28 September 2006

Craft Lady

Don't let the title of this post fool you. I spend waaaaay more time contemplating crafting than I do actually crafting. And the Internet fuels my seldom-executed crafting fascination. It is serendipitious, I suppose, that both blogs and hip crafting culture emerged at the same time, and, so presently, there are many great crafty resources and inspiration online.

If you are a crafter (or an appreciator of craft), check out the following:

A bird in the hand Lisa Congdon has received some well-deserved accolades of late for creations and general creativity.

Whip Up culls posts from several craftsters out there, from a variety of craft "genres": sewing, knitting, ceramics, felting, jewelry-making, etc.

Craft: is the new kid on the block, with a print pub (out in Oct.) and blog to boot. Not to mention that there's usually several updates a day (so good for serial net surfers).

I just found One-hour Craft, and it taunted me with its post on fabric wall panels that I totally had the idea to do—about three years ago. The thing is, it would be sooo easy.

I like to visit Dioramarama occasionally; she mostly covers quilting, a craft that awes me, but has been doing some knitting as of late.

For inspiration, print and pattern is an awesome blog. I love it, but I don't visit it everyday. All of the stunning and vibrant patterns shown make me feel like I'll implode. All the creativity gives me an inferiority complex.

For both inspiration and possible purchases, check out Etsy. Crafters sell everything from art to purses to jewelry to homemade bath bombs. A lot of great stuff here, but some mediocrity, too.

One Etsy seller is Michelle Caplan, who is an amazing collage artist.

27 September 2006

making sense of cleveland

Tonight I dined with a friend who is moving to Las Vegas this weekend. My roommate—she defects for Portland in two weeks. And so it goes for Northeast Ohio.

Ever so timely, then, that last night I should watch Cleveland: Confronting Decline in an American City, which I mentioned would be showing on Sept. 28 at 8 pm on WVIZ. (Defector roommate was sent a review copy, natch.)

Does anyone under the age of 45 know that Cleveland wasn't always a joke? In the 1930s, it was a "thriving industrial mecca" and the fifth largest city in nation. But faster than you can say "Turn blue, knif," the ominous music begins.*

After WW2, the exodus out of Cleveland began. And it hasn't stopped.

From Tremont to...Parma?
Inner ring suburbs, baby, that's where they went—if not out of the region altogether. Industry soon followed to suburbia—if not to China, et al.—as well as commercial business. It didn't take too long for people to start to migrate toward the outer ring suburbs—like Westlake.

Unlike a more viable city, metropolitan Cleveland has "sprawl without growth," as the documentary put it. The decline of a city will affect the region, too, as people gravitate toward the next new thing. The documentary makes an example of Euclid Square Mall, in a suburb itself. The mall is now a wasteland but was once a bustling center; people and businesses have abandoned it for bigger and better.

This little blight of mine
Without the people and business at the core, Cleveland crumbled—quite literally. (Cue myriad shots of dilapidated buildings and barren lots.) And the film astutely observed the excess of parking lots in Cleveland as the "heart of the city scarred with asphalt"

The outflux of people and money has also had an immensely detrimental effect on city schools. People in NEOhio know Cleveland schools suck, but many may not see the correlations that the film makes. The schools are a symptom—albeit a nasty one—of a larger problem.

"The comeback city" campaign of the early '90s won Cleveland a modicum of respect, but it failed to address core issues—like the schools. Seemingly, it put a band-aid on an emergency room injury.

The House of Blues will save us
In a film titled to be about "confronting decline," there's an awful lot of exposition about the decline itself. Still, there are glimpses of hope of how to start to reverse it, glimpses and ideas we so desperately need.

A little too optimistically, it rhapsodizes about the potential of the House of Blues to stimulate Cleveland—as well as the investment in the E. 4th St. area. And, of course, there's talk of needing to lure younger adults to Cleveland. (But it does acknowledge that all ages and kinds are needed to create a vibrant city.)

The film highlights the revival of a Hough neighborhood and a large business that chose to stay in the city, rather than fleeing to the 'burbs.

Epilogue
Overall, I came away with a dejected feeling. My [defector] roommate summed it up well. "We all know what's wrong but don't know how to fix it." What can the individual person do? The problem is so overwhelming that it's difficult to get a grasp. There are lists of "100 things you can do to help the environment." Similarly, we need "100 things you can do to help Cleveland" list.

