24 May 2012

Blanco and Bosch

My involvement with Blanco has taken me all over the world and now they're taking me to Costa Mesa, California to see their new showroom. Blanco has teamed with Bosch appliances to create the kitchen showroom to end all showrooms.

Blanco makes incredible sinks and that I know all of the people on the US side of their business makes me endorse their products all the more strongly.

You cannot go wrong with Blanco.

23 May 2012

Meet Miss Susan

My neighbors are off on some new adventure and I am left with their cat, Susan.

I've never bee a cat person but this creature somehow exceeds my notions of what a cat is. Anything that hunts down and kills palmetto bugs is OK in my book. Even though she sleeps for most of the day she's a pretty cool addition to life around here.

I doubt that I'll ever get a cat, but having Susan around is pretty enjoyable.

22 May 2012

Out, out damned termites

The exterminator just left.

Life in a century-old, wooden structure comes at a price. Namely, drywood termites. Drywoods are one of the three kinds of termites we have in Florida. Whatever their species, they're bad news.


There are termite species that live all over but they seem to particularly common in the sun belt. I never remember them when I lived in the Northeast. In Florida however, they are part of the scenery. Just like palmetto bugs, having termites isn't a reflection on someone's housekeeping. Even so, having them makes me feel dirty somehow.

When I first moved here, the only cure for them was to have the house tented and treated with Vikane. Vikane is sulfuryl flouride, a relatively inert gas. These days we spot treat with a product called Termidor and it promises to kill every termite in the area but at the same time be inert to me because I'm a mammal and have a spine, Termidor doesn't affect me. At least according the research Dow's done.

Back to Vikane for a sec however. Sulfuryl flouide is a greenhouse gas and its widespread use is a bad idea. In its place, spot treatments with Termidor are becoming the default mode for termites.

Part of me longs for a day when I could just eliminate everything but it makes sense to spot treat and not damage the atmosphere instead of the scorch and burn method I'd prefer.

The exterminator Steve told me that I shouldn't keep things so neat because he couldn't tell where the termites were. Pardon my hygiene. I'll start allowing dust buffaloes to form under my bed to make life easier for exterminators. Hah!

Does anybody out there have any experience with Termidor? Am I alone in living in an old structure and dealing with termites? I remember seeing termite nests in the trees in Costa Rica and Panama and being awed by them. However, seeing them in my kitchen is whole other matter. If they're in my kitchen, what are they doing to my floorboards and rafters? I need to quit thinking.

Out, out damned termites!

21 May 2012

Cleaning hint

I've been on a cleaning jag lately. If it's not moving, I'm wiping or Swiffering it. However, I've always run into a dead end when it comes to dusty lampshades.

I was cleaning my laptop the other day with a trusty can of canned air when inspiration hit.

Canned air cleans lampshades better than anything I've ever found. Try it yourself and you'll see what I mean.

20 May 2012

From Panama to Providence: a Sunday story

I just got off the phone with my good friend Jim. I've known Jim for more then ten years. He and I met in Panama in the spring of 2000. We were two guys with similar interests who were pretty serious fish out of water in that land of rain forests and Canal Zones.

We struck up an easy friendship then, one that continues to this day. Of all the people I've come to know in my life, Jim stands out. He's a giant among men and I'm glad to call him my friend.

When he and I met in that land far away, he called Providence, Rhode Island home and I lived in St. Pete. When we said our goodbyes in Panama I never thought I'd see him again. Kismet intervened however, and we stayed in touch after we returned to the US.

Jim had some kind of vague business career I never quite grasped and about six months after we came back to the US he had an opportunity to take a position in San Francisco.

Jim called me one afternoon to ask if I'd be interested in joining him in a road trip from Providence to San Francisco. Jim had a greyhound named Alex and he didn't want to fly her to the opposite coast. Besides, he had a car he needed to get to California and he'd already decided to drive himself. Having me along would make the drive easier for sure. Further, if I were along we'd take our time and get a feel for the US as we drove.

Our plan was to drive south from Rhode Island, through Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania on Day One. We were going to head south before heading west. Day Two had us driving through West Virginia, Virginia and into North Carolina. Jim had friends who had a cabin in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina and he wanted to spend a few days with them before we headed west in earnest.

We arrived in North Carolina with few incidents and were all ready to spend a great weekend in the mountains with Jim's friends.

Jim's friends were amazing and I'll keep them nameless here. They were gracious hosts and their cabin turned out to be so much more than what I'd expected. However, they had an old cat named Punkin and we had a greyhound.

Most retired greyhounds that get adopted can't be around small animals. Their chase instinct is too strong, when they see something smaller than they are and it's moving, they can't help themselves but to chase it down.

Knowing this as we headed into the weekend, all of us decided that we keep Punkin and Alex separated so that Alex in particular would never see Punkin, and Punkin would remain oblivious to Alex.

A great weekend revealed itself. The four of us played board games and cooked up a storm. There was no TV and no interference from the outside world; it was four people enjoying one another's company in the middle of nowhere. We ate, we talked, we laughed and we told stories. It pretty much defined my idea of an ideal weekend and the backdrop of the Smokies made it all the more perfect. The goodwill just flowed and the four of us bonded tightly.

The weekend was winding down by Sunday. Jim and I had to head west and our hosts had to go home to their regular lives in Greensboro, South Carolina. Jim and I had a full day of driving ahead of us and so as Jim packed the car, I decided to take a quick nap.

Within a half an hour I heard a wail from one of our hosts. He was beyond wailing actually, he was keening. His mournings were the sharpest calls from a man in pain I'd ever heard.

Just then, Jim came barging into the guest room with Alex the greyhound in tow. I asked him what was going on and he said "Stay here and hold onto Alex. She just killed Punkin." He was gone in a flash.


