Thursday, September 30, 2010

Try Something New: Backyard Chicken Keeping

Photo by: Ron Grandia

Meet Apple and Alice, two Rhode Island Red laying hens that belong to my friend Ron Grandia. Ron began building a chicken coop out of reclaimed materials that his neighbor was discarding as he renovated his house.

This inspired me to write about backyard chicken keeping in my latest column in the Campbell Express. I discuss a variety of aspects including: Why are urban Americans keeping their own laying hens, city regulations, feeding, predators and more.

Photo by: Ron Grandia

I was tempted to include that chickens are psychic but I left that part out. How so? Well, one day Ron jokingly posted on his Facebook account:
"Okay chickens- decision time: layers or fryers? The decision is theirs. Start cranking out the eggs or get ready for a light dusting of flour and 11 herbs and spices." 
Neither hen had laid an egg and he'd had them for several months. About 2 hours later they each laid their first eggs. LOL. Ron joked they must have wifi and a laptop and read his empty threat online.

I love this coop design I found online!

I've been checking out chicken coop designs and am beginning to design one of my own. Next year I plan to acquire two banty (smaller than standard breed) hens to lay eggs in my backyard. Ron simply wanted fresh eggs. I want eggs that are laid by hens kept in humane conditions as the egg factory faming industry has quite a looooooooooooong way to go before the conditions the hens are kept in can be considered humane. The eggs are undoubtedly affordable, but at what cost? The latest salmonella scare brought to light that battery caged chickens are neither happy nor particularly healthy relative to chickens you'd see roaming around a country farm. And "cage free" and "free range" don't mean nearly as much as most consumers naturally assumed they did. Myself included.

Click on the Image to Enlarge

Turns out that even cage free and free range chickens are often kept in conditions that most of us would consider inhumane if the same were done to dogs or cats. States are beginning to work to change the conditions in which laying hens are kept but until actual change has been realized I'll feel better knowing my eggs are coming from chickens that are eating healthy foods, in clean conditions that have enough room to turn, spread their wings and roam around a bit.

In San Jose you can legally keep up to 6 hens without a permit. After much research here is my plan:

Hens lay most prolifically for the first 5 years of their lives and most can live between 10-20 years. By the fifth year the frequency of eggs begins to taper off. So I'm going to get two hens and 5 years later when they slow down on laying I'll get two more younger hens. Five years after that I'll get two more younger hens. By the time the third round of hens stop laying my first pair will have died of natural causes having led full and hopefully happy lives and I can get two more new chickens at that time. The other options are to get 6 hens all at once and five years later have 6 pet chickens that don't lay a lot of eggs. Or get 6 chickens at once and five years later try to find some kind of chicken sanctuary to retire them to. I think "Plan A" is the best plan so far...

Until The Campbell Express posts the column in their online edition I'll post it here for anyone who wants to read it:
City Fresh Eggs
Did you know it's legal for Campbell residents to keep up to 6 chickens (no roosters allowed) in combination with other small animals?

Why would you want to put in the time and effort to raise your own chickens? Some people (like my friend and Campbell resident, Ron Grandia) do it for the fresh eggs. Others are concerned about cruelty issues related to factory farming. Others want eggs from chickens who eat healthy diets and receive none of the antibiotics typically used to keep factory farmed chickens healthy. The average life span for well bred and cared for chickens falls between 10-20 years depending on the breed. Most will regularly produce eggs for the first five years laying an egg a day. After 4-5 years they may continue to lay but with less frequency. Chickens are easy to care for, intelligent and some breeds are known for being sociable and gentle.

They need fresh water and a modest amount of either commercially prepared pelleted food each day or you can feed them grains like wheat, barley, rice or oats but will need to make sure they also receive essential minerals and protein. If you hate bugs, letting your chickens out of their coop each day or putting them in a movable pen, allows them to scratch around for spiders, earwigs, snails, slugs, beetles, worms and grass hoppers. From what I've read, they'll pretty much eat anything they can catch. They'll also eat scraps from your table including favorites like watermelon and pad thai.

If they are not overcrowded and the coop and runs are kept clean, odor is not a problem. The most typical noise hens make is a soft clucking sound as they forage for food. They may let out an occasional squawk as they lay an egg but overall they are much more quiet than a neighbor's barking dog and probably more quiet than the plaintive meowing of my cat when he wants attention.

But chicken keeping is not all "fun and eggs." Tragedy can strike if raccoons, opossums and skunks injure or eat your chickens. Your flock will rely on you to provide them with a sturdily constructed coop that uses steel mesh screen instead of chicken wire to keep your birds in, and predators out.

Myself? I'm interested in eventually getting a couple of chickens so that I know my eggs were laid by birds raised in humane conditions while eating natural and healthy food.

