Archive for ‘January, 2013’

Gary Clark Jr.’s Schizophrenic Blues

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With the release of Blak and Blu, Gary Clark Jr. is rewriting the blues guitar rule book.

Sounding like a mash-up between Jimi Hendrix meets the Black Keys with a touch of Jack White thrown in for good measure and liberally sprinkled with Stevie Ray and a host of other Texas blues legends, Austin-based guitarist/singer Gary Clark Jr. has exploded in a BIG way with his new release, Blak and Blu.

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It’s very rare that music these days can catch my jaded ear, but such was the case one evening recently as I was sitting in a bookstore when suddenly some of the freshest guitar riffing I’ve heard in a very long time came streaming out of the overhead music system. Gary Clark Jr. brings a youthful, raw, almost punk-like energy to the blues and manages to turn the genre upside-down in the process.

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A fixture by age 17 in Austin, Texas clubs such as Antone’s, Clark’s unique new voice cuts like a hot knife through butter. Notes explode off his fretboard in wide, manic, unexpected intervals and his phrasing often sounds like it’s stumbling down the stairs yet always reaches a logical conclusion, often just in the nick of time.

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After listening to Blak and Blu all the way though, it’s fair to say the Texas blues tradition will be safe in the capable hands of Mr Gary Clark Jr. for years to come.

A Life Designed

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Bike Porn #5

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Brooklyn Cruiser – Vintage inspired, built for today.

Anyone in the market for a dependable beach cruiser  bicycle that is high on retro-style, designed for ease of use and won’t break the bank should definitely give NYC-based Brooklyn Cruiser a serious look. This vintage-inspired bike line will get you there and back in style.

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Brooklyn Cruisers line-up straightforward: the men’s Driggs model comes in 52 and 59cm sizes in 3- and 7-speed options and BlackTangerineIvory colors for $579 and $749, respectively. The women’s Willow comes in BlackTangerineIvory and Columbia Blue colors with the same gearing and price options. Also included is a rear carry rack, dual-coil leather saddle and a Sturmey Archer 2-speed kick shift hub.

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We love the vintage stylingcream-colored tiresswept back handles and aged wood box for hauling groceries or school books. Ride in high style and turn heads while doing it with Brooklyn Cruiser.

A Life Designed

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Pickin’ and Grinnin’!

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Playing music for a living may not make you rich, but these guitar picks made from actual coins will have you sounding like a million bucks.

Any guitar picker who has been at it for a while knows the feeling; Inspiration strikes, you reach for your trusty guitar pick and… nothing! So you reach for a dime or quarter instead. Next time, reach for one of  these beautifully-crafted Coin Guitar Picks!

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These artisan picks are crafted from actual quarters, dollars, and pennies and make terrific conversation pieces as well as give you the unique, rich tone that only using a coin seems to provide. The best part?… While you may not have much in your tip jar, you’ll never be broke again. Rock on dudes!

A Life Designed

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KAI D.—Tools & Clothing for Artisans

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For NY-based designer Kai D. Fan, perfection is in the details.

Providing menswear and accessories designed and made in New York since 2009, KAI D. offers utilitarian style and function over flash, creating timeless pieces destined to become wardrobe favorites for years to come.

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Taking its stylistic cues from vintage workwearmilitary and early AmericanaKAI D. offers a large variety of thoughtfully-designed menswear pieces ranging from outwear to pantsaccessories to unique vintage finds.

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We love the choice of earthy colors and timeless materials, the look is vintage classic with a modern, utilitarian aesthetic. Choosing substance over flash, many of the pieces in the KAI D. lineup we could easily imagine being handed down from one generation’s style-concious wearer to the lucky next.

Kai D. (Showroom)  — 161 West 22nd St. 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10011

A Life Designed

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Secret Squirrel Cold Brew Coffee

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There’s nothing ‘secret’ about the bold flavor of this delicious brew!

Solely based on its über-cool name alone, Secret Squirrel Cold Brew Coffee easily warrants a blog post, but thankfully for the caffeine-addicted team at A Life Designed, this velvety smooth coffee brew with chocolate undertones tastes amazing too! A recent sampling of this ice-brewed wonder made us converts from the first sip.

