Category: Debra R. Messick

How smart is your home?

Science fiction seers have long prophesized a golden age of automated home nirvana. Those who grew up watching “The Jetsons” cartoons, believed it was bound to happen, but in a someday off in the distance. Alexa wasn’t around then to ask when it would begin. But Amazon Echo’s iconic voice-activated assistant, whose “powers” derive from Cloud computing technology, seems to be everywhere today, announcing the future’s arrival. Thanks to the “magic” of WiFi and the Internet of Things, that long-promised era isn’t merely on our proverbial doorsteps, it has literally crossed the threshold into our living spaces. Now, at the touch of an app or voice command, we’re able to customize and control our residential environment with almost cinematic virtuosity, even remotely view and speak with whoever’s at our door, from anywhere around the house, or around the country. For tech savvy savants with the financial resources, there’s almost no limit to devising the digitally enhanced home of their dreams. But even for those with far less know-how and fewer dollars to invest, a world of possibilities awaits. It can actually be as simple as screwing in a smart lightbulb or plugging in a smart WiFi plug to any outlet, which can render regular devices Internet controllable. No matter the level of smart home brilliance you aspire to, the foundation remains the same: good WiFi coverage, coupled with a...

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Refurbished sleighs, restored bells help ring in the season

It’s been more than a century since the heyday of elegant sleighs dashing through the snow, their bell bedecked equines jingling all the way. Yet in pictures and music and memories, they remain everlasting seasonal icons. Some of these bygone treasures, such as Albany and Portland Cutters, Hudson Vis-à-vis, and brass bells enhanced with distinctive maker’s marks, though long neglected, are being rediscovered in barns, attics and sheds. Not dissuaded by rusted bolts, rotten wood, peeling paint, grunge, and grime, a coterie of dedicated self-educated artisans has taken up the challenge of returning these diamonds in the rough to their former glory. Seventy-five sleighs and counting As a boy growing up in Southeast Missouri, there wasn’t usually much in the way of snow, 77-year-old Jack Bollinger, owner of Kringle Sleigh Company in Imperial, Mo., recalled. But one winter, when the white stuff came down in droves, his minister created an indelible impression by arriving at church that Sunday in a sleigh. A successful management professional 28 years ago, Bollinger sustained a brain stroke, leaving him wheelchair-bound with time and energy to spare. Somehow, the memory of that childhood event resurfaced, inspiring him to try his hand at restoring a sleigh like the one he remembered. The learning curve was high, but the satisfaction was great, and Bollinger searched auctions and online for more specimens to revive, eventually growing the...

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Ticked off!

It was one of those warm June mornings made for spending time in the garden, and I had been looking forward to it. After weeding and watering my veggie patch, I washed up before heading to work, happy for a bit of time bathed by warm sun and fresh air. Later that night, more than ready to call it a busy day, I stopped to inspect what looked like a pimple on my inner thigh. Dismay became alarm as I realized the spot was, in fact, an embedded tick. My dog-tired brain scrambled to remember what I was supposed to do now, somehow managing to initiate a frantic but fruitless search for tweezers. Desperate, I decided to try a small nail cuticle scissors — the flattened ends of the slim shears did the job, slipping the tick from its feeding spot. Momentarily relieved, I prodded a Google search to learn what my next course of action should be. Good old soap and warm water plus rubbing alcohol applied to the bite site right away were all that was required, but just to be safe, I repeated the application several times. I felt comforted seeing that the red itchy bite site got no bigger and developed no bulls eye rash over the next few days. My lingering apprehension lifted, but as it turned out, not for long. The next time...

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A backyard to sink your teeth into

He holds a degree in landscape design and grew up on a farm. But Justin Glessner’s personal terrain management plan isn’t your garden variety growing scheme. This summer marks his second season transitioning the yard surrounding the 1930s era home in Vienna, Md., where he and his wife moved a year and a half ago into an “edible” landscape — a smorgasbord of greenery as appetizing as it is decorative — garnished with an abundant supply of salvaged and repurposed natural materials. Where once there was neatly manicured lawn, a bountiful crop of nitrogen producing white flowering clover was sown to best prep the groundwork for a future harvest of blackberries and blueberries. Tucked tastefully behind a corner border of tulips taken from his grandmother’s bountiful flower garden lies a tempting trove of onions, tomato and pepper plus herb plants which will create the couple’s beloved spaghetti sauce. Savory mint varietals including chocolate, strawberry, and spearmint will flavor their favorite teas. Nearby, nestled beneath a Sugar Maple tree’s shade branches, lettuce heads will emerge to provide verdant eye candy before becoming salad. The soil, meanwhile, serves up an ecofriendly habitat for worms, helping enrich the growing medium and increase the catch on future fishing trips. Festooned alongside the house exterior is a border composed of climbing spinach plants, while raised beds buttressing his screened porch house additional herbs and...

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Celebrating 40 years of flowers, flavors, fellowship

For some the rites of spring begin with the iconic call to “Play Ball!” on a field of dreams. For others the season is unofficially announced by returning robins singing in the yard. In Cambridge, Md., warmer weather’s arrival has been distinctly heralded by the start of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church’s annual Flower Fair, held the first week of May for the past 40 years. School teacher Roseanna Twilley and several ladies assisting in the church kitchen initially proposed holding a flower fair to help pay for the congregation’s Fellowship Hall building. The idea took root and flourished, becoming much more than a church event and blossoming into a community fixture. For a time, the fair featured a princess being crowned and ceremonially marching down the center aisle; initially the festivities took place in the open air. In recent years, tents became a familiar and welcome feature. Whether cool, hot or rainy, people always come out, said long time St. Paul’s congregant and Cambridge City Council President Robby Hanson, who stepped up to help chair the enterprise a few years back after the passing of longtime leader Howard Chow. This year, as soon as calendars pronounced May’s arrival, church youngsters under congregant Larry Ziegler’s direction set up the tables and tents outside St. Paul’s Maryland Avenue location, tweaking anticipation for the sights and smells of what has become...

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Upcoming Events

  1. 74th

    February 22 - February 23
  2. Designer

    February 24 @ 1:00 pm - 4:30 pm
  3. Crawfish

    February 24 @ 1:00 pm - 6:00 pm
  4. Botanical

    February 26 @ 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm