25 December 2008

Local Pennsylvania Edition: Living Tree

This holiday season my mom and her partner opted for a live Christmas tree. This tree (pictured) was purchased from Mostardi's Nursery in Newtown Square, PA, but I'm told you should be able to find them from most local orchards or nurseries. Depending on where you go the live tree can range anywhere from $50-$180. Call ahead to be sure.

The tree my mom bought is about 4 ft. tall and comes in a pot. Some come with the root ball wrapped only in burlap. In that case you would provide your own pot. To care for it properly the tree should remain outdoors when it is not being used for decoration.

It must be nurtured into the indoors. About 2 weeks before the holiday put it in a garage or covered area for about 5-7 days. Less than a week before the holiday you can start to enjoy it inside your home, but only for another 5-7 days.

Once you've celebrated the holiday, reintroduce your tree to the natural elements, which means another 5-7 days in the garage. After that time it goes back outside to a year of full sun with continuous watering. The tree can go through this process of inside/outside for 3-4 years of holiday cheer. Be prepared with a larger pot after a year or two, as the root ball could outgrow its original home. You can then plant it in your yard. If you don't have space, consider donating it to a local park or school.

If you can find a live tree in your area, I think its a great idea. I hope to get one for our house next year.

Local. Reuse. Grow.

18 December 2008

Los Angeles Trash Part 2: BLUE

What can you put in the BLUE bin?

- Clean dry Paper: computer, ledger, wrapping, arts and craft paper, unwanted mail, flyers, telephone books, note cards, newspaper, blueprints, magazines, file folders, paper bags, Post-it notes, catalogs, envelopes (with or without windows)

- Cardboard Boxes and Chipboard: cereal, tissue, dry food, frozen food, shoe, detergent, paper towel and toilet rolls

- Metal: aluminum, tin, metal and bi-metal cans (soda, juice, soup, vegetables, pet food), pie tins, clean aluminum foils, empty paint and aerosol cans (plastic caps removed) and wire hangers

- Glass: bottles and jars (soda, wine, beer, sauce, pickle jars), broken bottles

- Plastic: Plastics 1 through 7, plastic bottles (soda, juice, detergent, bleach, shampoo lotion, mouthwash, dishwashing liquid, milk jug), butter tub, yogurt, plastic planters, food packaging, plastic bags (grocery, dry cleaner), Styrofoam & Polystyrene (egg shell cartons, block  or clamshell packaging), plastic coat hangers, non-electric plastic toys' plastic swimming pools and plastic laundry baskets

Make sure all boxes are broken down or flattened.  Sometimes your recycling may not get picked up if it is spilling out of the bin and rinse all food related products, if possible.

What NOT to put in the BLUE bin:

- Contaminated Paper: all soiled papers or bags with oils and food waste (no dirty pizza boxes)
- Broken Glass: windows, mirrors, auto related, light bulbs, flourescent lights and ceramics
- Miscellaneous: electric or battery operated toys, coated milk cartons, electrical cords, cloth/fabric, appliances, mini blinds, kitchen utensils, lawn furniture, garden hoses, rubber tires, construction materials including asphalt or concrete, wood and wood products

To dispose of these materials, call: 1800 98 TOXIC
- Hazadarous materials: partially filled aerosol cans, containers for fluids (automotive, cleaning, pool or garden related), batteries of any kind, pesticides, oil based paint

If any of these BAD items are placed in the blue container you can run the risk of contaminating other clean items.  I am definitely guilty of this, you may be putting the wrong things in the blue bin unknowingly too.

If you DON'T have a blue bin, contact the LA Bureau of Sanitation at 800 773 2489.  I was able to get an extra blue bin for our building.  It came within a week!

Review this list before you put out your recycling OR download this comprehensive sign and keep it handy.

17 December 2008

Los Angeles Trash Part 1: GREEN

I've put together a 3 part post that will help you figure out what trash items you can put in each of your 3 Los Angeles bins: black, blue and green.  If you do not have a home composting system yet or want to know more about where to throw out your trash, here are some answers.  And the more we know about what we can recycle or compost, the less waste will clog up our landfills.  

What can you put in the GREEN bin?

- Food scraps: fruits, veggies and grains 
Basically the bin is vegan - so no scraps that contain animal products, even milk, cheese or eggs.

- Grass, leaves, old flowers, weeds, palm frawns/tree branches, clean wood
Make sure that these items do not contain metal like nails in wood or wire wrapped around the flowers.

And it's interesting to note that compostable food containers, bags and silverware cannot go in the green bin.  These items should go in the black bin, unless of course you do have a composting system at home.  The LA Department of Public Works tells the LA Times that the city is looking to change that in the future.

Now if you live in Santa Monica (or have a friend there) it's a different story.  The green bins act as a composting bin, so feel free to throw in all your food scraps (even the non-vegan ones) and compostable food containers & silverware.  I think you can even throw pizza boxes in the green bin, but you might want to talk to the city and confirm that one first.

06 December 2008

Local Ghostwriter checks in about Rooftop Garden

In addition to being too busy to write about my Thanksgiving, I have also been remiss in taking care of the garden.  News from a ghostwriter about the rooftop garden.

I was just up on the roof.  I gave the plants a once over.  I think the siberia that split may give some fruit after all.  I think we could end up w a hundred tomatoes total.  The only one suffering from the recent cold seems to be the grape.  Thankfully its bearing now.  I think we can safely say that operation tomato is a success.  I'd like to start prepping the next crop before xmas. But this time I want them all from seed.  Let's order some of those Martino Romas over the weekend along w some others.  I think mail order is the way to go. And there is a nice red grape tomato w your name on it.  You can grab it in the morning. ;) 

I put that lettuce in with its bigger brother too.

I'm just hangin on the balcony with a beer and a gardening book. You should come over.


04 December 2008

Nature Mill in the News

I have been gone from this blog for a bit because work has taken over all my free time.  I have every intention of doing a few Thanksgiving posts after the fact.  Some of the recipes I used went over like gangbusters with my group and maybe some of you can use them for the upcoming holidays later this month.


In the meantime, I'd love to talk about my Nature Mill composter.  I have been posting for months about the problems Donny and I have encountered with our composter.  Our latest version still can't transfer even though Donny recently replaced the springplate and mixing bar.  This sad fact turns a great indoor composter into a messy bucket.  I felt obligated to post today because the LA Times put out a review of the Nature Mill (unbeknownst to me Smith & Hawken now sells the composter).  Take a look at the review and then come back to my site for more discussion.

I had a good feeling about this writer because right off the bat he seemed to have a clear sense of what it takes to compost.  He also mentioned that he grows cuccumbers in rain barrels, so thats pretty cool.  On the other hand, I don't think he gave the Nature Mill a chance.  Since Donny and I had not endeavored on anything so "hippie" as the composter beforehand, its not impossible to think perfecting your compost is something you can learn about and get used to easily.   

