Friday, April 12, 2013

Cool Public Art in...Concord?!

Proof that the little sleepy town of Concord, NC can have something cool to see, too:

Downtown Concord has become more eye appealing over the past year or so... with the restoration of the Coca-Cola sign and the amazing Frida Kahlo that greets you as you come up Cabarrus Avenue toward downtown.  If you hop over onto McGill Avenue, you will pass three other large, public art pieces:  a peacock, a Caribbean scene, and, currently in progress--an Indian inspired Elephant scene. Coming soon, a Roy Lichtenstein inspired piece for downtown proper... completely funded on kickstarter.

In fact, this awesome new art is the brainchild of Liz Gray, who details each project on her website.  Go see pics of all the awesome art now in Concord and check out her I like ART of Concord NC facebook page to get updates.

Usually, B. and I head SOMEWHERE ELSE to take pictures and explore... but now I am itching to take my camera and actually document Concord. :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Food: a 3 course discussion

So, food for thought:

USDA Cost of Food for December 2012

From time to time I critique my food purchases:  do I *need* 2 cartons of ice cream?  Is the brand name truly better tasting than the generic? (Note:  I am fine with generic tomato products  but I balk at generic cereals.  Eww.  And generic beans seem exploded and full of that weird bean syrup.)  Still, when I'm standing in SuperTarget with my phone calculator out, trying to determine the unit price of toilet paper, I sometimes wonder if I am just a spendthrift, tossing money around willy nilly, wantonly purchasing soft toilet paper (damn you, Charmin Ultra Soft!) and springing for the delicious addiction of whole bean Dunkin' Donuts coffee....or if I am fairly "on point" with the average family of five shopper.

Turns out I still don't know.  Are these numbers reasonable?  They are average, so I imagine one has to take into consideration that the cost of living varies tremendously, depending on where in the US you happen to reside.

* * *
On a related note, S. and I decided to try something new tonight and made a  vegetarian potato and bean enchilada dish that I found on allrecipes.com.  I only made a few changes:  mixed white and sweet potatoes, subbed jarred Pace Lime and Garlic Verde sauce for the tomatillos and onion, and added garlic and onion powder to the pinto beans... and it was DELICIOUS.  Definitely a keeper!
Pic from allrecipes.com
Potato and Bean Enchiladas

* * *
Lastly, I just purchased Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us and I am both excited and nervous to read it... when I read Fast Food Nation I swore off fast food for approximately one month.  Maybe.  I think I caved over McDonald's french fries (sweet little pieces of salty, crisp-soft heaven).  Still, I heard a blip of an interview with the author, Michael Moss, and I was instantly intrigued... so much so that I actually paid REAL MONEY for the book.  Having been brought up on the public library, I have a hard time coughing up cash for reading material.  Seriously.  It feels...wrong. Thus, it better be good.  Or at least scare me into eating healthier. ;)      

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Thrift Shopping at the Gates of Possibility: or, how I get told I'm old--but young!--and end up with more than a new lamp

So today I was in Value Village, the "department thrift store" that reigns all over my region, when an older woman walked up to me.  She admired E. in the sling, and then asked, "Were you born around here?  If you were born at Cabarrus Memorial Hospital, then I probably helped deliver you. I am 96 years old and was a maternity nurse for 35 years, and it was just me back then!  We didn't have the help, it was just one girl on the whole floor..." and she was off.  She smiled, seemed sharp as the proverbial tack, and told me all about working in the 1940s, how she was paid 80 dollars a week and that wasn't enough.
"Is this your first?" she inquired, gesturing at E. who was gaping at her and chewing on a teether.  I explained no, I have three.  "How old are you?" she demanded.  When I told her 37, she gaped.  "Wow.  You look too young to be that old!"

(internal dialogue:  is this a compliment?  Doesn't everyone look young when you yourself are practically an centenarian?)

I smiled and thanked her.  That's the best practice, I think.  ;)

And as I wandered off to sort through other people's castoffs, I thought of how that is the beauty of the thrift shop--I always meet people, hear stories, talk with others...albeit sometimes crazy others.  The people who shop second hand are as varied as the merchandise--there are the collectors, eager to discover a specific find.  There are the chronic impulse buying hoarders, their wire carts stacked high with stuff that just might fit someone, or was too good to pass up, despite the lack of need or use for said item.  Or the affected girls, their eyes a studied bored as they sift through ironic eighties (or insert a decade/style/fashion here) clothes, their impossibly trim little bodies a living hanger for the fashion time capsules of the past.  There are the practical, people who realize that an investment of time may yield a decent new piece for their wardrobe or home...or it may just be an expenditure of time with nothing to show for it.  Some are searching, a desperate look to them, as if hoping there is something more than old clothes or ceramic praying hands, or someone's leftover refrigerator meat drawer insert...hungry for more than a thrift store can sate.

And then there are people like me, who feel the siren song of the unloved, the undiscovered, the waiting-to-be-found.  I can be practical.  I can be a hoarder.  I can be affected.  But I am always, always thrilled by the thought of what might be lurking, hidden one row down, on a lower shelf, at the bottom of a beat up cardboard box.  It is the hunt that sustains me:  the methodical shifting of clothing from one side of the rack to another, the practiced scanning of dozens of little knickknacks to discover...what? That's the allure.

