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    Spring 2014 Equality Shoot
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    Food and Dining

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pulse Presents "Prism" - Fashion Show making a difference

College run fashion shows have become the norm in most fashion schools. However, it’s rare to see a show entirely put together, executed and raised by the students themselves. When the show benefits a worthy and admirable cause, it’s that much more impressive.

I was one of the hundreds of attendees at the annual Illinois Institute of Art – Schaumburg Pulse fashion show on March 13th. I had a first hand view of the hard work and dedication that these 21 young ladies poured into this year’s show. Not only was it impressive to see but also incredibly inspiring. From start to end, concept to development, these ladies created what they named “Prism”; A fashion show with a much deeper meaning then simply the usual glitz and glam of fashion. Each year this student run show selects a charity to donate 100% of their proceeds from the show to. This year, Salute, Inc. was the charity selected. Salute, Inc is an organization that assists military service members, veterans and their families with their financial, physical and emotional needs. They strive to assure that every military family has the safety net that they deserve.

The show itself was amazing and had beautiful fun pieces that went hand in hand with the show theme, “Prism”. Student and local designers showcased their incredible work that was really fun to see walk down the runway. Most of the pieces that came down the runway had an edge that matched perfectly with the dramatic makeup that models were wearing. However, my favorite part of the show came when marines escorted models down the runway.  It was a small gesture to honor these amazing service members and the crowd absolutely loved every moment of it!

All together the show was a reflection of the strength that their charity, Salute, Inc. strives to be for their military members and families. With the help of hundreds of attendees, sponsors, designers and staff, the students of the Event Planning and Promotion Class of 2014 raised more than $18,000 for Salute, Inc. These 21 young ladies not only put on an amazing fashion show but more importantly made a difference and impact on people’s lives.   

Learn more about this amazing charity and their mission at www.saluteinc.org .

Photo credit: Jaimin Parekh

Teresa Espinoza
Fashion Editor - Halfstack Magazine

Spruce up Your Lacquer Cabinet

The days of receiving handwritten letters in the mail are pretty much obsolete. And yet, when we do, the thrill of reading the content of the letter impels us to tear open the envelope like Edward Scissorhands. For me, nothing quite outranked the excitement of collecting RSVP cards for my wedding but once that thrill ended it was back to the same old humdrum of coupons and bills. I thought I went paperless?

So what a welcomed surprise it was to find a Lacquer Cabinet box gracefully placed on top of the usual junk mail.

What’s that you ask?
Well, Lacquer Cabinet in conjunction with ‘Tini Beauty, offers limited-edition nail lacquer created by beauty and nail experts. Sign up, and you’ll receive monthly collections of polish colors and two empty bottles to experiment with your own mixology.

While searching for the perfect polish for her upcoming wedding, Michelle Toma Olson, Founder of ‘Tini Beauty, began mixing her own shades; thus creating the idea for her brand. They urge you to do the same and their "tip jar" offers helpful techniques to create your own perfect shade. 

A unique and affordable (ongoing) gift set for a special friend.
I secretly thank the post office for misplacing my order because the generous gals at ‘Tini Beauty promptly replaced my original package which eventually showed up several days later. Oops! Therefore I had the pleasure of sampling TWO collections.

Nailtini is passionate about keeping their cosmetics healthy and low in toxins. Now a 5-free lacquer:
No formaldehyde
No toluene
No dibutyl phthalate
No formaldehyde resin
No camphor

I love this line by "Love, Roxie" so much that I'm considering painting on my dogs nails. Too far?

When it comes to nail polish, my biggest pet peeve is a thin lacquer that requires at least nine coats. Not only is it a waste of polish but it inevitably leaves streaks that I end up staring at all day long. With LC I only needed one maybe two coats. No streaks, no lumps just nice even coverage that dried surprisingly quick.

The only disappointment I had was not getting my hands on their Simple Syrup and Dry Gin. What? Aren’t these names so creative and awesome? The Simple Syrup is a 5-free base coat, which actually contains a sugar-derived resin to really secure the polish on your nail bed. I feel like a true organic partisan just saying that. Where’s the nearest farmers market?

