And then that happened. It's been nearly 5 months since I last updated this blog. In a spontaneous whirlwind of circumstances, my husband, our pug Matilda and I moved across the country and found ourselves in LA. The decision happened in less than a week and since May, we've been calling the LA neighborhood of Silver Lake our home. It's been an amazing adventure that we are just starting to process. We've only been here a few months and have fully dived into this lifestyle. We spend nearly every weekend either hiking, swimming, exploring hidden beaches in Malibu, wandering around Joshua tree and just generally falling in love with all this sunshine. Now that I've finally (almost) caught my breath, I'm committing myself to getting back into this blog that serves as a home for all the incredible things that exist out there in the world.
Last year I did a recap of all the things that made 2011 a spectacular year. It was a great exercise for me to reflect upon all of the experiences that impacted, influenced and inspired me. And regardless of the fact that I am months late pulling this together, I realized that it still matters and feels good to get it all down.
When I thought about the past year and what it embodied, one word kept bubbling up: boldness. I tried new things, pushed and pulled myself in new directions, got both comfortable and uncomfortable and jumped all the way in. It wasn't the prettiest or ugliest of years. And when I really sat down and thought about it, I learned more about myself this year than I did last year, and just that realization feels pretty darn good. So here's to all the things that helped 2012 be the year that it was.
My Top Ten: One: Joining POSSIBLE, a digital agency that has given me the opportunity to work with some really talented people and that has taught me a lot about the importance of bending and flexing.
Two: Traveling to Paris on eight separate occasions and finally being able to declare what I consider the world’s best chocolate croissant at Gerard Mulot
Three: Road Trips. We bought a Volvo in May, affectionately named her Stella and cruised our way up and down the east coast. Sometimes we drove an hour out of the city to spend the day at Storm King and other times we found ourselves adventuring up to northern Maine or down to Charlottesville.
Four: Celebrating four years of marriage to my kick-ass husband who inspires me every day but genuinely blows my mind with everything he and the team create at their amazing company, StudioBooth.
Five: Music. I had the opportunity to see some pretty incredible shows this year. Whether it was Bon Iver at Radio City, my first Phish show in nearly 10 years, or seeing Mia Moretti and Caitlin Moe perform at amfAR’s Miami benefit, I found myself giddy with excitement and appreciative of the fact that there are so many talented musicians out there expressing themselves and that just by listening I am able to be a part of that.
Six: Weddings. We celebrated some of our nearest and dearest friends making it official. These were some of the best weekends of the whole year. I mean, what can be better than dancing till the wee hours of the morning, drinking a bit too much and being surrounded by people that are all celebrating this thing we call love?
Seven: Argentina, an amazing country that we were able to spend a few weeks in. Yes, the steaks and wine were amazing but what inspired me most was the street art. I’d turn a corner and would be confronted and surprised with beautiful works of art.
Eight: Running. I’ve never been much of a runner and still don’t necessarily consider myself one, but in 2012 I started running. It started with a 5k and now I’m signed up for a half marathon in 2013. Eek!
Nine: Sunsets. I know I said this last year and I hope to say it again next year. The sunsets in 2012 continued to blow my mind. I love that moment when the sun dips and the sky and clouds light up with various colors and shapes. Sometimes they seem like they last for just a moment and sometimes I sit there for an hour watching it all change until it finally disappears.
Ten: Matilda Uni Rose, our 5 year old pug, who is quite honestly, the. best. dog. ever.
So thanks 2012 for all of this amazingness. 2013, I’m ready for more. Bring it.
"[Y]ou can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." -- Stanford University commencement address, June 2005.
I've been a fan of Carol Han's blog Milk & Mode for a while now. She has found the intersection of fashion and food--what could be better? I'm also a big fan of Maria Cornejo. So when I came across this article on Bon Appetit, I got excited. I was fortunate to work with Maria at a storytelling workshop led by one of my clients Karen Harvey. After spending two days together in the workshop, I came away inspired by Maria's natural ease and her incredible design talent. In my eyes, she embodies the word goddess and this interview only affirms my feelings.
