Monday, July 30, 2007

Sambar Rice

A lunchbox recipe

Keep these ready :

Cooked rice – 2 cups
Tuvar dal – 1 cup
Tomatoes – 2 nos
Small onions – 10 nos
Drumstick – 1 no
Carrot – 1 no
Turmeric – a pinch
Chilly powder – 1 tspn
Coriander powder -2 tspn
Tamrind extract – 2 tbl spn

Mustard – 1 tspn
Methi seeds – ¼ tspn
Red chilly – 2 nos
Green chilly – 2 nos
Curry leaves – few


Pressure cook tuvar dal with one tomato chopped into pieces.

Take a pan. Add oil and add the seasoning items.
Add onions. Saute till they become soft.
Add chopped tomato.
When it is cooked, add the vegetables. ( You can use bringal/ash gourd/pumpkin). You can use vegetables of your choice.
Add turmeric,chiily powder, coriander powder and salt.
Mix well.Add enough water to cook the vegetables.
Cover and cook for 10 mts.
If the vegetables are cooked well, add the cooked tuvar dal. Mash the dal before adding.
Add the tamarind extract. When it starts boiling remove from fire.
Add fresh coriander and curry leaves.
Take the rice in a bowl. Slightly mash it with the ladle. Mix sambar with the rice well.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Green Building Exchange

Here's a new resource right here in the Bay Area, Redwood City. A place for homeowners and industry pros to come together to collaborate on green building projects and research green building products in a hands-on way, with vendors displaying their wares in a home & garden show environment.


Q - What does Green Building Exchange do?

A - Green Building Exchange (GBE) provides connections between people wanting to design, construct, remodel, landscape, or decorate sustainable buildings and the professionals that can help them. Green building is a relatively new field, and it requires specialized skills not broadly available from most designers, contractors, and vendors. Green Building Exchange saves time and resources for both the people wanting sustainable buildings and the professionals who want to locate customers.

GBE also provides informational and educational services to the public. These include online interviews with green building industry leaders, and events Tomorrow, 7/28/07, Grand Open House open to the public.

Q - How does Green Building Exchange work?

A - If you have a green building project that you need any kind of help with, simply fill out a form stating your requirements, available here . We will locate green building professionals who can help you with your project, and pass on your information on to them. The professionals will contact you directly, we will not be involved.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Foreclosures Go Through The Roof

This is a sad story. And doubly sad for folks like me.
Our economy has been built on the housing market for years.
Ever since the last housing recession in the early 90's in California.

No telling where this is going to end.
Oh dear.


Maddur Vada

This popular snack of Karnataka is named after the town Maddur in Mandhya district. This vada is unique to the Karnataka state.
Here goes the recipe for mouthwatering, crispy vadas, which I learnt from a cookery show in a television channel

You need:
Raw rice powder – 1 cup
Wheat flour – ½ cup
Rava – ½ cup
Maida- ½ cup
Onion – 1
Curry leaves – 4 strands
Green chilly – 4 nos
Oil – for deep frying

How to make the vadas

Mix all the flours,salt, chopped onion, chillies and curry leaves. Mix well
Heat 3 tbspn of oil to smoking point. Pour the oil to the mix
Take a small portion of the mixture and mix water. Make a soft dough.
It is not advisable to mix the whole portion with water, since by the
time we prepare, the mixture will be soggy and it will absorb too
much of oil. Also you may not get crispy vadas.

Take a plastic sheet. Grease it with oil. Take a small ball of the mixture and keep it on the sheet.
Spread to thin vadas of small pappad size by your fingers.
Deep fry with medium flame.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Raddish Chutney


Medium sized raddish – 2 Nos
Onion - 1

Coriander seeds – 1 tb spn
Methi seeds – ¼ tspn
Urad dhal – 1 ½ tspn
Red chilli – 2
Jeera – ½ tspn


Grate the raddish and fry it with little oil.
Saute onion.
Roast coriander seeds, urad dal, red chilli, methi seeds and jeera with little oil.
While roasting, add jeera and methi towards the end since it might get burnt.
Grind all the ingredients, except onion, to a fine paste.
Then add onion and grind coarsely.

This chutney goes well with dosa and chappathi.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Green Cabinets by Crystal

I have been meaning to blog about Crystal Cabinet Works' efforts to create environmentally responsible cabinets in a factory setting for some time.
Here goes:

Crystal, based in Princeton, MN, USA, has been working on creating water-based formulas for its catalyzed varnish finishes since I was a Crystal dealer in the mid-90's. They long ago achieved that goal, and many other cabinet manufacturers have followed suit. But, to my knowledge, Crystal was the leader in this effort.

They also, at the same time, were a leader in Minnesota in cutting their negative impact on the local environment and on their employees' health.

Last year Crystal led again with their offering of Green Core by Crystal:

Crystal’s Green-Core products are made with materials that have a reduced effect on human health and the environment and are a perfect option for the environmentally- and health-conscious consumer. When you choose Green-Core by Crystal, you get the added environmental benefits and the finest custom cabinetry with a tradition of handcrafted quality for 60 years.

Green-Core Boxwork (special request)
Renewable wood fiber and no added urea-formaldehyde resins are combined in Green-Core by Crystal. Low-emitting Green-Core boxwork meets or exceeds the performance requirements of competing products and is available by special request:

Green-Core: A 100% recycled exterior grade particleboard available in Crystal, Quest, or Inset box constructions.

Green-Core Plus: A plywood made with a patented soy-based resin available in Crystal Plus, Quest Plus or Inset Plus box constructions.

When ordering, specify Green-Core, Green-Core Inset or Green-Core Plus along with the appropriate cabinet lines. Special pricing and extended lead times may apply.

Green-Core Doors (special request)
Crystal’s wood veneer door styles available with a substrate of no added urea-formaldehyde 100% Recycled Green-Core MDF:
(door styles)Redondo, Springfield and Manhattan

Crystal’s laminate door styles available with a substrate of no added urea-formaldehyde 100% Recycled Green-Core Particleboard:
(door styles)Albany, Chesterfield, Esprit, Glenview, Lansdale, Plateau, Prescott, Westhaven

Green Building Points

Using Green-Core materials in your kitchen may help qualify your project for points under the recycled content and low-emitting materials sections of prominent green building third party verification systems:

LEED — Green-Core cabinetry qualifies as Environmentally Preferable Products in the revised LEED for homes.
Green Home Guidelines
GreenPoint Rated [Bay Area California]

Complementary Choices

Wood Specie: Consider choosing LYPTUS®4, a premium-grade hardwood that is grown in South America on highly productive plantations. LYPTUS® is mixed with indigenous trees to preserve and sustain native ecosystems. It has a short renewal cycle and can be harvested in just 14-16 years compared to 50-70 years for North American hardwoods. LYPTUS® ranges in color from red to brown, resembling mahogany, and
is available from Crystal in an array of beautiful dark stains.

Another option is BAMBOO, a rapidly-renewable plant-based product. Bamboo, a fast growing grass, is strong, durable and finishes beautifully with many of the same characteristics as wood. Bamboo may qualify for green building points due to its rapid renewability. Bamboo doors can be manufactured with low-emitting Green-Core substrate.

Finish: Consider choosing a less material-intensive natural finish to complement the natural characteristics inherent in your wood doors and drawer fronts.

There are a few smaller plants and local shops attempting to provide cabinet products for those consumers who are sensitive to formaldehyde off-gassing, or just those who want to be better stewards of our earth. But Crystal is the one major American cabinet manufacturer who is again leading the way to sustainability in what was once a pretty unhealthy product.

I commend Jeff Hammer, Crystal's long-time President, and his staff for their efforts in this regard. It's a great product and getting better all the time.

Also, Linda Clark of Floorcraft in Burlingame, my favorite Crystal Dealer, tells me that they have put a large display of Crystal's Green Cabinets in their San Francisco showroom at 470 Bayshore Boulevard. Call first to see when Linda might be working there. You'll like her a lot.


Lisa Taking the Bar Today

My daughter Lisa is taking the California Bar exam today.

She's been studying maniacally ever since she graduated from Hastings in May.

Inhabiting Starbucks, with her laptop and stacks of Barbri books and outlines, ever more condensed, day by day, week by week, month by month.

