Oh! Possum! How Thou Hast Changed Me in Death and in Life

Two score and 18 weeks ago we loaded up a wagon with all of our worldly goods and migrated over the great hills of Hollywood to live henceforth in the land known as “The Valley.” We waved goodbye to poke restaurants to which we could walk, and streets that received weekly cleanings, and sighed hello to the warm prevailing winds of change, and also of burning smoke from a land almost constantly on fire.

Just a few short moons after arriving at our new homestead, we encountered the previously unknown-to-us beast known as the opossum. He and his brethren murdered our flock of hens, drowned in an errant empty pot, and came to untimely ends falling out of trees into our trashcan. But one of these loathsome creatures met its fate in a way that has stuck with me, and stuck to the ground, for quite some time.

I shall say that the possum is an animal that I do not appreciate. I do not appreciate his black, beady eyes; nor his pale, dirty, carrot-like tail that looks as though it was just plucked from the depths of the soil; nor his long fingers, which outstretch from entirely too human-like hands to grab trash and consume it as though it was a glorious roman feast. I do not appreciate you, fair possum! I shall rejoice when you dispatch forthwith from my homeland never to return again!

But, dear creature, you have lived, and you have loved, and you have tried so hard to establish a home for yourself and your children in this industrial wasteland of human excess. I acknowledge your dedication, I applaud your tenacity, I never hoped for your suffering. I truly never meant for you to meet this fate.

For whence you tried to cross the freeway off-ramp, perhaps to get slightly closer to the riches of cheese that awaited you in the Taco Bell parking lot, your struggle ended abruptly and I’m quite sure, painfully. The sight of your bloodied corpse from the window of my carriage did not bring me joy, sir. It did not bring me joy.

When I saw your desecrated body there upon the road again the next day, I was truly disgusted, though not with you or your kind. Disgusted by the sight of your entrails, and by the fact that you remained there for lo now 24 hours, uncared for. Un-buried. Un-dead in a sense. It brought me sadness. It caused me to reflect upon your struggle, and really all of our struggles. Who am I to judge you, god’s creature? Are we not the same? Are we all not engaged in a great struggle to survive and also sometimes to get to Taco Bell?

When in a fortnight your body still remained un-interred upon the barren off-ramp of the road known as the 170, I became concerned. Concerned for my city, uncaring to clean your surely diseased corpse from this intersection of human experience, this great crossroads of lives? I considered donning the costume of the gravedigger, lifting you with gloved hand into a strong sack and laying you to rest in a peaceful bin, but alas the danger was too great. I feared I would meet your same fate. So I did nothing. My child gazed upon you in wonder that you were no longer bloody, and had grown rather flat. What message was I sending her? Is life worthless? Is there any meaning in anything? Do we have no responsibilities? Don’t we owe even our filthy vermin enemies some dignity, some overarching kindness?

I posted a notice about you in the town square, hoping the criers would take up your cause! But the townspeople on nextdoor.com saw you as a symbol of everything wrong with our outpost; of disassociation from public services, a lack of caring, a sense of doom about the future. I removed myself from the town square before the hysteria grew too great. And still, you remained, growing flatter and grayer and sadder as the tides changed, the moons grew and shrank, even as the sun shaded over and eclipsed your memory. You slowly turned to dust, dear opossum, as we all must eventually.

Upon the fine morning of yester, I rose like any other morning and proceeded to dispatch my child to her place of education so as she could continue her studies in hopes of rising herself to a world not littered with the desiccated corpses of opossums. It hath been 12 moons now that we have seeked out and found your body with our eyes, it has become a light post to us, a signal that we are almost home, a fine point on the end of our daily voyage through the hills and desert to our family’s land.

But alas, yesterday you were not there! Our signposts have broken, our north star hath dimmed! What change! What monumental shift in the fabric of space and time! Let it be here known that upon Monday, the 18th of September, the year of our lord Two Thousand and Seventeen, you, dear opossum, valued friend, confidant of our deepest fears, gateway to the afterlife, were street-swept from the median and risen to the heavens, where you shall live out your days as a hero in our hearts!

