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coffee + cre8tive {nov 30 ’06}

November 30, 2006

coffee + cre8tive {nov 30 '06}
Have you ever thought about the architecture of winter? What makes a city a good winter city? After spending a few months in Europe just as the weather was starting to change, I noticed that cities in the Netherlands and northern Germany have a way of taking urban dwellers from warmth to cold without them hardly noticing the rapidly dropping temps. Cities there tend to know exactly how to extend the period of comfortable outdoor space and are currently looking at more ways to make winter a time of pleasure vs. one of dread.

As we dined in an outdoor cafe in Eindhoven initially not thinking twice about it, it was only halfway into our meal that it dawned on me that it was 45 degrees and we were eating outdoors and feeling quite cozy. Looking around, I noticed we were seated beneath a large canopy with plastic side partitions separating our cafe from the next, along with several large heat lamps scattered throughout the space. It also helped that this cafe was packed with warm bodies, as residents embraced the concept merrily, sipping and slurping and laughing and chatting. This cold rainy day wasn’t about to stop them from living life. Eindhoven wasn’t about to give up the pleasure of dining outdoors simply because summer was over.

Of course, there’s more than a space heater in an outdoor cafe that makes urban winters more enjoyable. Outdoor markets, beverages sold streetside such as hot mulled spice wine (it sure kept me warm!), street performers playing (vs. disappearing until Spring), lots of passages and arcades to take shelter in, and of course, the residents dressing accordingly. Here in the states, particularly the northeast where I live, people are always complaining about how cold they are as they stand before you in jeans, a sweater and a wool over coat. No wonder. They are still dressed as though it’s Autumn. If you want to get the most pleasure out of winter, layer up! Invest in quality gear – a hat, gloves and a scarf, and get outside and move around. Take up a winter sport. Hiking in the forest, cross country skiing, even sled riding on a regular basis makes winter fun.

Another observation while in northern Europe, the locals view winter as just another season that has it’s ups and downs, not a time to go completely inactive by heading home directly after work and staying there until we wake again the next morning to return to work yet again. In some cultures, simply gathering around a table with candles, a big meal and good conversation with friends and family help to make the winter season more of a pleasure. I know my friends in Germany do this often in the winter, and after partaking in such gatherings myself, it’s something I’ve vowed to do here in the states with my own crew.

What got me started on this subject was that moment mentioned earlier whilst in Eindhoven when I realized I was outside eating on a very cold rainy day. When I returned to the states, the Nov/Dec AB issue was waiting in the mail which covers the very subject my husband and I chatted about while flying home – what makes a city a good winter city. AB explores this subject in depth, along with additional coverage on designing a winter city (from an architect’s perspective) and there’s even a feature on what the locals would do to make Boston a better winter city.

Here’s what some had to say, “Taking a page out of Providence’s Waterfire evenings, imagine a Fire and Ice walk along the Rose Kennedy Greenway, where large-scale ice sculptures interspersed with braziers would illuminate a romantic walk. Have stops along the way where small choirs could sing – Boston has an unbelievably large number of choruses. Hot chocolate, hot cider, and fleece earmuffs could be sold by vendors under heaters.” – Diane Georgopoulos FAIA for AB.

When it comes to winter, I think the key is to avoid giving in to negative thinking, ‘getting through it’ or ‘passing by the time as quickly as possible’. Afterall, this is your life we’re talking about and no one should be on a race to make it pass by more quickly! You want to enjoy each day that you have been blessed to exist on this planet. The key is to find ways to make the best out of the weather so that you can enjoy each and every snowflake. If you live in a cold climate, what does your city do to keep its residents happy, tourism somewhat alive, and spirits high? What are you planning to do this winter to make the season fun and interesting? Any home projects, fitness plans, career goals, etc.?

Oh, and if you don’t have a copy of Architecture Boston, which covers this very subject in depth, try to get your hands on a copy soon.

(image from one of my favorite photographers, simply photo. you can purchase her lovely postcards shown above on etsy.)

Arts + Crafts, Events + Markets, Shopping + Products, Travel

December Arts + Crafts Markets: Boston + Providence

November 29, 2006

[updated on 11/30 to add rag + bone and the wears + wares events, both on dec. 2nd. see below for details.]
December Arts + Crafts Markets: Boston + Providence
Before I get started, this post isn’t just for the locals — all can benefit. How? By being nosey, of course! Click around on all the links below and browse each website because tucked away in many of them, you’ll find links to vendors that often have online stores. Cha-ching!

