The Cool House

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wet & Dry

It has rained so much this month that residents are hallucinating they have replaced their sedans with motor cruisers, and are rudely awakened when they try to gun the ever deepening floods, stalling out in 2' of water. I've interpreted Areal Flood Warning to mean A REAL FLOOD WARNING and I'm taking appropriate measures to avoid waiting 90 minutes for a tow truck to haul me out of the embarrassing and expensive situation that driving through flooded roadways could bring. In any case it's been an unforgettable start to summer!

As water from Tropical Storm Andrea poured down the road, swirled around the driveway, gushed past the newly planted hostas to fill the dell outside the dining room, we contemplated going with the flow by turning the dell into a giant pond; simply replacing the hostas with waterlilies. Which led me to remember I hadn't posted about a recent successful project in the backyard that turned the dank, smelly pond by the bridge into a dry water feature.

Firstly, a little background. For years I've been running interference with the dogs, trying to keep them from drinking out of the pond. We tried a cover but it was too cumbersome to move when we needed to get at the pump and mesh kept the dogs off but allowed decomposed leaves, garden debris and the balls off the damn linden tree to fall through the holes and fill the pond. Honestly, who would build a pond under a conifer and plant a bunch of fast-growing shrubs around it? I wanted the pond part gone but still needed a way to keep the water flowing to the rocks and along the stream.

I came across this low maintenance water feature on that looked perfect for our purposes. We already had most of the structure in place, it seemed easy-peasy to drain the pond and swap the mucky water for stone chips and gravel. The instructions indicated it could be completed within a couple of days so we began by buying six bags of pea gravel. These sat for a month on the patio while we dealt with a bunch of non-house related crises and some too wet/cold weekends

Finally, on Mothers' Day weekend in May when three consecutive days of sunshine were forecast The Guy set to scooping out the pond. He hauled six garden refuse bags of dirt out of there, at which point we knew those six bags of gravel were not going to make much of an impact. We used those bags as a base for the buckets that would act as miniature reservoirs and went back to Home Depot for another 10 bags of pea gravel. Two more trips to the HD later we were 18 bags in and almost to the top of the pond. We turned on the water and tested the pump and were suitably impressed when the heard water gurgling from the fountain. We still had a few damming issues along the stream (anther two bags of crap were filled) but in the end we had a dry water feature that works - it's a very quiet, soothing sound which adds to the ambience out back.

The project cost approximately $250 for a new pump, piping, buckets and gravel. Even though we had most of the construction already in place it took considerably longer than the projected week-end but it was worth the effort and at least one part of the yard stays dry no matter how much rain pours down on us.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Can I get a clean sweep?

Allow me a wee rant. I know I don't deserve such self indulgence because really, when was the last time I published a post? A month ago, two months? But I am verily pissed off, pushed to the edge and if I don't express the rage here I may let go in less appropriate quarters, and like blowing on a dandelion clock, you never know where the stuff ends up. No one wants to see that go down In Real Life.

Soooo, what, I hear you wonder, has got me so annoyed?

Not the wild flowers, certainly but the state of the roads. My road in particular. It is June, the second week in June to be precise, and our roads, that we pay a whole bunch of freaking money in property taxes to maintain, have yet to be swept.

And here's the excuse I heard at the Village Trustees meeting in May when I queried why the sweeper hadn't swept the sand and detritus from the winter: 

"I know it's late this year but we need to be sure the last snowstorm has passed and we've had two lots of heavy rains before we can sweep." 

Seriously, this was May 13th. The last snowstorm was early March and we've had weeks and weeks of rain since then. Also, no one had a definite date for road cleaning. According to the Village budget we have more money on hand than last year yet the budget for this fiscal year sets aside $2000 less for road seeping. Why?  I'm quoting from memory here because the minutes haven't appeared online (SIGH) but the response was

 "It was cheaper than we thought last year (a mild winter when it wasn't necessary to sweep the roads as much because little sand had been spread) and I didn't think we would need that amount of money this year."

So why aren't the roads being cleaned? The Incorporated Village could spend funds right now sweeping the sand, grit and other crap that I'm still treading through the house. More importantly it's a public safety issue. Cars and cyclists are skidding on the mess, a large portion of which has formed an island at the bottom of a steep hill. Every time it rains heavily that muck in the photo turns into sticky mud. When it's dry, it's like riding on marbles. 

It's almost a month since the last Village meeting. Memorial Day has come and gone; we are officially into the summer season and still our roads are a disgusting, dangerous mess. The Town of Huntington, which maintains the southern end of the road had the sweepers out in April. It's ironic that our Village, incorporated to preserve its unique character, has worse roads than the town.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Rise and Fall of Books

The Rise and Fall of Books, a documentary by Jake Gorst(Leisurama (2005), Farmboy (2006) Modern Tide: Midcentury Architecture on Long Island (2012)) explores the influence that books have on society, the rise of e-media and subsequent demise of print and the use of books as art. It features Buzz Spector, arts professor at Cornell University and a celebrated artist who uses books as a medium in his installations. The movie's soundtrack is scored by Peter Holsapple, and Chris Stamey of The dB's

Personally I'm a big fan of digital books. I love that when I travel I no longer have to carry a bag of books and magazines that weighs more than my checked luggage. I was an early kindle adopter and when I got an iPad the kindle app was one of the first installed.  But, I still need physical books to browse and pore over: gorgeous illustrated books about design and architecture, books of photographs, travel books, cook books and of course, children's books.

