Monthly Archives: February 2011

Safety Matches

Still useful and largely unchanged after 150 years, matches are probably one of the more forgettable things in the kitchen drawer. But the story of the safety match is more than just taming fire. It is also the story of the industrialization of Sweden, of monopolies and scandal, and of the man who would change Wall Street forever.

A WWII soldier striking a match to light a fuse. (Image by Life Magazine)

A soldier striking a match to light a fuse. (Image courtesy of Life Magazine)


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Cranberry Jam

The dead of winter isn’t exactly known for its bounty, but being cooped up indoors with snow flurries outside makes canning — with its pots of boiling water and multiple, time-intensive steps — seem like an ideal winter activity. There may be heads of cauliflower and kale around, but in general, low-acid vegetables are riskier to steam can than high-acid fruits.

Woman canning food in jars in her kitchen.

Wife of Jim Norris with canned goods in Pie Town, New Mexico, 1940. (Image by Lee Russel courtesy Library of Congress)


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Vintage Oak Board

Thin cutting boards  are used in Germany as a plate, especially for breakfast, or as a small serving dish. This board fits a sandwich perfectly, with just enough room for a bit of mayonnaise, ketchup or mustard on the side. It’s also great if you want to cut your sandwich, fruit or other food into bite-size pieces. Cutting into wood instead of a porcelain is much easier on the knife (and the ears).

Image of wooden sandwich board.

Not too big, not too small… just right. A well-loved sandwich board.


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The grainy image of nana creaking in a rocking chair, stitching endless ducks and daisies onto tea towels is a common, but misleading representation of the craft of embroidery.

At its most elemental, embroidery is sewing decorative stitches onto fabric. At its most rock n roll, it’s the method of choice for creating blindingly gaudy jumpsuits worn by many a music star, and for adding that necessary bling to an otherwise un-bedazzled item of clothing. It was also the preferred embellishment of pharaohs and emperors for their journeys into the afterlife.

Nudie Cohn standing in front of his car

Embroiderer to the stars, Nudie Cohn, in full splendor.


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Whisk Broom

I found this whisk broom at a flea market a couple of years ago. It’s made in the 1920s and I’m still using it today. For something with no other purpose than to sweep away dirt, I’m amazed at the craftsmanship that went into it — it’s durable, with sturdy bristles that don’t snap or fray, that are bound neatly and tightly with twine and metal wire.

Traditional whisk broom

Whisk broom, circa 1920 – a great flea market find.


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