29 August 2010

Treehouse Daydreams

The original movie set for the Walt Disney picture
"Swiss Family Robinson" [Image source]

I grew up in an old, cream brick farmhouse built in the 1840s.  Out in front was a massive oak tree.  Its branches were wide-spread and gnarly directioned - perfect for a tree house.  Unfortunately, it sat in the front yard along a busy street, so the tree house plan never came to fruition.  But the magical idea -- encouraged by the 1960 film adaptation of the 1812 Johann David Wyss book, The Swiss Family Robinson -- never faded.

And I am not the only person captivated by the idea.  Here are some images and links to a wonderful array of tree houses, some practical, some simply silly, and some, glorious!

The Minister's Tree House
(Crossville, Tennessee)

Built by Horace Burgess over a 14-year period, the house's main tree is an 80-foot tall White Oak with a trunk diameter of approximately 12 feet.  The house is 97 feet tall and employs six other trees as support pillars.

The Treehouse Chronicles

S. Peter Lewis, a writer, decided to build his authorial retreat up in the sky!  His book, The Treehouse Chonicles: One Man's Dream of a Life Aloft is his report of the design and building of his 'office.'  (Note: included is a 'treehouse chessboard' built just for the house.)

Images and information on Lewis' book can be found here.
Lewis' blog about the project is here.

Alnwick Garden
The World's Largest Treehouse

Located in Northumberland County, UK, the Alnwick Garden treehouse is not too terribly high off the ground.  A description from this website notes "This 6,000 square foot treehouse is comprised of walkways, cottages, shops, a restaurant, and play areas. It is even wheelchair accessible, and holds close to 1,000 people, so everyone can play."  The images here are from the website as well.

Eric Z. Ayers' Treehouse

Eric Ayer and his Dad built a simple (4-story!) treehouse in Florida back in the 1980s.  Eric reports on the impetus for the project and its meaning on his blog.

Free Spirit Spheres
(Qualicum Beach, BC, Canada)

The Free Spirit Spheres are a combination artist and spiritual retreat.  [From the Free Spirit Spheres website]: "All About Spheres by Tom Chudleigh, Inventor, Manufacturer and Distributor of Free Spirit Spheres.  The "Spherical Tree House" concept borrows heavily from sailboat construction and rigging practice. It's a marriage of tree house and sailboat technology. Wooden spheres are built much like a cedar strip canoe or kayak. Suspension points are similar to the chain plate attachments on a sailboat. Stairways hang from a tree much like a sailboat shroud hangs from the mast." 

Images from the Free Spirit Spheres website.

To find more images of treehouses, search on the word treehouse on Google Images.  To learn how to build your own treehouse, search on the words treehouse plans or treehouse design on Google.

ADDED INFO LINKS (2/10/2012):

25 August 2010

Last Call for Peanuts

Image from Tangzine.com

As summer winds down, my Beloved Spousal Unit and I have been trying to catch a final few baseball games.  Sure, there are the playoffs and then the World Series.  But the regular season is its own small universe of splendid plays, chesslike maneuvering, and the quiet pleasure of scoring games.


We watched the Brewers and Dodgers last night.  Got to see the game from a new vantage: third base side, upper terrace. The view was wide and filled with the colors of the many advertisements, the flashing scoreboard, and the clothing of the 39K+ folks in the stands.  The playing field grass had been mowed into a broad checkerboard pattern, alternating, fresh green squares.  And the park's retractable 'clamshell' roof was open to let in a soon-to-be-fall breeze. 
While each game can be like any other in terms of its patterns of play, each experience of a game is its own treasure.  Last night's memories for me will be
  • Watching a young dad dancing to "Roll Out the Barrel" at the 7th inning stretch with his young son in his arms.
  • Hearing the Monty Python Theme Song* between pitches late in the game.
  • Munching on a bag of Kettlecorn bought by aforementioned Beloved Spousal Unit.
  • Seeing Bob Uecker back in the radio booth.
  • Texting my sister during the game. She had to work but caught the end of the game on TV. 
  • Casey McGehee: his first year with the team was tough but he's grown into a standout player and shown what a stand up human being he is.
  • Watching the 5 young teenage boys in the row in front of us.  All of the same age, it was clear they'd grown up together.  Neat to see friendships in the making.

I enjoy watching many different sports - ice hockey, futbol, even golf when it's on an interesting course - but baseball is the best for me.  The older I get, the dearer it is.  It becomes poetry.  I totally understand what A. Bartlett Giamatti wrote now:

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."

Source: The Green Fields of the Mind (Yale Alumni Magazine, November 1977)

Photo credit: Beloved Spousal Unit
* [from Wikipedia] "The series' famous theme song is the first segment of John Philip Sousa's The Liberty Bell, chosen because it was in the public domain, free to use without charge."

24 August 2010

Silly Food Flavor

Tropicana Japan has recently introduced a cheese-flavored drink! 
Check out the details at InventorSpot.

