Monthly Archives: May 2012

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Backyard Makeover Complete

It’s been awhile since I’ve paid much attention to cat hats and my Notso Kitty Shop…. Don’t worry– I’ll focus on them again shortly! In the meantime I’ve been pretty busy. Not only is work threatening to put me through hell again for the next few weeks, but I’ve been trying to finish up my yard in time to enjoy it for Summer. Positive progress has been achieved in the yard– here is a review of all I’ve been up to.

We started with not much– I had planted a few random plantings in the back and side yards. The front had a little bit more in the way of flowers— but this needed work too. The following three pictures are the before pictures of the backyard.

The following two pictures are a before picture of the side yard

The next few pictures show a before of the front of the house

As you can see from the before pictures, not too impressive. But the after are much better. We did the most work in the backyard by de-sodding half the yard and planting three large red maple trees that will hopefully fill in even more in the years to come. We got landscaping suggestions from the team at Mahoney’s Garden Center— but in the end I decided to go partially with my own plan instead of following their design exactly. The red maples, inkberry shrubs, pink hydrangeas, and rhododendrons were all Mahoney’s suggestions….. The green hydrangeas, excess ferns, and different types of heuchera were all my own doing. I think it looks pretty great.

The next few pictures show the “after” of the backyard work Todd and I did

We also added a Kwanzan flowering cherry tree to the back in a corner where previously nothing stood

I didn’t forget the side yard. While I was busy buying plants for the backyard, I managed to pick up a few things for there too

Even the front yard has been filled in a little bit. I also de-constructed our greenhouse foundation and made “fruit patches” in the other side yard. Right now the fruits I have growing include strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and tayberries. I can’t wait until their big enough to produce delicious berries!

I’m so happy that the yard is finally starting to come together. Aside from all the landscape-type plantings I’ve been busy with, the vegetable garden has been quite productive as well. I’ve already harvested my first crop of lettuce! Perhaps I will post more about my flowers and vegetables at a later date. Until then, I’ll be chilling in my more enjoyable yard.

Book Review #11: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Hello Readers! After a brief book review hiatus, I’m back with a beauty: Outliers
by Malcolm Gladwell! How is it I discovered this book? Well  I’m  not a person that reads things based on book club recommendations (keep that 50 Shades of Garbage to yourself!). But the book Outliers came to my attention through its repeated reference in my circle of colleagues. I first heard of it last year during an industry conference; I happened to mention to somebody that I was always young for my class when attending school and she answered back with a litany of facts as to how my parents had given me a considerable disadvantage by starting me early. She then told me of the book Outliers and how the whole premise of the book is that an “outlier” or person of great success comes to be because of a series of advantages they were given— not by “being born a genius” or some other way that we might consider to be true without investigation. One of said advantages that the book covers is the relation between relative age in a group of children and how the most advanced children are given the greatest opportunities.

What? How could this be? My parents had perpetrated the story for years that putting me into school early would give me an advantage– not the opposite. Their ruse went like this: clearly I had an advantage when I could multiply (or do some other random skill) at a certain age since all my classmates couldn’t do it until they were a year older. And I would also have an extra year to be eligible to work before retirement. Surely these were advantages….. Or were they?

 

Thinking back to kindergarten I was definitely behind the other children. Classmates always seemed to get the point of group activities and games before I did; I usually had to be prodded by the teacher to participate— or sometimes I was reprimanded for doing my own thing entirely. I had always written this off- I’ve always been a “free spirit” of sorts and never liked figures of authority so I figured that was why I behaved badly as a 4-year-old first year student. But now looking back, perhaps my dislike of authority grew out of my age disadvantage. I was a full year younger than most kids in my class— something that may not seem like much, but then a year was a quarter of my life.