I shook off my sleep and walked out into the kitchen while leaving Alex behind in the guest room. I grabbed Jim and asked him what was going on.

Apparently, Jim was loading the car and had Alex outside with him. Our hosts had no idea that Jim and Alex were outside so they let Punkin out the side door.

As Jim was loading the car Alex walked up to him with something in her mouth. He assumed it was a squirrel but he realized (and to his horror) it was Punkin the cat.

Alex had just killed our host's cat.

How do you come back from that? Alex was just being herself, a dog. However our hosts had just lost a member of their family. My heart goes out to them still but the relationships formed that weekend were destroyed utterly.

I don't blame them really. And how to deal with it from Jim's and my perspective was a total mystery.

Really, what do you do when your pet kills a friend's pet? Miss Manners never addresses situations like that.

Our hosts were the very picture of graciousness after the fact and I have nothing but good things to say about their response to the situation.

Jim and I didn't linger after Punkin's murder, in fact we drove twice the distance we were supposed to that day just to have some distance between us and the event that ended up defining that weekend. By the time we'd reached Columbia, Missouri we figured we'd come far enough and stopped for the night.

Alex the greyhound didn't seem to be affected by what had happened in North Carolina though Jim and I were torn. Alex was learning how to be a dog after seven years of being a racer. Jim and I were trying to express our condolences and save face at the same time.

We talked about nothing but through Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. Before we knew it we'd crossed the Continental Divide and as amazing as the experiences we embraced were, there was a shadow over all of it.

Our relationship with our hosts that weekend never recovered and a week after the fact we were in San Francisco.

I don't really mourn the loss of Punkin, but I do mourn the loss of two good people. I wish I could have the friendship back that we forged that weekend. But alas...

But really, what do you do in a situation like that? What's the appropriate response? How do you bounce back from a murder among pets?

19 May 2012

It's island time again, kitchen island that is

Tomorrow morning at 9:30 EST, CBS Sunday Morning will dedicate its 90-minute broadcast to an exploration of kitchen islands. Sunday Morning reporter Nancy Giles will travel the world over and two of her stops on this trip to find the exotic, the unusual, the beautiful and the functional will be in kitchens designed by world-renowned kitchen designer Johnny Grey.

The first of the two Johnny Grey designs Sunday Morning will profile are The Threshing Barn in Arlesford, England. Notice how he took the traditional form of a threshing barn and created a space that's perfectly suited to life in the 21st Century. The forced perspective at work in this kitchen is remarkable.

©Johnny Grey Studios

©Johnny Grey Studios

©Johnny Grey Studios

©Johnny Grey Studios

©Johnny Grey Studios

Talk about a lesson in how to define a room within an open floor plan. Wow.

The second Johnny Grey design Sunday Morning will feature is on the other side of the Atlantic in New York. In this room, Johnny introduced an element of hand crafted, nearly whimsical flair to an older home. As a side note, the following kitchen was one of my inspirations when I was starting out as a designer and it's really great that the editors at Sunday Morning see in it what I do.

©Johnny Grey Studios

©Johnny Grey Studios

©Johnny Grey Studios

©Johnny Grey Studios

©Johnny Grey Studios

Of all the flourishes in kitchen design I've ever seen, the leg on the island in the final photo has to be my all-time favorite.

So remember to tune into CBS Sunday Morning tomorrow, May 20th at 9am EST to see Nancy Giles tour of the islands and to hear Johnny as well as his clients as they talk about what it's like to live in the spaces they call home. If you miss the broadcast or if you're somewhere where you can't see it, go to CBS Sunday Morning's website and you can see the broadcast there.

Johnny Grey Studios works in the UK, Europe, North America and anywhere else where someone is calling out for an original, thoughtful design. You can contact the studio and see more of Johnny's work through the Johnny Grey Studios website. Johnny's blog, Grey Matters has more information and thoughts on kitchen islands, so head over there and join the conversation!

08 May 2012

Guess it's over: a Blog Off post

Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive when bloggers of all stripes weigh in on the same topic. After a great run, the Blog Off as it exists now will end of this week. The topic is essentially wrapping things up and saying goodbye. Here's my take:


The Blog Off has been winding down for the last six months or so and those of us who put this thing together every two weeks have been facing that incrementally. After the last post, my partner in crime Dog Walk Blog and I were discussing what to write about today.

For the last six months, he and I have had a "next topic" conversation every two weeks and I'd start each one with the suggestion that we place a "For Sale by Owner" banner ad on the Let's Blog Off landing page. I was only partially kidding.

Like everybody else on the internet, we'd hoped to have this thing make some money somehow. Despite our shrewd minds and marketing acumen, we never did figure out a way for this thing to pay for itself. Putting this together every two weeks took a lot of energy and time and for the last few months it's become clear that the Blog Off was turning into a time and energy black hole.

We're busy men, but so is everybody. When we started this thing we were both established internet presences. Our goal was to help people expand their audiences and in that regard I think we succeeded. It was a singular thrill to watch as the Blog Off participants went from the circle of our online friends and expanded to include new bloggers all over the world.

My goal over the course of this program was to reach out across borders and it was an amazing thing to see participating posts come in from places like Venezuela,Canada, Portugal, Scotland and Italy. Even though the Blog Off is winding down, our connections around the world mark a really interesting path forward. Not just for us as internet people but for people as a whole.

It's been a great ride to read other peoples' perspectives on subjects like art and autumn and I hope we provided a forum where people could flesh out their internet personae. It's one thing to be an architect, but when an architect writes about the topic of home or the legacy he or she inherited, it provided a window into the soul of that architect. I'm using architect as an example only. Our participants have ranged from architects to teachers to waitresses and everybody's perspective has always been welcome.

I guess this means that I have to start blogging again.