31 December 2012

Winding down and gearing up

Today's the last day of 2012, obviously. In a lot of ways, 2012 was one of the best years of my life and I hate to see it go. As I look forward to 2013 it's easy to get overwhelmed.

My sibs, my Mom and me after my brother Steve's baptism in 1969.

My life's about to shift pretty seismically in the next month. I have a new job to go with my new location and until I get up there for real I'm dividing my time between Florida and Pennsylvania. My mind's in PA but my body's in FL right now and it's an odd thing.

Of course I'll miss the parrots and the palm trees. 75-degree January afternoons aren't anything I'll be experiencing after I move and I'll miss them too. However, the career move I'm making isn't something I could have pulled off in Florida, no matter how hard I tried. And Lord how I tried.

Besides, being in PA has me within striking distance of New York and that's never a bad thing.

My contract with Coverings put me on the map and made me show up on radar screens all over the place and I can never thank Coverings enough for the boost they gave me. Similarly, the people behind brands such as Brizo, Blanco, Google, GE Monogram, Bosch, Thermador, Gaggenau, Kraftmaid, Medallion, American Standard, Formica, Henrybuilt, Ceramics of Italy, Tile of Spain, Chevrolet and many more, saw something in me and it was through my dogged networking that I ended up in the position I'm in now. Dogged networking or not, I didn't do this alone. I was helped along and encouraged when about the last thing I wanted to do was to keep plugging away.

All of that paid off in 2012 in a way so big I can barely wrap my head around it. Thank yous are due across the board.

In addition to the brands I worked with, my interactions with my friends on Twitter have proved themselves to be invaluable. No matter how discouraged I got, a half hour spent on Twitter got me motivated again. Though I have a lot of contacts, the number of people I consider to be friends and confidants is relatively small. Bob Borson, Susan Serra, Kelly Morrisseau, Todd Vendituoli, Charlie Kondek, Chuck Wheelock, Johnny Grey, Tim Bogan, Saxon Henry, Veronika Miller, Nick Lovelady, Eric Schimelpfenig, Peter Saal, Gerard McClean, Sherry Qualls, Nora DePalma, Leanne Wood-Newman, Tom Miller, my brother Steve, JD Megargel, Kevin Smith. Brandon Bergman, Tim Howe, Damian Amantia and anybody else I missed played a huge role in all of this too. Thank you.

The new year kicks off with a week in my office in PA and then a week in Europe. How can the year that'll follow be anything but great with a beginning like that?

Thanks too to all of you who read my scribblings and rants, everything I'm up to now can trace its origins back to a December five years ago when I decided to investigate this blogging thing. There was a ditch there and I fell into it. As I always say when I'm speaking, if I could do this anybody can.

In 2013 this blog will remain live and it will be the repository of all the things I stumble upon regarding the design world. My musings about travel, life and anything else will go onto my new blog, Back Where I Started. That new blog is also the place where I purge my Florida demons so be warned.

So happy new year everybody, make 2013 count in a very big way.

30 December 2012

Let me vent a little about Houzz

I used to write for Houzz. I'll be forever grateful for the exposure and dealing with the editorial side of that site was nothing but a pleasure. Would that all online forums were as well-run as Houzz. That's due almost exclusively to the hard work of editor Sheila Schmitz by the way.

There are few editors I've worked with who've made real assignments, appraised delivered work and provided much needed direction as well as she did. All hail Sheila Schmitz!

Houzz.com started out just a couple of years ago and has since grown into one of the go to places on the internet for designers and Architects to show their work. At the same time, it's become a place for homeowners and potential customers to interact.

This is great.

However, it's been nearly two years since I stopped writing for Houzz. Yet every day I get at least one e-mail from a Houzz reader who's asking a question about something he or she saw in one of my Houzz posts.

When I have time I answer those e-mails but as often as not I ignore them because they're moronic questions.

