Posts

is it right?

all photos/video courtesy openbuildinginstitute.org. donate to their kickstarter here.

all photos/video courtesy openbuildinginstitute.org. Donate to their kickstarter here.

Do we, each of us, have a right to shelter and food?

A friend of mine uses a Martin Luther King quote as part of his email signature. It seems especially poignant right now as we weather a social climate that is exceedingly animus.

Cowardice asks the question – is it safe?
Expediency asks the question – is it politic?
Vanity asks the question – is it popular?
But conscience asks the question – is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position
that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular;
but one must take it because it is right.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In addition to social ills that include race relations, economic challenges and religious non-understanding, there are those among us that need help with the basic human needs of shelter and food. As a society are we obligated to provide these basic human needs?

Marcin Jakubowski thinks that making home and hearth more affordable, and less resource intense, is not only do-able but right. He is working on an open source initiative to make affordable eco-housing widely accessible. Along with a host of consultants on everything from energy to compliance to architecture, he calls his endeavor the Open Building Institute. He knows it can work because he has done it. And he believes that you can do it too.

kickstarter link
The idea is that each one of us, either with friends or hired help, can build a home. The Open Building Institute will provide the knowledge: a library of modules and instructions, building materials production facility, training, even a certified builder if you so desire. You begin with what you can afford…could be a tiny starter module with a kitchen, bathroom and loft. As you can afford you add an aquaponic greenhouse for growing food and fish, maybe a separate bedroom, perhaps another bathroom and a library or office. The home is made from CEB (compressed earth blocks) from on site soil, uses solar panels for energy, hydronic in-floor heating. The home operates off the grid and grows as finances and needs change. No mortgage (unless you mortgage the land), no power bills, lower grocery bills.

I’m 100% in favor. Yes, I do believe that we all have a right to shelter and food. And we also have a responsibility to work toward that end. If you want to support the Open Building Institutes Kickstarter you can be part of this solution. Donate $20 and get a book laying out the OBI method. Donate $500 and you can participate in a 5 day build and learn all the nuts and bolts of this system.

In case you were wondering, I have no connection to Marcin Jakubowski or Open Building Institute. This project was forwarded to me by a mutual friend, Nat Turner, who you may remember hearing about in Parti* Notes.

Keep in touch,
Leslie

small is the new big

small is big

Small living has been getting bigger and bigger the last few years. Between slim wallets and the growing interest…and let’s be honest, dire need…to build more sustainably, the mcmansions of the last century seem to be falling out of favor. Can we all say hallelujah? (Any excuse for a little Leonard). When designers and architects are faced with constraints, it allows opportunity for some pretty impressive creativity. Four of this year’s AIA award winners for small projects are featured in FineHomebuilding and include the Fall House, designed by Fougeron Architects, along my very favorite stretch of California coastline. The three bedroom vacation home sits on the land quietly, following the natural curves of the site, and is wrapped in glass to honor the beauty outside. And to add my own bit of love to the story, it is near enough to Esalen to run on over for a quick tub in their natural spring fed hot tubs (that is if you tire of that awesome built-in glass tub).

And for the rest of us, small is growing as well. There are ‘tiny house’ blogs and websites, and it seems that every couple of months there’s another news story about a family downsizing and simplifying. Karen Baumann and her two large dogs live in 460 square feet in Marin County, one of the country’s most expensive areas. She says that living small allows her to spend less time cleaning and organizing and affords her more time and money for the things she loves like entertaining and traveling. Micro-apartments are also becoming quite the rage, especially in the most expensive cities around the globe. Curbed has a column dedicated to micro-dwellings which seem to get smaller and smaller. The smallest they’ve listed so far in San Francisco is a mere 200 square feet (that rents for a whopping $1275 per month). And in Paris these micro-apartments get even smaller. Architect Julie Nabucet’s 129 square foot apartment includes an elevated kitchen above a bed/couch in a drawer, linens that tuck away and a tiny bathroom.

This is a bit too small for anyone with, say, clothes, but somewhere between the 129 square foot apartment and the 2600 square foot average home size, is the right house for most of us who are trying to simplify and live within the means of our limited ecosystem.

