About Me

2010 in Review

What a Year it’s been!

My Mom and I made a wedding dress. My husband and I planned our wedding. We got married. We planned our honeymoon, which actually took more time, and took a month-long honeymoon. We made time for spending with friends. We found out that in the next year we would be an aunt and uncle. We traveled to Switzerland and Italy.  I visited a good friend in Texas. My career became better defined as I began searching for work as a Sustainable Interior Architect. I ran races including my first triathlon in Morgantown, The Ogden relay race where Phil and I placed first, thanks to him, and I participated in a shared triathlon in Marlington WV with my best friend cheering me on.. telling me to ‘Tri like a Girl.’ We were able to spend Christmas with both of our families and ring in the new year with my sister and her husband. Whew! mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 9,000 times in 2010. That’s about 22 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 71 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 77 posts. There were 477 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 430mb. That’s about 1 pictures per day.

The busiest day of the year was June 15th with 93 views. The most popular post that day was Beyond My Fascination with Legos.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for mesa verde, villa savoye, sagrada familia, villa savoye plan, and villa savoye plans.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Beyond My Fascination with Legos January 2010


Clarkitecture Part 1 – Being Sustainable January 2010
1 comment


…and from the Young We are Inspired! March 2010


About Kellie December 2009
1 comment


The Sustainability Of Interiors June 2010

About Me Community Resolutions

Over qualified, Over paid, Under appreciated.

Why is there so much work to do and too many unemployed people? How do we find work, and ourselves, in a bad economy: what if we all lowered the bar a little, lost our egos and began to help our neighbors? I suggest the only thing we have to do to find work, is listen.

Imagine living in an overly happy world, where people read your mind. The neighbor made extra dinner and brought it over the day you were running late, someone pulled up with a can of gas as your car was coasting on an empty tank to the side of the road. When your best friend saw you walking down the street on a day you needed comfort. What if everyone who could help you were within walking distance, an interconnected world beyond wireless, a world where our actions and desires could be filled by simply being open to the fact that they could be.

I believe this overly happy world is the case, it exists around us right now, and if you don’t believe me I am going to suggest a good case of listening.

Think about your best friend. The best thing about friends are the way they listen. In return, the best thing about a friend is listening. When is the last time you were inspired talking to yourself?

Listening is about

enjoying an

o p p o r t u n i t y

and, you guessed it, about being more open. Lose your ego and discover where you find yourself. In a deeply interconnected world, I need to be less critical, even in my mind. Respecting someone with my thoughts if the first way to allowing them an opportunity to inspire me.

We give up the richness in life when we choose talking over listening. When I assume I know everything about you and my way is better, I forfeit the base of a relationship and an opportunity to enrich my life with something else.

How does this apply when looking for work? I’ll take myself as an example.

The woman I want to be: Someone who doesn’t need too much but likes the quality of things like a great china dish, a cuddling mug for coffee in the morning, things I’ve paired with a crisp table and fine linens that don’t match but look good as my collection. I want to make my own clothes, have time to think. I like this writing. I like a book club, I like arranging a room and the search for items but not as much as I like ordering what I have or making things I need. I like dinner conversations with my husband. I like to give my opinion on big questions. I like being conservative with what I own and how I spend time. I like hosting discussions…could I start a studio for community action? I like to draw and dream. I am an architect, I am a runner. I like coming together for group critiques. I love conversations with my friends.

Now, lets look at how this may apply to what I do for work, and treat it boldly, sarcastically as we all do when we sell ourselves. It is how we come across when we have the idea of what we deserve.

I am good at what I do. In the professional society I am specialized but can cover a large general area with what I do. As an architect I can dream, realize an actual, economical and buildable project for a client,  I can draw pretty pictures and fly you around in a 3D model. I can conceptualize, help you find a contractor and get your project built with one. I am a visual person. On the side I am a writer, I teach gymnastics, I enjoy art and galley openings, deep conversations and traveling. I can work hard for you and I am a little expensive.

Expensive. Hm… How many more thing I would do if they weren’t so expensive. Who else would hire me if they thought I was inexpensive. Now that I am a professional I can do these things because I can afford them. In a perfect world I’m paid well and often, so well, I can work less and earn more. I can afford my own time now.

But, it’s not the same for everyone.

Many people in my profession are unemployed, many people are trying to find higher paying jobs. Good employers don’t want to spend too much money on anyone they hire and we are all wasting too much time thinking about it. Everyone is being very picky about what they deserve. (I heard this last week listening to NPR) Why don’t we all just lower the bar a little?

I think I’m great. We all think we’re great. We know what we deserve, and that’s the problem. Has anything ever turned out exactly how you’ve expected? Does the right school, too many extra curricular activities, everything, ever mattered as much as the attitude you have toward it? I’d have to say for myself that it never did.

Too often we run around in a dazed, worried world in which we are not able to look outside of the bubble and question what really matters… question the heart of what it is we are trying to obtain. That’s why I think we should lower the bar on what we think we deserve. Don’t be too close minded to mistake work for an opportunity. You decide what matters most.

Too many of us believe we deserve our lifestyle -that we should not have to work hard. It’s discouraging to some, the state of our current welfare system -that everyone has the right to money for food -and everyone isn’t granted instead the right to work. (To earn money and make a difference could all be rolled into one!)

