Friday, April 30, 2010

Another Outdoor Chair Oiled

No one is more surprised than me that another outdoor chair has been oiled. Somehow, I've been able to work on outdoor furniture maintenance while the boys play outside. And not to sound cocky, but I think I might have finished two more but I ran out of oil.

The count:
Three down.
Three more to go.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shiitake Bloom - Lesson Learned

About a week ago, we noticed that our shiitake bag which Phoenix picked up at the Mycological Society event at the L.A. Arboretum, was in bloom.

They were pretty cramped in the bag so I carefully pulled it down to have a better look.

I harvested the biggest one then and put it in the fridge. Next I cut little holes for the rest of the mushrooms as I worked the bag back up and over the block.

I figured that it would allow the mushrooms to expand while keeping the block moist. Everything looked good for two days but on the third day in the morning I noticed that they were all drying out - halfway on their way to being dried Shiitake mushrooms. I checked the harvested one in the fridge and it still looked fresh picked after 2 days.

I am such a fan now of the fresh shiitakes that I am on a mission to generate a lasting source. I think next time I might try putting them in the fridge at night. I've also heard of small tents that keep the moisture in.

I harvested all the half dried mushrooms and we'll probably use them soon rather than dehydrate and save them but they are still in the fridge.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Outdoor Furniture Maintenance

A great deal of our living at Camp Ramshackle happens outside. Our actual house is quite small, so we have created a lot of outdoor spaces including an outdoor dining room. Outdoor living is great for the spirit, but the elements can be tough on the furniture.

Each time I sit down and lay my arm on the desiccated arm rest, I add a task to my list of Good Intentions to oil the outdoor furniture before it crumbles into dust.

Photo taken by my 2 1/2 year old son.

Somehow my Good Intentions reached Action Potential and two chairs have been sanded and treated with Watco Teak Oil. I'm hoping that the thrill of accomplishment will provide the fuel to finish the other four.

I remain the optimist.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Ultimate Play Pant

While visiting the Natural History Museum, a woman complimented my son on his bandanna pants. After finding out that I made them, she ordered five pair. These pants are so much fun to make. Every time they come off my sewing machine, I smile. They remind me of Nudie suits and Gram Parsons.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Joovy Caboose Stroller Fix

Many months ago while the boys and I were returning from a grocery sortie at Figueroa Produce, our stroller hit about an inch bump on the uneven sidewalk in Garvanza Park. It wasn't a hard bump, but it was enough to completely snap off the front wheel on our stroller.

The company sent me a replacement part gratis...granted after a bit of discussion about faulty merchandise and company responsibility.

When the part arrived, I was a bit daunted by the fix. So the broken stroller sat. My kids were getting a bit too heavy for me to push both of them at the same time. And now that they have scooters, who really needs strollers?

My friend who just had her second baby four days ago, that's who. So I set to the task of repairing the stroller.

First, I had to drill out the existing brads. The thought of boring out the brads paralyzed me in the past. But the time to set aside fear had arrived. It was much easier than I expected. I was able to drill through the top of the fastener then use a screwdriver to pop off the top. The piece came out easily. I'm terribly thankful.

Replacing the new part was easy after finding the right size hexagonal wrench and traditional wrench to tighten it.

Then I removed the tire from the broken piece by turning it upside down and releasing a switch and put the tire on the repaired stroller assembly.

Ready to roll.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Edible Schoolyard in Los Angeles

In the May issue of Los Angeles Magazine (currently at newsstands but not online yet), Hilary MacGregor shares the story of school lunches. Last September, Larchmont Charter School (LCS) implemented Alice Waters' revolutionary The Edible Schoolyard where the school garden supplies the food to feed the students. Students sit down to a meal served by the parents and eat with real utensils (although the photo from the story looks like LCS is using compostable plates and flatware).

Waters pioneered the idea eating fresh locally grown foods that are in season through her acclaimed restaurant Chez Panisse. The Edible Schoolyard applies that same principle of fresh local seasonal foods to school lunches.