26 September 2006

eco blogging tuesday
the litter riddle

I know I'd probably earn my title as resident cat lady ten times over if I trained my cats to do their business in the toilet. But, if you're a cat owner, you have to see the obvious advantage. NO STINKY LITTER BOX.

I'm not going to endorse cats using toilets (and I'm not going to condemn it either). But I will send you to a recent post about the eco ramifications of cat litter. I found it on Eco Worrier, which is a column in The Times (in the UK). (I would probably read the column just for its clever—and so apt—name, but I've also found good insights there.

Back to cat litter. I've been using Fresh Step for a couple years now because it seems to work well enough, esp. when there are four cats in the house. I hate the dust that billows up from it when I clean the boxes, though, and usually try to wear a dust mask. Good thing I have been. According to Eco Worrier, dust in the clay of scoopable cat litter is carcinogenic.

Oh not to mention that the cats ingest the clay when licking their cute little paws, and it can form a solid mass in their intestines, causing problems. Oh, and, according to Natural Home magazine, roughly 1.5 million tons of clay are mined annually for kitty litter; much is strip mined, which destroys land and habitat.

Crap. (pun intended) I hadn't given a lot of thought to cat litter before. I did try Yesterday's News, which is made from old newspapers. But I was not a fan.

Eco Worrier and some of her readers recommend World's Best Cat Litter. And it has a great customer rating on PetSmart.com. It's made from corn. And it clumps, is flushable and biodegradable. Boo-ya!

I think I'll try it.

24 September 2006

to catch a thief

I wanted to start by saying that I'm not a thief. But I acknowledge that would be stretching the truth, as I recall the utensils, mugs, menus, etc I took from Denny's when I was in high school. Oh, and construction signs from the road. And, um, orange barrells. (BTW, we put them back.)

That was all high school high jinks, though. It seemed trivial compared to peers' pilfering merchanise from stores. Pants, shoes, sporting equipment...kids took it all. One year my brother gifted a Yankee candle he'd stolen to my mom for Christmas. (And she worried he'd spent too much money on it!)

I can honestly say the only thing I've swiped from a store is a piece of candy from one of the self-serve bins. And I don't know what I tasted more--the Sunkist fruit gem I stole or the fear. The fear that an underpaid yet self-important Giant Eagle employee would condemn my action (and thus my youthful insouciance—and, by god, take anything from me but my youthful insouciance!)

I feared the consequences of a stolen fruit gem. Clearly, there's some paranoia operating here. I won't deny it.

At least I had a reason to fear. I performed a potentially reprehensible action. Explain then the paranoia that oft accompanies me when I'm shopping: The fear that the employees will think I stole something—even though I have not.

I mean, how do they know my thighs aren't clinging to a canteloupe or I haven't slipped Monistat 7 up my sleeve? It is their job to be suspcious. So it's my job to relieve them of their suspicion.

That's why I linger after trying something on in the dressing room that doesn't work. (Because if I left quickly, it might suggest I'd pulled five pairs of Spanx on under my skirt. And why have employees bother to consider that? Why?)

Also why I might concentrate on nonchalance—like I didn't do anything wrong. (Um, because I didn't.) I'll swing my arms, unzip my jacket and empty the contents of my purse onto the dirty lineoleum floor.

And then I look the salespeople straight in the eye and say (all with my highly emotive pupils and irises):
Kind sir (or ma'am), I am not a thief. I did not take any of this merchandise, which you probably pilfer yourself. And I know your manager probably told you only to be suspicious of loud, black people, but, just in case your manager isn't a racist, and you are skeptical of all types, know that I didn't steal. Because I'm good. I'm good. I'm good. And only a wee neurotic.

19 September 2006

eco blogging tuesday
behind the label

Did you think just eating foods with the certified organic label would assuage your liberal guilt? Ha! That's what liberal guilt is for—to make you feel like you're not doing all you could.

We can make merry over the fact that organic foods are rapidly infiltrating the mainstream. People are finally getting it. They'll be more widely available. But organics are making their way to the marketplace in the same manner conventional food does.

Agribusiness as usual
There's "Big Pharma," "Big Oil," and now there's "Big Organic." A reader left me a link to this story in the New Yorker. The article observes "questions about quality, sustainability and business ethics" within the organic food industry. They're the same questions and criticisms people have held about the conventional food industry. But it seems implicit that the label "organic" represents an ideology—non-corporate, social justice-oriented, local and sustainable.

