Goodwill Friday

For much of my life, I shopped and dropped (left items) at our local Salvation Army. Mind you, I was mostly there to find a costume for high school musicals and, now, community theater productions. Heck, it’s where I picked up most of the furniture that I’ve got on my reupholstery to-do list. Then, one day, I found our local Goodwill.

It’s so close I could walk a few blocks and actually get some exercise – but what if I find a piece of furniture? It’s not in the greatest of areas, so picture me lugging home a random side table, wrestling with my super-cute purse (secretly hoping not to get mugged) walking past one of the busier drug intersections in the area. Side note: Strangely enough, it’s also within eye shot of the police department AND a jail…isn’t it weird how that happens? One stop service, I suppose.

The thing about Goodwill is that you’ll find items that are often seconds from stores; hence, some of the clothing, furniture, shoes, decor, etc are brand spankin’ new. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even glance at the shoes. But, when you see an original tag? Why not!? Not to say that everything’s new; some stuff is slightly damaged, while still more is donated.

While it’s another great place to search for costumes, I also find the prices on furniture to be a bit steep (really? I guess that term is relative); this is one area that I prefer Sally Ann’s. (God, why do I still CALL it that high school-ish name? It’s like saying “Tarjay” for Target. Only moms do that.) I guess I’ve come to look at a piece of furniture as reasonably priced when I can take two pieces out to my car for less than $20 – and it’s made of solid wood. Although if I could’ve found a use for two awesome bamboo stools I saw at Goodwill today…eh, too bad.

So, at the end of this truly trying week, I decided to give myself a chance for a shopping spree…yes, at Goodwill. I glanced at the clothes (I’m Elaine in “Arsenic and Old Lace” – any ideas?!), found nothing to my liking in the furniture, and even ridiculed some of the Halloween decorations…but, upon further glance, found inspiration in the home goods section. Come along for a look-see.

On a side note, I’ve been greatly inspired by some decor blogs lately that revolve around women who are either passionate or have found their life callings in using antiques and various vintage items (grain sacks, anyone?) in decor applications. It has definitely allowed me to open my eyes better to what my searching of thrift stores, antique shops, and (dare I even CONSIDER becoming such a person?) yard/garage sales. So, those are the glasses that I wore while sifting through the stacks o’ crap.

DSC02846
First, we have some frames. While the pictures in them are pretty white bread (except for the square one on the bottom…that’s pretty rad, but in real life is way cheaper than it looks), I’ve been needing some interesting SMALLER frames to work on a wall collage. Let’s just say we’re dying to do a wall collage – wait, edit that – I’m dying to do a wall collage and Dave’s dying to get stuff hung (I’m not sure he knows what a wall collage is…except maybe for the wall of theater art we’ve got hanging on our up-the-stairs wall). So, needless to say, these neat, small-ish frames will do the trick to offset the larger, personalized hangings we’ve got on hand. Oh, and the two on the right were $.99 each while the two on the left were $4.99 each. I normally wouldn’t spend $5 a piece, but I need some roundness to end the corner competition being put forth by all of my square and rectangular pieces.

DSC02847These are kind of more modern than I’d like to collect, but a) they were $.99 each, b) with a price like that, we can use them regularly and I won’t cry when they break (unlike my 1960s astronaut plates…*sniff, sniff*), and c) they’re made in England, true-to-life Ironstone. Obsessed. ‘Nuff said. Can’t wait to get more Ironstone!

DSC02853Hee hee…is it horrible that I didn’t realize until I got home that this whole piece is Japanese, from where it’s made to the scene that’s depicted on it? That must be okay, right? Well, it cost $.99 (running theme?) and is a heavy sucker, AND has charm to boot. Plus, it must be helping my karma after all the Japanese folks my grandpa killed, right? RIGHT?!

DSC02854This guy’s just dang cute. And kitschy. And has spots for pencils/pens and note cards. I’m considering cleaning him up a bit and trying my hand at Etsy, given the fact that he’s got kitsch and style coming out the wazoo…which, incidentally, isn’t a word.

DSC02857The small red lantern is real, and adds a burst of color to our kitchen. As you can see by the background, we’ve done some painting in this room – but I’ll share more of that when I can finally say that “Paint the kitchen” is 100% off the to-do list. Currently, working on the rest of the semi-gloss whiteness.

