Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009

If You Need to Learn Patience, Grow Vegetables

Back from my Saturday swim at the Rose Bowl. Eating a salad. Making chili for dinner. Mr. Octopus watching Mad Max.

Swimming has become harder for me over the last year. I tire easily. I used to take 5 strokes per breath in freestyle, now I take 3. A guy who shared my lane today said, "You use you legs a lot ... gets your heart rate up fast ... but you have a good stroke." I need to revisit my technique. Swimming should be getting easier, not harder.

It has been raining lately. Right now the sky is overcast and there is that could-rain smell in the air. Most unusual for June. This has been great for my vegetables. My garden has been growing slowly but steadily. Of my 10 tomato plants, one has started bearing fruit-- the beefsteak has 3 tomatoes the size of large marbles. I'm curious to see how the plant will deal with the heft, considering it is only 18 inches tall right now. A few other tomatoes have flowers, which I think will become fruit. My melons and zucchini are also flowering; I have high hopes for these guys. How thrilling will it be to have some canteloupe and zatta melons.

I'm seriously considering waking up super early to watch the French Open men's final tomorrow . I hope Federer pulls it off. I'd like to see Federer beat Sampras' record (never liked Sampras). But one thing is for certain, Federer will cry-- win or lose.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Your Friday Afternoon Video #35: Stand By Me

Unknown singers around the world, check out here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


At long last, pictures of my budding veggie garden. I'll start from the beginning.

Sowing my first seeds-- batches of green zebra, marvel stripe and brandywine tomatoes. I didn't expect so many of them to germinate.

More window seed starting. Lettuce here.

Transplanting my tomaters.

The beds arrive.

And the dirt.

Laying down weed block fabric and filling up the beds.

Transplanting and sowing around the tee pees.

Two weeks later, things have started establishing.

My painted lady runner beans are rockin out.

Beets (foreground, red), baby brocolli (middle ground) and sugar peas (background,near bamboo stakes).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Beets Me

I sowed my bulls blood beet seeds around the perimeter of one of my veggie beds. I figured the red leaves would be a nice edging flourish. I hadn't quite realized that since beets grow underground that they'd be too close to the wall of the bed and turn out all busted. Oh well, too late now. Who needs a round beet anyway?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Accelerated Growth

I'm blown away by how fast the seeds I sowed directly in the beds this Sunday have begun sprouting! The pak choy were first, followed by the rapini and Italian basil. Then last night my bulls blood beets and sugar peas peeked up.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


At long last, we set up our four raised veggie beds over the weekend, dirt and plantlings and seeds included. Mr. Octopus was definitely the MVP because he shoveled the big heap of potting soil on our driveway into the wheelbarrow and dumped them into the beds. It was all waaaaaay more work than we bargained for, and the record heat wave over the weekend only made it worse. We both have authentic farmers' tans to prove it.

Still, what a ginormous relief it is to have it all set up. I will post pictures soon, but take my word for it-- the veggie beds rock! What really makes them work are the bamboo teepees for the beans, peas and melons. They provide a vertical interest that really makes the beds pop.

Aside from transplanting all the tomatoes, brocolli, marigolds, and other suches into the beds, I directly sowed new seeds for beets, pak choi, asparagus, basil, rapini, zucchini and nasturtiums. After only three days, the pak choi and rapini have already sprouted. Yay, science!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Ball Is In Motion

The potager at Chateau de Villandry. More here.

I'm on my way to creating a potager (my new favorite word). I've ordered my raised beds (Vermont white cedar) from The Farmstead and my seeds are sprouting. Next: I'll need to find a way to get enough compost to fill up my beds (times like this I wish I had a truck).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Loved "I Love You, Man"

Buddy movie. Bromance. Formulaic. Apatow genre movie (though Apatow had nothing to do with this one). Despite all these things, this movie is great. Way better than all the other Apatow movies I've seen (40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Anchorman). Three things in particular:

1. I liked how this movie wasn't all about getting laid.

2. I liked that it underscored how hard it is to make friends.

3. I liked Paul Rudd's character's social anxiety. Hilarious and, for me, totally relatable.

Dig it.

First Lady of California Following Suit

Maria Shriver's announces her plan. See LAT article.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Find Me

I checked blogpatrol for the first time in a very loooong time (the patrol gives you free stats on your blog). Let me tell you the last 5 internet keyword searches that have sent people to my blogposts:

i miss the wire
burping smell
darwin marry not marry list
i bore myself
Asian kids badminton


Friday, March 20, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Obama, and Me!

NYT article about the Obamas' vegetable garden. Also Michael Pollan's letter to the President-to-be from last year.