Sounds great, right?

MacGregor talks about some of the complications encountered at LCS on the road to healthy lunches, including parental blow back (in a nutshell: it's expensive ($5/ on the subsidized lunch program pay nothing, however) and my kid's not eating it). The principal did not acquiesce to the parent requests to include pasta with parmesean cheese as an option with each lunch.

I look forward to hearing how The Edible Schoolyard evolves at Larchmont Charter School and I hope LCS will become a resource for other Los Angeles area schools who want to revolutionize their lunch programs.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookie

I am in love with the Flying Apron's Gluten-free & Vegan Baking Bookby Jennifer Katzinger. I've been using the cook book primarily for the bread, savory dishes and cup cakes. Last night, I realized I haven't even tried any of the cookie recipes.

While our spent dinner plates sat on the table, my youngest son and I whipped up thumbprint cookies. I substituted raspberry jam for apricot puree. The tiny bit of citrus zest adds just enough bite to make you savor each nibble. Katzinger's recipes are truly unfussy. Simple ingredients. Delicious results.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fava Beans Are Back!

Last year, we had a bountiful harvest of fava beans that supplied many delicious meals. The fava beans I planted in the preschool garden were a complete bust however. The beans above went into a tasty cilantro rice dish.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Joshua Tree: Dos and Don'ts

DON'T roll into Jumbo Rocks in mid-April at 5:00PM hoping to find a camping spot (no reservations at Jumbo Rocks).

DO arrive at 10/11AM as campers breaking camp must vacate sites by noon.

DO be resourceful and camp on Bureau of Land Management land for an evening. Then follow previous "DO" the following day.

DO take your compatriot's hand and sally forth on an expedition to find a lost car.

DO assess the damage. Report: "It went through water" (dramatic hand gesture reaching from the ground and rising to the sky). Assessment: "We can't fix it."

DO enjoy the multiple patches of desert lily (Hesperocallis undulata) because they are not as prolific within the boundary of the national park.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Joshua Tree

We returned late Sunday after spending four nights in the desert. Eric and I will share more about the trip in the following days. In the meantime, a few highlights. A ant hill living sculpture designed by my oldest son.

And two new Junior Rangers taking the oath.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Eric caught another fence post lizard. I love that eye, the bright blue throat and those flaky scales.

Captured while Eric conducts business...muting the phone only briefly to ask, "Do you want to hold it?"

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Proudly read cover to cover without any help from a grown up.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Horse Adventure

Thanks to the generosity of our friend Lynette, our family went western for an afternoon. We met up at a stable in Burbank. Eric and the boys took a ride on Lola, Lynette's Tennessee Walker.

My youngest son was thrilled with the sensation of riding on a horse.

Introductions were made around the stable. Balls and toys were thrown for an eager dog. A good time was had by all. Thanks, Lynette!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Infamous Round House

You can read more about this round house on Tree Hugger here. They built it in a national park in Wales which is really bad - what if everyone did that? But the good news is that it is so low impact no one noticed for 10 years. It takes homesteading to the very extreme.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Skunked Dog

Is a weekend really complete without an encounter with a skunk? Trudy thinks not. The remedy was applied. Not without shame.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Nest

From the outside.

On the inside.

In the meantime, a small house finch sits and waits while four eggs warm.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Transit People

Often when I head out with the kids to explore the city, we'll run into a group wearing these fluorescent green vests. The vests show that the group is on a trip with Transit People.

Transit People is a non-profit organization created in 1999 with the mission to take kids to various destinations in Los Angeles using only public transit. I've seen groups on the Gold Line, at the Natural History Museum and the La Brea tar pits to name a few. Transit People pays for all transit and admission costs.

Transit People offer a great resource for field trip deprived students as school funds continue to shrink in Calfornia and excursions into the city are considered a luxury rather than a necessary learning experience. Learn more at