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a star is born

The Oliver appetizer plates came from an idea to create a quirky, hand illustrated design that “interacted” with photo-realistic objects—a big graphics trend.

Knowing that the design would go on our cuatro plates, we brainstormed about objects that one might have on an appetizer plate at a party. Crumbs, toothpicks, olives, crackers, and corks all came to mind, so we took some rough photos of them and started doodling.

initial sketches

What ended up sticking with everyone was “the guy with the teeth”. So next we chose our favorite appetizer bits—olives, corks and toothpicks—and shot a wide variety of each in our photo studio. We printed the photos onto drawing paper and mixed this 2-D “teeth” character playing with 3-D objects.

oliver evolves

Going into this we felt very strongly about using actual pen and paper—no computers. Many different types of pens and papers were tested until the illustration quality was right. At this point, the character’s personality took shape and he was affectionately dubbed Oliver.

He’ll pick up whatever’s on your plate so keep an eye on him—and watch for more pieces to come!
oliver appetizer plates

Thanks to jana in graphic design who contributed and—more importantly—brought Oliver to life.


DIY goes DIO (do-it-OURselves)

Summer’s over and those easy home projects never got started? Or finished? Check out this time-lapsed video to see how fast one can be when tackled by a team.

Considering this project took a total of 48 working hours—12 team members just 4 hours each in real-time. What if the you in DIY was plural—as in do-it-ourselves?

Imagine what a difference multiplicity could make. Instead of a working vacation, what if it only took a few friends a few hours to replace your old linoeum kitchen flooring with sustainable cork tiles?

To start a DIO group:

  1. simply contact friends and family who would drive you to the airport—they’re the committed ones!
  2. each of you writes a list of projects that seem daunting for one, but a breeze for three or more
  3. rotate projects and houses so everyone benefits
  4. for best results, assign tasks based on each persons’ strengths or experience 
  5. be materials prepared to avoid delays
  6. finally check it off your list!

In the process you can teach a friend how to hem curtains or learn how to replace a faucet—the possibilities are as endless as your list.

Been there, done that? What was the project and how did it go?


arbor day... in september? / CC BY 2.0As a chill develops in the air and the days get shorter, do you think “just how did I spend my summer vacation?” or do you start to pine for the rewards of spring?

Before you daydream off, and if you’re looking for something else to do besides rake leaves, think about this. Arbor Day sprouted in Nebraska in 1872 and since then has grown to International observance. Each participating country declared their own date based on the best planting time for their climate—remember fall up north = spring down south.

Check out the best time for planting in your hardiness zone by visiting the official Arbor Day Foundation website and plan ahead.

Can’t wait for the last Friday in April? Celebrate with Brazil on September 21st then nurture seedlings in teardrop hanging vases thru winter. And don’t forget to share your thoughts on what’s best to grow and plant!


comfort food goes potluck 2009 style!

photos: corn chowder by ashdmarcin, beef stew by jetalone // CC BY 2.0

Way back in 2003, scientific findings linked the body’s stress-response system to cravings for high-energy foods—many of which we think of as comfort foods. It should be no surprise then that comfort food is the most common theme for the latest surge in potluck gatherings.

While images of barn raisings and block parties come to mind, so does community, friends and family all supporting each other in these challenging times. As we watch our expenses and look for moral support, we’re sharing meals in similar fashion. What better way to console, raise spirits, network—and share costs and prep-time—than lingering over traditional favorites such as mac and cheese, hot dogs and baked beans and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Today’s comfort foods are anything but bland—it’s all about spicing up basic ingredients and the presentation! How about seasonal corn chowder in silo mugs, marinated beef stew in sleek modern bowls, and organic apple pie a la mode on zoid plates?

Let your imagination run outside the cookbook. We believe easy, inexpensive and tasty recipes are out there. For a quick search, check out the Top 25 American Comfort Foods and Recipes, at Home Cooking on and share yours with us. Who knows, maybe you’ll see it in a future catalog?


inspiration: barcelona

This summer, I took the opportunity to visit Barcelona since I’d been wanting to go for years. For four sun-filled beautiful days I swam in the sea, walked the streets, admired the architecture, devoured the fish, and left with lasting impressions.

The two most outstanding? First, everyone was incredibly gracious and seemed to possess a sense of peace and happiness along with a modest pride in their homeland’s culture and language. Second, the architecture is absolutely amazing.


All the works by Antoni Gaudi are wonderful in their whimsy and define unique. Gothic and Modern are equally prevalent—and quite often they’re mixed with sheer genius.

Much like home it’s a very bike friendly city—for both tourists and locals—and the transit system is efficient and easy. While wandering the neighborhoods I found modern hotels in the industrial area, and storefront windows of thick glass flush to the weathered walls that make up the winding streets of the Gothic quarter.

A few favorite spots: Parc Guell for its Gaudi architecture, colorful mosaics and expansive views of the city and sea. Mil for their vintage storefront and exceptional millinery for men and women. La Vinya del Senyor at Placa Santa Maria—a wonderful spot for wine tastings and tapas—just outside the Santa Maria del Mar. Do see the Gothic cathedral, the beauty is in its architecture, age and grit.

And lastly, Salero for lunch. Tucked in La Ribera, their mix of vintage with modern—of worn wood tables and white chairs, of mirrors and lighting—topped by delicious cuisine served on simple tablewares, altogether the experience was a highlight. 

Photo: Restaurante Salero

The trip was very refreshing and inspirational. I bought a stack of music to recall the mood and took hundreds of photos. Isn’t this the perfect mix of old and new?