how i made my errands walkable

there’s a post i’ve been itching to write for a long time, but it wasn’t quite finished yet, so i left it on the back burner. recently, a talk by alissa walker, which included the suggestion to make 1- and 2-mile radius maps, completed the puzzle for me and i decided to write the whole thing. funnily enough, my car needs a repair and my mechanic is booked for a month, so i get to put all this information into practice immediately!

awhile back, i decided to integrate walking a lot more into my day, and figured if i was exercising while doing errands, taking an hour to walk an errand loop would no longer be seen as taking too long—it’s merely displacing an hour workout. in my determination to do as many errands as i could on foot and within my 1-mile neighborhood, i mapped out as many businesses as i could and replaced further / driven errands with places i could walk to, or pass on my way home from the bus.

echo park landmarks

1. cookbook: small, organic market with fresh produce and specialty foods.
2. blue collar working dog: it may be primarily dog supplies, but they have high-quality cat food in single cans, for times when i’m between the larger packs i buy elsewhere.
3. house of spirits: the local liquor store with the biggest variety.
4. beauty box / sunset beer co: beauty box is an excellent local hairdresser i’ve been using for years. next door is sunset beer co., a specialty beer store that doubles as a comfy bar.
5. friday farmer’s market: we have our very own weekly farmer’s market right here in echo park on friday afternoons, 3-7pm.
6. echo park & lake: a great place to take a walk or run around the .88-mi path around the lake. we’ll have to measure the new path after the rehabilitation is complete.
7. the echo: we have one of the coolest night club & venues [there are 2 on-site] right here in echo park. being able to avoid parking and have a few drinks without thinking about driving is invaluable!
8. edendale library: i’ve been trying to do all my reading on borrowed books. combine the library’s online book request system with a walkable library and you have reading material at your fingertips within a couple days.
9. mohawk bend: not just the local watering hole with the most taps, but also a client! i do a lot of meetings here, so the walkability is key. it should be mentioned, though, that there are tons of places to eat all over echo park, and mohawk bend is maybe the furthest from my house, so there are plenty of choices anywhere in-between.
10. vons: i don’t do much market shopping, but there are times when i do need something in a pinch, and vons is the only market that carries our preferred cat litter, so i go there to get that, and withdraw cash on my atm transaction to avoid any bank visits & foreign atm fees.
11. rite-aid: i currently don’t use rite-aid, but after walgreens [on sunset & echo park] stopped working with my insurance, i figured i’d see if i can fill prescriptions here. currently i’m at CVS and the walkability is much lower.
12. edendale post office: i do a fair amount of mailing, and this post office allows me to get some secret stairs in on the way over.
13. yogala: a great yoga studio a 10 minute walk from my house, with 2 alternatives: the longer / flatter route, or hiking up a hill and taking the avalon stairs.
14. elysian park / dodger stadium: when walking purely for exercise and sight-seeing, the beginning of the portola trail is just steps from my front door. dodger stadium is just through elysian park via academy road.

BUS, glendale blvd: there are a few convenient 92 and 603 bus stops at points on glendale blvd. that i use. taking it north, i can get to atwater village, where i also shop, take sewing class, exercise at heartbeat house, or visit my mom [this bus also goes to downtown glendale & burbank]. my new use of this bus will be to avoid biking over glendale blvd so i can more easily get to the river bike path. to the south, this bus goes downtown.

BUS, montana st.: the 200 bus takes alvarado and hoover streets to meet up with the expo line going to culver city. on its way, it crosses wilshire, which is a great way to catch the 20/720 west to LACMA or other points in mid-city.

BUS, sunset blvd: at sunset & echo park, i can pick up the 2/302 or 4/704, and take them anywhere downtown, to meet up with the trains at union station, or travel west to hollywood, anywhere on the west side, or the beach!

last year, i made a rough draft of this map to see how much was covered within echo park. i think it’s pretty impressive! there are very few things i can’t do on an afternoon break / errand walk. i should mention, i have alternative solutions to the bank [mailing deposits / cash at atm transactions] and some i’ve gotten lazy about and reverted to driving. jason has chosen to hold a premiere amazon account, so sometimes we order inconvenient items on free shipping as well.

what alissa put into perspective was mapping 1-mile and 2-mile radius terrain around my home and trying always to walk the 1-mile routes. i didn’t realize i had already done this [or at least figured it out, if i didn’t always stick to it]. the challenge then becomes, will you walk to the 2-mile destinations? here are what mine look like:

1-mile radius

looking at this map, i’m right on track with my errand plan—even the dreaded CVS / pet store walk, which is only a pain because that stretch of glendale blvd is busy and has scary tire tracks where people have clearly driven up on the curb as they speed toward the 2 freeway entrance. i’ve decided that’s too clear a sign of danger, but maybe i can take the 92 bus instead.

