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June 30, 2008

Symphonic Tableware

Iridescent tableware in transcendent hues helps makes dining an art form.

Gorgeously colored iridescent dinnerware

Pieces above are by artists Diane Bonciolini and Gregg Mesmer and are available through The Artful Home. The “unity in diversity” approach to the colors and textures appears to be at work in this collage of tableware. I've always thought of the best art as needing to work the way a symphony is structured, with a theme and variations. You set the theme, then amend it, play with it, move it around and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Works in so many areas of life but then you knew that life is a symphony.

June 29, 2008

It's a Pleasure to Serve You

These beautiful pewter serving pieces are designed by Patrick Meyer.

Pewter Servers by Patrick Meyer

 

 

These and more items by Patrick Meyer and other talented artisans can be found at Uncommon Goods, a great resource for gifts. Items at this online store are often beautiful, unusual and not priced to break the bank.

June 28, 2008

Experiencing Books

There is an interesting project called “Field Tested Books.”

Books You've Experienced
Compiling people's impressions of experiences they had when reading a certain book — the way a song brings back a time and place where you heard it — is this project's focus. I'm going to cheat and give you an example, since apparently most of the contributors are such superb writers, it's astonishing. Here's a tiny excerpt from Ben Karlin's contribution. This snippet isn't about the book he experienced (Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead) but is just great writing that made me laugh out loud. His humor totally fits my mood of the day.

“The story of Lot’s wife is one of the most resonant in the Bible — since all she had to do was not look back, and she wouldn’t have been turned to salt. But isn’t that just like a human, to not do what they are told? To look when they are supposed to turn away? Humans. What are you going to do about them? Turn them into salt, I guess.”

June 27, 2008

Rightfully Ruffled

Ruffles can be tricky.

Great ruffled edges

Pretty ruffled sweaters from L to R: J. Crew, Plenty by Tracy Reese, Anthropologie 

Too many ruffles (all over a garment or too big) and you're drowning in them like some overdone wedding cake. Too puny (sometimes on shoulder puffs) and they're a messy bump. But draped with taste, they are an elegant, surprising, feminine and sensual feature that adds great style to simple shapes. This season, I've noticed some gorgeous ruffle treatments that don't overwhelm you but add style and grace. Go for it and ruffle some feathers while you're at it.

June 26, 2008

More Eyeball Jazz

Jim Flora, the artist mentioned yesterday, deserves plenty of air time.

Jim Flora angry pedestrian This angry pedestrian cracks me up. The website that has been created to honor his work is exceptionally beautifully designed. Flora's mixture of action, humor, style, color, childlike fantasy and lots of music imagery is right on. He was a successful illustrator in addition to creating dozens of album covers. He also designed many children's books, which is one of the first things I wondered, as his style is perfect for it and reminds me of the children's book illustrators who have been my favorite designers since I first became entranced with graphic design and started working in the field, such as Richard McGuire.

Jim Flora illustrations

T-shirts with some of his great art on them are available. Fine art prints of some images are also available and worth owning.

June 25, 2008

Mambo Kitties Do Eyeball Jazz

What could be better than groovin' kitties in jazzy colors doing the mambo? 

Jim Flora, Mambo KittiesHad to share this fantastic art posted by Moderncat.net, as it's so up my alley(cat). How interesting that this artist, Jim Flora, was working mid-century when his art is so contemporary looking. Everything old is new again, as they say. Or more accurately, great art is timeless. And kitties doing the mambo rule forever!

Great Record Album Art

Here's one more teaser image of Jim Flora's great record album designs. One critic calls his work “eyeball jazz.” I think many current illustrators have been influenced by him, even unconsciously, in which category I would include myself, without having known it, based on the style he put out there.

Interloper in the Window

What's that in the window?

Kitty in the Window

On this beautiful day, Autumn the kitty caught a breezy kitchen view she'd never found before. Check out her swishing happy tail, which is always that puffy, given her Maine Coon roots, not because she's afraid of anything, fearless trooper that she is.

June 24, 2008

Perfect Moments

In this simple moment, you stop and realize that everything is just as it should be. The air is calm. You are comfortable. You are entranced. You are meant to be just where you are doing just what you are doing in just the time and place in which you are doing it and simultaneously, you are outside of time; time has stopped.

