Join Us at the Farm-to-Street Party on July 21st!


Saturday, July 21
1-7 p.m.
$15 (includes four $2.50 tickets for food/drink and beer garden)
1300-1400 V Street NW, Washington, DC 20009

Please join us at the second annual Farm-to-Street Party being held in the awesome U Street neighborhood! Enjoy scrumptious dishes made with fresh ingredients from local farms, drink local craft beer and wine, shop local retailers and take craft food classes in the pop-up park. Entertainment will by provided by musicians via Listen Local First!

Here’s a taste of the great businesses that will be there:

13th Street Meats featuring Ben’s Chilibowl    |   Busboys and Poets  |   Clean Currents   |   The Diner  |   Eagle Bank  |   Eatonville  |   Flavor Magazine   |   Goldilocks Goodies
Herban Lifestyle   |   Local 16  |   operation:eatery |  Ripple  |   Sonoma Wine Bar  |   Sweetgreen  |   Tevolution  |   United Tables   |   Whisked!  |   Zipcar DC  |   Arden Jewelry Design  | Coastal Nut Company   |   Dreaming Out Loud, Inc.  |   Gouter   |  Just Peachy Organics  |  Kew Park Farm  | Langdon Wood   |  Live Green  |   Logan Hardware  | Loulies |  Mid City Businesses  | MTO Kombucha, LLC  |  My Great Garden|  Neighborhood Farm Initiative|   Pawgevity  |   Penn Quarter Bodega  | Pleasant Pops  | Prospect Solar, LLC  | Route 11 |  Rutabaga Sweets  |  Scout Mob DC  |  Seasonal Pantry  |   Slow Food DC  |  Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative  |  Waldo, Sluggo & Me  |  YB Green

Beer garden:
The Pug featuring DC BrauChocolate City and 3 Stars Brewery.

Music by:
Flo Anito   |   Justin Trawick with Drummer Duo  | Bumper Jackson  | Lucky Dub Trio 


SoulPancake: The Rainn, The Park & Other Things

Last week we watched Taking Woodstock, an Ang Lee movie about the guy who played a pivotal role in bringing the Woodstock Music Festival to Yasgur’s Farm in Bethel, NY. It was a fascinating look into the time period, with wonderfully quirky characters and amazing attention to costuming and set detail that left me feeling like I had traveled through time to see the whole event unfold.

While I know that in reality those times were filled with social and political upheaval, I’ve always had a bit of 60s envy, feeling that I would have enjoyed living in the idealized version of that time with its love, peace, buy-the-world-a-home-and-furnish-it-with-love vibe.

And so when I come across a community, a gathering place for kindred spirits, that espouses that we’re-all-in-it-together-the-world-is-a-pretty-cool-place energy, I tend to gravitate toward it.

Three years ago, I wrote a post on one such community. The then newly-launched SoulPancake, an interactive online community, was created by actor Rainn Wilson as a positive place where people can come together to ask and answer questions about life, philosophy, spirituality, creativity and more. The site is filled with community members’ videos, photos, musings, and other creative expressions.

Serendipitously, the day after I watched Taking Woodstock, I received an email from Nicole Ro at SoulPancake letting me know that they will be launching a premium YouTube channel on July 23. Since I had blogged about SoulPancake in the past, she wondered if I would be willing to help spread the word about their new YouTube channel. I told her that I would be happy to!

The purpose of the SoulPancake YouTube channel is the same as their website – to create a stream of positive, uplifting, thought-provoking, and creative messages. With so many negative messages and images coming at us all the time, it is nice to have a place to turn to see the brighter side of humanity.

To give you glimpse at their content, I’ve included one of the SoulPancake videos at the top of this post. It’s silly and simple. It left me feeling happy and optimistic. It has an updated Woodstock feel, complete with VW van, but without the hallucinogenic drugs.

SoulPancake’s ultimate goal is to reach 50,000 subscribers by their launch date. They are up to about 20,000 subscribers. When they hit 5,000 subscribers, Rainn Wilson offered to meditate in a field wearing only a Speedo. As an incentive, 6 new subscribers will be randomly chosen to hang out with Rainn virtually in a Google Hang out for a half hour to talk about anything. Anything at all.

I highly recommend that you visit the SoulPancake YouTube channel. You can also get updates on Rainn’s Facebook fan page.

Here’s a brief intro, which gives you an idea about the vibe of the channel. Enjoy!

How to Make a Solar-Powered Battery Charger

The storms that blew through the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic on June 29 left us, along with millions of other people and all of the businesses in my town, without power for several days. I was incredibly grateful for a handcrank/solar-powered radio that I’ve had for years. It keep me abreast of the news, and provided some musical entertainment. It also inspired me to figure out how to make some solar appliances for future power outages. I heard stories on the radio of  people buying up batteries, and it occurred to me that I would prefer not to have to rely on them.

