Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Family Portrait

Last week my brother and I were bantering back and forth on instant messenger in attempts to recall our Grandmother's maiden name. I started Googling in hopes of finding records of my grandparents' marriage and was led down an hour long exploration of my maternal Grandmother's family tree. I can trace my Dad's ancestry back to the 12th Century. Underhills keep track of everything, apparently. But I've always known less about who was there beyond the last few generations from my Mom's side of things. As I was led deeper down the rabbit hole I  discovered this photo of my great great great grandparents and their family, aka my maternal grandmother's dad's parents. Following me?...that's okay, continue on.

The youngest child sitting on the mother's lap is my great great grandfather. The picture was taken just before the turn of the 19th Century. And as I stared at this picture, searching the faces for glimmers of resemblance or personality, I realized how absolutely little I knew about him. We look at pictures or hear facts about our ancestors and place them under a microscope of comparative analysis with ourselves. Does she have my eyes, did he have the same interests I do, was he brave, was she funny? Did they do something impactful with their time that still resonates in mine? The remnants and trinkets of our ancestors possess a magnetism and significance imbued from their rarity and obscurity. They're puzzle pieces that we know will never complete the picture but give us a hint or insight into ourselves and our origins.

 I began to wonder what legacy my depictions and possessions would leave for my family a century from now. And then I realized, I don't have as many precious possessions as I do stuff. Loads of stuff. Not only material items that are devoid of personal meaning, but pictures, videos and conversations that will be forever accessible through the click of a mouse. And while it's pretty incredible to realize that five generations from now, my decedents will theoretically have my entire life at their finger tips, it also makes it less special and mysterious. I have 2,769 pictures on Facebook. I have an E-mail account that records every conversation with Search features. My life will be mysterious to understand not for lack of information, but for too much of it.

I have this one picture of my great great great grandparents and their family. This was a special photo. It was an orchestrated event to capture this brood of 10, in the farmlands of rural Missouri, in a rare family portrait. And somehow, this image survived and was scanned onto a computer so I could find it in a search engine over a century thereafter. While technology and social networks actually help us discover more of those missing puzzle pieces of our past, it makes it easier to muddle our own legacies that we choose to leave. And that's something worth considering.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

We be Jammin

People crave convenience more than they crave the satisfaction of the process. We've seen the industrialization of our livestyles and commoditization of our goods offer us more ways to facilitate our busy lives. And it all seems to be about saving time. Drive this to get there faster. Eat this prepared meal to save hours on cooking. Shop here to get all your goods at one place.

Yet another growing trend that has become a fad, in a sense, is the regression to the good old days where people took a hands on approach to fulfilling and sustaining themselves down to the individual level. Purists and passionate artisans built the farmers markets and created the hand-done crafts to offer to a community that cares about where their products come from and who the person is that made them. Meanwhile, large corporations picked up on the popularity of organic and homemade. All of a sudden every Kroger and Whole Foods produce department alike have graphics of American family farms and buzz words like "organic" "natural" and "gourmet" emblazoned across product labels.

But we don't talk much about the joy in it. The pleasure of the process that contributes to the reward of the end result. Wander the path, pick the fruit, stir the pot and get lost in the rhythm of your own pace. I got all that from making jam.

My parents have a house on Camano Island, located near the San Juan islands in the Puget Sound. Towards the end of the summer, the sandy bluffs that line the beachfront are covered with blackberry bushes that are bursting with lushious blackberries, salted by the ocean spray. I spent an afternoon with family, friends and their respective dogs collecting the blackberries as we walked the beach. When we brought our load home I decided to make some jam and spent the afternoon boiling jars, mashing fruit and licking sticky fingers as it simmered away. I could have spent the $5 dollars to buy a jar of Smuckers. But that jam has no significance. It's just a sweet smear on my toast that I eat absent-mindedly while scanning morning work emails. MY jam is different. My jam comes from the beaches of the Pacific Northwest and is flavored with orange zest. My jam was made on a Sunday afternoon in my kitchen as I scanned "The Joy of Cooking" and improvized a canning tray by using cookie cutters as a platform to boil my jars. My jam was anxiously anticipated as it cooled for 24 hours in the refrigerator and eagerly opened the next morning to see whether or not I totally nailed or totally screwed up the first batch of jam I've made since I was a kid making strawberry preserves with my mom in our kitchen, where I discovered the stunning sugar to berry ratio it requires to make good jam. My jam has a story and memories, it is tart and sweet and bright with citrus. There's something so much more rewarding and special about doing it from scratch.

