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


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.

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