Archive for April 2009

Things we can’t live without

April 24, 2009

Always Connected
Having a large family spread across the United States, as well as friends spread out in many other cities, we like to stay in touch as much as possible. We often turn to telephone calls, mailed note cards, and more and more to social networking sites.

Now we blog, we tweet, we link in, we Shutterfly, and book our faces online daily. Our poor family is subjected to having their old photos exposed to the world on a weekly basis. They are good sports, but we both hope that there is not any payback later in life (sideways smiley face inserted here)! The generation before us would not even think about doing what we do. As an example, our mother doesn’t even have a computer!

We are very proud of our family, and we hope that it is understood that we show our old photos out of love, and pride in our history. We would not be the people we are without their love and support. They in return, have been very supportive, and excited to see old photos, and learn a little more about each other.

Number 1 in top 5 things to do We loved to swim when we kids. Even though our Aunt Cissy and Uncle Mike did not have any children themselves, they had a pool for all of their nieces and nephews! It didn’t get any better than this for [1] Cindy, [2] Christopher, [3] Aunt Cissy, [4] Greg, and [5] Janine.

If you are a regular facebook user, or use one of the other social networking sites, you probably have been noticing that there seem to be an abundance of quizzes and applications asking about your likes and dislikes. For some reason, we all love to tell the world what kind of cocktails we like, our favorite albums of all time, our top five vacation spots… and, other desires, that we just can’t keep to ourselves. We even want the world to know our deep secrets with the 25 things that you may not know about us.

Being of a certain age, we (The Design Brothers) are on the fringe of the two groups of people who want to keep our lives private (the TV generation), and at the same time, tell people our most intimate personal experiences (the computer generation). We are conflicted, but obviously are more open than we like to admit our shouting about ourselves from the rooftops. Why else we would have a weekly blog? Why do we have this urge to tell everyone about our histories and current lives? In that same spirit we thought, why not?

We think those top 5 favorite lists are fun because they make us think about the things that make us happy. We also believe that if forms a connection to other people that might like the same music, movie, or whatever it may be. We know that these lists are never definitive, as our tastes change daily… and how can anyone rank life’s pleasures?

Let’s make a list

We thought it would be fun to show you some of the things that we treasure in our homes. Everyone has an item or two around their homes, that are taken for granted, those simple things that bring us joy and comfort. They are pieces in our homes that we pass by daily, and would miss if they were not there. Here are some of the things we treasure in our own homes. We also hope to hear from our readers about some of their favorite things as well.


Christopher: This is a ceramic piece that I received as a gift from my friend, Betty Ludington. She is an amazing artist, and I have a number of her pieces in and outside at my home. I had met the real-life rabbit, that she based these pieces on, and loved these “totems”. Before I could purchase one, she moved to the Turks and Caicos Islands, and I realized that it would cost a fortune to ship from there.

Many months later I offered her some (minor) Adobe Illustrator advice over the phone. A week later, found a huge box, with this piece inside. It sits prominently in my living room, and I can’t imagine not having these three guys around. I think of her and her animals (she now has many dogs, cats, and goats) every day.


Thanks Betty!

Betty came to visit me for a short trip and she surprised me with another small gift which now sits next to the other piece. Here it is:


Chalkware pieces were awarded as prizes at carnivals, or just sold as inexpensive decorative pieces back in the early nineteen hundreds. They were all brightly painted with watercolor, and sometimes covered with glitter. I started collecting these chalkware pieces about ten years ago, when I saw them at flea markets up in Maine, and at the Brimfield Fair in Massachusetts, for pretty cheap prices.

When I start a collection of any kind, I try to keep a budget unless there is something extremely rare or just too beautiful to pass up. I bought this sailor boy piece for under ten dollars, and felt very lucky back then to get it.


These days, it is really hard to find one for under forty dollars. He is not in the best of shape, but he is someone who heads up my small chalkware collection (along with some Mexican and Thai wood pieces, and a ceramic decanter) that is above an armoire (below) in my home. By the way, my price cap was twenty dollars, so I stopped collecting years ago.


I found these two volumes in our grandmother’s basement. They are health guides, published in 1924, have some great photos, illustrations, and color plates.


