Monday, November 30, 2009

Excellent 4-Day Weekend: Thanksgiving

B and I celebrated a joint Thanksgiving with both of our families this year. After a grueling 4 hour drive with stop and go traffic and multiple pee stops, we arrived in Dallas late Wednesday night. We went to my cousin's house in "Useless" (Euless) Thanksgiving Day and had a lot of super tasty Chinese food, plus a roast turkey. I baked a blueberry crisp the morning of on the fly, since Marie Callendar's refused to hand over a prepaid pie when we tried to pick it up the day before. Inept workers. It was also B's 25th birthday, and my parents bought him a cake and a gift I helped pick out. He wasn't expecting that at all, which I loved. Then we took 121 across town to B's uncle and aunt's house in McKinney. They had been frying turkeys all day and I tried one for the first time. I kept going back for more of that crisp and flavorful skin! The rest of the weekend was uneventful and awesome. B caught up with some of his shows on my dad's big screen HDTV, I reread through some of my college notes for kicks, I learned a song on the harmonica, and ate lots of leftovers. The whole family made a grocery trip together, and although that is generally a boring affair, I was excited to have B along. It is also one of the last few times I'll be able to hang out with my parents for a while, as they have plans to move to China for missions work. We'll see. We went back to Austin on Saturday, after spending the afternoon in downtown McKinney, and had another relaxing day to spend before the workweek started up again. I forced myself to bike in the evening, my first ride in weeks. It was to the Capitol and was moderately difficult because it was windy and lightly raining. I wished my rain jacket had come in already, as my cardigan was not cutting it. It was odd coming home to a super heated house with B sound asleep on the sofa, By Any Means blaring on the telly. Back to inertia.

We spent most of Saturday in downtown McKinney with B's uncle, aunt, and 2 cousins. It boasts a handful of fine restaurants and even a British pub. We went to the local butcher to get some chili bricks to take home. B's uncle boasted that it was made with quality meat cuts, not the crappy stuff. We had already handed over the cash before we found out that the meat wasn't local. Oh wells. We made some yesterday, adding some canned tomatoes and black beans. I didn't take any photos because chili generally looks gross, especially at a low resolution, but it was not bad! Very meaty.

Lazy boy.

Other lazy boy.

B's been making a lot of mulled wine lately. Just simmer a spice packet in cheap wine. He loves that stuff. It is very economical, compared to the craft beers he normally buys.

I'm going to be in San Diego for the next 2 nights and days. HR Generalist conference. Wooh. Hopefully I'll be able to meet up with Nora & Colin tomorrow night. I promised B not to get into too much trouble while I was there, so I won't be roaming the streets at night. I usually like to wander around a city as much as I can when I'm on a work trip by myself. Even if it's suburban awful and doesn't have any sidewalks, like Metairie. I can only take so much cable TV, so we'll see..

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Conscious Consumption

B and I watched the documentary The Corporation last night, and it was long and scary. Basically, corporations have taken over the American economy and are ruining the world. Because they have they masterfully gotten the legal system to consider them "persons," they can get away with bad deeds such as producing too much of an unneeded product, employing advertisements backed by psychological research to get you to buy their products, use child labor, exploit workers by paying stupid low wages, trick the government into OK-ing a product that has been proven harmful, selling the unsafe product, polluting our air and water, taking ownership of natural resources, etc etc. I know I'm not the most eloquent writer, but we've all heard about the irreparable damage done by corporations so large that they have no accountability. Even their "green initiatives" are just a tactic to quell public suspicion, while they carry on with the bottom line: profit. The only two hopes are that capitalists will keep "selling the rope that will hang them" and that the public will act differently against unjust corporations.

Again, as the credits rolled, I found myself wallowing in a pit of guilt. But then B reminded me that feeling guilty does nothing.. it just makes you feel better later after you are done feeling guilty because you felt something. It's true. We then started really examining our lifestyles and started a serious conversation. I was previously really turned off by the green movement, 1- because I didn't feel like it could do any lasting good, and it seemed like the majority of people did not care. And 2- it is so annoyingly trendy- those damn rich middle class yuppies. But if everyone sympathized with point 1 then nothing would ever change. And remove all the trendy baggage and the point is still ever so relevant. What have we, as a couple, done with this burgeoning knowledge?

