Friday, October 16, 2015

Where To Hang The Picture

The ideal spot for a work of art is out of direct sunlight on an inside wall with no slamming door. These details are from The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping, the operating manual for the stately homes that are England's living museums.

An exterior wall mount can be finessed with bumpers that hold the work proud of the surface so that humidity does not pool behind the frame and condense, causing the mold disorder known as foxing. It's worth reading the book to collect other fine points. I use push pins behind the frame of a work I deem worth the risk.

Current atmospheric changes have accelerated the rate at which sunlight fades pigments and damages fabric, so it's worth the trouble to keep the shades drawn if the room is not in use. Very conservative custodians hang curtains in front of a work. 

Use a light hand when dusting a frame, particularly one that is gilded. The manual advises dusting only when you are calm and well-rested, since most damage to inventory happens during maintenance. These procedures come out of a culture that is willing to require a housekeeper to repay damage, ie, a year's wages for damaging a work worth that much. Dust gilding with a soft artist's brush, like squirrel hair. Set the piece on a horizontal surface covered with a clean towel, and dust against the direction the dust settled. Use a dedicated brush and cover the metal ferrule with adhesive or gaffer's tape to protect from nicks. I'd work close to an operating air filter or vacuum opening. Knock dust out of the brush by tapping it against your wrist or the edge of a table.

Take off your rings and touch the surface of the piece not at all. Think of it as an open eye, and leave maintenance to a restorer.

Wear flat shoes and transport a valuable piece in a basket padded with a clean towel, ideally by setting it on a wheeled utility cart. If you transport valuables in a motor vehicle, bring a second person along in case of a breakdown.

More after the jump.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wardrobe Dollars

In my experience, the following are true:

it's cheaper to spend four times as much on a basic item in a first-rate neutral fabric than on the same thing in a skimpier cut and lesser fabric three seasons later

dime-store scarves and tank tops can outperform the best the market has to offer

the best raincoats come from England or Maine

high-tech clothing, like leather gloves that work with touch screens, amplifies personal energy and saves space

the garment that's always in the laundry pipeline is the foundation of your personal uniform

you are not a Christmas tree

all clothing is work clothing

the Great Big Hiking Co-op is two seasons ahead of ordinary retail outlets

time spent slapping the racks at a favorite store is time well-invested


More after the jump.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


The local Operatic pizza chain just sent out an inspiring brochure informing regulars about its work with food kitchens. The copy is deeply heartening and reminds me that the idea of a food bank originated in Seattle during the Boeing Depression of the early Seventies.

Before food stamps, federal aid consisted of parcels of agricultural surplus like five pound blocks of yellow cheese, whole canned chickens and tomatoes, one-pound bags of rice and beans, and powdered milk. Each bag included mimeographed recipes for making the most of the free ingredients.

A newly-married friend in graduate school fed her household on Abundant Foods. It didn't take long to realize that the cuisine was soul food pure and simple. It did not differ significantly from Puerto Rican hospital food, the Lenten recipes I learned as a child, or the home chow of the various ethnic communities I encountered living in San Francisco during the Sixties. This approach to food allowed me to feed a family of two for nine 1966 dollars a week. 

UC Berkeley was an epicenter of nutrition training, as was the Berkeley Food  Co-op. Each item on the Co-op's shelves had an informational paragraph alongside the price. The cost per pound of usable protein was noted for each item. Bacon costs more than steak.

Frances Moore Lappe's Diet For A Small Planet had just come out in paperback. From Lappe' I learned grain combinations for gaining complete protein from vegan sources.  Rice, beans, and corn are one. Wheat, soy, and sesame are the other.

From a vegetarian friend I learned that some bodies need meat.

From Michael Pollan, I learned to eat food, mostly plants, and not too much.

That's not hard to remember.

My body is not happy unless I eat beans. Julia Child taught me to keep my companions happy by cooking beans for twenty minutes or so, discarding the water, and finishing the dish with different water. 

An electronic pressure cooker and cheap rice cooker make short work of the traditional recipes of peasant cuisine. A heavy enameled cast iron cooking pot with lid and a sharp knife are the functional minimum.

The ingredients for traditional dishes keep without refrigeration. Fresh amendments and greens are easy to grow and save countless trips to the store. Basic seasonings like dried onion and garlic powder keep well and make the most of unprocessed ingredients.

To round out the menu, buy the best olive oil and smoked pork that you can find. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Expand on Lappe's foundation by consulting Luigi Carnacina's Great Italian Cooking and Dooky Chases's work. Cornell University's triple-rich bread formula will spoil you for any other loaf.

Dining close to these fundamentals integrates mind and body, relieves the burden on the carrying capacity of the planet, and generates extra cash.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Small Improvement, Huge Gain

Ordinary drugstore spray bottle mechanisms fit ordinary grocery store containers. I slashed countless nanoseconds off the workday bv adding sprayers to the alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and vinegar that live over the sink. The alcohol degreases and disinfects; the other two sanitize vegetables and fruit. Now all three contribute to sink maintenance and general cleaning procedures.

More after the jump.