Monday, 31 January 2011

The Best Home-Made Popcorn Machine

The stirring popcorn maker by West Bend, Stir Crazy, makes wonderfully fluffy popcorn every time. This model is superior to the analogous product made by Presto, which costs ten dollars more at Wal-Mart and has a very weak bowl and useless lid. This popper is much more well-made. Instead of vegetable oil, I use coconut oil for a more health-promoting snack.
One of the better bagged raw popcorn brands is Wal-Mart's Great Value. I find that it is superior to that of Orville Redenbacher. Pop Secret is good too, though it tastes a little less corny.
©M-J de Mesterton

Friday, 28 January 2011

Miguel Fisac, Spain's Quintessential Modern Architect

Ijo de Damiel


Above: the Last Interview with Spanish Architect
 and Painter Miguel Fisac


Miguel Fisac, Spain's Beloved Modern Architect

Miguel Fisac (Born Daimiel 1913 - Died Madrid 2006), was the quintessential modern architect in Spain. His work takes place during the second half of the twentieth century. Señor Fisac had more than 60 years of in the art and and architecture professions. As the most prolific Spanish architect, he constructed over 350 building projects. The Spanish city of Daimiel, an ancient spot in Castile-La Mancha formerly known as La Villa de Daimiel, is proud to be home to three representative works of his long career:  Instituto Laboral (Labour Institute), the Market Building and Housing Parterre.

Miguel Fisac invented an unique style of sculpting a flexible structural concrete, having developed and patented the innovative plastic-like cement itself. Some of the buildings designed by Fisac display a quilted pattern made of his proprietary and innovative concrete.

Instituto Laboral
Former Labour Institute. Current Water Interpretation Centre (1951-54)

This is one of the most representative buildings of Spanish architecture from the nineteen-fifties.
It has been defined as "the first modern building" because it represents a real break with the classical architecture that was being done in the 'forties in Spain. Miguel Fisac had the idea to build one of the first business schools in Spain, using modern technology. Fisac designed the business school with reference to the plastic values of the architecture of La Mancha that can be seen in some of its basic elements, including the anarchic arrangement of holes, rounded corners, and external textures generated by successive layers of lime.
In this building Señor Fisac contributed all the interior design elements such as furniture, a unique lighting system in the auditorium, and interesting murals that he painted in each classroom.
Mercado Abastos

Food Market (1955-1960)
It is the second major work by Fisac in his birthplace Daimiel, defined as a large complex devoted to the merging of folk architecture and functionality. 

The exterior is executed in the typical style of La Mancha, with and thick whitewashed stone walls inspired by the ancient "Quinteria Mancha," with a somewhat chaotic distribution of windows. 

Functionalism is defined in the interior of this structure by the utilisation of large concrete pillars. At the entrance of the building there is a ceramic mural by Francisco Farreras.

In 2006, a remodelling of the building was completed. This last Fisac project involved adaptation of the market to new uses. On the top floor of the building there are ever-changing, temporary exhibitions in tribute to Señor Fisac, the artistic and creative architect.

Edificio Parterre

Parterre Apartment Building (1978-82)

On the site in Daimiel, Spain where a pharmacy was owned by his father Joaquin Fisac, now sits a modern residential building where Miguel Fisac employed his famous patent, known as flexible concrete. This is a concrete form-work process that gives an appearance of sagging walls, which is reminiscent of the original slurry aspect that his proprietary concrete has before use. The quilted look of the façade is achieved by application of this technique, a prime example of it being fulfilled in the last stage of this quintessential work by Miguel Fisac, the building's balcony.


Young Miguel Fisac began studying architecture in 1930 at Madrid's Universidad Central.  He studied watercolor (wash), statuary and mechanics. 



Señor Fisac travelled the world. He was especially impressed the Japanese traditional style of architecture and landscaping. Fisac also became fond of the Nordic architectural idiom. He admired the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, and was a friend of Los Angeles architect Richard Neutra.

In 1954, Miguel Fisac received the Gold Medal at the Exhibition of Religious Art in Vienna, for the church of “Arcas Reales” in Valladolid. His work began to be known abroad.

