‘Tis the Wrapping Season

My Facebook post reads: 
“Just finished the annual task of cutting up old Christmas cards to become gift tags. For the record, I haven’t bought gift tags in at least 35 years. At least.”

I followed up with a few comments on the use – or not – of wrapping paper. I didn’t need to write a new post on the topic; a search for “wrapping” came up with several. Here is is, folks, a reprise of the No New Wrapping Paper philosophy.

It’s time to remind myself (as if I needed the reminder) of my personal rule: No New Wrapping Papers. I give in on ribbons, invisible tape, and a few other basics. But as for wrapping paper, I dig in my heels.

Wrapping paper is:

  • rarely recycled
  • even more rarely recyclable
  • not suitable for fireplaces
  • wasteful (as in it fills the garbage bin)
  • a waste of money

I am lenient on the  re-use of gift bags – key word, re-use. I stuff the aforementioned bags with reused and reusable tissue. Sometimes we even decorate a plain bag with small scraps of re-purposed wrapping paper.

Keep sending the old fashioned snail mail holiday cards! Besides enjoying them, we reuse many cards as gift tags. I cut circles out of cards to make decorative tops for canned goods (pickles and jams, especially).

My family still gives me a hard time when I carefully unwrap big packages in order to re-use portions of the paper. That doesn’t stop me from doing it.

I ran into a dilemma yesterday. What about buying wrapping paper at a thrift store? Well, that kind of purchase doesn’t waste as much money, and the purchase price often goes toward a good cause. However, gift wrap purchased elsewhere is still rarely recycled or recyclable, and still not suitable for fireplaces. It’ll still fill the garbage bin, too. I decided not to buy it.

Readers, can you help me expand on the environmentally sound wrapping wisdom? Comment if you can.

Once Upon a Coupon

One Saturday night, not long ago, Chuck and I pushed a cart around the grocery store and filled it with all the necessary foodstuffs on our list. At least once, we encountered a very focused shopper noting totals in a notebook and sorting through piles – I kid you not, piles – of coupons. 

She was a Real Live Super Extreme Couponer. In our store! In our city! Wow! Where were the cameras? 

When we were ready to check out, there was only one checkout lane open, and she was in it. More power to her for taking the time and making the effort to shop this way, but we did NOT want to be in line behind her. I looked toward the self checkout, looked at my cart’s contents, and said nope, not going the selfie way. Luckily for us, the store staff provided another checker. Phew! As we left the store, we could hear Ms. Super Extreme Coupons with her checkout still in progress. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. 

The next day, we took the minivan to Kwik Trip to fill out the tank, and grabbed a few coupons on the way out the door. Chuck dashed into the mini mart to get the free bananas, dozen of eggs at half price, and a dirt cheap cup of gourmet hot cocoa. The cashier rang up his purchases, scanned his coupons, and then swept his Rewards Card. With the rewards card discount, his total came to a negative number. They owed him money. And at that, the cash register froze. 

He tried to pull it up into the positive numbers by buying a tube of Chapstick. The Chapstick wouldn’t scan. The cashier tried entering the code number manually. No luck. So Chuck tried again; he grabbed a candy bar. This treat scanned successfully – sort of. The total went farther into the negative, and this time read Transaction Finalized. Amid much laughter from the other customers,  including one who had offered to help out when it appeared Chuck was short on cash, he headed quickly back to the van. 

“Don’t say a word! If the cops stop us, let me do the talking!” “What?!?” He laughed and laughed as we zoomed home and tucked the minivan in the garage. 

Chuck the Super Coupon Man. Go figure. I never would have guessed. 

In Which Daisy reveals she is Uncool

Yeah. As if I didn’t already know it, this text message exchange confirmed it. I am not one of the cool kids. 

Amigo: Stan Lee, founder of Marvel Comics, has died. 

La Petite: He was as legendary as his superheroes.

Me: Sad. I guess he wasn’t Superman.

La Petite: Mom, that’s DC Comics, silly. 

The Hillary Legacy

Hillary Clinton wasn’t on the ballot this election, but her influence was. Across the country, in large states and small, women followed. She wasn’t on the stage breaking a glass ceiling this time, but the cracks she’d already made allowed those who followed her to shatter what remained. 

Look at the firsts in Congress. The first Muslim women. The youngest woman. The first Native American women. First black woman from Massachusetts. First women from Iowa.

My excitement at these firsts is tempered more than a bit by the inner voice saying, Geez. What took so long? What took the voters of the United States so long to start electing a Congress that looks more like the electorate? 

