I know, I know, it has been forever since I've posted. I've been busy with some other projects, and the big news is that we are house-hunting again, which is time consuming and not ideal blog fodder.
Why move? Much as we love our home, the two-up-one-down arrangement of the bedrooms in our multi-level-split really does not work so well when you have two young children. Neither does our floorplan's disconnection of the backyard from the waking-hours parts of the house, which makes it hard to watch kids playing outside, or barbeque, or entertain. So we're looking for a new place with a more suitable floorplan. We like our neighborhood, an island of walkability with new schools and groceries within an easy bike ride, but unfortunately our in-demand new-urbanist subdivision doesn't have many houses available that will meet our needs. So, we've stretched our search into the neighboring subdivisions (which are also quite walkable, and closer to the protected natural areas in the North Saskatchewan River valley and the Whitemud Ravine) and held our noses over the garage-mahal-ness of most of the views from the curb while we look for the right house.
Our criteria for a suitable slow home for us:
- it has to have at least 3 bedrooms on the same floor, and a 4th space that can act as a guest bedroom when family come to visit from Nova Scotia
- it has to have either large bedrooms or a separate playroom for the kids (who are now old enough to need some privacy while they play)
- it has to have easy access to the backyard from a kitchen - dining - family room area
- it has to have a well-designed kitchen for baking (you'd be amazed how many houses we've looked at that have kitchens with no decent work triangle)
- it has to be enough of an upgrade (in interior finish quality, not in square footage) that it's worth the trouble and expense of moving - although I have discovered that when push comes to shove, more square footage makes a home a 'better investment' and that weighs heavily for my husband
- it has to have a yard suitable for gardening, and we'd prefer some solar exposure so panels can be installed someday
- it needs to be reasonably energy and water efficient, or easily renovated to be made so (Aside: I have learnt during viewings that, locally at least, third-party certifications such as BuiltGreen are viewed by real estate professionals as adding marketability, not investment value, to a home. I wonder how we can turn that around?)
- it needs to not ring too many alarm bells on Slow Home Studio's Slow Home Test checklist
- it needs to (including any immediately needed renos) fit into our budget
So far we have seen what feels like dozens of houses, and seriously considered an early-80s bungalow with sunken living rooms (too much work needed, and the yard was too shady), an almost-new home that backed out onto a park (the kids' bedrooms were too tiny to grow with them), and an early-90s former show home with a ridiculously huge cathedral-ceilinged great room (that had low-e window film that made the whole interior look violet, and would be a substantial investment to scrape off and replace). We ended up deciding to bump up our budget a bit, and now are looking at two almost-new homes built with lots of energy efficiency features that check all our boxes. We've put an offer in on one of them, and are waiting to hear back from the seller. Wish us luck!
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Sunday, February 5, 2012
|Come Up To My Room at Toronto's Gladstone Hotel reliably showcases some great examples of slow design|
every year during IDS season. This year's standout was Fugitive Glue's Gaslight, upcycled from retired propane cylinders.
|Also shown at IDS12 was Miles Keller's flatpacked plywood Alouette pendant lamp,|
inspired by the design of Canada's first satellite. Gorgeous! Via.
- Treehugger's Lloyd Alter explained why Perkins+Will's Michael Bardin needs to broaden his definition of slow design beyond architecture without air conditioning, to the one the rest of us are using - and wrote a high-profile primer for people who are new to the idea in the process. Hell yeah.
- Now there's actual proof that the greenest brick is the one already in the wall - with some caveats. Mr. Alter, Grist, and GOOD are all over the story.
- The NAHB's New American Home showhome is shrinking, in a reversal of the former trend toward bigger houses.
- Womens' Voices For The Earth have released a study that found carcinogenic flame retardants in 85% of foam products made for young children, and provided tips for limiting your family's exposure to these chemicals.
- The New York Times and EcoSalon both took satirical aim at the trend toward ridiculously oversized furniture.
- Dominique Browning visited the Noguchi Museum. Swoon.
- A foldable electric car with wheels that turn 90 degrees to allow parking in tight spots. Now that's a nifty green design.
- So is this elegant slow-tech design for storing food without a refrigerator profiled at No Tech Magazine.