Food: Thanks to Erin and Andrew, we've made our first married grocery trip to Wheatsville Co-op. I had a membership in college, but the high prices really turned me off, and after that membership expired, I could not bring myself to pay the extra 50 cents to $1 for each item. They've since changed that system, and as a member, you get discounts on certain items. (We are not members.) This trip was spurred by watching Food, Inc., and sleeping in on Saturday two weeks in a row and missing the downtown Farmers Market. We went armed with a purpose- to buy only local produce and meat. I understand that at those health stores, it's the stupendously expensive snacks and drinks that suck your wallet dry. Not a huge problem when you realize that those things aren't really food (meal food), and you should not buy them regularly. To have the comparison of HEB-priced snacks is helpful because it's still fresh enough to cause you enough mental pain to resist paying $5 for a tiny box of crackers.

Analysis: The produce is labeled with state or country of origin. I was disappointed to find that they sold non-organic items, and they also had a pretty small local section. I guess by pretty small I mean that the entire section is not local, woefully. I think a farmers market or planting your garden is the way to go on this one. I found out about a community garden in our neighborhood off 45th and Eilers run by Austin's own Sustainable Food Center. (They're the guys who put on the weekly Farmers Market downtown and at the Triangle.) We're still considering getting a plot- it is $40 a year plus volunteer maintenance. Anyways, back to Wheatsville. The meat section was more impressive. They have a freezer full of a variety of meats from nearby farms, and they are labeled by how far the meat had to travel to get there. We purchased some ground beef, chicken and sausage. The ground beef was something like $8 for half a pound. It sounds insane, but think about it: in what other way are you paying dearly for really cheap meat? Your health. And for those of you who care, the well-being of the animal. It's just not worth it. B was a bit put off bv how little meat we purchased, but after we made burgers, he was more enthusiastic about it. The meat also tasted different to us, as it should. I could not put my finger on it, but it was not bad at all. The burger was pretty great, actually. And I felt good not eating the meat of 1000 corn-fed, antiobiotic-pumped, manure-contaminated cows. In regards to money, we did not spend our entire weekly grocery budget!! Yes, the meat was much, much more expensive. But all we bought was meat, veggies, fruit, yogurt and bread. We're used to "treating" ourselves weekly with real-sugar sodas, chips, bulk section items, anything fun looking that catches the eye. It's good to only buy what we need. I'm happy we have fully weaned ourselves from HEB, and the next grocery I want to check out is even closer, Natural Grocers. I'm proud of B for joining me on this journey, especially since guys can sometimes be "whatever" about food, as long as it tastes good.

Clothing: Still thinking about this one. I'm quite sure the majority of the clothing I own is not sold by socially responsible companies. My new Cheap Monday jeans are made in China. Not good for stimulating the local economy. I get the occasional bargain-priced item from Forever 21. I'm guessing they have egregiously bad labor practices.. why else are the clothes dirt cheap? But girls don't care. And sadly, Urban Outfitters is basically the only place you can get fashion-forward clothing without breaking the bank. But not only are most if not all of their womens' clothes all made in poor Asian countries, they are also not made to last, and they unabashedly steal their looks from high-designers. I've always been very put-off by their shoddy construction, but I begrudgingly keep shopping there for fear of becoming irrelevant, style-wise. I know it's dumb, but it's hard. B and I agree that for now (and this is something he has always done), just wear what we have until we wear it out. This somewhat bleeds into Christmas gift territory, as I like giving my brother clothes as gifts. Instead of the cheap American Apparel cardigan I had been eyeballing from a bulk eBay seller, B and I decided to go with Alternative Apparel (see their Social Responsibility section) instead. Samuel, I hope you are not reading this. I generally like American Apparel because it is plain and made in the US, but I have heard cases of employee mistreatment and yes, sexual harassment.

While it is encouraging to me that one of the current fashion trends is items (hand) made in America, it disheartens me that this is just an impermanent trendy ideal. And that people who wear the same outfits for years and years get their unwanted 15 minutes of crazy bright spotlight, and are never mentioned again.

Regarding the Christmas gift-giving tradition, our extended family has always gotten together and given every kid a gift. I'm still considered a kid. The problems with that are: The economy has gone down and gifts have become cheaper and shoddier to cope. -> Everyone gets the same non-personal gift. I have no issue with my family wanting to spend less on unnecessary gifts. This year, I want to try to encourage our family to toss that tradition and instead, draw names out of a hat and just buy one gift for one person in your extended family. That way, you can put more thought into a gift and that person can get one way cool gift versus ten made-in-China useless ones.

