Category Archives: design

Nothing Like a Good Faucet

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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I love kitchens. I don’t know what it is about them, but I love great kitchens. It’s not because I’m some wunder-chef (far from it!). I just love the ambience of a good kitchen. Whenever you go to a party in someone’s home, isn’t that where people congregate? Or just on a daily basis, think about how much time we spend in our kitchens.

But there’s one thing in particular that I really appreciate within a kitchen and that’s the faucet. I have this thing with faucets. Here’s my favorite:

Dornbracht Kitchen Faucet with Sprayer

It’s made by a company called Dornbracht. You just have to feel this faucet in your hands. It’s extraordinary. Someone once told me that they’re the company that all the other faucet companies copy. This one (pictured above), the Tara Classic, won a couple of awards for design and quality excellence.

They also do faucets for bathrooms.

Dornbracht Bathroom Faucet

Speaking of bathrooms, I have the same attraction to faucets in bathrooms, particularly in restaurants. If the bathrooms have a great faucet, I’ll leave with a smile on my face. They can be so cool, you know? Sometimes substantial and strong, stylish and gorgeous.

Aaaah, there’s just nothing like a good faucet.

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Filed under design, family, photos, reviews

A Tribute to Mom (or How to Decorate a Christmas Tree)

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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Yes…the holidays are upon us.

Stores blare Christmas music, commuters face nasty holiday traffic, shoppers swagger through crowded shops, busy busier frazzled parents lose patience with tired kids, and families spend hours (or days!) decorating their homes. It’s a time filled with ritual and traditions. And every family has its traditions. Some families go nuts every year on the outside of their homes hanging lights and signs…we don’t get crazy with our property — maybe we’ll put a few strands of white lights here and there, hang a couple of wreaths with bows, that’s about it.

But our Christmas tree inside our house? Ah, now that’s different.

We give heartfelt attention to our trees. My mom loved decorating Christmas trees. She trimmed beautiful trees. So did my grandmother. She had two trees at Christmas time with an elaborate, magical, snowy Christmas village underneath both of them, complete with kings on horses (or were they camels?) pointed toward her fireplace which had a beautiful creche inside. She spent a lot of time putting puffs of cotton underneath cotton batting then sprinkling glitter around to make it look like a shimmery, snowy fantasy land. She had little houses, animals and figurines spread all around and then a lovely little wooden fence on the edge of all of it. When we were old enough, my sisters and I would help her assemble this (what was in our minds massive) world. It was absolutely delightful.

We don’t even try to replicate that magic, but, sort of as a tribute to my family of origin, I put some effort into our tree. I enjoy decorating it. It all starts with the search for the right tree. We go out to a tree farm and my hubby uses a wimpy little saw (provided by the farm) and a whole lot of brawn to chop down a tree.

This year, our son spied a Norwegian Spruce (super prickly but great for holding lots of ornaments). It’s a funky tree, and we actually heard another family rejecting it because its branches were a bit wild and dense. We didn’t mind. So, in a Charlie Brown (well, Linus) kind of way, we decided that was the one for us. With a little TLC, we trimmed it, removed some of the sappy branches (and the twisted weedy thing that was growing up the trunk) and took it home.

Hubby and I put it in the stand without incident and then it was up to me to do the rest. I turned on some Christmas music, got a cup of tea and just sat and looked at it — not because I was feeling contemplative and pondering all my Christmases past, rather because I couldn’t find the box of lights. I had the tree topper, so I climbed up the ladder and set it on top, then I went back through the dozen or so boxes of decorations to search for the lights. I was just about ready to give up when, almost an hour later, I finally remembered that I stowed them in the attic.

Thank you, God! I mean, I needed the lights, because it’s the first step in the system. Yes, I have a decorating system that I’ve developed after years of advice and assistance from Mom. I start with the lights (I used to do a spiral around the tree, now I just zig zag up and around it and place them in spots that will optimize the sparkle factor). Mom always said that the key to making a great tree is to put some of the lights deep into the tree (in toward the trunk) to give it depth and provide maximum twinkle. Can’t skimp on the lights.

tree lights

Ornaments are another place to be generous. I try to find great ornaments each year (preferably after Christmas, to get a good deal on bulbs I wouldn’t otherwise buy) and I have a color scheme to which I am loyal — clear lights with red, gold and white (but very few white) bulbs. So when I see a special red or gold bulb after Christmas, I scoop it up, add it to the collection, and look forward to putting it up the following year.