In 1955, Mr. Fisac  designed the Teologado San Pedro Mártir for the Dominican Friars in Alcobendas, Madrid.

Spain's great modern architect Miguel Fisac passed away at his Madrid home in 2006, not long after the interview presented at the beginning of this article.

Spanish Architect Miguel Fisac 1913-2006











Above: the Last Interview with Spanish Architect
 and Painter Miguel Fisac



Miguel Fisac, Spain's Beloved Modern Architect

Miguel Fisac (Born Daimiel 1913 - Died Madrid 2006), was the quintessential modern architect in Spain. His work takes place during the second half of the twentieth century. Señor Fisac had more than 60 years of in the art and and architecture professions. As the most prolific Spanish architect, he constructed over 350 building projects. The Spanish city of Daimiel, an ancient spot in Castile-La Mancha formerly known as La Villa de Daimiel, is proud to be home to three representative works of his long career:  Instituto Laboral (Labour Institute), the Market Building and Housing Parterre.

Miguel Fisac invented an unique style of sculpting a flexible structural concrete, having developed and patented the innovative plastic-like cement itself. Some of the buildings designed by Fisac display a quilted pattern made of his proprietary and innovative concrete.

Instituto Laboral
Former Labour Institute. Current Water Interpretation Centre (1951-54)

This is one of the most representative buildings of Spanish architecture from the nineteen-fifties.
It has been defined as "the first modern building" because it represents a real break with the classical architecture that was being done in the 'forties in Spain. Miguel Fisac had the idea to build one of the first business schools in Spain, using modern technology. Fisac designed the business school with reference to the plastic values of the architecture of La Mancha that can be seen in some of its basic elements, including the anarchic arrangement of holes, rounded corners, and external textures generated by successive layers of lime.
In this building Señor Fisac contributed all the interior design elements such as furniture, a unique lighting system in the auditorium, and interesting murals that he painted in each classroom.
Mercado Abastos

Food Market (1955-1960)
It is the second major work by Fisac in his birthplace Daimiel, defined as a large complex devoted to the merging of folk architecture and functionality. 

The exterior is executed in the typical style of La Mancha, with and thick whitewashed stone walls inspired by the ancient "Quinteria Mancha," with a somewhat chaotic distribution of windows. 

Functionalism is defined in the interior of this structure by the utilisation of large concrete pillars. At the entrance of the building there is a ceramic mural by Francisco Farreras.

In 2006, a remodelling of the building was completed. This last Fisac project involved adaptation of the market to new uses. On the top floor of the building there are ever-changing, temporary exhibitions in tribute to Señor Fisac, the artistic and creative architect.


Edificio Parterre

Parterre Apartment Building (1978-82)


On the site in Daimiel, Spain where a pharmacy was owned by his father Joaquin Fisac, now sits a modern residential building where Miguel Fisac employed his famous patent, known as flexible concrete. This is a concrete form-work process that gives an appearance of sagging walls, which is reminiscent of the original slurry aspect that his proprietary concrete has before use. The quilted look of the façade is achieved by application of this technique, a prime example of it being fulfilled in the last stage of this quintessential work by Miguel Fisac, the building's balcony.



Young Miguel Fisac began studying architecture in 1930 at Madrid's Universidad Central.  He studied watercolor (wash), statuary and mechanics. 



Señor Fisac travelled the world. He was especially impressed the Japanese traditional style of architecture and landscaping. Fisac also became fond of the Nordic architectural idiom. He admired the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, and was a friend of Los Angeles architect Richard Neutra.

In 1954, Miguel Fisac received the Gold Medal at the Exhibition of Religious Art in Vienna, for the church of “Arcas Reales” in Valladolid. His work began to be known abroad.

In 1955, Mr. Fisac  designed the Teologado San Pedro Mártir for the Dominicans Friars in Alcobendas, Madrid.

