Here in Malibu
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April 30, 2014

Yuccas in bloom

The yuccas are blooming in the Santa Monicas, fewer this spring than ever before. It's the drought, I think, four years now, and their numbers have shrunk from hundreds to dozens, at least in the hills around here.

I love the ivory white, the cascading shape, the filigree of green against the sky. At night the moths fly in to pollinate. Mountain magic.

beautiful yuccas

yuccas in bloom

yucca blooms in the santa monica mountains


April 29, 2014

Santana scorcher

Hotter at the beach today than in the hills -- already 81 at 8 a.m. Wind and more wind, still windy now as the sun creeps down and the birds bolt by and the dogs lie as flat against the floors as they can manage.

Here's how it looked this morning, beach sanded smooth, light white hot.

santana winds today

Walt couldn't believe it -- no ball??


So Maisie got him running and the temps crept higher and flights of pelicans sailed above, not moving even a feather.


wild thing

flight of pelicans


April 28, 2014

Night heron

The night heron at the lake recently (and surprisingly) ignored the annoying human with the annoying dogs and posed for some photos.

night heron

night heron

night heron

April 27, 2014

Morning serenade

At dawn each day our corner of the neighborhood is treated to the sound of a thousand temper tantrums, all coming from this guy:

you lookin' at me??

April 26, 2014

Did someone say "More ducklings, please..." ?



duck family

sail away

April 25, 2014

Another before and after

Let's move on from the exterior before-and-afters and take a look inside.

Here's the view toward the back of the house before, where the kitchen gave way to a weird and wasted open space punctuated by a wet bar in the far left corner:

weird nothing space before

And here it is now:


We (and by "we" I mean the wonderful guys I work with) took out the 1970s-era gold (!) slider in the kitchen and replaced it with a single French door. We tore out that wet bar in the back corner, added a window, and framed in a third bedroom, which created a nice, wide a hallway.

We took part of the kitchen (to the left of the fridge) for a bedroom closet, and left the rest for the fridge cabinet and some shelves. Drywall, new lighting, new flooring and paint and boy, it's hard to remember how it started out.

To be continued...

April 24, 2014


Talk about before and after -- two of the female ducks at the lake are suddenly surrounded by flotillas of madly bobbing ducklings. They're round and tiny and with their combination of baby fluff and baby fat, so buoyant they basically bounce along the surface of the lake.

ducklings at the lake

Both of the moms seem new to the job, just paddling along, unconcerned when their broods spread out and lose sight of their leaders. There was a moment yesterday when the moms (I have zero proof but I've decided they're two of the four female ducks born and raised at the lake last year), who had been swimming along together, headed for separate shores and there was this mad, comic scramble as the ducklings sorted themselves out and followed the correct (fingers crossed) parent.

A closer look? Of course:

ducklings at the lake

DISCLAIMER: All photos shot with an enthusiastic border collie at the end of the leash.

April 23, 2014

Now that I freaked you out with those 'befores'...

I can still see the home inspector's expression as he shot his photos and wrote up the problems with the new place -- skepticism. Partly it was that it wasn't a man who was taking on the project, and partly it was that wherever you looked, something was wrong. Though the list was long, it was really a collection of individual parts that, when repaired, would make a strong and solid whole. No structural issues, no termite damage.

I had walked through the home with my contractor, who looked and considered and said yes, you can do it. It was his crew who would do the work during their time off, a crew I've done four projects with in the last 12 years, so I was confident. Yes, the place was battered and tattered and yeah, the decks were a scary wreck, but the right people were involved. It was going to be OK.

So here are the pix from yesterday and -- it's magic! actually, it's really good subcontractors -- here's how things turned out.

Here's the house before:

front of house - before

And here it is after:


This is how the side yard used to look:

side yard before

And here it is now:

courtyard after>

Remember the driveway with the crazy torn-up skirting and those weird steps?

skirting before

Better now.

New skirting, a small porch, a rear fence, a garden. (The landscaping guys had to actually jackhammer the soil before we could get started.) We also cut off about 12 feet of the very long car port so the bedrooms and bathroom now have mountain views and beautiful light:

carport after

Here's one of my favorite transformations, maybe because turning the broken concrete slab into a faux saltillo tile patio was my own project. Of course the garden and new skirting and new hot water heater door all help. (And that pile of slate? It came with the house and it's what we used in the courtyard, above.)


patio before

And after.

We power-washed the fence and painted it light green, added a two-foot framed lattice, and extended the fence up the hill. We dug and fertilized the flower beds and planted potato vines, white roses, Mexican sage and French lavender.

side yard after

The decks were literally rotted away.

patio before

Not any more. (That added window is in what is now the third bedroom. You'll see once we get inside.)

side yard after

The front steps before:

porch before

And after:

front porch after

And where better to leave our tour than at the front door. Before:

porch before

And after:

front porch after

To be continued...

April 22, 2014

Let's start looking at the house

It's a year now since I bought the run-down mobile home in the Santa Monica mountains. A lot of people called it a tear-down -- or pull-out, in mobile home parlance, which means you swap the existing older structure with a newly-built unit. But none of those people had ever done a serious renovation, and they didn't have the support of a great team, so I smiled and nodded and went ahead anyway.

front of house - before

side yard before

skirting before

patio before

patio before

porch before

porch before

side before

To be continued...

April 21, 2014

Best friends

I can't remember whether I shared this on the blog or just strong-armed anyone within squinting distance of my cell, but here's one of my favorite recent shots of Maisie and Walt.

best buds


Soon, not right away but sometime in the near future, I think, probably, I'm going to start posting only every few days. Or so. I think. Maybe.