My soul feels wiped clean! A new season is upon us! A new hope arises! From ashes we come, and to ashes you have returned. May you rise from them ever stronger! Godspeed, dear possum! Godspeed.

The image of the adorable possum is by Paul Canon, and can be purchased in print form here: Fine Art America.


Perfect Instant Pot Chicken Broth

You have to try our Perfect Instant Pot Chicken Broth! You will never go back to store bought.Perfect Instant Pot Chicken Broth After a 5 days of my girls both requesting a can of chicken noodle soup in a thermos for lunch (bleech) I decided to try a homemade version. I knew that I could make homemade chicken broth pretty quickly in the Instant Pot but I had no idea how delicious it would be with a few personal tweaks. It is amazing! I start with this broth recipe and make a batch of the Best Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe once a week. I’ve even started eating it for breakfast. We are all addicted! With the help of an Electric Pressure Cooker, Perfect Instant Pot Chicken Broth from scratch doesn’t have to be an all day affair.  Perfect Instant Pot Chicken Broth

Read on for my Perfect Instant Pot Chicken Broth recipe… (more…)


5 Ways to Win the Back-To-School Snacking Game

Special thanks to CLIF Kid & POPSUGAR for being a sponsor and providing Zbar Filled products for us to try. All opinions, ideas and content are my own.IMG_3169            While I’m pretty proud of my summer parenting, i.e. less gaming and videos, more biking and fort building, I let my healthy snack game slide a bit. It felt freeing to roll out of the house with three kids and not a care in the world (or cracker in my purse) but then I had to drop some $$ on a sno-cone or a fast food bite whenever anyone got parched or felt the ol’ hunger pains. Alas, all good-ish things must come to an end so I’m here to share a few of my new-school-year-resolutions. It’s time to focus more on the food that I put in these precious little baby birds of mine (who are shockingly starting 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade this year, what?)

IMG_3172Let’s talk about nourishing their busy little bodies and brains with nutritious snacks. I’ve never claimed to be a parenting expert, I’m winging it just like you, but I do have a few tricks that I use to give the little ones a full tummy and an alert mind as they roll between school pick-up, drama, soccer, scouts, and whatever else happens to be on our agenda. Maybe these are all common sense… or maybe they are crazy enough to work?!? Nah, they are all super easy ways to help kids stay happy and satisfied between the school bell and the dinner bell. (Now I want to buy a dinner bell.) (more…)


Our Favorite Kid Stuff in 2017 (so far)

It feels like Back-To-School has meant more time for at-home play this year. We still have a packed schedule of sports and other activities but the time that we do spend at the house has been filled with new craft projects, building projects, and imaginative play. I had started a list of cool stuff that people had sent for us to review along with fun items that we had found on our own, so I thought I would share it here just in case you are looking for the perfect birthday gift for a 6, 8, or 10 year old. I’ll warn you that our list is LEGO, Harry Potter, and “fashion design” heavy. These kids know what they like. Have your kids been obsessed with anything new lately? Please let us know what they are loving right now!

Don’t laugh! The only things that matter in Gordon’s life right now are all things Harry Potter and LEGOS, oh and crystals. Does anyone know why a 6-yr-old may have recently become obsessed with crystals?

The illustrated editions of Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets were a magical introduction to the book series for my son Gordon who, gasp, had seen all of the movies first. I know, I know. We are really looking forward to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The Illustrated Edition which comes out in October. We already have a copy reserved.

On our summer vacation, we stopped at my sister’s house for a few days of horse back riding and eating giant slices of pizza. One morning included a few rounds of the Clue Harry Potter Board Game. I’ve always loved CLUE but playing a Harry Potter version just pushed it over the edge. We have one of these on our Christmas list.

