2015 Holiday Gift Guide

If you are just now in the thick of shopping for gifts for friends, family, clients, faraway relatives, etc., I have a few suggestions. These are items that were pitched to me that I just loved, or things I want myself!

Agoura Hills Mom 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

gift guide

The Winter Collection from DavidsTea

W15_WinterCollection_ENDavidsTea is a loose-tea shop that has locations in US and Canada. A new one just opened at The Village at Topanga, the new outdoor mall in Woodland Hills. Their teas are old-school loose teas, for better flavor. The Winter Collection is a group of 5 flavors – including hot chocolate, which smells amazing, like a chocolate dream with way fewer calories – and it comes with a set of biodegradable filters (or make-your-own tea bags).

hot chocolate teaOr you can gift this set with a pretty holiday infuser mug. Just put the tea in the strainer, pour hot water over it into the mug, and steep.H15_PerfectMugs_Red_BerriesWinter Collection – $25, available in store only (see here for locations – the Woodland Hills store is at The Village: 6316 Topanga Canyon Blvd Suite 1115, Woodland Hills, United States, 91367)
Holiday infuser mug – $23 available also online

2016 Nobody Hikes in LA wall calendar

nhila calendar

For your LA hiker. I post about hiking here all the time, so obviously I am your LA hiker. But please, don’t all order this for me at once. What will I do with 50 of them? Maybe I would give them away on the blog. But you don’t want to get presents for strangers who read my blog. Seriously, it’s enough that you had the thought. Just order one for the other avid hiker in your life.

Nobody Hikes in LA 2016 Calendar – $13 on lulu.com


Cloudpets Teddy


cloupetsFor your friend or relative who travels away from his or her children all the time. This bear syncs up to an iPad or iPhone, and you can record your voice and send it to that device, which will sync back to the bear. The bear will play your recorded message. The child will hug it and feel loved by you from afar. My son loves his Teddy! Not that I travel all that much, but when I do, it can come in handy.

Cloudpets Teddy – $29.99 (plus S&H) online. Free shipping for active military.


Above Us Only Sky by Michele Young-Stone


above us only sky

For the grownup reader. A novel about a young girl who was born with wings, her connection to her Lithuanian heritage. Flips between 1980’s and World War II, and told with a lovely, light touch. Here’s my review on my personal site. I think it’s my favorite book of 2016.

Above Us Only Sky – $21.24 on Amazon


Books For Kids


fortunately the milk

Fiction: Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman A dad goes out to buy milk and falls into a fantastic adventure. I can totally see Gaiman telling his children this story himself. Great illustrations and just a fun read for kids.

guinessFor the young reader who loves non-fiction: Guinness World Records 2016 book boasts loads of fresh topics including YouTube, hacking, pirates (the swashbuckling variety), apps and more! Video game fanatics will be ecstatic when they discover the Guinness World Records 2016 Gamer’s Edition features more than 20 pages on the global gaming sensation Minecraft! And of course this must-own reference on video games features all new records for revered gaming franchises like Super Mario Brothers, Legend of Zelda and much more.

Fortunately, The Milk – $5.39 on Amazon
Guiness World Records 2016 & Guinness World Records 2016 Gamer’s Edition – $16.00 and $8.57 on Amazon

Ninja Nesting Dollsninja nesting dolls

These mini-nesting dolls could be for the kids or for a whimsy-loving adult. They are so small – the largest is only 4.5″ tall – and so badass. How could you NOT love them?

Ninja Nesting Dolls – $12.59 by The Original Toy Company on Amazon

What’s on your wish list? Merry Christmas, everyone!

I received samples of some, but not all, of the above products. All opinions are my own.


First Hike of the Year – Simi Peak and China Flats

IMG_7494China Flats, on the way up to Simi Peak

Thanks to a standing arrangement with my friend Deb, I take a hike about once a week, and usually somewhere that is new to me. Deb is an important part of this because without a person who will expect me to go somewhere, I will stay in my house sitting at my desk and basically just atrophying while the kids are at school. Also, she knows all the trails and she usually drives.

This week it was Simi Peak and a short jaunt through a mountaintop meadow called China Flats. Technical expertise on this hike can be found here at Nobody Hikes in LA. I’m just here to show you how amazeballs it is at the top:


The first mile is a very do-able climb up. We were passed by a dog (and its owner).


We stopped at a lower peak to get a geocache, because that is how we roll.


Then the trail snakes around the back of the mountain and goes through these beautiful oak groves and meadows.

IMG_7479If you look closer you can see a hobbit.


And here is the view from the top. That road that heads south off to the other mountains is Lindero Canyon.


To the west you can see the ocean. Well, I guess you had to be there.


Just hanging out. In that metal drum below me is a log book you can sign to show you reached the peak.


