The Inner Landscape of Beauty–Giving Thanks

November 22, 2012
Thanksgiving Day in America

John O’Donohue was an Irish poet and philosopher. He was interviewed by Krista Tippett on NPR/American Public Media. I heard part of the interview this morning. Listening to him was inspiring so I’ve posted the link to the podcast on my Twitter feed:  https://twitter.com/designhouse9. You can also find it in the right hand sidebar.

Have a beautiful and bountiful day today.

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Then Again by Diane Keaton

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unfocused
May 4, 2012

My first thought when I saw the word for this week’s challenge was “Oh, no”.  The author of the challenge said we’d curse or cheer this theme. I sat and considered the topic, contemplating what blurry photo might fill the bill.

It was then I had my eureka moment. A photo I had taken just this morning was sure to be absolutely perfect! I pulled it up on my computer screen for a look. Alas, it was in focus despite having been taken with my cell phone while driving 42 miles an hour down the road. Who’d have thought that would be the case? Not me I can tell you. (Here’s the link to see that photo: Antique Car and a Penny-Farthing post.)

I started sifting through the archives. I came across quite a few unfocused photos that I had decided not to trash (yet). This one showing the cover of Diane Keaton’s book is one of them. I love Diane Keaton. She’s got great style. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s talented. I had snapped this photo as a reminder to myself to get the book.

As I looked at the photo more closely, I noticed the patch of red in the upper left and the reflective quality on the right. I wasn’t attempting to capture those elements. I do, however, like what they bring to this unfocused photograph. It’s a bit like Diane Keaton—unexpected and appealing.

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Want to participate in the Weekly Photo Challenge? Visit The Daily Post.

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Still Made in the USA

Cool Finds and
Supporting the Home Team

If you like to support companies producing products in America, here’s a site that lists the products that are made here. Products include kitchen appliances, laundry machines, bed and bath, lawn and garden, home decor, artisan handcrafts, baby gear, toys, tools, and more.

Still Made in USA.com

I believe some of the companies sell both American and foreign products, or products that share production in two countries. I have a friend who recently had water damage in her condo. Her rugs were ruined. I came across this one that reminds me of the main rug she had in her living room with its black background and colorful floral motif.

Wayfair.com

Perhaps she can find a replacement rug or two at the Wayfair site.
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This pillow is adorable for dog lovers. It was designed by Maine artist, author, and illustrator Dahlov Ipcar. They’re made by hand in Kashmir and filled with 100% poly that’s made in the USA. These come in limited quantities and will not be duplicated. Crafted of wool thread on cotton.

ClassicRug.com

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Here’s the Grate Wall of Fire I came across. The site reads:

The “Grate Wall of Fire” high-efficiency fireplace grate makes smoke-free, self-feeding fires with exceptional warmth and radiant heat output a reality. Overall fireplace efficiency is dramatically increased when using this ingenious fireplace grate. The pleasing appearance and hefty construction of our quality grates will enhance the beauty and functionality of any fireplace or hearth.
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And a side view that visually explains the concept:

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Fascinating, eh? Clients and friends who own homes with fireplaces will no doubt find this of interest. I can’t vouch for how well it works, but if I had a fireplace of my own I would definitely research it to learn more.
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I’ve always loved artisan made things. A browse through the Handcraft Artisan section displays a wide selection of artful items that are far more unique than the mass-produced goods made elsewhere and shipped here.

Here’s their page that outlines some reasons why we might wish to consider purchasing items made here in America: Why Care Where Things Are Made?

Have fun exploring these American-made products and companies. Let me know what else you come across that looks as unique as the Grate Wall of Fire.

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Reducing Your Utility Bills

Energy Efficiency: Pick Upgrades that (Actually) Drive Down Costs

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Published: November 3, 2011

The award winning energy efficient Devonshire ...
Image via Wikipedia

The award-winning energy-efficient Devonshire building
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A new study says home owners won’t see their utility bills drop until they’ve conducted four or more energy upgrades. Here are projects that will give you the greatest bang for your energy buck.

I’ve long suspected that saving energy is like saving calories: Small measures add up, until a Thanksgiving pecan pie — or a dazzling holiday light display — wrecks a year’s worth of small though consistent efforts.

Evidently I’m right, according to a new study claiming that doing a couple of small, energy-saving measures actually increase utility bills. And that a home owner must perform at least four energy upgrades before their utility bill drops.