At the end of the clip above, there are a few frames focused on a beautiful manuscript written in Dutch that is over 300 years old. The surprise and joy of seeing that book in the documentary reminded me that this is something you don't get with a download; the celebration of the physical and unique presence of printed matter, something you can experience in a sensory way. That doesn't happen with electronic media, no matter how high the resolution of your screen.

This documentary is at the post-production stage and funds are needed to get the movie to the viewing public. A page has been set up to raise money to complete the project. Pledges start at $15, which gets you a postcard and your name in the closing credit. Rewards at the top end include a large-format Buzz Spector art Polaroid and for fans of The dBs, the actual drum head from the cover of The Sound of Music.

To support the project or read more about it click here. You won't regret it!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Snowstorm Winter 2012/2013

Pretty, no?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Every beach should have a shell

Bought at an estate sale of a wonderful old house in our old neighborhood and lovingly placed*, thanks to The Guy, in a sandy, stony part of the yard. Just the perfect addition to the back driveway.

*Luckily the ideal spot for the shell was close to the garage, this garden ornament must weigh 100lb.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Ready to install

Again. The front fence was a casualty of Superstorm Sandy. Thank goodness the east fence and the back fence made it through.

Next job is to stain the fences to match the house but that will be done next year in one mammoth house painting session. Looking forward to it.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fall Snow

Nine days after Sandy, while a lot of neighbors were still without power, a nor'easter rolled around and dumped a pack of snow on Long Island. Freaking crazy weather...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


How fortuitous was it that we had the trees trimmed earlier this month? Hurricane, or by the time it hit us, superstorm Sandy blew in yesterday and when I opened the blinds this morning I was amazed and pleased that we had escaped relatively unscathed; no trees down, not even limbs. The property was full of leaves and twigs, on the steps lay the corpse of a woodpecker that had probably been blown into the siding and the front fence was down, but apart from being without power it looked as though we had suffered no real damage.

Going out to explore the neighborhood it soon became clear others were not so fortunate. The Incorporated Village was actually cut off for a few hours, tress blocked every road to town, one tree had taken out a neighbor's kitchen, another had ripped the electricity panel from a house, everywhere power lines were hanging loose or lying across the roads.

The moon had been full, the tide high when the storm stuck and the water rose up and over the seawall.

Tons of sand washed onto the beach huts, flooding the parking lot

and twisting the pier of its piles. A monster storm, a Frankenstorm that will takes weeks if it months to clear up but we were prudent to get the trees trimmed and lucky that we hadn't waited until next Spring to get it done. We will have a lot to be thankful for this November 22nd.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cool House Panorama

Dining Room
Great Room

Playing with the Panoramic feature on the phone.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Tree trimming

You probably wouldn't know it unless you live in the neighborhood and had to listen to the noise of the chainsaws for six hours, but we had the trees thinned this week. It's been five years since we did  it last and they had really thickened up. I'd prefer not to have an oak or beech tree branch take out a wing of the house or the maples pull the power lines down during an ice storm. The LIPA tree guys were out in August clearing the lines on the road, which was a good reminder for us to trim on the rest of the property. The fantastic landscaper removed the hideous junipers from the back drive and pruned back anything ornamental, the professional tree guys took care of the tall trees including the damned linden, not to protect the house because that thing is balsa wood and limbs weigh the same as a bag of cotton wool balls but to protect ourselves from the rock hard seed balls that rain down on us from late April to June, the time when, obviously, we want to enjoy the outdoors and eat on the patio. I swear one year I'm gonna take a chainsaw to that tree just below its canopy...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Late Summer Storms

We got ourselves a lake...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Picked from the yard: Casual Hydrangea arrangements in the dining room

Friday, June 29, 2012

Surprise Visit

Eight years ago, June 29 2004, a day not quite as hot nor as humid as today we loaded up beach car and a pantechnicon of furniture and drove the twenty miles from Port Washington to our new home. We had one set of keys that we didn't need because the house was unlocked and a seven year plan to renovate this house.

I wanted to celebrate this anniversary but it's been a trying couple of weeks and I couldn't think of anything suitable to do. Then, just before six o'clock there was a knock on the front door. I opened it expecting to see a neighbour but a stranger stood on the bluestone step. "I hope you don't mind but we were passing. I used to live here. I just wanted to see the house and the property."

I was thrilled and a little trepidatious (would she approve of the changes we'd made?) to show her and her husband over the house. She seemed pleased with what we'd done and what we'd kept in place. She recognised her pink sectional we had recovered and the sandstone tile wall that her father had installed himself and she LOVED the kitchen. She was surprised that I knew which had been her bedroom and laughed when I showed her why. Inside the desk drawer is a sticker that bears her name. A tiny, trivial piece of 70s history that has survived forty-four years; removal, redecoration and remodel.

Her husband mentioned he read this blog and that I don't update it regularly anymore. It's true, after eight years most of the work is finished (although the pool is demanding serious attention) so there isn't as much to write about. But just in case he checks in, here's a photo from 2004 - a photo of the original owner's youngest daughter's bedroom to bring back some more memories. Bright green shag carpet! Thanks for dropping by, making this day special and marking the anniversary for me.

Dedicated to Mrs Diane Lipman RIP

Monday, June 25, 2012

Custom Supernova Light

Via the design savvy Nadine at Bouler Architecture

Friday, June 15, 2012

Odd angles

Friday, June 08, 2012

More from the yard: June 2012

Moths and kitties

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Around the yard

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Through the windows

Integrating the outdoors into the interior design is a fundamental part of mid-century architecture; strategically placed windows enhance the views, banks of clerestory windows allow light to flood rooms, low ceilings draw the eye outside, sliding doors open to patios and gardens. This house was designed around an enormous Mountain Pine that dominates the west-facing side and the landscape enhanced by judicious planting. Every window captures a specimen tree, shrub or planting, an aspect that serves to bring the outside in. It's especially appreciated at this time of year when the deciduous trees have opened up and the azaleas are in full bloom but the chilly wind makes it too cold to sit outside. Outside April 25
Looking East

  Inside out April 25
Facing North

  Outside April 25
South-West aspect

  Outside April 25
Facing South

  Outside April 25
Kitchen-facing West

  Outside April 25
Den-due East

  Inside out April 25 
Living room to the East

Monday, April 16, 2012

April to April

The last twelve months have flown by, hardly time to post to the blog what with all the twitter twaddle and facebook folies to constantly update. I knew this would happen, I'm basically lazy so if I can say it in 140 characters or less that's the option I'll take, thank you very much. But on the warmest day of a warm April that succeeded the hottest March ever, preceded by a no-Winter that meant no snow and no photos of 2" icicles hanging from the garage roof (and therefore no threat of decapitation when dragging the trash cans down the drive), I've had time to reflect on the past year. 
Firstly, that Spring-like Winter has meant everything in the garden is blooming a good three weeks ahead of normal. This was last April 16 - in past Aprils we've still been salting the back drive this time of year.

The same view today, the forsythia is over, the hostas are up and the azaleas out. It's also 87F and not raining so big bonus, there!

I even pruned the forsythia the was obscuring the pink azalea but not without a minor oops moment.

What was the tenet about bringing the outdoors in... or making lemonade out of lemons?

The early blossoming Spring holds true for the magnolias, too.

Last year May 5.

This year April 8

Secondly the house is looking more put together, even if all the major renovations finished way back in 2010. A lot has to do with the new placement of art and the way we are using the space. The eat-in section of the kitchen is a spot where we spend a lot of time now we are free to laptop/iphone/tablet roam with wifi, often it seems we don't even bother visiting our offices, we just sit at the breakfast table and do our respective things. Sometimes, though I clear up and it's quite serene

Thirdly, I am still nuts. On one of the hottest August days last summer I swapped the rugs in the den and dining room. On my own because The Guy flatly refused to indulge my crazy one more time.

The orange rug headed back to the den

and the cream rug was dragged into the great room. It felt so good I bought it a couple of new cushions in a mid-century inspired pattern in the sale at Crate&Barrel. It's so much lighter in there that I'm sitting there typing. The newly fixed sliding doors are open and I'm listening to what sounds like a duck in the yard. I'm expecting the fox will appear again tonight. April to April... plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Silent Supermodel

Corsi: The World's First Supermodel-Documentary a new film by director Jake Gorst takes as its subject the most famous model you never heard of, yet a man whose face and body is familiar from countless works of art.
Have you ever wondered about the faces you see in paintings? How they appeared so lifelike on the canvas? Artists' imagination? John Singer Sargent, Edward Burne-Jones and Pierre-Auguste Cot all used Antonio Corsi as their model. Those rippling muscles sculpted in the body of the Native American warrior "Appeal to the Great Spirit" by Cyrus Dallin, reproduced on the Beach Boys' Smiley Smile album? Cosi posed for the statue. This film will tell the story of Corsi's life from gypsy boy to silent movie star and famous artist's model; how he overcame prejudice and befriended royalty before losing his fame and wealth, ultimately dying of consumption, that most tragic yet romanticized death, in 1924.
Wander over to the kickstarter page for more information on this fascinating man and pledge to get the movie made. This is a story begging to be told.