Archive for April, 2015

COASTI love Chicago, it’s the great American city and its history is full of colorful characters and stories abound as the city is the crossroads of our country. In the book, The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream by Thomas Dyja, we are treated to many of these people and stories that made Chicago the epicenter for defining America in the 20th century and it is a great read.

About The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream by Thomas Dyja: “A critically acclaimed history of Chicago at mid-century, featuring many of the incredible personalities that shaped American culture. Before air travel overtook trains, nearly every coast-to-coast journey included a stop in Chicago, and this flow of people and commodities made it the crucible for American culture and innovation. In luminous prose, Chicago native Thomas Dyja re-creates the story of the city in its postwar prime and explains its profound impact on modern America—from Chess Records to Playboy, McDonald’s to the University of Chicago. Populated with an incredible cast of characters, including Mahalia Jackson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Sun Ra, Simone de Beauvoir, Nelson Algren, Gwendolyn Brooks, Studs Turkel, and Mayor Richard J. Daley, The Third Coast recalls the prominence of the Windy City in all its grandeur.”

I love the works of Chicago’s native son Studs Turkel, whose oral histories of life and work in the United States in the last century is unmatched. Mr. Turkel is included in The Third Coast, which is a fine companion to his legacy.

The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream by Thomas Dyja is available from Amazon and other fine book retailers.

RabbitWhite.2jpgI love the work of contemporary artist Hillary White, who calls herself the White Rabbit.

Some of Ms. White’s work are classic images or her home state of Maine (right), others are reinterpretations of famous works of art with her signature rabbit heads.

However, it are her pop culture works that have me all excited – seriously, how can you not love the homage to 80’s television icon Alf in Ms. White’s work Alf Devouring His Cat?


About artist Hillary White – aka the White Rabbit in her own words: “I am a Belfast, Maine native, born from the salty depths of a bubbling cauldron overflowing with ’80s pop culture, classical art, and Alice in Wonderland. I spend most of my time painting classical art and pop culture mash-ups, and designing T-shirts. ‘There are times in our lives when we must make choices based more on instinct than intellect. Often, the soul recognizes its choice before the rational mind has time to process the information.’ The white rabbit symbolizes that inner voice, the soul’s choice. Pay attention!”

Check out a gallery of Hillary White Rabbit’s work here.

Learn more about Hillary White – aka the White Rabbit – here.

FloydI have been known to make tables out of all manner of things – specifically coffee tables. I have had a vintage ironing board coffee table as well as one made from just an old slab of wood. But these are not nearly as cool as what I can do with The Floyd Leg.

The Floyd Leg is a leg that you can add to just about any service and make a table out of it – coffee or otherwise.

It is so simple to use the Floyd Leg to make a table: “The Floyd Leg is a tool that allows you create a table from any flat surface by clamping on the legs.”

About The Floyd Leg – designed and Manufactured in Detroit: “We strive to create products that fuse design and manufacturing by working hand in hand with local factories to create long lasting, functional products. From the onset, tapping into Detroit’s manufacturing infrastructure has defined the design behind The Floyd Leg and the method of production and distribution behind it. Today, the production of The Floyd Leg touches down in four different manufacturing facilities across Detroit, utilizing raw materials produced in the US. As we look towards the future, we continue to explore new ways for building around the idea of regional production.”

Come to think of it, I have a few old doors back home in the barn in New Hampshire that would make some nice banquet tables.

Checkout the coolness that is the Floyd Leg here.

IMG_0999A couple of summers ago while on a nature walk during our vacation in Wellfleet, MA (the beautiful Cape Cod harbor town) my friend Lynda and I spotted what we thought were a few hawks soaring over the landscape. We thought it was a very cool sight and their wingspans and aerial maneuvers were impressive.

We eventually stumbled upon a group of birdwatchers and before we could say anything about the hawks we saw they volunteered that what we actually saw was a group of turkey vultures. Turkey vultures? Yeah, a large bird that looks like a turkey and acts like a vulture.

On further inspection and research, I found that although impressive in the air (they really do look like hawks or eagles) they are quite homely when perched.

Anyway, all of this is to say that recently a turkey vulture came and sat on the ledge outside of my office. I was startled at first but quickly grabbed my camera. The bird looked at me and was more curious than spooked. He watched me for a while and then flew away, did some fancy flying and came right back to the same spot on my ledge.