DSC02863 And this wouldn’t be a post by moi without gratuitous kitty pictures. Sooooo, here’s Winston checking out my goodies. He and Jasper couldn’t get enough of the interesting smells coming forth from the plastic bags (we reuse plastic bags in this house, and don’t get any when grocery shopping, so don’t worry…this was still a green endeavor…especially given that I bought locally AND am reusing old goods). Or perhaps he has a taste for old stuff. Given that he’s probably our “gay kitty”, he’s probably just got a good eye for fabulous finds.

DSC02864Speaking of Jasper…here he is perusing my deals. Seriously, he truly appears to be giving a show of approval for my $.99 stickers. Thanks, lil’ buddy!

My total for this Friday shopping spree? $21.56 (under $19 before tax), which averages to just over $2 an item. (Of course, that’s not really how it averages…let’s just say that some were better deals than others and leave it at that.) But, doesn’t it give you a shot of confidence when you find beautiful things (or things that will BE beautiful…eventually) for such crazy prices?

So, how far will you go for a bargain? Do you thrift? Are there particular stores that you prefer? Or are you more of an antiquer (I love made-up verbs!), or couponer? Or a *gulp* Walmart shopper? Hey, whatever ya gotsta do to keep in the black! And while we’re on the topic, what do you do when you feel deserving of a splurge? Retail therapy? Or is it more along the lines of chocolatechocolatechocolate? (Yes, I said chocolate thrice…and without spaces. If you’re a girl, you get it.)

The 3/50 Project

I was trolling around the interwebs and happened upon an inspiring blog (mostly thanks to its gorgeous design images and lack of hoity-toitiness). Through this blog, I noticed a button that took me to http://www.the350project.net/home.html. Consider me hooked.The concept behind the 3/50 Project is pretty simple. Their goal is to “save the brick and mortar our nation is built on”. Think of three independently owned businesses that you’d miss if they disappeared. (It’s suggested that you stop in, say ‘hello’, and purchase something that makes you smile there. Hopefully it’s not a sadist shop.) From here, it’s stated that if half of the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. Wow.
It’s further explained that for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. The same can’t be said for a chain store; only $43 of $100 stays in the community. Purchasing online means that NOTHING is returning home.

While I can’t say that I spend $50 monthly on things that make me smile…hey, maybe I should, but bills are the priority (sigh)…I want to consider this further and see how I can implement this concept. It’s downright rad. If I were to run an independent business someday, I’d couldn’t love it more.

To answer the initial question, it’s strange. Locally…we don’t have a lot that isn’t somehow franchised. Even our local hardware shop is an affiliate of True Value (although I still consider them “Mom and Pop”), and I’d rather not have another excuse to utilize a pizza place. That being said…

I <3 Antiques – Our local antiques center is awesome because, as with many antiques centers, lots of local sellers are available in one place. Booths are varied and chock full of wonderfulness. If I stopped at the cafe and front smelly shop (ie mostly local soaps and things) here, I’d hit all 3 places at once. There are still more local vendors of crafts and jewelry on the second floor of the center, but I often leave there empty-handed and more inspired to attempt the craft ideas at home. Wot waahhh.

So, if the antique place counts as one place…maybe a trip to our favorite restaurant, Beardslee Castle, more often would put a smile on my face and more money into locals’ pockets.

It’s hard to come up with a third without “eating out” yet again. I’ll have to consider that one more, but I’ll have to leave it at a Byrne Dairy trip by the husband. Sure, Byrne Dairy is technically a franchise of convenience stores, but we know that the milk comes from local farmers and when we purchase it, the $$$ trickles down. Plus, the milk is delish…and that makes me smile every time I pour it.

How ’bout you? Any local joints you’d patronize (in the good way) enough to join the 3/50 project? Do tell!

Cats vs. Children

Dave and I aspire to be parents some day. Actually, we’re already Mommy (at times Mama) and Daddy by name. We believe that we’ve had some good practice for the eventual craziness rollercoaster that is parenthood – and Dave still has yet to change a diaper. (Although I’m crossing my fingers that this will change soon-ish with impending future babysitting adventures with our cutey patootie newborn niece, Liz Lemon.)

So, clearly a baby is a HUGE, life-altering addition to any family. Like, a forever commitment. You can’t shove that thing back in. Can ya really compare cats to kids? In our sick, deluded world…in a word…sure. How? Let’s break this down, shall we?