As I repeated constantly on my blog and on Houzz, there are no standard names for granite slabs. What's Uba Tuba in Florida is called Labrador in New York.  Natural stone is a natural product and even stones that come from the same quarry change radically over time. You cannot order a natural stone counter out of a catalog and you have to pick the slabs your counters will be made from in person.  Deal with it.

If you  want a stone that's gray-ish brown with little movement or if you want a schizophrenic blue, just describe what you're looking for to your salesperson. He or she will set you up with the stone you're looking for.

Contrary to what you may believe, sales people in kitchen and bath showrooms don't exist to extort money from you. It may sound counter intuitive, but these people will actually save you money. The budget you have set for yourself shouldn't be a secret. Walk up to someone in a showroom and say something along the lines of "I have $25,000 to re-do my kitchen, go!" That's a much better use of your time and their time than leaving them to guess how much money you have to spend.

The idea of getting three bids is crap too. Find someone you trust and who can work with your budget. If he or she has a good reputation you're done. Except for writing checks of course. Be sure that anybody you hire is licensed in the state where you live.

If you're concerned about staining, don't get counters made from natural stone. Granite will stain and marble much more so. In my mind those stains are like the wrinkles around my eyes. Stained counters and my wrinkled face show the world that we've lived a full life. One of my favorite stories about marble involves a wonderful, former client named Margaret. Margaret had triplets who were ten when we re-did her kitchen. I designed a bar at the end of her counter so her kids could do their homework as she put dinner together,

I went to see her a year after we re-did her kitchen I saw that her bar was covered with crayon and smudge marks. When I mentioned it she said "For the rest of our lives, my kids will always be ten when I see the marks they left in my kitchen."

That's why people get natural stone counters. If you're not prepared for your kids' crayons or your own dough kneading to leave a mark, than don't get a natural stone counter.

Beware the yahoos who claim that they can put a granite counter in your kitchen for $20/ sq.ft. That's an impossibility and it guarantees you a miserable experience.

When a cabinet's billed as "cherry-stained" it's not cherry. The people who make wood stains use the colors and tones of natural wood as model when they formulate their stains. Oak called "walnut" isn't walnut and heaven protect anybody who puts a stain on actual walnut. Maple is naturally blond, cherry runs between blond and brown, hickory has nearly black streaks on a blond background, birch is an iridescent gold and oak is oak.

Finally, colors on your computer screen aren't real. Between the distortion of your non-calibrated monitor and the non-calibrated camera of the source, nothing looks the same as the photo you see on the web. Don't ask what the wall color of a photo you see on Houzz or Pinterest is. Whatever color it is for real won't look anything like what you see on a website.

The smart thing to ask for (preferably from a designer) is a color that approximates what you see in an internet photo.

I enjoyed my experiences at Houzz.com and working with Sheila was a treat, but many of the questions I field could be answered by a) thinking and b) clicking on the "more information" tag on every one of Houzz's photos.

Think people, think!

14 December 2012

Adeste Fideles

Few things make me as proud of and happy with my Catholic heritage as the musical traditions that come with it. At Christmas particularly, traditional, Catholic hymns take me back to my youth and connect me with my family.

My favorite one is Adeste Fideles, especially when it's sung in Latin. Hearing a choir sing this song is one of the most exultant things there is. By the time the third time the refrain's repeated I'm reduced to a pool of tears and good intentions.

If you don't know the words, here they are:

Adeste Fideles,
Laeti triumphantes;
Venite, venite in Bethlehem;
Natum videte,
Regem Angelorum;

Refrain :
Venite adoremus
Venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus Dominum !

Deum de Deo,
Lumen de lumine,
Gestant puellae viscera;
Deum verum,
Genitum, non factum :


Cantet nunc hymnos
Chorus angelorum,
Cantet nunc aula caelestium:
Gloria, gloria,
In excelsis Deo !


Ergo qui natus
Die hodierna,
Jesu tibi sit gloria:
Patris aeterni
Verbum caro factum

Regardless of your religious traditions, or lack there of, I want to wish you a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.

Creating a Bohemian bath


You have a free spirit and you want your home to reflect your inner passions. Whether you are a professional painter, dancer or an accountant with a love of creating gourmet meals for your friends and family, you want your true spirit to shine through in your living environment.

The beauty of having a bohemian inspired bathroom is that it is the ultimate in freedom of expression. While this style is known for rule breaking, there are two rules that apply: your furnishings cannot be perfectly matched and the space must be warm and relaxing. When all is said and done, yours must be the cool.

Steps to Achieving the Bohemian Look:

1. Determine what you like.

So you want your bathroom space to be a representation of you and who you are at your core. When you understand what makes you tick, creating your Bohemian look for your bathroom is simple because it is achieved by selecting the usual bathroom items with unique designs. Simply put, if you are dedicated to only bringing what you love into your environment, your selections will blend harmoniously as if magic.

There is a trick to this, however. We are all entranced with shiny, new things. But sometimes we fall out of love as quickly as we fall into it. These are the things you don’t want in your bathroom space.

So how do you know the difference? Think about styles you have consistently loved and enjoyed that is reminiscent of childhood days and out of town trips with the family. These are the things that represent your internal sense of beauty and will withstand the test of time. With that in mind, ask yourself these questions:

• What colors do I like?
• Where do I feel most comfortable?
• What makes me happy?

Set aside the fear that it won’t “work.” Try maintaining that clean, hygienic feel to the space. Look into elegant but beautiful bathroom light fixtures. Add up some toothbrush and soap holders that are embedded with earth colors. Asian lines on the bathroom tiles, ornately carved wood bathroom art pieces, perhaps turquoise and red shower curtains, and unique shower mats, and a vibrantly designed bathtub can be some most exquisite examples of those elements that you can afford into your bathroom. Or how about having your bathroom sink undergo a makeover by painting it with sand paint or placing a stone collage on it. Not only will it work, it will be interesting, bold and stunning.

2. Setting up your space.

A Bohemian feel is one that is indulgent to the point of bordering on hedonistic, not just in a living space but also in more private areas like bathrooms. Arrange your furnishings to create an area where . Just be careful to ensure the space is as functional as it is funky. This can be done by providing plenty of comfortable seating with small, interesting tables scattered throughout the area. There is nothing worse than inadvertently kicking over one’s drink as a result of overly-animated discourse.

3. Determining your budget.

The good thing is that a Bohemian style bathroom can be readily achieved even on tight budgets. If you know what you like and are committed to truly creating your something out of the ordinary on your bathroom, you can try and look at refinancing loans to compensate your recurring expenses to achieve this very original and satisfying look.

13 December 2012

Party planning for kids

Via: Party Pail

08 December 2012

Happy Hanukkah

Even though it's well past 10 o'clock, dusk today ushered in the first day of Hanukkah.

To my friends who are members of The Tribe, I wish you the happiest of holidays and I thank you for being a part of my life. Thank you too for making me part of yours. May God shower upon you the best he has to offer. Cling to your families and revel in this amazing time of the year.

The event commemorated over the next eight days is a testament to the human spirit and to the Almighty who'll intervene when he's asked to. Happy Hanukkah everybody, Jewish or not. All of us need to celebrate miracles. Happy Hanukkah!

More big news

This was the week for big announcements. I was on the road for most of the week and I missed out on the hoopla that attended each of these announcements so I'm going to generate some of my own hoopla now.

For the second time in two years, I'm headed back to Germany to attend IMM. IMM is one of the world's largest design trade shows and my experiences there two years ago opened up a universe to me I never knew existed.

I'll be in Cologne (and later, Amsterdam) as part of Modenus.com's latest iteration of BlogTour. I was on the original Blog Tour last year in London for the Design Festival and it is a thrill to be selected to participate in another of these storied events.

I am one of 15 design bloggers from the US, the UK and the EU selected to take in the sights and sounds of this massive trade show and to report back. It's an absolute honor to be counted among some of the most influential people in the design world.

