See you at Design Week Portland


I am so excited to be headed to one of my favorite places on Earth later this month to see what some of my favorite people have put together. In my mind, Portland will forever be the great urban laboratory of the US—from food carts to bike infrastructure to maker culture—and luckily there’s now a fantastic annual event celebrating it all. Design Week Portland takes place April 15 through 23.

I’ll be speaking on the main stage on Friday, April 15, introducing the great Ethan Seltzer, who will be talking about the ever-developing “brand” of Portland. And I’ll be providing my own little snippet of commentary on how we can shape our cities into the places we want them to be. A few more people I can’t wait to see speak: Andy Pressman, Craig Dykers, and my estranged second cousin by marriage thrice removed, Rob Walker.

Tickets are still available and give you access to a whole week of cool activities throughout the city, so come be a part of it! I’ll see you there!

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Come get a Taste of food and design

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My dear friends at Design Observer are coming to LA, ostensibly to escape the frigid late winter on the East Coast, but also to throw a conference called Taste on Friday, February 12. I’m excited to be  a part of it and I’ll be interviewing one of my heroes: Sqirl proprietor Jessica Koslow, who has captivated the city—and I’d argue the world—with her transcendent take on locally sourced, irresistibly plated fuel for Angelenos. But she’s also an incredible thinker when it comes to issues of food justice, sustainability, design, and urbanism. If you’ve eaten her food—or favorited any of her impeccably photographed dishes on Instagram—you know why she was absolutely the first person I thought of when confronted with the idea of a conference about food and visual culture.

The entire day of programming looks absolutely delicious—Mark Bittman, Ron Finley, Evan Kleiman, Frances Anderton, and DO founders Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand, among many, many others—and I’m just as excited to be in the audience as I am to be onstage. The whole thing takes place on February 12 at the Los Angeles Theater Center in DTLA. Tickets are available and I do have some discounted passes if you want to email me for the code. Hope to see you there!

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Words from my brain can now be found in these two books

Every once in awhile something I write makes its way into a book, which is sometimes (not always!) printed on actual pieces of paper. Here are the latest opportunities for you to read those words, both of which are also lovely compendiums of inspiring design work.

Pencil vs Pixel

Last year I was honored to be interviewed by the great Cesar Contreras for his web series Pencil vs Pixel. Cesar has interviewed dozens (and dozens and dozens) of folks from every edge of the creative universe over the years. What makes his interviews so great is not only the diversity of these voices but also how they all provide real-world advice on how they do what they do. Now you can get a book that includes the most salient bits of those conversations, including some tips from me about reinvention which I dole out alongside my own reinvention hero, Aaron Draplin. You can get the book for free by signing up for the Pencil vs Pixel email. Thanks to Cesar for including me!

Design for People

designforpeople_coverOver a decade ago I started writing for a magazine which would come to change the course of my writing career, and also managed the way people thought about magazines. That publication was GOOD, of course, and its designer was Scott Stowell, and it’s probably not surprising to learn that Scott and his firm Open ended up transforming their corner of the design world as well.

Scott and I ended up becoming great friends who ended up bonding over our insatiable need to explore and explain cities on foot, and this book is a lot like taking a long walk with Scott: It’s filled with very witty, insightful commentary on 12 of Open’s projects, all of which managed to make the world just a little bit better. I wrote a little essay which appears alongside the writing of Open’s clients and friends like Karrie Jacobs, Maira Kalman, and more. (I might mention my great friend Chappell Ellison also edited the book.) You may have already helped fund the book, so if so, thank you! If not, you should get this book for a designer in your life. Buy it here!

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Design advocating


I was surprised and a little shocked when Carlo Caccavale called me a few months ago to let me know that I had won the Design Advocate award from the LA chapter of the American Institute of Architects. I was so honored to receive the award at the annual ceremony last week alongside so many good friends and longtime heroes. But I kept thinking, if only they had seen me when I arrived here in LA 14 years ago—no one in that audience would have recognized me.

In 2001 I was looking for a job in advertising. I drove everywhere. I had a blog named after ice cream. Most of what I knew about LA was gleaned from episodes of 90210. I didn’t know anything about architecture, except that I loved it.

They certainly didn’t have to, but this community of architects embraced me completely. They invited me into their homes and offices, and inspired me with their work, and trusted me with their stories. And I cannot be more grateful to any group of individuals for teaching me everything I knew about this great city.

I didn’t get to say any thank yous on stage but I do want to thank a few people. I have been lucky to work with such great editors but I want to say thanks very specifically to my dear friend and mentor Frances Anderton, who gave me my big break at KCRW after barely meeting me. Frances taught me how to report a story for a wider audience, and that anything can have a design angle, which is totally true. And she also helped give me guidance on balancing writing and family as I converted myself from a workaholic to a working mom.

