Friday, November 21, 2014

High Grade

Photo courtesy Flickr user Richardvanw

The verb is very useful. Recent changes in the way we use the interior resulted in shuffling the contents of half the rooms.  Since storage of small artifacts is concentrated in one room on each floor, rearranging is trivial.

I peeled a few layers of ornament from the walls and tabletops and set up essential furnishings in their new places. With lighting resolved, all that remains is to place a focal point on a wall or two. I could say “hang a picture”, but a picture is not always necessary. An antique tool or choice piece of local timber will serve my purposes just as well in certain spaces.

Reconfiguring generated a small collection of surplus furnishings. Some are heirlooms, and I’ll offer them to family. Others--I’m not so sure--but it feels right to set them closer to the door than to the archive. 


More after the jump.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wipe The Floor

Photo courtesy Flickr user Prehensile Eye

A simple housekeeping practice makes a huge difference in the quality of an interior. I favor bare floors. Mine are painted. I use a janitor’s telescoping anodized Italian aluminum handle and a “Scrubby Doo”, a flat rectangular attachment that holds nylon pads of differing degrees of abrasion, to wipe the floors with a cotton or microfiber cloth that’s simply dampened with hot water. The tools are sturdy and cheaper than the patented retail system they inspired. Used wipers, usually cheap washcloths, live in a hanging mesh bag until there are enough for a dedicated load of laundry.

Daily, or at least frequent, wiping leaves floors with a subtle polish that communicates care in a unique way.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cook As If

Photo courtesy Flickr user mjp

Living in an 1890 structure has given me ample opportunity to experiment with low-tech food preparation. Many months spent living without electricity in my youth and many precious years’ experience in the kitchen at the side of female elders who remembered both a log homestead cabin and a landmark house gave me a historic perspective on kitchen custom. Including elder tales, my kitchen memories date to 1870.

Another branch of the family gave me the cultural treasure of old school upper Mississippi Delta cooking thanks to Great Aunt Barbara’s recipe file, early twentieth century cookbooks, and gently offered kitchen coaching during visits to my childhood home. Mainstream early twentieth century American cookbooks, like my family’s kitchen bibles, the first two editions of The Joy of Cooking, record midwestern cuisine as it existed before rural electrification. Look for a book that uses the term “icebox”. In low-tech circumstances far from grocery outlets, a pantry stocked with dry stores was essential. I still keep convenient quantities of dried and canned fruit, nuts, pasta, canned soup and vegetables, first-quality oils (the key), and deli staples like choice vinegar. Reasonable stocks of salami and hard cheese live in the small refrigerator.

There are a good ten grocery stores within a few minutes’ walk of the house, but often it is more convenient to set out meal preps by easy stages over several hours as I complete various tasks under the roof. Dry stores, deli staples, and an electronic pressure cooker make it easy to make the most of leftover cooked meat and vegetables. The USDA’s guide to the shelf life of foods inspires fast turnaround time. In my book, the shelf life of fresh crab is twenty minutes.

“Shelf velocity” is as useful to describe the contents of a refrigerator as it is to describe what’s sitting on a gondola in the store. Keep those leftovers moving to keep your quality of life at a max. A summer spent living in a low-tech beach house taught me the value of living from meal to meal, cooking in quantities that could safely be consumed without waste. It’s an elegant way to manage the food supply that gets the most out of every food dollar. Old-fashioned preps make it easy to coast from meal to meal with the least effort, an approach that integrates beautifully with work at home enterprises.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Photo courtesy Flickr user Steve Parker

It’s easy to fend off the damp chill of a Seattle winter. Just plug in a seventy-five watt plant seedling heat mat from the nursery, take off your shoes, and toast your toes. Coupled with a warm hat and perhaps a padded vest, those seventy-five watts can delay raising the thermostat by hours, if ever.

More after the jump.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Rest In Peace

Flickr user Sigfrid Lundberg

The second week of a Seattle November can usually be counted on to bring the hard freeze that keeps the slug population under control. This year is no exception. It is with mixed emotions that I contemplate the demise of the countless young gastropods who turned the tender late season foliage of a favorite hybrid rose into lace.

More after the jump.