Pefect Moment

Do you ever realize you're having a perfect moment? They can be prompted by something big or little. I've had them when relaxing with a boyfriend. I've had them looking out the window. They seem to be a bit like rest notes, being often the moment “in between” something. But I hadn't had one in a long, long time and I had one today while kissing my kitty. Her super soft fur was rubbing against my cheek, as it is wont to do, and I realized that there it was: a perfect moment. Naturally, I told her so. She seemed to concur and purred louder than ever.

Sometimes they come in batches and you can have several in one day. You realize that despite the universe's troubles and whatever may have been bugging you lately, all is right with the world. It's not as if all of a sudden, the world's problems are solved. But for one small moment, you can see that all is just as it should be, no more, no less — and breathe a sigh of relief and happiness, knowing that this is a part of what life and the privilege of consciousness is about.  

June 23, 2008

The Island of the Color Blind

Oliver Sacks is probably my favorite living nonfiction author, although his stories have the action, drama and intrigue of a good thriller. He is “An investigator of the mind's mysteries, in a class by himself,” says Publisher's Weekly.

Books by Oliver Sacks

A few of Oliver Sacks' entrancing books:
The Island of the Colorblind
, Migraine, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

For anyone who doesn't know his work, Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who writes like a poet. Some of his books, all true stories, have been made into movies, such as Awakenings, starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro, directed by Penny Marshall and At First Sight, starring Mira Sorvino and Val Kilmer. Dr. Sacks' brilliance and impact is because he is a scientist who looks at his subjects like an artist, thereby allowing developments and conclusions that others might miss.

The Island of the Color Blind focuses on the tiny Pacific atoll of Pingelap, where Dr. Sacks traveled, spurred on by reports of an isolated community of islanders born totally colorblind. Dr. Sacks set up a clinic in a one-room dispensary, where he listened to these achromatopic islanders describe their colorless world in rich terms of pattern and tone, luminance and shadow. The adage that “when one door closes, another one opens” happens neurologically also. People with extreme limitations in one area often seem to develop or be granted extreme capabilities in another area. Apart from the innate intrigue of the subjects Dr. Sacks covers, his studies provide profound awe at the depth of the human spirit and appreciation of the scientist's acceptance that people are not just a set of physical facts.

Speaking of islands, Oliver Sacks used to live here on City Island. It said on the back of one of his books, "Oliver Sacks lives on City Island where he swims and grows ferns.“ It was, in fact, one of the three things that introduced me to City Island and made me curious what such a place in the midst of New York City could be. Alas, he had already moved off when I moved on.

Oliver Sacks' latest book is Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. It “examines the extreme effects of music on the human brain and how lives can be utterly transformed by the simplest of harmonies.” I can't wait to read it. Also worth reading are Seeing Voices and A Leg to Stand On, one of my favorites.

Books by the fascinating Oliver Sacks

If you believe that there is inherent value in people, you will like the writing of Dr. Sacks. If you are interested in unusual neurological occurrences, you will like the writing of Dr. Sacks. If you are an artist who knows that the unseen and the seen are two sides of a coin, you will like the writing of Dr. Sacks. If you enjoy a good thriller, stories with surprising conclusions, you will like the writing of Oliver Sacks. In short, if there is anything in which you are interested within the depths of human nature, you will find Oliver Sacks' tales well worth your time.

June 22, 2008

The Other

20th century philosopher and theologian Martin Buber wrote I and Thou, which I read and loved in college, presenting insightful thoughts on how we encounter other people (and God). He discusses empathy, seeing from the other's point of view, trying to think from the inside of another person and to get outside yourself. It made a powerful impact on me and I think about it often.

I and Thou Now, I've found another book that takes this concept into the context of romantic relationships: Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages. While Mr. Chapman's book is intended for practical application (call it self help if you want) and Buber's is considered a great scholarly work, I see interesting crossover.

Five Love Languages

 

 

 

 

 

 
The Five Love Languages asserts that there are five primary ways people “speak” love and that knowing the primary way of your loved one is the key to a successful long-term relationship. Conversely, not knowing the primary love language of your mate is as frustrating and relationship killing as if you didn't speak their verbal language. The author believes that this is why so many marriages fail. It's a good metaphor.

