Travel, Food, and Slices of Life

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Really?  I’m taking a survey. Vote for one or more.

  1. How many of you are done with your holiday shopping? You planned it out and spread the expense over the course of the year so it would not hit your budget ridiculously in February when all those credit card bills need to be faced. This actually happens rarely, although many of us have good intentions. For example, I had half my shopping done by October….but THEN received lists of needful things from my family. 
  2. You set aside money each month and stash it somewhere you hope you forget when an emergency comes up (new tires, dog is sick, etc). This was the budget to spread over 12 months and the shopping can get serious at this time of year, permitting you to catch the sales. Some stores market “BEST PRICES ALL YEAR”  but do you know that? Have you been checking prices earlier?
  3. You’ve told your family that there will be only one present per person from you.  And then you see something perfect for someone…..and get it..and soon you are breaking the rule you set up.  But they’ll stick to it and only get one for you. You will work on not feeling disappointed.  
  4. This year will be different. All gifts will be useful and sustainable.  The family will do a service project for the community to feel that your good deed has been taken care of.  Getting up at 6am to help cook breakfast for the hungry on Christmas morning is NOT a favorite choice. 
  5. This year you need to get serious to protect your family when the SHTF. Everyone needs a new semi-automatic weapon (I think there is a pink one that your  6-year-old daughter will love.) You will not tell the Christmas story to your children. Who needs all that “Peace on earth, good will to all” nancypants liberal garbage?  Oops, the 3-year-old grabbed the 6-year-old’s loaded weapon? Well, your aunt was always a bit odd, so not too big a deal. 
  6. You saw some snowflake on Facebook posted a list of stores that were starting their Black Friday sales on Thursday. Their corporate greed is not your concern, but you can make fun and find fault at the person’s post anyway.  After all, your cousin Bubba earns minimum wage (not a living wage) working at Wally World so he can use the money and no one likes him at the Thanksgiving table anyway. More pumpkin pie for you. 
  7. You really don’t buy much for anyone so this is no big deal. You might go out Christmas Even to the local drug store and pick up some toilet water. Then again, why bother. It’s not as if that person loves you. 

In my family, growing up, we celebrated Hanuka, but on Christmas morning, at the bottom of the stairs as we headed down to breakfast, my sisters and I would find a book, not wrapped, because the appearance of being a gift needed to be hidden. It was usually about a history of the Jewish people or a book about Israel. The only time we discussed this annual habit of my parents was when I was in college and dared to have a non-Jewish boyfriend. We had a loud discussion about mixed messages which, of course, was not resolved.

But what concerns me most of all is all the other hyped up messages that people receive this time of year.

  • Our Biggest Sale of the Year starts now! 30% OFF our entire selection of figure flattering, easy care dresses when you use the code GIVETHANKS at checkout. Proudly made in USA. Is giving thanks for getting a discount a bit self-serving?
  • Our Green Friday sale is here! Get 20% off everything plus a mystery gift*! 🌲ten trees planted for every item sold🌲 *while supplies last! Going GREEN makes you feel good…grab those bargains, keep the mystery gift for yourself, everyone wins! Do you live a sustainable lifestyle 364 other days a year?
  • Get in line early to capture the best! Don’t consider what you look like.  Don’t put any thought into this…just laugh…yup, you’ve been co-opted.pet smart

We know why the advertisements hit us nonstop starting  before Halloween. Retail earns over 50% of their annual income at this time of year.   Ever recognize the puppet strings attached to you?

You have taught your children to ask for toys they see in commercials and to eat foods they see advertised on tv. Your kids have behaviors that show they know only how to express the “wants” as “needs”. You have not been teaching them how to plan for a big purchase, how to defer gratification.  You criticize other people’s children while they are looking at yours with a stink-eye because of their fussing, their whining.

Even in the midst of the recession I was amazed at the people I would see eating out.  It is easier for people to wrack up credit card debt than to learn to cook. And bankruptcies are on the rise, so that explains why people who support Trump did not blink an eye at his multiple bankruptcies. The dream of being rich like him is not reality, but you can wrack up debt like Trump and blow it off like him. You admire him for showing you the way to not be responsible. That has become normalcy.

And meanwhile, we have numerous crafters and artisans who offer their efforts at affordable prices. and small local businesses that are owned by your neighbors.  They offer unique gifts that mean your loved ones will NOT be getting the same things as everyone else. This means that the artists earns pennies for all the hours s/he has spent to create, to share their talent. And most people scoff at what is shown, saying “I can do it” (but never do anything like it) and walk on.

I truly hope people find purpose and joy in their holiday celebrations. I just wonder if the message your children are learning is the one you are hoping to teach.

This video opens the door to fixing this need to buy more get more to feel worthy. My only addition would be, that if you don;t feel yourself as “perfect” as he wants you to feel, get to work! You can achieve a better place, but it starts inside.



Let’s Do It Better

Each year, the second Halloween is over, we get bombarded for 6 weeks with the need to be big consumers. The commercials on tv explode, teasing us into believing we just NEED that thing we never thought about five minutes before. The printed ads in the local newspaper or mailed to us via bulk rate paper our house  with colorful pleas to spend spend spend.christmas-shopping-chaos-560x360

If you believe them, Christmas is just not complete without the latest gadgets including technology for toddlers, more boots and clothes for the ladies, more tools for the guys, more makeup and perfume, more ties, more more more.

This year, do it different…..and do it better.

First of all, know your budget and stick to it.

Secondly, make a list of the people you want to purchase for.  Think about their interests, their hobbies, the things that make them happy. Start listening to them NOW if you haven’t been paying attention all year.  And be wise….the latest in fashion accessory for your fashionista may be out of style in a few weeks. Aim for classic to provide long term value.Stress-Free-Christmas-Gift-Master-List

Third, aim for the best quality you can afford. Better to buy ONE gift and one small stocking stuffer than a large volume of junk.  Let’s start teaching about the value of gift-giving as the living symbol of the three wise men.