For years, I referred to these books as references for plants, and anatomy studies. I used them throughout college and still look at them from time to time. I can’t imagine them not being around. I have a few books that I love and still use them as reference, but these two are special, and remind me of our grandmother. Here are some sample pages:


Greg: One of the things that I cannot live without, although not always tangible is symmetry. I love order and structure within a room, that is not to say though that every part has to have an equal , I love mixing old with new, a mixture of antiques and modern. But I believe strongly that every room must be balanced and to me there is no better balance than a section of the room that is symmetrical.


Greg’s symmetrical room with two of Christopher’s paintings

Another thing that I cannot live without are flowers. I have written in the past how our father used to buy our mother flowers every week, I carry on that tradition with whatever is in season at the time. Flowers, whether a single rose or a bunch of carnations, brighten my day no matter how dreary it can become in an often dreary city. A small bouquet next to a guests’ bed brighten up a room, and their stay. It is a simple yet wonderful way to bring the outdoors in, no matter what the season.


A Valentine’s day treat for myself.

I love and respect great design. Now everyone has a different interpretation of what that means, but my definition remains, form, functionality and beauty. This cerused oak desk and chair represent the best of all three.


Although not in my home, one thing I love about Chicago in the summer is a baseball game. Many years ago while working at Pitney Bowes, I would travel roughly 90% of the time. I was lucky enough to travel with a group of guys that also had a passion for America’s sport. We made a pact to attend as many major league stadiums that we could ,while on the road. I had the privilege of seeing Shea stadium, Camden Yards, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park. I can’t imagine a summer without eating a hotdog, and drinking a beer in a stadium, and America’s greatest pastime.


The old Comiskey was torn down and across the street sits the new Cellular Field pictured above.

Last but not least, I can’t imagine not being with my cat Mr. Jinx. As a once avid cat hater, Mr. Jinx came into my home almost 5 years ago. Since I began working from home, he follows me from room to room. If he isn’t getting enough attention he will jump on my desk and sit on my computer until I hold and pet him. I often times get annoyed, but it lasts for only a few seconds, and when I hear him start to purr, I fall in love all over again.


Mr. Jinx posing for the camera.

Write and tell us what things that you love, and can’t live without. We’d love to hear about them. Send us a photo of those favorite things, and we might just pass them on to our viewers. Send over some old photos of your early days too… just for fun.

Next week Greg will be featured at the International Antiques Fair at the merchandise Mart in chicago May 1 – May 9th.

Greg & Christopher


Art Fully Done!

April 17, 2009

Art has been such an integral part of both of our lives. Art surrounds us, inspires us, and transforms us. It is part of who we are and what we do. We both create in very different ways, but try our best to bring beauty and conversation to people’s lives. Christopher has a gallery opening tonight, while Greg’s partner Brian Graves has pieces for sale at a benefit for Children’s Memorial Hospital this evening as well. For anyone in the Phoenix and Chicago areas, we hope that you can check one of them out tonight!

Happy Birthday! Our sister Janine celebrated a birthday, this week. This angelic photo of her is definitely worth framing

Choose your Style

The topic of art is a complicated arena for interpretation, as has been said; “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Art like no other discipline offers us great pleasure in acting as an agent for harmony, order, serenity, and peace. However, each person (rightfully) has his or her personal sentiment as to what that means to them. As we all know, art is very subjective, and it reflects one’s personality, and one man’s art is another man’s trash.

What the heck is art, anyway?

Art can be a collection of seashells, or rocks you have collected on your many trips, photographs of family and friends, drawings your children have done, or your favorite fabric swatches stretched over canvas. Art has meaning to you and your life, and is whatever you find beautiful. Within the confines of your own home, it is a moment of self expression. Although we both personally do not like mass produced art sold at big box stores, those pieces may work within your décor, just be sure to add your own personal style to those objects. Choose those special pieces that have a meaning to you.

There are many great resources for those beginning art collectors. Next Monet offers art by style, price, size and artist. It is a great way to buy an authentic piece of art without the intimidation of going to a gallery. However, we do recommend that you try to see other works by the artist in person, so you are sure to appreciate their technique and style.

