Category Archives: Places

Posts about cool places in the Conejo Valley

Chillin as a Grass Eater in the Conejo Valley


Shortly after the new year my daughter asked, “what’s a vegetarian?”

Someone who chooses not to eat meat,” I responded.

Here’s a handful of questions from my kids that my answer prompted:

  1. Does that include chicken nuggets? Because, you know, chicken is not meat.
  2. What about Yak?  Does that mean I can’t eat Yak?
  3.  Do I have to eat brocolocoli?
  4. Can we still go to Tommy’s?
  5. Animals eat meat.  We are animals.  Why wouldn’t we eat meat?
  6. What is a turnip?
  7. Is fish meat?  Or is fish something fishy?

Back to the Yak.  We’ve never seen a Yak in the Conejo Valley, let alone having never ate one.  So regardless of eating meat or not, Yak has never been and will probably never be a dietary option.  And as for Tommy’s, the holy grail of chili cheese burgers, as a vegetarian its no longer an option….damnit.

The personal reasons why someone becomes a vegetarian is personal.  The moral, practical and environmental implications to change your diet to plant based is significant and profound.  The simple yet compelling fact that excluding meat from your diet lowers your carbon footprint should be reason enough to become vegetarian….even if its only one day a week.  I know that the whole lower your carbon footprint is meaningless to someone who still insists on driving a Hummer.  A funny image: A monster truck owner enjoying a bowl of Quinoa, string beans and home brewed Kombucha.  Our entire socio-economic and political system can easily be summed up by our dietary choices.  Isn’t it Dan Bern who cleverly sang: “Red states got the Waffle House, Blue states don’t.”  Regardless of the pros and cons, I challenged the family to be vegetarian for a week as a more practical answer to my daughter’s initial question of what is a vegetarian.

Here’s what happened: the family failed miserably.  My son didn’t last a day, followed by my wife who on the second day made herself a turkey sandwich, and lastly my daughter, who made a genuine effort for almost a week.  Me, on the other hand, continues to abide by the challenge and am a vegetarian.

There is much to be said about the lessons I have learned.  Here’s a few.  First and foremost, my gut is no longer my worst enemy.  The jihad inside of me has subsided to a dull uprising.  No more Maalox and bicarbonates.  I have noticed measurable physical changes inside and out.  I have become compassionate…even towards a-hole drivers who still insist on tailgating you even though you’re parked.  I spent more time with my food, preparing, cutting, dicing, and cooing.  I court my food like every meal is a first date.  I have also become more aware of the sources of my food and how it goes from seed to plant.  My gardening has become less Home Depot and more food based.  Most of us rather not face the sickening truth about how we treat our livestock and how it gets to our plate.  Think of how a chicken becomes a nugget.  Parts is parts….right?  Wrong.  Very wrong.

And now a question for the Right for Life folks: how is it so easy for you to denounce abortion on the premise that it kills life when eating meat also kills life?

And now a question for the vegetarians like me: how can you claim to be a vegetarian when the birkenstocks glued to your feet are made of leather?

Oh.  The beautiful contradictions of life.

And so?

And so the gist of why I write this is not to persuade or pose a convincing argument that we should all be vegetarians…..although I believe that there are more reasons to be one than not too.  The upshot of this, this trifle, this bagatelle, this mouth full of sawdust and rutabaga is this: A question, any question, and its relative answer can become action, that in turn becomes an experience, that in turn brings on change, and change is what life is all about.  If we go the extra mile to answer our questions, the extra mile becomes another extra mile, and another, and eventually we go to new places…..places that make our lives and or world a better place to be in.

Cheers to both the Yak eaters and the grass eaters.  Cheers to harmonious opposition.

How does one chill as a vegetarian in the Conejo Valley?  Simply.  Here are some resources to help:

thousand oaks farmers market

Whole Foods

Rabbit Hole Foods

Apna Spiceland

Life and Beauty in Small Packages

I was recently gifted a bonsai. Later, after meeting Travis who owns the California Bonsai Studio (, I learned that my bonsai is a maple.

Most of us have owned a bonsai.  Some of us have pulled off to the side of the road to buy a bonsai from a bonsai pimp operating out of a van….a lot like buying a TV from the Gap.  Needless to say, all of the bonsai’s I’ve had never made it. I usually placed it in a niche that I felt needed sprucing up.  I never thought about what the Bonsai wants and needs.

This time I contacted Travis at his bonsai studio.  Besides learning that Bonsai and Banzai are not the same, I learned how to take care of my bonsai…..not to mention a deeper appreciation for it.

Travis is remarkably interesting.  I like to think of him as the James Dean of bonsaing.  As Brian aptly writes in our video, he’s an Artist.