So what exactly is cold-brew coffee? The cold brew process involves ground beans, filtered water, and a little patience. The beans are ground and then soaked  in water for 18-24 hours. Once that has been completed, the beans are then filtered out leaving only the intense and flavorful coffee concentrate. If you enjoy your iced coffee on the bold side, try a mix ratio of 1 part whole milk or ice water to 1 part Secret Squirrel concentrate and serve over ice. Your taste buds will thank you!

A Life Designed

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The Slow Carb Diet—Progress Report #4

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Living the Slow Carb lifestyle and surviving the holidays, (sort of!)

Damn you Starbucks Snowman cookie! Damn you, you sweetfrosted temptress with your red or blue scarf… taunting me, teasing me. You know I cannot resist your delicious charms… Sigh. And so it goes… The battle of following the 4 Hour Body eating plan, or any diet plan for that matter during the holidays. Yet somehow, despite the indulgences of these past few weeks, (and there were several), as the dust settles and another holiday season is firmly in the rearview mirror, I am happy to report I have managed to maintain my pre-feast weight! Here’s how I did it.

1.) Admit you’re human and move on—First of all, let’s face it; We ALL have our food weaknesses. Apparently for me, this holiday season it was the Starbucks Snowman Cookie… Who knew?!! One bite and I was a goner. Now I could have drove myself crazy trying to say no and abstaining completely from this dietary time bomb, and chances are, I may have been successful… for a while. But sooner or later, my resolve would have cracked. I find it better to admit I am going to “cheat” during the holidays or a special occasion and rather than beat myself up for it, I turn my attention to counter measures for keeping it all in balance and that means;

2.) Eat more… Burn more!—Knowing I was going to indulge, during the holiday break I tried to up the caloric spend to help offset the added food intake. Fortunately for me, living here in Phoenix, AZ, I was able to continue bikinghiking and walking despite it being December and I took full advantage of it. Even during my vacation visit to rainy, cold Washington, I made sure to start every day with a brisk walk/hike in the morning and ALWAYS began each day with a slow carb breakfast. Again, for myself, I find it’s all about balancing the good with the not so good.

3.) Keep track, but don’t freak out!—Even during periods of diet ‘relaxation’ I try to make a point of always stepping on the scale once a week, at the same time of day, just to be sure I am not drifting too far of track. Make no mistake, during the past few weeks of holiday festivities, my weight did fluctuate; Up two pounds, down one, up one, down three. It bounced around more than the stock market! My plan going in to the holiday season was to not stray more than 2+ pounds in the gain column for two consecutive weeks, if I had I would have immediately dialed the diet back in.

4.) Cheat… But not too much!—Life should be about enjoyment. There is enough ‘hard stuff’ we have to deal with on a daily basis not to at least occasionally let go and indulge. I love my red wine, I crave the occasional sweet treat. The key to staying on track for me however is to not let go so far that I fall completely off the wagon. I know myself too well. I can miss one to two days of working out and I can get right back into the groove, but 3 or more days? Danger!! Same goes for the diet. In order to ‘have my cake and eat it too’, (literally), during periods of indulgence I religiously follow the slow carb plan for a minimum of two meals during the day. That way I feel I am counter-balancing the effects of the cheat meals and for me, this approach seems to work.

Following the above ‘rules’ has allowed me to partake in the sweetness of life without completely trashing my hard-won fitness in the process. However, in order to continue to make strides towards better health, the cheat period MUST have an end date. Frankly, I am more than happy to wave goodbye to the insidious Snowman Cookie and its 390 calories and 44 grams of carbs until next year. After 6+ months of following the Slow Carb plan, my body has learned to crave the increased energy and renewed confidence eating this way has given me and no cookie can compete with that! Till our next Slow Carb update— Good luck to all of you in your quest for better health!

