Cheery Observations

Celebrating the Unique, Sustainable, and Creative

The Ultimate Play with your Food Accessory May 27, 2009

Filed under: food and recipes,housewares — meaghin @ 11:34 am
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While browsing the internet, tied up in a meeting and not able to leave, I have food on the brain:  I’m starving!  I came across these plates from Pop Deluxe.  These plates are touted for children, but I think they’d be a riot when I’m not trying to impress or eating my once-a-week meal of chicken tenders, mac&cheese, and peas (which is very much a toddler meal!).  The faces remind me of the characters out of ‘Guess Who?’.

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I can see these working well with children who have a) already learned proper mealtime behavior and b) need to be creative in everything they do.  Or of course the kid who won’t eat, UNLESS they can play with their food (leading to problems in future school cafeterias, but we don’t have to tackle that one!).

 

Trayless Cafeterias: A Positive Way To Lose that Freshman 15? May 5, 2009

Filed under: Environment,food and recipes — meaghin @ 8:19 pm
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A few weeks ago I read an article in the New York Times that made me hopeful.  Some, mostly small, colleges have enacted a small change that could ultimately lead to big results both for the environment and (maybe) for the future generation’s awareness of their impact on the environment:  how a small change can help themselves and the environment simultaneously.

This quote from the article provides a good summary:

The Sustainable Endowments Institute, a research organization that tracks environmental practices at the 300 colleges and universities with the largest endowments, said that 126 of them had curtailed use of trays, some of them banishing trays only from certain dining halls, and some introducing, for example, “trayless Tuesdays.” Such moves are often part of a larger push to embrace environmentalism that includes hiring sustainability coordinators, introducing solar panels, composting dining-hall waste and encouraging students to turn off lights with catchy sayings like “Do It in the Dark.”

This trayless policy, as the article goes on to say, saves gallons of water (from washing trays), money (due to less food waste) and students’ figures/waste lines (and self esteem?  Perhaps a stretch!).  Going trayless means that students must put the food they’re interested in one plate, instead of grabbing everything they may want to eat and putting it all on one tray (guilty!).  This forces the student to think about what they’re eating instead of mindlessly taking anything and everything.  It also helps curtail a student’s desire for unnecessary seconds.   A negative of this is that lines *may* be longer, but honestly I would say in most dining halls that effect is minimal (as the lines are already long!).

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Working in an elementary school has reminded me of how much waste exists in everyday life.  It’s too disheartening to really wrap one’s mind around for too long a stretch of time because then the mind just multiplies all the waste seen in one elementary school to all other elementary schools in the district, to middle schools, to high schools, to the tri-state area (ETC…).  And then it’s easy to use those thoughts as a jumping off point for almost any business!

Besides the ‘obligatory’ paperwaste that is bound to happen, especially with old technology floating around, the food waste and every waste associated with the cafeteria is really mind boggling.  The students at my school all have styrofoam trays:  styrofoam–aka that tray won’t decompose for 2 billion years (slight exaggeration)!  I also usually see about half the food end up in the trashcan, and don’t get me started on the plastic bottles that have one sip taken out of them and then are chucked.

Certainly what colleges are doing with plastic trays is not feasible in an elementary school setting.  Most kids can barely balance their milk with their slice of pizza, much less have everything on one plate.  But reading the article made me hopeful that when these students move on to higher education, there might be even more environmentally friendly policies in place.

 

Harmony with Nature: Frank Lloyd Wright April 8, 2009

My fiancé and I took a day and a half trip up to Western Pennsylvania to stay at Nemacolin Resort and visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s FallingWater and Kentuck Knob.  Nemacolin was an interesting place:  a mishmash of a little bit of everything:  a world-class spa (which we enjoyed!), several different places to stay (A ‘château’, a ‘lodge’, and a 5 star resort:  Falling Rock, modeled after some of Wright’s design elements’).  It basically felt like an extremely rich person’s playground, except that for a fee, everyone else can play on it too!  This means two golf courses, ski slope, cross country skiing, snow tubing, pools, tennis, a shooting academy, a zoo, even a Hummer off roading course (yay?).

My post isn’t about Nemacolin, because while it was fun, it was too confusing to be a ‘cheery observation’.

