Thursday, August 21, 2014

Artlifting: Helping homeless and disabled persons sell their art

ArtLifting is a Boston-based initiative that sells the artwork of homeless and disabled individuals. 

Trinity by Allen Chamberland

The have just launched a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $20,000 which will will allow them to expand to five more cities across the nation within the next six months and to add sixty-five new artists to the ArtLifting online platform. The five target cities include Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, New York City, and Washington D.C. Following the initial expansion, ArtLifting hopes to continue to expand to help homeless and disabled individuals in every city across the country.

Brown Lion by Ed Johnson

ArtLifting, which has been incubated at the Harvard Innovation Lab and MassChallenge, has grown to support 20 homeless and disabled individuals following its launch in December 2013. ArtLifting helps its participants sell artwork that they create through art groups offered by shelters and disability centers. ArtLifting celebrates the strengths, creativity, and skills of its artists while offering them an opportunity to earn an income.

Storm Clouds by Elizabeth Cayce

Allen Chamberland, one of ArtLifting’s first artists, is wheelchair-bound and has been dependent on disability benefits for much of his life. “Thanks to ArtLifting, by this time next year, I won’t have to be on disability anymore,” said Chamberland at ArtLifting’s Kickstarter launch party to the crowd of 80 supporters, “and that feels great.”

Individuals can support ArtLifting’s mission of directly empowering homeless and disadvantaged individuals on the Kickstarter website. The ArtLifting Kickstarter campaign runs until the morning of September 11th, 2014. The campaign’s featured video provides additional remarks from ArtLifting artists and information about the campaign. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nook Cottage: Mud Room Plans

My new little Nook Cottage home has a small back hall which leads out to a deck and the backyard. The stacking washer and dryer are in a large closet on the left of the door.

Oddly, the washer/dryer were kind of sticking out into the hall and the closet doors were stuck open. I asked the landlord if it could be pushed back and the doors taken off, which luckily they could be.  It's great to have this space and that it's out of sight from the main area of the house. My plan has been to create a multi-functional mudroom/laundry room/storage closet/ coat closet.

There are some really great ideas out there. Of course, adding built-ins isn't really the best use of the budget when it's a rental property, but small customizations and things that can be moved down the road are definite considerations.

As you can see in this picture, there is a closet on the left in the foreground that will come in very handy for storage. Currently, it's filled with unpacked boxes, but I'm hoping to get it to the point where I can at least store my vacuum, Swiffer and brooms - in other words, my taller items. This way, I can get some nice shelving going in the back hall for cleaning supplies and a recycling center. A small surface to fold laundry would be great too, if possible. It's a lot of cramming into a small space.

These are my plans so far:

It's still a work in progress, but I do have the rugs, boot tray, dog leash holder and wrought iron coat hooks - so, it's just a matter of getting it organized and all installed. I take RoyRoy out for walks via this back door which keeps dirt or wet from shoes and paws in one spot and keeps the front door entrance cleaner as a result.

I'd love to hear your mudroom/laundry room ideas - so please share!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Silver Screen Surroundings: Outlander S1E2 - Wining and dining in 18th century Scotland

In this week's episode of the Starz series Outlander (S1E2) we get to know Castle Leoch, seat of the clan MacKenzie, and Laird Colum ban Campbell MacKenzie (seen above a dinner with his wife Letitia on the left). Colum has major health issues and his brother Dougal (who brought our heroine Claire to the castle) acts as his legs and is War Chieftan. Colum's health problems don't affect his mental state and he gets down to business interrogating Claire while plying her with food and drink. 

After refilling Claire's wine glass with whatever their "house" wine is, he has a decanter of his personal Rhenish wine brought out. Rhenish is from the Rhine region of Germany which has a very high alcohol content, which Colum uses as a pain reliever for his physical ailments. It also will go to a girl's head pretty quickly.

When I first saw the previews of this scene, I was struck by the use of matching wineglasses. Plus, they reminded me of the Simon Pearce Cavendish glassware featured in the movie "Something's Gotta Give".

I admit to knowing next to nothing about the use of glassware during the period of the 18th century, but would have assumed if asked that a remote Highland castle (even a fairly wealthy one) would be more likely to use pewter or stoneware, not hand blown glass - particularly matched sets. Not to mention, would the general population (those not seated at the Laird's table) be drinking wine at all versus ale or beer? A little research brought me to a Christie's article: "Though numerous forms of wine cups had existed since the classical period, it was the 14th century merchants of Venice that set a new standard of elegance in wine-drinking by combining the skills of the glassblower and designer. The clarity and transparency of their cristallo glass allowed the color of the wine to be fully appreciated."

image via Christies

By the late 17th century a "more simplified style of balustrade stems consisting of bold, massive “knops” came into fashion, modeled after the furniture of the time."

image of late 17th century French armchair via British Antiques Dealers' Association

An image of the general castle populace eating and drinking.

And a closeup of the glassware used which features a "twisted" balustrade stem which is very pretty and unusual. 

So, does anyone know enough about 18th century Scottish castle dining customs to know if the entire population would be drinking wine out of wine glasses? And would a castle, even a wealthy one, of this time have hundreds of matched wine glasses? Between the cost of the glass itself, the English taxes placed on wine imports and the simpler tastes of the common people, it's hard for me to imagine. But as I said, I am no expert.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

A great shower: It's the little things that make a big difference

Last summer, the kind folks at Brizo Faucet Company flew nearly 200 designers and bloggers to Memphis for a reunion of the various "Blogger 19" groups. For 3 or 4 years prior, they had been bringing together small groups of 19 to New York for fashion week and to share their newest products lines. So, the opportunity to all get together and take a tour of the huge Delta/Brizo faucet factory, be wined and dined, see old friends and make some new ones was a one in a million opportunity. As a generous parting gift, we each received our choice of a beautiful new shower head from their Baliza Hydrati 2|1 Shower.

They had demonstrated how their new H20kinetic technology works, which is pretty amazing. You can see it in this video:

The existing handheld faucet in my new little rental cottage was of the very generic plastic variety. The nice thing about shower heads is how easy they are to replace.  In my Mom's house last year, the existing hand held needed replacing (there must have been a lot of built-up deposits inside because the flow was practically non-existent) and I used a Kohler rain shower head that I had kicking around. The difference was amazing. As we all know, a great shower can be both invigorating and relaxing - all for a relatively small amount of money.

So, even though I'm in a rental, I didn't hesitate to have my still in the box shower head installed. Not only is it beautiful to look at and immediately upped the look of the shower (good-bye nasty used plastic thing)  but I am also treated with a fantastic shower experience. There are difference water settings on the handheld which are activated with the push of a button - versus having to rotate the head - and it easily docs back into the shower head. The water pressure is amazing and yes, as the video says - it's very warm as well. I actually have to keep lowering the heat setting.

Even in a rental or other temporary situation don't hesitate to make some changes that could make a big difference in your daily routine.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hide the tv?

I'm not a big tv watcher. And by big tv, I mean literally BIG tv. I certainly have my favorite shows, but the television doesn't ever take center stage, nor should it in most rooms. I've never had one in the bedroom or living room if I can help it. My new little house, Nook Cottage, is pretty tiny and one small tv set will do me. The living room is very small - room for a 75" sofa (coming soon!), a small Hepplewhite settee, coffee table, and something to put the tv set on. There's no room for side tables - so I've installed plug in sconces to light up the room.

Do you like to hide your tv or just let it hang out there?

via Hudson Vision

These flip around tv/art piece installations are interesting, but I seriously doubt that people really flip them back and forth all that often - maybe for company. 

This set of built-ins with the tv hidden behind are very beautiful. 

Julia Blailock at Pink Ribbon House. Decorative Painting by Segreto 

I'm not a big fan of doors that wouldn't normally be there hiding a tv. The cabinet doors above are beautiful, but they look out of place, just as much as a tv set would, I think. 

"Hiding" a tv amongst a bunch of other stuff is more to my liking. The bottom image is more successful because the dark cabinet balances the tv, which is mounted to the wall along with the rest of the artwork. The top picture with its white cabinet and tv sitting on top isn't bad, but it does nothing to obscure the big black box. 

I've got a LONG way to go with my organizing and decorating as you can see. It's hard to take a photo because the living room is very dark in the back of the house and it looks towards the dining room which has a big picture window overlooking a river. 

The top view is from the sitting position on my sofa (well, settee until the comfy new sofa comes!). You can get an idea how small the space is. I toyed with mounting the tv on the wall above some kind of console, but I had the baker's rack and it fit so nicely in that it made sense to use it. I've hidden the cable box in the basket on the shelf right below the tv. I still need to work on taming the wires. The bottom basket holds DVD's, though I don't actually have a DVD player...

Another angle. Obviously, I'm still working on accessorizing. I need to get glass shelves made so things sit properly. One came with the piece, which is the shelf the tv is on. You can see the horizontal stripes behind the tv, which is another shelf that's not in use to make room for the tv.  

How do you handle your tv situation? 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Silver Screen Surroundings: Outlander Ep101 - Ancient Scottish castles

The premier episode of "Outlander" on Starz has finally aired and it was really, really good and very true to the book. By the end of the first episode, the protagonist Claire Beauchamp Randall has "fallen through time" leaving behind her 20th century husband to wonder what happened to her and falling into the midst of a firefight between British "Red Coat" soldiers and Scottish Highlanders. She initially thinks it's some kind of costume drama being shot for the movies, until she realizes that they are using live ammunition. She is assaulted, nearly raped, shot at, knocked out and then kidnapped by a band of disreputable looking Highlanders who are mostly speaking their native Gaelic. The Gaelic isn't translated for the viewing audience under the theory that we always see things through Claire's eyes and since she doesn't "have the Gaelic" then neither should we. She comes to realize that somehow, unbelievable as it may be, she's no longer in the 20th century and she would do well not to let on to her kidnappers (or rescuers depending on how you look at it) much about herself. Having served as a war combat nurse in WW2, she has medical skills and knowledge that far outstrips anything known in the past and can't help but step in to help out one of the Highlander's who is injured with a dislocated shoulder, among other troubles. She starts ordering the men about (not something they are used to) and gets to work and fixes the problem, earning a level of respect mingled with suspicion among the men. The last scene shows the band of travelers with their unwilling captive arriving at Castle Leoch, the seat of the Clan MacKenzie.  Two days before (and two hundred years in the future), Claire had visited the ruins of the castle with her 20th century husband Frank. And now she rides up on a horse to a living, breathing, if still foreboding, structure.

Standing in for the fictional Castle Leoch (roughly pronounced Lee-ock) is Doune Castle which is in the Stirling region of Scotland. Only the exteriors of the castle are being used for filming. The interiors are entirely shot on a custom built sound stage in Cumbernauld, Scotland, which is outside of Glasgow. The Castle is a property of Historic Scotland.

Doune Castle was built around 1400 by Robert Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany who ruled Scotland from 1388 to 1420 and is known as "Scotland's uncrowned King". It's structure includes a large courtyard, 100ft high gatehouse, a Lord's Hall with musician's gallery. Before "Outlander", "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and some scenes in "Game of Thrones" were filmed here as well.

Floor plan of Doune Castle.

The restored Lord's Hall at Doune Castle.

While Doune Castle is busy being a tourist attraction and move set - one wonders if it will see the huge influx of cash that Highclere Castle in England has as a result of Downton Abbey - it's clearly not a comfy, livable place. But, there are certainly other castles in the area that are very welcoming to the modern traveler.

Culcreuch Castle Hotel welcomes guests with warm and traditional decorations. Located in the same region as Doune Castle, Culcreuch is the seat of the warrior clan Gailbraith. The tower on the current structure dates to the end of the 15th century and is thought to be located on the same site as the original early 14th century structure.

Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Inverlochy Castle, in the Highlands, was built in 1863 on the site of the original 13th century structure. The castle is located in Fort William, which plays a prominent, though not happy, role in the "Outlander" story. Today, Inverlochy is an award winning hotel.

I imagine that Claire would have been much happier to have arrived at one of these beautiful, and comfortably outfitted, castles rather than Leoch, wouldn't you?