– Meal Time – Like clockwork, we are informed that it is DEFINITELY time to eat (even sooner, at times); what’s more baby than that? This has evolved as we got more cats, but currently, as if elected by the other two, Beardslee bravely sits next to the bed awaiting my cell phone alarm to go off in the morning. (The others sit near the bedroom door, peering in, if they’re not actually on the bed or looking out the window on the nearby chair – placed there specifically for that purpose.) On weekdays, Mommy isn’t the “morning giver of food” (I do on weekends so that they don’t get into the habit of bugging Dave every morning – they are, if nothing, creatures of habit), but the alarm signals that Daddy may just be getting up (on a good day) with the sole purpose – or so they think – of feeding them.

When I arrive home in the late afternoon from work, they’re already clamoring for their evening meal. I make them wait until the scheduled time, which is around 5pm, but man do they cry until they get it. I have recently taken to giving Beardslee his first (he’s a very slow eater, and often walks away unaware that Jasper or Winston will finish it) to give him a head start, which leaves the other two with saucer eyes and a “WHAT?!” look. Their jaws should really be on the floor with the show that they make over it. “Not fair!” Mhmm. They might as well be little kids.

– Potty Time – This is on a schedule, too. It’s well-known that when aforementioned Beardslee wanders away from his food in the morning, it’s generally to take his morning constitutional. It’s also annoyingly well-known that the second after we scoop the litter, he’s in there messing it up. He has some strange sort of OCD (or another neurological disorder that the vet has dismissed…he’ll just have to deal with it) that involves piling the litter but not actually using it…then licking the rim of the pan. Weird.

Oh, and we scoop (ie “change” – like a diaper, get it?) the litter several times a day. Since we use scoopable/flushable stuff, we like to flush small “batches” so that less harm will come to our system (not that we’ve had any problems from using it). So, we scoop it once or twice in the morning, I scoop when I get home from school, then we scoop before bed. On weekends, it’s more frequent. Man, are we trained.

– Grown-Up Potty Time (ahem) – I think the last time I went to the bathroom alone in this house was when we just had Beardslee around. He’s our polite, gives-you-your-personal-space guy. Actually, he prefers it, himself. “Don’t get all up in mah grill, Mama. I nappin’.” I get that look a lot.

ANYHOO, it is IMPOSSIBLE to “go potty” (yes, our language is already skewing in this direction) without someone (W or J) sticking their head through the door (or, at times, pushing it wide open so that they can run in to examine the tub *cough*Winston*cough). It’s just a fact of life. And don’t get me STARTED on how crazy I get if Winston isn’t already in the bathroom when I start a shower. If he is, he prowls around, inspecting the built-in storage for awhile, only to happily settle down on my towel until I’m finished. If he’s not, inevitably he WILL make his presence known, leaving the door wide open in the process. Dave doesn’t understand my frustration, but when you’re shaving your legs and you catch a cold breeze, it’s not a fun time.

On a side note, Beardslee does on occasion traipse into the bathroom, but it’s generally in one of those quiet, “Are you okay? Do you need help”, sweet ways. It involves a rub up against the leg.

– Illnesses – Thanks to Beardslee, mostly, we’re definitely prepared for traumatic doctor visits. He’s just our chronically ill boy. The fact that he’s still here is a miracle, so we’d do pretty much anything to keep him with us. Same with the other two (but they’re much heartier). So, needless to say, we’ve made lots of doctor visits, and have taken full advantage of emergency services on weekends. Also, at any given time, we’ll be administering an sinus pill to Beardslee (he has what Mommy has! Chronic sinusitis!), a cold pill to Jasper, and keeping up on regular Revolution and ear-cleaning (Boo, in particular, has one ear that makes his entire face smell like stinky cheese. He’s our “stinky cheese man”! Anyone get that reference?)

The thing that bugs us the most lately is the fact that Beardslee has a wheezing convulsion thing that the doctors are currently assuming to be part of his sinus issue – but I’m definite is an asthmatic seizure. It’s terrifying, and the helpless feeling that we all feel (well, Winston takes it as his chance to try to prey on his brother) that we can’t help him will be tenfold when kids come along.

I’ve become an expert at shoving a pill down a throat. I guess the sheer ferocity of such an event has prepared me for SOMETHING involving kids. I know I’m ready for the gross stuff, and the “do I really have to do that?” stuff.

