Monday, October 24, 2011

Buy with a Conscience or Buy Cheap?

This past weekend my shopping habits can be summed up in one word: conflicting.

On Saturday we attended the Tennessee Food & Wine Festival held at the Knoxville Convention Center. At first glance, this looks very much like the Food Show annually sponsored by Food City. However, the ticket price was $10 versus $6, and for an additional $10, one could sample wine. Additionally, it was anticipated that attendees purchase products. It was a much smaller crowd, and the pace was slower. Also, as the crowds grew, the lines did not form neatly as they did at the Food City Show. That is when I realized that most of these people were not food show veterans as I am!

This festival was sponsored by the State of Tennessee Department of Agriculture and benefited the culinary program at UT. All vendors were from Tennessee.

It was great fun! A multitude of wine samplings! We like dry whites, and we found some nice ones.

The foods were interesting; and after sampling, we came back through and purchased quite a few for Christmas gifts. And that is when it hit me. I would NEVER have paid the prices for these products for my own consumption as a part of my normal grocery shopping. Purchasing for gifts puts this experience in a category by itself.

But I WAS doing the right thing. I AM supporting my fellow Tennesseans who are working hard to make a living selling jams, popcorn from Tennessee-grown corn, cookies, beef, oh, yes and wine.

Sort of a home-grown variation of free trade, right?

My awareness of buying with a conscience was increasingly heightened when we later drove over to Happy Holler. We did not do a good job of time management, and the Hollerpalooza was over; but we popped into Three Rivers Market. I noted a bottle of tonic water for more than $6. (My husband is a big G&T fan -- $1.50 is our average purchase price). Again, we succumbed to convenience and purchased some wheatberry salad at $5.99 a pound.

(Please note: the blog Couponing in Critical Times routinely posts "deals" at Three Rivers.)

Yet the next day I got into my couponing mode with absolute disregard of product origin. Included in my bargain buying was the national brand coffee that I bought for probably 2/3 the regular price after special pricing and coupon. It had "mountain grown" on the label, but the only location I could see noted was the business address in Ohio. I scored well buying deoderant for $.75 after special and coupon, but I imagine that my "creation care" friends might have trouble with some of the ingredients.

Bottom line: my conscience does not consistently work into my buying. Please excuse me, Mother Earth.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Maybe Smoking Would Be OK, If It Were Not So Bad

In a professional capacity, I have been tagged for a smoking cessation committee through the Knox County Health Department, so I decided to go public and blog on the issue.

I am an ex-smoker. I loved smoking! If some magic fairy princess came in and did two things, I would start smoking again in a heartbeat:

  1. Determined that it is not harmful to your health including your teeth and skin,
  2. Made the presence and smell of smoke not offensive to nonsmokers.
If smoking were not bad for your health, it probably would not be taxed so much; and I could justify the expense.

I smoked mainly in social settings (translation: I was drinking), and it kept me from eating as much. I grew up heavy but lost a significant amount of weight in high school, and have kept it under control for the most part. Smoking in my teens and twenties replaced a lot of chips and dip, and for me it was cheap. I started smoking in the tobacco-producing state of North Carolina, and my first purchase out of a machine cost me $.50.

According to Wikipedia, “smoking-related disease kills one half of all long term smokers but these diseases may also be contracted by non-smokers. A 2007 report states that about 4.9 million people worldwide each year die as a result of smoking.”

Unfortunately I prematurely lost one of the people I loved the most to smoking.

My mother started smoking in the 1940s when she started dating my dad, as he was a smoker (note: he quit in the 1960s). My childhood memories are laced with recollections of loose tobacco littering the bottom of her purse and often working its way into her compact and sticking to her lipstick, a few burns on the arms of her favorite family room chair, and an increasing household consumption of Kleenex as her coughing got worse. A couple of years after my dad died, she decided to quit. Some weeks after the challenge began, she developed shingles. “This is a sign from God that I am not to deal with this (excessive stress and anxiety due to not smoking),” and she recommenced smoking.

My mother’s tolerance for pain must have been high, because some years later she died only five days after the diagnosis of extensive lung cancer. How long the cancer was growing inside of her, we would never know.

I smoked occasionally throughout the years. I would give myself permission to smoke when we were on vacation without the children. My last great cigarette experience was in 2000 in Italy. I remember one moment of lived-out fantasy, of continental and cosmopolitan, as I relaxed in the piazza of a village, sipping grappa and inhaling an incredibly strong European cigarette.

I am very fortunate that I have not wanted to smoke in years. However, nostalgia overwhelms me occasionally as I stand next to someone smoking. If only . . . .

Check out a couple of websites that I found. The first is about the hard cost of cigarettes, and the second is more about the comprehensive cost. Smoking does not fit into being thrifty.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Need Music? -- There IS the radio

One of my 2011 sacrifices was giving up Sirius/XM. I loved it. I especially loved it on the road. From the day that we got that gleaming new automobile in 2005 with the dedicated XM button, I was a fan.

But it cost MONEY, and I had an honest talk with myself. I honestly can't remember how much we were paying, but in looking back in my checking account, it looks like $44.79 a quarter. ech! I did decide to put that money to better use. And if I were still plugged into Sirius/XM, I would likely never have discovered WKCS 91.1, Fulton High School radio.

Fulton High School is on a roll--higher standards which are resulting in better results for their students. My listening in on their radio station is a small way of being part of their community. You can read about the history of the station here:

There's something special about knowing that you are listening to a radio station run by a bunch of high schoolers; but what is so weird is that they play music from my past. Just tonight as I pulled into home, "Come and Get Your Love" was playing. I had always thought this was played by an African-American group because it is so soulful. Wrong -- It's a Native American group.

I used to use an I-pod, but when I took it to the Apple Store to fix it, the music got stripped out. I don't seem to have the umph to reinstall. WKCS seems to be just fine for now.

P.S. The signal is not that strong. I lose it about at Cedar Bluff. Also, I do not listen to the broadcast of the sports games.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What To Bring or What Not To Bring: Honor Thy Host

Pot lucks or covered dish gatherings seem to be gaining popularity due to our current economic situation. However, there are times when a host wants to truly offer the gift of hospitality and prepare and present the whole process, as Miss Manners points out today. Unfortunately our sense of "giving" has somewhat marred many an event:

The (European) custom (of bringing a small gift of chocolates or flowers) got mixed up with the jolly American tradition of cooperative meals — picnics, covered-dish suppers, family reunions and improvised parties by students. Nothing wrong with those, as long as everyone understands the deal. Now guests entering a gala dinner party look as if they are in the express line at the grocery store, each carrying one item.

How often have I seen this example of missing the intention of an invitation: I spent several hours in the kitchen preparing a superb meal, a three-course meal, including dessert. Then my guests brought a cake which we had to eat for dessert instead of the one I prepared. The Miss Manners response? You should respond: Thank you; I’ve made dinner, so we’ll enjoy this another day. Brilliant!

But as many of us DO have invitations for covered-dish, here are a few of my tips:
  • When you promise to bring a salad, bring one! The hostess might have worked hard to ask for the right balance of dishes.
  • Bring your dish ready to set out. Again, from Miss Manners: One of my guests offered to bring a fruit salad, and commandeered my kitchen for the better part of an hour to wash, slice/dice and arrange her fruit. I was frantically trying to do my last-minute preparations, so the intrusion threw me into a tailspin, and then my guest wondered why I was so frazzled.
This includes doing the last-minutes touches such as whipping up a topping. I remember one time when someone waltzed in and asked for my mixer--that would be my KitchenAid mixer that is so big that I keep it in the storage area. That thing is cumbersome, and I had to haul it out and place it on precious counter space.
  • Consider the presentation. Use glass, pottery, but not a mixing bowl! Touches such as parsley, etc. are nice, too.
  • Bring your serving utensil, one that you could lose. One website suggested going to the dollar store to have a few on hand.
  • Bring your own hot pads -- again, be ready to lose them.
  • If you don't cook, put something together that's EASY, but don't bring a bag of potato chips!! Our favorite easy dish is Allen's Beans that have been simmered in a little olive oil and Italian seasonings. If you really don't cook, visit Kroger, Fresh Market or Earth Fare and be prepared to pay a handsome price for an ample amount from their ready-to-eat section. That might make you think harder about learning to cook.