A great friend of Greg’s once told him how she started collecting art. She would put aside a set amount of money every year and buy one great piece. The first year she had only put away $200 and went to her first live auction. Although the piece is not a great masterpiece , it was her first “real” piece of art and still holds prominence in her home. Since that time (almost 14 years later) she has acquired quite a collection. In the process she has learned more about art, artist and techniques used. Her home today reads like a well-edited gallery.


west’merica Christopher’s new painting show opens tonight (Friday, the 17th) at the Eye Lounge in Phoenix. Here’s a sneak preview of the show.

Galleries can be intimidating. We get the vision of a gallery as a stark, white, cold, sterile environment, where snobs abound. Don’t let the Hollywood version intimidate you. Generally, galleries are very welcoming, and are thrilled that you came in. A good gallery wants to hear your questions, and love people who are eager to learn more about art.

We think you would be surprised to find out that there are many small galleries in every city, where original art can be purchased for a low cost. For a little more than buying a framed poster at a chain store, you can find a one-of-a-kind piece at a gallery. Some galleries may have a $2000 piece next to a beautiful piece by the same artist for a much less expensive price. If you can’t live withou that more expensive object, most galleries allow you to pay in installments.

If you are patient, look around your neighborhood thrift store, or go to a University student sale for some amazing work. There are also dozens of monthly studio walks across the country. For instance, Christopher’s opening tonight coincides with downtown Phoenix’s Third Friday when most gallery openings happen. It started as an eventful night when the city’s First Friday got so popular, that there are now thousands of people gallery hopping on that night. It takes a bit more time to find a perfect piece, but is so much more fun than going to a mall and picking the same piece that is in thousand of homes.

Putting it all together

Everyone has pictures, photos, paintings, and treasures that mean something to them, which should be displayed thoughtfully and carefully. But, sometimes people get intimidated by displaying these pieces in their home. We have met so many people who have beautiful pieces, but afraid to hang them, or make them part of their home, because they are afraid of not giving them the respect they deserve. There are so many options for matting, frames, pedestals, and for other displays, that it is overwhelming to some of us.

We wanted to give you some tips with Greg’s help on how to display those found pieces. Art can really impact a room, and it can show a guest your true personality. Like paint color, artwork can immediately establish or change a room’s mood. Not only can art can pull the room together, but can create a style uniquely your own. Whether traditional, modern, casual or something else, one of the great things about art is that it can be changed with the seasons or your temperament.

Since art is so personal you must first love it. Do not try to buy art to match a room. If you love it, you will find a place in your home. If the piece that you purchased, received as a gift, or made yourself, happens to coordinate with the room… that is a bonus, but not always necessary. How the piece is framed, matted or displayed to match other work within the same room can make it all work together. The finishing touches will help bring cohesiveness to the room.


Christopher paints Narcissa + Eliza (go west), 2009, 12 x 12 inches, encaustic (oil and wax) on wood.

Some of Greg’s art guidelines, for the type of home you have:

The Modern Home Keep it simple. Bold and clean frames really work when you have large white mats, and black, white, silver or glass frames. Bold colorful work also works well framed in a “floating” frame, giving the piece room to breathe. Make the art stand on it’s own with space all around to make the art be the centerpiece. Striking, crisp, black and white photos are a natural choice for a modern and sophisticated look. But don’t make the room look too sterile.

Your Calm Retreat Again, keep it simple. To reinforce the mood of a nestled, cozy retreat, use artwork with neutral, earthy colors and a horizontal landscape subject. If choosing abstracts, look for watercolors or pastels with soft colors.

The Transitional Home If choosing portraits; look for oils or acrylics that convey a sense of the here and now. If the painting has someone wearing Victorian clothing, take a pass and opt for a more updated, timeless version. But, if it still holds a place in your heart (or reminds you of a family member), then frame it with a simple frame. I opt for neither gold nor silver in this instance, but rather a combination of both colors mixed together, to ensure that it will fit into most decors

Of course, the fun of artwork, and determining your own style, is breaking all the rules. You can even mix and match different styles to create a unique style of your own. Here are some other ideas:

Bold and colorful Frame traditional black and white photo prints in a variety of bold-colored frames, and group them together, or take big, old ornate frames found in flea markets, then spray paint them in bold colors to make a statement. These ideas work especially great for photos or pieces that are not very important to you, or incredibly special. But, now they look special!

