April 29, 2010

Made in the USA

I ventured into one of Fond du Lac's many dollar stores yesterday for the first time.  I normally don't frequent these types of places; it's not because I'm a snob, but I find that if I shop at stores like this I wind up buying stuff I don't really need.  I'm sure my logic is, "Well, it IS only a dollar!  Why not?".  That adds up, though, doesn't it.  If you think about it, that's probably the logic behind all discount stores - it's why I avoid Target (one of my FAVORITE stores!) like the plague.  And it's the reason why I started writing this blog entry.

While I was in the dollar store, I noticed that many of the items for sale now have the place of manufacture right on the packaging.  And, not surprisingly, most of the items were manufactured in such-and such Province, China.  This is nothing new, but somehow I was a little startled by the blatant statement where everyone can see it.

Let's flash back to a couple years ago, when I first started hoarding old Life magazines.  If you read this blog regularly, you already know that my main reason for buying the magazines is to use them in my collages.  But along the way, I've grown to appreciate the magazines in and of themselves.  And in reading these magazines, one of the things that really stuck out for me is the difference between products of yesteryear and products today.  If you look at almost any advertisement from, say, 1954, you'll notice that at the bottom, it'll say where the company is located.  And almost every company's plants were right here in the US.  Very shortly after WWII, magazines like Fortune had advertisements for companies to consider relocating to "more affordable" locales - like Oklahoma.  Or Kansas.  What sort of reaction do you think these people would've had to the suggestion of moving their operations to China or India?

Think back to your childhood.  I grew up in the 70s - I was born in 1968.  As a little girl, I LOVED my Barbies!  We had all of the accoutrements, too - the camper, the plane, the clothes, the little shoes, the whole nine yards. The 70s were probably Mattel's heyday.  They had already moved some of their operations overseas by then, but still had a major presence in El Secundo, CA, their headquarters.  Another toy giant, Fisher-Price, which began in East Aurora, NY in 1930, was VERY popular in our household! We had the Play Family house, the Sesame Street neighborhood, the plane, the A-Frame, the Bus - oh, I loved those toys!  They are now owned by Mattel and most of the F-P toys are now made overseas as well. 

Now, this is not a commentary on the quality of these toys.  But if you ever wonder why the Wal-Marts of the world can sell these toys at prices that seem a little too low, it's not just "volume"; the main reason we have more "toys" than ever is because someone in China is making those items for a buck a day.  If we still had all of the plants operating here in the US, that $25 toy would probably cost $55 (which, if you think about it, would be about right, factoring in inflation and economy).

On the surface, this seems like a not-too-shabby deal for us, doesn't it?  I mean, who DOESN'T want to save money, especially right now?  But, as we know all too well, it doesn't matter how much that toy costs, because Mr. Jones lost his job a year and a half ago due to the plant relocating overseas.

The cycle is maddening, isn't it?  We want our manufacturing jobs to stay here, but now that people are used to the ridiculously low prices at stores like Target and Wal-Mart they would never stand for paying double for those things, even if it meant that unemployment would be back down to a reasonable level, with better-paying jobs at plants and factories.

I don't pretend to be an economics major, nor do I have a solution for this dilemma.  It just seems to me that if we made more items here in the US, we would all win.  Sure, products might cost more, but wouldn't it be worth it to know that most people could afford to pay the higher prices because most people would be employed, which would have benefits that stretch far beyond just a steady paycheck?  (If you don't know what I mean, ask someone who hasn't worked in over a year.  They'll have plenty of reasons for you).

One last thing - on my trip to the dollar store, I picked up a couple of Twix candy bars - they were a new flavor, "Java", and they looked yummy.  As we were eating the Twix last night, I looked at the wrapper - and noticed that the Mars candy bars were made not in New Jersey, their headquarters, but Russia.  Yes, my Twix made the 14 hour journey from our former "sworn enemy".

Such is the 21st century, I guess.

April 25, 2010

I Don't Mean to Impose....

...No, really, I don't!

If there's one lesson my dad imparted to me more than any other (at least how I remember it), it was that imposing yourself on others is akin to taking candy from a baby; you just don't do it.