She has documented her travails with a blog.
Sharing with others her highs and lows.
It's been great for me to read and know when she needed an extra helping of encouragement.

Good LUCK Lisa!!!
The world needs another caring barrister to right the wrongs and injustices.
And good luck to all the other bar-takers too!

(Proud Mom) Peggy

Study: Finding The Right Contractor

This is from a Press Release on MarketWire.
It is so good, and self-explanatory, I am just posting it verbatim.


Finding The Right Contractor – Home Improvement Survey Points To The Best Ways
July 11, 2007

In a recent national study of 1,015 US homeowners, Consumer Specialists found that 66% of them had used a contractor for a home improvement project in the past. Overall levels of satisfaction were high with 76% saying that they were either extremely or very satisfied with the project. On a 7 point scale, the average rating was a 5.9 – almost to the level of very satisfied.

It is the 5% who reported that they were very or extremely dissatisfied that we hear about. The question often raised is how to improve your odds of being one of the highly satisfied customers? According to this survey, how the contractor was located had a marked impact on homeowner’s overall satisfaction with the project.

Those who used a contractor with whom they had previous personal experience were the most satisfied – significantly besting all other methods of finding a contractor. Referrals from family, friends and neighbors placed second in satisfaction followed by getting a recommendation from another contractor.

Having the contractor supplied by a home improvement store, finding them in a telephone directory or via advertising turned out to be significantly less satisfying than the top two locating methods.

“Nothing beats personal knowledge or independent referrals to get the best results for home improvement projects," said Fred Miller, President of Consumer Specialists. "Surprisingly, those that used a home improvement store provided contractor did about the same as those that used advertising as they way they found their contractor.”

This data comes from “In the Beginning” a special research project focused on understanding how homeowners approach that critical starting period in their projects. Included is the identification of three groups of consumers with different focuses to seeking information. They are (followed by the % of homeowners they represent): online (17%), personal network (23%) and contractor (23%) focused. The report on this study is available in a unique combined presentation/report format.

Please contact us for full information on this research report..

For More Information Contact:

Consumer Specialists
8265 Green Holly Cove, Germantown, TN 38138
Tel: 901 757-5865

Email to

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Baingan Kurma

Things Needed

Brinjal - 1/2 Kg
Onion - 100 gm
Tomato - 200gm
Curd - 1/2 cup
Oil - 2 tbpsn
Garam masala - 1/2 tspn

Grinding -1

Garlic - 50 gm
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Chilli powder - 1 tbsp
Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
cumin seed - 1/2 tsp

khus khus (poppy seeds) - 2 tsp
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

Grinding -2

Grated coconut- 1/4 cup


Cut the brinjal into long pieces. Apply little chilly powder,turmeric and salt. Keep it for 15 minutes.
Heat oil in a pan and shallow fry the brinjals till light brown and remove.
In the remaining oil, fry onion till soft.
Add the grinded masala 1 to it and fry till aroma comes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and salt
When tomoatoes are cooked, add the fried brinjal and add little water.
Cook for 5 mts till the gravy thickens.
Add the grounded coconut paste and beaten curd.
Cook till it boils.
Sprinkle garam masala powder and remove.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yossawat's Villa

I came across a lovely new blog tonight and just have to acknowledge it, even though the creator Yossawat is mysterious and I can't figure out where he/she is from.

I was drawn there by an image of Villa N├Ąckros : Modern floting home. A stunning home on the water by Swedish architect Staffan Strindberg...My dream as long as someone else maintains it.

The bedroom is on the bottom (split) level, so you are sleeping right at the water level. I am so in love with this concept.


Stunning Beadboard Tile

This beadboard tile from Hastings Tile Collection is a stunner, in a bath or kitchen it evokes a Victorian feeling (Click the image for a larger view).

I'd pass on the fussy liner tile at the top under the chair rail. But the rest is just wonderful!

I found it on, a super web site for extended browsing.


Microwave Tomato Rasam


Medium sized tomatoes - 2 Nos

Tamarind extract - 2 tbspn
Water - 2 cups
Red chilly - 3
Jaggery powdered - 1/2 tbspn (Optional)

For Powdering

Pepper - 5 corns
Coriander seeds - 1 tbspn
Cumin seeds - 1 tspn

Slightly fry all the three ingredients and powder them finely.


