Mother’s Day Hike: Nicholas Flat

trail in the forest

A trail in the forest: my favorite thing to see

Mother’s Day. Every year for several years now the only thing I want to do on holidays is hike with my family. Without any whining. It seemed like it would happen on Mother’s Day this year—I gave the boys plenty of warning, and it was such a simple request.

But then this morning all three of them were sick. They’re leaving this week on a trip, so it seemed best to let them stay home and rest. So I went on a hike all by myself, and it turned out to be exactly what I needed. Since I knew I was going solo and could therefore go anywhere I wanted, I returned to a beautiful spot that isn’t super popular…yet.

Nicholas Flat

You can approach this area from the south via Malibu Springs Trail at Leo Carillo State Park or from the north at the end of Decker School Road. That was the convenient spot from here, because it’s off Route 23, which begins at Westlake Blvd. It’s a hairpin turn to the right and then just park when you reach the trailhead at the very end. The wide pathway takes you south through a foresty patch and then emerges out into a grassy meadow where you are greeted with this glory:

Nicholas Pond

This pond was dry until the recent rains. 

Bench by pond

A perfect place.

A side trail takes you around the west end of the pond and up into the rocks. As of today there were several fallen rotten tree limbs and one of them jumped out of nowhere and bonked me right on the head. Okay that was actually my fault because I was rushing up to the rocks, racing against my dying phone battery and distracted by a text (out here where there’s no service!). Lesson learned, nature. I’ll pay better attention.

Nicholas Pond

West end of Nicholas Pond

The side scramble and even the head bonking were totally worth it though because this:

Pacific Ocean from Nicholas Flat

I played around with trying to get a good picture of myself in this spot…


New profile pic

But that wasn’t the point of the hike, I promise. It was solitude and freedom to explore without anybody whining or standing around impatiently waiting for me to find a geocache. Which I did. Several times, and it was fun. So there. Happy Geocaching Nerd Mother’s Day to me.

Wildflowers in meadow

Had to bushwhack to find a cache. Rewarded with this view.

Wildflowers on trail

Nicholas Flats Road trail


View from trail. Lots of brush, worried about snakes.

snake on trail

This was the only one I saw today, and he left quickly.

plastic rat

Rat in a geocache!

burned trees

Entering the Fire Swamp

My total hiking time was 2.5 hours, but you can easily park at the trailhead and be at the pond and then the ocean view in less than 20 minutes. I bopped around and took lots of pictures (these are the best) and stopped at the above bench to pull all the pokey things out of my shoes and socks. By the time I got home, I was relaxed and accomplished, and my boys had cleaned the entire house even though they weren’t feeling good. Wins all around.

I’m curious about approaching this area from the beach, plus there are a few more caches out there that I’d like to find, so I’d like to go back sooner than later. People get really protective of their favorite hiking spots and caution you about telling everyone about them so they don’t get too popular and crowded. So keep Nicholas Flat and its trails between us, okay?

Decker School Road

Celebrity Cruises Created a Mobile Theater to Show You Its New Ships

A cruise ship so fancy that it takes a Leading Edge Mobile Cinema Tour to truly appreciate the possibilities.

Celebrity Cruises edge

You’ve reached a certain point in your life at which you want everything to be perfect when you take a vacation, and you have the resources to make it happen. Perfect spot, luxurious room, all the amenities, delicious food. Shore excursions that are easy and you don’t have to stand in any lines. All you see, hear, touch, and taste is wonderful.

That’s basically what Celebrity Cruises has made for you in its latest ship class, Celebrity Edge. Expected to launch in Fall 2018, the Edge carries almost 3,000 passengers in multiple levels of luxury including exclusive suites with their own separate lounge and restaurant. This modern ship has something unprecedented—a moving Magic Carpet deck that goes up and down the side of the ship, truly floating over the water.

Celebrity Cruises magic carpet

Pictures don’t do it justice. Watching a video on your computer is only a little bit better. If cruising is your thing, or you’re just curious to see the Edge up closer, Celebrity Cruises has its Mobile Cinema on the road now. I visited with my friend Rina when the Cinema was parked at the California Jazz & Wine Festival just a few miles away at the Four Seasons Westlake Village.