Pets: B brought a good point that if we ourselves are paying attention to what we consume and what companies we support, we should also rethink what we buy for our cats. The Purina stuff we get them is just regular cat food from HEB, and I don't know where the ingredients come from. Clay litter is useful in eliminating odors and clumping, but it is also definitely awful for the environment and for you. Manufacturers employ the method of strip mining to extract clay, thereby destroying acres and acres of land. And the nasty dust in the litter contains a carcinogenic ingredient. We'll probably check out Wheatsville's pet section for alternatives soon.

House: Besides the oft-recommended turning off lights when you're not using them, taking shorter showers, washing clothes in cold water, turning off power strips, and fixing window and door leaks, there is still a lot to be done. Like toilets. 1 flush uses up 1 gallon of clean water. Not only that, we mix our waste with drinking water, which we then have to spend a lot of energy purifying. It's a really inefficient system, especially since our waste could be naturally useful when put in the ground. It's great that some places have installed toilets capable of half-flushes (for when you pee). But I think that toilets in general are not sustainable. It's a quick way to get rid of something gross and never see it again. Think about the hidden consequences. Check out this Boston Ideas article for more on this topic. Still thinking about this one. Can we be sustainable in a house turned green, or do we have to revamp the whole idea of a house? Fortunately for us, people are thinking about this here and there are quite a few "green" houses in town, especially on the Eastside. I'd like to learn more about them.

It's a process for sure. And for the most part, we can only try to do better, not best. And stop buying so much stuff from here on out. We just got a wonderful new couch last weekend from IKEA. The loveseat was not cutting it for us, since we could not both lay down together on it without poking each other in the face or back. It's been great having a larger couch, but IKEA is a large corporation.. This Inhabit post seems to think IKEA has commendable environmentally-friendly practices and rules. It sounds good, but still, the whole idea of a corporation is not sustainable.. Again, solid products that are also awesomely cheap should spur you into doing more research. I know I will be. This is why I'm pleased that we built two of our tables. It was super fun, challenging, and ultimately rewarding. Handmade custom furniture can be very pricey, but it doesn't have to be.

Still working through the whole money thing, as in "how much money should I spend on products that are better for the world?." Why are most products manufactured under socially responsible means so expensive? Are you paying more for the good "green label" feeling? Because right now, I don't see how those alternatives are a true option for most people. Then there's the argument that we should own less in general- there is no need for a closetful of clothes. True. Fashion may be an enormous ruse created by companies to drive purchases, but it's so compelling. For many people, it's an integral part of their identity. I can definitely identify. Anyways, sorry for the gargantuan post. I'll be thinking about this more from now on. Not because I really want to (it's really, really inconvenient!), but because I am compelled to. Some coworkers I talk to about the industrial food issue can sympathize, but throw their hands up and refuse to think about it further because they feel helpless. But I don't think that we are helpless, especially as we are so privileged. Terrible norms have always existed in history, and when people worked to change them, sometimes they succeeded. B and I half-joked about how we weren't going to have kids because people are awful for the world. Still working on a good answer to that one.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Glenn Tipton

Cassius Clay was hated more than Sonny Liston
Some like K.K. Downing more than Glenn Tipton
Some like Jim Nabors, some Bobby Vinton
I like 'em all

I put my feet up on the coffee table
I stay up late watching cable
I like old movies with Clark Gable
Just like my dad does

Just like my dad did when he was home
Staying up late, staying up alone
Just like my dad did when he was thinking
Oh, how fast the years fly

I know an old woman ran a donut shop
She worked late serving cops
Then one morning, babe, her heart stopped
Place ain't the same no more

Place ain't the same no more
Not without my friend, Eleanor
Place ain't the same no more
Man, how things change

I buried my first victim when i was nineteen
Went through her bedroom and the pockets of her jeans
And found her letters that said so many things
That really hurt me bad

I never breathed her name again
But I like to dream about what could have been
I never heard her calls again
But I like to dream

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Death N TX

I don't bike too much anymore.. I should. I tried working out by biking alone after work, but it was surprisingly boring. No destination, no riding partners, no adventure. That lasted a day. B has been riding on an exercise bike at work, and he has developed a good routine. Last weekend, we rode a bit on the East Austin Studio Tours. (And yes, I did get to check out the Iona Handmade Books. So lovely, but unjustifiably expensive..) But it was mostly socializing; that's how group family rides tend to turn out. Exercise in general bores me. There has to be a larger goal or some sort of game involved, which is why I've always enjoyed playing team sports. In fact, I've started playing ultimate frisbee with B's old crew on Saturday afternoons. I'm always happy to participate in healthy competition, especially if getting my heart rate up is incidental. The first time I played, I was pretty out of shape and went for 2.5 hrs.. I was sore for nearly a week afterwards! But I healed just in time for the next game. Apparently bicycling only works a small set of muscles!