Spain's great modern architect Miguel Fisac passed away at his Madrid home in 2006, not long after the interview presented at the beginning of this article.
©M-J de Mesterton 2011

Esparto

Photo of Esparto in Portugal by Carsten Niehaus

Esparto and Its Uses
Esparto, also known as "halfah (or alfa) grass" or "needle grass," macrochloa tenacissima and stipa tenacissima, is a bunching grass that grows in northwest Africa, Portugal, and most notably in Spain.

Esparto has a very durable consistency, thus it has traditionally been used for making rope, cords, baskets, espadrilles, and even women's undergarments.

Esparto is also used for fibre-production in making paper. The fibres of esparto contribute to a high-quality paper often used in book manufacturing. First used in Great Britain in 1850, it has been extensively used there and in Europe, but is rarely used in the United States because of the high cost of transporting it. Esparto combined with five-to-ten percent wood pulp for paper-making.

The "Spanish" grade of esparto is usually regarded as the higher-quality, while  "Tripoli" esparto from northern Africa is considered  lesser in quality. The fibres are fairly short in relation to their width, yet do not create any significant amount of dust. Because of the short fibre length, the tensile strength of the paper made with esparto is less than that of many other papers, but its resistance to shrinkage and stretching is superior, thus it is an attractive, dense paper with excellent inking qualities. Paper made with esparto also folds very well.


Lygeum spartum, another species of grass, is often woven together with true esparto, and is incorrectly  labelled with the colloquialism "esparto grass," but  is also known as "albardine."

The Villa de Daimiel, an ancient municipality in Ciudad Reál (Royal City) of La Mancha, an area also known for its viniculture, has produced esparto for  many kinds of crafts, textiles and garments since the middle ages. 

~~M-J de M.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Elegant Pantry Update

Groups of similar-looking food storage containers in your kitchen cupboard or pantry 
create a tidy and elegant appearance.
©2011 M-J de Mesterton 

Elegant Wrought-Iron Furniture

Elegance in Wrought-Iron and Wood 
My outdoor furniture  is congruous with its surroundings: the  greens and browns of raw nature.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Elegant Japanese Ginger Jar

You ought to consider stocking up on ginger this winter; eating it will help reduce the symptoms and duration of rhinovirus.

Elegant Gardening: Outdoor Furniture

My Elegant Patio Furniture Blends with the Garden

Elegant Purple Vegetable Smoothie

An elegant smoothie is made with buttermilk, celery, lemon juice, red cabbage and cucumber.

Elegant Patio Furniture

My garden furniture, constructed of wrought iron and wood, blends well with nature.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Elegant Auguste Renoir Rose

Plastic furniture is all right indoors, especially if it is in the high-styled modern idiom, and was created by or emulates that of 1950s and 1960s designers such as Eero Saarinen. But outdoors, one ideally will have garden or patio furniture made from wrought iron or of teak-wood, which will not deteriorate from exposure to the elements. Wooden and iron furniture exists in perfect harmony with landscaping and nature, especially when made in greens, browns, and other earth-tones.
Here is my old garden courtyard, where I had outdoor dining furniture by the now-defunct, elegant wrought-iron furniture company Lyon-Shaw, and a smaller chat-table in iron, wicker and tile, byAlfresco Home.

Elegant Diuretic Smoothie


One half-cup of water, one fourth-cup of lemon juice, one jalapeño pepper (roasted, pickled or fresh), two stalks of celery, one-half of a cucumber, one tablespoon of thick yoghurt, and one tablespoon of parsley, all whirled in a blender till smooth. Add more water if necessary for processing.
Copyright M-J de Mesterton ©2009

Elegant Garden Furniture

Plastic furniture is all right indoors, especially if it is in the high-styled modern idiom, and was created by or emulates that of 1950s and 1960s designers such as Eero Saarinen. But outdoors, one ideally will have garden or patio furniture made from wrought iron or of teak-wood, which will not deteriorate from exposure to the elements. Wooden and iron furniture exists in perfect harmony with landscaping and nature, especially when made in greens, browns, and other earth-tones.
Here is my old garden courtyard, where I had outdoor dining furniture by the now-defunct, elegant wrought-iron furniture company Lyon-Shaw, and a smaller chat-table in iron, wicker and tile, byAlfresco Home.