Mom insisted that the general idea is to hang the largest bulbs around the bottom and the smallest bulbs at the top, but I save a few small bulbs to sprinkle here and there around the middle (where I need more color). The shiniest bulbs go closest to the lights to maximize the sparkle. All of this is probably basic, basic tree trimming knowledge.

So now I’ll share some of my favorite Mom tips. First, how to use very effective little trimmings called sprays.

gold spray

I’m not much of a crafty gal, but this trick is worth a trip to Michael’s (or AC Moore or whatever craft stores you have near you). Mom gave us some red and gold sprays that I carefully place in those bare spots that are otherwise just big, bland sections of green (Mom also used to add feathery birds to her tree, but I chose to omit them).

Another important Mom tip: ocassionally stand back a few steps and look at the whole tree to find the bare spots and fill them in with just the right decoration. I did just that and tweaked until I was satisfied. Then, I gathered up my french ribbon (the kind that has wire on each side — I use red ribbon with gold beads on the sides) and carefully wound it & twisted it around the tree. Finally, I used strings of beads and draped them around the tree, up and down the branches like this:

Christmas tree beads

Then, when I finally finished, I made another cup of tea, got a little plate of cookies and sat and looked at it.For me, it’s the most special part of my ritual. That’s the time when I reflect back on all the past Christmases, back when mom was still alive. I think about my mom and grandmother and silently thank them for all the wisdom they passed on to me. I think about the time in college when my mom took me shopping for Christmas decorations because she wanted to help me set up my very first tree (away from home). I remember marveling at her attention to detail and understanding what a difference it made.

When I spend that special time looking at our tree, I am so grateful for the many warm, loving memories. I feel blessed to have had all those years learning Mom’s tips, decorating with her, buying new decorations, laughing and singing carols. All sorts of feelings start rushing through me. I start to wish she could be sitting there with me, also having a cup of tea and some cookies. I wish I could see her beautiful, sparkling eyes as she gazed approvingly at the tree.

At this time of year, I miss my mom the most. So my ritual often ends with tears. Sometimes I cry, other times I just sit and smile. No matter what, though, just before standing up and going on with the rest of my day, I always say, “This one’s for you, Mom. Thanks.”

BMGmom Tree

2007 Christmas Tree (during the day)

2007 tree at night

2007 Tree at Night

Merry Christmas!

Happy Chanukah.

Happy Eid.

Habari Gani.

Happy Winter Solstice (that one’s for you, Dan!)

21 Comments

Filed under Children, Christmas, Culture, design, family, holidays

Like Walking on Rose Petals

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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Check this out —
If you use a little imagination, a walk on this rug might feel like you’re walking on rose petals.

Roses Rug from Design Within Reach

You can look at the Design Within Reach website for more interesting designs.

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Filed under Culture, design

Cool Bathrooms!

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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Okay, get ready for this one, folks.
I found this link showing the most interesting public bathrooms in the world. Some are kind of…unsettling. Others are just weird. But some you just have to see to believe. My fave is probably the one (pictured below) where they use one-way glass that (you hope!) prevents outsiders from looking in. They call it “Don’t Miss a Sec”.
What do you think? Would you be bold enough to use it?

Don’t Miss a Sec

Photo and info from www.concierge.com.

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Filed under Culture, design, life

Responding to iPhone Criticisms

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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Go to the end of the post for an update about the iPhone (as of 1/16/08) or click here to view the Keynote Address given by Steve Jobs at the Macworld Expo 2008.

I’m surprised to hear some moms criticizing the iPhone, saying that it doesn’t have enough features.

Are you kidding me??

It is a phone, after all, and some people want it to do everything that every other device can do. Talk about demanding.

It might not have video capability, but please! You can take fairly decent photos with it. You can also, by the way, use the photos you take as the photo identification in your contacts – cool! Okay, many phones do that now, but with the iPhone’s large screen, I can actually see these photos, unlike my old tiny little cell phone.

Another comment I heard is that someone wanted to be able to read books in it (i.e., to have it function as an e-reader, too!). Come on now. I think that’s absolutely unreasonable. The audiobooks are sufficient for me.

Let’s talk more about what it can do!

It has a beautiful-to-look-at calendar that is just as good as (if not better than) my Palm. I can include detailed notes, birthdays, anniversaries, and even a to-do list at the top of my hour-by-hour day page. I can flip through it with a gentle flick of my finger and it’s visually more appealing than my gray screen Palm. It syncs with iCal on a Mac, so the whole family can use the always up-to-date calendar.