All of my adult life, I've been very aware of my actions and how they affect other people.  If I sense the slightest discomfort from a host, I will assume that I've overstayed my welcome and beat a hasty retreat.  Because I have no problem talking, I will always ask Brian later if I've talked too much after being out with other people.  To me, it would be a fate worse than death if someone were to say that I was annoying to be around or that I never shut up.

What's interesting about this, though, is that the people who everyone agrees are annoying - the loud talkers, the interrupters, the people who have to make their presence known wherever they go - they seem to be completely unaware that they may be inconveniencing or irritating other people.  How is that possible?  Is it ego, or really just a lack of social graces?

What has always amazed me is how some people are impervious to hints.  You've seen it before on TV, or in the movies, or maybe even in your own life - there is always that one person or couple that refuses to leave, even when the hosts are cleaning up, turning off the lights, yawning and saying how they have to get up really early.  After they still don't get the hints, they put the hosts in the really awkward position of flat-out telling their friend(s) to leave.  Then there's a lot of, "Oh!  I'm sorry, I didn't realize..." kind of talk.  Why would anyone put themselves through this torture?  And do the hangers-on not realize that the hosts are saying stuff like, "GAH! I thought they'd NEVER leave!" when they're gone?

One of my greatest pet peeves, cell phones, have made even polite people forget themselves.  I just assume that people don't really care to hear what I'm talking about when I'm out in public and on my phone.  I even heard someone on their phone in the theater once.  Really?  You can't go two hours without having that thing attached to your ear?  US Cellular (a Midwestern-based cell company) goes so far as to ridicule these people in their ads - talking about the stupidest things you can imagine.  I say, go ahead and talk about whatever you want - just don't do it within earshot of me.  Some stores have posted signs like, "We'll be happy to wait on you, just as soon as you get off your phone." (see photo, above).  Bingo. 

There is a website that I really enjoy called etiquetteer.com.  It's sort of like Emily Post for modern times.  On it, you can find all sorts of advice on how to behave in public.  I think we could all use a refresher course -  don't you agree?

April 23, 2010

You Can't Judge a Book by its Cover

I'm 41.  I subscribe to Ready Made magazine.  I enjoy bands like Ben Folds, Kings of Leon, and My Morning Jacket.  I own Naot shoes and shop at Anthropologie.  I love tofu, vegetarian, and any sort of "ethnic" food you can imagine.  I do not follow any one religion.  I am pro-choice, anti-death penalty, and a staunch advocate of gay rights.

I'm 41.  I wear "Mom" jeans.  I loves me a good steak.  I love my country and I feel blessed to live here.  I have mixed views on global warming.  I LOVE Lynrd Skynrd and the Allman Brothers.  I grew up Presbyterian and have wonderful memories of my childhood church.  I support our troops.  I am a stay-at-home "housewife" and artist.

So, which paragraph is the real me?


How many of you out there are in the same predicament as I?  I certainly do not fit any mold; by appearance alone, I'm willing to bet that 9 out of 10 people asked would say I was a Republican, went to church every Sunday, and had 2.8 kids (none of these things are true, by the by).  Not that there is anything at all wrong with the above statements; they just don't describe who I am.  But come on, let's face it - we all pigeonhole, don't we?  I know I do.

I've been guilty of thinking someone agrees with my point of view, only to find out later they felt the exact opposite.  Just because someone may have the same interests as I do doesn't mean that we're soul mates.  I have my opinions, they have theirs, and that should be that.  If only we could agree to disagree.

I would guess that if it were feasible, and we could do a very detailed poll of every person over the age of 21 living in the US, we would find that we're not all that different in the big scheme of things.  Sure, we may have differing views on some topics, but in order for our country to end this divisiveness we need to look for the common ground.  An example:  words like "patriot" and "liberty" should not be co-opted by one faction of the population.  They're becoming dirty words to many who may not agree with certain points of view (such as myself).  What constitutes patriotism, anyway?  If you would've asked a million people on September 12, 2001 if they were patriots, you would've had 999,998 yeses, regardless of topical opinions or party affiliation.  What's different now?  Because my opinions differ from others', does that make me love my country less?  Please.

I'm going to continue to rock the Mom jeans, read my neo-hipster magazines, and eat tofu AND steak.  Because no matter who you think I am, I am an American.  I will continue to love it, but I may just leave it someday (Toronto, here we come!).  Because I live here, I have that choice.  God/Allah/Jehovah/Whoever Bless America.  :D

April 20, 2010

It's a Small World

Oops - sorry if I put that horrific song in your head!  This post isn't about Disney stuff - it's about all things small.

