Tuesday, February 26, 2008


i love this this cute project on natural home mag. if only i could get my cats to sleep in a cat bed and not in my sock drawer or on a stack of paper, or my personal favorite, on my laptop. how did i raise such vagabonds?

Monday, February 25, 2008

busy weekend eats

this weekend was one of those full force ADD weekends, running around spastically jumping from one project to the next, to the next to the next. a little crazed, but mostly productive, i had some interesting and some strange ideas, and actually saw several things through to completion. usually days like this mean that i eat cereal and frozen veggie burgers supplemented with emergen-c and coffee, but somehow i managed to find time to wash my filthy hands and cook a few times this weekend.

i think i've mentioned that our garden is in a, ahem, transitional state right now, so there is little to eat, some tiny lemons, a little chard and kale, a few herbs... and a ton of flourishing arugula and nasturtiums. i had seen a recipe in the millennium cookbook for arugula pesto, and thought i'd give it a try and put a little spicy nasturtium spin on it. i used the millennium recipe as a jumping-off point and then changed mostly everything. it came out way too bitter for my taste so i added basil to counteract it and that worked pretty well, although i still wasn't wholly convinced i had come up with a winner. the next day i made soup, which began as orangette's celery root soup, but quickly became celery root/sunchoke/potato/leek soup. the soup turned out great, rich, but subtle, but i kept thinking that it needed something a little fresh, you know, a little green to bring it all together. eureka! i put a spoonful of the pesto into a bowl of soup and voila... yum yum yum.

here's the recipe (although i should probably start calling these 'guess-ipes' because, i won't lie to you, i make up the measurements. unless it's baking, i've made some too flat muffins and too puffy pancakes, so i'm fairly true to the measurements of baked goods). Also, I think of a 'bunch' as what you could hold if you put your two hands together and made a cup. highly scientific, of course.

arugula.nasturtium.basil pesto

2 bunches of arugula
1 bunch nasturtium (if you don't have nasturtium you could add spinach or parsley or more arugula/basil depending on whether you like more bitter/more sweet)
1 1/2 bunches basil (a little less than the arugula)
1/2-3/4 c. toasted nuts (pine nuts are standard, i used a mix of pine nuts, walnuts and almonds dry toasted in a frying pan on med-low heat)
3 tbs olive oil
1/2 c. water
salt and pepper to taste

put all the leaves and nuts (cooled) into a blender or food processor and chop it up. keep it chopping and stream in the olive oil through the top like they do on the cooking shows. stream in the water through the top until it gets about the consistency you like (i like mine wet-ish so i used it all). add the salt and pepper.

rooty good soup
2 tbs. olive oil
2 celery roots (peeled and chopped)
5-8 sunchokes (peeled and chopped)
2-3 small or one large potato (chopped)
2 small leeks (mostly the white part, chopped then washed)
1 sm/med onion (chopped)
2-3 cloves garlic (sliced)
1 stalk celery (chopped)
3 c. veggie stock
salt and pepper to taste

Heat up the olive oil in a good sized pot, wash, peel and chop all your veggies. you're going to want to wash the leek after you chop it to get all the grit out from between the layers. throw it all in the pot, i'm sure there's some order that would be appropriate but i don't know it, so toss it all in at once, or toss it in as you chop it. cook it in the oil until it starts to smell delicious or the onions become translucent. add the veggie stock, bring it to boil and then turn it down low to simmer. put a lid on it and simmer until all the root veggies get soft enough that you can easily smash them with a fork, about 40 minutes. blend in batches (carefully, with an open top) til pureed smooth. add the salt and pepper. serve alone or with a dollop of pesto in the middle to be stirred in by the lucky recipient.

(organic generic brand cheez-its, for real.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

blowing in the wind

my household recently invested in used washer and dryer, a well worth it splurge despite the fact that the laundromat is quite literally half a block from our house. i hooked up the washer pretty immediately, but the dryer is still free wheeling, partially because i'm scared of making gas connections and partially because i hung a new and super fantastic clothesline in the garden. i mean, when you got a breeze, who needs a dryer?

i thought i'd give a how to but really it was so simple, i almost feel silly doing it. i made mine out of two 2x4's, 8 screw eyes and 30 or 40 some odd feet of rope. fortunately we have a fence and a hot tub shack that i screwed the 2x4's into after i had attached the screw eyes (about a foot apart) and then threaded the rope through and pulled it tight as i could. our fence is inclined to do the lean back after some lovely and charming police officers lumbered over it one time to get to our neighbors house, so this made the clothesline pull itself pretty tight. you can also use clothesline pulleys if you intend to stand in the same place to put your clothes on the line (like out the window or something), but i put ours over a concrete slab so it wasn't really necessary.

being as i google everything, i stumbled on this great clothesline activist group called project laundry list that puts together an annual event called national hanging out day. their website has a lot of good info and statistics about dryer energy and clothesline politics. it hadn't occurred to me that a lot of communities ban clotheslines because they think they're ugly. sure, call me a hippie, but i actually find ours quite beautiful.