We'll be meeting up with hordes of people I know and I cannot wait to see everybody again. I've met some of my best friends through this blog and the places its taken me over the years and our regular get togethers are legendary. I'll keep the self-indulgence to a minimum while I'm on the road and will instead concentrate on the cool, new stuff I'll find over there. All of which will be documented here.

Beyond turning Germany into my personal old home week while I connect from people who are usually far removed from me, I'll be in Cologne. A city founded by Julius Caesar and a city whose Roman origins are everywhere. I'll get the chance to go back to the Cathedral and marvel at the fact that it was built by human hands and minds. I'll light a candle while I'm there and in a way, hold hands with a thousand years of humanity.

If you've never been to a Gothic Cathedral, make it a point to, regardless of your religious sensibilities. Nothing helps me see my place in the continuum of human history like walking into a thousand-year-old building does.

Thank you to Modenus and the sponsors of our upcoming adventure. This jaunt to Cologne and Amsterdam promises to be the most successful BlogTour ever. To see a list of my fellow attendees, click on this link.

KBIS identifies Agency Collaborative and marks a new direction

For the first time in my blogging life, I am going to post a press release verbatim. Also for the first time in my blogging life, I wrote the press release in question so it doesn't feel strange at all. For anybody who doesn't know this already, our industry's primary trade show, KBIS, is shaking things up in a really big way this year. I am privileged to be part of the team who'll be doing the shaking.

LANCASTER, PA., November 30, 2012 -  KBIS, North America’s premier showcase of what’s new and noteworthy in the Kitchen and Bath industry, has announced its new PR and marketing affiliation for KBIS 2013. For the first time in KBIS history, a hybridized agency collaborative will lead all marketing and communications efforts. The players involved come from Flying Camel in Brantford, Ontario, O’Reilly-DePalma in Atlanta and Chicago, White Good in Lancaster, PA and Modenus in Orlando and London.

“Drawing upon the respective strengths of four different agencies and entities that specialize in the building and design industry is key to transforming this year’s show in New Orleans from a trade show to an annual industry event,” says Jim Scott, Managing Director, Kitchen and Bath Show Nielsen Expositions. “In this new social era of connecting and collaborating, we’re confident this team will help to bring new insights into KBIS making it an inspiring, interactive showcase of everything new, where the brightest and best assemble to spot trends, experience product introductions and find the practical solutions and valuable connections that will take them into the future.”

White Good & O’Reilly DePalma – Marketing & Public Relations
White Good will lead on all Marketing and Public Relations initiatives. New for 2013 includes a revamped Digital Pressroom to better communicate the latest industry news, product introductions and show information for both exhibitors and attendees and a VIP Media Tour for select shelter and architectural media.

“New Orleans stands out as an opportunity to the rest of the US to rethink the obvious, it’s a place that encourages people to see things from a new perspective,” explains Sherry Qualls, President of White Good. ”New Orleans is a hotbed of creative impulses and rebirths. To that end, KBIS is embracing the idea of a collaborative effort between agencies to present the show’s new face.”

O’Reilly-DePalma contributes to strategy, adds voice to social discussions and provides measurement analysis for the effort. “The open innovation among our agencies is the new model for revenue growth in the social economy,” noted Nora DePalma, principal of O’Reilly-DePalma. “It is analogous to the spirit of KBIS, where all of the industry’s audiences come together to get business done.”

Flying Camel Advertising, Design + PR – Social Media
“We’ve collaborated with O’Reilly DePalma before, worked with Modenus on behalf of our agency clients, and have admired the work of White Good for years. We’re so thrilled to be part of this select group,” says Leanne Wood-Newman, Principal of Flying Camel. As the social media lead for KBIS, we are not only involved in the overall strategy, but will be the first to break news and engage with the community through the KBIS social media platforms. “It’s an exciting time to be in the thick of the conversation when KBIS is undergoing so much positive change,” adds Wood-Newman.

