Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Burger of the Week #169

This week it isn't so much a burger itself, but a burger making tool. Now you can gril perfect patties with the Burger Grilling Press.
And don't miss out on the chance to triple up, and make sliders

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Collecting Trips

I'm growing my collection....

As I begin the travel book for my most recent trip (Ireland), I've finally finished the book for my first trip, Outer Banks, North Carolina, circa 2006.

This was a different project, instead of having 1500 pictures to shuffle through, I only had about 350. And the cameras we had then were of a slightly lower megapixel quality. But I was still able to turn them into a scenic, image-based book, with few resolution issues.
Per usual, I printed this book via Blurb with a full-color image wrap cover with 120 pages of beach grass, waves and sunsets. And per usual, I'm thrilled with the printing, paper and color output.
It was really fun reliving a trip from so long ago (and seeing the pics of us looking so young!). All the trips we've been on— OBX will always be a classic.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Usonian Neighbors

Just down the road from Fallingwater is another Frank Lloyd Wright project, Kentuck Knob, and thus our roadtrip became a FLLW twofer. 

The residence of dairy farmers the I.N. and Bernadine Hagen is situated on the ridge of the Allgeheny Mountains and offers simultaneous views of Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. 

The Hagan's were friends of the Kaufmans and admired Fallingwater so much that they asked Wright to build them their own place. However, Wright was so occupied with other projects, that he couldn't be bothered to visit the site until the foundation was being poured, the entire house was drawn based on photographs of the property.
The Usonian house is built around the concept of a central core, and is designed around a fixed hexagon, which houses the kitchen and main heating for the home. Hexagons rule the home, there are only to 90 degree angles in the building, and they are both in bathrooms.

The home is built into the side of a hill, causing little intrusion into its natural surroundings—the copper roof and sandstone, blending in to the environment.
Frank Lloyd Wright's signature block in Cherokee red cost the Hagan's an additional $1000.

To even the untrained FLLW eye, Kentuck Knob is clearly a Frank Lloyd Wright creation. However, walking through it, it is obvious this home was not an OCD obsession for Wright, as there are little glitches and nuances that he never would have allowed had he been  on-site. 

Despite this, I like the casual nature of the home with its open floorplan and porch lining the whole backside. Seems Frank does good, even when he's not really trying.

Falling for Mr. Wright

It's made a lot of lists... as a Places to Visit Before You Die or an Architectural Wonders
And it certainly was at the top of mine as a Places to Go (soon!).

Fallingwater is Frank Lloyd Wrights most acclaimed work, and being a bit of a fan of Mr. Wright, a roadtrip was in order.  

The Kaufman's summer residence sits just outside Uniontown, Pennsylvania on Bear Run amidst Ohiopyle State Park. The 7.5 hour drive from Grand Rapids takes you through some hilly territory of Pennsylvania, leading up to the remotest of locations.
Built in 1935, Fallingwater's attraction is its three cantilevered balconies that suspend over the river, defying all architectural and structural odds.... though to be fair, they have needed some rehab over the years.  
I admire the way the home blends into it's setting, incorporating the environment without overtaking it. The balconies are  painted a shade of taupe to match the color the rhododendron leaves turn after they fall to the ground. Water can be heard throughout most of the home, and behind the home, up the hill, a spring feeds into and fills a pool at the guest house (not shabby for a guest house... even has a Picasso hanging in there... you know, the Kaufman's trash art that they didn't want on display at their main home in Pittsburgh). But my favorite part of the home, were the stairs that led straight from the living room to the water.
Many FLLW tell-tale signs can be spotted at Fallingwater– Cherokee red paint, low seating, built in furniture, mitered window corners, low-entry ways, etc, etc... but is a one-of-a-kind, stand-out home, that could never be replicated anywhere else.

As astounding of a home as it is (and I'm uber-envious of all those balconies)... I'm having a hard time ranking it against Taliesin, or even FLLW's  Oak Park home. Perhaps it's the fuss that's made over it, perhaps it's that I've seen too much FLLW, but I didn't see anything truly unexpected (except maybe the stairs and the pool).

I also have a hard time listing this as an architectural wonder over many of the things in Europe—which would have been built centuries early without the aid of many tools! Despite that, his use of the river is so ingenious that I'll let him keep the honor!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Shoppin' for Flowers

Look out Vera Bradley, English fashion designer Cath Kidston is sneaking around Europe, filling the shelves with her nostalgic floral prints and adorable homegoods.
Fighting the crowds along the busy shopping corridor of Grafton Street in Dublin, we spotted a Cath Kidston store when we paused momentarily for street performers. Drawn in by the pretty colors and soft patterns, I turned to Kelly and asked, "What's a Cath Kidston?". (Or more importantly, why had I never heard of it?)
Cath Kidston is not a new brand, in 1993, Kidston began selling vintage patterns she remembered from her childhood. Her modern spin on traditional English country patterns gathered a cult following and the product line expanded. There's something mildly girl, yet pleasantly sophisticated about her prints and wares. This self-proclaimed, modern-vintage girl approved immediately.
The collections are primarily sold in the UK, Asia and online, which may forgive this American's unfamiliarity. Though I feel the line would sell strongly in the US, offering a youthful alternative to Bradley, who's patterns often strike me as mature. 
Moments after leaving the store, I notice two young girls with Kidston backpacks meandering down the street.  So keep an eye out—wouldn't be surprised to see Kidston labels walking around Grand Rapids sometime soon.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ireland is Old

I don't think here in the US we understand what OLD is. The United States is 238 years old. Columbus found America 522 years ago. 