Then we turned around and went back down the way we came up. It only took us about 3 hours, with a few breaks. I recommend!


Local Blogger Spotlight: David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in LA

Descent From Ladyface Mountain, by David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in LA

I am happy to introduce a new monthly feature here on Agoura Hills Mom – the Local Blogger Spotlight!  (I couldn’t think of a kickier title for this.  Let me know if you have any better ideas.) I’ll be helping us all get to know the people behind the online resources you might be using all the time, or introducing you to those you should know about.

It is my honor to have David Lockeretz, intrepid hiker, photographer, and note-taker, appear in this space as the very first subject of this series.  I have never met David in person, but since I started following his blog, Nobody Hikes in LA, years ago (it is one of the few that I actually subscribe to because I have such big dreams of hiking more often) we have connected through the internets and I have found him and his blog to be very helpful.  Read on to find out how he does it, why he does it, and what he has against strawberries.

Why did you start Nobody Hikes in LA?

I was trying to create the site that I would have wanted when I first got into hiking. I wanted each post to be as comprehensive as possible, and I wanted to provide information about as many different hiking trails as possible. I’ve always been into writing and photography, and the blog provided a great outlet for both. I’ve also enjoyed sharing my hiking experiences with my friends, and through the blog I’ve connected with new people too (present company included.)

How often do you hike?

As often as I can – usually at least once a week, sometimes three or four times.

What’s the farthest hike that you have considered to still be “in” LA?

I’ve done some that are pretty far from L.A. One of my favorites is Garnet Peak in southeastern San Diego County, in the Laguna Mountains. It’s at least a three hour drive from L.A. but it’s a great hike, so I recommend making the trip. I’ve also covered a few in the San Jacinto and San Gorgonio Mountains, which are two hours east of L.A., and a few up in the Santa Barbara area. If a hike is really good, it’s worth making the trip.

How do you remember all the details of the hike so that you can write about it when you get back? Do you take notes, or rely on your photos?

Usually I take a bunch of pictures, and I’ve also used an app called Every Trail that’s available for Droid and iPhone. You can use it to track your hike, including elevation, and you can upload it to the Every Trail web site. You can also download other peoples’ hikes. Many of the hikes I’ve done are also written up on other blogs, or in guidebooks, so I can refer to them for notes.

Sandstone Peak @ Dusk

Can you share some of your favorite places to hike in or near Agoura Hills? Why are they favorites?

Sandstone Peak, which is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains, is absolutely phenomenal.  It’s got everything – ocean views, geology, canyons, mountains, woodlands – and it’s challenging,  but not too difficult.  A good hike right near Agoura Hills is Ladyface, which you can see from the 101 Freeway at Kanan Road.  There’s a lot of off-trail scrambling on that one, and the descent can be pretty nerve-wracking – there are a few spots that are nearly vertical, or at least it seems that way.  But the views from the top are great.  Paradise Falls near Thousand Oaks is another good one.  It’s a year round waterfall in Wildwood Park.

Paradise Falls

What about places to avoid? Trails that are badly maintained or are considered dangerous for some reason?

I really don’t think there are any BAD trails – I don’t recall ever going on a hike and feeling as if I’d rather be at work, or thinking afterward, “Gee, I should have stayed home and watched TV instead.” I do think that to enjoy a hike, you have to know what you’re getting into, which is why I provide a lot of information on my site. The first time I tried Black Star Canyon Falls, which is a very popular waterfall in Orange County, I didn’t prepare accordingly. I didn’t make it to the waterfall, and I got poison oak. When I returned, I knew better what I was getting into, and I avoided the poison oak and made it to the waterfall. There are a lot of factors into picking the right hike, such as difficulty level, season, and challenges such as navigation or rough terrain. If you plan well, you’re likely to have an enjoyable experience.

What would a casual reader of NHiLA be surprised to know about you?

That I originally moved to L.A. to pursue music. I still play in a few bands, and teach music lessons, and have recorded a bunch of stuff, but I’ve come to realize that hiking is really what I love to do. Also: I hate strawberries. I mean, seriously hate them. I react to strawberries the same way that I do when I go to a public bathroom and the person before me didn’t flush. I don’t like avocados either, which I realize is sacrilege when you live in California. On the other hand, I really like beer, especially India Pale Ales. In fact, I’m probably going to start a blog about IPAs in the near future.

Well, if Nobody Drinks IPAs in LA pops up, dear readers, you can bet I’ll be letting you know about it here! And of course I took this opportunity to educate David about Ladyface Alehouse for a great post-hike watering hole.  

All photos courtesy of David Lockeretz, who has a pretty amazing gallery of photos for sale (and a calendar, too!) at his site.  Drop by Nobody Hikes in LA and check out David’s great trail recaps at locations all around us in Agoura Hills!  And tell him Agoura Hills Mom sent you!