A Walk Down Craft Ave~ Memories of the Pittsburgh Playhouse

Pittsburgh Winter 1999

I went to college in Pittsburgh. I lived in Tucson, Arizona before that. It was a strange decision to move there. But they had musical theatre as a major and I was accepted and they gave good scholarships. I thought the little city and cold weather would be good practice for New York. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I went alone to a place where I knew no one.

The whole town was beyond different from the Southwest. I was lost. And confused. I was trying to understand so many new things. It was a hard time for me.

Years later, I’m absolutely smitten with the city and it’s loving people. And the theatre there is magical, supportive and life-changing. It’s one of my most favorite places in the world.

But in college, I had been used to the shorter history of the West and most buildings were newer where I came from. The Pittsburgh Playhouse was our theatre and is an anomaly, even to folks who grew up accustomed to the beauty of deep history. We performed, took class, rehearsed and worked inside the Playhouse, which was basically a pile of different buildings that were strewn together with secret hallways and staircases. The love for theatre joined together an old restaurant, a brothel, and a synagogue.

I feel like when we’re little kids, the way that we imagine any place to be what is in our minds, the unlimited possibilities of that, I feel like that is how the Playhouse really is. Walking through it feels like how parts of dreams come together- like it doesn’t make sense but it did at the time and it doesn’t need to.

Theatre seems to be a place where we can create like those little playing kids. And this building was a physical representation of putting things together to create something new. It felt like our giant treehouse rooted on the ground, made of cement, wood, love, and ghosts.

People had said they had gone down to the old restaurant and seen the entire room filled with happy, partying ghosts. The costume room still scares the living bejesus out of me. I think a friend saw a woman’s face in the little square window in the door, even though no one was inside. These are stories I’d be so mad to read if someone else wrote them. Sorry if I’m scaring you. I’m scaring me too.

Theatres always have ghost lights, a single lightbulb on a metal pole on wheels, that they put on the stage overnight. We were told stories about the ghost light and ghosts on the Rockwell stage, while we were standing on the Rockwell stage during our orientation. I was so scared that I blocked it out. And to this day, I don’t know if the ghost lights are there to ward off ghosts, or to help them see while we’re gone. I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me.

Anyway, this old place would receive new coats of paint like a neglectful dad repeatedly buying his kids candy to make up for it. We couldn’t really change the structure or rebuild the inside, maybe for financial reasons, maybe for structural ones. But boy did we paint it.

I got used to that. And now that they’re tearing it down to build a new theatre downtown in its place, I’m sad that we can’t just put another layer of paint.

I know that it logically makes sense to give something new and sturdy to the students coming to learn. And the caretakers of this old beast are probably exhausted from holding its organs together. But it’s sad that we won’t be able to visit our memories in the same way. We won’t be able to see, touch and smell them.

There will be pictures, and videos, programs, newspaper articles, costumes, set pieces, scripts, music, songs to sing and people… priceless friends and strangers with stories who remember.

But right now there is something that joins us with strangers we never knew who have passed on. It even houses some of them as ghosts. A lover of haunted places visited and said they felt an aura of entities, “Nothing evil, just perhaps all theatre enthusiasts, who find the performances a wonderful diversion from what is keeping them in this world.”

I think theatre can act as a diversion for what is hard for us in this world too. Other times it can act as a mentor, a question inspirer, or a glue that makes us realize we’re not alone. I felt alone when I arrived in Pittsburgh. It took a long time for the city and I to understand each other. This sweet place was part of all of that.

I hope someone films the view of walking all the hallways. Places like this don’t get made anymore. I think they’re important. They encourage imagination because they are proof that things can be unique and work. And they seem to attract people who were the type of children that liked playing with the box of the gift more than the gift.

Pittsburgh itself is filled with gift-box people though. So I think the new theatre will be in good hands. I just wanted to share that I’m sad. And share some of the wonderful uniqueness of this place.

I hope the good hands that continue the tradition of the Playhouse also leave a map to the new theatre for the ghosts. But they’re so good at navigating secret passages, they might find it on their own anyway.

Sending love to fellow Playhouse memoristas!

The 1st Time I Heard Women Were a Minority


I remember the first time I heard that women were a minority. I was 22.

I grew up in South Carolina. My mother was a successful business woman. As kids, we were taught that it was important to treat everyone equally and with love. I moved to Arizona and finished high school there, then went to college in Pittsburgh. For 22 years, no one ever mentioned to me that women were a minority.

I took my senior of college year “off” and went home to Arizona where I took core classes at Pima Community College. My sociology teacher was a woman, a lawyer, who had graduated from Oxford. She mentioned minorities and casually listed women as part of the group. “Eeeek… How embarrassing for her,” I thought. “She doesn’t know there are more women than men…” I raised my hand. I would let her know. (Ha!) “There are more women than men in the US.” “Yes, I know,” she responded. “So they aren’t a minority,” I said. “Yes they are…” And then my female teacher explained to me that in my country, I am considered a minority, even though that isn’t based on math… It’s not based on the actual percentages of people, which is what I thought defined the word “minority.”

That was very jarring.

I think it’s misleading to call us a minority when we aren’t in the minority. It lets words familiarize us with an untrue concept. It’s said as though it is true. And I think some people may start to believe that we are actually in the minority.

A more truthful usage of the word would be “Women are treated like minorities.” If we said this, it would remind us each time it’s said that it’s about the treatment and not the math.

And that might lead us to think more about how we treat people in the minority differently than those in the majority.

And that could focus our attention on equalizing that treatment.

Since we are all created equally, it seems strange that these distinctions are made at all.

Also, if our heritage was broken down honestly, where “white” wasn’t an ethnicity, but instead, the actual countries of origin were listed, the ratio of minorities would be much more equal.

On my mom’s side, I’m Mexican, Native American- Tigua, Apache, and Yaqui, most likely Sephardic which is Spanish-Jewish… And on my dad’s side, I’m English, Scots-Irish, German, and Swedish. But on government forms, I can often only choose one place of origin. But if I’m allowed to check more than one box, they are only for my mom’s side. For my dad’s side, the only option is always “white.”

If we had honest boxes, where we included the beautiful, real pieces of our heritage, most likely the percentages of majority and minority would be much more even. And again, honest.

