A passion for food + fashion

Posts Tagged ‘Eco-friendly’

Brass Tacks for Boys

In Baby Love, Design on June 18, 2012 at 11:19 am

Last winter while pregnant with our second son, I started to think about where we were going to put the little guy. Would we turn our guest room into the baby’s? Or have him bunk up with his big brother? My husband is the youngest of three boys, and ultimately made the call. Share a room. He grew up in New York. He and his middle brother, Tim, shared a bedroom in which they would invent games, do their homework together, throw a ball back and forth. Hearing him talk about it, I wanted our boys to make their own memories in a shared room. Practically speaking, this meant finding twin beds, which is easier said than done. I knew I wanted a sort of early 20th century iron bed frame. I love these Hamilton Steel Bed Frames from Schoolhouse Electric in Oregon, but at $1,250 each they were a little out of my budget:

And then I made the eBay score of the century—two brass beds from 1901 for less than the price of one of the above. These beds had been living in the Reno garage of a Berkeley professor’s parents. The parents had purchased them from the Tahoe Tavern (below)—Lake Tahoe’s first grand hotel, which burned down in the 1960s—and their boys grew up sleeping in these solid brass beds.

The frames are so heavy you can barely lift them—so much more substantial and enduring than anything you could buy new. I love the history behind them, and I bet they last another 110 odd years. They look great with vintage Superman sheets (another eBay score!) and a summer-weight cotton Ticking Stripe Blanket in Breton red from Brahms Mount. We picked up an eco-friendly Sultan Heggedal mattress and box spring from Ikea, and I covered the box spring with a fitted percale sheet with yellow stars from Garnet Hill for my little superhero instead of a dust ruffle for a less fussy look.

One day we’ll have both beds set up, but for now we just have the one along with a crib featuring more red stripes and this Roberta Roller Rabbit baby blanket for my littlest monkey!

Play Date

In Baby Love, Food on January 4, 2011 at 6:23 pm

As it turns out, Tiny G is something of a ladies man. Today he hosted three of his gal pals for a play date. Since I don’t have a daughter, I may have used G’s play date as an excuse to girl out. Using a monogram template, some pink construction paper, and these great little paper totes from Target ($.49 ea), I put together personalized bags filled with stickers and a bracelet for each of G’s friends. Only after I assembled them did I realize I was having flashbacks from working in fashion years ago. But then, I’ve always loved a good swag bag.

And because my little munchkin is the sweetest, I made his favorite cornmeal strawberry muffins to share with his friends. The cornmeal recipe (which is sweetened with diced pineapple as well as pineapple juice) is from Macrina Bakery in Seattle. They’re a good alternative to cupcakes as they’re not too sugary sweet and won’t have kids bouncing off the walls. While the muffins are cooling, you make an indentation on top using a spoon and then fill with a dollop of your favorite preserves. Tiny G requested strawberry, so I used some of my Aunt Margaret’s coveted strawberry jam. I’ll probably get in trouble for posting this last bit because my aunt didn’t make all that much of it this year and only a few of us got jars. (Expecting a prickly phone call from my mother any second…)

And really, the last thing I want to do is upset my wonderfully generous mother, who sent me a care package containing a bunch of anodized aluminum cups and bowls my dad got at Steve’s Hardware in St. Helena when I was a kid. They are a nontoxic and eco-friendly alternative to plastic and kids love the bright, jewel-toned colors. And they’re pretty much indestructible (to wit: they survived the 80s)—which make them ideal for a roomful of toddlers.

A Greener Lunchbox

In Baby Love, Food, Media on October 9, 2010 at 8:56 am

Good morning! I’m so excited—today I have a story in the Home section of the Los Angeles Times about packing a greener lunch for kids. The story is focused mainly on gear and making smarter choices, ie saying “goodbye” to paper napkins, plastic baggies and disposable utensils. Check out one of Tiny G’s lunches from last week—Kids Konserve makes great mini food-grade stainless steel pots that are perfect for dips or hummus (or blueberries or any other small snacks). And then sliced strawberries and cooked organic carrots stay fresh in silicone pinch pots thanks to a resusable nontoxic ice pack. No baggies required!

