An Open Letter to Design In Conversation Listeners

Reposting this here from my podcast website,

Design In Conversation

Hello dear Design In Conversation listeners, subscribers, and followers.

First of all thank you for your support of this podcast. Since our launch in November of 2013, over 20,000 of you have clicked, downloaded, subscribed and pressed play to at least one episode of Design In Conversation. Knowing that all of you (most of which I have never seen or met) have heard my voice is simultaneously exciting and overwhelming. Whether you’ve listened to just one, or tuned into every episode and shared them with your friends, colleagues and fellow design aficionados, your support is very much appreciated.

Our goal with this project has been to share an interesting point of view of the design community in general, but more importantly, to share the voice of designers, artists, makers and creative personalities, giving you access to the voices behind the designs you know and admire, plus introduce you to some in the…

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Tri Time – Fundraising for CHLA

Hello everyone, 

It’s triathlon time again! 

Time for me to #swim, #bike, and #run in preparation for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon.

Zak Graff EnsembleZKG

Nautica Malibu Tri finish line

This is my fifth time racing in Malibu and I’m again raising money for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). 

:: Donate Here ::

I’m raising money for a great cause through Disney Tri Team and hope you’ll help me on my way to a goal of $500. 

I’ve done this before, so if you’ve heard me say some of these things previously, you can skip to the most important part and Donate Here. If not, here goes…


I started participating in the sport of triathlon five years ago when I signed up for the Malibu Tri as my first multi-sport race. I had recently started running that spring (after reading Running for Mortals), was bike commuting to work (most days), and my gym had a pool so I had all the training tools at my disposal and was looking for a new challenge. I taped a full-page ad torn out of Men’s Health magazine onto my tv – the thinking there being, I had to take the page off the screen before I would watch television – as motivation. I had to consciously decide not to train if I was sitting on my butt to watch television. It worked. I watched less tv, got out more, improved my health and finished the race faster than my goal. 

My first triathlon experience at Malibu was great

Zak Graff NMT posted results

my first triathlon

and I’ve been a tri disciple since then. 

Over the past few years I’ve increased distance, added CrossFit to the mix, upped my bike commuting and eaten more vegetables in a pursuit of better overall health. (But I still find ways to invest in empty calories as well…) Triathlon as a hobby has given much to me and I like the philanthropic nature of this race in particular, which is one of the reasons I keep coming back to race in Malibu. 

Each year since 1986, MESP has supported local charities by fundraising through this race. They have fostered a competitive culture of giving through the Corporate & Entertainment Challenges. Companies like Disney, NBC/Universal, CBS, Paramount, Toyota, Paul Mitchell, Wynn Hotels, CNN and Warner Brothers all compete to raise money for a great cause. 

Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals and is acknowledged worldwide for its leadership in pediatric and adolescent health. You may have seen stories like this and this (with Chris Pratt of Guardians of The Galaxy)

Chris Pratt visiting CHLA

Chris Pratt visiting CHLA

in your newsfeed not realizing that this is part of the world-class care CHLA provides its young patients. 

I’m asking you to help by contributing to a cause I believe in: helping kids with cancer and blood-related illness through CLHA’s research and treatment programs. 

:: Donate Here ::


My goal is $500, so every bit helps. Whether it’s five bucks, one hundred, or any amount in between, whatever you can contribute will help care for kids fighting tough diseases receive the best care available. 

:: Donate Here ::

Once again I have the privilege of racing with the Disney Tri Team


and I want to match last year’s goal of raising $500 for the team and CHLA. With your help I know we can exceed that goal. Will you donate and help me raise money for this worthy cause? 

:: Donate Here ::

Thanks for your donation and thanks for supporting CHLA!!



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Flower Power For Our Honeybees

flowers and nectar + trees, bees, and hops

Rogue Farms

This is the greatest time of year to be a Rogue Farms honeybee.

We’re in the middle of the summer nectar flow, when gazillions of wildflowers, blackberry flowers and clover fill the fields surrounding our farm.

