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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Archive for January, 2012

Women Into the Wind: Summiting Volcan Lautaro: Part 1

Posted by Guest | January 30th, 2012 | Filed under Outdoor Sport

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This past December, our friend, Anno Davis and her crew of intrepid women set out to reach the summit of Volcán Lautaro, the highest peak in the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap.  Because its summit requires a difficult and often dangerous expedition through isolated peaks and fierce weather, it has less than a dozen ascents on record. But if successful, Anno’s team would became the first all-female team to reach its precipitous summit.

In this three-part series, Anno chronicles their journey—from chance meeting to blustery ascent—and everything along the way.
By Anno Davis

Meet “Mujeres al viento”, a dreamt-up name roughly translating to “women into the wind”. This group currently consists of five young women whose common thread is a strong desire for outdoor adventure: Adelina Odriozola (Ade), Flavia Mazzina (Fla), Marina Etchart (Meri), María Roldán (Maru) and Andrea Davis (me), all Argentine (from lovely Bariloche, to be precise) except myself. Our paths had crossed in different points in space and time, but all five of us had barely met until we were called together by Maru and Ade in April 2011.

The email invitation was sent from Maru and Ade to six women explaining their careful selection of us. The recipients all shared a passion for getting into the mountains on skis and a series of positive attributes. Their idea: to plan the first of many female outings and challenge ourselves in a male-dominated realm. They suggested, as an ambitious first foray, that we explore the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap on skis—our favorite mode of transport for such snowy places—and that we choose a peak in the area to add some verticality to the otherwise-flat itinerary. Three of us enthusiastically accepted the proposal, beginning a journey of unknown dimensions and implications.

Our first of many meetings over the course of the following five months, would be virtual, with Maru, Ade and I gathered around the computer on Ade’s kitchen table in Mendoza (central Argentina), Fla connected from Jujuy (far north, where she was working), and Meri from Bariloche (south). Amidst our shared excitement of beginning this adventure, we also felt an urgency to put our ideas into words. The Club Andino Bariloche was celebrating its 80th birthday by accepting expedition grant proposals with a deadline of just one month away. It was time to get serious about our goals, choose a peak to ski and begin planning our itinerary, logistics, budget and other aspects that make up a solid expedition. It was complex planning in which none of us had much experience.

Together we chose the ambitious goal of skiing Volcán Lautaro, an active volcano and the highest peak in the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap reaching approximately 11,800 feet (3,600 meters). It is situated in Chilean territory and accessed from the well-known mountaineer’s destination town of El Chaltén in the Santa Cruz province of Argentina. Due to its isolation and severe weather conditions, it has less than a dozen ascents, and we would be the first all-female team to set out with this goal. The Club Andino Bariloche agreed to fund half of our budget, an opportunity too good to be true.

There was no turning back.

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Vespig Summit on one of our training runs

THE PREPARATION

Preparation for the expedition took the better part of five months. We sought out support from everyone we knew and were surprised by the positive responses we received. We were able to cover almost half of our budget with donations and discounts on food and gear (thank you, Nau!), as well as equipment loans. We were even lent a truck to travel from Bariloche to Chaltén, greatly reducing our travel expenses.

We hired a trainer who helped us arrive at the start of the expedition in similar physical conditions. Friends and guides familiar with the area gave us advice. And amidst all the planning, organizing and our regular studies and jobs, we managed to get together on two occasions to go on ski outings in Bariloche and Mendoza to test gear and brush up on different technical, safety-related and organizational skills.

In late October, the five of us finally convened in Bariloche for an intense week of last-minute preparation. The moment had finally arrived. We loaded the truck, hugged friends and family goodbye, and hit the road. I was filled with exhilaration; we had an incredible adventure ahead of us, no matter what the outcome would be.

Stay tuned for next week: In part 2 of our four part series on “Women Into the Wind,” Anno and her crew attempt to summit Volcan Lautaro despite the fierce weather conditions.

Arriving

On our way to Volcán Lautaro

Board Meetings

Posted by Leigh | January 24th, 2012 | Filed under Outdoor Sport, Who We Are

It’s been quiet around the office, but for good reason— winter finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest.

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Posted by leighann | January 12th, 2012 | Filed under Who We Are

We recently received this vintage plate in the mail from one of our loyal customers. It has since found its home near Caitlin’s desk.

