Other News: Eat Your Books, Trail Crew Soap and Testing a new camera lens

It’s been a slow week for industry news, and will likely stay that way through the holidays as brands and designers spend their available hours competing for your dollars. So rather than talk about the latest Christopher Kane gossip or tut-tutting over Black Friday madness, I thought maybe we could spend our time on other topics today.

1.) Eat Your Books: I don’t know about you, but as I’ve begun to build up a collection of cookbooks, it’s become a much more time-consuming task to find a recipe for a particular type of dish I wish to prepare — because I now have a growing pile of source material to comb through.

It’s like searching for a needle in a haystack . . . or for a pig in a bunch of blankets.

So it was a huge relief to run across the Eat Your Book website, where thousands of popular and newly released cookbooks have been indexed and all the recipes catalogued, so that all I have to do is enter the names of the books I own into a “My Library” section, then do a computer search through my entire collection for, say, a recipe that deals with lamb shoulder, or a dessert featuring lemon custard.

Come out, come out, wherever you are

Since it would be a copyright violation (if not just plain rude) for the site to print out all the recipes step by step, what they do is list all recipe titles for each book indexed, along with the ingredients involved in preparation, so that users can then decide from among the various options available to them out of their own stash of books.

It saves *a lot* of time and cuts back on the excessive hair-tearing resulting from repeated bouts of “I swear I saw a recipe for that in one of my books!” syndrome. The service is US $2.50 a month or $25 a year, and includes access to a member forum and reviews.

I signed up immediately.

2.) Juniper Ridge is one of my favourite small-business success stories, with a truly DIY aesthetic and its heart in all the right places. While they make a range of scented products derived from natural oils sustainably harvested during hiking treks through canyons and mountains, I’ve always been partial to their bar soaps — they smell like tree saps and wild herbs, which reminds me of camping in Northern Michigan and hot summer days spent at the many lakes surrounding the small town where I grew up.

The big drawback to their bar soaps, however, was that they melted in the shower like . . . well, like quick melty things! Which wouldn’t be a big deal if they weren’t $10 a pop. So while I loved the bar soap (especially the peppery, leathery, white-sage infused San Jacinto), I never ordered any additional bars beyond the first batch as it was just too painful to watch $10 evaporate that quickly.

But a few months ago, the company sent me a bottle of a new product they were developing — a liquid version of their awesome bar soaps called Trail Crew Soaps — the scents are just as natural and fresh, the liquid isn’t too sudsy or filmy, and while it’s $35 a bottle, I can easily control the amount I’m using and there’s no waste in the shower from over-splash.

I’m totally sold.

Juniper Ridge liquid soaps — naturally brewed

The good people at Juniper Ridge sent me the Cascade Glacier to try, which is as terrifically fresh and piney as a cool/shadowy hiking trail in a Pacific Northwest forest, but it’s their San Jacinto that I’m placing an order for as soon as I finish typing this entry.

*NOTE: Juniper Ridge’s Trail Crew Soap packaging is recyclable, carrier ingredients (coconut, olive and jojoba oils) are organic, and all fragrance materials are extracted utilising pre-industrial perfume techniques, from juice presses to converted whiskey stills and copper piping.

3.) I picked up a new camera lens for doing walk-around street photography, and now that we’re heading into summer here in the Southern Hemisphere, I’ll probably be outside using it rather than sitting inside behind my computer all day (or, at least, that’s the plan). That’s bad for fashion news collecting, but great for my own personal sense of well-being.

Here’s an image I snagged while trudging about yesterday down by the waterfront in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour area:

Skatin' with Attitude in Auckland's Viaduct Harbour
Skater kids . . . with personality

I’m still very much in the learning process with this particular lens (and only just barely beyond teething when it comes to the camera itself), and as it’s the biggest lens I own, it’s fairly heavy to carry around. It’s still just portable enough on the extreme end of things, but my arms and shoulder hurt like a mutherf***er by the time I got home.

I’ve realised that Landscape photography is gorgeous and wonderful and patient and fantastic to do (and it’s very calming), but taking candid pictures of people out on the street is a challenge I’d love to eventually master, as I rarely get it right — the moments are unbelievably fleeting, the subjects are often *not* cooperative and the lighting is constantly changing.

