Paneer, sans packaging

October 23, 2008

Say cheese! Then, curdle up with a homemade batch, thanks to this paneer recipe from The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy’s cooking offshoot. Sounds simple enough: All you need is milk, lemon juice (or another acidic liquid, I would imagine), some cheesecloth, and a colander.

You won’t get the taste of cave-aged cheddar, nor will you find yourself snacking on creamy brie, but you will get a light, slightly crumbly fresh cheese to sprinkle on salads, cube for curries, or add to fajitas. The beauty part? You know exactly what’s going into your queso (and, by extension, your tummy), and you avoid plastic packaging.

And, if you can localize your milk and grow your own lemons, you’re on the road to an even greener food-making whey. (Sorry — was that too cheesy?)


Babies, babies everywhere! I know a boatload of ladies who are either preggers or just post-partum — and that means it’s time for me to get crafty. Exempli gratia: this knitted bear softie, stitched with love for a friend’s little girl, Clio Robin, born in September.

I’m guessing that you know at least one woman who’s expecting, so, in lieu of making you dredge the world wide web for baby projects, I’ll bring the projects to you. (Plus, a few off-the-shelf items, in case the baby comes early, or you’re not feeling the DIY verve.)

Knits and Sews

  • Cloth Diapers from T-shirts. Not into swaddling baby’s butt in plastic? Try zipping off a dozen of these second-life diapers. An especially lovely present for the craft-happy momma who is kind of busy right now.
  • Birdmobile. Think Calder, not Caped Crusader. This twig-and-twine mobile blooming with tiny birdies is so adorable, I want to make one for my house. And I don’t even have a baby.
  • Kipling Sweater, Goldie Dress, and Zebra Cardigan. A trio of baby knits for all seasons and a range of ages. The Kipling Sweater, for a newborn, comes complete with a preppy-meets-super villain poppable collar. The Goldie Dress, knitted here with a variegated orange/yellow/turquoise yarn, makes the most of cute with little cap sleeves and a simple, Nehru-look split neck. And the Zebra Cardi kills with its customizable stripes. (I’m thinking chartreuse and aqua, or orange and royal blue.)

In the Kitchen

  • Baby Food, chez vous. Gerber, go home! Check out the comments on this post, which will lead you a bazillion baby food-making sources. If you’re into home canning, push your advantage: a presentation of homemade, organic baby mash could make an excellent welcome-to-the-world gift.
  • Compostable Baby Wipes. Every diaper-wearing baby requires some sort of baby wipe. So why not make your own biodegradable scrubbies with household ingredients? Better for baby, better for the planet.
  • Ikea-hack Play Kitchen. So maybe you don’t make this in the kitchen, and maybe this can wait until the baby can stand on its own. But this pretend prep-station comprised of Ikea components (and a few mini frypans) is one of the coolest kid crafts I’ve seen. What up-and-coming chef wouldn’t flip his lid for a little kitch like this?

Store-bought, but Still Rad

  • Wooden Toys. In the event that you’ve already given your fave kidlet a metric ton of t-diapers and host of birdmobiles and six gallons of mashed bananas, there are always wooden toys.
  • Organic onesies and tees. Etsy artist Foxy & Winston silk screens animal prints onto organic cotton onsies and t-shirts. Love the orange armadillo, in particular.
  • Hand-quilted bibs. Beautiful fabrics transform the everyday to art. From Set Carré, another Etsy crafter.

What little crafts have you created? Any suggestions from those with kids?


WHO: Baumraum, a German architecture firm

WHERE: Deutschland, und international locations

WHAT: Tiny prefab treehouses (no kidding!)

SIZE: About 100 square feet, depending on the model

Fritz! Ernst! The Future is here!

It’s a childhood dream, all grown up: a mod, beyond-cool treehouse. Now you can live amongst the leaves in one of Baumraum‘s prefabricated treehouses, which come equipped with bunks and trunks, light and heat, and even the tools to make meals. Though the houses come sans toilets and showers, and are therefore not quite move-in ready, they could make a great addition to, say, a piece of land hooked up to an outhouse. Who needs anything else?

Okay, so maybe one of these feats of arboreal architecture couldn’t serve as a primary residence. But they are nonetheless artful, and so Small, too. Win-win.

My dream closet.

October 20, 2008

My dream closet is beautiful to behold. Like this:

My dream closet is well-curated, filled with things I love and love to wear. My dream closet is not stuffed. It is easy to navigate. My dream closet contains empty shelves.

But, alas, my dream closet is a figment. A fleet-footed phantom, out of reach of my clothes-horsing, co-habitating Small state of being. It is, of course, a dream.

In the real world, in the world of bad weather and trips to the gym and sartorial sentiment, my closet takes on the appearance of Henry VIII: overfed, overdressed, generally overboard.

I’m with it enough to realize that the above dream closet isn’t a real closet. And, if it were, it would be holed up in some temperate climate, one that doesn’t have rain and wind, and one that doesn’t make its owner walk two miles to work. This dream closet is a Hers closet; there’s no His here. No Pisa-like stack of balled up man-sweaters to constrain, no sets of fancy man-shoes, each pair of which takes up the square footage of four adorable ballet flats.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t begrudge the dream closet these things. After all, I’m not interested in wishywashy climes. And it’s those His markers — the leaning towers of sweaters and Ronald McDonald dress shoes — that represent the closeness that comes with getting hitched (or, at least, living in the same house).

I do, however, begrudge the dream closet its pristinity. (Is that a word?) I begrudge its perfection, its aesthetics. I envy its simplicity; I envy its ease. But to attain said closet splendor means purging. It means purging, and not restocking. It means No New Threads, period. Either that, or a tit-for-tat tactic: one item in, one item out.

How to go about this? The “I haven’t worn it in six months” test? The “does it fit / does it flatter” scenario? The “wow, this is so ugly” frame of mind?

And, an even larger consideration: What will an exercise like this achieve? Will it keep me from scrounging secondhand stores? Will it keep me from filling up free space with something new?

The more I focus, the more I see the dream closet as a false symbol for self-control. Maybe it isn’t the dream closet I want. Maybe it’s the sophrosyne. Maybe it’s the so-called “simple life.”

Or maybe it’s that super-cute cropped jacket with the bluejay print, there on the left. Or the plaid wool overcoat. Or maybe that killer white tote. Yeah. Maybe that’s it.


ATTENTION! The last day to register to vote — i.e., to perform your civic duty and constitutional right as a citizen of this country — here in Washington is October 20. That’s like next Monday, people. So, if you’re not reg’d to cast your ballot on November 4, hightail it to your nearest registration station and get on the official list.

This way, you can represent your ‘hood (or your hamlet), a bonus community-builder. And, you’ll feel good in the knowledge that you participated in an historic presidential election and a super-tight gubernatorial race.

Vote! Vote! Vote!