I’m off to the Contemporary Jewish Museum for their quarterly night out….have a great night and keep in touch,
Leslie
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seven generations

“In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”

~Great Law of the Iroquois

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Earth Day is April 22.  I’d like to respectfully suggest that we take the law of the Iroquois into our own hearts and start again. Let Earth Day be a new beginning of doing at least one more thing (or one less thing, depending on the thing), that will benefit those who come behind us. Here are a few suggestions.

Consider one, or all, of these 22 eco-conscious habits.

Up the health of a school. Start or join a project for Green Apple Day of Service.

Wear nothing new.  Or take it a step further…buy nothing new (except consumables, duh).

Eat slow. One of the markets I shop in lists the distance that their produce travels to get to their shelves. Buy produce that travels less than 500 miles…that way you know it is in season.

Take out your lawn and plant a garden. Cultivate it with your children, friends, neighbors…spread the wealth!

Have a great weekend….sending some special love to my sis today,

Leslie
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Farm City, Novella Carpenter

Farm City by Novella Carpenter

Farm City by Novella Carpenter

“I took a deep breath and plunged the little yellow seeds into the ground that was not mine.  I snaked the hose around from our backyard and sprinkled water onto the bare patch of soil.  Lana and I stood and watched the water soak in.  What I was doing reminded me a little of shoplifting, except instead of taking, I was leaving something.  But I was worried.  Couldn’t these plants be used as evidence against me?”
~Novella Carpenter, Farm City
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I know….Novella Carpenter wrote this book years ago. And I’m finally reading it now. With my ridiculously destroyed back garden (see my facebook page for the reason behind that!), I am ripe for a new start. On top of the mess, we are having a drought in California, so unless it feeds my family, I’m not watering it. Eventually the grass will die, which won’t break my heart.  Then I will follow Novella’s lead and plant food which I will water very carefully so as not to waste a drop. Who knows where this will lead?

lipstick

elizabeth street

photos courtesy elizabethstreetcosmetics.com

lipstick

I know…..this is not a lifestyle site and I don’t usually write about things that won’t interest the genders equally, but Elizabeth Street Cosmetics is a local company (Noe Valley people!) and I love Kelly’s lipsticks.  I don’t wear anything else ever.  It feels as good as my cherry chapstick.  And if the lips are happy, they are more likely to kiss you!  Check it out if you are a lipstick wearer….you’ll never go back to whatever you used to wear.  Short and sweet….okay?

where I live

my house, circa an hour ago

my house, circa an hour ago

the Brunner house, circa 1935

the Brunner house, circa 1935

15 years ago we bought the ugly duckling house on the beautiful block. All we saw was the charm and potential of our little Victorian.  Based on what little bit of research I’ve done, our house was probably built in the 1880s by two young Irish brothers named McElnay.  The original footprint was a single story 4 room house.  It probably didn’t have much of a kitchen, and the potty was out back.  It was built simply in the style of the time, but simply at that time included plaster walls, beautiful wood trims and moldings, and high ceilings with ceiling medallions. Before we bought it, the house was added to and remodeled so that what was once a 900 square foot home with a wrap around porch grew to nearly 1800 square feet.  Not big by today’s standards, but definitely big enough for us.  Between 1880 and 2014 we believe that 4 families have lived in our house.  First the McElnays, then the Brunner family, before us the Kahlers, and finally my family.  The earliest photo I have of the house is above, from about 1935 when the Brunners owned the house.  See the cobblestone street?  Grandpa Brunner was apparently very proud of his roses and grew them in both the front and back gardens.

During and after WWII the house was subdivided and most of it was rented out to servicemen. We have found 3 different locations for kitchens during the course of our renovations.  Grandma Brunner lived in the front bedroom at one point and used the closet for a kitchen (I presume her husband had died).  Sometime during their tenure much of the wraparound porch was enclosed to create a sunroom on one side and a closet on the other.

this is one of three doorways that has the original trim

this is one of three doorways that has the original trim

But back to the ugly duckling part.  When we bought the house everything was pink, the windows were all aluminum framed, the 12′ ceilings were dropped to 10′ and a step and wrought iron railing were added in the living room.  The fireplace was gone (presuming there was one), there was vinyl flooring and shag carpet everywhere, and the beautiful wood trims had all been removed and replaced with 3″ flat oak trim.  Apparently the family before us was enamored with the tract home style of the 60s, and I don’t mean the cool designs of people like Eichler.  So over the course of 15 years we’ve moved a few walls, remodeled every room, updated systems, replaced windows and tried to fix what was ugly and broken.

the before....like the beige/pink laminate everywhere?

the before….like the beige/pink laminate everywhere?