A Life Designed

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About the author: Along with writing for the blog A Life DesignedRandy Sloan is a designer specializing in print, web and social media and a longtime musician currently writing and recording a collection of original guitar instrumentals. He is dedicated to the pursuit of living a creative life and loves sharing this passion with the growing community and readership of this blog. You can follow A Life Designed on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

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‘ALD’ Look Of The Week

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Clark Originals—All hail the mighty desert boot!

You are looking at what are quite possibly the most comfortable shoes in the world… The Clarks Original Desert Boots. Designed in 1949 by Nathan Clark,  these incredibly soft and versatile boots can be paired up with your favorite jeans or worn-in khakis and come in a multitude of colors and finishes. With a buttery-soft fit more like slippers than shoes, we love the way these wardrobe staples only seem to get better with age. If only we could say the same!

A Life Designed

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Lizard Lounge Redux

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A Life Designed revisits Portland’s Lizard Lounge and leaves with a broad smile.

In the unscientific game of retail branding, all of the slick marketingsocial media and fancy store displays can often be for naught if the critical component of customer face-to-face interaction is lacking or worse, completely non-existent. In a blog review of Portland Oregon’s style-savvy clothing store, Lizard Lounge, we expressed mixed feelings about our shopping experiences there, in particular with regards to poor in-store customer service. We are very happy to report that after a recent return visit, any reservations we may have had about this terrific outpost of all things hip are now but a distant memory!

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Over the recent Christmas holiday a visit to Portland’s Pearl District included the requisite visit to Lizard Lounge, one of our favorite NW clothing stores. It was the first visit since our August 2012 blog post, ‘Lizard Lounge—a Pearl in the Pearl’, which created quite a stir among Lizard Lounge loyalists and purveyors of high-end, northwest casual fashion. The difference in shopping experience between our previous visits and this one was refreshing and dramatic.

Upon entering the store we were immediately greeted with a cheery hello from the smiling staff behind the counter. Now, I’ve never been one to demand that the sales staff wait on me or follow me around the store, in fact I prefer to be allowed to shop solo, but just the simple act of being acknowledged was so refreshing, it immediately put me in a good mood and set the tone for a great brand experience. Being as this was the holiday season, Lizard Lounge was bustling with customers. Yet despite this, when I asked one of the sales clerks if she could recommend a taxi service to take us to our next destination, not only did she provide the information, she also immediately looked up the number and placed the call for me… Take that Nordstrom’s!

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Kudos to Lizard Lounge Creative Director and Buyer Bob Davis and his staff for providing a great shopping experience. Lizard Lounge always did have the visual presentation down pat, now the bar has been raised on their customer interaction making Lizard Lounge a definite ‘must see’ during your next visit to the Pearl.

A Life Designed

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Men of Style—Mickey Drexler

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Meet the passionate, driving force behind the J. Crew brand… Mickey Drexler.

One part Steve Jobs and one part Ralph Lauren, the onetime legendary ‘Gap Guru’ Mickey Drexler is now working his retail branding magic at J.Crew and Madewell.

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Utilizing a hands-on approach that borders on the obsessive, J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler is as fanatical about every detail of store design, right down to the lighting, as he is about defining the look and feel of the J. Crew style. Under Drexler’s leadership, J. Crew has carved out a niche in the fickle fashion world that’s just between trendsetter and accessible.

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Mickey Drexler’s fashion credentials run deep. Getting his start in 1968 in the management training program at Bloomingdale’s, Drexler would go on to engineer a dramatic brand makeover of the Gap in the 1990s, first as president and then CEO, transforming the then small, underperforming chain into a retail juggernaut and cementing his reputation as a branding visionary.

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The similarities between Drexler and the late Steve Jobs are not hard to see. A member of Apple’s board since 1999 and close friend of Jobs, Drexler says of the Apple visionary;

One sentence can’t do Steve Jobs justice. He had extraordinary vision, extraordinary imagination, extraordinary determination, extraordinary bravery and he was extraordinarily irreverent. I can’t compare him to anyone else out there.

The very same could be said of Mickey Drexler, a true ‘Man of Style.’

A Life Designed

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