You and I need to be better listeners. As I began to seek answers I came across many applicable resources.  Charles Eisenstein wrote an article about community titled Shareable: A Circle of Gifts, an article in Architecture Record by Robert Ivy, an AIA lecture, and had a conversation with a friend about working together.

Charles Eisenstein views community as the answer to our overly commercial, less fulfilling, dwindling resource world. If we are to make a difference we can begin by helping those around us, so that in return we can depend on them. Beyond this main point he describe the history of communication and the change of our lifestyles to be more individualized.  Our focus has become monetized and as a result, less giving. He introduces  Alpha Lo’s idea and a social invention describing the gift circle as a way of fixing this. Isn’t it about love anyway? I suggest you read this article! Shareable: A Circle of Gifts

Here is a part of the article:

Wherever I go and ask people what is missing from their lives, the most common answer (if they are not impoverished or seriously ill) is “community.” What happened to community, and why don’t we have it any more? There are many reasons – the layout of suburbia, the disappearance of public space, the automobile and the television, the high mobility of people and jobs – and, if you trace the “why’s” a few levels down, they all implicate the money system.

More directly posed: community is nearly impossible in a highly monetized society like our own. That is because community is woven from gifts, which is ultimately why poor people often have stronger communities than rich people. If you are financially independent, then you really don’t depend on your neighbors – or indeed on any specific person – for anything. You can just pay someone to do it, or pay someone else to do it.

In former times, people depended for all of life’s necessities and pleasures on people they knew personally. If you alienated the local blacksmith, brewer, or doctor, there was no replacement. Your quality of life would be much lower. If you alienated your neighbors then you might not have help if you sprained your ankle during harvest season, or if your barn burnt down. Community was not an add-on to life, it was a way of life. Today, with only slight exaggeration, we could say we don’t need anyone. I don’t need the farmer who grew my food – I can pay someone else to do it. I don’t need the mechanic who fixed my car. I don’t need the trucker who brought my shoes to the store. I don’t need any of the people who produced any of the things I use. I need someone to do their jobs, but not the unique individual people. They are replaceable and, by the same token, so am I.

That is one reason for the universally recognized superficiality of most social gatherings. How authentic can it be, when the unconscious knowledge, “I don’t need you,” lurks under the surface? When we get together to consume – food, drink, or entertainment – do we really draw on the gifts of anyone present? Anyone can consume. Intimacy comes from co-creation, not co-consumption, as anyone in a band can tell you, and it is different from liking or disliking someone. But in a monetized society, our creativity happens in specialized domains, for money.

To forge community then, we must do more than simply get people together. While that is a start, soon we get tired of just talking, and we want to do something, to create something. It is a very tepid community indeed, when the only need being met is the need to air opinions and feel that we are right, that we get it, and isn’t it too bad that other people don’t … hey, I know! Let’s collect each others’ email addresses and start a listserv!

Community is woven from gifts. Unlike today’s market system, whose built-in scarcity compels competition in which more for me is less for you, in a gift economy the opposite holds. Because people in gift culture pass on their surplus rather than accumulating it, your good fortune is my good fortune: more for you is more for me. Wealth circulates, gravitating toward the greatest need. In a gift community, people know that their gifts will eventually come back to them, albeit often in a new form. Such a community might be called a “circle of the gift.”

Fortunately, the monetization of life has reached its peak in our time, and is beginning a long and permanent receding (of which economic “recession” is an aspect). Both out of desire and necessity, we are poised at a critical moment of opportunity to reclaim gift culture, and therefore to build true community. The reclamation is part of a larger shift of human consciousness, a larger reunion with nature, earth, each other, and lost parts of ourselves. Our alienation from gift culture is an aberration and our independence an illusion. We are not actually independent or “financially secure” – we are just as dependent as before, only on strangers and impersonal institutions, and, as we are likely to soon discover, these institutions are quite fragile.

Given the circular nature of gift flow, I was excited to learn that one of the most promising social inventions that I’ve come across for building community is called the Gift Circle. Developed by Alpha Lo, co-author of The Open Collaboration Encyclopedia, and his friends in Marin County, California, it exemplifies the dynamics of gift systems and illuminates the broad ramifications that gift economies portend for our economy, psychology, and civilization.

The ideal number of participants in a gift circle is 10-20. Everyone sits in a circle, and takes turns saying one or two needs they have. In the last circle I facilitated, some of the needs shared were: “a ride to the airport next week,” “someone to help remove a fence,” “used lumber to build a garden,” “a ladder to clean my gutter,” “a bike,” and “office furniture for a community center.” As each person shares, others in the circle can break in to offer to meet the stated need, or with suggestions of how to meet it.

When everyone has had their turn, we go around the circle again, each person stating something he or she would like to give. Some examples last week were “Graphic design skills,” “the use of my power tools,” “contacts in local government to get things done,” and “a bike,” but it could be anything: time, skills, material things; the gift of something outright, or the gift of the use of something (borrowing). Again, as each person shares, anyone can speak up and say, “I’d like that,” or “I know someone who could use one of those.”

