Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Brown Bag

The cheapest lunch bags make excellent waste containers. Since compost and recycling have minimized kitchen waste, I hang a lunch bag next to the sink to contain the food packaging that is nearly the only solid waste we generate.

Another lunch bag lives in the bathroom cabinet where it receives the odds and ends of grooming and maintenance. Since it's small, it gets rotated often so the contents do not disgust -30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Full Set


The most rational wardrobe advice I have encountered is to dress for the weather, for who you are, and for what you will be doing. Then pay the most for what you use the most. In my life, Deep South America's quilted jackets padded with synthetic filling get daily use. Over the years I've bought the hoodie, the simple zip-front jacket, and a vest. All three have been good value that save time, simplify, and shrink my carbon footprint by saving heat and enabling a comfortable life on foot and on public transportation.

In an experimental moment one time, I bought every element of a set of summer basics that a local department store was offering. What felt like a splurge turned out to be excellent economy, both in terms of cost per wearing, cost of acquisition (time and travel), and the price per square inch of storage. My current version of this system is simply to buy black, period, plus a beige version for the burbs and the woods -30-  More after the jump.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Finding Help

A good friend admitted that she does not look forward to getting her garden back into shape after this winter's hammering. She and her husband had been discussing downsizing to a condo, but the plan is on hold. Their energies are not what they were, and each prefers to manage their property in their own style.

Legendary garden writer Vita Sackville-West observed that a garden is a personal expression of the gardener's unique sensibility and will never look quite the same under the management of another person. I still prefer to edit and groom as I see fit, though I am light years away from my friend's depth of experience and competence with ornamentals.

It took an embarrassingly long time for me to figure out that help is help. Lightening the burdens in other areas of household management gives me just as much extra energy as asking a strong back to pick up a shovel or a pair of loppers. Someone else can wash the windows better than I, mail order saves time behind the wheel, and exchanging house shoes for street shoes slashes cleaning time. I have not yet ordered groceries on-line, but it makes sense to do so. I see many delivery bags on neighborhood porches. Every few years I ask a skilled arborist to give the large shrubs in the garden a working over. He's better at it than I, and the assistance is cost-effective. 

The basic principle is not to do anything a machine or more efficient person can do, since time and attention are valuable and irreplaceable. Our complex industrial economy has replaced live-in household help with commodities that displace the personal labor and protect the cognition of the person running the abode.

Over the last decade I have allowed the casual efficiencies of skate and digital culture to influence the way I clothe myself and manage the household. Something as simple is deciding to wear layers of t-shirts, that is to say light knits, as the organizing principle of getting dressed saves hours of fussing with wardrobe. I have used the lightest and fastest laptop that is reasonable for my digital needs to displace the bulk, tonnage, and allergen-fostering capacity of a paper archive.

Structuring time before structuring anything else generates a sharp focus on priorities. Routine tasks that aren't getting done in the slots that are available for them can often be discarded altogether. I no longer, for example, wash, iron, and archive vintage doll clothing. In my experience, there are so many layers of domestic procedure left over from the full catastrophe of Victorian housekeeping that it is easy to omit one after another until the righteous rigor of eighteenth-century simplicity is exposed. It's helpful to keep in mind the Navy design premise "do not let the hardware determine the mission". Setting excessive hardware aside increases velocity.

Food, clothing, and shelter are the traditional basics of life support.  Decent, safe, and sanitary are a professional housekeeper's shorthand for evaluating facilities. I base my inventory on the traditional ten essentials of the outdoor community. The rest is up to the individual.

I owe much to the simple efficiencies of commercial food service that I have been learning from a competitive young East Bay foodie. She'll never convince me to give up stemmed glasses and a proper place setting, but things are much swifter in the kitchen now that I've had a chance to enjoy the meals she and her partner turn out in record time. Protecting one's time and attention opens the culture of the household to the superbly efficient supply system that is now available. Doing that gives one time to catch up with the radical simplification of domestic life that the digital community now enjoys -30-


More after the jump.

Friday, March 24, 2017

This Season

This is the tail end of as cold and wet a Seattle  winter as I can remember. It's the kind of winter that makes me kick myself for not having installed a water salvage system. The few sunny days since February have left the garden enthusiastic and barely in check. Maintenance is now a top priority. 

If it's ever dry enough to prune, I'll be outside in a frantic race against the explosion of growth that the native shrubs will demonstrate. In past years, there have been more than a few warm, early days when I have been able to lounge on the front steps with a cup of coffee and literally watch the brush grow, sometimes six inches at a time. 

Prunings get mowed into mulch on the front lawn, that is morphing into a bird feeder. Earthworms devour the mulch that draws them to the surface to feed crows and robins. With so much development in the area, the wood-fenced front lawn offers refuge from passers-by and their dogs -30-


More after the jump.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Shelf Velocity

The title is a retail term for how long it takes to move stock. I like to keep the shelf velocity of food high to protect our standard of living. Over an ideal week, the cupboard is close to bare by Saturday morning.

Last week, neither of us was hungry for the animal protein that draws us to the fish market or the Pike Place butcher. We opted for produce from the corner supermarket and staples from the emergency pantry supply. It doesn't hurt to rotate that stock over the course of the seasons.

Two simple dishes are easy to prepare from foods that store for a long time. Any version of any ingredient works well in the finished product. The first dish, soup au pistou, I learned from Julia Child's television cookbook. It's a vegetarian minestrone composed of potatoes, carrots, onion or leek, white beans, green beans, green peppers, tomato, bread crumbs, broken pasta, spinach or other greens, grated Parmesan cheese, and pesto sauce. Add saffron for a special occasion. Putting this soup together over the course of fifty years in muddy campsites and slick kitchens of varying stripe, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, I have yet to turn out a product that was not at least welcome at the table.

The second favorite is old-fashioned fruit salad, easy to prepare from sturdy basics like apple, citrus, and dried things. Dress with lemon juice, sour cream, and/or grenadine syrup. Mince fresh ginger for a fillip. Add soft fruit like strawberries at the last minute.

With pistou and fruit salad on hand, eating responsibly is trivial. A bowl of each will suffice when heavier food does not appeal -30- More after the jump.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Teachable Moment

I argue that since I have to cross-train in academics and digital literacy, the in-house science guy should accord housekeeping the same respect. He's willing, sincere, and responsible, but tends to ignore the subtle nuances that ensure surviving in a decent, safe, and sanitary domicile. Put simply, the "separate spheres" division of labor that was the first wave of feminism left him blind to the easy ways of getting things done, or not done, as the case may be.

The other morning, in deep fog, himself dumped a container of  flax seed in the kitchen. I had a welcome chance to share the wisdom of dealing with a dry mess: push it to one side so it doesn't get tracked around, and then go ahead and have breakfast. Once blood sugar and caffeine are adequate, it will be easy to cope. Cope too soon, and the stress will deplete personal reserves of energy that are better saved for more important things -30-

More after the jump.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Cart

As pressure on my time increases, procurement grows less interesting. The navy supply technique of keeping two units in reserve and replacing the replacement as it is called into service has eliminated urgent runs for staples. Window shopping on line and mail order have eliminated wearisome treks to favorite destinations, although I enjoy scouting and trying standard sizes.

The go-fer discovered that a local cab company is an obliging resource for getting an oversized parcel back to the house. Once a month, a rolling duffel bag suffices for bringing heavy staples home.

The simpler I make life support systems, the more elaborate knowledge work can become -30- More after the jump.