The five primary love languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation (affirming the other person's worth to you in regular simple statements)
  2. Quality Time (doing things to be together and create shared experiences)
  3. Gifts (tokens of thoughtfulness; can be free)
  4. Acts of Kindness (favors that mean much more to some people than the time they take)
  5. Physical Touch (the interaction of human touch and physical closeness)

Within each of these primary “languages” are countless “dialects,” so, for instance, if Quality Time is a person's primary mode, their preferred method of conversation could be needing to be listened to — i.e., as opposed to more active discussions. The nuances are complex but the idea is simple and powerful and explains — and could solve — a lot of relationship problems. Mr. Chapman, who is a long-time marriage counselor, says that rarely if ever do two people in a couple share the same primary love language; that is not what matters; what matters is finding out what language your loved one speaks and learning how to speak it, which will not come naturally if it isn't your primary one.

An example he gives is Bob and Tracy. Tracy likes symphonies and Bob grew up listening to country music on the radio and would be very happy never to go to a symphony in his life; he think symphonic music is elevator music. However, Tracy's primary love language is Quality Time and she loves to go to the symphony. So Bob willingly goes to the symphony throughout their marriage. Bob never learns to love the symphony, although he comes to like it more but he sure learns how to love Tracy.

I think this approach could work with friends as well as mates. Grasping how your friends are focused and learning to “speak their language” can only lead to more harmonious relationships. Only thing is it's relatively easy to figure out your mate's primary language once you think about how they've acted over the time you've known them. People you don't know as well may be harder to figure out. You can ask, though. No reason it needs to be kept a secret.

June 21, 2008

A Banner Day for Froggy

This super colorful frog is an amazing product of nature's design.

Fantastic Colorful Tree Frog

This gorgeous critter was photographed by my friend's talented father, Marty Sobel. Marty gave me permission to use this and more of his beautiful nature photos for a client's environmentally-oriented website. (The client loves the photos.) That's how froggy became a banner. He is miniscule, by the way, so don't ever doubt that great and astounding things can come in small packages. Creative in other ways too, check out Marty's main business venture: Han-D-Cut — ingenious streamlined cutters for signmakers and designers.

June 20, 2008

KittyGate II: Caught in the Act

Proof that Autumn is still a kitten as she scales the 6' door I thought I had so cleverly put up to try to acclimate my two kitties without them literally pulling each other's hair out. But Autumn is a “can do” personality and where there's a will, boy, I mean, girl, is there a way.

Scaling the cat gate

Naturally, I am impressed by her acrobatics. I had to take some pictures. It's hard to discourage her and want her to stay for a photo shoot at the same time.

Autumn scales the kitty gate

Not sure what to do next in this experiment. My helpful landlord, with whom I discussed the possibility of her scaling this even when we were putting it up, suggested putting plexiglass on the surface, which she won't be able to grip. I guess I'm going to have to if I want to keep up this experiment. I'm not ready to give up yet, although I also found a cat behaviorist I may consult and I also have a new book coming that may suggest some ways I haven't thought of to try to acclimate these two divas. At any rate, they keep up the entertainment quotient.

Designing a New Life

The Delancey Street Project

What's an even bigger challenge than designing a successfully balanced and beautiful piece of furniture, a well-functioning piece of equipment, a building or a whole city? I would say it's designing a new life. The Delancey Street Project helps people do exactly that and has helped thousands of people for over 30 years through the courageous and inspired vision of founder Mimi Silbert.

Delancey Street Foundation

Two of the six gorgeous locations Delancey Street has acquired all through the efforts of its own work. Pictured here are their New York and Los Angeles properties. Below: founder Mimi Silbert with her dog, Amnesty.

Delancey Street Founder Mimi Silbert“We are a community where people with nowhere to turn, turn their lives around.”

Delancey Street is one of those places that gives you hope. Hope for individuals considered lost causes. Hope for the world. Hope for your own problems and those of the people you love. Delancey Street welcomes criminals considered past being able to be helped and 14,000+ times has aided them in turning their lives around.