Tiny G is still, well, Tiny, but for kindergarten and grade school lunches my friend Jill swears by these Lunchskins as alternatives to sandwich and snack bags and is always getting asked about them by other parents. They can go straight into the dishwasher and are lead-free and BPA-free. Love the designs:

But perhaps the biggest step you can take toward reducing waste in your kid’s lunchbox is to look for alternatives to “snack size” or individual portions of yogurt, applesauce, etc. In the end, buying in bulk is better for the environment and better for your wallet! String cheese seems to be the biggest offender, so I buy an 8-ounce block of organic mozzarella and cube up a few pieces for Tiny G’s lunch (see above). Or, think about buying a 27-ounce container of yogurt and scooping out an individual-sized portion into resusable Tupperware. When researching this story I was kind of blown away by the EPA stat that the average school-age kid (K-12) generates 67 lbs of lunchtime waste each year—that’s over 110 million pounds in LA County schools alone! For more info on packing waste-free, check out wastefreelunches.org and for eco-friendly gear visit greenmylunchbox.com.

Please feel free to email me (thefoodinista@gmail.com) with any gear-related questions because between myself and my neighbor, jewelry designer Dana Kellin McCrane, we have researched most of these brands and can provide pro/con feedback on a lot of these items!

Preschool Packed Lunch: Week in Review

In Baby Love, Food on July 19, 2010 at 1:08 pm

With the first week of preschool behind us, I thought I’d share a week’s worth of lunches since figuring out what to pack for Tiny G had given me a fair amount of angst. Which is silly. I mean, he turned TWO last week. How hard can this be? To get started, I polled a bunch of savvy parents, who shared great ideas like my friend Selena who cuts her son’s sandwiches into cute shapes using cookie cutters. I also consulted this handy pdf from Whole Foods about packing a balanced lunch. The challenge is to get protein, whole grains, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and calcium into your toddler’s lunch each day. Hummus is my secret weapon as it hits the protein, healthy fats and calcium categories all at once! Other ways to sneak in healthy fats—cook ground chicken or drizzle vegges w/ a little olive oil. For more info on the lunchbox itself, click HERE.

Monday lunch: Red-pepper hummus on whole grain bread, organic blueberries, Dr. Praeger’s Spinach Littles (available in frozen section at Whole Foods). I got a heart-shaped cookie cutter from Sur la Table for $1 to make the sandwich.

Tuesday lunch: Pumpernickel bagel from Sam’s on Larchmont, garlicky hummus, organic blueberries and strawberries. [This lunch was missing veggies, so we made sure to eat extra broccoli at dinner that night. Subbing in red-pepper hummus for plain would have done the trick, too.]

Wednesday lunch: Whole wheat macaroni with whole wheat flour roux, ground organic chicken cooked in olive oil and organic cheddar cheese—baked together in silicone muffin liner (microwave safe for reheating), edamame, organic blueberries and strawberries. This one takes a little extra doing so I made a batch of six individual servings of macaroni and cheese. They keep well covered in fridge and can be used for dinners and lunches throughout the coming week/weekend. I like to use the generic brand of whole pasta from Whole Foods. [For a more balanced lunch, the edamame should have been swapped with a carrots or green veggie.]

Thursday lunch: Dr. Praeger’s Spinach Littles and Sweet Potato Littles, Edwards & Sons Purple Rice & Black Sesame crackers (avail at Whole Foods), organic string cheese, organic blueberries.

Friday lunch: Organic ground chicken patty cooked in olive oil, sliced organic apple, and red-pepper hummus mixed with whole wheat couscous pressed into a pig shape using these awesome farmyard ice cream sandwich molds made from BPA-free/dishwasher safe polypropylene that I picked up at Target. Tiny G was still talking about “pig” and “doozdooz” (ie, couscous) when I picked him up from school that day. These molds will offer lots of fun possibilities. Am thinking about mixing puréed steamed broccoli with mashed potato and cheese in the cow-shaped mold for tomorrow’s lunch. Would love to hear other ideas!