The Tao of Tea

Tea is deeply personal.  It can also be very sociable.  It’s to be brewed with the upmost care to detail.  The water.  The heat.  The correct ratios.  The kettle.  The gaiwan.  Or you do like me who is in a hurry because Threes Company is about to start.  Boil tap water and pour over carefully crafted Pu erh.  Camellia Sinensis.  We’re not talking Lipton lemon, or any of those other “teas” that we can all buy at Saveon.  We’re talking about teas that are to be respected.  White, Green, Black, Oolong, Pu erh, and the incredible Kombucha that The Healing Tree brews themselves.  Teas that were hand picked in small batches, nurtured with nothing but sun and water, and rich soil.

Tea can be both light and invigorating or dark and heavy.  Its all in the processing.  Its also about what you prefer, your state of mind, your present mood, and what you wish to gain from a cup of tea.  In the morning a heavy or dark tea is appropriate whereas in the afternoon a white or green tea is refreshing.   In the evening an herbal, like camomile or Tulsi, will prepare you for a good nights sleep.  Teas possess both culinary delight and medicinal properties.  There is enough historical data and modern medical and scientific studies to support the healthy effects that tea has on our mental and physical state.  Yet, despite all the claims about tea, the number one reason we drink tea is because it is delicious.  Same goes for anything in life, we do it because we like it.

In this brief video, we go beyond flavor to discuss how concepts of Taoism are infused in the tea culture.


Chillin’ at The Healing Tree

Brian and the Berg just sat down with Moe Lam over at The Healing Tree Tea Bar and Apothecary in Thousand Oaks to sip and talk about tea. We ended up not only learning all about different teas and their histories, but a wealth of information about Traditional Chinese Medicine and German New Medicine and how they can be used together to promote health of your body AND soul. Sit in with us on this video and see how generous Moe is with his time, knowledge and talent. Then head on over to The Healing Tree and begin improving your life. Find out more at The Healing Tree


The City Turns Half a Century (that’s fifty)


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This year marks half a century ago when The Beatles came to America, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law,  President Johnson escalated the war in Vietman, Tokyo hosted the 18th Summer Olympics, the world was introduced to Diet Pepsi, and “Bewitched” premiered on ABC in September (who can forget the insufferable sarcasm of Endora).  Whewwwww.  This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the City of Thousand Oaks and its Eichler community.  Befittingly, the City and community partners are giving us a parade.  And what do we think of when it comes to a parade?  A long procession with horsies, fire trucks, grand marshals and grand poobahs, little cars perhaps, marching bands, cheerleaders, community leaders, politicians, special interest groups, banners, but no clowns….they can be intimidating.  On September 27,  festivities will kick off at 9:00am, followed by a daylong celebration, including live music brought to you by Brian’s band, The Three Rivers Band ( that goes on stage at The Lakes sometime around 11:00am.

To get the lowdown on the parade, Berg and Brian met up with John Short at Conejo Creek Park to chill.  John met us on his Harley on a very warm and dry Saturday morning toward noon.  If you’ve never been to Conejo Creek Park, it’s time you do (and while your there get yourself a library card.  Physical books, like vinyl records, provide you with genuine experiences).  Brian scoped out a nice shady spot under a tree “down by the river” where we sat down to speak with John.  John Short is all things Conejo.  His relentless support and volunteer work over the years includes president of the Thousand Oaks Little league, board member of the Conejo Recreation and Parks District, chairman of the Investment Review Committee for the city of Thousand Oaks, player in bringing back the Conejo Valley Days, and chair of  The Thousand Oaks 50th Anniversary parade.  As is with all the individuals that Berg and Brian have recently met through their Chillin’ efforts, John is genuine and personable.  He personifies Conejo pride.  As Brian succinctly puts it: “The most involved man in Thousand Oaks.”

John originally presented the idea to the City approximately five months ago.  A municipal parade usually takes up to a year to plan.  John’s been able to accomplish the daunting task in less than half a year.  Maybe he’ll be available to organize my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah?  To quote the TO Parade website, “”Remembering the past, honoring the memories” is our theme. The parade entries will replicate life 50 years ago when Thousand Oaks was founded.  Join us as we take a step back in time, when life was simple, and not as fast paced. When sheep roamed the hillsides and occasionally the streets, and you could see lions and tigers, and even elephants.”  I’d like to see an elephant at The TO Meat Locker waiting in line for a tri-tip sandwich.  And those sheep better watch out.  In order to make all this happen, John has worked tirelessly, bringing together over 90 volunteers with 20 committee members.  We should expect 125 entries with equestrian units.  15 of the 18 former city mayors will be dusted off for some baby kissing, and there will be 3 original law enforcement officers………so don’t be caught double parking.  At the end of the parade expect there to be built the largest Lego chain to set a Guinness Book of World Records that will raise money for the Dream Catcher Foundation (  All in all, the festivities are expected to draw 3 to 5 thousand Conejovites, or are we Oaksians (perhaps you all can make suggestions and sent them to Chillin’)?  Chillin’ encourages everyone to bring their Conejo pride and to have a good time while still being conscientious and safe.

