October 2017

Yet again, fall is upon us. Time for the trees to change colors, leaves to fall, and lots of charming family activities! Whether your family traditions include pumpkin carving, harvest festivals, or reading fun fall stories, we’ve got you covered! Check it out: our October 2017 Family Events Calendar for the Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Looking for a fall activity to do with the kids near Simi Valley, Calabasas, Malibu, Santa Monica, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Moorpark, anywhere?! Check it out below. Click on the image to enlarge it and open up a fully-interactive version of the calendar where you can click each event to get more details!

October 2017

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The EASIEST Tutorial For Making a DIY Burlap Wreath

This post has to begin with a disclaimer: We went on Pinterest. We pinned at least 5 different tutorials on how to make a burlap wreath. We watched at least 3 videos on YouTube. But we still couldn’t get it. So we decided that when we did, we would make it so clear that anybody could understand it- whether you’re a visual learner or learn by reading (or both) this tutorial is for you. We set out to write the easiest, fastest “how-to” that’s out there.  Hopefully, we succeeded in doing just that. We took pictures of every little step along the way. So, let’s start off with what you’re going to need (you can pick these things up at just about any craft store).



For the wreath:

  • A wire wreath frame (the size is up to you)- we used an 18″ frame

  • Scissors

  • Burlap fabric (about 5″ wide and we ended up having to use around 60 yards in length)

  • Patience

  • A vacuum (for the little burlap fuzzies that end up EVERYWHERE)

For the decor: (this is optional, but these are the items we used)

  • Cardboard letters (we actually tried it with two sizes- one set about 6″ tall and one set about 4″ tall, we liked the 4″ ones better, but that’s just a personal preference). The tutorial we wrote on how to make these in under 30 minutes can be found here.

  • Ribbon

  • Floral wire

Part A: Buy the stuff. The frame that we used has 4 wires, so it has three openings. There are a million types of wreath frames, but if you follow this tutorial, you should succeed in creating a beautiful wreath no matter which one you choose.


Part B: Affix the end of the burlap onto the wire frame. I tried one method some Pinterest mom suggested, a no-tie method, before deciding life is too short to get frustrated every time it slips out and destroys your progress. Nope, not my method. Instead, I decided to be a total rebel- I cut a line halfway through the burlap fabric (GASP- it wasn’t even straight).


I then tied it with a good old-fashioned knot, and pulled it TIGHT so that it has no chance of coming undone. You can even use hot glue to make extra sure. IMG_1675

Part C: Okay- here’s the magic part. I’ve illustrated below what it looks like. Every number is where you pull a loop of fabric through. IMG_1693

Here you can see, illustrated in red, the path that the burlap follows. Each of those little loops is where you feed the burlap up through the frame, then back down. Or, alternatively, you can just pull the burlap through (which will save you the trouble of re-feeding it back through. The loops (the Us) are the ONLY thing that comes through the front. Everything else goes on in the back of the wreath. This is the pattern you’ll use for the whole wreath, except depending on how fluffy you want your wreath, you’ll probably want to squish as many loops as you can close together so it’s very full. Wreath Pattern

I started my wreath before taking these pictures (because I had to figure out what I was doing). So here’s the deal. You’ve got to work with about 3 or 4 20-yard spools of burlap. So, I just let mine lay underneath my work space. If there’s a more ‘neat’ way to do it, I couldn’t find it. But this is basically what it would look like straight out of the gate from the very first knot. Twist the burlap (I think either way would work but I did it to the right).


Feed the burlap up through the first open space. You’ll see, below, how I poked it up through the bottom, and am pinching it to pull the fabric through from there.

IMG_1684Here it is, even closer, so you can see what I mean about pinching the fabric up. Tip: Do it gently, so you don’t take any of the height off of your previous loops (once you have previous loops to work with you’ll know what I mean).

IMG_1685Here’s what it looked like (below) when I pulled the loop all the way through. You can see that the burlap was twisted throughout the whole loop- and I then pulled it up until it reached my desired height (which was about 3-4 inches). The remaining burlap is still toward the back of the wreath. The only time your burlap will ever come to the front of the frame is in a loop, people.


Now from loop number one, I twisted the burlap again, and fed it up to the second loop location (the number 2 on the post-it diagram). Aka the opening closest to the center of the wreath. Feed the twisted burlap up with your pinches (just like in loop #1).


Once that loop is finished, we’re going to twist the burlap again (in case you haven’t caught on, we want it twisted at all times).


We’re then going to feed the burlap through to loop number 3, in the middle open space.



Part D: Once you’ve gone through your first spool of burlap, cut the end of the spool and the beginning of the next spool. Tie them together in a simple knot- again, pulled tight. Feel free to cut off what’s hanging off (just make sure you don’t cut off too much- your knot needs to stay!).

