"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

Add your email address here & receive new posts from This American Home!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Project: Tanker Desk Circa 1978

In 1978, the Bee Gees owned the airwaves and John Travolta's disco moves caused a national outbreak of Saturday Night Fever. Drivers shelled out a whopping .63 cents for a gallon of gas and if we weren't busy feathering our hair, or crafting macrame plant hangers, we were kicking back on bean bags and groovy shag carpeting to watch brand new episodes of Charlie's Angels, The Love Boat and Little House on the Prairie.

Actor Ashton Kutcher and basketball phenom Kobe Bryant were both born in this year...and so was my latest project: A 1978 sturdy steel "Tanker" desk from the McDowell & Craig company in Norwalk, California.

I recently rescued the vintage, 60-inch desk off of Craigslist ($75) from a Tanker lover who already had two of his own.

The scratched, yellow desk had been serving hard time at the Los Angeles Country Jail, and I was thrilled by the prospect of setting it free.

As noted on one of my favorite blogs, Apartment Therapy, Tanker desks have been manufactured by companies like McDowell & Craig, Art Metal, Steelcase and General Fireproofing since 1946.

Featuring a double pedestal base, made of thick gauge steel Tankers were the largest selling commercial desk in the world (think: schools, offices & institutions) up until the 1970s.

Apartment Therapy writes, "because of the materials and craftsmanship required to assemble these beauties, manufacturing a Tanker desk on a mass scale is nearly impossible today."

Thanks to the durability of the virtually indestructible desks, however, there are still quite a few floating around.

Purists, like restoration experts, Twenty Gauge, Retro Office and Rehab Vintage deconstruct the desks completely; clean them and customize them to a client's color and detail specifications ($850-$2,150). For the budget conscious, online tutorials by enthusiasts like Retro Peacock, allow DIY'ers to tackle Tanker restoration on their own. 

 I chose the latter route, rolled up my sleeves and started with a deep clean. 

Although I didn't take the desk completely apart owing to the fact I would then be required to put it back together...I did take off the drawer pulls (filthy!) and scrubbed the desk inside and out. It was 35 years of dirt, scuffs and grime as well as a few stowaway papers jammed in the back from the old county jail...Of course, like any self-respecting Nancy Drew fan I read them...and, alas, no case-breaking clues...

Next up, the fun stuff...choosing the paint & giving the Tanker a makeover -stay tuned!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Food for Thought: Picture Cook

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
Picture Cook is a feast for the eyes, literally.

 A graphic cookbook presented entirely through illustrations, it is a concept that gives new meaning to the art of cooking.

New York-based visual designer, Katie Shelly, told NPR she cooked up the idea for the visual feast back in 2009 when she realized as she listened to a friend relay instructions for eggplant Parmesan, she was drawing the process instead of writing it down. "In that moment, it was totally natural for me to draw the three bowls instead of writing all that out in words."

Shelly thinks other people may see things her way as well.

"It's just another way of slicing information," she says. "There will always be people who prefer the original way of doing recipes, and if you're in that camp, then no need to buy this book. I'm not suggesting that the whole world switch over to this format. But I think for people who are into it, if it works for you, then that's awesome."
The cookbook features more than 50 recipes Shelly hopes will inspire "experimentation, improvisation...and play in the kitchen". It is not, she warns, intended to be used as a "precise culinary blueprint". Think, more along the lines of how family recipes get passed along, a dash of this, and some of that to taste...

It's a fun idea with a new flavor all its own: A touch of the unexpected with just a hint of sweet.
Picture Cook is being published by Ulysses Press and will be served up in bookstores this October. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

DIY: Homemade Microwave Popcorn

My friend Michelle Martin teaches fifth graders for a living, but for her, being an educator doesn't stop when the bell rings. She is passionate about learning, doing and sharing -both inside the classroom and out. At home, she is currently exploring alternative grain flours, experimenting with chia seeds and trying to reduce, if not eliminate processed sugar from her family's diet. Happily, I am a beneficiary of her hard work and research -and I take good notes!

When I learned about her latest discovery, I knew I had to share: DIY Brown Bag Microwave Popcorn as demonstrated by America's favorite health guru, Dr. Oz


A simple, money-saving solution to popcorn that is as healthy as it is "green". No extra chemicals, fat or excessive packaging required! Love it!

Brown Bag Microwave Popcorn
(by Dr.Oz)

¼ C popcorn
Pour in brown paper lunch bag
Fold over top

Put the bag in microwave for about 1-2 minutes or until popping slows. Since microwave cooking times vary, it's important to listen closely. (Be warned, I burned my first batch...)

Pour into a container and spray the popcorn with a little cooking spray or lightly mist water (zero fat) to make the spices stick. Consider using olive oil spray or (Michelle's favorite) coconut oil spray available at Trader Joe's.

Finally, sprinkle on your favorite spices. Think: sea salt & parmesean cheese; cinnamon; garlic salt; or sea salt and a dash of cayenne!

Mix it up!

Follow American Home here!