At the end of the day, we're both just looking for an easy composting experience.  If the Nature Mill doesn't do the job soon there are many kitchen top manual composters I might start looking in to.  The real question is whether I will get refunded for the machine AND the upgrade.  

17 November 2008

Local Thoughts

Lately everytime I turn on NPR I hear facts about how little we Americans are spending money these days. The host often rattles off percentages of how much we spent this quarter versus last quarter, versus 6 months ago, versus last year at this time; expenditures from home construction, to holiday shopping, to new cars.  


Everyone is "pinching pennies". We automatically assume this is all due to the economy, the stock market crashing, the car industry bankruptcy, etc. Isn't it also possible that the concepts of reduce, reuse, recycle have hit the mark? Could we consider just for a moment that people are cutting back and spending less and buying local & reused items because it is the smart and responsible thing to to do? People are scared, I get that. We are all "tightening our belts".  But isn't it possible that people are just considering a new lifestyle of buying less crap. They want heirlooms and treasures versus things that will kick out on them in less than a years time. And Hummer isn't going out of business because their cars are expensive. People don't want gas guzzlers, plain and simple. 

Two of the people in my office are cutting back. They are cutting back because rents are higher and jobs are fewer and far between. They also discussed that while living locally is ideal - it can be more expensive. We started throwing around the idea that if food was cheaper, we might buy more of it, thus more would go bad. I personally find that I am very selective about the groceries I buy because of the high cost and the potential to waste.

I welcome thoughts on this topic.  

16 November 2008

Local Decorating

Donny and I have been living together almost a year ago now.  We didn't buy really any new furniture at the beginning.  Mostly little accessories since we were lucky to have a lot of existing pieces that went together nicely.  After much debate we agreed to get a new tv and a dresser for the bedroom.  It was our immediate reaction to go online and see the newest, cool, vintage inspired, modern pieces from DWR, West Elm, Design Public, CB2 and the list goes on.  Having not purchased much bedroom furniture in my lifetime I could not believe how expensive these dressers cost. Anywhere from $500-$1500.  Sure, I could go to Ikea and spend $80 on thin wood, but I want a dresser that will last.  Don't get me wrong, I like Ikea for certain things, but not a dresser.  I started to scour craig's list, but if you've done it before you understand how it can be an exhausting task.  You want to be specific about a design era, but not too specific that filters out a piece you might really like.  Basically I typed in dresser and looked at a hundred pictures of really ornate dressers that I didn't like.  After a lot of searching I was lucky enough to come across this website Modern Search and Design.  They don't have too many pieces on their site, but for my taste they have a great used collection.  I emailed the guy Nick on Saturday morning and by Sunday midday we had a new (to us) metal dresser.  For $300 + a $40 delivery charge, it was totally worth it.  Granted its not straight from the box, I had to wipe it down a bit, but it works really well with our style and nothing new was manufactured.

05 November 2008

President-Elect Obama

04 November 2008

Election Day 2008

I am off to work at my local polling place.  
Please do not let the rain deter you from voting.  This will be a historic day.
Aside from the obvious race for president and Prop 8 - get an I voted sticker for free samples at: Starbucks, Krispy Kreme and Ben & Jerry's.  Not all exactly local establishments, but I will promote anyone for a day if they support voting.  Let me know if you hear about other companies doing the same.  

26 October 2008

Pumpkin Carving

Local California pumpkins.
(Pictured left: Malika's ghost.  Pictured right: Donny's glare scare)

22 October 2008

October Weekend Harvest

Rooftop garden pickings.

14 October 2008

Strawberry Harvest


Sunday morning picking from the garden.

13 October 2008

Traveling Locally

I recently went on a 48 hour jaunt from Los Angeles to Shreveport, Louisiana and back.  In the 16 hours of travel in such a short period of time I realized very quickly that it is near impossible to keep a local living regiment while flying, unless starvation is something you are willing to pursue. This is probably pretty obvious, but since I have not traveled much in the past few months it is something I quickly forgot.  

Attempting to eat healthy among options of snack food, fast food and prepared foods is a bit depressing.  It is also nostalgic.  During my travels I had: 2 bags of chex mix and an icecream sandwich, chicken & biscuit meal at Popeye's, shrimp cocktail and caprese salad from room service and water & cranberry juice on the plane.  

I'm curious if anyone has suggestions out there for getting around this.  

26 September 2008

Abbot Kinney Festival 2008

This Sunday, September 28 is the yearly Abbot Kinney Festival in Venice. It is basically a really well organized block party. This year should be no exception.  I am looking forward to it. Aside from the music and the people watching and the mass consumption of alcohol & yummy food, there will also be several options to educate and participate in eco-friendly activities.

- a "green" food court 
- sustainable art workshops
- a bike valet (sponsored by WFM) 
- free test drives of alternative-fuel vehicles
- "green" lifestyle area to promote the environment within the community, not just as a trend or in a product

I hope all of these fun things really do come through.  It looks like a great event!  If you live in the nearby area, definitely stop by.  It will be going on pretty much all day, from 10A-6P.  Check out their website for more details.  

I will try to put out a full review of the festival by early next week.  

25 September 2008

Tending to Horsetail

I think our horsetail is dying.  Although it is a weed and it is still breeding, it is definitely getting dry and brown.  As you can see from the pic it still has many pretty green stalks, but there are just so many brown, dead ones too.  We purchased the horsetail at the very begining of summer and immediately split it up into 2 equal size containers.  It was sort of an experiment to see how quickly it could grow. It doesn't come cheap here in LA, but we love the look so much. It started multiplying almost immediately. At that time it had full sun and we watered it very little. Donny said he read that the horsetail should be watered weekly.  In just a few short months our rooftop garden has grown considerably. We now have over 25 containers up there.  To make it more pleasing to the eye, I recently moved the horsetail to a different spot. This area probably has more wind and a bit less sun.  We've also watered it a lot more. Since the move the horsetail has not responded postively. Most of what I've read online is contradictory.  Some say it needs a lot of water and sun, others say it is fine in the shade.  I am going to cut back the brown stalks and see how it responds. 

18 September 2008

LA's cutest weed killers

The Community Redevelopment Agency for the City of Los Angeles (aka CRA/LA) helps to revitalize older communities and attracts building homes for all income levels.  This particular property near Bunker Hill in Downtown Los Angeles has been overgrown with weeds.  Normally the city would hire workers to remove them with weed wackers that project smoke and toxic emmissions into our air.  Instead they hired billy goats. The local goats, from Chino, graised our land for about 2 weeks.  It was a pretty amazing sight.  The goats are cheaper, release no emissions and their poop is a fertilizer for the land.  If the land needs more help the goats will be asked back, but in the meantime they have a lot of work to do.  