As you can see above and below, the knot doesn’t have to be around the little section separator. Put it wherever you feel like putting it. Then, you guessed it- twist the burlap again!IMG_1682


Continue until your wreath is full of loops and covered in burlap!


The Finishing Touches

You’ll probably have a lot of loose ends from your burlap. Cut them off without pulling them, or you’ll just keep unraveling the wreath.


I chose to leave a little bit of empty space at the top of my wreath where I want my bow to be. I did this so that the bow wouldn’t stick out from the rest of the wreath, but a lot of people prefer it that way- up to you.
IMG_1692If you recall, we made those cute little letters (tutorial here). I like to plan everything out before I glue it down, then you can use floral wire to put things on if you want to be able to switch them out for each season, or you can simply hot glue your decorations onto the wreath (as long as they aren’t too heavy).

Wreath Info

DIY: The Easiest, Fastest DIY Letter Art

Decorative letters have endless possibilities around the house- you can use them to decorate wreaths (like we did), string them up to decorate walls and mantels, attach them to canvas to create a mixed-medium piece of artwork, and the list goes on and on. Today, we’re going to show you how to use decorative letters to  spruce up a burlap wreath (the wreath tutorial can be found here).

There are so many ways to decorate these little letters its crazy. But for our project, we decided to go with painted and covered letters (in scrapbooking paper of your choosing).

In celebration of the start of football season (and a big Alabama fan who works here), we made an Alabama wreath as an example.

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Here’s what you’ll need to recreate our letters:

  • Cardboard 3D letters

  • Exacto Knife

  • Mod Podge (finish doesn’t matter) – you can probably also use a liquid glue for this

  • Acrylic Paint

  • Paint Brush

  • Scrapbook Paper



Step 1: Paint the letters. We chose to paint only the back and sides, since the front would be covered by paper. Make sure you don’t accidentally leave the back unpainted (it gets a little tricky trying to keep all the backwards letters straight). To paint our letters we used black acrylic paint (glossy but you can always do matte, and you can choose any color of your choice obviously). Let it dry.


Step 2: Once the letters have dried, turn the scrapbook paper upside down, and the letter upside down on top of it (hint- be careful to make sure you’re not tracing the letters incorrectly- I did that and was lucky to have enough paper to start over). Using a pencil, trace close to the edge of the letter- I moved mine to the side a few inches so you could see how I did it.


Look how beautiful that outline is:IMG_1663

Step 3: Using scissors, cut out the letter. For the tighter areas that require more precision, use an Exacto Knife- but be sure to put a cutting board or craft mat underneath.IMG_1667

Step 4: Using a paintbrush (so that it’s more precise and not drippy), apply the Mod Podge or liquid glue (I would imagine Elmer’s would work just fine).IMG_1668

Step 5: Very carefully, apply your scrapbooking paper cutout on top of the wet glue. It won’t be very mobile once you get it on there, so try to set it down where you want it.IMG_1669


Step 6: Set something heavy on top of it, to press the letter and paper together- we want to create a tight seal so the letters stay durable.IMG_1666

Step 7: Repeat with desired letters until your word, letters, or phrase is finished!IMG_1670Step 8: Apply your letters to your final project. Here, we affixed them to our wreath (tutorial for that here). You’ll have to head over there to see the final result!

How to Prepare for the So-Cal Earthquake

Every 20 years or so, Southern California (namely, Los Angeles) falls victim to some of the largest earthquakes in the world. The last major one, on January 17th, 1994, was the costliest in U.S. history, and broke records on the North American continent. If you weren’t in the area at that time, just take a look at these photos, which show the intense devastation the earthquake did to the San Fernando Valley and Sylmar areas (among many others). That was almost 24 years ago. If you didn’t already do the math, we’re four years overdue. 

That catastrophic quake allowed us to learn a lot more than we knew previously. But even with advancements in technology, we can only predict an earthquake a few minutes before (if we’re lucky). Today, September 6th, 2017, the Sun unleashed its strongest flare in a decade- predicted to cause a geomagnetic storm (and possibly other natural disasters) on September 8th. While there is no concrete evidence to provide a definitive answer, many studies have pointed to the correlation (if not causation) of earthquakes by solar flares. This is not to make you believe that doomsday has finally arrived (though better safe than sorry, right? Haha). It’s just to help Californians understand that any day we could be expecting one of the bigger earthquakes in California history.


That’s why it’s so important that everyone in Southern California does 2 things: get smart, and get prepared.


