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September 8, 2017 |

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Halesowen family on a mission to get children playing outdoors with …

A HALESOWEN couple making their own ‘mud kitchens’ have been flooded with orders from across the UK, just weeks after launching a new venture aiming to get more children playing outdoors.

Puddy Muddles Mud Kitchens is the brainchild of Becky and Dave Roberts who have been selling their own hand-crafted outdoor play stations made from reclaimed pallets.

Research shows children today spend half the time their parents did playing outside, but a growing trend for mud kitchens – which come complete with kitchen utensils and a mixing bowl for messy garden play – is helping to buck that trend.

Puddy Muddles started when Dave, who works in gym equipment sales, built a mud kitchen for their daughter from spare pallets in their Halesowen garden.

After catching the eye of friends and family on social media, the couple started taking commissions – and have since been inundated with orders from customers as far afield as Liverpool.

Now Dave and Becky, who recently left a long career of 18 years working in hospitality, catering and events management to focus on their new family venture, are hoping to get more children playing outside as the business grows.

Becky said: “There’s been a real growth in mud kitchens in recent years, not just in the garden but in nurseries and schools too.

“We all know there are benefits to getting our children off the sofa, away from the TV screen and playing outside, but it seems not enough of us are willing to brave the dirt and mud like we used to.

“We want people to embrace the outdoors and play, whatever the weather – and our Puddy Muddles Mud Kitchens let them do just that.

“They’re safe, imaginative, natural and long lasting – and there are even health benefits too, as research suggests playing outside helps build stronger immune systems and can reduce obesity.”

Dave and Becky make the mud kitchens using skills learnt from previous house renovations, before sanding them down to make sure they are safe for children. They can even be personalised with a child’s name and painted in any colour.

Becky added: “It’s a real team effort to build them. I source, strip and sand down the wood, Dave builds the units, I give them a final sand, add the accessories and engrave the front with a personalised message or name. Even our three year old daughter has been known to help out.

“It’s been really nice to all get involved and it’s great to be able to launch something positive as a family.

“Our ultimate goal is to get more children playing outside, because there’s no better way to spend a childhood.”

For more information about the products search ‘Puddy Muddles Mud Kitchens’ on Facebook.

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Kitchen Design Trend Mixes Style with Functionality

Home design is a lot like pizza – there’s more than one style, and you can mix them up to match the functionality you crave and the style you love. Historically, the kitchen has been the focal point of a home, but style often took a back seat to function.

That’s no longer true, at least in the United States. About two decades ago, kitchens merged with the family room to create an open-concept plan that puts design style and function on display in the best possible way. It’s redefined the way Americans live, and entertain at home.

Home Design Inspiration: Apps such as Houzz and Pinterest have made home design ideas, and inspiration more attainable for the public, said Beth Finnerty, who runs the cabinet department for Tri-County Building Supply, which owns and operates Island Bath and Kitchen in Surf City. But the first game changer in home design, especially in rethinking the kitchen space, was the advent of HGTV and other television home remodeling shows, she said.

Customers today, versus about 15 years ago, come armed with the knowledge of what they like, she said. They may not know the style name, but they know what fits their lifestyle and where they’ve seen it, Finnerty added.

Trend Factors: A lot goes into a home design trend besides color and texture. One of the biggest factors is location; like clothing trends, some kitchen design wants or needs are regional, and others national. It all depends on how the home is going to be used, according to Finnerty.

In a resort community, like Long Beach Island, kitchen design differs among year-round homeowners, seasonal homeowners and income-property homeowners, she said.

“The Island has a mix of everything,” Finnerty said, noting that people who live on the Island or in the area year ’round tend to gravitate toward more color in their kitchen design, whereas seasonal homeowners or income-property owners generally stick with an all-white kitchen, she said.

“Every kitchen I’ve seen has been white on white,” said Stephanie Gross, who manages Island Bath and Kitchen. Tri-County Building Supply purchased the kitchen and bath division of Tuckerton Lumber in the spring, expanding its presence north from its home base in Pleasantville. “That’s the Island.”

People with seasonal homes at the shore tend toward beach-themed or shabby chic design, Finnerty said.

“Money is another factor,” she said, noting so is the size of the kitchen, and whether it’s an open-concept plan with the family room, commonly known as a great room.

