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Sunday, September 21, 2014

In a Belgrade Cemetery

Two summers ago, Mr FS and I went to Vienna, where my mother was born in 1930.  Last summer, we went to Belgrade, where my mother and her parents (and other family members) stayed (1938) before emigrating to the United States.

A most moving part of our journey: a visit to a cemetery in Belgrade.



Image courtesy of my daughter. See her Tumblr for more travel illustrations or her website for more.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

How I Ended Up with a Wedding Dress and What Will Become of It: Tales from the Thrift Store

A while ago, I was at one of the two thrift stores I frequent. There was a huge rack of used wedding dresses at ridiculous prices (high ones, that is). Needless to say--having already done a wedding in a green dress at the courthouse--I did not give them more than a glance.

The employee asked me if I wanted a wedding dress. I said no, for the above reason. He said We'll never sell them and they are taking up a lot of space. You can have them for $3 each.

I felt a bit sorry for him. So I picked out JUST ONE, figuring I could perhaps take it to the Buffalo Exchange for Halloween. I took a silk one and thought that the creative and handy Miss Em could use the fabric for something. Two possibilities.

Miss Em and I asked at the Buf. No, they didn't want wedding dresses for Halloween. Miss Em thought the dress was too nice to cut up. We put it in the DONATE pile.

Then--the fateful sentence: Maybe I'll try this on.  Then an exclamation: It fits perfectly.

We put it back in the DONATE pile. Miss Em is not planning a wedding at the moment and she's sufficiently contrarian to NOT want a traditional white dress.

An hour later, another fateful sentence: I've always wanted to make a Snow Queen costume for Halloween.

No, I am not allowed to post a photo. (Below from Once Upon a Time wiki)

The Snow Queen
InfoboxTheSnowQueen

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Further Decluttering: The Dreaded Ebay and Bulky Items

I am continuing to make use of my dear daughter. She offered to sell some things on Ebay for me. I vowed many years ago that I would never have another yard sale or sell on Ebay. So far, I have kept my vows.

However, I do have some things cluttering up my space that I can't quite bring myself to get rid of. Put that in the past tense.

Thanks to Miss Em, I am now--or soon to be--the proud UN-OWNER of a pair of Filson garments (too big, too heavy for my guys) and some cowboy boots. And a giant puffy coat in an unfortunate shade of magenta. And a few other things.

Of course I made some rookie-mistakes. One, I priced too low, so had several items whoosh away on a too low BUY IT NOW. Second, not knowing how much shipping had gone up over the years, I offered FREE SHIPPING.

I consider my selling midway between making some money and getting ready to declutter for retirement. If I look at things that way, I have been successful.

Also the two Filson jackets and the big down coat took up a lot of space. Getting bulky items gone is a good thing.

P.S. We did not unload another space hog: a wedding dress (not mine! I got married in a green dress from a yard sale). More on the fate of that bulky item later.

We said bye-bye to this. The buyer got a good deal too.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some Snippets of Our Balkan Journey Last Summer: Immensities and Little Things

I've mentioned that Mr FS and I met up with Miss Em (and, briefly. Frugal Son) in the Balkans last summer. I feel like a Henry James heroine when I say that the experience was immense. But it was. Some of the immense emotional response comes from the region's history. As with 9/11 in the United States, everyone who was alive during the recent genocidal conflicts remembers what happened.

Part of the immense response for also comes from my encounter with a bit of my family's journey from another genocidal conflict to safety in the United States. A stay in Belgrade was a step on that journey and I was at last able to meet the surviving member of my family (a cousin's widow) and to stay in the very house that provided shelter for seven members of my family, including two who are still alive, my mother Renee and her cousin Herbert.

Some day I will write of more of this journey, including a surprisingly moving (though why it was surprising I don't know) visit to the grave of my great-grandmother, which she shares with her daughter, my grandmother's sister.

If our whole visit was as emotionally thrilling/draining as the above summary suggests, I would have been prostrate on a couch for the whole time. However, as Mr FS always says (I think this is from his beloved Proust), the trivialities are as meaningful as the big things. I haven't posted on the little things either.

But guess what? Miss Em--home for 2 months before a return trip to Serbia--has, in addition to helping me declutter, resumed her charming drawings. The last four or so are from the time of our visit.

True to the Balkan experience, half the drawings (so far) are of food. Check out her Snippets if you  have a chance.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Decluttering: Tradesy and Buffalo Exchange Report

I am reading a new-to-me blog: An Exacting Life. This woman is impressive; she keeps track of EVERYTHING.  I just stagger along in my un-exact way. 

Miss Em--back from Serbia--will be making a return trip  from October to February . While I have the only exacting member of my family of 4 around, I am shamelessly using her.  To declutter. What else is new?

It's a win-win. She needs some money and I need to get rid of stuff. She is in charge of picking stuff out for the Buffalo Exchange and selling the more desirable items on Tradesy (she photographs, writes descriptions with a bit of help from yours truly). She gets all the proceeds.

So far: 

Miss Em took a trip to Tuscaloosa AL (where she went to college) to speak at an event. That town has an outstanding resale shop, Twice as Nice. We left some items there before she graduated and she returned from her trip with a few items and $35.

3 trips to the Buffalo Exchange. We always stop by when we visit Frugal Son, since he lives just a few blocks away. This is always fun. The people who work there are so great. Three trips netted $200 in cash and Miss Em used some credit to buy a few items. I really think going to the Buf keeps me from getting too stodgy--kind of like teaching. It's hard to be 60 among the young, but it's worth it.

Tradesy: This is like the world's biggest yard sale. Most people sell their stuff for WAY TOO MUCH. We price low. Miss Em has picked up about $400 from that venue and we've listed lots of things. Every now and then something sells. 

Miss Em also instituted a rule, which I am abiding by voluntarily: we must donate 15 items to "earn" a trip to Goodwill. So far I've earned a few trips.

Miss Em has netted about $600, which I find rather astonishing. While I know how much cash we've taken in, I have no idea what the numbers are as far as items. Miss Em has brought home perhaps 10 items (all second hand) since her return from Serbia. I've only bought 3 items since June. We've gotten rid of a lot more than that. But my question remains: why do I still have too much stuff??


the new orleans store

the new orleans store

Friday, September 5, 2014

Venturing Outside Your Demographic: In CDG Airport

I have to confess that I sometimes feel ill at ease when I am out of my demographic. 

As my readers no doubt know, I have been pining for an Hermes scarf for a few years. Since I intend to buy only one, and the choices--both new and used- are immense, I have had a hard time choosing. When I was in Paris and Brussels last summer, I did not venture into any stores. I was mostly content with window shopping. I did wander into a perfume store and when the salesperson, in a totally normal French way, asked me if she could help, my French, which I had upgraded via Duolingo practice, instantly evaporated and I fled to Mr FS, waiting on the sidewalk (he hates stores).

Mr FS and I had a 5 hour wait in CDG Airport in Paris. The international section has a spate of luxe stores which are so crowded with shoppers that one really doesn't feel uncomfortable as a browser. I wandered into the Hermes shop to look at the scarves. There was another browser peering into the case with me. The single employee was busy with a chic couple who were--I think--speaking Japanese. The woman was wearing a black and white tweed Chanel jacket, a gorgeous coordinating scarf; she carried an alligator Hermes bag. The effect was totally elegant. Still, she was wearing stuff that cost more than I make in a year. She and her husband, who also wore understated and very elegant clothing, though none identifiable by me, left with several giant bags of new purchases.

This time I didn't flee, but all I could think was: this is not my demographic. Why am I here? Having had a glimpse of beauty, I wandered out and sprayed on some perfume at another shop. I returned to the waiting area and let Mr FS have his turn at a walk. 

Just wondering: do you enjoy venturing outside your demographic? Are you attracted by such shops or uncomfortable? (Image from Retail Design Blog)

Charles de Gaulle airport shopping center WCIE 04 Charles de Gaulle airport shopping center by W&CIE, Paris

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Potato Corn Chowder with a dash of nostalgia

Oh, how I needed some potatoes, my comfort food of choice.

Visiting the dentist is fairly stressful in and of itself.  Plus, we have a new dentist, thanks heavens, this time with a decent office staff, but still--no dentist ever says the same thing. Today's visit was something of an emergency (more stress); the new dentist's advice had/has to be weighed with my common sense. I will spare everyone the details.

I had to park in a grocery parking lot. Time for potatoes, the ultimate comfort food. I wanted to make a soup, but am without stock of any kind. I remembered the first potato/corn chowder I ever ate: at a departmental pot luck at a small school where I used to teach (1987), my genial colleague (who I later discovered wrote me a fairly negative letter of recommendation--thanks GT!) made a delicious soup from the Vegetarian Epicure. The secret, he said, was the nutritional yeast Anna Thomas called for

I couldn't find my old copy, but I found the recipe online. As expected too goopy (flour???) with various things I didn't have.

Here's what I did: threw some frozen caramelized onions (I do this in the crock pot every few months) in the pot with 2 peeled and chopped potatoes. Put in a little of that nutritional yeast. Then covered with water. Simmered for a while. Mashed everything up when done and added salt, some milk, and a can of drained corn. Served with extra sharp cheddar. Oh, and I stirred in a bit of butter, a trick I learned from the great Marcella Hazan.

Soooo good. I hadn't made this vegetarian version in years, having gone over to Ina Garten's with bacon and chicken stock. Hers is even more goopy. I think I am going to return to the simpler vegetarian version. The nutritional yeast has a definite umami effect. We use it on popcorn (a friend calls it hippie dust). You can get it at Whole Foods. Or leave it out, of course.

It's amazing how good a stock potatoes and onions produce. This soup is so cheap to make that it will offset the cost of my dental treatment, at least if I eat it once a week for the next--oh--thirty years.

Is there anyone of a certain age who doesn't have this cookbook somewhere? A mere glance at the cover triggers a wave of nostalgia. Do you still cook anything from it?