Sunday, January 18, 2009

Warm Feet For February! Solar Radiant Heated Floors For the Winter

Well, we are experiencing some record low temperatures here in Asheville, NC. It has dropped below zero the past couple of nights, and I was walking around in 9 degree weather with a wind chill that made my face feel like it was going to fall off. I am a cold natured person with Caribbean blood, so winters like this are no fun for me. I would be miserable and freezing right now if it weren't for the NC alternative power company installing solor power, green power, wind power, radiant floors and photovoltaic cells that helped me rig up solar heating and solar heated water in my big old house I share with my grandfather. He had the hot water pump set so low I was avoiding showers for weeks and boiling water to wash the dishes- can you say "inefficient"?? We are always concerned about the energy bill, and trying to conserve energy but our old gas powered radiators just weren't doing the trick. I was wearing three pairs of socks last week, but now that I've got solar power, there is ample radiant heat keeping us irie and warm. Now I can move around freely, cooking huevos rancheros and brewing tea in the kitchen instead of hiding out watching Planet Earth all day huddled up in my bed, married to my heated mattress. Perhaps it was the marvelous beauty of nature that BBC captured so well that inspired me to go green. Green power is the hottest new thing- literally! Consider getting solar panels installed, or get up on this radiant floor tip. We love our new radiant floors. It works like this- they embedded special tubing in a thin concrete mixture on top of our wood-framed floors. Heated water (or a food-grade antifreeze mixture), heated by solar power, flows through this tubing, warming the thermal mass of the concrete.

Conventional forced-air systems, wood stoves, or other heating methods produce uneven heat, with the highest air temperatures near the ceilings. Radiant floor heating puts the heat in the floor under your tiny little feet, gently warming your toes, a room or a complete structure. Now it's even warmer and comfier in here, and we are not wasting energy and precious little money on monthly fuel bills. We count our coins now for luxuries like sauerkraut and brandy. I have bad circulation in my hands and feet, and when your feet are as tiny and cold as mine, you fall in love with these heated floors. No longer do I have to have my feet all bound up in a dozen layers of socks! They are happy, bare and getting bigger. Photovoltaics, which is a fancy word for solar panels, are really the way to go. With solar panels, you can get solar hot water!

Consider this. The sun is the biggest source of energy available on earth. For thousands of years humans have depended on solar energy to warm their homes. Back in the day, homes were sited to take advantage of natural solar heating. Since the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas have been used instead. Fossil fuels are increasingly expensive, dirty, and difficult to extract. The coal industry, specifically, is a dirty business, presently destroying our precious mountains and poisoning our water. But there's hope! Today millions of people throughout the world are using solar energy to heat their homes and water and generate electricity. Viva green power!

Tra la la, a Trolley Tour through Asheville!

I've been hearing a lot about historic trolley tours in Asheville, North Carolina with stops at historic sites including Pack Place, Grove Park Inn, and Asheville River Arts District. There's this totally sweet old school red trolley that cruises through town, it reminds me of the L train in San Francisco. I've never ridden it, but I've certainly harassed the passengers, as all good natured Asheville natives do. We do have quite a reputation to uphold as a weird wild and wonky little town. With the Fringe Festival coming up, it's a perfect time to come on up to Ashevegas and jump on a trolley sightseeing tour.
If it was closer to Halloween I would recommend the Asheville ghost trolley- you're sure to get thrills and chills while exploring the haunted side of this city. But as Valentines Day is approaching, it feels appropriate to mention the event and wedding charters available on these awesome trolleys. Imagine getting married on a crazy red trolley careening through the streets of the coolest town in the south east! Okay, okay do it in a church. But please then imagine at least piling the wedding party guests onto the trolley after the ceremony. Unforgettable! You could plan a rollicking valentine's day party trolley tour or plan an entire trolley vacation tour to be sure to see all of Asheville's historic sights and monuments. There's so much to explore! We've got the historic Montford district with its parks, punk rock parties and Jamaican noodle shops. There's the legendary Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa- this place is a trip! So elegant and decadent. We used to go every year at Christmas to see the gingerbread house contest winners. On your Asheville historic trolley sightseeing tour, you're sure to pass through the Urban Trail of downtown, bursting with Art Decho richness. You'll have a blast in the quaint and quite cute if unbelievably Bourgeois Biltmore Village (the McDonalds has a grand piano in it), or if that's not your cup of tea, you'll revel in the edgy and artsy River Arts District (think wearhouses, artist's studios, train tracks, graffiti, sculpture art). I remember being there on the set of my first ever photo shoot, I was modeling on a cloudy windy day in red silk, climbing the ladder of a broken down train car. We were going for an urban look. I've shot a few times around there, there's always something interesting to serve as a backdrop. Pack Place is another stop you'll be making, where you can check out the art museum and the theater. Take the time to educate yourself about this town. Learn about Asheville’s early settlers, famous citizens and illustrious authors through interesting stories and colorful anecdotes. See for yourself a city rich in architecture, history and the arts... alive and inviting! And don't miss The Thomas Wolfe Memorial. I think the red trolley that runs through town includes free admission. If I were a tourist in Asheville, I would jump on it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Women's Only Rhino Safari in Namibia!

