Shade

It’s been a really long time since I had an invention to post, but this week, with the return of the sun came the return of my shade problem.  We have a deck with a great view. Lovely to sit out on a sunny day. But it’s hard to get shade that moves with the sun. I’ve tried several umbrellas, tilting ones, straight ones, ones with overhanging arms, Coolaroo shade triangles, sheets with bungee cords that I adjust during the day, but nothing really did the job of shading the table and chairs without blocking the  view. The sun comes from too many different angles. What works best is just a standard umbrella in a stand that I move around. But the stand is so heavy.

Then I had the brilliant idea of putting the stand on a wheeled plant stand that was just sitting around. This way, I can wheel the umbrella around the deck to follow the sun. Continue reading “Shade”

Discoveries

2016-08-15 07.32.59The other day I made fig jam–one of my all time favorites.

But in trying to speed up the process, I scorched the bottom of my enamel pot. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but couldn’t get the fine layer of burnt jam off the bottom. I gave up and set the pot out in the sun to dry. When I went to take it in, all the scorch had lifted from the enamel and was easy to brush off. Who knew?

In other news, I stopped at a little mom and pop (mostly mom it seemed) diner the other morning for a quick bite and saw in action this wonderful pancake batter dispenser. If I made pancakes more often, I’d definitely get one.

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Net zero

messy-closet-jpgA friend told me that she has a net zero policy when it comes to clothing purchases–for every new thing she buys, something must go: net zero. In my case, this has turned out to be pretty easy to follow. I buy most of my clothes at thrift stores because I hate spending money on clothes and because I’m always running out to the garden or chickens or cooking something, getting stains on whatever I’m wearing.

Continue reading “Net zero”

Gadgets, writing, and domestic tranquility

I am a sucker for kitchen gadgets–for me the Williams Sonoma or Chef’s Catalog is a kind of kitchen porn. Many of them aren’t worth the trouble, but I have two onion gadgets that really work: the onion keeper and the onion dicer.

IMG_1495The onion keeper I picked up one day in the supermarket. It’s a plastic onion-shaped container that opens in the middle with a twist. You put an open onion in it, twist it shut, and your onion is saved without smelling up the fridge.

The dicer has three sets of blades, two of which (rough dice and fine dice) can handle onions. There’s also a slicer blade, which I sometimes use for mushrooms. But it’s the onion dicing that is the real timesaver, especially when you have multiple onions to dice.

IMG_1496Set a half or a quarter of the onion flat side down on the dicer and pushed down the lid with your palm.

The machine gives a satisfying whump and you have instant, perfectly uniform chunks of onion.

IMG_1497Kitchen magic! It does for onions what my corn stripper does for corn kernels. This is a little plastic module with teeth at one edge that you run along an ear of corn to remove the kernels. Continue reading “Gadgets, writing, and domestic tranquility”

Fat Monday

In Saturday’s WSJ, there was an article debunking the assumption that fat is implicated in heart disease:

butter-croissant-fat-weight” ‘Saturated fat does not cause heart disease’—or so concluded a big study published in March in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine…

“The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias.”

The article goes on to trace our belief in fat as deleterious to health to one man, Ancel Benjamin Keys, who forged a career based on his extremely flawed research delineating fat as a culprit in heart disease.  In fact, the shift away from meat and animal fat and to starchy carbs and sugar has been implicated in the current obesity and diabetes crisis. You can read the whole article here, and another supporting article here.

Which brings me to today’s poem, written a dozen years ago or so about my own relationship to fat–I think it was the first ode I’d ever written, inspired, of course, by Neruda’s Odes to Common Things:

In Praise of Fat

I never gave up butter, its golden taste
on the tongue as it soaks into toast,
softening and gilding each rough pocket
of grain, or graces the potato, turning that peasant
starch into a hymn of steamy flavor.
And the tomato cream sauce on the pasta,
the puff of pastry crumbing against the teeth,
the nuts and butter and sugar of Christmas.
The flavor is in the fat as the yolk is in the egg. Continue reading “Fat Monday”

Interrobang & octothorpe

Perhaps typography doesn’t interest you, but my associations with letter press printers, those odd creatures who print by taking the individual letters and putting them together into rows of type, running ink over them and creating art, has led me to enjoy and respect typographic oddities. Which brings me to the interrobang. You can find the detailed history of this mark–the only new punctuation mark of the 20th century–in a book called Shady Characters. You can get a taste of it here.

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Designed to express both  incredulity and overwhelming confusion of the modern age, the interrobang is both an exclamation and a question mark. Here are a few samples:

Continue reading “Interrobang & octothorpe”

Emu egg and kitchen gadgets

ostrich egg_optI’m having a slow recovery from the holidays, though I can hardly blame the California weather.

One of the highlights of our holiday breakfasts was an Emu egg I got at the farmers’ market. It was about 7″ long, and I calculated it was about 6 eggs worth of egg. We drilled holes in either end, blew out the egg, and made a frittata.  Then I packed the shell away with the Christmas ornaments. Continue reading “Emu egg and kitchen gadgets”

Seed time

I have a weakness for seed catalogs but have discovered that most seed packages contain a nearly life-time supply of seeds–except the super-specialized ones.  So I have quite a trove of seeds, all ready to plant. I look through the catalogs anyway of course, and I recently found an add for a tool that makes potting containers out of newspaper. You can see it on Youtube.  They also show some made from the centers of toilet paper or paper towel rolls, but you’d have to save these up beforehand. I’ve used egg cartons in the past, too, and always recycle any seedling containers I have.

potsIn any case, the wooden tool cost $20, so rather than order one, I took two cans (one slightly smaller diameter than the other) and basically did the same thing.   Continue reading “Seed time”

More gadgets

I probably could do four or five posts on kitchen gadgets. I have several on eggs alone. For example, here’s Henrietta hen, who makes perfect softboiled eggs:

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A little slicer that snips off the top of said egg:
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egg separator An egg separator (great for baking with children who want to separate eggs, but can’t quite manage it).  Continue reading “More gadgets”