Modenus – Digital Platforms
Spearheaded by Founder and CEO, Veronika Miller, Modenus is the essential hub for manufacturers and designers. “We are thrilled to be part of the team that was created to help KBIS evolve from a trade show to a year round industry brand that provides inspiration, information, education and an opportunity for all participants to engage with one another through social and digital initiatives and events,” said Miller.

Modenus will curate and promote a product showcase in addition to featuring KBIS' Lifestyle Quarters through the extended reach of the highly visible BlogTour campaign that brings a carefully selected group of influential kitchen and bath bloggers to New Orleans during the show.

New Orleans is an ideal location to launch these new initiatives. It’s a new city and a chance for a new beginning. Just as the “Crescent City” encourages creativity and the excuse to see things from a different perspective, so too has the show embarked on a new way of thinking about itself.

KBIS is embracing the new and the now and New Orleans is the perfect city to show that to the world. The wealth of historical and cultural diversity the city offers, as well as its rich culinary tradition and musical stylings will be felt both on and off the show floor.

Through KBIS’ embrace of its new hybrid agency, the show is also setting itself up to be the year-round event it’s always needed and wanted to be. Look to the KBIS brand for a variety of regional, micro-events throughout the year, as well as being a resource for the latest trends and industry news.

“We’re setting the stage now to be ‘the go-to place’ for not only what’s new in the industry, we’re a resource where our attendees can learn to be successful over the long term,” says Scott. “KBIS is a culmination of many months of effort and planning, and it represents something that won’t go away --the resilience and passion of the Kitchen and Bath Industry. As we move forward, KBIS will make itself a more vital and enthusiastic partner as you embrace your future.”

This year’s event will take place from April 19 through April 21 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, LA. To learn more or to register for the show, visit www.KBIS.com.

About White Good
White Good, a member of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, is a professional service operation offering integrated marketing communications including advertising and public relations geared to manufacturers and marketers of furnishings, flooring, decorative finishes and allied building products for the residential and commercial industries. For more information, call 717-396-0200 or visit www.whitegood.com.

About O’Reilly DePalma
O’Reilly-DePalma is a full-service marketing communications agency, dedicated to helping building and architectural brands achieve their business and profitability goals. With agency roots in the industry going back 40 years, the firm's reputation is built on its deep commitment to client service, collaboration and measurable results.  For more information, call 815-469-9100 or visit www.oreilly-depalma.com.

About Flying Camel
Flying Camel Advertising, Design + PR is a full service agency providing creative and design work, public relations and corporate communications services in the home design and financial service industries.  Established in 1995 and located just outside of the Greater Toronto area, Flying Camel works with clients across North America. Visit www.flyingcamel.com for further information.

About Modenus
Modenus.com, the digital design resource for design professionals and design enthusiasts, is a carefully curated collection of the most innovative and inspired kitchen, bath and home furnishings products from around the world.

Modenus engages site visitors and social media followers alike through a continuous flow of fresh design inspiration and product information and connects its communities through highly visible real life events and marketing campaigns in North America and across Europe.
For more information please call 321.280.6868 or visit www.modenus.com.

27 November 2012

New challenges, new location, new blog

After a couple of years of hemming and hawing, I've made a decision. 

I am going to leave Florida and throw myself into a new challenge. A new challenge and what's increasingly looking like a new life.

At some point this winter, I'll be relocating to Pennsylvania and the place where my life began nearly 48 years ago. Never in a million years would I have predicted this move until the last year or so. It's funny though, the same things I ran from when I was in my early 20s are what I crave now as a middle-aged man.

Check out my new masthead, and yes that's an original photograph.

This blog and its archives will remain here in perpetuity and I'll be updating it as I come across things that pertain to its niche. In the meantime, I'm starting a new blog that will document my move and adjustment to my new surroundings. I'll list the link here when it's ready for prime time.

I started this blog five years ago and it was before I knew what a blog was. In the ensuing years, it has showered me with more good fortune than I could have ever imagined. Over the course of those five years, I've gone from being a struggling designer faced with a collapsed housing market, to a power blogger, to someone who's now plying his trade as a blogger and marketer for other people and entities.

