Things We Like: Digital Shades

Post by Kyle St. Romain.
From time to time, I come across very cool technologies coming to the world of interior design. In the past, I’ve introduced you to Smart Lighting systems, which together give you control over the lighting of your home. There are other products out there that give you wireless control over the HVAC system of your home too. Ever fascinated with advances in home automation, I wanted to share one of my more recent discoveries: the future of modern window treatments, the digital shade.

Essentially, a digital shade is a film that you can apply to existing windows, much like traditional window tint. Digital shades, however, allow you to control the amount of light that passes through the window itself. Digital shades, like the ones being developed by SONTE, use an innovative film that reacts to changes electrical current. When a charge is passed through the film, the transparency of the film (and the window it’s affixed to) is reduced giving you instant privacy. It’s easier to understand the effect by watching this video.

Digital shades not only offer you privacy in your bedroom, bathroom, home office, or home theater, they also help control the interior temperature of your home by controlling the amount of sunlight that comes into your home, blocking UV rays, and reflecting infrared. A triple threat! No longer will you have to worry about forgetting to close your blinds during the hot summer months (or actually having to walk over to the window to do it), as these WiFi enabled digital shades can give you instant control over your windows with the swipe of a finger on your mobile device.

You can read more about SONTE’s digital shades here.

What do you think about digital shades? Would you install them in your home? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Bedtime Stories: Spirited Away the graphic novels!

Post by Mark T. Locker.

I love Hayao Miyazaki. His incredible attention to detail, the beautiful stories of children bridging the gap between the realm of humans and the fairy world. Spirited Away has become a classic Miyazaki film and I love it terribly. My son, although he thinks it’s too scary, is also fascinated by the story.

Enter the world of Manga. I found, at my local library, a five-part series of the movie, in Manga form. Each one is about 100 pages long, but there is so little dialogue that we can easily read one in a half an hour. All the parts that scare him in the movie are much less scary in print.

What’s also great about these books is they cover EVERY SINGLE THING from the movie, just cut up and put into a five-part series. Finally, Felix is learning a little bit about Japanese culture, as Manga books read back-to-front, right-to-left.  I am considering buying these books, partly for me, partly for my son. They’re beautiful, engaging, and we can read a whole volume as a satisfying bedtime story.

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Movies in Bed on Planes: House Hunters

Post by Mark T. Locker.

I am slowly recovering from our first-ever family airplane trip. One of the great features of the airline we took was the DirecTV on the back of every seat. We do not have cable at home, so any time I get to watch the Food Network or National Geographic or any other fancy channel it a major treat. Once my son was happily settled in with the requisite airplane ginger ale and watching Oz, I settled happily into a House Hunters/House Hunters International binge.

Perhaps you have seen the show; people are in the market for a new home or apartment. Often, they are utterly unbearable, complaining about wall colors as though there is no earthly way to change it. Or multi-millionaires looking for a vacation home in a third-world country and being surprised at the otherness of the foreign country. Also, it is completely staged. A friend of mine was on and there was a whole fake going-away party for her, despite her having been gone for months.

Normally, I cannot endure “reality” TV. However, I cannot get enough of this “realty” TV. I love seeing all the different kinds of houses, and the tastes that each house hunter seems drawn to. Just like there is a person for everyone, there is a home for all types. Add to that the far-flung corners of the globe you get to visit in the “International” version, and it’s downright educational. I’ll probably never see a family home in Oslo outside of this show. Great fun to watch and apparently it’s always on.

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Things We Like: Island Time

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

I recently returned from a trip to Hawaii, and it was better than I could have ever hoped. Living in Southern California isn’t all bad, but it doesn’t compare to the natural beauty that Hawaii has to offer: warm, clear, emerald waters; exotic beaches; ample sunshine; fresh produce; and, most importantly, island time.  All of these ingredients, and more, are what help make Hawaii a little slice of paradise where you can let your worries drift away.