I wish those boxes said things like Hungarian, Italian, Irish… When it comes to food or drinking, we don’t think those places have the same “white” food. St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a time where “white” people have delicious homemade lasagna and play croquet. If I mistake a person from New Zealand as Australian, they are rightfully upset. These are all different places with unique, lush histories. And most of the time, we celebrate these differences. But the boxes that end up defining the word “minority” (except in regards to women) lump all these people together to form a false “majority.”

I find that people already have enough ways to have low self esteem. And that lack of autonomy and self love manifests in all sorts of addictions, anxieties and sadness. We don’t need to add more subconscious judgement to the fire. It hurts the people who may end up with a falsely inflated sense of self, and it hurts the people who may end up with a falsely deflated sense of self. Extremes either way take us away from walking the earth knowing we belong just as our true selves. I see that we’re changing and growing little by little and I’m very grateful for that. But I still wanted to share my feelings.

The article below is from 2015, I just read it today. Its respect for the power of words is what reminded me of my experience at 22 and inspired me to share. Thanks for listening. To those of you around me for those first 22 years, thank you for leading me into a world of equality. I find that my thoughts affect my feeling of freedom, which affects my actions, and I’m really grateful for the loving thoughts you all shared. 

A bit about the article: Apparently some places outside of the US, like Europe, Africa and Hong Kong, regularly use the word “expats.” In America, I rarely hear people use the word expats. These countries use the word when referring to “white” foreigners working in their country, but they don’t use it to describe people of other races who are also working in their country. There are different words for those workers. The Guardian quotes The Wall Street Journal saying, “Some arrivals are described as expats; others as immigrants; and some simply as migrants. It depends on social class, country of origin and economic status. It’s strange to hear some people in Hong Kong described as expats, but not others. Anyone with roots in a western country is considered an expat … Filipino domestic helpers are just guests, even if they’ve been here for decades… It’s a double standard woven into official policy.” Click for full article:


Jada & Gabrielle Share about Codependence

I ADORE THIS. !!! Thank you thank you thank you both for sharing!! Please, anyone who comes across this post, watch this wonderful video. If anyone watching this can’t afford an AJ (the wonderful life coach), I highly recommend reading Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. It, and the journey it starts, has helped me so much and changed my life.

It’s about $12 on Amazon or free in this Youtube video.

I’ve been learning new behaviors, much like the experiences shared in this video, over the last 3 years and while it’s an ongoing process, it has given me clarity and an understanding of the world in a way that I never had.

The video only mentions codependence one time, but in learning about the word over the years, it means so much more than what it sounds like, and most of the subjects in this video fall under its umbrella.

Although there is not one single definition of codependence, there are over 50 codependent traits. Where I am today, a short definition of my codependence could be: “being someone who has a difficult time maintaining my authentic self in front of others” or “being dependent on anything else to fill my self-esteem or to distract me from my lack of it.” The word “anything” leaves the range of options very open! And that range often includes extreme opposite behaviors, like people pleasing vs. isolation, even though both equal codependence. The result of the dependence on outside sources for self-esteem is often an unhealthy relationship with oneself and others, which creates an inability to have real intimacy, which can lead to deep sadness and anxiety.

I didn’t recognize any of these behaviors in myself. I thought I was fine. But I knew my closest relationship left me feeling an ache that was dangerous. Luckily, someone opened up vulnerably in front of me about her imperfect relationship and after years of swallowing my pain, I randomly opened up to her. She told me to read that book.

Finally, I’m growing bit by bit toward real intimacy. Progress not perfection is a daily goal now. And as someone who never wanted to let anyone down, imperfection terrifies me, but finally makes room for me to live, take up space, and experience real authenticity and love with myself and others around me who are interested in authenticity and love.

I used to think that love was sacrifice or was shown by proving I would never abandon. I used to think I had to be needed in order to have a friendship or relationship. To learn what a healthy relationship is is mind-blowing to me. When I started to learn and accept my true self, I could let go enough to not be needed. To trust that without earning, I can be wanted. Just for me as I am now. Whew, that’s terrifying to write! But the times I’ve been able to put it into practice, it’s beautiful and creates real connection for me.

I had heard so many wonderful ideas in my life. Like “Be grateful” or “Detachment is healthy.” But in this journey, I’ve found that those ideas start at the end. Detachment hasn’t come first for me, self-acceptance, autonomy and self love are coming first, and detachment and gratitude are beautiful byproducts. I couldn’t let go until I had myself, my gut instinct and something bigger than me, to hold onto and trust.

It’s a daily struggle, but now I have many imperfect people around, who are also focused on healing, to grow with, and many tools to try to reconnect to love. I forget all day long. I was so practiced the other way for so long. I worry in a loop, I criticize my almost every thought, I use whatever I can to distract myself from feeling or healing. But when I can authentically allow love back in, the world shifts in a blessed way. It has been horribly difficult to learn this. But I’m beyond grateful for it all.

I believe that the type of individual growth Jada & Gabrielle are sharing about helps people heal and slowly start to manage addiction, anxiety and depression. It’s so good to see this deep discussion by people in the limelight. So grateful to these ladies for their vulnerability! THANK YOU again!!!!!

Sending love to those currently healing and who hope to heal


Brugmansia: A Trick or a Treat?

Holy Happy Halloween. Wow. I just read about this plant. It’s very thematically appropriate for today. Creepily dark. I mean, Holy S#*+. But first, I’ll start off not scary… This horror movie starts out harmless, with color and playfulness, as they do…

It’s called Brugmansia & there are seven different types. They come in pink, red, white, yellow, orange or green and they have a lovely fragrance that is most noticeable in the evenings. The plant was originally found in tropical areas in South America, from Venezuela to Chile and in Brazil. It’s now listed as extinct in the wild by the ICUN Red List, but is grown in the wild in places where it is non-native and ornamentally in yards. In Los Angeles, I’ve seen them in yards inland in Norwalk, and in the Hollywood Hills, and Beverly Hills. They get surprisingly tall. I’ve always been intrigued by them. I thought they were very beautiful and amusing, droopy sad cartoon plants that look like elephant wallflowers waiting for someone to ask them to dance. (Wouldn’t Brugmansia be a great name for a wallflower elephant?) Little did I know that they are much more strong than that!

