Monthly Archives: January 2010

Soup for You! Next!

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This year I am committed to eating seasonally (and local), so fresh salads are out and cabbage and kale are in right now. After a week of cabbage though, I have more than the scent of a woman, so I start throwing other vegetables into a broth to make soup. I am fortunate to share in the soups of friends. Every time I visit my friend Byron, he sends me home with a freezer bag full of his spicy soup that fills the belly and clears the sinuses. And I am saving a frozen container of homemade venison soup that my friend Otter gave me for a great last meal here before I head for Montpelier.

You know, there is something almost cuddly about receiving homemade soup from someone who cares about you. The whole idea of someone creating that warm concoction – good things that may be otherwise forgotten in the fridge or not big enough to stand alone are blended together to make magic. And when soup is made, it is with the idea that someone else will share in it. Let’s face it, soup is great, but it gets less interesting after the fourth or fifth day of eating it. So you make soup and you share it.

So with soup – and barter – on the brain, I found this very cool site that tells about a neighborly meet-up called Soup Swap Everybody makes their favorite soup, at least 6 quarts, and brings it and freezer containers to the home of one of the participants. Then everybody swaps for the soup others have made. Some people up the ante and create cute labels and add side dishes like cornbread to their offerings. Way better than a party for the same containers, only empty! Check out the site on how to organize a swap – there is a national soup swap day coming up on the 23rd of this month! But…no bread for you!

One Ringy Dingy

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Last month, I canceled my phone service to cut costs and to get ready for my winter move to Montpelier. I still had the cell phone, but soon found that I talked more than I thought I did. The monthly minutes quickly ran out and I had to recharge – and spent almost as much as I would have spent had I kept the landline. Live and learn.

As an alternative, I bought a magicJack at my local Radio Shack (not a typo – the J is the only capitalized letter) This is a little item that looks like a tiny Altoids box that plugs into the USB port of your computer and allows you to make phone calls without a service. Basically, one payment gets you the tin can and the string to use it.

I hooked it up and the software program instructed me to pick a number in the state of my choice. Vermont was not an option. Bummer. So I decided to pick a number in my birthplace of Illinois, so my mother could call me without paying long distance charges (can we say, beat the man?). I plugged my phone into the tin can and a few minutes later, I was up and running.

Rest assured, I am not being paid to give you this information, and I paid for my magicJack. So, now I can go on. There are a few quirks to this little gadget. Sometimes it works well, and no one knows I am calling through my computer. And it is a great little item to take on a trip, so you can hook up the hotel phone and call without added charges. But it seems that after it warms up a little (I wonder if it has cockles?) it gets randy. Jack likes to cut you off in the middle of an intense conversation. But the funny thing is, you can still hear the other person. They sound pathetic, calling out, “Hello? Hello, are you there?” And, thinking that you can’t hear them either, they often break into some colorful language that would be spelled with all the symbols above the numbers on the computer keyboard.

And sometimes, one or both of the people on the phone will begin to sound like Cher. Not her normal voice, which wouldn’t be that bad. More like her voice when she sings “Believe.” Pretty cool, except when it happens during a business call. Then I have to tell the caller, “excuse me, Bob Mackie’s clicking in on the other line. I’ll call you right back.”

The magicJack takes voice messages for you, too, just like a landline phone. You receive an email (from either magic or Jack – they are so hard to tell apart) that has a wav file attached, so you can hear the voicemail directly from your computer. When I open them it reminds me of Ron Weasley in Harry Potter, getting the Howler message from his mother.

So, all in all, the magicJack is worth the price. But I think there is a new phone plan in my future. Until then, I got you, babe.

A Magic Carpet Ride, To the Emerald Isle

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A few years ago, an innovative guy decided to see if he could trade a giant paper clip for something, well, better. So he advertised on Craigslist, not knowing what he would end up with. Being a huge barter fiend myself, I liked his spunk.

Fast forward to this evening. I was reading an e-newsletter sent by Barbara Winter, author of “Making a Living Without a Job,” and was making notes on her first article titled “7 Easy Ways to Warm Your Cockles” Since I had no idea I even had cockles, I figured I’d better take notes. I wrote down the seven ways and planned to start cockle-warming first thing in the morning. I read on, and stopped at an entry about a workshop held in Galway, Ireland.

Be still my heart. This area of Ireland had called to me for the better part of my 50 years on this earth. It was on my “Boxcar List.” That’s like a bucket list, but much bigger and harder to ignore. I had written about the female pirate queen, Grainne O’Malley, and recognized her castle immediately among the pictures on the workshops web site. There was a strange need to visit, to walk the countryside and find spiritual sites I knew but could not describe, to breathe the air of a country that I recognized only through genetic memory, through the drops of blood that came from my Irish ancestors. Years ago, I shared my draw to the Galway region with a fellow writer who came from Ireland. “No matter how many generations are away,” he said, “Ireland always calls her sons and daughters home.”

After I clicked off, I looked at Barbara’s list. The first one stared back at me:

Do Something Out of Character.

Hmm. You’re a workhorse, Rosie, not a show horse. If you can’t pay for it, you don’t need it. You have obligations. You have bills. It is all true. If you want to go to Ireland, it has to be free, or you have to barter for it.

I stopped talking to myself and stared at those words. Thoughts become things. I sent off a note to Barbara, basically telling her the same thing I just told you, and sent a similar one off to the workshop leader. And here I am, telling you. I want to go to Galway.

I believe that some things may seem improbable, but nothing is impossible. And I started thinking about the guy who had nothing but a paper clip. I did a quick look through my apartment – remember, readers, I am packing, so pickings are slim. But here are some items I found that I am willing to barter to piece together a trip to Ireland, in order of value:

1. 6 AAA batteries. Not new, but a few of them might have a little bunny left in them.
2. A wire hanger, used.
3. My wig, used this summer during my bald period.
4. The hair of a dog. Really. The hair of a dog. TRADED for handspun yarn – see pics and description in “Trading” page
5. A Virgin Mobile Kyocera phone , with chew marks and a battery that is still fairly good.
6. And, if I find it, I will offer a four-leaf clover, found by me. This is surely worth an entire trip, flight and all! Let me know if anyone is interested in this one and I will look harder. (UPDATE: I found it!)

Here’s more:
JUST ADDED: My high school class ring, circa 1975.
My voice: Got an advertising project that needs a female voice?
My skill: Blog content? A story…on Ireland? Want me to tweet about your Irish wolfhound?

So, whatcha need? Let’s trade! We can’t win if we don’t play. I’ll post offers here and keep you updated on any progress. And if this dream doesn’t happen right now, it will eventually. There is always a Plan B.

UPDATE: I have added a barter list page link at the top of the blog page for easier browsing! Watch for trades there!

We Tree Kings

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It is January 6th – known by many as Three Kings Day, or Twelfth Night. The last official day of Christmas. And it is traditional in some households to say good bye to the tree today. Off come the ornaments to be packed in their sturdy containers (or the ancient, flimsy cardboard boxes, taped at the corners with equally ancient masking tape). Then the lights. They never go back to their original form, snaking over and under the little tabs in the box. More likely, they are wound around someone’s arm like a construction workers extension cord and dumped into a larger tote. The tree skirt is thrown into the laundry basket for a quick wash, where it will ultimately be forgotten until around, say, April, when all the supplies are stowed in the attic.

Ok. Now what?  You’re left with the tree itself. It looks a little humiliated, doesn’t it? Well, we won’t go there – until next year’s blog, when we will discuss alternatives for the whole Christmas tree idea. But right now, your tree is standing there, naked as a jaybird, dripping needles all over the carpet. Well, let’s make this problem interactive, shall we? I’ll start:

  • Turn it into a carpet – a mulch carpet, that is. Find a kindly lumberjack with a woodchipper and have him chew it into little bits for landscaping. Blueberry bushes would love you for it.
  • Chop Chop. Well, it is wood – use the trunk for firewood even if it isn’t the brightest burn on the pile.
  • Set it free. Take it to the woods (now, no sneaking onto someone’s property or dumping on public land without permission), and let it become home to whatever claims it, while it biodegrades back to nature.
  • Let it sleep with the fishes. If you have a pond (again, only permission-granted places), submerge the tree at the edge for a great home for little fishes. And take the cannolis.

Remember, this isn’t for flocked trees, trees that haven’t relinquished their tinsel, or artificial trees – even if they look very, very real.

Ok, your turn. Give us your ideas for doing the right thing with that tree. Go ahead. No planet- friendly solution is too silly for the Universe.

There’s No Business Like Snow Business

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Update! A kind reader sent me this fabulous snowflake. He took my name and flipped and rearranged it until he created a very cool six-pointed snowflake.:

It’s all about snow today! And Vermont does snow so well.

Snowflakes always amaze me. Minute little bits of architectural perfection that only last for a moment. While pumping gas yesterday I started to watch the snowflakes fall on my coat sleeve. Some were so tiny they only looked like bits of fuzz. But others were large and defined and I could see the beauty even without a magnifying glass.

This morning I woke to a white wonderland. We were blessed with snow that came up to Fae’s shoulders, so I’m guessing we have about 20 inches on the ground. Again, my thoughts turned to the millions and millions of snowflakes that made up the beauty, so I went searching for information.

I found this site that explains the structures of snowflakes. And I was pleased to see that Vermont is a snowflake “hotspot!” In fact, there is even a snowflake museum!The Snowflake Bentley Museum in Jericho displays the work of Wilson Bentley, who photographed and studied snowflakes for forty years. Oh, if you visit, make sure you go to the right Jericho – there are two in Vermont. Map? No, I don’t have a map for you. You’ll find it, and have a lot of fun on the way.

Want to make a flake? You can click one into existence here: Computer Snowflake. Or if you want to have fun with the kids and bring back old-school memories, break out the paper (scrap paper, destined for the recycle box) and get to work!

Excuse me, my snowshoes are calling…

!