Without dwelling too much on the past, let’s look toward the future. A future, I can hope, in which candidates for any office will be judged by their qualifications, their positions on major issues, their training and education, and not their gender, race, or any other artificially limiting category. 

And with every step we take to integrate our government, we’ll feel it. Hillary’s legacy. She won’t be on the ballot, but the challenges she faced and the trails she blazed will always be there, making the way for the women that follow.  

Election Eve, Sleep Elusive

I had a tough time sleeping last night. I kept flashing back to election night 2016. I remembered exactly where I was (in the back room at church while Amigo rehearsed with the barbershop chorus) and how I learned of results (on my laptop computer, hooked up to the church wifi), and how I kept thinking no, no, no, no, no. It wasn’t just that my idol, Hillary Clinton, had been defeated. More than that, it was the feeling that millions of Americans had been misled. Fooled. Taken advantage in the worst possible way. 

So I tossed and turned. I gave in and picked up the Kindle and read for a while. Chuck’s ThreadWords game was on level 9, so I didn’t bother playing. Of course, my mind wandered, and I couldn’t concentrate on the book. 

Flash back to election night 2008: I stayed up late watching the results, texting La Petite, who was working for her college newspaper. She had voted early – her first presidential election! – because she knew she’d be busy with her journalistic responsibilities. I was watching television news at home while she was watching in her newspaper office with her journalism student peers. Back and forth, getting more and more excited as he took state after state, we kept texting, texting, and tearing up at the thought that we were watching history. Even John McCain’s concession speech was moving. Classy, that Senator McCain. Very classy.

Fast forward to 2012. I was an even more active volunteer that year. I could walk into the local party office, walk past the life sized cardboard cutouts of Obama and Biden, and be greeted by name. I voted early that year. And then, November 1, just days before the election, I had a stroke. Gliding into the MRI machine, I kept thinking “Thank goodness I voted early.” Election night 2012 found me just like 2008, texting La Petite as I pondered stroke recovery. Chuck, typical television engineer, was out somewhere covering the results.

I slept better with 2008 and 2012 in mind – even with the stroke memories. 2016 was different, and I didn’t go back there. I went to sleep instead. 

And this morning, Election Day 2018, the Major Midterms, I lined up at the polls next to Lee Snodgrass, a candidate for state senate. Take that, Mr. President. The grass roots campaign machine is moving again. 

Oh, my goodness, I hope I’m right. 

November is for Holidays and Family

November. Thanksgiving happens in November, but there’s so much more, too. We’re hosting Thanksgiving with our new kitchen, so I might have to call on the Fairies to help, but first – well, we have a few more things to accomplish first. 

Amigo and his barbershop chorus have an important gig on Veteran’s Day. At 11:00 on the 11th day of the 11th month, he’ll be at the county courthouse with the rest of the chorus warming up to sing the National Anthem and more. Some years they sing God Bless America; sometimes they sing the Armed Forces medley. All years, we listen as all the churches surrounding the downtown area ring their bells at 11:00. It’s a powerful moment that tugs on my heartstrings every time. 

But first! Amigo and I will go to the Sweet Adelines’ Salute to Veterans on Saturday the 10th. The Sweet Adelines are the women in barbershop harmony. Last February, at their Sweetie Pie social, Amigo held the winning ticket for their Pie of the Month for a year. We’ll meet up with this month’s pie baker on Saturday, and she’ll deliver the pie for November. I anticipate a fresh homemade pie, a good concert, and an all-around pleasant afternoon.

To add to the busy schedule, Chuck will miss both concerts. He’ll be at a train club event. Ah, well, Amigo and I will save a little pie – if he’s lucky. 

Chuck is feeling lucky in one way. When he worked for the television station, he always, always had to help put the local holiday parade on the air the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. He’ll be working that night, but it’ll be a regular shift building fire trucks. Nothing to worry about here, folks, nothing to worry about. 

With all of that in mind, I think I’d better plan the menu and order the turkey. Organic and fresh, the best kind, from our local neighborhood meat market. Yum.

Closed Captioning Counts

It’s a familiar rant. “Would it kill the budget to add captioning to the commercials?” Super Bowl commercials, at least, have no excuse. With the millions they pay for production and air time, the expense to caption the commercials would be a drop in the bucket. A small drop, at that. 

Here we are, four television days before election day, and it’s almost impossible to watch a newscast without an overabundance of bureaucrats and lawmaker wannabes talking at us, the viewers and voters. How many are captioned? My unofficial estimate: about half. 