Similar to 12 step programs in several aspects, while life at Delancey Street is hard work, it goes against some usual consensus on how to turn failure into success. The program doesn't focus on “why” someone has been a repeat criminal; instead, it simply allows them to do things that help them change.

Delancey Street puts people to work. They have an upscale restaurant, a thriving moving company and several other extremely successful businesses, all run by people considered the bottom of the work rung and economic ladder, who have come to them as a last resort. They own six gorgeous properties at this point. Their businesses, run 100% by their residents, bring in millions of dollars of revenue each year. Proof once again that anything is possible with focus, determination and a sprinkling of grace.

June 19, 2008

Good News Blogging

Does it ever bother you that the news industry primarily reports only bad news?

Good News Blogging

From the time I was a bambino, my mom used to say that the news only reported bad happenings and why didn't they also talk about the great things going on. It made me laugh but she has a good point. It may (sometimes) be less sensational to talk about success than tragedy, but is it really any less newsworthy? Not to mention that success is often hard won and comes with fantastic stories. And is it any less true or reflective of what's actually going on in the world to talk about positive things?

I came to the realization that blogging, which grew up as an extension of the news industry — although any topic under the sun is blog fodder — encompasses a lot of good news reporting. Think about it. What are your favorite blogs about? While you may enjoy some that are like traditional newspapers, I would bet that you like some that are about, say, cats, music, books, knitting, design, food, travel, art and who knows what else. And though newspapers and television news have carried segments about such things, blogs give them as much air time as they want. I think this development more accurately reflects what's really on people's minds and what makes the world go 'round. We don't want to only think about horrific things nor should we nor can we. So blogging not only gets the word out to the masses; it also gets more diverse words out to the masses. My mom's upbeat thoughts have finally found their place.

June 18, 2008

Dino Dines in Style
Courtesy of the Treehouse Restaurant

Dino is the very smart, sweet and gorgeously colored birdie pictured below.

Dino from City Island Treehouse Restaurant

Dino lives with Tanya and Shukri, owners of the delicious Treehouse Restaurant, here on City Island. As you can see, Dino is no slouch in the culinary department, as he enjoys his own serving of shrimp salad at a recent City Island street fair (photos by the owners' niece). Dino is a good will ambassador and tirelessly greets patrons to the Treehouse Restaurant, sitting outside most days and inside sometimes at night, at the more upscale Treehouse's Euro Cafe across the street. Dino talks a lot. Dino laughs a lot. With all his hard work welcoming guests and visitors, Dino deserves the finest in cuisine. He is a wonderful animal with a big personality.

The Treehouse is one of the few restaurants here on City Island that natives like to go to. Some of my favorite dishes include their fantastic pizza, a great side salad called Shope salad, eggplant parmigiana, spinach ravioli and eggplant rollantini. If you're not sure what to have, ask Dino. The Treehouse Euro Cafe, my favorite, is directly across the street and has no sign but be brave and venture inside if they're open. The menu is the same and the atmosphere is lovely. The Treehouse is casual; the Euro Cafe is more elegant but still very comfortable (jeans are okay). So if you're taking a day trip to City Island, the Treehouse is a good place to drop in and Dino will likely be here to greet you, surely the high spot of your outing.

Come Visit:

The Treehouse Restaurant
273 City Island Avenue, City Island, NY 10464
718-885-0806

The Treehouse Euro Cafe
274 City Island Avenue, City Island, NY 10464
718-885-0806

June 17, 2008

Exceptions

For what do you make an exception?

A flavor you abhor but in the right recipe is perfection. A color you don't like but in the right outfit is startlingly beautiful. A friend who says rude things but you know you can count on them in a crisis. A clunky rhyme that sounds just right. A song that's bad taste but makes you happy. A junkie movie that's your favorite. A beautiful person's face or body with a big nose, uneven eyebrows, unruly hair, big butt or other seemingly out of proportion feature that is in fact just what makes them original and beautiful.