Make puree of the tomatoes

Take a microwave safe bowl. Mix tomato puree,tamrind extract, water,salt, jaggery, powdered masala.Add the red chillies after breaking into two.

Keep in the oven for 4 mts at micropower high

Stir once and keep for another 1 minute depending on your oven type.

Season with mustard seeds. Add curry leaves and coriander leaves.

You can use this rasam with rice or drink it as soup. It will be a good appetizer.

Microwave Mysurpa

This is the microwave version of the mysurpa. Unlike the traditional way of making, this is quite easy and can be quickly made.

Besan flour - 1 cup
Powdered sugar - 2 cups
Ghee - 1 cup
Milk - 2 tspn

Lightly fry the besan. This is just to remove the raw smell of besan. You can as well heat the pan for few minutes till it turns hot. Remove the pan from fire. Then add besan and keep mixing for sometime. That heat is enought to roast the besan flour.

Mix besan,powdered sugar and ghee in a microwave safe bowl. Make sure no lumps are there.

Keep it in oven for 2 1/2 mts at micropower high.

Take the bowl out and add milk and mix well.

Again keep for 2 1/2 mts at micropower high.
Here please check after one minute .Becoz, the heat differs from oven to oven.So there is a chance that it might get burnt if kept for a longer time. So check in between. You can make out the change in the color of the mixture. It froths.

Remove the bowl and mix well.

Transfer the contents to a greased plate.

When cool, cut into pieces.

You get very soft,tasty mysurpas in five mts

Total prepration time - 15 mts

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Q & A on Painted Finish Cabinets


At 09:02 PM 7/11/2007, Ann wrote:
Hello! We are in the process of choosing maple wood, white, and inset door style (recessed not raised) cabinets for kitchen.
I know Woodmode is a great company but wanted to compare pricing with 2 other companies: Durasupreme and Yoder.

This is our concern...for white color (baked) on maple wood is this type of style more likely to have paint cracking problems because of general moisture of paint on wood?
The Yoder company prefers using MDF painted white for the door only because of the cracking issues w/painted wood.

I don't like the look of MDF painted white.

The Durasupreme uses solid maple painted (baked white) for door but it seems to show a slight bit of cracking.

What is it about Woodmode that they don't have the slight separation and cracking with the painted white maple doors?
What do they do with their application process that prevents this?
Is maple painted white risky with any other cabinet company other than Woodmode?



Thanks for your question Ann.

Wood-mode uses a catalyzed conversion varnish that LOOKS like white paint.
I believe Dura-Supreme does too.
I don't know what Yoder uses.

Wood-mode pays more attention to finish than almost any other company; except the ultra-high-end cabinet lines, like Rutt.
That's what makes their product such a good value.
Catalyzed varnish is both harder and more elastic than paint.

That being said, you will STILL get cracking at the seams where the stiles (side pieces) and rails (top and bottom pieces) of the doors and face frames are glued and doweled or screwed together.
Wood moves, expanding and contracting with the relative humidity or lack thereof.
That's what causes the cracking, and it is unavoidable.
In fact, an oak door with a stained and varnished finish also cracks at the seams.
You only SEE the cracking though, when the finish is paint-like.

The door samples you are viewing may be newer (Wood-mode) or older (Dura-Supreme).
You can look on the back of the door sample to determine when they were made.
Older sample doors will exhibit more cracking at the seams than more recently manufactured ones, because they have endured more cycles of humidity and dryness.
The Dura-Supreme door may have also been abused by a dealer who is uncaring about his samples.
There should be scuffs on the door if that's the case.

I actually prefer to see the cracking rather than the (strangely) pristine look of MDF.
In my opinion, MDF looks unnatural and too contemporary for most traditional homes.
I also think the extra weight of MDF makes the hinges fail sooner than they would with a paint grade hardwood like maple or birch.
Believe me. You don't want the hassle of failing hinges.
MDF is also a much cheaper material than birch or maple (So the Yoder bid would be less).

I ran into a problem recently with Crystal, another cabinet company from Iowa, near Dura-Supreme's factory. They were, newly, doing all their center panels in MDF.
I insisted on maple or birch. And my clients, unfortunately, had to pay an upcharge to get it.
Again, I have seen so many broken hinges over the years, that I really am prejudiced against MDF.

