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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Butcher Block Report

After a good deal of research and consideration we used butcher block counters in our own recent kitchen renovation. The new design called for large expanses of counter and I initially wanted to use a combination of stone and butcher block. Using stone for the sink areas made sense in terms of maintenance (wood can=trouble around water).  Wood was selected due to its physical warmth in winter and because we had an old butcher block table we were sentimental about replacing. I was looking at honed "Virginia Mist granite for the stone as its similar in look to soapstone but less expensive and easier to maintain (according to some). I loved the look of Virginia Mist but decided the mix of stone and wood might be odd as the entire counter is one continuous entity and therefore, we selected wood for the entire counter.  After digging around for sources we went with 1 1/2" maple tops from Hardwood Lumber Company in Ohio. Because this was a DYI situation, and this is not an area of expertise, I spent time considering the best series of board/top run sizes to make for fewer cuts and joined areas -see sketch. Initially I wanted 1" thick tops but due to the humungous sizes (length and width) of tops we were required to use 1 1/2 material in maple.The material was shipped with one "good side" and ready for light sanding on both sides as prep for the final finish. While quite a range of edge options is available, we opted for standard/square edges. 

 The material was shipped with one "good side" and ready for light sanding on both sides as prep for the final finish. While quite a range of edge options is available, we opted for standard/square edges.  When finishing wood counters, options vary based on whether you want "food grade" counters that can be cut on directly, or varnished which require use of cutting boards.  In cases where the user wants to cut and prep directly on counters are generally finished with oils such as Tung or mineral oil. Varnish is used when owners plan to use cutting boards for cutting/prep.  We opted to use a finish/sealer product called Waterlox that is a tung oil and resin based and provides a protective, waterproof finish. Waterlox was recommended by the wood manufacturer and came highly recommended by others as well. We used Waterlox original sealer (several coats) and several coats of Waterlox finish (satin). According to wood manufacturer it is important to seal/finish and install the counters as soon as possible once they are delivered to prevent warping. The sealing and finishing process took several days and a bit of focused work, but the finished wood is beautiful. One great thing about the Waterlox product is that it allows for partial maintenance over time -if a part of the counter is damaged/marked, that part alone can be sanded and resealed, which should be a bonus over time. After some interesting times trying to get the huge wood counters in our old house with narrow doors and hallways, the counters are in and were in place  for a large party we had last week.  The rest of the room is not ready for a final photograph but here is a sneak peak.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Summer Now At Last!!!


What a long and cold and snowy winter ---one many of us thought might never end. 

But it did, finally end, and now it is sunny and green and lovely. Wild asparagus is ready for picking, as are the ever shy morels. Is it worth the long winter to be able to forage for these? I am not sure, if you ask me now I would say yes, if you ask me in February, I would say no.

Over the last winter and early spring I was very busy with my academic job and did not have the opportunity to post here. Hopefully, the summer will be more reasonably paced and relaxing and allow for a little more action here.

This summer we will finish some kitchen renovation being done completely DIY (maybe more about that later). In addition I have some writing projects I hope to get going on. Mostly I am going to try to enjoy what the season brings and I wish the same for anyone reading this.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Winter Now



We are truly in the thick of it up here in Wisconsin, USA.

A very cold snap  -20°F, has been followed with what feels like a very mild 10-20°F. Living in this part of the country has taught me a new type of patience – to learn to live with things I cannot control has been a good thing. Also, when it is terribly cold I can take time to focus inward and that is what I have been doing. Of course, to be honest, I also left and spent some time in San Diego, CA and a couple days of warm, sunshine go a long way toward making winter manageable. Now that I am back, I notice that this freezing cold world can be very beautiful and serene; it therefore has some benefits.

With my focus currently inward I have been thinking about what the previous year brought me in terms of thinking and learning.

Here are the things that stand out for me:

I revisited the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his study of creativity, happiness and flow. In the past I did not find his work all that compelling but this year in discussion with grad students I came to see his idea of flow as very helpful. Rather than my trying to paraphrase his ideas, it may be worth watching this video:


I think what is most interesting to me about his idea of creative flow is the fact that I have felt that groove before when everything was “clicking into gear” for me and where I lost track of myself within something.  My rediscovery of this concept has resulted in my seeking to pursue spending more time on things where I feel that flow happening. This has been very fulfilling.


In addition, this year I read Daniel Goleman’s book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, which contains some content that relates well to Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of flow (in fact Goleman mentions Csikszentmihalyi). My reading of the work of these two men this year was a bit of serendipity and very helpful. It has me seeking that flow/focus where/when possible.

As noted here previously, this year I seem to have developed a renewed interest in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and read the book The Women: A Novel by T.C. Boyle. I’m a fan of Boyle and thoroughly enjoyed reading the book after visiting Taliesin.

Another book that I enjoyed was Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. As usual Kingsolver’s writing is exquisite –mind blowing to me at times. Some have found the book a bit simplistic and preachy but I enjoyed it and it led me to seek more information about monarch butterflies and threats to their survival.


This is just a partial list of things I have been thinking about during these cold months as I turn my focus inward. The year brought many other new things to me, I have been reading more, and focusing a bit more on my own creative work and this has been very fulfilling. As I wrap up the old year and think about the new, I see it as a bit of a welcome rediscovery of many things –and that is good.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

More FLW: Taliesin!


"The House" Taliesin

My visit to the AD German Warehouse renewed my interest in Frank Lloyd Wright and therefore, I am happy to describe my most recent Wright experience.

Yesterday a group of design students and I visited Taliesin --Wright’s home/studio and school. This was my first visit and it was a wonderful experience. The site is cared for by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Taliesin Preservation, Inc. 

According to the Foundations website Taliesin Preservation Inc. was: "created to preserve the buildings, artifacts, landscape, and legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin. America’s premier architect and Wisconsin’s native son considered Spring Green his home, and he built and created an environment both beautiful and inspirational.

If you are in or near Spring Green WI. (in the southern portion of the state) I recommend making a visit. Tours of both the "Hillside School" and Wright's "House" and studio run from May to October and are conducted bTaliesin Preservation, Inc. (reservations are recommended). Taliesin is also a school of architecture.  


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Follow up on the A.D. German Warehouse


I was happy to see this recent article about the AD German Warehouse. This is a great follow up to my earlier post and answers questions I had about this  building. If you click on  "more photos" in the left column you can get to additional images.

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/on-wisconsin-saving-wright-s-lone-warehouse/article_a448221c-20b8-55e2-a759-d95fe2bf063e.html




Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Back home in the upper midwest now, late August, and its hot. The world around me hangs heavy. Heavy air,  plants heavy with vegetables. Everything seems ripe.

It is that semi-magical time of year, when I get back to school, meet with new students and the whole thing starts over. Soon it will be the real fall: cool air, leaves changing, and crisp. For now I won't think about winter.

On a side note, I took this quick picture of a flower, in a vase, on my kitchen table --with my phone. I continue to be amazed at the quality of quick little i-phone pictures.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Qualities of Light

Currently visiting Southern California and lucky enough to spend time at the beach. This is La Jolla, just south of La Jolla Cove. I'm always struck by how varying geographical locations have such variation of qualities of light. In coastal areas of the Pacific, when the fog burns off,  there is a coolness to the air and a bright contrast to the sunlight that is just spectacular. A swim in the salt water and taco post swim = perfect summer day in my book.