Olives and Peanut Butter

Pesto sauce makes my day but I'm just as passionately opposed to olives gone solo

Exceptions are part of life's perfect imperfection, like syncopated rhythms in music (a momentary contradiction of the prevailing meter or pulse); the unexpected that can make something good into something great — God's touch, the inexplicable. We need order to make sense out of chaos. Systems and order make great ideas and advances possible. Quantum physics is just a system. And just as nature defies her own rules, it is our nature to sometimes make exceptions within our carefully thought-through and valuable systems — and in so doing, realize our perfect imperfection.

Color Addict Bloggy Bonus

Super simple pesto and unusual sage pesto recipes. 

 

June 16, 2008

Fake It Till You Make It

“Fake it till you make it” is an approach advocated by 12 step programs and other smart people.

Change or Die

The intense admonition above is the title of a powerful book by Alan Deutschman. Mr. Deutschman wrote for Fast Company, among other publications and knows a lot about what makes companies successful or not. Focusing on several astounding people and businesses, the book discusses what it takes to initiate and stick with profound change, in a company or an individual. The first scenario is about heart patients, who are often told that if they don't stop doing what they're doing (eating the wrong foods, being overweight etc.), they are literally going to die. Mr. Deutschman discusses how fear and threats really don't motivate people, even when the fear is of dying in a short amount of time.

So what does actually motivate people? The author summarizes what works to create profound change, which he says is to “Relate, Repeat, Reframe” — a little hard to hold onto but it captures the concepts needed for 180 degree change. Examples of lifelong criminals becoming millionaire businessmen and many inspiring stories are covered. We've probably all had an occasion where we've begged someone to do something good for them and it doesn't matter. Begging doesn't work. So if you or a loved one is having a very hard time changing in an important area, this book is a great gift.

The Happy Hypocrite

“Fake it till you make it” is mentioned in Change or Die as one step that can be part of a successful path. Fantastic writer and illustrator Max Beerbohm's grown-up fairy tale from the 1920s, The Happy Hypocrite, is all about faking it till you're making it (hence the title). You can find the full text online and read it in an hour or so. My parents used to both quote this story to me whenever I felt really blocked. It moves me to tears because while the story is a fairy tale, the message is the same as Change or Die: that your life is at stake with the decisions you make and that you can be who you want to be, no matter what, no matter where, no matter when. You can buy an out of print copy of this masterpiece still.

June 15, 2008

Our Fathers Who Art in New York,
Jersey Etc. Hallowed Be Thy Names

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers in the land.

Fathers Take Revenge
 

Father's Day More Revenge I made these cards for my own fabulous pop soon after I started being a designer. Luckily, he found the morbid sense of humor fun. I figure if it's Father's Day, it should be their time for a little revenge, no?

I couldn't make these images much smaller for the blog or you wouldn't be able to see the unfortunate little things happening to the children. Poor little children.

Our Cup Runneth Just Right

My kitty's favorite drinking vessel is mine also. She never seemed to drink water before. When I got these hand-painted goblets, I found that water tasted especially good in them. It must be something about the shape and finish and thickness. Soon, my kitty also started to like drinking water out of them. She climbs up to them on my bedside table at night.

Our Favorite Goblet at Red Elephant Gallery

Finding her favorite mug

Drinking from favorite mug from Red Elephant Gallery

Sticking her whole little head into the goblet

Finished with Goblet from Red Elephant Gallery for now

Done for now

Even animal lovers can be astounded at how “human” our critters are. They have likes, dislikes, feelings, moods and emotions just like we do. They're just better at coping with life's mixture than we are. Great-tasting goblets are by artist D. Lasser and available at Red Elephant Gallery.

June 14, 2008

Z is for Zoo

Friday I went to the zoo.

Magnificent peacock

Dazzling peacocks moseying around the grounds 

Seeing nature's vibrant colors up close is startling. What was really fun about the peacocks is that they were behaving like pigeons, walking around the picnic tables hoping for tidbits. We saw giant camels, lions and a polar bear. Turns out the Bronx Zoo is very near my home stomping ground of City Island so I intend to visit more often. We took a ride on their pleasant trolley that transports you through the gracious grounds. Here is my niece Avery with her lovely blue tongue from our lunch of science fiction-colored frozen blueberry and grape drinks with pretzels, potato chips and nachos made from what looked like the sides of taxicabs (plastic or metal combo of yellow cheeselike substance). A great time was had by all.

