Friday, October 09, 2009

UPDATED: A Fireplace Journey: The Newest Coolest Thing!

(UPDATED) View missing pictures here...Picasa isn't loading!
Sometimes it takes a lot of tries to get something just right.
Take our fireplace for instance...
Above is how it looked when we purchased the house.
It looked OK, but the glass doors made it almost impossible to reach the gas valve inside the doors. And I had a lot of work to do to get rid of all those hearth stains.

Getting the door off was a good thing.
But...I didn't like the fake logs that came with the house. You can see them in the first picture; they looked like old dry bones to me.
So over the summer when we weren't using the fireplace I put real logs in the firebox, which looked better to me.
I figured I'd go shopping for new fake logs come autumn, when stores would likely carry a good selection again.

Surprise, surprise.

The usual "big box" stores didn't carry replacement logs...they only carried entire "kits"...logs plus the gas fittings.


So I dropped by a swanky fireplace store, where they did have artificial logs, ranging in price from $160 for a very ordinary set and up to $600 for a "Smokey the Bear's Nightmare" huge burnt log set.

While I was mulling my options, a totally different fireplace arrangement caught my eye.

Glass rocks instead of artificial logs!

At first I was a bit turned off...too commercial, too "Disneyland" I thought. Too modern for my tastes.

But I kept looking again...and again...and found myself rounding up a sales guy to find out more.

Turns out glass rocks (special glass, not just broken up bottles and such...) produces 30% more heat output while using less gas.

Installing was a simple as choosing colors, cleaning out the fireplace, (and usually painting the walls inside the box black or white or some other solid color) and then pouring a layer of sand or volcanic rock, and then pouring or arranging the colored glass until the fire box is as full as desired.

In our case, we had something called a "coal carrier" that linked to our gas line, so we just had to fill it up.

I did a bit of research, as the fireplace store said they could give me samples of glass, and then they would order it for me.

I'm sooo impatient...I wanted the glass NOW!

So I did some calling around, and some research on line and discovered a glass rock company about 20 minutes from my home.

I put some elbow grease and soot cleaner to work on our firebox, touched up the coal pan's black paint, and raced out to buy glass.

Color mix #1

(Too even of texture...1/2 inch rocks. Plus not enough glass rock to fill the pan. Bernie wasn't crazy about the red "jellybean" shaped pieces and the ambers. I headed back to the glass shop.)

Color mix #2

(Better texture and height, but too pale of a mix for our lively colored living room. I might want to use the mix in springtime. I decide to make another trip to the glass shop.)

Color mix #3
(Better color mix...but still too low, and not enough texture and contrast. Time for another trip to the glass shop. They really should give me my own parking space by now...)

(Above: Color Mix #3...different view.)

Color mix try #4

(Better chunky texture, color gradation, contrast, and height. I added a bit of black and some deep teal and more red stones.)

Me on the road to buy glass for try four.

As you can tell by my blog...I just love color...and hats....and this 1950's feathered half hat is warm and fun. It deserves to be worn don't you think?

In the end, (not including the cost of gas for all those runs to the glass shop) the glass cost me about a third of what the least expensive artificial log set would have cost. Plus the living room is warmer with glass than it was with the artifical logs.

The neighbors are insisting on knowing where they can get the glass for their fireplaces.

And for the traditional moments, I still have a natural wood burning crackling fire option in the fireplace downstairs.

I love that the living room fireplace now looks like jewel box instead of an off-duty incinerator when the fire is turned off.

(And naturally we will not use the fireplace lit with little ones around. The glass is tumbled, and there is no danger of getting cut if touched, but we will plan on having a screen should it ever be needed to deter little fingers that might want to try to pick glass up for a taste.)

Here are links to companies that provide the fireplace glass:

The first is the company here in SLC that I used: (slow loading but amazing pictures!!!)

I could spend hours looking at fireplaces with glass! Love this corner fire place and "diamonds" glittering away. The third link has reflective glass...with a mirror like substance so the glass twinkles even when the flames are not lit.

How about this traditional fireplace?

Isn't this a great option?

Warmer too...much warmer, and the heat continues even when the fire is turned off. I am totally hooked on my fireplace now. Just in time for fall...and in the spring I may just select another collection of colored glass to suit the season!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Something to think about, something to talk about.

Occasionally I find an article or writing that makes me ponder for a bit, and wish I had several nearby women friends who enjoyed thinking deeply and discussing such things for the joy of mental and spiritual exercise.

Following a brief email comment about modern dress, I accidently came across a series of articles about the meaning of modesty as the word is used in the Bible. Discussions of Leah and Diana, Eve and King's daughters soon popped up, and then I found this interesting article that I copies below.