During both these rounds, it is useful to have someone write everything down and send the notes out the next day to everyone via email, or on a web page, blog, etc. Otherwise it is quite easy to forget who needs and offers what. Also, I suggest writing down, on the spot, the name and phone number of someone who wants to give or receive something to/from you. It is essential to follow up, or the gift circle will end up feeding cynicism rather than community.

Finally, the circle can do a third round in which people express gratitude for the things they received since the last meeting. This round is extremely important because in community, the witnessing of others’ generosity inspires generosity in those who witness it. It confirms that this group is giving to each other, that gifts are recognized, and that my own gifts will be recognized, appreciated, and reciprocated as well.

It is just that simple: needs, gifts, and gratitude. But the effects can be profound.

First, gift circles (and any gift economy, in fact) can reduce our dependence on the traditional market. If people give us things we need, then we needn’t buy them. I won’t need to take a taxi to the airport tomorrow, and Rachel won’t have to buy lumber for her garden. The less we use money, the less time we need to spend earning it, and the more time we have to contribute to the gift economy, and then receive from it. It is a virtuous circle.

Secondly, a gift circle reduces our production of waste. It is ridiculous to pump oil, mine metal, manufacture a table and ship it across the ocean when half the people in town have old tables in their basements. It is ridiculous as well for each household on my block to own a lawnmower, which they use two hours a month, a leaf blower they use twice a year, power tools they use for an occasional project, and so on. If we shared these things, we would suffer no loss of quality of life. Our material lives would be just as rich, yet would require less money and less waste.

Whether natural or social, the reclamation of the gift-based commonwealth not only hastens the collapse of a growth-dependent money system, it also mitigates its severity. At the present moment, the market faces a crisis, merely one of a multiplicity of crises (ecological, social) that are converging upon us. Through the turbulent time that is upon us, the survival of humanity, and our capacity to build a new kind of civilization embodying a new relationship to earth and a new, more connected, human identity, depends on these scraps of the commonwealth that we are able to preserve or reclaim. Although we have done grievous damage to earth, vast wealth still remains. There is still richness in the soil, water, cultures and biomes of this planet. The longer we persist under the status quo, the less of that richness will remain and the more calamitous the transition will be.

On a less tangible level, any gifts we give contribute to another kind of common wealth – a reservoir of gratitude that will see us through times of turmoil, when the conventions and stories that hold civic society together fall apart. Gifts inspire gratitude and generosity is infectious. Increasingly, I read and hear stories of generosity, selflessness, even magnanimity that take my breath away. When I witness generosity, I want to be generous too. In the coming times, we will need the generosity, the selflessness, and the magnanimity of many people. If everyone seeks merely their own survival, then there is no hope for a new kind of civilization. We need each others’ gifts as we need each others’ generosity to invite us into the realm of the gift ourselves. In contrast to the age of money where we can pay for anything and need no gifts, soon it will be abundantly clear: we need each other.

Work for love.

Work at love.

Give love a chance.

Robert Ivy writes of the importance of a tangible urban society. In Architecture Records’ August 2010 editorial titled Scraping the Limits.

Today’s fragile world, with its dwindling resources and expanding populations, is calling for other agendas in the West. Attribute it to changing fortunes or the bitter aftertaste of spilled oil, our architectural sights have now shifted to a more socially, environmentally conscious agenda. We’re imagining a smaller scale, hands-on, ecofriendly urban world. We have corrected our course from too much bigness. Right?

AIA 2009 Convention lector, Peter Head of Arup tells us that first steps to advancing an ecoecology society from an industrial society is to involve community… bring together the experience of people to form a collective voice – made of many parts from the get go. He speaks of finding the connectivity of what exists in a community to implement better resource management. This is called open source modeling. This advances a greater social cohesion. Our skills need to be shared, pulled together and pushed quickly he says! Projects come from action. Community is so important in development. We need multidisciplinary teams who put in a small amount of work to solve each other’s problems as the first step. Before projects, these charrettes and workshops in the early stages help to seek an entire answer for a community to use its resources within and together, to create a closed loop, dependant upon one another. This is best for the world when we consider the limit of our resources. He ends with… ‘we are always in a reflectful phase.’

That is inspirational. Once I’ve started listening I hear more and more about communities, grassroot organizations, local people, and friends making small differences with our actions that are copied by those around us.

This makes me question …what does my community need to overcome to work together better? What barriers exist that take up our time and prevent an open, eager, listening mind? It seems like the last generation  has impressed the tradition of territorial behaviors upon us. I live in Ohio but work in West Virginia. I say we need to ‘Bridge the River!’ I have family within an hour away in Pennsylvania.  There is the Power of 32, thirty-two counties trying to break down borders. These antiquated limits of state lines we live by need to be rethought.

My time most likely involves things that I am passionate about. So why shouldn’t my work involve things I am passionate about? Instead of trying to figure out how you should make money, perhaps you should be questioning what you should be spending time doing.

If I am to engage in community I should do that with my work. It has worked for the local advocate, gardener, vista volunteer, Danny Swan. Through his passionate efforts of growing a garden he had helped to feed and empower young children in depressed areas, -children that live within two minutes walking distance of where I work each day.

It’s not about money, it’s about helping your neighbors. We all need to work harder to help people in our own community. Stop thinking about what you deserve and give someone what they need.


About Me

In Italia Now

Its good to be mixed in with other cultures

elbow rubbing with people who believe in siesta

and a different pace of life.