15 August 2010

Letterbox Sighting: A Bonanza of Boxes!!

Sam's Mailbox Pictures is a wonderful, loopy, entertaining collection of mailboxes and letterboxes.  Here are a few samples.


12 August 2010

SENT OUT: Tea Time at the Getty

The adventures of James and Kendra continue!

TRANSCRIPTION: "My dear Rachel -- We've taken a short respite from our archaeological adventures. After a bitter desert winter and all too blazing, sandy summer, we feel we deserve it! I've even splurged on a new frock and 'chapeau'! James declares both "quite charming." Fondly, Kendra"

TRANSCRIPTION: "Dearest Rachel ~ Here is a sketch I did of Kendra last weekend at the Getty 'West Garden Tea Room.' (Her coat looked warmer than it look it was, she says. I think she looked positively smashing! Must dash -- ever your servant, James"

Postcard #1 of the story. (Thanks to K for archiving it!)

09 August 2010

The Kindness of Strangers and the Laughter of Little Boys

In one of my first posts, I described the delight of reacquiring a manual typewriter. Since then I have enjoyed typing letters to various pen friends.  Recently, I sent letters to my nephews which included a mention of how I was writing the notes on this machine called a typewriter. Their mother told me later that they had no idea what I was referring to!  So I conceived of a plan to introduce them to the wonderfulness of the typosphere.

But what machine to use?  As it happens I participate in an online group called The Portable Typewriter Forum.  I posted a general inquiry: what machine did they think would be good for some rambunctious man-children to learn on?  One gentleman with young children of his own offered me a Smith-Corona Clipper free for the shipping!  The deal was sealed - and I sent him some jars of homemade jam along with the check!

Wish he could have been a fly on the wall when I brought out the typewriters one evening recently! Actually, I made the boys bring them out (the Clipper and a Royal Quiet Deluxe). They were SO wiggly anxious and excited to see what I was talking about.

They came out to the car and each carried a case into the house. (I wanted them to see  how heavy they were even though people called them 'portables.') Then I had them open them up and asked if they could figure out how to get them out of their cases. With a few hints they found the release mechanisms. The Clipper proved to be a bit of a challenge with the release inside the lower edge of the 'keyboard' area.

Then we set them up on their dining room table and compared them. More wiggliness ensued - they wanted to use them NOW but had no idea how they worked. "Where's the plug?" "What button erases stuff?" etc. When I said you had to roll in the paper (using two sheets to protect the platen), they expected the paper to roll in automatically and just sat looking at me holding the paper ready to go in. It took them awhile to get the idea that THEY had to make all the parts move. Boy1 ended up using the Quiet Deluxe while Boy2 and I worked the Clipper.

Most exciting finds:
  • The shift lock key! The idea that you could make ALL the letters "change" at the same time!
  • No key for the number 1.  They first tried the 'i' key.  After a little more looking: "The L key!" They were so excited to have figured that out. 
  • All the symbols on the top row of number keys. When I reminded them about the Shift Key, oh man, they were so excited to know it would let them print out those things as well!
  • Making an exclamation point using the apostrophe key and period key.  The Back Space key was discovered then - they thought that was the most awesome thing!

After the initial introduction, Boy1 asked "Can I write a story now?" which he proceeded to do, two finger style for the rest of the evening, occasionally coming over to where Boy2 and I were using the Clipper to see what we were doing. Boy2, who just turned 6 and is still learning how to read, was more intrigued by the machinery and the sounds. The idea of the bell was he thought to be very cool! We had to lift the machine up so he could see it - and then he wanted me to type so he could see the bell actually work. Then we looked inside where the ribbon is. Boy2 is learning to play piano and thought the keystroke action SO cool.

Then Boy2 got a little bored until I said we should type a letter to his parents and HIDE it for them to find. So we typed up an exceedingly silly letter, made an envelope and stamp, typed the address. Now, where to hide it? They decided that under their Mom's pillow was the best place, so we all trooped upstairs and did that, after much discussion about if Mom and Dad would find it or just 'crunch it' when they came to bed.

Back downstairs to the typers . . . Boy1 returned to writing his story, laughing at how he could "make the dragon's words of magic" by typing the same letter over and over. Meanwhile, Boy2 and I started playing a game where we would take turns typing out strings of letters and then the other person had to "read it." Reading involved making the sounds of the letters (preferably loudly and dramatically!) - so the stranger the combinations of letters and the longer the list of letters, the funnier the sounds. (Exclamation points had to be made with a shoulder-shrug-hands-lifted-up and a surprised face.) We did this for about 45 minutes laughing like crazy the whole time.

When it was time for bed, each boy put a typewriter back in its case.  Then it was wash up time and upstairs for a reading performance of Boy1's story (he'd typed a page and a half's worth of a dragon and 'hero dude' adventure!). I followed up with a reading of Lion by William Pene Du Bois, a neat children's book from the 1950s about an angel artist who 'invents' the first lion.