Getting Smart

If you weren’t raised in California, earthquakes were probably a foreign topic that were discussed in passing. Maybe they were on that one science test. But even if you did grow up in California, it’s not always easy to understand what causes earthquakes (which helps us predict them). So, if you already know, you can skip this (even though it’s about to blow your mind). Here’s the science behind it, in the most simple, easy to understand form ever written:


Let’s start with an experiment: this is a fun one to do with family, but you’ll get the point just by reading. Let’s say you take a normal, red brick, and attach a bungee cord to it. Then, you take a strip of sandpaper and glue it to a surface that won’t move (like a table or the floor). Set the brick on top of the sandpaper. As you pull the bungee cord slowly, you’ll notice that the brick isn’t just going to slide along gracefully. What will happen is, the energy of your continuous pulling will keep building up. And then, all at once, the brick/bungee cord will use all that built up energy to jerk forward. If you continue to pull the bungee cord, you’ll see this happen over and over- sometimes in smaller bursts and sometimes in bigger ones. Sound familiar? You can see a rough example below.

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The surface of the Earth is covered in tectonic plates (see the picture below), which shift over millions of years. But it’s the way they shift that’s important. It’s not some smooth, quiet movement. It’s exactly like what you just saw with the brick and sandpaper- the movement occurs all at once. It’s a sudden release of all of the built up energy.

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As you can see in the photo above, part of California sits right on the edge of the Pacific Plate; the rest of the state (and continent, for that matter) lies on the North American plate. The image below shows in greater detail the tiny portion of the state that is caught up in it. (Note that Los Angeles is included).

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That line that separates the Pacific Plate from the North American Plate is called a fault. To be specific, the San Andreas Fault. Basically, in a million years or so, with the movement of the plates, Los Angeles will be up by San Jose (crazy right?!). The image below has two blue arrows that represent which way each plate is traveling.

Image result for california techtonic plates

Basically, the longer that energy accumulates, the more intense the earthquake will be. And it’s been accumulating. Since 1857, the movement along the San Andreas Fault has averaged more than an inch. That might not sound crazy, but when it comes to an entire continent shifting over an inch a year, that’s a big deal. While Los Angeles typically follows a pattern of roughly twenty-year intervals, the San Andreas Fault has a serious one roughly every 100 years– and it’s been 160. Just so you understand how serious it is: the shaking could last for minutes (versus the Northridge quake’s 15-seconds), and could displace land by roughly 9 feet– if it’s a 7.5 as expected. If the quake hits with a 7.9 magnitude, as much as 20 feet could shift. It’s the stuff of folklore. The movie “San Andreas” was created as a dramatization of the possibilities of the quake, but if an 8.2 magnitude quake struck Los Angeles, the energy it would produce would equal far more than that exerted by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.


Getting Prepared

Alright so hopefully you’ve now recognized just how critical it is that we prepare, as a community and as individuals, for what is coming. We may not know when, but we know a massive quake is on its way- and if you’re prepared, the amount of suffering you and those around you will experience will be minimized. Here are some simple ideas for making your home “earth-quake proof”. Even if you conquer the list one thing at a time, within a few months you’ll be able to sleep with much more peace of mind (unless, of course, it happens before then. In which case, we tried).