Take this into consideration: Earthbound Farm "grows more than seventy percent of all the organic lettuce sold in America." Yes, that means its 26 acres are free of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, and its tractors even use biodiesel. But Earthbound's food is sold in every state of the Union, meaning it's trucked there. The company also trucks compost in to its farms.

The good news is you're eating organic when you buy a Earthbound Farm (or other large organic company) product; the bad news is it's not making that much difference to the environment. Not to mention you could be supporting the big corporations you try to avoid (because many organic brands are owned by large companies).

And then there's the social justice angle.

Some sweat with your apple?
Organic farming is still business. It's most certainly business for the large companies, and, out of the need to compete, it becomes very business-oriented for smaller farmers. Labor is a primary way to cut costs. An article by Felicia Mello in The Nation notes "most workers on organic farms, like those on conventional farms, are immigrants from Mexico who earn minimum wage or slightly more and receive no benefits. Fieldwork on organic farms can be especially strenuous because farmers employ back-breaking methods like hand-weeding to avoid using pesticides."

While workers at organic farms avoid toiling around pesticides, they "often live in the same towns as conventional farmworkers, where...pesticide drift is an ever-present problem and the food available for purchase is likely to be high in fat and low in nutrients."

The future
"There is a small but growing campaign, backed by some of organic agriculture's staunchest supporters, for a new kind of food labeling, one that would guarantee that food is produced in ways that benefit workers as well as the environment," writes Mello. As the organic food industry becomes more ubiquitous and its business ethics exposed, we can hope this labeling campaign grows stronger.

But that still doesn't address the sustainability of "Big Organic." Gail Feenstra, a UC Davis researcher, "envisions a decentralized food network with people buying minimally processed food through direct markets, and schools and hospitals serving up organic meals made with ingredients from local farms," writes Mello. "'It's not just on the backs of organic growers to fix this thing,' [Feenstra] continues. 'It's going to take a long, slow shift to get us from a system that's hierarchical, with a few people controlling the resources, to one that's more disaggregated.'"

Oh, to dare to dream.

What can we do? Buy locally produced organic produce as often as you can—which is probably not very often, because to find both is pretty difficult around NE Ohio. (Still, refer to the Countryside Farmer's Guide I wrote about last week. It's a start.

17 September 2006

weekender

Man love
justin-ryan

One of those things that can happen if you get drunk and pass out at a party
drunk boy

Birthday boy turns 15 this week
misha tongue

A blurry park is still a pretty park
blurry geoff park

ditto
me blurry park

14 September 2006

inclined toward decline

My reluctant news maverick of a roommate emailed me today about a documentary about Cleveland that comes out soon.

Cleveland: Confronting Decline in an American City is the second film in a film and educational outreach project Making Sense of Place. The documentary "traces the urban decay, and efforts at revitalization, in what was once America’s 5th largest city."

It is set to be aired by PBS stations nationwide, beginning with the Cleveland public television station WVIZ on September 28 at 8 p.m. EST and again on October 1 at 11 a.m. EST, in both instances to be followed by an in-studio discussion.

I'm marking my calendar.

11 September 2006

eco blogging tuesday
be a local yokel

Since reading about it in the West Side Leader of all places, I've been waiting for the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy to post its Countryside Harvest Guide.

The guide is "your resource for finding farm-fresh, locally grown produce and delicious foods made right here in Northeast Ohio." There's a Harvest Guide, Northeast Ohio Farm Directory, Farmers' Market Directory, Listing of area CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and a directory of restaurants that serve local food.

Driving through Ohio, you're bound to pass farm stands, but I sometimes hesitate because I'd like to buy organic produce in addition to local. (A tall order, I know, which--when you think about it--is actually absurd.) But the farm directory breaks it down.

So, for instance, I now know that the Crown Point Ecology Center sell certified organic produce at the Peninsula Farmers’ Market, which is on Saturdays, 9-noon until Oct. 7. And that there's two farms in Brecksville that sell free-range, uncertified organic eggs in addition to chicken and uncertified organic produce.

And I learned that there's a bevy of Cleveland-area restaurants that use local produce, but only two in Akron.

I can't say if these guides haven't overlooked some farms/restaurants, but it's great effort. Hopefully, the list will grow as more people realize the importance of eating local and organic.

10 September 2006

weekend notes

• After composing a long-winded TXT message, it's my fate that I will invariably press a button which disappears the message. (Thus I deprived snogash of a little chirpy beep, telling her that, yes, she has a TXT message. Snog, I hope your Saturday was still fulfilling without a msg from me.)

