Saturday, July 25, 2015

Landscaping Trends on Fire in 2015

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Welcome Home Magazine
Summer 2015 Issue

It’s the trend that has caught fire in 2015—everyone wants one. Fire pits are in high demand, whether set into backyards on their own or as part of larger and more elaborate outdoor spaces.

“We’re doing a ton of fire pits this year,” says Ken Murray, owner of Murray Landscaping. “And then we’re doing patios around them, building outdoor rooms around the pits. It’s a growing trend.”

Murray is hearing many of his customers mention ideas they have seen on the popular television channel, HGTV, with shows like “Yard Crashers,” in which people’s weedy backyards are transformed within days into elaborate outdoor entertainment areas.

In reality, Murray says, those “magic” transformations can take two to four weeks to build for an outdoor room surrounding the fire pit. Price tags can range from $15,000 to $60,000, he says.

“It all depends on what you want. We can do it all,” Murray says. “Although when a customer requests low maintenance, you have to remember all landscaping requires some maintenance.”

When choosing outdoor room options, Murray recommends that customers work with, rather than against, the terrain of the yard. Decide on the area you want created and consider what kind of entertaining you want to do there and for how many.

“We can build walls, we can change the grade of the land, we can work with just about anything,” Murray says.

When choosing a fire pit for the yard, a wide variety of options are available. Beginning with the least expensive and easiest to install are portable fire pits or bowls. Chimineas are a type of fire pit that use a smoke stack and operate much like a wood stove. While chimineas are typically made out of clay, pricier versions may be made out of ...



Thursday, July 23, 2015

Golden Slippers Network: Navigating Elderly Care

by Zinta Aistars
for Golden Slippers Network
July 20, 2015

When her mother was diagnosed with dementia, Cheryl Edwards-Cannon realized how little she knew about helping her mother navigate her senior years. What were her mother’s needs and how could she best help her?
Fifteen years later, Edwards-Cannon has accumulated a great deal of expertise in not only helping her parent, but helping others in similar situations.
“I found few resources back then to help me find the best care for my mother,” Edwards-Cannon says. Today, that has changed, she says, and the organization she has established since, called Clear Path Choices, LLC, connects families with all the resources they need to navigate elderly care.
Edwards-Cannon is CEO and lead consultant at Clear Path Choices. She works with a team of attorneys, financial planners, social workers and law enforcement. Along with assisting families to create personalized, strategic plans for their senior loved ones, she leads seminars and workshops to guide participants in life decisions.
A consultation with a Clear Path Choices representative begins with questions about health: What kind of lifestyle is your loved one accustomed to? Is he or she ready for this move? How independent is the senior and how much assistance will be required?
“Then we talk about geographic location,” Edwards-Cannon says. “We can help you move anywhere, in Michigan or anywhere in the country.”
Based on the individual’s needs, three locations are recommended with the final decision left to the family.
Edwards-Cannon says, “It can be hard to leave home. We tell caregivers—don’t make it about you. Make it about your loved one. They want to know what will change in their lives, what will stay the same.”
Finding the best place to live is about keeping your loved one safe and increasing longevity. Signs which may indicate a need for placement, Edwards-Cannon says, are increased falls or accidents at home.
Insurance Coverage
If you think that understanding insurance policies is confusing, Edwards-Cannon agrees.
“Oh, I think they are designed to be confusing,” she laughs. “But it’s important to ...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Between the Lines: Boldly Trekking

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Rick Chambers


Rick Chambers has boldly gone on to new frontiers. A communications professional, journalist and novelist in Kalamazoo, he happily adds "Trekkie" to his list of achievements. Memories of watching Star Trek as a four-year-old are still vivid in his mind, drawn to the cast of characters in the show even as he shivered in delicious fear at their grand adventures and a parade of alien creatures.

Since 2011, Chambers has written several scripts for Star Trek: New Voyages, the ongoing Web-based continuation of the TV series that originally aired on NBC-TV from 1966 to 1969. Chambers says it’s a childhood dream come true.

Star Trek encouraged me to play games in the back yard,” he recalls. “Running around with communicators made out of cardboard and masking tape and in uniforms and such. As I got a little older, I started writing these adventures. So it’s really at the heart of helping to create me as a writer.”
With skills that improved over the years, Chambers jumped at the chance to ...

