Mid-Century Revere Ware 10″ skillet

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Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 8.46.45 AMAHH, THE CRACKLE OF BACON.  Butter, hitting the right temperature to snap and foam!   Then in go the eggs!   The basics of an American Breakfast.

As a three-year old, sitting on the floor for hours in a kitchen identical to Julia Child’s The French Chef set, these were the sounds I heard.  And revisiting her shows years later, I began to appreciate the nuances of temperature, time, and cooking surface.

When my best teflon pan gave up the ghost, I researched All-Clad selections, convinced technology had trumped tradition.  Investigations cast doubt, however, upon my preconceptions!  The buying decision was even more tempered with caution and eventually placed on hiatus.

paul toungeAlong came a fortunate Dumpster® find, as a friend’s childhood abode was being cleared out for the next owner.  I had scored a nice stack of 1950’s-era Revere Ware, as detailed here in a previous blog entry.

The pile was stored in an apple crate.  A piece found use as a water bowl for our cat, some smaller pots went to neighbors, but the skillet?  The skillet I retained, beheld by the rich history of its patina and a promise of potential magic.  I saw value, but was unsure how to harness its powers.

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 8.46.31 AMOnly after repeated frustrations with our remaining daily-use skillet did I retrieve the old 10″ Revere Ware skillet from the crate, wash it thoroughly, and give it a try.  Wow, first use with a grilled cheese, and the butter burned.  O.K., it heats up really fast, but it was even. All of the stove’s potential made it to the cook surface.  Then I tried eggs, and again burned the butter.  Third time’s the charm.  I’ve found a perfect pan.  Nothing sticks to the decade’s old stainless interior, and the copper bottom spreads heat as well as it did in 1955, when purchased.

This pan should be a basic tool of anyone learning to cook, as well as a must-have for the experienced chef. About $5 at a garage sale near you, or $25 through online auctions.

1960’s PYREX Water Pitcher

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VENTURING BY GREEN fields of new rye through southern Delaware, I ponder way-points to make my trip more interesting, the foremost category being American Thrift Stores.  The more affluent the area, the better.  While Lower Delaware does not have the cachet of, say, Palm Beach, there are pockets of glitter amid the dust and monotony of farmland.  One such oasis is Rehoboth Beach.

Passing a strip mall designed for all shoppers, myself due for a break, I wheel into a parking spot, fortuitously coming to a stop in front of a large Thrift Store.  My quests for the right butter dish and perfect water pitcher continue!  More on the butter dish if I ever find it.  But the pitcher?  I want light weight – thin glass – and large enough to get my hand inside to clean in.

Why light weight?  A shoulder injury has made some routine chores more difficult.  A heavy clunky water pitcher extended at arm’s length can sometimes be a painful experience.  Besides, if it is going to sit on the counter, might it not be pleasing to the eye?

The Deal Of The Century was thus found: this Pyrex® pitcher in the Eames tradition.  Thin glass keeps the weight down, while the volume is a decent quart.  Perfect for a round of martinis on the deck!  Or, as is more often the case in my deckless abode, enough water to accompany a meal of spicy chili.  Two dollars it cost me!  An eBay replacement is about $50 delivered, if you can find one!

The Coffee Trader • david liss

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ACID-FREE PAPER IS the good stuff.  The paper stays brighter.  At first, I thought my eyes were exaggerating problems associated with old, musty paperback books.  After reading the manufacturer’s warning, I’ve begun to treat my eyes to better-quality printed goods.

49491A very nice spring day last week found me on an evening walk through a small grove of cedars, up to the front door of my favorite municipal library.  A list was consulted and a selection made.  Approaching checkout, an obligatory scan was made of $2 choices on the surplus books cart

A library-quality David Liss novel produced jaw-dropping surprise.  Hardback, nice paper, the perfect gift to a buddy.  What’s so special about David Liss?  Historical fiction and thrillers wonderfully combined.