12 September 2008

What is Local?

I probably should have done this post awhile ago, but it is a difficult question to answer. Plus I also think the answer is different for everyone. We were talking about this subject a few nights ago - what do we consider local?

To the Eat Local Challenge - they consider local within 150 miles, but they also allow you a short list of things you can't get local, i.e. coffee or spices.

To the couple of the 100 mile diet - they consider 100 miles of where ever you are to be local.

And my personal favorite, Sunset Magazine has been working hard at a one block feast. All the growing, raising, and making happens in the magazine's backyard.

I found this chocolate in the Whole Foods. It had a Local sign on it. The company that makes and distributes this chocolate, called Chuao, is in San Diego. They sell exclusively to WFM. Based on their packaging alone - they appear to be a small company. The cacao beans, however, are obviously not local. They come from Venezuela. This is an interesting dillemma. For some localvores, the fact that the ingredients are not local to this area means they won't eat it. However, if you dig deeper you will find that this company not only purchases their ingredients from "locals" in Venezuela, but also contributes to their communities. And considering that the rest of the company is based in SoCal, this is still a pretty local product.

I personally think eating locally means partaking from vendors and local products in your neighborhood and local area. I am aware of the different levels of local, but I like to support them all - wine from northern California to green peppers from my own roof to my local paper store.

I know some of you subscribe to the Living Locally postings or read the blog via email, which is awesome. Please pop on to the site and check out the poll I have going. I would love to know what you already do or are willing to do to live more locally. Or leave a comment here and let me know other things that you think qualify as living locally. If it is something so outrageous that you couldn't dare try yourself, maybe it is something Donny and I would be willing to start doing. We're definitely up for the challenge!

09 September 2008

Local Venice Salt

I live about 1/2 mile from the Pacific Ocean. Donny and I enjoy biking beside it, boogie boarding in it and now we make salt from it. Thats right, I had a successful go at making my own salt. And it is so easy. Here is how to make your own salt.

First you have to get over the fact that you are collecting water from the ocean, since Donny was quite shy about that. He really didn't want anyone to see us doing it. It was Labor Day so the beach was pretty crowded in Venice. Oh well! We took 2 empty plastic bottles that could hold about 3 liters of water total. We quickly filled them with water and biked back home.

Then we filtered the water through some cheesecloth and emptied into a stainless pot. Donny folded the cheese cloth a few times to make it harder for the sand to get through. We actually put a rubber band around the cheesecloth to attach it directly to the top of the bottle. We then boiled the water uncovered for over 2 hours.

Once there was little water in the pot I lowered the temperature so it was hot enough for the water to evaporate, but not so hot the water would pop out. All of a sudden you could see the bottom of the water crystalized into the salt. I stirred it around a bit to dry it all out. I just spooned it out and will put it in a little glass jar. Local sea salt. For free. Brilliant.

06 September 2008

Venice Whole Foods Market is finally OPEN


The Venice Whole Foods is now open for business and it is huge. With a wine tasting bar, make your own peanut butter section and an in-store smokehouse, there are a lot of new and exciting foods to get from this store. But the real question is - how local is it?

For me, the ultimate local aspect is the store itself. It is about a 10 minute walk and will hopefully soon increase my walkscore (check out how walkable your neighborhood rates). Lets get down to the products. The sign BUY LOCAL was in almost every aisle, but you had to keep your eyes peeled. Here are the ones that stood out to me.

Produce: Everything from apples to greens to fruit was local California. It wasn't all organic, but there were plenty of local options.

Fish: Based on their signage I saw NO local fish. I'll have to stick to the Farmer's Market or Santa Monica Seafood for that.

Meat: Mary's Free Range (Fresno) chickens could be purchased whole or by the part. There were also prepared chickens.

Wine: An entire section of the wine department was dedicated to local wine. Some were from wineries I had been to in Santa Barbara, such as Beckman Vineyards. Among many brands they sold San Antonio Winery (Napa Valley) and Red Truck (Sonoma). The price of wine seems to stay consistent and only goes up in price because of quality not origin.

Dairy: Straus Family Creamers is sold in most Whole Foods Markets around here and comes direct from just 60 miles north of San Francisco. Plus the glass bottles are reusable - $1.50 deposit. And there is a local option for eggs: Chino Valley Ranchers.

Frozen Pizza - Full of Life (Los Alamos) Flatbread uses all local organic ingredients within a 400 miles radius. And I found a new company, Vicoli. They come from Hayward, CA. I haven't tried their product, but it looks tasty.

Cheese - One of my personal favorite items in the store. There are a bevvy of local options including, Cypress Grove (Arcata), Winchester Cheese Company (Winchester), Vella Cheese (Sonoma), and Point Reyes Farmstead (Point Reyes Station). As you can see, just like wine all of these local options are from North of Los Angeles.

Condiments - Alexander Valley Pickles (Healdsburg) look tasty and are packaged in recycled plastic containers. There were several dressings/marinades/sauces that were local vendors, but unfortunately none of them were made with local ingredients.

Honey - Honey Pacifica (SoCal) sells several flavored honey varietals, along with the classic that comes in a pour bottle.

Aside from their products the VWFM is doing a lot for the local community. If you shop on September 10th, 5% of your grocery purchases go to the Venice Family Clinic. Also before it opened I was invited to tour the store. Once on the tour I found out all of the local Venice non-profit organizations had been invited. WFM is not looking to take over our community, but instead they want to be welcomed in and give back. It might sound a little cheesy since it is a big corporation, but the idea is in the right place. Hey, even the guy who runs the Venice Farmer's Market was on the tour.

The only downside - the whole neighborhood got the memo. Donny and I went the first night it opened and the bike stand was packed. I couldn't believe how many people were walking around, but it just goes to show how much we needed/wanted it.

04 September 2008

Make Your Own Granola

I am mostly okay with paying more money for farmer's market food because it often tastes better and lasts longer, not to mention the local aspect, but everywhere we go granola is often very high priced. We eat a lot of granola around our house; I often eat it as a snack and Donny has gotten into eating organic yogurt with granola and fresh berries. I found a couple granola different recipes and sort of made my own. Turns out granola is so easy to make and tastes delicious. And the great thing about granola is that even if you don't have 1 or 2 of the ingredients it can still be just as yummy.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In one large bowl combine: 4 cups of rolled oats, 3/4 cup wheat germ, 3/4 cup oat or wheat bran, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup of finely chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts and/or almonds), 1/2 cup flax seed. Mix well.

Over medium heat in a saucepan combine: 3/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tbl. maple syrup, 1/4 cup + 2 tbl. honey, 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract. Stir well. Heat until boiling.

