Friday, August 31, 2018

The Kura

A traditional Japanese paper house had a fireproof storage building behind it. The structure was called a kura, and in it were stored household artifacts not in the working rotation. My sense is that kura storage is the design factor behind Japan's superb tradition of packaging. Everything comes with a storage box, and that box in turn is protected by a fabric bag.

Recently I ordered a number of gifts.They arrived in appealing, sturdy boxes and showed up just as it was time to rationalize the toy chest. It's hard, but I limit toys to one foot locker. Things had been stashed in zip top plastic bags. I decided to use the boxes to try the kura approach. Doing so yielded a phenomenally elegant and protective toy inventory. Whether a three-year old will be patient with the collection is debatable, but I know for sure they'll have a wonderful time exploring -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Tack Room

Twenty years ago out of disgust with Seattle's traffic even then, I threw the car away, substituting a rolling backpack and a fresh pair of hiking boots. Over the decades, it has become easy to justify experimenting with luggage and side bags as transportation costs plummet. Like a biker or cyclist, I have discovered that it makes sense to tailor my gear to a given occasion. In the process, the household has accumulated a noticeable collection of rollers, spinners, and totes. To that I add a motley assemblage of securement devices plus runner's night safety flashers and vests.

The mess is awkward, though not critically so. I am casting about for a place in the house to stage organizing an exit. Rows of storage pegs mounted along the top of the basement walls are the obvious choice for now -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Short Cut

Several years ago, I put together a few experimental pillow cases using hot glue to adhere thickly-textured soft cotton dish towels. I prefer not to sew, but I wanted to see how washable "street-legal" pillow cases that did not look boudoir would perform in the house. I would not repeat either the fabric or the glue, but the basic concept has paid off handsomely. It's now a snap to transform a sleeping place into a day lounge. 

In a perfect world, I would pre-wash and dryer-shrink unbleached artist's linen with a comfortable hand and sew it with a needle and thread. A tapestry needle would protect fabric threads from splitting, and bookbinder's linen thread would integrate the job. Washed and air dried, such a pillow case would last at least thirty years. Some of my pillows have boxed edges like sofa cushions. An artist-quality version of the packing cubes sold at the Great Big Hiking Co-op would suit them perfectly and be multi-purpose as well. A conventional pillow can be boxed by turning the corners in on themselves and tacking the fold into place -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


In the late Seventies, I kept track of what I spent on thrift shop clothing over the course a year. Once the total was in, I realized I could buy a good ready-to-wear suit for the same money and be better dressed (in terms of weather and social applications). The suit paid for itself in two months' worth of increased business. Times have changed, and style has surely changed, but it remains true that getting the most value out of the cost of acquisition -time, travel, and price-is still a smart way to use resources. In my world, paying full retail for a mid-range garment gives the lowest cost per use.

What holds true for clothing is also true for housewares. It's worth sinking some bucks into any well-designed traditional low-tech amenity, like a cooking pot, if only because a good pot gets the most out of basic ingredients like beans and cheap cuts of meat. My modest domestic operation now needs little more than one killer shallow enameled cast iron saute' pan with a lid that weighs more than the pan itself plus a very sharp knife.

Not every item need be top of the line. Bottom of the line can be excellent value. A tinny enameled steel coffee pot and kettle with a granite finish serve a stovetop well, if seldom. Buy from a familiar label. I use the stuff in the field because I don't have to worry about theft. Watch out for flecks of glassy enamel in cooked food-that's why this is a low-end product -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, August 27, 2018


Current atmospheric conditions demand enforced leisure and present the opportunity to train my partner, now retired and equally confined, in the particular degrees of effort needed when one has energy enough only to keep the health department at bay and retain custody of one's dependents. It's amazing how the basics can be accomplished in brief intervals on one's feet.

Smoky air leaves me lacking energy in ways I have not experienced before. I'm not ill, just slack as can be, but with attention enough to get to details I've been speeding past for decades. Tonight will be a good time to listen to early Seventies music and offer thanks that the air mixture no longer includes lead from gasoline, arsenic from the smelter, fly ash from the cement plant, or the  nitrous oxide that made breathing a consciousness-altering experience -30-
More after the jump.