Kitchen Couture: Designer Maria Cornejo's Ceviche
By Carol Han
A few days ago, Chilean-born fashion designer Maria Cornejo had the best meal of her life: homemade gnocchi, made by her husband, photographer Mark Borthwick, and served with fresh basil pesto and lasagna with bacon and vegetables. They ate by candlelight in the garden of their Brooklyn brownstone. And she was wearing (we had to ask) the Long Sarah Dress in Tribal linen from her spring/summer collection.
To us, the dinner sounds just as sophisticated and lovely as her garments. An award-winning designer who counts Tilda Swinton, Cindy Sherman, and Michelle Obama among her customers, Cornejo makes clothes for the thinking woman--simple lines that curve and swoop along the body, and prints that hold attention.
Here she takes a quick pause from fashion week prep to talk food and cooking, which she happens to love, and shares a ceviche recipe she learned to make while growing up in Chile.
What's your go-to snack after a long day of fittings? Roasted seaweed
What do you eat to celebrate a new line? Tacos and margaritas
How often do you cook? My husband Mark Borthwick does most of the cooking at our house. I usually cook when he is traveling or for our picky teenage son, Joey.
INGREDIENTS 1 1/4 pounds fresh red snapper (or similar firm white fish), rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 1-inch cubes Juice of 15 limes (enough to cover the fish) 1 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise 1 garlic clove, minced 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped Salt and pepper
PROCEDURE In a large bowl, combine fish chunks, red onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and salt and pepper. Cover with lime juice. Refrigerate and let marinate for 3 hours. Serve chilled.
To kick off the partnership we are having a little party on Thursday. It's great show including works by:
While visiting one of my favorite local spots Marlow and Sons, this beautiful packaging caught my eye. Created by Diana Mercer, (who runs an art studio in Boulder, Colorado) Clementine Art is a line of art supplies that contains only natural ingredients and are all certified non-toxic. I love the fact that her modeling dough is colored by turmeric, spinach and carmine and her crayons are made up of a combination of beeswax and kosher soy wax. To top it off, the packaging is composed of 80% post consumer recycled and reusable materials.
I am a bit of an apron junkie. I don't have have quite the stash my sister has but I still have a lovely little collection. There is something about putting on an apron before I start adding eggs and butter to the mixer that makes everything feel just a wee bit more official. So I was excited when I came across the Brooklyn based company, Stanley and Sons Apron and Bag Co.
Started by Chris Grodzki, Stanley and Sons Apron and Bag Co. is a tribute to his grandfather Stanley who owned Apron & Bag Supply, which made factory aprons. The Stanley & Sons aprons are made to order so they are all one of a kind. Created from reclaimed materials such as military pup tents, white oak selvage denim and herringbone denim (my favorite), each piece can be further customized with leather pockets or straps. You can purchase the aprons online here.
She has been acknowledged along side other green heavy hitters including Patagonia (best U.S.-based casual brand), Weleda (best personal care line), and Monique Pean (best eco-jewelry designer who I wrote about last month).
It’s exciting that Jessa is getting recognized not only for using natural and organic products, but for educating people about the harmful chemicals that are in many of the products people use every day.
Unlike most countries around the world, U.S. companies are not required to give employees time off. Despite working some of the longest hours in the world, we take very little vacation. So let's relish these days off. We clearly deserve them.
The Four Phases of Design Thinking
by Warren Berger
What can people in business learn from studying the ways successful designers solve problems and innovate? On the most basic level, they can learn to question, care, connect, and commit — four of the most important things successful designers do to achieve significant breakthroughs.
Having studied more than a hundred top designers in various fields over the past couple of years (while doing research for a book), I found that there were a few shared behaviors that seemed to be almost second nature to many designers. And these ingrained habits were intrinsically linked to the designer's ability to bring original ideas into the world as successful innovations. All of which suggests that they merit a closer look.