Green My Lunchbox

In Baby Love, Food on July 12, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I’m just going to apologize up front for a weepy week of “firsts” ahead. While last week marked Tiny G’s first day at preschool, it was only for an hour a day and either his mama or daddy was there with him. Today was the first day we left him there on his own, and the first day I sent my little guy to school with a packed lunch. And here it is, packed with love—quite literally, in the form of a heart-shaped sandwich of La Boulangerie whole grain bread and roasted red pepper hummus. (I got a heart-shaped cookie cutter for $1 at Sur La Table.) Organic blueberries loaded with antioxidants and all-natural Dr. Praeger’s Spinach Littles on the side.

And the gear?

I spent hours and hours and hours researching different lunchbox options, my goal being to have a totally waste-free lunch with eco-friendly, reusable containers and no plastic baggies. (For more info on the subject, check out Green My Lunch and Waste-Free Lunches.)

What I quickly found is that most of the eco-friendly stuff is a pain in the neck. You can’t microwave it or put it in the dishwasher. Like you don’t already have enough to do with a two year old but to hand-wash his dishes. Who needs it? I finally went with my own riff on the bento box. The container is the Lunchbots Duo (above)—a food-grade stainless steel box with a lead-free powder-coated orange top that is dishwasher safe. And if you order thru GreenMyLunchbox.com, there is a 10% discount. Granted, I can’t put this in the microwave so if I ever need to pack a warm main course, I also grabbed a Thermos Foogo Leak-Proof Stainless Steel Jar that’s BPA-free.

For the colorful little dividers inside the Lunchbots Duo, I found a set of Le Creuset pinch bowls that are about 2.5 inches in diameter and hold 2 fl oz. Perfect for keeping fruits and veggies separate! They are made from nontoxic, BPA-free silicone and are microwave and dishwasher safe (read: LOW maintenance).

And finally, I love the Kids Konserve company. I have a couple of their stainless steel snack containers, which get heavy use and are up to the challenge. I also picked up one of their nontoxic sweat-free ice packs to keep Tiny G’s lunch from spoiling, as well as some handmade cotton caterpillar napkins with plant-based dyes. A napkin fits snugly between his “bento box” and favorite Sigg bottle in an old-school LL Bean lunchbox made of sturdy packcloth with a BPA-free lining. Tiny G goes green!

Would love to hear your favorite lunch ideas for wee ones!

Small furniture, big ideas

In Baby Love, Design on January 8, 2010 at 8:15 am

Tiny G has just learned to scribble with a crayon, but as it stands now the only place for him to unleash his inner Kandinksy Rauchenberg Lucien Freud Pierce Brosnan (oh, yes, Remington paints) is at our well-loved leather coffee table, a custom piece from Shelter on Beverly that was a housewarming present from my parents when I moved into an apartment on Sycamore back in my roaring 20s. While it is the perfect height, I’m hoping to find something a little more kid- and crayon-friendly for Tiny G’s room. Price is a factor, but I don’t want it to fall apart after a few months. Thoughts? So far, the contenders…

1. Ecotots Project Table, pictured above ($225 for table; $140 for pair of stools). This is my favorite and, besides being eco-friendly, would look very cute in the room with Tiny G’s white lacquer and maple Oeuf crib, but also definitely more than I want to spend.

2. Ikea Kritter Table ($24.99 for table; $12.99 per chair). Can it really be that inexpensive? It’s made of solid rubberwood, which is like a hard maple so I’m thinking it’s going to be durable.

3. Chalkboard Table & Stool Set ($200). This seems pretty great: a chalkboard table that kids can draw directly on with indented center to hold chalk. Tabula rasa, baby.

4. notNeutral BB2 Set ($480 for table, plus two chairs). Yeah, way over budget. Or maybe Mr. Foodinista could play a round of craps before heading home from his conference in Vegas today?

5. P’kolino Little One’s Table and Chairs ($129 for table, plus two chairs). Or a much more reasonable version of the notNeutral in a similar vein…love the generous size of the tabletop and orange would be great in his blue room.

Tiny G’s Holiday Gift Guide

In Baby Love on November 30, 2009 at 8:40 am

With the holiday season upon us, Tiny G wanted to share a few of his favorite things for the stylish mister about town. Clockwise from top left:

Eames Plastic Elephant, $290. Eames has reissued this classic design (originally issued in plywood) in plastic, making it extra durable. Plus, it can go outside. This is the one item on the list Tiny G does not have, and he may have to settle for a lump of coal instead. We’ll see.

