Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Green-ing Design

Silo via TinyHouseBlog

Most of you may know that I am one of the hosts for #IntDesignerChat on Twitter- today's topic is one that has gained notoriety in the past few years and still gaining steam, Green Design. Over the next couple weeks, I'll be posting quite a bit about some simple changes you can make in your own home to become more enviro-friendly and also the way we help our clients at Cupboards choose sustainable and green products.

"Green" is tricky in our industry and there are lots of ways to do things that are eco-friendly and sustainable, yet not fall in to the commercialized "green" movement. Additionally, far too many products that we buy that make claims of "eco-friendly" simply aren't.

I hope that you'll join us for today's chat- You can learn about how to participate and the questions that we will be covering here.

One of my favorite sites for debunking myths propagated by product suppliers is Sins of Greenwashing. Check 'em out.

The Seven Sins of Greenwashing

I hope to see you on the chat at 5pm CST tonight on Twitter. Just enter the hashtag #IntDesignerChat in your search bar and follow along.

As my old friend Kermit says, "It ain't easy bein' green!"

Monday, June 28, 2010

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Sunday morning I was informed that it was my duty to make blueberry ice cream for a family gathering that afternoon- no problem, right?

Somewhere in our genetics, we are programmed to love ice cream. I have an old-fashioned ice cream maker similar to this one that might be one of my most prized kitchen tools. No half-gallon machine for me, this puppy can churn out 6 quarts at a time. When I'm feeling nostalgic(or want to punish an unruly guest), I can even throw on the hand crank.

My early morning market trip gathered all the necessities for a blueberry cheesecake ice cream. Months ago I made a fine, fresh cherry cheesecake recipe and intended to just throw in blueberries instead of cherries. I'm convinced that Dolly and Quincy ate my recipe. I tore the house apart looking for it, examining every nook and cranny that I could have stuffed a small handwritten recipe. No luck.

If you follow me on Twitter, you saw that I was desperate and even shouted out to see if anyone had a cheesecake ice cream recipe- even Bettina Boateng from NBC 13 in Birmingham tried to help me find one(Follow her on Twitter if you don't already). No luck.

I think I looked at most of the recipes that I could find online. It takes very little for me to try something new, but I wanted this to be a time-tested recipe.

After a couple of hours of searching, I mixed about 10 of the recipes together and said, "Here we go."

Before the recipe, I cannot forget to thank the Auburn University Hort Forum for the fantastic blueberries. They are beyond sweet and very mature for an early season fruit. They've figured out a way to make blueberry lemonade, by the way. Heaven!

The recipe is a bit more labor intensive than most of my ice creams. I don't typically make a custard even though virtually every recipe we make contains eggs. Some folks get freaked out by eating raw eggs- if that's you, put your mind to ease and find someone with farm-raised, free-range eggs.

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

yield: one half gallon


8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 c. granulated sugar
5 egg yolks
2 c. half and half
2 c. milk(I used skim, makes it low-fat ya know?)
3 1/2 c. fresh blueberries
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. confectioner's(powdered) sugar
pinch of salt
1 TB lemon juice
1 TB vanilla extract(I use Grey Goose vodka that has been infused w/ vanilla bean)
3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs

Combine half and half with milk in saucepan on stove- gradually increase heat to boil. Be careful, if you just turn the heat on you will scorch the mixture(trust me, I've done it). In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg yolks. I use a hand-mixer and bring to consistency of frosting. When milk mixture begins to boil, remove from heat and allow to slightly cool. Pour milk mixture gradually in to cheese mixture, stirring constantly. Place bowl in larger bowl with ice and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Mixture will thicken as it cools.

Sort blueberries and eliminate any stems, leaves etc. Place berries in med. saucepan with powdered sugar, water and salt. Bring to boil- reduce heat and simmer 10-12 minutes until sauce thickens. During this process, I took my potato masher and beat the berries up a bit, creating a mash but leaving around 1/3 of the berries whole. Remove from heat and cool completely.

After custard and berries have cooled, mix together. Add lemon juice, vanilla and graham cracker crumbs. I used pre-prepared crumbs this time, but if you want to make your own, just lightly toast them in the oven with some butter beforehand. Prepare ice cream according to your maker's directions.

Always allow your ice cream to ripen at least an hour before you eat it. This actually tasted better the next day(You thought I was going to dip some in a bowl for the picture and not eat it?).

Hope you enjoy- It's summertime, this is the stuff we are supposed to be eating!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Work's Gone to the Dogs

"Hey, we aren't going to sit here all day!"