Question. If you spend any time around designers, you quickly discover this about them: They ask, and raise, a lot of questions. Often this is the starting point in the design process, and it can have a profound influence on everything that follows. Many of the designers I studied, from Bruce Mau to Richard Saul Wurman to Paula Scher, talked about the importance of asking "stupid questions"--the ones that challenge the existing realities and assumptions in a given industry or sector. The persistent tendency of designers to do this is captured in the joke designers tell about themselves. How many designers does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Does it have to be a light bulb?
In a business setting, asking basic "why" questions can make the questioner seem naïve while putting others on the defensive (as in, "What do you mean 'Why are we doing it this way?' We've been doing it this way for 22 years!"). But by encouraging people to step back and reconsider old problems or entrenched practices, the designer can begin to re-frame the challenge at hand — which can then steer thinking in new directions. For business in today's volatile marketplace, the ability to question and rethink basic fundamentals — What business are we really in? What do today's consumers actually need or expect from us? — has never been more important.
Care. It's easy for companies to say they care about customer needs. But to really empathize, you have to be willing to do what many of the best designers do: step out of the corporate bubble and actually immerse yourself in the daily lives of people you're trying to serve. What impressed me about design researchers such as Jane Fulton Suri of IDEO was the dedication to really observing and paying close attention to people — because this is usually the best way to ferret out their deep, unarticulated needs. Focus groups and questionnaires don't cut it; designers know that you must care enough to actually be present in people's lives.
Connect. Designers, I discovered, have a knack for synthesizing--for taking existing elements or ideas and mashing them together in fresh new ways. This can be a valuable shortcut to innovation because it means you don't necessarily have to invent from scratch. By coming up with "smart recombinations" (to use a term coined by the designer John Thackara), Apple has produced some of its most successful hybrid products; and Nike smartly combining a running shoe with an iPod to produce its groundbreaking Nike Plus line (which enables users to program their runs). It isn't easy to come up with these great combos. Designers know that you must "think laterally" — searching far and wide for ideas and influences — and must also be willing to try connecting ideas that might not seem to go together. This is a way of thinking that can also be embraced by non-designers.
Commit. It's one thing to dream up original ideas. But designers quickly take those ideas beyond the realm of imagination by giving form to them. Whether it's a napkin sketch, a prototype carved from foam rubber, or a digital mock-up, the quick-and-rough models that designers constantly create are a critical component of innovation — because when you give form to an idea, you begin to make it real.
But it's also true that when you commit to an idea early — putting it out into the world while it's still young and imperfect — you increase the possibility of short-term failure. Designers tend to be much more comfortable with this risk than most of us. They know that innovation often involves an iterative process with setbacks along the way — and those small failures are actually useful because they show the designer what works and what needs fixing. The designer's ability to "fail forward" is a particularly valuable quality in times of dynamic change. Today, many companies find themselves operating in a test-and-learn business environment that requires rapid prototyping. Which is just one more reason to pay attention to the people who've been conducting their work this way all along.
Warren Berger is the author of GLIMMER: How design can transform, business, your life, and maybe even the world. He also edits the online magazine GlimmerSite.com.
This article was originally on the Harvard Business Review Blog. You can see the original here.
The image is actually a visualization of the whole flickr processing.org group which was created by Andreas Köberle
By Daniel Pink
One night last month, a Virgin Atlantic flight left Heathrow Airport bound for Newark, New Jersey. As the plane neared the Eastern Seaboard, bad weather forced the flight to divert to Hartford, Connecticut, some 106 miles north of its destination. The plane sat on the runway there for four hours – without air-conditioning, food or water – as babies wailed and adults anguished in the darkened cabin.
The next day, the airline, which explained that the Hartford airport lacked the customs personnel to process an international flight, offered this response: “Virgin Atlantic would like to thank passengers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
Jason Fried, co-founder of the American software firm 37 Signals and co-author of ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever, finds the language of that statement almost as inhuman as the problem that prompted it.
Not too long ago, Fried saw a similar, though less calamitous, disaster in a Chicago cafe. A woman had just purchased a large cup of coffee. On the way to sit down, she tripped, and spilled the entire contents all over another customer.
Here’s what she said: “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
“If someone is really, truly sorry,” says Fried, “that’s how they respond.”