I made my blog into a career path and trust me, if I could do it, anyone can.

People who blog their way through life transitions are some of the most self-indulgent people there are and I cannot wait to be one of them. I hope you follow me through my new ventures and adventures and again and as always, thank you for being part of all of this. I promise to keep my new site entertaining if nothing else.

In the meantime too, I have a bunch of trade shows in North America and Europe on my calendar for 2013 and my findings at them will end up here, on good old K&RD. This site and the community that's grown around it is one of my most cherished accomplishments and even though it's not over, it feels like things are changing.

Thanks for reading me for the last five years.

08 November 2012

Architects and designers, wanna go to Spain?

Tile of Spain is running a contest they're calling Passport to Creativity. Four credentialed designers and or architects will be selected to accompany the Tile of Spain team from the US and Spain as well as six journalists on a week-long immersion in all things Spain. The trip will end in Valencia when everyone on the Passport of Creativity tour will attend Cevisama, one of Europe's (and therefor the world's) largest tile and bath trade shows. The four architects and or designers will earn 4 CEUs in addition to winning an all-expense-paid trip to Spain.

Entering takes just a few moments and you can find an entry form here. Hurry though, the deadline's December 3rd, 2012. Be warned, Spain bites deep and you'll come away from a trip like this a different person. I did at any rate.

Nearly two years ago, I boarded a plane in Tampa and I was bound for Madrid. I'd been selected to be a part of the press corps for Tile of Spain's "Reign in Spain" tour. My week in Spain as a guest of the Spanish Ceramics Industry and the Spanish Trade Commission was something I'll never forget. We were treated like royalty and in a country that still has a monarch, that's really saying something.

Though it was a press tour and though I was only there for a week, I came away from that experience with a far deeper understanding of the Spanish people and their culture than I'd had before I arrived. Between factory tours, a massive trade show, and some of the most extravagant meals I've ever eaten, I got to know our hosts from the Spanish embassy. I bonded with my fellow journalists in the press corps and the winners of that year's contest in ways I hadn't expected to. Our shared experiences in Spain more or less cemented us together and I've stayed in touch with most of those folks.

Wandering down the cobblestone streets of Valencia and Zaragoza in the wee hours with new Spanish friends and the conversations we had will stay with me for the rest of my life. The chance to sit and compare notes with people from other countries on their home turf is why I love to travel so much.

Spain's financial woes were just becoming clear while I was there and the truth of the matter was a bit difficult to come by in the US. So I sat in a hotel lobby in Valencia with the Spanish Trade Commissioner and we talked about it until around four in the morning. He explained to me what was really going on and further, he told me the story of modern Spain from the perspective of a man who lived through Spain's transition from Fascism to a Parliamentary Democracy.

Those experiences aren't something you get on a package tour to Barcelona or Málaga.

In that too-short week I saw some incredible sights, gorged myself on Spanish cuisine but more than any of that, I had extended to me Spanish hospitality and kindness.

I hope you enter this contest. Wonders await you on the Iberian Peninsula.

01 November 2012

Cool table!

One of my brothers just sent me a link to this table.

My initial reaction was, "Oh man, I hate round dining tables." Then I watched this video.

Holy smokes!

What's featured here is the Capstan Table by DB Fletcher in Dorset, UK. Though it's not cheap by any means, they're produced in a limited quantity and retail for anywhere between $25 and $50,000, it's just fascinating to watch one in action.

30 October 2012

Here's a great source for cabinet hardware

A web-based hardware supplier called Bayport House Hardware has been brought to my attention recently, and I have to say I'm impressed.

They offer styles that range from contemporary to traditional and in five different finishes: stainless steel, satin nickel, matte black, oil-rubbed bronze and pewter. As a net-based business, they're able to wholesale to the public essentially.

Hardware can be an unexpected expense that comes toward the end of a renovation project and by the time  most people are ready to select hardware, they're looking for a break. Bayport House Hardware can provide that and more.

