Splish splash: bird's nest fungi
Garden of Eatin'

Splish Splash: Bird’s Nest Fungi

“Can you eat them?” is the question I’m inevitably asked when we find dense mats of mushrooms growing up from our wood mulch after a good rain.

"Splash cup" mushrooms

And while these ones look quite showy and fleshy, you’d easily walk by them without a second glance. Each mushroom is no more than the size of a pinky nail, just a few millimeters wide and tall. In their immature state, the mushrooms are inconspicuous nubs with spiky sides, fully enclosed to protect the “eggs” inside. As they age, the caps break away to reveal a nest of eggs denotive of the mushrooms’ common name: bird’s nest fungi.

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Pumpkin seed brittle
News & Events

Preorder Bonus for The CSA Cookbook!

I can hardly believe that in just a little over a month, The CSA Cookbook will come to fruition!

Retailers are currently listing the publication date as February 16, which means those of you who have preordered the book will start to receive your copy shortly after. Which means you still have a few weeks left to place a preorder if you haven’t already!

To sweeten the deal, literally, I’m offering a bonus collection of recipes for every person who preorders The CSA Cookbook from any bookseller!

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Errant fig ripening in winter
Random Thoughts

Five Things Friday

The five little things that made my week…

1. This errant fig. Even after all its fig siblings have long been harvested since summer and all the leaves have fallen off the tree, somehow this one fig has managed to grow and continued to ripen in winter!

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The stories behind heirloom seeds
Garden of Eatin', Seeds & Seedlings

The Stories Behind Heirloom Seeds

I love to grow my own food. And what I love most about planting, harvesting, and cooking all that food is knowing every vegetable that lands on my plate has a story behind it. The lettuce that started from a speck of seed and turned into a season of salads. The squash that survived a bout of powdery mildew and grew into an armful of beautiful butternuts. The artichoke that stood alone in the first year and eventually divided into a dozen more plants.

But beyond those stories that started in my garden are the ones that go back a hundred or even a thousand years when you hold a packet of heirloom seeds in your hands.

What is an heirloom? The word denotes something of value, whether monetary or sentimental, handed down from generation to generation. If your house caught on fire, what would you pack up? Perhaps family albums, works of art, or antique jewelry. Your ancestors, on the other hand, probably would have saved their seeds. And that’s one of the most intriguing things about heirloom seeds.

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Hiking to the Hollywood Sign
Hiking & Backpacking, Outdoor Adventures

Hiking to the Hollywood Sign

In the 13 years I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I’ve hiked all over the Santa Monicas, San Gabriels, and San Bernardinos, but I’ve rarely hiked within city limits. And it’s not that we Angelenos lack the open space.

With over 4,000 acres of rugged terrain as well as landscaped parkland in the heart of the city, Griffith Park is the country’s largest urban park with preserved wilderness. It boasts miles of hiking trails, horseback riding trails, scrubby woodlands, as well as riparian vegetation and even its own mountain lion. For that kind of creature to take up residence in a park that spans only six square miles is quite unusual!

And it’s even more unusual when you realize that Griffith Park is surrounded on all sides by cities: Burbank to the north, Glendale to the east, Hollywood to the south, and Universal City to the west. That’s a whole lot of suburban sprawl just minutes away from a park that actually hasn’t changed all that much since the Native Americans were inhabiting its slopes.

Named after Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, the land (then known as Rancho Los Feliz) was purchased in 1882 and subsequently became the site of an ostrich farm, aerodrome, amphitheater, observatory, and boys’ and girls’ camps. After his success in nearby property developments, Griffith donated over 3,000 acres of his parcel to the City of Los Angeles, effectively establishing the park in 1896.

Visitors to Hollywood might not give this history a lot of thought, but little do they know that one of the world’s most iconic landmarks, the Hollywood Sign, actually sits on a slope in Griffith Park. The blocky white HOLLYWOOD letters can be seen on the southern face of Mount Lee, an emblem of the hopes and dreams many people come to the city with.

For a lot of tourists, making a pilgrimage to the sign is part of their travel itineraries. But since the sign is in a canyon, one cannot simply drive right up to it for a picture. The official viewing areas for the sign, as sanctioned by the Hollywood Sign Trust, are Griffith Observatory (three miles away) or Hollywood & Highland Center (four miles away).

If you’re flying all the way to Hollywood from, say, Australia, something tells me you won’t be satisfied with simply gazing at the sign from an outdoor mall.

In fact, the Hollywood Sign is the center of controversy in the city. Residents living below the sign in Beachwood Canyon have long complained to the city about tourists parking on their streets and disrupting their neighborhood in an effort to get as close to the sign as possible. Residents have even gone so far as illegally painting their curbs red, posting “No Trespassing” and “Tourists Go Away” warnings, and telling tourists they cannot hike to the sign.

This, of course, is false. The Hollywood Sign was built on public land and while you can’t walk up to it and touch the letters, several Griffith Park trails take you to a paved road right above the sign.

None of this deterred the residents, however, and they successfully lobbied City Councilmember Tom LaBonge to look into the matter. Working closely with Google and Garmin, LaBonge managed to convince the map makers to change the directions to the sign. While Google Maps still shows the exact location of the Hollywood Sign, any starting address that you punch in will only direct you to Griffith Observatory. The first time I tried this, I thought it was a glitch! But no matter where I wanted to start, walking or driving, I was always given directions to the observatory.

“Glitch” aside, the best view of the sign (if you’re looking for the money shot) is actually from a dog park next to the Hollywood Reservoir. Lake Hollywood Park, as it’s called, has nothing standing in the way between you and the sign. It’s a grassy public park filled with dogs and their owners, drones and their pilots. You can pretty much park on the street, walk a few steps, and take a great picture to send home.

The Hollywood Sign from Lake Hollywood Park

But if you want to get even closer, you can bypass all the Hollywood drama and experience the Hollywood Sign a better way: on a day hike, bagging three peaks along the way.

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Made it through another year... where do I even start?
Random Thoughts

Made It Through Another Year… Where Do I Even Start?

I’m thankful for the sweet smell of coffee wafting through the house when I wake up in the morning, sunlight streaming through the windows in my bedroom and softly snoring pugs beside me as I open my eyes to a beautiful day.

I’m thankful for the recent rains we’ve had, probably more this month than the past three years combined. I’m thankful for the bounties from my garden and the gifts of eggy goodness from my chickens.

I’m thankful to be alive to celebrate this night, and by alive I simply don’t mean breathing and walking. I’m thankful to be laughing, exploring, evolving, and excitedly anticipating all the brightness that the future brings.

I’m thankful for the wide open road and all the unknown adventures it inspires. I’m thankful for the big open sky and all the thrilling possibilities it holds. I’m thankful to be here now, in this place and at this time.

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2014: a year in review
Random Thoughts

2014: A Year in Review

Before writing this post, I fondly read over the previous “Years in Review” from 2011, 2012, and 2013, and I’m astounded by how much has happened in the relatively short time I’ve been blogging. If I had to choose a theme for 2014, I think I would call it the “Year of Growth.”

Not only have I grown incredibly as a person through new experiences, but my career has grown in ways I never could’ve imagined, and my blog has grown into a repository of inspiration for visitors all over the world, giving Garden Betty its highest traffic numbers ever in 2014!

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A hike to cure the holidaze
Hiking & Backpacking, Outdoor Adventures

A Hike to Cure the Holidaze

Sunshine. Fresh air. A hilly hike. All good things on Christmas Day, and the perfect elixir for the holidaze (especially after entertaining all night on Christmas Eve!).

I live on a little-known peninsula of Los Angeles that’s about as far removed from Los Angeles as one could be, both geographically and figuratively. No freeways, no traffic, and you’re more likely to share the road with wild peacocks than local celebrities.

It’s also the most geologically active region in Greater Los Angeles, thought to be an island at one time as it shares a similar — and unique —  ecosystem to that of the nearby Channel Islands. Dramatic cliffs formed by lava and vibrant tidepools filled with sea anemones define the shoreline, while miles of trails wind around the Palos Verdes Hills high above the Pacific.

It’s an ecological gem in the southernmost part of the basin, and I pinch myself every time I look out my window: snow-capped peaks just beyond the Port of Los Angeles to the east, and thousands of acres of open space abutting unspoiled ocean to the west.

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Seating 16 people in our tiny living room
Random Thoughts

Five Things Friday

The five little things that made my week…

1. Family isn’t always a mom, a brother, or a cousin, or even anybody related to you. It’s the people who stand behind you and inspire you to reach a little higher, who embrace you for who you are and embody who you want to be. For the first time in eight years that my husband and I have been together, we’re spending our holidays at home. And while we missed the presence of our respective parents and siblings, we were blessed to be surrounded by some of our extended family on Christmas Eve — 14 of them (more if you count the four-legged children) for an all-night feast at our house!

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