Friday, May 8, 2015

Trees Trump Furniture


A brief stint volunteering with Plant Amnesty, local horticulture’s version of the humane society, connected me with enlightened arborists. The crews have sculpted my and adjacent trees into elegant, healthy forms over the last fifteen or so years.

They were working on the property last week when I realized that first-quality tree care adds more value to the experience of living here than any of the furniture I shift from place to place in the interior. Like sending a child to competent day care, it’s comforting to know that I have been able to do right, as far as I am able, by the large trees for which I am responsible.

Now and then a tree reaches the end of its trail. I have been happy to discover that the end of the trail need not be a stump grinder. The environmental community has defined the wild life tree, one chain-saw pruned to end its life as a growing entity and begin a new one as habitat for insects and nesting birds. I am now the proud custodian of two such snags, that no doubt look clumsy to the untrained eye. Nearby trees and plants will fill in with their own graceful strategies, and the resident birds will be sassier than ever.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Notes On Tabletop Design


A reader questioned my April 20 comment about coffee shop china brutalizing if it is used at every meal, wondering what it brutalizes. Utility china brutalizes fine motor skills, table manners, and posture. I’ve grown fussy about the artifacts I’m willing to handle. Cafe’ ware understandably reinforces speed over gentle handling.

No doubt Mila, who knows her way around a china shop with the very best of them, has handled many different kinds of table ware. I think any meal might at its heart be a tea ceremony-the variables are expedience, the company if any, and the menu.

As a freelancer of social graphics I read countless etiquette books. As a scullion, I broke my share of crystal goblets, chipped a few fine cups, and slammed a mug or two around the sink. Setting and clearing a table is a kind of dance that varies with the circumstances. Homer’s stoneware is pure rock and roll (as best I understand the term), better suited to logging than to working gently with heirloom porcelain that’s out of stock. 

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

More Than Rice


An automatic cooker saves time, energy, and, most importantly, attention. I park my cooker on the back porch and forget about it until it’s time to serve dinner. The cooker functions just like the back corner of a wood-burning range. I use it for oatmeal, to stew dried fruit, and to cook elderly green beans slowly with tomatoes and bacon.

This old-school food repertoire is long out of fashion, economical to buy and prepare, and stores well, providing MREs that are easy to supplement with, say, fast-fried fish or chicken tenders.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cheap To Champ


I cruised my usual shoe stores the other day and noticed that a couple of utilitarian designs have influenced current offerings. About eight years ago, apparently, club-going women tired of trying to dance with bound toes and enthusiastically adopted the two-bit folding ballet slipper a clever entrepreneur was selling as a pocket alternative to spike heels. Now it seems that every high-end shoe line is offering its version of the flat.

Slip-on sneakers have had the same success in a lengthy growth curve that started, as far as I have observed, in the mid-Sixties. Skaters adopted the style, and a $400 version materialized a couple of years ago. Now I’m seeing the same basic model offered at many prices. In my slightly dated experience, Kids female slip-ons are warm, dry, and functional in this climate twelve months of the year.TackyYak non-skid grippers fit them for snow and ice. The sole of the ca.1910 model slip-on is more nimble than the skate-oriented slabs of other manufacture. The toe of this shoe is cut like a high-end English custom shoe.

For my purposes, it makes sense to stick to the original good deal. Pricey supportive inserts turn any old dime store shoe into something reasonably functional. I’m not sure any of the usual status indicators like bag, watch, and shoes make sense in my increasingly mobile and pedestrian universe. Presumably the latest phone literally sends whatever message one could wish without challenging the social sensibilities of the public observer.

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More after the jump.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A New Take On The Classics


When he left for battle, a Spartan mother handed her son his shield and told him to return with it or on it. My take on the story has always been to admire the admonition to courage, until I learned how much a shield cost.  Presumably, the real heroism combat demanded was the price of coming home disarmed.

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More after the jump.