But in business we rarely talk like that. Instead, we resort to a weird and inadvertent bilingualism. We speak human at home and “professionalese” at work. And that might be hurting our businesses more than we realise.
Go back to that all-too-common phrase: “We apologise for any inconvenience this might have caused.” Would you say that to your daughter when you were late picking her up from football practice? To your neighbour when your dog trampled his flowerbed?
“Any inconvenience” is emotionally anaemic and lacks the specificity to make it meaningful. “We apologise” isn’t much better. It’s distancing almost to the point of dismissiveness. “When you say, ‘I’m sorry,’ you’re owning,” Fried explains. “When you say ‘I apologise,’ you’re renting.”
Professionalese is a renter’s language. It doesn’t expect to be around for very long and has no stake in the long-term prospects of the neighbourhood. It says, “mistakes were made” rather than “we messed up” and claims to “take responsibility” instead of acknowledging “it’s my fault”.
Using business-speak at work rests on the notion that the distance of professional language is inherently strong – and the closeness of personal language inherently weak.
But this idea may be wrong.
The behavioural economist Dan Ariely has conducted research showing that when people are treated rudely, they’re more likely to behave vengefully – for instance, by not saying anything when they’re given too much change in a transaction. But when rudeness is followed by a clear and simple “I’m sorry”, the annoyance dissipates and people tend to behave as honourably as they do in ordinary circumstances.
Or consider medicine. In the US, where physicians fret that every patient is a potential plaintiff in a malpractice lawsuit, lawyers counsel doctors never to admit a mistake. But evidence shows that when doctors apologise for an error and show how they’ll avoid it in the future – that’s to say, when they talk and act like human beings – aggrieved patients think more highly of the physician and are less likely to sue.
In 2006, Threadless, an online T-shirt company, confronted a case of technological malpractice. While upgrading its computer system, the company accidentally deleted all of the blogs that its customers had maintained for several years. Yet when Threadless, instead of hiding behind the stilted language of “inconvenience caused”, explained its errors, apologised directly for them and even invited comments on the blunder, customers reacted with surprising empathy.
“The best way to figure out if you’re running a good company is to figure out if your customers trust your apology,” says Jeffrey Kalmikoff, who was Threadless’s chief creative officer during the snafu.
Like any valuable relationship, the ones we have in business hinge on trust. And trust depends on openness, respect and humanity. Yet we often resist taking that approach in our professional lives, even though we know it would be absurd to do anything else in our personal lives.
For instance, suppose I’m talking on my mobile phone – maybe doing an interview for this column – when my wife calls. I can’t speak with her at the moment – I’m on deadline – so I say to her: “All of my brain is busy right now, so please hold and I’ll be with you shortly. Your call is very important to me.”
I guarantee that my customer satisfaction scores at home would suffer.
But if that’s true, why not re-craft the waiting message in our call centres so that it’s more like what we’d say to our spouses? “We know it’s frustrating to wait on hold – but we’re swamped right now answering other calls. We’ll get to you as soon as we can – probably about [insert an accurate number] minutes. We’re sorry for making you wait.”
In a world awash in information and choices, clarity is now a source of competitive advantage, says Fried. “The real winners in business are going to be the clear companies. Clarity is what everybody really wants and appreciates.”
So try an experiment. For the next seven days, go monolingual and speak only human at work. Don’t say anything to your boss, your staff, your teammate, your supplier or your customer that you wouldn’t say to your spouse or your friend.
It might startle people at first. But I suspect that they’ll reply in the same vernacular – and you might start actually understanding each other and getting something done.
However, if I’m mistaken – and this test flops – I apologise in advance for any inconvenience caused.
Daniel H Pink is an author and business leader who writes about the world of work. His most recent book is Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Photo via Flickr
"There comes a point when we have to decide what’s right and wrong." -Jonathan Safran Foer
Photography by Gianluca Gentilini
Shortly before Thanksgiving last year, I took a deep breath and called my mother and sister in successive order to tell them that I would not be eating turkey for the holiday. “Or any other meat for that matter,” I declared. “Ever.” I had just finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book, Eating Animals, and it cinched my decision to go veggie.