Here’s how it goes down. You can visit the Leading Edge Mobile Cinema at any of its stops along its tour. Some of those stops are free, some are within special events like the Festival. When I visited as a guest of Celebrity Cruises, I had to make my way through a wine and jazz festival to get to the Mobile Cinema. First, though, there was a red carpet experience fit for real celebrities.

Celebrity Cruises red carpet

That’s me with writer Rina Nehdar

Then, let’s just say we had to face some liquid obstacles along the way, but that didn’t stop us from reaching this:

Celebrity Cruises mobile cinema

And I have to admit, I wasn’t quite prepared for how big or involved this was. Outside this state of the art movie theater inside a trailer, the company had set up its own wine tasting booth so we could sip local wines while we waited.

Celebrity Cruises wine booth

Celebrity Cruises host

The west coast marketing executive was our gracious host and gave us those cool wine glass holders.

The film is about 10 minutes long, so our wait was short. Once inside it is like a real movie theater. That serves truffle popcorn. The movie itself is a fabulous showcase that really highlights how advanced and unusual the Edge line of cruise ships is planned to be. When the film ends, you are invited to one of the iPad stands to enter to win a cruise. The prizes are given only to people who enter at these Mobile Cinema events, so the odds are in your favor! (But I hope they’re more in my favor.)

Celebrity Cruises theater inside

Celebrity Cruises ipads

Celebrity Cruises’ Mobile Cinema is in Houston this weekend and will keep traveling the country. I’m glad I got to experience it in a setting as lovely as The Four Seasons Westlake Village, and the location seems to be an indicator of the class and style that Celebrity Cruises adds to its projects. When I get to go on a cruise, this will be on the top of my wish list.

Celebrity Cruises at wine and jazz festival

DanTDM Creates a Big Scene on YouTube Red

boys with DanTDM

If you have children of a certain age, you probably recognize the name DanTDM. The TDM stands for The Diamond Minecart, and Dan Middleton is the man behind the YouTube account. He’s made his fame (and fortune) by playing Minecraft and recording his gameplay at the same time as his own face while he narrates and reacts to the game. Kids all over the world watch all of his videos. He has over 14 million subscribers.

YouTube Space LA sign

So it makes total sense that YouTube Red would partner with DanTDM to make an original series. DanTDM Creates a Big Scene debuted on April 7, along with three other original content series. A celebration was held at YouTube Space LA in advance of the launch, and I attended with my sons, who thought it was seriously the coolest thing ever. I was invited to interview Dan, press junket style, but I stuck my boys in the hot seat since they know all about him, as you can see in this interview, posted on YouTube (naturally).

If you’re patient and watch through to the end, you’ll get a kick out of my younger son just firing the difficult questions like “What’s up with your hair?” and “How about those giant earrings?” He wasn’t intimidated at all. Considering I started my career in the arts as a behind-the-scenes interviewer, I’m feeling like the kid’s got it in his blood.

youtube red step and repeatBut he won’t pose for photos with Mom.

The new YouTube Red series, a fantastical take on DanTDM’s creation of a live show that actually does exist, begins with the free first episode, but the subsequent 5 episodes are viewable only by YouTube Red subscribers. YouTube Red is the paid version of YouTube, which allows you to watch all of this original content ad-free. For people used to watching YouTube videos for free like you have been since the beginning of YouTube, this might be an adjustment. But the production value seems pretty high, so you’re bound to have a positive experience if this platform works for you.

DanTDM YouTube screening

In addition to Dan’s show, three other YouTube Red Originals for families will roll out this Spring including Kings of Atlantis, an underwater animated adventure starring Cody and Joe of the immensely popular Minecraft-inspired YouTube channel, TheAtlanticCraft also debuting on April 7thFruit Ninja, inspired by the eponymously named gaming app, and Hyperlinked, a scripted series starring tween music sensation L2M will also arrive this spring. All four of the shows were screened at the party we attended, and the kids were transfixed by them all. The stars of Hyperlinked were there, and they were super friendly to all the kids at the party.

DanTDM signs kids hats

But the true star of the event was DanTDM himself. He was gracious and kind to every kid who asked him a question or had him sign their T-shirt or hat. I watched him meet kids and sign items for over an hour without ever looking tired or even wanting to sit down for a second. Such seemingly effort success couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Original series on YouTube Red. $9.99/mo.