– Quirkiness – Kids are weird. Cats are weird. Their personalities are so distinct (especially before the kids at school have gotten to them and forced them to homogenize) it makes you laugh…and, at times, rip your hair out. Beardslee’s our sensitive soul, but when he actually starts to play (y’know…right before one of his “attacks”), it’s so out-of-character that we can’t help but stare and giggle. Winston seems to have a tortured soul; he’s evil and calculating and makes a weird “mmmm” noise to show disapproval, but when the other boys aren’t around, he’s the sweetest, smartest cat on Earth…it’s like the teen years. Jasper’s our nutjob. He chases his tail like a dog. He gets into EVERYTHING just to find food. He craves affection (from humans; he still won’t return a Beardslee head butt). He simply makes us laugh (or scream, when he tips over garbage cans or begs for food like a dog or jumps on the shelves – which he’s teaching to Winston!) will his silliness. His “duh” and “what’d I do, Mama?” and “OMG!!!” eyes almost never show an ounce of meanness. He just prefers humans to other kitties.
And who can say how strange our KIDS are gonna be one day?! Seriously! Hee hee…just for fun, and to see if anyone’s still reading (blah blah blah, wrap this up, Meg)…if you know Dave and I…what do you think our kids WILL be like?

– Toys! – If you saw our living room right now, you’d see a basket under our coffee table dedicated to a couple dozen toys…then another dozen toys strewn throughout the first floor (and up the stairs). These kids are spoiled…but we want them to get exercise, so it’s not like we’re getting a kitty treadmill! Hand-in-hand with the toys is their other “gear”: two perches on the front porch, strategically-placed furniture for prime viewing through windows, and a huge fish (aptly named “Big Fish” – all toys must have names, says Mama) from our awesome friends B&B that they can run through and crinkle, but only comes out occasionally to play. There are other “dejected” toys that are stored in bins in our cellar, near the 2 carrying crates we have. (We don’t have 3, mostly because they don’t ALL go to the vet at the same time. If we had a fire, I figured they’d all go in the car, one without his crate – probably Boo, since he’s chunky and slow-moving. Wow. I have a fire plan. I’ve thought this out!) Gee, I wonder where all the kids’ toys will go. 😉

– Naughtiness (ie Discipline) – I love our cats. They’re sweet and well-behaved…when company’s over. On an average day, however, I do find myself yelling at them as if they were my worst class at school. The dumping of garbage and the jumping upon countertops (and in the sink) makes my blood boil, but here’s one example of a recent “GAH!” moment:
I was taking a shower in the evening earlier this week, and had left a pile of my clothes on the bathroom floor. Since my hair was in a ponytail, I buried the hair-tie (ie elastic) deep within the pile, thinking cleverly that Winston would never find it in there. Just as I was ending my shower, I heard the door creak open and looked out to see that Winston’s hair-tie radar was in working order; he was nibbling it already. I shouted, and he (as if playing a game) athletically ran out the door and downstairs, hair-tie dangling from his vampire teeth. I threw on my towel and chased after him, leaving everything in my path (floors, carpets, walls) soaked. I didn’t want him to choke on it, after all. He was quite peeved when I retrieved it, but I think I was moreso. My husband couldn’t contain his giggles when I told him, later that night.
Discipline is hard. Tapping a kid (or cat) on the bottom hardly accomplishes anything when it’s done at an age that they simply don’t understand – for cats, this age never comes. A water bottle works, generally, but doesn’t fix some of the hardest challenges altogether. This has to be one of the worst parts of “parenting”, besides being unable to help when they’re sick. And EVERYONE has opinions.

– “Why Can’t I Have Nice Things?!” – I think this is a quote from every mom I’ve ever known. Oh, so true. Our guys aren’t de-clawed, and they never will be. For the most part, Beardslee and Winston have the scratching post thing down (although even Boo occasionally uses my antique trunk…but that’s got a “weathered and worn” look going on, so I’m not too bothered by it). Jasper’s another story, using any carpet, slipcover, etc he can find to “scratch it out.” Heck, it took Boo and Wee Wee awhile to get the hang of it; I’m holding out hope for Jasper…and for the shower curtain that Beardslee snagged when he didn’t have the hang of it. And he did it so casually, as if he was stretching, which makes it worse not to get mad over.

Oh, and I’m still trying to determine how to get crusted-on cat snot out of fabric. I’ve washed it off the walls, windows, and woodwork, but our comforter and several other fabrics are another story. Thank goodness Jasper’s feeling better, at least.– Snugglability (new word, 10 points!) and Cuteness – As with kids AND pets, it seems, cuteness, lovability and the deep connection from snuggle time together can make any altercation or infraction, no matter how big or how little, melt away. Most of the “negatives” I noted above are now thought of as funny anecdotes…most. Our Jasper Dale will let me hold him in the fetal position and purrs to show he won’t scratch my eyes out for it. Our Winston Churchill helps his daddy pick out clothes for work (you think I’m kidding) and shows his trust by laying on his back and stretching out. (Both of our naughty boys have taken to finding a spot to sleep next to and/or on our legs late at night…) Our Beardslee Moore looks directly into our minds and souls with his eyes and can read that a head butt is highly necessary.