Dolly and Quincy are big supporters of Take Your Dog to Work Day 2010. As most of you know, Cupboards is often graced by these two hams. Believe it or not, Dolly and Quincy have their own clientele, people in town that often drop in just to see if they are there.

Personally, having the dogs at the office has been quite rewarding. If you own your own business or spend the kind of hours working that we do, it's nice to have an element of home at work- or at least not have work feel so rigid.

Thankfully, Dolly and Quincy are happy souls. They will play with whatever toy you give them and love everyone that comes through the door, sometimes to the guests dismay. It only takes a few minutes to see that they're just good ole' cabinet dogs!

* I would be remiss if I did not mention that while we do have purebred Boston Terriers, there are lots of very loving dogs(cats, too) that need good homes in shelters all over the country. Quincy(on the right, above) is a rescue himself, coming from a very sad and maddening situation. There are lots of places to contact to find a great new pet for your home, or work!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Single Plane Fleet

Perhaps the best thing that has sprung from my dive in to social media is the contacts that I have made throughout our industry and those that run parallel with ours. Reading the tales and activities of my friends from around the world has been incredibly rewarding.

Brian Meeks is a woodworker and maintains the site Extremely Average. A couple days ago he shared with us a delightful story of goodwill. As you read his words, it's obvious that he and his family are generous and when you do something right, it comes back to you.

Read Brian's story here: Hand Plane Tribe

Hand Plane Tribe brought a variety of things to mind: our shared interest in woodworking, family, being charitable. Those thoughts led to a tool I recently received that was made by my great-grandfather. I felt like my lonely plane deserved some recognition, too!

As you can see, this plane is very home-made. It's a primitive 'jack plane' if I had to call it a name. The wedge and knob are missing, perhaps from its travel barn to barn over the years. If you look closely, you can see the nails it was assembled with, each of different sizes and shapes. My family was the "salt of the earth" in the deep South and I'm told, made virtually every tool they used. It's so difficult for me to comprehend that one couldn't just skip up to home improvement store and pick up the latest and greatest of electronic, lazy-person tools. When you really think about it, the things that were made by these types of tools were truly hand-made. The care and precision that had to go in to fabricating the means for which you will build something else is almost mind-boggling, almost like having to invent the wheel.

I am proud to have this plane in our shop now; It's sitting on top of the file cabinet beside my desk.

In a way, this plane is a very small reminder to me of the craftsmanship and creativity that is passed down from one generation to the next. I seriously doubt that anyone will have my Craftsman drill displayed somewhere in 75 years.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Shuck 'Em

We have dewberries growing on a fence behind the shop. Earlier this week Dad and I picked a handful and snacked on the sweet berry often mistaken for a weed. We share a back alley with Pincher's Fresh Seafood and had noticed before that they had thrown oyster shells in to the parking area where gravel had become sparse. This time though, noticing was a bit different. I scooped up a handful of shells. Looking at me like a kid on the beach, Dad said, "You find you some shells?" I replied, "Yep."

See, I love oysters. Raw oysters. I think it's crazy to cook them or dress them up with crackers and hot sauce. I eat them plain, right out of the shell.* In a way, it's sad that I hadn't noticed the beauty of an oyster shell until now. These shells, already bleached by the summer sun, bear the marks of a once living, thriving and growing animal. I am still amazed and thankful that I occasionally notice the little things in life around us. The faded colors and shapes of the shells captivate me.

As the effects of the recent environmental disaster creep closer to home and the fact that there still appears to be no end in sight, the realization that change is upon us is overwhelming.

I know that oysters grow in other parts of the world, in fact on other coasts in the US. Frankly, those oysters aren't the ones that I will want to eat. I will want OUR oysters, the ones that come from the gulf. I admit it, I'm selfish.

There are still lots of gulf oysters available that are very safe- last time I checked, they're still very tasty too. Our local seafood markets are taking hits perhaps harder than the rest of us inland- Go by and see what they have available.

*I will eat Oyster's Rockefeller, on a cracker, with hot sauce, or any other way you like them. There is nothing wrong with Scalloped, Deep-Fried, Stewed, Grilled, New Orleans style- BUT... raw and plain is best!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

You thought Jaws was scary?

Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water, a new threat has emerged and now our livelihood is in serious jeopardy.

The images of the wildlife that have been burdened with the initial wave of crude oil are devastating and heart-wrenching.

It has left me feeling more and more helpless- I encourage everyone to do their part. The Better Business Bureau has developed a tool on their site that helps confirm the legitimacy of a charity. Use it and be generous.

Here are a few charities that have a positive track record of success:

While our dependence on oil may be the root and we didn't directly cause the oil spill, it's not going to clean itself, and entire species of wildlife shouldn't be destroyed.

