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Gardens @ NIMBY – A Playground for Adults

About 5 years after NIMBY moved to a new location in East Oakland I finally made it over there for a fundraiser and got to check out the space. The first thing I noticed that there there were plants everywhere and I was really surprised. Thinking about it now I’m not surprised at all. who better to create gardens from cast off junk than the founder of the largest do-it-yourself industrial art space in the Bay Area? The second thing i noticed was that they have an old metals twisty slide from a Mcdonalds and I WANT IT! Like, really want it. It could totally fit in our side yard and would be awesome.


But, back to the gardens at NIMBY… one of the first containers of unexpected food were these old ducts filled with kale and then this pink bath tube with more food plants:
food in unexpected places pink bathtub with food plants

gardens @ nimby

Apparently it is very east to get cheap discarded hydroponic/pot grow house equipment like these huge trays:
gardens @ nimby
Love the tree house going up in the background. I saw that out on the playa about a month later. :)

I counted about 5 big trays of food plants and many smaller pots scattered about. That’s a lot of fresh veggies to share!

And here are the beginnings of some aquaponics tanks. I think they could build a decent chicken coop on top of this that dogs would not be able to get in to. A sort of chicken condo, if you will.
gardens @ nimbycan you find the Buddha peeing and the hamburglar? Then there was this huge tank filled with beautiful glass sculptures, fish and plants used to a be a huge gas tank. I think? I could be remembering wrong, but either way, it was very pretty and soothing!

There were some great succulent gardens as well. I wish I had written down the name of the person who made this lovely wall sculpture with succulents:

And outside, there were these great plastic pipes filled with succulents. I can see this working really well on a back porch or even front yard.

Industrial junk being turned to good use, whether for art or to grow food or to make a playground is always beautiful and inspiring!

morning glories and razor wire @ NIMBY

Fall leaves in watercolor



Every fall I get obsessed with the changing leaves. I love to paint them.
I have only just discovered the joy that is a niji waterpen. This changes everything!

I’m sketching in a Moleskine sketch, not a watercolor one. I know it doesn’t take watercolor very well but it’s the kind i like to carry with me. And there are tricks for making it work. As long as a do a prewash the sizing on the paper will become more receptive to absorbing your color.



I have just learned how to make quick planometric drawings by putting tracing paper over my plan views. How handy! And fun! Sorry for the less than stellar photos taken using Photobooth, if I get up to use the scanner in the other room my child will notice me and demand I spend time with him.

Front yard, new paving/gate
quick and dirty planometric drawing

Backyard concept for a very tiny backyard in A.

quick and dirty planometric drawing

Second backyard concept

quick and dirty planometric drawing

Possibly I shouldn’t post my ugly quick unfinished sketches…

Boston Children’s Museum

This picture is taken out the window of the Boston Children’s Museum while waiting for the tour of the authentic Japanese house (very cool, btw).


I watched the painted hopscotch game get used by several passers-by. There was also a great paver maze at the entrance to the museum. I love using the ground plane as a design element, it’s something that kids especially notice and can’t resist reacting to.

SF airport – New Terminal 2

Anyone else been to the new(ish) SFO Terminal 2? Kudos to all who made it happen, srsly. It was like traveling on a fluffy cloud filled with unicorns, sushi and coffee.

Right after going through security the first thing that hit my eye was the ‘Yoga Room’. Say what?
Then, tons of art. filtered water stations. sushi.
You can read all about the art here.


An indoor play area for kids. SQUEEE!

Just that fact that an airport would admit that kids might be actual humans who deserve having their needs met in public was kind of shocking and, obviously, refreshing.


It was a tad spartan but such a great idea. One of the coolest features was the Butterfly Wall built and designed by Charles Sowers.


It had some fun climbing elements with an airiness that I assume was designed it to it so that parent’s wouldn’t freak out when they couldn’t see their child.


Please pardon the terrible blurry pics. I was juggling like twelve carry-ons and a coffee.

Berkeley Adventure Playground

What is an adventure playground?
I think of them as a free form playground built by kids and the grownups with them. It’s a space where the way kids play hasn’t been decided for them already, they get to see a bunch of raw materials and see the possibilities and create their own spaces.

They get wood and nails and discarded playground equipment and rope and old boats and whatever other cool stuff the staff can find or is donated. And the kids can use it however they want.

adventure playground

I feel lucky to live in an area with an Adventure Playground, you can read about it’s hostly here. It’s such a cool idea and we have been taking my son since before he could walk. There is something for everyone!

adventure playground

You have to earn tools and paint by helping clean up or gathering up old nails. Once J. could walk he loved to collect nails with a magnet fishing pole in order to trade the nails for paint.

berkeley adventure playground

Here’s J as an almost or maybe just 1 year old sitting in a boat filled with sand. Neat!
adventure playground

This is an ever evolving instrument. It’s got drums and harps and tons of other things that make great noises.

I wish I could figure out how to embed this video of my son getting bonked by a hanging float.He is at about 2 years freaking out with excitement at some junk hanging around. At about 28 seconds he gets bonked with the hanging rescue float.


The last time we went T. helped him build an airplane out of scrap wood.
adventure playground

More awesomeness. In this picture you can see not only a a cool boat in the foreground but several boats filled with plants in the middle and then the oh so cool zipline in the background. Kids line up for this over and over and it’s so fun to watch them. You must be 6 in order to ride it. I’m not sure if J. will want to!

Indian Rock

indian rock
We went off to explore Indian Rock in Berkeley this week. It did not disappoint.

J is just now 5 and somehow, once we climbed to the top of the rock (using the awesome stairs cut into the side), I was REALLY nervous having him up there. I like to pride myself on not being a helicopter mom but in this case I just kept picturing him sliding down to his doom and I couldn’t hack it. I made us go back down. There was plenty of scope for imagination around the lower parts of the rock.

We established our forts…
we declared our forts

And attacked!
and attack!

Foolishly I did not look up the rock before hand and so could not spout knowledgeably about the geology. Check the wikipedia article or this post from the awesome Oakland blog Oakland Geology. Rhyolite! Neat!

We had to leave because I was getting grumpy (I’ve been grumpy a lot lately) and I had to pee (this park lacks a bathroom making it totally unpractical for me) and we had to go to the store. We’ll be back to explore the more north side of the park later though definitely! Also, need to bring more kids so they can like play capture the flag or something!

Sometimes all you need is a big ass field

DSC05985Amiright? A big field of clover is so pleasing, especially when it is empty of other people. As is the field near our house. During the week it is often surprisingly empty.

J was going all Charlie Brown on this soccer ball. He would run at it very fast from very far away and try to kick it but mostly ended up on his back. hehehh.


This is Mosswood Park near my house. It’s quite a good park. There are two playgrounds, a baseball diamond, basketball courts, a community garden, a huge field, plenty of trees, a neat stone amphitheater, and buildings with bathrooms (SCORE!) and activities for the community.

Mosswood Park is also home to two bird houses built by the FLUX Foundation and local schools. The project is called TweetHaus and is an art and ecology project. Read more about it here. I took pictures of the birdhouses bu can’t find them right now. So far, the houses are unoccupied by birds but I have hope for them!