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Wednesday
Nov162016

In My Garden: Fall veggies!  

Above:  My basil crop. The leaves are as big as my tomatoes! Right now our freezer is full of pesto, made with raw pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts, and no cheese. Laura's vegan version is extremely flavorful and light. Without the cheese, the basil is the prominent flavor, the aroma alone fills the kitchen. 

It's fall and those people living in colder climates are putting away their gardening equipment. But not here in San Diego. In some ways, this is an even better time for gardening than summer. Here in Southern California we are lucky enough to be able to grow our crops all year long. You can be planting lettuce varieties, spinach, kale, cabbage and celery to start with. I like to plant cilantro and parsley for a chimichurri sauce that Laura makes. We toss the chimichurri with soba noodles, and add it to other dishes, especially Mexican food. I also plant a large bed of broccoli raab, a crop we look forward to every fall. See my February, 2014, blog for our pasta with broccoli raab recipe. 

No garden is complete without snow peas for stir-fry dishes. I have a large bed planted now and will plant one more large bed before spring, so that we will have an abundance of snow peas, one of our favorite garden vegetables. I have enough room in my garden to plant 100 or so garlic bulbs, and once harvested and dried, this garlic will last close to a year if stored in a cool, dark, dry place. I also planted a bed of scallions and carrots to grow over the winter for a spring harvest. Right now I have cucumbers, tomatoes, and basil that I planted in the late summer for our normal warm and dry Santa Ana weather in the winter, and the new starts will be planted in the greenhouse when ready. 

I have been experimenting with tomatoes, not the easiest crop to grow on the Southern California coast. Tomatoes and foggy beach weather do not mix. But I have found winter tomatoe varieties that are doing quite well this year, so that 2017 may be the year of the tomato for me. Only time will tell. Our weather is typically mid-60's at this time of year, but our temps are hovering into the mid-70's, and all that California sunshine is helping my garden to flourish.

Above: My lettuce crop this year.

Above:  Winter lettuce and spinach for big garden salads with dinner every night.

Above:  Scallions

Above: Good-for-you kale. Chopped up and sauted in olive oil with lots of garlic and red pepper flakes, it's one of the most flavorful side dishes on the menu. Toss it with rice pasta and white beans, and it becomes a delicious and healthy main course. 

Above:  Fresh cilantro and parsley from the garden for making chimichurri sauce to toss with soba noodles. The sauce is a lighter and thinner version of pesto, but packed with the vibrant flavors of parsley, cilantro, garlic, raw pumpkin seeds, salt, olive oil, red wine vinegar and red pepper flakes. Tossed with noodles or rice, topped on a baked potato or a bowl of black beans, it's a compliment to many grain and vegetable dishes. 

Above:  Winter tomatoes

Monday
Nov142016

Americana Style Entertainment Center 

My latest project, an entertainment center, was for a client of mine that I have worked with in the past. The last project we did for him and his wife, a number of years ago, was an underground wine cellar below their garage (see my October, 2013 blog, For The Love of Wine), and I knew from working with them in the past that this would be another fun project. They love fine workmanship and beautiful wood, and appreciate the attention to detail my shop provides. 

The project, a TV/Stereo/Display cabinet was to replace an existing one. They wanted to put in a large new TV that wouldn't fit into the current space, and they also wanted to add some upgrades to the cabinet. Their home is a New England colonial style, filled with 18th and 19th century American and English antiques and quality reproductions throughout. 

I have an extensive collection of reference books. In my collection is a book used by auction houses and antique dealers on Americana furniture. From that reference I was able to create the feeling and sense of design that would work with their home and how the furniture piece was to be used.

We decided to use mahogany. I went to one of my suppliers, who lets me go through the hundreds of boards he supplies so that I can match color and grain. I found some incredible matching boards with quilt, feather and ribbon grains, enough to build the whole piece. Since we make everything, including all mouldings and crown, even those were figured.

The finish is a aniline dye for most of the color, used for hundreds of years because it enhances the wood without covering it's natural beauty. I then applied a light glaze to highlight the details. We re-framed the opening for the larger cabinet and installed it. All the effort from design, construction, finishing and installation done in my shop was well worth it. It turned out to be a truly beautiful piece.




Monday
Oct172016

The Great White Egrets Entry, Screen Doors, Side Lights, Sconces and Light Fixtures

The challenge for me in designing this entry was my client's desire for a fantastic entry along with providing ventilation, and still keeping security in mind. So instead of taking the standard route and what is usually done, a beautiful carved door with screen doors in front of it that obscures the beauty of the entry when that entry is closed, I decided to take a more unusual, but much more artistic and practical direction. 

I made the screen doors with hand-carved egrets and reeds, and bronze screens. Then I made another set of doors, on the inside, the exact same size, same wood, and the same placement of mullions as the screen doors with glass. The wood screen doors and the inner wood and glass doors have security locks so that when the weather is nice, the inner doors can open, allowing a breeze to flow through the house, with the beauty and security unchanged. 

The doors, side lights and reeds are made of Mozambique, a wonderful hard wood that does very well outdoors and carves nicely. For the egrets I chose jelutong wood because of the light color, and because egrets are white. I carried the reeds into the side lights to add a continuous flow to my design. The inner doors have a clear tempered glass, and the screen doors have bronze screen which is many times stronger than regular screen but is less noticeable because the wire is thinner. 

I also made the sconce lights you see hanging on either side of the doors out of Mozambique, with art glass that I designed and made, copper reeds, and copper hoods. 

By designing the outer screen doors to have the beautiful carvings, and the inner doors to match and fit exactly to the outer doors, I accomplished my client's dream to have a fantastic entry, ventilation, and security. 

Below are two photos. The first is the light fixture I designed and fabricated for the walkway to the home. The second is a close-up of one of the sconces that is installed next to the doors.



Tuesday
Oct042016

My Crow Buddies

I have come to respect crows, as I do all animals, and want to share this true story with you. 

Several years ago I saw a crow walking on the ground in my backyard and as I watched him I saw a neighbor's cat creeping along the shadows of some bushes towards the crow. Knowing what the cat was about to do, I ran outside so that the crow would fly away. But to my surprise he couldn't fly, and I could see his wing was injured. I put the crow in a cat carrier and took him to Project Wildlife where they repaired his wing. Project Wildlife will return wild animals to the yard they were found in, so this crow was returned to my yard and to his family, who were waiting for him. I still see him years after this event and he is still living and thriving in my yard. His left wing hangs down lower than the right, due to the original injury, and that is how I recognized him. But this is just the beginning of the story.

The year following his injury, as I walked through my yard, I saw another crow walking on the ground and as I walked by he didn't fly away as crows usually do. I assumed he was another injured crow who needed help. I got out one of my animal carriers and walked over to where the crow was hiding amongst some bushes. I picked him up and put him in the carrier. I placed the carrier on my patio in the shade  and went in the house to call Project Wildlife to tell them I would be bringing in an injured crow. This took about 15-20 minutes.

When I came back out to my patio to check on the crow, the trees surrounding my patio were full of crows, at least 20 to 30 of them, and as soon as they saw me they started squawking at me intensely. They were definitely trying to tell me something, but as I don't speak their language it took me a little while to realize they were trying to tell me something. I quickly went inside to my computer and googled birds and crows. I found that sometimes the crow isn't injured, he is simply a young crow learning to fly who had not gotten the hang of it yet. By the way, this is true for any young bird. 

I went back to the crow in the carrier and checked for injuries, which really got this pack of family members even more upset. I didn't find any injury. (The crow from the year earlier had a different, and noticeable, injury to his left side and wing).

I decided to put the crow high up in a tree where a cluster of branches made a kind of bed, so that he would be safe. As soon as I did that the mother and father flew up to check on, and console, their chick. Amazingly, the other 20 or 30 crows flew off, apparently knowing that the young crow was safe. Over the next few days one of the parent crows was always with their young bird, and I could see them bring him food regularly.

Then one morning they were gone from their perch in the tree, but they still came back to my yard regularly. And they saw me also, scolding me every morning as I walked outside to remind me that they can take care of their own young. Since then they seem to understand I respect them and would not harm them, and they no longer scold me, but they still squawk at me, perhaps just saying "Good Morning" in crow. 

 

Monday
Oct032016

The Entry Table

 

It can't be said enough, how well glass and wood can be integrated together in design, whether it is a contemporary design or traditional. This stunning entry table is made of solid wenge, a base of concentric circles with a circular wood top, along with a 3/4" thick glass top that has an etched band on the underside of the glass. It is finished with a natural non-stained finish to show the exquisite beauty of the wenge wood.

So that the glass could be flush with the border, I put a 45 degree chamfer around the edge of the glass and a corresponding 45 degree recess around the inner edge of the wood border. The home is contemporary but with some classic details like the travertine stone floor in the above photo and a lot of curved walls. I built over 50 pieces of furniture for this home. 

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