Check them out and do the right thing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wallcovering of the Day

Saul Steinberg was a brilliant cartoonist whose illustrations graced the cover of The New Yorker for many, many years. There isn't an easy way to describe the appeal that his sketches have for me, but I've yet to see one that I didn't like.

Schumacher was extra smart and chose some of Steinberg's best work and turned it in to art for our walls. I was first exposed to and used F. Schumacher ten years or so ago, and quickly became a fan of the exceptional taste of their wall coverings and fabrics.

This is the print that I will have in my laundry room one day. It's strange, because I really don't like birds. This is just one of the Steinberg prints that Schumacher has available- It's called Aviary. I used the black and white version of this in a customer's powder room some years ago and it has always stuck with me.

So there you have it, the wallcovering of the day- my future laundry room walls will be covered in charming little birdies.

Love it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Channeling my inner Tucker Carlson

“To its devotees the bow tie suggests iconoclasm of an Old World sort, a fusty adherence to a contrarian point of view. The bow tie hints at intellectualism, real or feigned, and sometimes suggests technical acumen, perhaps because it is so hard to tie. Bow ties are worn by magicians, country doctors, lawyers and professors and by people hoping to look like the above. But perhaps most of all, wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting an aggressive lack of concern for what other people think.”
—Warren St John, The New York Times

Saturday I was a guest at a wedding of a friend of a friend. Looked to me like a grand opportunity to break out the seersucker and a bow tie. As I got ready that afternoon it occurred to me that hot Southern weddings begged for summer dresses and seersucker, and I was happy to oblige- just on the seersucker of course.

The bow tie really does convey a slight act of defiance, even though I'm not entirely sure who were are defying. Those who wear long ties may scoff at the bow tie wearers but "Scoff away," I say. Really it's the same with me and shorts... I like to wear shorts in the summer and so I do, a lot. Sometimes I wonder if I am dressed the way a toddler would be dressed for church, sans knee socks of course, but that hasn't stopped me. There is something truly classic about a guy in a bow tie.

Bow ties have made a huge resurgence with the younger crowd lately and it works out fine for me. Just allows me more places to shop!

This is the tie I wore Saturday. It was one I picked up at Jos. A. Bank quite a few years ago but it looks nice against the white shirt.

Really, the bow tie subject could lead in to a discussion of folks that don't know how to tie a tie... We won't go there.

As you can see by my awesome blazer, I love seersucker. I've got shorts and shirts, a couple blazers and pants. Seersucker is easily my preferred fabric of choice for summertime. Recently I stumbled upon this seersucker bow tie from dixiePatches. Good thing it comes in a variety of colors!
Vineyard Vines is the old standby for a bow tie for any occasion. I am particularly fond of this flamingo tie, even looks good in black. Possibly my newest favorite line of wares for guys is Southern Proper. So far, everything that I've seen from them has been grand and right on point. This Magnolia pattern is perfect, not really any other way to describe it.
Father's Day is this weekend and if your dear old dad can pull off a bow tie, buy him one from one of these fine folks or at a local shop.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

So I ran in to the loo...

On my way home from a counter top install this week, I made a quick pit stop at a newer-looking gas station/restaurant(in the South, we combine these more often than we probably should). When I was on the road quite a bit, I felt like I could perceive what kind of establishments were more tidy than others and this particular spot fit the bill. With an hour left on the road I pulled in and headed in. I turned the corner and was impressed with both cleanliness and availability of potty options. A blue sign caught my eye...

I laughed out loud in the bathroom, even took out my phone and snapped a photo(sadly, didn't turn out). Luckily, you can buy these little gems online here and they had a picture that I felt it would be good and funny for me to share.

The sign reminded me of a couple blog posts from last year on Kitchen and Residential Design, authored by the renowned Paul Anater. I was fortunate enough(and honored) to guest post for him and so I thought I would share again for those who may have missed them.

A urinal! A urinal! My kingdom for a urinal! - by Paul Anater.

Standing Room Only - Running back to the Urinal - by yours truly, as a guest on Paul's Blog.

Residential urinals are out there and available. Ladies, Father's Day is just around the corner!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

All Employees Must Wash Hands!

Most of you probably don't know that I had a stint in law enforcement. Police officers and the like are vastly underpaid for the sacrifices they make to take care of our communities and should be lifted up in our society.

One of the poignant things about the corrections industry is the evolution of the housing elements afforded to people that have been incarcerated. I was always impressed that someone came up with a way to make a toilet, sink, toilet paper holder and drain board out of a solid piece of stainless steel. The lovely unit above can be purchased through Bradley Corporation.

