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!

L.A. County Fair

January 2, 2011

We visited the L.A. County Fair in the fall through an amazing program for homeschoolers which is affiliated with their education program. We were able to get free tickets, which includes free parking and early morning entry – 9AM. I didn’t know if I was going to convince Mishy to wake up early or how traffic was going to be – it’s about an hour drive away in Pomona, CA, but somehow we woke up early, drove all the way to Pomona with traffic going the other way and stopped in to have delicious Vietnamese food about 10 minutes away from the fair. (By the time we left the fair, the food booths were not opened yet.)

We only visited one section of the fair – Mishy was 2.5 years old and I felt we could pace ourselves. We stayed to visit all of the animals and missed the rides.

Here are our highlights.

Mishy milked a goat!

We learned about how cows are milked in commercial farms in California.

Getting up close to the cow milking demonstration and show

Watched a sheep getting sheered.



And saw a variety of farm animals.


L.A. County Fair:


Last year, we saw the floats post Rose Bowl. This year, because I am much better organized, I thought it would be grand to catch as much pre Rose Bowl activities as possible. Mishy was game so I bought tickets over the phone and picked them up in person. Our first entry into Rose Bowl 2010 – EquestFest.  Located at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank, CA, EquestFest features horses which will be marching in the parade along with the floats. EquestFest is their time to shine.

Twenty-four EquestFest units participated including a group of prize winning Peruvian horses, Southern California Peruvian Paso Horse Club, All American Cowgirl Chicks – who rode into the field full speed, carrying a flag and sometimes not holding on to the reins!,  The Hermanos Banuelos – who provided several moments of fabulous lasso twirling. Their message is to show respect to children, parents, teachers, siblings, and animals.

Right before intermission, children aged 12 and under are invited inside the stable to dig for sliver dollars – actual Sacagawea dollars. Parents need to sign a waiver and it’s a good idea to sign this waiver prior to the event. We ran to participate and when we got on the field, I started digging. I really wanted to find a dollar for Mishy. I told Mishy to dig and she looked horrified. She told me to get up – why am I getting my hands dirty? – how can I carry her with my dirty hands? – I need to wash my hands right away. I told her, we’re digging for dollars. And she asked me why. I told her so we can keep them as souvenirs. When we were told to stop digging and Mishy looked all around her – seeing who got dollars and who didn’t, she asked if I found any. I told her no. She told me to dig! I told her I couldn’t anymore and we all had to leave the field. Tractors were coming and the tractors came to prepare the field for after the intermission.

During intermission, audience members could walk around the center and meet some of the horses. They could also do a fair amount of shopping for horse related products – hand designed horseshoes, stuffed animals in the shape of horses, marionette horses, etc. We bought a Cowgirl Calendar and got it signed by Mandee – who is on the month of November page. Children 46 inches and taller could ride a stimulated horse and watch a video trail ride – which there was a long line for and Mishy is not tall enough yet to ride the stimulated horse. A real horse yes, but not a pretend one – or at least not this one.

After the intermission, the Calvary came to participate in the show and we left. The Calvary came with their guns to shoot balloons and it was too loud and scary.

I would suggest earplugs for sensitive ears and being prepared to exit when it gets too loud or violent. (The Medieval Times Unit was too violent in my opinion for my daughter .) We arrived about half an hour after the show began and were able to get front row seats because the seats reserved for Wells Fargo guests had been opened up for regular audience members by the time we arrived.


Here is the link of EquestFest 2010


Mishy walking to the Arctic Lights at America's Teaching Zoo in the storm

It was one of the worst rain storms in the history of Los Angeles on  the weekend of this year’s Arctic Lights at America’s Teaching Zoo and we still made it out because we were pretty certain there wasn’t going to be any crowds. Most importantly, snow was advertised. They were going to bring tons of snow rain or shine and the event was not going to be cancelled. One of the many childhood pastimes we want to share with our daughter is the pleasure of snow – snowmen, snowballs, riding down a hill of ice and snow. We were lucky we found all three at this year’s Arctic Lights.

America’s Teaching Zoo is part of the four year course – Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College. If you would like to learn how to work with animals in zoo, on set for film, television, and commercials, or in theme parks where they have animal shows, this program is one of the most recognized and highly sought after in America. Every weekend, they open their doors to the public for a small fee – $5/person. Children under the age of 2 are free. For the public, they have animal shows where they introduce to you various animals they have trained. You are also able to visit the animals on site. Animals include a female lion, two mountain lions, a bald eagle, maccaws, several types of monkeys, among others. All of the animals are rescued animals – either given by U.S. Fish and Wildlife when people have illegally had these animals as pets or by the zoo – when they no longer have room for them. Some of the animals on site are loaned from studios.

The Arctic Lights is an annual event which features a raffle, silent auction, several types of craft projects – card making, ornament decorating, and most importantly, snow!

Preparing to slide down



Silver Horse Healing Ranch

December 25, 2010

Mishy looking at Silver, the director of Silver Horse Healing Ranch. Yes, the ranch is named after Silver.

We’ve been going to the Silver Horse Healing Ranch in Topanga for 6 months. Mishy loves it there. She takes part in two group lessons twice a month with other children, which I’ve organized. The lessons are for children starting at age 2.5 years old. The children have a gentle ride – either around the stable or on a trail – depending on the child’s age and ability. The parents are able to walk alongside the horse or stay by the stables and talk to the other parents, or take pictures. After the horseback ride, the children may brush, massage, and groom the horses. Once that is completed, the children lead a horse with a rope, usually Silver –  and learn other natural horsemanship skills such as how to tie a horse to a fence or tree or feed Silver her food of beet leaves. Finally, the horses are given snacks of carrots and apples. We have learned it’s important to be aware of the hierarchy of the horses at the ranch. Each herd has a social order and the horses higher up on the hierarchy must be given carrots first – Sara explains this prior to the children feeding the horses. She also shows us how safely to feed them.

Riding Laydee - her first time on a draft horse.

The Silver Horse Healing Ranch is a horse rescue ranch with a focus on natural horsemanship skills – which means the horses are not asked to do anything they do not want to do/makes them uncomfortable. The owner of the ranch is Sara Vaughan who has been teaching natural horsemanship skills for 12 plus years. Our classes are two hours long which leaves plenty of time to enjoy the ambiance of the ranch. (At one point, there was a compostable toilet and yurt.) She is available for group or private lessons. She does have a focus on children with high functioning people with Autism and others on that spectrum. If you are interested in participating in group lessons for your child – please write on the comments section of this post and I will get back to you. If you are a member of any yahoo groups I am on, you may also write me on them as well – NaturalParentingLA. (I have been trying to organize a class for children with autism for some time and would love to make this happen. Mishy does not have autism. I have just witnessed how special and healing the ranch is for children with high functioning autism.) I do not work for Sara Vaughan or Silver Horse Healing Ranch. I truly like what they are doing at the ranch so I happily arrange group lessons for children. (Sara mentioned I have tripled her children’s program.)

Making food for Silver


Silver Horse Healing Ranch


They are on Youtube as well:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3t3bnqGQXX0 – an introduction to the ranch

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AU_HIATkow – a demo with Diva

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3t3bnqGQXX0 – Laydee with Amber, a teenager with special needs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3t3bnqGQXX0 – introducing Courtney – a person of special needs