From as far back as I can remember, I've been into mini things.  I've always loved anything that was shrunk down to a smaller scale - dollhouse miniatures, Barbie stuff, model cars and ships, architectural models, model railroad figures - you name it, I loved it.  I still do.  I know that's a large reason why I got into ATCs - they're really tiny!  :D

A couple of months ago, I discovered a blog here on Blogspot called "Call of the Small".  Maybe you've seen it; they were just featured in the New York Times (how cool is THAT?).  The really neat thing about
her site (run by Christine Ferrara) is that she focuses on modern dollhouses and interiors, not the stuffy Victorian ones that we all grew up with (well, I didn't; I had a very contemporary dollhouse, furnished with Better Homes & Gardens dollhouse furniture, circa 1979).  Ms. Ferrara buys a lot of her stuff on German Ebay, where all of the cool mid-mod miniatures can be found.  If you love modern design and miniatures, you'll love this blog!

My Flickr friend Sandy also collects vintage dollhouse furniture, and a lot of it was hers as a little girl.  She's Finnish, so again, there are some fabulous examples of modern design in her dollhouses' interiors (she also knits mini outfits for her Blythe dolls!).  You can see her photos here.

So now that you've seen some fantastic miniatures, you may be intrigued too.  Why do we love to see objects that we see every day, only smaller?  I can only speak for myself as a little girl, but I think at that age it's the "cute" factor - tiny things are cute!  I was pretty darn small for my age, so maybe I related that way (they used to call me "Too Small Jones" - Jones was my maiden name, and Ed "Too Tall" Jones played football then).  As I got older, I think the interior design aspect became my focus, and it's much cheaper to furnish a doll house than a real one (MOST of the time!).

I also think miniatures evoke a feeling of comfort - everything is cozy in a dollhouse.  There always seems to be a fireplace in dollhouses, and many times you only see dollhouses around Christmastime.  I suppose any time you're dealing with a dollhouse, you're going to think of your childhood home, whether you still live there or it's a place that is long gone.  There's a great deal of nostalgia that goes along with dollhouses, too, whether it's longing for a bygone era (hence, the Victorian dollhouse) or playing with your childhood dollhouse as an adult.  I loved the idea of having a two-story house - I grew up in an apartment, so a two-story seemed like a mansion to me.

How about all of you? If you're into miniatures, did you love them as a kid, or did you only get into them as an adult?  What's your favorite era - Victorian or modern?  Post your favorite miniature memory in the comments - I'd love to hear!

April 14, 2010

Girl, Put your Records on....

As I was looking through the flyers that come with the Sunday paper, I happened across one for ShopKo (think Target, but for the Midwest only).  They were having a huge sale and one of the items that was greatly reduced was a record player.

Now, I know that record players have made a comeback in recent years, but it's still so weird seeing them available!  Fifteen years ago, it was nearly impossible to find one.  Ten years before that they were around, but dying out.  Ten years before THAT (circa 1975, if you're playing along), they were ubiquitous.  Looks like we've come full circle - or at least, 270 degrees. 

When I was four or five, I got a Close n' Play Phonograph.  I LOVED that thing!  I remember playing my "Seasons in the Sun" and "Heartbeat - it's a Lovebeat" 45s.  I'm sure the sound quality was horrific, but what did it matter?  It was MINE, and I didn't have to wait through my mom and dad's Steve & Edie records to hear my songs. But one day, as I was dancing in my room, I stepped on it and ruined it and broke the "Seasons in the Sun" 45 as well.  I'm sure Mom was mad, but I don't remember being punished.  I'm sure she thought my disappointment was enough.

I was born in 1968, which was one of those in-between years.  When I was born, it was all Hi-Fi, all the time.  When I was about six, 8-Tracks were coming into vogue (and left just about as quickly, thank god).  I think I got my first "compact cassette" in 1983 (if I recall, it was the Police's "Synchronicity").  Only five years later, I got my first CD and player.  And from 1988-2004, that's all there was - CDs.  But there was a lot of overlap.  Here in Wisconsin we are very lucky to have a chain of stores called The Exclusive Company, which for years was THE place to buy your music (and are still around - for now).  I, on the other hand, worked at Musicland, which was the overpriced mall store (and now non-existent).  Even with my discount as Musicland, the music was cheaper at "Exclu".