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About Turkey Vultures from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “If you’ve gone looking for raptors on a clear day, your heart has probably leaped at the sight of a large, soaring bird in the distance– perhaps an eagle or osprey. But if it’s soaring with its wings raised in a V and making wobbly circles, it’s likely a Turkey Vulture. These birds ride thermals in the sky and use their keen sense of smell to find fresh carcasses. They are a consummate scavenger, cleaning up the countryside one bite of their sharply hooked bill at a time, and never mussing a feather on their bald heads.”

See more about turkey vultures from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology here.

Find all the great resources about birds from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology here.

CLFThe fine folks at Country Living magazine run a great series of fairs featuring vintage finds, arts, foods and good times.

Next weekend they take their fair to the Nashville area for the first time with the Country Living Fair in Lebanon, Tennessee.

About the Country Living Fair in Lebanon, Tennessee: “For the first time ever, we’re excited to be headed to Music City April 24-26 for antiques shopping, food and craft demonstrations, and appearances by CL contributors (including ‘What Is It Worth?’ panelist Mike Wolfe of HISTORY’s American Pickers!). Join us at the Country Living Fair in Lebanon, Tennessee, at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center April 24-26, 2015, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day. We promise great shopping, seminars and demonstrations, delicious food, and a chance to meet our editors!”

The Country Living Fair in Lebanon, TN runs April 24-26, 2015.

Learn more about Country Living’s series of Fairs in 2015 here.

See all the cool features of Country Living magazine here.

FF: Galaxy Rose Sauerkraut from The Brinery

krautYou just think you don’t like sauerkraut- that’s because you haven’t yet tried the Galaxy Rose Sauerkraut I found from the fine folks at The Brinery,

About Galaxy Rose Sauerkraut from The Brinery: “Made from organic watermelon radish and green cabbage sourced from Tantre Farm in Chelsea, MI, this beautiful ruby red kraut boasts a whimsical sweetness and a mild, radish-y bite. We think this kraut represents the true spirit of The Brinery: locally grown vegetables purchased directly from the farmer and integrated into our product line in a unique and fun way.”

Check out all the fine Sauerkrauts and other products from The Brinery here.

FF: The Cappuccino Lock

CapuWhen I lock up my bike I usually try to finagle a way to also lock up my helmet so someone doesn’t just walk away with an easy target. Now, with the Cappuccino Lock, I can turn my helmet into the way I lock up my bike. The Cappuccino Lock may not be the best way to lock up your bike for hours on end – but it is perfect for a short stop out on a long ride.

About The Cappuccino Lock: “The Cappuccino Lock is a revolutionary way to lock your helmet and your bike for a brief moment using nothing but your helmet straps. It is an easy to use, portable system that turns your helmet into a locking system. Insert one part of the buckle into the lock and connect the other part on to the other side of the lock, twist the numbers to ensure the lock can’t open and relax while you have your coffee.”

Check out The Cappuccino Lock here.

FF: The DIY Take Off Lampshade from Fifti-Fifti

fiftiYou know I like a good DIY project – but I particularly love when all you need comes in a kit to produce a finely designed lamp like the DIY Take Off Lampshade I found from the fine folks from Fifti-Fifti.

About the DIY Take Off Lampshade from Fifti-Fifti: “The lampshade is made of two sheets of paper with a very fine pattern of laser stiches which can be enlarged at will. So it is possible to determine where the light passes through the lamp-shade. This leads to an endless variety of light/shade structures and patterns. The metal frame is to be stuck to one piece, the paper sheets are fixed by magnets. Additional you will get an instruction sheet with patterns to copy or simply get inspired.”

Check out all of Fifti-Fifti’s fine products here.

GROWell, it is that time of year again when I start work on my container garden. This year I am going to try the Gro-able seed pods I found from the fine folks that make Miracle-Gro.

The Gro-able pods come in many varieties and make it easier for would-be farmers like me to grow vegetables by taking the guess work out of planting and growing.

About Gro-able seed pods from Miracle-Gro: “Each little pod comes with everything you need to start growing your own food. Just pop them in some soil, add water and watch them grow.”