Tea Collection “Nippon Pullover,” $65. Tiny G’s latest fave, this 100% Pima cotton pullover is perfect for L.A. weather and totally machine washable.

Chomp & Clack Alligator Push Toy, $50. Somebody crawls at the speed of light, but at 16 1/2 months has yet to walk. He’s taking his sweet time about those first hands-free steps. In the meantime, he is crazy about walking around the house with the help of a developmental wooden push toy from Melissa & Doug. Fantastic for toddlers 11 months and up. It’s incredibly well made, sturdy and a huge hit with the little ones. Tiny G’s younger lady friend, Hazel, is also a fan.

Crocodile Creek 7-inch Dinosaurs Playball, $9. We got this awesome rubber ball on Larchmont Blvd when Tiny G was about 11 months old, and it has been the toy in heaviest demand and rotation ever since. Tiny G might not be walking yet, but his hand-eye coordination with a ball is pretty tough stuff!

Cozy Fleece Hat, $12. This fleece hat just went on sale over at Hanna Andersson and is the BOMB. Super soft and all important—machine washable.

Bear Snores On, $8. This classic board book was a present from a family friend, and is Tiny G’s absolute fave. Last night I tried to read him another book, which he took and threw and then reached for Bear Snores On. Nope, don’t think bratty behavior is all that cute, but I see where he’s coming from. The rhythm of the text is great. Love this book and don’t mind reading it every damn night.

Sigg Kids Water Bottle, $18. I learned the hard way that you have to try several different types of sippy cups before you land on one your kid likes. The Sigg is Tiny G’s preferred bottle, and that’s a good thing because it’s non-toxic, durable should someone throw it out of a stroller onto a cement sidewalk, and a green choice you can feel great about.

Hanna Andersson Sleeper, $38.  The best pjs on the planet and although the price tag is steep, worth every cent. (Not to mention, you can snap them up on sale every few months as new patterns/colors are introduced.) Thanks to his grandmother, who sends a pair or two of these organic cotton pjs every few months, Tiny G is kitted out with a variety of colors. His mom and dad may or may not have coordinating long johns, too.

One Word: Plastics

In Design, Fashion on July 21, 2009 at 7:33 am


Yesterday on facebook, I noticed that my super style-y friend and photographer Sharon Suh had changed her profile pic. The above shows her standing on a painter’s canvas at a home that once belonged to Elaine de Kooning. Quick diversion, how great is this Timothy Greenfield-Sanders photo of de Kooning, circa 1980?


Obviously, I became immediately obsessed with Sharon’s shoes and as soon as she messaged back that they were Melissa Plastic Dreams, I was on it. Imagine my glee when I discovered that Vivienne Westwood had designed several shoes for the line? I jumped on these Melissa Ultragirl III peep-toe numbers designed by Ms Westwood. I had to given that Saks had one pair left—and IN MY SIZE. Also, they’re manufactured in a sustainable way, with practically zero waste. Do you think that line of defense will fly when I attempt to justify the purchase to my husband?


Ace is Aces!

In Design, Drink, Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on May 11, 2009 at 6:37 am

AceOn Friday we headed to Palm Springs for a weekend of relaxation at the new Ace Hotel and Swim Club. If you book using the Easy Rider special, you get 20 percent off on the room, dining, bar and spa treatments. Formerly a Howard Johnson, the hotel has been totally renovated with an emphasis on being eco-friendly from the organic poolside menu to the solar power rooftop panels to the complimentary bicycles for “green” travel into town. Also, much of the furnishings are vintage. How much do you love the lobby?


I also love the contrast of the stark white and orange against the dessert backdrop:


Our patio room had a fireplace outside, which was great late night after Tiny G had fallen asleep. We ordered room service from the King’s Highway diner and it was really good, generous portions and CHEAP! Here’s a grilled brie sandwich with pickles, and the “pot” brownie for dessert:


Thanks to east-facing windows, Tiny G got us up at the crack of dawn so we got a super early breakfast and went for a morning swim. Below, the Kings Highway Diner (before reasonable people have gotten out of bed) and their ricotta pancakes.


menuHere’s the main saltwater pool, again, before the crowds have hit (read: woken up). 