Looking to shop ’til ya drop this month, but cringe at the thought of taking on another (deadly) shopping mall experience? Try these friendly marketplaces packed with fresh finds from affordable art to home accessories + so much more! Here’s your handy guide, complete with dates, times, links, admission fees, and complete addresses so you can map out your course and set sail!

TIP: Print this out and keep it on you during the month!

Boston Public Library Holiday Sale
Dec. 1, 10-5
Johnson Lobby, 700 Boylston Street, Boston.
Rain or shine. Free admission.

Crafts at the Castle
Hynes Convention Center, 900 Boylston Street (first floor), Boston.
Dec. 1, 10-8 pm
Dec. 2, 10-6 pm
Dec. 3, 10-5
Rain or shine. $15.00 for adults. $12.00 for seniors. Children under 12 are free.

Rag + Bone Factory Sale
Rag + Bone Bindery, 1088 Main Street, Pawtucket, RI (near Providence)
Dec. 2, 10-4 pm
Rain or shine. Free admission.

Wears + Wares pre-Holiday Market
Downtown Crossing, on Summer Street (past Filene’s) in the lobby of 101 Arch, Boston.
Dec. 2, 11-5 pm
Rain or shine. Free admission.

Cultural Survival Bazaar
Two locations. December 2-3, 10-6 pm at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge.
Dec. 9-10, 11-7 pm at the Hynes Convention Center 900 Boylston St, Boston.
Rain or shine. Free admission.

MassArt’s Annual Holiday Sale*
MassArt, Tower Building (lobby), 621 Huntington Ave. (corner of Huntington Ave. and Evans Way), Boston.
Dec. 4-9, 10-7 pm
Rain or shine. Free admission.

School of the Museum of Fine Arts December Sale*
SMFA, 230 The Fenway, Boston.
Dec. 6, 12?8 pm
Dec. 7, 12?8 pm
Dec. 8-11, 12?6 pm

RISD Alumni Holiday Art Sale*
Rhode Island Convention Center, One Sabin Street, Providence.
Dec. 9, 10-5 pm
Rain or shine. Admission is $5; children under 14 or current RISD students (with ID) get in free.

Union Square Winter Craft Market
Union Square, Somerville where Washington Street, Prospect Street and Somerville Avenue meet. Additional vendors will showcase their goods inside Toast Lounge, located directly off the central plaza.
Dec. 9, 11-5 pm
Rain or shine. Free admission.

Fort Point Holiday Sale
Artists’ Building at 249 A Street, Boston.
Dec. 9, 11-7 pm
Dec. 10, 11-5 pm
Rain or shine. Free admission.

Sowa Holiday Market*
Cathedral High School Gym, 74 Union Park Street (South End), Boston.
Dec. 9, 10-8 pm
Dec. 10, 10-6 pm
Rain or shine. $5 admission. Free for children under 12.

Bazaar Bizarre*
Cyclorama (Boston Center for the Arts) at 539 Tremont Street (South End), Boston.
Dec. 16, 10-7 pm.
Rain or shine. $1.00 Admission.

Month Long Markets

Harvard Square Holiday Craft Fair
First Parish Church, on the corner of Mass Ave. and Church St. in Harvard Square, Cambridge. This fun fair runs for 12 days, Dec. 2-3, 9-10, 15-17, and 19-23.
Sats: 10-7, Suns: 12-6, Weekdays: 11-7.
Rain or shine. Free Admission.

Craftland Show (month long!)
70 Eddy Street (near city hall), Providence.
Friday Dec. 1st until the 23rd, open five days a week, Wednesday – Sunday 11-6, and Thursdays from 11-8 pm.
Note: The storefront retail area is the back of the Peerless Building behind City Hall at the corner of Fulton Street.
Rain or shine. Free admission.

Whew! (wiping forehead) What a list! If I’ve missed a venue for Boston or Providence, please comment below with the scoop.

*Events that rock it like your momma, grandma, and little sister Sally!

[Stay tuned, tomorrow decor8 west coast contributor Anh-Minh Le features the best markets in the Bay Area! If you feel like writing about markets in your neck of the woods, contact me at decor8blog AT yahoo DOT com for specifics. But for now, decor8 is only covering Boston, Providence and San Francisco.]