The final room (and it’s really silly that it’s the final room since it’s the room we use the most) was the kitchen.  We began that remodel in late 2011.  I’d done a virtual remodel at least 2 dozen times (tearing down a wall in Autocad is much cheaper than it is in real life).  We settled on a plan and our god-like general contractor came and executed it. Unfortunately my dad got ill mid-remodel and we took a bit of a hiatus before being able to finish.  Last year Steve and I finally installed our tile backsplash to finish (well almost….I still need to add undercab lights) the project.  Now I have a beautiful kitchen to go with the rest of our once again adorable Victorian home.

And I’m going to enter it into the This Old House reader remodel.  Once I take some photos with something besides my iPhone, I’ll upload them.  Suffice it to say there is no pink.

Keep in touch (and enjoy the California rain),
Leslie

7 habits of successful people

that’s my daughter graduating high school….see her in the front left? yea….kind of hard to make out.

Before I could begin the search for a list of habits of successful people, I had to define for myself what success is.  My definition of success, at least for this purpose, is from the free online dictionary:  the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted.  So here we are in this life trying to make some kind of a go of it, and whether we want money, happiness or something else, it is the achievement of that thing that defines success.

I think that Dr. Stephen Covey hits the nail on the head.  He published his remarkably popular book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ in 1989.  His habits number 1-3 allow us first to define that ‘thing’ that signifies our success. Dr. Covey breaks his habits down into 3 categories:  Independence, interdependence and continuous improvement.  The descriptions that follow are my interpretations of Dr. Covey’s explanations.

Independence

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive.  Take initiative, make choices and take responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow.
  • Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.  Discover and clarify your most important character values and life goals.
  • Habit 3: Put first things first.  First things are those things you, personally, find of most worth.

Interdependence

  • Habit 4: Think win-win.  No one need lose in order for another to win, there is enough to go around so genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  Learn to listen empathically.
  • Habit 6: Synergize.  Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork in order to achieve solutions no one person could have found alone.

Continuous Improvement

  • Habit 7: Sharpen the saw.  Create a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life (physical, social/emotional, mental, spiritual).  For example, 
    • physical:  beneficial eating, exercising, and resting.
    • social/emotional:  making social and meaningful connections with others.
    • mental:  learning, reading, writing, and teaching.
    • spiritual:  spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service.

So habit 7 is pretty huge.  That’s why this list is so much shorter than the prior 2 lists for wealth and happiness. Next post is a comparison of the three lists.  I’ve already got a few habits that I’ll be wanting to focus on.

 

10 habits of rich people

summer attire: me, my sis and my aunt in 1963

summer attire: me, my sis and my aunt in 1963

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this.  Actually I am….I feel kind of creepy.  My parents were both depression era babies so I grew up in a home that was very thrifty, where happiness was based on things that had nothing to do with the things that money can buy.  Although we were comfortable, when we traveled we stayed at Motel 6 (when it really cost $6) or at a relative’s home, and a big night out to dinner was at Denny’s.  And I occasionally got a stern “not this time Les” when I tried to order the prawns.  Being rich was never something that I aspired to.  If anything both  the thought of aspiring to wealth and having wealth make me feel uncomfortable.  In our house we buy what we need, give what we can, try to teach our children that stuff doesn’t make people happy and generally focus on other things that we truly value.  

But some people do aspire to wealth.  And Tom Corley has written a whole book about it.  He has a list of 10 things that rich people do (and  poor people don’t).  Although he freely admits that this is a work in progress, his methods have been heavily questioned, and in my opinion rightfully so.  But I’m not posting this because I agree or disagree.  It’s just a list.  Tomorrow  I’m going to find and post habits of happy people.  The next day I’m going to see what I can find about habits of successful people. Then we can compare and contrast and see if we all think that wealth, happiness  and success have anything to do with one another.

Before we start, do you want to be rich?  If you were rich would you be happy?  And what do you think success is?

1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble.

2. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.

3. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically 4 days a week. 23% of poor do this.

4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% for poor people.

5. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% for poor.

6. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read 2 or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% for poor.

7. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% for poor.

8. 80% of wealthy make Happy Birthday calls vs. 11% of poor

9. 67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% for poor

10. 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs 2% for poor.