Thursday, September 11, 2014

Autumn Picnic Food


September in Petaluma means chilly mornings, followed by sweltering afternoon sun. The leaves are starting to yellow, the grass is a pale gold, and it's apple time. I suddenly feel the desire to make heartier fall food, but it's so hot by dinnertime I can't stand to be in the kitchen.  Yesterday I took advantage of the cool morning and made some things ahead of time, a few Asian takes on picnic food, using sweet and bitter vegetables, and some stuffed eggs with a little wasabi kick. Good served cold as lunch food, the salad can also be warmed up and served with pork or chicken at dinner, or with a poached egg over top like everything I seem to make...


The salad is made with roasted beets, Brussels sprouts, and apple, drizzled with a vinaigrette of seasoned rice wine vinegar made with grapefruit and a little sea salt. It's simple.
 



Roast the cubed produce on a sheet pan, drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of salt, 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. While they are cooking prep the vinaigrette.  I added thin slices of red onion and beet to the mix to pickle for the stuffed eggs. If doing that step, allow the slices to sit submerged for at least 15 minutes. To make the vinaigrette, mix 1 part seasoned rice wine vinegar to 1 part fresh squeezed grapefruit, with salt to taste.  The result is tangy and a bit sweet. Drizzle as much as you like over the roasted vegetables while still warm. Salad can be served at any temperature.



I made my stuffed or deviled eggs with just a touch of mayonaisse and a little fresh wasabi and sea salt to taste. Peel hard-boiled eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the yolk and mash with a fork, adding mayonaisse one heaping teaspoon at a time until you get to the right consistency.  For every egg yolk I used about 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon of wasabi, not too spicy, but flavorful. Stuff the eggs and top with the pickled vegetables, serve chilled.  



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sketching Skills


My two favorite tools are a sharp pencil and a pad of gridded/graphing paper. Whenever I set out to make anything, be it a tiny clay deer sculpture or a floor plan, I make a sketch. It helps me work out my ideas and get down to details. I'm a visual thinker, and both of my kids seem to be as well, so I supply them with their own pads of graph paper to plot out their ideas.  The grids have helped Wylie with scale and consistency while he learns to write his name, and Jasper has used it to make comic books, and has recently started drawing pictures in perspective. Armed with with these simple tools it's pretty amazing to see what they come up with... 


The other day my little lady friend Ella came over (you might recognize her from the weaving project) to check out the new children's architectural book series featured last week. I enlisted her to help me work out a few details for a new class I'll be teaching (more on that soon) where we'll need to know a little about drawing in plan view(2-D) and perspective (3-D). She was really interested in Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, she loved how his house was built into the natural environment. Using the grids on the page, she sketched out her own design built into nature, a two story tree house, complete with a tire swing. I hope she builds it one day... 


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Design For Small


I got another package in the mail from Princeton Architectural Press.  Enclosed were two books and a hand written note letting me know they are publishing their first architecture series for children. The "Who Built That?" books look at famous examples of important houses and buildings and their famous architects, from Frank Lloyd Wright and his amazing Fallingwater to Mies Van Der Rohe with a little shout out to Bauhaus and utilitarian design, to the wacky, sculptural work of Frank Gehry. I dare say I learned a few things about some of my favorite buildings, and it seems the perfect way to kick off a little mini-series about teaching applied art/design to children. Here's a peek into the book about modern homes. 

The Farnsworth House by Van De Rhoe is a glass pavillion set amongst the trees. It is the most simple, and my favorite in the book.


Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater is such a powerful building, sitting atop and within a waterfall. Many of the famous structures featured in this book show how designers are inspired by, and challenged by the surrounding environment.


We pulled out my book about Case Study houses, and compared The Eames House in photos to the illustrations in the children's version.  The children's book answers the question that every child asks: Why? Why did they design it that way? Why did they use those materials? Maybe I'm a kid at heart, but I want to know why too.


Who Built That? Modern Houses: An Introduction to Modern Houses and Their Architects and
Who Built That? Skyscrapers: An Introduction to Skyscrapers and Their Architects  by Didier Cornille are out today.  Stay tuned for more on teaching kids about design.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Wooden Bookmarks


I'll be teaming up with my friends at Blurb again, this time at the Brit+Co conference/festival Re:Make where I'll be leading a book craft at their booth. This part of the event features some incredibly creative makers showcasing textiles, housewares, jewelry and print work.  I had that in mind when I mocked up a few bookmarks made from ultra-thin sheets of birch plywood to test as a craft that festival goers can make while checking out what Blurb has to offer. They need to be easy, but they have to be good.  So here they are. Some are embroidered, some painted. I like the idea of gift giving a good book and a handmade bookmark; it's simple and thoughtful. I still read real books, because I like the weight and the way the paper feels in my hands, plus they make great coasters...