These Harry Potter Paper Flyers have been great as Gordon is learning to follow written instructions. It’s a beautiful Klutz book filled with Harry Potter themed paper flyers to punch out, cut and fold. The illustrations are amazing and there is a ton of bonus content to read and enjoy. Highly recommend!

Folks stop us on the street to comment on Gordon’s Harry T-Shirt. The graphic designer in me loves the simple, iconic image.

The LEGO Creator 3-in-1 sets are some of our favorites. While it’s cool to display a LEGO set once complete, and even cooler to take it apart to make something from your own imagination, how perfect is it that you can use the instructions to build three total different things, like this Robot/Dog/Bird LEGO Creator Robo Explorer set.

Moving on to my big girl Clare who is now solidly a tween. This basically means that you never know what you’re gonna get when you wake up in the morning. Exciting! She is dabbling in some big girl stuff but is also discovering that she now likes some toys that she has never been interested in before, like Barbies, what?

The Nokia Go is the perfect first step tracker. It’s simple to use, under $50, and doesn’t provide the distractions of a smart watch. It comes in a bunch of pretty colors and is also a basic watch.

We all joined in the rock painting craze this summer but Clare was really inspired by seeing beautiful examples in books like Art on the Rocks. It was fun for her to follow instructions and bring her artwork to a new technical level.

A love of creating doll fashions from single socks and scrap fabric has led to a love of Barbie Dolls. She recently spent a birthday gift card on this gorgeous The Look Barbie in a Sweater Dress. She seems to be the perfect doll for an older Barbie-lover.

This girl also loves Harry Potter and has a weird bet with her cousin that she will wear crazy socks every day this school year. I can’t wait to surprise her with their set of Harry Potter Houses Knee Socks. She also wears them to soccer!

Is your girl begging you for some color in her hair? We aren’t ready for permanent hues but we love to let her add some chalk to her goldie locks. These from Hair Flairs are some of our favs.

And now for my sweet crafty 8-year-old Quinn. We have been finding the coolest crafty kits for her to do alone or with a little help from her mama.

Have you seethe new snow resort LEGO Friends sets? Our favorite is the LEGO Friends Snow Resort Chalet but they are all adorable and as much fun to play with as they are to put together. I love all of the thoughtful details included in this set. Both of the girls went crazy over all of the cuteness.

D.I.Y. Dollhouse is a lavishly illustrated guide for budding architects, builders, and designers, showing then how to build and furnish their own eco-friendly dollhouse! This sounds like the perfect book to inspire creative, cozy winter projects at home.

We have outgrown hair bows but these Hair flower clips look great in a cluster or alone. Get a whole rainbow of colors for under $20.

Given the girls new found love of sewing clothes for their dolls, these Fashion Designers Kits By Seedling which come in 2 versions; Inspired by New York and Inspired By Audrey Fashion. The kits come with everything you need to design and create beautiful fashion designs. The sets are beautifully put together and make a fantastic gift for any crafty kiddo.

This Robotime DIY Dollhouse greenhouse kit is a good project for a parent and kid to do together. The tiny details are wonderful and I can’t wait to surprise Quinn with one of these this holiday season. It will be really fun to have some quality time creating this little magical wonderland.


Elotes Popsicle Recipe (Spicy Sweet Corn & Lime)

Everybody loves elotes. If you haven’t had Mexican sweet corn grilled and loaded up with chili, lime, and cheese you need to get on it! It’s amazing! Elotes Sweet Corn Popsicle Recipe I make a salad version of it, the recipe is here. September is pretty much the sweetest time to grab some fresh sweet corn, so do that, and make these pops for the final hot days ahead. It takes a little time, but is so worth it. I make a simple sweet corn popsicle often, and even though it sounds a bit odd, it is one of my most favorite pop recipes (and as you can see here, I love pop recipes).