And here’s a fabby $6 (less 20%!!!) white sangria that I ordered later that afternoon poolside, along with some refreshing ceviche:


The soundtrack that pipes through the outdoor speakers is amazing, as is the playlist inside the spa. I got a massage and for once was spared creepy Zamfir pan flutes, and instead treated to Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Ray LeMontagne and Supertramp, which was far more relaxing. Rooms start at $80 for a single, so get on it! Here’s a peek inside ours:


STREET smart?

In Drink, Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on April 18, 2009 at 10:44 pm


A couple nights ago we went with our friends Katie and Matt to STREET, Susan Feniger’s new restaurant in the former Highland Grounds coffee shop on Highland just above Melrose. The menu is inspired by global street food, with an emphasis on vegan and environmentally sustainable ingredients. I had heard great things from a couple of other foodie friends as well as Jonathan Gold’s review, but had read mixed reviews on EatingLA.com. I’m a fan of Feniger and her cooking, so I was predisposed to love this place, particularly since it’s in my neighborhood.

First off, the menu is challenging to navigate—a veritable palate whiplash from Scandinavia to Southeast Asia, and many ports of call in between. I, for one, would find it more accessible if it were reorganized by region instead of, say, one lump category: “Noodles, Soups, Stews, Curries”, a category that represents the cuisines of Thailand, Japan, Italy, Singapore, Vietnam and India. 

Knowing the Too Hot Tamales, I feel confident that Feniger’s solo venture will find its sea legs. But to put it gently, there were a few missteps. The first was the amuse bouche sent out to each table—puffed millet with curry, marshmallow, black currants, coriander and fennel seed, a sort of savory rice krispie treat. I wanted it to be crispier, but it was chewy and stale and dominated by untoasted whole fennel seeds.


With our cocktails (I got a lovely Hemingway Gin & Tonic made with Junipero, an intensely juniper-y gin from the folks at Anchor Steam that shows no quarter) we ordered the Moldavian Meatballs—ground beef and kashi simmered in a sweet-and-sour tomato sauce with dill sour cream—which were pretty good, but a little on the sweet side.


I liked the cardamom, ginger and soy filling in the pork dumplings, but the dough on the dumplings was gluey. The spiced potato paranthas—flatbread stuffed with spiced potatoes and fried in butter—got mixed reviews from our table. Katie and I liked them more than the boys did.


The New Jerusalem Bread Salad—a take on Middle Eastern fattoush—was so over-salted and heavy on the cumin that it was barely edible. There were also next to no Jerusalem artichokes involved.

bread salad

The Egyptian-style Baked Fish (Artic char) was cooked nicely, but the bed of kushary (lentil and macaroni) was off-putting both from a flavor and texture perspective. The dish went largely untouched.

artic char

The one dish we all loved was the Stir-Fried Noodles with Shrimp, Pork Belly, Chinese broccoli and choy sum greens. But here, I’d like to point out that we had ordered family style and they brought one big bowl with a large spoon. Not particularly user friendly with large egg noodles.


But where things really went south were in the beverage department. First let me say that the beer, wine and cocktail selection is fun, smart and accessible. The drink vessels, however, are not. I ordered a glass of Côtes-du-Rhône blanc, and it arrived in this precious Sanbitter bottle that looks like a bud vase, along with a diminutive tumbler from which to drink. 


From a service standpoint, I think we were there on a REALLY off night. While we waited 20 minutes for dessert (soggy Turkish doughnuts), I ordered a coffee, which was delivered in a glass tumbler and was so damned hot I couldn’t pick up the glass. I asked our server if he could pick it up, and he agreed it was way too hot, adding, “it was probably sitting under the heat lamp for a while. Let me see what I can do.” He walked up the ramp toward the bathroom and seconds later reappeared with what looked to be the same exact glass of coffee, which was still too hot to pick up. 


So, if you are heading to Street, let me know when the coffee mugs are in. And hopefully by then the kitchen will have fully caught up to Feniger’s clever, if ambitious, concept.