French Mending

Wednesday 07.18.12

Well here is a skill I wish I had. If only I knew how to repair that unsightly little hole in my shirt…comme ça! This linen chemise, found in a flea market by my friend Molly Meng during her annual visit to southern France, is remarkable. It’s also a reminder of how beautiful something can be when it is no longer new. Photo by Molly.

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And Yes, Even MORE To Do Lists

Tuesday 07.17.12

Belated birthday present from my brother and his partner, John. For the full story on these, go here. And to see the rest of them go here, here and here. Thanks guys. Now we need to find you some treatment.

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Mini Tails, Jig Heads and Atomic Tubes

Friday 07.13.12

For a lot of people across the country, Walmart is pretty much the only gig in town. And, if you’re in a rural area and happen to need kraft paper and packing tape at 7:30 in the morning, it’s almost certainly the case. I try to avoid shopping there, but sometimes it seems unavoidable. This is how I ended up at the local Superstore last week. Since it was so early, I was almost entirely alone. After I found what I was looking for (if you’ve been to a Walmart, you know this is an aberration) I decided to wander around and look at what’s on offer. I don’t like what these stores have done to the retail and manufacturing world, not to mention the consumer habits they have perpetuated. But instead of just bitching about them and their practices, I thought I should see for myself. I wandered into the sporting goods area. After getting over my recurring surprise at the guns and ammunition on display (at least they no longer sell handguns in the lower 48), I found my way into the fishing aisle. Since I know virtually nothing about fishing lures or bait, it all looked good to me. With all the hundreds of different shapes, patterns and colors, I had a fleeting moment of appreciation. They’re nice, aren’t they?

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Egg Suitcase

Thursday 07.12.12

Brilliant yellow plastic egg suitcase for a diehard camper or any lover of hard-boiled eggs. Went out to buy a dozen white eggs because the brown ones looked a little putrid against the canary color. Disclaimer: holder only works with small eggs. Too bad these won’t fit.

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The Last Meringue

Wednesday 07.11.12

“WHAT, you don’t know about the meringue?!!” screeched my brother and H. “HOW could you have missed it?” “It’s been in H’s freezer since that New Year’s Eve party we had back in 1979!” “Haven’t you ever seen it on the door?” John, my brother’s partner, gives us a sideways look. I sense that he is questioning our mental stability.

“Okay, okay…yes I have a vague memory of it.” I think to myself that they are referring to that teacup-size thing, enshrouded in plastic, sitting alone on the shelf of the freezer door. The thing I’ve often been tempted to throw in the trash. I admit to myself that I never really thought much about it and, in a slightly ashamed tone, confess my obliviousness.

How COULD I have missed its significance? Jeez, it’s been there for a good 33 years and counting. It now officially qualifies as an antique.

I ask if I can borrow it to take photographs, but dodge an immediate round of outrage spit at me from both sides of the dinner table. “Are you crazy?!” “You absolutely cannot remove it, much less unwrap it!” “No way.” They are united in their defense of this frostbitten wad of sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla and egg whites. My brother adds that it is PERFECT. He reminds me of that pre-party madness long ago when he made the meringues for a crowd of 25. He conjures up images of a sixteen year old self, hunched over his cookie sheet, pastry bag in hand, piping out the glossy swirled receptacles that will later hold chocolate mousse, orange segments macerated in grand-marnier, all crowned with lightly sweetened whipped cream. He recalls throwing out two thirds of his creations, only keeping those that met his highest standards of perfection. I finally convince them that it’s worth a look. My brother concedes that it’s probably ossified, and that taking the cling wrap off will unlikely compromise its integrity. We rush back to the apartment before dark in order to rig up a quick photo shoot. This is the one meringue that is preserved for posterity. And it is indeed perfect.

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It Curves!

Tuesday 07.10.12

I am always on the lookout for good packaging, so imagine my total delight when I found an entire box of Wiffle Balls sitting on a bottom shelf in the toy section of our local supermarket. The packaging looks almost unchanged from earlier versions. And, as far as I’m concerned, they should keep it that way. Made in Connecticut since 1953, the Wiffle® Ball was invented by David N. Mullany. At the time, he was an unemployed semi-professional pitcher who saw his 12 year old son making a mess of his arm after throwing too many curve balls with a standard baseball. For more history and rules go here. And, thanks to my friend Nancy’s superior memory, here is a story that ran on NPR in September of last year.

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Things That Last

Friday 07.06.12

If you mishandle a ceramic plate or a water glass, it’ll chip or crack. In which case, it is likely rendered less useful and reliable. There are no easy fixes for either material. Sure, you can glue a plate or vessel back together, and you can sand down a rough spot on the edge of a glass, but as a consequence, its original function is somehow downgraded. (Although if you’ve ever seen a pottery vessel stitched together as a result of a break, you’ll certainly appreciate its beauty.) Believe it or not, I am not much of a collector. At least not intentionally. And these days I definitely think twice before adding anything to our lives. But, I looked around me the other day and realized that I have many many pieces of enameled metal: containers and plates and vases and trays, all of which get used almost daily. The large oval platters pictured here are, I confess, a recent purchase from Bought & Sold (the rustic branch of Lee Hartwell Antiques), one of my favorite shops in Callicoon. My personal feeling is that enamelware only gets better with time. The scratches, the dents, even the wearing away of the enamel all add character, but never really end up compromising its use. Unless we are talking about a cooking pot, which I’ve heard isn’t wise to use after the coating wears away. And certainly the most abused pieces can end up with holes. But a soldered patch can bring those items back to life. Here and here are some other pieces I’ve posted about before. The cup is a daily reminder to live simply.

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