Archive for August 2011 | Monthly archive page

All great nations deserve great artists.  All great artists deserve great art supply stores.  San Luis Art Supply provides whatever your creative spirit desires.  Owner Neal Breton specializes in brands that are professional-grade, affordable, and locally produced whenever possible.   With several decades worth of painting experience, Neal has an incredible in-depth knowledge of the materials he sells and is always willing to give advice on how to use each item.  Prices are extremely reasonable and employees will let you know how to get the most mileage out of whatever you purchase.

The store carries complete product lists for several art and architecture classes offered by Cal Poly and Cuesta College and is a favorite one-stop-shop for many of the colleges’ students.  However, if you are looking for a craft store akin to Michael’s or Aaron Brothers, you will be disappointed.  San Luis Art supply caters more towards the student, serious artist, or those working with the traditional mediums.  If you are in search of painting, sketching, screen printing, calligraphy, potting or stenciling equipment, you can’t beat San Luis Art Supply.  (Scrap-booking, beading, and flower arranging are best left to Beverly’s.)

Not only is SLAS a wonderful resource for materials and knowledge, but it is a venue for gallery shows and the collaborative center for several cultural events around San Luis Obispo.  Local work is displayed monthly on the walls above the paints and pens, and Thursday afternoons are host to “Hang Out and Draw” sessions which are often sponsored by sketching or painting companies featured in SLAS’ product line.  Breton is the creator and organizer for “Last Fridays”, a city-wide night of receptions held in downtown stores, galleries, and cafes in order t0 present the works of younger artists.  On any given day, you will see friends and customers sitting inside the front door working on pieces, doodling, and asking the owner for color consultations.

Check out San Luis Art Supply and support a fantastic local business!  SLAS is located on 116 Morro St, (between Higuera and Marsh) and is open 7 days a week.


Let’s face it, the world is a difficult place to live in, and we all could use a little kindness now and again.  Whether it comes in the form of a hug from a loved one, a driver letting you into his lane during rush hour traffic, or a smile from a stranger on the sidewalk, everyone can appreciate life’s small pleasures and acts of selflessness.

Next time you are in the mood to show the world that you care for its inhabitants, grab a couple of frosty brews for your friends or co-workers and offer to pop the caps with your Beers Not Bombs bottle opener.  The key chain opener is made from Peace Bronze, an alloy fabricated with scrap metal taken from dismantled nuclear weapons systems.   Take a stand for peace by showing some goodwill and love for your fellow man by spreading some joy with an oat soda and the intriguing back story detailing the fascinating history of your BNB opener.

From the 1940’s through the 1980’s, huge quantities of copper were mined in Montana for the expressed purpose of being used in the massive network of cabling connecting nuclear missile silos across the upper Midwest.  During the Clinton Administration, many miles of these cables were decommissioned through the process of disarmament.  The San Luis Obispo company that fabricates Peace Bronze into bottle openers and jewelry, From War to Peace, excavated huge sections of the gigantic wires and used the copper to create necklaces, earrings, and bottle openers.   The metal is not, and never has been radioactive.  The 95% copper mix has been certified safe by the U.S. Government, Iowa metal recyclers, and the From War to Peace lab.

As if sharing a beer with friends was not enough of an excuse to come by Bambu Batu and pick up a BNB opener or stylish t-shirt, perhaps the knowledge that 20% of the profits from your purchase will be donated to social justice organizations might spur you into action!  Choose from three trendy models designed by SLO jeweler, Jason Main.  Make your Happy Hour a peaceful one and proliferate some merriment with beers, not bombs.


For most of us, our familiarity with chalk does not extend much further than writing math problems on a blackboard or sketching hopscotch courses on playground pavement.  To the artists of the San Luis Obispo I Madonnari Festival, chalk is the medium of choice and instrument by which the sidewalks surrounding Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa are transformed each September.  Held as a benefit for the Children’s Creative Project and the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Festival seeks to raise funds and support arts education programs in the San Luis Obispo area.

