Saturday, June 29, 2013

Burbank Peak

Having a small apartment means that while I love to be at home, it is probably unwise to spend the majority of my time-off inside. We have a big balcony with a sweeping view, but it's just nice to enjoy other scenic vistas from time to time.

View of Lake Hollywood and back towards coast from Burbank Peak trail

A few weekends ago we hiked to the top of Burbank Peak. This is in Griffith Park although it is a more recent acquisition to the park purchased in the last few years to save it from development (thank goodness!). It is a steep hike, but fairly short in duration, so perfect for a day when you just have a few hours. Parking is on the road near Lake Hollywood and trail access is at the end of Wonder View Drive (check out a good description here:

It is a pretty quick trip up, but you should definitely stop frequently to admire the views back towards Hollywood and the coast as you hike up. Also plan to spend some time at the top to admire the views and just enjoy the cool breeze. There is shade from "the wisdom tree" which is an interesting curiosity since there are very few other pine trees nearby.

Wisdom Tree at the top of Burbank Peak

Sadly, our hiking is probably on hiatus until Fall when temperatures drop. Summer hiking in chaparral/coastal sage scrub is not the best since the vegetation is dry and there is no shade from the sun. We'll replace hiking with bike rides towards the coast where the temperatures are nice and cool.

Shrubby vegetation along trail

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Balcony Garden: June Gloom

I still have a lot to learn about growing vegetables in pots versus in the ground. In ground plants thrive with infrequent deep watering. The potted  plants seem to prefer frequent shallow watering. So far the strawberries are still a definite winner. The basil has also thrived. The rosemary oddly enough looks a little crispy. The squash has flowered so we will see how it does bearing fruit. The pepper plants are a bit leggy, but look like they are doing just fine. My poor tomato plant is resting in peace. It was still producing tomatoes, but they were tough skinned. I probably won't do tomatoes again since they are such water hogs. If I did, I would steer clear of the Husky Cherry Red (too husky for me). I am planning to replace the tomato plant with something flowery, but am still unsure what to choose.

strawberry, basil, rosemary, squash, peppers, and empty tomato pot in the far back
basil bouquet after a much needed trim

All growth has been very slow this month and I'm sure June Gloom is a factor. For those of you not from the area, June Gloom is a term to describe morning cloudiness and cool temperatures that commonly occur in late May and early June. Low clouds formed by the marine layer come on-shore along the coastal areas of Southern California overnight and typically remain in place until mid-day. Some days the overcast skies persist the entire day. Our balcony faces south-east, which means the morning cloudiness cuts out most of the 6+ hours of sunshine my plants would normally receive. It was sunny today at 9:30am, which is the earliest in a long time. June Gloom is also good to know about if you are planning a vacation to the area and want to enjoy the beach sans jacket and cloudy skies.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cat Litter

I’m never sure whether to call our apartment a studio or an efficiency. To me they are the same thing. Is there really a difference? Some sources indicate that efficiencies are smaller than studios while others use the two terms to mean the same thing.

Regardless, our apartment is small. I love it, but combining small spaces with pets offers some challenges. When we had a 3 bedroom house it was easy to keep the cat’s accoutrements separate. The litter box was in the guest bedroom (unless we had guests). Odor throughout the house was never an issue. When we moved to a one bedroom apartment, we had an incredibly spacious bathroom with a linen closet that had a separate lower door with raised lip that was perfect for containing a litter box out of sight. Odor was never really an issue there either. However, when we moved to LA and into a studio apartment, odor was occasionally an issue. 

Our litter box is in the coat closet (which needless to say doesn't have coats since we live in a mild climate). It is the blue box right next to the front door in the floor plan here:
Looking toward our front door. Litter box is in the coat closet to the left.
Litter box setup (Rubbermaid bin with hole cut out, hook for scoop, old shelf  bracketed to wall as divider)
Best part of the setup is that when you open the front door to come in, you can't see it. When you close the door and walk away you can't see it from the kitchen either, so it is largely out of sight.

