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January 26, 2009

Restaurant to Try: Caioti Pizza Cafe in Studio City

I clipped a little article from the in-flight magazine who knows how long ago....The blurb is about the Caioti Pizza Cafe in Studio City. I was on a random flight to nowhere, and reading about someplace right down the street from my home. So, intrigued, I made note of it, but have yet to go there.

The piece caught my attention as the restaurant's creator Ed LaDou was billed as the driving impetus behind the gourmet pizza movement of the '80s, and inventor of BBQ Chicken Pizza. This is the man who taught Wolfgang Puck how to make pizza.

Caioti's serves contemporary ingrediants, as well as classic fare with fresh herbs, artisanal cheeses, and homemade sausages and sauces. Definitely a place on my list to try!

Ed LaDou

Caioti's is located at 4346 Tujunga Ave, phone 818-761-3588. Find more info here.

What places in your neighborhood do you always take note of when passing but have yet to try? Let me know in a comment below.

Restaurant Review: Inn of the Seventh Ray

Topanga Canyon is well known for its old-hippie vibe and freewheeling love of nature. One of my favorite restaurants embodies this feel. The Inn of the Seventh Ray is a wonderful woodland retreat housed in what is rumored to be evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson's 1930s home.

Their organic wholistic approach to food is embodied in a wide menu that will satisfy both vegetarians like myself and ardent carnivores. The real star is the surroundings, lush grounds and views of a babbling creek, with quiet enough for conversation. Whether you're there for Sunday brunch or a candlelit meal, you'll feel as though a wedding reception could be happening in the next room.

And check out their great bookshop and new age gift store. You'll find a rare collection of offbeat interests.

The Inn of the Seventh Ray is located at 128 Old Topanga Canyon Road. For directions and hours, menus and pricing, check out their website here.

January 15, 2009

Consumer Product Testing: Quick Cash

Participating in focus groups & audience testing can be a great way to make a little extra spending cash. Generally, places in LA will use you no more than once every six months, and pay anywhere from fifty to eighty bucks depending on time required. Here are a couple of agencies to register with:

Suzy Cole/ASI

Adept Consumer Testing

How do you supplement your income? Let me know in a comment.

A Foodie's Journey through LA

The search for the best taco in Los Angeles--does that seem like a subject that could consume an entire blog?

As it turns out, it can. I'm a vegetarian, so the subject isn't right up my alley, but the pursuit for the best and love of the town tickles me to no end. So, I thought I'd pass along the link.

January 12, 2009

Spa Days in LA

(My mom at Burke Williams! when she visited me a few years ago)

(and, in the interest of equal disclosure, me at Burke)

Here's a link to's list of Best Day Spas in Los Angeles. In this year of strikes throughout the film & television industries, I certainly don't have the luxury of doing this right now. But, one can always dream....

(a relaxed mom and I, post-Burke)

Have you tried any of these places out? Let me know your impressions in a comment below.

Something to Check Out: SEA Lab

My favorite animal: Seahorses. I've saved an article out of the LA Times since it was published in November of 2005. This means this section of newspaper has survived three years, a move, and countless purges in my office. All because it talks about some baby seahorses that showed up at LAX customs and were now being reared at an aquarium in Long Beach.

Still haven't made it over to visit the seahorses, but still saving the section of newspaper. Thus this blog post.

Some day soon I will go to check out SEA Lab, a hands-on coastal science education center in Redondo Beach that offers free and low cost programs for children of all ages to enjoy.

From their website:

The site was originally founded in 1974 as the Edison Marine Research Laboratory to develop a state-of-the-art fish protection system - the very one still in use today at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Twenty years later, Southern California Edison, together with Earth Island Institute, decided to convert the site into a coastal science education center. LA Conservation Corps was selected to develop and manage the new SEA Lab as one of its programs.

In addition to its in-center programs, the SEA Lab extends its offerings into the community through summer camp programs, community service projects and the Traveling Tidepool mobile exhibit. All of the activities are operated by college students trained by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, who receive help from more than 100 dedicated local volunteers.

Click here, then click on the blue button at left marked "Plan a visit to the SEA Lab"
to go to their website for hours, activities, and current events.

Free Days at Los Angeles Museums

(above, me & my folks at Griffith Park Observatory)

Here's a few web pages that lists free entrance dates for tons of museums all around Los Angeles. Add all of these to your calendar and make monthly dates with friends!'s page

ExperienceLA's page

Frommer's page

Have you visited any of these places? What were your favorites? Post a comment with your thoughts.

Game Book Tribute to my Grandma

my dad playing the game "pig"

I'll let you in on a project of mine, at the risk of appearing a fool when this takes me a decade to complete. I'd like to make a rule book of all the card games my grandma used to play with us kids. I have a running list of games that I'm making, so I can do the research and put this book together. And since I started this blog as a way of reducing the paper clutter in my office, I'll post the list here. Maybe you will leave me the rules for some of these games in the comments to this post, or maybe it will spark more games that should be added to my list.

Grandma Walker studies the cards

The games that I remember are:
Kings on the Corners
Crazy 8s
Go Fish

I guess a few board games could be added to this....Yahtzee

I'll also have to add a recipe for Black Cows, which are like a root beer float, but made with Pepsi instead of root beer. That was the special treat Grandma would make anytime upon request, but always when we played cards.

Whenever I get this project done it'll make a great Christmas present for all my cousins.

A Place to Check Out: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Here's another fun free family activity that I'm adding to my to do list: visit the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. It's located just steps from the ocean on Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro.

From their ad:
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is a non-profit public aquarium that promotes knowledge, appreciation, and conservation of the marine life of Southern California. There are numerous exhibits that simulate Southern California's rocky shores, tidepools, kelp forests, sandy beaches and mudflats, open ocean and the nearby Channel Islands.

Discover the knowledge and observations of Sea Ragers at the Cabrillo Beach Coastal Park each Saturday and Sunday as they answer questions and share their personal insights at the tidepools, salt marsh, and the Cabrillo fishing pier.

For more info, visit Admission is free. Hours are Tuesdays-Friday 12noon-5P, Saturday & Sunday 10A-5P.

Fiesta La Ballona Festival in Culver City

Here's a festival I just learned about, and wanted to make note of for the coming summer.

Fiesta La Ballona is a week-long Culver City community celebration. This year's dates can be found here. It culminates in a weekend carnival event with free admission.

Last years event featured two stages of live music, carnival rides and games, a petting zoo and pony rides, as well as a food court and a beer and wine garden. For more information, visit the Fiesta's website at

Master Gardener Gardening Helpline

The folks at University of California Cooperative Extension operate a helpline to answer all your gardening questions, staffed by expert Master Gardeners. Here's their contact info:

Phone: 323-260-3238
Fax: 323-881-0067

They'll give advice on vegetables & fruits, annuals, perennials, shrubs & trees, soils, pests, fertilizing, irrigating, organic gardening, or composting--basically anything you can think to ask!

Where do you get your gardening advice? Post a comment below.

January 9, 2009

Monster Tomato & Pepper Sale in Fullerton

(Pineapple Hawaiian variety above, pictured ripe on vine in my garden)
From their site:

The Potting Shed will hosts its annual “Monster Tomato and Pepper Sale” on the grounds of the Fullerton Arboretum March 19 – 22, 2009. This is the largest annual plant sale in the region focusing exclusively on tomatoes, peppers, and chilies and customers travel from as far away as San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara to purchase plants.

Over 200 varieties of tomato plants will be on sale, including every size from currant to beefsteak and every color from white to black. ....The pepper and chili selection will be huge this year with over 75 varieties of hot and sweet peppers.

All tomatoes and peppers for this sale are carefully propagated and organically grown exclusively in the Arboretum nursery by skilled volunteers. Proceeds from this annual sale benefit the Fullerton Arboretum.

Their website has a link to an exhaustive list of all varieties being sold. I'm posting this so I'll remember to go!

What's your favorite source for seedlings? Post a comment below--I could really use your tips.

Day Trip: Carlsbad Flower Fields

Last May my friend Jennifer and I met up with my friend Anthea and her baby Madeline at the Carlsbad Flower Fields in San Diego. It's a great place to wander and spend the day where beautiful flower bulbs are farmed. There's plenty of picnic spots. Entrance was only about six dollars, and parking is free.

Here's some info on the Flower Fields so you can plan your own day trip. The fields are open every spring from about March to May, but check the site for exact conditions, dates, and events.

There's a really great demonstration garden full of all kinds of things, then the dedicated rose test garden, and each of the more than 170 All-American Rose selection winners since 1940.

Me in heaven....
Then Madeline wanted to give it a try....Anthea's such a great mom of course she assisted.
When I went, there was also a great greenhouse display of all different kinds of poinsettia, and the history of the Ecke family business that produced them.

And then of course, there were the ranunculus themselves.
Madeline had a ball experiencing the texture of the bright sweet flowers.

On the way home Jen and I made a stop at a local pick-your-own strawberry field just down the street. All summer I relived the memories of this trip every time I pulled strawberries from my freezer for fresh strawberry lemonade.

What do you think happens when you put an infant up to a portrait hole?

January 8, 2009

Day Trip: Antelope Valley CA Poppy Reserve

A fabulous free activity is to take a day trip to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, and what could be more local than California's own state flower? The Reserve is located 15 miles west of Lancaster at 15101 Lancaster Road. This is the place where Dorothy fell asleep in the Wizard of Oz. I saw several Dorothys and even a Tin Man there for portraits on the day I was visiting.

My friend Jennifer and I took a wonderfully relaxing road trip one day last spring to see the poppies in bloom en masse and practice some amateur photography (all on this post are mine). I'm used to mountain meadows, but I had never seen any area so filled with wildflowers. It boggles the mind that such a scenic natural landscape is only an hour and a half away from my citified neighborhood.

The best visiting season is generally from mid-March to mid-May, but you can call the Wildflower Bloom Information Poppy Reserve Wildflower Hotline at 661-724-1180 to find out what conditions are like when you're ready to go.

Other than the gas required to get there, the only cost involved is a per-vehicle parking fee of $5 or less. No dogs or mountain bikes are allowed. Be sure to wear sunblock and watch out for snakes (long pants are a great idea). There are plenty of picnic tables, so pack your own lunch, but bring extra water for hiking.
I even used a few of these images to create cards and magnets for sale on To see my products, go here.

January 3, 2009

Custom Jewelry Box

My new bedroom is brightly colored, with one fall orange-colored wall, and three mustard yellow walls. Luckily, I have a fairly large window so the room is nice and bright in daylight, but at night, the biggest block of time I spend in the bedroom, it can feel small and dark. So I've kept the bedding and accents white to lighten the space.

When I saw this at a store on clearance, I thought it was perfect for my bedroom. Inside, it was just a plain box barely lined.

I bought it anyway, thinking it would make a beautiful jewelry box. At home I googled "jewelry insert." Within ten minutes I'd found an online source for padded inserts. The ones I chose were about 3/4 in. thick with slits cut to hold rings. When the inserts came in the mail, I cut them to fit using my good sewing scissors, and voila! I have a custom jewelry box for my nice rings. I was able to put a layer in the lid as well as on the bottom. I've also stuck earrings in the ring slots, and used the bottom to hold a few special necklaces. The total project cost less than twenty bucks, and my heirlooms now have a home.
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