I can also watch You Tube videos (by the way, speaking of YouTube, if you’re considering an iPhone, you really need to check out David Pogue’s/NYT video).

David Pogue’s “I Want an iPhone” Movie

Well more accurately, my kids can watch You Tube videos while we’re waiting in line or on a long car trip or whatever. Or they could watch one of my many downloaded movies, tv programs (from Sponge Bob to The Office), music videos and more.

Speaking of car trips, I can also check weather for the week in a variety of cities of choice. Once again, I can do that neat finger-flick action to look at the attractive, colorful pages.

Curious about stock activity? Check. It’s got that capability.

Texting? Sure. In the most stylish way I’ve seen.

Music via iTunes (just like any iPod)? Absolutely. Steve Jobs has said it’s the best iPod ever made (to date). I especially love cover flow (the ability to flip through the album covers with a gentle flick of a finger).

Short example of cover flow in action

Internet searches? YES! (admittedly, it has no Flash player so that means you can’t play Webkinz, but still…). Check today’s headlines or find out the online price of a book while you’re standing in a bookstore which wants to charge you full price. Apple may upgrade sometime in the future to allow Flash to function, so I’ll keep my hopes up. Oh, and the cost of surfing? Included in your monthly AT&T bill (which really is not very big (in terms of pages), though some folks have stated otherwise…).

I also love the e-mail feature. You can check messages from several accounts (e.g., AOL, Gmail, Yahoo). And the iPhone notifies you (with an ear-pleasing, gentle buzz) when you receive another message.

Okay, now on to the phone features. Right, it is a phone after all! Your list of contacts can include the standard home phone, work phone, mobile phone, various e-mail addresses, birthday, spouses’ names, kids’ names, and more. But here’s the feature I love. If you touch the address listing for one of your contacts it takes you immediately to a map of the location! Then, if you need to drive there, it can provide directions (there and back!) and show you the current traffic on major arteries.

Does your old phone do that?

Oh, and if you’re on vacation and you want to find the nearest Starbucks? Type in “Starbucks” and the map will provide locations, indicated on the map with tiny little red-ball-tipped pins, along with the phone number and address right in your contacts. Just touch the phone number and it will call the location you selected. Think about how that could work to call ahead to get take out on your way home.

If you like maps as much as I do, you may want to take a moment to view this brief demo by Apple:

Great map demo

Assignable ringtones are more fun than other phones, too, including a barking dog and an old fashioned phone ringer.

UPDATE – Now you can hand pick measures from selected iTunes songs and design your own ringtone! I did that with John Mayer and I love it!

The Apple folks are excited about the visual voicemail feature where you’re given a list of all your voicemails and can scroll through to select only the voicemails you want to listen to at that moment. Very, very handy — especially if your child’s school called with an urgent message, or if you have six messages from someone you don’t need to talk to (or who leaves long messages) and one from someone you need to speak with urgently. You don’t have to listen to six other voicemails to get to that one urgent message. Just touch it and it plays.

Everything loads, syncs and charges through iTunes in your computer, so you just put the iPhone into the dock (included) and all the information is transferred (back and forth). That feature also means that if you (heaven forbid) ever lost your device, you could get a new phone and upload everything into it and continue right where you left off. So you have no worries about losing all your information forever (a concern which I’ve heard some people express).

Overall, IMHO the iPhone is well worth the investment. It lives up to the hype and makes my life easier and a whole lot more fun!!

UPDATE (1/16/08): On Tuesday, January 15, 2008, at the Macworld Expo 2008, Apple announced a new update to the iPhone. Now you can move your icons around on the home screen, create a few different home pages and create icons. For example, if you have a favorite blog (ahem) you can just call it up on Safari, then touch the plus sign at the bottom of the screen and choose “Add to Home Screen.” It produces a new icon for that particular website and instantly displays it on your home page screen. Fantastic! Now I can quickly go to my favorite blogs with one touch of a finger. Other options include mailing a link to the page and adding the page as a bookmark.

You’ll find over 600 Web apps (including some games like Mahjong) that you can add to any of your (up to) nine home pages.

Apple also improved upon the map features. View the video by clicking here.

All of these updates are free for iPhone owners. They just sync their iPhones and click on “check for update.”

I still feel passionately positive about my iPhone and think it’s the best phone out there for moms!

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Filed under Apple, Culture, design, family, iPhone, reviews, Steve Jobs, Technology