Combine a collection Take the objects (like rocks, pine cones, little toys) that you collect and just put in boxes or in the closet, and paint them all the same color. Now you have a group that makes a statement. You have all the pieces together, with an identifying color. If they are small objects, put them all in an oversized glass container. Very cool!

Surprise yourself Hang a very special framed piece on the inside of a closet. When you open the door, you always have a nice thought when you see the piece. Keep it your secret, and only show only those special loved ones.

The big picture If you have a lot of random framed pictures or photos, place them right next to each other. Butt them up to each other and make a bigger object. Map out the bigger object… a circle, square or something really different, and move all the pieces until they all fit together like a puzzle. It may take a bit to figure it out, and you may have to buy a new frame or two, but the results will be very interesting. If you have some gaps, that is ok… it is about the bigger picture.


A room in Greg’s house Color Photography by Maggie Mieners A large photograph, and two encaustic paintings by Christopher. Notice how the frames… while not exactly the same, coordinate with each other.

Arranging and Hanging your Pictures

In order to get the maximum effect of your wall pictures in terms of adding character and a focal point to the room, you need to decide where and how you want to hang them. Here are some suggestions to help you decide how to get the best effects from your pictures:-

Modern Gallery Look To create a modern art gallery feel (particularly nice in hallways, lobbies and stairwells)give each piece ample breathing room. Stand at the center of the first piece and take one swift, or two small steps along the wall. This is a good center for the next piece. Take the measurements and use this space as a rule for the others.

Above a sofa When placing art above furniture such as a sofa, you need to hang the picture about six to nine inches above the sofa, or at eye level. I hate it when you have to look up to see the artwork, 12 inches from the ceiling is not a good way to place your art. Make sure the sofa and art are proportional. Too large a piece next to a small sofa could be jarring. Make sure the sofa is a bit away from the wall, as you do not want to have your head rubbing against the art.

Wall Color Most galleries are painted white so that the art makes the impression. We love color in homes but if your walls are painted chocolate brown and dark piece of art will die within the room. On the other hand, a bright white piece will look terrific, or pick something with a white background and spots of color whether green, blue, yellow or orange. If you are stuck in what to paint your walls, a subtle grey always enhances and gold, silvered, or black framed work. By the way, those gallery walls may look white, but usually they have a hint of grey to help whites pop.



Another of Greg’s clients home. The cluster of framed seashells makes the room more casual and inviting.

Cluster Arrangements Tightly group a number of pictures together to give a statement or a focal point. This works on either large or small wall spaces, depending on the look you want.

In a row By placing an odd number of pictures in a horizontal line to each other gives balance and the sense of space. This works well in hallways or stairwells.

By deciding where and how to hang your pictures, whether it be a tight cluster or a single print above a sofa, you can then determine the size and shape of the pictures you need to buy.

Remember, art is the layering of your personality beyond the décor. It should represent you and no one else. Do not let anyone else tell you what to like. Art is such a personal choice and most importantly it should be fun to find, and worth the discovery.

Design Brothers News this week: In addition to Christopher’s opening tonight, he also has some brand new small works at the 13Forest Gallery in East Arlington, Massachusetts.

—Greg & Christopher.

The Painted Desert

April 10, 2009

Go west, young man Christopher in his favorite pajamas. He was a huge Roy Rogers fan! We don’t know if you can see the cowboy themed toy chest, and western curtains. YeeHaw!

This week, Christopher is making the final decisions, and edits for his painting show on April 17th. All of the paintings are being framed up, and readied for hanging. The titles for all of the pieces are being finalized. For Christopher, sometimes, titling the work is the hardest, and most fun part of the process.

Now come the nerves. Showing to the public what he has been working on for months, takes a lot of energy. This is a very scary, but exciting moment for him.

All of these new works have been inspired by his experience of seven years of living out west. He still looks to the western landscape with awed eyes. The vastness of space, mountains, and flat, seemingly endless land, is jaw-dropping. At the same time, the west is an ever-changing place. New people are moving out here everyday with new developments being built in the deserts and previously no-man lands. There are these new developments, alongside remnants of the old west; decaying billboards, abandoned mining sites, and rusting farms. There is something beautiful, and interesting about these conflicting images.

