When a mixer at Target cheers you on

Oct 18, 2011 by Hiromi Ogawa

Topics: Food, Life, Materials

John Lautner at LACMA through July 24 2011

Jul 15, 2011 by Hiromi Ogawa

A must see for anyone who will lives in LA or will be visiting in the next month.

Topics: Architecture, Life

Join us in helping Japan

Mar 15, 2011 by Hiromi Ogawa

In the aftermath of the recent earthquake :

We are doing research to see how we can assist in the rebuilding of stricken areas.  In the mean time, OFA has donated money to the Red Cross on behalf of our firm.  If you feel the urge to help, please donate your time or money to allow the Red Cross to help those with immediate needs.  Contributions can start as low as $10.

Topics: Life

Nagging energy questions, answered

Dec 15, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

Porch lights are great, especially during Halloween.

Ever wondered how much it costs you to leave your computer or porch light on all night?  Here's your answer. Cliff Notes: Turn computer off when not in use, you're bleeding money even if it's in sleep mode.  Leave porch light on (it does wonders for neighborhood safety) but use a compact fluorescent (and a timer, too - then it turn off in the morning and you don't even have to think about it).

Topics: Life, Materials

What is happening

Nov 11, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

I've been thinking a lot about Coco Chanel lately.  Not just her mark on fashion history, but also her profound and timeless quotes.  I enjoy how so many of them can transcend the fashion context and be applied to design in general.  Here is one I especially like: Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. Replace "fashion" with "architecture", and "dresses" with "buildings".  I couldn't have said it better.   The best designs are a balanced commentary on its surroundings. I find the best inspiration in the mundane and everyday, like wet footprints, a warm towel right out of the dryer, and the quiet of early morning hours.

or dry footprints... although I don't know how this is possible.

What inspires you to create?  What do you think is beautiful?

Topics: Inspiration, Life


Nov 2, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

The word "ratatouille" evokes many thoughts and images in our household.

For my three-year old son, it's an image of a talking rat, fuzzy and adorable.  After watching the movie "Ratatouille" for the 38th time, he finally realized that "Ratatouille" was not the name of the main character, but the name of a dish that is made in the movie. It will probably be another 38 viewings until he is tired of watching it.

via Disney

For David, ratatouille is "a pain in the butt".  Traditionally, every vegetable is cooked separately, then tossed together at the end; the process is time-consuming and well, a pain in the butt.  In his mind, it's also difficult to spell, difficult to pronounce, all around pain-in-the-butt.

For me, it's the quintessential French bistro dish that takes me back to my brief time in Paris.  It's the comfort food of a culture I adore.  So when I found this recipe that adds lots of other ingredients but abbreviates the cooking process, I jumped at the chance of recreating a little bit of France in our kitchen.

We had just made some eggplant curry (a favorite in our household, let me know if you want the recipe) and had some Asian vegetables left in our fridge.  I'm kind of a purist when it comes to recipes and like to do exactly what they say, at least for the first go-around, but since this particular recipe was already a tangent from the traditional ratatouille, I figured it would be acceptable if the vegetables weren't exactly right.

The result was amazing - a great use of many vegetables, the smell of a Paris bistro permeating the house, and the taste of fall, hearty and warming.

image by Dana Treatvia Dana Treat

Adapted from Dana Treat
Serves 3-4

Olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 red peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small winter squash, peeled and seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces (I used unpeeled delicata squash)
½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (I used snake beans)
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used Chinese eggplant)
1 medium potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. tomato paste
Chopped parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a large and preferably oven proof pot over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the onions and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté for 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic, chile, and red peppers and fry for another 5 minutes.  Add the winter squash and continue frying for another 5 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from the pot and set aside in a bowl.  Add a bit more oil and then add the green beans, zucchini, and eggplant to the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Return the contents of the bowl to the pot.  Add the potato, tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, and another large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Stir well and allow to cook for 5 minutes.  Pour in enough water to half cover the vegetables.  Cover with a lid and leave to simmer gently, lowering heat as necessary, for 30 minutes.  Taste the vegetables and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  If your pot is oven-proof, remove the cover and place the pot in the oven.  If not, transfer the vegetables and their liquid to a large deep roasting pan.  Either way, bake for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Stir in the parsley and serve.

