June quickly turned into July this year. We’ve been bouncing along between warm days and fog-wind days, which are more often than not, the norm for San Francisco summer. We’re deep into summer produce from our Eatwell CSA– stone fruit and squash are on the menu for the next many many weeks. Our garden is almost 90% neglected and unplanted this year. The drought made that decision for us this season, though even if we weren’t in a severe drought, I can’t imagine having time to garden right now. Our artichoke plant produced a lot this year, nearly all of the artichokes were left on the plant to flower. Our big beautiful and productive lemon tree was hacked back to nearly nothing by our landlord for unknown reasons, so we’ve had very few meyer lemons for the past 6 months. The only thing really thriving in the backyard is honeysuckle and lots of volunteer nasturtiums planted last year or the year before. The squirrels and wind have done a good job of moving the seeds around to different parts of the yard.
Yesterday I released new summer products in the shop and launched a big site design overhaul. Over the past few weeks I’ve been gearing up for a big shop update, though the actual launch of this update was pushed back for several weeks due to a number of ever-changing factors. Since my initial shop launch back in November, I’ve had multiple requests from customers, asking for more 7″ vinyl record options — I’ve been sitting on these designs for a few months because I wanted to release them after I had the chance to update the overall design of the whole shop. Two birds, one stone, that whole thing. In the meantime, I’ve been gloriously busy with wholesale orders and keeping up with online sales.
With the steady increase in sales and wood purchasing, I started having a trickier time sourcing a reliable quality wood that I liked– the quality overall seemed to be going down at my usual suppliers. No one seems to have a reason for this– thats just “how it is”. Alternately, they try to convince me that the wood hasn’t changed at all– its exactly the same, even when I have samples in hand that say otherwise. I could go on and on about wood here, about all the things I’ve gleaned from phone calls, lumberyard conversations, the internet, real life splinters, prototyping and all kinds of frustration– but that is interesting to very few people. I’ve visited many lumberyards, called many more, and received more splinters than I ever planned or hell, anticipated ever. I’ve learned that most lumberyards are weird, their systems and attitudes are old and outdated. Frequently (not always, but frequently) the men that work there try to treat me like a lady-hobbyist if they’re willing to grudgingly give me the time of day at all. There is nothing more frustrating than being discredited upon arrival, just cause I’m a lady.
I’ve learned that my lumberyard credibility goes up with my increasing knowledge of the appropriate lumber vocabulary, that and walking in like a confident boss, who takes shit from no man. I feel like the only woman in a land of lumber-dudes, though I am sure I’m not the only one out there. The truth is, I’m still a novice when it comes to this new weird world of wood, but its a real boys-club and that is bullshit. Know what else is a boys-club? The audiophile/vinyl/music world! I’ve inadvertently stumbled into two male-dominated industries, simply because I’ve been interested in doing something new for myself, and I like being my own boss. All the recent articles and conversations around women and confidence and inequality and gender everything, man! I feel down about it all. Perhaps my lumberyard lessons are good life lessons– to feign confidence and bossiness always, but it is a fight sometimes. I actually like the word bossy, and don’t have a problem with anyone using it. I’ve been quietly reading along with the blog My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection and the constant noise around her reviews (HOW DARE A WOMAN REVIEW MUSIC AND ETC!) and find the conversation interesting and insanely frustrating at the same time. I recommend a good dig through this conversation, if you’ve got patience.
I don’t see an end here– at least not to these issues or this blog post. I’ve been writing and un-writing this since yesterday and its now officially time to break.
Cats are jerks. Not all the time of course, but some of the time. The jerk above (Muuli) likes to sleep on our curtains to catch the morning light and bake for a few hours, even if we chase her out of the curtains several times each morning. Nothing deters her from baking her little brain in the sun, nothing. Fighting cat hair pile up is infinitely more complicated when both sides are covered in it.
Neebu loves to scale our furniture, our mantle, the banister, the coat rack, or hang from the shower curtain rod (while you’re in the shower), but he especially loves the element of surprise. He chooses his moments, like when one of us is on the phone, when we’re just sitting down for dinner, or as we’re just falling asleep (every night). Cute, isn’t it? His current favorite, aside from running through the house, jumping up to our mantle then catapulting up to the top of our bookcase, is to sit in the window in the utility room, on a pile of theoretically freshly laundered cleaning towels. He likes to pop up there when I’m alone in the house washing dishes, almost as if he enjoys giving me a small heart attack when I see a moving object near our back door when there shouldn’t be anything there. Cute.
Skill Exchange! One of the best things to come from organizing these events are the new friends and collaborators I’ve gotten to know. I single-mindedly focused on the student-side of things when I first started Skill Exchange, but one of the most rewarding parts has been this growing network of teachers and makers. For every stressful moment, there seems to be a creative counterpart– a good conversation, a shared resource, a new idea. Fishmongers, photographers, makers, printers, chefs– I’ve learned so much and had so many opportunities to grow my practice and work with inspiring and challenging makers. James Tucker, of The Aesthetic Union is one of the those makers. We met through the Skill Exchange network a few years ago and now frequently collaborate on client projects as well as personal ones. James is a pressman that uses just the right combination of humor, know-how and hard work.
During the planning process back in early May, James offered to help out with a special print project to share with students during our May event. He suggested letterpress menus, for our grilled lunch– and within about 48 hours, I sketched some illustrative bits, Edible SF Editor Bruce Cole put together a summery meal of grilled fish and seasonal vegetables. I handed the menu file off to James– no nit-picky color, additional plates or other requirements (I’m good at that part, you can ask James). I told James to go for it, and this is was his contribution to the project. Beautiful splint fountain, and wonderfully textured paper with a raw edge, and some serious printing skill. Its not often that I can comfortably close my eyes and hand off a project to someone else– but working with James is a delight.
I also worked with the amazingly talented Kimberley Hasselbrink, photographer, author, food blogger and all around San Francisco lady-business powerhouse. Kimberley shared a recipe and tasting at the May event, but she also worked throughout, documenting the day for Skill Exchange. It is a real pleasure to hand off the responsibility of documentation to someone as talented as Kimberley. I am frequently the organizer/host/photographer/micro-manager during all Skill Exchange events — its a task I take on because I for the most part, like all of those things, but its sometimes hard to step outside the roles in the moment to see and experience the events with fresh eyes.
During a workshop, I’m frequently thinking ahead to what needs to be lined up or prepped, or whats missing, or what might go wrong– so I often miss out on small moments. Receiving the event photos from Kimberley was like Christmas, I was seeing so many sweet moments for the very first time. Honestly, look at these faces below! Serious determination to shuck that oyster in the foreground and total delight in the background as one of our students plucks his first oyster out of the shell. This stuff makes me feel almost weepy!
Who am I kidding here, I DO feel very emotional looking at all these photos. If you’d like to see more photos by Kimberley, the whole set is now available on the newly redesigned Skill Exchange website, SkillExchangeSF.com
Last month I wrote a very brief post about two things I was currently infatuated with. I still feel the same way about those two things but this month, I’ve got two new things to feel strong feelings for. Item one: Kimchi! For the last two weeks the pantry tucked away at the back of our house has been giving off a sorta pungent (fermented) scent– especially on warm days. Home fermentation guys! After the big event in May, Austin of Fermenters Club sent us home with two pints of ready-to-ferment kimchi. All we had to to was cover them with cheese cloth, and keep an eye on the liquid level and prepare ourselves for a kinda kimchi-scented kitchen for 1-2 weeks. I tasted them raw, then one week into the fermentation process, then again this weekend, 15 days after we got them started. I like a forkful of kimchi anytime, but we also make kimchi fried rice for weeknight dinners pretty frequently with leftover rice and random vegetables we’ve got in the fridge. Throw an egg on that and dinner is delicious. We’ve tried a few variations of kimchi fried rice– this one from Serious Eats is pretty basic but good.
Item two: ROASTED CAULIFLOWER. My mom recently told me that I used to call cauliflower “fake broccoli” when I was little. I’ve always felt that way about cauliflower, because my love for broccoli has always been much, much stronger. Cauliflower was in my opinion, the bland boring sister to cauliflower, that is until 4 weeks ago when I fell for roasted, crispy, sweet and salty cauliflower. I am converted. We’ve had it at least once a week roasted with olive oil, sea salt and Aleppo pepper. I will eat it straight out of the oven, burning my mouth and fingers, or, the more adult way, tossed with roasted garlic, arugula, good olive oil and pasta with a little pecorino romano on top. Now I know that roasting is going to make almost any boring vegetable delicious (broccoli, cabbage, radishes, brussels sprouts) but roasted cauliflower is really really good.