hobbit houses: taking design tips from bilbo baggins

One of the many movies on our holiday watch list is Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. We confess to being complete LOR junkies, and read the Tolkein novel until it was dogeared in our youths. Our dreams have been fueled by these images that we spotted over at Houzz, featuring Hobbit-like houses that bring the charm of the Shire to modern life. Architect Simon Dale constructed this home not as a tribute to Bilbo but more to enjoy a low impact way of life. A plastic sheet waterproofs the roof’s insulating layer of straw bales. Click through to Houzz to see more images of Hobbit-like houses.

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a gorgeous new way to filter your water: soma via kickstarter

Water filters are one of those every day objects that desperately need to be redesigned. They take up too much room in our fridge, the filters fall out or leave black charcoal flakes in our glasses when we pour them, and worst of all, they are unattractive plastic pitchers. That’s why we are happy to be endorsing Soma’s water filter via Kickstarter. With a sleek, glass carafe and an equally sleek compostable filter, it creates clean, pure water that is filtered naturally with three layers of materials: malaysian coconut shells, a food-based PLA composite and a vegan silk from India. Soma claims that the filter removes heavy metals, chlorine and other contaminants. Visit Kickstarter to see a video about how the Soma filter was created and the team behind it. Make a pledge of $50 and you’ll receive a glass carafe and a 6-month filter subscription.

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ready for anything: trapdoor kitchen winecellars

If there’s one thing we’ve learned this past week, it’s that you can never be too prepared. Post-Sandy, we are busy stocking up our pantry with water, canned goods, boxed milk, and of course, a stash of our favorite wines. This post over at The Kitchn has us thinking about storage in a whole new way. It’s about a company called Spiral Cellars, that constructs hidden storage space for your favorite vinos. A trap door in your kitchen leads to a spiral staircase that can store about 1000 bottles of wine. Though we are not such wine aficionados that we’d ever need this much space, we can see the advantage of having a secret spot to hide your cherished goods. Of course this set up will cost ya some bucks: Like $30,000. Perhaps a bunker would be more practical. Or a teardrop trailer so you can take it with you when the storm hits!

Want to see more? Visit thekitchn.com for the full post.

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post off: are you ready for a weather disaster in your house?

Even though we heard about Sandy’s approach days before she arrived, we were still surprised by the wallop she punched in our community and neighboring areas. Luckily, our house was unharmed, but others, like the ones around the corner in the photo above, were not so fortunate. We thought we were ready. We had a big box of tea lights, plenty of water and a pile of firewood. By day four without electricity and rapidly dipping temperatures, we realized weren’t prepared to last more than a few days without power. Now we’re investigating generators and putting together a must-get list of survival supplies. Topping that list: portable gas cans. Who knew that gas stations couldn’t run without electricity? Having a generator is pretty useless if there is not fuel around to charge it. Rather than tough it out in our cold house, we fled to Ohio to visit family. We should be able to return soon, now that things getting back to normal. Hopefully before the next storm we’ll be ready!

What have you done in your home to get ready for the worst? Do you have a stash of supplies in the basement? A bug-out bag?

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my new paranoia: fear of falling trees

This is a repost from last year. Stay safe if you’re in a Sandy zone!

I’m always remarking how much safer I felt living in the city rather than the ‘burbs. On dark and stormy nights, I miss being in close proximity of other apartment dwellers and having only one point of entry into our home. I also miss sleeping in a 12-story brick building that I know can’t be toppled by a falling tree. This weekend we were figuratively blown away by an extremely rare October snow storm. It was cold, wet and dangerous: The still-green leaves clung to tree branches, catching the damp heavy clumps as they fell from the sky, adding tons of weight to branches. Isadora and I sat inside, watching the spectacle out of the windows. POP! Down a limb would come crashing, just missing our neighbor’s car. Luckily no serious damage was done, but now I can’t help but look at the massive oak tree in our front yard with trepidation. It seems criminal to chop down a tree that’s been around hundreds of years. How do you know when it’s time to say good-bye tree, hello chain saw? This slide show, How Safe Are Your Trees at iVillage, offers some handy assessment ideas. Be on the lookout for warning signs like dead branches, splits in the trunk or even mushrooms growing out of the roots. — Angela M.

Have you ever had property damage caused by falling limbs or trees? Share your horror stories here!

Image from iVillage/Getty

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