Day 45: A Fungus Among Us!

It’s Day 45 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

Today, I noticed that wild mushrooms are sprouting in lawns and gardens along my walking route. A mushroom is a fungus.

I have always been fascinated by mushrooms. My husband and I attended a few events held by the Mycological Society of San Francisco. They lead field trips and forays in the area to teach people about mushrooms, and how to safely collect and eat them. mushrooms

Mushrooms are delicious but foragers must be VERY CAREFUL because certain kinds of mushrooms such as the “Death Cap” are DEADLY POISONOUS if ingested.  For amateurs, it’s safer to buy mushrooms at the grocery store.

My mom used to sauté sliced mushrooms in a little olive oil and garlic, and serve them atop coulotte steaks that Papa barbecued.

You can grow edible mushrooms safely by using the Grow-at-Home Mushroom Kit from Back To The Roots.  The development of that company is fascinating and you can read all about it at their website,

In case you’re interested, Cornell University has an interesting “Mushroom Blog that discusses all kinds of fungi – not just mushrooms.

And offers a free “Mushroom Education Packet” for kids.

Day 44: Sleep Walk?

Yesterday was Day 44 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

I walked with my friend Gina. While we walked she explained that she’s had some trouble sleeping lately. Her husband claims she snores. Her doctor suggested a sleep study to determine if she has sleep apnea. (The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services provides a free video animation that explains what causes snoring and sleep apnea.)snore

Gina said she has always slept propped up. She decided to sleep flat on her back and see if that made a difference. She hasn’t snored since she made the change and is getting a better night’s sleep.

Papa snored LOUDLY.  His doctor suggested a uvula excision.  He didn’t like the idea and tried applying snore-relief nasal strips.  They must’ve worked because I never heard anything more about it.

When I have difficulty sleeping, a nice cup of chamomile tea helps calm me down.  That may be more of a placebo effect according to an article at

What do you do to get a good night’s sleep?

Day 43: Summer Songs!

Sunday was Day 43 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

Several neighbors along my walking route provided an oldies-but-goodies soundtrack for my walk. They were listening to the radio while doing yard work, and I could easily hear the tunes. Three of the tunes I heard were summer songs from the 1960s! Click on the links below to watch performances of the songs on…sun picture

The first one was Summer in the City, a song by the Lovin’ Spoonful from 1966.

The next song was Hot Fun in the Summertime by Sly & the Family Stone that was released in 1969.

And finally, I heard Help Me Rhonda a Beach Boys hit from 1965 that was released on their album, Summer Days (And Summer Nights).

Speaking of summer songs, one of Papa’s favorite composer’s was George Gershwin who wrote the song Summertime for the opera, Porgy and Bess. Watch Ella Fitzgerald sing Summertime (circa 1968).

One of my personal favorite summer songs is Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks.

What are your favorite songs of summer?

Day 42: Edible Landscapes & Saving Bees!

It’s Day 42 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

Since 1986, we have had an organic garden in our front yard, where most people would have landscaping or lawn. That’s because California experienced a severe drought from 1985-1991.  My husband and I couldn’t justify watering a lawn – but a garden was a different story.  At the time, it raised a lot of eyebrows.  Some spaghetti squash '13of our neighbors didn’t appreciate the deviation from the norm.  We just kept planting and weeding and harvesting year after year – and shared the abundance with them. (See a picture of yellow spaghetti squash growing in our garden (taken this morning by my husband).

Then, about ten years ago, there was a distinct change in attitude.  People started stopping by the garden and asking questions.  They brought their children to see how vegetables grew.  Our garden influenced others to grow their own food.

Fast forward to today – and edible landscaping is gaining momentum!  On a 1.5 mile walk through my neighborhood today, I saw all of the following fruits and vegetables growing in front yard gardens and landscapes along the way:

  • Apples
  • Basil
  • Blackberries
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Grapefruit
  • Green Beans
  • Lemons
  • Lettuce
  • Limes
  • Loquats
  • Mint
  • Onions
  • Pears
  • Peppers
  • Persimmons
  • Plums
  • Prickly Pear
  • Pomegranates
  • Oranges
  • Olives
  • Radishes
  • Rosemary
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Swiss Chard
  • Tangerines
  • Tomatoes
  • Walnuts
  • Zucchini

honey beeConsidering the devastating plight of the honey bee, this is a very good thing.  In fact you can learn more about the collapse of bee colonies worldwide here: Beemageddon

Then, find out 10 things you can do now to help SAVE THE BEES.



Day 41: Dandelion Walk!

Yesterday was Day 41 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

I was a happy camper on my walk yesterday because dandelions were in various stages of bloom everywhere I went. I love dandelions. There is just something about them that makes me smile!

Dandelion2I know many folks consider dandelions to be a pesky weed, but there is great beauty and utility in “daisy-lions” as my oldest son used to call them when he was a tot. Did you know that dandelions get their name from the big, jagged edges or “teeth” in their leaves? In old French, “dent-de-lion” means lion’s tooth.

There are many legends and lore about dandelions. One has it that the tallest dandelion a child can find will be equivalent to the number of inches that child will grow in the coming year. If you go for a walk with your child, ask him or her to find the tallest dandelion in a field or garden. Pick it and measure it. Write down the measurement along with the date, and post it on the wall or refrigerator. As you track your child’s growth over the next year compare the number of inches to the length of the dandelion. Is the legend true?

The dandelion is known as the “Shepherd’s Clock.” That’s because its flowers always open about 5 A.M. and shut at about 8 P.M. Why not take a walk at those times and see for yourself if it’s true?

You can read a delightful “Legend of the Dandelion” online.  dandelion tuft

When I was little, my mom told me that the garden fairies traveled on dandelion tufts blown by the wind. That idea still makes me smile.

Did you know that every part of the dandelion is edible?  My grandmother used to make dandelion wine.

Papa enjoyed this dandelion salad.

You may enjoy this recipe for dandelion fritters.

And here’s a final dandelion thought…

“To some the dandelion is a weed; but not to me, unless it takes more than its share of space, for I always miss these little earth stars when they are absent. They intensify the sunshine shimmering on the lawn, making one smile involuntarily when seeing them. Moreover, they awaken pleasant memories, for a childhood in which dandelions had no part is a defective experience.” ~ Excerpted from “The Home Acre,” by E. P. Roe

Day 40: Walking on Soft Concrete

spectra-walk-topIt’s Day 40 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

My assistant, Suzanne, brought her dog, Lela, to work today.  After working for a couple of hours, we decided to take a break and walk the dog.  Our 2-mile stroll was guided by Lela’s nose.  She sniffed out some fascinating things including fake grass carpeting a front yard, and a weird patch of spongy concrete in front of someone’s home. It was soft and springy to walk upon.

Turns out the “concrete” is actually something called “wet pour rubber” that is made from recycled tires. While it’s often used around playground equipment, a number of cities are experimenting with it because it’s more environmentally friendly and reduces the tripping hazards of concrete sidewalks.  Looks like our city is considering SpectraTurf for sidewalks of the future.

Day 38: Spider Web Walk

It’s Day 38 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

 On my walk today, I was struck by the number of orb weaver spider webs I saw.  They are the circular, wheel-shaped spider webs that you’ll see suspended between plants in gardens. (Every summer we find an orb weaver web suspended between the posts on our front porch, near our garden.)  In the center of almost every web I saw,  there was an orb weaver spider waiting patiently for an insect to get trapped in the sticky netting.  Mmmm…lunch!orb weaver spider web

Did you know that orb weavers make a new web every day?  Want to know more?  Print out a fact sheet about orb weaver spiders.

Or, better yet, watch an amazing video on the rescue of an orb weaver spider (set to classical guitar music) by Bob, The Spider Hunter!

When I was little I was afraid of spiders.  Papa wasn’t afraid of them at all. Sometimes, when a spider found its way into our home, Papa would pick it up and put it outside.  He often repeated an old wives’ tale that, “Spiders are good luck.”

There is a Greek myth, Arachne, that explains how spiders came to be. Watch a modernized animated video version of the story.

Days 36 & 37: Traffic Signs As Story Starters

Days 36 & 37 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge. Road Sign

For the past two days I’ve been noticing traffic signs while I walk.  I can’t believe how the streets are littered with signage to tell us when to stop, yield, what speed to drive, when to merge, where to park, what the road conditions are, where to find public transportation, warnings about speed bumps, where there is a location of cultural interest or historic importance, where crosswalks and schools are located, where food, gas, and hospitals are located, where you’ll find road crews working, and where to watch for “Falling Rocks.” These are just the signs mounted on posts, mind you, not the additional information that is actually painted on the street pavement.  Over the past two days I’ve seen the following signs:

  • Stop
  • Yield
  • No U-Turn
  • One Way
  • Slow
  • Dead End
  • Hospital
  • Bus
  • Road Work
  • Slippery When Wet
  • Stop Sign Ahead
  • Interstate 280
  • School
  • No Parking
  • Speed Limit 25 (30 and 35, too)
  • Keep Right
  • Crosswalk
  • Watch for Falling Rocks

That last one makes me smile because Papa used to tell a story about that sign every time we took a road trip and saw one.  Here’s the story:

An old Indian chief called his sons, two brave warriors named Running Buffalo and Falling Rocks, to his side and said, “I must pick a new chief for the tribe. Go and hunt for buffalo. Whoever returns with the most buffalo will become the next chief.”  A month later, Running Buffalo came back with nearly twenty buffalo pelts in tow. Sadly, Falling Rocks never returned. The tribe organized a search and looked everywhere, but they couldn’t find the missing brave. Today, you can see the evidence of their search for this beloved warrior. Throughout the highways and side roads, you can still see their signs that say, ‘Watch for Falling Rocks.’

We used to groan aloud every time we heard it.  You and your family may be able to create some stories of your own by using traffic signs as story starters. If you need inspiration, you can see a list of the most commonly used traffic signs in the U.S. (taken from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) here:  Because there are so many different signs, it’s divided into sections for:

  • Regulatory Signs
  • Warning Signs
  • Marker Signs
  • Guide and Informational Signs
  • Recreational and Cultural interest Signs
  • Signs for Bicycle Facilities
  • Temporary Traffic Control Signs
  • Railroad and Light Rail Signs
  • School Signs
  • Emergency and incident Management Signs

And you can even learn about standard sign shapes, colors, typefaces, sign posts and supports, and more. If you create a story based on a traffic sign, post it here.  I’d love to read it.  Have fun!


Day 35: Milk Walk!

It’s Day 35 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

A couple of weeks ago our espresso machine died. We’ve gone through several over the years. This model had been temperamental since the day we brought it last January. My husband took it back to the store (he still had the receipt), and because they didn’t have a replacement machine in stock, they gave him store credit.

We really enjoy drinking homemade lattes, so we ordered a new milk and cowmachine from  It arrived yesterday, and after preparing the machine according to the instructions last night, we were looking forward to a latte this morning. Then, the unthinkable…no milk!

I decided to take a “Papa Walk” to the mom-and-pop grocery store in our neighborhood  to buy some milk.  As I walked, I recalled how Papa always enjoyed a good cup of coffee with milk – or as the French say, café au laitClick here to learn how to make it.

I started thinking about where milk comes from and remembered that Papa, my mom, and my husband and I took a road trip through the Pacific Northwest one summer and stopped at the Tillamook Dairy and Cheese Factory in Tillamook, Oregon.

We took a fun tour of the Tillamook factory and discovered how to make cheese from cow to curd. At the Tillamook website you can take a brief virtual tour to learn about the cheese making process. CLICK HERE to enjoy the tour from the comfort of home!