So, while I’m fully aware that parenthood is a different sport altogether, I think that we’ve at least been playing the Little League version for awhile. I hear the varsity game is rough, but a lot of it is a learning process that takes on the field, during the game. And our little mascots will help us keep it real along the way.

Trying Something New…Maybe…Gulp

I’ve decided that the more time goes by pondering something, the less likely I’ll probably be in doing it. So, what better way to have some accountability than to mention it to a who-reads-this-thing-anyway blog? Who am I kidding, really – I’m a procrastinator, through and through – but the guilt factor really does work with me. 🙂 I AM still working on the bathroom (personal things have been thrusting distractions in the way), among a million other little projects…but I’m optimistic that, with cooler weather will come a completed product. Seriously.

Back to the subject at hand. In the interest of complete disclosure and over-sharing, I’ve seen therapists (ie analysts, ie psychiatrists, ie shrinks…) for many years, on and off. When I say “many”, I mean over 23 years. I saw my first incredible mental health professional when I was 6, just beginning to understand the death of my father and feeling the effects through lowered self esteem, depression and anxiety. Let’s just say that, while he was great, those symptoms have followed me for years. I don’t really expect them to ever be “gone”, just hopefully managed.

Recently, I started with a new therapist, but the fit just didn’t work for me. I ultimately realized that I’m handling the depression things (no medication, currently) pretty darn well, and I think that the love and support of my husband and friends and family (as well as that whole “cats need you no matter what” responsibility thing) has helped. My anxiety, however, has popped up, and no matter how intelligently I try to talk it away, it’s still front and center. We won’t even get INTO the self esteem stuff. That’s a day-to-day given. I think it’s probably also why I’m involved in acting – what actor DOESN’T have that issue? Not to mention that the rush from a supportive audience can help, momentarily. 😉

After a hurtful session which led to the ultimate break-up with my recent therapist, I did lots of soul and mind searching. “I know what all my issues are, and where they’re rooted, and how they show themselves; that’s not the problem,” I insisted. “It’s dealing and coping with them. I’m smarter than this. I need to control or work with this myself.” It may be naive to think this, especially since, when I was at my “lowest” in the past, I couldn’t talk the pain and agony away. But, things are different with anxiety.

So, I decided that I need to purchase some self-help books…but not necessarily the kinds you’d imagine. I guess I tend to scoff at self-help books, in general, but when I’m learning some truly helpful methods of handling life, I let go of the criticisms. Strangely enough, what worked best when I was in high school was looking towards Eastern methods of, well, LIVING.

I meditated, studied several Eastern religions and philosophies, and found myself to be at peace for the first time in my life. Of course, the life of a teenager eventually took over and, by college, huge personal pains took me back down the spiraling hole of despair.

My husband has a great respect for the Buddhist religion, even blogging about his occasional readings about it and letting it affect the way in which he handles, particularly, stress and “that which cannot be controlled”. I am now reading (silly as it is) The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zen Living (while Dave works on the same series’ Buddhist title). I’d like to move on to more “serious” readings, but this book is good at relating zen methods to a 21st century, Western lifestyle; good for a “beginner” like myself.

Additionally, I’m taking my mother’s advice (I MUST be an adult!) to look into yoga. While my mother’s a devout Catholic, she’s a smart lady – and has read about the helpfulness of yoga for those who need help handling stress, centering themselves, or even those coping with anxiety and depression. So, now I’m on the hunt. It reminds me a bit of my last search for a therapist, and I had considered going back to the drawing board for a new doctor (which may still be on the horizon, depending on how things go), but this is also something I’ve been interested in for several reasons, for awhile.

There are no “local” yoga centers, as far as I can find (as in…close to home), but the greater Utica area has a few from which to choose (have those two words ever been uttered in one sentence – greater Utica?). The challenge is determining when I can fit it into my schedule, since rehearsals for the current show at ILT are starting this week. Once I hammer down that schedule, I can determine what facility will best work for me.

The options are the Universal Yoga Center, the Yoga Haven, and Yoga Journey. The Yoga Haven’s web site appears to be for children, but other reliable sites linking to them lists that they have other valuable types of classes for adults, and the Yoga Journey site seems not to have any openings, currently. I know that our local community college offers classes, but my mother suggested attending a more professional type of class to get greater benefit from it.

I’ll update everyone as to how my search goes and what I decide. However, ANY suggestions or shared experiences in the world of yoga would be greatly appreciated. I’m ultimately hoping to learn relaxation/calming techniques, gain physical benefits (I’d like to actually be able to stretch…and tone in the process), and perhaps make this my go-to form of physical activity, especially when the word “prenatal” becomes part of my vocabulary. Cross your fingers and wish me luck!

Trying Something New…Maybe…Gulp

I’ve decided that the more time goes by pondering something, the less likely I’ll probably be in doing it. So, what better way to have some accountability than to mention it to a who-reads-this-thing-anyway blog? Who am I kidding, really – I’m a procrastinator, through and through – but the guilt factor really does work with me. 🙂 I AM still working on the bathroom (personal things have been thrusting distractions in the way), among a million other little projects…but I’m optimistic that, with cooler weather will come a completed product. Seriously.

Back to the subject at hand. In the interest of complete disclosure and over-sharing, I’ve seen therapists (ie analysts, ie psychiatrists, ie shrinks…) for many years, on and off. When I say “many”, I mean over 23 years. I saw my first incredible mental health professional when I was 6, just beginning to understand the death of my father and feeling the effects through lowered self esteem, depression and anxiety. Let’s just say that, while he was great, those symptoms have followed me for years. I don’t really expect them to ever be “gone”, just hopefully managed.

Recently, I started with a new therapist, but the fit just didn’t work for me. I ultimately realized that I’m handling the depression things (no medication, currently) pretty darn well, and I think that the love and support of my husband and friends and family (as well as that whole “cats need you no matter what” responsibility thing) has helped. My anxiety, however, has popped up, and no matter how intelligently I try to talk it away, it’s still front and center. We won’t even get INTO the self esteem stuff. That’s a day-to-day given. I think it’s probably also why I’m involved in acting – what actor DOESN’T have that issue? Not to mention that the rush from a supportive audience can help, momentarily. 😉

After a hurtful session which led to the ultimate break-up with my recent therapist, I did lots of soul and mind searching. “I know what all my issues are, and where they’re rooted, and how they show themselves; that’s not the problem,” I insisted. “It’s dealing and coping with them. I’m smarter than this. I need to control or work with this myself.” It may be naive to think this, especially since, when I was at my “lowest” in the past, I couldn’t talk the pain and agony away. But, things are different with anxiety.

So, I decided that I need to purchase some self-help books…but not necessarily the kinds you’d imagine. I guess I tend to scoff at self-help books, in general, but when I’m learning some truly helpful methods of handling life, I let go of the criticisms. Strangely enough, what worked best when I was in high school was looking towards Eastern methods of, well, LIVING.

I meditated, studied several Eastern religions and philosophies, and found myself to be at peace for the first time in my life. Of course, the life of a teenager eventually took over and, by college, huge personal pains took me back down the spiraling hole of despair.

My husband has a great respect for the Buddhist religion, even blogging about his occasional readings about it and letting it affect the way in which he handles, particularly, stress and “that which cannot be controlled”. I am now reading (silly as it is) The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zen Living (while Dave works on the same series’ Buddhist title). I’d like to move on to more “serious” readings, but this book is good at relating zen methods to a 21st century, Western lifestyle; good for a “beginner” like myself.

Additionally, I’m taking my mother’s advice (I MUST be an adult!) to look into yoga. While my mother’s a devout Catholic, she’s a smart lady – and has read about the helpfulness of yoga for those who need help handling stress, centering themselves, or even those coping with anxiety and depression. So, now I’m on the hunt. It reminds me a bit of my last search for a therapist, and I had considered going back to the drawing board for a new doctor (which may still be on the horizon, depending on how things go), but this is also something I’ve been interested in for several reasons, for awhile.

There are no “local” yoga centers, as far as I can find (as in…close to home), but the greater Utica area has a few from which to choose (have those two words ever been uttered in one sentence – greater Utica?). The challenge is determining when I can fit it into my schedule, since rehearsals for the current show at ILT are starting this week. Once I hammer down that schedule, I can determine what facility will best work for me.