The plant contains alkaloids that in modern medicine have proven to be medically valuable for their anesthetic, spasmolytic, anticholinergic, narcotic and anti-asthmatic properties. Although some alkaloids can be beneficial, there are many types of alkaloids and they’re used for many things. Cocaine, nicotine, morphine, caffeine & strychnine are all alkaloids. Different parts of the Brugmansia plant have different concentrations of the alkaloids scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine that change with the seasons and the plant’s hydration. So determining a level of safe alkaloid exposure from the plant is kind of impossible. (A little bit unsettling right? Let’s cue the start of just the slightest underlying scary music…)

Indigenous South American cultures used it in spiritual or religious ceremonies and medicinally, mostly externally, where the leaves were applied to the skin as part of a poultice, tincture, or ointment. They used it to treat arthritis, rheumatism, headaches, infections, aches and pains, dermatitis, orchitis and as a general anti-inflammatory. Internal uses were rare because of its dangers, but when it was used internally, it was used in an extremely diluted state for stomach and muscle ailments, as a decongestant, to induce vomiting, as a sedative and to expel worms and parasites. Worms and parasites get the hell out of a body to flee from this stuff, that is very telling.

(However, let’s have a music change again, something light, happy and disarming…) Night pollinating moths are drawn to its smell. Attracting pollinators is always beneficial. Hummingbirds drink happily from the unscented red Brugmansia. And butterfly larvae eat the alkaloids and store them into their adult butterfly stage so that they are less tasty to predators. (So far this horror movies seems really mild and butterfly-friendly. But… Back to that creepy music.)

A couple weeks ago, as we tended to trees we planted with our Orchard friends, a tree expert walked with us and answered someone’s question about if this plant is poisonous by saying, “There’s a fine line between poisonous & hallucinogenic. Is it more toxic to your stomach or your brain?” In looking it up for this post, I see what she means. But DAMN. I thought hallucinogenic sounded like it had an element of fun to it. This is some scary Halloween morbid hallucinating.

Ingesting parts of the plant (the seeds and leaves are the most potent) can cause tachycardia where the heart rate is above normal when resting, dry mouth, diarrhea, migraine headaches, paralysis of smooth muscles, confusion, visual and auditory hallucinations that the person doesn’t recognize are happening- with amnesia that follows afterwards, mydriasis where the pupil is enlarged even in bright light, rapid onset cycloplegia where the eye becomes paralyzed and therefore can’t focus on nearby objects, and death.

Swiss explorer Johann Von Tschudi described a man who ingested Brumansia in Peru:

“Soon after drinking the Tonga, the man fell into a dull brooding, he stared vacantly at the ground, his mouth was closed firmly, almost convulsively and his nostrils were flared. Cold sweat covered his forehead. He was deathly pale. The jugular veins on his throat were swollen as large as a finger and he was wheezing as his chest rose and sank slowly. His arms hung down stiffly by his body. Then his eyes misted over and filled with huge tears and his lips twitched convulsively for a brief moment. His carotids were visibly beating, his respiration increased and his extremities twitched and shuddered of their own accord. This condition would have lasted about a quarter of an hour, then all these actions increased in intensity.

His eyes were now dry but had become bright red and rolled about wildly in their sockets and all his facial muscles were horribly distorted. A thick white foam leaked out between his half open lips. The pulses on his forehead and throat were beating too fast to be counted. His breathing was short, extraordinarily fast and did not seem to lift the chest, which was visibly fibrillating. A mass of sticky sweat covered his whole body which continued to be shaken by the most dreadful convulsions. His limbs were hideously contorted. He alternated between murmuring quietly and incomprehensibly and uttering loud, heart-rending shrieks, howling dully and moaning and groaning.”

Brumansia causes such terrifying hallucinations that the journal of Psychiatry & Clinical Neuroscience even reported of a man who drank only one cup of Brugmansia tea and then amputated his own tongue and penis.

Ancient South American cultures mixed it with corn beer and tobacco leaves and drugged wives and slaves with the mixture before burying them alive with their dead lords. Holy I Can’t Handle That.

From me & the boring plant world 😉 Happy Halloween.

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Resources: Wikipedia pages on Brugmansia, Alkaloids, Tachycardia, Cycloplegia, & Mydriasis


All I’ve Learned About Compost, in One Big Pile (Get It?)


These are true for any compost, whether it’s done in a bin, in a pile, or in the ground. (There are more tips later specific to bins and piles.)

  • Compost needs about 50% green ingredients, 50% brown ingredients, and oxygen.
  • “Green” is anything with moisture. It can be any color. Food scraps, grass, leaves, coffee grounds, (non-pet) manure…
  • “Brown” is anything dry. Dry leaves, brown paper bags, wood chips, egg cartons…
  • Green is nitrogen-rich.
  • Brown is carbon-rich.
  • The compost needs oxygen to work. That’s why it’s important to turn bins or flip piles when making compost, to let oxygen get to different parts of the compost.
  • If there is too much green, it will get very stinky. If this is happening, add more brown. (Also, too much green means too much nitrogen, which means it could burn plants if it was used as fertilizer in this stinky form.)
  • No meat, dairy, fish, or animal food oils can go in the compost, unless it’s bokashi (see below).
  • Pet waste is bad because sometimes it has bacteria that can survive the heat of the pile.
  • It helps to cover the compost at the end with a layer of only brown in order to keep the smell enclosed.
  • Whatever size the compost starts out, it will end up being much smaller when it’s done. (Sort of like cooking fresh spinach)
  • If you’re trying to make organic compost, make sure yard trimmings you use (fresh grass, brown leaves, etc) come from a yard that doesn’t use pesticides.
  • We chop up twigs and branches with shears before adding them to the compost. Making everything into smaller pieces helps the compost digest more quickly and easily, like chewing for our tummies.