So all in all, it was a HUGE success! Thanks again, Dan @TypeClack, for making some wee boys (and their Auntie!) very happy!



For those of you who grew up with computers from childhood, Chris Woodford at Explainthatstuff has written a good basic intro titled 'How Typewriters Work.'

To learn more about typewriters, their history, and their multitudinous forms, check out the links below:
  • Machines of Loving Grace
  • Typewriters by Will Davis
  • The Portable Typewriter Forum (a Yahoo! group)
  • The Typewriter Forum (a Yahoo! group)

    How to find/buy a manual typewriter - The proprietrix of the StrikeThru blog has a 7-part series of posting on locating decent-quality manual typewriters.  The first post is here.

    p.s.  In my experience, unless you are totally into high-level, fancy antiques, etc., a good, decent portable typewriter shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg. $35-$50 is a reasonable expectation, though they can often be found for less at Goodwill, estate sales, yard sales, etc. 

    What can get pricey is the shipping.  If you are buying via eBay - something that can work but that you need to be very careful and ask good questions of sellers -- know that some are plainly ripoffs and some are some superbly run sales.  Despite being made of metal, typewriters can break.  The carriage should be locked down, the key bars stabilaized, and all should be very well padded inside and out for shipping. 

07 August 2010

Inspiration Comes from Afar

A couple of months ago I reported on the unmaking of a century-old treadle sewing machine cabinet.  I came across the parts I'd saved this past week and began to imagine what I might make from them.  But I was stumped.  So I wrote to some creative friends.

TRANSCRIPTION: "Dear Fellow Maker Persons, Please oh please: I require Inspiration Assistance. A few months ago I dismantled an old treadle sewing machine cabinet. Some of the parts I saved. Now I am in the process of cleaning up my workroom and have come across some of the saved pieces. They are the wooden frames that held the drawers. Most excellent but I cannot see what I might do with them. So I says to myself, 'Self, ask for some ideas from other peoples!'  I think they may be made of mahogany; then again they are not that heavy. And they are not of a solid piece so I can’t just hang something heavy from them and expect them to hold."

Here are the pics I sent them of the wooden pieces:

I included some blank, self-addressed postcards for them to send their ideas on.  Here's the first set I got.

THE IDEAS LISTS (and they are marvelous!)

Harmonium bellows * Folded fan organizer * Accordian folding box * Seasonal foliage wreath frame * Porthole windows for canvas safari tent * Spring-loaded self-inflating bagpipe bag * Very fine hat * One-head-sized infinity mirror room * Ninja water-walking shoes * Carved speaker frames * Sequential art picture frames * Reusable cheese-hanging bag frames * Gold-panning sieve * Mobiles * Decopage hors d'oeurve tray * Macroscope slide frames * Stained glass window pendents *

Emtling family portraits * Folding screen for doll's boudoir * Collapseable bird cage (needs string) * Paper towel holder (needs towel) * Doors to curious cabinet ~ stained glass! * Rectangulinear dream catchers * Candle boxes (oiled paper) * Doors to Faerie * Trivets * Book cover bindings * Hanging cloth pouch mouths * Obstacle course for iguanas * Magic lantern slides (widescreen) * Umbrella stand * Tiny greenhouse *

Giant poisonous moth trap * Countertop carrot sprouter * Silkscreen frames * Perfect rectangular stencils * Entomological gladiator stadium * Candy glass-growing screen * Handweaving loomlets * Terrarium toppers * Toaster streudel templates * Firewood * Squirrel-skin stretchers * Right angle tambourine frames, with or without drumskin * Horseshoe-throw nouveau * Windchime skeleton * Box telescope struts * Sighting tunnel for bamboo rail gun * Refridgerator magnets * Sistrums *
~ * ~  * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

05 August 2010

VIDEO: Canine Slo-Mo

The marketing company for the folks at Pedigree came up with this charming video.  Great for dog-lovers, but what I am loving is being able to watch the movement of the bodies.  Reminds me of the groundbreaking motion study photography done in the 19th century by Eadweard Muybridge.  Here's some of Muybridge's work . . .

[Note: the Wikipedia entry for Muybridge includes videos created by compiling his photos into a moving sequence.  FYI: there is some nudity. More of his work can be seen by searching on his name in Google Images.]

And here is the video:

[from the YouTube description] "It's dogs in slow-mo catching treats. What could be better. From TBWA Toronto. . . . Music is by Andrew Harris, a Vancouver-based sound designer and composer."

01 August 2010


Continuing on his 1983 travels, the Captain sent the following.

TRANSCRIPTION: "Greetings Gentle Srys! So sad you had to get off the starship on Zeterane Major.  The fireclouds here on Stafraniors are really amazing.  You simply must come see them sometime. Atcz"

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