Remodeling vs. Renovation: In the almost five years since Superstorm Sandy made landfall and carved a path of destruction, forcing the rebuilding and/or the lifting of many homes in the area, kitchen design has shifted from renovations to remodeling.

There is a difference, Finnerty said. To renovate a space is to restore it to good condition, she explained. A coat of paint can be part of a renovation. A remodeling project, on the other hand, changes the use and focus of the space.

In either situation, Finnerty said, “They all want the kitchen to be the focal point, and they want a sitting area around the island.”

The first thing to go in a remodel is often the office cut-away that was so popular in kitchens in the 1990s and early part of the 21st century, she said. With more people working from home, designated home office spaces are replacing a nook in the kitchen.

But that space isn’t being eliminated, she noted. Instead, it’s being delegated for entertainment purposes, Finnerty said.

Entertainment Trends: Among some of the biggest trends in kitchen design today are beverage stations, she said. It can be a wet bar, or a space specifically designated for wine or bar. Or it’s a coffee/beverage station, she said. And while most kitchen trends last a maximum of five years, she doesn’t see this trend going away anytime soon.

“It’s all about entertainment,” added Gross, noting people don’t want “traditional kitchens anymore.” And that means a kitchen doesn’t necessarily look like a kitchen.

Have you ever noticed on national cooking shows that the kitchen appliances are often designed to look like the rest of the kitchen cabinetry? Well, that’s a trend that is here to stay if that’s your taste, Finnerty said, but noting it’s not just cabinets or layout that make kitchen design functional and easy to entertain in.

Appliances are becoming a big part of the entertainment package, Finnerty said. From Keurig coffee makers in refrigerator doors to Samsung’s Family Hub tablet, kitchen design may have finally reached The Jetsons-era promised to kids in the early 1960s.

Functional Trends: If you’re old enough to remember when a microwave overtook the kitchen counter, you’ll remember how cool it was when kitchen design first replaced a traditional oven vent with a microwave. That trend, according to Finnerty, is over. The new trend is placing the microwave in the island, she explained. It improves the aesthetic of the kitchen and makes the space more functional, Finnerty added.

Another trend going toward the wayside: full-sized pantry closets, she said. Increasingly, people are opting for pantry cabinetry built around the refrigerator in what has almost always been wasted space. The cabinets include a combination of drawers, shallow or deep, and can accommodate food as well as pots and pans, Finnerty said.

Another in-cabinet trend that’s sticking around is trash drawers, which are getting bigger when space allows for it, she said. Slim, pull-out spice cabinets are also becoming popular in kitchen design. These changes, she said, increase the functionality of the kitchen space and put convenience at the forefront, which is what customers are demanding.

The size of the kitchen has a lot to do with the design, and functionality of it, she said. A small kitchen no longer means you must sacrifice style, Finnerty said. If you have low ceilings, anything under 10 feet, bringing your cabinetry to the ceiling is a great way to add storage space, opening other areas for functional design.

Going all the way to the ceiling is a little more difficult when it’s in a vaulted space, however, she said. In those instances, many customers opt for an extra-large island with added storage space.

Personal Preference: Perhaps the biggest consideration in kitchen design is personal preference. It’s all about how the space fits into your everyday life, and what your wants/needs are when you entertain, Finnerty said.

It used to be everyone wanted hardwood floors in the kitchen, but wood-like tiles are a hot, new trend in kitchen design, she said. Granite counter tops are still popular, but quartz is quickly becoming the number one. Subway tiles are still trendy as a back-splash, she said of a revived look that began a few years ago, although the tiles have been around since 1904, when they were first used to build New York’s subway system. In all three instances, it’s about easy care.

With so many choices out there, she said, customers are making their kitchens their own in style and functionality. Personal preference used to be almost solely about lighting and accessories, but that’s no longer true. People are opting for things that make their everyday lives easier to balance, and that includes having two dishwashers in some cases, or a professional-grade refrigerator and freezer. Or maybe a pizza oven.

Gina G. Scala

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Tyrus Wong, the Chinese-American Artist of Disney’s “Bambi” Finally Gets Recognition He Deserves

“Bambi” (visual development), 1942. Watercolor on paper.