The tradition of chalk painting has its roots in Italy beginning in the 16th century.  Pieces started as images devoted to the Madonna.  Painters, who were originally brought to work on the cathedrals,  would travel from town to town participating in folk and religious festivals, living on the coins donated from devotees who admired their paintings.  Current work ranges from the impressionistic to highly realistic, each utilizing an enormous amount of skill to compose large works from compressed pigment.  In the early 1970’s, the art form was officially promoted by the formation of a celebration in Grazia di Curtatone, Itally, and has since become popular around the world.

The SLO I Madonnari will take place this September 10-11 from 10am to 6pm daily.  Call the AIA at (805) 541-6294  or visit the official site for more details and map.


The Magic Muffin Mix: Chocolate Beet Cupcakes

Our  household recently enjoyed a wonderful weekend filled with delicious and nutritious chocolate beet cupcakes. From the same kitchen that boasts regular batches of incredibly disappearing kale chips and notoriously mouthwatering sweet potato curry, here’s a must-try addition to your regular menu of well-balanced appetizers.

If you crave their vitamins and minerals but have a hard time turning those intensely crimson root vegetables into something irresistibly scrumptious, then here’s a formula to satisfy all your dietary needs and indulge your most decadent appetite. Looking for a way to deliver the daily requirement of hearty vegetables to your fussiest young eaters? Look no further. Just be sure your stock pile the ingredients, because when the first batch is gone, the whole house will be clamoring for more!

Recipe: 1 cup of soy milk (we used hemp milk) 1-1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar 1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour 1/2 cup all purpose flour 1 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. baking soda 5 tbsp. cocoa powder 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp. sugar (last time used 2/3 cup agave this time about the same sugar beet syrup. Agave is sweeter than sugar so you need less in general.) 1/2 cup canola oil (we used safflower oil) 2 tbsp. molasses 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 1 tsp. salt (we added salted almonds and skipped the salt.) 1/2 cup roasted chopped almonds 1/2 cup chocolate chips 2 medium red beets, raw and grated

In a small bowl, whisk the milk and vinegar, and then set aside to curdle. In a large bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda and powders. In another large bowl, whisk the sugar, oils, molasses, vanilla and salt. Add milk to this admixture once thoroughly whisked. Add wet ingredients (large bowl #1) and dry ingredients (large bowl #2), and stir until just combined. Add beets, chocolate chips and nuts. Fill cupcake liners to the top and dome them slightly, for they don’t rise like regular cupcakes. Bake at 25-30 minutes at 325º.

We baked for 30 min. at 350º, and they achieved a sumptuously hearty yet succulently moist consistency, more like muffins than cupcakes. We couldn’t eat them fast enough. That batch produced 12 regular sized cupcakes and 8 minis. All were devoured quickly.

Pairs nicely with pistachio ice cream, sliced cantaloupe and/or White Russians.


Gerald Durell could quite possibly be the science nerd’s perfect author.  Born to an eccentric English family in Jamshedpur, India in 1925, Durell began a life devoted to the exploration and conservation of nature which he chronicled in over 3o books and publications.  Over his 70 years of life, Durrell lived and traveled to the world’s most exotic places, collecting animals for British zoological gardens and stories for his books along the way.  As a recipient of numerous awards, accolades, degrees and medals, Durrell shines as an academic but retains the personable and affable nature lacking in so many of our higher intellectual institutions. Durrell hosted seven television series and made appearances on a number of BBC programs.

I have such glowing praise for Durell’s writing that as I sit here typing, I resemble and incandescent light bulb.  (OK, energy efficient LED diode).  His descriptions of the flora and fauna of Corfu in his trilogy of novels detailing his childhood exploits in Greece are simply magical, invoking the tastes, smells and sights of a place so close to his heart.  There are few authors that can make science writing so engaging, charming, and evocative of such emotion.  His craftsmanship of story lines, witty dialogue, and achingly beautiful accounts of scenery are as good as those of any great fiction writer.  His animal observations are thorough without being dry, and reading his accounts allows the reader feel as though they are an adventurer alongside Durrell.

For a good introduction to his work (whether you are a naturalist geek or just plain lover of humor and entertaining stories) I would suggest starting with My Family and Other Animals, a hilarious account of his formative years on the Greek island of Corfu with his mother, sister and brothers.  Each character introduced becomes a cherished friend and is as fascinating a study as any of the plants or animals in the book.  You may soon find yourself making your way down the list of Durell’s works, and I am proud to say that I am making significant progress through the collection. Put Gerald Durrell on your  “Must Read” list!


When it comes time for me to buy the farm, I may be able to become the farm as well.  Instead of choosing to be embalmed with toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) or cremated and releasing particulate matter and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, I can now tell my loved ones to bury me in the Sustainable Mushroom Death Suit.

Visual artist Jae Rhim Lee created this full body shroud laced with spore infused threads as a part of the Infinity Burial Project which proposes “alternatives for the postmortem body”.  Now, in addition to being flash frozen and shattered by sonic waves, composted, or incorporated into artificial ocean reefs, you can become substrate for mushrooms that not only naturally decompose your body, but help clean the surrounding environment.

Lee, along with mycologist Timothy Myles, has been investigating which strains of mycelium thrive best on human tissue by experimenting with her own hair and fingernail clippings and has developed a “decompiculture” kit that adds spores to embalming chemicals and makeup. Dubbed the “Infinity Mushroom”, this special strain of fungus helps to quickly and efficiently break down dead human tissue as well as neutralize toxins around the burial site.

According to the CDC, human bodiess contain over 200 toxic chemicals at the time of death, including pesticides, fungicides, flame retardants, heavy metals, and ingredients found in the production of plastics.  As a final gift to the world, the Mushroom Suit could render these compounds harmless and eliminate the need for dangerous embalming fluids.

In addition to acting as a sustainable way to return one’s body to the earth, the Mushroom Suit is also Lee’s personal exploration into the psychological response to death.  Considering that embalming is a relatively new development in human history and the current state of our planet’s ecological health, leaving our earthly husks as mini clean-up crews might not be such a bad idea.  By donning the mushroom shroud, you could leave the world a little healthier upon your departure.

Would you rejoin the Cycle of Life as a miraculous mushroom?

green car journal

Who says that being a car-lover and tree-hugger have to be mutually exclusive?  Certainly not Ron Cogan, publisher of the Green Car Journal, and local San Luis Obispo resident.  (Ron is also the father of Hybrid Couture designer, Caitlin Cogan, who is responsible for Bambu Batu’s popular line of lady’s bamboo underwear!)

With over 30 years of experience as a writer for the auto industry, including 6 years as Motor Trend’s feature editor, Cogan produces a magazine that fulfills both the need for information about green vehicles and the ever-present American love affair with the car.  The Journal offers thorough reviews of green car technology, thoughtful analysis of new ecologically friendly trends in the auto industry, explanations of transportation policy, and comparisons of the newest car and scooter models to hit the road.  Each article is accompanied by the glossy, technically detailed photography engineers and car-lovers alike love to drool over.

In addition to the Journal’s quarterly hard copy edition, the publication’s website offers an enormous amount of information and interactive resources.  From gas mileage calculator to video reviews and tutorials, readers will find a wealth of advice to help them in their purchase or evaluation of green technology.  The site breaks down each automotive development into easy-to-understand terms, covering both the vehicles themselves and new sources of fuel. Looking for a specific car?  The site even provides a search engine that allows you to filter for make, model, EPA rating, Greenhouse and Air Pollution scores. Need to find a fueling station for your new purchase?  The Journal will help you locate a filling station in your area. (And for more facts about eco-friendly modes of conveyance, you can also check out the informative database at Green Car Reports.)

