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?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Design creates visual language for the 99%

I'm on an impromptu last minute trip to DC. The minute I walked onto the familiar reddish tile of the Metro Station at National, I felt at ease. Like many of my trips after I moved elsewhere, I'm here for a semi-work reason but also spending time with friends and this time, with family. I likely won't get to post again this week, but since Occupy Oakland is weighing on my mind while I'm across the country, I wanted to share the work of Occupy Design.  Infographics and visuals can be incredibly impactful, particularly in breaking down numbers and complex comparisons.

From their website:
This is one of the first social movements in history able to produce high-quality imagery using digital graphic design tools, and distribute them instantaneously anywhere in the world using file-sharing and social media. We aim to provide a universal visual toolset for the Occupy movement which crosses language barriers and brings a strong visual identity to the movement. It’s also one of the first social movements with broad access to open data – which, if communicated correctly, makes it much more difficult for those who should be held accountable to hide from facts.

Because the movement is so diverse, the mainstream media has characterized it at various points as “directionless” and “lacking a message”. We believe that regardless of background or politics, 99% of the nation can truly agree upon the injustice demonstrated by a clear communication of facts and statistics in a well-designed way – and that bringing these facts to the street via physical infographic signs will help bolster the communication of occupations’ messaging. 

See more from Occupy Design in their slideshow:

tumblights 10/23/11

This week's tumblights was, I thought, all scheduled but for some reason it was not! My apologies. Belatedly, here are the tumblights.

Re-imagining the automobile- a car made from bamboo via designboom

Composite image created by throwable panoramic ball camera with 36 lenses via designboom

Artist Maria Moyer Creates Plankton-Inspired Porcelain Jewelry for Loomstate via TreeHugger

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

weekend review: i'm smitten with the trolley dances

[Spotted at a community garden]

Weekends are special. They are for grand adventures or lazy days where nothing is accomplished but that's okay. My friend Caroline and I agreed this has held true even while we're both unemployed. I'll soon be starting work part-time and will work weekends some, so I'll see if that changes once weekends require work.

But for now, I'll keep my weekends special. Saturday was a lazy day, though a few small items were accomplished around the house. Sunday was an adventure in the city with Caroline. She took me a part in Hayes Valley where we lunched on ice cream and I took her on the Trolley Dances. Trolley Dances is an annual event with a series of dances at locations in San Francisco, linked by walking and taking Muni. I loved the variety of types of dance, and traveling between locations allowed the city to be part of the action- particularly at the outdoor events.

[Amazing chocolate. The raspberries I supplied from the farmers market.]

[This duo presented three dances, each at a different public location, including the Muni Stop and store window.]

[My favorite, outside the Public Library. A story of public transit.]

Monday, October 17, 2011

made me smile: occupy oakland and free pears

These pears were found yesterday in a box by the sidewalk- gifted, as my friend Anna would say, by the universe. A friend for many years through organizing, Anna is currently in town and was the perfect companion to participate in Occupy Oakland with me. After a day of participating, I returned home to the pears calling for attention. I reflected on the day's action with Partner-in-Crime over preparing a pear crumble. Cooking with free pears, willingly given from someone who had more than they needed or even desired, felt appropriate as a small part of what the Occupy actions are working to create.

All in all, a series of smiles. A found box of pears. A friend in town. Democracy in action. Preparing good food with a loved one.

Recipe: Harvest Pear Crisp with Candied Ginger from Bon Appétit.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

blog action day: food

This is a special Blog Action Day post. Blog Action Day is an annual event that focuses on a differentopic each year and this year it overlaps with World Food Day so the topic is food. If you have ever read my blog before, you know food is an issue I care about passionately. Typically, my posts have involved the joys of preparing and eating food, but I am privileged to have access to the bounty of food currently available to me.

8.4% of Americans live in a food desert, as classified by the US Department of Agriculture. According to their classification, "if 500 people and/or 33 percent of a particular tract's population lived more than 1 mile from the nearest grocery store (or, for rural tracts, 10 miles), and the local poverty rate was significant, then the tract was designated a food desert" [source.]