I instead choose to write a bit about Wright’s Falling Water and Kentuck Knob homes.  Recently re-opened for the season, they were both stunning for different reasons.
Frank Lloyd Wright
Falling Water was a weekend home commissioned by the Kaufmann family (owner of the Kaufmann department store) at a time when Frank Lloyd Wright had few commissions:  it was like a fresh start to a slightly stale career (at that stage) and he truly took a risk and went all out.  The Kaufmanns had wanted a weekend home with a view of the waterfall.  Frank gave them a home on TOP of the waterfall.  Finished in 1937, Falling Water is a home that fits with nature.  Whatever is happening on the outside is felt in the home—there is really no barrier to the outside world.  The house is designed for clear views of the water and of the trees; if one wants to see the sky, they have to go outside. This visual effect makes being inside disorienting.
Falling Water
The home starts with a huge main living space with wall-to-wall windows and stairs down to the river and the first of many decks.  The living quarters were designed to be more separate—each room’s main function is to look at nature and each room has an outdoor ‘deck’ bigger than the room itself.  The ceilings in these rooms are low, designed to draw your eye out.  The use of space is spectacular:  small bathrooms tucked in nooks, bookshelves and built in desks.  Wright constructed the home from all local materials–when I think about all of the cement in the building and the lack of modern cement mixers, I am baffled!  Wright took a risk and created a one-of-a kind home, a home that is a National Historic Landmark and is on the list to become a World Heritage site.

Kentuck Knob was built about 20 years after Falling Water and is still a private residence.  Originally built for the Hagan family, the house is now owned by Lord Palumbo.  The house has unadulterated views into the surroundings woods and valleys.  The house is centered around a hexagon shaped kitchen, with small hallways leading to the living quarters and the huge main living space.  The ceilings are taller than Falling Water and the inside feels a bit like the inside of a yacht.  In my opinion, the most stunning aspect of Kentuck Knob is the deck that lines the entire back of the house:  the ceilings skylights are shaped in octagons allowing interesting patterns of light to come in; the deck allows for stunning views.
Kentuck Knob
Both homes are harmonious with nature and quite different from your ‘typical’ American home built today OR in that time period. While Falling Water is anything but typical, Kentuck Knob was built as a full time residence and was never meant to be overly extravagant.   When one is in either home, one feels a sense of peace, calm, and acceptance.  The homes force you to be a part of nature; this is so unlike the majority of my life, be it in my office or apartment building, where it’s easy to have no idea what the outside world is like! The interiors of Wright’s home are made from natural ingredients with a focus on need, not want.  Wright did not want excess closet space or storage space.  I admire this style of architecture and the focus on harmonious living with nature.  Falling Water was literally built on top of a waterfall; Kentuck Knob was built into the side of the hill:  a peaceful collaboration.

 

Method: Environmentally Appealing March 29, 2009

Filed under: housewares — meaghin @ 11:03 am
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Method products capture the best of both worlds:  their products are environmentally friendly AND well designed.  I try to seek out those two factors in my purchases:  environmentally friendly for obvious reasons and design because it captures my eye.   I’m a lover of well done typography, and realistically, good design of an environmentally friendly product should inspire more people to see it, buy it, and use it.  The same product packaged in a bland way will not generate as much consumer interest.  Maybe that’s a shame, but humans inherently seek out the visually appealing.

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I really want to commend Method for understanding this.  Their products are amazing because the company seems to ‘get’ what consumers want.  Consumers want a unique visual appearance;  they want a variety of easily accessible and understandable options; most consumers will say that they DO want a product that’s environmentally friendly.  Realistically, if someone else is already doing the work for us in terms of making sure their products are made with natural ingredients, the easiest thing we can do is buy and use these products.

Every Method product is made from renewable and/or abundant natural resources; their products are designed to minimize water and energy consumption, both from how they are made and from how most of their products are bottled in concentrated form, leading to smaller bottles and less waste.

Method has recently been named a ‘Cradle to Cradle’ company, meaning that they are nationally recognized for being a green and sustainable company as a whole (in production and product).

I wanted to highlight a few of my go-to products.  Method (along with Mrs. Meyers) has taken over my entire array of cleaning supplies.

Dish Soap and Hand Soap:  I love the Lavender and Grapefruit Scents
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Fabric Softener and Laundry Detergent:  We’ve recently been using the the ‘Squeaky Green’ Laundry Detergent and Dryer Cloths.
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Bathroom Wipes and All Purpose Wipes:  The bathroom wipes are heaven-sent when one has a cat who makes everything a mess!  The all purpose wipes are wonderful for counter tops, yoga mats, or dusting (again, partial to lavender!)
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Russell and Hazel Helps Keep My Life Sane March 14, 2009

Filed under: stationary — meaghin @ 3:57 pm
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Life has become incredibly busy as of late, between my current job, scouting out for a new job (and possible new city), and wedding planning.  So, I always want to post new ‘cheery observations’, but I sadly often run out of time.