2-mile radius with 1-mile overlay for comparison

this map makes me cringe when i think about walking this far anywhere that’s not sunset blvd or through elysian park via stadium way into chinatown. those walks are direct and i’ve done them with predictable turnaround times. however, anywhere directly east or north outside of glendale blvd. is not really a clear path. hills and dead-ends north of sunset rule out those routes, and the length of the walk if i go down to sunset and back up north makes it a trip i’d more likely bike. similarly, to get over the river in the quadrant directly north to east, the only through-way is stadium way, which is not safe to walk due to low visibility by speeding commuters. when i want to get there by bike, i have the choice of glendale blvd., or the roundabout trip through the park to chinatown, north on broadway to where it meets figueroa in cypress park. that works on a bike, but i’d never walk it if given the choice.

interestingly, in both cases, i didn’t realize just how much is covered in 1 and 2 miles of my house. it’s more than i thought, and a great reminder that there’s almost nothing you can’t do with the combination of walking, biking and using transit. now i have to figure out how to cart things that don’t fit in a backpack or pannier bags. since i’ll have no other choice for the next month, i’m going to strategize and put it all into action. i expect to learn a great deal, so i’ll share the unexpected surprises

happy monday

not that it was ever much of a winter this year, but we did get a great snow day right after a light rain at the end of february. i’m standing on top of the snowy mountain you usually see in the distance above pasadena. beyond the hazy fog is san bernardino and los angeles.

the first acacia blooms have appeared in elysian park. i am so in love with these bright, yellow pom-pons. there are a couple of early blooming varieties, but in a few weeks they will be all over the park.

i just noticed these beauties down the street. i’ve been doing a lot more walking errands lately, which is really rewarding when the smell of sunshine and spring blossoms are in the air.

growing purslane

potted purslane

you might remember, last year i noticed purslane growing in the gutter on my street. while i had no intention of collecting purslane from the gutter, i did collect the seeds. purslane is a prolific seed producer and i had a nice envelope-full by the end of the summer.

this year, i tried to get more realistic about what i could expect from my garden, and revisited how i might use the full-sun side of the house with containers. we have several hanging pots outside the front door that have turned into our personal purslane garden.

so, why grow purslane? it’s native to los angeles and thrives in summer. it’s often considered a weed, but it’s a beneficial companion plant for many gardens, since it keeps water in the soil. purslane is also considered a superfood, currently containing the highest concentration of omega-3s found in a plant. in addition to being very low in cholesterol, it is also a good source of thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6 and folate, and a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese.

last year, i wrote about purslane for LAist and collected what few recipes i could find online to suggest how to enjoy it. if you have any preps you like, post them in the comments!

angeles crest forest summer 2012

downtown from the 2 highway

we took a drive though angeles crest forest for the first time in a couple years. the 2 highway was closed for rehabilitation for quite sometime, and though i love the local forest, reports of people driving too fast, crashing and dying right after the highway reopened was discouraging. we came up for an overnight stay in 2010, taking the upper tujunga route, and taking note of the fire damage before there was much chance for regrowth. it’s been 2 years since we spent any time up here, and with jason just returning from a long trip away, i decided it was time to visit camp switzer to see what shape it was in, and head up to chilao for lunch at newcomb’s ranch.

switzer trail by the creek

despite some cleared areas, the forest seems to have a lot of active regrowth, and shows far less damage than i thought. this particular area on the front of the mountain was mapped to show huge red swaths of station fire moving through it back in 2009, i imagined that it burned to the ground. instead, while many of the trees have been thinned out, the old growth oaks are still there, the trail is still shady, and there are new flowers—some of which i’ve never seen before.

wild lilies on the switzer trail

after a bit of searching, i am pretty sure these are leopard lilies. i have never seen these in angeles crest, and i have to wonder if some of the cleared growth and additional sun is responsible? in some places, their orange-dotted stalks cover the hillsides.

monkey flowers on the switzer trail

i also really loved these little guys, which are called monkey flowers, native to the sierras and doing well in the exact conditions of the switzer trail. i can’t remember if i’ve seen these before, but they sure are pretty.

golden yarrow on the switzer trail

golden yarrow isn’t an uncommon sight in the local mountains, but i took a picture of it anyway because they’re so cute. we also saw lots of wild raspberries, currently either in bloom or forming green berries following pollination. it will be interesting to check in later in the summer when they’re ripe!

another flower i passed over for whatever reason, turns out to have been a lucky decision: the poodle dog bush. they seem to have cropped up everywhere due to the soil disruption of the fire, and contain an irritant similar to poison oak. when we stopped at charleton flats, we noticed posted signs warning hikers not to smell or touch them. i’d love to have gotten some good shots of their proliferation under fire-scorched branches, but those were often right in the middle of hair-pin turns on the 2. i chose to watch the road instead.

cleared trees on the switzer trail

in some cleared areas, this is what you’ll see: trees that have been cut to prevent them from falling. interestingly, though, they are surrounded by green trees and new undergrowth, which is a far cry from the brown, bare earth of 2 years ago. so encouraging!

in addition to the forest regrowing, the roads are in great shape. aside from the 2, the road down to camp switzer has been repaved and fitted with drains for runoff. after our hike, we headed up to newcomb’s ranch and sat at the bar, chatting with other angelenos [it seemed like everyone up there lived somewhere right near downtown]. unfortunately, there were reports of a pretty bad motorcycle crash just up the road an hour before, so the reminders to stay safe and slow down still apply.

