Friday, May 23, 2014

Skewings


Photo courtesy Flickr

I had occasion to apply gold leaf to a special letter. With no experience on paper, I was not prepared for what happened when the time came to brush excess leaf from the edges of the initial I was decorating.

Late afternoon winter sun shone onto the drawing table. As I finished the page, flakes of beaten gold reflected ragged pliable planes of mind-bending light as they whirled overhead in a current of rising air.

Rooting in the OED years later, I discovered the title’s technical term for those floating specks of aurum.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Priorities


Photo courtesy Flickr

Spend big on low-tech handmade classics, like antique furniture and fine textiles. Do not invest in anything machine-made that can be revived and produced again.

Spend canny on the latest high tech amenities, like electronics.

Spend recklessly on art.

Use your head with the rest of the stuff.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cord Yoga


Photo courtesy Flickr

Now and then the urge to rearrange possessions is deep and powerful. The process is one of innovative design and happens in a particular kind of trance. Managing things in space is a sophisticated math skill, I was relieved to learn.

It’s helpful to clean as one goes. Subtracting dormant furnishings reveals hidden areas of habitat. A damp cleaning cloth makes short work of the accumulated dust, webs, and house breath of years. Cords are the vines of the interior. It’s good practice to wipe them clean as they are disentangled from whatever they were supporting. I like to stow them in labelled zip bags and tape them to whatever it was they connected to the wall socket. This kind of cleaning makes me appreciate the spare low-tech interiors of the eighteenth century.

The recent exercise displaced a substantial pair of speakers. It became apparent that I could go to Craig’s List and find a neighbor to give me money so that he can house, maintain, and operate the equipment. Doing so will be easier than toting the things upstairs and dusting them for ten years. 

Now that the walls of the room are clear, I can clean and use it in a flash. It feels a little hollow at the moment, but when the table is set and guests are enjoying themselves, it will come to life. The principle is to leave room for people.
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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Palladio


Photo courtesy Flickr

Seattle is full of symmetrically designed Cape Cod cottages built after World War Two for returning veterans. They are made of irreplaceable straight grain Doug fir. Interior walls are finished in fireproof genuine plaster. By 2014 the wiring and plumbing have probably been upgraded. The basements have full headroom. These small houses are usually well-sited for solar and set on generous lots. They are small but dignified in the right hands, and the most advanced improvements are affordable because of their size.

While the original Cape house was designed by Massachusetts shipwrights, the style's inherent qualities lend themselves to graceful upgrades. Keep in mind that the originals were meant to be mounted on skids and dragged from place to place as the sand shifted under the dunes on which they were set. It takes little to finish a post-war house with considered, generous moldings, the right entry door, and perhaps working shutters (that will improve security and storm protection). Quality gutters and fiberglass, or perhaps even solar, shakes will restore the elegant roof profile of the old growth cedar originals. Contemporary small scale furniture makes the most of the interior. Frequently such a house has a freestanding garage that would be suitable to use for guests and/or as an office.

Any student of architecture knows more about the details than I. The key to my understanding of Palladian architecture is that it was developed for working farms. The typical round window situated at the peak of the roof was designed to pitch hay out of a loft. The postwar cottage was intended to provide enough garden space for a nuclear family to be self-supporting.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Keep That Bag Packed


Photo courtesy Flickr

A senior acquaintance mentioned that a family medical emergency has her commuting across the country. She is having trouble keeping her meds and personal gear sorted out. Carla totes an old school purse. The current practice of kitting out a generous side bag would displace the confusion and stress generated by frequent, unpredictable travel demands.

At the least, construct a standardized packing list. Print out numerous copies and check off inventory to make sure nothing critical is omitted. This kind of travel, particularly for a frail elder, is unforgiving. It makes sense to be sure the preparation is unforgiving as well.

When it’s time to dress, dump everything out of the kit and replace each item as it is used. I find it convenient and surprisingly efficient to organize everyday grooming gear around travel amenities. The silicone tubes and pots sold in travel specialty outlets quickly pay for themselves in time saved. A small rolling case would make few demands on Carla’s physical energies and would displace the hassle of checking baggage.

Carla can make the best of her new situation by using it as an excuse to dress 2014 in travel clothing and flat shoes. It’s a taxing way to play catch-up, but she’ll be able to shed the designer carapace that’s added many a pound and a task to her burdens since forever.

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