The Dry Gin is just a quick drying top coat. But saying, “Pass me the dry gin.” At your girls night sounds much cooler and sophisticated.

Check out ‘Tini Beauty where you can find an assortment of nails, lips and eye mixology products. At Lacquer Cabinet you can request one, six or 12 month subscriptions at an affordable price. Why not treat yourself to an unsuspecting reminder to relax and pamper those busy little fingers?

- Samantha Kirkpatrick
Lifestyle and Fitness Blogger 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Keep on laughing....

Two penguins were walking across an iceberg. One penguin turned to the second penguin and said, "You look like you're wearing a tuxedo." And the second penguin said, “Maybe I am." I’m not going to lie, I laughed harder then I should have at this. I do not really know why…. I guess I just appreciate a really, really bad joke.

Not too surprising though, I laugh a lot, at everything. That is probably why one of my cousins nicknamed me “the laughing idiot” growing up. I never really took that as a bad thing. Laughter is a good way to break a tense situation. I could not tell you how many potential bad situations I have gotten out of by simply laughing. Either, you say something or someone else says something, there is an awkward silence…. Just start chuckling, often times they will smile and reciprocate.

You wouldn’t really believe how important laughter is, given how common it is within the social environment. For you see, laughter adds a hint of positivity to the situation and instills a sense of connection between individuals. Similar to how a good laugh can change the environment, it can change us, and the way people look as us. Laughing makes you feel hopeful, optimistic, and positive. Generally, you will be seen as more attractive, friendly, and lively. As a photographer, I see this effect when photographing people. Their faces lie. There is a world of difference between a photo where everyone is sincerely laughing or smiling and one were the smile is forced. When working with a group I try to say something silly to get genuine smiles out of everyone creating a more…. natural shot.

There is a random statistic out there stating that your average four year old will laugh somewhere in the area of 300 times daily, where your average 40 year old laughs about four. That is why it is an important art to maintain the child within. Take some time out of your day, and go somewhere, physically, or mentally and simply be a child. Build a fort. Play a prank. Tell a joke. I don’t know.... figure it out! There is a reason children are so optimistic, happy, easy going, and a symbol of all that is good.  Laugh with you friends, your coworkers, yourself.

Smiling and laughter can be the simplest things you can do to make yourself feel better. Essentially, it is free medicine; a medication that is actually easy, fun, and comes without any of those awful side effects. Laugh with your friends, family, coworkers, laugh at yourself. If you cannot laugh at yourself… there is no point in laughing at all….

As you go through your day, your life, remember to take the little things lightly and just laugh. Learn to appreciate the “social lubricant” that is the laughing matter. Laughter is as precious as gold and as common as dirt.

Have a bad joke you want to share?  We'd love to hear it! Do us a favor and post it below. I'll share one in return. Give a little, get a little.

~KM~ Halfstack Blogger & Photographer
Images provided are owned and copyrighted by yours truly and dailypositivequotes.com

Good Beer Hunting - The Michigan Beer Film Screening

Hops, barley, and starch are basic ingredients that can be found in your favorite beer - but what really goes into making good beer?  For Chicogoan, Michael Kiser this question has become a passion.  Kiser’s love for beer lead him to start up Good Beer Hunting, a company dedicated to telling the story of beer and its enthusiasts.  The hunt has taken him all over the United States, although he admits he has an especially fond appreciation for the beer movement that is rising up in Michigan. 

 On Saturday, March 29th Kiser hosted a screening of the documentary, The Michigan Beer Film, at the Good Beer Hunting home base, 2557 North Ave.  Created by Michigan based media company, Rhino Media, the 119 minute-long documentary highlights the craft beer industry in Michigan, with a focus on the raw entrepreneurship of its breweries. 

Before the screening, guests enjoyed samplings of two Greenbush Brewing Co. beers, Sotto Voce, an American brown ale, and Sheep In Tall Grass, a scotch ale.  More than 45 tickets were sold for the event, impressively filling up the GBH space for one of their first events. 

