25 September 2012

A Post Inspired by Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, begins at sundown today, Tuesday, 26 September 2012, and ends at sundown tomorrow.  It is one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar.  

I decided to share some Jewish-themed design elements, not specifically tied to Yom Kippur, but inspired by its arrival this evening.

Here is an organically-inspired candelabra that would make a beautiful Chanukah menorah, updating the traditional festival of lights for modern living.  

(Photo Courtesy:  West Elm) 

The Jewish Sabbath is called Shabbat, and runs from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.  It is observed with several rituals, including the weekly lighting and blessing of the Shabbat candles.  Crystal candlesticks make that lovely ritual even more beautiful, in my opinion.  This pair from Tiffany was a wedding gift that I still cherish.

(Photo Courtesy:  Tiffany)

I love this Kiddush cup, used for blessing and drinking ritual wine at synagogue or family dinners on Shabbat and holidays.

(Photo Courtesy: Amazon.com) 

Another significant Jewish holiday is Passover, the celebration of Exodus.  Ritual foods are placed on a Passover plate.  While most of them are elaborately and colorfully painted, I really like the unique beauty of this hand-crafted silver plate from Melanie Dankowicz, an award-winning artist on Etsy.com.

(Photo Courtesy:  Etsy.com )
May everyone observing Yom Kippur have an easy fast and be inscribed in the Book of Life for the New Year.  

18 September 2012

Smart Appliance Technology -Guest Post by Alan Gregory of Appliances Online

One of the benefits of having an ongoing blog presence is getting guest post queries.  Regular Gold Notes readers know that I find global trends fascinating, so when Alan Gregory of British-based Appliances Online asked me if I was interested in his sharing some insights from across the pond, I replied with a hearty American 'heck, yeah!'  

You may not find everything he writes about available on this side of the pond yet, but the trends and technological advances are worth noting.  Ask your local appliance guru about specifics that interest you.  (I do need to note that I'm personally not in favor -- or favour, if you prefer -- of leaving appliances on when not at home.  That's my paranoia, though, and it might be seriously dated... Just saying!)


Fifty years ago, kitchen appliances were about as technologically advanced as a pencil. If you were lucky, they did one thing and if they had feet, you’d be showing them off to your neighbour with a giant smile on your face. Wind the clock ahead to 2012 and kitchen appliances are like something you’d expect to find in a NASA Laboratory. 

Laundry Technology 

With washing technology turning to smartphones, users will be able to control their machine from a mobile app. You’ll set the wash so that it finishes as you arrive home from work and not have to stick a peg (JG: clothespin) on your nose because of the mouldy, damp smell from clothes sitting in water for a full day. 

Siemens' machine has the I-DOS feature, which uses sensors to detect dirt levels and wash load. This allows it to manage the dosage of powder and softener needed for the best performance. It stores enough to run 20 wash cycles, which also saves time and effort. 

Hotpoint’s Colour Care technology keeps the colour locked in, enhancing the life of your clothes. There’s nothing worse than buying a nice new shirt and having the colour fade in a couple of washes. 

LG has been quiet of late but, this isn’t a bad thing. The Direct Drive technology on their F1480RD Washer Dryer means that there is no need for the drum to be belt driven, which reduces noise, wear and tear and allows the washing machine to have more control over the spin of the drum. This is great for hand-wash programmes. 

Samsung’s Eco-Bubble technology means that stains can be cleaned better without the need for extra energy consumption. The suds gently soak into the fabrics first, which Samsung believes treats stains more effectively. The diamond drum, along with the protection from the bubbles, means that fabrics are treated with extra care. 

Photo Courtesy:  Siemens

Cooling Technology 

Many fridge-freezers are becoming flashy centre pieces for the kitchen. Some have touch screen computers on the front, which can manage shopping lists, food expiry dates and help you know which day it is with a helpful calendar. 

LG has a Smart Eco Door, which is a mini fridge built into the refrigerator door. It’s designed to hold drinks and other foods that are used regularly so that you don’t have to open the main door each time. This helps keep the temperature cool inside and doesn’t need as much energy to run the appliance. It also looks great! 

Beko (JG: This brand is not generally available in the US yet) has created a great technology called Active Fresh Blue Light. This special light uses less energy, which will save on the bills and help reduce your carbon footprint. It’s also designed to keep the food inside the fridge fresher for longer. 

Samsung’s Multiflow technology, which is similar to Multi-Air Flow technology from other manufacturers, cools the fridge freezer on all levels evenly so maximum freshness is supplied all over. Older methods would cool from one air vent which may not be able to get all the way down to the bottom of the fridge, which meant some foods would not be as fresh after a few days. 

Maytag has gone one step further with their Intellisense technology. Having tiny sensors throughout the fridge freezer keeping the temperature constant, helps keep the food inside looking, tasting and smelling as fresh as the day you bought it (within reason). 

Photo Courtesy:  LG

Cooking Technology 

Ovens have certainly become easier to use and more efficient, too. In the future, we’ll see ovens that can be controlled from your iPhone but, for now we have technology that can separate one oven into two compartments for different meats or foods that may need cooking on two separate temperatures. 