The options are the Universal Yoga Center, the Yoga Haven, and Yoga Journey. The Yoga Haven’s web site appears to be for children, but other reliable sites linking to them lists that they have other valuable types of classes for adults, and the Yoga Journey site seems not to have any openings, currently. I know that our local community college offers classes, but my mother suggested attending a more professional type of class to get greater benefit from it.

I’ll update everyone as to how my search goes and what I decide. However, ANY suggestions or shared experiences in the world of yoga would be greatly appreciated. I’m ultimately hoping to learn relaxation/calming techniques, gain physical benefits (I’d like to actually be able to stretch…and tone in the process), and perhaps make this my go-to form of physical activity, especially when the word “prenatal” becomes part of my vocabulary. Cross your fingers and wish me luck!

Flexi-Saturday

So, it’s the weekend before the new school starts (more commonly known as “Labor Day Weekend”, yes) and I’ve gotta admit to being anxious. When I say “anxious”, I actually mean anxiety-ridden. My year ahead will look completely different than previous years, so it’s generally the stress and worry of the unknown that causes the anxiety. But, no worries; I’m working on it.

As part of our “Woohoo, 3-day weekend!” celebration (it’s not really a celebration, don’t get your hopes up), we trekked out to Cooperstown for a morning of farmer marketing and cider milling. Wow, I just made those activities sound quite…active! To be clear, we didn’t mill any cider or market any farmers. I’m not even sure how I’d go about doing such things.

The farmers’ market was even more burgeoning with good things than usual, possibly because we got there by around 9am-ish. From various vendors, we ended up getting a huuuuge 50-cent zucchini (which wins “deal of the day”), 3-count-’em-3 heads of garlic, broccoli; organics from The Farm in Ilion including a basket of baby heirloom tomatoes (for Dave; yuck, tomatoes), HUGE leeks, and purple potatoes; 6 ears of corn from the Amish (we’re saying goodbye to summer…); strawberry jam; and TWO sampler packs from “the British guy” (NOT his vendor name, just what we call him) who sells awesome British pastries. Oh, yes…and the bacon. The. Bacon.

This bacon, my friends, is a marvel. It’s, of course, naturally-raised and we know exactly what it’s fed. It’s not smoked, so it’s necessary to put a little salt and pepper on it while cooking, but it’s in-cred-i-ble. Like, save for Christmas morning good. Yet…I blame the bacon for what came next.

We asked the buoyant, knowledgeable seller of said bacon (as well as other meats, eggs and produce) if she’d have more this autumn, to which she informed us that she wouldn’t have anymore until December since she has “two growing at home and a sow about to give piglets.” I felt Dave (and, to a point, myself) pull back, suddenly a bit surprised, then kindly thank her and go on our way. We briefly discussed the fact that, while we’re aware that it’s treated well and fed proper things, it hadn’t occurred to us that…well…the stuff ever lived. Thinking of piglets being raised specifically to appease our taste buds left us taken off-guard…but not so much as to deter us from seeking out an awesome breakfast at Doubleday Cafe, including bacon and sausage. We’re idiots sometimes. Perhaps “human” is a better description.

After our Cooperstown excursion, I detoured us to the Fly Creek Cider Mill to stock up on some wine and cheese, and anything else that we felt like spoiling ourselves with. To those who have never been to Fly Creek, I’ll digress for a moment: It’s a tradition for many who live in the area to visit the cider mill, particularly during the fall. It’s generally too expensive to consider going there more than once a year. But, my husband and I live dangerously and, at times, just go to feed the ducks (and, now, chickens, geese and various other fowl). It’s an incredible operation that has commercialized itself almost too well, so be forewarned. It’s an awesome place, but not nearly as great as it was when we were children…and could afford the donuts. At least they have free samples throughout the store.

So, after purchasing our wine, cheese, salad dressing, and more (one item’s a gift, shhh), we went to feed the ducks. Is it just me, or is there always always ALWAYS one duck or goose that’s worse off than the rest? One that you try to feed more than the others, that you pity more than you would some humans? Well, today was no exception, and this one seemed to have a bad condition causing its feathers to fall out and leave parts of his skin exposed. Dave also noticed an eye disease. Ick. Poor lil’ guy.

After feeding them as much as my wallet would allow, and thinking to myself how much I’d like to raise chickens for eggs (for the millionth time), we turned and walked, half hugging, towards the car. Casually, yet determined, Dave calmly stated that he’d like to eat less meat. I nodded and agreed. This conversation continued in spurts as we drove the meandering rural roads home, passing countless cows unknowingly feasting in their fields.

