Philip Johnson’s Glass House Sculpture Gallery Re-Opens (+ Photos)

In August of 2015 I went to Philip Johnson’s Glass House with Sal, as a part of a wild week-and-a-half trip around art and architecture sites in Upstate New York. We were unable to visit the sculpture gallery in full, because it was being renovated. I’ve just heard that it’s open again, however – perhaps another trip is warranted?

Have you been to the Glass House? Will you be planning a trip now that the sculpture gallery is open?

Here are some of the photos I took on our visit. Leave a comment to let me know: could you live in a house with glass walls, if it was secluded as this one is?

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The Glass House
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Absolute desk goals
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Andy Warhol slept here

Design Worth a Damn: Pulling compounds from the atmosphere

Pardon my hiatus. I’ve been doing some soul-searching lately to figure out why I’m working to create content to begin with – also balancing some health issues. I’ve decided to refocus this blog a bit, to hone in on the things that matter most to me: exploring the world through food and design. 

At my workplace, and in the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem, there is often talk of whether or not a startup or business has “social impact.” Some people draw a thick line between social entrepreneurs and others. Others — like me — feel firmly that a good business or a good design should inherently be beneficial to the world, as well as self-sustaining and viable as a business. Maybe that’s too tall an order, but I think that wicked challenges produce good results.

I also think that there are two kinds of excellent entrepreneurial solutions: the kind that solve a problem we have right now, delight the customer, and make them say “finally someone saw my problem and offered a solution that works for me!”, and the kind that both recognize and solve a problem that isn’t affecting us yet… but will.

I have the privilege to work with startups of all kinds, including researchers who are putting in the work to determine if their lab-based technology should become some kind of product or service. These people often see and try to solve “future problems.” Given the time it takes to develop technology in the lab, it’s lucky for all of us that some folks are trying to get a jump on these future problems – we would be in a bad spot if we had to wait until the problem occurred to begin working on a solution.

One of my recent fascinations has been with technologies that “pull stuff” from the atmosphere around us. Recurring themes are water and CO2; water because we need it, and CO2 because we’d like to remove it from our atmosphere.

I became interested in these technologies afterI had the pleasure of meeting the team from Global Thermostat – one of several carbon capture companies blossoming forth onto the market. I was captivated by the clarity of the problem they’re addressing: we don’t want CO2 in our atmosphere, but we do want it in a lot of places where it isn’t: greenhouses, manufacturing, fuels. Liquifying and transporting CO2 has shaped the market and made it difficult for some to procure what they need (such as for greenhouses in remote and/or impoverished regions). Companies like Global Thermostat are aiming to disrupt this market — and improve the atmosphere around the world — by pulling CO2 out on site for use where it is needed.

Today I read about a similar effort that I believe is equally important: pulling water. Whether or not people realize it — in the midst of political upheaval, climate change denial, and peak oil worries — access to potable water is one of the most significant issues we will face within our lifetimes. There are things we can weather as a global population (regardless of how unpleasant they are) using human ingenuity: an unstable climate, rapidly changing ecosystems, lack of oil. There are things we cannot weather: no drinking water.

At SXSWeco last year, I had the pleasure of participating in a workshop around speculative design for energy and water as a “linked system,” run by GE’s Digital Solutions fab crew, including Phil Balagtas of Speculative Futures. They outlined a compelling argument: water is at the root of our food, manufacturing, energy, and infrastructure. We need it, and yet we need to also be wary of using potable water for purposes other than consumption. Water and energy production are also inextricably linked, in more ways than we realize. GE is taking a special interest in this critical link between water and energy with some of their speculative design projects.

Side note: I highly recommend “The Water Knife,” by Paolo Bacigalupi. In the realm of speculative fiction that illuminates real issues, it’s a winner. 

Enter the MOF (metal-organic framework) being explored at Evelyn Yang of MIT, researchers UC Berkeley, and other institutions. This admittedly adorable little box pulls water from the atmosphere. There is a lot of testing to be done, and the technology isn’t yet “scaled up,” but I’m intrigued for sure. How about you?

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A prototype MOF device. Photo by Evelyn Yang, MIT.