It’s the honeybee’s version of an all you can eat for free buffet. But for our bees, that’s not good enough.

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Episode 12. Kelli Ellis and Design Camp

Episode 12 of Design In Conversation is now available…Enjoy!

Design In Conversation

My guest this episode is interior designer, author and Design Camp counselor, Kelli Ellis.

Interior Designer Kelli Ellis Interior Designer Kelli Ellis

Download the episode here to listen to our conversation covering her work as designer for notable celebrity clients, designing for reality television and her concept of design psychology as described in her new book, “Do I Look Skinny In This House?”.

Links from this episode:

Kelli’s blog and videos

IDI Interior Designers Institute

Do I Look Skinny In This House?

Do I Look Skinny In This House Kelli’s book, Do I Look Skinny In This House

Kelli’s new book is available in hardcover, paperback, or on your kindle.

High Point Style Spotters

Design Camp, founded by Kelli Ellis and Lori Dennis

Interior Design Camp by Kelli Ellis and Lori Dennis Interior Design Camp by Kelli Ellis and Lori Dennis

Don’t forget, Design In Conversation listeners receive a $500 discount off registration for the upcoming Design Camp, July 29-31. Register here with promo code VEGAS.

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Planting My Hops

My hops arrived in a nice neat box less than a week after I ordered them. I immediately opened them up, took a quick pic and uploaded them to instagram. Here they are still in the box (and sans filter).

hops in a box

hops in a box

I hadn’t yet picked up my gardening essentials to plant them, so I headed on over for some planting mix, some organic fertilizer and some small planter pots.

Here’s what they look like now that they’re planted. (l to r Liberty, Glacier, Centennial, Zeus)

my planted hops, day 1

my planted hops, day 1

Liberty measures 7″ with two small bines (I initially thought it was vines, with a V, but what I read here and here said bines, with a B, so that’s what I’m going with.)

Liberty hops, day 1

Liberty hops, day 1

Glacier measures 7 1/2″ with five bines (+ one tiny bine if you wanna count it too)

Glacier hops, day 1

Glacier hops, day 1

Centennial measures 4 1/2″ with eight bines. It’s kinda short but full.

Centennial hops, day 1

Centennial hops, day 1

Zeus measures 6″ with eleven bines. He’s the fullest including three small sprouts about 2″ or so each.

Zeus hops, day 1

Zeus hops, day 1

Here’s another shot from Day 1 which shows them in the mid-afternoon sun.

planted hops in mid-afternoon sun, day 1

planted hops in mid-afternoon sun, day 1

Follow Sharehopper on twitter (or me here, here and here) as I post updates now and again.

If you have any advice on growing or harvesting hops be sure to drop me a line.


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Sooo… Katrina brought home a magazine article from the doctor’s office, titled “The Backyard Beer Garden” and it got me thinking.

She’s been planting a lot of succulents lately, actually starting back before last Christmas when we gave some as holiday gifts to friends. Definitely wielding her green thumb and adding to the greenery inside and outside our home.

Anyway, I’ve been inspired to try my hand in the soil cultivation world rather than just being a semi-passive observer and the muscle loading and unloading from our trips to the local greenhouse, plant nursery and garden supply stores.

I’ve decided to grow hops.



And with those hops, I plan to make beer.



That is, to cooperate with our friends and home brewers Jody & Laurel to make a beer together. Katrina and I will share the bounty of hops we grow and in turn we’ll borrow J&L’s expertise and experience to brew a joint bottled venture I’ve preliminarily titled Sharehopper. Get it? Share…Hops… Sharehopper!

Ale? Pilsner? Kolsch? Lager? Not sure yet, to be determined…

So I’ve ordered four different kinds of field grade hops in an attempt to test varietals and sun/shade placement.




and Liberty

I ordered from Great Lakes Hops (aka Dutch Touch Growers) and the rhizomes should arrive soon. Then it’s time to plant, water and wait to see what nature has in store. I chose mainly on name, but ultimately to test flavor (duh, beer!) once they mature and are harvested.

