Welcome to Green Gal's blog, where you'll find stories, recipes, gardening updates, and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems. This blog is written by a young woman entrepreneur who is also a beginning farmer-gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Plant Friends, Human Friends, & Family

I woke up at 8am yesterday, which hardly ever happens on weekends. Usually I sleep as long as I can before I have to get up for whatever plans I may have. Usually that means sleeping until 10am, a blissful change from my near-dawn weekday wake up time that's required for me to be first in line with my bike for the bus commute over the hill. Perhaps it was easier to get up early yesterday because my body is now fully adjusted to waking up early... or maybe (more likely) it's because I wanted to get some gardening in before bicycling over to Veggielution farm for their Saturday work day. Either way, I was up early enough to get my hands in the soil, transplant plants, plant seeds, water, and enjoy a cup of coffee. It was a much better use of my morning and more fun than sleeping.
Remember the broccoli sprouts I posted about here? They are doing great, although the tomatoes in the other can never showed themselves, sadly (old seeds may be the issue). I have kept the broccoli growing in the windowsill and the little shoots continue to grow, but I had unthinkingly planted them in old soup cans with nailed-through holes in the bottom. I saw this idea online here and thought it was cute. I had painted the soup cans and figured out a way for them to drain onto a cloth towel inside a bread pan so they'd fit nicely on the windowsill. However, I didn't think about how challenging it would be to transplant those little broccoli plants out of the can if they got big enough to warrant a new pot due to the metal lip around the edge. Yesterday I decided to get that process over with before the plants got any bigger, so I transplanted them into a larger container.
They appear to be doing alright, so hopefully they survive the trauma of being pulled out of their soup can home. I put them back on the windowsill and will keep them growing there until they look strong enough to go outside in the crazy heat.
Remember I said I was going to try transplanting my water-only green onions into soil? Well I did transplant two of them into soil, and I also left two of them in the water jar and set them on the windowsill. The windowsill water-only onions grew a lot stronger and longer than they had when they were on top of the fridge. Photosynthesis!
Sadly, the ones I planted in soil withered within a few days. I kept watering them to see if they'd recover, but they couldn't make it. One died immediately, and the other hung on for a bit. Yesterday I transplanted the remaining one into a smaller container that retains more water, but as of this morning, it looks completely dead.
Poor onions. I guess it's time to plant something fun in this strange face cup that I got in Oregon. Suggestions for fun plants to grow into this little guy's hair?
The bell pepper plant is doing well and is by far the most fun plant to watch grow. I just can't wait to eat one of the peppers! I have been fertilizing it every other week and watering every other day. On really hot days, I sometimes come home to droopy leaves and withering peppers. It keeps on growing, though, with only one pepper showing a strange discoloration.
The cilantro has been ailing, and there are little black bugs or something along the stalks. I saw a lady bug hanging out on it recently, so I assume there's an aphid buffet on my cilantro. I haven't taken the time to address this issue, but I did find out yesterday when volunteering at Veggielution why the cilantro plant began ailing in the first place. I didn't prune back the flowers, so the plant went into seed mode and stopped producing new leaves. I learned this at Veggielution because, as you'll see later in this post, we pruned flowers on basil plants. Now I know! When I got home from the farm yesterday, I cut all the flowers off. We'll see what happens...
Yesterday, I also decided to plant some nasturtiums, one of my favorite flowers because they're pretty and edible! I have memories of eating nasturtium petals off of the abundant plants growing in my backyard as a child. Like I mentioned a few posts ago, my dad has a very green thumb. Growing up, our backyard was a magical garden with lush green and colors everywhere. Sometime soon I'll post some photos from those days. 

I'm so excited to be growing nasturtiums that I planted them all over the place: in the cilantro pot, directly in the ground, in the painted soup cans on the window sill, and in their own smaller pot outside. I can't wait for them to begin growing! I marked the outside in-the-ground nasturtium plantings with colored toothpicks so I will make sure to water where they are.
I also planted two drought tolerant flowering plants into the ground. They had been growing in their original plastic containers from Home Depot since we bought them, but I decided it's time to give them some space and actually put them in the ground. The rice flower plant has been doing okay, although it appears very dried out in some patches. I'm not sure if I've been overwatering them or what. The Angelonia plant had flowered and then withered into brittle sticks, which I cut back when I noticed some new green leaves popping up. It's been regrowing nicely.
I put the non-edible flowering plants in the ground near each other and put our little hippo-potato-mus between them. I wonder what Green Guy thinks about the strange figures we have in our garden. I'm hoping to find a chicken statue to put out there soon, too...
In addition to planting nasturtium seeds, I also planted some arugula and kale. I looked up companion plants for nasturtiums and both arugula and kale were on the list, so I added some nasturtium seeds to both of these containers. We're going to have more nasturtium plants than we'll know what to do with! To differentiate between the two, I found some old plastic spoons we'd saved and put K and A stickers on them. I might find a better way to label them soon, but for now, it's a simple way to reuse.

