Friday, July 27, 2018


Last fall, I picked up a package of eschscholzia seeds at the glass boutique on the grounds of the Seattle Center. I broadcast them onto bare areas of the garden and scuffled them into the ground with an old claw-like wire rake. A thin layer of leaves protected the seed from birds, and I forgot about the planting until spring.

The first time I lifted my head to the garden as winter itself lifted, I was dismayed. The front bank had been drastically cleared of a snowberry infestation last summer, and there were no signs of life under the deteriorating mulch. Two weeks later, sprouts appeared, and the poppies made a good showing a couple of weeks after that.

This strain of California's state flower appears to be a choice one. Color ranges from white to a sharp reddish orange. After flowering, the foliage shows the usual signs of mildew, but the plant appears to outgrow it. Usually I cut poppy when mildew appears, but the flowers of this batch of seed were so gratifying, I held off. As seed set, the stems of the bushy plant curved inward like tumbleweed, and it dried to a gratifying form. The life cycle of this strain is interesting enough that I plan simply to leave it alone and see what happens next season -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Shopping The Closet

Thanks to my feckless haste in setting up a load of laundry, two key black garments died of terminal lint infestation. They are worn enough not to be worth the hours and tape it would take to groom them, so they have gone to hang with the painting clothes. The loss made it easy to rationalize my favorite area of procrastination, the wardrobe thrash.

I think about fall outfits in July. Sweltering week-days trigger memories of my first sewing class, when choosing back to school wool was the agenda. My mother clued me to wool: it's malleable and getting a good result is easier than with vegetable fibers. Some simple Seventies dress-for-success accounting about my clothing expenses turned up a gratifying result: it is cheaper for me to pay full retail for exactly what I want than to try home sewing. I shifted my attentions from pattern books to glossy magazines.

I don't follow fashion, but now and then, like the inoperable clock that shows the exact time twice a day, one of my preferences turns up on a runway. Surprisingly often, this happy accident was bought at the Great Big Hiking Co-op. I stumbled across an encyclopedic rendering of fall collections on a magazine rack a couple of weeks ago. The price caused a sharp intake of breath, but few ads clutter the pages and one good idea covered the purchase price.

1,500 outfits later, I dealt some of my rags onto a clean rug, photographed them, and filed the images along with the inspirational designs into a first-thing-in-the-morning computer file that I check to see how my life is defined on a given day. Getting dressed is a no-brainer under the best of circumstances-a little brain ahead of time gets me a better result -30-

More after the jump.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Virtual Dish Rack

The north end academic bookstore carries a line of plastic desk accessories that includes a tub-like paper sorter. It looks like a truncated jerry can. The device is angled on the sides, has three sections for staging categories, and comes with two movable racks for managing small items. 

I was grateful to find that it fits neatly on a utilitarian nineteenth-century pantry shelf (as do other high-tech office amenities). When I have a paper midden to manage, the sorter makes fast work of an otherwise long and confusing organizing project. Five-section file folders labelled with sticky notes further speed a usually odious chore -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Underestimating The House

Until twentieth-century consumer culture took over, the domicile was a place of production. In the Sixties, I lived in a mid-nineteenth century ground floor apartment carved out of a small mansion. That place had a dedicated home office located just inside the main entry. Over the decades, I have come to realize that period furniture is actually a low-tech passive appliance that supports the private enterprises typical of vintage architecture. With two, and sometimes four, initiatives going on under this old roof, I challenge and pare inventory constantly.

The more I subtract furnishings that have no useful function, the more the fine spaces of this legacy architecture are free to fulfill their original design. Summer sun reveals volumes in rooms that had felt crowded even when the contents were spare. Interestingly, I am told the market for "brown furniture" no longer exists. That and minor thrift shop observation suggest that good deals on solid wood reproductions of classic antiques are just waiting to be snapped up. Israel Sack's book on American furniture will open your eyes to the value of this heritage  -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Underestimating The Table

A friend left us a round pedestal table for indefinite storage with carte blanche to use it. I tried it in a couple of promising spots, but it didn't click, except as a skirted staging and storage area in the front hall. I'd seen the table in a couple of apartments, and it had impressed me as a faintly malnourished but affordable rendering of classic modern design. It worked well holding a large cathode ray computer monitor in the corner of a 1900 kitchen.

The piece has a heavy mahogany veneered top fastened to a lightweight steel base. The balance worried me until I realized that the tension/integrity design of the pedestal ensures stability. Sheer weight in a piece of furniture designed for seating in small space is a good thing. Last week I moved the table to a sweet spot in front of a west-facing window. It worked pretty well with a tablecloth until I pulled the cloth to wash it. 

I always knew that my dishes were eighteenth century and have learned over the decades that my other tabletop preferences have been eighteenth century as well. I lived in this house for thirty years before realizing that it, too, is essentially eighteenth century Anglo-American architecture. The first time I set the new bare table for a casual afternoon meal, it lit up. 

The grain of the mahogany veneer is one seamless peel. Direct west sun turns what had seemed to be an overly refined finish into a welcome light show. Daylighting and portable furniture were important in eighteenth century interiors, and this table more than fulfills that design brief. Setting a bare table was the custom at the time, when tropical wood was on display. This bare table paired with gray period dishes, essentially period utilitarian glassware, and period cutlery is an unintended and gratifying 2018 restatement of classic style. The high degree of finish on the table's top and base allow for easy movement in close quarters. The brushed stainless post and foot of the base reflect eighteenth century silver design. All in all, I'm pleased to have stumbled across a significant high-tech increase in my standard of living -30-
More after the jump.