My sister’s first reaction was to say that she could not cheat her 3-year old son out of the tradition of having a roast beast on the table. My mother, playing Switzerland, announced that everyone was entitled to their own opinion. I think my announcement surprised them. My subsequent conversations with family, friends, and co-workers certainly surprised me. With so much cultural attention paid over the past several years to slow food and eating locally, I could not get over how little most people knew (myself included) about the factory farm system in the United States.
Choosing not to eat meat is a surprisingly impactful decision. Before reading Foer’s book — his first nonfiction work since writing the novels Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close — I’d been a self-proclaimed “part-time vegetarian,” mostly because of stomach issues. I was unaware of the facts that factory-farmed meat is the leading cause of global warming in the world and that these places are incubators for some of the planet’s most potent and potentially disastrous diseases, such as the H1N1 virus. I did not realize that small family farms, the self-sustaining kind with chickens and goats and pigs and tractors‚ are nearly extinct. I certainly did not consider how horribly the animals are treated.
For me, and many people like me, I believed those concerns were reserved for the fringes of society. I was wrong, and the facts prove it out. There is no greater mainstream issue than what we eat and where our food comes from. Right now, our current system is an environmental, biological, and ethical disaster. I recently asked Foer what, if anything, we can do about it.
SAM MARTIN: Not everyone is going to pick up a book called Eating Animals. What’s the best way to let people know about the damaging effects of factory farms without scaring them off?
JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER: It’s difficult. We’re so used to thinking of this as a divisive, accusatory, fight-inspiring conversation. And it’s a shame. Because I really do think that, if we had full access to what’s going on in factory farms, everyone would agree — and by agree, I don't mean that we all become vegetarians — that factory farming is a broken system that doesn't reflect our values. Who would want a farm system that is the leading cause of global warming? Or one of the two or three most damaging things to the environment? And who would want to treat animals in this way?
So the problem has been that it’s all been framed as this divisive, black-and-white issue. You’re either a vegetarian or you’re not. You either care or don’t. And that can put people who care in an exasperating place. I hope this book will allow us to think about food in the way we think about the environment. We can do things better than we’ve done them in the past.
MARTIN: After reading about how entrenched, widespread, and damaging U.S. factory farming is — to the health of humans, animals, and the planet — changing the system seems like an insurmountable goal. Is it?
FOER: No. First of all, there are a number of things to remember. One is, it’s new. It’s only 50 years old. People have been farming in a different way for the past 10,000 years. The fact that it rose this quickly almost holds the promise that it can be dismantled just as quickly. Consumers have so much power in this situation. It’s rare that consumers have this much power. Farmers grow and produce what people ask for. As we ask for different things, they will farm different things. Finally, the demographics are compelling and promising in terms of who cares and who doesn’t. Eighteen percent of university students are now vegetarian. When that 18 percent starts to become the next generation of writers and doctors and farmers and other professionals, the conversation will feel very different than it might feel now.
MARTIN: Eating locally farmed meat seems to be attracting a growing number of people. Is this a good alternative to eating factory farmed animals, or is it still a questionable practice?
FOER: I think there are two questions: “Is it good?” and “Is it perfect?” Local farming isn’t perfect, but it is so much better than what’s available in the mainstream. And it’s better in every single way — for humans, animals, the environment, global warming, and so on. Is it the answer? It’s part of the answer. Personally, I don’t get terribly excited about [locally farmed meat]. And I don’t eat it. I don’t believe it can be scaled. So to endorse it would be for personal reasons only. But most Americans fundamentally agree on the goals, which is to have farms that are better for human health. Some people have this belief that people are never going to move away from meat so they say, “Let’s have a decent farm system.” Other people say, “Let’s stop eating meat because we’re never going to have a good farming system.” I’m more in the second category. I think there are things we ought to agree on. We have to stop giving antibiotics to farm animals. We have to stop fishing the way we’re fishing. It won’t last. And I think we can all agree we shouldn’t keep pregnant pigs in cages so small they can’t turn around in them. That’s wrong. You don’t have to like pigs at all to know that. There comes a point when we have to decide what’s right and wrong.