Look for this logo when considering your new r...
Image via Wikipedia

The 450-page study, conducted by the eco-curious Shelton Group, found that energy-efficient home owners think they should replace water heaters and install a higher-efficiency HVAC system, though they actually replace windows and add insulation.

We think they’re half right: Adding insulation, especially in the attic, is a low-cost way to reduce utility bills. But replacing windows requires a huge upfront cost, which you probably won’t live long enough to earn back.

To see net-net savings — in your lifetime — select upgrades that reduce energy consumption by 5% and require modest initial investments. We suggest:

  • Seal and insulate ductwork through unfinished and unheated areas, such as the attic, garage, and crawl spaces.
  • Install a programmable thermostat so you don’t overheat your house when you’re away or asleep.
  • Seal air leaks around windows, doors, attic access, and recessed lights.

How many energy-efficient improvements did you make last year? Did you see a drop or increase in your utility bills?

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First Photos of the New Year

Photos of the Day
January 1, 2012

Yesterday I wrote a post about LED lamps and trees. Today I offer photos of untrimmed, misshapen, evergreen trees that I captured after dark.

These trees stand clumped together inside a circular drive green space with light from the building shining upon them. They are not particularly attractive in and of themselves. Nor are they attractive in their planted mass. Still, their contrast against the lighter grass and the dark skies make them stand out in the artificially lit night environment. They were begging to be noticed for a change. I saw them, and how beautiful they were as part of the larger picture.

I was hesitant to write about trees (and light) for two consecutive days here. Would anyone care about trees, besides my friend Charlie who loves trees? Would fellow photographers find something beautiful and/or artistic in these pictures?

Then again, it’s the start of a new year, a time when people make resolutions and think about changes (growth) for themselves. Trees are all about growth and spreading themselves via their root systems, their trunks, their branches, their leaves, and whatever fruit, nut and/or flower they may grow. In this regard, another post about trees seems perfectly natural.

Let there be light in 2012. Let there be growth in 2012. May you grow tall and strong with stunning ability to sway and dance with the wind. May you be fruitful in all your endeavors. May you blossom with joy all through the year. May you be ever “green”.

There is beauty all around us. Sometimes, you simply need to take another look in a different light.

Blessings,

Kate

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It’s a Bright Time

Photos of the Day
December 24, 2011



Is time on your mind today? One of the things I love about this time of year is all the decorations with light. It adds so much to our shorter days. The clock(s) in the photos above are in Chicago along Michigan Avenue. They provide light year round. I took these in July. May your days and nights be merry and bright.

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Japanese Prints Exhibit

Kitagawa Utamaro, "Flowers of Edo: Young ...

Edo Pop: The Graphic Impact of Japanese Prints

October 30, 2011–January 8, 2012

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is opening a new exhibit featuring Japanese art. My mother has Japanese art pieces in her home and I have developed both a strong interest and appreciation for this style.

The MIA website states: “The exhibition showcases 160 of the MIA’s best prints by the genre’s greatest artists, including Harunobu, Kiyonaga, Utamaro, Shunsho, Sharaku, Toyokuni, Hokusai, and Hiroshige. With their crisp outlines, unmodulated colors, and surprising vantage points, the images are as fresh and captivating as when they were produced.” This is sure to be a wonderful exhibit.

Non-members of the museum will be charged admission. If you’re not a member, you can take advantage of a limited time offer to purchase a ticket for $1:

Google Offers: Edo Pop: The Graphic Impact of Japanese Prints

www.artsmia.org

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The Science of Carving Pumpkins

Carve First, Scoop Later

Pumpkins carved to celebrate an October birthday

It’s pumpkin carving time. Most of us have carved pumpkins. I’ve always scooped first, then carved. Here’s an interesting video on why to reverse these actions. Happy carving!

http://www.sciencefriday.com/embed/video/10412.swf

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A pumpkin carved into a jack-o'-lantern for Ha...

Pumpkin carving - photo taken in darkness to s...

Pumpkins at Halloween

 See this gallery for ideas:  Custom Carving Gallery of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers

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Free World-Class Education for Anyone Anywhere

One Great Idea Made Reality

KHAN ACADEMY

I just learned about Khan Academy, a non-profit organization on a mission. Their goal is to change education for the better. How are they doing this? By providing world-class education to anyone anywhere for free.

You can be a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or someone who just loves to learn. The Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to all completely free of charge.

Can you learn things related to real estate and home ownership? Yes! Check out the Credit Crisis section that discusses the Housing Conundrum, the Housing Price Conundrum and more. See the Finance section for information about Renting vs. Buying a home and home equity loans.

Back to the fact that this is education for anyone anywhere. Students can make use of the extensive video library, practice exercises, and assessments from any computer with access to the web. Coaches, parents, and teachers have unprecedented visibility into what their students are learning and doing on the Khan Academy site.

Unemployed? Looking to make a job change? Returning to work after an absence? Check out the Brain Teasers section which is reported to be useful for many job interviews.

This is just a small sampling of what you’ll find at Khan Academy. There is currently over 2100 educational videos available. Viewership stands at about 24,000,000. See why Bill Gates is a fan and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is helping to support this endeavor. Visit the Kahn Academy website (link below) to find out more about how these lessons are inspiring children (and adults) to learn!

www.khanacademy.org

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Testing, testing, one-two-three

Follow my blog with bloglovin

In Search of New Readers

I occasionally come across blog compilation sites that look interesting. They offer the opportunity to have one’s blog featured on their site by posting a link to their site. This is a manner of advertising one’s site to other readers who might find the content of interest. Today’s post is about bloglovin´, a service for people who like to read blogs. They gather all new posts from your favorite blogs in one place. This is a test to see if it brings more readers.

Photo of the Day: A Fish with Personality!

Porcupine Puffer—A Total Charmer!

I don’t imagine this fish has to worry much about heat waves. I, on the other hand, found my car air conditioning to be essentially nonexistent during last week’s heat wave. I delivered my car to Carlberg Automotive Repair Service in Richfield, Minnesota for service on Monday.

While waiting for my friend to pick me up, I wandered through the fish shop next door. This puffer fish was all personality! These fish have such expressive faces and appear to be smiling. If I had a fish tank at home, I’d want this fish. It’s the equivalent of a dog—always happy to see you.

Happy Friday, everyone. Have a great weekend.

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Something Fishy! Fish Shop, Richfield, Minnesota

Carlberg Automotive Repair Service in Richfield, MN.

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Unexpected Creativity

Photo of the Day: Sign and Vines

My cell phone camera created an interesting effect on this photo.
It was a bright, clear day and yet this photo is rather misty.
Some days bring fun and artistic surprises.

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Art in the Garden

Featured Artist: Allison Armour

A garden can be a sanctuary, a visual and sensory delight, a source of food, a habitat for nature’s various creatures and birds, and a place to satisfactorily work on a hobby or passion. It’s also an appropriate place for art.

I recently read about Allison Armour and her award-winning work. I was immediately struck by the simple beauty and elegance of her pieces. The light-catching metal reflects and enhances the wonderful array of colors in a garden and the sky. The sphere fountain adds a soothing water feature to an already peaceful place.
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Allison Amour’s award-winning pieces at Chelsea

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Look at the mirror obelisk for more inspiration. It’s mirror surface reflects the flowers and sunlight while it’s pointed and sharp-edged shape offers a striking contrast to the softness of the plantings.
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Here are additional photos of her spherical fountains and sculptures:

Allison Armour Aqualens water fountain
Allison Armour Aqualens water fountain
Allison Armour Aquasphere
Allison Armour Garden Sculpture
Allison Armour pole sculpture

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To learn more, visit Allison’s website: www.AllisonArmour.us

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Bridges to Prosperity: Ken Frantz Offers More than Hope

A former builder now constructs bridges that offer far more than meets the eye: hope, help, and results to those in great need.

American Ken Frantz was so moved by a photo he saw in the National Geographic magazine that he founded the nonprofit organization Bridges to Prosperity. This volunteer organization constructs bridges in Africa, Asia and South America in order to improve the lives of isolated people. The bridges provide these same people with improved economic activity, medical services, the ability to attend schools and find jobs, and more. All of the bridges are built with local support and labor. Bridges to Prosperity just completed their 50th project this past November.

A bridge, a man with a vision, and a problem of extreme world poverty that can be solved with the help of all of us.

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For more information and/or to donate, please visit: Bridges to Prosperity Website