Anyways, back to Outliers. This book takes a few traditional stories of success or chance— and then turns them on their head and makes the reader explore why the people are really successful. It looks at people like Bill Gates and NHL hockey players; Chinese math students and airplane pilots. Instead of telling traditional rags-to-riches stories or something of the sort, this book explores the considerable opportunities these people were given. The story of Bill Gate’s success  is told ironically in the context of his pre-Microsoft youth; oddly enough this is where he obtained most of his advantages that set him apart years down the road. Realizing that success is a series of seized opportunities and advantages instead of some hidden secret that most don’t have the key to is the point this book strives to make.

So what about the kids whose parents put them into school early and started them off on the path as– gasp– disadvantaged? Well, this book doesn’t do much for telling you how to overcome your own plight….. But it does give you many ways of looking at opportunities. Perhaps I may have been disadvantaged for being younger than the kids in my class— but perhaps that same disadvantage is responsible for me becoming the quirky authority-challenger that I am today. And perhaps that will lead to another opportunity someday. Perhaps 🙂

I really enjoyed the book Outliers and highly recommend it to anyone that likes success stories and different world views. Malcolm Gladwell doesn’t necessarily see things like most people do– but when he dives into the facts and uncovers the real stories behind the traditional success lore it is very entertaining. Will Outliers help me become more successful? Maybe. But if not, it’s still worth reading just for the refreshing point of view. Notso gives it two paws up!

Disclaimer: This review contains affiliate links though I am not payed by anybody to write about this book. Just in case you needed to know 😉

Design Inspiration : The W in Vieques

Man I need a vacation! Everyone that knows me knows that 🙂 Unfortunately the much needed rest is not coming until late-June— but what a trip it will be: we’re going to Iceland! In the meantime here’s some pictures of one of my favorite vacations to date- to Vieques- a small island off the east coast of Puerto Rico. We stayed at the W Resort– a beautiful property that borders the northern coast of the island. It was absolutely amazing– we had practically the whole resort to ourselves when we went in April 2010. Beautifully designed furniture by Patricia Urquiola was everywhere to be seen. The pools were immaculate and spotless. Just thinking of this place is helping me relax…..

W Vieques

W Vieques

W Vieques Beach

W Vieques Beach

 

One of the lounges at W Vieques

One of the lounges at W Vieques

View from the water of the W Resort in Vieques

View from the water of the W Resort in Vieques

The Dedon Chair by Patricia Urquiola

The Dedon Chair by Patricia Urquiola

W Vieques Bathroom

W Vieques Bathroom

W Vieques bath tub

W Vieques custom bath tub

 

W Vieques bed

W Vieques bed

Sunset views at the resort

Sunset views at the resort

Even though Todd and I did spend quite a bit of time at the resort, we did end up renting a Jeep to explore the rest of the island as well. We visited the cities of  Isabel II and Esperanza. We swam in the Bio Bay with thousands of micro-organisms that glowed whenever you disturbed them with your movement. We found deserted beaches and wild horses. It was a nice place to vacation- the island is very lowly populated and mostly unknown or unthought of by most tourists. A hidden gem!

Me at Esperanza Beach

Me at Esperanza Beach

A building in Esperanza

A building in Esperanza

Bananas Bar & Grill in Esperanza

Bananas Bar & Grill in Esperanza

Monopoly Tables at Bananas

Monopoly Tables at Bananas

A lizard helps us explore the cultural museum and aquarium

A lizard helps us explore the cultural museum and aquarium

One of the aquarium's residents

One of the aquarium's residents

A map of Vieques in the cultural museum

A map of Vieques in the cultural museum

Esperanza Beach

Esperanza Beach

Finding the private beach

Finding the private beach

Todd drifts away

Todd drifts away

 

More National Gallery of Art Inspiration

The other day I posted about all the Lichtenstein artwork I scoped out on my brief visit to the National Gallery of Art a few weekends ago. Though I do love Roy Lichtenstein the most, I did see a few other pieces that caught my eye as I ran through the East Wing Gallery– I skipped the West because of limited time and the fact that I tend to prefer more modern art which is housed primarily in the East. Here is some more evidence of my explorations… Enjoy