What other critical issues do you think we face? How do you see design addressing these issues? I’m also very interested in controlled environment agriculture, especially vertical farming – and I see that as clearly tied to both the above technologies.

Leave me a comment and let’s chat.

Finger Lakes Wine: Preferred Pairings at Lakewood Vineyards with Tumino Cheese

A trip to the Seneca Lake Wine Trail for wine and cheese – the perfect way to spend a winter weekend!

Last Saturday I took a mid-day trip to Seneca Lake with my friend and co-worker, Caitlin, for the Seneca Lake Wine Trail’s March Preferred Pairings event. We both enjoy visiting Seneca, even in winter weather, and we were extra-excited to see one of our friends from our work at Rev, Ithaca’s business incubator: Tumino Cheese Company.

For Preferred Pairings, Mariann and John Fessenden of Tumino partnered with Lakewood Vineyards. Neither Caitlin nor I had been to Lakewood before, and we agreed that we were glad we had been guided to their tasting room. The view was lovely, the staff friendly, and the wines they poured were all great pairings.

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The main tasting room at Lakewood Vineyards

Tumino focused very closely on a particular style of Italian cheese called toma. Toma is a farmer’s cheese, and the Tumino team experiments with different aging and flavoring to get maximum variety out of this style. Tumino also uses exclusively Jersey milk, which is richer than the milk you buy in bottles at the store. The higher fat content gives their cheese a delectable smoothness.

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I love meeting people who love their work, and everyone working this event was visibly brimming with happy energy. I was impressed with Mariann’s expertise and enthusiasm for the subtleties of the cheese-making process; when she’s describing curd, she glows! Her husband, John, was working the sample table, and he walked us through the styles with a relaxed, friendly attitude. Working for Lakewood was Tracy – a great addition to the crew, since he’s clearly sampled the cheeses himself and can speak clearly about both the wine and the food.

For the tasting, we sampled:

  • Kidders Toma with Black Pepper, paired with Lakewood’s Cabernet Franc 2014
    • This cheese is one of Tumino’s flagship products, featuring a light touch of black peppercorns. Mariann says the addition of the black pepper early on changes the fermentation ever so slightly (by reducing some types of bacteria and not others), resulting in a noticeably different texture. The cheese was firm but creamy, a really enjoyable mouth-feel, and it paired nicely with the light Cabernet Franc. Caitlin, who is a black pepper fiend, loved this cheese.
  • Old Grey Mare Toma, paired with Sparkling Catawba 2015
    • Described as a “cooking cheese,” Old Grey Mare falls somewhere on the asiago to dry mozzarella spectrum. It was a nice nibble, but I would have liked it best mixed into a pasta dish or salad. The bite of the cheese went well with the wine, which is made from an American grape variety. I don’t always enjoy the juicy wines made from American grapes, but this pairing was very tasty and completely won me over.
  • Song Toma with Juniper Berries, paired with Niagara 2016
    • This cheese was my favorite, with a lovely texture and the unique addition of strong juniper flavor. Mariann described this as an Italian alps riff on toma, because of the use of the juniper berries. While I must admit it was a good pairing with the Niagara, I would not personally drink this sweeter wine alone – I’m rarely interested in sweet wines. The Finger Lakes do produce some great “grape juice” varieties, and if you enjoy the juicy, higher residual sugar wines, take my disinterest in this one as a sign that you might enjoy it!
  • Razzle’s Choice Toma, paired with Vignoles 2015
    • A close second for favorite cheeses, the Razzle’s Choice includes a high dose of cayenne flakes. Unlike other “pepper” cheeses I’ve tasted, this one actually bursts with flavor and has a nice warm burn to it; I immediately imagined putting it on crackers with sweet jams and dried fruits, while Caitlin started talking about melting it on pasta. We were both quite inspired by the flavors. It was paired with the Vignoles, a wine that surprised me. Remember how I just said I’m not a fan of most sweeter wines? Well, I could certainly picture myself drinking this Vignoles on a hot day with mouth-searing tacos. Tracy, who was pouring for us, said he also likes this cheese with beer.

