You Decide.

Last weekend we made a leisurely “window shopping” visit to IKEA. At the end of the store, I quickly perused the seasonal furniture (our recent yard work has put me in that mode). I noticed a new outdoor dining chair that had yet to appear on the website, but I quickly passed it by as I rushed to join Tim in the checkout line. Now don’t get excited, all we bought was a pack of little felt pads for under chair-legs (whoopee!).

So anyway. Later, I was trying to find some information about a particular chair produced by Thonet in the fifties. During my search, I happened upon an image of a different Thonet chair that immediately brought to mind the one I’d seen at IKEA the day before. The s 40F, designed by Dutch architect and designer Mart Stam, originally appeared in the 1935 Thonet catalog. As a side note, according to Thonet Germany, Stam designed the first cantilevered chair in furniture history (the s 33, in 1926) predating Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe by several years. But apparently, this was a contended issue, with Breuer and Stam actually going to German court in a patent lawsuit, to settle the issue of who was the legal inventor of the basic cantilever chair design principle.

Either way, there’s no arguing that the Thonet s 40F came way before the IKEA Vinö. But just humor me here, and take a look at the two chairs:

s 40F by Mart Stam for Thonet, 1935

Description according to Thonet Germany website: “In all of his furniture designs Mart Stam relied on straightforward forms, an aesthetic economy of means in the construction and the benefit of improved sitting comfort.” The chair is “clear and reserved in form, with ideal sitting comfort and high quality with respect to materials and processing.”
Wood:
In it’s current incarnation, the wooden strips are made of solid Iroko, a weather resistant, high-density African wood that has been Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. It is similar to teak in appearance and has a smooth, even surface. All wooden parts are oiled for protection.
Metal Frame:
weather-resistant tubular brushed stainless steel
Price:
609,00€ ($820.00) from http://www.dieter-horn-designfurniture.com in Germany

Vinö by Niels Gammelgaard for IKEA, 2010

Description according to the IKEA website: “A comfortable chair that gives. Body-contoured back for great comfort. Stackable. Saves space when not in use.”
Wood:
Solid acacia, a durable hardwood, highly suitable for outdoor use. Pre-treated with oil. Not certified as responsibly managed, but IKEA claims they are working towards that goal.
Metal Frame:
Steel with silver powder coating
Price:
$59.99

The influence is obvious. Not that I’m surprised. IKEA often riffs off more famous designs. When I first saw the Vinö, I thought it was okay, but now that I’ve seen what it’s supposed to look like, it seems a bit…how should I say…lacking. But then again, fourteen IKEA versions can be bought for the price of one Thonet chair. Does the IKEA Vinö’s lack of grace, awkward armrest supports, and almost-certain lack of comfort (earth to IKEA: people do NOT have flat butts!) make it one-fourteenth the chair? Or does it’s affordability make up for it’s shortcomings? Most people wouldn’t have the luxury of choosing between the two, so does it even matter?

That’s something only you, your wallet, and your buttocks can decide.
Talk amongst yourselves.


photo via Thonet Germany

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Back Yard = Work-In-Progress

Since the weather has been warm recently, and our thoughts are returning to gardening and outdoor projects, I thought I would get the internets up-to-date on our back yard progress previous to this year. That way, I have a starting point from which to post further updates…

Okay, so the spring before we moved in, the backyard looked like this:


(April ’06 – Concrete patio and yard overrun with strawberry plants.)

Being the wannabe farmer that Tim is, come spring, his first priority was to put in a couple of raised beds to grow vegetables. At the time, we had not yet come up with a plan for the overall space, so he put them where it made the most sense at the time. Later, I drew up a plan (several, actually, that have been morphing over time). And since then, we’ve been working towards that goal in bits and pieces, as we’ve had the time and resources.


(April ’08 – Original placement of two raised beds.)

After the raised beds were in, we made a bed of gravel along the back of the house, where we put a small, but much-needed, shed for tool storage. Sidenote: We compromised on a plastic one. Yes, I know Tim could have built a wooden one – and one that would have been more aesthetically pleasing – but it was a matter of expeditiousness and money. We also put in a herringbone brick path to the shed. I love herringbone brick (especially with moss growing in the cracks)!