A big thank you to that family of mine, who have completely changed the way I see LA. And to my cohorts at de LaB, Los Angeles Walks, and Gizmodo who sure do make exploring LA a whole lot of fun. And to all my fellow LA writers and critics who work tirelessly to combat all the stereotypes spewing forth from the New York Times.

It was pretty amazing to take the stage after my fellow honorees, who are all my urbanism heroes—Aaron Paley, Dana Cuff, Steven Ehrlich, Sarah Lorenzen—but I was most excited about this year’s prestigious 25 Year Award, which went to the design for the 1984 Summer Olympics, probably my favorite LA story I’ve ever written. I really wish that Deborah Sussman would have been there to see not only her colorful work celebrated but also her deep love of Los Angeles. Deborah taught me it’s not enough to show your civic pride by designing the Olympics, you must dress like those Olympics every day for the rest of your life. I’ve tried to follow in her footsteps!

And there’s one other person who I wish could have been there (and come to think about it, he dressed a lot like the 1984 Olympics, too). My dear friend John Chase, who I think about every day when I’m walking around the city. It was John who nudged me to take advantage of my “brand” and change my name from Gelatobaby to A Walker in LA. What? You’re still doing the ice cream thing? John also taught me maybe the most important thing in my writing: That living in cities is personal, and that’s why writing about those cities also has to be personal—that’s how we make change.

So thanks to every single one of the designers and architects out there who are making personal work that makes a difference—and making LA the most exciting city to write about on the planet.

And although I have changed a lot since I was “Gelatobaby,” I haven’t changed that much. Of course I still celebrated my award with ice cream.


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Next steps

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It’s been quiet here. A little TOO quiet. And that means I’ve got some explaining to do.

As you know my life has changed quite a bit since I started a gelato-themed repository for my thoughts. I got married, and I changed my name—not my real name, silly, the name of this blog—and, most importantly, I had a kid. The honest truth is that I fully believed I could hold down two full-time jobs (one being motherhood) while keeping all my fun side work going, too. What I quickly realized is that once I close my computer for the day, the last thing I want to do is write more at night or on the weekends. All I want to do is hang with my gal. Besides a handful of speaking engagements I’ll accept each year, and my nonprofit work for design east of La Brea and Los Angeles Walks, my side projects have been, well, sidelined. Including this blog that I love to write so much.

Another honest truth is that it’s been almost two years since I took a job as the Urbanism Editor at Gizmodo, where I’ve been able to write about pretty much everything I used to write about on this blog, and for a much bigger audience. So essentially I’ve been writing all my stories over at You can see all the stories I’ve written in the last two years.

But I miss writing this blog. As much as I love filing topical updates on Twitter and Instagram, I am very committed to the idea of having a Little Place on the Internet, especially in an age when so many writers are surrendering their homesteads. So I’ve made a plan to revitalize this site, and hopefully provide even more value to you, dear readers.

At the urging of several folks I trust better than myself to know what’s good for me, I’m going to launch a newsletter. The newsletter will contain at least four of the following things: Photos I took while walking, favorite stories written by me, favorite stories not written by me, events that I think are worth attending, and important things to know about LA. In addition to delivering an email to your inbox, the content of the newsletter will also be published here, as a way to keep my love for walking and LA all in one place. It’s not a perfect solution—but it’s something that’s different which I’m excited to do.

So, if you want in: Sign up here. Otherwise, just keep reading here as you have before. And if you have any thoughts about what you’d like in a newsletter—or a revitalized blog!—please let me know.

Thanks again for reading, wherever you might find my words—it means the world to me.

Posted in advertising, building, crafting, creating, designing, eating, gelatoing, Gizmodo, greening, growing, mothering, partying, playing, reading, riding, speaking, teaching, traveling, walking, watching, wearing, writing | Leave a comment



Finally emerging from the whole keeping-a-newborn-alive grace period and back in action, both behind the keyboard and on the sidewalks. More adventures soon, but couldn’t wait to share our latest work of art.

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Join me Thursday to welcome the Third Los Angeles


I’m halfway through my time off to raise my new human, which is in many ways like a sabbatical… one where you end up working harder than you ever have on the most rewarding job of your life. But I will say it has been rather invigorating not doing any kind of writing or speaking, just lots of observing and absorbing. (And walking. Lots and lots of walking.) I’ve actually learned an entirely new way to participate in my city, and I’ll have many thoughts on the topic—as soon as I find a few hours to string them all together coherently.

This week, however, I’m making a single exception and coming out of post-baby temporary-retirement for one evening to speak at the first event of Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne’s newest project, The Third Los Angeles. From his description:

Most Angelenos have a sense that the city is in the midst of some marked changes, with a new emphasis on public space and civic architecture, such as building transit lines instead of freeways and apartment buildings instead of single-family houses with private gardens. But this is more than a mere shift in planning priorities or spending. In fundamental ways, the city is moving into a profoundly new phase in its civic development, one that brings encouraging change along with new political, architectural and environmental challenges.

How could I not participate in an event so aligned with my own interests? And seeing as one of my current interests is suddenly becoming an international fascination, I’ll be presenting a follow up to my Hollywood Sign saga, speaking about the the current issues around access and how it’s part of a larger story about the changing ideas of public space in the city.

Besides Christopher, I’ll be joined onstage by many of my other LA heroes, inducing Rick Cole, Bill Deverell, Dana Cuff, Ruth Estevez, Mark Vallianatos and Hadley Arnold. It’s sure to be a great evening for LA lovers and the kickoff to a fascinating series exploring the most exciting and swiftly changing city on the planet. The event is at 7:30 p.m. at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, all details here.

RSVP here (seating is limited) and follow the conversation at #3rdLA. I’ll see you Thursday evening at Oxy!

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Christmas came early this year


Funnily enough, only a few days after I wrote that last post warning of my impending maternity leave, I found myself beginning my journey into motherhood just a bit earlier than I expected. Two weeks before her Christmas due date, we welcomed Avery Corita to our family.

Avery is derived from an Old English phrase meaning “elf ruler,” which seems particularly appropriate, at least for now. It’s a name that surfaces now and again in pop culture: It’s Fern’s brother in Charlotte’s Web, Jack Donaghy’s wife in 30 Rock and Murphy Brown’s once-controversial baby boy. There’s an Avery Brewing Company in Boulder (where I went to school) that makes an excellent IPA. And there’s Avery Peak, a 12,000-foot mountain near my parents’ house in Crested Butte, Colorado known for its distinctive red summit. It’s one of the mountains that we were facing when we got married there two years ago.

Corita is, of course, a nod to Sister Mary Corita Kent, the designer, artist, activist, and nun. From her legendary studio at the Immaculate Heart School, which was just a few blocks from the Hollywood street where we both lived when we first moved to LA, Sister Corita created a wondrously colorful graphic language that influenced generations of creatives in Los Angeles and beyond. Sister Corita taught us new ways to see the world and inspired us to discover the hidden beauty in Los Angeles, and she did it all with a powerful underlying message of love. I can’t wait to introduce Avery to her namesake’s legacy, starting with the piece that hangs above her as she naps in our living room. The timing couldn’t be better: There’s a huge Sister Corita retrospective opening at PMCA this summer.

As for becoming a mom, I think I was fully prepared for my life to change, but I really had no idea how dramatically my entire worldview would shift the moment I re-emerged from that hospital. I can’t wait to share the story of how she arrived. But for now, allow me to step away for just a moment to fall a little deeper in love.


Posted in creating, mothering, walking, writing | 2 Comments

Bump ahead

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If you hadn’t already noticed, things are slowing down on this blog. I’m about to head off on maternity leave, and even though my writing output will be curbed somewhat, I’m looking at it as an important time to focus on the walking part of my mantle. I’ll be getting to know my neighborhood sidewalks intimately, negotiating hills with a stroller, and introducing my child to the best LA has to offer on foot. Don’t worry, I’ll be reporting back as much as a new mom feasibly can. I couldn’t be more excited, and I can’t wait to share all these new experiences with you.

Posted in designing, mothering, walking | 3 Comments

On the disappearing, reappearing Hollywood sign


Who would have guessed that a little story I wrote on this here blog in 2011 would end up causing such a ruckus. All I wanted to do was help people to easily find the Hollywood Sign, a place that’s so special to me and many other Angelenos. But this month, years after my post was published, I was contacted by two different residents who wanted me to censor my original blog post.

Basically they wanted me to lie to people, take down my directions, and say that you can’t hike to the sign. Which, clearly, you can’t.

Because the struggle to make the location of the sign public is still such an issue, I chronicled the ongoing battle with some new developments in a piece for Gizmodo: “Why People Keep Trying to Erase the Hollywood Sign From Google Maps.”

Who knew the Hollywood Sign had so many friends and fans? The response has been incredible.

The story has been covered in several different languages and I’ve gotten so many wonderful emails from people all over the city (and the world) supporting me in my quest for geographic transparency. I’m working on a follow up piece that will address some of the better proposals for access to the sign, which hopefully can help kick some of these ideas into motion. Until then, you can read the whole story over at Gizmodo.

Update: I also wrote a second story on the inherent bias of maps with a very intriguing Instagram cameo from our Mayor Eric Garcetti:

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Yep, he walked the same trail that Google Maps says isn’t there.

Update II: Steve Lopez interviewed me for his awesome story in the Los Angeles Times, and he’s looking for your ideas on how to make the trail more accessible to all.

Posted in creating, designing, Gizmodo, reading, walking | 4 Comments