I will be documenting the progress I make with my container garden this season right here – so you will see how well these things work – but I have high hopes. Now I just have to figure out a way to keep all the rabbits in my yard from munching away at my seedlings.

Check out the full line of Gro-able seed pods from Miracle-Gro here.

Miracle-Gro Gro-able seed pods are available from fine retailers like Amazon.

FunGI have a love/hate relationship with the works of author Nick Hornby. The love part is quite simple – I love his work, and I have read every single one of his novels – some of them multiple times. The hate part is that I hate that he is not more prolific. What I wouldn’t do to have Mr. Hornby have the same output as, say, James Patterson or Stephen King.

So here is the deal. When one of his books comes out I am of two minds. Do I rush to read it? Or do I try to wait as long as I can as I know it will be a while before there is a new work to feed my fix?

Such is the dilemma I faced recently with the release of Mr. Hornby’s most recent novel, Funny Girl: A Novel. It had been something like five years since his last book, the fantastic Juliet, Naked (see my review here), which is one of his best works to date, and I couldn’t wait to read his latest. So, I lasted about two days after the pre-ordered Funny Girl loaded to my Kindle and the companion audio book to my iPod and I have already read it twice and listened to it once.

I must report that Funny Girl was worth the wait. Mr. Hornby is in fine form and his latest work is a wonderful Mad Men-era period piece that is a bit of a departure for the author, best known for writing about men of a certain age struggling with being a certain age. In Funny Girl, which has nothing whatever to do with the Barbra Streisand masterpiece of the same name, Mr. Hornby gives us a female main character, but don’t worry, there is plenty of male angst surrounding her.

About Funny Girl: A Novel by Nick Hornby: “Set in 1960’s London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby’s latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.”

I really enjoyed this book. Mr. Hornby gives us a central character who although she is a television comedy star in the 1960’s, is very relatable and loveable. But it is in the lives of the people around her where the novel really shines – it says much about the people who come into our lives and disrupt everything and in the end makes you wonder how you could have lived without them (her).

Funny Girl: A Novel by Nick Hornby is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers everywhere.

GOOD1OK, I have totally fallen in love with the fine folks at Goodwin & Goodwin – genuine sign makers from London.

First of all, I love old school signs – and what I really like is that there are people out there like Goodwin & Goodwin still making them.

About Goodwin & Goodwin: “Good design is key to everything Goodwin & Goodwin stands for, professional quality design has traditionally been expensive or out of reach for most people but G&G are looking to change this. Based out of their 3,000 sq ft. workshop on the site of an old chocolate factory in North London, Goodwin & Goodwin has fast made a name for themselves in the world of Typography. They’ve been featured in countless design magazines and sites, on advertising agency walls, and their art graces the interiors of the hottest and hippest hotels and restaurants, private clients include pop stars, celebrities and even members of the royal family!”

The world has become way too full of digital signage that lacks the charm of old neon, multiple bulb and light box signs – the kind that Goodwin & Goodwin still make.

GOOD2I love Goodwin & Goodwin’s old-school cinema signs: “Inspired by classic American Drive-thrus, movie theatres and diners. Vintage style Cinema light box with a full alphabet of letters (black), numbers (red) and symbols (black) on clear plastic. The letters simply slot into the clear horizontal lines on the front of the light box. Each light box comes with a set of clear plastic alphabet letters, numbers and symbols that can be used to create any combination of words you want, fits 14 characters approx and the clear plastic letters simply slot in.”

Check out London Sign Makers Goodwin & Goodwin here.

The weather here on the prairie has been so nice the past several weeks and I have been back out on all the great walking, hiking and biking trails that the area has to offer. The other day I was walking on one of my favorite trails (near Clinton Lake and Clinton Lake State Park just outside of Lawrence, KS – home of Kansas State University) and I spotted this on the ground:


It is some sort of tree fruit that fell last fall and started to deteriorate over the winter. The second I saw it, I remembered walking the same trail last fall when I took this picture:


I took this picture because I was intrigued by the thing as I had never seen one before. I looked up and saw a tree full of these grapefruit-sized things. I made a note to post the picture to see if any of my readers could fill me in on what kind of tree it came from and what, if anything, could be gained from this interesting looking fruit.

So that’s the challenge. If you have any idea what this is – please let me know.


Learn more about Clinton Lake and Clinton Lake State Park in Lawrence, KS here.