Avery with a blue tongue

Avery displays her peacock-challenging turquoise tongue 

June 13, 2008

Where's Thelonius?

Talk about coordinated.

Chic Camouflage

This little critter, whose name is Thelonius (yes; he is named after the great jazz musician, Thelonius Monk), came after the chair for his humans. He's a Bengal, which my cat is partially. Bengals were bred by being mixed with actual Bengal tigers but they are loving, adorable regular kitties (just expensive). They come in a spotted or swirl pattern, tend to be vocal and playful with just a touch of wildness. See more hilarious cat photos at Stuff on My Cat.  

June 12, 2008

My Favorite Bald Movie Star

Bruce Willis and Telly Savalas have their appeal but you guessed it; it's Caspar the Friendly Ghost for me.

The Fabulous Caspar the Friendly Ghost

Besides being captivatingly adorable, Caspar is a very interesting character. The still at left above is from a 1940s cartoon where Caspar is crying because everyone is scared of him and he just wants to be friends with people. Finally, this little baby fox, named Ferdie by Caspar, shows up and immediately loves Caspar. There's actually a lot of drama and emotion in the story. 

Caspar is the CutestCaspar doesn't want to just be like any other ghost, going out every night to scare people; he wants to be nice; he goes against the crowd and it ain't easy. Like many great heroes, he takes the path less traveled and it can be a lonely, scary road. The fact that he looks like a little baby makes him even more hilarious and lovable. I always loved Caspar as a kid and I would guess that subliminally to me as a tot, part of the reason was likely because of his determination to forge his own way. Another reason to love him is his unfailingly upbeat nature. He is a brilliantly drawn character, inside and out.

June 11, 2008

For Wise Cats

There are many enjoyable and enlightening books about adventurous and near saintly cats, who find their way home over hundreds of miles, who help their owners with tasks, who foretell events, who come to the aid of sick people — all inspiring tales. But here is a book for the furry felines in your life themselves.

Cat Massage

Cat Massage by Nicola Routledge outlines how to cater to your creature through massage. Cats are sensual by nature so I have no doubt they will respond well to being worshiped this way. As with us, massage can release tension and ease muscles besides being pleasurable. It can also be an opportune bonding moment with your critter.

Cat Yoga Cat Yoga by Rick Tillotson is mostly great photos. (That's “Warrior Pose“ on the cover at left.) Cats are natural yoga practitioners. Yoga taps into the physical and mental acuity we are meant to possess and harness and cats know and do this instinctively. Many times I've observed felines in what look like yoga poses. My cat regularly stretches out in what looks like “Down Dog” pose.

Besides good content, the graphics in these books are beautiful and funny. As mentioned in a recent entry, great design makes you want to hang out with a book and delivers its message that much more powerfully. Form (outward appearance or graphics) should always follow function (content, subject and needs), in my opinion (see another recent entry). But when the two are intertwined inseparably, that's a truly great relationship that creates products with long and happy lives.

June 10, 2008

Streamlined Shopping Carts

Recently, I've set up or am in the process of setting up four online shopping carts using PayPal as the merchant provider.

Recent shopping cart sites

Shopping carts set up for, left to right above:
Kitty Cat Loft, Liz Ward Art, Gotta Have It NY, modern rug site

My brilliant designer friend, Tracy Schloss, is the one who put me onto this offering from PayPal. This system is a great way to set up relatively simple online stores. Customers can pay using any major credit card, PayPal or a bank account. Advantages include:

  • NO up front fees

  • NO monthly fees

  • NO higher percentages for using certain credit cards

  • NO need to obtain a merchant account

  • NO need to obtain a secure shopping certificate (SSL); you use PayPal's

Merchant accounts are not easy to set up, cost more money and require a difficult approval process. The only negative to this PayPal option is its limited depth, which is part of why it's relatively easy to use. Things such as inventory levels and other nitty gritty details are not within the scope of this setup.