Society has a way of engulfing the nature of my actions.

I find myself enveloped in walking without a purpose in Italy

but remember finding it difficult to sleep in, in Ohio.

There are saturated people and buildings today in Como,

our first day in Italy. Streets are flooding near lake Como.

My husband and I are confined together under an umbrella we bought.

Only when we sit for paninis at a cafe or walk into the Duomo are we apart.

We are spending our time in the new places being aware and loving one another.

Walking, seeking, questioning, writing and acknowledging what we see and each other.

Being creative by drawing, filming and photography. Some days we physically challenge ourselves to cross mountain saddles, hike long distances and earn the views to which we rest at with great leisure, because of the endurance.

We address time with no concern but for curiosity and compare what it means to the people and places we visit.

I feel at home and at rest in Italy. I have the Adriatic Sea in my blood and it is here that I feel right and confident, relaxed and in love.

My husband appreciates this.

Even though a barrier of language exists the puzzle is a wonderous maze that seems childlike and fun with its mystery.

Even stepping from Switzerland to Italy was unannounced and seemed to pass too easily for the two of us. No one asked who we were, just directed us with sign language to follow the chained walk way, past border control offices that sat vacant.

It is a rebirth, but if only in spirit, to be here.

About Me

The Ultimate Alpine & Tuscan Adventure

Where we will be via Google Maps.   Thanks to my girlfriend for plugging all of this information in! I can’t believe it, we leave in the morning!

I found these great blogs and architecture sites while searching for places to travel in Italy.

One of my favorite blogs to reference is Italy beyond the Obvious. What do you know? The post I read today is about biking in Italy. Tempismo Perfetto! A past post I’ve enjoyed talks about hot spots in Milano.  

To make sure I visit Aldo Rossi Architecture the online architecture guide, MiMoa, has been wonderful. 
This couple has been kissing around Ubria.
Here is a list of more hot Italian blogs I’ve been wandering through.
Ah, and if we need a night in to watch Architecture lying somewhere here is the Sam Mockbee Film online!
A closer view.
About Me Food & Exercise

TRI like a Girl!

What a slogan for two girls competing in their first Triathlon!  My best friend came to cheer Allison and I on as we prepared for Saturday’s Sprint Splash N’ Spin in Morgantown, WV. It was a great weekend and we finished five minutes faster than each of us estimated our time to be!

We started out the weekend by meeting at our hotel and then quickly took off to eat burritos at Black Bear.

I’d say the spinach, rice and bean burritos I ate with a handful of chips and salsa was a good combination for my race the next morning. I was worried it may be too heavy, but by the 9am start time, I was fine. A combination of hydrating well the day before and a race breakfast of peanut butter bread and banana, gave me enough energy for my race.

A race highlight for me was that we got to have our numbers written on our arm and leg. My age was written on the back of my leg, and my race number on my arm.

A few race blunders happened before we even had time to set our bikes into the transition stall. First, I got us lost getting to the race and we arrived only 40 minutes to our race time. We were supposed to be there an hour early, and even having been to a race meeting at the same place the night before, I was able to get us lost again. Then, I lost my goggles. They were found later, later than when I began swimming, in a t-shirt box in the registration area. Allison just had to throw her goggles at me when she jumped out of the pool right before I started.

I keep looking on the I Play Outside to see our individual event splits but they are not up as of this Monday morning yet. However, there are some great photos that  covered the race, the foggy morning starts and then the hot afternoon progression. Our start times were not seeded, but Allison and I did begin one heat after another. Perhaps it was organized by the timing in which we signed up for the triathlon?

We put on our numbers, got ready on the pool deck and Allison went in first. She was the first person in her heat to jump out and complete her 5 laps! Someone later commented to her that she was part fish! She had a great swim time and I was so proud of her.

Swimming that early, even if the water was cold, was wonderful. The sun was just coming up, I could see rays hitting to bottom. It was so much nicer than swimming at Bark Camp where I could not see a few feet in front of me while training. The race was run so smoothly, so well. The mood on the pool deck was calm and organized. A volunteer sat at the end of the pool counting your laps with you, which made racing a lot easier. When I began this race, after the pool whistle was sounded, I just began swimming. I have never raced in water and the swimming was my weakest event. But, I finished it, with only one flip turn, probably a lap of back stroke, and the rest breast stroke. I only hit my lane partner once, and thankfully she did not seem to mind later when I apologized.

The  biking was tough because I had not been able to ride the race course and I was not able to judge how far I was going before the turn around. The way out seemed to be mostly up hill. There was no one around me, no one to push me, so every time I saw a slightly up hill portion I tried to push it to that point. I am really eager to see what my 11 mile time was. I passed Allison on my way out, on her way back in. We passed again for the run. The run was my best event. I was by this time used to the jelly legs I have when jumping off a bike to go running. Even though the sun was hot by this time, I took the 5K race at my pace, following the even bike trail, which again I imagined more up hill on the way out than on the return. That part of the race went fast. On my way back to the finish after the turn around, I opened my stride, enjoyed the Morgantown art park signs, gave words of encouragement to those runners headed out, and finished strong. I felt great!

