Wednesday, December 30, 2015

island time

we had a glorious christmas at our little cottage in the woods.

Galiano winter 15

Galiano winter 15

Galiano winter 15

Galiano winter 15

Galiano winter 15

Galiano winter 15

Galiano winter 15

Galiano winter 15

Galiano winter 15

Galiano winter 15

Galiano winter 15

peace. love. joy.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

weekend to do


crunch time!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

way back machine

I can't imagine what our little neighborhood was like 60 plus years ago. but here's a hint

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 7.50.52 AM

on ebay

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Candy Cane Lane

our holiday traditions always include a walk with friends through "Candy Cane Lane". a friend and neighbor recently shared this with me - and for posterity, I felt I need to save it here.

photo by my friend asia

The Story of Candy Cane Lane
Written By: Donna Jean Harwood

The Post Office knows our street as Lubao Avenue. But for one month every year Southern Californians come from as far south as Huntington Beach and as far north as Santa Barbara to view the Christmas spectacle known as Candy Cane Lane. The tradition started in the fall of 1953 in a newly developed neighborhood called Walnut Acres. When I was very little I accompanied my parents to the first potluck get together put together by Helen, the eccentric Lucille Ball look-alike lady across the street. She and her husband had made a carved wooden Santa’s workshop complete with motorized elves with hammer and saws all working in unison to make toys.

That Sunday afternoon in 1953, the concept of creating the holiday spectacle for all to enjoy was born. In Helen’s cheery farmhouse kitchen with red and white gingham curtains, ideas began to unfold as the women sipped coffee and the men poured martinis. As it was told, Helen begged the neighborhood boys to lift the magnificent toy land onto her spacious shingle roof. As she was flitting around in her spiked heels and flicking her cigarette in its diamond encrusted holder, they could not refuse their glamorous neighbor! The adults proceeded with what was the first of many history making meetings of the Candy Cane Lane decorating committee.

My father Donald Harwood said he recalled seeing a pile of sheet metal pipes that had been discarded in an empty lot nearby. By curving them with a blowtorch, spray painting them white and wrapping red tape around them, the neighborhood men made 30 pairs of 10 foot candy canes. Each house would display the candy canes in the center of their yard. It was established that the Sunday after Thanksgiving would be the day that the holiday decorations would go up and the only stipulation for conformity were the candy canes.

The following year the local creative juices flowed. During the summer and fall months the garages of Lubao Avenue buzzed with the sounds of saws and hammers. There was such an incredible air of excitement and secrecy that many of us worked with our garage doors closed.

My dad bought a new jigsaw and had cut out a Santa and eight reindeer measuring 6 feet tall. Instead of a sleigh, Santa’s head popped out of the window of dad’s 1941 Cadillac, his hand waived using the motor of a turntable. The reindeer were led by Rudolph, complete with a 60 watt red light bulb attached to his nose. All the reindeer were suspended by wires ascending skyward.

The following year more new homes were complete, more new friendships had been formed and more candy canes were commissioned. This time from a sheet metal company and at a bargain of only $3.50 a pair! Our decorating Sunday turned into more than that as the women baked cookies and those one dish meals called casseroles. As the sun set we gathered at Helen’s house to enjoy a potluck supper. My mom Jean made Jello salad and a tuna noodle dish. The others brought meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole and Lazy Daisy Oatmeal Cake. After what seemed like a lifetime we were allowed to go outside and view the spectacular scene that until this moment no one knew what each other had created in those secret garages.

As the Christmas custom transpired so did the new development of ranch style homes so typical to the West San Fernando Valley. As I grew older the street changed. The Walnut trees were replaced with liquid ambers and birches. New neighbors moved in and our friends left for various reasons. As property values increased in the late 1970’s many professionals and actors came and went. Mickey Rooney was the first to leave Candy Cane Lane in the mid 1950’s for Beverly Hills. Then, Chuck Connors and “The King of The Road” Roger Miller left in the late 1970’s. Director Leo Penn, his wife and sons, Michael, Sean and Chris moved in a few houses down from us, but only stayed a few years.

During my high school years, my parent’s front yard was the scene of many boisterous caroling parties, joined sometimes by the Taft High Marching Band. These events were always followed by a warm invitation into our Kitchen for Mom’s snowball cookies and hot chocolate.

Some years were better than others. The famous street was forced into darkness for one Christmas due to the energy crisis in the late 1970’s. The police had to patrol the area more than once to catch the kids that were stealing light bulbs and other decorations. Illness and old age were dismal reasons for sporadic dark spots in our magical neighborhood. Our next door neighbor Vaughn was sick one year and could not participate, so he just put up a sign that said Scrooge with a flood light on it. We appreciated his humor, but a lot of people did not and egged his sign!

When my kids were young we had to get to Granma and Grandpa’s house before dark to avoid the traffic. The 101 Freeway was backed up for miles in both directions. We often would spend the night because the cars would keep coming well until midnight. The streets running parallel with Lubao also started their own traditions. Penfield was Caroler’s Way, decorated with cut outs of Christmas Caroler’s and music sounded from hidden speakers. Two Blocks over was Jumilla and it was called Avenue of the Bells. There were little churches and synagogues displayed with a giant bell hanging over them. The last street was Oakdale and they were called Candle Light Lane. The 6 foot candles were constructed of old tires spray painted silver with a stovepipe inserted in the middle and light bulbs.

Eventually, there were more changes and bigger and bigger displays. Cartoon figures became popular and so did more mechanics. Helen and Vaughn are long gone, so is my dad and my mom. Now in the 2010’s it is still possible to capture some of that holiday magic made possible by the pioneers of Lubao Avenue. Although is it not the same for me now more than 50 years later it is wonderful to see the tradition carry on with the children and grandchildren of those pioneers.

Friday, December 11, 2015

weekend to do


ship parcels
suzuki holiday concert
visit candycane lane (Taft HS's band will be there this weekend)
chatsworth holiday parade

around the house
last bit of mulch!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

happy hanukkah

on this, the fifth night of the festival of lights.

oh hanukkah

Monday, December 07, 2015

last night...

90 attendees.  youngest 3 months to eldest 87 years.  original owners and a family that moved in a month ago.  all faiths, all political leanings.  together.  sharing food and conversation.  humanity. hope.

Friday, December 04, 2015

weekend to do


9th annual progressive dinner! (whoot!)

finish holiday shopping

first night of hanukkah

Sunday, November 29, 2015

a visit with Bella

yesterday K left her job at the barn to have a private training session with Bella, and her owner (and my dear friend) John.

Bella is a beautiful, young Irish Draught that John purchased at an early age. she is currently boarding not to far from our home, and it has been a treat to watch her grow up. (she is about 2 1/2 now)

John led K through some training exercises and then let her to to work with Bella. K had so much fun. she really is a natural at this. it is amazing to me how an 80 lb girl can manage an 1000 lb animal without fear. John explained to me that it is all about posture, and confidence. this kid has both.

A visit to Bella

A visit to Bella




* please note that the whip does not touch the animal. in fact it is kept at quite a distance, and is used simply as an extension of the arm.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

on ice

Ice skating


Ice skating

hooray for outdoor ice rinks. old skills that return in a snap. and friends that help you up when you fall down. xo

Friday, November 27, 2015

weekend to do


ice skating with friends
visit with Bella

around the house
holiday lights!
shelving in shed
turkey wildrice soup

*our annual "we're all dressed up so let's get a photo!" photo :)

Thursday, November 26, 2015





once again john, you're a "damn fine" cook xo

our pie list this year:
pumpkin x 2
chocolate pecan
banana pumpkin
rustic apple
brown sugar cranberry

Saturday, November 21, 2015

weekend to do


claire vivier monogramming at nathan taylor pop-up at the village
violin recital (gavotte in g minor :: j.s. bach)

around the house
move more mulch!

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I just can't get Paris off my mind. and I keep revisiting images from our last trip there (now 4 years ago).

Paris :: day two

it also has me thinking about the world our girls navigate. post-9/11 children, coupled with their access to media, terrorist attacks are part of their vernacular in a way they've never been part of mine. K seemed completely uninterested. E - who has a great affinity for Paris, and since a little girl, has talked of living there one day - retreated to her room and turned on Edith Piaf's La Vie En Rose*. how does this shape them? how will their generation deal with the mess that's been made? will they find the solution?

Paris :: day three

may Peace be the victor

*this song was not anticipated to be a hit for Piaf - but, released 1947, in the wake of WWII, it resonated with a population looking for a rosy view...

Saturday, November 14, 2015

weekend to do


fight a cold

around the house
spread mulch (do you know about ?)

Thursday, November 12, 2015



I'm not sure who took this snap at our wedding 16 years ago. but I've held onto it. I love it. the smiles.  the glimpse of sunset. the way d's brother is looking at my parents. it was such a night about family. still tugs at my heart.

happy anniversary, cowboy. xo

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"innate proclivities"

i've been thinking a lot lately about why we do, what we do. why we love, what we love. why we fight for, what we fight for.

is there a correlation between my "crazy" over public eduction and the fact that my mom and grandma were both school teachers? (and my mom has gone on to write policy for the government?) my grandfather started a rural school to ensure the children growing up on farms were getting the education they needed.

i have an overwhelming need for open space. prairie sky. but ocean works as well. the horizon in view.

E wants to be a photographer. she has always had a good eye, and paid careful attention to composition and detail.

K wants to work with horses. oh horses...

this horse love that has become part of our lives.

i was going through one of my paternal grandmother's photo albums this week and came across pages and pages of horses. on the backs of some, the horses names. "Pride". "Jumper". "Kate". so much part of my parents' lives. not though, of mine. (remember when it started...)





"Pride - the horse favorite of Bartley farm"

what genes trickled through us all to take us where we are?

read: Genius, Genes and Gusto: How Passions Find You

my mom's family, farm-life and horses remembered in part, here

Friday, November 06, 2015

weekend to do


more el nino prep at the barn
equine center celebration at pierce college (including our favorite - the parade of breeds)

around the house
clean outdoor furniture to store for cold weather (could it finally be here?!)
pick-up trim paint

Thursday, November 05, 2015

post-hallowe'en bake

our street is usually hopping hallowe'en - but this year, with the holiday on a saturday, many of our neighbors went to parties and left dark doorways that didn't draw the trick-or-treaters down to us. and so we were left with a bag of mini reese's peanut butter cups. we usually donate candy to the operation gratitude halloween program, but they don't take chocolate. what's a mom to do? ;)

of course I turned to google. and found this. (and this. and this. and this.)

with a bunch of very ripe bananas in the fruit bowl, and feeling that this was at least kind of healthy, I went with the banana bread...

peanutbutter cup banana bread

peanutbutter cup banana bread

it smelled amazing. looked great. but ended up with mixed reviews. d liked. k didn't. e kinda. they all said they prefer my traditional banana bread. (I'm on a restricted diet right now, so didn't get a chance to try it.) in the end, I was just glad to get the candy out of the house.

ambitious kitchen - peanut butter cup banana bread

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Hallowe'en 2015

we had a jam-packed holiday weekend, working the ranch's Haunted "Down the Rabbit Hole" House on Friday...

preparation for Queen of Hearts
Halloween 2015

Cheshire Cats
Halloween 2015

and Trick-or-Treating and a big neighborhood party last night!

Halloween 2015

Rainbow Dash
Halloween 2015

Halloween 2015

I asked K over the weekend if she ever wished our house around halloween was a little calmer, and we just went out and bought costumes. i got a resounding "no!". so glad they both share my love for this holiday. they helped design and prepare the ranch, and last night's costumes. K was very particular about her costume and how she put it together. (shout out to D for his skills with fabric paint and a glue gun!) and E did all her own make-up both nights.

hope all had a safe - and fun! - Hallowe'en. and hello November!