A food desert doesn't mean there isn't any food available. In urban neighborhoods, there are often bodegas or corner stores that sell packaged goods but often don't stock perishable fruits and vegetables. In rural areas, someone may live surrounded by farms that grow food but the food is monocultured and shipped to processing plants or markets far away.

Here in San Francisco, there is a "fairly large food desert located in the Bayview, Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods – some of the poorest in San Francisco. In San Francisco, a staggering 150,000 people, 20% of the city’s population forsakes buying food in order to pay their bills... Other Bay Area food deserts include neighborhoods in Oakland and Richmond" [source.]

What can be done about food deserts and how do designers play a role? As designers, we learn to look at problems systematically. We have created a complex system for growing and distributing food and ending food deserts involves changing both how we grow and how we distribute food. Most of all, we need to change what we value about food. Do we value that there is food or do we value what food is there? I believe every person should have access to healthy and affordable food. Changes will have to come from political and economic forces, but we, as designers, have a huge role in showing the potential good to come and in creating the new systems themselves.

I recently wrote about the Via Verde apartments where the designers responded to the community's request for a healthy place to live by including, among other initiatives, community garden space. Here are three additional examples of how designers are creating change in our food systems.


[Rural NC Farmers Market created by local high school design-build class

[Cornell Design and Environmental Analysis students help classmates be able to prepare meals from fresh foods]
[Stockbox Grocers is a miniature market that brings healthy food to urban food deserts within the existing infrastructure.]

Do You Live in a "Food Desert?"
America's Worst 9 Urban Food Deserts

tumblights 10/16/2011

Here's your weekly wrap up of the most interesting design stories I found on the internet this week. I'm off to spend an afternoon watching modern dance at the Trolley Dances. Today is the last day so don't miss it if you are in the Bay Area!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

dim sum do's and don't

[Street decoration in Oakland's Chinatown]

As I've said before, I'm not much of a breakfast person (unless it is in art form.) Sure, I like hashbrowns since they are made of potatoes and I never say no to bacon, but eggs just don't do anything for me. If I'm headed out for my first meal of the day, I'm already thinking of lunch foods. It is no surprise then that I love dim sum brunches.

Partner-in-Crime and I have gone several times recently and this weekend I took a few pictures to share and thought I'd share the do's and don'ts of dim sum as I have learned them.

Do: Go with a group
Dim sum is a social meal and most of the tables are large round ones. Go with a group of four to eight is a great size.

Don't: Order individually 
This is why you want a crowd. Dim sum is meant to be eaten family style. Order dishes for the table. Each dish often has 3-6 small treats, such as dumplings. The server often snips larger items in half with scissors for sharing. Order 1-3 dishes from one cart and then see what the next cart brings. Even without a central ordering plan, if you order slowly you won't get too much on the table and you'll be able to sample many dishes.

[The sticky rice to the left is a favorite of mine.]

Do: Enjoy yourself slowly
Dim sum is the best kind of slow meal. As soon as you are seated, you can start ordering and your food is on the table immediately. But you also get to order slowly and can always decide to get more. We're often at dim sum between 1-2 hours.

[Basically Chinese doughnuts]
Don't: Be scared to try new things
Growing up I was a bit of a picky eater. I've found the best way to start liking foods you thought you didn't was to try them prepared a completely new way. I was leery of these coconut desserts because I'm not a fan of coconut pie, but instead they reminded me a sweet coconut milk and had a very milk taste. Delicious!

[So glad I tried these]

Do: Tip
You'll have a waiter (often in a vest) who brings you more tea, water (if you request it), and who will clear plates that are empty. Do tip. 

During your meal, you'll have a ticket like this one on your table. The servers will stamp a code for the dishes you bought (and that they sold it) so it's hard to keep track of how much exactly you are spending. Luckily, it's typically very reasonable. Our bill this weekend was just $12 each with tip. 