Allison, #112, finished in 112.09! I, #127, finished in 117.?? something! When we finished we waited around to congratulate others in our heat, we sat on the sunny hill and drank powerade. We moved to the shady trees to rest for a while and then all of a sudden it was 1 o’clock.

We checked how our race times compared to other heats and when we left Allison was 3rd in our age group, I was 6th! Overall she got 72nd, and I 107th. Very good. I was impressed that we estimated five minutes slower than our actual time! It is hard to believe that 10 weeks of training went by so quickly. Allison and I are talking about what the next goal should be. We have enjoyed the comrade of training together. I have a honeymoon that this training will help me with. I will think of her while climbing the alps with my husband. When I return we will determine how to keep in shape over a snowy winter!

About Me Food & Exercise

Sprinters, Splashers & Spinners… it is time!

What has two hundred, sixty-three participants, involves fitting your head in a tiny red cap, and promotes racing through Morgantown? Why it’s the 2010 Sprint Splash N’ Spin!

My good friend and I have completed ten weeks of training, as shown by my refrigerator calendar.

We averaged exercising at least three times a week, which among work and social weekends fit in with no room to spare.

After three months of training, biking countless miles around our Ohio town, running the bike trail from end to end, and finding a different pool to swim laps in, we are ready to compete.

We found four different places to swim while training.  The Wellness Center in Wheeling, The YMCA of Wheeling, Memorial Park pool if we were feeling lucky on middle school night that we wouldn’t have to dodge teenagers the entire time, and the lake at Bark Camp.  The lake allowed us to train for all three events last Saturday, August 21st. We swam, changed into our biking clothes, took off in the rain for a fifty minute ride and then concluded the day with a 20 minute run. We think training on our hills will give us an advantage for this race that is mainly over a rail trail.

There are three of us together for the weekend. Two of us competing, and the third gal, my best friend, (who just started her own blog) will be there to motivate and inspire our competition edge. She may even make a hot pink sign.

I am looking forward to writing my number in marker on my arm.  This will be my first sprint Triathlon on my own and today I have mixed feelings of nervousness and excitement. Now, it is time to go find a big salad with spinach for lunch.

I thought hanging this second place metal over my rear view mirror would give my training partner a kick. We won these metals on a triathlon team together in April and I thought it would bring us good luck or at least smiles while we are on our drive down there today.

About Me Architecture Resolutions

Traveling Thoughts

On my drive to work today a friend and I discussed progress and balance. How do you judge your progress? Is it accomplishing your daily plan you set out for yourself each morning? Is it taking the time to accomplish your resolutions, exercising more, knowing what you eat, doing something creative everyday? Is it knowing what makes you happy? I know that writing, drawing, reading, traveling, attending lectures and deep conversations make me happy. So, why is it that in the pathway to progress my tedious work gets in the way? I love design work when I can dream of how to make someone’s living space more efficient, more beautiful and usable for them. I enjoy making three-d models, choosing local and sustainable materials, and presenting my findings. I enjoy searching for inspiration and then adapting it to my use.

My friend and I discuss the fun things and why these things are sometimes left to last, after the running around appeasing meetings, instead of focusing on the tasks that we know make us feel we measure up. Maybe it is the way we perceive what we should be doing, or hope of ourselves to accomplish. When the day turns out differently we need to focus on what we did accomplish and not judge ourselves negatively on what we did do. It is about having the confidence to know you did your best, and your best is different from what you thought it may be in the beginning.

I took half an hour to write this morning on the image below and let my mind wander.

Architecture Inspiration

Outpost, Olson Kundig Architects in Architectural Record

Designed for an artist and designer, this house in rural Idaho uses rectilinear forms and simple materials to create an elegant, spare composition. Worked on haltingly over a protracted, 10-year development period as the owner negotiated with zoning boards, both at her previous home and the new one, the design was pared down further and further until only essential elements remained. Built to withstand the extreme changes in temperature in this harsh region, the house’s steel frame, concrete-block exterior, and interior exposed wooden joists all portray the design’s toughness and show the means of construction in their roughest form. Eleven-foot-high walls extend out from the house to create a long garden, where the client has planted rosebushes, grapevines, and fruit trees. (text from Architectural Record)

This projects reminds me of Carlo Scarpa, who built busy concrete volumes over Italy’s country side. In the Brion Cemetery Scarpa uses the concrete form to step over a still pond, invite you into a door, and cover the dead. He raises an altar and glazes tile on two interlocking circles made of thin shadows against the venetian sky, and bordering landscape slits.

My husband and I will be traveling to Switzerland and Italy in 16 days! For our month-long honeymoon we will be flying into Zürich, hiking the alps 4-8 miles per day from mountain town to town, taking a train into Italy ten days later, heading to the east coast to see Scarpa’s Brion Cemetery and Venice, traveling by train to Bologna and nearby cities, hopping on the train again to get to Florence for an evening before renting bikes to ride the Chianti hills of Tuscany. Our trip will end in Cinque  Terre before flying out of Milan. We’ve put a lot of research into our trip, setting aside time for Italy dates every week or so for the past few months.

Thinking about Italy, architecture, inspiration, my work, travel, a new language, the happiness project along with my resolutions and continuing to train for the Sprint, Splash N’ Spin this weekend has left me in a full state of mind wanting to write more about the balance I am to be maintaining. It is a good thing I have a month in Europe to reevaluate and write. I think we all need a break in monotonous days of work, work, work, and cleaning the house. We all need to take an hour for lunch to sit by the river and be quiet.