The screening concluded with an enthusiastic Q&A session with Kiser and director, Kevin Romeo.  One attendee asked what the inspiration was for making the film.  Romeo responded that Rhino Media acknowledged that people desired a film documenting the beer industry in Michigan, so they made it happen.  “A lot of artists talk, but we want to be artists that do,” said Romeo.  

Looking at the consistent growth of the beer industry over the past decade, it makes you wonder, "why now?".  While many factors play their part, Kiser suggests that the consumer’s desire for quality goods has heightened.  “People are fascinated with local, they are fascinated with flavor, and they are fascinated with businesses that they can go support tangibly,” said Kiser.  “There is something happening that’s much bigger, [but] beer can survive that weight.“

The Michigan Beer Film will continue to travel around Michigan and surrounding states.  For more information on screenings check out http://mibeerfilm.com/.

The Michigan Beer Film Director, Kevin Romeo enjoys a Greenbush Brewing Co. beer and meets with guests before the film screening. 

Michael Kiser, founder of Good Beer Hunting, introduces The Michigan Beer film and director, Kevin Romeo before the film screening begins.  

- Perry Fish
Lifestyle & Events Blogger 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Live Weird in ATX

Nearly every major city in the world is known for having some kind of unique appeal.  It is these idiosyncrasies, after all, that make our most beloved cities so special.  Paris has long been the city of romance.  New York?  The city that never sleeps.  And rest assured that in Sin City, Las Vegas… Your darkest secrets will forever be kept, where they shall remain quietly until the end of time.  It should really be no surprise that in a city commonly known for birthing street musicians trying to make a buck while donning nothing more than a pair of knickers and a cowboy hat, the city would adopt a slogan to promote its weirdness.

For as long as most residents of Austin, Texas can remember, the city slogan has been "Keep Austin Weird."  And it is certainly fitting.... Where else can you stroll down the street on your unicycle, in cut off - jean shorts while flaunting a handlebar mustache curled with exact precision, without a single person batting an eyelash in your direction?  In Austin, if you aren't just a little bit weird, you're the anomaly.

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The question begs, what came first?  The chicken or the egg... errr.. the slogan or the weirdness?  Despite whatever truths the legend may hold, one thing is certain; Austin has quickly become America's new sweetheart.  Currently holding the title of the number one, fastest growing city in America [according to Forbes], Austin has definitely captured the nation’s attention.

Erik Diehl and Scott Burch, Founders of Live Weird Realty in downtown, Austin and longtime friends from their hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana have always been just a little bit progressive.  Having moved to Austin where they both sought after their real estate licenses, they each worked for a few different apartment locating companies before realizing that a boom was coming.  Deciding they could dominate the market in a more appealing and marketable way, these gentlemen opened the doors of Live Weird Realty in 2010 and as the pair says, "the rest has been golden real estate history."

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What did Diehl and Burch realize before the rest of America?  Halfstack Magazine set out to determine the driving force behind the sudden Austin appeal.  The discovery?  A multitude of reasons for why people everywhere have decided to leave their respective hometowns and place roots in this true, southern gem.

The weather.  Texas may be known for its brutal and excessively hot summers, but after the Polar Vortex-winter the Midwest and North East regions experienced this past year, three months of extreme heat pales in comparison.  Who wouldn’t want to live in a city where the sun shines brightly almost daily and the temperatures rarely drop below 65?

Despite the weather being a top reason for why many are now heading South, Austin also offers up all of those big city highlights delivered neatly to you in the convenience of a small city package.  Deemed the “live music capital of the world” and with Texas charm in tow, Austin now contends with cities like Chicago, New York and San Francisco in the battle between art, music, culture, dining and more; Austin also being home to the largest media festival in the world.

And if your bags aren’t already packed, the downtown lifestyle of Austin also offers you an endless supply of outdoor activities; and all at your fingertips.  The Colorado River runs through the South end of the city and there is never a shortage of bikers, kayakers and runners making their way through the surplus of trails leading in and out of downtown.  Austinites take great pride in the beautifully green, and intertwined nature-and-city-life that makes up Austin.  You can easily take a quick walk to the river from your sky rise condo for a midday paddle board adventure.  The possibilities in Austin are endless.  