After all of this wonderful time spent with my plant friends in the morning, I looked at the clock and realized I had 15 minutes to get out the door if I wanted to be on time to the Veggielution work day. Fortunately, I don't wear makeup most days or really care what my hair looks like, so I just threw on some clothes that could get dirty, put contacts in, and grabbed stuff that would keep me from getting sunburned or dehydrated. The bike ride was 30 minutes or so, taking me past San Jose State University and some cute neighborhoods with narrow streets. I always prefer riding under freeways to riding over them, and fortunately the route I chose this time took me under 680/280 instead of over it. After crossing under 680/280 at King Street, the farm entrance appeared on my right, and it transported me into a different world, separated just enough from the hustle and bustle of car traffic.
Veggielution is a 6-acre sustainable farm, complete with education programs, greenhouses, a CSA program, crops of all kinds, and even chickens, that's juxtaposed beneath the over crossings of highways 680/280 and 101. Whenever you look up from whatever you're doing in the soil, you can see the underbelly of a clear symbol of urban life. For this and many other reasons, Veggielution is a unique place. The homepage of their website states, "Everyone deserves to have access to healthy, affordable food. At Veggielution, we bring people from diverse backgrounds together to help create a sustainable food system in San Jose, while forging stronger bonds with each other and the community."

When I was little, sitting in the backseat of my parents' car, I would look down upon this plot of land as our car went from highway 101 to 680 on our way home from my aunt's house. I remember seeing a historic-looking barn and open land and wondering what it was and what it used to be. Back then, Veggielution was maybe just an idea in someone's mind, but since 2008, it has been a growing reality of increasing acreage and food production. Learn more about the farm's history here.

Next to the farm at Veggielution is Emma Prusch Park, so there's this entire pocket of land beneath the freeways that's open land, a stark contrast to the urban jungle around it. Years after being that little kid in my parents' car, I find myself staring back up at that overpass with the barn behind me and the open land beneath my feet. I love when pieces of memory slip into place with new information and create a more complete picture of my world.
Green Guy and I had volunteered at Veggielution about a month ago with his friends from community college. This time, Green Guy was at work, but his same friend who had organized the last time had brought folks together again. Everyone I was volunteering with in our group yesterday had gone to De Anza (except me), and they are all awesome people who have a shared interest in serving the community. I'm so glad to know them through Green Guy!
We ended up being assigned to prune basil plants so that their flowers wouldn't take over. By cutting off the flowers, it tells the plant that resources should be allocated toward growing larger leaves that can then be harvested. As mentioned above, I wish I'd known about this important tip sooner so that my cilantro wouldn't have become sad, dry, and leafless. We used gardening shears to snip off all the flowers, and the bees continued to buzz around the clippings, which we left in the rows to wither into the dirt.
Once we accomplished that task and took a water break, we moved on to weeding four rows of bell pepper plants. After being instructed on proper weeding method (get the roots!) and which plants were the actual bell pepper and which were weeds, we spread out among the rows.
After spending about 2.5 hours among the farm's rows of plant friends, we were rewarded with a farm-fresh potluck lunch! I had brought a couple dollars to donate in lieu of bringing food to share. We all heaped a ton of delicious, healthy food onto our plates and enjoyed the meal in the shade of their picnic area. Yum!
After lunch, we were able to take some free produce with us, including onions, tomatoes, and some other assorted produce that they had in excess. I also purchased 25 cents worth of chili peppers from the farm stand. I said bye to everyone and hopped on my bike to head home.

Dripping in sweat from the mid-afternoon heat, I unloaded my things into the house and assessed what I needed from the store before my dad and step-mom arrived later that day for dinner. I made a list and headed back into the heat on my bicycle with both pannier bags attached. Fortunately, we have a grocery store just down the street, and I was able to get everything on the list, including flowers! I'm fortunate enough to be the owner of two 40 liter pannier bags that can hold a TON of groceries, which don't feel like much weight when they're on my bike rack. I just love physics when it comes to bike weight distribution!
Even though I had spent my whole morning and early afternoon outside among plant friends, I still had plenty of time to put away groceries, clean, plan out marinading and cooking start times, and take a shower before my parents arrived. I love having people over, and I love cooking for people. It was a real treat to have my dad and step-mom over because they hadn't been to our place since the day we moved in.

We ate yummy homemade pico de gallo with tortilla chips and fired up the grill for chili/lime/garlic marinaded shrimp and veggies. We also grilled some carne asada (not the most sustainable choice, I know, but we are working on this). I cut up jalapeƱos, green onion, cilantro (not from our plant sadly), and avocado and put them in little bowls on a serving tray. I love having a diverse range of bowl sizes for serving food! We also had corn and flour tortillas, wild rice, store bought salsa, Cholula hot sauce, and nutritional yeast. Oh, and of course chilled beers and some red wine that my dad and step-mom brought. We ate outside since our kitchen table is too small for four people and because it was beautiful in the backyard. Great conversation, wonderful people, and delicious food--absolutely one of my favorite ways to spend an evening!
In addition to drinks, they had also brought us a new cherry tomato plant (below on the right), which I'm so excited about! They said they also got a plant for their house, and I promised to send updates about how ours is doing, which I'll likely post on here.
Earlier in the day while volunteering at Veggielution, I had mentioned to Green Guy's friends that Monday is his 25th birthday. He hadn't seemed interested in throwing a party when I asked him about it a month ago, and instead, our plan is to go surfing tomorrow since we both have the day off.