Did anyone see Mockbee’s PBS special last night? I haven’t seen it yet.

About Me Book Review

There are No Rules!

I began reading The Happiness Project the week before I got married. Being that I am a very motivated, goal-oriented person, and that most of the time I am happy, it seemed silly to begin setting another round of goals for myself to make myself more happy. How could I use this book to challenge what I was practicing? It seemed that the author, Gretchen, seemed to have the same hang up about her own life. She was a happy person, and had made life choices to take herself on a path of living the way she wanted to.  She spent a year researching happiness; read, took notes, and began to apply resolutions on a month to month basis. What she found was that by charting her resolutions with a gold star, creating a visual checklist, meant that she was more likely to obtain and be aware of goals she thought would make her happy! I find that happiness for me is self-awareness. I work well in a routine and also want to be flexible. I feel like I am in the middle of goals, so how am I to step out and begin with a fresh set to tackle if this is the secret to happiness?!

Though Gretchen spent the year prior researching happiness; Thoreau to Elizabeth Gilbert, scholars to school teachers, from Benjamin Franklin to Saint Therese of Lisieux, not until she began to live month to month resolution and research on herself did she come up with her Splendid Truths of Happiness. The first one is First: To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

I’ve spent a lot of time considering that statement. Know what makes you happy, what makes you feel bad, know what makes you feel right.

…in an atmosphere of growth. Challenge yourself with the things that make you happy. But, how do you evaluate this? Your very own Resolutions Chart! You can go to Gretchen’s website and begin your own online or create one for your home yourself.


Why Resolution and not Goal? Gretchen addresses this – because a goal ends with its completion and isn’t life more about the journey, not just the end? Isn’t life about the moments in days, not years? Resolution because it’s a constant challenge, something to continually make you better.

Gretchen writes that ‘one reason that challenge brings happiness is that it allows you to expand your self-definition. You become larger.’ ‘…loosing your job may be a blow to your self-esteem, but the fact that you lead your communities…’ What she is saying is that if there are many things that define you, when one doesn’t work out, in the whole picture of things, it doesn’t hurt quite as bad because you have something else to fall back on and be involved in. ‘A new identity brings you into contact with new people and new experiences, which are also powerful sources of happiness.’

With challenges and trying new things comes some failure. I enjoyed this quote from Gretchen the most – ‘If something is worth doing, its worth doing badly.’ If you fail by someone else’s standards, see that you did attempt something for yourself!

What about knowing what makes you happy and knowing what makes you feel bad? I write when I need to figure something out that makes me feel bad. I like the advice ‘fully explain the problem.’ Ask Why. After a full description of a problem, supply a solution.. fantastic! That seems like an easy way of dealing with problems, but more often than not, if I feel bad about a situation and I take time to sort it out in writing, I come around to seeing the bright side of the picture, because now I have fully defined the problem and typically have resolved a way in which to deal with it.

Life is about a balance. Balancing the things I enjoy every day with different tasks, deadlines, events. I write lists, and discuss with myself in my journal often about what things I am balancing. After this, the hardest thing for me is to act on the high list of expectancies. Do this, and that, every day, every week… I’ve just started to challenge myself one at a time, and keep track of how I’m doing with creating a challenge between another friend and I. I like to balance my marriage, health and exercise, work, creativity and fun, friends and family. For exercising I have agreed to run a sprint triathlon with a girlfriend I can train with 3-4 times a week. To write more and establish a consistent creative outlet by writing, another friend and I have agreed to 10-minute blogs. My husband and I are committed to learning Italian, which we decided to take in 10 minute Italian lesson sessions every day. But, without a chart we do forget after a couple of days of not being able to fit it in. So, speaking of, I’ll re-enact that tonight. If I don’t want a(nother) chart on my refrigerator then perhaps I need to set up happiness resolution reminders.. say in my events calendar at work! Hm. I guess all I needed to do was write it out to figure out a solution.

The point is to try. Try and do it badly, if that is the worst that could happen. Try something and come out of it with a different outcome than expected. That happens every day in my work. You begin with a design, find our more parameters that present challenges and turn out  a different solution because of the experience. Surprisingly enough, trying garners self-respect and the confidence to try again.

Challenges for 2010 that I think will make me happy. 🙂 And, I’ve just added this to August’s calendar, so that the first day of the month I will be reminded to:

~Keep track of food and exercise – How do I Eat & Exercise Better? Keep track of what I eat and burn calories on with as well as a homemade exercise motivation chart. Choose vegetables when given any choice, limit alcohol, eat out only 1-2 times per week, strength train and stretch my arms, legs, and abs with a quick 15 minute per day exercise.

~Develop my husband and I’s relationship by doing something creative together each week

~Collaborate on Writing – Take an hour each day to devote to creative writing on my blog, book reviews, or journal. At least write for five minutes at the end of the day, quick poetic lines of my day in my journal. Make an effort to join the poetry exchange in Pittsburgh the first Monday of every month to collaborate with colleagues.

~Write my Blog – Challenge myself with a friend to post most every day, dedicating 10 minutes to do so at the least!