And who out there, that's around my age, didn't make "mixed tapes"?  I still have all mine but alas, no cassette player.  I remember spending literally HOURS perfecting these things, making them for my sister and all my friends (or new boyfriends, if it was 'serious').  The tapes were amalgamations of all of my 45s, tapes and CDs, which made for some interesting variations in sound quality and volume.  But that only added to their charm.  I still have all of my 45s as well, along with a few choice LPs (one of which is my Uncle Louie's original Sgt. Pepper's album, which has been played so many times the grooves are wearing out).  I also have quite the collection of cassette singles, of which Musicland had a very nice selection.  What's amazing to me now is that those babies went for $3.35 apiece - in 1989!!  Isn't that crazy?  I love that I can own the same song now for $.99 (or if it's really obscure, $.69!).

Flash forward to the fabulous age of the iPod, or MP3 player.  Brian embraced this technology from the beginning.  Me?  Well, if you haven't figured it out already, I kick it old school.  But once he brought the iPod home, we never looked back.  In fact, we sold all of our CDs two years ago at a rummage sale for a buck apiece and made some nice folding money.  I don't regret that decision for a second.  I think we already take them for granted but if you think about it, MP3s are amazing!  I only wonder what the next big music thing will be.  Hopefully we can just enjoy our iPod for a couple of years before we have to change everything AGAIN!

Of course with new technology comes folks rediscovering the old ways - which brings us right round, like the proverbial record, baby.  I can understand the allure of vinyl - the pops, hisses, and warmth of that sound; it's almost more "real" than its digital counterpart.  Purists are the main demographic of vinyl enthusiasts, to be sure.  And there is something so comforting about hearing old jazz on an LP.  But will I go out and spend money for new vinyl?  Probably not.  We don't have the room.  :D

*(High Fidelity pendant picured above made by me and available in my Etsy shop)

April 12, 2010

I Heart the Library!

In honor of "National Library Week", I thought I'd give a shout-out to one of the greatest institutions we have.

I would bet that 100% of you who are reading this blog entry can think of one really wonderful library memory, whether it's from your childhood or just recently.  I've been going to the library since I can remember.

I grew up in Green Bay (Ashwaubenon), Wisconsin (Go Pack!), and up until 1972 they had a Carnegie library.  It was on Jackson Street downtown, and it was a wonderful old library - or so I'm told (I don't remember that one).  They built the new one on Pine Street and that one still stands.  I LOVED that library, and that is the one my family would frequent until 1976, when the Ashwaubenon branch opened.  It was only a mile from our house so we were there ALL the time.  My mom even volunteered there.

There was a really wonderful and well-planned summer reading program at that library, and my mom took full advantage of it.  One of my favorite library memories was Miss Olson reading us "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis.  To this day, I still wonder what Turkish Delight tastes like.  And aside from story time we also had all kinds of crafty options, too.  I remember making thumbprint people and LOVING the Ed Emberley books (I even bought them for myself - a couple of years ago).

When my first husband and I moved to Fond du Lac, one of the first things I did was check out the library.  That was in 1996, before the remodel.  But I still loved it, turquoise Seventies carpet and all.  There was a mezzanine in the old one, and it created sort of a 'loft' where you could see the first floor from there.  I loved finding an interesting bookshelf and just sitting there and reading.  In 2003 the remodel was completed and it made the library even more wonderful.  Now there are two stories and a mini-mezzanine.  Everything is laid out perfectly and they have really nice reference and history/geneaology sections.  There are also fantastic meeting rooms, a used bookstore called the Book Cellar (get it?) and the Langdon Divers Gallery, which showcases talented local artists (like my friends Nicci Martin, Susan Fiebig and Trista Holz).  It's not only a library; it's a community center.

I of course spend most of my time at the Fond du Lac Public library, but there are two other libraries that I am not only fond of, but have also been very good to me personally.  The first is the Greendale Public Library, in the metro Milwaukee area.  I met the library director, Gary Warren Niebuhr, through our ATC live trade group and he liked my work, so he offered me a workshop spot on the roster.  Last September I taught about 17 people how to make collaged ATCs.  It was a blast (see what I mean about libraries being community centers as well?).  This library is also one of the loveliest I've ever seen - it's got WPA ties, too, which makes it even cooler in my opinion.