"Is maple painted white risky with any other cabinet company other than Wood-mode?"
Yes, to a degree. Only you can decide whether the extra cost is worth the nicer finish.

Story: When I opened my store I took the displays from my previous employer and re-used them in my new showroom.
We dismantled the displays and stored them for a while in my condo while I looked for a location.
It was pouring down rain that day and the cabinets got very wet in trucking them there and hauling them up the stairs.
Once I found my new location, we transported them there and reassembled them.
The white display came out beautifully and was the "star" of my showroom.
THAT's how durable a catalyzed varnish paint finish can be.

You can be comforted to know that those cracks have been there as long as humans have been making five-part cabinet doors...A LONG time. And that the cracks are superficial and do not indicate that the door itself is coming apart.

Good luck with your kitchen.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kaboost Chair for Toddlers


Here is a cool gadget that makes a sturdy and safe highchair (without the tray) out of an ordinary, four legged, kitchen or dining room chair.

Little ones can sit right at the table with Grandma and Grandpa without Mommy or Daddy having to haul along the highchair.

At $39.99 it's a reasonable alternative to a high chair or booster seat.
And at 3.5 lbs. it can easily stash in the car or closet until needed.

I am heading up a community service project for CORA (Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse) right now.
CORA provides a safe house in San Mateo, CA, for abused women and their of several on the Peninsula.
CORA people are life savers who need to turn on a dime to offer aid in emergencies.
Women and their children come fleeing trauma and in fear for their lives.
They need to be nurtured and kept safe while they recover and get on their feet.

Some designer friends and I are redoing the third floor apartment and this looks like an ideal solution to the problem of having to store a highchair until you need it.
We have come up with all kinds of creative and flexible interior design solutions to deal with the problems CORA volunteers and staff have with not knowing who, or how, the next person who calls is going to need to be helped.

This is another solution I will have to propose.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Appliance Notes: Kitchen & Bath Search Engine

This entry doesn't just apply to appliances, but it is most useful for consumers searching for appliances.
So that's where I posted it.

For my designer friends who stop by here...You've gotta see this!
It's probably the BIGGEST thing to hit the K&B business since the Web itself.


Cabinet Intallation Tools Article

It's been a long time since I installed a cabinet. Back then there was not much available but a (plugged in) drill, clamps, patience, a strong back, and MUSCLE!

I just came across a great article, Cabinet Installer's Toolbox, by builder/remodeler Mike Guertin, on all the latest tools of the trade in Remodeling Magazine. He even provides us with links to buy them!

You may still decide to go with the old fashioned way; but at least you'll know there IS help out there, if the back, or the patience, gives out.


A Kitchen Table That Doubles as a Counter

Italian cabinet company Arclinea is showing a table mounted on a hydraulic jack that moves up or down as needs change from prep to eating.
Very cool.


"Your kitchen isn’t a static environment and your work island shouldn’t be either. Arclinea introduces hidden technology with benefits easily enjoyed. The company’s hydraulics-based technology changes the functional makeup of the island with its integrated “up-down” table that adapts on demand, depending on user and use. The elegant planked wooden table easily rises from dining-table-height to counter-height (or anywhere in between), allowing users of different heights and abilities to easily switch from a lowered dining table to ergonomic work surface, with a single press of a button."


Top Five Kitchen & Bath Trends from Remodelers

I gleaned these trends from an article on Kitchen & Bath Trends in Professional Remodeling Magazine.


"The consumer today certainly has a lot more product knowledge than even a few years ago, but at the same time it can be very overwhelming for clients,"

"The problem for most consumers is that there is so much information out there, they don't know where to start. They may have plenty of ideas, but they need a professional's help to make them work."

1. Opening up the kitchen. Integrating the style of the kitchen with the style of the home.

More windows, more light.
Moving away from the formal dining room

2. Individuality in Design

2a. Personalized Cabinet Selections:

"We see everything. We're still doing white cabinets. We're seeing a lot of the European country trends, and at the same time, we'll see more stylish looks, like Asian fusion."
"Nobody's using oak. Cherry and maple are the two most popular."
Darker colors, simpler, less-detailed cabinet doors.
More emphasis on hardware details such as pulls and hinges."

