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…

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.

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.

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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.

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”