General

General Stuff about the house.

Hand Pressed Espresso

There is a scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” where Grace Kelly, and Cary Grant stop for a picnic lunch of fried chicken and beers after eluding the police in the south of France. There is a romantic nostalgia about it that has always drawn me in. Not because of the picnic thing, although if Grace Kelly had asked me to go for a drive in her metallic blue 1953 Sunbeam Alpine Mk I and stop for a picnic, I wouldn’t have said no. I’m not sure where the feeling of nostalgia comes from, maybe it’s the idea of a leisurely way to spend time your best gal, and enjoy the countryside in the South of France. Ok I’m getting lost in my thoughts here. What got me going on this tangent was an email I got this morning for the Handpresso Complete Outdoor Kit. Seeing the machine in it’s carrying case along with cups, and napkins got me to thinking about two things. First the scene in “To Catch a Thief”. Second, wouldn’t it be awesome to have an espresso while

What got me going on this tangent was an email I got this morning for the Handpresso Complete Outdoor Kit. Seeing the machine in it’s carrying case along with cups, and napkins got me to thinking about two things. First the scene in “To Catch a Thief”. Second, wouldn’t it be awesome to have an espresso while hiking in the woods? OK the second thought is a lie. I’m not going to lug this up the mountain so I can have an espresso on the trail. I’m more likely to hike up and down the mountain and stop at the coffee place in town for a cup while I rest my feet and review the photos I took. I do like this thing though, and I kind of want it even though I have no practical reason for it.

From a design perspective, this is a thing of beauty. From the themo-molded EVA case to the cups, what is there not to like about the look of this? Even the Handpresso machine is a stylish little device capable of delivering a creamy espresso with 16 bars of pressure.

Handpresso was established in Fontainebleau, 55 km south of Paris which might be the reason it made me think of “To Catch a Thief”.

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Creative Renewal Part 2

Sometimes you just need to get away and clear your head. Take a couple of days and look for inspiration. Get out and enjoy the world by getting back into nature. Early October in the Rocky Mountains can pose some tricky situations when it comes to weather. Yesterday started out sunny and in the lower 50’s in Estes Park, but less than five miles away, a storm was rolling in over the top of Rocky Mountain National Park bringing rain, snow, hail, and high winds. This didn’t stop us though, we decided to go ahead with a hike up to Beirstadt Lake and take the switchbacks down to the valley floor. The hike was relaxing, and not a complete bust, and I did manage to get a couple of decent photos of a few aspens in full fall color while being pelted with pea-sized hail and high winds.

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Monument Rocks.

20 miles South of Colby Kansas is Monument Rocks. A rock formation that is part of an ancient sea bed. If you are ever driving on I-70 in Kansas, I say make the detour. It’s worth the 30 minute excursion. Now it’s time to roll on to Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Ori

Over the last 25 years, I have never lived in a space larger than 1500 square feet. For my wife and I smaller has always been better. I know that we are going against the grain since the average size of a house in America has steadily grown from 1800 square feet in the mid-1960’s to just under 3000 in the 2010’s. The reality is though, not everyone is can afford to, or wants to live in a McMansion. World-wide the average size of a living space  is between 1000 and 1500 square feet, and in larger cities much smaller at 500 to 800 square feet. That means less room for furniture and furniture that is designed to function with multiple uses, or in ways that save space. This is where those clever students at MIT and designer Yves Béhar come in.

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A team of MIT engineers have partnered with designer Yves Béhar to develop the ORI system of robotic furniture system for smaller/micro apartments that transform at the touch of a button or via a smartphone app. The Ori system is a compact module that incorporates a bed and a closet on one side, and a home office and an entertainment suite on the other expanding and contracting as needed to give up much-needed space. (This would have been so useful in our 850 square foot loft)  On one side the bed is hidden, sliding under the bottom of the unit beneath a closet, couch, and office to maximize space. When activated, the unit moves in or out to become a bedroom or a more generous living room. One side of the unit hosts a full closet, but also contains a desk for a home office. The other side of the unit holds a media center for entertaining. Each room can be preset for Each room can be preset for your specific needs so that one touch on the physical interface or on the smartphone app will morph the room.

Ori is more than functionality. Units can be customized with a variety of finishes, materials, and colors that truly let you design your space. And the functionality means a small space can be transformed into a multi-functional home in just seconds. Beyond small apartments and loft spaces, I could see this being used in smaller vacation homes, guest houses, hotels and more.

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Fireworks, or Bombshells. You Choose.

Well, it’s Fourth of July weekend here in America and that means people are blowing up their hard earned money with fireworks. I like fireworks, well the professional ones that is. Don’t get me wrong if you want to blow shit up in your backyard to show the world how patriotic you are that’s fine. I’m not going to stop you. I just prefer to spend my money on things that aren’t going to go up in smoke, or run the risk of causing me pain and possible dismemberment. So you can celebrate the nation’s birthday with fireworks, or you can feast your eyes on pin-up girls sporting the red white and blue and in some cases holding fireworks. Frankly, I think I prefer looking at leggy gals sporting an outfit made from old glory and holding explosives. So here we have movie stars, models, and illustrations of just that. By the way, 1960’s bombshell Raquel Welch, and 1940’s Broadway star Anne Miller seem to have been very popular icons for the 4th.