In Campbell you can keep up to six chickens (in combination with other small animals such as: rabbits, guinea pigs, felines, etc.) not exceeding more than 6 small animals total.

My contact at the Campbell Community Development Staff verified that as long as your chicken coop is smaller than 120 sq. feet (usually 10' x 12') and does not include electrical or plumbing features, no building permit is required. Also good to know, accessory structures have to be at least 5 feet from property lines, and 10 feet from a main house.

In San Jose the total number of small animals (chickens, rabbits, ducks, etc) that can be kept without a special permit is also 6. More than 6 and you need not only a permit but your chicken coop has to be a minimum distance from your property line and neighboring structures.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Gala to Benefit the Sacramento SPCA

24th Annual Reigning Cats & Dogs

The 2010 Reigning Cats & Dogs Gala will be held at beautiful Arden Hills Resort Club and Spa on Saturday, October 9, and they would like you to be there! This year's walk-around event will feature spectacular food and beverages from the best restaurants, wineries and breweries in Northern California, not to mention some incredible silent and live auction items!

From the SPCA website "Dress in your best red-carpet attire or impersonate your favorite celebrity and join us at our 24th Annual Reigning Cats & Dogs Gala where we embrace Hollywoof!

New this year are our Paw-Paw-Rattzi Step and Repeat Wall, a photo booth!"

General admission: $75
VIP tickets: $125

CLICK HERE to learn how to purchase tickets
(This is a people fundraiser for pets, sorry no dogs will be attending)

Or support the SPCA by adopting a dog that needs a home...

Here are just a few of the dogs who are looking for a forever home right now: Nimbus, Shortie, Dinero and Copper. CLICK HERE to read more about them and to see all of the available dogs who need someone to come rescue them and welcome them into their home.

Many of you know my dog, Kitai, was a shelter dog. He's so fantastic that I created a website called www.CutestDogEver.com to help advocate for other shelter dogs to be adopted into new and loving homes. They just need a second chance. And it's that time of year again... Halloween when I create a custom costume for Kitai. Last year I turned him into a Chia Pet. What will he be this year? Stay tuned to find out the day after Howloween!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Unique Bride in Burlingame is Closing

I have to say this makes me sad though the sale that begins on Oct. 1st will be a great opportunity for Bay Area Brides. The iconic, couture boutique, The Unique Bride in Burlingame California is CLOSING their doors after servicing many of the areas most sophisticated brides for over 25 years. The Unique Bride was the Peninsula's destination for brides who didn't want to travel up to San Francisco to find couture wedding gowns of quality.

 Oct. 1st thru Oct. 31st with savings of up to 80% off. 
Everything must be sold!

  • Designer Wedding Gowns 20% to 80% off: Amsale, Lazaro, Rivini, Monique, Jenny Lee, Lea-Ann Belter, JLM Blush, Marisa, Watters, WToo
  • Special Occasion, Mother of the Bride, Bridesmaids, Flower Girls - 50% off
  • Shoes by Grace, Grazia, Filippa Scott, Nina – 50% off
  • Headpieces, Jewelry, Veils – 25% off to 50% off
  • Fixtures, Counters, Jewelry Cases, Sewing Machines, Hangers…

No appointments; first come, first serve!
Hurry, hot items won’t last!
CLICK HERE to visit their website for new store hours.

BONUS! Bring in this printout (CLICK HERE to Print the PDF) at the time of purchase and receive:
  • Receive a complimentary “HERE COMES THE GUIDE” book with every wedding gown purchase.
  • Take an additional 3% off any CASH purchase.
  • Enter to win an Emergency Wedding Kit for your wedding.
  • The first 50 brides will receive an additional $100 off their wedding gown purchase of $1500 or more! While supplies last! Cannot be combined with other promotions; no cash value.
See store for terms and conditions.

The Unique Bride
1209 Howard Avenue
Burlingame, CA 94010
650 347-7001

Monday, September 27, 2010

SJ Museum of Quilts and Textiles: Corinne Okada, Colleen Quen and Rick Lee

TECHstyle SoftWEAR:
San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles
September 16 – October 31, 2010

Click on Images to Enlarge

Last week I attended the opening of "TECHstyle SoftWEAR: Surface & Shape" at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiels. It is an artwear installation that reflects Silicon Valley through the eyes, vision and creativity of three artists who all just happen to be my friends. The textiles were inspired by the public and formally designed by Corinne Okada Takara. The sculptural artwear gowns were created by San Francisco Couturier Colleen Quen and showcased in an environment designed by furniture and industrial designer Rick Lee.