He loves discovering little towns out west, and finding hip-hop culture coexisting along with cowboy culture, and small-town and farm values. Long-time Native Americans, and Mexican-Americans, along with new immigrant workers bring their histories and mythology into the western blender for a fascinating mix. The blending of languages and communication found in these places, is something that Christopher likes to bring to his artwork. Sometimes, the hodgepodge is very jarring, but always interesting.

Greg: I have not only supported you as my brother but am also a huge fan. How did you start painting?

Christopher: I’ve been painting off and on since I graduated college, back in the day. I studied art, took painting classes, but it was not my main focus at the time, as I was studying silk-screening and other printing processes. I have always sketched, and painted with gouache, and watercolor, but I took painting more seriously when I took an encaustic painting class about 4 years ago. I fell in love with the process and look of encaustic. I took more and more classes, until I realized that I learned as much as I could from the class… and didn’t need the class any longer.

G: What is encaustic painting?

C: It is really an old process that is enjoying a lot of new encaustic painters. Anyway, it is a process where I mix a combination of heated beeswax with oil paint. People use different combinations of pigment and wax, but that is what I use. I then fuse the mixture onto wood with heat. I use irons, heat guns, or the sun to heat, and adhere the wax together with the wood. I then start painting in large areas of color. Then I place layers of wax and color on top of the previous layer. This is where it gets fun for me! I scrape or carve into the color to expose colors below, and place new color over that. All the while heating the new color and wax.

Tools of the trade Christopher works with heating wax and oil paints on one of his hot plates [1]. Various tools, including scrapers, mask, and various ceramic tools [2]. A crock pot full of wax, and heat gun [3]. Painting scrapings [4].

When we were kids in school, we would color a piece of paper with all different kids of crayons, then color all over with black crayon, and then start drawing with a pencil or fingernail to expose the colors underneath. I compare the process of encaustic to that technique. Encaustic painting (for me) has many, many more layers, however.

G: When you say old, it is really one of the oldest processes around, why do you like this process so much?

C: I don’t want to bore you with the history of encaustics, and I am not an expert. But encaustic painting was practiced as far back as 5BC. Wax is such a great preservative of materials, so that the combination of pigment and wax was used on ships. It is also more durable than other materials and kept away moisture, so they were able to survive longer. You can read more about the history here.

What I love about the process is that I like that I really don’t know sometimes what I will see under the layers (in the technique that I use). I also have always loved sculpture or ceramics, and while they are not the same, I love the physicality of the process. I really get into the carving, and my arms get really sore after a day of painting. If I could describe the process, it would be like sculptural coloring to me.

The heating of the oil paint and wax needs great ventilation, so I work outside. I really enjoy being outdoors and painting. I hang out with the birds, dragonflies, and butterflies, and also watch the bees hanging around, intoxicated by the smell. I think the bees get a little drunk from the smell, as they always get a little slow and dizzy around the big pot of cooking wax. I get caught up in working that the days can go by so fast. It is really so much fun.

A painting from the show Christopher hasn’t named this piece yet, although he has ideas. This encaustic painting was inspired by the unique plants, maps and typography of the southwest, and is 12 x 12 inches on wood.

G: Phoenix gets pretty hot though. Do you paint outside all year?

C: No, I only have a window of opportunity from about mid-November through the end of May. If it is too cold, the wax might crack if I work with it at a cold temperature. And, if it is too hot, the wax becomes too soft while I work, and doesn’t work the way I like. I would love to get a studio at some point, so that I can work year-round.

G: I have a couple of your pieces, and I have never had any trouble with the painting melting or changing.

C: Oh no… it is pretty hearty. It would have to pretty hot for them to start melting. I’ve heard it will start to be a problem over 120 degrees. I hope your home is not that hot. But, like a regular oil painting, you should never place the piece in direct sun. It would be like a magnifying glass for the art, and then you would have trouble. With any kind of artwork, you always have to be a little careful if you want it to be in good condition.

G: Is there anything else that you are doing to prepare for your show?

C: Of course, I have to have a little party, so am planning the food! You always need food and wine!