To make a wooden bookmark, head to a craft store and pick up some 1/64" thick birch plywood sheets, found in the woodworking/wooden dowel section.  Using a sharp blade, cut with the grain, into 6"x2" pieces.  I made these samples using a small hole punch dotted 1cm apart up each side of the bookmark and threaded a cross-weave down the length with embroidery thread, securing the ends with a knot and dot of glue.  To make the painted version, I used washi tape to mark triangles and painted with a coat of acrylic paint, allowing to dry for 5 minutes before removing the tape.  Both versions take about 5 minutes of work time to create.






Wednesday, August 20, 2014

No. 5


We did it.  The house is dark as night, the yard is landscaped, and the deck is up. I thought I'd share some pictures of the new and improved front of the house.  It's like a dream driving up to it now.  We settled on Benjamin Moore "Gravel Grey", which actually had a little less blue in it than some of the other colors I had in mind. In some lights it looks pure grey, in others it looks a bit navy. The trim is "White Dove" and for the door we thought it might be fun to do a pop of color in "Yellow Finch", which has a bit of a green undertone, and picks up on a lot of what we are growing in the front garden.


Our plan is to let the fences gray out a bit more, then seal it before the rainy season. The landscaping should more than double in size by this time next year (seriously, I can't wait).  Here's a reminder of where we started.








We hung the new house numbers, mailbox, and wall sconces.  I put in a fall fern garden on the front porch in some tall galvanized planters from CB2.  



After a lot of debate we actually chose these jelly jar style sconces for over the garage and as a a porch light.  I wanted something really understated, and everything that I was liking was really too expensive.  These sconces are under $10 each.  For $30 I figured I could change my mind later, but now that they are up, filled with clear bulbs, I think they look pretty sharp.


We are still finishing up the siding on the deck.  The cable rails are up, fascia board is in place, so all that is left to do is to enclose the storage area with finished fence boards and seal the thing.  Building this deck was the best decision we could have made, it completely changed how we use our space. I'm out there everyday.  More on that soon...


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Campfire Oats


Oh mason jar. If you weren't so darn useful I'd be sick of you by now. This summer we spent an incredible amount of time at home, tearing things down, building them up. One week we did decide to get away and disappeared into the woods for some camping by the Russian River. It was a test to see if we are all ready to rough it together in a tent with nothing but fire to cook our food.  The boys love to run around in nature and as we suspected, they caught the camping bug. We taught Jasper how to build a campfire.  Around it we read ghost stories, roasted weenies, toasted and burned marshmallows, brewed morning coffee and tried out an idea I came across for mason jar oatmeal. I meant to write about this last month after our excursion, but the the house just took over. Now as we are gearing up for school I thought I'd share the oatmeal recipe as a back-to-school hot breakfast. Made ahead of time and stored in the pantry, all you have to do is pour in hot water and screw the top on, allowing it to stew while you pack lunches and wrangle people to the table...


In addition to 4oz mason jars with lids you need a 1/4 cup of quick oats (or other quick cook grain) and about this proportion of dried fruit, nuts, spices, and brown sugar.  Be sure to add a pinch of salt. Layer into the jar and fit the lid tightly for storing for up to 2 months. To prepare for eating all you have to do is boil some water and pour over the oats almost to the lid line. Seal the lid and allow to stew for 3 minutes.  No extra dairy needed, the oats become creamy and sweet. 





Friday, August 1, 2014

The Days Are Long


The dog days of summer are upon us. Gone is the magic of school letting out, the first splash in the pool, and cool bite of a popsicle; we are now firmly in boredom territory. It’s time to get creative. So for today I’m giving you a real dog day project, using not much more than a little cardboard, some Scotch® Duct Tape, and a couple of old toy cars. I promise you hours of amusement and hands on fun. And wouldn’t you know it, before we started construction on the new deck, we made a little movie!