This is a really minor nitpicky point, but I am still searching for the best way to carry stuff while riding. I have an old big Kryptonite U-lock, which is not small enough to fit into a back pants pocket.
The orange hipster mini u-lock I bought out of vanity last year was so small that I had a good deal of trouble locking my bike up each time. B was pretty frustrated from using brute force to help me lock it up, and I eventually sold the expensive and wildly impractical item.

I've been using a Chrome Dually backpack for more than a year, and it gets the job done . It's better for larger loads, as it is 1000 cu in. But most of the time, I just need a place to put my u-lock, keys, wallet, camera and water bottle. And most of the time, most of the bag is basically empty. Furthermore, it is an art rearranging bulky items so that they don't stab you in the back or cause discomfort after riding some time.

A few months ago, I purchased a classic Carradice saddle bag in an effort to switch over. At the time, I was really won over by the new-old-traditional accessories trend. It was handmade in England- definitely a looker. It was pretty heavy though, and I didn't like the extra weight added to my previously stripped down bike. And the leather straps, as cool as they looked, were a pain to buckle/use. I had also purchased a quick release system for it, so I could take it off after I got off my bike. It was quite unwieldy though, without having a strap or bag handle. It was OK but one night I used it, I lost my wallet. And this was the night before my flight to Hong Kong. Lots of trouble and scrambling ensued over the loss of my credit card for identification, and I had to buy a whole other plane ticket.. So I no longer use that bag. Cursed!

A long while back, I bought a Zugster hip pack to replace an old messenger bag. Out of vanity again. I think I only used it once, as clamping a heavy bag to my hip proved to be very uncomfortable. Some people I know have front or rear baskets, but that just runs into the weight issue. Panniers are getting more popular, but that is also more weight, and makes more sense for a commuter. B's small Chrome messenger bag is a good size and works well for him, but I could never go back to messenger bags- they smash your boobs! Maybe I should just get over feeling weird that I don't fill my backpack up usually. It feels odd that it flaps around, but until someone makes a half-size pack (specifically for women, maybe?).. And hopefully lesson learned, all the accessories I bought in the past because they looked cool, well they have not ever worked out. Function over form!!

Speaking of pretty bags, these are pretty and I love the Texas mention. Glad to know that good things can come out of Dallas. That means there is hope for me, right??

Death and Texas Etsy site

Image sources: bike tires direct, rakuten, calhoun cycle

Friday, November 13, 2009

Art of the Trade

Lately I've become enamored with handmade trades. Frankly, I'm very disinterested in working for a large business or corporation, learning about its inner workings and using that knowledge for my own gain. I don't know anyone who truly enjoys working in this kind of environment. Who really loves Microsoft Excel with a passion? Who loves filing tons of paperwork? Or being on the phone for hours each day? None of that is intrinsically fun or rewarding to most people. Sure, there's money in it, but how often do people buy into the idea of money over time, enjoyment, and other people? Far too often here in the US. B and I were talking last night, and we were both be very happy if our income stayed about the same our whole lives (only accounting for increases due to standard of living, and for kids). We have more than enough for ourselves. There are deeper, non-monetary experiences to be found elsewhere.

Recently, I've looked into and learned a lot about two tiny companies whose products I like and whose history I respect. Both use traditional craft techniques to create extremely durable goods.

BillyKirk is a brother duo in New Jersey that handmakes leather goods. They have been in business since 1999, but are only now starting to make huge waves in the fashion industry. I checked out their wares a few years ago, and was particularly drawn to this bag, but wrote them off as another expensive accessory maker. In actuality, their story is quite inspiring. They were apprenticed under a leather maker for three years, and they get all their leather from the Amish communities nearby. Their products are well-crafted and made to last a long time, if not forever. Funny how durability comes and goes as a trend, since inherent to the definition of a trend is disposability. Even though American-made rustic goods are extremely trendy now, it really speaks to the Bray Brothers' credibility that they are truly committed to and love their work and have been doing it for many years. Read more of their story of origin here.

I first heard about Iona Handcrafted Books this morning, actually, when I was scrolling through the E.A.S.T. list of vendors. I did the whole tour last year on bike, and although it was fun, I don't feel much need or energy to do the same this year. Still, I had time to kill at work and the "handcrafted book" company name caught my eye. Going to her website, I saw some astonishing bound leather books with handmade paper. I was especially moved by the beautiful watercolor drawings in the gallery. An Austinite named Mychal makes all these books by herself! Her story, starting from how she learned her old craft from an Italian bookbinder, is also really inspirational. Totally speaks to finding out what you love, working hard at making and promoting them, and reaping the rewards (albeit after possibly many years- she started in 1992). I love that her products are purchased by people all over the world, and also that her studio is participating in a massive community art event.

When I spoke wistfully of the trade, B reminded me that business is involved as well. Except that you have to do it all yourself, and not rely on an organization to work out all the kinks for you. Just because you have a good product doesn't mean that you will do well. Very true. So many people sell amazing (and awful) handmade items on Etsy, yet most of them probably don't make a living doing that. Seems like that is the more common situation. Hmm, more thought needed.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

You are what you eat

B and I finally watched the documentary Food, Inc. last night. It doesn't really compete with other blockbusters films as being equally exciting or mindlessly entertaining, but we felt like we needed to see it. And I'm glad we did. We were planning on having burgers tonight, but I decided I didn't want to do that anymore. Did you know that up a burger patty is made up of up to 1000 different cows? Cows that are being fed corn (get fatter faster), pumped full of antibiotics, and stand all day in their own manure? And their hides eventually get plastered with manure, and are skinned when slaughtered, but the whole process is so fast that they aren't all cleaned off properly? Sick. Yes, this is the meat we buy at the supermarket, and why it is so cheap. It also scares me that so much of our food is made of GMOs now, and that the food industry is not required to label items as such. I'm not going to go into all the details about this movie, since other reviews summarize it much better. But by the time I finished the doc, I had sworn off meat, vegetables, all grocery stores, processed foods, and America. Again, it all boils down to more profit and complete power. Funny how that works, since the people in control are eating the same food we are.. Idiots. But the ones who suffer the most under this system? As always, the poor. Cheap food is awful for you. Why is a fast food hamburger cheaper than a head of lettuce? The film states that 1 in 3 Americans born after the year 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime. That is insane. Corn and soybean, which are both heavily subsidized by the government, is found in 90% of our food products. The food industry is slowly killing us all. Another desperately timely reason to champion economic equality, à la Sweden and Japan. Are we living in dire enough times?? Everything is not OK.

I hope we're not all mutated, disabled, or dying horrible deaths in the next few decades because of the "food" we have been fed. I'm starting to think that the only people who can come of out this unscathed are the ones living off the land, growing their own vegetables, raising their own animals, and rejecting all industrial food and products. (The Amish..?)

As always, you cannot rest on your laurels by only buying food with the "right" labels. They are intentionally mindboggling and misleading to conscious consumers. Example. Also, aside from false labeling, organic food isn't necessarily better for you, and it's quite bad for the environment, due to all the transport costs and emissions. Buy produce in season! In all, B and I were thoroughly disgusted, and we will try hard to not fall back on old convenient ways of getting food. We're going to check out the Austin Farmers Market and the Sunset Valley Farmers Market this weekend. (Tips on how to save money at farmers markets.)

Oh yea, and maybe watch out for BPA in canned foods. Consumer Reports did the test.. odd that the cans weren't initially tested by the manufacturers, huh? Oh wait- no surprise there.

If you are not familiar with the industrial food battle, please watch this film!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Spirit Level

There is no reachable "good enough" point in the American economy and workplace where we can all cease to push harder and be able to operate at a defined, stable pace. A new book, titled The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, was recently published in the UK. Here is a review of it. Countries with more equality built into their economic systems (such as Japan and Sweden) tend to fare better as a whole: less violence, less mental health problems, and yes, less wealth. And countries with very unequal socioeconomic groups fare poorly as a whole, rich and poor. That means you and me!

