Here in Malibu
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July 31, 2009

First harvest

first harvest

Here is is, the first harvest from my garden at the barn -- sunflowers and tomatoes and jalapeƱos and squash.

What's that you say? You see only a single tomato?

There were more, lots more, but they were so sweet and fresh and juicy, we ate them on the spot.

July 30, 2009

Can you judge a beer by its label?

le chien noire

In our house, that's a no-brainer.

July 28, 2009

Room service


Visit the Civic Center here in Malibu for, say, another speeding ticket a trip to the library, and you can't help notice the very busy birds making food runs between the ingenious mud nests they've built high up on the walls, and the buggy paradise of the surrounding gardens. Look closer and you'll see a mama bird clinging to the outer edge of the upper nest, feeding her brood and, no doubt, negotiating a 15 percent tip.

July 27, 2009


door(s) in the wall

Remember those holes in the wall? Now they're doors in the wall.

July 26, 2009

First sunflower

first sunflower

Here it is, the first sunflower from the garden, helianthus annuus, making a welcome appearance.

July 25, 2009

Signs of Saturday: Wish you were here

carousel detail

Spinning above the painted ponies (thanks, Joni) of the carousel on the Santa Monica pier is a series of scenes like this one, wishful and whimsical vignettes of a lost landscape.

July 24, 2009

The hole in the wall gang

hole(s) in the wall

You know how when you're having work done on your place, every time you come home you find something new? Here's yesterday's surprise -- two huge openings in the wall.

July 23, 2009

Hot dog

cool maisie

Forget shaken or stirred, Maisie prefers her beverages large enough to lounge in.

July 22, 2009

Around the pier

santa monica pier carousel

I'm working on a "Then and Now" feature for the Times, which is a good thing because the men working on my house have this pesky habit of expecting a paycheck.

But the truly fun part of the story, of any story, really, when you're a journalist, is the way you get to see the hidden parts of the city, like the top of the lovely hand-carved carousel on the Santa Monica pier, where this workman is ministering to the moving parts of what is, after all, a museum piece.

July 21, 2009

My crazy new neighbor


There's been a fair amount of noise coming from my house the past few weeks what with nail guns and table saws and tile saws and sledge hammers and the full-throated roar of a diabolical air compressor that knows the exact instant you've relaxed your guard.

And yet, the neighbors are being wonderful. Well, most of them. There's one guy who lives behind me who, and I am not making this up, stands by the fence and gobbles like a turkey, as loud as he can, when my contractor and I try to talk.

And then there's the guy in the photo, a 50-pound uncomfortably large squirrel, who races down the tree to shout mean things about my color choices, and then give me the finger.

July 20, 2009

First light

Monday morning

Here it is, proof that, for an instant anyway, Monday was very cool and utterly quiet.

July 18, 2009

Signs of Saturday: Size matters

no exit

The warning's pretty plain, in two languages, and still there's always someone backing down this narrow stretch of road.

July 17, 2009

Things fall apart

a trip to the doctor

I have a theory, one backed by so much empirical evidence, I've begun to speak of it as fact. Ready?

The moment, the very instant you start the demo phase of a remodeling project, the agents of chaos fly free and infect every corner of your life.

Above we have Exhibit F, the '49 Plymouth, dead as a doornail and headed to see Kelly at Malibu Auto, where it will sit in the shade of a sycamore while being returned to active duty. And in case you were wondering, yes, I do also have exhibits A through E, but fear that recounting them gives them power.

Need proof? I give you Exhibit H, in which I threw the ball to Jake who, his 120 pounds airborne, was clobbered by Maisie, very small but shockingly solid, and they knocked each other out and broke each others teeth and the vet bill, lord, the vet bill made be cry and the dogs are on antibiotics and I'm planning never to remodel again. Ever.

Well, until the new French doors arrive next week.

July 16, 2009

Rock around the park

Dave and Henri

Every few months Henri, our ring leader band leader, loads his guitars and amps into the golf cart and hauls them to the bluff.

He 'borrows' an electrical outlet from some neighbors, we all plug in, crank the volume and play all the songs we know. And when we're lucky, no one calls the cops. Or shoots at us.

July 15, 2009

Ants + ladybug = aphids

ants and ladybug = aphids

The thing that caught my eye about this shot deep into the crinkled curve of a cantaloupe leaf was how very red that ladybug looks.

Once the photo was downloaded, though, I saw the ants. Which means, of course, somewhere in there lives a herd of aphids, a pale clot of translucent insects sucking the juice from the plant.

They're tended by the busy ants, milkmaids who stroke the aphids' backs, then harvest a sweet liquid. So strange.

July 14, 2009

Coyote waits

coyote waits

So we're walking on the fire road this morning and Maisie's all about the ball and Jake's all about being dignified and the sun is rising and you can hear the ruffle of surf and a sweet breeze drifts down the canyon when suddenly, there he is, the young coyote.

I see him and the dogs don't. Small miracle. I make them sit, grab my camera and get two quick shots. The coyote just watches.