April 20, 2014

Greetings from Malibu

good morning, Malibu

Whatever you're celebrating today -- Easter or the 7th day of Passover or 4/20 (or maybe all three) -- we here in Malibu share your joy.

April 19, 2014

Signs of Saturday: (Once again) for sale

Remember this, the mobile home in need of so much repair that one of the metrics I used to interview the subcontractors was whether or not they went pale at the sight of it?


um, yeah

Well, it's finished and now it's this:


And it's for sale again.


April 18, 2014

That was then...

the view from point dume

The view from Point Dume on Jan. 10, 2010.

April 17, 2014

Look who stopped by for a drink

We're much later than usual for our walk this morning so it's a surprise to see who else is at the lake. First one:

just looking around...

...then two coyotes:

look who stopped by for a drink

You hear them a lot at night, of course, a pack on the hunt. It's spring and it's dry and their territories are shifting. There are howls that say hello, who are you? Where are you? That say, let's eat. And then soon that chorus of yips, a shrillness that rips (the only word) through the dark, through the walls, sets neighborhood dogs to futile barking.

These two seemed new, drawn down from the hills by the scent of water? They looked around, strolled around, walked on only when they were good and ready.

hello, coyotes

A little closer? OK:


April 16, 2014

While you were away...

I really don't mean to turn this into a dog blog but...Walt.

Here's what happens when you walk out the front door and, after running a few errands, return via the porch.

ummm -- what?

What's next -- skipping school to binge-watch dog movies on his iPad?

April 15, 2014

Wasn't it beautiful in LA today?

the light

I wish there was a way to show you the layers of light in the oak grove, how it shifts and glides, slides in the breeze. Grasses moving, leaves moving. Time gone. Summer coming.

April 14, 2014

Most improved

Look who's not afraid of the ocean any more:

surf's up

walter at the beach

water dog



April 13, 2014


egret at the lake

It's mating season up at the lake and may I just say, eek. And yikes. Whether it's ducks or geese or grebes or egrets it always looks like someone's about to drown. And I get it, I do, that's just Mother Nature doing her thing, but seriously? Eek. And yikes.

April 12, 2014

Oh oaks

We went to Paramount Ranch the other morning with a friend, an equestrienne who knows all the roads and the trails from years of riding there. We took the dogs, Maisie and Walt and my friend's rescue, Bailey, and it was green and gold and silent, like a waking dream.

paramount ranch

happy pack

oak leaves

April 11, 2014

The view from here

blue and bluer

Let's gaze out to sea for a moment, shall we?

Ahhh, that's better.

April 10, 2014

Giant coreopsis in bloom

Our gorgeous, golden coastal native, the giant coreopsis, is now flowering on Point Dume. It's deciduous, so other than these few brief weeks, it's a stumpy, lumpy-looking plant. And it's a succulent, which means it can't stand up to frost, but can survive a drought.


Well, maybe not this drought.

the coreopsis at point dume

giant coreopsis, struggling

dead coreopsis

If you're a regular visitor to the Point Dume headlands, you'll see the flowers are sparser and the plants are browner than in past years. The bloom came later this year as well, didn't emerge until those last two little rain storms we had.

foot path at point dume

straggly bloom

The plants are still beautiful, of course--

the giant coreopsis in bloom unexpected burst of color and frilly green in our naturally sere bit of coastline.

yes, we're a desert

California, still the golden state.

beautiful giant coreopsis

(Be careful -- parking is limited at Point Dume. Law enforcement types patrol often, and hand out pricey tickets.)

April 9, 2014

You know what's ridiculous?

Thanks to Yahoo's latest changes to Flickr, I had to switch to the French language version to get the embed code for this video. Ever since Yahoo started with these redesigns, what was once a sweet little photo site has become slow and bloated. Needlessly complicated. As we say en fran├žais -- terrible.

So what's ridiculous is that what began as a post about the hummingbird wars presently being waged up at the barn (see le video) instead became this grrr-it-sucks Flickr rant.

Je m'excuse.


Any of Flickr's foreign language options will give you access to the pre-March 2014 redesign of the site. For now, anyway.

April 8, 2014

Trumpet vine up at the barn

trumpet vine

I love these leathery flowers, and that this vine comes from a cutting I took (years and years ago) at Barbra Streisand's former house in the canyon.

April 7, 2014

True confessions


This doesn't come even a little bit close to how beautiful the sunset light on the sunflowers was. Not even in the zip code.

April 6, 2014

Do drop in...

There's a pair of new ducks here in the little lake in the Santa Monica mountains...

new ducks in the lake

April 5, 2014

That was then...

surf skirt, malibu

The edge of a wave in the Cove back in January 2007.

April 4, 2014


hot dog

I think you can see his uvula.

April 3, 2014

He's back!

The Bullock's oriole hooded (thank you, Carla) oriole, who loves the hummingbird feeder up at the barn, has returned:

hello again, bullocks oriole

He's a shy guy -- make the slightest move and he's gone.

oriole at the barn

It's like he can feel the camera--

oriole shows us his back

...even when you're shooting from 30 feet away.

oriole on the garden fence

See what I mean?

oriole retreats into the bushes

oriole gets shy

April 2, 2014

Say what?

I know it sounds crazy but the lake always looks wetter after a rain.

after the rain

April 1, 2014

Post rain-ish morning

It kind of sort of rained a little bit last night so we headed for the beach this morning. Blue, very, very blue:

pacific blue

Look who got to leave the first footprints:

first footprints of the day

Maisie helped:

you're it!

It sure was pretty.

paradise cove this morning

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