(images from risd)

Arts + Crafts, Handmade, Rooms

Rabbit Toes Personalized Dinnerware – New!

November 29, 2006

Rabbit Toes Personalized Dinnerware - New!
A huge thanks to Jessica who wrote in yesterday about Rabbit Toes – her fun and contemporary new line of personalized dinnerware. A new limited-production design is available each month! From her lovely 1884 carriage house in Minneapolis, Jessica creates designs to commemorate weddings, anniversaries and other events that you feel the need to highlight in your life. Each plate is made in Italy, but the custom design and application are her own creations. I’m in love with the silhouette plate – perfect for wall or shelf display, don’t you think?

Rabbit Toes Personalized Dinnerware - New!

Thanks for the tip Jessica!

(images from rabbit toes)


Thomas Paul Pillows

November 29, 2006

Thomas Paul Pillows
I’m sure these already made their way around the blog circuit, but these Thomas Paul pillows made me really happy today and for those of you who may have missed them, enjoy. I think they are so charming, I love the two tone patterns – a leaf here, a bird there, some coral… All are available at Pillows + Throws online. They remind me of the colors in my own home as a child with all the navy, goldenrod, and various shades of green. Do you have any TP cuteness in your home? I only have his melamine silhouette serving trays…

Thomas Paul Pillows
(images from pillows and throws)


Are Shadow Boxes Trending?

November 29, 2006

Shadow boxes are making a bit of a comeback, at least at Anthropologie, where I spotted them gracing the walls yesterday in all their 3-D splendor. With roots in Victorian times (just like silhouette art), they can be a nice way to display cherished memories in your beautiful boudoir – giving guests a bit of a peek into who you are. I’m not big on the ornate, so I wouldn’t want to style my own box after these above because they look a little too dated for my taste (the exception being my favorite shown above, top right corner, with the 3 birds inside – that’s quite cute.)

Are Shadow Boxes Trending?

What drew me to these boxes yesterday is my own crazy hoarding issues, which is totally OCD, I know. I have a few shadow boxes that I’ve never touched, but have felt somewhat guilty over saving. They’ve been tucked away in tissue paper for a few years now. Maybe it would be a fun December project to stop saving them and put them to good use, huh? They are in modern uncomplicated wood frames, just like the birdy box shown above, with a white interior and a creamy burlap background. A little magnet keeps them closed. I have two. I just have to come up with a clever showpiece. That’s where I’m stuck.

What would you put inside a shadow box?

I’m leaning away from the traditional (ticket stubs, photos, lace, velvet ribbon) and considering a simple tree branch with a handmade paper bird resting on it. A branch created with pretty wrapping paper or a brightly colored blue road map, something like the Real Simple sections that Happy Mundane wrote about a few months back. (I loved that post, Jon!) Or maybe steer away totally from the map idea and go with something more personal, like a 3-D diary of sorts but that may clutter the box too much and I’d like to keep it simple. Maybe I could take 12 of my favorite little badges or pocket mirrors in bright colors and in a perfectly neat grid, pin or super glue them inside.

TIP: Go learn about the history of the shadow box. A fun read indeed!

Have any clever shadow box ideas? Have you ever used one in your decor?

(images from anthropologie)


Creative Thursday

November 28, 2006

Continued from February 2, 2007 post…

…Have you arrived? At least for now?

When I was younger, I felt like I had to prove myself constantly. I had to get that promotion. I had to stay in the office until midnight (and beyond) to finish the job. I had to mingle with colleagues after work because contacts meant everything, although being with my family or taking a run with my dogs would have been a better choice. But, I did it because that’s what you do when you are growing into a career. I think we all do it, at different levels of course, but we just do.

In the Autumn of ’05, when I left the corporate world after 8 years, I crossed the line into my 30’s and I felt like a fish out of water. Not because I was 30 (although that did freak me out), but because I was 30 and felt emotionally very attached, almost by an umbilical cord, to the mother company, the corporation. No check would arrive on Friday (yet). I had to hunt for my work now because I had made the decision to freelance. I felt scared, alone, and most of all, very vulnerable. Aside from the fear of the unknown, I was sure of one thing. That I would succeed.

I knew I had nothing to prove. I was successful (according to me at least) in the business world, I would become successful at whatever I decided to take on from there. This isn’t about being stuck up or naive, it’s about having pride in yourself and knowing that you have value. Whether you work or not, I’m not referring to value based on title, money, or career. I’m talking about what others cannot take away from you. Your relationship with yourself, knowing you are a good person, and feeling very pleased by the progress you’ve made in your life despite the ups and downs.