So why bother? Why take the time and spend the money to add closed captioning to an admittedly short run for a commercial? Here’s why. 

  1. The baby boomer generation is aging into hearing aids, and they vote. The baby boomers, not the hearing aids, that is. If a candidate wants his/her platform known to this valuable demographic, captioning is a great way to do it.
  2. When a commercial (or program) is captioned, the mute button only mutes the sound. The video still has a chance, a remote possibility if you will, of penetrating the consciousness of someone looking in the direction of the television screen. 
  3. If a non-captioned commercial follows one with active captions, sometimes the last caption remains on the screen. Imagine this: incumbent Scott Walker babbling at the camera as the top of the screen announces: Tony Evers is committed to you, for a change.

And that, my friends and family, is irony enough for me.  Go Tony!

Just Once

Just once, I’d like to hear a story about the president and not react with “Idiot” or “Figures.” 

Just once, I’d like to hear a doctor make my health care decisions without saying, “We’ll have to wait for the insurance company’s approval.” 

Just once, I’d like to watch the news without having to mute the pre-election commercials. 

Just once, I’d like to see a political commercial that doesn’t make me cringe or think, “This is misleading, to say the least.” 

Just once, I’d like to take a walk without foot pain. Hey, I had to put in something realistic. I’m in the middle of laser treatments; I should start feeling relief soon. 

Just once, I’d like to answer the phone without screening out all the political calls and the unavailable ID calls and the unfamiliar numbers and… you get the picture.

Just once, I’d like to stop worrying. Okay? Just stop worrying. 

October Random Thoughts

I was feeling kind of down about the whole Stupid Boot thing. I saw a picture from the downtown farmers’ market on Facebook, and I was really bummed. It doesn’t feel right to stay home on Saturday mornings when I could be marketing. So…Chuck arranged to go grocery shopping at the store that has a small market in its parking lot on Sundays, and I was much, much happier. He’s a sweetheart, that man of mine. 

The haul – just right!

I stopped at the Democrats’ office to pick up a Tony Evers for Governor sign, and the greeter at the door didn’t greet me. She apologized almost immediately; she said I looked like I belonged there. Trying not to read too much into this; it’s the first election cycle in a long time when I haven’t been actively involved.

I used up the last of the zucchini from the picture (above) with a batch of zucchini chocolate chip cookies inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I’ll use the rest in tomorrow’s beef stew. 

We emptied the basket in my closet that we call the Goodwill basket. We toss things in to donate, and when the basket overflows, we take inventory and take it in. We had some excess kitchen supplies, too. Purging feels good. 

So here we are, in mid-October. I’m very limited in my walking ability, but I’m coming to terms with it, sort of (see above). Readers, what is October bringing to your life?

Scrappy Cooking – Cooking with Scraps

There once was a TV show “Scraps.” I tried to follow it, but they’d only made a few episodes. When I saw that the head chef from “Scraps” had published a cookbook, I ordered it right away. 

Once upon a time, during a summer when I had access to my kitchen for canning, I made a very scrappy tomato vegetable soup. I’d been canning tomatoes a few days earlier. The process of peeling tomatoes, while not like herding cats, is time consuming and yields an interesting leftover. To peel tomatoes, I drop several into hot water for a few minutes and then into ice water. The peels slide off (almost) effortlessly. Almost. The results: a lot of tomatoes without skins, and a big bowl of water laced with tomato remains. I decided this tomato water was too good to throw away. On the theme of a Pantry Raid, I used only ingredients that were readily available in my freezer, refrigerator, or pantry. Nothing fancy!

Step one: we skimmed off some of the water floating on top. The tomato content kept sinking to the bottom, so why not?
Step two: poured the tomato water into a large slow cooker and let it simmer on high overnight.
Step three: added herbs. A few green onions, a clove of garlic, some minced basil – all simmered in the soupy mix for several hours.
Step four: Store the boiled down mixture in refrigerator overnight.

To make soup for supper, I added a few simple ingredients along with salt and pepper, thickened with arrowroot starch (Penzey’s is the best), and served with crackers.

Simple ingredients added (but not measured precisely): a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, a small can of commercial tomato paste (to mitigate the sweetness of the fresh tomato remains), salt and pepper, frozen peas & corn & shredded fresh zucchini.

This tomato soup, whether you call it a Scraps menu or a Pantry Raid, is a winner. By the way, those tomato skins were dried in the oven on a low heat and then eventually frozen. We used them often. Scraps? They’re tasty and priceless.