His friends were having a party yesterday evening, and originally I'd told them we couldn't go because my dad and step-mom were coming over for dinner. Then I realized that we could probably just head over to the party after they left since their parties usually last long into the night, so we made a plan to surprise Green Guy with a cake and piano-accompanied Happy Birthday singing. I just had to convince him to stay up long enough to make it to a second gathering in the evening. He is working the 5am - 4pm shift this weekend, so I knew it might be challenging to convince him to rally his energy long enough for that. Somehow I was able to do it, so after hugging good bye and saying thank you to my parents for visiting, we drove over to his friends' house.

Ultimately, he figured out that something fishy was going on. His friend pulled me aside at one point to show me the cake, which was suspicious to him. He also said he heard his name being whispered throughout the party. Secretly, he told me later, he had been hoping there would be a surprise party, and that's why he was so willing to go to the party even though he had to get up so early the next morning. Right before the singing and candles and cake, he told me he knew what was going on, but it didn't make it any less fun to sing to him with many of his friends present. I'm so glad we were able to celebrate his birthday with friends and treat him to a surprise cake. It turned out perfectly that he hadn't been there to volunteer earlier in the day since we were able to come up with this plan in secret. Some day I'm going to throw him a real surprise party, and I'll make sure he doesn't have any idea!

Wow, reflecting on my day yesterday makes me incredibly grateful for all of the friends and family in my life. What a full day of meaningful work, great conversations, good food, and really awesome people. Thank you to everyone--plant friends included--who made yesterday so fantastic!

Thanks for reading! If you have any advice on my plant situation described above, please feel free to add a comment!
~Green Gal

Friday, August 28, 2015

5th Annual Silicon Valley Bike Summit

On Wednesday, August 26, Green Guy and I attended the 5th Annual Silicon Valley Bike Summit in Palo Alto for a day of presentations and conversations about the state of bicycling in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, what new roadway and technology improvements are planned to improve bicycle safety, and how we can encourage more people in our community to safely bicycle for transportation, fun, and health.

Getting There - Caltrain
After a short bike ride to the Caltrain station, we boarded the bike car along with fellow active transportation advocates Richard Masoner (Cyclelicious) and Jaime Fearer (California Walks), both of whom spoke at the summit later that day. As with a number of other bicycle advocates who have an online presence, I had only ever communicated with Richard by Twitter, and it was great to meet him in person. His blog is a really great resource for all things bike in this area, and he's also on Facebook and Twitter.

Jaime Fearer, who I hadn't met online or in person before, spoke at the conference about a new Vision Zero toolkit that she helped create in partnership with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC). Vision Zero is a multi-national project with a goal of having zero traffic fatalities or serious injuries, and it has been adopted as policy by numerous cities in the U.S., including New York City, Portland, San Francisco, and even San Jose. It began in Sweden, and it's been effective enough to convince these cities to get on board. Learn more about the Vision Zero toolkit and how Silicon Valley is approaching this project here. You can find Jaime on Twitter at @bogrosemary.

Getting There - Bike Train
After discussing local bike news, complimenting each others' bike fashion accessories, and sharing about what each of us do, we hopped off the train at California Avenue to join 15 or so other people on bikes who were headed to the Bike Summit. This bike train, or bike pool, took us down the Bryant Street Bicycle Boulevard in Palo Alto, reportedly the first bicycle boulevard that was built in the nation. Along the stretch that we took (between California Avenue and E Meadow Drive), we crossed a bikes-only bridge and various spots where only bike traffic could pass.

By sectioning the boulevard off with this bike-only infrastructure, it reduces the speed of car traffic and diverts most cars elsewhere since they can't pass along the entire street in one straight line. Most of the cars we interacted with weren't behind or in front of us, but at the cross streets. I noticed a number of intersections in which the boulevard had right of way and the cross streets had stop signs. It felt really awesome to be on a boulevard designed with the bicycle in mind, given that nearly every other road I ride on in my life is designed primarily for motor vehicle traffic. And of course, it's always fun to bike with others!

Meeting Friends & Fellow Advocates 
Upon arriving at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center where the Summit was held, I was introduced to Chris Lepe of TransForm, whom I had seen before at a similar event two years ago when his organization hosted and he emceed. I learned that Chris is also a UCSC alum and that he works with a lot of interns at local colleges and universities, including De Anza College in Cupertino. He's also an alum of De Anza, as is Green Guy. So the three of us had points of connection all around in that conversation! I found out that one of the students he works with is transferring to UCSC, and I hope to meet this person and encourage them to get involved with sustainable transportation initiatives at UCSC. We need more students taking sustainable transportation leadership roles to make bicycling and walking fun and feasible for new students and the entire campus community (thought I know our hilly topography will always pose a fun challenge!).

After locking up in one of the many bike racks in the car parking structure, we ventured up into the architecturally pleasing and interestingly multi-use Community Center. We saw some Santa Cruz friends like Tawn Kennedy (Director of Green Ways to School and one of the founders/leaders of Santa Cruz Bike Party), Amelia Conlen (Director of Bike Santa Cruz County), Claire Fliesler (Transportation Planner for the City of Santa Cruz), and Piet Canin (Vice President of Transportation at Ecology Action). Each of these cool people support vital bicycle and walking programs in the Santa Cruz community, and I am so glad that I know them. I have learned a lot from each of them and the programs that they support over the years, and they inspire me!

So why would Santa Cruz people be at a Silicon Valley summit? Even though Santa Cruz is on the other side of "the hill," many people travel the Highway 17 for work, recreation, and other reasons, so the transportation and bicycle advocacy work on either side is certainly connected. Cities on both sides of the Santa Cruz mountains also have strong bicycling communities, and there are always emerging best practices and new information about bicycling (and other active transportation methods) to share with each other. As one of those commuters whose life is split along the divide of the Santa Cruz Mountains in many ways, it was exciting to see so many Santa Cruz people represented at a summit of primarily folks from the valley side of the hill. I also saw and met people from the East Bay area, making the summit in some ways a gathering together of San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area folks, although the content focused on Silicon Valley cities.

In addition to our Santa Cruz friends, Green Guy also said hi to fellow De Anza alum Kristal Caidoy who now serves on the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission for the City of Milpitas, as well as on the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee for VTA (Valley Transit Authority). Green Guy and Kristal had both been involved with student government at De Anza, supporting sustainable transportation initiatives such as the Eco Pass, which is funded through a student fee measure to provide "free" access to VTA buses and light rail in Santa Clara County. UC Santa Cruz has a similar model, providing students with "free" unlimited bus rides on all Santa Cruz County Metro buses (except Highway 17) that are paid for by each student in the form of a small fee each quarter. Essentially, students have voted to tax themselves in order to gain access to sustainable transportation. It's an interesting model that is also used to support a multitude of sustainability projects, student jobs, and programs at UCSC through a number of fee measures. Numerous bicycle projects at UCSC have been funded through the Carbon Fund, for example.

Throughout the day, we also met some new people who are doing awesome work in their community, such as Carlos Velazquez, Outreach Manager for SVBC, who was tweeting throughout the summit. We retweeted and favorited each others' tweets throughout the day. We also sat next to and spoke with Yoriko Kishimoto, bicyclist and former mayor of Palo Alto who currently serves as Vice President of the Mid Peninsula Regional Open Space District. I also saw but didn't have a chance to say hi (in person) to Janet Lafleur, another inspiring bicycle advocate who has a blog called Lady Fleur and a Twitter account that's worth following. She demonstrates how to dress professionally, wear dresses and heels, and avoid helmet hair while bicycling, so if you find yourself claiming that you can't bike commute because of fashion, sweat, and your hairdo, please read her blog! We also tweeted a couple times throughout the summit.

Twitter - Capturing the Essence
I keep bringing up Twitter because on Wednesday, my Twitter account saw more activity than it has in months. I had my laptop out throughout every presentation, capturing essential ideas, quotes, and photos to share with those who were following along online or also tweeting at the summit. Even though I'm smartphone free, I was still able to engage with photos and tweets throughout the day.

For those who aren't on Twitter, here are all of the tweets I posted, with some additional information in parentheses. I've also added headings to indicate when a change in panel/presentation took place. If you're on Twitter, I'd love to read your response to any of these!

9:56 AM - Joined a #biketrain from Caltrain to the @bikesv Bike Summit this AM! Stay tuned for tweets from the summit. #bikes

Welcome address

10:04 AM - "I drove here and it reinforced why I ride to work. I think the car is done." -- Dr. David Gregg #svbikesummit

(Dr. David Gregg of Stanford Health Care gave the welcome address at the summit.)

Opening plenary, moderated by Shiloh Ballard, President and Executive Director of SVBC

10:18 AM - @GoCaltrain and @GoSamTrans collectively take 400 million car miles off the road and daily serve 100,000 riders! #svbikesummit

10:21 AM - "In the biking community I wouldn't characterize anybody as average." - Jim Hartnett @GoCaltrain @GoSamTrans #svbikesummit

(Jim Hartnett is General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of San Mateo County Transit District.)

10:37 AM - In Japan, the culture is that people are willing to walk more than 1 mile to public transit. - paraphrase of Jim Hartnett #svbikesummit

10:38 AM - "We are the national leader for bikes on trains." - Jim Hartnett @GoCaltrain @GoSamTrans #svbikesummit

10:41 AM - @NuriaFernandez8 says @VTA buses will all have 3 front racks & new bus rapid transit will also have space inside for 3 bikes! #svbikesummit

(Nuria Fernandez is General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.)