By the time I was 30, I had nearly 8 years of facilities management and space planning under my belt, along with heaps of corporate communications experience working with those at the top. I would interact with executives on a daily basis, in my company as well as in others. If I could prove my worth as an employee to such accomplished leaders, people I shared no real morals, ethics, or values with, I could prove it out on my own amidst other freelancers, whom I did feel more at home with. I knew I had what it takes to work hard and stay on target. I didn’t place my personal value on my job. In fact, I never associated value with career accomplishments or money. Perhaps it’s because my father is from Kentucky and my mother was raised on a 100 acre farm. Although we lived in nice homes and had, what many would call money, I always remember how my parents felt about job title and career.

“Loving what you do is more important than them loving what you do (meaning the company)”.

I will never forget my father saying those words, which could be directly traced back to his humble roots. As a very successful civil engineer who was sent to Boston in the mid 1980’s to remove the Deer Island prison to build a water treatment facility, which would be the start of the Big Dig project, he genuinely loved what he did. I’d see him in his office sketching drafts by hand (pre CAD days) for hours, completely passionate. He even taught drafting (at the college level) in the evening for many years because he loved his field so much. My father taught me, through how he lived his life, to never sit on the fence. You either do it wholeheartedly, or you get out of it completely. No in between.

I feel very, very honored that I was able to work with some industry leaders in my time. But, these people did not become successful overnight. They struggled, pushed, and some even screwed the competition to get to where they were. Not everyone was this way, but most of those on top didn’t get there by being nice or genuine. Every handshake had a motive. It’s just how things operated. I recall days spent, sitting on the 24th floor looking out over the city thinking, “I’m not cut out for this”. This was when I was promoted to management level and lucky enough to have an office because I was leading a very important facilities related project affecting over 1,000 employees and 35,000 square feet of prime Boston real estate. I did the job, won an award for my efforts even, but most of the time I would go home at night in tears because something didn’t feel right. I loved working in facilities, but disliked the vibe. The competition. The lack of genuine support. My roommate back then, Adi, told me,

“You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole”.

I’ve never forgotten that expression. If something doesn’t fit in a natural sense, don’t force it.

Some of the above thoughts are ones that Marisa explores in her podcasts, topics that I feel are important, ones we all need to listen to and think about. We may need to admit that we’re not cut out for what we’re doing and may need to reconsider our path. And that’s okay.

I hate to sound all Oprah on you, but don’t settle with where you are because it’s comfortable on a financial level or offers job security. If it doesn’t feel right, and the feeling doesn’t go away, you may need to fine tune things. Whether it’s a career change, dumping a client that drains you, taking on a client that challenges you, working for a new company, going back to school, taking up a night class to energize you, whatever. Do it.

I speak from experience. I’ve been working since I was 12. In addition to my parents day jobs, they also owned two restaurants, a British pub and a seafood restaurant. I remember coming home from school and heading straight over to the restaurant to work. I’d fold hundreds of linens for the tables, fill S+P shakers, mop floors. When you start working for your parents at 12, and then at 15 for others, you pretty much know where you want to be when you’re 30. But, sometimes it takes longer. We’re all different. You’re not wierd if you go home after work tonight and feel like nothing was accomplished all week. Or you have a drink with friends and end up in tears over your crazy boss. You’re not nuts or incapable because your job drains you. Maybe you’ve cried in the bathroom stall this week. Maybe these are signs. Maybe you’re not on your chosen path because you just haven’t found it yet.

I could write a book on such topics. Excuse me for rambling. But if you’ve stayed with me this long, then you must relate on some level. Listen to Marisa’s podcasts, they are very thought provoking. My favorite is her interview with former NFL kicker, Tracy Bennett, who is now a big time set photographer in Hollywood. Towards the end of February, she’ll even have a podcast with me to talk about Creative Living. I hope Marisa’s words touch you in some way, provide motivation, and start you on a path of thinking. Thinking is something we sometimes forget to do. Sounds funny, but it’s true. We tune out with our iPod or in front of reality tv instead. We just jump in the hamster wheel of life and run. Maybe this weekend, you can carve out some time to think, journal your thoughts, listen to Marisa’s podcasts, and start considering your direction in life. Perhaps a little change is in the wind?

Psst: Learn more about Marisa here.

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