Thanks Jon. Keep on rocking, yourself.

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The ins and outs of wool

Posted by leighann | January 10th, 2012 | Filed under Sustainability, Who We Are
Under the lens. Courtesy of Medical Sheepskins.

Under the lens. Courtesy of Medical Sheepskins.

No two wools are alike.
Obviously, we’re big fans of wool. As a natural fiber, it’s able to keep you dry and comfortable across multiple environments. However, despite its many benefits, wool continues to get a bad rap. The most common complaints: it itches, it’s too much work, it shrinks. Sure, this was true of old military style wools, but this versatile fiber has come a long way since the days of scratchy coats and stiff blankets. In fact, over the past few years, we’ve developed a collection of wools which are durable enough to withstand the modern washing machine, yet soft enough to be worn next to the skin.

Here’s a quick look at our collection of knit and woven wools, why they work and how you can make them last a lifetime.

Wool, Up Close
If you look closely (see above), wool looks a lot like the surface of a reptile. Jamie, our textile guru, likens it to a rose bush with thorns. These thorns, more scientifically known as scales, are the main culprits in giving traditional wool its abrasive texture. When washed, these scales interlock and become tighter and tighter causing, what we call, shrinkage.

Our wool fibers go through an anti-shrink process which pacifies these unruly scales and allows them to soften and adhere to the fiber, therefore creating a washable fabric which is softer, smoother, and much more pleasant to wear next to the skin.

A Merino Ram offers up some of the softest wool around. Not to mention, they're pretty amazing looking creatures.

A Merino Ram offers up some of the softest wool around. Not to mention, they're pretty amazing looking creatures.

Wool Knits

Where you’ll find it: Our M1, M2 and M3 merino collections.
How to make it last: The great thing about machine-washable wool is just that—you can throw it in the washing machine and not have to worry if you’ll end up with a shirt that fits a four-year-old. We recommend delicate or gentle cycle.

Some DON’Ts: No bleach and never, absolutely never use a commercial dryer like those found at a laundromat. As Jamie says: “They’re like pottery kilns. They destroy things.” Best to lay flat to dry (and not on a wood-fired stove either). You can also line-dry.

Wool Jackets

Where you’ll find it: men’s and women’s Highline Jacket, Elimeno-Pea Coat
How to make it last: Since dry cleaning is never a sustainable process, we created a wool that we could wash by hand. Of course, if you’re averse to hand washing or just don’t have the time, look into wet cleaning (also known as green cleansing) which utilizes biodegradable soaps and conditioners.

Otherwise, the easiest thing to do: fill up a bathtub with water and a small amount of soap (dishwashing soap works well). Submerge the jacket and let it soak. After a few hours, give it a shake. That way, you’ll free the dirt that’s been loosened by the soap and water.

Rinse. You can do this in one of two ways: fill up a bathtub with water OR wear it in the shower. We’ve never tried the latter option, but we’re fairly certain it does the job.

And lastly: lay flat to dry. Never hang to dry. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting those unsightly hanger marks.

That’s about it. But if you have any more questions about our wools, feel free to contact us at customercare@nau.com.

To learn more about the sustainability of our wool fabrics, check out our Working With Wool section.

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Inspiration for your quiet place

Posted by leighann | January 6th, 2012 | Filed under Design

It’s a foggy Friday here in Portland and all we can think about are ski boots drying by the fire and enjoying a toddy with a few of our close friends in a cabin, somewhere intensely beautiful. To fuel our visions of tranquil getaways, we’ve been perusing the pages of  FreeCabinPorn, a blog that provides “inspiration for your quiet place.” You’ll find a few of our favorites below:

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Grain Surfboards on the Essence of Stuff

Posted by Guest | January 5th, 2012 | Filed under Design, Outdoor Sport, Partnerships, Sustainability

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There are many things we love about our friends at Grain Surfboards. Not only do they build beautiful, natural wood surfboards akin to a work of art, they do it sustainably.  Rooted in traditional boat-building, Grain uses locally harvested cedar to carve out stunning modern boards built to last. And, as we learned, they’re not afraid to share their secrets.

This week, in the Thought Kitchen, our friends at Grain give us a little insight behind the business of building surfboards, how they came to be here, and why you should come to Portland (or their hometown in Maine) to build one of these handcrafted wonders yourself.