Z at WMUK recording Between the Lines

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Kalamazoo connections create Principle Food & Drink

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
July 9, 2015

A team with lots of Kalamazoo connections is betting the success of Salt of the Earth can be repeated by following their principles. That's the theory behind Principle Food & Beverage. 

Matt Pietsch, left, and Jeff  Bailey (Photo by Susan Andress)

They’ve been plotting it for years, eyes on Kalamazoo. 

"The day after Salt of the Earth opened, I was thinking about where we would go next, what happens next," Matthew Pietsch says. "It’s how my brain works."

When Salt of the Earth, a rustic eatery and bakery at 114 East Main Street of small town Fennville opened in 2009, Pietsch was the new executive chef. It happened this way. Walking down Main Street, he slipped his resume into the mail slot of what appeared to be the door of an empty building. But one can dream, and dream he did.

On the other side of the mail slot, a building owner looked over the resume. Pietsch had impressive culinary experience. A graduate of the Grand Rapids Community College culinary arts program, he apprenticed with the U.S. National Pastry Team in 2004 and later worked as an executive pastry chef. In Dearborn, he ran the Opus One kitchen and managed their corporate food service for Ford Advertising. He worked alongside Michael Symon, the well-known chef from the television shows The Chew and Iron Chef, at Symon’s upscale steakhouse, Roast, in Detroit. 

Pietsch soon became one of the owners of Salt of the Earth. The eatery quickly gained attention, drawing in hungry guests from all over West Michigan and beyond. 

Always fresh, minimally handled but expertly prepared, the Salt menu drew in guests with an appreciation for a quality dining experience. Ingredients are, whenever possible, locally sourced and sustainably produced, if not indeed just harvested from the garden outside the back door of the restaurant. 

It wasn’t so much that the owners chose Kalamazoo for a second eatery, Pietsch says. "Kalamazoo chose us. We all have close connections to Kalamazoo, and we were really excited when this space opened up."

The owners, now a group including, along with Pietsch, Robert Nicol, Mark Schrock, and Casey Longton, welcomed new shareholders Nancy and Doug Knobloch, former owners of Garden Gate Cafe, a sandwich and cupcake shop that had occupied 230 South Kalamazoo Mall since 2012. The Knoblochs closed the Garden Gate Cafe in January. Their son is Casey Langton, general manager at Salt of the Earth and one of the owners. 

"It’s exciting to come back to my roots," Longton says. He stops for a moment in what is an almost finished kitchen at the new space. The sign on the doors of 230 South Kalamazoo Mall now reads: Principle Food & Drink. Coming soon.

The long, narrow room smells of freshly cut wood, varnish, paint. Where there was a glass case of cupcakes now stands a ....


Read about this sign at Second Wave (Photo by Susan Andress)

Monday, July 06, 2015

Between the Lines: Art of Altered Books

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Katie Platte and Lorrie Grainger Abdo

Lorrie Grainger Abdo, left, and Katie Platte, right, holding altered books

As children, we're taught to treat books with respect. Don’t write in the margins. Don’t fold down the corners of pages. Don’t break the spines. But what about altering a book into another form of art?

Retired books get a new life in an art exhibit called Altered Books—Altered Worlds at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, 326 W. Kalamazoo Avenue, in the Park Trades Center building. The exhibit runs concurrently with Adaptation: Transforming Books into Art at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art. Both exhibits are open to the public through July 31.

“The exhibit at KBAC shows more local artists, emerging as well as established,” says Katie Platte, KBAC's studio manager. “Whereas the Kalamazoo Institute of Art is showing the work of internationally known artists.”
Lorrie Grainger Abdo, KBAC's administrative director as well as participating artist, says the term "altered book" refers to an old book recreated by adding mixed media techniques and changing its form. These transformed books burst at the seams with added fabrics, collages, buttons and beads, drawings, and paintings. Ribbons curl from between pages and new pages fold out from their tucked-in places. Pop-ups and pockets might be add, holding treasure. Pages might be singed or cut or drilled or torn. No rules apply.
“Some of the books are the creations of individual artists,” says Grainger Abdo. “Others are round-robin books, and they're passed from one artist to another, with each artist adding to a few pages before passing the book on to the next person.”
Yet others have ...