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  • Captain Ogden Toma, paired with Glaciovinum 2015
    • This cheese is part skim and aged for longer than the other Tumino tomas, and my notes next to it state: YUM! It has a drier, firmer texture than the others on this list and a nice, nutty bite to it. I think this would make a great addition to any cheese plate, since even one bite of it shows of the unique flavor and texture. And, as you may have guessed, Glaciovium is ice wine… and my lack of enthusiasm for ice wines means I cannot give you an accurate picture of how you might like it. All the tasting notes were present (especially tropical fruits) and this wine is an award-winner, so I will let that speak to its quality. Anyone who enjoys ice wine and has tried this, please share a comment below to let us know what you think!

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After our tasting, Tracy recommended we go on to Miles Wine Cellars for our next stop; it was great advice. If you live in the area, take a moment to visit their website; they are planning to host a whole variety of fun events in the warmer weather, including some in their boat house down on the lake!

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Miles Wine Cellars is on the shores of Seneca Lake in a beautiful Greek Revival house! Brr.

I hope you enjoyed this post; I’m trying to hit more events in the region, to share with you the local flavors that I love. Finger Lakes wine hasn’t always had a great reputation, but I think the regional strengths in dry white wines and (in my non-sommelier opinion)  increasingly good rosé of cabernet franc are worth a mention. I don’t recommend people come to the Finger Lakes looking for lush, full reds; I do stand by our crisp whites and summery rosés… and excellent cheeses to pair with any drink!

Be sure to visit the Seneca Lake Wine Trail’s events website – they have more great events coming up very soon, including a Pasta and Wine Weekend that I wish I was able to attend. Instead, though, I suspect I’ll be on a mission to a certain sugar shack for buckwheat pancakes before the season is over… Stay tuned and follow me on Instagram for pictures of food, wine, and more.

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This Weekend: Wine and Cheese on Seneca Lake

This weekend a friend and I are going to a wine and cheese event over on Seneca Lake.

This weekend the Seneca Lake Wine Trail is hosting their March Preferred Pairings event. These events are always a fun opportunity to sample local wine and local foods. The tasting starts at one winery, and then guests have the option to move on to others in the area. This month is one of my favorite combinations: wine and cheese. I’ll be heading to Lakewood Vineyards with my fellow foodie Caitlin in tow; I’m looking forward to sampling a cheese pairing from a startup that we work with, Tumino Cheese Company. Too bad the weather won’t be as nice as the pictures this time of year…

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The Lakewood Vineyards crew.

Tumino Cheese is a member company at the incubator where Caitlin and I both work, Rev: Ithaca Startup Works. I love their products and I enjoy their dedication to making Italian-style cheeses here in the Finger Lakes. I also love that they’re a woman-owned business, of course! Tumino cheeses have won several regional and state awards, and they are featured at vineyards and restaurants around the Finger Lakes.

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Mariann Fessenden, Elisa Tumino-VanAmburgh, and Sue Prokop of Tumino Cheese. Photo by Sara Jean Conden, from the Auburn Citizen.

Did you know that the Finger Lakes region has over 100 wineries? The region is small, with unique microclimates around the many narrow lakes, and I think the dry whites are worth trying. If you want to learn more, check out the Finger Lakes episode of one of my favorite podcasts: Wine for Normal People. Elizabeth Schneider is a fantastic presenter and she does a great job of explaining what makes our region unique.

Stay tuned next Monday for a post about our trip to Seneca Lake. Who knows which winery we’ll decide to go to after our first stop at Lakewood? If you’ve been to the area and have a favorite we should try, leave me a comment below.

Paris for New Year’s: Day 4

The day on which we had “Parisian date night,” and when I found my most and least favorite museums of the trip.

By now, some of you may be wondering how I can write about such details from a trip we took a year and a half ago. The answer is simple: we keep a little notebook. Each morning while we ate breakfast, we recorded what we had done the day before and planned what to do on that day.  And as I said in my last post, this was about the point in the trip where I got un petit mal du gorge – a little sore throat – which lasted for the rest of the trip. Being the sweetheart that he is, Sal took it upon himself to record our activities on this day. I have a difficult time reading his handwriting, but I’ve tried to preserve his voice a bit as I describe this day.

