THE MALL .... some thoughts

The social center of the 80 ‘s and 90’s – THE MALL.   The Mall used to be the place where people went to socialize, shop and simply spend time – the world is changing – can these large buildings morph with the times? Personally I only venture to the mall to go to the Apple Store for the most part.   At times we may go to a restaurant located at the mall.   Yesterday I had to venture to THE MALL to go to the Apple Store to get my iPhone screen replaced.  It had been cracked for months, but the last fall did it in and it went black.   I picked Gigi up at 12:30 and over we went on our mall adventure.   She is 5 and has probably been to the mall less than 10 times.   She does remember that she can build a bear at the mall.  After dropping off the iPhone to get the screen replaced, over to the place where she can build a bear.   It was a lonely walk with very few people walking the large corridors and as you glanced into stores most only had the people working inside them.    This is 1ish on a Monday afternoon – totally crowded I would not expect – but I would expect more life in such a large building costing millions of dollars that charges exuberant rent.     Sears has abandoned the one side of the building and what are they doing building new and more square footage to a dying building…

I contemplate the future of these buildings.  Will it transform into something else 10 years from now or will it be stripped apart and crumbled to the ground.   When a real estate property charges the types of rents for these retail spaces – part of that promise is that the property itself will attract large numbers of people for exposure.    

I am back today at the mall because after I had the screen replaced yesterday I was not able to plug it in to charge.   Already went to the Apple store and silly me – a piece of lint had gotten into the port.   Simple fix and off I went.   I am sitting in the food court working until I have to pick up my daughter from K at 12:30.    

It is 11:30 and people are arriving to get lunch – it does have one of the few Chick-fil-A’s in the Boston area – which is busiest of them all the food court options.   Maybe Chick-fil-A and the Apple Store can save the mall. 

Some of the new shopping centers that are being built where all the stores are open to the street mixed with a grocery store, restaurants and entertainment are on the right track.   I think they are failing also.   Developers should be looking from the past to build the future.   Town centers that mix life with retail are the future – future development should cultivate community not simply isolated retail.   We no longer need retail stores – except the Apple Store of course – we will always need development that fosters community and more so than ever as technology has an isolating affect.     

The mall distracted people away from town centers since the 80s – the revival of the town center and new development that mimics town centers of old and of Europe will be the future.   It would be even better if the car can be eliminated from it – it becomes a place where people walk and mingle in the open air – a place that draws people in and rejuvenates them.   Great design feeds the soul and the human senses.

Inspired in an Unexpected Place

As I sat in my car at the gym this morning trying to find every excuse to not go in, the similar inner voice struggle that has been winning seemingly forever was trying to win once again.   Let’s face it, I am sitting in the parking lot – the only effort at this point is to open the door, grab my gear and walk into the facility.   My only goal was to lift Chest and swim 1000 meters – it is called a basic workout that my overweight and out of shape body can do.   Both things that I enjoy doing also (once I actually show up).   I sat there for at least 15 minutes in a fog on my phone doing nothing.   I am not going to get any other earth shattering thing done in the next 2 hours until I have to pick up my daughter from preschool.   I have to get a shower anyway.   I finally just make myself move, grab my stuff and walk in.

As I was coming down the stairs into the locker room, in front of me is a gentleman I presume to have ALS or similar condition in his wheelchair now with his wife, a care assistant and a trainer.   I have seen him in the past, but since I have not bothered showing up myself for months basically (random showings – nothing consistent) his disease has progressed to this point – last I saw him, he was still able to walk.    It hit me like a sledge hammer over my head.  How much effort did it take for him and his wife and care giver to not only get out of bed today, but go to the gym to do whatever his failing body can do.  

As I am writing this, it is still shaking me to the core.   My overweight out of shape self has no excuses to continue to fail my body.   I know what it is like to be strong, to be thin, to be able to run 10 miles…  I know that by failing to make choices that bring about a strong, thin and fit body – I have let the other voices win and my body continues to just morph into an undirected self – eventually health issues may arise because of it.   The mind game is real, but nothing I face in my life is greater than the effort this gentleman I witnessed today must make to just get up everyday.   He and his wife were such an inspiration to me today.   No I cannot run ten miles right now – I am saddened by what my body has become.   It is my choice to make changes and love my body and do what is required to be a new strong, thin and fit.   I know how to workout – I know how to swim strokes – I know how to ride a bike – I know how to run – I know how to lift free weights…  It is just that my body has to be rebuilt.  It has memory and lifting and swimming are my go to exercises.  I cannot run right now, but I am walking…   I must win the mental game in order to win the physical one.   The voices of procrastination and distraction have to lose and FOCUS has to win.  

I have the 50-year-old birthday coming up in a year and half.   I ventured to look at what the Boston Marathon qualifying times are for my up and coming age.   I cannot run a mile right now, but in my twenties I did run a couple marathons.    In my twenties, the Boston Marathon qualifying times seemed daunting and unachievable for me.   I looked them up to see qualifying times for now 45-49 (3:55) and 50-54 (4:00).   I believe my best twenty something time was 4:15 at the Chicago Marathon circa early 90s.   I have been swishing around in my mind a goal to qualify to run the Boston and then run it as a 50-year-old milestone.   The times seem to be approachable now – if I spend the next 3 months lifting, swimming and walking by fall I should be able to run again.  Then as I approach 49 in December, running up to 5-6 miles should not be an earth shattering effort…   I have planned so much over the years to make a U-Turn on my conditioning – I am discouraged at this point to even plan, because of failing myself.   The reality is – there is no hope of change unless I do set goals and plan – it is just about being true to myself and showing up.