~Keep in touch with friends and collaborate

~Meet a professional every week

~Develop my wardrobe and Art

~Visit someone or travel once a month

~Learn Italian – Ten minutes a day, work on speaking the language with my husband.

~Converse with one Italian a month

~Art Time / once per week

~Plan Italy / once per week

~Keep my house clean and orderly

~Build a better Interior’s Portfolio Take on the money commitment now, saving month to month on a project I want to do to my kitchen in 2011. Begin planning the textures, colors, and floor plans to garner approval and enthusiasm from me and my husband. I know that he doesn’t like doing house projects, or enjoy the duration, so I also need to find someone to help me build it in a timely manner.


To do all of this I begin Monday’s with in informal meeting with myself and balance my week in the following grid of timing.

630-730- write

830-930- emails



1:30-5:30- work


Then, there is the other side of Gretchen’s book that are lesson-like. These are the things I like to remind myself of:

Pursue a passion in September, which is for Gretchen BOOKS! Take your passion seriously, resolutions one at a time.. over the course of a year, tackle one book a month like a book club does. Take on a commitment and give yourself a time frame. Gretchen decided to write a novel in a month and gained ‘great satisfaction from the achievement.’ While reading Gretchen’s account of writing a novel she writes ‘usually when I’m writing I constantly question my work. With novel-writing in a month, I couldn’t take the time, and it was a relief to be free from my inner critic.’ And I had an Ah ha!

There are no Rules – is my first and most important lesson.

You want to do something, you want to be something? The whole book began to order itself around me and make sense! What is it that you want to do? What can you do to achieve it? Steps? Can you take on one a week, one a day? Be serious? Track your progression, track the commitment and be proud to accomplish it? It is like we all need a report card. I visited my sister’s house over July 4th and one her fridge is a month long work-out plan. I give it to her- she does get up at 5:30 to work out, and I see that she X’s things off one by one as she completes each day. She’s doing a resolutions chart and its making herself happy to do so without even knowing about this Happiness Project!

You come up with a profound thought every day! Believe that. There aren’t rules. You are your hardest critic. I tend to write things, then think ‘oh someone else would probably think that that is incorrect english,’ then I never post, or delay writing things because I don’t know who will be critiquing it. Blah! That is dumb, it makes me stagnant. I want to have a nicer Interiors portfolio, so why don’t I tackle my house like I am my own client? Invest, indulge toward my career, and build a portfolio all at the same time!

How many times do I try to brush my teeth, put on my jewelry, put away socks, close the kitchen cabinets, make my lunch in the morning, put on my shoes… all at the same time.  I don’t enjoy things when I try to fit them in and on top of one another. Lesson number 2 is do only one thing at a time, and do it now. After reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project I began to realize and listen to what I was telling myself everyday during my normal routine. Then, I began to realize that those sayings I would tell myself meant how I believed I could live better, fuller, and a more in-tuned life for myself.

Gretchen says that if a task (like bringing the garbage out to the can vs. carrying it out to the porch) takes less than one minute, do it now. My husband practices that too. Instead of letting things pile up, finish putting away the dishes, cut the bushes, trim the grass, hang up a coat, do it now. If I ask him to help me with something he says, let’s do it now. I like that attitude, because when I look at that thing to do a second time, and feel the nag to get it done, it makes the single task worse.  Seeing it once and taking care of it right away allows other thoughts to be in the place of nagging tasks. In acknowledging my husbands feelings about getting things done, I am reminded about another one of Gretchen’s realizations. Acknowledge other people’s feelings. (Lesson 3) We’ve all heard that one in treating others the way in which we wish to be treated. But, what she means is deeper than the surface, it is a way of communication that is so pertinent to how we treat one another, and how we wish to be treated. We all want to be in control of our lives, our own freedoms to make choices on what we eat, when and how we do things.  You may have been taught the wrong type of communication. Being told ‘No’ or ‘you don’t feel that way’ or ‘when you get older’ while growing up, it seemed as if your feelings were never valid for the current situation. Which, is really not accurate. I always resented being told that during my childhood from people who were older than me. How unfair do you feel when someone doesn’t acknowledge what you think?

How can we judge others when we don’t know what circumstances they are working under? Growing up I realized that I was annoyed when people would squash my feelings as ‘oh you’ll get over it’ or when you get older you will change your mind.’ This brought out in me a strong urge to understand others feelings by listening to them. Why assume you know what they are talking about? You don’t. I realized this even more when I work with visual images as an adult and when two people converse over sketches one realizes how often what we interpret is different from what they mean. When its drawn it is easy to articulate these differences of perception.

One thing about me is that I don’t like being pegged. Nor do I enjoy being told what I should do, hence, the above reasoning. I can make the best decision for myself. I believe groups make better collective decisions which may be different from my own, but there is only one of me to decide for me, and with adequate time I strongly stand that I’ve made the best decision for myself. That is why when Gretchen described communication with her daughter it really struck a chord with me. Under ‘Lighten Up’ Gretchen vowed to acknowledge other people’s feelings and in repeating what her little girl said between sobs, her little girl felt respected for feeling the way she did.

Which brings me to the fact that we can’t choose the way we feel, but can choose the way to deal or act on it. Know thyself. (who said this?) In my effort to understand other I become very frustrated when someone assumes they understand me, and acts that way toward me. I try to question, listen, perceive and respect others who treat me that way too.