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Kill it, Stuff it, and Put it on Display. The Olympics of Taxidermy.

I’ve always had a bizarre fascination with taxidermy. I think it is one of the strangest things people do, and yet I’m kind of drawn to it. I think the fascination started when I was a kid and I visited the natural history museum where they had all of these insane dioramas featuring dead stuffed animals. It was the antithesis of the zoo, or being at a national park where you would see the animals alive, and out in their natural environment. I just didn’t get the concept of, kill it, stuff it, put it on display frozen in time. (at the time I didn’t realize that taxidermied animals aren’t really stuffed carcasses).

So, the video below is a 20-minute look into the world of taxidermy. More specifically, it is a look into the Olympics of taxidermy, and it’s actually a pretty interesting documentary short. It’s well shot, edited, and the production value is very solid. And the story line is really solid. It draws you in and holds your attention. Well at least it did with me, but then again I do have a morbid attraction to this subject.

What a Difference a Year Makes

954 Rusty CrownOne year ago today, I received an email invite at work telling me to report to employee relations the following day at 2:00 in the afternoon. The time had come for me to go. Hallmark didn’t love me anymore. This didn’t come as surprise. I had actually been given a heads up by my Art Director 8 months earlier that I was probably on my way out. I met all the criteria. I was over 50, made too much money, and didn’t check off any of diversity boxes. Plus the downsizing had been going on since December of 2012. I’d dodged the bullet for the last couple of years, but there was no way I was going to dodge it this time.

The reality is that being let go from Hallmark was the best thing that had happened to my career in over a decade. Since returning to Hallmark in 2005 I had struggled to advance my career there. I had hit the internal glass ceiling in a sense and over time was given less and less challenging work. There are only so many senior level positions and with a creative pool the size of Hallmark’s moving up the food chain can be difficult.

I’m not angry, I’m not disgruntled, I’m not even irritated. I’ll admit that I was a little pissed off at first. When you are told you aren’t needed anymore, it kind of stings, no matter how shitty the situation is. By the beginning of last June I was creating crappy banner ads for products I didn’t believe in, for a brand I personally feel is dying. The timing was right, it was time to go.

On June 2 2015 I met with employee relations and was told I qualified to “Retire”. My  position was being eliminated as a cost cutting measure, and I was one of 165 creatives that were no longer needed. I was told by ER that I was allowed to work until June 10, and then I would have to leave the building. I hung around for a couple of days, but coming into work just made those that didn’t lose their jobs feel uncomfortable for the most part. By Thursday it was time to go. I backed up my Mac to a server, powered down and walked out. My “Give A Rip”, factor was zero at this point, and all of my assignments had been given to the remaining studio creatives. Sticking around just seemed like delaying the inevitable. I said adios to a few people and walked out the door for the last time. Thankfully I didn’t have any personal items to carry out. At 11:30 that morning I became a free man. It felt like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and driving home I remember thinking how great it felt to know I wouldn’t be going back there. I knew things were going to work out for the best.

So, how’d it all turn out? Pretty damn good. I had a new job before the end of the week. I had additional freelance work lined up. I got a solid severance package, and I never missed a paycheck. At the new job my opinion matters, I’m challenged creatively, and from the business side of things. My colleagues listen to me and engage me for feedback and insight. I’m helping to develop a new brand voice for a company that is actually growing and is looking to the future. I feel valued, something I hadn’t felt at Hallmark for years. At Hallmark I felt the complete opposite. I had no motivation or desire to be there. The work I was given could have been done by someone fresh out of design school. My opinion was hardly ever asked for or wanted. I simply wasn’t being challenged on any level.

That isn’t a personal dig at anyone, it’s simply how I felt, and how I know others feel as well. Not just the 165 that walked out the door a year ago, people who still work there as well. In my opinion, It’s a reflection of Hallmark’s corporate culture, and something that probably won’t change any time soon. It’s too bad, because when I first started working there in 1994, I loved the place. When I left in 2000 I missed it, and when I returned in 2005 I thought I had made the right choice to come back. At the time I felt that my career had a future, that I’d be given opportunities to grow as a designer. By 2009 I knew that probably wasn’t the case, but I had settled in for the long haul. It’s easy to

In the end I know I worked with some extremely talented individuals. (I also worked with people who had little to no talent, but played the system and bullshitted their way into positions of authority; but that is story for another time) At Hallmark I made some of the best friends I’ll ever have, and I miss seeing them on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean I’m not better off though. Like I said earlier, leaving Hallmark was the best thing that happened to my career in over a decade, and I can’t thank them enough telling my I was to old and made too much money.  I’m doing better design work than I have in years, I’m more creative than I have been in ages, and I’m happier. And that is what is most important.