Friday, December 18, 2015

Shower Curtain X-1, X-2, X-cetera

When we moved into this house thirty years ago, there was no shower in the 1890 bathroom.  Once the plumbing was fitted, I asked a merchant of interiors to make up a ceiling-mounted hospital track and mount it over the clawfoot tub. The ceiling is too high for a standard shower curtain, so the vendor made up a white nylon curtain that transformed an ordinary facility into elegant space. White nylon transmits beautiful light, and the curtain sufficed to cover the window in the bath as well. At night, an opaque roller shade blocked shadow play.

After a few years and numerous rounds of washing and bleach, mildew took its toll. I replaced the curtain with a pair of queen-sized polyester sheets, doubling the larger hems and fitting them with brass grommets. The sheets were surprisingly durable. Polyester is an archival quality fabric, but it, too, is vulnerable to mildew. 

I cut off the bottom hems of a second set of polyester curtains to improve drying time. When that set grew shabby, I replaced them with a white plastic tarp reinforced with coarsely woven threads. It transmitted the most beautiful light of all but was too boardly for convenient use.

I tried a flimsier tarp, one of non-woven fabric bonded to thin plastic. It cost $6 as opposed to the original nylon's $120 and served well for most of a year. The next iteration was a textured translucent plastic drop cloth that cost all of $5 and, so far, is just fine.

I might fool around with silicon-impregnated nylon from an outdoor fabric specialist next time around.

More after the jump.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Broken Color

Jocastes Innes' Paint Magic was the answer to my vintage walls' numberless layers of paper. Since this is a development property, I was reluctant to sink major time and capital into gnat's eyelash restoration.

I spent a year observing the effects of day and lamp light on the varnished woodwork and floor coverings, finally choosing a scheme of one foundation paint color to be highlighted by several others applied with a natural sea sponge. 

It took four times as long to paint the rooms as it would have to roll on two coats of something or other. I have not felt the urge to repaint in thirty years, although young friends have trouble resisting commenting on my preferred palette. When a wall accumulates dings, I simply trot out the original sponge and spice jars of touch-up color. Ten minutes' fiddling restores the integrity of a wall. Should I decide to shift the color emphasis of a surface, i can sponge on the change in a few minutes.

Sponging the walls greatly simplified my version of interior decoration, since the walls themselves present a  quietly satisfying visual experience. Sponged walls displaced several pick-up loads of redundant furnishings. Minimal, or essentialist, furnishings are far easier to maintain.

The key to this mint is the decision to use the highest quality paint I could lay my hands on when I started the job. Capitol Hill has a paint resource that has been in business under one name or another since 1926. The current incarnation is on the north shoulder of the Hill's busiest north-south arterial not far from a Pilates studio. There's a colorist on the staff, and their recommendations and craft standards are rigorous.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Right Good Snack

Buy a well-aged baking potato. When it's at room temperature, bake it at 350 for forty minutes. Let it cool in the oven.

Buy some first quality sausage. I found fresh Italian links at the manufacturer's outlet in the Market. Bake the room temperature sausages at 350 for forty minutes, pricking them well and turning them once.

At your convenience, set up a skillet with a little too much butter and a slug of olive oil. Peel the potato and cut irregular flakes off the tuber. When the fat is as hot as it can safely get, grind a generous amount of black pepper into the pan and set the potato sections in it. Cover with a spatter screen, and keep a close eye on the browning. When the potato is golden, turn the sections gently one time.

With a very sharp knife, cut a sausage into medallions. Turn the potato into a wide noodle bowl, top with sausage, and add minced Italian parsley and hot sauce to taste.

Ordinarily, recipes for fried potatoes call for boiling varieties like Yukon Gold. The starchiness of a baking potato tends to turn to mush. However, frying a baked potato in a minor excess of oil produces wonderfully crisp brown edges on pieces of irregular thickness. This preparation is frankly greasy, but I like to concentrate the day's fat in one dish.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"Clean Your Room" Is A Meaningless Message

Store things where you use them first.

When you finish handling something, leave it where you will use it next.

Following these principles produces an interior littered with half-completed projects. When it's time to close out a space, finish the projects, throw them away, or consider the wisdom of having so many things going at the same time. 

This approach is the foundation of flow in domestic labor. It's based on fundamental principles of industrial production, and it's an efficient way to take advantage of the wait times built into kitchen production and customer service calls. One ends up with an organized interior, home-cooked meals, and fewer administrative swords of Damocles hanging over the desk. A speaker phone reduces stress.


More after the jump.

Monday, December 14, 2015


Browsing Christmas for a foodie, I searched Calvin Trillin. One site posted his standard inquiry when looking for a meal in an unfamiliar town: "[Don't take me to the] place you took your parents on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, [but] the place you went the night you came home after fourteen months in Korea."

A few days later, I ran across Mildred Howard's comment that "Whenever you see the owner of a restaurant cooking, you know things are right."

More after the jump.