Between the Bacon Lady and the helpless little birds, we were of the same mind. Strangely enough, we’d seen documentaries (Food, Inc., in particular) and read enough in the past however-long-we’ve-been-eating-naturally-and-organically to know that meat is an item that we should have been eating in moderation, anyway. But, we’re both meat-and-potato people, borne of meat-and-potato (and cabbage, and pasta – not that Dave would allow cabbage to be cooked in the house…*sigh* Why did I take you for granted, Cabbage, with your buddies, Ham and Carrots? Oh, why? But, it’s the price I pay for a quite happy marriage) people. It’s difficult to break the habit.

So, that being said, we’re not going vegetarian. We’ve been eating “vegetarian” pretty much every week, be it a Meatless Monday or, more likely, Tallow-Free (best I could come up with) Tuesday, but more likely than not, it’s pasta and a salad. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it really shows my lack of ingenuity in the field of culinary arts. I try, and made a meatless Mediterranean Lentil Soup during Irene last Sunday (great day for soup!), which turned out awesome, but I can’t just make soup.

Regardless, I’d call us flexitarians – which is NOT a cop-out, you ignorant people out there (online and in talk shows) who make fun of it! Sorry, whew, I don’t mean to attack folks, but ignorance is my biggest pet peeve. Aside from crappy driving and general rudeness. For those of you who don’t know what the whole flexitarian thing is, it’s GENERALLY (as with all generalizations, there may be individuals who define it differently, hence using the label differently) folks who make a concerted effort to base their diets mostly in grain, vegetables and fruits, with the occasional detour into the land of happy meats. This article describes it pretty well. Even the cookbook author and founder of the famous Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca (at which I have eaten, go me) is no longer a vegetarian. Ha! Nice.

OUR reasons for going flexitarian are both moral and physical/health-related. We don’t want to be the reason for the death of so many innocent animals. Simultaneously, if we’re truly “voting” each time we purchase something, the fact that the meat is raised humanely (and, if at all possible, locally – y’know, it’s hard for them to lie to your face, easy to lie through packaging), we’d like our vote to count. Heck, I believe in that a little moreso than our current democratic process…but I digress! Let’s just say that we’re huge animal people. Three rescued cats being loved and spoiled rotten in our house. Dissolving into a flood of tears when seeing an animal killed on the side of the road. Boiling mad when news stories come through about abused animals. We can’t be ignorant Americans anymore. Our meat COMES from some place and if we’re going to eat it, we’ve got to remember that.

As for the health part, we feel that curbing our meat intake will a) make us consume healthier proteins and b) pump less red meat into our arteries (mostly Dave’s, he’s more susceptible to cholesterol issues and heart disease…gulp). It’s pretty simple.

So, why not go full-blown vegetarian – or even vegan? A few reasons. One is our families. We don’t hope to be the strange “what’re we going to cook for them” people who throw a wrench into holidays and get-togethers. Otherwise, I’d like to go vegetarian, or even vegan, one day. Really. Who knows, perhaps I’ll have a personality change and do it. But, for now, given my (at times) busy-ness and my (at times) laziness and my husband’s (general) aversion to certain new foods (although he’s getting better!), and my general lack of ability to commit completely to a lifestyle change (sigh), this will have to do. I think the fact that we go local as much as we can and otherwise try to purchase less processed items (although I’d like to master tofu…anyone? Sarah? ;-D) means that we’re on the right path.

So, that being said, I’d LOVE it if anyone here has great vegetarian recipes or valuable links they could share – just hit comment and let ‘er rip! The more the merrier.

On a side note, our breakfasts at Doubleday today consisted of eggs, french toast, home fries (Dave’s personal favorite), meat of our choice (bacon/sausage) and coffee and ran us around 8 or 9 bucks each. Simultaneously, if we’d stopped ourselves and just THOUGHT about what we were putting into our bodies, some vanilla yogurt with granola and berries would have run us $3.50, plus a buck or so for juice or tea. Actually, the place had lots of healthy options we COULD have ordered…

On a second side note (hee hee), YES, I’m suggesting a Wikipedia article. Here are the types of semi-vegetarianism, which kind of amuses me. I’d say that I’d probably like to veer into the realm of pollo-pescetarians, who eat white meat (but no red), one day. Freegans makes me giggle, but actually has some merit – they’re vegan unless it’s free, supporting the low impact, less waste philosophy. I guess we’re headed down that path. If our parents or friends make it for us, we’ll take it! Beggars can’t be choosers, and you don’t want to be a bad guest.