This is something we're probably all aware of, but nobody really knows how to remedy it. (Or is it that obvious? The poor just want to be the rich someday, the middle class want to be richer, and the rich want to be even richer.) How does the privileged American take a few steps and back and say no to what seems like more good things (wealth)?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Useful Desires

Been pretty unmotivated about hearing new music lately. It's such a chore. This year, I've been paying attention to mostly major releases. Very good stuff from Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Bill Callahan, The Dirty Projectors, David Bazan, Kings of Convenience. Instead, I've been revisiting music I used to love years ago. The wonderful thing about some songs is that they are acutely tied to memories. Mostly good, for me. College days with so much free time to do crafts, walk around the neighborhood, stay up late and watch movies, and go camping with roommates and friends. Not that I can't ever do those activities again, but I'll never be able to go back to that special time. One song that we really loved was Patty Griffin's "Useless Desires." In fact, Patty lived a block away from our Duval house at the time. We would sometimes walk by her little green house off 45th, trying to catch her standing at an open window or working in her yard. (We never saw her.) KK, who probably loved her music the most, even once peeked inside her parked car to see what stuff was in there. And one year, we were dressing up for a friend's "100" birthday party- which meant you had to wear 100 of an item. Erin had spent the last few weeks collecting beer bottle labels from her job at the Cactus and on our way out of the house, red-headed Patty Griffin walked by and complimented Erin on her impressive get-up. I have no idea what she is up to now, and she also has moved from Hyde Park.
The lyrics to this song are so, so sad. I think I have a sick inclination of deeply enjoying very sad and depressing songs. It must be really entertaining to me, since my life isn't really sad at all. I used to say that the most beautiful things in the world are sad. Not so sure how true that is, but I would say that the hopelessness in the lyrics couples with the lovely guitar melodies very well. It could also serve as a soundtrack to your pity party of one when you are feeling particularly lonely.

Play the song on Rhapsody

Say goodbye to the old street that never cared much for you anyway
And the different colored doorways you thought would let you in one day
Goodbye to the old bus stop frozen and waiting
The weekend addition has this town over-rated
You walk across the baseball green
The grass has turned to straw
A flock of birds tries to fly away from where you are
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye old friend
I can't make you stay
I can't spend another ten years wishing you would anyway

How the sky turns to fire
Against the telephone wire
And even I'm getting tired of useless desires

Everyday I take a bitter pill
It gets me on my way
For the little aches and pains
The ones I have from day to day
To help me think a little less about the things I miss
To help me not to wonder how I ended up like this
Walk down to the railroad track and ride a rusty train
With a million other faces I shoot through the city veins
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye old friend
You wanted to be free
And somewhere beyond the bitter end is where I wanna be

How the sky turns to fire
Against the telephone wire
And even I'm getting tired of useless desires

Say goodbye to the old building that never tried to know your name
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye old friend
You won't be seeing me again
Goodbye to all the window panes shining in the sun
Like diamonds on a winter day
Goodbye, goodbye to everyone

How the sky turns to fire
Against the telephone wire
It burns the last of the day down
And I'm the last one hanging around waiting
On a train track and the train never comes back
And even I'm getting tired of useless desires

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Font Myself

I fonted myself (again). At But the dumb thing I don't even have Microsoft Office on my home computer, so I cannot use it. This is just the preview. Oh and I totally messed up on the period so I made a big black circle.

I sort of would like to get B's 80-year-old Mema to do this, since she complains about her handwriting getting worse (but really it hasn't). It is gorgeous cursive. She is pretty bummed out that they don't really teach cursive in schools anymore. Handwriting is something of a lost art. B's is almost illegible (it that only partially got him out of splitting writing the thank you cards), but he types very quickly. Trade-off.

Today I realized that success that comes easily isn't that rewarding. Occasionally when people highly compliment me on something, I just brush it off. "It's the camera!" It really is. I have an awesome camera and lens. I just recognize good conditions and then shoot away. "It's just the recipe." And it is! I am pretty darn good at following instructions. It's not so hard to make something edible and fragrant.. I could not even imagine making my own recipes, with the wealth of recipes that exists already. I actually hate experimenting with flavor combinations, because I don't want to make something gross. But I guess that's what you have to do to be innovative and stand out. B likes to experiment. I give him a really hard time when he fails, but I should instead encourage him. That is one thing I will try to learn from him.. to try! I took this quote from Erin's blog: A Woody Allen Quote: