Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Monster Project

Just around the block from my house, a monster appeared yesterday.

As a "commentary on our collective strengths and fears," Brooklyn artist Kylin O'Brien has been painting large-scale monsters as public art for several years.  The artist asks children to show him what they're most scared of, and then translates their pictures into murals.  I'm thrilled that The Monster Project hit up my neighborhood!

The mural, on the wall of a custom autobody shop on Genoa St between 59th & 60th, is slated to be temporary.  I know that the Community Rejuvenation Project is planning a different mural at the same location later this year, which will focus on classic cars at the request of the shop's owner.  But I have to admit, I'm going to be sad to see the monster go.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Capers from Nasturtiums?!?

I love all things pickled or salty - and capers are an absolute favorite.  I would use them all the time if they weren't quite so pricey.  When I heard that you could make a nearly identical substitute from nasturtiums, of all things, I knew I had to try it.

I wasn't familiar with nasturtiums before I moved to California, but here, they grow like weeds.  They're great groundcover and produce showy orange or red blossoms that nestle perfectly on top of a salad.  They add a nice spicy flavor kick, too.

But what part of the nasturtium could you pickle?  I hadn't observed them closely enough to notice that once those beautiful orange petals dry up, they leave a light green seedpod, roughly the size of a normal caper (real capers are produced from flower buds of Capparis spinosa, not seedpods).  Nasturtiums only start producing these seeds in the late summer, so now is the perfect time to pickle.

Be careful, though - only pick the light green ones. (See recipe below)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Sweet Spot

This blog explores my efforts to try to live at the intersection of art, sustainability and frugality in the urban wilds of Oakland, CA.  These categories often reinforce each other - except when they don't.  I'm constantly looking for the sweet spot of overlap where my ideals fit my lifestyle.

Urbanite typifies the sweet spot for me. It's a cheeky name for the broken up concrete pieces that are left after you, for instance, break up the parking lot in your backyard to plant a garden.  You can either get a dumpster to dispose of the mounds of concrete, or try to use the waste as a recycled building material.  There's so much of it in cities that it started to be called urbanite, as in "What did you use to make the retaining wall?"  "It's made out of urbanite, of course!"  I've been using a lot of it to make mosaic stepping stones, with broken tiles from Heath Ceramics and Caesarstone, among other places.  Our garden stepping stones are an example of quirky urbanite.

And then there's the use of "urbanite" to refer to a city-dweller.  I think of quirky urbanites in this sense as people who cultivate interests and hobbies outside of what may pay the bills (although, if you're lucky, they can be one and the same). They're people who remain alive to all the possibilities that surround us in our urban environment, people who are doing amazing things with very little, lifelong learners. They are artists whether they are cheesemakers or filmmakers. I aspire to be one - a quirky urbanite - and I'm in awe of the the many fascinating people around me who already fall into that category.  This blog chronicles the quirky urbanites I run into in & around Oakland, CA, and my journey towards becoming a quirky urbanite myself.