what the painting might be called, what do you think the artist is trying to convey or not, any feelings that come out of seeing the painting? I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, because art is subjective and it’s just fun looking at art together and also be in nature. The Norton Simon Museum has a beautiful and peaceful sculpture garden.


Norton Simon Museum

Mishy inspired by a Rodin sculpture.

Going to the Farm Walk

April 17, 2011

Pierce College Farm Walk

I impressed my husband when we attended Pierce College’s Farm Walk. This is an annual event where they turn their 235 acre animal learning/teaching center into a farm. They had wagon rides, a petting zoo, an equestrian show, pony rides, students walking around with animals – a parrot, a python snake were two we saw, as well as food – including farmers market fresh strawberries, which we gobbled up, and a special surprise – a guest found a baby opossum.

Mishy feeding the Momma goat.

Mishy gathering hay to feed the wild burros.

Pierce College recently brought the wild burros from Nevada to protect the goats and cows from coyotes. Coyotes are scared of them.

Cows grazing.

They do sell the cows for beef to raise funds for their school. This Farm Walk is one of their many fundraisers they have throughout the year. Just to cover the cost of feed, they need to raise over $50, 000. Due to budget cuts, they have been forced to close down and lessen some of their stock of animals. They currently only have one pig because it was too costly for them. They did recently open up a chicken coop.

A tractor.

Wild sheep.

The animals are able to graze on much of their 235 acre property and the students are continuously planting seeds to grow into grass so they don’t just depend on hay as their primary source of food for the animals. The animal college would like to become as self-sufficient as possible.

Taking a rest.

Walking through the fields.

On the wagon ride.

Touching the Do Not Touch pretend horse.

Finding a baby opossum

Mishy petting the baby opossum

Playing with the hoola hoop set for a pretend horses and children to jump through.

Farm folk, fire fighters and the Forestry Division of the Los Angeles Fire Department, and the group, California Woman for Agriculture and Agriculture in the Classroom were also on hand to answer any questions.


Pierce College

Written by Sarah Starks

SimplyFido, organic dog toys and beds, offered to let MJ try out some of their products. Since she doesn’t have a dog, our dogs got to try them out instead. It was a very exciting day when the package arrived: first for my daughter Eleanor, who got to help unwrap the toys and decided to set them up in a corner for the dogs to discover, and then for Toby and Tess, who came inside to discover new things to play with. They sent us Wally Bear Ring from their stuffed ring toy collection, Oscar Monkey from their plush collection, and a Bamboo/Canvas & Rope Bone, along with a medium-sized dog bed, yellow on one side and green on the other.

Toby and Tess are still puppies, about a year and a half old (they’re brother and sister), and while they’ve gotten past the major teething stage they’re amazingly destructive when it comes to their toys. I felt a little guilty giving them something so nice–the toys looked like something I’d give to my daughter–because I knew they’d figure out a way to demolish them, but they have so much fun in the process that it’s worth it. Plus they make good test subjects for evaluating the durability of toys!

The bear was an instant hit, especially once Toby discovered that all of its feet have squeakers in them. Toby ran around the house with it dangling by its foot from his mouth, squeaking it as he ran, while Tess chased him.

They loved the little monkey too. Toby, the most in love with squeakers of the two, discovered the squeaker in his back pretty quickly too and ran around squeaking it. He liked to take it up on the sofa for the safety of higher ground:

Whereas Tess quickly discovered that the bed offered a soft place to lie down with a toy:

But I think the bear remains their favorite. It’s been about a month since the toys arrived and I often find the bear on the top of the stairs from the back yard, because they carry it up with them when they come back up and wait for me to let them into the house.

With so many exciting toys, they didn’t really dig into the bone at first. Once all the excitement, chase, and squeaking had settled down, Tess carried the bone over the bed and started to investigate. Unlike the dog and monkey, which have those cute fuzzy animal features that invite rambunctious play, the key features of the bone are two firm canvas corners that really invite focused gnawing. This is the sort of toy that they really enjoy, but in a way that guarantees its immediate destruction. Within 3 minutes Tess was yanking out fluffy organic stuffing. I think by now it’s about half emptied out. I still occasionally find them playing keep-away with it in the back yard, and they’ve since discovered that it also has a squeaker, but the plush animal toys are much more their style.