When I walked into the exhibit area the first thing I noticed was the "Topography" gown. Almost instantaneously my eye was drawn upward to the amazing quilted metal installation that encompassed the ceiling above the two artwear gowns.

I was able to chat with Rick for a few minutes at which time he explained to me the fabrication of his "Mirror E-cloud" quilted metal installation. The piece is comprised of polished aluminum that was laser cut with stitch marks and bent into the panels that were then hung. I have to say that I loved this exhibit. The way the gowns, the fabrics and the metal quilt didn't just complement but actually interacted with each other was really wonderful. Just like a quilt made up of different patterns and pieces, Rick's mirrored quilt picked up different reflections around the room (including the people) creating different colors and patterns.

The sleeves of the gown seem to defy physics when you consider they are constructed with boning to create the massive, over extended shapes. Even as I studied them I could only wonder at how such thin strips of boning could support such large swaths of fabric and on top of that, how did Colleen ever figure out how to create the pattern/placement of the boning to do this in the first place? Particularly the sleeve on the right whose shape and print were both inspired by the rotunda of San Jose's City Hall.

With me that evening was my friend Armando Sarabia. We were speculating what these little bumps in the skirt of the gown represented. His guess was they were "the valley" meaning the rolling hills that surround Silicon Valley. My guess was that they were "start ups" since Silicon Valley always has new companies popping up all over the place. Turns out Armando was right and I was wrong. I thought my guess was a pretty good one though. LOL

And the collaborating extended beyond Corinne, Rick and Colleen working together. The public was encouraged to submit imagery that represented Silicon Valley to them. While some fabrics were designed by Corinne, contest winners Deborah Corsini, Jonathan McCabe, and Laurel Shimer all submitted ideas that were incorporated in the installation.

The digital textile department at Kent State University's School of Fashion's TechStyleLAB printed the silks for the Topography Gown. Spoonflower also printed some of the designs to fabric.

The "Emotion" Gown floating beneath Rick's Mirrored Quilt

It looks like a huge, paper doll, gown lantern

Since this is Silicon Valley and the focus of the installation was based on technology I thought it was really cool when Corinne explained that some of the fabric patterns used in the gowns were created by quotes from some correspondences that she sent through an emotion mapping sofware program called "Synesketch." Words are converted to colors and patterns and were in turn printed to the fabrics. Yeah, that's pretty geeky.

That's Rick Lee (to the left of the gown) with his arm upraised as he describes his installation to some interested attendees.

I'd never been to the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles before. Some of the other quilts on display were just amazing. I tried taking up quilting. I finished one of probably what should have been at least 14 panels and never made another one. Eventually I turned it into an end cushion. LOL So much for that.

Corinne Okada and Colleen Quen at the opening of "Surface & Shape"

A happy accident. I was goofing with my camera settings just to see what I'd get and wow, I love this photo! The walls weren't nearly that bright of a blue but, they were blue which isn't possible to tell in any of the other photos I took as the shadowing made them look black. Anyways, I loved how the reflections from Rick's installation created this cool pattern on the walls and wanted to share it with you.

And from Corinne's Cultural Tech-Fusion Fabrics... Inspiration and Assembly. Click on any photo to visit http://techfusionfabrics.weebly.com/fabric-blog.html

San Jose's City Hall Rotunda

And the Rotunda Inspired Fabric

Alviso Salt Flats Photo

Fabric Inspired by Simon Phipps Photo

Rick's Prototype in Miniature

The Installation in Progress

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A 24 Hour Challenge • Riding the Staten Island Ferry

Sunrise from the 24 Hour Staten Island Ferry Blog
Remember last year when my hubby went on that 22 day, North American roadtrip where he drove 10-12 hours per day almost every day? Well a friend of ours "Special K" is doing something just as unusual. I'm not sure if it's for the fun of it or for the experience but he flew to NYC from San Jose, CA just to ride the Staten Island Ferry for 24 hours straight with his friend, known on the blog as "B1-66ER," who also doesn't live in NYC but is there on vacation.

   They are live blogging their 24 hour experience. There's been some running for the ferry, some singing (not them, from other people), drunk people, sick people, party girls, profanity (from them, not other people), sleep deprivation, hallucinating (due to the a fore mentioned sleep deprivation), gun boats, an accomplice who brought them good deli food, searching for electrical outlets to recharge their phones so they can post, a dog with no face, a sunrise, a bird and eating corn beef hash are among the things they have seen and done.