2b. Eclectic & Unique Countertops:

More one-of-a-kind counters.
Other materials - wood, glass and concrete.
Mixing of materials.
Thicker granite tops - stacking two slabs on top of each other.

3. Functional & Energy Efficient Appliances:

Focusing on the function.
Energy-efficiency affects choices.

4. Building Green Kitchens - New but Growing:

Re-using demolished materials.
Many clients ask but few follow through.

5. Bigger, Lighter, More Spa-like Baths:

Build a "retreat".
More space - fewer divisions.
Open things up.
More light.
Luxury features, especially in master baths.
Glass & glass block
Two users simultaneously.
Hotel features - heated floors, towel warmers and multiple shower heads.
Furniture-style lavatories -darker, richer colors/finishes.
Flat screen television in the bath.

"Green remodeling is playing a role in bathrooms as well, with an increased interest in renewable materials and water conservation through the use of dual-flush toilets and other technologies."
"Advances in ventilation systems are also improving indoor air quality."
"Installing many environmentally friendly fans that run at a constant low level to circulate the air, then automatically cycle up or down when someone enters or leaves the room. Interest in central exhaust fans. They are located away from the bathrooms in the attic and draw from two or three locations. They last longer and create much less noise."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Coriander Chutney

Kothamalli Thokayal


Coriander leaves - 1 cup
curry leaves - 1 strand (optional)
urad dal - 2 tb spn
red chilli - 3 nos
tamarind paste - tbspn

How to prepare
Raost urad dal and red chilli with a teaspoon of oil. When urad dal turns red, remove from fire
Saute coriander and curry leaves for a minute, till they change the color.
Grind all the ingredients to a coarse paste. Thokayals taste good if it is grinded caorsely.

Enjoy with molakootal. This will go with dosa/chappathis also.

Madras Vethakozhambu

I think I should rename this as chennai vethakozhambu...

Chundakka/manathankkali vethal - 2 tb spn
Red chilli - 2 nos
methi seeds - 1 tspn
small onion - 8 nos (optional)
mustard - 1 tspn
Gingelly oil (Nallennai) - 2 tbspn
tamarind - small lemon size
turmeric - a pinch

Coriander seeds - 2 tbspn
red chilli - 6 nos
jeera - 1 tspn
methi seeds- 1 tspn
curry leaves - 1 strand

Grind the above ingredients in powder form. Don't add water. It is not necessary that it should be powdered finely.

Take a wok. Add gingelly oil (I prefer nallennai. it tastes good).
Add mustard seeds. when splutters, add red chilly and vethal.
Let it fry for 2/3 minutes
Add onions and saute till it turns brown.
Then add the grinded masala . Fry for a minute.
Add the extracted tamarind juice, turmeric and salt.
Let it simmer and when it starts to thicken, remove from fire.

Small quanitity of the kozhambu is taken while mixing with rice unlike sambhar and other kootans.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Cabinet Installation Article

I just came across the BEST article I've ever seen on installing face frame kitchen cabinets, or any cabinets for that matter.

It's on Woodweb's Knowledge Base.

Installing Framed Cabinets, by Carl Hagstrom, originally appeared in the Journal of Light Construction.

If you are going the DIY route, this should be your bible.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Nenthrapazham varattiyathu - (Banana in jaggery syrup)

Ripe banana - 1
Powdered jaggery - 4 tbspn
ghee- 2 tspn
powdered cardamom - 1/2 tspn

Take one ripe nethrapazham variety of banana. It shld not be over ripe.
Cut into circles of 1/4 inch thick pcs. Don't slice into thin circles since it will be get mashed when u mix later.
Take a non-stick pan.
Add a tspn of ghee and add the banana pcs.
Cook it over low heat.
When it is 3/4 th cooked, add powdered jaggery and mix well.
Cover and cook for 5 mts.
The jaggery would have melted and get coated over the banana pcs. Remove from fire and half a tspn of ghee and a tspn of cardamom powder.

A good breakfast accompaniment. healthy too....

Following the same steps,it can be cooked in microwave oven also.