A month after everything arrived, the dog bed is still in pristine condition. Toby & Tess usually sleep curled up together, and they already have a large thicker pillow-style bed from Victoria Peak that is big enough for both of them. I’ve started putting the Simply Fido bed next to their regular bed in the laundry room at night because sometimes one dog gets grumpy and kicks the other out of bed, and the Simply Fido bed makes for a nice cozy spot for the banished dog to spend the night on when that happens. It’s pretty much the perfect size for one of our dogs. They’re chihuahua mixes of some sort, but whatever they’re mixed with is on the bigger side, so they’re in the 15-20 pound range. A much bigger dog wouldn’t be happy with the medium bed, and our dogs can’t fit on it together, but any smallish dog would love it. During the day I bring it into the living room, and it gives them an extra spot to hang out. It’s just padded enough that it seems to be pretty comfy and it definitely protects them from our very cold floors.

All the dog toys are looking well-loved, but their overall integrity is intact. After a few days they created a hole where Wally bear’s nose once was and pulled out a bunch of his face stuffing. For our dogs this isn’t a sign of a poorly made toy, it’s a sign of a really fun toy. Truly, there is nothing they can’t destroy. I had brief hopes of keeping these as “indoor toys” so they’d stay nice and so there would always be something handy for them to play with, but they love to grab their toys on their way out the door so these toys, like all their toys, spend most of their time in the back yard. But even after a month of rain and dirt and tug of war and squeaker extraction projects, they’re still going strong and providing lots of entertainment.


Simply Fido – organic dog toys and beds

Who's the birthday girl? Matt asks Mishy to be his helper.

Our daughter turned three and she wanted a party. Fifty of our friends and my mom came to celebrate with us. Matt, from The Reptile Family brought many amphibians, reptiles, and arachnids to entertain and educate all our guests. He was a sensation.

Matt shows J a scorpion.

L looks to see what's in the basket.


Mishy has 5 frogs on her. We had to keep them wet so her dress got wet. She didn't mind.

Mishy touches a frog.

Y holds two lizards.

Matt shows L a geeko.

Gentle touching.

Fascinated by another lizard

Mishy picked 3 friends to hold an iguana together

Feeding snakes banana

A turtle

Watching the turtle move

This was Babba's favorite part of The Reptile Family

Matt had to remove the snake from our necks to let it pee and poo. The snake's pee is solid white and gooey yellow. They poo every 1-2 weeks.

Babba carried the snake around his neck for as long as he could. Long time friends, Joan and Beth look on.

S and Beth get a closer view of a snake while Mishy and others watch a snake on the grass.

Blowing out the candles.


Mishy just after she blew out the candles.

The children and adults painted t-shirts and puppets to take with them.

Mishy's new friend, John Cariani - Babba's long time friend. He's a Tony nominated actor and playwright of the most produced play in America. His play, Almost Maine, is more produced than Shakespeare's Mid Summer Nights Dream.

After the party, Mishy and friends played with chalk while others played upstairs and in the backyard.


Matt from The Reptile Family

Hire them! They make things very easy, are reliable, dedicated, and make a very unique experience which children and adults will remember. One child brought home an imaginary turtle and it still lives in their place. They also offer special classes for all ages.

Catering was by Maggie’s Tapas. Delicious food and healthy too. We ordered two party platters from them. They deliver too.

Cupcakes were from Vanilla Bake Shop and Yummy Cupcakes. Both are in Santa Monica and other locations in Los Angeles. Vanilla Bake Shop has baby cupcakes which went very fast. So fast, I had to ask a guest to take a cupcake from his hand so Mishy could have one. Yummy Cupcakes has vegan cupcakes.

Vanilla Bake Shop

Yummy Cupcakes

The cake was from Angel Maid Bakery in Culver City. We ordered the strawberry shortcake. On Mishy’s first birthday party, we ordered the guava passionfruit cake, which I thought was very yummy. Angel Maid is a family owned business which makes a special effort for customers and they make beautiful custom orders which are reasonable.

Angel Maid Bakery – Here’s their Yelp review, with all of their details

Fabric paints we got from Jo-Ann’s Fabrics.

Mishy holding on to a chicken.

Today, through Elsa Inc., a not for profit organization to help rescued animals, I organized a homeschool visit to a rescue animal ranch in Malibu at Big Heart Ranch. There were 80 plus people who joined us today to touch, pet, hug, and learn about animals. Here is my photo journal of our day. What the photos don’t include is the art station and the seed planting station. Mishy and I were very busy relating to the horses.

Some of the group relating to the alpacas, deer, goats, miniature horses, and horses.

All the children and adults were able to go inside the stables to have intimate contact with the animals in their own space and time. The animals at the ranch include: Captain, the grandson of Secretariat, who was bred to be a champion race horse, but had other dreams of his own, two alpacas, two goats, a deer, two miniature horses, many chickens, whose eggs a lucky few were able to take home with them, and many other horses, including Snowy, Big Red, and Brava. After the ranch visit, Mishy sat on my lap in the car and thanked me.

Chickens laying eggs. They had a need for privacy.

Some guests playing on the tractor

E and R feeding Macchiato, an alpaca

Petting Captain, Secretariat's grandson

Brushing Big Red

Mishy picking out a horse brush

Children playing in the sandbox over looking the Pacific Ocean

Picnic tables over looking the Pacific Ocean

Mishy brushing Breezy, a miniature horse

Mishy brushing Breezy's tail

Children feeding Breezy

Children, including Mishy, leading Breezy back inside the stable

Mishy saying one final good bye to Breezy, and thanking Susan

Children saying their final farewells


Susan, who heads Elsa Inc organizes a few annual events at two ranches in Malibu, as well as classes focused on healthy ways of communicating with animals and getting back to nature for children aged 5-13 years old called, Unplugged Youth Adventure. She is open to organizing events for schools and homeschoolers alike.

Bonus photo:

Mishy fast asleep during the car ride home.

I am of two minds about zoos – one – how great it is for people to see animals they could not normally see/have access to  and – two – it’s unfortunate  the animals are locked in. That thought ran through my mind several times while we walked through the San Diego Zoo last Saturday with extended family. (We were in San Diego to celebrate my sister-in-law’s 50th birthday.)

San Diego Zoo is the largest zoological membership zoo in the world, spans 100 acres and is home to 4000 rare and endangered animals. They are committed to conservation – yet, it was difficult for all of us who visited that day to see the lone jaguar behind the clear glass cage pacing back and forth, back and forth, agitated. Mishy kept on asking me, “Why is the jaguar alone?” When I told her some animals like to be alone because they have a need for space, it didn’t satisfy her until I asked her to tell me about the jaguar and she said, “He looks unhappy.”

The giraffe’s, on the other hand looked very happy. Everyday, they are fed biscuits by visitors who each pay $3 for the privilege and get a souvenir photograph.

Mishy also loved the sky tram.

I don’t know if we would re-visit the San Diego Zoo. I am told the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is where you can see animals roaming freely. I do think it was important for us to go since San Diego Zoo is one of the leading zoos in the world. It just makes me sad that animals are saved by being put on public display. Yet, at the same time – it is so important for Mishy to see animals alive instead of just in books – to see how animals move. When we were in Thailand, we visited an elephant conservation where we were able to feed and bath the elephants. That is an experience worth flying to Thailand for and being at the zoo makes me appreciate the experience more and more, especially when we saw the elephants at the San Diego Zoo being locked in a large metal cage, continuously fed, while they had their feet cleaned. (We will be visiting other zoos because visiting zoos/being around animals is important for my daughter.)

Elephant keeper cleaning an elephant while another elephant keeper feeds it.


San Diego Zoo

I am told if you buy a year membership, it is the same price as two adult single day admission.