10:53 AM - "The streets that we all pay for should be available to us;" not just car drivers but bicycle riders, too. - @NuriaFernandez8 #svbikesummit

By the Numbers: Bicycling fatalities and injuries across both counties presented by San Mateo County Health System and Santa Clara County Public Health Department

11:13 AM - @GetHealthySMC - AfricanAmericans make up 32% of all bike & ped deaths in San Mateo County but represent only 3% of population #svbikesummit 

11:16 AM - @GetHealthySMC - 39% of all injuries & fatalities in San Mateo County are within 1/4 mile of a school. Yikes! #svbikesummit

11:19 AM - Ooh, new reading material for my bus commute: the new @HealthySCC Bicycle Transportation & Safety in Santa Clara County report #svbikesummit

11:24 AM - 14% of males & 4% of females ride bikes in Santa Clara County. Ladies, we are the 4% (& hopefully growing)! @HealthySCC #svbikesummit

11:25 AM - Salmon-ing is no good, friends. 94% of collisions in which bikes are at fault are due to wrong-way riding. Go with the flow! #svbikesummit

(Salmon-ing is when you ride your bike the wrong direction in the bike lane. The word derives from how salmon swim upstream. It's dangerous and illegal in most places!)

11:36 AM - What do people in your community value? Tap into that for better bike encouragement & edu opportunities. @GetHealthySMC #svbikesummit

11:44 AM - @GetHealthySMC "I'd call that a collision, not an accident." - Jessica Osborne. Yes! #svbikesummit

SVBC debuts Vision Zero Toolkit presented by Colin Heyne and Emma Schlaes of SVBC and Jaime Fearer of California Walks

11:56 AM - As a new resident of San Jose, I didn't realize we have a #VisionZero plan. Good to know! #svbikesummit

12:02 PM - @CaliforniaWalks & @bikesv stress the necessity of Engagement & #Equity along with the traditional 5 Es of #VisionZero #svbikesummit

(The traditional 5 Es are Evaluation, Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Encouragement. Read the new toolkit here.)

12:05 PM - 50% of fatal traffic crashes occur on just 3% of San Jose streets @CaliforniaWalks @bikesv #svbikesummit

12:14 PM - "Safety in numbers is not just perception, it's proven." - Emma Shlaes, @bikesv #VisionZero #svbikesummit

12:22 PM - Need longer term data on Willow Glen road diet. Look for Council agendas in Sept & show up to advocate for it! #svbikesummit #VisionZero

(I'm sure I'll be writing on here about the Willow Glen Road Diet issue soon enough!)

12:26 PM - What about "Road Awesome" instead of "Road Diet"? Language is important. Nobody likes diets, and they often fail... #svbikesummit

12:27 - "If you need to wave a flag to cross a street, your street is not safe enough." - Jaime Fearer of @CaliforniaWalks #svbikesummit #VisionZero

Silicon Valley Solutions: Tech's role in bicycling safety, moderated by Jessica Weare of Microsoft, and presented by Lauren Ledbetter of VTA, Andrew Casteel of Team Bike Challenge, Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious, and Frank Hebbert of the Motivate bike share company

1:30 PM - Excited to hear about tech's role in bike safety with @JessicaWeare, Lauren Ledbetter, @cyclelicious, @AndrewCasteel & @fkh. #svbikesummit

1:31 PM - "Biking has to work for everyone if it's going to work. We have to think about inclusivity." - @JessicaWeare of @MicrosoftSV #svbikesummit

1:44 PM - "Children probably don't log their bike data to Strava." Neither do many others, so we need other data methods - @cyclelicious #svbikesummit

1:52 PM - @VTA may 1 day have real-time data on bike rack capacity for those who bike to the bus. @SantaCruzMETRO can you do this too? #svbikesummit

(This would be so helpful for those of us who rely on public transit to get places with our bikes because then we'd know if the bike rack will accommodate us or not for that trip.)

2:00 PM - Public bike counters make ppl feel part of something larger. "I was counted, I matter!" @AndrewCasteel #svbikesummit

2:04 PM - Bike challenges & smartphone games motivates ppl to bike more & that data can be used to improve safety #svbikesummit

2:05 PM - "Bicycling is for the normal everyday person. It's for everyone and everybody." - Richard Masoner @cyclelicious #svbikesummit

2:06 PM - What about low income, retired people, people not comfy with tech & people with kids? How can they benefit from bike share? #svbikesummit

2:07 PM - ... and what about people with disabilities? How can they benefit from bike share? #svbikesummit

2:09 PM - @motivate_co @fkh says bikeshare could 1 day include trikes for kids and he claims you don't need a smartphone for bike share #svbikesummit

2:12 PM - @motivate_co @fkh Are more accessible bikes (for people with disabilities, people with kids) part of bikeshare's actual plans for future?

2:18 PM - & I say "claim" re: smartphone b/c it can be challenging to find the next station if you're a visitor using bikeshare @motivate_co @fkh

2:24 PM - In an ideal world, you don't need a map b/c the bike infrastructure & wayfinding is clear enough. - Lauren Ledbetter of @VTA #svbikesummit

2:26 PM - Lauren Ledbetter & @cyclelicious say http://tripplanner.vta.org/  is really cool & we should all try it (it is in BETA) #svbikesummit @VTA

2:27 PM - If we all show up to city council meetings & advocate for bicycling projects, they will vote for what we want. - @cyclelicious #svbikesummit

Small Group Discussion
Following the tech panel, there was a chance for small group discussion around the 5 Es of Vision Zero. It was refreshing to have a chance to speak in a group, and I wish there had been more structured small group engagement time throughout the day. The Vision Zero E questions had some specific problems for us to try and solve, but at least for my group (Engagement), the wording of the question wasn't clear enough to elicit a really specific discussion. Ultimately, the brainstorm we created was very broad and mostly reflected best practices that are well known, as Rachel Jabonson of Bike East Bay remarked to me after the discussion. Perhaps focusing on trouble areas or asking the audience to help identify major challenges and then engaging our minds in solving those challenges would be a more fruitful approach. I would be curious to see how SVBC uses the ideas gathered, if at all.

There was also a happy hour afterward that generated some interesting discussion Perhaps in a future post, I can share some of the more interesting ideas that emerged from those discussions.

Want More?
If you want more about the Summit right now, though, please visit my Twitter page at https://twitter.com/lissygreenbean to see more tweets, including responses to my tweets and tweets that I re-tweeted. For a full sense of the Bike Summit as captured on Twitter, check out https://twitter.com/search?q=svbikesummit or scroll through the search below:

I plan on writing smaller, more specific posts about the Summit in the coming week, so if this was information overload, stay tuned for a more nuanced discussion of some of the themes that emerged.

Questions? Thoughts? As always, please post in the comments!

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Teal for Broccoli, Magenta for Tomatoes

I planted broccoli and tomato seeds last Sunday, August 16, with broccoli going in the teal can and tomatoes in the magenta can. After planting, I realized that these containers are less than ideal for seedlings, but I was excited to see that the broccoli sprouted two little green shoots on Thursday! The tomatoes have yet to show themselves, if they will at all. If the broccoli continues to grow, I'll eventually transfer to a pot and put them outside. We'll see how challenging this can makes that process...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Life from Water

Awhile back, I was searching through Pinterest on my daily bus commute (yes, there's wifi on the bus!), and I came across this article claiming that you can re-grow a number of edible plants in just water. Amazing! So I tried it out.

I cut the bottom of a stalk of celery and set it in as much water as possible before it began floating. I didn't count how many days it took for this to grow, but it was pretty fun to watch happen.

This is about the maximum height the celery got after a few weeks. Unfortunately, I didn't harvest it before I went on a trip to Yosemite for a few days. When I returned, it had shriveled because the root at the bottom had gotten moldy. Throughout the growing process, I had to pour out and add fresh water and peel away molding stalk. I plan on trying again and keeping more on top of it, as well as harvesting some celery before it dies.

I also tried growing green onions. At first I had them resting in this jar with water as you see here, but they kept tipping over. My solution was to wrap rubber bands around them and then secure them to the side of the jar with a paperclip. It worked!

These grew great, and super fast, too! It seemed as though they grew right before your eyes some days...

This was the longest set that I ended up with, and we cut them up and ate them. I put the bottom part back into the water and it's still growing. As with the celery, I had to peel away some molding exterior layers. 

This project was fun and delicious, and I can't wait to try more of the water-only regrowing methods! It sounds like the onions will also grow in dirt if you transplant them after a bit of water-growing (source). I'll have to try that, too.

Have you ever regrown anything from just water before? I'm curious what you think is worth growing in this method. So far, I vote green onions are more worth it than celery...

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Biking to SoFA for West Side Story

Last night, Green Guy and I biked into downtown San Jose, leaving our tree-lined neighborhood for the big tall buildings across the freeway. Though we've lived here since the beginning of June, I am still always blown away when I see those high rises right downtown, so close to where we live and yet such a different part of this city.

We biked downtown in search of City Lights Theater Company, a small theater in the SoFA District of San Jose. SoFA as in South of First Area, which the San Jose Downtown Association's website states "serves as downtown San Jose’s visual arts and entertainment district. Cool, organic and creative, SoFA is a place where you can interact with some of the most eclectic and artistic people in the city." We saw and heard evidence of this in the form of various small theaters, as well as the sound of music and dancing footsteps emanating from a doorway we passed on our way. I had actually read about this area and its music scene in the local Silicon Valley weekly Metro magazine, which I read each week cover to cover while waiting for the bus. Metro is also where I had read a review of West Side Story, the production we were headed to last night.

Before we set off on our bikes to see the City Lights production of this iconic musical, we had made a dinner of leftover crockpot ribs and freshly baked homemade pizza with store-bought dough, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, arugula, and of course bacon. (Sorry, the ribs and bacon aren't the greenest option around, but we're working on eating more veggies than meat.) Over dinner, we had considered driving to the show because we didn't know if there would be safe or adequate bike parking. After looking up directions to the theater, we realized we'd feel silly driving since it's so close, and we had made an agreement that we would bike as often as we could in lieu of driving. So we biked there, bringing plenty of lights and bright clothes for the darkness after the show.

When we arrived in the SoFA area, we were excited to find a parking space that had been converted to a set of bike racks (some might call it a parklet). The racks are shaped into the form of a car, and I imagine that when full, it's a wonderful visual of how many more people a car parking space-sized bike rack can serve compared with a parking space for a single car. We locked up and walked over to the theater, just around the corner.

Click the image above for a larger view.

The minute we walked into the small theater, I was brought back to my days as a theater kid at in the Tri-Valley area, where I performed with Imagine Performing Arts and my high school drama program. I haven't performed on a stage for an actual production since high school, though I did play King Lear in a one-scene production for a theater class my freshman year of college (I had the whole hair-tied-under-the-chin beard look going on for that one). From eighth grade until senior year of high school, I had performed, directed, and helped with tech for countless plays, musicals, one acts, and improv shows. Before that, I was a San Francisco Shakespeare Camp camper for six years. When other kids played sports, I did theater. And I miss it.

Seeing a cast of young people my own age on stage, recreating the story of star-crossed lovers that humans have performed, read, and retold for centuries, made me yearn to be on stage again. It's been so long, though, that I wonder how much of my acting skill remains. I still stand up in front of people for teaching, public speaking, and trainings I lead at work, and in some ways those experiences are mini-productions in themselves, but I haven't memorized lines or developed a character or been a member of a theatrical cast in five years. It's easy to convince myself that I'm just too far beyond my theater days to get back into it. (Wow, writing that makes me feel old!)

But I know that even if it feels insurmountable to audition for a show or find a place in San Jose where inexperienced or out-of-practice actors can perform, I should still try. There's no reason not to, and I know I'm not the only person who's ever taken a five year break from theater and wanted to get back into it. In fact, I read the biographies of the actors in last night's show, and it said that the actor playing Lieutenant Schrank was returning to the stage after a twenty-nine year hiatus during which, interestingly, he was a sergeant with the San Jose Police Department. Twenty-nine years! And I'm concerned about five years? I'm on the lookout for opportunities to rekindle my inner thespian, and if you know how one jumps into the community theater scene in the Silicon Valley area, please let me know.

But enough about my aspirations to stand once more under the stage lights! You might be wondering how the production was last night, right? Well, if you clicked the link above to the West Side Story page on City Lights website, you would have noticed their announcement at the top of the page that the show is completely sold out for the rest of its run, which goes until August 30. So that's saying something, and I'm not surprised that word got out about this fantastic show with a stellar cast of actors, dancers, and singers who bring the well-loved music, dance numbers, and classic tale to life.

I'm no theater critic, though in high school drama we had to write production critiques each semester, so I know how it works. But I honestly hated writing production critiques, so I'm just going to say what I loved about the show since this is my blog and my old drama teacher isn't grading this. And you can't get a ticket anyway since it's sold out, so my review probably won't be the basis of a decision to see the show. There is a wait list option, though, so if you really want a chance to experience this production, you may be able to.

I think my favorite scenes in this particular production were "Gee, Officer Krupke" and "America" because the actors who aren't in main character roles had a chance to show their talent. "Officer Krupke" is probably my favorite song in the musical, and these guys just nailed it. Absolutely hilarious and well-performed. "America" for me is one of those songs that gets stuck in my head all day but I'm kind of okay with it, and the ladies in this cast did a fantastic job. "Ay-Ay-Ay!"

As someone who's seen the film version, at least two other live productions, and who owns a vinyl record of the soundtrack, the familiar music and singing is always a delight to hear. On the bike ride home, I couldn't help but hum and whistle the tunes, trying not to belt it out since it was late and we didn't have the enclosure of a car to keep our sounds from reaching sleeping people in their homes. I even set my iPod-alarm clock to play music from the soundtrack to wake me up this morning!

Although the male characters' voices in this production were sometimes stretched to hit the notes on particular songs, overall the singing was beautiful, especially the women! Maria (Katherine Dela Cruz) and Anita (Danielle Mendoza) had incredibly strong singing voices. I think the strongest male voice was Riff (Josiah Frampton), though each of the male actors had at least one song where they could really hit the notes. All in all, it was a lively, well-performed show, and I really enjoyed the venue and set.

Of course, West Side Story has some problematic elements that are more obvious to me now that I'm older, such as falling in love on the dance floor and the next day being kind of okay with your new boyfriend killing your brother. And the pro-American, anti-Puerto Rican aspect of songs like "America," which, granted, are in some ways challenged by the unfolding of the story later on. I also noticed that the demonstration of the really horrible dark side of the Jets in the rape/sexual assault scene with Anita at Doc's paired with the "Gee, Office Krupke" song leads one to wonder if audiences are supposed to forgive or sympathize with the Jets because they're "psychologically 'distoibed.'" I won't get into these topics here, though, because I haven't really thought through them beyond what I just shared. I'm sure others have blogged about them or written entire essays on the subject if you're curious about this topic.

Well, I've written more than I intended to this morning already, and it's time to get to work. I'm grateful to have had this bus ride this morning to share these thoughts. It's been so fun to get back into writing on here, so thank you for taking the time to read this reflection on my evening. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Until next time,
Green Gal

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


In my journey back into the blogosphere, I've been reconnecting with old blogs I used to follow. One of these blogs that's been on my favorites list for awhile is Beyond the Fields We Know. Earlier this week, I was reading through posts on this blog, and I came across this one: Friday Ramble - Season. Take a moment to read it, and then hop on back over here if you want to know why I'm sharing this post in particular.

While reading it, I felt that glowing sense of synchronicity that blooms in me whenever something in my recent life or mindplace seems directly intertwined with something I come into contact with from the outside world. The best part of synchronicity is that the more you acknowledge it, nurture it, talk about it, and appreciate it, the more it happens, which is like magic!

Why synchronicity with this post about the origin of the word season?

One quote: "Season shares its origins with the word seed, and both entities are concerned with fertility, fruitfulness and nourishment."

This past Sunday, I planted some broccoli and tomato seeds, hoping that they will grow into actual plants despite my lack of experience. The plants in my backyard were purchased already growing so I have a bit more faith in my ability to raise them into fruitful and herbaceous plants. I've been tending to them with care since we got them. We've had heat waves here this past week, and I called Green Guy on a day when he was home to ask that he check on them and see if they need shade and water. Never before have I had such a connection like this with plants, so reading this post felt like an acknowledgement of this new season in my life of tending to and caring for other living things.

Another quote: "Be it the sowing, tending and reaping of one's vegetable garden or the careful addition of herbs and spices to a casserole, it's all about nurture and enjoyment."

I would add to this list the kind of self-nurture that comes from the pleasure of cooking meals together or for someone, cleaning a home that you feel a sense of place within, and enjoying summer weekends to their fullest. My entire summer season has been this kind of "cultivation and nourishment," and perhaps the harvest that I'm beginning to experience is this rekindling of my blog, an outpouring of written word and photos that for so long has been dormant.

Finally, the combination of a well-written blog post, its metaphor of life in its cycle of natural seasons, and this exploration into word origin made the Friday Ramble post one of my favorite kinds.

I'm looking forward to seeing what new fruits of synchronicity will appear for me next!

As always, thank you for reading!
Green Gal

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Green Gal All Growed Up

Note: The title of this post is intentionally "All Growed Up" and not "All Grown Up" because I'm a '90s baby and its in tribute to the Rugrats TV movie of that same name. Perhaps I'm also poking a little bit of fun at myself for claiming to be grown up because a) I'm only 23 and b) who wants to really be grown up anyway?

In the last eight months since I posted on this blog, many exciting changes and new adventures have happened in my life. I was so busy living that I forgot to take time to reflect, write, and share them on here. Life will probably always be busy, though, right? I'm hoping that as I settle into these new changes, I can begin blogging again a little more consistently.

So what were those adventures and new changes? The biggest change is certainly that I moved away from the coastal town that I called home for nearly five years. I now live in a cute neighborhood in a big city, and I commute by bike and bus to that coastal town to the same two jobs I've had since last July. I'm still in the same general region that I've lived in my entire life, but each place has its own unique history, social life, and new opportunities. I'm still learning what it means to be a resident of this city, and I'm getting used to the hot weather (again)!

Another change tied directly to the move is that I now live with my awesome partner of more than 2.5 years, Green Guy, which has its own host of fun and interesting changes, such as getting to see him nearly every day instead of once a week. I went from living with three women to living with one guy, so my responsibility for chores and keeping up the house has increased. Meals are almost always cooked for two (or more if we want to bring food to work the next day), and I have become more experimental with cooking, knowing that someone will be there with me to taste the results and help me figure out how to make it better next time. I also found out that I love cleaning and doing laundry. Yesterday, for example, I spent the entire day doing laundry, cleaning the house, and cooking a really yummy meal. I used a crock pot for the first time to make ribs; roasted corn in the oven with butter, garlic, and seasoning; and made delicious twice baked potatoes. All three parts of the meal were new in some way, and it turned out great! I was actively moving, cleaning, and cooking all day, and it was one of the most productive, fulfilling days I've had in awhile.

Also connected to this new place is a renewed interest in gardening and growing plants. I've always wanted to be like the gardeners that both of my parents are, but I never quite made it happen. Now that I have a little rectangle of dirt in the backyard and a porch at our front door big enough for potted plants, I've begun growing things and finding comfort in the routine of watering (and the unexpected surprises of learning how to keep plants alive by trial and error!).

When I think back to high school, when I was first writing this blog, I remember coming across so many blogs written by mostly women who posted about their experiences living "green" in their homes. At the time, I aspired to be like them, but ultimately couldn't relate to the articles on eco-cleaning products, gardening to feed a family, or making things for a home instead of buying them. I was too young to be responsible for those things, and while I implemented what I could, it wasn't until recently that I really understood the relevancy of those particular tips and stories. I get it now, though, and I want to be part of that conversation again so that I can learn from others how to do this whole being an adult thing in a way that's cost-effective with very little environmental impact.

All of this background is to say, hey, I'm back, and I've reached a point where my posts are going to be showcasing plants growing and yummy meals I made with fresh ingredients and interesting ideas for how to do things you want to do without emitting pollutants or trashing the planet. I'm still the same ole Green Gal bicycling to the farmers market and climbing mountains; I'm just (maybe) a little more mature than I was back in 2009 when I posted about how to be an eco-teenager.

For now, I'll let some photographs tell the story of what I've planted, what I've cooked, and what adventures I've been on in the last eight months...

More details and stories about some of these photos coming soon...

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

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