This gentleman today has inspired me so much.   It is difficult to put into words – he demonstrated perseverance in the face of adversity beyond my comprehension. 




Rethinking the DOUBLE SINK BOWL 5' Vanity

So you decided that you are going to redo your bathroom(s), you really want the double bowl sink feature.   2 sinks are great right?   More is always better?  Everyone wants 2 sinks! .....   I really have been changing my mind on this herd mentality of the double bowl sink vanity.   I hate my double bowl sinks in my master bath and my hall bath.  I have determined that very little time is actually used at the sink itself.   Really how long does it take to brush your teeth or wash your face?  I estimate brushing your teeth takes 30-60 seconds and washing your face 30-60 seconds - maybe more, but really not much more if you are focused.   Hand washing - once again not a long task...  Men shaving would be a longer task - need to determine how long.  On the other hand, I spend a lot of time in the bathroom getting ready especially with a 2 year old.   There is not a lot of counter space on the top and what is there is a cluttered nightmare.  I do have more on the top now because of the need to try to keep stuff away from the 2 year old - which will change.  I WANT DRAWERS and MORE DRAWERS.  I want the clutter to go away.    

If I was redoing my baths, I would not do double sinks.   Just because everyone does it, does not mean that it is the best solution.  The one caveat of this is if the bath is large enough for 2 separate sink vanity areas or if you have more than 72" to work with.


SAVE MONEY on PLUMBING FIXTURES or UPGRADE THEM:  You can save money on plumbing labor and plumbing fixtures by doing just one sink.  You could take the money you are saving by upgrading the fixtures themselves.  A typical sink bowl for a vanity costs between $75-$300 (you can spend less or more).   Nice quality faucets start in the $200 range and can easily be $500 or more depending on quality and finishes.

INCREASE STORAGE AND COUNTER SPACE: I designed 3 different examples of 5' vanities with a single sink.   The theme - drawer storage is king.    In addition you will gain 21" of counter space - awe the thought of more flat counter space to spread out the goodies and then have a place for them to go!    

CENTERED SINGLE SINK 5' Vanity with 8 DRAWERS:  This would enable 2 people or more to really organize toiletries, makeup, hair tools, etc.   

CENTERED SINGLE SINK 5' Vanity with 8 DRAWERS:  This would enable 2 people or more to really organize toiletries, makeup, hair tools, etc.

CENTERED SINGLE SINK 5' Vanity with 8 DRAWERS:  This would enable 2 people or more to really organize toiletries, makeup, hair tools, etc.

This is another take on the single bowl vanity.  the drawers are deeper on the sides, but i added the drawer below the sink - this requires plumbing to come out of the wall above the higher vanity floor - requires plumbing rough planning.

This is another take on the single bowl vanity.  the drawers are deeper on the sides, but i added the drawer below the sink - this requires plumbing to come out of the wall above the higher vanity floor - requires plumbing rough planning.

Sink off center allows for around 40" of straight counter top.   The large drawers could have dividers in them to organize hair tools, toiletries, etc.  I think this would be great for a kids bath too - you could use the countertop as a diaper changing station . 

Sink off center allows for around 40" of straight counter top.   The large drawers could have dividers in them to organize hair tools, toiletries, etc.  I think this would be great for a kids bath too - you could use the countertop as a diaper changing station . 

The single bowl vanity may not be the perfect solution for everyone, but it may make you think about it before automatically designing a bath around one.  In smaller to medium sized homes storage is a premium and simply doing a 5' vanity with one sink can add a lot of storage.


Simple Refreshing Lime Water

Water, water, water....  Your best friend and consuming large quantities of it is very good for you.    I used to be a bottled water enthusiast by the case Fiji and Evian being my favorites.  Just become not the most economically way to consume large amounts of water.   It is my daily goal to consume an ounce of water for every pound of my weight.  Needless to say this is generally a goal.   When I am super hydrated my energy levels are high and my body just functions better.   Frequent trips to the bathroom are the only downside.

Anyway, a recent trip to Hawaii the hotel would put out water in the lobby every afternoon and I came to love the lime and some type of flower version... The water went down really easy and always craved more.   I have taken to doing the same thing at home sans the flowers. 

STEP 1: Thinly slice up 1/2 a lime give or take

STEP 2: Place Ice in a glass carafe or similar glass container (stick to glass - I do not think plastic would have the same effect)

STEP 3: Place lime in glass carafe

STEP 4: Pour in filtered water or tap water 

STEP 5: Pour water into a glass and start drinking and fill up carafe as you empty it

Easy way to enjoy refreshing water throughout your day.  Also, a good way to provide water to guests during the holiday dinners and parties.  Skip buying the small bottled waters.