(July ’08 – Shed on gravel bed with brick path and three
‘Mocha’ Choral Bells. We got that plant in the metal container for really cheap, but unfortunately, it has not survived.)

The adjacent concrete slab patio was not very pretty, and had a stepped down area which was basically a waste of space. So, Tim installed decking over the slab. Extending boards across the entire 12′ x 12′ space effectively increased our usable patio area by a good thirty-percent or so (I don’t know the percentage, I just made that up). Then, Tim tore down the chain link gate at the front of the yard, and built a horizontal wood fence along the left side. The portion along the back of the yard was built last summer. Hopefully, this year, we can get the front part, including gate, done so Moxie can finally roam the yard off-leash!


(October ’08 – Deck and fencing along left side of yard. We planted two types of decorative grass there, but because of the grape arbor, they are not getting enough sun.)

During this process, we’ve had several ideas that have been adjusted along the way. For example, the original placement of the raised beds on the left side of the yard, was based on the assumption that we were going to keep the two small apple trees that were on the right side of the yard when we moved in. Soon enough, we realized that the few (5?) apples they produced would be eaten by squirrels even before they got a chance to ripen! Needless to say, I didn’t feel bad about giving the “go” to cut them down. This allowed us to move the second veggie bed to the right side of the yard, opening up the space between the two beds. My first thought was that we could put a tiny fish pond in the center. But then we adopted Moxie, and I figured that probably wasn’t the best idea. We also had grand ideas for hardscaping around and between the beds, using bluestone squares and pea gravel, but dallied on that because of the costs.

(March ’09 – After the apple trees were cut down and the rightmost veggie bed was moved. Before, the back portion of chainlink was removed and wood fencing built. My dad got the random broken slate steppers for free, but there wasn’t enough to go around both beds, so we moved them to the front yard last fall.)

This is now our fourth (!!!) spring in our home, and I have decided to scale back our grand plan, so we can just get this thing done already! I don’t want another year of messy and unattractive dirt, mud, and weeds around the raised beds. We need something low-maintenance and simple. Therefore, I’ve decided we’ll plant a patch of sod in the center area, and put small wood chips/mulch around the beds. Not as pretty as bluestone, but it works.

So, this is the latest incarnation of the back yard plan, to give you a bird’s eye view (click here to see it a bit larger):

We hope to get the grass (sod) and mulch portion done over the next few weekends (weather permitting!).

After that, the remaining steps are to:
1.    build a compost bin out of scrap wood
2.    transplant Japanese Blood Grass currently on the left side of the yard to
the area behind the grass patch (not enough sun in current location)
3.    purchase and plant Sky Pencil Holly in river stone strip on left side
(where Japanese Blood Grass was), if money allows
4.    build front portion of the fence and gate
5.    build right side of fence??? (Neighbor already has solid wood fence. This would just be for aesthetics)

Can Tim and Vicki actually get this done?
Or will they run out of steam and money along the way?
Stay tuned to find out!
Same Bat-time, same Bat-station!

Emeco in Our Home

Last summer, I posted about the legendary Emeco Navy® Chair. At the time, I was a bit obsessed, and after much ogling, I won one on ebay. Now it lives in our dining room!

The chair came from a guy not far from the Emeco factory in Hanover, Pa (also the home of Utz snacks). I liked his creativity with packing materials – he used gallon iced tea containers to take up extra space in the box. Most were Rutter’s, but there were a couple Turkey Hill ones in there, too.

This is a vintage chair, so, it’s not in mint condition. The finish shows wear and it has a few dings, but most noticeably, the back of the chair has the word “PLASTICS” etched into it. I’m sure this reduces it’s “value”, but I like that the chair has physical evidence of it’s history. I only wish I knew a bit more about it’s provenance. Anyone have any ideas?

What about you? Do you own any vintage pieces that have mysterious markings that hint at it’s previous life?

Mmmm…Matzoh Ball Soup!

