Archives for the month of: October, 2013

I saw this clever Halloween decoration displayed in the middle of suburbia during my recent trip to the American Southwest. 

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I saw this clever Halloween decoration displayed in the middle of suburbia during my recent trip to the American Southwest. 

Beautifully Simple
Perfect for the Southwest
Oblivious to its Environment
This Design is hopefully a thing of the Past













I recently returned from the American Southwest and was pleased to discover that the era of the lawn and lush landscape has faded. As little as twenty years ago, residential neighborhoods in the arid southwest were landscaped primarily with lawns and water guzzling plants. 

Formality within
the Context of a Desert Garden


In the mid-twentieth century, Americans were fixated on having the picture perfect green lawn, no matter what the local climate. Today, you find desert landscaping and see very little grass. Southwestern gardeners have replaced grass with cacti, succulents, and sand. This trend toward eco-friendly landscapes means gardens work with the environment and can grow without supplemental water.

Mimicking Nature
in the Garden














As a landscape architecture student, I would sometimes include native plants as part of an overall landscape design, only to see these specimens replaced with “client friendly” plants (eg. hibiscus, ferns, willows, and other thirsty plants). That was thirty years ago. These days, people are more receptive to native plants and designs that work with nature. In an age of climate change skeptics and “drill, baby, drill” demagogues, it’s gratifying to see Americans moving toward a sustainable world right in their own gardens.

Lush Plantings
that are Drought Tolerant

Beautifully Simple
Perfect for the Southwest
Oblivious to its Environment
This Design is hopefully a thing of the Past













I recently returned from the American Southwest and was pleased to discover that the era of the lawn and lush landscape has faded. As little as twenty years ago, residential neighborhoods in the arid southwest were landscaped primarily with lawns and water guzzling plants. 

Formality within
the Context of a Desert Garden


In the mid-twentieth century, Americans were fixated on having the picture perfect green lawn, no matter what the local climate. Today, you find desert landscaping and see very little grass. Southwestern gardeners have replaced grass with cacti, succulents, and sand. This trend toward eco-friendly landscapes means gardens work with the environment and can grow without supplemental water.

Mimicking Nature
in the Garden














As a landscape architecture student, I would sometimes include native plants as part of an overall landscape design, only to see these specimens replaced with “client friendly” plants (eg. hibiscus, ferns, willows, and other thirsty plants). That was thirty years ago. These days, people are more receptive to native plants and designs that work with nature. In an age of climate change skeptics and “drill, baby, drill” demagogues, it’s gratifying to see Americans moving toward a sustainable world right in their own gardens.

Lush Plantings
that are Drought Tolerant

The quintessential New England
clapboard church as
Hindu Temple

Maine is changing. Within the last 15 years, an influx of refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers have transformed this once staid and homogeneous State into something approaching diversity. And although the latest census figures show that Maine has the second highest percentage of white’s in the nation, diversification is making its presence known.

Maine’s first Hindu Temple, the former First Universalist Church of Scarborough and South Buxton, is now the State’s first and only community temple. I like the way they’ve complemented the classic white clapboard facade with colorful trim. Inside it’s more exotic with brightly decorated walls, burning incense, and pictures of Ganesh and other gods.

The quintessential New England
clapboard church as
Hindu Temple

Maine is changing. Within the last 15 years, an influx of refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers have transformed this once staid and homogeneous State into something approaching diversity. And although the latest census figures show that Maine has the second highest percentage of white’s in the nation, diversification is making its presence known.

Maine’s first Hindu Temple, the former First Universalist Church of Scarborough and South Buxton, is now the State’s first and only community temple. I like the way they’ve complemented the classic white clapboard facade with colorful trim. Inside it’s more exotic with brightly decorated walls, burning incense, and pictures of Ganesh and other gods.


The detritus of love gone wrong: an unworn garter belt, a love letter, a mountain of shattered glass. This is Zagreb’s newest museum, the Museum of Broken RelationshipsLocated in an 18th century palace, the setting of so many 18th and 19th century Gothic and romantic novels, the museum was an instant success when it opened in 2010.

The museum contains a collection of objects donated by people who have broken up. Each item has an accompanying story. Some are amusing, others sarcastic, and a few are just heartbreaking.

One room contains exhibits about casual or long-distance relationships that didn’t work out, and another is dedicated to relationships where one partner died. There’s even a rage and fury room containing items that are mostly torn and broken. For example, there’s a car mirror on display. A woman broke it off her boyfriend’s car when she saw it parked in front of another woman’s house. More extreme, hanging on a wall is an ax and next to it is a sign explaining its relevance (a jilted lover used it to chop her ex’s furniture into bits). And while the premise of the museum is ironic and even morbid, I think it reveals insight into something everyone experiences at some point in their life.  

Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, Thrifty Drug Store sold everything from household detergents to cosmetics. It was the Walgreen’s of its day. The chain no longer exists, but I still have vivid memories of it, especially its ice cream.

As a kid I could get a scoop of Thrifty’s ice cream for five cents, a double for ten, and a triple for fifteen. Each store had a stand inside selling pre-packaged ice creams by the pint or quart and a walk up counter where you could buy a cone. My favorite was a double chocolate chip. Yummy!

When the Thrifty chain was sold to Rite Aid in 1996, Rite Aid continued to have Thrifty’s ice cream stands at some of their stores. Today, I was reminded of Thrifty’s legendary ice cream when I visited a local Rite Aid. Alas, a single cone now costs $1.79, an increase of 3,480% since 1970. (The US inflation rate for the same period was a mere 502.8%.)

Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, Thrifty Drug Store sold everything from household detergents to cosmetics. It was the Walgreen’s of its day. The chain no longer exists, but I still have vivid memories of it, especially its ice cream.

As a kid I could get a scoop of Thrifty’s ice cream for five cents, a double for ten, and a triple for fifteen. Each store had a stand inside selling pre-packaged ice creams by the pint or quart and a walk up counter where you could buy a cone. My favorite was a double chocolate chip. Yummy!

When the Thrifty chain was sold to Rite Aid in 1996, Rite Aid continued to have Thrifty’s ice cream stands at some of their stores. Today, I was reminded of Thrifty’s legendary ice cream when I visited a local Rite Aid. Alas, a single cone now costs $1.79, an increase of 3,480% since 1970. (The US inflation rate for the same period was a mere 502.8%.)

Now I know why I can’t eat just one Oreo! A new study suggests that Oreos may be as addictive as cocaine.