From the designer's end, the programming is simpler than with carts such as Zen Cart, OS Commerce or Miva, all good solutions for more complicated scenarios but much more work. From the vendor's end, the fees and hassle are considerably less. From the customer's end, any payment option carts normally let you use is available. This solution has made quite a few of my clients very happy and has enabled them to offer shopping on their websites when they could not do so with a regular merchant account.

June 9, 2008

KittyGate

Here is an experiment I'm conducting.

KittyGate

When I fostered a kitty previously, using a gate to gradually introduce him to my reigning kitty, worked beautifully. It took patience and time but by slowly widening their area of contact with each other, they were able to co-exist and even hung out together. However, this cat, who is still just a kitten really, is very feisty and knocks over and jumps over any kind of gate I could find. Plus, the first cat is terrified of her, to such an extent that we've had bad accidents. And the new cat isn't helping in that she continues to bolt towards the other one any time they are near each other.

KittyGate

Above: Autumn peers through a gate slat.

Pet gates don't come tall enough for Autumn to not jump over or knock over. I am amazed that they don't. So I tried calling screen door companies, sliding window screen installers and outdoor pet haven places but got almost nowhere. I finally went to Home Depot and got this lattice material and had a local construction guy make the frame, secure it with hinges and a latch and it's basically a taller gate. Only problem is I can't move it from place to place, which would work better.

Good news is that the new cat now has more room in which to hang out. Bad news is that the previous cat still wants nothing to do with her and isn't doing the curious approaching I had hoped for. We'll see how it goes over time. 

Above: Gate set up to acclimate two kitties. Cost: $120 including installation vs. $300–500+ for the potential screen doors that needed pet-proof screening and more work.

June 8, 2008

Eye Opening

Small portraits of a lover's single eye were carried by people in the 18th century.

Eye Portraits

 

 

The eye portraits were symbolic of “keeping an eye” on a carefully guarded love, as well as a warm reminder of the person's presence. The watchful eye suited jealous suitors, male and female. These paintings were tiny and set in lockets, brooches, rings or small boxes. Eerie and cool both.

June 7, 2008

Ways of Seeing

This beautiful abstract art is the development of artist Amy Stillman's vision of human couples and their interactions.

Gorgeous Abstract Art from Portraits

On view at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. and titled “Directions: Amy Sillman, Third Person Singular,” it's interesting to see how different artists come to their results. For this series, Ms. Stillman starts with realistic portraits of couples and then creates multiple sketches from memory until she arrives at these thought-provoking abstract paintings.

June 6, 2008

Cautionary Tails

Kitty Puke SignThis simple graphic says it all. Created by Ellen Gibbs, this great design is available on mugs, t-shirts and mouse pads too. Protect your vulnerable friends with a warning of the inevitable kitty puke in any cat lover's life. Items are available at Cafe Press (the signs are no longer available but shirts, mugs and mouse pads are). 

Cat Vomit Products

June 5, 2008

Form Follows Function:
Design & Engineering

"It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
of all things physical and metaphysical,
of all things human and all things super-human,
of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that FORM EVER FOLLOW FUNCTION. This is the law."

— Architect Louis Sullivan

Miele Vacuums and Jiffy Steamers

L to R: Lightweight Miele stick vacuum and Jiffy professional quality clothing steamer, both masterful combinations of engineering and design

Things that work well get me excited. Engineering is the inside to the outside of a beautiful design and as with people, if the inside is rotten, the outside is pretty much irrelevant. Gorgeous design should lead to gorgeous guts or it isn't really successful. Great design needs to start with great engineering for anything with more than a superficial purpose. It makes sense that an architect, Louis Sullivan, for whom Frank Lloyd Wright worked, would coin the phrase, “Form Follows Function.” If a building falls down, it really doesn't matter how nice the drawings were.

Here are two items that do what they are supposed to do very well: Miele vacuums and Jiffy steamers. The Miele stick vacuum works better than most larger industrial models with a fraction of the required effort. Miele makes numerous models but this lightweight one wins the award for me, as it's so much easier to work with and does a better job than I've ever seen a vacuum do. The Jiffy professional quality steamer is similar in expertise. It heats up almost instantly and never stops its powerful yet gentle-on-fabric steaming, as you see in the photo above. Both these products are amazing labor-saving devices that will make you realize what it really means for a piece of equipment to work well. Good tools change your life.