It's nice being part of a movement.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Different View of the Huntington

I missed the first field trip my class took (to the California Rare Fruit Growers scion exchange), but I managed to make it to the second one, which was to the Huntington. I'd been to the Huntington a bunch of times before-- their cactus garden is one of my favorite places anywhere-- but never like this. The master gardener of their rose, Shakespeare and herb gardens, Katarina Ericson, gave us a tour, provided us with cuttings and showed us the greenhouse, nursery and tissue culture lab.

Shakespeare garden-- cerinthe and flowering almond.

Herb garden.



Bitchin staghorn ferns.

Tissue cultures of rare and nearly extinct cacti and succulents.

The Learning Garden

View of the garden.

So why my sudden veggie garden mania? I signed up for the the Plant Propagation class at UCLA extension over the Xmas holidays. The course began in January and ends next week. Classes are held Sunday afternoons at The Learning Garden at Venice High School. The vibe is laid back, but instructive, and I like my teacher (David King). Most of the students are in the UCLA horticulture certificate program. I think I may be one of the few non-credit students.

I signed up for the class originally so I could learn to propagate my flowering perennials, but by the middle of the class I realized that I really wanted to have veggie garden beds similar to the ones at the garden. The Learning Garden is really an edible wonderland. I highly recommend a visit to anyone who likes planting edibles (and who lives on the westside).

We started out sowing seeds-- first in flats, then in the ground-- and transplanting seedlings. Then we graduated to cuttings (stem, leaf) and then finally grafting (shield, side, saddle). One of the highlights of the class was our field trip to the Huntington (another post to come).

So you add this all up and it's made me into a wannabe small scale farmer. I'm just starting out-- my kitchen is full of flats right now-- but my fingers are crossed. I'll post progress pictures.

Another view.

Wedge cuts on begonia leaves.

Golden Dorset apple scion grafted on EMLA 26 rootstock.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Long Overdue Pics from Vietnam and Cambodia

Cruising Halong Bay on a junk.

Morning mist.

Cyclo and Citroen outside the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat.

Banteay Samre.

Preah Ko.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sowing the Seeds

Some of my packets. Aren't they pretty?

I waited with bated breath for my 14 seed packets to arrive from Peaceful Valley. They came yesterday in an ordinary yellow bubble envelope. I spent a good hour last night planning how many seeds of each I would sow and where I would place them in my veggie garden.

The best thing about springing our clocks forward is that I have daylight hours to sow seeds after work. Wait, did I just say that? If you'd asked me 5 years ago (or even 5 months ago) whether I would ever have a veggie garden I would've laughed out loud. Now, I'm planning my day around it. I hope this isn't just a phase because I think this small scale farming thing could be good for me. Mentally and physically.

Anyhoo, I spent the remaining light of day after I got home today sitting on my patio, sowing tomatoes, Spanish lavender, and all sorts of lettuce. I'll post pictures soon.

Comfort Movies

The LA Times has their list. I have mine.

1. City Lights (1931). My favorite Chaplin movie.

2. The Odd Couple (1968). Everyone should see this movie.

3. Before Sunset (2004). A not so cheesy romance.

4. Zodiac (2007). I love Mark Ruffalo.

5. Finding Nemo (2003). Not necessarily my favorite animated movie, but the one I can watch over and over and over.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I'm Right, You're Wrong

I'm loving this hullaballoo over where LA neighborhoods begin and end. People are getting worked up. Wedgies everywhere. Thank you, LA Times.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Oh, Oh, It's Magic

My Luscious Brandywines-- this morning (top) and this evening (bottom). Reach!

Today was a big day for me. The biggest of all in my short gardening life.

I woke up this morning to find that my tomatoes had germinated! I sowed them last weekend (Feb 22nd ) in some cottage cheese containers and milk cartons. I watered them every other day and left them in the bay window in the kitchen (north facing) throughout the week. The seed packet said that it would take about 7-14 days to germinate-- in my case, it took 8 days.

I can't tell you how thrilling it was to see sprouts, like little threads curling up. I immediately moved them to a south facing window for the day, so they could get some heat (it was 80+ degrees today) and extra TLC. Sure enough, by the end of the day, they had straightened and more had sprouted.

Sticks on Fire

That's 'sticks on fire' at top left (pink and green pencil-like plant).

I have been brainstorming on what kind of container arrangement to create around my recently-purchased 'sticks on fire' (Euphorbia tirucalli). So many possibilities, so many decisions. I like these arrangements, spotted near the gift shop at Descanso.

Camellia Show

I was at Descanso Gardens yesterday and came upon their camellia show. I'm not big on camellias, but I was curioius. All sorts of blooms on display. I think they were going to be judged at the end.

Nuccio's Gem - I liked this one.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Seed Freak

I ordered way too many seeds the other day. It was so easy. I was on the phone with the representative from Peaceful Valley, rattling off the item numbers, one after another. Before I knew it, I had ordered 14 seed packets. Whoops. And this is in addition to the 3 types of hierloom tomatoes (Brandywine, Green Zebra, Marvel Stripe) that I started indoors last weekend.

Here are the 14 that are on their way:

Beets - Bulls Blood
Brocolli - Di Ciccio
Pak Choi
Lettuce - Gourmet Mix, Little Gem
Tomatoes (yes, more tomatoes) - Beefsteak, Black From Tula, Old German Heirloom, Black Krim
Mint - Korean
Basil - Thai Queenette
Cilantro- Slow Bolt
Lavender - Spanish
Onion, Scallion - Bunching Ishikura

Well, I'm new to all this, so I guess more is better since many of the seeds won't take. I'm going to start sowing seeds indoors in the next couple weeks while Mr. Octopus and I figure out how to order cedar planks for my raised veggie beds.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Bore Myself

I have been very delinquent in keeping up the chanchow. Either I don't have anything I want to write about or I can't be bothered. I thought that posting about the 26 movies I want to see this year (see prior posts) would motivate me , but it hasn't worked (although I have watched 2 of the 26 movies-- (The Searchers and The Shining).

Anyways, here's a quickies about what's been going on.

We just returned back from an A+ 10 day trip for Hanoi (and Halong Bay) and Angkor. If you go to Halong, I highly recommend (insist, actually) that you stay overnight on a junk (we booked on the Red Dragon junk and had a fantastic time). I'd been to Halong once before and stayed at a hotel on land, and it just doesn't compare. Angkor was awesome, just as you'd expect. See Mr. Octopus's posts for more details.

My page turner for the trip was Twilight. It reminded me of middle school, when life revolved around the boys I had crushes on (except in the book, the guy likes her back). Good times.

I turned in my Oscar ballot for the office Oscar pool. My picks for the major categories:

Picture: Slumdog
Actor: Mickey Rourke
Actress: Kate Winslet
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger
Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz
Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog
Original Screenplay: Happy-Go-Lucky

For the other categories, I picked Slumdog in most instances. I think Button will come up short. I feel pretty good about my chances. I won the pool a couple years ago and took home over $100. Yeeoh.

I'm planning to do a vegetable garden this year. I'm looking into creating raised beds, made of cedar. May need to go to a lumber yard or something. I've been going through seed catalogs, which is great fun. Tomatoes, broccoli, beets, lettuce, bok choy, cilantro, mint, the list goes on. Farmer chanchow.

That's it for now.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Inside Temp

At what temperature do you set your thermostat on winter nights? We typically like it around 65-67 degrees, but I know people who set as low as 62 and as high as 78 degrees.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Chanchow Goes Back to Basics #1: The Shining (1980)

I figured I should go way out of my comfort zone for my first movie review of the year, and The Shining seemed to fill that order (The Exorcist would have been better-- as I'm told it's much scarier-- but that movie wasn't available at the library yesterday). I'd seen snippets of The Shining, but never the whole thing.

The opening shots of Nicholson's character, Jack Torrance, driving the winding, snowy, mountainous road up to the Overlook Hotel are amazing (the scene was shot by helicopter in Glacier National Park). Torrance is going to the hotel to interview for the winter caretaker position. The interviewer tells him that the caretaker 10 winters ago went crazy and killed his wife and two daughters with an axe and then shot himself. Unfazed, Jack says he's looking for quiet and isolation, so that he can get some writing done. He gets the job and moves his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd) into the hotel.

The movie was shot really well-- in addition to the opening shot, I liked the shots of Danny riding his big wheel around the hotel and the chase in the hedge maze. But that's all I can rave about. I thought Jack Nicholson was so-so. Playing a half-crazed (or, in this case, fully crazed) character seems almost customary for him, and I can't say that this performance was any better than the other movies where he does a lot of freaky staring.

Also, I was confused by all the ghosts. Who saw what? I thought that Danny was the only one who could see ghosts. I thought Jack was hallucinating about the bartenders until the end when the wife saw stuff, too. It seemed sloppy to me. And what's up with the ending? Was Jack really at the hotel in a past life or did the hotel integrate him into its history only after he went apeshit?

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, January 2, 2009

My Bright Idea Amended

It's January 3rd and I'm already lowering my expectations by cutting the list in half.

The 400 Blows
2001: A Space Odyssey
Apocalypse Now
Battleship Potemkin
Ben-Hur (1959)
Birth of a Nation
Blade Runner
Blue Velvet
Cabinet of Doctor Caligari
Citizen Kane
A Clockwork Orange
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Dirty Harry
Do the Right Thing
Dr. Strangelove
Doctor Zhivago
Drunken Master II
Enter the Dragon
The Exorcist
The Fly (1986)
Frankenstein (1931)
The Godfather, Part II
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Lawrence of Arabia
Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Midnight Cowboy
Mon Uncle
Nights of Cabiria
Rosemary's Baby
The Searchers
Saturday Night Fever
The Shining
The Sting
Triumph of the Will
Two Lane Blacktop
Umberto D
West Side Story