So, I headed to a library a couple of towns away (the closest one that was open) and did some research. I decided to start with a solar-powered battery charger since it was an easy first project. It required knowledge of how to use a soldering iron, but I had learned this as a child, having put together many Radio Shack kits with my father. The charger would be a low-cost-of-entry project, and if it turned out okay, I would go on to bigger and better things!

In addition to a 25-watt soldering iron ($8.99) and some solder ($5.49), which I can use for numerous future projects, I found that all I needed was the following items:

1) A solar panel. You need to have a total of 9V to have enough energy to charge your batteries. I purchased a 1W 9V ($16.99), but some articles I read used anywhere from 2V to 4.5V and connected them. You can even salvage some from inexpensive solar garden lights for less than that.

2) A rechargeable battery holder. I chose an enclosed one that can hold four AA’s ($2.29), but they come in a variety of configurations for different types of batteries.

3) A few things I read said that I needed to have a “blocking diode” to make sure that once the batteries are charged, and the light source is taken away (i.e., the sun goes down), that the power doesn’t flow back from the batteries into the solar cell and damage it. However, at one of the Radio Shacks I visited (I ended up going to a total of 3), the guy helping me said it wasn’t necessary, and since I didn’t know the exact number/name of the diode that I needed, I decided to forgo it and do some more reading.

Apparently, there is some debate over the necessity of blocking diodes for such a small project. However, I came across an article by someone who had actually measured the amount of energy flowing in and out, and he concluded it was necessary even for a project of this size. So, after some more reading, I decided to purchase a 2-pack of 1N4001 micro 1A diodes ($1.29).

Once I had gathered all of my materials, the actual putting together of the battery charger was very simple.

1) I soldered the negative (black) wire from the solar panel to the negative (black) wire from the battery holder.

2) Then I soldered one end of the diode to the positive (red) wire from the solar panel, and the other end of the diode to the positive (red) wire of the battery holder. I then trimmed the excess wire.

NOTE: It is important that you attach the diode in the proper direction to make sure that the energy is flowing TO the batteries and is blocked from returning to the solar panel, so it is important to read the diagram on the diode packaging to see which way it should be facing. Diodes have colored (or in my case grayed) bands indicating which end is which.

3) This part is not necessary, but since you have to leave your charger in the sunlight for several hours, it is nice to have some sort of weather protection. So I taped the solar panel to the inside of the lid of a takeout container. You can use anything with a clear top.

4) Once it was assembled, I just inserted four AA NiMh rechargeable batteries and let it sit for a total of 15 hours in the sunlight (I read that it takes anywhere from 10 to 15 hours for the batteries to fully charge).

Once the charging period was over, I transferred the batteries into this little flashlight. It worked like a charm! It was very satisfying to know that I had harnessed the sun’s power for this simple task, and it gave me the confidence to move onto bigger things.

My next project will be a solar USB charger so that I won’t have to worry about running out of juice in my phone during the next extended power outage!

[UPDATE: I came across some new instructions for a solar-powered battery charger in which the author recommended the use of a 1N914 Diode. I don’t know enough about the differences between the 1N914 and 1N4001 to say which is more appropriate. If there are any experts out there who can shed some light on this, I would greatly appreciate it!].

How to Make Almond Milk

My daughter has been a vegetarian since age 5. More recently, she has become a vegan. Luckily, she is a wonderful cook, so never lacks for delicious, healthy, balanced meals. And almonds are one of her main sources of protein and omega-3, and she has found almond milk to be her preferred dairy substitute. Finding that she wasn’t satisfied with store-bought almond milk, she learned how to make her own, then passed that knowledge on to me. It is surprisingly easy to make, and far more delicious than any pre-made almond milk you can buy. The following recipe makes about 1 quart of almond milk.

You start by soaking 1 cup of raw organic almonds in filtered water for at least 4 hours (I soak them overnight) to soften them. I buy them in bulk from Whole Foods or other natural foods stores.

You then drain the almonds and place them in a blender with 4 cups of water (you can adjust the water to make a thicker or thinner milk).

Blend the almonds and water on high speed for until very well blend. I used the Liquefy setting.

Pour the blended almond milk mixture through a very fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth and allow to drain. You can press on the mixture with a spoon to help the liquid come through the strainer. You may need to do several batches depending on the size of your strainer. You can either compost the pulp or save it for use in a recipe (see below).

Ta dah!

Your almond milk needs to be stored in the refrigerator, and should stay fresh for about 4-7 day (although I have found that it doesn’t usually last that long in my house!)

I was wondering what to do with the leftover almond pulp, so I did a Google search. And thanks to the wonders of the Interwebs, I found filled with great almond pulp recipes a site devoted solely to almond pulp recipes! I plan to make yummy-sounding savory almond pulp crackers using fresh herbs from my garden.