Ladies! Ever been to south africa? Ever wanted to? Let me inform you on some of the adventures in store. There are women-only luxury travel companies out there offering jeep safari, wine tour, sea kayaking, whale watching, animal watching, and everything else you can imagine relating to african travel. Ever imagine yourself as a nature safari guide? Well, it's not THAT far fetched. Ready for a career change? Or maybe just out of curiosity, right when you need them, there are Southern Africa Guide Training Schools there for you. Would you like to know a bit more about basic tracking techniques and wilderness survival strategies? Then the Bush Skills Academy at Phinda Reserve in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa may be right up your alley. This 4 day, 3 night adventure, led on foot by a seasoned ranger, will teach you this as well as provide fascinating background on Phinda’s plants and animals. You can specialize in photography, or for those really hard-core gals trying to keep it real, you can learn such practical things as how to set up camp, basic rifle handling, radio procedures and basic 4X4 driving. Who knows what opportunities such training can offer! In Namibia, you can join a Save the Rhino Trust team on an eight day walk (complete with camel train) into the heart of the Namib Desert as the trackers research and monitor the rare desert adapted black rhino. Let's talk about this majestic creature. The black rhino is close in color to the white rhino with a grayish brown color to its skin. Several explanations are given for the origin of the name "black" rhinoceros. Some say it is because it is from the dark colored mud covering its skin after wallowing. Unlike the Northern and Southern white rhinos that have very separate ranges in Africa, the black rhino species boundaries do overlap in some areas. For example the South-western black rhinoceros lives in the desert and dry savannah areas of Namibia and south-western South Africa. This species is a little larger and its horns tend to be straighter than other species. Get to know this ancient, wise, dinosaur-like endangered animal and it's raw beauty, up close and personal. You'll be able to pass on these pictures, memories and stories to your grandkids, who probably will never see this animal. If your time is limited on your africa safari but you would still like to spend time amongst rhinos, you can participate in a rhino darting partnership program in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. Play an important role in conservation by performing assigned tasks once a veterinarian safely anaesthetizes the rhino. When looking for a company offering africa vacations booking, make sure you don't miss out on the opportunity to take a wine tour through the Cape of Good Hope. A good luxury travel service will take you on a journey through the Cape’s historic, breathtaking winelands as you cruise through green, fertile valleys nestled amongst dramatic mountain scapes. You will sample gourmet food in award-winning restaurants and taste wines at some of the finest Cape wine estates. I bet you never imagined that an african safari could include the beauty of raw nature AND visits to wineries, charming villages, monuments and museums! Whether you choose to camp in the winelands area for a few days or opt for a day’s tour from Cape Town, this is a truly astonishing part of the earth, so don't sleep.

Practicle, sassy shoes for the winter season.

If you are a woman like me, you are constantly asking yourself, how can I get just the right mix of city sass and everyday comfort and practicality in my shoes? Well I'm here to tell you all about my two favorite new pairs of shoes. One is a Dansko clogs. Mary jane style, brownish black to match my mascara- what I love about this ambiguous, versitile color is that you can pull it off with black OR brown outfit and it matches both! Talk about a two for one. And they are soooo comfy AND classy that I can wear them at the office, where I have to be on my feet alot, and they are just as comfortable as wearing crocs or merrills, with the added classy touch of leather. We are talking quality footwear. Dansko, the daring danish drop kick of all casual footwear. Where did they come up with this? Well, a unique Danish clog was discovered by husband and wife team, Mandy Cabot and Peter Kjellerup, in a tiny Denmark shop in the late 1980’s. The shoe took them by storm and they secured the exclusive rights to the design in 1991, when Dansko, Inc. was born. Within a few years, word had spread and you can now find many lines of Dansko footwear in retail shops worldwide as well as a multitude of online shoes retailers. Get to the shoe store! Oh, and you should all know by now, I'm gonna talk about boots. did I mention the knee high black walking boots they make?? FIERCE.
Now onto my second favorite new pair women's dress shoes. Cole Haan! I scored these insanely exquisite pair of leopard print flats by Cole Haan, and yes, I'm getting away with it at the office AND on the dance floor. Never heard of them? Cole Haan shoes have a long lasting reputation for quality, craftsmanship, service and style, with long line of products for men and women. In addition to footwear, Cole Haan also manufactures jewelry, handbags, outerwear, belts and hosiery. Currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nike, Inc., Cole Haan products are available globally in the finest retail stores and online distributors. When talking quality and discount shoes, enough can not be said about Cole Haan. Their clogs are also completely sweet. They make stretch mule walking shoes, too, for the more athletic days. And of course there is a great men's line too, if you're looking to do some christmas shopping. When browsing for online shoes, look for style, comfort and quality. Try to find a good source for cheap shoes, with a good selection of casual shoes and cheap boots. I'm telling you, a great pair of clogs are a must have for winter fashion survival. If you don't have a good pair of ugg boots and at least a couple different colors of clogs, you should really invest now before the best stuff gets bought up. The secret is out! And ladies, we should be celebrating- the hottest new shoes are actually comfortable. Furry boots, clogs, flats. Yes! You won't catch me in those old blister giving old fashion heels. That's about as pas-e as smooth jazz. Unless of course it's halloween and I'm dressed up like a witch.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Elegant Home Accents for the Holidays!

So many birthdays in October! My brother turns 22 next wednesday, and he says all he wants is to go out for sushi, but I'm sure what he's really hoping for is some elegant home accents to satisfy his secret love of home interior decorating. The big, beautiful Banana Mannor mansion where he lives could always use some more reproduction antique furniture, but maybe I'll wait for Christmas to drop that one. For now, we've got to get things looking great for the halloween pirate party bonanza. My garden is drying up with the cold weather, so I'm thinking, how am I supposed to create fabulous center pieces for the coctail station and dinner table? Well, I found some low cost silk flowers and a really sweet pumpkin wreath that really captures the essence of autumn. And if I don't have time to bake a pumpkin pie, I'll just bust out some seasonal scents, filling the manor with the scrumptious smell of pumpkin spice potpourri. Careful tho, it's an aphrodesiac! As for the lighting, well, ambience is EVERYTHING, I tell you. Especially when you're dealing with hosting a pirate party in an old historic mansion. With the accordian players wailing away, the fireplace roaring, the spiced rum being passed, the acrobats warming up, the geishas lounging around the hooka, and the exotic animals prowling around the staircase... what's missing? Well, amidst the merriment, the perfect finishing touch in this picture will be the candles. To heck with electricity, let's be authentic to the theme here. Being environmentally conscious AND having a taste for the finer things in life, my favorite kind of candles are soy candles, and clean burning organic candles. I always use glass votives and tall candelabras to prevent fire hazard...halloween parties can get pretty out of control, and tho we intend to raise some ruckus, we don't want the house to burn down literally. The neighbors are already pretty chilly towards us, and we can't afford another strike against the fire marshall!

And with Christmas coming right up, it's time to start considering last minute gift ideas . I'm always looking for something unique for my pops, who collects antiques. They've got ships in a bottle, old wild west relics, retro cuban theater posters, a huge collection of drums from all over the world, and some pretty phenominal persian rugs. Not to mention the furniture! It's like a museum in there. Well, he'll never know the difference- handmade antique reproduction furniture is absolutely the hottest new stuff on the market. I found this totally awesome blanket chest bench,
handcrafted from wood, manufactured in Indonesia of mahogany that has been kiln dried. Score! And don't worry about having to dig through dimly lit antique wearhouses full of termites, because beautiful hand crafted furniture is available on the internet! This piece I found shipped from Cashiers, NC and arrives in 10 days. Can't wait! And while I'm at it, I probably should be thinking of my mom as well...she's alot less materialistic and likes to keep it simple. I usually go for coffee, chocolate and candles for her. Maybe some french milled soap and a set of soy candles would do the trick. Happy Holidays for the whole family here in North Carolina!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How can I creatively commemorate the life of my beloved pet?