I am also looking at the pieces one more time to see how they will be hung in the gallery. I want to tell a story at my show, so I try to think of it like I would a really great album or comic strip. I love those perfect cds… where each song works perfectly with the next and previous song. I want the pieces to flow and work together, and read almost like a comic strip… each panel continues the story, but each piece can stand alone. Hanging a show is still a new thing to me, but I am always learning.

G: I think we both have the same philosophy that we would like to learn something new everyday.
C: Exactly. This week, I went to a really amazing workshop to see Sergei Isupov work on a sculptural ceramic of his. He is amazing, and frankly, I did not know much about his work before attending. He works on these large ceramic heads, which are inspired by his Russian upbringing, icons, and the mythology of his country. I would recommend you to check out his work, although photographs do not do them justice.

Segie Isuupov [1] working on a large head while Christopher [2] (small head) watches. 2 finished pieces from his Mesa Arts Center show: [3] “Renaissance” (left) and, “A History of Lovers” (right).

Work like his encourage me to continue on with painting, be brave, and push on with new ideas. Hearing him speak about his hard work, and bumpy beginnings was a great inspirational moment before my exhibit. So, I keep on working and will see where it all heads.

Design Brothers this week:
west’merica opens on April 17th from 7-9pm with a reception, and continues through May 9th at the Eye Lounge ( in downtown Phoenix. The Eye Lounge is located at 419 East Roosevelt Street in the heart of Roosevelt Row.

Christopher got a mention on Ozolife last month, but just found it on the web.

Our Favorite Things

April 3, 2009

Eight Jagmins? Ah… springtime, on our grandparent’s swing! That was the life, although we rarely got to enjoy it alone. Jeff [1], looking away, with Cindy [2], Janine [3], hiding, Christopher [4], Kelly [5], enjoying herself, Greg [6],
always dapper, our cousin, Brian [7], and Beth [8], all in red.

Simpler Days!

Writing this week, Christopher and Greg were reminiscing about those simpler days… when flying kites or taking a blanket to a park to have a picnic, without packing a minivan full of toys, video games, grills and chairs were the norm.

We remember as kids that as the weather got nicer each spring (just before those nice winds turned to tornados, our father would buy all of us some cheap kites. It was like a second Christmas for us!

After constructing the balsa and plastic kites, we’d find some old rags to rip up, so we could make kite tails. We would then venture out as a family to a large field a couple of blocks away, and in all earnestness try to get lift to our kites. We’d run and run to get those kites up. With seven Jagmin children running around with string and kite in hand, our father and mother tried to make sure no two strings crossed paths, and help us to get those kites higher.

Invariably a couple of the kites would crash and break, tails would fall off, get caught in a tree, or strings became tangled; but when one or two of the kites would go soaring, the others would just stare up to the sky. The rest of the competitive, and jealous Jagmins would not let this lie. We’d try and try, with help from mom and dad, to get everyone’s kite up in the air, even for a few moments.

After spending the day on those chilly windy days we would come exhausted. We would then sit around the kitchen table repairing our kites, or making new ones with the help of our parents for the next outing. Does anyone still fly kites? Not the kind that you purchase for $75.00, but those inexpensive paper ones that we had as children?

Man, we sound like a couple of old men sitting on a rocker talking and reminiscing about days gone by. We really show our age in this blog! Next thing you know, we will be yelling at kids to get off of the lawn!

We do, however, believe that there is something to be said for simpler times, and find that we are not alone in this thought. People are looking for inexpensive things to do for fun, specially now in this economic climate. And, the newness of spring always awakens in us the idea of simple. The old adage of K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple Stupid) always makes for the most memorable occasions.


Always ready? With bug spray and tin foil handy, our mom was ready for anything. This is a rare photo of her alone. We must have been raising chaos in the woods.

Our Favorite List
With all do respect to Oprah, not all of our favorite things have to cost a lot of money. These simple things can bring about many new memories and traditions that a computer or plasma T.V. cannot. We thought we would mention some of the things that we love… for free, or minimal cost.