A few years ago, a farmer friend of mine taught me that compost piles get hot and they are actually cooking the carbon-rich brown & nitrogen-rich green scraps. They get so hot, about 140 degrees, that the creatures one might worry about staying inside the pile (bad bacteria, bugs and any rodents who might smell tasty treats inside the pile) can’t live there anymore. It’s too hot so they leave. Pretty cool, huh? (Pun inaccurate and not intended.) A pile covered in winter snow will still cook inside and sometimes steam will still rise off of the covering snow! When it’s done, there will be only good bacteria and healthy, nutrient-rich compost.


Composting food scraps and brown waste returns back to the earth what came from the earth and lets it become nutrient-rich soil that grows more plants, instead of landfill trash that becomes methane gas.

Also, when compost is added to a garden, it amends the soil by nourishing it. As the soil gets richer, plants in healthy bacteria-rich soil don’t need pesticides or chemical fertilizers. They can be next to plants with disease and not get sick. It’s like our human immune systems: we need good bacteria (probiotics) and nutrients and minerals for our organs to fight off disease. Plants are the same way. And the same way that we have to keep eating those things, so do the plants.

Helping the plants immune system ends up helping ours too. The garden food ends up having more nutrients and tasting better too 🙂

Plus plants in healthy soil need less water, which saves water! It also reduces the city’s need to collect yard waste, saving resources.

Even if you don’t have a garden, putting compost back into the earth anywhere is healing for it, from the lack of methane gas to the gain of nutrients. Overall, it’s a cycle that benefits people, the plants and the planet.


  • Fruits & veggies
  • Peels, skins & cores of fruits & veggies
  • Herbs & spices
  • Nutshells
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Pits & seeds
  • Grains & beans
  • Tea bags without the staples
  • Shredded brown paper bags, paper egg cartons, toilet paper rolls
  • Brown, dry leaves from our pesticide-free yard
  • Chemical-free hair
  • Chemical-free fingernails
  • Down feathers from the sofa or birds outside
  • Vacuum cleaner or sweeping dust (haven’t done this one yet, but want to!)
  • House plant leaves & cut flowers (for the green bin)
  • No meat, dairy or animal products (bones, butter, fish skins)


Store the food scraps you’re collecting in the freezer or fridge (so they don’t smell) until you’re ready to compost.


These are some options of how people compost. I’m sure there are more, but these are what I’ve heard. You can put your food scraps and brown compostable waste in:

  • your yard in a compost pile above ground
  • a pit in the ground with or without doors to seal it
  • a fenced in compost area
  • a plastic compost bin that turns
  • a wooden compost bin that allows for air circulation
  • a homemade compost trashcan with holes drilled in the sides


  • the freezer or fridge (so they don’t smell) until you’re ready to do any of the following with them
  • your green or brown bin from the city
  • your outdoor or indoor worm bin (no acidic food or shells)
  • an indoor bokashi compost bucket (more info below)
  • or donate your food scraps to an community organization, farmer’s market or restaurant that accepts compost. L.A. Compost collects food scraps on Sundays at the Motor Avenue Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the Atwater Village Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m


  • Make sure you put in brown stuff. Just food and it gets stinky and won’t become compost.
  • Make sure it doesn’t get too heavy to turn. Turning gives it the oxygen it needs to work.
  • While water is added to open-air piles, the enclosed nature of bins seems to use the moisture of the green ingredients to help cook the compost, instead of needing water. But if things get too dry, try gently adding in some water when you go to turn the bin.


This is info for composting not in a container, but in a large pile above ground:

  • One cubic yard is the magic size for the pile to really heat up.


  • Make a layer of green, about half an inch thick, then a layer of brown, same thickness, alternating as you go, and gently watering the whole time.
  • Each time we make a double layer of green & brown ingredients, we mix them together with a pitch-forky hoe. (I’m sure that’s the proper name for it.) Then we make another set of layers and mix them and so on. Doing it slowly like this makes it be thoroughly mixed. It also lets the water get in there to hold it together like a glue so the pile can get really tall and reach its cubic yard goal.
  • Without watering each layer, it apparently doesn’t cook!
  • The water should be saturated to where you could wring the compost out like a sponge. But if it’s trickling down the sides, it’s too much.


  • We’ll go back and turn or flip the pile 3-4 more times before it’s done.
  • To “turn” the pile, have a second space as large as the one the compost is in where you can put the pile. (In the photo above, we moved it from the left space where the pitchfork is to the right.) I thought we would flip it in place, which seemed hard, messy and confusing. Putting it next to where it was, made it so easy to flip! That may seem obvious to some, but living in apartments for most of my life apparently has made my brain not think of space as an option. This blew my mind, ha!
  • The top layer will have cooked the least because it was exposed to the air.
  • The inside will be more cooked, even ashy sometimes, or still steaming!
  • When we flip the pile, the top layer becomes the bottom layer and the bottom becomes the top, so the whole thing will get a chance to cook evenly. 
  • We shovel the top layer onto the empty spot and repeat the same watering/ mixing as we did for each layer before.
  • More new green or brown can be added in every time a pile is flipped.
  • A pile can be turned every three days to finish the project more quickly.
  • Turning it once a week is fine.
  • Turning it every 3 weeks or whenever is fine too, it’ll just take longer.


  • Horse poo really has a hard time breaking down. (Another gardening friend recently said that chicken poo or sheep poo work wonders! And cow poo, too, because their four stomachs break the food down more than a horse’s stomach does.)
  • If we see something that is stuck in a clump, we break it up with our hands.
  • The Hollywood Orchard (where we made this pile) doesn’t worry about avocado pits or too much acidic fruits. It’ll all break down eventually.


If you can find a free class or a place to go help someone do all of this with a pile, great! I learned so much from experiencing it in person.

In LA, the city gives some free workshops and discounted compost bins and worm bins. Kiss the Ground also has free compost workshops sometimes, listed on their FB page. You can also look up Grow Good, they give free classes from time to time. Here’s an LA Times article with more info.

March – November of 2018, the Burbank Recycle Center has a free compost workshop the last Wednesday of every month from 6-8pm, you just have to RSVP.

My favorite option of course is for people to join our beloved Hollywood Orchard mailing list, ask to be informed when we get together to work on our compost pile, and then come play in the dirt with us!

If you get to work with others, or you’re trying on your own, either way, let it be okay that trial and error is part of the exciting learning process!