A week ago, I completely lost my voice. So, I decided I would make a pot of soup to sooth my throat. I initially thought minestrone, but quickly changed my mind when I found a box of matzoh ball mix in the cabinet. I promptly threw a bunch of stuff in a pot, and and hour later, had yummilish matzoh ball soup! Just to clarify, yummilish is the kind of yummy where you exclaim, “This is really good!” after every other bite (Oh…you don’t do that?).

Fortunately, I wrote down the all the dirty details (except the part where I almost burned the onions), so I can repeat the recipe for the Passover Seder at my parent’s house next week…aaand so I can share it here with you. Oh, and in case you start to wonder, we don’t prepare or eat meat in our house. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a good bowl of matzoh ball soup!

Vegetarian Matzoh Ball Soup
makes approx. 6 servings (about 12 small matzoh balls)

  • 2 (approx.) T olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse/kosher salt
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 small parsnip (if available)
  • 1 tsp dried dill (or 1 T fresh)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • one packet (2.5 oz) Manischewitz matzo ball mix
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 T oil
  • 14 cups hot water
  • 8 T (1/2 cup) Frontier™ vegetarian “chicken” broth powder
  • 1 Quorn Naked Chik’n Cutlet*, diced
  • black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Sauté onion in olive oil for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add salt, celery, carrot, parsnip, dill, and bay leaf. Cook until onions are clear.
  3. Add water and broth powder, and simmer about 15-30 minutes to blend flavors.
  4. Meanwhile, combine matzoh ball mix with eggs and oil. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  5. For each matzoh ball, scoop about 1 T. of dough, and roll into a ball with wet hands.
  6. Add matzoh balls and Quorn* to boiling soup.
  7. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  8. Add black pepper to taste.
  9. Enjoy!

Notes: Quorn* is a vegetarian protein source that approximates chicken in flavor and texture. This was the first time I tried it in soup, and I am quite please that it retained it’s meaty texture through boiling (unlike seitan, which can get rubbery). It is not an essential ingredient, but I highly recommend it if you can find it (we get it at Whole Foods, but it is available elsewhere; see link above). *Quorn products contain egg, milk, and wheat ingredients.

Also, some may say I “cheated” by using matzoh ball mix and broth powder. But, hey, they work. And particularly well, I might add. If you have matzoh meal and tons of veggies, you are welcome to make everything from scratch, and then invite me over for dinner. ;)

I want to hear from all the matzoh ball fans out there! Have you ever had a bowl at a deli or diner that rivaled home-made? If so, please share where! And if you’ve never tried it, what are you waiting for? Get cooking!

Irish Soda Bread

Okay, you can pick your jaw up off the floor now…
Yes, I posted Two. Days. In. A. Row.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program:

I’m 100% Italian. So, my family never formally celebrated St, Patrick’s Day. But I did grow up having corned beef with cabbage and Irish Soda Bread for dinner. My opinion is: good food, is good food, no matter your background.

So, on Wednesday, a whim of tradition won me over, and I decided to make soda bread. I did a quick online search for a simple recipe, and settled on this, aptly named, Amazingly Easy Irish Soda Bread.

I followed the basic recipe, making these adjustments:

  1. I used salted butter instead of margarine.
  2. I don’t know about you, but I don’t keep buttermilk on hand. Since most of my baking is on-the-whim, an “equivalent” is often necessary. The basic equivalent for 1 cup of buttermilk is 1 1/3 T. white vinegar + enough milk (cow, soy, whatever) to make 1 cup.
  3. I added 1 cup of currants or raisins (soaked in warm water for about 15 minutes, then drained) after the milk and egg are added to the flour mixture.

Our oven is a bit off, so after the stated 50 minutes, I found that the loaf was not done. Because the crust was sufficiently golden, I was afraid the crust and currants might burn (we don’t want that – burnt raisins/currants taste nasty). So, I tented the loaf with foil before returning it to the oven for an additional twenty minutes, checking periodically, until the center was fully baked.


Don’t even think about it, Moo!