It took over 140 years to build the Duomo in Florence (Italy). One building. It took 49 years to carve the doors of its Baptistery. It was completed in 1436. Before North America had even been discovered (by the Europeans). 340 years before the United States became an independent country. And the Duomo is still standing.
I don't know anything about the Pyramids, but my guess is, they're older. And they're still standing too. 

My point is, Boston, I love you, but you're a baby. 

Driving around Ireland, I was struck by how old everything is, and I feel this way every time I go to Europe. Here, in this country, we'll never understand and appreciate history, because we have none. Buildings we build today, won't be here in 340 years. 
At first, when we'd see the ruins of a crumbling castle we'd rush to pull the cameras out, "ohmygod, a castle!". By the end of the week, it was a non-enthused pointing, "there's something old." Not that we didn't appreciate and admire it, it was just everywhere. Ireland is living amidst their history.

17th Century Churches are now bars, Dower Houses are hotels, and Castles can be wine museums.

It's amazing to watch Europeans function amongst these buildings without their jaws dropping every time they turn a corner. These buildings are just normal, they're just there. They've always been there, and they probably always will.*

We'll never be as old as Europe. And because we don't build for generations, we'll never be as cool. 

*I understand that many of these buildings wouldn't be standing without conservation efforts. The point is, they're worth saving, and they recognize this enough to do so, without simplu bull-dozing city hall and starting over. 

Drinking to Learn

Leave it to Guinness to be brilliant. 

The Guinness Storehouse at St. James's Gate in Dublin is the best designed museum I've ever been in. How can that be? Let me walk you through it...
Floor One > Enter into the center of a 7 foot tall glass pint glass. Admire the lease Arthur Guinness signed for the building in 1795 – 49 pounds/year for 9000 years. Learn about the four main ingredients of beer, in easy to understand blurbs and beautiful graphics. And, oh yeah, a waterfall. 

Meet Arthur Guinness via a Harry Potter style gallery where all the portraits come to life and talk to you, and tell you what a great guy Arthur was. Did you know, he was the first employer to offer paid time- off?

Floor Two > The Machinery. This is where the you learn the brewing process. There's a lot of information here. But I like the barrel-making process the best.
Floor Three > Learn to Drink it. Walk down a Willy Wonka-esque hallway, all dark and glowy, before being thrown into a pure-white, sensory-deprivation room, where you are able to smell the beer's ingredients. Enjoy a tiny pint glass shot of Guinness as they teach you the proper way to drink and appreciate Guinness.
Floor Four
> Advertising! Guinness has a history of brilliant advertising. Here you can become a part of it.
Floor Five > Become a Bartender. Pour your own Guinness in the proper fashion. Become a certified apprentice.

Floor Seven >
Take your freshly poured Guinness to the seventh floor's Gravity Bar where there are 360 views over the city of Dublin.

Bottom line >I learned so much. AND I got "free" beer. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

GR Dessert Tour

I'm not shy about loving food.

But there's so many new food joints popping up in Grand Rapids it's impossible to keep up. So a few months back, we decided to take on a bunch with one big sweep! Traveling from shop to shop, we gathered a sampling of snacks, and brought them home to sample and feast—all day. Let's see what I loved.
First up, Cakabakery. Made famous by the Food Network's Cupcake Wars, and brimming in adorableness in the Wealthy Street windmill that, till recently, housed the Local Epicurean, it would seem that owner Jason Kakabaker, had no choice but to grow up and bake cakes.
Sampled:
– Molasses Cookie
– Lavender Lemon Vegan Cupcake
– Chocolate Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream frosting + Blackberries
**Major points to the buttercream frosting!

Our journey then took us to the Downtown Market, to the pretty pink land of Sweetie-licious, where we figured it was time to add a little fruit to our meal.

Sampled:
– Blackberry Raspberry Pie
– Snickerdoodle
– Lemon Ginger Cookie
– Turtle Buttercream Brownie
– Cherry Lemon Muffin
**The fruit was where it was at. The muffin was a light snack and the Blackberry Raspberry Pie was definitely the best thing we ate all day!


And of course, there's always room for ice cream. While at the Downtown Market, I couldn't pass up sampling Love's Ice Cream. A little Toasted Coconut with Almond Croissant drowning in Salted Caramel Sauce, and a bit of Mango Habanero Sorbet. There's so many tempting flavors here, I'll have to come back all summer.
**Yes on the sauce! The mango flavor was good, but the peppers gave it a shocking amount of bite!


We supplemented our sugar rush with lunch at Marie Catrib's and deli-style carry out dinner from Marie's.

This Included:
– A.M.O. Salad
– Trio of Dips: Hummus, cucumber yogurt and baba ghanouj
– Spicy Sweet Potato Enchiladas
– Lentil Lasagna
**The cucumber yogurt was incredibly light/refreshing and the Lentil Lasagna will be had again(very soon)! Marie's never steers me wrong!

All in all, Grand Rapids has a pretty impressive and extensive offering of sugary snacks. We didn't even hit all the locations scheduled. But most importantly, I'm pretty pleased with my stomach's ability to hang tough during extensive binging! 

Next up... Tour de Mexico I think. There's lots of salsa to try. Who's in?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Burger of the Week #168

More Veggie than Burger.