Gardening in a Dry Climate





Friday, 21 January 2011

Seed Viability Test

Photo ©M-J de Mesterton 2010
If you possess old packets of seeds, or have conserved flower and vegetable  seeds from plants past their prime, there is a good way to test them for viability. Put 10 seeds of the same variety in-between two wet paper towels, then place the towel-stack into a plastic grocery-type bag, leaving some air in it and lightly tying the ends closed. Leave this assembly in indirect sunlight and monitor it, spraying it lightly with water every two days if the papers have dried out. If after ten or in some cases fourteen to twenty-one days the seeds are usable, at least 6 of the 10 will have sprouted (60% germination ratio). Check on-line for the expected span of time for each variety to germinate. That will help you gauge when to give up the ghost. If fewer than six seeds among the ten do sprout within the projected time-frame, you ought to chuck them all out and purchase new ones. Each seed has its own germination speed.


From an Old Thompson & Morgan Seed Guide, with Notations from Your Editor in Parentheses:

A seed is an embryo plant and contains within itself virtually all the materials and energy to start off a new plant. To get the most from one's seeds it is needful (necessary) to understand a little about their needs, so that just the right conditions can be given for successful growth.

One of the most usual causes of failures with seed is sowing too deeply; a seed has only enough food within itself for a limited period of growth and a tiny seed sown too deeply soon expends that energy and dies before it can reach the surface. Our seed guide therefore states the optimum depth at which each type of seed should be sown. Another common cause is watering. Seeds need a supply of moisture and air in the soil around them. Keeping the soil too wet drives out the air and the seed quickly rots, whereas insufficient water causes the tender seedling to dry out and die. We can thoroughly recommend the Polythene (plastic) bag method,  which helps to overcome this problem. Watering of containers of very small seeds should always be done from below, allowing the water to creep up until the surface glistens.
Most seeds will of course only germinate between certain temperatures. Too low and the seed takes up water but cannot germinate and therefore rots, too high and growth within the seed is prevented. Fortunately most seeds are tolerant of a wide range of temperatures but it is wise to try to maintain a steady, not fluctuating temperature, at around the figure we have recommended in our guide. Once several of the seeds start to germinate the temperatures can be reduced by about 5 degrees F and ventilation and light should be given.
Some perennials and tree and shrub seeds can be very slow and erratic in germination. This may sometimes be due to seed dormancy, a condition which prevents the seed from germinating even when it is perfectly healthy and all conditions for germination are at optimum. The natural method is to sow the seeds out of doors somewhere where they will be sheltered from extremes of climate, predators, etc. and leave them until they emerge, which may be two or three seasons later. Dormancy, however, can be broken artificially .

Garden Activities for January

Rocky Mountain Annual & Biennial Flowers
Hardy Hollyhocks

The seeds of  some flowers are hardy enough to survive frost and mountain snow.  They can be planted before spring. Here are a few examples:

•    Hollyhocks (Alcea Officinalis)
•    Snapdragons (Antirrhinum Majus)
•    Larkspur (Consolida Regalis)
•    Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella Sativa)
•    Poppies (Papaver Rhoeas)
•    Bachelor’s Buttons (Centaurea Cyanus)
•    Calendulas (Calendula officinalis)
•    Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia Amoena)
•    Foxglove (Digitalis)
•    Wallflower (Erysimum Cheiri)
•    California Poppy (Eschscholtzia Californica)







M-J's Elegant Gardening Blog

Welcome to a repository for gardening information of all sorts, which shall be added in haphazard fashion.