Anyone who has ever had a beloved pet pass away knows the pain of such a loss, and sometimes we just don't know what we could possibly do to commemorate that celebrated animal friend we so dearly treasured. A pet's love is unconditional, and if you ask me, that's the best kind of love to have in this world. It's what really makes the world go round.
The way you memorialize your pets life can be as unique and meaningful as the pet you have known and loved his/herself. So, whether you bury or cremate, consider a decorative cremation urn for your pet. Hold the ashes in a ceremonial memorial vessel. Go for something extraordinary. Look in the right places and you will surely find cremation urn distributors producing unique Cremation urns, and be sure that you will find something perfect among the one of a kind works of art, which truly celebrate and honor the qualities of the individual spirit. Unique pet urns can be a reassuring, pleasant way to remember your dog or cat, especially when they are hand crafted with love by artisans who truly put great purpose and meaning into their work. These funeral urns are works of art as well, sitting beautifully and significantly on your mantle or altar. Discount cremation urns can also be tracked down through reliable cremation urn distributors.
And if you chose to bury, perhaps you would be interested in a burial urn for your pet. When my beloved family cat Fala died, I was searching for info on where I can buy urns
and I found a fabulous art urn among a fabulous selection of cat burial urns. But we didn't stop there, we worked with the artisans at a company called Shine On Brightly to make careful selections of the beautiful textiles, colors, and patterns, and even sent in a photo for a customized art quilt to hang above Fala's altar which holds a beautiful glass funeral urn
surrounded by candles, flowers and his favorite cat nip toys. Fala was a fat black and grey tabby cat, with large green eyes and the cutest toothy smile. Some people mislabeled him as surly, but I believe he just had emotional issues, which he struggled with his whole long life. Sometimes he just needed space. We let him go outside alot, where he got his aggression out by catching rodents and birds and leaving them lovingly at our door step as an offering.
When he died at the ripe old age of 17, we had to choose between ceramic, glass, and wooden urns, which were all clearly designed with love by artists who understand my cat's important role in my life and my refusal to forget Fala and move on as if nothing had happened. Finally somebody can support me in my attachment to my deceased feline friend. His artfully glazed and inscribed pet urn bears testament to Fala's happy place in cat heaven, where I'm sure he is happily curled in the everloving lap of the lord and sipping milk, rolling periodically in fields of catnip and frolicking in fields full of mice with all his fuzzy and content kitty friends. It makes me smile just to think. So come on now, make the impermanent permanent with a spectacular pet urn.

What's the Buzz about Call For Creativity?

Today at the coffee shop, while researching DIY publishing for my poetry, I discovered this rockin new website called Call for Creativity. This growing online networking device is one of the best artist resources out there on the web. You can post an article about a creative topic and it will not only appear in the Resources section, but will also be syndicated to various websites. Members create profiles which feature their artwork... this is wayyyy over myspace's head, guys. No obnoxious pop up ads or underweight desperate groupies or creepy stalkers or anything. They don't even try to sell you ipods. What a relief. It's strictly art, by and for artists. For art's sake. I've been looking for a legit artist social network lately, as its easy to get to feeling weighed down and drowned out in this sterile high tech fast moving cold hard capitalist society when you are a free spirited, sensitive butterfly like me. Browsing the artist directory at C4C, I don't feel quite so alone! You can find out a lot about these people in their special interest section of the extensive, descriptive, highly personalized profile. There's crazy artists like me, magical bartenders with secret side lives as knife makers and leathersmiths out there finding ways to fuse creativity with technology?! That's what I call evolution.
If you are looking to do some collaboration, or maybe you just need an answer to a creative inquiry, then, my friend, you can post a Call for Creativity and one someone from the network will respond to your call. And you want to holler at somebody in particular more casually, you can set up a conference call in that section. The support staff is always there to help make things happen! This is seriously THE underground spot for college social networking.
Not your average creative arts club! You will find plenty of fringe, so if you're feeling like the lone weirdo or underappreciated campus creative genius, get on the computer and start browsing the creative directory at C4C. Bikers, silversmiths, herbalists, bakers, fire dancers, collage artists, painters, jewelry makers, graffiti writes, human statues, sculptors, trapeze artists, poets, writers, lone trombonists, unite!
C4C can help connect you, the artist, to a gallery where you can display your work and increase your art sales. The networking potential is endless, kind of like a fractal. There is a great page of links to other interactive art organizations
and you always have a fair shot at being featured as a featured artist at C4C or getting your work on the website if you respond to the frequent artist call for entries. Call for Creativity is great for college students and outcasts alike. I've lived on the outside of institutionalized education more or less and had a pretty dang vibrant creative life anyways, but I never rule anything out. If I were an art student in college, I would be hitting up Call for Creativity's creative directory as a resource for all of my projects. And probably making alot of super hip friends and business connects in the process.