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Halfstack Magazine had the pleasure of sitting down with Joel Canada [Office Manager of Live Weird Realty’s 5th Street office] to discuss further what makes Austin so special and the impact Live Weird Realty is having on the city.  Focused on selling the downtown lifestyle, Live Weird has found its niche and as the market continues to explode, the business continues to thrive.

Upon opening its doors in October of 2010, the business was originally dubbed Rent Weird Realty.  Having found much success in apartment locating early in their careers, Diehl and Burch transferred that same model into their firm.  The business name, a play on words from the city slogan of “Keep Austin Weird,” worked seamlessly in their favor and set them apart from the competition, because as Canada explains, “Who doesn't want a little bit of weirdness in their lives?”  And as the city and market continued to grow, the owners knew expansion and re-branding into a full service realty firm was inevitable and necessary.   Thus Live Weird Realty came to be.

What makes this firm so successful?  The level of customer service exhibited by each Agent and Broker within Live Weird Realty is unparalleled by the competition.  The entire team prides themselves on being just that…  A Team.  One who helps and supports each other to ensure every client that walks through the door is satisfied from start to finish.  The entire firm is dedicated to the quality of service; not the quantity of transactions.  The relationships with the clients may be short lived, but as Canada explains, memorable. “It’s evident in our reviews.  We make sure that we have met all the needs of our clients and we see the transaction through until the very end.  Whether you’re looking to lease, buy, sell or invest, you have our full attention throughout the duration of our exchange.”  

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Joel Canada, Jennifer Martinson, Erik Diehl, Devin Friedman, Brendan Ross, Scott Burch, Jeremy Gonzales

Aside from the superior customer service you’ll receive with Live Weird, every team member has the ability to connect with the client on a personal level as well.  Who better to help you find your perfect dream home than someone who is also immersed in the downtown Austin lifestyle?  Austin is quickly replacing Silicon Valley as the technology hub of the nation with innovative corporations like Facebook, Google and Apple having set up shop.  And with two prestigious universities - University of Texas and Texas A&M - breeding young entrepreneurs, Austin is the perfect storm for startups.  The hunger and drive you see out of the young professionals that make up the Live Weird team, is the exact same hunger and drive you see from the population that currently defines Austin.  The combination?  A lethal cocktail that is leaving the competition lurking in the dust.

These agents not only live and breathe the downtown lifestyle, they love it.  And they aren’t just your realtors.  This firm serves as a networking tool for all other like-minded, young professionals new to the city.  Whether it be through the weekly round up of ‘happenings’ around town on the company blog, through Canada’s commitment to the *Free Art Friday* campaign or through one of the many Live Weird Realty sponsored events, it goes far beyond just finding you a place to live.  Live Weird wants to ensure Austin isn’t just your place of residence, but your home.

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Austin, Texas is on the map more than ever before and with 78704 being the top Google searched zip code in the nation, we strongly urge you to consider making the move.  Forget spring cleaning!  Pack your bags, sell your house and head south.  You’ll soon be asking why you waited so long in the first place.   

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Erik Diehl and Scott Burch are either real estate savants or did something notably right in a prior life and have since been graced by the hands of God in choosing Austin as their home base…. We’ll go with the former.  With two convenient firms located centrally in downtown Austin, contact Live Weird Realty for all of your real estate needs.  

201 E. 5th St. Suite 109
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 476-7368

5th Floor of Omni Building
Downtown Austin

- Sophia Sanchez
Director of Operations & Editor

*Free Art Friday* - Canada, an indie artist when he's not selling the downtown lifestyle, puts together two original pieces of art each week. #ATXFreeArtFriday is an Instagram driven, free art scavenger hunt that now has hundreds of participants in the city each week. Canada hides a piece of art somewhere in the city each week and then posts clues on Instagram as to the pieces whereabouts and uses the following hashtags: #ATXFreeArtFriday, #FindersKeepers & #Spratx* You find the art and it's yours to keep!

*Spratx* Creators of Free Art Friday; a small artist collective located on the East Side on Pedernales between East 6th and 5th St.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Halfstack Highlights Episode 1: Interview with Leftover Cuties

Hey there Halfstackers!