‘Its more selfless to act Happy.’

Gretchen writes in August as she’s contemplating the heavens to understand eternity in order to cultivate a contented and thankful spirit. She describes the circle of her second splendid truth and focuses on the second line. ‘One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.’

She describes being happy.  ‘The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity and discipline to be unfailingly light-hearted yet everyone take a happy person for granted…he seems self-sufficient; he becomes a cushion for others.’

Other people cultivate unhappiness as a way to control others. They cling to unhappiness because without it they’d forgo the spiral consideration that unhappiness secures: the claim to pity and attention.

This circles back to thinking that in order to make others happy, you have to make yourself happy. Make yourself happy, and others will catch the bug. If you can find a way to make a situation better, why don’t you do it? Gretchen had a hair problem with her daughter. Instead of getting mad at the bed head, Gretchen decided to take action and ask her daughter for a brush, so that Gretchen could brush it for her. The situation didn’t change, but the effect of pretty hair made Gretchen happier.

Happiness in December: I just finished Gretchen’s book. In the end her husband describes her year-long happiness project. He says, ‘I think this happiness project is about you trying to get more control over your life.’ She replies (Yes!) ‘Having a feeling of autonomy, of being able to choose what happiness in your life or how you spend your time is crucial. Identifying and following my resolutions had made me feel far more in control of my time, my body, my actions, my surroundings, and even my thoughts.’

Resolve to do something every day to reach your resolution. Take them one at a time, and develop slow routines to happiness. I have found the easiest way for me to be proud of achieving my resolutions each day, each week, has been to involve a friend. My friend and I have challenged ourselves to compete in a sprint triathlon. We just signed up August first for the race at the end of a month, and in doing this, I feel a rising source of excitement coming on. I am excited, but it reminds me that I am also ready to compete! In trying to write more, I have entertained a 10-minute blog challenge with a long distance friend. We get to express our creative thoughts by ourselves, but then as a bonus, we get to read what one another blogs about, allowing us to live more closely and motivate one another in the process.

(bird necklace from Miss Vanda at Paraphernalia collection. Image used to create the first banner picture)

About Me Architecture Building Sustainably Resolutions

I’ve been Looking Up

Beneath my resolution of knowing what I want to do lies the prospect of developing my Interiors Portfolio. Knowing steps to achieve this begins with knowing what I like. Every month when I receive House Beautiful I sit down to enjoy the magazine immediately. (Do it Now)

The July, August House Beautiful talks about the opportunities of ceilings. Colored ceilings, floating ceilings, light cove ceilings. (Like this ceiling by Malcolm James Kutner)  Designers in the magazine described yellowed ceilings to create warmth, blue ceilings to imitate a sky, and since reading the article, I’ve been looking up. The six surfaces of a room all play a role in the intent of design.

Check out the painted floor by David Kaihoi in his East Village apartment.


I am very fond of cantilevered kitchen shelves. In college with the limits of a small room to house a bed, desk and closet, I built shelves for my clothes in the place of hanging them in my closet, then stuck my desk into the nook for extra room. The kitchen of the month by Ruard Veltman is stunning, simple, efficient and clean. The shelves represent for me an honest expression of real life in a home. It expresses order and immediate use. It looks lived in and presents the idea for guests that they can be at home, seeing where everything they may need lives.

These next few images are other cantilever shelves in various designer’s kitchens.

Why do Parisian styled spaces, large mirrors, white poppies and white cotton chair covers make me happy? Picture Ellen O’Neil’s space in Manhattan.

Other findings in my latest House Beautiful that relate to my search for sustainable practices in architecture and green products are below.

I came across PB Teen, a Pottery Barn company I think. While I can’t find anything about their environmental commitment, the designs of these great bedside tables make me want to commission a local furniture maker to replicate one of them someday.


Upcycled Accessories by Mothology.

Furniture made by artisans at McGuire in San Francisco.

Furniture by Bernhardt  at Macys and Today’s Home in Pittsburgh.

Bath Mat of hand-woven vetiver root fibers by Gaiam.

About Me Architecture

Statues around a Wedding

‘We like to have the saints watching over us.’ Commented the groom’s sister. A weekend wedding in New Kensington Pa. A town full of marbled faces, happy family, italian babies and a celebration this weekend.

The happy couple married in Mount St. Peter Church.

Mansion moved, brick by brick, gold fixtures and chandeliers. The marbles from India, Japan, China and Italy walked 27 miles from one mansion to the mount over the course of six months just to break ground, and begin construction.

The church is made from reconstructed materials partitioners  moved from the Carnegie Mansion in 1940. The 60-room home, now the grounds of Mellon Park, still boasts some of the walled gardens and is open to the public. After the wedding ceremony the couple stopped by to take a few photos in these terraces.



In the spirit of a rich Italian heritage, the church has many gifts to commemorate past partitioners. Stone etchings, writings in the marble, poetically chant their names, peak from grottos above arches, bronze busts aligned in the oval circles encompassing the hill upon which the church is built.

A walk in the Mellon Park.


Check out this nice exposed aggregate walk into the University Club…landscape architecture nerds.

And a little fun to boot, dancing to Cityscape, a fantastic Pittsburgh band!