Thursday, December 15, 2011

design intervention: doing it right

[Santa Marta community, Rio de Janeiro, image from Favela Painting]

I love the colorful buildings of artistic team Haas & Hann's projects. The duo's favela project, originally conceived in Brazil, pays local youth to paint buildings vivid shades. I love that the project is "not about cosmetically 'camouflaging' an area, but rather rejuvenating deprived areas of a city and creating a positive social effect on the general district at hand." I was first introduced to the pair's work on Apartment Therapy when in an article titled "Should New York Go Neon?" The proposed images of New York were thrilling to me, but the article and the idea struck me as misguided. The proposal of an unsolicited "intervention" in lower Manhattan from a pair of designers from outside the United States lacked the community input I think is necessary for a project to be truly uplifting instead of just aesthetically pleasing. And while they certainty are pleasing to me, many may find the colors an eyesore especially without community consultation and buy-in.

[Proposed NYC project, image from Apartment Therapy]

Tonight I took the time to look at the Favela Painting website in more depth. There were things that heartened me, such as the education in painting skills and safety the local youth received, which can serve as job training. Additionally, "inside of the sambaschool was painted in [the area's] traditional colors"

While of course there are many other improvements that could be made to those communities (either in Brazil or New York,) even small physical appearance changes can have a very positive affect. The Favela Project was started in 2006 in Brazil where the Dutch team works and lives, and the New York proposal was more of a creative design exercise than true proposal. I would hope a team that has had such successful projects in the past understand the important of community in the design process should such a project actually move forward. What works in one community does not translate to all communities, especially if the similarity in the communities is largely on of economic status or political power instead of culture and identity. I encourage Haas & Haan to continue the painting project in Brazil if it as welcome in the community as my google-ing suggests but to think deeper about ways to bring the same joy to other cities.

What do you think are best practices for community-based design?

[Painters at work in Rio, image from Favela Painting]

Friday, December 9, 2011

bake it, gift it: snowball cookie recipe

Yesterday I posted my "make it, gift it" DIY button rings that I made for a Holiday Gift Swap. Today I am sharing my recipe for the The Great Food Blogger's Cookie Swap from Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen.

I wanted to make a family recipe, one given to my grandmother from her friend and my mother's godmother. This recipe goes by many names, but the one most appropriate for the season is Snowballs. They are also called Viennese Crescents when shaped slightly differently and Mexican Wedding Cookies when made with vanilla in place of the almond extract. I think the almond gives them a great not-too-sweet flavor. 

[The dough]
It's important to note that the dough is very very crumbly. You will be forming these with your hand and have to really squish the dough together. I was taking a fistful of crumbly dough to end up with the cookies you see below.

[Before baking]

[Cookies just out of the oven]

½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
1 tsp. almond extract 
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup blanched slivered almonds, ground

Mix all ingredients together.  Shape into small balls, about 2-4 bites per cookie. These do not rise or change shape, so you can fit about 20 on a baking sheet.  Bake at 325 degrees on greased cookie sheet for 20-22 minutes.  When mostly cooled, roll in conf. sugar before serving. 

Yield:18 cookies
Recipe is easily doubled. Cookie size can also be reduced, decrease baking time accordingly.  

[Ready to coat in powdered sugar]

[All done!]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

make it, gift it: DIY button ring

[Vintage button collection]

A few weeks ago I posted my excitement about participating in the Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap and the Holiday Gift Swap, both organized by some awesome bloggers. The deadline for mailing out treats for both was recently and I wanted to share what I created. Today I have a diy instructional for my gift- button rings.

I knew I wanted to make jewelry and making rings from vintage jewelry and buttons is an easy diy that anyone can do. To start, you need one or more buttons (or other bauble such as a rough gemstone, cocktail earring piece, etc) and a ring blank. Ring blanks are available at craft and bead stores.  

[I decided to create a layered look with the large tortoise shell buttons and various small gold and colored buttons.]

[You'll have to remove the back of the button if it doesn't lay flat. Use pliers and just work it back and forth.]

[Use E-600 glue (from a hardware store) to secure the ring blank to the button. I added a strip of fabric, also glued down with E600 to add stability. If your ring blank has a large flat surface then this is not needed, but if your ring is only circular, like mine, then it is helpful. ]

[Your ring is ready! Here is what they looked like before being mailed.]
[I added fun bows to the packaging, just because I love gifts.]

Thank you so much Freshly Picked for putting together this awesome showcase of crafters! Over the past week, I've received adorable notecards, holiday coasters, and a necklace from a repurposed tie. I'm looking forward to the last few arrivals and to sharing my Great Cookie Swap recipe with you tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

how to: make a sparkly wreath in 2 minutes

And for basically $0.

Okay, definitely less than $2.

I started getting warm and fuzzy Christmas feelings, oh, a month ago. This was bad since I have a strict no carols/decorating until after Thanksgiving policy. It is now after Thanksgiving. But unlike my friend Lara and her amazing trove of Christmas treasures, I have no decorations. This is my first Christmas away from home where a) I am not in college or b) my roommates are not (undergrads) in college.

Nonetheless, I am inspired to start decorating. And today I made a wreath practically for free. How? First I started with a set of silver cupcake liners. These come with a silver liner and a white liner inside. At first, I thought, "how ridiculous!" Then I thought, "wonder if that's metal's toxic? yay for white liners!" So to make this wreath, in three easy steps.

Step one: gather your silver liners (before or after use; I went with after.) The number you use changes the size of your wreath, I used 13.

Step two: take one liner and flatten it.

Step three: Assemble in a circle and tape on the back. I just used Scotch tape. Use liberally, it won't be showing.

Okay, I guess there sort of is a step four.
Step four: Hang your wreath!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

recipe: shrimp scampi with preserved lemon and fennel

Grocery shopping is a trip typically made together, with a few meals planned and a few thrown together later from whatever we have gathered. Last weekend I worked both days, so Partner-in-Crime set off to procure foodstuffs on his own. On a whim, he picked up a half pound of shrimp. We didn't have a recipe planned, so at 6pm on the night of their consumption (a week ago) we sat down on the computer to find a recipe, ultimately selecting one from Bon Appétit on Epicurious for Shrimp Scampi with Quick Preserved Lemon and Fennel on Polenta.

We lacked some ingredients, including the polenta. Instead of the amount of shallots listed, we used a combination of shallots and white onion that needed to be used quickly. Luckily, we had fennel for another recipe planned for later in the week and I frequently keep preserved lemons in the fridge, made using this method. This cream/fennel/lemon sauce is good enough to eat without the shrimp. I don't know why you would, unless you are serving a vegetarian or keeping kosher. (Which, if you are, cook the shrimp in an entirely separate skillet. Toss a bit of preserved lemon in the olive oil as you cook the shrimp and you are good to go.) Below is our adapted recipe.

Shrimp Scampi with Preserved Lemon and Fennel over Pasta
1/2 lb pasta
1/2 shrimp
4 shallots, sliced thinly
1/4 white onion, diced
1 medium bulb fennel, halved and sliced thinly (about 1 cup)
1/2 preserved lemon peel, diced (about 4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup half and half (or cream)
[Preserved lemon, onion, shallots, fennel]

Peel and vein the shrimp. Note that prepping the shrimp will take the whole time it takes to cook pasta, so be sure to do this step first instead having your boyfriend do it while you make the pasta. Our pasta sat for a while waiting for the rest to be done. If this does happen to you, toss the pasta with olive oil.

After shrimp are ready, put the pasta on. Go for something long and stringy. We used standard spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine would be great too.

[After adding the cream]

Saute shrimp in olive oil over medium heat for 1 minute per side. Transfer to plate. Saute shallots, onion, fennel and lemon together, until fennel is tender, about 4 minutes. Add cream, bring to a boil briefly. Toss shrimp back in and cook until just opaque in the center. Serve over pasta.

[Tossing the shrimp in]

Monday, November 21, 2011

learning sf: Rachel from Church Street Flowers

Welcome to the first of an on-going series, learning sf, where I profile a Bay Area local. Today I'm featuring Rachel Pizzica, one of the three owners of Church Street Flowers. I stopped into the small storefront and was lucky enough to grab fifteen minutes with Rachel before a stream of customers flowed in and out, selecting flowers and scheduling delivery of arrangements. Here are some pictures I took in the shop and words of San Fransisco wisdom from Rachel. 

[Our learning sf guide, Rachel]

I noticed you, Stephanie and Brianna [the other owners] are all from different areas of the country- what brought you to the Bay Area?
My husband, then boyfriend, was in culinary school here, but I’ve been in love with San Francisco since visiting with family in seventh grade. So I just happened to fall in love with a guy who was in school out here and after college moved out and got a job.

Were you already working for flower shops? What drew you to be involved with flowers?
I used to think that in college was when I decided. I liked that I would get to be artistic and work with people. But friends remember, when I was in fourth grade, I used to say I wanted to own a flower shop. When I moved to San Francisco, I interned at another flower shop and was a hostess. I’ve worked in several flower shops but this [Church Street Flowers] was my first design job.

When you became owners, Church Street Flowers had been open for a decade and you were all employees. Tell me about how that happened.
It had been a flower shop for over 20 years, we all worked for the shop and took over almost three years ago. Wow, almost three years ago!

What do you think sets Church Street Flowers apart?
This is an (almost) all-women shop and we’re all young. We’re involved in the scene in San Francisco so we have our ear to the ground. We go to the flower market ourselves at 3am and get the flowers ourselves. We’re the ones talking to the customers and designing the arrangements. Because the process is so fluid, we’re able to really create something unique for the customer.

[Church Streets Flowers has won many awards, including Best Flower Shop multiple times from the Guardian]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

america recycles day (intro to three part series)

[Alejandro Durán's Washed Up Series]

Today is America Recycles Day and kicks off a series I’m writing on recycling and, more broadly, the three R’s. We all remember the three R’s from school (those of us born in or after the 80s at least.) Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

These are important Rs for designers too. We, as designers, are responsible for the products we create. We pour our heart into their creation and then we hope to send them out into the world. But what happens to our products after? Are they still our responsibility? How can we make our designs comply with the three Rs? This is an issue close to my heart, merging the work I've done on climate change and sustainability with my love of design. Over the next two weeks, I’ll examine each R and discuss ways designers have taken them into consideration in their work.  