Are you looking to buy carafes at a good price?  I love my WECK carafes - they come in a bunch of sizes and you can get plastic covers if you like to keep teas or other beverages in them.




Personal Theory on Design Choices

When working with other people to create a new kitchen, finishes within a home, new spaces, etc...  my goal is to try to read people to bring alive their vision for the space they are doing - sometimes they do not even know what they want.   What choices I personally may make for a space, may not coincide with a clients desires and vision.  The KEY is reading people indirectly.  Listening to what people say, observing their life style, and getting general information about what they are drawn to in their home or other design aspects.

Any construction project has a million design choice aspects - many choices and costs go along with the transformation of any space.  Going into a project - design choices ideally should flow and work together.   In that process:

  • There are a few choices that may be the best.
  • There are many choices that are right.
  • There are some choices that are not ideal, but if you love it go for it.
  • There are a few choices that are just wrong.

In my mind, it is my job to guide the decision making choices so that they stay with the over arching vision of the project.  However, the client needs to feel like they were a part of the process.  It is important to be mindful of financial realities.

If you are working on a project of your own, have a BIG vision for it.  Then use the BIG vision to guide the other choices.  If you know you like modern lines, natural wood and minimalist areas - then you are not going to pick out a 5 piece crown for your living room.   Houzz and Pinterest have created default picture galleries for you to get an idea of what you like to assist you in creating your BIG vision for your project.  If you feel like you need, help then find a friend, design professional or hire a contractor that has design talent that can guide you.    Get you BIG vision and know it - it will make it all go easier.


Removing Stains from Marble or Limestone Countertops

I must begin by saying that this technique is not recommended, but it does it work.  USE AT YOUR OWN RISK...  

That being said a client of mine who has Italian Calcutta marble countertops - if you are not familiar with Calcutta white marble - it is extremely pricey - hard to find stones that are more expensive out there.  Prices start in the $200/ SFT to $300/SFT installed.  I got this from her and it works.  I figured if she was willing to do this to her countertops, then what do I have to loose when faced with a tomato stain, wine stain and in the case of the linked video a marker stain on Masada honed limestone countertops.

The solution is very simple - SOFT SCRUB with bleach.  All I can say is that it works...  I will qualify my post by saying that I do not follow any of the rules when it comes to limestone countertops.  I do not seal them on a yearly basis - B. decided to have the forever "sealed" when they were installed.  I had water stains on them the next day - waste of time and money - which I expected of limestone. 

Check out link to video on YouTube below.

A Farewell Letter to My Great Aunt Ruby

Dear Great Aunt Ruby-

I just got wind of the word that a short time frame has been put on your time left here on what we call planet earth.   The doctor has told you that it is unlikely that you will make it to your 90th birthday next month.  The time is short and you and your family should prepare.   I am taking the time to let you know how much you have meant to me – why say it when you are no longer here.

When I was a child, I can remember being excited for my Great Aunt Ruby to come and visit from Arizona. It was always a special time for me.  I still have the yearly Santas that you made for me and the other children.  The ones that are still in good shape come out for display every Christmas.  As a child, I looked forward with great anticipation every year for the Santa that you would make for me.  Not sure when the practice died out.  I know over the years making things with your hands became an impossible task with the arthritis that had set in.

I may have not been around physically over the past years, but you have always had and always will have a special place in my heart.   Brian remembers your Banana Cream pie that you made for him.  He knew that they banana cream pie was made with love and that made the difference.

I know you have survived a horrific car crash and you lived in much pain ever since.  In addition, you have been plagued with other ailments throughout your years that have limited you.  Through it all, I always have found you to be a person with a positive spirit and a person of encouragement to those in your life.  You have a big heart and short memory when it comes to others.  You have traveled from Pennsylvania to Arizona and back again – you have met many people and had many friends along the way. 

You began your journey here on earth almost 90 years ago as the first child to Guy and Elsie.    I know that you must have entered the earth with great anticipation and joy.  That day may seem as though it has longed passed, but really it is but a blink in the eye of time.  Since having a baby, my eyes have been wildly open to this journey called life.  I remember times with Gigi that I would say to her that I have never been a mother and you have never been a human and we will figure it out together.  I know someday Gigi will be at the end of her years and I will have been long gone from here.  I can only imagine that Elsie and Guy are waiting with great anticipation once again to see their daughter and welcome her once again.  I am sure Uncle Harry is looking for someone else to scratch his head.  Please do say hello to Great Grandma Elsie and Great Grandpa Guy for me.    Sending a laugh and smile to Uncle Harry. 

When we come to earth, our welcome wagon is limited by the confines of the human condition.  What a welcome wagon it is going to be when you go home to heaven with singing of the angels and the GLORY of the LORD.   No more pain, no more confinement from the body – only true freedom.  The Lord will say to you “Welcome Home, my good and faithful servant”.

I do ask one thing from you.  My dogs are aging in years. Jake is almost 15 and Molly is 11.  They will need a smiling face to great them when they pass - if you run across my dog Princess, she will be a good helper for you.  When you see the others that were dear to me, please give them my best.  

Much LOVE and so thankful that you have been part of my life.