- GOOD pointed out a fab NYC
vendingsharing machine called the Swap-O-Matic.
- Passive solar buildings are awesome. Infighting by Passive House certifying bodies is not.
- Lindsay's List waxes eloquent about the humble blanket's role in energy conservation.
- Brooke at Slow Your Home had not one but two helpful posts on decluttering strategies.
- "Convenience is not a substitute for craft." I'm so grateful to ABCD Design for pointing out this carefully considered essay on the true role of the artisan, designer, and antiquarian in providing expertise, depth, and authenticity in an age of instant information and cookie-cutter design from Thomas O'Brien. I don't necessarily agree with it all - it's too easy to paint the internet as an adversary, and the interiors industry (like many others) needs to come to grips with the shifting paradigms and demographics that are changing the way we all do business. That said, his emphasis on uniqueness and perspective and passion and knowledge is pitch-perfect, and I love his point that design is best experienced in person.
- GOOD is starting an Ethical Style column.
- Source4Style listed their top eight slow fashion pioneers. So inspirational.
- Aussie blog The Vine followed up on a piece in the Melbourne Review on the trend toward 'Alternative Hedonism' in fashion. What is Alternative Hedonism? It's buying fewer, higher quality, longer-lasting, sustainable, artisan-made items. Gee, that sounds familiar. (The related term 'Hedonistic Sustainability' is being used by architects now. I like how indulgent it feels, but I don't think it'll fly in the bible belt.)
- Kiwi style blogger Street and City Photos mused that it's time to get back to slow fashion.
- Fashion United introduced a two-outfits-per-month slow fashion collection from the Netherlands, by Sanne Jansen. The designer's website is still under construction, but hopefully she'll clear up the misconception in the article that she invented slow fashion (dear bloggers: use a search engine before you hit publish).
- TriplePundit noted that cheap fashion is created by cutting corners on labour conditions at Topshop, H&M, and Forever21, with a lot of links to more in-depth reads.
- EcoSalon took a look at the pros and cons of H&M's Conscious Collection.
- A board member of the Ethical Fashion Consultancy wrote an illuminating article for the Guardian on how the changes to supply chains caused by fast fashion have made sustainability more challenging for fashion retailers.
- Eight years to make two beautiful, completely unwearable garments? Yes. Hmm.
- Mending got a lot cuter with this roundup of patches from Green Thing.
- This guy only owns 15 things, and looks like a pampered college kid in the middle of a gap-year backpacking trip across Europe. Wouldn't it be even more inspirational if he looked like a grownup with a job? There are a lots of guys out there with minimalist wardrobes who own a suit and a pair of khakis. I'd like to see what their list looks like.
- Ecouterre showed us the "Carry-On Closet" capsule collection of multifunctional clothes from two London College of Fashion students, whose slow fashion label Antithesis will launch this fall.
- Well Spent on why clothes cost what they do, in response to a somewhat misleading infographic from the fast-fashion world.
- Slow Fashion Forward profiled Halifax's indie boutik collective, a group of five slow fashion designers who are sharing retail space.
- Mark Schatzker explained the cartels that have controlled dairy, poultry, and eggs in Canada for the past 50 years, and why they're detrimental to slow food, in the Globe & Mail's Why you can't find heritage poultry.
- Here's a great Canadian Press article describing how Slow Food convivia in Canada are recruiting more youth members.
- Slow Food USA's president Josh Viertel had a great article in The Atlantic explaining his perspective on the current controversy and the new challenges the organization is facing - and Poppy Tooker served up some sharp critiques in Zester Daily from an old-guard perspective. How can all this infighting be productive?
- Edible Brooklyn interviewed restauranteur Joe Bastianich on Slow Wine and why the slow food movement has developed such support in America (he sees it as an extension of conscious consumerism).
- Slow Food's international website called attention to an internship program that Australians are using to give aspiring farmers valuable experience and help address the looming shortage of growers.
- Grist published an in-depth explanation of how WalMart's rapid expansion into groceries is bad for the food system, written by a researcher from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
- Josh Ozersky gives sustainable seafood the fishy eyeball at Time Ideas.
- The New York Times reports that people are home cooking more than we might have thought (or are saying they are).
- The debate over labelling genetically modified organisms in food is all over the news.
- Here are 5 packaged foods you can easily make yourself, and a bonus home-made yogurt recipe.
- Activists are starting to use cash mobs - a nice word-play on the flash-mob concept - to show "community support for our local businesses, especially those who give back to the community in big ways", according to a profile of cash mobs being organized in Marietta, Georgia. The first link is the blog of a group of cash mob organizers in Cleveland who are blogging and tweeting about the cash mob movement worldwide, and have posted some great suggestions for organizing one in your own community - check them out.
- Here's a fascinating piece on small local banks from the New York Times, republished on BALLE's blog. (If you aren't familiar with BALLE, please check them out - they are doing amazing work to support local economies all across North America.)
- I was fortunate to attend the Edmonton Local Money Summit - in my capacity as a volunteer for co-organizers E-SAGE - summarized brilliantly here by organizer Duncan Kinney.
- Grist republished a fantastic article on what we can learn from the world's most bicycle-friendly cities, and another on how big businesses are using legislation and regulations to curtail grass-roots sharing-economy initiatives like couch-surfing and car-sharing.
- "I say that we occupy our hands; we democratize sewing (cooking, gardening, making) and restore these useful, and sustainable, life skills back to their honored place in our everyday lives." Natalie Chanin in EcoSalon.
- GOOD introduced us to a blogger (who cofounded Blogger) who's taking the fashion diet to a whole other level: Make It Do. Brava!
- Meanwhile the people behind Project 333 announced the Clutterfat Challenge.
- Create The Good Life! and Be More With Less both had worthwhile posts on cultivating happiness and a sense of wonder.
- Joel Makower wrote about sustainable consumption and 'mesh companies'.
- Zoe at SlowMama has a new 'Living Slower With...' interview series. First up, Theresa Cangialosi of Baltimore aromatherapy shop SoBotanical.
- BrainPickings reviewed The Information Diet: A Case For Conscious Consumption.
- I'm loving these adorable London pothole gardens and this library in a phone box.
- I also adore this idea from Slow Family Living of extending the Valentine's Day season to spread the love a little farther by making more handmade cards of appreciation.
- An article in The Atlantic asks, can social bookmarking sites like Pinterest and Svpply help reduce your consumption? Given the plethora of creative reuse and DIY and vintage fashion ideas I've seen bookmarked on Pinterest, I'd agree that it's possible to use it consciously. (Linda Merrill has also explained how it can be a useful tool for designers.) However, I think it's being overused right now and making the design and craft blog world a lot more homogeneous (*yawn*).
- An introduction to slow travel ideas on the EnvironMental Blog.
- Do The Green Thing on 'Boatcations'. Terrible portmanteau, great idea.
- "Glamping is simply any lodging situation that allows you to get close to nature without all of the hassle of setting up your own campground." On Slow Life on camping in luxury.
- Grantourismo wrote about visiting parks as a slow travel strategy in big cities in general, and Bankok in particular. Meanwhile the New York Times used a new park in Madrid as a case study in big cities converting - or covering - old freeways to create public parks.
- EcoSalon profiled yet another dreamy Six Senses eco-resort property, on the Thai island Koh Kut.
- The Art of Slow Travel are running an interesting series of 'How do you slow travel?' guest posts - here are George on teaching in Germany and Will Peach on living in Spain.
- "The average family paid 25% more in gas in 2011 than they did in 2010." Yikes. PlaceShakers on the importance of walkable neighborhoods, via Planetizen.
- Investment bankers are now viewing climate change as "a significant investment risk" and making institutional decisions accordingly.
- The human cost of coal mining in stunning photos via the Boston Globe.
- Ecouterre reports that the National Resources Defence Council have filed suit with the US EPA to restrict the use of silver nanoparticles in textiles, and a newly released National Research Council committee report highlights the need for much more research into the environmental and human health effects of nanomaterials. And here's an interesting editorial from a social scientist on our collective willingness to give nanotech a free pass while freaking out about GMOs.
- Microbiology is awesome. FastCo report that a fungus that can survive on a diet of polyethylene in an anaerobic environment (like in landfills) has been found. Lloyd Alter sees shades of The Andromeda Strain, and his commenters worry what the digestion end products are.