James Rosenquist- Speed of Light

James Rosenquist- Spectator- Speed of Light

I’m usually not a fan of Rosenquist (too metallic for my taste in most cases) but for some reason the “Spectator – Speed of Light” painting hanging in the National Gallery of Art really speaks to me. Perhaps it is because it slightly reminds me of Lichtenstein’s mirror paintings…. Perhaps 🙂

Improvisation 31 by Wassily Kandinsky

Improvisation 31 by Wassily Kandinsky

Sometimes I wish my name was Wassily…. Other times I just like to look at the most famous Wassily’s paintings 🙂

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol's Let us Praise Famous Men

Close up of Let us Praise Famous Men

I always love a good Warhol! Or even a bad one 😉

Fanny/Fingerpainting by Chuck Close

The “Fanny/Fingerpainting” by  Chuck Close was my favorite painting in high school— though I had yet to see it in person until my National Gallery visit. I love how when you look up close all you can see are fingerprints (which were used to paint the whole picture), but when you look from far away all   you see is the woman.

Close up of Fanny Fingerpainting

I have always liked mobiles……Alexander Calder usually makes the best. What a lovely display of his work the National Gallery has!

Alexander Calder Mobiles

Alexander Calder Mobiles

 

 

 

Back from the Dead

I perhaps hinted a few weeks ago that my last two weeks of work would be hellish— I had no idea how actually bad it could get though. I literally had to work round the clock for every waking minute during the work days– and I somehow still felt like I was falling behind. But the worst of that is over now! THANK GOODNESS! And now I’m back home and free during my non-working hours to pursue my creative endeavors again. What a huge relief!

Last week I was in Washington DC; home of many fine national treasures and government buildings (ironically one of which I never want to see again after working the night shift there for the past two weeks). Over last weekend though I did have a few hours worth of break to try to give myself some much needed stress relief. With the help of my coworkers taking me to see the Avengers, a small solo trip to the National Gallery of Art, and my pal Angela and her family meeting up with me at the National Zoo I did manage to achieve some sort of temporal relaxation. Here are some pics of the highlights (forgive the pic quality— though they aren’t half bad considering they were taken on my blackberry!).

Lichtenstein House

I knew I had come to the right place when I stopped by the National Gallery of Art and was immediately greeted by a huge Roy Lichtenstein (my favorite artist) sculpture in the sculpture park. I immediately was drawn inside to see what other Lichtenstein treasures were within— and I did manage to find two more (though the “Hello Mickey” that was supposed to be displayed there was temporarily hiding due to an oversized- Matisse exhibit).

Painting with Statue of Liberty by Roy Lichtenstein

Entablature IV by Roy Lichtenstein

I especially liked checking out Lichtenstein’s Entablature IV in the National Gallery of Art’s East Building. Pictures can’t really capture the detail that you can see in person on canvas— though I tried…..

A close-up of Entablature IV

Last Sunday I had an excellent time chilling at the zoo with my college friend Angela, her husband Frank, and her two kids Colin and Mary Kate. I must say kids usually stress yours-truly out, but Angela’s kids were so good that it was like hanging out with two more little adults 🙂 As other kids climbed on the animal cages and hollered at the top of their lungs, Colin and Mary Kate just chilled out and appreciated the animals. A relaxing trip to the zoo it was! And an important reminder to me that not all kids are unruly— just the ones I seem to see frequently in other places 😉

Gorillas in the National Zoo

Colin, Angela, Mary Kate and Frank

So now I’m back and the Notso Kitty Shop is open for business once again! My creative endeavors are also again within easy reach and I shouldn’t feel quite so freaked out as I had the last two weeks. I thank everyone that helped me get through the incredibly stressful time… and to those that tried to make it more stressful to me (you know who you are) I am glad to have won the battle for my sanity for the time-being 🙂 I feel like I’m back from the dead!

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