My favorite compost video is of a guy in Hawaii who is playful and hilarious and simply shows a covered bucket and says, “This is BO-KAA-SHIEEE. It’s from Japan. It’s meat compost. Haven’t heard of it? It exists! That’s all I’m going to tell you. Look it up.” Ha!

So I did! And now I know that meat, dairy & animal oils can be composted too! And we can compost inside!

Bokashi bucket composting is a type of composting that takes two weeks to ferment food, including meat & dairy. All kitchen scraps go into an airtight bucket with bokashi, a mix of wheat bran, molasses, and specific microorganisms such as yeasts, actinomycetes, lactic acid bacteria and photosynthesis bacteria. The good bacteria breaks down the food and the lack of oxygen keeps the bad bacteria from growing. It’s essentially pickled compost. Or probiotic compost. Once the microbes in the bucket have made it safe, it’s added to soil or compost outside and soil microbes finish the process. Pretty neat!

Japan has done it for hundreds of years, but recently a professor clarified the exact ratio and type of microbes needed to make it safe, which allowed the practice to reach more people. For fellow curious friends, here is a site where bokashi microbes and buckets are for sale and this site has great frequently asked questions about bokashi.



If you don’t have brown waste (dry leaves, brown paper bags, twigs etc) and you only have food scraps, your situation is perfect for a worm bin. The worms only need food scraps and are happy to help you on your composting quest.


After the worms eat food scraps, just their poo is left over and it’s called “worm castings”. It’s used to sprinkle on the soil around plants as a fertilizer!

In some worm bins, there is even a spout at the bottom to drain their “tea.” In this case, “tea” is pee. Just like their poo, it can be poured on the soil or sprayed on the leaves of plants- they love it!

“Worm tea” can also be made by putting a glob of poo in some water, letting it sit for a few hours and then feeding it to your plants as a wonder-working fertilizer.

Worm castings are filled with enzymes, good bacteria, and nutrients. Worm poo contains no salt, has a neutral PH of 7, and is water-soluble, so it is immediately absorbable by plants and can’t burn even the most delicate ones. Extreme PH levels, either high or low, make it impossible for plants to absorb nutrients and worm castings help prevent these extreme levels.

It contains nitrates, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, calcium, copper, zinc, cobalt, borax, carbon and nitrogen. The good bacteria in the worm guts ends up in the castings, continuing beneficial activity in the soil too. And a light oil is on the castings when they come out, which erodes over time, creating a time-release effect for the quickly-absorbable nutrients.

And don’t worry, there is surprisingly nothing gross about earthworm poo. You can stick your face right near it and inhale deeply and it smells lovely! It’s as clean and refreshing to us as it is healing for the plants.


The square worm bins often fall into themselves. I recommend buying the circular 3-tray Can-O-Worms. It used to be available on Amazon, but today I’m only finding it on GrowOrganic.com. If it’s not available at that link when you’re looking, just Google Can-O-Worms with the dashes (if not, lizard food comes up), and look for a black circular thing with 3 levels (each level has handles). Shorter ones with less levels are more available online, but the taller one will make it easier to harvest the worm castings. It’s usually about $120.

You can also make your own worm bin, but I’ll come back and write more about that another day.

can-o-worms 3 trays


There are actually different kinds of earthworms! Some are meant for worm bins and some aren’t. Red Wigglers are happy to eat food scraps because they are epigean, meaning they are found above ground, actively decaying rotting vegetables, compost and manure. (Anthills are epigean too, above ground. Fascinating. To me, at least.)

Other earthworms are meant to have humus and soil as their main food and won’t do well in a food scrap environment. And Red Wigglers won’t do well in soil when it dries out.

So be sure to put the right worms in your bin to keep them safe and happy. I think the worm below is not a Red Wiggler. It’s the kind likes soil. The Red Wigglers are much more red. But I’m not sure. So I buy Red Wigglers to be sure…


I buy them at the Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) in Los Angeles. They have a little fridge of live things and the Red Wigglers come in a $15 container that looks like a pint of ice cream.

Farmers also sell them at markets or if you go directly to their nursery. Some people have businesses selling worms online. Or if you have a friend with a worm bin already, you can take a handful of them and over time, your bin will be full of worm families!


For International Compost Awareness Week in May, Rosario Dawson, Amy Smart, Adrian Grenier, Kendrick Sampson, Paul Blackthorne, & Kiss the Ground (a non-profit in LA) worked together to get the word out about how composting restores the cycle of life.

They had a Compost Challenge with daily challenges, but the big one was to post a short video or photo sharing your Compost Story, what you do with your left over food scraps.

Fellow soil lovers shared their Compost Stories with Kiss the Ground on social media and it let me see how there are so many different ways to do it and how I can make it easier for myself. It was very helpful and inspiring to hear, and see, other people’s ways of composting!

I recommend searching the hashtag #compostlife or @kissthegroundca on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to hear more ideas. Here is my compost story:


May 10, 2017  I’ve been participating in making and flipping the Hollywood Orchard compost pile over the past few months. From this experience, I’m getting to learn even more fun things about composting! The Hollywood Orchard made a big compost pile this morning! (It’s even taller in the shadows.) This particular day, the pile was a mix of:

  • local rabbit poo
  • local horse poo
  • fruit & veggie fiber remains from a juicery
  • straw
  • clipped up loquat tree trimmings
  • dry leaves from a yard

We make thin repeating layers of these ingredients, each layer gently watered the whole time.

The pile will get hot even by tomorrow! We are prepping for when the Cheremoya school kids to come visit the Orchard in Beachwood Canyon in two days. We’ll put a potato and deep in the pile tonight to cook & show them how hot it gets inside! And randomly, all of this happens to coincide with International Compost Awareness Week! #hotpotato


May 11, 2017 This is Shane & I’s homemade compost bin! A trash can with drilled holes in it. We’ve had it for years, but as it filled, it was too heavy to rotate (aka roll around on the driveway)! And then we stopped adding brown stuff, so… whew! It is an intense/ rich/ thick pile of wet stuff. At the beginning of April, we started adding brown again though. But it’s still hard to truly mix the brown in to the bottom of the muck.