For this project we used:

A large cardboard box, cut into 5” wide strips
Scotch® Chalkboard Tape 

Scotch® Dry Erase Tape
Scotch® Tangerine Duct Tape and Green Apple Duct Tape
Scotch® Moving and Storage Packaging Tape
Scissors/ Box Cutter 
A piece of white chalk
A dry erase pen
Some string
2 bamboo skewers (or straws)
Small toy racing cars



We built the race tracks by cutting 5” wide strips of cardboard and taping them together with a little packaging tape. You can do this using scissors, but it is easier and faster with a box cutter(adults only!).


Folding the side of the track at about 1” in on either side provided enough of a lip to keep the cars on the track. To make the black track, we used Scotch® Chalkboard Tape. We secured the tape to the end of the track and one person pulled the backing from the tape while the other smoothed it along the cardboard. It was very easy.



Then Jasper hand drew the dash lines using white chalk. The Scotch® Chalkboard Tape was easy to wipe off when he wanted to fix some of the dashes. I made a little grandstand with a score-keeper that also acted as a way to stop the cars at the end of the race. The marquees are made using Scotch® Dry Erase Tape, and we used a dry erase pen to tick off the winner of each heat. It was easy to wipe away when they wanted to start the game over. To make the grandstand I folded a 5”x 24” strip of cardboard into a rectangle and secured it with a packaging tape. I cut 5” strips of Scotch® Colors Duct Tape to create a little underlay frame for the strips of Scotch® Dry Erase Tape for the marquee. I topped the stand with some flags made from Scotch® Colored Duct Tapes secured to a piece of twine, tied to a couple of skewers and taped to the inside of the box.


The boys hadn’t played with their old cars in months, but they were out on the track all day. At one point they took the game apart and made one long track and fashioned a tunnel out of another box and invented a whole narrative about their car world. They didn’t once mention how “bored” they were. A dog day success!

Want to see what else you can make with Scotch Colors and Patterns Duct Tape? Check out their Scotch® Duct Tape Pinterest Boards , Scotch® Duct Tape Facebook , and Scotch® Duct Tape Twitter pages for more project inspiration. 


I am proud to be a 3M- sponsored blogger, and, as part of my responsibilities, I get the opportunity to evaluate products from Scotch® Duct Tape. Opinions are my own and additional product used in the project were selected by me.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A New View


Hi, it's me. I'm crawling out from under a pile of wood to bring you a renovation update. Over the past few weeks, the narrow 40" x 40' balcony that flanked the back of the house has been dismantled, piers dug out, and a new structure, both functional and beautiful has been constructed in it's place. Here's the story of our deck...


This is the before picture, taken a few days after we moved in. With a sweeping southern view of Petaluma's Cherry Valley and the Sonoma hills, the deck was barely deep enough to fit a chair without touching your feet to the railing.  A narrow staircase cut across the back side of the house, blocking a lower bedroom window, and an overgrown patch of ivy was tightly knit into the ground below. That was reason enough to rethink the deck, but then there was the problem of the side yard stairs, and the drainage system that we lovingly refer to as "The Roman Aqueduct".  The stairs lead from our front yard gate down into the backyard, and give access to the crawl space on the side of the house. They are slopped and the treads are very short, making them dangerous and a total eyesore.  


When I first started to work on a design for the deck I was stumped on how to make it bigger without losing a ton of yard space to a new stair case off the front, cutting off the same bedroom, only worse, and the conundrum of making the current side stairs more functional, and covering up the ancient drainage that would cost a million dollars and a lot of jack hammering to redo. Then I stumbled upon this picture...


Bingo. Instead of making two sets of stairs, we could deck over the top of the existing side stairs and enclose the area under the side deck with horizontal fencing to create extra storage and access to the crawl space and bedroom fire door.  With this design we would gain more direct access from the front yard to the back, leading straight to our kitchen, and we'd gain an extra westward facing perch to watch the sunset from, not to mention the wide, hangout staircase that does not block that bedroom. We could now use this part of our yard for a massive raised vegetable garden and the under deck shade structure for lounging and eating on hot or windy days. And so it began...



Keeping it in the family, we hired Adam's brother Ben of Jennings McCann Construction. On the crew is my other brother-in-law Brian, Adam, who had a few weeks left of summer vacation and a jr. crew member in Jasper, who helped mix concrete and carry wood. In one day the deck was completely dismantled. Within the week we had the deck structure.














And here we are two weeks in. Over the next few days the fascia boards and cable railing system will be installed, and then we're having the house painted, at which point we'll have to start eating ramen for dinner every night until we begin the interior remodel. Stay tuned for the big outdoor reveal soon!

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