Despite the sore throat, this day is a very fond memory. On this day, we went to what has become one of my favorite museums, we ate the best steak frites I had on the whole trip, we saw bunny rabbits, and we had some very traditional – but unusual – fun at the end of the day. Read along to see what happened.

As I said, I was a little sick this morning with a scratchy throat. We slept late and ate a nice apricot custard tart from the fridge – part of our local market haul on the first day. Then we set out to the 7th arrondissement, a neighborhood on the Left bank where embassies and aristocratic households are – including the Hôtel Biron, home of the Paris section of the Musee Rodin. The Hôtel Biron is unique in that it is fully free-standing and set back from the streets, surrounded on all sides by formal gardens instead of nestled up against an entry courtyard. Rodin lived in the hotel in the early 1900’s and was quite taken with the idea that the building should become a museum to his life’s work. To ensure this end, he left his studio, work, and papers to the city of Paris upon his death.

Continue reading “Paris for New Year’s: Day 4”

Design Thinking: Veganism, Constraints & Innovation

I’m not a vegan, but I play one in design thinking workshops. Why? Vegan cuisine is a great example of design constraints in action.

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My “frustrated” face

Over the years I’ve handed down a lot of design assignments to students and workshop participants. These assignments range from “ideate something that can happen on a cell phone that would help a new person feel welcome in your city” to “create a time-keeping device that expresses your future career goals.” Whatever the goal of the assignment, the reaction is typically the same: people are frustrated by constraints.

When I tell students that their time-keeping device can only be made out of the six objects in the box in front of them (including a rock and a piece of red string), they immediately ask about adding additional items. When I tell workshop participants that their “welcome wagon” must include a cell phone interaction, they ask about building a community center. Some people – at this exact moment in their relationship with me – probably look at me and think What a crazy jerk. If only she’d let me use my idea it would be so good!

So why do I try to constrain design in specific and often weird ways? Because the alternative is watching people flounder for inspiration, stick to what they already know, or bite off more than they can chew. Providing clear and often extreme restraints in a design exercise is the same as guiding a graduate student to pick a very specific thesis topic: it clarifies the work in the long run and prevents important discoveries from being lost under a mountain of other information. In my experience (and I’m probably biased) by the end of these projects, learners see the value of those tight, strange guidelines they were given.

At this point, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to talk about veganism… Well, here it is. I think vegan cuisine makes an excellent case study of how seemingly extreme constraints can lead to a flourishing of innovative solutions.

Continue reading “Design Thinking: Veganism, Constraints & Innovation”

Paris for New Year’s: Day 3

Ah, our third day in Paris… henceforth to be known as the day we walked nearly 14 miles. Our combined love of museums and my own issues with anxiety and crowds bounced us around some well-known destinations: the Louvre, Angelina, the Galeries Lafayette, and the Palais Royal. We also ended the day with a very special discovery, which that has become a fond memory for both of us.

For New Year’s 2015, I went to Paris for eight days with my well-dressed partner in crime, Salvatore. I started to write it up last year but put my blog on hold for a while – so here is the rest of the series. You can start reading here.

This a longer post with many photos, because that’s what I personally enjoy in a travel blog. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll answer you. J’apprends le français, desole pour mes erreurs.

Ah, our third day in Paris… henceforth to be known as the day we walked nearly 14 miles. Our combined love of museums and my own issues with anxiety and crowds bounced us around some well-known destinations: the Louvre, Angelina, the Galeries Lafayette, and the Palais Royal. We also ended the day with a very special discovery, which that has become a fond memory for both of us.

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We woke early so that we could get breakfast and head to the Louvre to beat the lines. We ate at the café downstairs from our flat, La Rose de France. This charming café became our daily spot for petit dejeuner because of the extra-extra-buttery croissants, the quirky velvet décor, and the fascinating proprietor. She seemed a force to be reckoned with. I don’t have many photos of the interior because – while polite and welcoming – she seemed to notice when I had my camera out and didn’t look pleased by it. I may have misread her attitude, but it seemed best to err on the side of respecting boundaries. Visit their website to see how cute it is. If you ever visit and wonder where the storage is, I’ll tell you a little secret: it’s under a trap door in the floor!

Continue reading “Paris for New Year’s: Day 3”