This time around I added some lime zest and juice, and topped them off with some Tajin, which is a lime-chili-salt seasoning we find in LA (the best is fruit vendors who slice your fruit and generously sprinkle it with Tajin right on the street on a hot summer afternoon). All in all this corn popsicle is a little sweet, a little salty, a little spicy, and a lot amazing. Elotes Sweet Corn Popsicle RecipeGo ahead, give your mouth a treat with my Elotes Sweet Corn Popsicle Recipe, after the jump… (more…)


Painted Fireplace Before & After

Welp, I did it. I painted my fireplace. In my mid-century modern home (lots of pics from before we moved in here). This is fairly controversial, especially in a period home like mine, but I did it. I now have a painted brick fireplace. What do you think? Fireplace After Before I went ahead with the painted brick fireplace, I did check with a few experts to see if it was important period masonry (it wasn’t) or if the brick was valuable (it’s not). This was boring red brick that wasn’t aged or interesting, but was dirty and I felt like it was dragging the living room down. The carpet also contributes to that, but one thing at a time. One day it just came over me, that it had to be done. I used a masonry primer, then several coats of white paint (the same white as my walls), then some caulking to fill in holes between the brick and the wall. I have to say I’m happy with it. Of course, now I just want to remove the drop ceiling and tear up the carpet, but I’m taking it month by month. Sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing, I’d like your opinion. Here are the before and after shots…
Before: Fireplace Before 2 After: Fireplace After 2
Before:Fireplace Before After:Painted Fireplace After What do you think?

Painted Brick Fireplace Before and After Pics


Wishing You a #SavageNotAverage Back-To-School

IMG_3366We don’t go crazy with back-to-school shopping, especially since we have summer weather here until November. Instead, I let everyone pick out just a few special items to kick off the new school year. This year we partnered with AllPosters.com to select a couple of goodies for each of the kids. I was expecting to find some cute posters to give each reading/homework space a refresh but discovered, holy moly, AllPosters.com has so much more than just posters. We found hats and sweatshirts, a blanket, a sweet calendar, and also, yes, a million amazing posters. Each kid was able to find treats that perfectly suit their #SavageNotAverage personalities.

IMG_3419My middle kiddo, Quinn, is my trendy girl. At the moment, she is obsessed with llamas (and alpacas.) How cute is this collection of llama goodies that Quinn picked out? At these prices, her love of llamas doesn’t have to last through the years. (more…)


All The Pets My Kid Begged For and Got, Ranked

Chicken Coop I don’t know how it happened, but we ended up being that family that has all the pets. It’s a good thing. I don’t mind cleaning up after them, they all bring their own little slice of learning and joy to our household (for the most part), and my only child feels like she has some little siblings of sorts around the house. BUT some of these pets are just a pain in the behind. I’m gonna walk you through my unscientific but totally accurate and undeniable ranking of pets. Feel free to hate on all of this, or learn from my mistakes. So here goes, in order from worst pet to best pet. Onward…

8. Hamsters Hamster Bookshelf Hamsters are the literal worst. OMG. She begged for dwarf robo-hamsters, because she had seen them on youtube. Her other pets had just died horrible deaths (details later in this list), so we felt inclined to give them a try. Names: Crackers and Ellie. They seemed reasonably easy to care for, and they are. We went to our local pet store and consulted with the small animal expert who warned us that this particular breed of hamster is very active, and therefore would be hard to hold and not very cuddly. We were also advised to get two of them, so they could bond and play with each other. This seemed like not that much more work so we went for it. Which was great, until I found one hamster EATING THE OTHER HAMSTER. Hamsters are cannibals. I had to clean up hamster entrails, it was very unpleasant. Scarlet cried, I gagged, life went on. Then this morning I was making my coffee at 5:30 a.m. and saw a mouse scurry across the ground. I yelped and jumped, then took a closer look and was like go****it that’s Crackers. Crackers the hamster then ran under the door into the garage where I am assuming it will live until it dies and starts to smell, at which point I will be able to find it. I did set a hamster trap on advice of a prudent mama on our Facebook page, so I will report back if it works. Also, we are now left with the amazing hamster world pictured above that we built in her room. This is pretty cool but virtually impossible to clean.
Kid take: Hamsters are cute but they aren’t that fun and they smell a little bad and you have to feed them and clean them and changing the water is hard.