For many years I have used corn based litter (typically “World’s Best” brand). It clumps great, produces little dust, and was fine for odor control in the larger environments. It does tend to track a lot, so that plus occasionally failing on odor control led to seeking out other litters. Here’s what we tried:
  • Clumping Clay Litter: So much dust! Epic fail for small spaces (always made me sneeze). Odor control was decent. Tracks everywhere.
  • Silica Crystal Litter: Minimal tracking and minimal dust except when pouring it in the pan. I was suspicious of breathing in the dust for what it might do to my lungs. Odor control was great for solids, but since it just absorbs liquids, it gets a faint odor from that after several days.
  •  Pine Litter: Best of the bunch! Good odor control. Minimal tracking. No dust. Not to mention it is cheap and they sell it at Trader Joe’s. We've switched to this litter.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Year Round School

In junior high we had one year of "year round" school. I think they were running it as a pilot to see how it went. To my knowledge, it fell flat on its face. School sports and inter-school academic leagues were likely a big reason for that at the junior high and high school levels. Unless every school in your region goes along with it, coordination becomes a nightmare. Parents and teachers alike also complained that it made planning difficult if one child was in year round school and another was not. Also, there aren't a lot of camps or other activities to sign the kids up for when they get two weeks off in the middle of a random non-summer month. Personally, I recall liking year-round school since an entire summer off got rather boring.

Fast forward to now and I feel like I have become a huge proponent of the traditional school calendar. This issue came to light recently because I ride through a couple of school zones on my way to work. Parents dropping their kids off are a rough bunch. They have little patience for cyclists or other drivers. Why they don't just let their kids walk or ride their bikes to school is beyond me (these are junior high and high schoolers). I have been eagerly awaiting the end of the school year so I don't have to navigate the maze of parents in their over-sized SUVs.

When Memorial Day came and went and the students were still there I looked up the school calendar. Turns out they are on an 11 month school year calendar (July off). I was bummed out for selfish reasons, but then I started to feel bad for the kids. Elementary age kids need unstructured play time to develop creativity and life skills. High school kids need time to decompress from the stress of endless tests and paper writing. Also, how are kids from non-wealthy families supposed to save for college if they can't work over the summer? I think summer vacation is more than just a holdout from our agrarian society days; it is an essential part of producing kids that can think for themselves and entertain themselves.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

LA in a Few Words

I found this article before I moved out here:

I can't recall if this is where I found it, or even if this is the original source (no dates and no authors make me wonder if this is a "cut and paste" operation from an original source). I couldn't find it elsewhere, though, so hopefully this is legit and original. Regardless of whether or not it is based on legit interviews, I read it with eagerness while researching what LA was like before moving here. Now that I've lived here 5 months, I'll answer the same questions.

If you were to describe Los Angeles in one word, what would it be?
If someone told you they were moving to Los Angeles, what advice would you give them?
Live close to where you will work and learn to embrace transportation modes other than the car. You will love life so much more for it!
If a tourist had one hour to spend in Los Angeles, what one thing would you tell them to see?
Walk around wherever you happen to be, but don't judge all of LA based on that area. Each area is unique, but since you can't possibly experience much of anything in an hour, at least savor where you are at.
What's the best thing about Los Angeles?
The creativity and wealth of ideas. Whatever your niche interest, you are guaranteed to find like-minded people here. 
What's the worst thing about Los Angeles?
The urine smell in certain areas. It doesn't rain very often, so the smell from both homeless humans using the sidewalk and non-homeless dogs all using the same green space gets a bit too potent. Litter is a close 2nd for me, but that is much more easily solved.
If you had the opportunity to move, would you? And if so, where would you go?
Not right now. If I ever did move, it would probably be to either another vibrant, large city or to a completely rural area.

For the most part, I find I agree with the interviewees. Many of my answers are very similar or even the same. While they were almost unanimous on the best thing being diversity, my answer jives well with that and is just a more specific area of diversity. The fact that I seldom if ever drive is probably the biggest player in traffic not being my answer to the worst thing about LA.