But every once in a while, it’s possible to grab the kind of natural expressions that I find the most interesting to observe:

Spring Day, Auckland
Lunch break down by the waterfront

Yeah, I know, it’s not the kind of picture that’ll win me any admirers — I’ll probably have to go out more in the evening and nighttime to grab any kind of compelling drama. Daytime pics like the one above are catching people while they’re still in their more guarded workplace, workday mode. I enjoy that kind of photo, but the facial expressions aren’t as relaxed and open.


  • Marin

    First, like the new(ish) look.

    Second, OMG to Eat Your Books. I’ve all but ceased using analog cookbooks, partly because they’re scattered all over the kitchen and dining room, and partly because it’s so much easier to Google for a recipe.

    But I have such wonderful cookbooks, a searchable index would make all the difference.

    Third, nice photos – good composition.

    • Is this the first time you’ve seen the site since it’s been redesigned? Cuz that was, like, ages ago.

      You’re so busted.

      But yeah, I love the job the web designers did for me. It cleaned up the joint, included all my favourite colours, and brought my Twitter and Flickr feeds into the picture, so I’m pleased.

      Second — yes! Eat Your Books! I found the site because I was bitching and cursing at my pile of books as I was trying to find a recipe when it suddenly hit me that someone, somewhere, must have developed some kind of website that does exactly what I needed — puts the basic information at my fingertips so that I can properly utilise the wealth of information in all my books without having to first bang my head against the counter (repeatedly and painfully).

      I think one of the site’s founders is here in New Zealand. I’m going to have to lay flowers at her doorstep. For like a year. Every day.

      My photo composition needs work, but maybe this summer is when I finally get the opportunity to do that.

      • Marin

        Nah, I read it every week. I just realised I’d never said anything when I saw your China tweet featured up top and thought, “That’s cool.” Then I saw the photo block at the bottom and thought, “Huh. I don’t remember that.”

        As it turns out, mostly what triggered me (many weeks ago) was the font change. And I honestly felt dopey commenting on a font.

        Your photo composition speaks of a good instinct. You can’t teach instinct.

        • I do remember that font comment! And being very happy that someone noticed. I think I mentioned that it took me a couple of weeks to choose the font I wanted (after driving the design team crazy by going back and forth and back and forth).

          The photo block on the bottom was a nice addition, I agree. Suddenly, my home page looks content heavy.

          • Marin

            It does look content heavy. And gorgeously so.

            Old. Old and feeble.

            So, I mentioned the font already. Is it lamer that I thought it was lame and mentioned it anyway, or that I subsequently forgot?

            • I think senility is rearing its aged head. Don’t we have a pill for that yet? Oh, right, I left it in the glove compartment of my flying car . . .

  • jordan88888888

    Great liquid soap lead ( bar soap makes shower/bath cleaning laborious ). Online only or here in The Land of The Long White Cloud? Eat your Books – don’t you love it when you think of something and there it is? Let there be …

    • Hi Jordan — Juniper Ridge has (I think) one distributor in Australia, but that’s as close as they get to New Zealand. And even then, the Australia shop doesn’t carry the full line. The liquid soaps are a brand new product, so it might take a bit to make their way through the supply channels.

      I ordered direct from the US, but the shipping is steep.

      And yeah, I was stoked to find Eat Your Books. I was afraid I’d have to start something like that myself, and the thought of how much work it would take was daunting.

  • Liz

    Nathan, what a wonderful post. Eat Your Books! How cool is that? Thank you. And, it may not sound as though I am getting rid of my cookbooks because I have purchased several. But truly I am doing so. Juniper Ridge looks divine and that lens? Wow, beautiful and creative comparisons you made. I really enjoyed perusing you photo comparisons.

    • Hi Liz — As always, so nice to hear from you when you visit.

      You’re getting rid of your cookbooks? All of them, or just the ones that you find you’re not using very much? I only just started putting some on my shelves, so I can’t imagine getting rid of them already, though there will likely be a time when I’m blowing dust off the covers of a couple of them and wondering why in the world I’m still holding on to them.

      The lens is a definite challenge. It’s so different from the others I have, that I’m finding it necessary to learn a whole new way of looking through it and adjusting the settings on my camera in order to get the best out of it.

      Supposedly, the viewfinder on the camera I have is not made for accurate manual focusing, to which I replied, “Wha? What do you mean?!!” I think I have to spring for some kind of third-party replacement viewfinder that will give me a more accurate means of focusing on the fly.

      Until then, however, I getting “this close” to a lot of photos I wish I would have nailed straight on. Learning curves. We haz ’em!