Fresh flowers
Back when we were children, our father used to buy our mother flowers every single Saturday morning at the local Farmers Market. No matter what time of year, there would be flowers. In the summer it was an endless array of gladiolas that were sitting in a vase on the dining room table. I still go the local grocery store every week and purchase a dozen or two of whatever flowers are in season, or purchase some potted tulips or daffodils that can be repotted outside when they are in their last days. Not only do flowers make the room look fresh and cheery, it also puts me in a better mood when ever I see them. If you can’t (or don’t want) to purchase flowers on a weekly basis, buy a bag of jellybeans, or peppermints and leave them in a bowl in a well traveled spot. Guests come over all the time and search for the candy bowl if it is not out. They make everyone feel a bit more welcome when coming over to visit. —Greg

Spontaneous Picnics
I’ve always kept a blanket in the car. It became a habit when I lived in New England. It always came in handy if I found myself near a beach. I could spread it out and have a sandwich by myself or with a friend. Living in Arizona, I still keep it in the back of the Jeep. It comes in handy for a spontaneous picnic, or to take on a hike. The ground can be hard here, so it is nice to take a comfortable old blanket in case you find a tree to sit under. Picnics can make those leftovers, or a McDonalds burger seem a special event. A night time picnic with some binoculars can be astronomical! —Christopher


Fried Chicken —one of our favorites On a bed of grapefruit leaves, Christopher makes a simple dinner party. For a springtime lunch, he used his Barbara plates (named after our mother) for an easy, casual setting. The desert marigolds, and leaves came from his yard for an inexpensive and personal touch.

Sunday Brunches
Breakfast is always a treat on the weekend. And, since it is cheaper and different than a dinner, I would invite a couple of people over brunch, make some waffles, bacon, coffee, fresh orange juice, and sausage. Or would whip up a waffle bar with whipped cream, fresh fruit, warm syrup and Nutella, and a little vanilla ice cream to make it a little decadent. I didn’t get crazy with the portions. I honestly haven’t done it in awhile, so I need to do it again really soon.

One of the fun things I would do; invite just a few people, but those who did not know each other. It was always interesting, fun, and surprising. Brunch is always more casual and much less expensive than dinner. Take a little walk together with a destination in mind; to a flea market, or park afterwards, if you want to make the afternoon more interesting. —Christopher


Breakfast, anytime Greg made some eggs, and bacon for a casual lunch for some friends. He used napkins that he made with his new logo, and also used Christopher’s Barbara plates, and mugs. Don’t forget candy and jelly beans for dessert!

Game Night
Get out that old Monopoly Game, Clue, Risk, or wii and invite your friends. A couple times a year we throw a wii bowling party, complete with hot dogs, Pabst Blue Ribbon and pretzels. There is nothing like recreating that bowling alley feeling in the comfort of your home. Everyone always leaves smiling, with a sore bowling arm from the game. —Greg

Drive-in Movies
As kids, we would love the drive-in. Our mother would pop popcorn, make some sandwiches, and we would go to Dog and Suds for a carton of root beer. Those evenings were so memorable. Why can’t we still do this as adults? Bring a bottle of wine, bring some cheese and bread, bring those lawn chairs, and pack up your friends. You can even wear your pajamas… no one cares! I guarantee a night to remember. —Christopher

Get outside
Grab your favorite pair of running shoes, or your bike, a friend, some water, and just go. Explore your city. Go somewhere you have never been and check out the local sites. You will be surprised at some of the discoveries; a new little restaurant, a bakery or a rarely used park. I am still amazed of how much I still don’t know about my hometown, Chicago. On a bike, or on foot, you are bound to discover something new that you probably have passed a million times before. I cannot begin to tell you how many great finds I have made. I repeatedly go back to these new private paradises. —Greg

What are your favorite things?
Can you simplify things in your life that overwhelm you? Do it for less money? Your family and friends will appreciate the effort that you take in doing something that is more relaxed, and easier on the wallet. It might even inspire other people to think in creative ways as well, and the competition to impress will soon be over. Tell us about the simple things that love. Relax, enjoy and keep it simple.

Design Brothers this week
Christopher just shipped his tableware to two new stores: Red Shoes in Ann Arbor Michigan (Go Wolverines!), and the gift store at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Don’t forget to check out the Shepard Fairy Show while there (he is the guy behind the Obama art that you see everywhere).


Greg & Christopher