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



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.

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