Add hot liquid mixture to dry mixture. Stir extremely well. Spread out over two 9x13 baking sheets. Bake in oven. After about 10 min. stir mixture on each sheet. Check again after another 5-10 min. If lightly brown, take out of oven to cool. Granola will start to harden and will cook more even after you take out of the oven. Once cool, add about 1-2 cups of dried cranberries and/or blueberries. Enjoy!

Makes more than 64 oz. (fit perfectly in two 32 oz. mason jars + 1 bowl to eat right away)

02 September 2008

Urbanic

I feel very lucky there is a stationary shop called Urbanic that is right here in Venice and fits all of my needs. I recently spoke with Audrey, the co-owner, about her paper boutique. I expressed my concerns as a consumer. I want to know what the card is made of, where it was made and any inks/processes used to make it. Not only does Audrey understand, she told me it is something that the store has been focusing on. Over the past 2 years Urbanic has really transformed into this mecca of "guilt-less" goods. Each product is first considered for its style and how it fits the clientele needs. It should be noted that Urbanic won't turn down a potential vendor if they use toxic inks, for example. On the other hand, Audrey told me they will definitely consider a company more if they have strong eco-values. I'm told that just about every paper product in her shop is at the very least made with 30% post-consumer waste recycled paper.

And there is good news for finding local designers! - Urbanic carries Two Piglets (Monrovia), Little Oranges (Pasadena) see pic above, Tiny Pine Press (Sherman Oaks) and Paperwink (Miracle Mile), among many other California-based companies. Shopping at Urbanic is no different than shopping at the Farmer's Market. You have to ask questions and go there a lot to know and understand the product. Just like food, most cards are printed on the back with useful information, such as 100% recycled paper (pancake & friends), biodegradable (russell + hazel), support wind-power (9 spot monk) or water-based inks (binth). Audrey can tell you if a company only invoices via email or if the clear plastic sleeve the card comes in is compostable (la familia green). I've said this before with the eat.shop guides, but I can't say it enough - locally owned stores give you that extra personal service and the owners want you to love and understand the product just as much as they do. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

Another fun thing about Urbanic is that a year ago they added a little hip clothing store, called neighborhood. The two are connected, which makes trips for me and Donny really easy because he looks at his favorite Stitch's jeans while I shop for cards. And if we go on Saturdays, Urbanic sells Tastelove bakehouse cupcakes. In my opinion, eating cupcakes while doing anything just makes it more fun.

Look out for future posts on some of the local California paper designers that Urbanic carries.

30 August 2008

I LOVE Paper

My grandparents actually planted the very first seed in me to collect stationary. When I was in elementary school they went on a roadtrip across the country and sent me postcards from every state they visited. We're talking postcards made from paper, wood, copper, etc. Of course I saved every postcard they sent and it started to become my thing. As I got older, postcards became a little passe. That's when I really discovered the wonderful world of cards. My grandmother and mother had always instilled in me to send thank you cards, so that was incentive to buy them, collect them and send them out. For a while I just wanted people to give me a gift, so that I could use one of my thank you cards in return. Actually, I sometimes still think that way.

Over the past few years making my own holiday cards has become somewhat of a staple for me. Many times I have used old newspapers or magazines (see above from holidays 2006) for the design of the card, but at the time I wasn't necessarily taking the environment into consideration. Things have changed. Now when I buy new cards I am very conscious about what the card is made of, where it was made and any inks/processes used to make it. It is so wonderful how many options there are, while still allowing me to get great looking stationary. Next post I will share my new favorite place to buy paper.

26 August 2008

Hot Sauce Cook-off

It is no secret that we have been growing the hottest pepper on earth, the Caribbean Red Pepper. We recently harvested "mini" carrots and have had them in the refrigerator for about a week now. We'd like to use them before they go bad. Decidely the only appropriate thing to do is to make hot sauce. Unfortunately we could not decide on just one recipe and thus spawned our first cook-off. I used a combination of recipes. See below for my version. You can find the recipe Donny used here.

The first step in most of these hot sauce recipes is to wear gloves. This is the first step we ignored. I mean, how hot could these peppers be? They really didn't smell hot or feel hot on my fingers. I thought "this is totally fine." I'm not sure if it was just from the heat of the food processor spinning or what, but immediately the heat of the peppers started to turn up and you could definitely smell it in the air. It's hard to describe what heat smells like, but maybe it's more of a feeling. It was strong. All of a sudden I hear Donny start yelping in pain. It appears that he's managed to rub some pepper residue in his eye. He franctically throws water in his face and drinks milk. He is fine for about 20 seconds and then repeats. He ran into the bathroom to get a clean hand towel, since most of the kitchen towels were contaminated with pepper. This action of milk and water and yelping went on for about 15-20 minutes. Fortunately he did not have his contact lenses in at the time or it could have been a lot worse. I try comforting him, all the while thinking, "why on earth did he rub his eyes? how did that happen?"

We finish making the 2 different hot sauces, but are a little defeated at this point. Both of us wash our hands with soap multiple times just to get it all off. We start to clean up the mess in the kitchen and prepare to make breakfast: scrambled eggs with organic local tomatoes & fresh basil from the garden, organic potatoes we handmade into hash browns and our favorite apple smoked bacon. We didn't have any bread, which isn't usually a must have in our kitchen, but I agreed to walk to our corner german bakery, 3 square, and pick up a loaf. Before leaving to go on the errand I sat on the couch to take a tiny break. The excitement of the hot sauce kind of wore me out, considering we only just woke up less than an hour prior. I partake in the obligatory eye rubbing to help wake myself up and then all of a sudden it hits me. I can feel the heat on my eyelids immediately and then after a few moments I can't even open them. I start yelling to Donny for support. I explain to him what I've done and how much it hurts. He calls for me to come into the kitchen immediately and so I stand up and start walking. At this point I am in so much pain and fear that I can't even open my eyes, so he helps me walk in. He immediately turns on the water and I splash it in my face repeated times. I start screaming "It hurts so much! It hurts! It hurts!", while still frantically splashing cold water in my face. He gets out the little milk we have left and I start drinking. Donny suggests splashing the milk in my face and blinking my eyes to get it all around. That might've helped, except it just hurt more. The pain was so fierce and intense that my only solace was the ability to voice out just how bad it hurt. At one point Donny even suggested that our neighbors could hear and would think I was hurt and something was wrong. My response to that was "But I am hurt and something is wrong!" He told me later that he thought they would think he was physically hurting me and was tempted to shut the window, but that they might think he was then trying to cover it up. Finally, the pain started to subside and I was able to move into the laughter stage. I'm still not sure how I managed to keep from crying, but the misery finally subsided. This was a true lesson in our hot pepper experiment. I took the calming walk down to the bakery and allowed the cool breeze to flow over my eyes.