Topics: Food, Life

Check out a Kill A Watt

Sep 28, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

Our local Multnomah Public Library lets patrons borrow a Kill A Watt device to use in their home.  This device measures how many watts your fixture or appliance uses.  You just plug the appliance into the device, and the device into an outlet.  You can also measure phantom energy loads, which is the amount of energy an appliance uses even when it's technically turned off.  You know that little red light that says your TV is off?  Or the digital clock on your trusty microwave?  The Kill A Watt can tell you how much energy those little things are using, too.

The best solution for saving phantom energy is to plug a cluster of appliances into a power strip, then switch off the power strip when those appliances are not in use.  This is especially helpful around the media console - TV, stereo, DVD player, etc. - where it's a pain to turn everything off one at a time.  I know those digital clocks are reset every time they are unplugged, but do you really need 13 synchronized digital clocks in your kitchen? I didn't think so.

The device has been around for a while, but what got me excited is the fact that my library lets me and everyone else check it out and use it.  Not everyone needs to own a Kill A Watt, but I bet many people want to try it out for a few weeks around their home.  Find out if your local library has this device or something similar available, and if not, it would be worth requesting it.

The Hakone Open-Air Museum

Sep 9, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

I just returned from Japan, where it has been unusually hot this summer.  To escape the heat, my family and I stayed in Hakone for a few days.  (It is higher in altitude than Tokyo but we found that it was equally hot in Hakone, too.)  The area is known for its beautiful countryside and historic hot spring, but during this visit we also fell in love with the Hakone Open-Air Museum.

Most of the work is installed outdoors, where the sun and foliage play against the art.  Many of the pieces were interactive, like the garden maze above.

Even though the art never seemed overcrowded, there were things to see at every turn.  It felt like an outdoor version of Charles and Ray Eames' living room: things weren't on display, they were placed as a backdrop for living.

We could also make our own sculpture, using colorful foam pieces imagined by architect Mikiko Endo. (I love the fact that architects in Japan work on such a wide range of artistic projects.)

Almost everything in the museum was enjoyable for children.  They seemed to understand what the art wanted them to do - to touch, to inquire, and to enjoy.  The child in me really liked the woven sculpture by Toshiko Horiuchi, housed in a heavy timber pavilion by Tezuka Architects.

I feel refreshed and inspired after seeing art and architecture working together to create an environment that everyone can enjoy.  I recommend you visit the museum next time you're in Japan.

Topics: Art, Inspiration, Life

My next Father's Day gift

Jun 1, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

David, your Father's Day gift from me to you will not only look cool, it will help you locate your ever-elusive cell phone and charger.

Topics: Inspiration, Life

Food Matters

Apr 26, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

I don't mean to, but lately everything I read or see seems to be about food.  Nothing wrong with that, I've been obsessed with food and always have an appetite no matter what time of day. And lately my all-consuming hobby of cooking and eating and everything food-related has taken on a tangential interest in how we grow, process, and package our food.  I vaguely recall this interest gaining traction when, four years ago, Lynn and I were pregnant at the same time.  We would talk about toxins passed on to our babies, and later we had long discussions about BPA in plastic baby bottles (among other things).

These days I've been reading  Food Matters by  Mark Bittman.  I put it on my Amazon wish list after trying repeatedly to check it out of the library, only to return it two weeks later with hardly any progress.  I can only find time to read before bed, and beside my bed I always have more books than I can possibly read in a year.  As with food, my eyes are bigger than my "stomach" (time, or time management skills).  My sister finally bought if for me last Christmas.

This book has kept me up too late some nights, both from reading and thinking.  I wouldn't do it justice to summarize it here; if you are interested in learning about where your food comes from, and what you can do to change how food is made, what effects it has on your body and your surroundings, I would encourage you to read it.  It follows a long chain of eye-opening documentaries and books that I've encountered,  the list of which includes Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, the movies Supersize Me and Food Inc.

Some friends and we made pizzas in David's kiln last weekend and it was enjoyable on so many levels: preparing the dough a day in advance, washing and prepping, carmelizing the onions, cooking down the tomato sauce, combining ingredients that others have brought, throwing the pizza into the kiln, watching it come out with blackened edges and melted cheese, cutting, serving, eating, talking, drinking...  And part of the joy was in trusting the authenticity and purity of each ingredient and each process as the pizza went from pieces to pie.  It was satisfying on many levels.

Topics: Food, Life