Blackberry-Orange Jam
5 Cups blackberries
1 packet pectin
5 Cups granulated sugar
Zest from 2 oranges
Juice from 1/2 an orange

Equipment (See helpful link from pickyourown)

Place canner in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Submerge jars and lids in water and reduce to a simmer. Place berries in separate large pot with a heavy base - make sure you use a deep pot to avoid splattering hot jam! Heat berries on medium-high heat as you mash with a potato masher. Berries will continue to break down as they cook. Gradually add pectin and bring to a boil as your continually stir. Add 5 cups of sugar and orange zest and juice. Return to a boil for 5 minutes as you stir. If a layer of bubbles begins to build you can add a teaspoon of butter.

Remove jars and lids from canner and wipe dry. Fill each jar leaving space at the neck of the jar and place lid and band on top. Seal tightly. Return jars to the canner and submerge back into boiling water for 10 minutes. Set jars aside while they cool and ensure that lids form a vacuum packed seal. Place jars in refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lullaby Moon

Celebrating the new moon - Lucia Neare's Theatrical Wonders held "Lullaby Moon" at Gasworks Park on Friday evening, a beautiful performance piece that combines music, dancing and enchanting story-telling to mark the beginning of the new moon and "celebrate our precious place in the Milky Way galaxy and the promise inherent in everyone's dreams."

Children, adults and dogs dotted the hillside as we were transported to the land of nod with glowing tick tock clocks riding ponies, white rabbits in waistcoats glided across Lake union on a glowing bed and ushers in top hats and coat tails danced to a live band. The best part of this free show is that it takes place out in the open, where you could stumble upon the experience by surprise, allowing for a sense of authentic wonderment to take over your imagination - you are Alice falling down the rabbit hole rather than a customer paying for a manufactured Disney experience.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Disco Deer

Look at him. He is beautiful. I don't even feel crass or boastful in annoucing how amazing he is because I rarely actually finish a crafty-artistic venture. I will get half way through scrap booking a trip, a first coat of brush strokes into a painting. But I'm turning a new leaf, starting with committing to continually posting on this blog, but first I started with Disco Deer.

DD was first inspired by the Seattle art and culture scene (every other bar has at least one animal bust and one scrawny lumberjack with ironic tattoos). We are woodsy people and the nature of the Northwest greatly influences the style and personality of this city. So of course I had to cover a deer head with glitter, right? Honestly, I wanted to take part of what makes Seattle feel like home and transform its familiarity in a shocking way. So I ordered disco tiles and bought silver spray paint, and did work! 6 months later (#$#@!) I finally finished, having forced myself to come back to the project despite long repreives spent on other distractions. Now he be chillinz abuv my staircaz, whattin to greetz yu!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wannabe Junk Food

You can put racing stripes on a turd, but it's still a turd. Now baby carrots are not turds, but agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky have certainly given the lil snacks a racing stripe. Adding to the new trend of disguising or hiding healthy foods in not so healthy fare [examples here and here], Big Carrot baby carrot packaging company has hired the ad agency to give their carrot packaging some kid friendly appeal. The solution? Creating a new packaging look that mimics the traditional look and feel of potato chip brands. Not surprising, Crispin happens to have fast food titans like Dominos and Burger King on their roster so they're familiar with making unhealthy food seem oh so irresistable.

What's unique about this health food cover up is the strategy of using design styles and touchpoints typically seen in conjunction with fast food to market a health food. It's not hiding cauliflower in the mashed potatoes, it's using design choices and familiar fast food touchpoints to make carrots seem cool, approachable and desireable. But will the strong association with junk food via Doritos-esque packaging and marketing really convince kids that carrots taste good or just make them more fun to eat? It might not matter as long it results in increased carrot consumption. A colleague recently recounted the appall her daughter expressed upon discovering that the french fry shaped apples in her BK Kids' Meal were in fact fruit masquerading as french fries! Kids are not dumb, and duping them into eating healthy usually only works if they never discover said ruse. But this campaign isn't about hiding carrots, its about revamping their image, which just might work with picky eaters big and small.

See all of the incognito carrots campaign extentions at PSFK.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Yum Tower

Hi friends. I just got home from my folks house for Labor Day weekend and have to share this recipe. It's a blatant copycat job from an incredible restaurant in Seattle, Canlis. Every time I've had the opportunity to eat at Canlis I order this salad without fail. It's a tower of creamy avocado, slippy sweet mango and fresh shrimp. It's stacked into a tower and drizzled with earthy chive oil and huckleberry syrup that gives the dish unbelievable color and vibrancy. I feel like I'm writing a dirty food novel so let me get down to the breakdown.


2 firm avacados, diced
1 mango, diced
12 shrimp, cooked
1 bunch chives
1 bunch microgreens
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C berry syrup (pomegranate, huckleberry - your preference)
Sea Salt

Dice avacados and mango into 1/4 inch pieces and set aside. Peel and devein shrimp and drop into boiling water. Cook until pink. Place shrimp into ice water until chilled and slice lengthwise down the center and set aside.

Take your bunch of chives and puree in a Cuisinart or traditional blender. Strain puree through a sieve and wisk in olive oil. Now it's time to construct!

Take a 3" cake ring mold and place on a salad plate. Don't have a cake ring mold? Yeah, me neither, so a great substitute is a 3" cookie cutter. This is going to hold your tower together as you build it. Using a small spoon, begin to fill mold with avacado until it sits roughly 1" high. Pack the avacado down so you have an even layer. Repeat this with the mango. Slowly pull the mold off to reveal your tower. Layer 3-6 shrimp slices on top of the mango, keeping with the circle shape. Sprinkle the top of your tower with a pinch of sea salt and top with a small bunch of microgreens. Finish by drizzling chive oil and berry syrup around the plate and lightly on the salad.

Yup. Getcha some.

Vintage Facebook – Didn’t We Already Try This?

It was six years ago, my freshman year in college, when Facebook hit college campuses, and I got hooked along with the rest of my collegiate cohorts. But amongst the social, informational and emotional benefits of Facebook, we dug the fact that it was just for us college kids. Friends and siblings still stuck in high school weren’t allowed to join the Facebook ranks until they experienced the rite of passage into college. Better yet, our parents and other adult authority figures couldn’t tap into the social world we’d created. It was a club. And the exclusivity made it cool.

It only took a year before our sweet reign over the Facebook kingdom ended and FB expanded to the entire world. The college members-only social platform of my heyday is now a thing of the past. But wait! Meet CollegeOnly, a new social network that is reintroducing the college-only social networking site. Mashable sat down with creator Josh Weinstein, a New York-based entrepreneur – creator of other college-centric social networking sites RandomDorm and GoodCrush – who explained that he saw a gaping hole that was never filled after Facebook went global. “Facebook has changed — for the better,” says Weinstein, “But its original use case is currently unserved, as college students are less likely to upload photos or post what they are up to with parents and potential employers looking on.”

CollegeOnly is an example of how deep diving into a specific target can be more fulfilling with consumers and effective from a brand standpoint than targeting a breadth of communities. CollegeOnly has more specified categories and post capabilities – such as class schedules and insider campus information like which frat throws the best parties. Because it prevents non-college students from accessing the site, students may also be more comfortable posting controversial content that my generation was burned for upon seeing the professional and personal consequences of revealing one’s personal life in a public arena. In many ways, Facebook has become more of a marketing tool that a network to create personal connections and share intimate details with trusted social circles. Of course, this could also bite students in the ass down the road for assuming that posting a picture of a bong rip comes without risks because it is securely locked away in a password protected cloud.

Another interesting consideration is how CollegeOnly will inevitably evolve in the future. Facebook expanded its reach to grow its business and extend its lifespan with consumers. Perhaps CollegeOnly won’t need to broaden its borders as Facebook did because its competitors have the market covered. But the exclusivity of CollegeOnly necessitates extreme privacy settings and restrictions to maintain a tight seal from outsiders. This automatically lends itself to a higher sense of security with users, and therefore, more comfort with the self-disclosure that has waned with Facebook and made the site devoid of some of its original personality and appeal.