Nearly one year after he died at the age of 106, Chinese-American artist Tyrus Wong is finally gaining wide recognition for his work at Disney and Warner Brothers. Wong was responsible for much of the imagery we associate with iconic films like Bambi, though due to prejudices against Chinese immigrants, his contributions were diminished for many years.

Pamela Tom’s documentary Tyrus explores Wong’s life and career in the context of his times. As Wong’s life unfolds, from immigrating to the United States at a young age to his role as an illustrator during Disney’s Golden Age, Tom explores how Wong both shattered racist views, but was still imprisoned by limitations during his career.

Wong’s storied history ranges from being separated from his mother and sister while entering the United States as a 9-year-old boy in 1919, due to the Chinese Exclusion Act to gaining recognition in junior high for his artistic talent. After attending Otis Art Institute on scholarship, Wong was known for his lush watercolors, which were influenced by Chinese art.

In fact, the muted tones of his landscapes, which would become the inspiration for Bambi, were directly influenced by paintings and ceramics from the Song dynasty. Though it’s clear Wong’s work heavily inspired the film, upon its release he was only credited as a background artist. It was only in 2001, when he was named a “Disney Legend” that he received the recognition he felt he deserved as the true lead artist.

Tyrus Wong and Pamela Tom. (Photo: Ildiko Lazslo)

Why did it take until he was in his 90s to receive the accolades he deserved? Tom strongly believes that racism was a factor. When Wong began working at Disney in the 1930s, the Chinese Exclusion Act was still in effect. Part of the legislation prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers, and it was the first time in history the United States had banned immigrants based on ethnicity.

“In the 20s and 30s in Chinese-American communities, what could you hope to achieve?” the documentary Tyrus asks. “You could become a laundromat, a houseboy or work in a restaurant. To be an artist was not a remote possibility.”

Yet, Wong persevered. Aside from his work on Bambi, Wong was responsible for imagery in live action films like Rebel Without a Cause and Sands of Iwo Jima. He also designed Hallmark Christmas cards and hand-painted dinnerware. He showed in galleries and museums alongside great masters like Matisse and Picasso, proving that with his art, he was able to break barriers.

“Tyrus Wong’s story is a prime example of one of the many gaping holes in our society’s narrative on art, cinema, and Western history,” says Tom. “By telling his story, I wanted to shine light on one of America’s unsung heroes, and raise awareness of the vital contributions he’s made to American culture.”

Tyrus debuts on PBS September 8, 2017, as part of their American Masters series.

Tyrus Wong helped shape the imagery of Disney’s Bambi, among his other art contributions, but faced hardship as a Chinese-American artist working in the 1920s and 1930s.

“Bambi” (visual development), 1942. Watercolor on paper.

“Bambi” (visual development), 1942. Watercolor on paper

Pre-production illustration, possibly from the Warner Bros. film “Gypsy”

Photo: Irene Poon Andersen

Wong faced racism when immigrating to the United States from China as a 9-year-old boy in 1919, and was detained for a month before being allowed to enter.

Pamela Tom’s documentary Tyrus explores his important contributions to American culture.

“Self Portrait” (late 1920s)

“Reclining Nude” c. 1936. Oil on canvas

“By telling his story, I wanted to shine light on one of America’s unsung heroes, and raise awareness of the vital contributions he’s made.”

Photo: Irene Poon Andersen

h/t: [Huffington Post]

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Halesowen family on a mission to get children playing outdoors with Puddy Muddles Mud Kitchens

A HALESOWEN couple making their own ‘mud kitchens’ have been flooded with orders from across the UK, just weeks after launching a new venture aiming to get more children playing outdoors.

Puddy Muddles Mud Kitchens is the brainchild of Becky and Dave Roberts who have been selling their own hand-crafted outdoor play stations made from reclaimed pallets.

Research shows children today spend half the time their parents did playing outside, but a growing trend for mud kitchens – which come complete with kitchen utensils and a mixing bowl for messy garden play – is helping to buck that trend.

Puddy Muddles started when Dave, who works in gym equipment sales, built a mud kitchen for their daughter from spare pallets in their Halesowen garden.

