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Which is why this profile on Twisted Sifter of 35 modern secret passageways that you can build in our own home so perplexed me. Who doesn't love the idea of nook and niches, of creeping through a cobwebbed tunnel into the hidden wing of the English manor house?
The problem is most of the passages here look built for the incomprehensibly rich, complete with built-in vaults and wine cellars. (What in the heck people feel the need to hide so extravagantly: pit bulls, grenades, a doomsday supply of antibiotics?) It's enough to make anybody say,"Hey! Secret passages are not going to happen at my house! No way! Not even if we had the space and the faux-rock wall!"
But now you're a person who doesn't like secret passages, a sad state of affairs, because that probably lumps you with people who don't like antique globes or fairy tales or invisible pirate friends for lonely children.
At least, this is where I found myself. Until I realized that all the magic had vanished—poof—not because of seeing these high-falutin' passages, but what because of what my imagination stored inside them, what I think of as my "read all about it" imagination that feeds off news headlines and creepy true crime novels.
But I have another imagination, we all do, one that could fill that mahogany-lined secret passage with hundreds of live orange trees or bags of feathers or cans of cheese spray....or nothing at all, leaving a place to sit and daydream. The imagination itself is secret passage, if you think about it, either to the best or worst parts of ourselves. And that's where we have to focus our attention, on that gateway between ourselves and the world that has no steel reinforcements or unbreakable codes—or limits.
Think yourself free
This device hooks directly into your home's breaker panel and immediately starts tracking energy use on up to five appliances. Set a budget goal and see, for example, that running the dishwasher after dinner, when rates are often higher, will set you back more than waiting until bedtime. ($239; lowes.com)To automate your home: Control4
Program closet lights to turn off after five minutes; set all your lighting to run at 80 percent. In addition to tracking energy consumption, this sleek system allows you to control virtually all your household electronics and lighting. (Packages start at $1,500; control4.com)
A step-by-step guide to curbing your energy costs
Bring both a small and a large pot of salted water to boil. Add 2 cups chopped kale to the small one and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain. In the large pot, cook an 8-ounce package of soba noodles according to package directions, reserving 1 cup cooking water when draining. Toss noodles with 1 Tbsp. oil. In a frying pan, sauté a large handful of chopped walnuts in oil until golden. Add kale, walnuts, small pinches of salt and cayenne pepper, and ¼ cup cooking water to noodles. Stir and add more cooking water, if desired, and lots of grated Parmesan.
20 go-to recipes you'll want to commit to memory
8 desserts you can make in just 10 minutes
New Yorkers have a bad reputation for being a touch, shall we say, on the grouchy side—swearing at taxi drivers, grumbling about tourists and high rents and slices of pizza served an instant too slowly. Not so Anthony Pisano, whom The Gothamist dubs The Nicest Man in the East Village. Pisano has lived in his East Village apartment for 30 years, which is packed with a fascinating trove of antique treasures—a curio-hunter's dream (and a minimalist's nightmare). When the weather is nice, he stands outside his open door and invites people in to check out his stuff. What could seem like an oddball hoarder situation is tempered by what Pisano says about his experience welcoming people into his home. Pisano notes that many senior citizens feel "discarded" or lonely, but that he has found a way to stay connected with people, which gives him "a lot of beautiful feelings." And you have to hear his story of how he used his apartment to bring a quarreling couple together. He really is the nicest man in the East Village! In fact, he just might be the nicest man in all of New York City. (He's certainly the most trusting.)
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* Writer David Foster Wallace would have turned 50 this week. The Awl has compiled a fantastic list of things you can read if you'd like to mark the occasion. (The Awl)
* Come on, baby, don't you want to go... President Obama got bullied into singing Sweet Home Chicago at a concert on Tuesday, and it was very charming. (Videogum)
* Irving Wardle explains everything an 82-year-old man needs to know about Zumba. (More Intelligent Life)
"And what more can you say about books? They're the greatest things ever, and everyone should have more."—John Locke, a designer who's turning New York City phone booths into guerrilla libraries. (The Atlantic Cities)
Klinenberg writes, "The mere thought of living alone once sparked anxiety, dread and visions of loneliness. But those images are dated. Now the most privileged people on earth use their resources to separate from one another, to buy privacy and personal space." After studying the numbers, Klinenberg suggests that living alone has become desirable for adults of all ages. After all, "living alone comports with modern values. It promotes freedom, personal control and self-realization — all prized aspects of contemporary life."
And that's not all. People who live alone actually spend more time being social, seeing their friends, and attending cultural events than married people. Even families who live together tend to spend their time in separate rooms, ensconced in separate media experiences. In other words, lonely and alone often have nothing to do with one another.
Read the entire piece for Klinenberg's interesting revelations on what the increasing numbers of middle-aged and older people living alone means for all of us.
Staying married but living apart.
What not to say to a single woman.
As always, here comes Pinterest to the escapist rescue. I can't stop looking at this brilliant "The Old Woman and Her Shoe" Pinterest board, which collects whimsical dwellings from all over. Shoes, yes, and also treehouses, tiny houses, fancy tents, garden teepees, and playful home accents like interior slides—from the really-out-there to the easily imitatable (an indoors sleeping tent!).
Here are reminders that dwellings don't have to be all serious and adult. Some of the structures are distinguished by their tinyness, and it's always nice to remember that in the era of McMansions and car-sized sofas, there can be something wonderful about downsizing. Others are larger spaces divided by tents and bunks and forts—suggesting ways to work with the space you have to create a sense of whimsy and fun. And others are just plain eye candy, calling to mind the ways in which this world we've created can be just as magical as, say, the land of hobbit-holes.
The Tiny House Trend
Your Online Happy Place
The Joys of Downsizing
Can living smaller give you more freedom, or even help you to live a more meaningful life? This is the theory behind the growing Tiny House movement, made up of people building their own extremely adorable, minute (and often portable) dwellings. Whether done out of economic necessity or an urge to simplify life, downsizing can be a way to "live deliberately," in the words Henry David Thoreau, the patron saint of the Tiny House people. Personally, I love the idea that you don't need a big house to live big. Plus, these 400-square-feet-or-less homes make my apartment seem like a McMansion.
Christopher Smith, who had never built anything before, decided to build himself an extremely tiny house, and is now making a documentary about the process. Just watching the trailer got me thinking about what makes a place a home, what we really need to live--and how easy it would be to clean a 150-square-foot house.
Love it? For the next few days you can help fund the documentary on Kickstarter.
The joy of downsizing
Learning to live with less