Hops Vine

I’m not promising frequent updates, but the occasional snapshot or lesson learned may appear here on the blog and likely on my twitter and instagram feeds. (p.s. Follow me!)

If you’ve got any experience or tips you’d like to share on growing hops, send me a note! Any advice is appreciated.

Until next time,



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Episode 10. School Night Conversations (Part 2)

…Episode 10 now available in iTunes…

Design In Conversation

This episode culls three more interviews conducted during School Night for the Design Trade a Design Circle event hosted by Snyder Diamond at their Santa Monica location. Download the episode here to hear from our guests:

Mike Grosswendt, president of All Coast Construction

Mike Grosswendt Mike Grosswendt

Mike Grosswendt on instagram and his sprint car racing blog

All Coast Construction blog, on facebook and twitter

Monique Lafia of Lafia Arvin Interior Design

Monique Lafia Monique Lafia

Lafia Arvin on facebook, houzz and youtube

We also spoke with the evening’s master of ceremonies Christian May.

Interior Decorator Christian May Interior Decorator Christian May

Listen to Christian’s Designer Profile episode here. Visit his blog, and keep up with him on instagramtwitterpinterestfacebook and everywhere on “teh internets”.

Download Part 1 of this episode here.

If you’d like more information on anything mentioned in this episode, send us your questions…

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Episode 9. School Night Conversations (Part 1)

Design In Conversation

This episode culls three interviews conducted during School Night for the Design Trade a Design Circle event hosted by Snyder Diamond at their Santa Monica location. Download the episode here to hear from our guests:

Susan Cohen of Susan Cohen Associates Interior Design

Susan Cohen Susan Cohen

Susan Cohen Associates on houzz, Dering Hall and facebook

Russ Diamond, President of Snyder Diamond

Russ Diamond Russ Diamond

Snyder Diamond on facebook, twitter, pinterest and houzz

and Gary Paster of Paster Construction and American Saferoom Door (technical consultant for Panic Room starring Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker and Jared Leto, directed by David Fincher)

Interior Architecture by Paster Construction Interior Architecture by Paster Construction

Beachfront Residence by Paster Construction Beachfront Residence by Paster Construction

Paster Construction on twitter, facebook and youtube

Also after the event, we spoke with the evening’s master of ceremonies Christian May. Download and listen to his Designer Profile episode here.

Part 2 of this episode is…

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Episode 8. Christian May of Maison21

New episode of @DesignInConvo podcast is live:

Design In Conversation

This episode (download it here) is the first in our series of Designer Profiles, and features Christian May, a Los Angeles-based interior decorator and “chief bottle-washer” (his words, not mine) at Maison 21 Interior Design.

Interior Decorator Christian May Interior Decorator Christian May

We talked with Christian after the Snyder Diamond School Night program: Social Media for the Design Trade, where he spoke on the importance of social media in building a brand as a design professional. Christian walked the audience through some of the basics of his current favorite social platform, Instagram, and how it has continued the evolution of his career as an interior designer.

He credits his presence on various social platforms for a number of recent opportunities including designing a room for the California Home + Design Small Space Big Style Showhouse,

Maison21 for California Home + Design Showhouse Maison21 for California Home + Design Showhouse

window displays for LCDQ Legends in 2013 and 2014

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Perks of Practicing in Public

#publicpractice reblog via Music Center Los Angeles

The Music Center

Public Practice is a program The Music Center puts on each year to give amateur musicians the chance to change up their routines and practice their instruments outside.  Specifically, in outside spaces around The Music Center and Grand Park.  Over the past two days we’ve had saxophonists playing in the Grand Park fountain, violinists on the plaza, trumpet players in the park…the list goes on and on.

The participants all applied to take part and each came from a different background and “day job.”  We had consultants, bloggers, accountants, retirees – all people who play music just for the fun of it.  And after talking to a few of them, being part of Public Practice made their musical hobbies even more fun.  Have a look…

Public Practice - SaxPublic Practice - UKEPublic Practice - TrumpetPublic Practice - Violin

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