June 4, 2008

Cool Critters Deserve Happening Habitats

Let your critters lead the way to a super stylish pad for you and them.

Really Cool Pet Furniture

Above: Stylish and comfy pet beds from Hepper

I've found some really cool pet furniture and accessories with which to assuage my cognizant felines' cravings for superior designs. It takes hunting to find great pet stuff, which is odd, as people are fanatical about their pets. But the quest is being quenched. Not too long ago, I finished a website design for Kitty Cat Loft, makers of a great-looking spiral cat staircase. While checking out their search rankings, which often leads to nice discoveries in different categories of my clients' work, I came across several satisfying makers of furniture and items for pets. Previously, most makers of this caliber and style level were not American (there are some great German designs) — not true any more. Check out Modern Cat for links to lots of items besides the great beds above. I also met Akemi Tanaka at ICFF last month, who makes an adorable “curve” cat shelf. Lots of good things are brewing for critters in industrial design these days.

June 3, 2008

Tenacity

Tenacity is a trait I admire. The Oxford Dictionary defines tenacious as:

adjective
1
holding firmly to something.
2
persisting in existence or in a course of action.

Tenacious Doggie

Longer definitions give rise to further musings. Dictionary.com says tenacious means:

1.holding fast; characterized by keeping a firm hold (often fol. by of): a tenacious grip on my arm; tenacious of old habits.
2.highly retentive: a tenacious memory.
3.pertinacious, persistent, stubborn, or obstinate.
4.adhesive or sticky; viscous or glutinous.
5.holding together; cohesive; not easily pulled asunder; tough.

When talking to a man who owns a company that I do a lot of work with today, I told him he was tenacious. He held onto a client recently and wouldn't let go, despite numerous reasons to. They fumbled, they were uncertain, they were unclear, they were confusing and much more. Yet he held his ground. I am in awe and yet I know I would have walked away, even though I believe I will try hard to make things work. It made me think about what we all want from work and from life. To me, work has to be rewarding as well as a success in the eyes of the client. I want both. To only be successful for the client is ultimately not enough for me and to only be rewarding for me defies the whole point of providing a useful service. Still, I love tenacity and strive to have more, as it appears that the rewards are great.

June 2, 2008

Mood Lighting

Phosphoria creates custom-made lighting in a wide range of styles.

Gorgeous Lighting from Phosphoria

Unique and stunning lighting designs from Phosphoria

Creator Noah Prince has a background in movie and television lighting and realized that regular life was getting short shrift. Nothing sets a mood more than lighting.

Phosphoria Brooklyn lighting design

Thanks to Greenjeans Brooklyn for citing these beautiful lighting designs from Phosphoria in their report on the Brooklyn Designs show in May. Phosphoria also showed at the ICFF

June 1, 2008

Alchemical Edibles

Three excellent movies all carry themes surrounding the magical properties of food, yet all three are extremely different.

Like Water for Chocolate movie

Like Water for Chocolate has fairytale aspects in pictorial style and script. The story is of a young couple who fall in love as children: Tita and Pedro. Tita's mother won't let her marry because as the youngest daughter, her destiny is to take care of her mother for life, an odd family tradition. So the man marries her sister to be near her (I know, I know but it's a story and a good one). Their lives go on and there's lots of magic involved, in her cooking and all around. This is a funny and deeply touching movie about life's anguish and passions. (In Spanish with subtitles)

Babette's Feast great movie

Babette's Feast is an adaptation from Isak Dinesen's beautiful short story. This is a tale of sacrifice, simple lives and the meaning of choices, which culminates in a meal that represents everything good life has to offer. The acting is superb. One of my favorite movies ever. (in Danish with subtitles)

Simply Irresistible magical food movie

Simply Irresistible is a likable lighter romance about a young woman who is losing the restaurant left to her by her brilliant chef mother. When the clutzy cook starts to put emotions into her food, everything changes. It's a cute comedy but the concept of putting passion into your work is the same as in the other two films mentioned.

Most people enjoy great food; the notion (or in this case, potion) of big feelings transforming recipes is a nice one that engenders “food for thought.”