I was lent The Whiskey Rebels on CD a couple of years ago, a thriller of historical fiction. After several attempts to get past the first disc, I became hooked with a complex plot closely woven among Alexander Hamilton’s attempts to fund the fledgling Bank Of The United States, a muddy frontier hamlet called Pittsburgh, a discarded spy of General Washington, and the routine of colonial life.  I’ve since enjoyed several more of David’s novels.

The Coffee Trader I’ve read.  This novel takes us to Europe, 1659, and the life of a Portuguese Jew trading in a new product, coffee.  The drink called  The Devil’s Piss, the subversives who consume, and the schemers and rogues who make up the trading mecca of Amsterdam are all rolled up in this excellent thriller.  This copy I’ve just bought will make an excellent gift to a friend who loves history, Judaica, and reading,  And coffee.

Hidden Gems of Old City – Part I

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paul kearsley 2009 by jim sergovicPAUL KEARSLEY, DIRECT descendant of mid-1700s builder & architect Dr. John Kearsley*,  said to me a while back, “Hey, Woodman, what’s with the tile mosaic in the coffee shop bathroom?”  We had just enjoyed a private tour of Christ Church, at one time the most sumptuous church in the colonies, as well as the tallest structure in North America.  And now, down the street, we find ourselves in  Old City Coffee, where he noted the dual tourist-friendly customer washrooms, one of which sported a cut-tile mosaic.  While not exactly in the style of Isaiah Zagar, clearly there was an influence.  

tile closeup

Zagar made a name for himself throughout the 1960s onward as the premier cracked-tile mosaic artist, covering vast areas with his images. This bathroom mosaic was different. The tile was cut and arranged into a private story, the interpretation being at the sole discretion of the viewer.  The key word here is cut, as in sliced on a wet-saw.  Someone put a lot of work into it.

When walking through the area years later, I noted a tasteful renovation had rendered the  bathroom to an employees-only area.  Thus, this mosaic qualifies for Hidden Treasure status.  The creator is rumored to be a wanna-be-artist plumber.

*** Paul Kearsley’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granduncle was  Dr. John Kearsley, the architect/builder of Christ Church.  But, disappointingly, the Doctor didn’t get the commission for Independence Hall, narrowly losing out to a design by Edmund Woolley and Andrew Hamilton.     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Hall

THOR•LO ~ Padded Socks

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Free” and “Made in U.S.A.” were the buzz words.

NORTH CAROLINA HAS ALWAYS been one of my favorite vacation destinations, particularly the Great Smoky Mountains.  I  love the states’ abundance of flowering trees, especially fruit trees, like peach, pear, apple, & cherry.  The Garden of Eden, indeed, along with its rich history of furniture manufacturers and knitting mills.

But sadly, much of the knitting has been outsourced overseas.  In the early 1980s, Jim Throneburg set out to change that, and invented the Thorlos brand, vowing Thorlos will always be made in Statesville, North Carolina.

I hadn’t remembered hearing the name Thorlos, but when an acquaintance posted Free socks offer* on a sportsmen’s chat forum, I tuned in PDQ.    A little research revealed Thorlos makes purpose-designed socks for outdoors people, tradesmen, medical conditions [diabetes], and leisure.  Their core is developing relationships with people who want/need “engineered padded socks” which reduce blisters, pain, pressures, and moisture.  Their mission is to be the very best padded sock manufacturing company in America. e751955.png.json

The DeFeet Aireator® blog posting remains one of the most popular on AmericanToolbox. DeFeets, however, are different from Thorlos.  DeFeets started out making a light, breathable sock, and Thorlos makes a heavily padded sock.  Both great American companies, but with different focus.

My free pair came today.  I chose the hiking, crew length.  My feet will be loving these socks, from an easy start through springtime meadows to the hottest August hill-climb.  And the bonus,   I’ll be absolutely stylin’ on the trails in these sage-colored socks, with my Danner Boots.  Turns out, I do have Thorlos experience, as the knitting is recognizable.  I inherited several pairs of Thorlos when my brother passed, but never knew the brand.  His collection is pushing 15- to 20- years old, and still serviceable.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 9.29.50 AM *While supplies last. One per billing address. Pay $4.90 shipping and handling. US residents only. Allow up to 4 to 6 weeks for delivery.