solar eclipse 2012

here’s my contribution from the eclipse on sunday. i don’t have any fancy equipment, but we did rig up some reversed binoculars and poster board to watch the transition. i like the color shift that’s happening here.

i knew we were supposed to use pinhole technology to refract the eclipse into viewable form but what i hadn’t expected was that any abstract pinholes of light would create the same shape on shady walls everywhere!

happy monday

happy monday
eclipsing crescents through the shadow of the loquat tree

we had a lovely time watching the eclipse yesterday. LAist posted a nice gallery from photographers around LA as well as this

happy monday

happy monday
happy monday

we spent a beautiful day on the water searching out whales and dolphins on our way to catalina. at one point, we were riding with such a big group that they were jumping all around us and riding the current the boat created. so amazing!

spring garden 2012

garden spring 2012
garden spring 2012

i think it’s my 4th season with my little terraced garden that i built into our back wall & fence. in past years, i’d cram as much as i could into this space, hoping for the best, but i’ve had to learn [through repeated broken delusions] that this spot gets only 3-4 hours of full sun as it passes overhead to shine between our building and back fence. this means that, no matter what i do, i’ll only get about 5 tomatoes in this space, and if i plant zucchini, it will shade everything in the same terrace. the lower containers often have dappled shade from a nearby avocado tree, and are best for greens. i think i’ve finally accepted this and chosen a realistic selection of veggies for the space i have.

flowering arugala
flowering arugala

for one thing, this probably means that any fall gardens i plant are for winter greens only. some of the lettuces come up, but many don’t until early spring, which was the case with this arugula i forgot about. time to harvest that for salad and start over. the lemon balm i planted to confuse pests was not only easy to grow, it spreads easily too! i left babies in each location, but harvested the bulk and made a large quantity of tea.

upper garden, spring 2012
upper garden, spring 2012

leaving the compost to really break down all winter worked well. i turned it over and dug out the black gold to incorporate into each garden bed and container. i also let some of the garden stay wild. tomatoes from last year are flowering early this year and even have a few fruits, so i’m leaving them to see how they do. there’s also some spreading greek oregano that’s so soft and succulent, i left it as another pest deterrent even though it’s more than i’ll ever need. last thing i did is add potted mint to move around as needed. since pests are looking for their preferred plant’s attributes, scented herbs and bulbs [like onions & garlic] tend to confuse them, protecting the plants organically. this year i might try some bird feeders as well, see if i can get birds to eat some of the unwanted bugs.

what i planted this spring:

apache peppers – i hadn’t heard of these before, but since they came in a 6-pack and do well in containers, i bought them. they can get up to 80,000 scoville units in heat.

basil – there’s never enough basil, which is why i started with 2 plants, italian basil and lemon basil, and figured on planting seeds for a subsequent crop later in the summer.

bush beans – i’ve never really tried these and don’t exactly have high hopes based on my pea-failures, but i have the seeds and the trellises…

chamomile – i have never been successful with chamomile from seed, so i bought a plant. it likes full or partial sun, so it’s going in the partial container.

chives – if you think you can’t keep any plant alive, please try chives. i put them in a sunny container, ignore them, and they reseed themselves every year. i think my current batch has finally exhausted itself, so i decided to start over.

lacinato kale – if you like kale, you can’t really go wrong with a 6-pack of tuscan kale. they grow all year in southern california, and if you pick it fresh, it’s so tender you can enjoy it raw in a way you can’t with even farm-fresh kale that’s traveled.

leaf lettuce – i’m going to see how many crops of leaf lettuce varieties i can go through in the partial-sun containers.

lemon thyme – just as it sounds, lemon thyme has a lemony flavor and scent. i can’t think of a time that i’d object to this, so i skipped regular thyme and went straight for lemon [i’ll plant thyme seeds instead].

mexican zucchini – the description of these is that the skins are a variegated lighter green, which i’ve seen at the farmer’s market. i think they’ll be pretty, so i got 2 for good pollination.

micro-greens – though you don’t have to buy a pack of seeds called “micro greens” to do this, i did, and i think they’ll work out perfectly in my partial sun containers.

pea greens – my sunlight doesn’t do so well with full peas, but i’ve since learned that they’re fine to grow in containers just for the shoots & tendrils, so i’m aiming for those this year.

purslane – i harvested seeds all last summer & fall from the wild purslane that sprung up around my property, so this year i’m planting up the hanging full-sun containers on the front porch to take advantage of this amazing superfood.

scallions – what i wrote about chives goes the same for scallions. it’s so nice to grab some green onions from the front porch.

always a sucker for the salton sea

America’s Dead Sea from Jim Lo Scalzo on Vimeo.

i saw this post last month on and immediately added it to my collection of salton sea ephemera. such a fascinating artifact of rapid ascent and decline, i don’t think i’ll ever get tired of wondering about it. this video uses the narration of a film from its heyday juxtaposed with current images, capturing a great deal of the stark transformation that’s happened there in a mere 50 years.