And so I love the story, be it the old woman who smiled and talked, or the untold past of the newly discovered pendant lamp that I am sure will be perfect in our downstairs den. (If you're reading this, honey, I swear it is retro-chic and not just somebody's MaMaw's lamp.) Over the years, I have learned not to take them all home, but sometimes, the story is worth saving. (Or at least retelling:  Yeah, she was in her nineties... but I'm focusing on the fact that she said I looked young. ;)


 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Coloring Inside the Lines

As anyone who knows me well can attest, I am a true girly-girl, one who loves makeup and trying out different looks, whether it be my hair or my eyeliner. I am also near sighted, so I have often been able to do my makeup without contacts in, if I wanted.   So, last year when I was pregnant and began to have trouble seeing myself in my vintage makeup mirror, I chalked it up to hormones, went to see the dr. just in case, and came home with the reassurance that my vision was the same and should resolve once the baby arrived.

So.  Just like that, eh?

Well, here I am nearly eight months later and I am so.fricking.blind when I try to look in the mirror, bleary eyed and before coffee.  Awake and caffeinated, I am squinting and hunching in close, trying to determine the line of my eyeliner.

Suck.

Is this what getting old feels like?  Like I need someone else to put on my makeup or paint my toe nails?  I guess that would be pretty awesome if this trivial inconvenience is the extent of my gripes, but let me say that it is weird to not be able to see.  With glasses on.  With contacts in.  I just feel...squinty.

Thus, I ordered my new favorite item:
Amazing Makeup Mirror that Actually Allows Me to See My Eyes Again!!!



The Jerdon Makeup Mirror with Day-Office-Evening-Home settings! I love that it seems all 1980s, like I should be following Color Me Beautiful guidelines (note:  Just googled them and had no idea that it is still alive and kickin'--you can order makeup in your seasonal pallete!).  The Day and Home settings are good--nice bright, even light, but the office setting?  Only if you work in the morgue!  It is a weird, greenish scary movie/institutional green.  Ick!  I might use it for next Halloween, though.

 (A book I studied religiously after purchasing it at Goodwill in my early teens)


Now, I can magnify the hell out of my eyes and pores (not recommended) or simply light up my vanity and see, gloriously, every imperfection of my face.  Spectacular! ;)  Actually, it is pretty spectacular.  Once I fix all the little things up close with the light on, I cut off the switch and tada--my makeup looks great.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Nothing says lovin' like something from the oven? Or something like that.

So, after years of neglect, I decided to dust off the old blog for old times sake, rework the atrophied writing muscles, and attempt to reflect and write again.  This old thing?  Yeah.  I know.  But there is within the husk of the old the seeds of the new, and as corny as that sounds (and as bad a metaphor as it may be, here I go with it):  I want to plant it and see where it goes...grows? ;)

***
Ahem.

So, where does 2013 find me?  Currently we are without a stove, a condition I haven't lived with since I was a college student living in a dorm.  Even then, the first floor lobby had an old model, good enough for batches of cookies that I handed out freely to anyone walking by.  I remember the dark smokiness of its interior, a beat up, unclean electric oven of questionable origin, on its last leg or heating element at the very least, and blackened with the remnants of countless frozen pizzas and leftovers gone wrong.  Still, I would take my little electric hand mixer and Pyrex bowls and get to it:  baking chocolate chip cookies was a necessity for me.

 Then, and now, it isn't so much about the cookies themselves (though, as I told a friend the other day, I only eat about 8-12 cookies while baking, which sounded perfectly normal in my head but turned out to sound overindulgent out loud) as it is the process, the tastes of dough, the satisfaction of watching disparate ingredients go from individual to delectably whole: when my life feels out of control, when I am overwhelmed or stressed, the physical act of baking grounds me, reconnects me to something simple, direct, true: Baking is my therapy, and the lack of an oven is no small thing.

I first began my love affair with baking, cookies, specifically, when I was around 4th or 5th grade and joined 4-H.  Seemingly antiquated by today's standards of after school activities--at least in my kids' eyes, that is--my experiences in 4-H had a profound influence on my skills in the kitchen and taught me the science behind cooking long before I had ever heard of Alton Brown.  By high school, I comforted myself with cookies--bad day?  Time to make cookies.  I comforted others with cookies--baking umpteen batches to deliver to a nursing home.  In fact, my wedding had a cookie table, heavily laden with cookies baked by friends, family, and me. At work, I bring rubbermaid containers of cookies for the workroom. Fast forward to recently:  I overheard my son confidentially telling his friend as they played Minecraft: "My mom will make something sweet because you're here.  She always does when I have  friend over."  And he's right.
I show love with food, specifically baked goods.

So, when my oven crapped out less than a week before my husband's birthday and I couldn't make his cake, it felt wrong.  Not to him--he obliges me by eating my baked goods, but they don't hold the emotional significance, the power of being comfort and love wrapped up in homemade yumminess.  My sister saved the day--she baked a delectable cheesecake, creamy and rich and delivered mid snow storm.  I was grateful, but missed the process that I have come to associate with birthdays, with surprises, with you-just-got-off-the-bus-and-guess-what-mom-made:  the ritual, the making.  The baking.

Love.

* * *
So, in a few weeks when my shiny new all equipped convection oven arrives in all its unmarred glory, I will make my man a cake. Whether he likes it or not.

--

Amber