Before you hit the road, grab a copy of the Green Car Journal or browse the site to see how your car stacks up against the newest competition and preview the technology of the future.  What will you be driving?


Just because you have gotten too old for Saturday morning cartoons doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy some quality animation.  The Royal Society of Animators presents fascinating lectures on topics such as education reform, motivation, the human drive towards compassion, and the relationship between business and social change.  Each presentation is clearly narrated in accessible language with engaging, masterful illustrations that lock details into the mind and delight the eye.

Like most brilliant ideas in history, the RSA was fueled by caffeine and good conversation.  In 1754, the RSA  began its life in a Covent Garden coffee shop by William Shipley, a Northampton drawing master.  Shipley created the idea of “premiums” or cash prizes that intended to stimulate and support the humanities and social sciences.  Throughout its 250 year history, the Society has awarded grants, held art exhibitions, published numerous journal articles, demonstrated cutting edge technologies, held festivals and design competitions, and compiled archives of its many achievements.

In an effort to strengthen debate and provide a platform for innovative new ideas, the RSA collaborates with a network of over 27,ooo fellows who are dedicated to civic and social responsibility.  Anyone can visit their site to join and receive their newsletters and journals for a small payment, or enjoy their animations for free.  Notable fellows have included Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, David Attenborough, Peter Ustinov, Karl and Enid Marx, Charles Dickens, Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, and Samuel Johnson.

Lovers of viral videos and though-provoking entertainment will delight in watching and sharing the RSA’s series of YouTube talks.  Personal favorites of mine are Sir Ken Robinson’s presentation on Changing Education Paradigms, and Jeremy Rifkin’s lecture on The Empathic Civilization.  Finally, an academically valid excuse to watch online cartoons!  If you are inspired by their animations, take some time to explore the Society’s page where you can read blog articles, listen to audio programs, or even enter a film competition!

Be warned, like the TED site, several minutes of poking around can become hours-long media binges.  So go and have fun “drawing” upon this well of creativity and ingenuity!


Walking along a park-side path in Nipomo, my Naturalist brain was cataloging the flora along the side of the walkway. “Oak, lupin, buckwheat, lilac, sage, a gigantic swarm of bees, toyon, mugwart…wait.  Go back.  A giant swarm of bees?!”  About three feet from where I was standing a thrumming, writhing mass of bees had taken over a green-waste bin.  Below the amber mat of wiggling insects read a sign, “STAND BACK-SWARMING BEES”.

Who could have been brave or foolhardy enough to get close enough to this many stinging bugs to post a warning?  As far as I knew, bees were outside of Animal Control’s jurisdiction, and calling Pest Control  for the eradication of these pollinators would be a waste of life, potential revenue, and an added blow to the already long list of adversities facing our country’s hives.  What was going to happen to this newly formed, awkwardly placed colony?  Luckily for these buzzing ladies, San Luis Obispo County is honeybee friendly.

Around spring, hives produce new queens, allowing the old queen to venture forth with a portion of the colony’s population to establish a new group.  This party of drones and queen are collectively known as a swarm, and they can set up shop wherever they feel a hive would be safe and productive.  Humans and bees at times disagree as to where these locations should be, and in the event of an unwanted swarm in your backyard, there are a couple of people in San Luis Obispo Country you can call.

The Humble Bumble: Based in downtown San Luis Obispo, Isaac and Ross from The Humble Bumble will remove swarms and give them a good home.  If you are lucky, you might even have an opportunity to visit your hive and taste some of their honey once they are established in their new, comfortable boxes.

The California Bee Company: Jeremy from the California Bee Company, LLC not only offers free swarm removal, but also breeds bees, trains those interested in starting their own apiary, and sells honey, wax, candles, pollen and propolis straight from the hive.  The company is now selling mite-resistant queens that are specially adapted for the Central Coast.