The other library (but certainly not least!) that I need to give props to is the Kewaskum Public Library.  The library director, Steev Baker, also gave me a chance and to date I've taught two classes there.  We had wonderful turnouts at both and they were also great experiences for me.  Kewaskum is a tiny town of only 3927 people but they have a library that would do well in a town three times the size.  I instantly felt at home there, which is how a library should make you feel.

If you love libraries as much as I do, give yours a shout-out today, either by donating your time or money or even just by posting on your Facebook page how much you appreciate everything that it does for your community.  If you haven't been to your local library in a while - GO!  You'll be glad you did.

April 9, 2010


I've immersed myself in Life.

No, it's not a new cult I've founded (but if I ever do, I've just named it and I have a catchy slogan!).  Since last August, when I went to an amazing auction, I've been cutting up, and subsequently reading, old Life magazines.

When I heard about the auction, which was all items from a farmhouse that was nearly pristine and full of stuff that hadn't been touched since the Thirties, I knew I had to make it there.  I even took a couple hours off of work so I could get there on time (it was in Kewaskum, about 30 miles from Fondy).  I didn't realize that it would last about 5 hours, but I stayed because there was a HUGE lot of Lifes and I wanted them.  What I didn't know at the time was that they were going to sell them all at once.

You've probably already surmised that I did indeed win the auction bid and for my persistence and patience received about 60 magazines (some Collier's, Looks and Saturday Evening Posts as well) for less than a dollar apiece.  Poor Brian - I came home with a carload of old magazines, and I could just see his wheels turning; mainly, "Where on earth are we going to store these?!?" (P.S. MOST are in my studio, but there is some spillover in an inconspicuous place in our basement).  I got to work right away, sorting the wheat from the chaff, so to speak (there were some that I simply couldn't cut up).

A funny thing happened while I was perusing these magazines for images, however - I began reading them cover to cover.  And the more I read, the more I wish we could get back to that time.

Please don't misunderstand me - there are plenty of reasons why this pre-Civil Rights era is downright awful - it's still amazing to me how people could get away with the blanket generalizations that were uttered in these magazines - but there is also an optimism that is gone, as well as a more balanced approach to politics.  There is also very little cynicism in these pages, which is wonderfully refreshing.  I realize that I myself am making a blanket statement here, but it just seems like people were more excited about the little things back then, like grand openings at supermarkets or parades - things many in my generation have deemed "lame".  And maybe they were lame, but at least people showed enthusiasm.

Here's another thing - we can never talk about 'being poor' ever again.  The Golden Years of "Life" - which I think were between 1939 and 1963 (my opinion) - show photos of folks that were truly down-and-out.  We're talking "bib overalls-I only bathe on Saturday night-my floor is made of dirt" poor.  But in many cases, they don't look unhappy.  Maybe it's because they didn't have a TV telling them that they were unhappy, and they'd better go out and buy things to make them happier.  Again, I'm generalizing, but it certainly seems like people were satisfied with far less than what we have now.  They also seem to scream from the pages, "Stop trying to be HAPPY all the time!  It doesn't work that way!".  A lesson I think we could all learn.

I've learned more history from these magazines in the last 7 months than I did in my entire school career, including college.  I will never regret cutting up these magazines, because some of my best artwork (again, my opinion) is because of these Lifes.  But it certainly is a snapshot of a week in history and if you've got many of them in a row, you can begin to get a glimpse of how the U.S. was feeling at any given time (another generalization, but you know what I mean). 

Maybe, instead of textbooks for 20th Century U.S. History, we should have our kids read these old magazines.  It's all there in black and white (literally), while it was happening - no rewrites, no personal opinion, no theories - just the facts (and fun ads!).   Only by studying the past can we work toward the future.

April 8, 2010

Wacky Weather in Wisconsin!

I'm sure this will be the topic of many a Wisconsin blog today - here it is, April 8, and we're having a lovely early spring snow.  (The picture on the left was taken this morning at about 7; it's almost 9 and it's STILL snowing!).

I've lived in Wisconsin nearly my entire life.  I love it here and, even though I threaten to move to Toronto sometimes, I can't imagine living anywhere else.  I love the people, the cost of living, the seasons (even though they overlap) and the quality of life.  I think overall, people in Wisconsin have it pretty good.