So we’re saving carbon-rich brown yard leaves, torn-up brown paper grocery bags, egg cartons, & toilet paper rolls to eventually mix with this nitrogen-rich giant wad of old food we have in our compost can. We’re either going to mix it in a fancy compost bin that we can turn easily, or build a pit topped with a raised-garden-bed-type box with cellar doors to keep out critters, or just find a spot to make a pile in the open, now that we saw how to do it at the Hollywood Orchard. Whatever we decide to do, our layers of carbon & nitrogen will be ready and abundant!

But in the meantime, we made our own worm bin! Worms don’t need brown carbon like compost does, and since we naturally have more food scraps (which fall under “green”), a worm bin makes sense for us.

Also, we used to only compost foods that are organic and other things that are chemical and pesticide free. But because of The Compost Challenge, we realized we were just throwing non-organic food in the trash and wasting it! So now we’re also starting to put non-organic food in our green bin to be composted by the city.

We keep our food scraps in our refrigerator before transferring them to the compost to avoid smells or a parade of ants. We need to get better tupperware for the fridge door to keep it all easily accessible and organized (Organic/ Non-organic/ Worm Bin). We also need to find inside-the-house storage for our new habit of keeping brown paper things for the compost.

We keep the most chopped up, less acidic and soft organic food in a separate tupperware for the worms. They like it.

As for non-food items, we’ve worked up to having all natural, basically edible, shampoo, conditioner and hair gel so that we can compost our hair with our organic compost. Hair is incredibly nitrogen-rich! So are our fingernails! So I don’t use any nail polish or nail polish remover and our body soap is also all-natural ingredients. So we can organic-compost our fingernails too! Fun fact: There are companies who even make hair-mats that cover the base of plants to keep moisture in and add nutrients!

I’m madly in love with the fact that what our body exhales (carbon dioxide) and sheds (nitrogen in the form of hair and nails) naturally feeds the plants and trees around us, and what the plants and trees exhale (oxygen) and shed (fruits & veggies) naturally feed us. How magical. (I even love mites- because they are eating our dead skin!) Imagining a world without this cycle of togetherness leaves me thinking of gross piles of hair and fingernails with no where to go! But in reality, the cycle we have is amazing! I technically have no excess, because it all has a place that helps the world in some way… Even the “gross” stuff becomes beautiful!



Kiss the Ground made this deliciously passionate video about how to keep our soil healthy with compost and how when carbon is in the air, it’s bad, but in the ground, it nourishes life:


They also shared about the intricacies of what the soil is doing:


Their Compost Story video below also extends into the details of why composting is important. Many school teachers shared it with their classes during the Compost Challenge. I thought that was so cool! Kiss the ground also has a lot of other wonderful composting posters, tools, and content on thecompoststory.com & kisstheground.com.


One last helpful summary of How to Compost, made by Kiss the Ground…

Thanks for listening. I would love to hear your compost story if you feel like sharing!

Updated on September 20, 2018


More ideas for what to compost: https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/making/what-to-use/

Purchase a bokashi bucket & microbes: http://www.bokashicycle.com/howitworks.html

FAQs about bokashi: https://www.gardensfromgarbage.org/home/faq_about_bokashi_composting

The Hollywood Orchard: https://www.hollywoodorchard.org

The Hollywood Orchard’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HollywoodOrchard/

Kiss the Ground: http://www.kisstheground.com

Kiss the Ground’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kissthegroundCA

The Compost Story: https://www.thecompoststory

Very interesting article about how NYC is starting to compost: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/nyregion/compost-organic-recycling-new-york-city.html?_r=0&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mindbodygreen.com%2Farticles%2F6-things-you-need-to-know-today-april-7-2017%3Futm_source%3Dmbg&utm_medium=email&utm_content=daily&utm_campaign=170606

Great info about worm castings: https://www.tastefulgarden.com/Worm-Castings-d114.htm

Food Waste: Throwing Away More Than Food

“As much as 40% of all the food produced in the United States never gets eaten according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council… Americans throw away $165 billion dollars worth of food every year. That’s about 20 pounds per person, every month… The US Department of Agriculture says Americans throw away enough food every year to fill 730 football stadiums… US per capita food waste has increased by about 50% since 1974.” John Oliver just taught me so much about food waste in America. This is basically a recap of the episode. If you have time to watch it, he’s much funnier than I am! If not, here are some things I learned, plus some experiences and research he inspired me to share.

We’re throwing away that much food while at the same time, according to the USDA, “in 2013, 49.1 million Americans lived in food-insecure households.”

Throwing away this food not only keeps it from hungry families, it results in landfills creating methane gas, wasted money we spent to buy the food, wasted money paid to the people who grew it, and wasted water and resources used to make the food. For example, throwing away one egg wastes 55 gallons of water.

Some food is thrown away because we usually won’t buy the last few fruits or veggies because we think the last options have something wrong with them. But if it’s made it as far as getting on a shelf, it has already passed strict USDA standards for pretty produce. So there is most likely not anything wrong with the lonely, pretty produce on the shelf. Where does the non-pretty produce go? It’s labeled “#2 Produce” by the USDA and as soon as that happens, “It can lose 2/3 of its market value to a farmer.” So it usually goes into the trash.

Also, confusing food-date labels cause many people to throw food out before it’s gone bad. “Except for baby food, the federal government doesn’t require any food to have a safety date on it. The states have varied laws about it, with nine states not requiring labels at all.” The food-date labels we see are put on by the manufacturing companies, but aren’t as official as we think. Some could be putting earlier dates to encourage us to buy products more often or to protect themselves from lawsuits. Or some could be putting accurate dates. Either way, “many grocery stores throw out food before its sell-by date.” And they don’t donate it.

I’ve was told in 2008 by friendly employees at Whole Foods that they used to donate food to homeless shelters at the end of each night, but now they don’t because they got sued by homeless people who got food poisoning from their donation. I have repeated their words a few times over the years. I believed them and I think they believed themselves. John Oliver thought that too! But he found out that “there has never been a case where a food donor has been sued.” And he found out that that’s because the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act covers “any food donated to a charity by saying you can not get sued if you make a food donation in good faith.”