David’s Blue Ribbon Honey: For residents of Arroyo Grande and the Five Cities area, David Maislen of David’s Blue Ribbon Honey, LLC will take care of your colony.  He will do his utmost to save and transport the bees, but if for whatever reason they need to be euthanized, it is done without poisons.  Keep an eye out for his award-winning line of honeys in fine groceries across San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

Evergreen Landscaping: Tim Vaughan, founder of Evergreen Landscaping and Bee’s Best can take care of your yard, or the honeybees who use it to make a home.  Removal generally costs between $50-100.  He also sells his honey, wax, propolis, and pollen at farmer’s markets in Arroyo Grande.

With so many allies, I am confident that my Nipomo bees are destined for a good home where they can pollinate the many orchards and farms of San Luis Obispo County.  With any luck, I’ll be able to taste their honey on my next trip to the local farmer’s market.  Have any bees in your neighborhood?  Where do you buy your honey?


Summer is the season for sugar.  Between the funnel cakes, sodas, cookies, ice cream and cotton candy of the state fairs, beach carts, and potlucks, you may feel as though you are constantly at risk for a diabetic coma.  To keep your blood from congealing into syrup this season, opt for more green veggie dishes, stay away from the processed foods, and take a look at some sugar alternatives that have lower glycemic indexes.  Instead of ingesting empty calories from high fructose corn syrup or refined cane and beet sugars, adding these sweeteners to your baked goods, drinks, and meals will satisfy your cravings while keeping your health in mind.

Sugars and the Glycemic Index:  As you peruse the labels at your local supermarket, keep an eye on what kind of sugars are included in the ingredients list and where they fall on the Glycemic Index.  The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of how much glucose is released by a food within a two-to-three hour time span.  The most common sugars fall under sucrose, or table sugars, that are combinations of glucose and fructose.  Glucose is the body’s main source of energy and is produced by the digestion of carbohydrates, familiar to us in the form of breads and grains.  Fructose is found in most fruits and vegetables. Sugar alcohols (mannitol, xylitol, lactictol, maltitol eruthritol and isomalt)  from plants are artificially produced from starches.  Other common sugars are lactose, which is found in milk, and maltose, a sugar created by our bodies in the first step of digestion that breaks down starchy foods.

A Note about HFCS: High fructose corn syrup, a sweetener derived from the starch of corn and is nearly twice as sweet as sucrose, is incredibly prevalent due to its abundance and reduced cost. Fructose is low on the GI but is processed in the liver, and when too much of it enters the blood stream, the organ converts the fructose into fats and triglycerides because it can no longer process the substance as a sugar.  When these fats are eventually incorporated into our cell membranes, they become insulin resistant, and may lead to diabetes.  High levels of fructose can also raise cholesterol levels, and like sucrose, has little to no nutritional value.

Alternatives: Look for foods that are low on the GI in order to maintain a low blood sugar and a slower, more constant release of energy which will help avoid the peaks and valleys that cause irritation and fatigue.  Also investigate organic, non-synthetic choices that contain more vitamins and minerals instead of the empty calories that leave you feeling unsatisfied.

Stevia: This Peruvian shrub-derived material is nearly 300 times sweeter than table sugar, and since it is not a true sugar, has a GI rating of less than 1.

Date sugar: This substitute for brown and granulated sugar is made from dehydrated dates and is high in fiber, minerals and vitamins.

Raw Honey: Aside from being a sweet treat, raw honey is full of beneficial enzymes, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and is considered by many to be a remedy for a number of ailments including seasonal allergies.  Make sure your honey in unprocessed as refining strips it of most of its desired qualities.

Sugar Cane Juice: Considered to be more healthful than refined sugars, some nutritionists go as far as saying that in moderation, sugar cane juice contains some of the same health benefits as raw honey.

Have a sweet summer and make a date to experiment with some of your favorite recipes to create delicious, healthy treats!