Elegant, Safe Water Bottle Made in Switzerland




Elegant Water Bottle from Sigg of Switzerland

Asian Food Glossary

Uwajimaya, the eminent Asian food and cultural emporium of Seattle, has published an extensive lexicon of Asian food terminology.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Elegant Graf von Faber-Castell Pen

A beautiful, classic writing instrument: the Graf (Count) von Faber-Castell 
Pen with Guillochage Body and Rhodium-Plated Fitments

Royal Couple Visit the U.S., 1939

American Pride and Presidential Style on the Brink of WWII
(President Franklin D.) "Roosevelt believed so strongly in the need for cooperation that he pursued this change in foreign policy at the risk of losing domestic support from the very strong isolationist and anti-British segments of the electorate. FDR planned every minute detail of the visit to ensure the King's success in winning over the sympathy and support of the American people.


After two days in Washington, the tone of the royal couple's visit transformed from formal to informal as they accompanied the Roosevelts to their home in Hyde Park, New York. The King and Queen's stay in Hyde Park illustrated to the American people that although they were Royalty, they also enjoyed the simpler things in life. In contrast to the formal State Dinner at the White House, dinner at the Roosevelt's Home "Springwood" was described to the press as a casual dinner between the two families; their evening entertainment was simple conversation, unfettered by formalities. Even more relaxing and informal was the following day's event - a picnic. FDR brought the couple to his new hilltop retreat - Top Cottage - on the eastern portion of his estate for an old-fashioned, American-style picnic. Much to the horror of FDR's mother Sara Roosevelt, the King and Queen of England were served hot dogs on the front porch of the cottage. Although the press made a great deal about the hotdogs (the picnic made the front page of the New York Times), the menu also included more delicate fare fit for a King and Queen: 

MENU FOR PICNIC AT HYDE PARK
Sunday, June 11, 1939
Virginia Ham
Hot Dogs (if weather permits)
Smoked Turkey
Cranberry Jelly
Green Salad
Rolls
Strawberry Shortcake
Coffee, Beer, Soft Drinks

The royal couple delighted in their Hyde Park experience. In a letter to Queen Mary, her mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth wrote: "They are such a charming and united family and living so like English people when they come to their country house." Their departure was emotional; a large crowd gathered at the small Hyde Park train station to wish the couple luck as they returned to an uncertain and perilous world on the verge of war.


The royal visit accomplished President Roosevelt's goal when it came to pleasing both the American people and the British Monarchy.  The economy was in dire straits, and the Roosevelts pulled no pretentious poses. They were proud to serve foods that the American people typically ate on picnics and at home. The royal couple were impressed, even with those hot dogs.
~~M-J

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Elegant Rusticity: Lodgepole Pine Hat-Rack/Coat-Tree

Look less "twee" with a real log coat-tree.

Elegant White Cake

See Elegant Cook for M-J's Elegant White Cake Recipe.

U.S. Customs Seize Kinder Surprise Chocolates

KINDER SURPRISE CONTRABAND

It's an adventure that happened to a Canadian, Linda Bird, who went to the United States. Crossing the border, customs officers discovered that she had in her possession a chocolate egg called "Kinder Surprise"!
These foil-wrapped sweets made by European chocolatier Ferrero were banned in the U.S. after Washington D.C. expressed the fear that children could choke on small toys lying inside them, reports L'Essentiel.
In 2009, U.S. Customs  made 2000 seizures and confiscated more than 25,000 of Ferrero's special chocolate eggs.
"These are mainly individuals," said a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, Mike Milne, noting that such "contraband" reaches a peak at Christmas and another at Easter-time.
If you go to the U.S., please do not carry Kinder Surprise with you.
Who would have let  something so innocent cause such trouble? Surprise--it's the new nanny-state.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Inelegant, Heavy Earrings


Elegant is not the word for the earrings shown on OMG's line-up of stars. Unless you're wearing beer-goggles.

Refer to my essay at the bottom of the first page of Elegant Survival, "Elegant Woman or Christmas Tree."

Ironically, Doctor Oz said just last week that earrings ought not be hanging more than an inch from one's ears, and that they must weigh no more than a half-ounce. Pendulous earrings are going to age your earlobes terribly. These photos show some really cheap looking earrings that may have cost a fortune, but then having truly elegant taste doesn't cost much.

Here is another weird interpretation of reality by OMG: what is essentially a girdle or corset masquerading as an evening gown would NOT be better without the diaphanous train: