Restoring a Built-in Ironing Board

ironingboard1 copy

If the original inhabitants of our old house found themselves teleported to the present, I imagine the first question they’d ask is why people go out in public wearing (me included) what to 1920s sensibilities would seem like baggy and wrinkled pajamas. The presence of a built-in ironing board in our kitchen indicates the centrality of ironing and a commitment to well pressed shirts and dresses back in the 1920s. If I were an archeologist, I’d be tempted to call these 1920s folks an “iron age” people.

But then this happened:

Apparently, in the 1960s there was just too much strenuous “action” to bother with ironing. Around this time or at some later date, the previous inhabitants of our house converted the ironing board into an awkward spice rack. I guess all the “action” required seasoning.

Restoring the ironing board was one of the first things I did when we moved into this house back in 1998. I just looked at some pictures of built-in ironing boards in an old copy of the Sears Home Catalog, cut out a piece of MDF and covered it in ironing board material. I attached a dowel to the back of the board that slides in a track in the lower portion of the cabinet. But somehow the commitment to iron-worthy fashion did not follow.

On my bucket list is a much overdue attempt to dress better. Our neighborhood produces eccentrics such as the late Silver Lake Walker and Five Dollar Guy so I could dress like a 1920s monopoly man and nobody would notice. Just another aging hipster! But I need not push this fashion thoughtstyling into self parody. Perhaps some moderate ironing and a commitment to looking just a bit better would suffice.

Do you use an ironing board? How often?

That Sugar Film

Sugar has replaced fat on the ever rotating roster of demonized ingredients. But unlike fat, which we actually need, sugar fully deserves its villainous status. We could eliminate processed sugar from our diets entirely and be much healthier.

A new documentary, That Sugar Film is a Morgan Spurlokian spin on the anti-sugar crusade. It continues where last year’s Fed Up left off. At the center of the film is a stunt: Australian actor Damon Gameau’s goes on a supposedly healthy diet consisting of things like fruit juices, low-fat processed foods, yogurt and granola bars. Of course, all of these highly processed foods are made palatable with copious amounts of sugar. It’s the well documented Snackwell cookie syndrome: large food corporations have removed fat and replaced it with sugar to better keep us addicted to their products. During the course of the film we watch Gameau’s health decline precipitously.

A disclaimer: personally, when it comes to documentaries, I prefer a vérité approach and am not a fan of Spurlock-type hijinks or hyperactive animation, both of which this film has in abundance. Show me don’t tell me is a film making mantra seared into my brain during the brief period I took classes and edited with Jean-Pierre Gorin (Full disclosure: my inner Gorin drives Kelly crazy and makes me a grumpy, no-fun movie going companion.)

That said, what won me over to That Sugar Film is that its heart is decidedly in the right place. The strongest scenes were during visits to two disadvantaged communities, an Aboriginal town in the Australian outback and a poor community in rural Appalachia. You won’t ever forget the early graves of the Aboriginal graveyard and the tragic dental problems of one of the Appalachian protagonists. In these miserable communities, Gameau shows that our addiction to sugar is not a matter of personal choice, but instead a result of predatory capitalism. Large corporations are, to use a Luddite sentiment, engaged in actions “injurious to commonality.” Our solutions to the sugar problem are going to need to address the commons. And, like climate change, there are no easy answers to these larger societal problems. At best we can, like the dentist in That Sugar Film who donates his services in Appalachia, do what we can with whatever means we have. We can also press our cowardly political leaders about their relationships and patronage of the large corporations that rot our teeth give us obesity and diabetes.

But That Sugar Film also tells a personal story. Sugar has crept back into my diet after a period of abstinence following a screening of Fed Up and a brief period of Lenten virtuousness. On a personal level it might be a good idea to periodically ponder Gameau’s expanding gut and declining heath. That Sugar Film might just be the perfect film to bum out the family with or think about when reaching for that slice of cake. Our health may depend on periodic, scary reminders.