Grain Surfboards is a small hive of activity located on the coast of Maine. With our small, tight crew of eight, we handcraft, classic surfboards, out-of-the-ordinary wood belly-boards, hand-planes, and skate boards out of local timber. And in the process of creating beautiful, custom boards, we end up building an off-kilter community of independent thinkers around us.

To find yourself in the business of making stuff for people feels a bit odd, especially to those of us disinclined to accumulate things. But as Brando once said, “one must do something” and at Grain Surfboards, we’ve found that there are deep rewards and contributions to be made even in the world of making what – on the surface – appears to be mere consumer goods.

That may be because of the way we originally came to build surfboards; out of a desire to make our boards in a way that felt more real, more lasting, and of better quality than what we felt was being offered by the so-called “surf industry.” Those origins, combined with our experiences with traditional wood boats, brought us together some years ago. We all had the same idea: to craft surfboards in the same way that boats are built – as a hull around a frame, an essentially hollow vessel, built to last.

Along the way, we discovered that we could adhere to a pretty strict ethos of sustainability, even as we taught others that there were options to the short-lived, industrial surf-craft that has become the norm.  Our teaching roles expanded as we realized the many rewards inherent in “rolling our own” surfboards. We figured out how to assemble wood parts, hardware, and knowledge into the most complete surfboard kit available and began to share the experience of building your own board with people from all over the world. Eventually, we invited people to build boards in our shop. And now thanks to the help of some like-minded companies like Nau, we are able take our classes on the road in cities like Portland, Oregon.

In the process of helping people build their own surfboards or custom build their dream board, we collected a community of people around us. This is one of the great rewards of doing what we do. People often find that what starts as a simple customer-vendor relationship ends in friendship and community. We believe this happens simply because, for us, the emphasis is on the experience and the inherent meaning of what we do rather than on the thing itself.

Ultimately, we found that we can be more than a mere purveyor of stuff. By offering products built with passion that will never see a landfill, we help give surfers a chance to join the collective voice of our customers and friends—a voice that celebrates great experiences, good friends, sustainability, quality and longevity.

In addition to building surfcraft and surfboard kits in Maine, Grain Surfboards holds classes in surfboard building all year long.  A traveling class will be held in Portland, Oregon in an old shipwright’s shop in March.  See details here.

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Our resolution

Posted by leighann | January 3rd, 2012 | Filed under Positive Change, Who We Are

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It’s important to note: this back-handed aphorism isn’t one we use cavalierly. In fact, it’s actually an indelible part of our history. Way back before nau was nau, when we were merely a zygote, a Michael Franti t-shirt caught the eye of our founder. In three words, its bold, unapologetic message perfectly captured the idea behind his radically new business model—or more appropriately deemed—his UNbusiness model. His idea: to create a venture that would undo and unravel the damage that traditional businesses have caused the environment and be the first major apparel company built on sustainability.

He borrowed the axiom and distilled it into a single acronym—UTW—which later became the initial name of our fledging company and has since become (and will always be) our modus operandi. So with that said….

It’s no surprise: our resolution is the same resolution we’ve had since we started—to unfuck the world. Some people might think it’s too lofty, a bit audacious, maybe even haughty. But if we stick to miniscule goals and understated intentions then that’s all we’ll ever accomplish. And we’re fairly certain great ideas weren’t built on losing five pounds in a year or drinking one less cup of coffee a day.

Not to demean personal goals, but we tend to believe that people underestimate their own ability to surprise themselves. So they aim low and take it slow hoping that if they make it to the gym three times a week, they’ve reached their yearly potential. But we can do more, so much more.

Just look at some of the Provocateurs we featured last year. Sean Carasso invented a business model to end a war. His nonprofit, Falling Whistles, helps educate the masses and mobilize Peace forces in the Congo—all by selling whistles. Allison Arieff, former editor of Dwell magazine and current blogger for the NY Times is changing the way we think about sustainable design. And Drummond Lawson—part chemist, part wizard—gleans inspiration from natural ecosystems and blends it with science to create cleaning solutions that even mother nature would use.

Of course, they all have one thing in common—they dream big. They don’t just THINK it’s possible to unfuck the world, they KNOW it’s possible. And we do too. We don’t just want to design clothes that work well and feel good and tread lighter on the earth, we want to change the way an industry does business. Yeah, it’s lofty. It’s far-reaching. But we believe it’s possible. And that’s all that matters.