7. Snails Pet Snails Ugh Scarlet came home from school at the end of last year with three snails. Names: Rainbow, Sugar, and Cranky. I don’t know how she determined that one of the snails was cranky. These snails were class pets, and the children did some sort of raffle to determine who got to bring what animals home. I guess I should be glad we didn’t get the crawfish? I don’t know how to care for a crawfish? I also don’t know how to care for snails. They are terribly disgusting. We had an empty aquarium so I put them in there. Within two hours it was coated in slime. I have to give them water and salad and sometimes they get stuck on the walls and Scarlet has to moisten them. One of them is surely dead but Scarlet insists it is still alive. I keep wanting to set them free in the yard, but Scarlet assures me this is akin to snail murder. The snails are so disgusting, I had a hard time wanting to show you a picture, but this is reality people.
Kid take: What’s wrong with snails? Snails are interesting.

6. HorseHorse That is not our horse, that’s just a good picture of me and a horse. I love horses. When my mom died, she left me her horse. Name: Bacardi. But Scarlet was only 7 years old, and the stable was far away, and I didn’t have the space in my heart or time in my day to take care of this horse the way a horse needs to be taken care of. Scarlet wanted the horse, but we weren’t in a place where we could become horsewomen, so I gave the horse to the stable, where it is now used for lessons and is well provided for. Of course, now, two years later, Scarlet is taking horseback riding lessons and wishes she had a horse of her own. All in all, I think horses are amazing tools for teaching children responsibility, but they are entirely too expensive (at least in the city) and time consuming to make my list of top pets. They do, however, outrank snails and hamsters. I would rather spend all of my money in perpetuity on a horse then get another hamster.
Kid take: Why did you give away my horse?

5. ChickensBaby Chick Chickens are pretty great. I adored our chickens. Names: Queen Singalong Ice Cream, Love Traveler, Lemon, Zebra, Fluffy, Marble, and Pippi. But they come with issues when you live in the city, the biggest one being that they attract rodents. So we had a rat problem that took some creative trap setting to solve. Then we moved to a new house, still in the city but in an area with more animals, namely possums, raccoons and the occasional coyote. These animals want nothing more than to eat your chickens. I don’t know what animal it was that broke into our coop and disemboweled two of our seven chickens, but it was very unpleasant. We aren’t vegetarians, but these particular chickens were our pets and to fish one of their heads out of our pool and gather their bloody wings into bags was awful. We ended up realizing the rest of our chickens weren’t safe, so we sent the last five to a rescue farm (this is a real thing: Farm Sanctuary), where they are living out the rest of their lives in peace. We even went to visit them on the Northern California farm last November, and they remembered us (pictures from our visit to the farm here)! We miss them, but know that they are better off. The very best part of our three years of chicken ownership was hatching a chick ourselves, which we will never forget. Chickens are a lot of work, however, they are the only pet that gives you something you can use, which is eggs. I miss their eggs the most.
Kid take: I miss my chickens a lot, but they are happier on a farm.

4. Cat Hammy Cat We had a cat. He was a good cat, as far as cats go. I found him in a basement and took him to the vet, and the vet was like, this kitten will probably die in a shelter if you don’t take it, so I did. It was orange and cute. Name: Hammy. I know some people are really into cats (ahem, Jacinda), but for me the scratched-up furniture, horrible pee smell, lack of cuddliness, and general spreading of hair onto all of my belongings just make me not that into them. I know this is controversial. I am glad you love your cat. I loved my cat too, but I am not rushing to get another one. Scarlet is asking for another kitten, sometimes I consider it (they are so cute), but then I think about all the afore-mentioned things, and the number of other pets we already have, and I decline. But if another cat should find me, like my first one did, I would call it fate and take it in.
Kid take: I want a kitten. (Me: “I know, but a kitten grows into a cat, rather quickly.” Kid: “I want a kitten.” Repeat.)