MARTIN: Even using the most humane animal slaughtering practices, farmers are still, in the end, killing. Can you explain why we ought to consider animal welfare in this debate?
FOER: I think we can’t help but consider it. If you saw someone kicking a dog, you might not intervene, but can you say you would be indifferent to it? Caring is a human instinct, and it goes against our nature not to care. I don’t love animals. I don’t think they should be treated as humans. There are irrational places that one can take one’s concern for animals, and I won’t go there. But it defies our human instincts to treat them as if they had no feeling‚ or as if that feeling had no effect. Killing animals is, in a way, the least bad thing that we do to them. If you ask the American public if it’s okay to kill animals for food, most would say yes. But if you ask them if it’s okay to remove appendages from an animal while it’s still alive or keep a pregnant pig in a cage that it can’t turn around in — are there really people who think that’s okay?
MARTIN: One recurring subject in Eating Animals is the notion that people are nostalgic for food traditions (the Thanksgiving turkey is the most obvious example). This seems to be a big reason why many people are reluctant to give these foods up, even to the detriment of their health and the health of the planet. Why is it that virtually everything about storybook farms and the production of traditional foods has changed, yet the sentiment attached in consuming these foods has remained, even when people are educated about the horrors of modern animal agriculture? Why is there a disconnect?
FOER: I don’t think it’s a disconnect. Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt. They’re making a rational decision. They’re saying, “I know the process is not good, but I don’t care.” I would say, “Fine. Keep your barbecue on the Fourth of July, your Christmas ham, and your Thanksgiving turkey. But get rid of the meat that you don’t care about — the fast-food hamburger or the Chinese restaurant chicken." Nine-tenths of meat consumed is meat we don’t care about. What happens is that people take the exceptions to get them off the hook for the everyday. That’s where these conversations get skewed. When people talk about these exceptional uses of food, that’s right. They are exceptions. Let’s talk about the normal.
MARTIN: You write a lot about traditions surrounding food in your own family. Since simultaneously becoming a father and a vegetarian, are there any new or modified food traditions you have started?
FOER: The only tradition we’ve started, I would say, is having a conversation around food. We hadn’t been doing that. We hadn’t been thinking about it. The fact that food now has a story served with it is different and good. It enhances the cultural value of food. All the good things we would miss [by not eating meat], we more than make up for with stories about why and what we don’t eat.
MARTIN: For someone just being introduced to the factory-farm system in the U.S., it can be hard to feel any hope that things will change. What are you excited about, and where do you find hope? What keeps you going?
FOER: I just read a recent poll that 70 percent of Americans are willing to spend more money for more ethically produced food. This isn’t San Francisco or New York; it’s the whole country. That’s an amazing number. People care about this stuff. Even if you don’t care, you have to care, because you have these annoying instincts. I think as our lines of sight are opened up, more people will think, “Hey, this is something we really want to know about.” And behavior changes will follow. And the 18 percent [in college right now] are tastemakers. As they get older, we will see vegetarianism in a new light..
*Via Frog Design
Today I received a package that took me by surprise and made my morning, day, week.
The lovely folks from Stumptown Coffee Roasters sent me this amazing care package. I don't even know where to begin...seriously. Perhaps with the chocolate bars studded with coffee beans. I mean, what better way to start my day then with Mast Brothers Chocolate made from 72% cacao beans that features Stumptown's direct trade espresso beans from Haile Gebre's Mordecofe farm? Well it's only 10am, so maybe it's best to start with a french press of some of their fantastic coffee? Just can't decide between the Anniversary Blend, Kenya Gaturiri Reserve or the QUEEN of all coffee, the Panama Esmeralda Especial. I've never actually had the opportunity to try this coveted coffee because it is so incredibly rare, so much so that only 47 roasters were able to get their hands on it in the 2009 auction. If you don't know about this magical coffee, read about it here and buy it directly from Stumptown here.
Thank you Wendy and Duane for this incredible package....