Friday, July 15, 2016

Scientific Housekeeping

Usually when I find myself in the company of trained science people I feel like a spaniel at a cocktail party. The in-house field scientist, though, recited the three defining qualities of a  proof that fit neatly with my ground-level experience of design. Look for a solution that is sufficient, parsimonious, and elegant.

Those qualities exactly describe favorite domestic discoveries that have allowed me to manage life support without feeling like Thoreau's householder pushing her barn ahead of her on her road through life.  -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Featherweight Amenities

I had the house together to my satisfaction when developers decided to turn the neighborhood into dormitories for the open digital campus. It suddenly became necessary to rethink every window.

Coming to terms with daylighting was clumsy, stressful, and wasted a couple of hundred dollars. I sketched in temporary veiling with agricultural mulch fabric, discovering in the process that the stuff drapes well and can be washed. I doubt that it is fireproof. So-called shoji blinds, translucent white and ribbed with bamboo, have proven themselves inexpensive miracles of efficiency, and washable to boot. Their fibers channel light here and there to illuminate gently without a hint of glare.

Surprisingly, the blinds are modular with certain areas of this 1890 house (modeled on an 1815 design) that have been hardest to fit. I can custom fit a blind simply by cutting it. For many of my windows, fitting a blind to the sashes makes the most sense, so I trim it to length and hot-glue hems top and bottom. Extra-long needle-pointed aluminum push pins from an art supply make it easy to mount a blind without insulting vintage woodwork. 

Cords are a safety issue. I cut most of them off and substitute a simple length of bookbinding tape threaded through a slit in the blind at a convenient height. The few cords I have retained can be managed by keeping the blind rolled up and the cord doubled on itself into a hank that is too high for a toddler to reach.

The same University District Japanese boutique that sells me the blinds offers the 2016 version of a traditional paper lantern. I have used these things off and on in the house over the decades we have lived here. They're excellent value and a bohemian staple that is simple to install on the handsome wired chains that support the central ceiling fixtures replacing the original gas ones.

I haven't worked out the aesthetics quite yet, but a translucent plastic painter's drop cloth is serving as the best custom shower curtain so far to serve the claw-foot tub. The space requires a curtain that is extra long and wide. The same hardware store that supplies the drop cloth sells bargain grommet kits. I expected the curtain to die in a few months, but it shows no signs of failing after eighteen.  -30-

More after the jump.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Lights Across The Window

This is a good neighborhood for sampling decorating ideas. A tenant in a tony new apartment building strung clear white holiday lights across the top of a view window. The effect is beguiling and especially elegant because the lights are so inexpensive.

Custom-fit a string of lights by blacking out unwanted bulbs with special-purpose caps sold at the local display supplier. -30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Fried Chicken Sandwich

Heat an oven to 400 degrees. Sharpen your favorite knife. Take the butter out of the refrigerator.

The Market's excellent butcher sells chicken breast that puts all others of my experience in the shade. The other afternoon, I let a whole breast come up to room temperature, dusted the top with cayenne and granulated flour, flipped it over to sprinkle a careless layer of flour on the underside, and set it in a close-fitting iron skillet of smoking hot olive oil.

This is brief and untidy process. When the chicken was browned, I moved the pan to the oven, poured beer, and sat down to a lean salad large enough to keep me occupied until the chicken was done. The chicken told my nose it was time to pull it out of the oven, and I let it coast to a juicy, tender, and delicious halt. The granulated flour generated its own gravy.

The corner bakery supplied a fine ciabatta. I cut wide sections from the loaf, split and lightly buttered them, and set them in the residual heat of the oven. Bread and chicken is sandwich enough to be as messy to eat as a pre-industrial Fifties' coffee shop hamburger. It can be embellished with a layer of dressed salad and anything else the imagination or supply of leftovers can provide. -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, July 11, 2016


When I find myself silently complaining about dust clots on the floor or the mysterious odor under the sink, it's more effective to take action than complain. Doing so clears my head.

Michael Phelps' swimming coach Bob Bowman points out that the goal is not to win a gold medal. The goal is to move from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time. Bowman defines the goal with a generous margin of excess over previous records and emphasizes slamming the timing pad at the end of the pool. -30- More after the jump.