Category Archives: Environment

[Oh, Snap] A Rainy Day Stroll Through Pasadena’s Storrier-Stearns Japanese Garden

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On some rainy days, the words I’ve failed to say fall from the sky while nostalgia soaks into the damp city streets. Yet in absolute dichotomy, on others I wake up in a whimsical whirlwind, wrapped in wanderlust and yearning for an adventure.  With a fantastic evening roaming through downtown Los Angeles for their second annual Night on Broadway (more on that later!) under our belts, Sunday Funday was most definitely on the menu and I was hungry for an escapade in nature.

When the Storrier Stearns Garden announced they’d be adding more days for the public, I just couldn’t help myself a bought us some tickets to check it out and yesterday was finally the day.  I went to bed over the moon excited, because truth be told I’d been trying for years, but only being open once a month had severely limited my opportunities. A few years ago, Danny and I adventured to the Arlington Gardens across the street and wistfully wondered what was kept hidden so secret behind the chain link fence and yesterday, we finally had our chance to find out so that morning, when I woke up with blustery weather and grey skies, I vowed to not let it stop the fun.

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Created back in 1935 by the esteemed Kinzuchi Fujii, the historic Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden is a beautiful hidden gem tucked away in the heart of Pasadena.  Built on the estate of Charles and Ellamae Storrier Stearns, the gardens span two acres and includes several ponds connected by crooked bridges with coy fish peacefully swimming to and fro, a formal teahouse, and numerous places to sit back, relax and enjoy the venue.

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After a blustery beginning and some torrential downfall, the sun broke through turbulent layers of high velocity clouds and gave way to a stunning afternoon that was spent in relative solitude. Slowly and gleefully, we roamed around the unique grounds in zenlike observation.

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While talking with one of the curators of the grounds, we learned the reasoning behind crooked bridges in Japanese culture.  As legend has it, evil spirits can only go in straight lines – so if you’re ever being chased by a spirit, head to one of the fabled zig-zag bridges bridge and they’ll  be propelled into the water.

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Revered for being the last remaining minor Japanese Garden created for residential purposes in Southern California before World War II, the Storrier Stearns garden is also the last remaining garden crafted by Fujii, who was responsible for a handful of Japanese landscapes across Southern California in the early 20th century.  After Ellamae Storrier Stearns passed on in 1949, the entire estate was sold at auction to art and antiquities dealer Gamelia Hadadd Poulsen.  Over the next decade, Poulsen sold off most of the estate less the Japanese Garden and by 1975, CalTrans had bought up property surrounding the gardens in hopes of building an extension of the 710 freeway directly through the garden.  After visiting yesterday, I’m so grateful they didn’t!

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The gardens underwent a stunning restoration first in the 80’s when the garden was passed on within the Haddad family and then again under the hands of Dr.Takeo Uesugi from 2007 to 2013, transforming it into the tranquil piece of paradise that it is today. For the last several years, the garden was only available on a once a month basis – which typically had sold out far ahead of time; trust me on this; I’ve had firsthand experience with not getting tickets.  But, just this year the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden has expanded it’s availability with openings every Thursday from 10 to 4pm, as well as the last Sunday of the month like old times. Tickets are available on PayPal through their website for $7.50 a piece, and can be purchased for $10 at the door if you’re feeling lucky.

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For more on the gardens, take a peak on social media –

Website | Facebook |  LinkedIn

 

Location270 Arlington Drive
Pasadena, California 91105

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[LA Life] Kick Start 2016 Off Right With a First Day Hike!

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525, 600 minutes ago, yet I can still taste the moment that I was marinating in: blustery, salted ocean air coating my hair as we adventured down into Crissy Field and over the Golden Gate Bridge where I did my best to forgo my fear of heights.  Somewhere, in between two nights of Pretty Lights, my audiophilic tendencies were reinvigorated and my love for the world blossomed exponentially.  I’m a sucker for the bright lights, bold vibes and vibrant personalities of city life.  There’s an energy that resides in the city, a resilient energy that grows stronger as the night grows darker while glowing technicolor.

It’s not that I don’t find an equal but opposite view of the stars and nature, it’s just for almost 31 years that my dancing feet have led me directly into the heart of the city. Yet, after 31 years I’m finally searching for that something new, something natural, something free  – an oasis in the midst of a barren desert, a secret garden in a concrete jungle. Time and time again, I’ve found myself enthralled by the melody as the bass becomes me, but more and more I’ve simply pulled out of my city kitty tendencies and found myself into the great tonic of wilderness, clean air and a clear conscience.

The New Years offers up a wonderful, albeit temporal, period of solid resolution and personal resolve.  Whether it lasts the whole year or not sounds like more of a personal problem but those who have a will, always always tend to have a way.  But, I’ve found that writing down my personal wants, needs and goals for the year helps me not just keep track of them but I also hold myself increasingly more accountable of them.