That being said, I can imagine that my transplanted friends may find our weather a tad odd.  My friend Jill commented on my Facebook page this morning that she had snow yesterday morning but by the afternoon it was 65 degrees and sunny.  She lives in Denver.  So see?  It's not just the Midwest that's dealing with this craziness.

My mom's birthday is tomorrow, and we still talk about the Blizzard of '73, which occured on her birthday that year.  I'd bet that if I looked in an almanac, we've had snow in April at least 30 of my 41 years.  Anyone who's around my age or older, who lived in this area back in 1990, may recall the freak snow that we had  - on MAY 10!!  This isn't anything new.  But when you're teased with 80 degrees and sunny, like it was last Friday, it just throws us back into reality that we really have no control over the weather.  It's sort of nice to know that we sometimes just have to roll with the changes, isn't it?

Besides, if we Wisconsinites couldn't complain about the weather, we'd have nothing to talk about at all!  :D

April 7, 2010

Taking a Break

Sorry it's been a while since I've written - I was on vacation.

Oh, I didn't go anywhere, really, but for the last 5 days or so I've been so busy that it feels like I haven't been part of my "normal" life for a good span - and isn't that what vacation is really about?

The last five days have been SO fun!  On Friday I got to spend the evening with my sister Jen, BIL Mike and my nieces Natalie and Mia and talk about their trip to San Diego (and, sadly, say good-bye to their doggie Jo, who they picked up that night to return home).  Saturday we did nothing; I mean, pretty literally, NOTHING.  I guess we all need days like that but I feel so guilty when that happens!  Sunday was Easter, so that was spent with family.

On Monday, Brian took the day off and we spent the day in Sheboygan.  I have the best husband.  The reason we were in Sheboygan was because I have two pieces in the Wordplay exhibit at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.  So we went to see it, and all of the other exhibits as well.  It was a great day.  We also had a wonderful lunch at Field to Fork.  We had our FDL Artists Association meeting at night so there was no artwork done then, either.

Yesterday I did manage to get a few hours' work in in the morning, but then some of my friends and I met for lunch at Park Terrace, a restaurant that's connected to Moraine Park Technical College's Culinary Arts program.  Yesterday's theme was "Turkish", and it was wonderful.  Then my friend Sue and I went to see an alumni art show at the private high school in town with pieces done by some of our friends.  I also finally got to Persimmons in Manitowoc, where I took a copper stamping class with Kim Geiser, the shop's owner.  It was a blast and I got to meet some very nice ladies!  It was 10:30 by the time I got home (it took me over an hour to get home because of all the storms), so no art last night, either.

One great thing about vacations (if you're lucky) is that it allows you to step away from your work for awhile and rejuvenate.  I for one am looking forward to working in my studio most of the day today, because it feels like I've been away for a month.  I miss my art!  And I love that I can say that.

April 3, 2010

Cooking and Baking (but no Candlestick-making - YET)

I've just passed the 2-month mark on my new stay-at-home art venture.  In a way, the time has flown; yet in an altogether different way, it feels as though I've been in this line for years.  This was brought home to me last Thursday when I went to one of my former co-worker's retirement party.  I got to see a lot of my work friends and it was wonderful, but I'm starting to forget my day-to-day activities that were such an enormous part of my life for five years.  That's odd.

What I don't miss is the so-busy-I-can't-keep-up pace I used to endure.  But I have discovered that I do indeed enjoy having something to do all day.  And when I'm not making art, more and more this translates to being in the kitchen.

When Brian and I began this full-time art adventure (I include Brian because he's as much a part of it as I am, if only for the immense support), one of the things we agreed upon was that I also become the home economist, saving money in as many ways as we could.  I soon realized that it's far less expensive to bake from scratch - you can really stretch a box of Bisquick!  I've also discovered the joys of kitchen creativity spilling over into my artwork - chemistry is a big part of cooking and art, after all!

In the last two months I've cooked more than in the last eight years total.  I've expanded my recipe repertoire a hundredfold, and I'm having a marvelous time in the process.  Call me a geek, but I adore my Sunday night ritual of planning the week's menu and its corresponding grocery list.  Much of what I make is dictated by what's on sale and in coupons that week, thus saving us even more money and allowing me to get even more creative.  I've also been buying local when I can, shopping at places like Eden Meat Market (and soon, the weekend farmers' market!) where I know the meat and produce is the freshest possible.  Because of some creative web searches and scouring the Sunday papers, along with doing our own cooking, I am saving an average of $92/week on our grocery bill.  It's thrilling.

I've also been doing quite a bit of baking.  Now, anyone who worked with me at the Reporter may remember that when it was a "Food Day", I would NEVER bring in baked goods; I would stop by the bakery on the way into work.  Baking was never something I enjoyed, until now.  I made a batch of brownies yesterday because my sister Jen and her family were coming to pick up their doggie after their vacation, and it made my day when they all scarfed down the pan (Jen and her husband Mike are both excellent chefs in their own right). 

These days, with the Internet as your guide, you can find a recipe for nearly any dish you could dream up.  What I love is that you can type in one ingredient and work from that.  Sites like recipes.com and Epicurious are wonderful tools to have at one's disposal, and I've consulted them often.  Many of you reading already know this, I'm sure; I am certainly a latecomer to this fun way of eating!

It is my sincerest wish that I will always have this balance between my art and having enough time to make dinner every night.  Brian loves it, I love it, and even when my art projects are being stubborn I feel good knowing that I've accomplished a delicious dinner at the end of the day.

April 1, 2010

A Blessing (and a Big Ol' Curse)

I lead a bi-polar life.  Oh, I don't mean that way.  But my day-to-day living is quite divided between the arcane and the current.  I recently found out that the "current" part of my life was lagging way behind.

If you regularly read my blog, you know that for the past week I've been taking care of Jo-Jo, my sister's family's doggie.  I love Jo - everyone in my family does.  He is part of the family, which is why Jen (my sister) asked if I would give daily updates on how he's doing (she said it was for my nieces' benefit, but I'm not so sure about that.  :D).

So I said I'd call them with news from the homefront.  But then I told Jen that I thought I could text from my phone (it's a REALLY old phone, because I hate phones and I don't need anything fancy). Well, the texts started rolling in.  And because I don't have a new phone, I don't have a QWERTY keyboard. 

Is it just me, or does anyone else think texting seems an awful lot like work?  Because everyone in my sister's family has a smart phone, they can text like nobody's business.  So they think nothing of firing off one-liners every two minutes.  With my phone, and my lack of texting experience, I would be finishing one text and three more would come in.  I could never keep up!

So finally, I just stopped texting until their texts stopped.  This is the same reason why I don't ever "chat" on Facebook, or why I flat out refused to join the IM network through Gannett.  If it's that important, couldn't it be written in an e-mail?

And pardon me for sounding like Andy Rooney, but when did e-mail become the old-fashioned way of communicating??  I heard a comedian on some TV show mockingly call someone "Grandma" because she e-mailed rather than texted.  Good for her, I say!  It's a pretty telling indicator of how quickly our life moves when e-mail isn't fast enough.  GAH!!!

On Sunday, Brian and I rented "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" (and before you chortle - no, we didn't rent it at Blockbuster or even RedBox - we ordered it through our Playstation 3.  So there).  I am a huge fan of Wes Anderson, the director of the film, and have been so ever since I saw "Rushmore" back in '98.  "The Royal Tenenbaums" is still my favorite movie of his, but "Fox" was a close second.  One of the reasons I love his movies is his very twee way of incorporating disappearing 20th century technology into his modern movies.  For example, in "Tenenbaums", his characters use record players, ship-to-shore telegrams, ticker tape, and have professions like elevator operator and old-fashioned bell hop (and a beaver secretary in "Fox" uses shorthand).  But he uses these examples in such a way that you wouldn't necessarily find them to be out of the ordinary until you really stop and think about it (for me, anyway).  Perhaps it's a phenomenon that is unique to Gen Xers (of whom Wes Anderson is one also), who more than any other generation currently living in the Western world straddle that fine line between centuries - especially those of us with Millennium kids who have both feet firmly planted in the 21st.

I've talked about objects and lifestyles becoming obsolete before; it's a topic that has piqued my interest, especially from a sociological perspective.  So don't be surprised if I'm slow to adapt to the latest and greatest gadget - I'm still trying to figure out how to use our new cable TV system.