Then he ambles away and the breeze brings news of his passage to Maisie, who moans like a crazed teenager about to throw her panties at one of the Jonas Brothers, then races after him in futile, fan girl pursuit.

July 13, 2009

Hello, Monday

vanishing point

Can you believe it's already the middle of July? And here it is, Monday again, time not stopping, not even for a nanosecond, even though the breeze is sweet and the birds are singing and this glorious, golden (and quiet! And there's no traffic!) morning deserves a freeze frame.

July 12, 2009

Sunday sunrise

sunday sunrise

At last, a clear, fog-free morning. And look -- here comes the sun.

July 11, 2009

Signs of Saturday: Books!

book fair in malibu

We're making our way along the stations of the summer calendar, with Memorial and Independence days already checked off and the annual library book sale visible on the horizon.

Here's the info, bobbing in the breeze on the courthouse steps which, thanks to Mel Gibson and Tommy Lee and Kim Delaney and and Ryan O'Neal and Nick Nolte and Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr and even Rod Stewart's son and Paris Hilton's brother, you might recognize.

July 10, 2009

The garden -- still growing

I'm afraid to jinx it so I'll whisper that (the deer haven't discovered the garden yet and so far, it's still doing really, really well.)


garden grows

And just for comparison, here it was a few weeks ago:
garden june

And here's the day I planted it. In clay. That you can make pots out of. And then cook in.

garden in may

July 9, 2009

We are the world


Here's one of my favorite landmarks near the barn, a little bit of Holland (well, except for the palm tree) in the form of a windmill. The vanes, no matter how hard the Santana winds may howl, merely quiver, never turn.

July 8, 2009

Little dog, big cat

little dog, big cat

Maisie the Teacup Lab™ takes a break from her busy day of sniffing coyote poop being adorable to add perspective to the mammoth size of the earth mover ruining one of my favorite spots in Malibu.

July 7, 2009

Almost a sunrise

Malibu morning

It's been a foggy, foggy spring and so far, a foggy summer, so morning pix have been scarce. This was going to be a sunrise photo until guess what? The fog rolled in.

July 6, 2009

Was it all a hallucination?

Paradise Cove can be an alternate universe sometimes, a place apart, like Brigadoon but without the singing. And so it was on Independence Day when we had a party and a parade, and the best way to tell you about it is to show you and hope no one calls 911.

It was a beautiful day at the beach. Here's one of the tugs towing one of several fireworks barges headed to various parties along our slice of coast:Towing a fireworks barge

Though it was a teensy bit windy:Windy

We had a parade:The floats line up

With a drum majorette:Risa

And the Governator was there!:The Governator

The Billy Wilson Band rocked the park:band warms up

Bernie fell in love with the bass player:Bernie

And the organizer of the event, our gracious hostess, Marge Simpson Kathy, was very, very happy. Our hostess, Kathy

The End:


(Fireworks photo by Leslee Toddman)

July 4, 2009

Signs of Saturday: The bottom line

right to ass

Love this sign in a local canyon, where someone hijacked the meaning with a spot of brown paint.

July 3, 2009

It's Malibu!

We're bracing for the onslaught, tens of thousands of people who, when they think of a summer holiday weekend, picture our curving coastline.

To mark the occasion, here's a hilarious 30-year-old bit of the myth-making machinery, shot right here in Paradise Cove, that adds to the many layers of the Malibu.

July 2, 2009

Showing their expertise

sleep in

Recovering from another day of construction? Prepping for the three-day invasion weekend? Do they really need a reason?

July 1, 2009

The valley of ashes

to the landfill

Even before you reach the Las Virgenes land fill, you're in another world. You've passed through a lovely canyon, a shaded boulevard and a tidy subdivision, and you've left behind a freeway onramp, a kind of last chance at civilization.

Enormous semis rumble by, burly men in the cabs yanking the steering wheels. Around them, schools of pickups swarm like pilot fish, escorts sucked along in the wake. And then there's me, the lone female, driving the smallest of the trucks, a petite red Ford with a ton (literally) of stuff in the bed and 285,000 miles on the odometer.

You've arrived at the landfill when you hit the scales, big steel plates that weigh your load. Behind thick and shiny glass, a guy you can't quite see asks for a zip code, and for forty bucks. Then it's onward, along vague and unmarked dirt roads, just a hand-lettered sign here, a roughly-drawn arrow there, sending you deeper into the moonscape.


The land fill kind of freaks me out, but it's also fascinating, this other world where tons of junk is tended to, ministered to, by workers who know you and me by the things we leave behind. I dumped the remnants of my mobile home bathroom yesterday, along with old life vests from my kayak, a torn wet suit, cracked book cases and a bunch of moldy leaves. It landed on someone's couch cushions, a two-legged camera tripod, and some complicated chrome lamps you might see in a fancy showroom.

When the pickup was empty, I borrowed a broom from the guys next door and swept it clean. Then, on the way out, shot this photo of my hot water heater, so filled with minerals and crud after 15 years it took the better part of a day to drain, and was still releasing Malibu water, drop by drop, onto the hardpan of the land fill as I drove back to the ocean.

goodbye, hot water heater

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