As a bonus for people who are doing their own renovations and even some professionals  Bayport House Hardware's offering a free hardware installation template that can take a lot of the guesswork out of hardware placement.

Check out their website if you're in the market for hardware for a renovation or if you're looking for a quickie face lift for your kitchen or bath.

06 October 2012

Dirty, dirty bastard

Last Sunday, two people I knew and cared about were murdered.

Their home was robbed, they were shot and killed and then the house was set on fire.

The St. Pete Police did an incredible job of tracking down the animal who did this and by last Thursday had made an arrest.

This is the piece of shit who killed my friends.

He'd escaped from a work release program Sunday morning and stole a gun. Then, he went looking for an open front door. He found one on Fourth Avenue North.

I cannot imagine the hell he put those guys through, I just can't. They must have been in absolute terror as a stranger wielded a gun over their heads. That their bodies were recovered in different parts of the house says that they couldn't even comfort each other when they knew their lives were about to end. They went out in the worst way I can imagine and it was all over a couple of household items and a pick up truck. A pick up truck Norris drove off in and torched on Monday in Tampa. That piece of crap snuffed out two lives prematurely and he tried to undo everything those guys did and represented.

They were kind and generous and funny and talented and deeply, deeply loved. They were good men who deserved so much better than this.

This hurts. Bad.

Crime statistics are one thing but when people you know get murdered there's a whole new dimension to them. This hits so close to home I can barely stand it.

The bastard who did this was in a work-release program after having been in prison since 2004. He escaped from a work-release program that holds the record for the most escapes in the state. That number would be 27.

The facility where he lived was an example of the current move to privatized prison systems. I used to work for a program that moved people from prison to regular life and I understand the need to transition convicts  better than most. The facility where he lived had a healthy contract with Pinellas County yet they have no procedures in place to alert the police immediately when one of their residents goes missing.

Had they tracked this piece of shit my friends might still be alive.

He was a career criminal who had no business being in a release program to begin with. Thank God he's in custody because if I ever ran into him I'd rip him from limb to limb. I guess that's why we have a justice system.

This whole situation just stinks. I'm as enraged as I am saddened and I just don't know what to do with my emotions. This is  tough one.

27 September 2012

Flowers and happiness

I used to buy myself flowers all the time and this makes me think I need to start doing so again. Buy some flowers!
Via: GlobalRose

04 August 2012

Lovely, lovely Lancaster

A double rainbow as seen from my brother Steve's back yard.
I'm back in Florida after my month-long sojourn in the land of my birth, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I needed to prove once and for all that I can be anywhere and still put in a solid, productive workday. I passed that test with flying colors. I wanted too, to spend non-rushed time with my siblings and their families and I did plenty of that. It was an ideal month and just how beautiful that part of the US is left me dumb struck.

Alfalfa fields

Daylilies and alfalfa

My brother Steve's back yard on my first morning in Pennsylvania, 30 June 2012.

An actual covered bridge. Lancaster County, PA is lousy with them.

What a covered bridge looks like inside. Most of them were built in the 19th Century and they are an exercise in wood framing as art.

Dusk from my brother Matt's deck.

Thunderstorms gathering as seen from my brother Matt's front yard.

When I moved away from there a long time ago, I could never see the place as anything but a small town surrounded by farmland. The combination of those two things 20+ years ago was all I needed to know in order for me to seek greener pastures. I wanted to live in a bigger city and I wanted to escape winter.

As I barrel toward 50 I can see the place through a different set of eyes and the things I once fled are the same things I now ache for. The very idea of winter weather still fills me with the same loathing it always has, but there's a lot to be said for market shopping with my sister-in-law, going to the movies with an army of my nieces and nephews, and just sitting and talking with my brothers. Seeing family friends and treading on familiar ground capped off a truly great month. Feeling wanted and loved involved nothing more than showing up, and that was nothing short of bliss. That those many, many people have known me my whole life, that they've stood by as I've worked through my conflicts and trials, and can still find love for me makes my head spin.