Don't worry about "legalism" and "being free from the law."
Instead look at the writer's goals.
What are your thoughts about her thoughts?

I'm just curious. As a woman, what do you think?

(Article from here. G-d is the Jewish spelling for God...whose name is so precious and holy that the Jewish people will not write it out fully, lest it possibly be defaced by accident or on purpose.)

My Beloved Mechitzah

By Joelle Keene

I didn't know these lovebirds, but there they were, unmistakably just that, standing at Sabbath morning services amid a sea of men and women with his arm around her waist, she leaning into his shoulder and the two of them swaying gently back and forth to the sound of the prayers.

How nice, I thought, that they're learning Torah together. Where it will take them no one can say, but they're together on a great and splendid journey.

Since then my own journey, begun in part in that same room, has led me to a place where I could not possibly stand in prayer with my husband's arm around my waist. Praying might just be the most important thing we humans do.

It's hard enough to pray when you're alone setting the stage for all of the rest of our behavior, but it is not the easiest. For most of us it takes tremendous concentration, a great erasing of everything outside and at the same time a bringing of everything we are into one small moment framed by a particular piece of ancient text.

The problem is that love is so powerful – especially love for a spouse, but even premonitions of love like crush and curiosity – that in any given moment, prayer cannot compete.

Perhaps that's why Jewish tradition invented something called the mechitzah, surely the most widely maligned – I would say misunderstood – of any institution in Judaism today. A mechitzah, literally "separation", is a screen or other barrier in a traditional synagogue that separates women from men during worship; in this separation, some say, the women are demeaned.

The religious idea is that men should not be able to see women while they're praying, for if they do, their prayer will not be heard. To me, that's not demeaning; it's a statement of obvious fact. It's hard enough to pray when you're alone.

Try this exercise: Imagine that you need to speak with G-d. Imagine that you need something very, very badly, and that G-d really is all – powerful and the only One Who can grant it to you. Or imagine that you've done something terribly wrong and need some great forgiveness, or that your first child has just been born and you want to offer thanks. Close your eyes. Find the words. Now try, really try, to send them up to heaven.

Could you do this while cuddling with your spouse? Could you do it while ogling the latest beauty to join the synagogue, or that guy you see each Saturday who's so cute it makes you laugh? Maybe you could – everyone's different – but I strive mightily just to sense G-d's listening when I pray.

For many of us, the mechitzah opens a door in... Sometimes I picture great tree-limbs, an overarching Father seeing every word and deed, or see myself as human clay addressing Him who formed it. Or I conjure up an awesome, holy Throne bathed in rays of light, considering with mercy my so tiny, distant plea. Yet with all these tools and more, still it's hard. We need all the help we can get.

And so we have a curtain – to center us perhaps, to make a place that forms a space where we can pray. There are as many kinds of mechitzahs as there are synagogues – I've seen sleek wood carved in modern shapes, and balconies where height is the mechitza, and gathered lace on curtain rods that roll.

But all mechitzahs hold us back from one another and group our prayers by gender rising heavenward. Perhaps this helps G-d hear us, too; perhaps we sound clearer, are more ourselves, unmediated by our opposites. Judaism loves categories and celebrates them every way – night and day, milk and meat, Sabbath versus holidays and ordinary days – and gender's no exception.

The men's section is front and center because men have more ritual commandments in the synagogue, while women are responsible for bringing Torah into the home. Synagogue becomes one place where we can be with our own gender, something not without a pleasure all its own.

So you can say the mechitzah exists to keep women out, that the genders are identical and all else is cultural conceit. For many of us, though, the mechitzah opens a door in, perhaps into a more concentrated experience of who we are and certainly into the presence of G-d where holiness and much direction lie. In prayer, we reach outside our earthly yearnings and search for something different, something that ennobles us, sets our sights high and improves us from the inside out.

In love, we find an outlet for those improvements, for our goodness, kindness, generosity. Love is arguably our most G-d-like activity, and also our greatest earthly reward; in its physical expression, it is said to bring G-d's presence to rest on us directly. Each paves the way for the other; I'm a better wife for praying, and drawn closer to G-d through the love my marriage brings. Each creates a chasm we can cross.

And so I wonder again about those Sabbath lovebirds, trying to make their yearnings heard above the din of daily life, studying Torah and singing psalms, arms linked, perhaps journeying down paths deep into wisdom.

There's no one way to pray, and none of us can say for sure whose prayers are heard. But perhaps their love has grown so much that they can't sit together in services anymore, or their love for G-d has grown in such a way that they don't want to. Maybe it would take more than a curtain to keep them apart – and perhaps just a curtain to link them.