Hats off to John and everyone who has contributed to the parade. Volunteers are still being sought! Check the Parade website for volunteer info.


Heaven is Under Our Feet as Well As Over Our Heads



For this episode Thoreau comes to mind when he says, “The finest qualities of our Nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling.”  I also like Muir when he says, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”  These men, and others alike, have a simple yet profound lesson for us to learn:  Our human spirit has realms of expression and potential far greater than those usually realized by civilized life.  By living within Nature, Thoreau and Muir explored and discovered the infinitued of the human spirit, finding that it can achieve much more important, beautiful truths when not restrained by the limitations of urban living.  Which brings us to introducing you to a few of our friends whom are making a positive difference on an infinite level starting with our origins…..the soil.

Laura Maher and John Szczepanek of Eco Restoration Partners are bent on helping us adopt a friendlier approach to  how we relate to our landscape.  Eco Restoration encourages us to divorce ourselves from the “Home Depot” garden by promoting and collaborating “in the creation of strong, healthy, bountiful suburban gardens.”  They “provide suburban garden support and organic soil building services…. (by creating) beautiful, pesticide-free, pollinator habitats filled with perennials and edibles.”  Their “succession planning will transform (our) understanding of soil, water, food, and our community,” much the same way as did Thoreau and Muir.

On a hot and dry summer afternoon Berg and Brian met Laura and John at our friend Chuck’s Eichler home ( to learn about how Eco Restoration helped Chuck transform his property from a depleted tract of land into a sustainable urban garden rich in nutrients, life, and food. Years of pollution, chemical indoctrination and petroleum based agriculture has all but destroyed our earth.  It all starts with the soil, says John.  Soil is the fundamental ingredient to our sustained existence.  Treat your soil like your favorite car.  Take good care of it because in return it will care for you.  Get it under your fingernails and on your skin to appreciate it.  Smell it.

Mulching is a key component to healthy, sustainable soil.  Mulch improves the quality of soil by breaking up clay and allowing better water and air movement.  Mulch provides nutrients to soil and improves its ability to hold water.  Mulch is an insulating layer keeping soil cooler in the summer (

When you plant, do so with thought and consideration to the indigineous habitat.  Plant for beauty as well as for usefulness.  Plant to reduce water consumption.  Plant fruits and vegetables so you have control over your diet.  As Laura says, “Chose the right plants to tailor to who you are feeding”.  Plant to promote a safe haven for wildlife like the monarch butterfly, bees and birds.  Plant to maximize the benefits while reducing the carbon footprint. Plant to be rewarded on many levels.  Plant to educate yourself.

The transformation of Chuck’s property is remarkable.  His devotion to learning and leading by example is inspiring.  I’d like to think that Chuck’s transformation has been personal, spiritual and practical.  At the helm is Chuck’s eagerness to change.   And As we are all well aware, change is scary.  The first step to changing is to start.   Eco Restoration is a start.  Eco Restoration is also a step by step process.  They are a partnership.  John and Laura are genuine.  They are good folk with a positive vision to making our home a better place to live.  Spending an afternoon in Chuck’s backyard with John and Laura was educational, sociable, enjoyable and inspirational.

Here are some key words that are highlighted from Chillin’s meeting with Eco Restoration Partners and our neighbor Chuck: draught, going native, beyond saving water, Eco Restoration Partners, aspire, habitat restoration, climate appropriate, pollinate, food source, holistic, soil, mulch, compost, mimic natural systems, complementing, symbiotic, good model, monarchs, bees, birds, choosing, tailer, crucial, environment, resourcing, forage crops, Moringa, kitchen garden, immune system, chemicals, establish, transition, character, and extraordinary.

Brian has recently completed a front yard restoration project by abandoning his lawn, mulching, and planting similar to Chuck.  The monarchs abound.  Berg has begun the first step by removing his lawn and is moving onto step two, mulching.  He also dreams of spending time in a yoga ashram at the foot of the Himalayas.  We encourage you to abandon your lawn, plant for quality, and breath life into our world through a partnership with the soil.


A Special Bonus Video – How to Compost Dog Waste


Immediately following this years Annual Camping trip the idea came to mind that it was time to do something new. It was not enough any longer to roll with middle age responsibilities. I quote Tropic of Cancer, “The cancer of time is eating us away.” Time is an inescapable part of life. Life by definition is finite. How many times have you been advised that its better to do it now because you may not have the time later? Or the cliche never put off till tomorrow what you can do today? The simple truth of the matter is for most of us we use time as an excuse to not do. If we add up how many times we excuse ourselves because we don’t have time we would have time. We have time to watch the latest resurrection of Die Hard. Wow!

In-between being busy managing our time there are intervals. This is one of these intervals. This is intervals of life in the shadow of Los Angeles…….in the Conejo Valley.