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Last year, when I made my 31 Before 31 Resolutions –  I made it a point to visit a new local Botanical Garden or State Park every month and I’ll tell you right now that beyond going to the multitudes of festivals and events – it’s one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever had.  Betwixt the travel and writing, work and kitties, music festival after music festival across the West Coast – I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to visit so many wonderful places steeped in grandiose history and utter beauty.

 

With exercise as one of the most common New Years Resolutions, it might just behoove you to get up, get out, get over that hangover and get healthy – or at least just get some fresh 2016 air.  Around the nation, thousands of people will be hitting the trails, mountains and rivers as part of the National ‘First Day Hike‘ movement – and there’s plenty of fun to go around on each and every corner of the United States.  Just in California, there’s over 50 different hikes to join in over 40 different parks across the state, not to mention paddle boat rides, geology walks, seal tours and some vehicle rides off the beaten path.

Locations include:

Where will you be spending the first day of 2016?

 

For more details on First Day Hikes around California, head over to the State’s Parks Website. For a birds eye view of all the natural, National goodness  – use the hashtag #FirstDayHikes to dive into pictures and locations on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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For a trip down memory lane, try out these adventures from the past year!

December: The Los Angeles Arboretum | Big Bear | Crissy Park

January: UC Botanical Garden

February: Glenoaks Canyon

August: Multnomah Falls, Oregon

October: Big Sur, California

November: Stanford Arboretum + Arizona Cactus Garden

December: LA Zoo Nights

[Oh, Snap!] A Beautiful Day Off at The LA Arboretum

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One benefit of completing less than half of my Thirty Before Thirty Bucket List is that I already have a substantial start on my list for my 31st Birthday next year. Even though I’ve kicked myself a bit on the things that were left half undone or completely neglected, admittedly I’m equally impressed with the caliber of quests I’ve accomplished. Between becoming quite a kitchen kitten with my pickles and olive oils, crafting candles, learning to use a DSLR, and covering both National and Internationally renowned music festivals – I’ve knocked a few pegs off my list and I’m itching to add more. One that I’m excited to continue into the New Year is my Resolution on hiking a new botanical garden, historic park, museum or arboretum to visit. With a ridiculously fun birthday weekend on tap, I planned ahead and took today (the day after my actual birthday) off of work to celebrate, relax and rejoice in whatever personal what I felt. So, Danny and I descended on a lovely day-venture at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia.

The very first thing I noticed were just how many peacocks were roaming the area – and hummingbirds, butterflies, bunny rabbits and assorted wildlife. We had a wonderful time gallivanting through the African and Australian Outbacks, wistfully wandering around waterfalls and stealing every stunning view we could.

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The most staggering thing for me were those multiple moments where I’d lost all sense of location, time and place; for all I knew, I was in Northern California or Utah, Arizona or Washington.  For a second, I was transported out of the tug-of-war of Los Angeles traffic and personalities and delicately displaced into acres upon acres of lush rolling grass, rose gardens, carnivorous gardens, greenhouses, succulents and my personal favorite – the bamboo groves.

For more on the LA Arboretum, check out their website, Facebook or Twitter – or if you happen to live in the Southern California area or are plotting a visit, just store the GPS Info in your phone like, now. Fun fact: on the Third Tuesday of every month, admission is free!

[LA Life] Drought & A Push Towards Eco-Friendly Landscaping

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IMG_1770.JPGBetween the weeks of eternal Summer and an absent Winter, months of sunshine and not a whole lot of rain – it’s understandable why there’s a fairly popular misnomer around town that Los Angeles is in the desert.  With conditions ripe for avocados, lemons and olives – we’re actually considered a Mediterranean Climate with varied seasonal change (yes, we do have seasons!). One thing we don’t boast about very often is being part of an elite 2%: Los Angeles – down into North Western Baja California – is one of only five places in the world with such a climate. The other four being Central Chile, Southern Australia, South Western South Africa and the Mediterranean itself.droughtgif

Unlike those other climates, ours here has been suffering from this overbearing and unrelenting drought; and it’s not just Los Angeles that’s in trouble,California has officially entered an unprecedented fourth year of severe drought.  Over the past few months as Danny and I have traversed California and the Greater Pacific North West from Oregon to Washington and
Canada, I’ve witnessed firsthand how low our water reservoir’s are and just how volatile fire season has become.  It’s not only ecologically detrimentally, but on a personal level it’s heartbreaking to see just how far this drought has gone.  A considerable portion of the state’s economy comes from the farms that line Central California, and the drought threatens the farmer’s way of life as well as their crops.

The answer is simple: water less, conserve more.  

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At the end of September, there was even a ginormous slip and slide slated to swing through multiple blocks of downtown Los Angeles – something that admittedly I’d been looking forward to for a while.  Fortunately, or unfortunately – depending on what personal feelings you’d invested in the event – it was cancelled due equal parts passionate citizens, as well as the intensity and duration of our water situation. .

There are small things we can do on a household by household basis like watering your lawn less, flushing less, ensuring larger loads of laundry to reduce the item to water ratio, not taking baths, hell – showering together saves water, too. A man’s home is his sanctuary, which is why this last pill might be difficult to swallow – but last and certainly not least, there’s the manicured maintenance of our yards and lawns.  Between my mother and my step-mother, I might not have grown up with a green thumb but I was definitely heavily influenced by them.  At each and every turn at my mom’s in Menlo Park were bountiful bushes of lavender, roses, and marigolds – while my dad’s in Palo Alto then Los Altos always had lush grass, towering trees, well maintained bushes. But that’s a novelty, and there were enough rainy seasons to substantiate the foliage – fast forward to 2014, and that’s simply not the case anymore.

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Lawns: A Thing of the Past?

At a local level, there are equal amounts of incentives to become eco-friendly as there are to simply conserve water.  For those caught over watering and abusing, Los Angeles will slap you on the wrist with a hefty $500 fine.  On the other hand, if you’re willing to make the shift towards an South Western, Desert – or just plain dirt landscape, the city is willing to pay $3 a square foot under the California Friendly Landscape Incentives Program. On average, that’s a nice chunk of change for the conversion – at least few thousand dollars for the yard.  As of last Summer, 850 residences around the city had made the shift and it’s projected that the numbers have tripled since.

Running around the neighborhood, I’ve started to notice which homes use and abuse the almost depleted supply of water and which homes are doing it right – replacing grass with gravel, stone or even dirt as an ode to South Western, Desert and Ecofriendly landscaping.So far, only one home a block on average has made the conscious conversion. I hope that by raising more awareness of our current ecological state, more question and follow suit. These are some of the houses  in my area that are doing it right.

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If you’re interested in joining the trend – it’s super simple to follow, easy to maintain and so great for the environment.  For starters, mulch, stone, gravel and tanbark can be used for walking paths in leu of grass. California local plants and flowers like the California Holly (Toyon), Concha Lilac, Deer Grass and Tree Mallow require little to moderate water to maintain and are beautiful additions to your property.  If you’d like to go one deeper, succulents and air plants are excellent alternatives to traditional, more water nourished plants.  Succulents are on the thicker side when it comes to stalks and leaves, but that’s because of the amount of water the succulents retain. Air plants, on the other hand, don’t need any dirt and can pull moisture straight from the air.

[Get Your Earth Day On]

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“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

 Kurt Vonnegut

There are currently over 200 Million active users on Instagram and between the lot of us, we load about 60 Million snaps a day, amassing over 20 billion pictures to date; of those 20 Billion, about .2% – or 40 Million – are #selfies,a term that as of last year -not only made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, but was nominated ‘word of the year.’  Last year, the Smart Phone Market overran the PC Market with over 1.75 Billion Smart Phone users in the world, including 56% of Americans –  up from 35% 2 years ago. Of the 1.25  Billion Facebook users, roughly 25% play games on the daily.  Since 2012, the number of Americans streaming digital media like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon has gone from half the population to almost 70%, and digital streaming devices can now be found in 14% of American households; up double from 2011.  Between new developments in gaming systems, social media and technology, it’s become all too easy for the majority of us (including myself) to forget that there’s this amazingly wonderful planet that we have the opportunity to explore. I firmly believe that each day is a new chance to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you, and that goes doubly so for today, Earth Day. Today’s a day to be in awe of your surroundings, fully immerse yourself in your environment, and celebrate the beauty that surrounds you – a day to honor your relatives, both ancestors and those to come, by embracing nature and all it has to offer; and I hope more people choose to pay attention to the details and take the time to smell the flowers.  As tied in as I find myself with all things internet – from my addiction to House of Cards to my love of Caturday pictures, I’ve felt an extreme need to detach myself from these chains that masquerade as wifi signals and find some real, personal connection with my surroundings. Back in 1969, a young environmental activist named John McConnell found himself in front of the UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, pleading with peers and mentors alike that the world deserves a day to both honor the idea of peace and rejoice in the Earth’s beauty – and the year after, Earth Day was born.  In almost half of a century, the event has manifested from a local, California event into a global masterpiece in over 190 countries.There are ample amounts of Earth Day festivities around the globe that you can take part in, but if you want to do something on a smaller and more personal scale – try these on for size:

  • Ditch your wheels! Head out on foot, with skates, on a bike or with public transportation – did you know that there are some gorgeous smelling flowers just three blocks away from your house? Well, now you do!
  • Shop local and try out the Farmer’s Market around the corner or the Mom and Pop shop on the corner
  • Take a thick book into a lush park and don’t return until you’re halfway done; set your imagination free and leave your cell on silent
  • When you’re with company – do the polite thing and turn off your phone, or as a baby step – try just your mobile network. When you’re with good company; not like you need to see how many likes that rant on Facebook got you while you’re enjoying your surroundings, right?
  • Get off the grid and explore – find a new hike or walk in your neighborhood; activity loves company so call a friend or three and get your endorphins pumping
  • Help record the sound of our planet with Global Soundscapes
  • Replace your mobile gaming with a physical board game – or active sports – and invite some friends over for some friendly in person competition
  • Turn off anything with an electronic pulse and cultivate some creativity; arts and crafts shouldn’t just be for elementary school!