That evening at small group, we enjoyed the bread (with a schmear of butter) along with our coffee and tea. Afterwards, I realized the loaf was pretty much a giant scone. Makes sense, I guess. I figure the dough can be divided into a dozen or so small rounds or wedges, and the baking time shortened, for a lovely brunch or tea-time snack.

I will definitely be saving this recipe for next year, but won’t be surprised if I pull it out much sooner.

Does your family have any St. Patrick’s Day food traditions?
I’m particularly curious about the non-Irish folk.

Nifty Thrifty

I enjoy an occasional trip to the thrift store. Usually with my friend, who shall remain anonymous (she is a self-admitted addict). My first stop is always the housewares/knick-knacks section (this could be because it starts right as you walk in the door). There’s always a ton of stuff, but not much that catches my eye. Not to mention, their prices are weird. 66¢? $1.91? What happened to the 10¢ glasses and mugs I used to get at the Goodwill back at college? Seriously, though, $1.91? Is that normal? Anyway, I digress…

On my last trip into thriftdom, I was surprised to find several items that I was glad to take home (after paying, of course):

At first, I wasn’t sure about this vintage scale…I like it; it goes with my collection of vintage green kitchen tools, and it seems to function accurately, but the price seemed a bit high…more like an antique shop price, than a thrift shop price. But I emailed Tim a picture of it, and he said I should get it, so I can’t blame it on him. :)

For quite some time, I have been hoping to find some nice dessert or parfait dishes, and I finally came upon this set of four. I like the etched lines and their simplicity (for the most part). I’m not too crazy about the bases – they seem a bit incongruous with the tops. But, good enough.

I grabbed this vintage Phillies logo/1210AM thermos for Tim. So what it says, “Milk: The Fresher Refresher” on the back? There’s no rule that says he can’t use it for coffee. And just in time for baseball season.

Lastly, I just had to get these two Bicentennial glasses. Philly memorabilia + 1976 (our birth year) = home run!

If you’re an active thrifter, I’d love to hear about some of your recent finds!

Cupcakes!

Last week I made cupcakes for, what I think was, the third time in my adult life. Previously, I’d made them for Valentine’s day and for a friend’s birthday (lemon pound cake/buttercream icing and red velvet, respectively). This time, I made chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, for no reason in particular.

Actually, I’d been eager to make cupcakes since before the holidays, when I bought a pastry bag and some decorating tips. This time, I found my recipes for cake and icing from the always-dependable, Martha Stewart (FYI: I got 18 cakes using 1/4 cup of batter each, and doubled the icing recipe). The recipes were simple, and the results were especially tasty (what more could you ask for?). Folks, my eyebrows actually raised with surprise upon my first bite into a finished cake! Seriously, they were that good.

This was my first attempt at piping icing. Even though I used the largest decorating tip available at Michael’s (4B), the icing didn’t come out quite as “big” as I wanted it to. Apparently, I need to use an even larger tip (1M) to get the look I’m going for. It’s okay, though. Buttercream is a rich icing, and may be a bit overwhelming in larger amounts.

And I’ll need to get a new one anyway. We went out that evening, and upon our return, found my pastry bag and tip on the living room rug. While we were gone, our cat, Moo, had fished them out of the sink, and then our dog, Moxie used the tip for a chew toy. Needless to say, she rendered it useless. Sigh. Those two are a tag-team of destruction. What are we going to do with them?

No. Twenty-Two (#22)

I seems that I have a hard time making posts on a regular basis. I started the Piccolo Takes All blog eleven months ago, and this is only my twenty-second post. That averages out to one post every three weeks! Seriously? That’s pathetic.

(My Westfield hoodie is well over twenty-two years old…)

For some reason, I tell myself that something has to be significant (whatever that means) in order for me to blog about it. Not that any of my previous posts have been mind-blowing or anything. I follow several blogs where people post about everyday things every day, so what exactly is my issue? I need to get better at this blogging thing, or else just give it up.

Giving up would certainly be the easy option…

April 13th will be this lil’ blog’s first birthday… So, I’m going to put it out there and say that I’m going to put a concerted effort into making month twelve a month to be reckoned with…whatever that means. :)