Happy tuesday to all of you - Jen Lezan here, Editor-in-chief of Halfstack and I am so excited to share with you our latest endeavor! Halfstack Highlights is a new edition to the Halfstack repertoire. We will be showcasing some of our best interviews in podcast/blogcast form - you'll also get to put a voice to many of the writers you read every day! First up is my interview with Leftover Cuties from a few weeks ago when I caught their concert at College of Dupage's McAninch Arts Center. This amazing venue is in the heart of Glen Ellyn and it feels like a city hotspot right in the burbs.

The recently renovated performance hall, dubbed Club Mac, has a great lineup for their 2014 grand opening season. Locals and city dwellers alike can definitely dig the low key and intimate vibe the hall gives off. Season highlights include performances from all types of entertainment including:  the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Hot Club of Cowtown and Capitol Steps.

Listen and subscribe via iTunes.

In this episode of Halfstack Highlights, I interview LA based band: Leftover Cuties. I had the opportunity to catch up with this indie pop jazz quartet after enjoying their show at Club Mac. As an avid jazz lover, this group was an amazing breath of fresh air with their mix of pop tempos, vaudeville like vintage undertones and their fun ukelele rifts. Their down-to-earth and humble personalities made this one of the more fun interviews I have had in a while! You can probably tell, by all the laughter as we share this intimate conversation with all of you readers!

Leftover Cuties consists of – Shirli McAllen (lead vocals, ukulele), Austin Nicholsen (bass, vocals), Mike Bolger (brass, keys, accordion, vocals ) and Stuart Johnson (drums, percussion, vocals). These talented folk took the time to share their thoughts on music inspiration for their latest album “The spark & the Fire”, the journey of an indie artist, connecting with their audience and advice for those of you on the journey to making your dreams come true. The song you hear in our episode intro and outro is "One Heart" by the one and only Leftover Cuties

I hope you enjoy this first episode! If you were inspired by this podcast and want to share, please leave us a review on iTunes! The more exposure we can get these up and coming artists the better! We also welcome feedback as we get used to the quirks of this new venture and adjust to give you an amazing listening experience!
Jen Lezan

Monday, April 7, 2014

ReviveWood: Dedicated to Sustainability

In recent years the topics of sustainability and the preservation of the planet have become hot issues.  The notion that we are killing the world we live in because of our apathetic enthusiasm towards reducing our carbon footprints has sparked much controversy in the media.  From political debates on global warming, corporations "going green" and our excessive use of fossil fuels; the question begs "are we really doing everything we can to properly preserve the planet for generations to come?"

The short answer?  Probably not.  

The reality is, we are creatures of habit.  For decades it has been ingrained in our heads that we should live a certain way.  The truth is, many of our daily habits are harmful to the environment.  These habits however, have become such an integral part of the way we function from day-to-day, they have become near impossible to reverse.  

The good news?  Awareness on this issue has become a growing trend.  And just as these "bad habits" once became routine, they can certainly be undone.  Will we ever completely rid the world of all man-made pollutants?  Maybe, if we revert to living like cavemen.... But for now, let Halfstack share with you one particular company who is doing their part.....

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ReviveWood is a contemporary furniture company currently in the initial, prototype phase of the business.  Rustic furniture with a modern and contemporary twist, the vision behind ReviveWood is to create unique and contemporary furniture built from Peruvian Amazonian wood that is certified and naturally sustainable.  And business partners Stephen Marks and Vanessa Mohme have turned to Kickstarter to help raise awareness and funding for their latest business venture.  

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Before you stop to ask how a business chopping down trees in the Peruvian Rainforest could be sustainable, we've already asked the question.  Halfstack Magazine sat down with Founder and successful business entrepreneur, Stephen Marks of Chicago, to discuss his latest project.

Halfstack Magazine (HM):  Can you explain what ReviveWood is and what makes the business sustainable?

Stephen Marks (SM):  ReviveWood is a fascinating project for me because it combines three things that are very important to me: sustainability, marketability and a great product.  The concept for the business came to my partner and I when we took a trip to Iñapari, Peru, which is at the crossroads of three countries: Peru, Brazil and Bolivia - and a few hours into the Amazon.  We met a gentleman named Abraham Cardozo whose family has leased part of the rainforest and who is an expert at sustainable forestry and has the highest level of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification.  People assume that for every tree you take, you must then plant another one, but that is not true sustainability.  We learned from Abraham that the forest is naturally sustainable and the best thing to do is wait 20 years, revisit the land and analyze nature's progress, at which point they'll let it be, replant or wait a bit longer.

ReviveWood is built with the wood that is coming from the forest.  It is rustic, but with a contemporary or modern twist and with the aforementioned renewability standards.  As an example, think about the trunk of a Shihuahuaco, which is one of the most durable woods found in the world, made into the base of a dining table, encased in steel with a live edge wood top.  That is the line; contemporary, yet natural.

Based on our experience, and our partner's experience working with contemporary furniture, we believe that there is a large market for these pieces in the United States, Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, Chile and Peru because the pieces are sustainable, they support local artisans in Peru and they're from the Amazon.  There is cache to that.

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HM:  Do you have prior business-entrepreneurial experience to help solidify your business plan with ReviveWood?

SM:  I started my first business at 18, which was a web design company during the infancy of the net.  In my early 20's I started working in entertainment, booking and producing concerts all over the U.S., Canada, the UK and Europe.  5 years ago I pivoted and found my niche in international multi-channel marketing, which has been the common thread in everything I've ever done.  Our business, Emmersion, is now building teams in Chicago, Santiago-Chile and Lima-Peru.

I've always built businesses based on opportunity and, ultimately, my personal interests.

HM:  Your plan is to manufacture locally in Peru.  Is your intent to support and employ Peruvian Artisans?

SM:  Yes.  We already employ local artisans in Lima: carpenters, painters, etc... to shape the pieces and create the furniture from wood that was provided by our partner in Iñapari, who also hires locally.

HM:  Why Kickstarter?

SM:  The wood has already been purchased and the prototypes have been developed.  The execution of the project is simple.  We have the certified wood from the Amazon.  We have the carpenters, artisans and sales team ready to go.  But we are looking for the funds to purchase the remaining finish materials (like lacquer, glass, metal, etc...) and to pay the cargo fees to ship to the United States.  We have 3 years of production experience and have fulfilled 100+ orders of custom furniture design projects including tables, chairs, kitchens, headboards, bedrooms and much more.

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HM:  What is the timeline for people to donate?

SM:  Two weeks.  We are launching the business on April 9th at a trade show in Lima where we will be in front of hundreds of international and local buyers, but we need a Kickstarter push to finish the products.

HM:  Why is wood from the Amazon better?

SM: I'm not sure if "better is the right word, but the Amazon is home to some of the most durable woods in the world, like Shihuahuaco. But what sets us apart is the sustainability and certification. Media coverage of the Amazon tends to focus on deforestation, but they very rarely cover some of the success stories, like Abraham Cardozo.

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HM:  What will be the price point for you product on average?

SM:  Average price is around $1,500, but products range from $25-$10,000.  I like it because there are many different target markets within this line.  Maybe you can't afford a $5,000 table, but you can own a trunk coffee table made out of a tree from the Amazon for $650.

HM:  Why should people support ReviveWood?

SM:  Bottom line, we make great, unique products from an amazing place in the world.  A purchase allows us to continue to support local artisans in Iñapari and Lima and our partner who is sustainable and carbon positive.

Plus, supporting our Kickstarter will give a buyer access to pre-launch pricing, which will go up another 15-25% once we finish our initial order.

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We certainly aren't experts on sustainability and preservation at Halfstack Magazine; but we do pride ourselves on having an eye for forward-thinking trends.  ReviveWood isn't simply handsome furniture; the business is viable and renewable and helps support local artisans in Peru, something the team at Halfstack takes great pride in advocating.

To learn more about this project and/or to make a donation to this Kickstarter project, click HERE.  Visit ReviveWood online at www.revivewood.com

- Sophia Sanchez
Blog Editorial Director of Operations