Friday, December 23, 2016

The Cloth Napkin, A Primer

Stand your ground: use substantial paper or a righteous dish towel or bar wipe instead of flimsy cotton imports that are better suited to use as handkerchiefs. A top quality Irish linen napkin costs around $35 a unit and is worth every penny. Lower thread count linen from the Great Big Northern European Home Furnishings chain runs around $6 a unit and looks alright line dried, folded smooth, and set on the table without benefit of iron.

A lap generously covered with absorbent, protective fabric allows a guest to relax -30- More after the jump.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


An acquaintance mentioned the pleasure of detailing her partner's inherited commercial drafting table, the kind that weighs hundreds of pounds, is five or six feet wide, and is supported by a chest of many drawers. Her description of the process reminded me of the best value in used goods: something that needs merely to be washed. To that, the in-house geek would add something that needs to be washed that has a blown fuse. Between us we have paid pennies for thousands of dollars in gently used merchandise.

Supply yourself with bookbinder's archival leather dressing, biker's chrome polish from Germany, pointed grooming swabs, palm-sized wipers cut from old t-shirts, the Yin-Yang grocery chain's window washing spray, and neutral pH detergent from a janitorial supply. Add neutral-colored "Bright Wax", Magical Sliding castors for feet, and markers and shoe polish to touch up dings. The North End's academic bookstore is a good place to start shopping -30- More after the jump.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Classic And Clever

The annual run to the Original Import Chain yielded the lazy housekeeper's version of Christmas baking and a quick survey of the state of the market for home entertaining. My uninformed sense of design and production suggests that the chain, that started business in a ramshackle space in North Beach, has shaped the course of tabletop merchandising.

The outfit can be counted on to supply nifty versions of otherwise expensive amenities. I noted a $25 shallow rectangular tray in irresistible red certified non-toxic by the state of California. That clearly is one of the chain's keepers. Their cake stand is a pet, too.

I picked up a year's worth of gift wrap accessories to supplement the bandannas I use as furoshiki -30-

More after the jump.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winter Wear (and Tear)

In my experience, careful attention to life support and pedestrian transportation keep metabolism at its best during the dark days of winter cold. I speak as a fifth-generation western Washingtonian who has listened to many a recent arrival bemoan seasonal affective disorder.

Light therapy and medication did not exist when my elders were protecting their families from the subtle despair of borderline malnutrition and equally borderline hypothermia. Firelight is no small ally. Set tea lights in votives (small canning jars or, ideally, fake snowballs molded out of clear glass) on a highly polished brass tray if you don't have a real hearth. Wear wool if you can tolerate it. There is no substitute. Wool costs less per use than fleece.

I find it easiest to monitor and plan my food consumption if I avoid alcohol, recreational drugs, and commercial food. My alma mater recently advised shunning media and burying myself in the library-a bonny move, it turns out. Life in the slow lane is healthy and profitable.

The pantry is stocked with the basics of low-tech nineteenth century life support. Dried and canned staples protect inventory from power outages. Smoked pork and salmon products supply ready protein. This is as old-school as Seattle can be. The current breath taking abundance of fresh market vegetables and fruits, not to mention the local coffee supply, provides the other half of the best of both worlds.

Disconnecting the television has freed the time and attention I need to visualize the down home cuisine I most enjoy when the weather is foul and the sky too dark. Small appliances like an electronic pressure cooker provide the unattended back of the cook stove slow food I learned to appreciate over a winter spent snowbound gazing at ten-foot icicles. That was a happy period, one I have found simple to recreate a stone's throw from downtown -30-

More after the jump.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Faking A Grand Table

Set forth a groaning board by copying the original groaning board. It was a board. In the middle ages, planks laid across trestles formed the table for a hall house. There is no difference between that and the hollow-core door set across a pair of folding plastic sawhorses that lives on the south wall in my family parlor. A folding table from an office supply embodies the spirit of the medieval original.

Disguise the structure by draping it to the floor with a painter's cloth. Finesse the corner excess so that no one trips on it. There are charming pastel cloths in plastic bonded to paper. Brown kraft paper will do, and the putty-colored low thread count cotton version has become a furnishing staple in my interior. I would use a plastic tarp if it seemed to make sense. A mylar emergency blanket would be spectacular under the right circumstances.

Top the table skirt with a waterproof layer to protect it from stains, and add an upper cloth for the meal in question. "Cloth" can read "more paper"-guests enjoy writing on the table covering. You can set out a glass of markers or crayons.

Add tea lights in faceted glass canning jars or salvage from the recycling bin. Carefully folded paper towels will challenge no decent sensibilities. Plain white paper plates send a dignified message. Substantial plastic forks and spoons are better than nothing and much better than cheesy ones. They might cost more than a handful of stainless from the local thrift store, though. I appreciate a consistent appearance. Disposable chop sticks make short work of green salad. Fold a twist of paper to use as a chop stick support. Plan a menu that does not call for a table knife.

Go truly medieval by asking guests to bring their own cutlery. Go Afro by asking them to bring their own chair.

Serve in new brown bags with the tops folded into a double hem. Turn cardboard cartons inside out to their clean brown side and line them with foil or plastic. Decorate the table with flowers from the grocery chain simply trimmed and laid on the surface. Trim weary petals from bargain flowers. Straightforward place cards written on the back of business cards allow strategic seating. 

A buffet sidesteps seating. Crowding adds fun to a carefully considered presentation -30-

More after the jump.