After catching the eye of friends and family on social media, the couple started taking commissions – and have since been inundated with orders from customers as far afield as Liverpool.

Now Dave and Becky, who recently left a long career of 18 years working in hospitality, catering and events management to focus on their new family venture, are hoping to get more children playing outside as the business grows.

Becky said: “There’s been a real growth in mud kitchens in recent years, not just in the garden but in nurseries and schools too.

“We all know there are benefits to getting our children off the sofa, away from the TV screen and playing outside, but it seems not enough of us are willing to brave the dirt and mud like we used to.

“We want people to embrace the outdoors and play, whatever the weather – and our Puddy Muddles Mud Kitchens let them do just that.

“They’re safe, imaginative, natural and long lasting – and there are even health benefits too, as research suggests playing outside helps build stronger immune systems and can reduce obesity.”

Dave and Becky make the mud kitchens using skills learnt from previous house renovations, before sanding them down to make sure they are safe for children. They can even be personalised with a child’s name and painted in any colour.

Becky added: “It’s a real team effort to build them. I source, strip and sand down the wood, Dave builds the units, I give them a final sand, add the accessories and engrave the front with a personalised message or name. Even our three year old daughter has been known to help out.

“It’s been really nice to all get involved and it’s great to be able to launch something positive as a family.

“Our ultimate goal is to get more children playing outside, because there’s no better way to spend a childhood.”

For more information about the products search ‘Puddy Muddles Mud Kitchens’ on Facebook.

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Inspired in South Carolina, Don and Harriet Ayres make Baton Rouge dream home a reality

When Don and Harriet Ayres purchased a lot in Lasalle Parc, a little lagniappe was included.

Along with the property in the one-street neighborhood came the preliminary house plans the original owners had developed. 

And, luckily, the couple liked what they saw.

“I fell in love with houses we saw in South Carolina that you enter through a courtyard,” said Harriet Ayres. “The plans we bought had an entrance through a courtyard.”

The Ayreses contacted builder Logan Killen, who already had done one house for them. He modified the plans to provide separation between the living room and kitchen and to create a larger dining room.

But it’s the courtyard with its lap pool, bricked beds and two seating areas that greets guests who come to the front door.

The couple treats the space as another room, especially when they entertain. Don Ayres has two large barbecue grills, which are frequently in use.

“When the weather is comfortable, we sit out there and watch ballgames,” Harriet Ayres said. 

Can’t see the video below? Click here.

The large seating area has a dining table made by Don Ayres, who enjoys woodworking. The copper tabletop is affixed with copper nails.

“We saw a picture of the table in Southern Living, and Don made it,” Harriet Ayres said. 

French doors from the courtyard open to the living and dining rooms, which are painted a deep khaki green with cream trim. The kitchen, which is open to the dining room through a large arch, has cream-colored cabinets, a tone of the khaki green walls and new stainless steel appliances. Throughout the public areas of the home are Caribbean pine floors and 12-foot ceilings.

“The ceilings make the home feel larger than it actually is,” Harriet Ayres said. 

Interior designer Gary Fell helped Harriet Ayres with colors, fabrics and accessories. When it came to comfortable seating for the living room, a compromise with the decorator was in order.

“Don said ‘I am having a recliner chair no matter what Gary says,’ ” Harriet Ayres said with a laugh. “Gary said if we have one, we have to have two for balance.”

The iron-and-glass coffee table was made by Frank Land for the breakfast room table in an earlier home. Crafted from a bank teller’s window — a perfect choice for Don Ayres, now retired from a career in banking — Land shortened the legs so it could be used in the living room.

Built-in bookcases in the living room are filled with accessories collected over time, including a number of blue and white pieces. Two sofas — one a deep navy tapestry with gold and bittersweet accents and the other a solid red — face each other to create plenty of seating.

The main entrance from the courtyard is to the dining room, which is centered with a circular table with upholstered chairs.

“This is my favorite fabric in the house,” Harriet Ayres said of the traditional print with cream background and colorful flowers. 

A narrow hall at the back of the open area leads to two bedrooms and the stairway to the second floor, which also has two bedrooms, a full bath and a sitting room. The Ayres’ daughter, Leslie, and her husband, Edward Daniel, live in St. Francisville with their three children, Edward, Clayton and Alex.

“Mr. Alex, who is 3½, stays with us a lot,” Harriet Ayres said. “We have a trundle bed for him in the guest bedroom downstairs.”

Their son, Chad, and his wife, Ashley, and their three children, Anna Katherine, Caroline and Charles, live in Huntsville, Alabama. 

“We like having that second bedroom downstairs in case we need special help in the future,” Harriet Ayres said. “We plan to stay here until our children tell us it’s time to move to the next spot.”

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Inspired in South Carolina, Don and Harriet Ayres make Baton Rouge dream home a reality

When Don and Harriet Ayres purchased a lot in Lasalle Parc, a little lagniappe was included.

Along with the property in the one-street neighborhood came the preliminary house plans the original owners had developed. 

And, luckily, the couple liked what they saw.

“I fell in love with houses we saw in South Carolina that you enter through a courtyard,” said Harriet Ayres. “The plans we bought had an entrance through a courtyard.”

The Ayreses contacted builder Logan Killen, who already had done one house for them. He modified the plans to provide separation between the living room and kitchen and to create a larger dining room.

But it’s the courtyard with its lap pool, bricked beds and two seating areas that greets guests who come to the front door.

The couple treats the space as another room, especially when they entertain. Don Ayres has two large barbecue grills, which are frequently in use.

“When the weather is comfortable, we sit out there and watch ballgames,” Harriet Ayres said. 

Can’t see the video below? Click here.

The large seating area has a dining table made by Don Ayres, who enjoys woodworking. The copper tabletop is affixed with copper nails.

“We saw a picture of the table in Southern Living, and Don made it,” Harriet Ayres said. 

French doors from the courtyard open to the living and dining rooms, which are painted a deep khaki green with cream trim. The kitchen, which is open to the dining room through a large arch, has cream-colored cabinets, a tone of the khaki green walls and new stainless steel appliances. Throughout the public areas of the home are Caribbean pine floors and 12-foot ceilings.

“The ceilings make the home feel larger than it actually is,” Harriet Ayres said. 

Interior designer Gary Fell helped Harriet Ayres with colors, fabrics and accessories. When it came to comfortable seating for the living room, a compromise with the decorator was in order.

“Don said ‘I am having a recliner chair no matter what Gary says,’ ” Harriet Ayres said with a laugh. “Gary said if we have one, we have to have two for balance.”

The iron-and-glass coffee table was made by Frank Land for the breakfast room table in an earlier home. Crafted from a bank teller’s window — a perfect choice for Don Ayres, now retired from a career in banking — Land shortened the legs so it could be used in the living room.

Built-in bookcases in the living room are filled with accessories collected over time, including a number of blue and white pieces. Two sofas — one a deep navy tapestry with gold and bittersweet accents and the other a solid red — face each other to create plenty of seating.

The main entrance from the courtyard is to the dining room, which is centered with a circular table with upholstered chairs.

“This is my favorite fabric in the house,” Harriet Ayres said of the traditional print with cream background and colorful flowers. 

A narrow hall at the back of the open area leads to two bedrooms and the stairway to the second floor, which also has two bedrooms, a full bath and a sitting room. The Ayres’ daughter, Leslie, and her husband, Edward Daniel, live in St. Francisville with their three children, Edward, Clayton and Alex.

“Mr. Alex, who is 3½, stays with us a lot,” Harriet Ayres said. “We have a trundle bed for him in the guest bedroom downstairs.”

Their son, Chad, and his wife, Ashley, and their three children, Anna Katherine, Caroline and Charles, live in Huntsville, Alabama. 

“We like having that second bedroom downstairs in case we need special help in the future,” Harriet Ayres said. “We plan to stay here until our children tell us it’s time to move to the next spot.”

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Margie’s Money Saver: T-Fal Culinaire 16-Pc. Cookware Set at Macy’s


ST. LOUIS, Mo. _We’re cooking up a great deal to keep you busy in the kitchen. For a limited time at Macy’s online, get a T-Fal Culinaire 16-Pc. Cookware Set.

It includes pans, griddles, sauce and fry pans and accessories. The set comes in red or black and gets five star reviews on Macy’s website.

Shipping is free.

To learn more visit: Macys.com

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