Donny was in the midst of busily making breakfast, upon my return. We delighted in our small feast and even more so enjoyed tasting our hot sauce chellenge over our scrambled eggs and yummy olive bread. The sauces, which had more of a thick topping-like texture, tasted good in small doses, carefully placed on the eggs for each bite. We both agreed my hot sauce was better, since it contained more distinct flavors and even had a sweet, tangy taste to it. All in all, it was definitely a fun morning, but no doubt we will use gloves the next time around.

My hot sauce recipe (makes about 6 ounces):

Combine 1 cup of chopped carrots, 1 small chopped white onion, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 2 tsp. of salt and juice from 1 lime in a small saucepan over high heat. Boil for about 10 minutes. Put on gloves. Chop 2 caribbean red or habanero peppers. In the bowl of a food processor add chopped peppers plus a few seeds, 2 tbl. honey, 2 tbl. yellow mustard, 2 tbl. brown sugar, 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, 1 1/2 tsp. paprika, 3/4 tsp. of each black pepper and cumin, 1/8 tsp. of each ginger and allspice. Add in the mixture from your saucepan into the food processor. Chop and grind until completey liquified. I put my sauce in an empty glass Philippe Mustard jar. Enjoy!

Tastes great on eggs, tacos and other food you want to spice up. Use sparingly.

21 August 2008

What are kids learning about the environment?

I don't have any kids and I've never lived with a kid, so I don't know that much about raising them. I can guess that if a tween hears something from one of their role models they might listen. Miley Cyrus has a new video out called "Wake up America", which is loosely about going green. It's an interesting video and I'll leave my thoughts about production value aside. What I'd like to comment on is the content and what she is telling kids to do.

See below for Miley's suggestions followed by what I think of them.

1) Unplug your cell phone once it is fully charged. It's a good thought, but the charger still uses electricity when it's plugged into the wall. Semantics, but these kids need to know exactly what to do.

2) Recycle books and magazines, give to friends. This is a great tip for kids, but its funny she didn't mention sharing music with your friends. She's okay with her fans re-using US magazine, but not okay if they burn her cd.

3) Tan green. Solar powered tanning booths. No chemicals or lotions. Why are we even talking about 15 year olds and tanning booths? Plus, and I haven't done much research on solar powered tanning booths, but does that mean you're just under the sun? Because I can do that on my roof and it doesn't cost me anything.

4) Take showers instead of baths. Also a good tip, but how many kids over the age of 5 take baths? My boss' 9 year old daughter likes to wash her hair once a month. Maybe Miley should do that, so she can conserve water.

5) Keep plastic water bottles. Don't throw them out. Recycle later. Take it to a restaurant and ask them to refill it. This is my favorite one. First off, I'd love to see a picture of Miley at The Ivy with a plastic bottle asking for a refill. Second, plastic bottles are meant for a one-time use only. After a few days chemicals in the plastic start to break down and will leach into the water. Also, bacteria can form in the water bottle. Not to mention just manufacturing plastic comes from a non-renewable resource. If you throw out the bottles instead of recycling them they will not biodegrade in your lifetime. Aluminum and stainless steel reusable bottles are options everyone should consider using.

6) Plant a tree. Reduces um, um, carbon dioxide. Good tip, but all I have to say is, practice beforehand. The kids believe you less if you don't know the important words.

7) Shop online. No car trips means no pollution in the air. If you buy online that means you are potentially using more packaging material. Plus, I'm not sure how the clothes arrive to Miley's house, but if I buy something online, the fedex guy usually shows up and he's driving a truck. That truck produces a lot of pollution, if not more than my Mini Cooper. And not to state the obvious, but if you walk or bike to a local shop to buy local products, then you will really be cutting down on the pollution.

My only suggestion for Miley is to consider an alternate form of transportation.

Check out the video for yourself.

20 August 2008

Segways are killing the beaches

Okay, lets get it out of the way first. I actually like
Will Arnett's character, George "Gob" Bluth II, from Arrested Development. I think he's clever and funny, but this segway phenom has to go. Or at least they need to resolve their identity crisis.

The bike path next to the beach is for bikes, plain and simple. We bikers tolerate skateboarders and rollerskaters because frankly most of us use them too at different points in the summer. People walking should either stay on the path that is specifically for walkers or just walk on the sand. It is freaking sand. The people on segways think, oh this path is for anyone with wheels. No way! People in wheelchairs don't go on the bike path, do they? No. Segways go super slow and they are for super lazy people who don't want to walk, but still want to leisurely gaze upon the water and beach. They go so slow they can wave to people and pose for pictures, all without breaking a sweat or getting off.

This morning I rode to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. The route I like to take is Main Street going North, then on the way back South I take the BIKE path. As I am about to get on the bike path, I go down a short, narrow path. I have entered through this path probably a hundred times. I have easily been able to maneuver past people walking, strollers and other bikes. Not today. Today I came upon a family of 5. And I know you want to assume that all 5 of these tourists were on segways. Oh no! This cute, little, white suburban family only rented 2 segways. So I imagine that they either took turns riding them or the two daughters were the only "brave ones". Either way, this one girl could literally not even go as fast as she walks. It was as if she was on a tightrope over boiling lava. Not only was she going slow, but she was squealing. I mean, we're talking a 13 year old girl can't ride on a motor powered stand? Because tht is all it really is - a stand that moves. She literally freaks out as I'm ringing my little bike bell and scoot on past her.

I'm just wondering why this family couldn't have rented bikes or even rent a rickshaw. We have 'em in Venice. I guess I just want to believe that when people come and vacation in Santa Monica, Venice or Marina Del Rey that they either want to sit on the beach and just relax or they want to get in on all of the great outdoor activities. It's just too bad some people think there are no other options and they turn to segways. Even the models on "America's Next Top Model" couldn't make segways look cool in Rome.

17 August 2008

Moving plants

The reason for planting veggies is to harvest and eat them. I feel like we spend way more time tending to them, which isn't so bad because we love our free time together up on the roof and in the sun. Today was half harvest, half moving day for some of our plants. Donny noticed the tomato and pepper plants outgrowing their pots. We ended up moving the 2 tomato and 2 of the pepper into larger 14 in. pots. Moving the peppers opened up new real estate, so I planted more garlic cloves. We also have 2 other pepper plants and are experimenting by planting them right into the ground. However the front garden has limited sun, so we are taking a risk. When I first started planting in the front garden I littered it with tons of different seeds. It was covered with carrots, but they had been in the ground for almost 4 months. This was way past their harvest. Unfortunately it seems that my first attempt at gardening was met with a bit of my laziness. The carrots probably could have grown to full size, but the soil was so compacted there was no more room for them to grow. As you can see these carrots are piddly, but so cute! Donny tilled the ground so that planting anything new will have a better chance at life.