Schrade Multi-Tool

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USA made Schrade Multi Tool 3GOOD THINGS COME in small packages.  A motto I’ve often reminded coworkers who remark upon my diminutive stature.  So when I spied a small flat leather case on the top rack behind the hardware checkout counter, my interest was piqued.

At this time in my life, my efficiency as a tradesman depended upon compartmentalization.  A box for this, a pouch for that.  Having the right copper fitting or wall anchor, perhaps a handful of cement or two wire nuts, determined if the job would be completed in one trip.  Small, efficient, purpose-build cases were the rage.  And that flat leather, snap-closed case looked interesting.

USA made Schrade Multi Tool 6Clyde glanced over, spied the case after a bit, and said he wasn’t sure what it was.  A step stool aided retrieval, and a moment later, I was holding a case of thick leather, well-stitched & riveted, with the heavily embossed words, SCHRADE TOOL.  Childhood presents had impressed upon me the value of small heavy items, and the case’s heft intimated something good was within!

“How much?”  Clyde shrugged, said “Twenty bucks”.  I responded with a skeptical frown, but peeled a twenty from my pocket, dropped it on the counter, and let him figure out how to handle a sale with no SKU or stock number.  Got the case in my pocket before he could change his mind!

Stamped SHRADE U.S.A., this multi-tool is perfect for an outdoorsman, tradesman, hobbyist, and anyone who likes to be prepared.  I’ve actually acquired another; one for the truck and one for the desk drawer.  While I’ve yet to use the saw or metal file, the multi-tool has more than once completed its task, saving me a trip to a more complete toolbox.

Many of the Schrade multi-tools are now imported.  Their lifetime warranty is nice, but I still prefer the domestic tools when you can find them.  USA production Schrade multi-tool, about $1 to $20 at a garage sale near you.

Red Wing Work Boots

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Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 5.30.17 PMTHE ROLLICKING ’20s were a grand time in Philadelphia.  Luxury “flats” stretched entire blocks.  Inside these aristocratic apartments, room after room unfolded in a maze. As an apprentice plumber, a kid in a man’s body, I once found myself on the 8th floor above 15th and Spruce, snapping a piece of 6″ cast iron pipe. We were replacing part of a cracked stack in just such a grande dame near the Academy of Music. 

Snap! Crack! Ouch! . . . wait, what happened? The pipe jumped forward a funny way, and smacked my ankle.  The boss, grinning through his cigarette smoke, christened me Hoppy, chuckling at the swelling.  A few minutes later, he promised we’d visit Vern at the boot store.  My health benefits were about to kick in.

Vern ran the local Red Wing Boot Store.  For ten bucks, Vern handed me a used but serviceable pair of boots in my size from out back.  I was now officially a plumber, with the boots to match.  8″ of leather protected my ankles.  Sturdy soles protected my arches in the trenches, where I practiced the Art of Digging.  I’ve been buying Red Wing exclusively ever since.

There is a city called Red Wing, in Minnesota.  The heart of a country engrossed with mining, logging and farming needed the Right Boots.  In 1905, local shoe merchant Charles Beckman, along with 14 investors, opened a shoe company to develop work boots to fill industry needs.  A new standard for excellence was born!

My current pair was bought as closeouts a decade ago, and finally put into service a few years back.  After Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 2.48.37 PMthe heels became mushy, I belatedly discovered these boots were not recraftable.  New boots looked to be in order.  However, a shoe genius located, at all places, the corner of 15th and Spruce, cut off the heels and glued on new ones for $40, saving me a thick stack of crisp Yankee dollars. 

Red Wing is a city in Goodhue County, Minnesota, United States, on the Mississippi River. The population was 16,459 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Goodhue County.