Recently Caroma, a very forward thinking company that has always impressed with flushing systems, let out this little gem.

I'm sorry, but what?

In all seriousness, I am all about green-living and innovation, but anything that involves gray water just makes me think it goes in a camper. So my opinion is harsh, it's merely aesthetics. It's a prison toilet that has a real flush and a toilet seat.

The space argument is legit, and some rooms just don't have the available spots for toilets and a lavatory(Overseas, many apartments have exceptionally small loos- so small you must come outside to change your mind). Folks in our neck of the woods have McShowers. Putting the sink on top of the throne would just never fly.

One of the concerns that I have is the "flush effect". Everyone has heard that you should keep toothbrushes and etc. 6 feet away from the toilet as you will end up with little lovelies in your bristles. Will the basin being so close to the flush not create a very not sterile environment?

Caroma isn't the only one... Buratti and Roca Innovation has this toilet out and about.
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I do like the little platform on the side... Guess you can throw your legs up and relax just like you're in your recliner!

So, what do you think?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Finding the Queen

Saturday morning I was up early and out the door with a couple friends to an estate sale in Montgomery. Since it was the second day of the sale, everything was 50% off and the anticipation of finding a nifty item was unnaturally high.

No one would consider me an 'estate sale junkie', but I do enjoy them and pride myself on being able to search out a piece of treasure among the years of collected fluff one often has to sift through when a loved one passes or decides that it's time to sell out and see the world(it happens more than you think... check out "Living Estate Sales" sometime). Yard sales, antique stores(especially the junked up ones) and the like have always been fun. It's an interesting type of event and the people that attend are always unique.

One of my counterparts exited our vehicle and produced a reusable bag for carrying wares and such. I was caught a bit off guard thinking, 'Today's shopping will be serious business.' Quickly I notice that I'm virtually the only person there without a bag. Oh well, guess an arm full is all I can get.

The house is in an older neighborhood outside of downtown Montgomery. It reminds me of neighborhoods in other cities that have two kinds of residents, the people who have been there since the houses were built and those young families who are scooping up a house in need of some TLC. Immediately the glass block tile that runs half the length of the front porch, catches my eye. This could be good or bad... someone that put glass block in a house from this era might have been the type to have some crazy good stuff, or crazy bad. The glass block was in the dining room- Not where I expected.

We enter the single car garage and I spot a box and flip through. Sometimes it's sad to see such personal items for sale, but material things can't be taken with you. Pictures, cards, a high school diploma from 1942 litter the box. I choose a thin book that is about canning and preserving. Food preservation has become a hobby and since we have a large garden this year it's something I could always use more tips for, particularly from an era when it was a necessity. The pamphlet was part of a quarterly subscription series and this issue is from November of 1895. It was particularly interesting that you could subscribe for just 50 cents!

Also stumbled upon a book that was published by the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service at the Auburn University. There was no date that I could find, but the texture of the cover and cover art just screen 1960's to me. If I use this book correctly, I'll be able to make nearly every jam and jelly known to man.

The house was full of unique things and the homeowner was obviously a discerning homemaker. I sat on a sofa in one of the back rooms in front of a stack of books in the floor. Spotting the word "cookbook" on an older, faded cover was easy and I knew I had to have it. The book was in a quart-sized plastic resealable bag so I didn't open it there and figured that it may or may not be something I would enjoy. Took the plunge!

The Queen Cookbook: A Careful Compilation of Recipes and Practical Information for Cooking and Other Household Requirements was written by Mrs. William Hart Boyd. I've done about all the research I know how to do and found that this is indeed a First Edition published in 1895. As you can see in the picture, it has been used. There are handwritten recipes and items clipped from other publications all through the book. While the book may be worth a lot less than those in perfect condition, I feel like I struck gold. First editions of this book are very rare and have become quite expensive, though I'm not sure I can part with this one.
This is inside the front cover- I really like how the original owner left the poem on the bottom of the recipe and carefully pinned them in the cover.

Mrs. Boyd, the author doesn't mind telling it how it is and passes out information for every type of homemaker. I particularly like the section on what to do in a thunderstorm and how soft beds must always be used for children. If you'd like to read some of it, it can be read on Google Books here.

The book is really a literary gold-mine. This is perhaps my favorite passage so far, at the beginning of the chapter on Cakes and cake mixing.

"There is a best way of doing everything, even to boil an egg, to cook it so as to be palatable and nourishing. So there must be a best way to go to work to make a cake. How very difficult it seems to a beginner, while to one of experience it is very simple and a delight. Knowledge gives us power in all things."

Love it.

Thanks for letting me share my exciting estate sale day with you guys...

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