Neff (JG: This brand is not generally available in the US yet) and a few other manufacturers have implemented the best technology, in my opinion, with Pyrolytic cleaning. This great feature means that you don’t have to clean the oven again. This feature burns the grease and grime off and all you have to do is sweep the ash pile away at the bottom. Not something for everyone but, the Sabbath Setting is designed for Jewish people (JG: who keep Kosher and) aren’t allowed to cook anything during Sabbath. It keeps the oven on a constant heat that allows for heating pre-cooked food, so that hot meals can still be enjoyed on that day. 

Dual Convection can be found on Samsung’s new compact ovens. It allows for evenly-heated cooking throughout, meaning no burnt edges or unevenly-cooked foods. With Programmable Timers found on most ovens these days, you can set the oven to cook food for when you’re coming home from work so that you’re not wasting too much of your valuable spare time cooking when you get home. As you can see, there’s a lot to choose from when picking your kitchen appliances but, choose your appliances sensibly and it will pay off. 

Photo Courtesy:  Neff

Final Thoughts

Choosing an appliance these days requires a lot more time and thought than it used to. Some of these features may never get used by some families, whereas some families can’t live without them. Picking the best features and technology for your needs will make life in the kitchen easier, cheaper and more enjoyable. 


This article was written by Alan Gregory. He writes for Appliances Online by day and hunts down new kitchen technologies by night. He likes cooking but hates cleaning and you can follow him on Twitter @AlanJGregory.

11 September 2012

9/11 Observance

This post will publish on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.  It is the first time since I started writing Gold Notes four years ago that my regular publishing schedule falls on that fateful day.

Rather than share design content on this sad occasion, I'm dedicating this weekly post to the thousands of victims, survivors, first responders and caregivers who were in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pa. and the hijacked planes that day.  Nothing else feels as right or important to me today.

My connections to 9/11 run wide, deep, long and strong.  My brother worked for Cantor Fitzgerald for almost 20 years in the firm's Los Angeles office.  He lost more than 600 colleagues in One World Trade Center that morning.  (He often worked from the New York office when traveling; that day, he happened to be at his Chicago office instead.)

I was working for Gannett's Shreveport, La. daily newspaper as its Online Director on September 11, 2001.  I walked into our building and my assistant said, 'a plane just hit the World Trade Center.'  I pictured a misguided Cessna, not a hijacked jetliner filled with passengers.

Like millions of others around the country and world, we watched the ensuing TV coverage in horror. We were also working feverishly to cover it from our own corner of the crisis. (That was also the day the Extra Edition died, in my journalistic opinion.  All of our coverage went online as fast as we could update it.)

You may recall that President Bush landed at Barksdale Air Force Base after leaving Florida.  That was the base where my then-husband was stationed in the Shreveport-Bossier area, and the reason why I traded one LA for another.  Because he landed in our backyard, we had the President's whereabouts on our site before any of the majors did, and news footage of that day will show friends of ours in his local security detail.

A month or so later, we would watch other friends fly their bombers to Afghanistan to crush the Taliban and Al Quaeda.  Those massive planes carrying their massive bombs into the Southern night were a surrealistic sight, one that haunts me still.

This is a photograph I took last Spring on my most recent trip to New York, the city where I was born and lived until my late 20s.  The building under construction is the Freedom Tower rising at Ground Zero.

I've been to that site on almost every New York trip since 9/11. The first time was December 2001 and the air was still filled with the stench of death and destruction.  We debated on cancelling or postponing the trip, due to the events just a few short months before, but decided to go.  We wanted to support New York... And I needed closure.

I watched the original buildings on that site, the Twin Towers, being built as a child, had my first grown-up date in Windows on the World, (their famous restaurant), worked in their offices as a college temp, traveled regularly through their subway stops, and visited the Observation Deck on various occasions, including the day of the New York City blackout in July 1977.  

It was good to see a new building rise from the memory of those ashes last year. We are a resilient nation.  My next trip will take me to the 9/11 Memorial which, I believe, is still under construction.  In the meantime, let me share these final words:

May those who lost their lives that terrible day rest in peace.  May those who mourn them take some small measure of comfort in knowing that their memories are not forgotten.  May those who gave so much of themselves that day accept my thanks and those of a grateful nation.  

04 September 2012

Autumn Inspirations

I grew up in New York City, where Labor Day meant school was about to start again and Fall was in the air. It didn’t matter that the thermometer and official calendar still read Summer. As far as we were concerned, Autumn was officially here.

Now I live in San Diego, where it’s pretty much summer all year round. (Not complaining.) As the days grow shorter, though, I know the fall season has begun.

In that spirit, I thought I’d share a few Autumn inspirations today.

Lustrous wood cabinetry and furniture
(Photo: Bornholm Kitchen)

Jewel-toned paisleys
(Photo:  Kravet)
Warm brick-toned walls
(Photo:  Sherwin-Williams)

Cozy, whiskey-warmed leathers
(Photo:  Pottery Barn)

Lustrous bronze and crackling fireplaces!
(Photo:  Pleasanthearthfireplacedoors.com)

Cuddly, chunky wool throws
(Photo:  Pottery Barn)

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