Monday, February 18, 2008

can't sit still

despite my slacking on the "weekly maker" entries i've been unsuccessfully trying to keep up with, i'm working on starting a new "weekly" happening, a project section. it's been brought to my attention recently that despite my complaints that i haven't made anything in almost two years, that i actually make things all the time, constantly, incessantly even, i've become notorious for being knee deep in 72 different projects and scheduling social engagements around said projects. yes, lunacy, i know. i just haven't been making much "artwork", whatever that means, or the artwork i've been making doesn't see much of the light of day or attain any sort of resolve or finish, so i equate that as a lack of productivity, when maybe it's an excess of productivity and a lack of interest that's keeping me from the work that i would more formally consider my artwork.

so in the vein of art imitating life, i'm going to try to document some of these projects. anything that happens by my hands, i'm going to try to take a photo and jot a note about. little things, mundane triumphs, everyday explorations. hopefully a little diy information sharing. i've got high hopes these days, it feels good to feel productive and capable, it feels good to be holding tight and sailing along, it feels good just to be doing things and talking. i'm happy just to try these days and i guess we'll see how things turn out.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

homemade yogurt

About a year and a half ago my life was in the midst of a long, drawn-out move. months and months of everything in a box in a pile in the corner. no circular saw, no sewing machine, just some clothes and a mattress and my frantic, anxiety-ridden fingers tapping the table, desperate to get into something.

it's these most desperate times, the times when you can do nothing but take a few deep breaths and let your eyes sink back in your head, that i nuzzle up to my consistent companion, the warmest place in the house, the place the knows my deepest desires, the kitchen. i had been wanting for a while to learn how to ferment my own wine, and what better time to learn the more stable side of patient anticipation, then a time when i felt so wholly ungrounded.

i started with Sandor Ellix Katz's book, Wild Fermentation, which i would highly reccommend to anyone, whether you're just getting started or you're already a fermetnation enthusiast. i started with red wine vinegar (which, to this day, i still have going with the same 'mother'), and since have made plum honey mead, maple honey mead, white wine vinegar, sourdough starter, dairy yogurt, soy yogurt, saurkraut, ginger ale, sweet potato soda, hard apple cider, kombucha, and probably a few others that i'm forgetting. i still have my eye on some spicy kimchi, miso, pickles and beer.

i most consistently make yogurt (aside from the few things like kombucha and vinegar that are always quietly chugging along in various jars in various corners of the kitchen), and i've made it in a good handful of different ways. sometimes i sweeten it with honey or maple syrup or homemade jam, and sometimes i don't sweeten it at all and i eat it with lentils and cucumbers. sometimes i strain it for a thick greek style yogurt and sometimes it turns out runny and i stir it into smoothies or drink it out of the jar like kefir. i've tried soy, rice, cow and coconut milk. it's an experiment each time, a micro/macro collaboration, a guessing game, with varied but consistently yummy results. this week i made soy coconut with maple and honey yogurt to go with a new granola recipe i got from orangette.

here's my recipe adapted from the yogurt making instructions in Wild Fermentation. My measurements are guesses and you could substitute almost any kind of milk or sweetener. the result might be thinner/thicker, sweeter/sour, but if you continue to experiment, you'll most definitely find your favorites. this is my favorite sweet non-dairy concoction.

1 carton soy milk (the standard tetra-pak kind, whatever brand you like)

1 can coconut milk (you know i like the fatty kind, but you could use the "lite" if you want, however more fat seems to result
in thicker yogurt)

1 heaping tbs honey

1 heaping tbs maple syrup (it's best to start slow with the sweeteners, then stir and taste your mixture while it's heating up. it will be about the same sweetness when it's finished, unlike other ferments that eat up all the sweetness during the fermentation)

1 tbs pre-existing yogurt with live and active cultures, set out for a bit to get it to around room temp (can be homemade, store-bought etc. you can also use different milks and the cultures will still work, although you might not want to contaminate your soy yogurt with milk cultures if you're sharing it with your vegan friends)

mix the milks and the sweeteners in a saucepan on med-med/hi heat stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't burn. if you have a candy or deep fry thermometer, pop it in, you're trying to get it to around 180 degrees, or until small bubbles start to form. you don't really want it to boil, but if you space out and it does, just keep trucking, it'll still work. at around 180, take it off the heat, put a lid on it and let it sit until it cools to about 110 degrees, or as katz describes, til you can comfortably dunk a (clean) finger in. i find this takes about an hour. at 110, you mix in your spoonful of live yogurt and stir it well because you want to be sure the cultures distribute and all your milk gets yog-y. then you pour it into jars and put the jars into a cooler. if there's room i like to put some towels in there around the jars and sometimes i put other jars that just have hot water in there as well because you want it to stay warm for about 12 hours. then you leave the cooler be and let the microorganisms work their magic (yogurt doesn't like to be jostled or moved around while it's fermenting). after 12 hours, pull it out of the cooler and eat it, strain it, mix in some fruit or veggies, and stick it in the fridge. when you're about out, you can use the last spoonful to make your next batch!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

free the net!

