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Upcycled Eyecandy: The New Keen Store

Needing an antidote to days of focused computer work, I took a partial inspiration day starting with a visit to the new Keen Garage store in Portland’s Pearl district, followed by a trip to the Portland Japanese Garden to see maples dusted with snow. The new, more visible store location allows passersby to visit this sustainable gem of a store that puts to clever use reclaimed materials and objects. The result is a playful, industrial-meets-vintage-meets-upcycled-meets-woodsy environment.

Photo Dec 18, 10 25 33 AM


Repurposed oil drum furniture with cushions made from a patchwork of old car seat fabrics.



No beer sampling since it was only 10 a.m.


One of many charming woodsy installations filled with the popular air plant tsillandia.


Windows and door frames become shelving systems for plants, socks and other merchandise.

Fortunately, I left the store without a dent in my credit card.

If Only We’d Made Cheese in High School Chemistry Class

My mother likes to tell people what I said about chemistry class, “I don’t know why anyone would care about the rate of a reaction. I don’t even care about the reaction itself.”

This, coming from the daughter of two biochemists.

I’ve always loved science, but failing at one type forever brands you a flunkie.

And yet, I’ve spent more hours than I can count creating science on the stove, in the oven and, unfortunately, in the fridge of the bluish-green variety.

Chemistry was never so fun than at a recent cheesemaking class with cheese whiz Mary Rosenblum (and science-fiction author). Thanks to SlowFood Portland (organizers) and to Chef Robert Reynolds Chef Studio (use of space). Read more

Year of Produce: March, The Final Chapter

radishThis month marks the final installment of a “Year of Produce” in which I charted my fresh produce purchases in illustrated form for a year starting in April 2010. I was curious to see if I put my money where my mouth is about eating locally and, by definition, seasonally. Yes, 2010 was so last year. But April is so now! Which means you can start all over again if you missed the whole thing. Scroll down for March as well as a mini image of each month that links to that month’s post. Each one has some combination of recipes or recipe links, preparation ideas, thoughts on eating locally and other good stuff. So please explore!

With this final post I offer:

• A tally for the year
• Thoughts on what is local
• My observations on the project
• March recipe links
• How to eat seasonally, affordably (prompted by a question someone asked me) Read more

Dear John Letter to my Laser Printer

I stare at the fresh space left — along with a bit of dust — after removing my old laser printer from the office floor. As I approach the 15-year anniversary of Allegro Design on April 1, I feel both sad and spacious. Myself and two colleagues on the east coast make up a small club — those who cling to laser printers long after most equipment has died. Our motto is “Use it till it dies!” or “Keep it out of the landfill!” or “Long live black and white!”

Actually, we have no such motto. Read more

Year of Produce: February

lemon treeAt left is my new Meyer lemon tree that I purchased from Graceful Blades (no website) who lovingly grows fruit trees and will be at the next Hillsdale Farmers Market Sunday, March 20, weather permitting. A cheery gift to myself in these dark months.

I wonder if there’s an equivalent phrase like drunk dialing, as it relates to writing blog posts in a weird frame of mind. No, I’m not drunk. Just fried. And why am I posting then? Well, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, “Sometimes you have to go into a blog post, not with the content you want, but the content you have.”

And to quote a former boss, “Done is beautiful.”

This being my my second-to-last produce log for this yearlong project, I had visions of waxing culinarily about the secret joys of eating in winter and the anticipation of freshly cut asparagus around the corner. All lovely stuff. All stuff I have no energy for. This is instructive. I can write a rather long post about what’s top of mind—rush projects, little breathing room to collect oneself or allow for margins of error, the dissatisfaction of churning out work too quickly.

Writing about the nourishing and writing about the sapping both require effort. But each requires a different kind of effort. And to honor the former requires a shifting of gears, a collecting of oneself, allowing oneself to go deeper into a place that isn’t easily accessed when you’re working like a flurry of restless gnats. At a recent coastal writing retreat, one attendee said that she was telling her father how hard it was for her to relax when the opportunity to relax was there. He would always remind her that you can’t go from 60 to zero at the snap of your fingers. Read more

Year of Produce: January

One benefit of neglecting your garden, especially in winter, is that you might find a surprise if you bother to visit it—such as this lovely rose-like head of chicory (radicchio). I left it alone rather than harvest leaves for salads so I could grow a whole head. Torrential downpours followed by an extended cold snap all but destroyed the plants.

Then, a warm dry(ish) day lured me into the garden, which I had been avoiding because I have yet to remove the last of the tomato plants! The chicory bounced back with splashes of fuschia painted on the leaves. I also discovered so many scallions, I had to force some onto a friend.

This variety—Castelfranco variegata—hails from the Veneto region in northern Italy.  There’s a ghostly white variety, too. Its flavor is enhanced by cold weather, like many hearty winter greens. You can buy seeds from Nichol’s, a local Oregon nursery but they’re currently sold out. Who knew it was so popular? Read more