Do: Take some home!
After our meal, we went to stores in Chinatown that sell dim sum and barbecue to go and purchased our dinner. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

how to: refinishing your vintage finds (part two)

This is part two in a two part series of refinishing your vintage finds. Or semi-vintage, as is the case with these folding chairs inherited from Partner-in-Crime's grandmother. Fairly comfortable due to the padded seat and back, these chairs were not so easy on the eyes. But I knew there was still life in them. A few hours later, they looked like this:

In part one, I covered how to spray paint a great find. But what if your find includes some um, less than current, fabric like these beauties? Part two will teach you how to do a basic re-upholstery job. Often with simple chairs, you can recover the seat without having to actually sew anything because the back or bottom is covered or not visible. That's the case with these folding chairs. Recover your chairs in five* easy steps after the jump.

*Okay, okay. Six. But the sixth one is reattaching the seat.

Friday, October 7, 2011

how to: refinishing your vintage finds (part one)

Early in the treasure hunting for new home, I found this telephone table. I love the shape but the pale wood was less than inspiring. Luckily, painting wood is quite simple especially if you desire a bright spray painted look. Today I'm going to show you how to completely transform your vintage find in five simple steps. This tutorial works on wood, metal and plastic so it's time to get treasure hunting!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

fall foods to look forward to

Fall is truly here, no matter how much I push against it. Luckily job prospects are looking up and I have craft shows on the horizon, so I've decided to just let it come. Today was rainy and the weather reports promise more for the next few days. I poked around the fridge, and yet again, we skipped grocery shopping this weekend so I'm just putting together a list now.

The rain has me craving comfort food. I considered mac and cheese for tonight, or roast potatoes with bacon. In the end, Partner-in-Crime called and convinced me we should go out for Indian where I no doubt will get a curry with potatoes. But while I'm happy to eat pasta and potatoes for weeks, I know I should eat better and Partner-in-Crime doesn't have the same affinity for carbs that I do.

What are you favorite fall foods that aren't carb heavy? I'm looking forward to making a big bot of chili and other soups. I'm searching for a great recipe for carne en su jugo, a dish I had Sunday for the first time. But I know I'll still be making plenty of bolognese, mashed potatoes (with roast chicken!) and risotto all fall. What less-carb heavy dishes should I had to the rotation?

And now that we've talked about dinner, what are the desserts you plan to make? I know I'm making Elevator Lady Cookies as soon as I get some shortening.

weekend review: hardly strictly

This weekend was packed full with two gatherings of friends on Friday night, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass on Saturday, and Dish SF with my friend Kelley on Sunday, followed by a 'fry party' hosted by Cornell friends. Luckily, Partner-in-Crime and I took a slow pace and ambled through the weekend. Leaving later than planned on Saturday, we stopped by an old favorite diner of his, the Irving Street Cafe. Still, Sunday evening I was asleep by 10pm. 

[Beers Friday night at Jupiter in Berkeley]

[Spotted these sweet shoes at the diner, then saw the same ladies at the festival.]

[They changed the design! I went all week without one!]

[Classic, California style]

[Hardly Strictly Bluegrass]

[Packin'em in]

[This bumblebee hung out with me for a while.]

Sunday, October 2, 2011

tumblights 10/2/11

For those of you who missed it last week, each Sunday I will now be delivering a lineup of my very best tumblr highlights. Posted on Sundays for the perfect lazy afternoon reading or, if you instead embracing filling your weekend with adventures, something to read Monday morning when you aren't ready to look at your emails yet.

Interview with Amber Marshall, glass blower via Handful of Salt

Proud Mary: Beautiful, Handmade Textiles that Give Back via Apartment Therapy SF

A Home Designed for a Deaf Family to Communicate via Design Boom

Re-imagining the Wheel: Bike with Steel Spokes for Tires via Fast Company Design

Timelapse Images of Fireflies in Nature

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