   So how does this relate to me? Well it got me to thinking I should take on some kind of 24 hour challenge. The hardest things for me to do are to relax and take time off. Sooooooo... The best challenge idea I've come up with since last night is to get a 24 hour massage (no deep tissue). Even though hubby thinks it's a really bad idea he has agreed to feed me through the breathing hole in the massage table so that I don't have to stop to eat. Just to be clear, he thinks the whole idea is bad, not just the feeding me through the breathing hole part. LOL Maybe I'll do it someday. Even if I don't it cracks me up just thinking about it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Professional Wedding MC

When Carl Mindling asked if I would be his assistant at a recent wedding I said sure. He was hired as the Professional Wedding MC who would make all of the announcements (welcome, explanations or ceremony elements, toasts, the beginning of the reception, the first dance, the bands at the reception, and more) throughout the evening.
We arrived in San Francisco at 2:09 even though his first announcements weren't to be made until 4:30 PM. Around the Bay Area you never know what traffic will be like and Carl didn't want to risk being late so we arrived extra early.

SCORE! We found weekend street parking no problem!

I hadn't ever been to San Francisco's City Hall before. I have however seen hundreds of wedding pictures taken there, so when we walked inside it was a deja vu experience. I felt like I'd been there before even though I hadn't.

Carl checking in with Music and Entertainment Assistant Megan Terry

As soon as we arrived we needed to figure out where to go and find our liaison from Jubilee Lau Events that evening. Jubilee Lau was the Wedding Planner and Event Producer, while Gloria Wong Tritasavit was the Event Designer. There were a team of experienced planners working for them, each overseeing different aspects of the wedding and reception. The Music + Entertainment Lead was Alice Grisez, so Carl had to go change out of his driving clothes and find her.

One quick stop to work out details with the sound engineer that evening. Initially my job was going to be to hit a "play" button following two of Carl's announcements to start the background music. But Audio Visual professional Chris Williams was ready and willing to oversee this task.

I asked Carl "Did I just get fired?" What was I going to do then until 1:00 AM? LOL. Not to fear, turns out he would need me more than he realized.

First we went downstairs so Carl could change into his tuxedo. He will wear whatever his client's request from casual wear to a sport coat and tie to a tuxedo. The wedding colors were purple so he wore a purple bow tie and cummerbund that evening.

And here we were backstage after getting me ready to go. Turns out almost all of the event professionals that evening wore headset microphones so that they could be in contact with the planning and design teams who were organizing everything and calling out cues to the other professionals. As MC, Carl really couldn't have a headset on and look professional when making announcements to the bride and groom and their guests so I was his hearing ear girl (like a seeing eye dog) for the evening. I wore his headset and shadowed him the entire evening to call out cues to him. It worked out really well except for the fact that I had worn higher heels than I would have worn if I had known I'd be on my feet for 11 hours. *Ouch*

This was City Hall that evening. Gorgeous right? The purple rugs had been custom cut to complement the wedding colors. The room looked amazing!

We then found Alice, the Music + Entertainment Lead, we would be working with for the evening. She was great. Ready to help Carl in any way possible and very clear on what she needed from him. It was a pleasure working with her and fun for me because I hadn't seen Alice for several years.

Can you see him? That's Carl to the left at the top of the staircase. That's where he stood to make all of the announcements preceding and during the ceremony. Due to wanting to honor and respect the privacy of the bride and groom I purposely didn't take any photos that included them, or their guests. But I still wanted to give you an idea of what the day was like for Carl and me.


 And waiting for the ceremony to begin...

Testing, testing, yes they could hear me and I could hear EVERYONE else. LOL There was literally (I think) over a dozen people, on multiple channels, using the headsets.

Following announcing during the ceremony, toasts, dinner, and cake cutting, Carl invited the guests to move to the adjacent room where a large stage had been set up for the reception. The room was really wonderful with small "restaurant" vignettes that served additional food and beverages throughout the rest of the evening. There was a coffee bar, a pattisserie, a sushi bar, and two bands...

After introducing the first dance and the opening band, California (the house band for American Idol who rocked the night away), it was time for Carl to introduce...

The Village People!

After performing their set, which of course included "Macho Man," "In the Navy," and "YMCA," Carl had one last intro to perform re-introducing California back to the stage. We stayed until 1:00 AM just in case they needed him to make any additional announcements then headed back to San Jose.

I was really beat. While the guests dined we were able to sit for a bit downstairs where the vendors had dinner. Other than that, we were pretty much on our feet the entire night. I'm always amazed at the stamina of "day-of" professionals and how much talent and coordination it takes to seamlessly produce a large or small wedding!

And one final picture with Jubilee Lau, or as Carl nicknamed her after that evening "Jubilee Wow." It was a fantastic wedding and it was an honor and very fun to be a part of it.

It was a fantastic wedding and it was an honor and very fun to be a part of it. If you need a Professional MC for your wedding or any other type of special or corporate event, you can learn more about Carl and his services on his website at www.iMCevents.com.