And back to the old times of gardening out front. Our neighbor caught us and convinced us to plant her own basil plant. Since she's had it sitting in the tiny plastic container it came in when she bought it from Trader Joe's, we took pity on her. She actually told us that she and her partner had been talking about how I'd been neglecting the front garden. Awesome.

This is going to sound a bit crazy, considering a recent post, but although they are gross and live in a smelly trashcan, I think I am starting to like the maggots. They eat our food and turn it into compost so fast - its amazing. We still don't have our replacement composter and with the full day of gardening, I had to make a lot of trips to that maggot-filled can. I won't say I enjoyed myself, but I am getting to be quite fascinated with the maggots and have managed to move past the terror. I am pretty happy with myself about that. I had actually thrown away food last week just so I wouldn't have to go over to that can. I am glad to be beyond that so all composting at our house can continue on with business as usual.

We hope to use these carrots, along with our caribbean red peppers for some homemade hot sauce. I'll pass along the recipe after we make the attempt.

15 August 2008

Westside vs. San Fernando Valley

There are many reasons why I choose to live on the Westside versus the Valley, but for this forum I will stick to issues based on local living.

LA City Council is starting a pilot program for the city to do our composting for us. They will provide us with kitchen pails to throw our scraps into. Each residence would then collect their scraps in the large green bins we already have, for the city to pick-up each week. If it passes they would start in just 5,000 homes. San Francisco has been doing this for a while already, but I am so glad to be living in a place where we too can be on the forefront of convenient local living. I don't think our household will stop using the indoor composter, but now we can have the city compost our soiled pizza boxes and corn cobs instead of throwing them out.

The Valley, on the other hand, is preventing people from expanding their yards past the water-sucking, boring green grass. Glendale, specifically, has their own guidelines about how your front lawn can look and be manicured. They want you to believe you can do whatever you want to your lawn and that you can have "any number of types of vegetation". Many residents are finding out if they pull up the grass, they had better have an immediate solution for making it look pristine again. Of course we all know that gardens take time and while you wait for things to grow it could look like rows and rows of dirt for weeks. Everyone in this country is aware of concerns about drought, but it is a really big issue here in southern California. If the city of Glendale was just as concerned about it, they would not send their officials out to starting fining people. Instead they should come up with alternate plans as to how to help their residents.

Circa 1940, a couple in their Los Angeles Victory Garden. F.Haeg's "Edible Estates"

11 August 2008

Rooftop Gardening continues

I would like to say that our rooftop garden is flourishing, but that is only partially true. Our neighbor's cat as continued to cross over onto our part of the roof and do his business. Donny even called him an expletive at dinner last night, so you know its getting bad. This cat is a real menace and will do anything it takes to squat on our veggies, even if he gets a little metal fencing up his butt. He has now officially killed a pepper plant and I'm pretty sure he has deterred our 5 garlic cloves from sprouting. I'm hoping that our recent additions of oregano and green onions don't encourage to him to hang out in our area more. Donny is going to great lengths to keep this cat out. I'm not sure if we will ever truly win this fight. It is exciting, however that the asparagus are growing like gangbusters and if anyone is looking for a habanero pepper, we've got a half dozen already. Also, we moved our english mint to the front garden, which goes right into the ground. The mint has been looking quite sickly for a while. We took it out of the pot this weekend and realized that it might have just outgrown the pot because the bulb is huge. Hopefully it will spread out under the ground next to the lemon tree and live a healthier life.

In other news I wanted to let everyone know how easy Naturemill has been to deal with, regarding our broken composter. They are sending us a replacement, giving us a pre-paid UPS sticker to mail back the old one and letting us pay the difference to upgrade to the Pro edition. Although we keep our composter up on the counter, the foot pedal will still be useful for those who don't want to get too close to the mixture. The Pro also comes in a variety of colors, so we ordered the new one in Slate, which is a dark grey. I'll let you know how different the Pro is from the Plus once we've used it for a few weeks. Until then we will continue to use a metal pot for all of our scraps.

Tonite I am going to make some homemade bison lasagna. Lasagna feels like one of those very American home cooked meals. It is definitely not something my mother would have made for me as a child. It doesn't look pretty and its not that hard to make, but it is so delicious. I found this recipe and I will just add the bison to it. My favorit part of this recipe website is that you can control the servings and it will automatically adjust the quanity of ingredients. I think it is a nice tool when you are cooking for a specific number of people.

04 August 2008

Fast Food

The other night I was listening to The Tim Conway Jr. radio show on 97.1 Free FM. Arsenio Hall was his guest. They were discussing the recent ruling that bans further development of fast food chains in South Central LA. Tim was preaching that any restaurant should have the right to build where they choose, especially if the demand is there. He also thinks it is unfair to gentrify an area that is currently low-income and put a Whole Foods there, for example. He believes that it is forcing people to pay more money for food. He doesn’t think they “want” any other food, except that which is already available and believes that this whole issue is about race.

I think it is astounding. People have a demand for is something that is cheap and easy. They don’t want to drive 10 miles to get to a Whole Foods if they aren’t committed to it, but they just might if there is one around the corner. Also, to say that people demand fast food is ridiculous. Our appetites and food preferences are mostly nurtured from a young age and you need to condition yourself differently if you want to change that. It’s not necessarily about education or how you were brought up, but more about what you get used to. I don’t mean to get up on a soap box right now, but I think it is unfair to say that low-income residents choose fast food because they like it so much more than well-prepared home cooked meals. They choose fast food because they can walk across the street and in less than 5 minutes get fried chicken in a bucket for $5. Arsenio Hall actually disagreed with Tim Conway, but did not voice his opposition that loud. I am glad there is a ban on further development because it gives a chance for the people in that area to explore other options. Of course the language of the ban is also up for discussion because apparently 7-eleven isn’t considered fast food, but Subway is. I’ve blogged about fast food in the past and it's hard for both me and Donny to give up In-N-Out, but people just need options. We're getting excited about the new Whole Foods coming to Rose & Lincoln and I'm guessing every type of person in Venice will shop there, not just the rich white folk.

Take a listen for yourself.

01 August 2008

Maggots



Warning!

If you gag easily, then I urge you NOT to read the rest of this posting.





Maggots have taken over our compost. I knew this already, but seeing it by myself today m
ade it a little more real. I have to be honest. I have a problem with small creepy crawlies. My definition of a creepy crawly is usually a mouse, a rat or even something as large as a possum. Something that I feel has no problem biting me or crawling up my arm. Those things all scare me. I’m actually stressing out right now. My boss’s daughter has 2 pet rats and I am absolutely freaked out by them. However, I usually have no problem with insects, like spiders, cockroaches, flies, etc... I don’t like them in my house, of course, but I can easy squash them with my hand, my foot or a fly swatter. And now maggots are on my list of things to get used to. I’m not talking about a few maggots. I’m pretty sure there were millions of maggots in that bin. The entire contents of the bin were practically moving in unison. I’ve read many articles that say maggots are good for your compost and that they will reduce the size of your compost at a rapid speed. All of that aside, maggots are just pretty nasty. I couldn’t even make breakfast after I got a glimpse of them. My brain immediately went to that visual of all the maggots moving around. For a moment I thought they were going to climb out of the bin and grab me. I want to get used to the maggots. I really do. At this juncture, though, I will keep my distance and let Donny be the front line. Sorry buddy.

28 July 2008

Composter Down!

I biked to the twice monthly Santa Monica Flea Market at the Santa Monica Airport. The selection of goods was so much better than the Fairfax High Flea Market last month. I walked away with two tablecloths and a kitchen towel. I could’ve bought a lot more, but I am trying to cut back.

Donny and I planned on rinsing out the composter today. Fun Sunday, right?? Stringy food and large pieces have made the inside a bit messy. The motor sounds like it is overheating and stuff is getting stuck inside. I pull the tray out to empty it before we could get the cleaning underway and a weird red plastic stripe had become visible. There is no way the composter can be fixed. I called Naturemill, but their phone number doesn’t transfer you to a live person. I think it is because they are such a small company. I emailed them and posted a comment to their website. Hopefully whatever is broken is covered under the 1 year warranty and they will send us a replacement. We have gotten used to it for months now. It completely changed our kitchen habits and without it all we really have is a big steel pot to throw our scraps in. I hope they get back to us soon.

After a 24 mile evening bike ride down to Hermosa Beach and back up to Venice we walked to a sushi restaurant nearby home for dinner. On the walk Donny and I passed by a 3 day new restaurant on Abbot Kinney called Gjelina (pronounced "jelina"). The interesting thing about this place is that their slogan is "EAT LOCAL". We nabbed a menu and right off the bat noticed German beer on tap, French wine and proscuitto from Iowa. However they also noted having market lettuce, homemade condiments and San Fransisco steak. Our waitress at the sushi joint, Wabi Sabi, told us that her manager, Robert Schwan, had left them to manage Gjelina. The waitress also thought the local aspect went only as far as delights from the farmer's market. It seems like kind of a cop out in my mind, considering all that is available in this region. And for a restaurant with such a strong slogan it doesn't add up but hey, I'll talk to the restaurant directly and get the scoop. To be continued.

27 July 2008

Rooftop Gardening

Yesterday was a successful day in continuing our rooftop garden. Donny already planted a caribbean red pepper, 3 regular red peppers, 2 kinds of basil, 2 tomato plants, and a mint plant. Together we planted 4 cloves of garlic and an asparagus plant. And for a few weeks now we’ve been breeding horsetail. It’s on the expensive side, so Donny thought it would be a good idea to split up one container into two and let them grow. Horsetail is really just a weed and it’s been multiplying pretty rapidly. (see picture)

Our neighbor's cat has spent a bit too much time near our plants, and by that I mean he thinks our plants and our roof is his bathroom. In defiance of him we spent the day making custom fencing around each pot with a big roll of chicken wire-type we bought at Home Depot. All of the pots look so uniform and hopefully will keep unwanted animals out.

29 June 2008

Family Summer Visit Pt. 2

The weekend ended up being all about recycling. On Saturday we took a family field trip and walked to see my hairstylist Jen at Ohm Salon. Donny, Kim and my Mom all got haircuts, except my Mom’s cut was the most renegade. She chopped off 10 inches of her hair and donated it to Pantene beautiful lengths. I did the same thing in ’06 and donated to Locks of Love. I’ve had a bet going with my Mom since then that she wouldn’t be able to grow it out. She lasted pretty long, over a year and a half, but it was time to get rid of it and go back to the short ‘do.

Earlier today we went over to the Flea Market at Fairfax Highschool. I ended up buying a nice mid-century vintage bench. I also got a few handkerchiefs, which I’ve decided are my new favorite thing. In my family we are plagued with allergies and asthma, so I go through a lot of tissues. Somehow handkerchiefs don’t feel too girly or old world, especially if you get the ones that are just all white silk, no lace. I just talked some of my colleagues off the ledge about using handkerchiefs. Both of their initial response was “Ew!” But after some discussion we all admitted to having carried used tissues in our bags or reused old tissues, which basically means handkerchiefs are not that gross. After having used handkerchiefs solely for a few days, I think I prefer them over tissues anyway. They are quite soft and it was an easy swap that reduces my tissue use immensely. I am going to call my grandmother and see if she will send me the handkerchiefs my grandfather used. It will be a nice memory to use his old ones and it’s just another way of recycling.

Oh – and handkerchiefs shouldn’t really go in the dryer. If you buy vintage fabrics they can be delicate and best dried flat or outside on a clothes line. We have had some trouble finding the best place for our clothes line. We first tried putting up a make-shift line on our roof with wood planks stuck in concrete weighted buckets. We ended up using the small outdoor space between the side of our building and the neighbor’s fence. It has worked out quite well, though Donny was apprehensive off the bat. We have come up with a good system where we put wet clothes on the line and after a few hours in the sun we throw the clothes in the dryer for 10 minutes. It doesn’t use as much energy as if we put them in for the whole hour, plus they soften up for that last shot of direct heat.

27 June 2008

Family Summer Visit Pt. 1

Having family visit your home is always an excess of something. Excess of emotions, excess stress on your body and more scheduling than normal. I feel like I usually eat more food, spend more money, and drink more alcohol when I’m around my family.

So my Mother and her Partner are in town from Philadelphia to visit Donny and me. They are here to see our new place and enjoy Los Angeles. We have several local activities planned for the week, including having them join in our local eating. Last night we made locally grown hormone-free bison short ribs, local organic asparagus and local organic carrots. My mom and I also drank some tasty organic Samuel Smith’s apple cider. This morning we feasted on local orange juice, local organic cage free eggs topped with local organic peppers and local cheese. I had some local grapefruit and we all nibbled on local organic blueberries. Local enough for you? (As always, something has to come from Ralph’s and that is where Donny picked up the Stubbs bbq sauce. And the coffee came from Peet’s. I can’t complain since he picked up the rest of the groceries on a bike ride from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.)

This weekend my mom, two other women friends and I are headed to the Melrose Trading Post. It not only sells used & vintage items, but also helps contribute to Fairfax High School. Every other California school dealing with the budget cuts do bake sales or car washes, but this flea market is a great way to give back to the school, while also recycling.

26 June 2008

Blue is the new Green

So I finally did it. I chose to forego my car and ride the Big Blue Bus to/from work almost every day for the last 2 weeks. I take the #2 bus, which is two blocks from house. I ride about 10 minutes to Broadway and 4th Street, which is downtown Santa Monica by the 3rd Street promenade. I walk across the street and usually wait a few minutes. I then transfer to the #5 bus, which is another 15 minutes to my office. It is quite easy to get the hang of, once you know where the bus stops are.

MONEY: In the short term I am spending more money, but as gas increases that margin gets smaller. In the long term I am probably saving money since I am driving my car less – about 180 miles less per month, which should translate into less repairs.
I have also read that our local transportation could possibly be hit with severe budget cuts. This could adversely affect fares, routes and availability of buses. The BBB is looking out for the well being of our community and I believe that since the senior fare rate has stayed the same since the 1960’s. The City of Santa Monica is urging us to voice our opinion to help keep state funds directed to our local transportation.*
BUS: $2.50 per roundtrip** CAR: $1.70 per roundtrip (.17 p/mile*** x 10 miles) Difference: extra .80 per day

TIME: Losing precious minutes in the morning before I leave home is a hard sell to my brain & body. I give up time in the shower, time with Donny, sleep and the chance to make a good breakfast. Once I get on the bus I'm fine and I don't even mind changing buses anymore.
BUS: 40 minutes one-way CAR: 20 minutes one-way Difference: extra 40 minutes per day

PERSONAL: Instead of walking just a few feet from my house to the car and then from my car to the office door, I walk about 10 blocks a day getting to/fro the bus stop. It’s not a huge amount of exercise, but it’s more than I was getting before. I also find that riding the bus is less stressful. Los Angeles drivers are crazy, which makes most drivers, me included, quite anxious. Aside from having to watch for my stop, I can basically just kick back and read a book or surf the internet on my sidekick, something I shouldn’t or can’t do in my car. July 1st California drivers will not be able to use a handheld wireless telephone. By riding on the bus I can freely check my email and chat on my phone without having to worry about getting pulled over.

ENVIRONMENT: Here are some great things to know directly from the BBB: Currently, half of the Big Blue Bus fleet operates on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) which put 80% less pollution into the air. The remainder of the fleet operates on a clean bio-diesel fuel and has p-traps that capture emissions before they reach the air. The Big Blue Bus recycles everything including bus batteries, tires, plastic and paper and keeps our water clean by recycling the bus wash water and using biodegradable soaps to clean. Of course, the greatest way we contribute to the environment is through removing cars from the road by providing trips to our customers. I also recently read that by taking the bus to work everyday you could reduce 3% of your total CO2 emissions.

SOCIAL: My colleagues have had some interesting responses. “I wouldn’t ride the bus. I have a car.” or “You live that close?” or “Where are you walking from?” A possible vendor may have been placating me, but she thought riding the bus was “remarkable” and “inspiring”. The social aspect of riding the bus has been the most interesting. I enjoy being around people that are different ages, genders, races and live different lifestyles. I have always thought that the beauty of NYC is that everyone takes the MTA, no matter if you are wealthy or poor or are going to school or to a nice dinner. The Big Blue Bus has a very mixed group of riders too. Rush hour seems to be more eclectic, which is not surprising. I like listening to what people are going through or dealing with. Today the driver and a another passenger were talking about the housing market and how they knew people who lost their houses. Last week some kids were chatting about graduation and their final week of school. I’ve also seen some of my neighbors and recognized regulars who ride the same line as me everyday. It makes me feel like part of an actual community, rather than just living in a little bubble with just Donny and our close friends. It also feels good to contribute to a good company. The Big Blue Bus has been in service for 80 years and is a charitable organization. They participate in food drives, community service and were part of helping displaced people from the Katrina hurricane.

I have no doubt I will continue to ride the bus to work as long as possible. My job often keeps me at the office for long hours, but I feel pretty safe riding the bus late at night. I look forward to more exciting adventures on the Big Blue Bus.

*Please consider contacting: Sheila Kuehl at senator.kuehl@sen.ca.gov or 310-441-9084, or District Assemblywoman Julia Brownley at Assemblymember.Brownley@assembly.ca.gov or 310-395-3414

**Equal to the cost of a day pass, which is unlimited rides for 1 day.

***Figures based on premium $4.76 p/gallon and 28 MPG (city) for a Mini Cooper (manual). Premium gas required for BMW engine.

12 June 2008

Eat.Shop

In my unprecedented amount of free time, I have been reading books & magazines about 250% more. Fancy that. (See new GoodReads widget sidebar.) In this quest for information, I have been re-introduced to my favorite travel guide series – there is a new edition out for Los Angeles. I first found the eat.shop guides last year when I was preparing for a trip to Europe. I had already found my hotels and I knew the major museums to peruse, but I really wanted a guide to just tell me the raddest, hippest, cutest shops and restaurants in Paris. Because there is seriously nothing I love to do more (aside from helping the environment, of course!) than to Eat and Shop. Each listing is paired with wonderful color photographs of literally just food and stuff. The great part about these photos is that they are mostly close-ups and are so crisp and colorful that they just pop out of the page and make you want to buy or eat it immediately.

Anyway – back to the new Los Angeles guide. I was in my new favorite boutique in Venice called Firefly, which is basically one of those all-purpose shops for women who love adorable things. Usually I don’t love adorable things, but they have great recycled stationary, plenty of goodies made with recycled materials, and just all around cute stuff for your home and body. Firefly is featured in this second edition of eat.shop, so they are naturally selling the guide. Just by flipping through it I found many shops featured sell recycled or vintage clothes – many of which I have never heard of, which is exciting. In a city like LA where there are so many big chain options, you really want to know about the hard to find, totally unique shops.

In the preface the writer talks about the different listings being homegrown, distinctive, posh or street-style. I kind of love that because so many of us are all of those things on different days. It is also nice how many different areas this guide manages to cover. The writer refers to LA as being sprawling and that is exactly true. How many guides feature 12 shops in the Venice area alone?!?

As you know, this website is all about locally-grown products, but supporting local vendors is just as important too. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take into consideration where they get their ingredients or products from, but most locally owned restaurants take pride in showcasing what our local farms have to offer. I often find that a locally owned shop is more welcoming and they tend to remember you after repeat visits, which just makes me feel good. The eat.shop guide is definitely for a traveler seeking a special visit to Los Angeles or an Angeleno who wants to find the best shops around. If for some reason the adorable 4x4 square book is too daunting or you just want to save paper, you can buy PDF’s of the guide on their website for almost 35% off.

Stay tuned as I visit & review some of the shops highlighted in
eat.shop los angeles: second edition.

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