Finally, buy local. Yes, I know,  it is less expensive to hit the major big box stores. But this year, let’s think about the effect of where we spend our dollars.  Big box stores are national chains with corporate headquarters unlikely to be in your town. So the only employment benefits are probably low paying, possibly minimum wage and maybe also part-time to avoid paying benefits to full time employees.  Many big box stores have corporate deliveries of items from a regional warehouse that does not typically make purchases in your town, so basically for each dollar you spend in that store, only 5-15 cents stays in the local economy.local this holiday

Meanwhile, down on Main Street and in small neighborhood shops you have stores owned by your neighbors. They’ve been there maybe for decades, but probably not.  Our shopping choices killed many downtown stores as we shoppers opted to head to the mall instead.  Many shops are small with eager entrepreneurs who lost their jobs in the recession and are trying to find a way to make a living. The dollar spent there basically gets spent almost in full in your community. shop craft fairIn addition, there are numerous holiday markets and bazaars at this time of year. If you are lucky, you have one in your area that features artist, artisans and craftspeople who produce all the items they sell by hand. Their skill, their talent provides you an unique gift of high value, one of a kind, for that special person on your gift list.  The prices at these markets range from $1 to over $500. I know, I run a holiday market and I see eager craftspeople work hard all year to produce their love in a tangible way. My job is to tease the shoppers to at least come take a look. 

simple gift

Unique might scare you. If you want to be just like everyone else, unique is not for you. But if you are your own person, walk your own walkway, want to stand out from the crowd, this is the place for you.excellence of a gift




A Different Kind of Smart

Just about this time of summer 20 years ago my mother-in-law asked me to go on down to the garden to pick some green beans for supper. I was a Yankee living in Nashville, and my in-laws loved me but the gaps in my education confused them. That afternoon one huge gap was apparent. I carried the baby down to the garden and placed him on a blanket. Not a crawler yet, he could enjoy the shade of the warm southern day as I looked at the garden.

NOT a photo of that day, but a trip taken to Memphis within a month...just showing the cutie.

NOT a photo of that day, but a trip taken to Memphis within a couple of months…just showing the cutie.

My father-in-law loved to plant, but he did not care much after that….care in terms of the kind of maintenance needed to get through a hot summer, like weeding and watering. So he planted a LOT and we harvested all we could before the weeds choked the plants and then everything would wither in the heat;. Summer thunderstorms just did not provide adequate amounts.

On that day I felt unsure…..never having seen a bean plant before. I recognized the squash plants. And the peppers were obvious. The tomatoes were  a no-brainer. So, by process of elimination, I headed over to the near row.

To my amazement I did not see any beans. I looked high. I looked low. Lots of green there but beans? Nope.

A_green_beanAbout that time the dear sweet next door neighbor wandered down to play with the baby, and then casually got up, baby on her hip and wander over to the plant next to me, and reached over and picked a very obvious bean. I could have sworn she did some magic and they all appeared at that moment!  She winked at me and gave me hug, and welcomed me to the family in the best way ever. And she never told.

In the garden my dad grew each summer in suburban New Jersey we never grew beans, hence my lack of knowledge.  We did have fresh tomatoes and peppers and more, but no beans. Those came out of cans or, later, freezer bags, all commercially prepared and purchased on a supermarket.  So, I had no connection between the plant that produced it and the food I put in my mouth.

Most people may be surprised to know that the first modern grocery store was a Piggly-Wiggly in Memphis in 1916. Until that time people who needed to purchase items they did not grow or trade with other people they knew went into a shop and presented a list to the man at the counter. He would go into the back area and box up all the requested items. Clarence Saunders’ concept of self-service selection of food items took a while to catch on, and now the supermarket is the primary food source for most people.piggly1

It sure is convenient, no question about it. For many of us we can drive there, park nearby, and purchase food, cleaners, paper goods and toiletries all in one place. But now that we know we have choices, do we go there just because it is our habit?  supermarket-wont-tell-promo-456cs012109

Choices exist, particularly during the local growing season. The popularity of farmers’ markets has exploded, with the USDA listing over 8100 markets in their current National Farmers Market Directory, up from 5000 just  five years ago! Markets can be found in small towns and throughout large cities. The closest one may be held once a week, but there may be several others within a half hour drive  on other days.  Another website, Local Harvest, also lists markets and farms and more!FG farrmers market

In addition, food from local farms can be available through various buying opportunities, ranging from online ordering and delivering to your door like  Yamhill Valley Grown, purchasing a share at the beginning of a season for a weekly box or basket full of produce which is a CSA, or a farm nearby may have a farm-stand where you can purchase their freshly picked produce and maybe some other goods from the area.

My  CSA share, early June

My CSA share, early June

And if you are truly fortunate, you live in a place where some very passionate people worked hard to form a store, an indoor year-round local food market.  I was involved with Huntington, West Virginia’s Wild Ramp Market and have been working with a group of people in Forest Grove, Oregon who are in the midst of the planning phase.

Inside the new Wild Ramp Market,  August 15

Inside the new Wild Ramp Market, August 15

The Wild Ramp recently celebrated its second anniversary and much is made in their public communication how the market is a community endeavor. The community wants it. The community made it happen. The community supports it with their energy, their volunteer effort and their patronage.

The same can be achieved anywhere there are enough people who enjoy freshly picked ripe produce, the taste of which can not be found in a supermarket. People who know that the breed of animal raised and the food it is fed makes a huge difference in the taste and texture of the meat on your plate. People who understand that supporting local farms and a local business means the local economy is stronger.

Are you in a routine…..or passionate?