What do you think a designer’s responsibility is? Please share thoughts as well as any great examples of designers imagining great solutions to the three Rs.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

weekend review: weekday weekend

[Park at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco]

 I mentioned yesterday that I had a weekday long weekend with my friend/college roommate Laura aka Suits and Skirts. Laura and I always have excellent adventures, whether in New York, Richmond or now in the Bay Area. She was here for a business conference and afterward we met in downtown San Francisco. Spurned in our attempt to dine at 3pm at B Bar, we took pictures of the gorgeous Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and went back to Berkeley for Phil's Sliders followed by a late (gourmet) pizza dinner. 

The next day we headed to Napa, enjoying several vineyards and having a particularly wonderful time with the Resident Southern Belle at the Vintner's Collective. Our last day included Berkeley classics Philz Coffee, shopping at Jermey's Department Store, and great sushi for cheap at Manpuku before venturing back to the city for a night of fine wine and cheese at Mission Cheese, burritos, and The Mint Karaoke.

[Photographer Laura. Check her blog for more pictures]

[Making bird friends]

[Pizzaiolo in Oakland]


[At the first winery. We were asked twice this weekend if we are sisters, do you see the resemblance?]

[Empty wine crates]

[Bubbles on the patio. Ideal.]

[More bird friends]

[Toughest decision all week. Laura went with the platypus for her newborn niece.]

[On Valencia St]

[Books on books]

Friday, November 11, 2011

quick meals for when you are tired

I woke up early this morning to drive an out-of-town friend to the airport. She'd been visiting for the past few days, which I took off work and spent as a weekday long weekend. Afterwards, Partner-in-Crime and I finished moving to the new apartment and then I headed to work in the rain. Dinner tonight with our mostly-empty fridge seemed impossible until he reminded me of the casseroles I had in the freezer. Topped with panko and fresh grated cheddar cheese, dinner was exactly what I needed. Freezing food is something I'm always glad to have done for nights just like tonight.

What are your favorites to freeze or prepare in advance?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

tumblights 11/6/11

Welcome to 11/11. I'm looking forward to many symmetrical days. Plus, last night was Daylight Saving Time. It came on a perfect weekend for me, as I am working all weekend plus moving apartments. We've had some mold/water issues so are staying in the same building but moving to the third (top) floor. So my extra hour will not be spend partying with friends, as it should be, but catching up on sleep. What are you spending your extra hour on?

Light Calligraphy superimposed on nature via jocundist

“Spirit Bear Destroying the Tar Sands” Mural by Krista Huot & Parskid via Flatcolor Gallery Blog

Famous paintings reproduced using a single continuous line via Faber Castell

Balloons for Bhutan: Jonathan Harris Documents Gross National Happiness via Brain Pickings

Field of 2000 Dandelions turned into art by Regina Ramseier via Inhabitat

Enjoy these? Find more daily at And even more stunning images on my pintrest.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

recipe: my mother's pumpkin muffins

As soon I saw canned pumpkin in the store, I swooped up several cans, thinking not of pie but of my mother's delicious pumpkin muffins. They are perfect for enjoying a taste of fall all through Thanksgiving and even up to Christmas. Bake regular muffins for yourself or miniature muffins to take as treats to coworkers, friends and family.

Pumpkin Muffins
Dry ingredients:
1 2/3 cup flour
1 ½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Optional: 1/3 cup raisins or walnuts

Wet ingredients:
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup water
2 eggs
1 generous cup canned pumpkin

Combine dry ingredients. In separate bowl, mix wet ingredients. Add dry until blended.

Bake in greased muffin tins (or with liners) at 350 until golden brown. My mother’s recipe says 35 but she told me to check earlier. I took them out at 30 minutes, but they could have even used about two minutes less. For miniature muffins, bake 15 min.

Makes about 18 muffins. I made a dozen regular and a dozen minis. 

*I didn't have pumpkin pie spice, but figured I could google a substitute. I used this one

Monday, October 31, 2011

happy halloween

[From Brain Pickings]
Do you have Halloween plans tonight? I have a bag of candy and am hoping from some tiny witches- and vampires, baseball players, puppy dogs and princesses- to come by my door.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

sharing the holiday spirit with blog swaps

I'm very excited to be participating in two internet swaps- a Holiday Gift Swap and the Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap. You don't have to be a professional crafter or baker to participate so sign up!

The Holiday Gift Swap is open for sign ups through Friday, November 4th. You'll make five items to send out to five participants (on November 7) and you'll get five goodies to keep or give as holiday gifts. The goal is to simplify your holiday shopping while allowing you to give homemade artisan goods to your loved ones. The Great Cookie Swap is similar, but you send and receive three batches of a dozen cookies. Sign up by Friday, November 18 and send your cookies out by December 5th.

Which swap do you want to be part of?