What Is Island Time?

Understandably, the concept of island time can be hard to grasp if you haven’t experienced it. That said the basic idea of island time is that when you’re on an island, surrounded by the gentle rhythms of the ocean, time slows down.

On the islands, people don’t seem to be in as much of a hurry, and things happen when they happen. Traffic amounts to getting stuck at one of the few stop lights, and the idea of island time even seems to be a legitimate excuse for running late — at least for tourists. Island time is a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of city life, which is probably what makes it such a treat for vacationers.

When you’re on island time, you can do all the things you love at your own pace. Even if you’re only set on soaking up some Vitamin D and watching the tide come in.

Island Time Helps You Reconnect With Nature

For me, a large part of the magic of island time is due to a stronger connection with nature. On island time, the sun decides the length of the day, which starts when the sun comes up, and ends shortly after it goes down. In fact, one of the evening rituals we grew to love was watching the sun slip below the horizon, hoping to catch a glimpse of the coveted “green flash.” Looking out over the endless ocean helps bring some perspective to life, giving you a better sense of what really matters.

Island Time Helps You Sleep Better

Ben Franklin says it best: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” While I’m still working on the wealthy and wise part, the practice has certainly made me feel healthier in just a couple short weeks. Back on the mainland, the adage goes more like, “Late to bed and early to rise, makes a man tired, grumpy, and unwise.” Such is life.

Adding to the relaxing effect of island time are the island sounds, especially those near the coast like the sound of the waves crashing onshore. To me, this is the best way to fall asleep and is an environment I one day plan to make more permanent.

The idea of island time can mean a lot of things to different people and not everyone enjoys it the same. So, what do you think about island time? Do you prefer the amenities and activities of city life, or do you too yearn for a slower-paced, more relaxed lifestyle? Maybe the contrast of island time and city time is a story of yin and yang, and the two need to exist in balance with each other. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

If you’re interested to see more photos from my travels, feel free to check out my Hawaii set on Flickr. I think some of them really came out great!

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Breakfast in Bed: Banana Pancakes

Post by Alison Hein.

My friend Lisa over at momalamode.net is full of creative ideas about food, fun and fashion. Almost a year ago, Lisa suggested I make Banana Pancakes in line with our Food Songs initiative. She kindly provided a link to Jack Johnson’s sultry song.

Sorry, Lisa, that it’s taken me so long to get around to this. The recent combination of rainy day weather and an overabundance of too-ripe bananas finally spurred me into action.

I like to use honey instead of sugar in my Banana Pancakes – its mellowness lets the pure fruit flavor shine through, and prevents the pancakes from becoming too “cakey”. Leave some larger pieces in your mashed bananas, if you like, for rich texture. Mushy bananas are wonderful for pancake batter, but be sure to have some perfectly ripened specimens on hand for the topping.

Lots of options for variations here, too. Add a little peanut butter to the batter (kids love this), or some toasted nuts on top. But there’s one thing you shouldn’t mess with – be sure to tune into Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes while you relish in your sultry breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium overripe bananas
¼ cup honey
2 cups milk
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces (one half stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 to 2 tablespoons butter, for cooking pancakes
2 firm, ripe bananas, peeled and sliced

Preparation
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Peel and mash overripe bananas.

In separate bowl, stir together mashed bananas, honey, milk, egg yolks and vanilla. Gradually add banana-milk mixture to dry ingredients. Slowly add melted butter to batter. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold into batter.

Place pan or griddle on burner over medium to medium high heat. Melt a small amount of butter in the pan for the first pancake. Ladle batter into pan and cook until small bubbles appear throughout pancake. Flip once with spatula and continue cooking until golden brown, one to two minutes, adding more butter and adjusting heat as necessary. Keep warm while making the remainder of pancakes. Top with banana slices. Serve hot with drizzled honey or real maple syrup.

Makes 12 to 14 4-inch pancakes.

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