In the U.S., that Sugar Film is available on-demand an in theaters on July 31.

053 Breakfast Nook Theory


On this week’s podcast Kelly and I discuss our recent breakfast nook remodel and conclude with Kelly’s ideas about how to choose paint colors. I’m so lucky to have a resident Master of Fine Arts! We’re also lucky to have a digital copy of Architectural Graphics Standards!

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

How to Make a Breakfast Nook Comfortable


When our house was built in 1920, breakfast nooks were somewhat of a builder’s gimmick, cute, but not that comfortable. Take a look at the ad above. Do those benches look like a place you’d like to hang out in? How about the bench to table distance? Do you see yourself leaning far over your bowl of cereal? If you’re seating more that two, what about the person that has to slide into the window side of the nook?

Our breakfast nook served as fodder for some of our most fraught marital squabbles. Kelly looked at the nook and saw potential for storage and work space. I held to my line of not altering the historical details of our old house. We both agreed that changes needed to be made. We had, after all, voted with our derrieres. Neither of us used the breakfast nook for anything other than as a repository for junk. Here is our nook, as it looks today, after some changes we made to make it more comfortable:

breakfast nook

Those changes were made possible thanks to handy a resource called Architectural Graphics Standards. AGS, offers a set of standard measurements for everything from table height to the length of a fencing pistes. When it comes to furniture, just a half an inch can make the difference between comfort and discomfort. The main problem with our nook was that the depth of the benches were at the very minimum recommended by the AGS. So we extended the benches by a few inches:


As you can see, the cat approves.

Another problem was the size of the table in our nook. By shortening the table, we made it a lot easier to get in and out of the nook:

tableshortening copy

Of course, you can’t serve a dinner for four in the nook with such a short table, but we see it more as a place to gather and for the two of us to have breakfast (it is a breakfast nook, after all).

Kelly did a great job with the hard work of sewing pillows and cushions and painting all the trim and walls. And, yes, that is a functioning built-in ironing board on the left in the wide shot. More on that in another post.

Saturday Tweets: Urban Ag, Climate Change and Gifts from Birds

052 Listener Feedback and So Much More


An eclectic podcast this week. We discuss how “staying in is the new going out,” respond to Eric of the Garden Fork Radio Podcast’s love letter to toilet augers, listen to a comment on poultry health, debrief on Kelly’s sewing projects and go off on a rant about Erik’s plantar fasciitis problem. During the podcast we mention:

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Shakerato (Why don’t you come to your senses?)

There’s a new afternoon transgression around the Root Simple compound: the caffé shakerato. A shakerato is an iced coffee mixed in a cocktail shaker. Making one is much easier than hauling yourself down to that dreaded temple of  middlebrowedness whose green siren logo will lead us all to financial ruin and sugar-induced comas. No, you don’t need another Frappuccino.

Making a shakerato is simple. Brew some strong coffee (espresso is best, but I don’t have an espresso maker). Let the coffee cool down (this is important–add the ice too soon, and the coffee gets diluted) and put it in a cocktail shaker with some half and half, sugar to taste and a pinch of salt (everything tastes better with a pinch of salt). Add some ice, throw your hands in the air and shake like you just don’t care. Pour, straining out the ice, of course, and enjoy. You’ll find that the combination of shaking and milk will create a satisfying, frothy beverage.

Add a jigger of dark rum to the shaker if you want to upgrade to a cocktail.

This recipe is a dumbed-down version of the one I found in obsessive cocktail guru Dave Arnold’s book Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail. So far I’ve only allowed myself to check Liquid Science out of the library. I fear that if I owned it I would fall down a deep mid-life crisis cocktail hobby hole involving some of the gadgets and ingredients Arnold details in the book: $8,000 centrifuges, canisters of liquid nitrogen and potentially hazardous beverage experiments involving powdered quinine sulfate.

* Do you have Desperado stuck in your head now, like I do? Sorry about that.

Saturday Tweets: Terminating the Turf Terminators