But donating costs companies money and time because of overhead like boxing, storing and delivery coordination. Oliver suggests tax breaks to incentivize companies to donate. Large companies already get those tax breaks, but small companies are written into the tax code in a way that Congress has to continually renew their donation tax breaks. So local restaurants and local farms may not know if they will get the break at the end of each year.

In 2015 (when this video was released), the Fighting Hunger Act of 2015 was proposed to make the tax breaks permanent, but it eventually became the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 and all food donation language was removed.

In researching it, it would have increased the deficit by $1.9 billion by 2024. It also gave the same tax breaks to any corporation whose gross income from the business of farming was more than 50% of their gross income. The executive director of the Coalition Against Hunger said the bill didn’t “carefully separate the farmers who would be able to give away more food from big corporations that are just going to get another tax break.”

Nonetheless, it seems like this shouldn’t be tabled and our government should be spending time and energy on finding ways to help small businesses more easily help the hungry in our country.

And there are many other efforts being made to reduce food waste. Smithsonian Magazine said in 2015, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency recently called for a 50-percent reduction in food waste by 2030. Meanwhile, Portland launched a citywide composting program a few years ago, and at the retail level, the former president of Trader Joe’s recently opened a store near Boston that sells surplus food donated by grocery stores at rock-bottom prices.

Even simple changes can have big effects. A few years ago, college cafeterias across the U.S. began to go trayless. Carrying two plates at most rather than trays piled high with all-you-can-serve and all-you-can-eat daredevilry forced students to think about what they really wanted to eat. The seemingly simple move, which more than 120 colleges chose to adopt, helped reduce food consumption and waste by 25 to 30 percent in some colleges.”

Oliver proposes solutions from: “Resolving to eat uglier fruit, to taking expirations dates with a pinch of salt, to no longer worrying about getting sued by high-powered lawyers representing the hungry… We all have to address our relationship with food waste.”

I think the best expiration date decider is my nose.

Also, I found a new company called Imperfect Produce in Los Angeles that can deliver a small box of organic imperfect fruits and veggies to my door for $15-$17. (www.imperfectproduce.com)

And I volunteer at the Hollywood Orchard (www.hollywoodorchard.org), a nearby non-profit that collects free fruit from neighborhood trees and donates it to local charities. Food Forward, Food Finders and many others are in LA. There are also many non-profits across the country like Feeding America who act as delivery-middlemen between food vendors (grocery stores, restaurants) and food providers (soup kitchens, food banks). (Here is a blog where I got to celebrate the joys of Hollywood Orcharding…)

Shane and I also rarely waste our own food. We keep our leftovers at restaurants. And we eat them. We keep other people’s leftovers, with their permission of course. And we eat them. We buy in small, fresh portions from the grocery store and buy in small, fresh portions again. We try to use up what we have, but if we can’t, we compost what is left. We also compost the peels and pits and extra bits that come off of what we do use. We make up new meals with whatever is there. We get it wrong sometimes, but that is part of the freedom of putting our health first. Having fresh food is worth it.


We try to eat seasonally and it teaches us that we aren’t in charge. We try to flow with the food and we learn from it. We try to make decisions to live in a way that leaves time to make our meals, go to the store often, chop the contents of our CSA box, and know what is in the fridge, pantry and garden. It’s taken a long time to clear time for that time. But we are grateful for the growth over the years and we’re still growing.

Watering our garden, learning which plants like what amount of light and what kind of soil, learning the organic way to keep pests at bay, watching our garden grow… Picking our own olives and curing them for weeks and weeks… Growing a tree from seed knowing that it won’t make its own fruit for seven years… Learning that you can dip a branch in a hormone powder, stick it in the ground, and it will grow a tree, because plants have and need hormones in order to create just like us… Seeing that the difference between a fertile gerbera daisy seed and a non-fertile one is that the fertile one is swollen… A male butternut squash flower is a cone, but the female is swollen… They can get pregnant like we can. And it takes time for them to bear fruit, just like we do.

And all the beautiful creatures that are involved in making one fruit, the bees, the hummingbirds, the earthworms, the bacteria in the soil, the minerals in the rain water, even the gas from decaying sea plankton that has evaporated into the clouds and rained down has something beneficial for the plants…

When we waste food that goes into a landfill instead of composting back into the circle of food, we waste all of these things. We waste the time, the light, the water, the creatures, our time and energy used to earn the money we wasted to buy it; we waste the nourishment, the extension of our own existence, and the delicious and delightful experience it comes in.

I hope you and your family, or just you, are able to make steps toward enjoying and using each bit of food you have. Thanks John Oliver & Co. for this new knowledge and inspiration.

heart ruth signature



Food Waste: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver | Episode at top of the page

Fighting Hunger Incentive Act of 2015 Passes House http://www.borgenmagazine.com/fighting-hunger-incentive-act-2015-passes-house/

Why Don’t Some Grocery Stores Donate Food to Poor People http://www.businessinsider.com/why-dont-some-grocery-stores-donate-food-to-poor-people-2014-10

This Is How Much Water You Waste When You Throw Away Food http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-trashing-food-wastes-water-too-180957239/

Why I March Alone, With You


This morning, I ended up writing to my friend Jenna about the march and why I’m going. Thank you Jenna for helping me hear my feelings. I was feeling them, but I couldn’t put them into words. Thank you for inspiring me…

I’d like to share my reasons for going to the Women’s March. I have the strong intention of going with others so that I feel safe, but at the same time, I intend to have a very individual experience.

It wasn’t until the last year or so that I realized that I’m the only one who is living every moment of my life with me. And there have been lots of moments in that amount of time. So my opinions are very specific and detailed. When I’m at the march, maybe some of the people there will agree with five opinions I have and maybe someone else would agree with five of my other opinions. But to find someone who agrees with all of my opinions would be strange, because they haven’t had the experiences I have had. And I have not had theirs.

Accepting this individuality lets me feel joy that I hadn’t allowed myself to feel for most of my life. I had it in my head that the only experiences that mattered in my life were the ones that related to other people. So if I didn’t have someone who related to my memories that were wonderful, joyful, I wouldn’t talk about them. For like 20 years. But they are my reality and they matter to me. Now, even if no one else was, or is, there for a past or present magical moment, I can embrace the outpouring of my own positive feelings. Or even if someone is there, but they don’t like something I like or don’t feel joy while I do, I feel it. And I’m doing the same thing with negative experiences I had too. It is beyond difficult to look at them, but it is healing not to be afraid of them anymore. They are relevant, to me. And no one else has to relate for that to be true.

This doesn’t make me feel lonely. It did at first because I only knew how to receive love through relating. Now nurturing myself with love is a byproduct of my honesty with myself. Acceptance of my reality makes me feel a fullness inside myself. I know myself better than I did a year ago and I like to hang out with myself. My self-love is new and can be pummeled by old punishing habits, but the teeter-totter is slowing switching sides.

Because of where I am in my journey, I’m not going to the march to join with the opinions of others or to have my experience feel large. Tomorrow is about me being enough.

If I could go naked, I would. I know that’s illegal. And that it also makes people think of sex, which isn’t what I mean. But I like how it could represent being vulnerable by shedding my layers, shining a light on the core of who I am and being content with that core. I mean it in a bare, open, simple way.

And as for the sex part of it, I feel like embracing my sexuality, as opposed to getting caught in caring about society’s many judgments of sex, has helped me embrace my whole self, my needs and my intuition. Someone once told me, “My sexuality is divinely connected to my spirituality.” It helped me see that my intuitive flow would hit my judgment of my sexuality and get blocked. I couldn’t be honest and spiritually full until I celebrated my whole self.

But, I will be at the march with clothes on because I’m just happy that I’ve been able to clarify to myself what my intentions are. And again, I like honoring the truth of my opinion and I don’t feel that tomorrow is a day where I can express it visually in an honest way.

There will be people there whose truth tomorrow is to do the opposite of what I’m doing, to tell vibrant visual stories and create clarity with color and meaningful art. I’m so grateful for them. I’ll just be doing something slightly similar in a slightly different way.

I guess I mean that just me quietly being there is enough. Showing up in whatever way feels good and possible tomorrow is enough. Maybe it will be bright. Maybe it won’t. (Watch, tomorrow morning I will wake up excited to wear hot pink glitter everything…) But giving myself permission to keep it simple is new for me. Anything more will be an added treat. Today I’m enjoying the honesty of discovering the present in the present. I guess there’s no other time that one would discover the present.

I also will be marching knowing that I am keeping some of myself for myself. I had never done that until recently. I was “all or nothing” and in turn gave my all and had nothing left for myself. I feel that it’s encouraged and rewarded to over-work or over-give. And that we’re only familiar with overdoing so those words shorten to become simply “work” or “give.”  I think it is a common thread among women. But I see that men do it too, in a different way. And often we’re both left with an emptiness that we might think the other doesn’t have.

My dearest aunt passed away last month and her memorial is the Saturday after the march. I know that in the past I would have not heard my inner voice saying that I want to be emotionally present with my family. I would have stepped into the wonderful whirlwind energy of the march and gotten whisked away and later resented myself for not noticing my needs. I would have given my all. But my “all” has changed. It’s still my all, there’s just less budgeted for other people now. “I need to be present at the memorial, to feel through the sadness of this experience, for my health and my heart. I need to grieve.” And I feel that marching in a way that leaves space for me, for my life after the march, is another way to stand up for myself as a woman. I’m allowed to matter: my past feelings, my present feelings and my future ones. Protecting space in the world for myself is kind.

It’s funny to me that to stand up for myself as a woman, I need to stand up a bit less for women tomorrow, but in doing so, take a stand for women by treating myself as I wish all women were treated.

Living this way looks a bit less exciting from the outside, but it makes my life on the inside much richer. And that is what I’m hoping tomorrow’s act and others like it will help make possible for women everywhere.

I feel the same way for men too. I think in a society where they are told they are weak if they have feelings, they say things like, “We don’t talk about that.” And their silence is a way of staying safe in the society they live in. In the same way that I didn’t embrace negative and positive feelings in the past and the present, it was eating me alive. I think it would be easy to resent the feminine in females because they are taught to resent it in themselves. I resented it in myself for so much of my life because I fell for the same story they are often told.

I am grateful that I’m able to now stand more often in my truth. I wish that blessing for all the humans on the planet.

So what am I doing tomorrow? I’m standing in the opinions I already have and saying that someone else doesn’t get to tell me that I’m less-than. We are all of value. It’s nice to get to be with others who will be standing in their own opinions too. I’m standing up for the fact that we all get to have different opinions and I like that.

So whatever opinion you go to the march with or don’t go to the march with, whatever way you express it, whatever point you are at in your journey, I’ll be standing up for it. I believe we are all here alone, together.

#whyimarch #womensmarch #womensmarchla #alonetogether #respect4sisters #respect4all #weareallofvalue

www.womensmarch.com | Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

https://www.womensmarch.com/sisters | There are 673 simultaneous sister marches worldwide

www.womensmarchla.org | Women’s March in Los Angeles, C.A.


The life’s work of these two men, [David Bowie & Alan Rickman] for me, represented the ying and yang of everything I have ever wanted to be as an artist. Works that were universally emotive and meaningful without losing a sense of fun and wonder. Works that never took themselves too seriously. Works that didn’t give everything away…

Our job as artists is not to convince, it is to inspire.

To inspire curiosity, to inspire thought, to inspire learning…Support things and people that inspire. Strive to inspire yourself.

Jessica Berson

We’re Only as Sick as Our Secrets

“We’re only as sick as our secrets…” I’m so grateful to see the other side of speaking shame out loud. I was raised with the good intention of respecting humility and somehow, claiming tiny, or large, shames seemed too selfish.

I like that this man talks about his friend who considered suicide a better option than speaking his truth. I rarely hear people talk about what a life-or-death situation silencing oneself can be. Being our true selves is more important than how society may judge that truth.

For a long time, I wanted to live in a world where society is more respectful of truth than judgmental of it. Now I see that it was me who was falling for the judgement. And slowly accepting all of my imperfections gives me a fullness inside that doesn’t need to search as often for the opinions of others.

Although, ironically, in my sharing my fears, I was blessed with people who were doing the same thing and are very encouraging. I think people’s lives would be saved, and richer, if the message in this video was spread more often.

#gratefulfortruth #evenifitfeelsscary #progressoverperfection