3. Fish Gemma Fish Gemma Fish 2 Scarlet decided that she wanted a fish more than anything on this earth. We felt we had enough pets, but I am pretty down with animals so I told her I would think about it. I made it clear that if we did get a fish would be HER fish not MY fish, and I was concerned that she didn’t know enough about caring for a fish and wouldn’t be responsible for it. Cut to three days later, when she puts me in my place by sitting me down and presenting me with a homemade 9-page research document detailing the intricacies of fish-ownership and declaring that she could and would take responsibility for her fish. She also declared that she would pay for the fish and all of its equipment from her own savings. How could I say no? So off to the fish store we went, and came home with a beautiful beta fish. Name: Gemma. It’s a pretty gorgeous fish. They make all sorts of great filtered beta tanks now that don’t need to be emptied and cleaned on a weekly basis, and light up with LED colored light shows and the like. Gemma’s tank got some algae in it, so we got a pleco to eat the algae. That died within two days (I think it had ick from the fish store), so we replaced it with a few zebra and tiger snails. They ate all the algae, but then they were hungry so now we have to give them algae disks a couple of times a week. But all in all, the fish has been fun to have, doesn’t smell, doesn’t run away, doesn’t attract pests, and is very relaxing to look at. Most importantly, Scarlet has taken care of her fish pretty much on her own, which is a win for responsibility. All in all the fish experiment has been a winner.
Kid take: Fish are so pretty and relaxing to watch. They aren’t super fun but they’re really neat.

2. Turtle Pickle the Turtle We have a box turtle. Name: Pickle. I gave this turtle to my husband on his 30th birthday. My husband is now 41. This turtle will probably outlive us, and Scarlet is already talking about how her future children will love him. He’s awesome. He lives in a tortoise house outdoors, he eats salad and live worms, and he digs little holes and stares up at us. He doesn’t really like to play too much, but he’ll run about and entertain us with his worm eating. He only needs to eat once a week or so, so we can go on vacation without requiring a turtle sitter. He doesn’t smell, he doesn’t ruin anything, and he’s pretty adorable. He’s about doubled in size in 11 years, but is still small and cute. We love pickle. Turtles get a 98% in my book as kid pets, they are easy to care for, teach responsibility, and are fun to interact with. But they don’t snuggle, so minus 2%.
Kid take: Turtles are awesome! They aren’t very cuddly but they are still cute.

1. Dog Dog Dogs are the world’s best pets, hands down. They make messes and bark and all kinds of stuff, but it’s all worth it for the love and snuggles and friendship. My dog died when Scarlet was four. We were devastated. After about 9 months of mourning, we decided we were ready for a new dog. We went to the West LA animal shelter and told Scarlet she could pick any dog she wanted. She found this little cutie and fell in love. This dog had mange and pneumonia, but a few vet visits and she was all fixed up. Name: Princess Cheese. P Cheese is a delight. She has a job, which is to wake Scarlet up for school every morning. She does it well, with jumps and licks and snuggles. She is a friend to Scarlet, and puts up with a lot of shenanigans, like games of dress up. Dogs require the most work of all the pets, but are 100% without a doubt the most rewarding. She doesn’t make eggs, just poops we have to clean, but she makes us smile every. single. day. Dogs are love made real. DOGS FOREVER.
Kid take: Princess Cheese is the best pet in the whole world dogs are awesome I always feel bad for kids who don’t have a dog I love my dog soooooooo much she is the best in the whole wide world. (Side note: This is the bulletin board in Scarlet’s room above her desk, that she decorated herself.) Princess Cheese Board

Pretty much says it all. Think I’m nuts? Love snails? Think every kid should have a hamster (seriously doubt this, like 85% of the people I know have a hamster cannibalism tale to tell)? Is there an amazing pet we haven’t tried yet? Do we need a parakeet or a chameleon? Let me have it in the comments.