erin tuned me in to meraki a while back and we've been waiting with excited anticipation for it to reach us so we can expunge greedy old comcast from our lives. 'free the net' is meraki's project to create a community based network (similar to a co-op) in which they provide free signal repeaters to people willing to install them in their home. with each repeater the signal creeps a little farther and slowly the network blankets the whole city. i believe sf is the first city they're trying it with, but judging that it works (which it is, so far) they plan on expanding exponentially. pretty cool, especially after the san francisco free internet let down of the last few years.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

felix gonzalez torres

since last week was someone i get to see everyday, this week i'll take it far away to someone i'll never have the good fortune of meeting in this life, felix gonzalez-torres. in my own humble process there is a small handful of makers that over the years have really dug up under my ribs and stuck there. there's something visceral about their work, that it reaches me on a cellular level, like i was born with it in my bones. it makes my own work better because i aspire to be able to quietly and universally communicate my story in a way that speaks to other people's experience. i feel this way about felix gonzalez-torres work. it's so subtle and sincere in the way it connects both the viewer and the maker and the viewers with each other. you can't just look at it, you have to experience it, you have to become a part of it. the following two pieces are my personal favorites.

These two identical, adjacent, battery-operated clocks were initially set to the same time, but, with time, they will inevitably fall out of sync. Gonzalez-Torres created this work shortly after his partner, Ross Laycock, was diagnosed with AIDS. By assigning these redundant objects the title "Untitled" (Perfect Lovers), the artist transformed these public, neutral devices used for the measurement of time into personal and poetic meditations on human relationships, mortality, and time's inevitable flow. Of the light-blue background, Gonzalez-Torres said, "For me if a beautiful memory could have a color that color would be light blue." (from The Museum of Modern Art)

"Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.)" consists of a pile of 175 lbs (ideal weight) of fruit flashers candy, which viewers are invited to take and do with as they please. It was made for Gonzalez-Torres lover, Ross, after he passed away. The candies are replenished as they are removed, creating an endless pile, an eternal portrait, giving his lover and their love the ability to live forever.


Monday, February 4, 2008

making something out of nothing

you know it might be my all time most fulfilling feeling to make something useful and/or beautiful out of garbage. i have a frightening (truly frightening, anyone who's helped me move can attest) collection of scrap fabric, a scavenged wood pile that threatens to crush me on a daily basis, stacks of junky roadside furniture that i just know are hiding a gem underneath a thin layer of ugly, a closet/dresser/under-the-bed container full of clothes from only the finest dumpsters/hand-me-downs/dollar-a-pound piles.

it's true i'm a hoarder, but a hoarder that believes hugely in the power of reuse, in the second, third, fifteenth life of objects, in the beauty of age and history and process and reclaimation. yes, i might be a hippie. yes, i might have ocd, big time. yes, i might be willing to talk on a public forum about how i get my mattresses from complete strangers on craigslist and i don't feel funny about it at all. but how else could i be when i've got to, need to, would simply shrivel up and die if i didn't make stuff, and this world is already near bursting with stuff.

san francisco is working towards being a zero waste city by 2020. i might stick around for no other reason then to see this happen. maybe then i'll move to austin, which has recently hired a california firm to creat a zero waste plan with a goal of 2040. we'll see. this idea of zero waste is so monumental even i can barely wrap my head around it. i am so inspired by ideas that are so massive, but so community based these days. people that are re-thinking everything, not just the way we dispose of stuff, but what products are available and the way they're made, and how each person doing a small act can amount to something huge.


my past week was a whopper of goodness and inspiration. on tuesday i had the pleasure of meeting up with joe gebbia, one of the founders of ecolect, an online sustainable materials community, which was only recently launched but is already taking the design community by storm. we talked shop (for those of you who don't know, i'm a materials librarian. i know, a what?) about our libraries, about what we're working on, what we're having problems with, etc. joe is one of those people that is so honestly thrilled and amazed by what they're working on that it makes you want to do better.


then friday the rains parted and i got my new-to-me bed for $50 and it's awesome and my back is already feeling better. saturday the grey skies returned but i hauled my old bed out to the damp, drippy east bay anyway and we set it up in esti's new minimalist bed room. like i said folks, win win.


before the bed delivery on saturday i went to compost workshop at Garden for the Environment, which was also really inspirational. we have a slow poke compost bin so my housemate jill and i went to get some pointers, and learn more about worm bins which neither of us have ever had. we learned some great tips (to turn their compost they just take it all out and put it all back in, which totally solves my problem of not being able to get my shovel into the bin far enough to flip it all over) and got a red wiggler tutorial, and i've already lined up a free worm bin from a delightful woman on freecycle.

(i forgot my camera on saturday so these photos are stolen from the SF Gro website)


ah. this upcoming week has it's work cut out to live up to last week. fortunately i'm still riding the positive energy train, so maybe it'll just self-perpetuate. i got my fingers crossed.