Six months into this pandemic and changes abound. In addition to a sock drawer, we now have a mask drawer. And our lives are drastically altered—I’m hoping your new routine is somewhat comfortable. But better change is here as well. I am happy to announce my new location in a perfect little building downtown in the Guadalupe district.
Come by, don’t be shy. Thursday afternoons in October, after 3 pm I’m here to share and show my new interior design studio to you. (text, call or pop-in) We can partake in a happy hour with my immediate neighbor, Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room and Patio. They serve cocktails outdoors with heaters, crafted from their fine distillations, starting at 3 pm, Thursday to Saturday
The new design studio is within walking distance to many vibrant businesses. Ohori’s Luna location, the Farmer’s Market, House of Ancestors, Kelly O’Neal, and right across the street from the Lannan Foundation.
A bit of a backstory on this new space. At the beginning of our lockdown, I worked from home like everyone else and experienced an uptick in my interior design business. Calls coming in from people also staying home who were noticing their drab kitchen cabinets, bathrooms too dark, the 1980s sofa was not “retro” chic, but just old and tired. They needed help, time for a redo.
I soon felt way too stifled with the confines of working from home, and as you know, I’m all about practicality. I rolled up my mental sleeves, I needed my samples—those working tools, and my friends in town. This home office in the country was not convenient. Time for change.
I really enjoy being back in town after those long months, air hugs and all, and change continues. Businesses like mine on the creative front end, along with architects, building contractors, landscapers have ever growing to-do lists. On the back end, I am discovering that vendors and suppliers are having a much harder time keeping up with the front-end demands. Cabinet makers, tile and plumbing folks, and more are having supply issues. The supply chain and manufacturing sector are taking a hit due to the pandemic. Less staff on the production lines, distribution and shipping slow-downs, not to mention abysmal mail, are causing delays and continual schedule revisions in our remodels. So, I now preach my own “PPP” practical mantra: Patience, Patience, Patience.
We all knew the moment it happened that we would never forget the horror of 9- 11. We now have another unforgettable tragedy in our collective memory, one having a direct daily effect on our lives. These times are fluid, and everupdating. But the vitality of friends and acquaintances doesn’t change. As you write your new to-do lists, think about adding a visit to see me, one Thursday afternoon.
Another backstory. A bit into the pandemic the New Mexican asked for an article for the series I do called Let’s Get Practical. It follows here, since they did not publish it in their shrinking print version, and I’m not sure you saw it in the online paper. It’s about quirky “from-the-pantry” foods that worked perfectly for me, from a great Santa Fe food writer.
Saved by sardines, rescued by pasta
.That headline is the title of my favorite chapter in Deborah Madison’s life-saving book for me right now, widely available online. This cookbook and sweet food narrative, intended for solo eaters, but useful for anyone needing a quick meal, has the most unique and even humorous combinations of pantry items, items shoved to the back of shelves in refrigerators and cabinets with obliterated use-by dates. A lifesaver for those observing the six-weeks-down-one-to-gomaybe (that was then — now we are into six to twelve months) phase of our state’s lockdown.
The quirky wonderful illustrations by Patrick McFarlin add to the experience — it is a tasty read. Even more interesting than How to Cook a Wolf by the legendary M.F.K. Fisher.
I think my fave from the chapter is Spaghetti with Tuna and Capers. It uses breadcrumbs for crunch — stale bread is easy to come by — and olive oil, pasta, half a tin of tuna, capers, a pinch of red pepper flakes, garlic, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper, and parsley. Since I’m hoarding the capers and part of that lemon rind for a martini, I’ve found that a substitution like tangy green olives, crushed or chopped, work just fine. If you cook at all, you can figure out how to put this one together. If not, email me, or order the book.
My usual column topics include how to remodel or build the best kitchen for you. But on finding I can’t pen a serious remodeling article these days, I asked my editor if Let’s Get Practical reactions to this trying episode would suffice. “Make the deadline and it’s cool,” he answered.
What can be more practical than using up your aged, drying, boring pantry stuff? It starts with emptying out those shelves and that refrigerator. And getting a lot creative. One thing I learned is that Use-By dates aren’t about food safety. More about food flavor. Of course don’t use food from a can that bulges. Gather your pile of oddments and head for instructive books, or mostly, for many, the internet. “What to cook with … XYZ?” has been searched several million times since March.
It really is cool to use up stuff that you know you don’t have to replace, unless you fall in love with a certain pantry palatable and must have more! I love Trader Joes, but not enough to wait in line for an hour to enter that sanctum of thrifty, rewarding shopping. Whole Foods has shorter lines since the store is large.Nattily clad mask-wearing hosts escort you to the next available check-out lane.
But I’ve rediscovered the big-box groceries closest to my commute, when I had one. Minimal to zero lines. The stockers there are often new hires, but they do their friendliest to direct you to what you need. And there is plenty of it, unless you are hunting down elusive paper products and sanitizing goods.
Almost as practical and somewhat rewarding: the closet clean-out. It is time fora seasonal swap-out of cold winter for chilly spring anyway.
In closing, what’s not practical, but is happening anyway: Sadness at missing friends and associates. Finding Zooming is just okay. Not being able to visit a friend who had an emergency appendectomy, languishing alone in rehab. Being unable to ”settle” for long enough to get absorbed in a creative endeavor. Having time to read when the library is closed. The list goes on.
And back to the brief shout-out for What We Eat When We Eat Alone. Even if we are not eating alone, we’re in essence each alone with our thoughts, fears, and hopes for ourselves, for our “peeps” and families, and we hope, eventually, for the greater good. Speaking of our families, for those with children at home, this is the perfect time to help them learn to cook. Madison lays it down in a great chapter: What Every Boy and Girl Should Learn to Cook … Before They’re Men and Women. And it’s not making the greatest PB&J!
This too shall pass, we are hearing, and we know it’s true. What we don’t know is what our new
normal might be. So Let’s Get Practical again, and presume that we can help make it better,
kinder, more real, more fulfilling.