One designer/paper maker/wonder that I credit for helping keep me organized in all of my undertakings is:  Russell and Hazel.  Upon first seeing their products at The Container Store, I knew I was in for a productive treat.  Their crisp lines and products illustrate exactly what I need to stay organized.  The item that I use the most is their desk top calendar.  This calendar is wonderful–it allows me to write EVERYTHING:  Month, Date, Notes (and not be confined by a traditional calendar’s system.  For example if I want to make 2 blocks into 1 day, if it’s an especially busy day, I can.)   It’s a blank canvas, and I use it accordingly.  I’ve learned to mostly write things in pencil, as ‘to do’s’ seem to be in a constant state of flux.

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Another item of theirs that I use on a daily basis at work is their Self-Adhesive Numbered Note Pads.  The fact that the numbers are built in helps to focus my wildly formulating ‘to dos’ into a bit more of a cohesive system.  It has 15 lines and a circle to check off when you complete an item.  The 15 line format is wonderful for someone like me–I’ve been known to make 30 plus to do lists, which can become the opposite of helpful!

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Finally, I don’t own these, but I appreciate the concept:  12 months–a pad per month– of the daily adhesive notes I mentioned above.

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Whale Inspired February 21, 2009

I like Vineyard Vines in my ‘own’ way.  Not in the ‘I have to have everything from there and the preppier the better way’.  More in the ‘their whale logo is adorable and their clothes fit well’ way.

I especially love their whale t-shirt and decided to do a little investigating to see what other fun(ky) whale items I might find.

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Over on Englishmuffin’s Etsy shop, there is the ‘W is for Whale’ animal alphabet card.

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Boatman Geller (home to seemingly all stationary preppy…wow…the colors!) has this whale stationary which I already own.

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On Uncommon Goods I found this cheerful Whale Mat.

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On Three Potato Four (a wonderful shop of vintage and new finds for the home and children–it’s like a truly amazing yard sale where everything you look at is something you want), I found several things:   a former whale ashtray (much MUCH better as decoration!)….

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Japanese Whale Stamps

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Chunky Whale Pottery

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And this wonderful Whale Chalkboard, that I’d love to buy for my office 🙂

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My fiancee also pointed me to Squared Eye’s (a web design/application firm) website, who uses a whale as their company’s symbol (the whale looks to be modeled after Jonah and the Whale).  The firm carries the whale theme throughout, with phrases such as ‘come swim with us’ and ‘see what swims beneath the surface’.

 

I’m in Love… February 16, 2009

Filed under: Local Interest and Travel,Uncategorized — meaghin @ 8:03 pm
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With this bike (fittingly a red one, so a very appropriate post-Valentine’s Day post!)

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I am slowly starting to bike ride again.  There are several factors I am fighting against right now:  1)  I don’t have a bike of my own and 2) I can’t afford a bike of my own.  Luckily, Big Wheel Bikes rents them out, so I can’t complain too much.  However, eventually, I can picture myself riding this very bike around town.  I’m not sure what ‘town’ that is, as several pictures pop into my mind:  a fall day in New England; a busy NYC street; a DC bike trail on the way to Mount Vernon.  I’d be happy with any of those scenarios becoming areality!  Bike riding is invigorating:  the wind in your hair; being able to see scenery in a quicker way than walking (which I also enjoy) while not being trapped inside a car; stopping for a picnic along the way; exploring off the beaten path neighborhoods.

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I found this bike from a link to another Velorbis bike from Megan’s Pink to Green Blog.

I’m thrilled I did, as it is now officially the bike I would love to save up for (provided that after I test ride it I still like it, of course!)

Why do I like this bike?  Let me count the ways 😉

1) Its Maker:  Velorbis of Copenhagen:  The fact that it’s Danish inspired (and Danish tested and Danish used and loved) might have really been the only thing necessary to win me over (I did do further research, however!).  It’s a Danish bike company (with the bikes being produced in Germany).

2)  Its functionality:  The bike has been reviewed as being very comfortable for long or short bike rides.  It also comes with a saddle bag and a basket.  Its upright design seems like it would work well for sight seeing and taking ‘it all in’.  It is also lightweight enough to move around easily.

3)  Its visual appeal:  a sturdy, sleek, and eye popping design.  The bike becomes more than an accessory.  I imagine this is how people feel about certain kinds of cars.

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There is only one distributer in the US who sells this bike  (The Dutch Bicycle Company in Somerville, MA).  I am planning on giving it a test ride when I am up in the Boston area in April and I can’t wait!