There are places we go to because I love watching Mishy play. There are places I love because I get to explore with Mishy and learn things I have forgotten long ago and there are some places I never want to leave and wish I was a child again so I can spend days playing by running in the grass, petting and feeding the animals, listening to music, being in nature, playing ping pong, throwing the basketball into the basket, eating popcorn, making pita bread, trying new and adventurous things, and just being joyful. Shalom Institute is one of those rare places in which spending seven fun filled hours seem much too little. We would have stayed longer except the event we were there for was only five hours long. (They were very gracious in letting us leave slowly.) We have found Mishy’s summer camp – in a few years when she’s six years or older. In the meantime, we will be visiting Shalom Institute at all of their festivals throughout the year and may stay with them for a weekend during one of the family camps. (Their next family camp is in May.) We were at Shalom Institute this Sunday for their annual Tu B’Shvat Festival – a festival to celebrate the birth of trees. Here is a photo essay of our time there.

Feeding one of their two ponies.

Petting a goat while he scratches a tree.

Relaxing together

The animals at Shalom Institute are friendly, yet respectful and you can trust them completely. I felt very safe letting Mishy roam around in the animal stall.

Watching others jump in one of two bouncy houses which were set up for the event.

Touching a Tegu lizard, native to Argentina, brought by Reptile Family

Reptile Family is a family owned business set up to educate children of all ages about reptiles, amphibians, and arthropods. They visit schools, preschools, and do birthday parties and corporate events.

Making a wax mold of Mishy's hand - trial run

Holding the wax mold of her hand

Wax Creation’s hand molds were very popular throughout the day. Mishy still cannot stop looking, touching and comparing her mold.

Watching the lemonade smoothie being made by man power

Drinking lemonade

Mishy and Babba connecting while eating popcorn

Watching Robbo perform

Robbo, a Parent’s Choice winner and father was one of the highlights of the stage shows.

Posing with a Burmanese Python

Shaping the dough to make pita bread

Cooking the pita bread on a hot stone


For their camp programs, including an upcoming Women’s Retreat in March:

Reptile Family:

Wax Creations – which makes rainbow wax molds:

Robbo – Parent’s Choice Winner:

Newborn, Daniel, born Jan 9th, 2011.

Mishy and I haven’t been to the Santa Barbara Zoo yet, but we are terribly excited to go. Mishy is fascinated by giraffes and they have daily giraffe feedings from 11:30AM-2:30PM. They also recently announced the birth of Daniel, born on January 9th, 2011. He weighed 109 lbs and measured 5 feet, 9 inches tall. He will not be available for viewing for several weeks.

They also have baby otters.

For the people in your life who are fans of Princesses, they have an upcoming Princess Day.


Saturday, 3/12, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (9 a.m. Entry for SB Zoo Members Only)

Free with Zoo admission.

They jump! They sing! They turn into princes (though this is extremely rare). What better time than the day the clocks “spring forward” to celebrate the world’s many and varied frogs and amphibians? There are frog-inspired crafts, games and special animal appearances. All costumed princesses welcome – meet Cinderella, Snow Whiteand Sleeping Beauty! Plus, find out how Amphibian Ark and zoos and aquariums are working together to save the world’s amphibians.

They also have a Zoo Train, Carousel, Kellman Family Center, Barnyard, among other very fun activities and locations within the zoo!

I am happy to be able to give away a family pass (up to 4 people). Please leave a comment to enter. This giveaway ends on midnight on January 31st, 2011.

Here are some videos from Santa Barbara Zoo:

The Santa Barbara zoo represents over 600 animals from 18 species on 16 acres.

You can find them on Twitter and Facebook.

Here’s their direct website:

If you like them on Facebook, leave another comment and you will get an additional entry. If you follow them on Twitter, leave another comment and you will get another entry. If you click on to their website, leave another comment and you will get one more entry – for a total of 4 entries per person.

Good luck!

Love giveaways? We’re still giving away an Organic Variety Sampler from Peeled Snacks until Feb. 1, 2011.

UPDATE: Congratulations, Kathy – you’ve won the four pack of tickets!