  • Put together what we like to call an “Earthquake Kit” (a.k.a. all of the things you would need- below). Be prepared to be on your own for three days, or even a week. In emergency situations, the fire and police departments often take a while to get to you. The best place to store your kit is usually the garage (which has a concrete floor so it’s likely the sturdiest place) or in an area you’re likely to be in when it happens. Keeping your kit locked away or somewhere not easily accessible kind of defeats the whole purpose. Include things like:
    • Enough non-perishable food and bottled water to last you and/or your family and/or your friends a week (in the worst-case scenario). If you’re going to have cans, put a can opener in there too.
    • First-aid kits (or two- again, for worst-case scenario).
    • A fire extinguisher (we recommend multiple, for different kinds of fires- which are likely to break out after disasters).
    • Flashlights (and don’t forget the batteries if you’re going to need them to operate the flashlights).
    • A portable radio (super old-fashioned, but you’ll want to hear any news about rescues).
    • Blankets. Space blankets (the thin silver ones) are a great way to save space, but not that comfortable, so be aware.
    • Clothes. Obviously you don’t need to put your best outfits in your kit, but we recommend buying a few cheap, basic staples to keep in your kit in case your clothes get wet, burned, scraped, etc.
    • Shoes. DO NOT forget the socks.
    • Money (ATMs may not work in the immediate aftermath)
    • Medications (ask your doctor for an extra month’s supply just to ensure that you’ll have what you’ll need).
    • A wrench for turning off water and gas.
    • Baby and/or pet food
    • An extra phone charging cable and portable battery.
    • Lighter(s) and a camp stove.
  • Go to a hardware store and strap heavy furniture to the walls– things like bookshelves, microwaves, and televisions can cause severe injury and/or death if they fall on you during the emergency.
  • Install safety latches on kitchen cabinets- very similar to what you might see used around toddlers and infants.
  • Use earthquake putty or museum wax to affix your pictures to the wall and decor onto shelves. If you want to be really proactive, don’t use glass in your picture frames, or use a plastic acrylic instead- so that if someone has to come looking for you in the night, they don’t have to step over glass in the dark to do it.
  • Move your bed away from hazards. These include windows. You can also apply a safety film to windows to keep the glass out in the case that it does shatter. Remove any bookshelves, heavy furniture, or lighting fixtures that would cause injury in the case of an earthquake.
  • Make sure your gas heater is secured to the wall.
  • Consider installing an automatic valve that will shut off your gas when shaking is first felt. In the very least, learn how to turn your gas off manually. If you’re ahead of your time, tie the tool that you’ll need (i.e. a wrench) to the heater so you won’t have to go hunting for it in the dark.
  • Get emergency plug-in lights that turn on automatically in the event of a power outage. Keep them by your bed, in the hallways, etc.
  • Tie or tuck some old shoes or slippers near your bed- so that if the lights go off and you don’t to get stabbed in the foot, you won’t have to worry.
  • If you wear contacts or glasses, place an old pair of glasses, your contact case, and/or a new pair of contacts by your bed just in case.
  • See if your home needs a retrofit. Basically, you hire someone to analyze your home’s foundation- making sure it’s sturdy enough to survive the incident. If need be, they can bolt the home to its foundation, so it doesn’t slide off.
  • Check on your chimney. These are considered one of the most dangerous parts of the home during an earthquake. The bricks come flying off, and the chimney might even split in half and fall on someone.
  • If you live in an apartment, make sure that the parking structure below is stable enough, or demand that your city retrofits it with steel beams to avoid crushing people on the first floor or their cars.
  • See what you’re getting yourself into. The free website Temblor.com allows you to look up your address and assess your risk based on government-compiled data.



During the Quake:

  • DO NOT run outside. Outside is actually more dangerous in most cases, because exterior parts of the building are prone to fall.
  • Honestly, don’t run anywhere unless you have things around you that could fall on you. EarthquakeCountry.com recommends:
    • In a bed: Hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow. Running is a bad idea — it’s easy to get cut on broken glass on the floor.
    • In a high-rise: Drop, cover, hold on. Avoid windows. Don’t use elevators.
    • In a theater or stadium: Stay in your seat or drop to the floor between rows, and protect your head, neck and arms. Don’t try to leave until the shaking is over.
    • In a store: Drop and take cover under anything that can provide protection, like a shopping cart or inside clothing racks. If you need to move away from heavy items on high shelves, drop to the ground first and crawl the shortest distance away. Whenever you enter a retail store, take a moment to see what could fall on you during an earthquake. Also, stay calm. 
    • Outdoors: Move to a clear area if you can safely do it. Avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings and vehicles. If you’re near mountains, watch out for land and rock slides.
    • Near the shore: If severe shaking lasts 20 seconds or more, head to high ground in case a tsunami has been generated. Move inland two miles or to land that is 100 feet above sea level. Don’t wait for a warning, start walking. And don’t drive, to avoid traffic.
    • Driving. Get yourself and your car out of traffic and stop. Avoid stopping under or on any bridges, trees, signs, and power lines. When you resume driving, be careful of hazards on the road. One Los Angeles police officer lost his life when reporting for duty the day after the Northridge earthquake of 1994. He didn’t see a collapsed bridge on the freeway, and fell. Go slow, and be very cautious.



After the Dust Settles:

  • Stay covered. Aftershocks usually accompany huge quakes- are and almost capable of the same amount of destruction. Be careful about staying away from things that could fall on you if one does occur.
  • Check yourself, and those around you, for injuries. First aid should be your first priority.
  • Check water, gas, and electric lines for damage. If any are damaged, (and honestly just to be safe you might as well) shut off the valves. If you smell gas (even faintly), open all the windows and doors, and leave immediately.
  • Turn your phone on low battery mode, and DO NOT touch it unless it’s an emergency. You never know when you’ll need it.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings.
  • Be careful around broken glass and debris. Wear sturdy shoes and be careful of where you step.
  • Keep away from chimneys. They can fall, remember?
  • Don’t take a spontaneous drive to the beach. Though they’re more rare in California, tsunamis are still a possibility.
  • If you’re at school or work, follow the emergency plan or instructions of the person in charge.
  • Unplug lights and appliances, as they may start fires when electricity is restored.