A covered hitching post at the Green Dragon market in  Ephrata.

Produce stand at the Green Dragon

This is a butcher's stall at the Green Dragon. The objects in the center of this photo are pig stomachs - pre-filled with fresh sausage, onion and potato. I think this qualifies as a convenience food.

A produce stand at the Green Dragon

Beets, broccoli and potatoes at Lancaster's Central Market

A shot of the stalls in Lancaster's Central Market.

Lancaster's Central Market as seen from Penn Square, the center of Lancaster City.
Lancaster's Central Market was established by King George III in the 1720s. It's the oldest open market in the United States.
A tobacco field in blossom. The flowers have to be removed by hand so the plant can make the leaves more robust.

Real tomatoes, fresh from the fields
My family's enormous and Sunday dinners usually involved at least 25 people. Baking bread and deserts for an appreciative audience of that size was far more enjoyable than I ever thought it would be. Whether it was a dinner built around a bushel of Chesapeake blue crabs or fresh pork loins, I ate better last month than I have in ages. Life in farm country brings with it the smell of manure that's true. But it also brings with it fresh produce that made me rethink my whole definition of that term. Buying sweet corn at $2 a dozen or tomatoes at 6 for a buck, corn and tomatoes that had been picked that morning, has me looking at the produce aisles at Publix with nothing short of disdain.

As much as I wanted it not to be true when I was younger, the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania are part of me. They're in my DNA, figuratively and literally. Driving a truck down dirt roads and barking at my nephews about gun safety seemed natural - I was just flexing old muscles. Visiting the churchyards and settlements established by my ancestors nearly 300 years ago brought into sharp focus that I'm part of a continuum, a line of people who lived and died before me, just as there are many who'll live and die after my time on earth's done. My struggles and conflicts really don't mean a whole lot when they're splayed against a  history I can see and touch.

This is the grave marker of my first ancestors in the new world. Husband and wife Sampson and Agnes Smith are both commemorated  by this slab of marble. Though you can't read it from this photo, the whole surface of it is engraved with a testament to their lives. Sampson arrived in Philadelphia in 1740 and died in 1781 in Chestnut Level, PA in 1781. Agnes died in 1790. One of their daughters is buried next to them.

This is the Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church. My first ancestor on this side of the Atlantic, Sampson Smith, was this church's third pastor, from 1760 to 1781. He supervised the construction of this building. The home he built still stands nearby.

This is a shallow creek crossing near Chestnut Level. My brother's driving over it and our ancestors would have been intimately familiar with this creek in the 18th Century.

The part of Pennsylvania I once called home predates the United States and the fingerprints of the time when it was a British Colony are all over the place. That countryside and the buildings that still stand from that era lived through a war for independence, they witnessed the birth of a new republic, they stood by as that new republic wrestled with slavery and a civil war. That place and those buildings aren't just a testament to my ancestors, they're a testament to this country's ability to work its way through conflict and all of it's a celebration of the glory of human potential. If you get lulled into the belief that life's difficult now, imagine what it must have been like in the 18th Century.

This is St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Lancaster, it's been there for a very long time. It's where George Washington and his peers would have attended services when they were in town.

Like I said, St. James has been around for quite a while.

These are very typical, 19th Century row houses that make up the bulk of the housing in Lancaster City.

More row houses, probably built during the War of 1812.

I love the wording on this sign.

An 18th Century row house that's still a single-family home, downtown Lancaster.

So now that I'm back I'll make the best of it. I landed another big marketing client and've been cast on a nationally syndicated TV show in the last two weeks. Add that to my current work load and I have a lot going on and even more to be grateful for. I don't think I'll be moving back to Pennsylvania any time soon but I will be spending more time there as the next few years unfold. For now though, I'm back on my living room sofa and wishing I had a group of people to cook dinner for. Thanks to all of you I spent time with last month and to everybody I missed, I'll catch you during my next visit.