Not Another Date Movie: probably not as funny if I was sober.

• My ass can just NOT rock a pair of tight capri pants.

• When will I learn not let a writing assignment hang over my head, when I know that I'm not going to do it at the last minute? And that's just fine because I write better then anyway.

• Check and see if there's an OSU game on next time I plan to go to a bar.

• Coventry Village: not what it used to be.

• According to the outfits of American Apparel employees, terry cloth headbands are totally in.

Fast Food Nation has gotten me pumped about reading again.

08 September 2006

reasons why I feel old

Jonathan Taylor Thomas is 25 years old today.



he kinda looks like my roommate Robbie--with hair.

05 September 2006

eco-blogging tuesday
Farewell to Teflon

Eco-blogging Tuesday® is a new feature at Lover's Quarrel. I intend to usually write the posts, but today I spontaneously nurtured friendships instead of doing what I planned—which included writing the first eco-blogging tuesday post. But I decided to forge ahead anyway, after I found this article (originally at Huffington Post on June 13, 2006) by Nora Ephron. You've Got Mail aside, she's a witty dame. Here's her Farewell to Teflon

I feel sad about Teflon.

It was great while it lasted.

Now it turns out to be bad for you.

Or, put more exactly, now it turns out that a chemical that's released when you heat up Teflon is in everyone's blood stream -- and probably causes cancer and birth defects.

I loved Teflon.

I loved the no-carb ricotta pancake I invented last year, which can be cooked only on Teflon. I loved my Teflon-coated frying pan, which makes a beautiful steak. I loved Teflon as an adjective; it gave us a Teflon president (Ronald Reagan) and it even gave us a Teflon Don (John Gotti, whose Teflon-ness eventually wore out, making him an almost exact metaphorical duplicate of my Teflon pans). I loved the fact that Teflon was invented by someone named Roy J. Plunkett, whose name alone you might have thought would have insured Teflon against becoming a dangerous product.

But this year DuPont, who makes polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) resin, which is what Teflon was called when it first popped up as a laboratory accident back in 1938, reached a $16.5 million settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency; it seems the company knew all along that Teflon was bad for you. It's an American cliché by now: a publicly-traded company holds the patent on a scientific breakthrough, it turns out to cause medical problems, and the company knew all along. You can go to the bank on it.

But it's sad about Teflon. Teflon wasn't really good when it first came onto the market. The pans were light and skimpy and didn't compare to copper or cast iron. They were great for omelettes, and of course, nothing stuck to them, but they were nowhere near as good for cooking things that were meant to be browned, like steaks. But then manufacturers began to produce Teflon pans that were heavy-duty, and you could make a steak that was as dark and delicious as one made on the barbecue. Unfortunately, this involved heating your Teflon pan up to a very high temperature before adding the steak, which happens to be the very way perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) is released into the environment. PFOA is the bad guy here, and DuPont has promised to eliminate it from all Teflon products by 2015. I'm sure that will be a comfort to those of you under the age of forty, but to me it simply means that my last years on this planet will be spent, at least in part, scraping debris off my frying pans.

Rumors of Teflon have been circulating for a long time, but I couldn't help hoping they were going to turn out like the rumors of aluminum, which was suspected (back in the nineties) of causing Alzheimer's. That was a bad moment, since never mind giving up aluminum pots, it would also have meant giving up aluminum foil, disposable aluminum baking pans, and most crucial of all, anti-perspirants. I rode out that rumor, and I'm pleased to report that it went away. (So has my memory, but I think that's a coincidence.)

But this rumor is clearly for real:

A few days ago, Marian Burros, the incontrovertible food writer for the New York Times, announced that she had moved her Teflon pans to her basement. I notice that she did not throw them out (which I'm going to have to do, since I have no basement). She tested a zillion other pots and made a trillion omelettes, and she wrote that the black enamel frying pan made by Le Creuset was as good as Teflon and even managed to cook eggs that didn't stick. Today I am going to go out and attempt to buy one. My guess is that there are none left in the city of New York.

After I find one, and not a moment before, I will throw my Teflon pans away. Meanwhile, this morning, I am going to make one last ricotta pancake breakfast:

Beat one egg, add 1/3 cup fresh whole-milk ricotta and whisk together. Heat up a Teflon pan until carcinogenic gas is released into the air. Spoon pancakes onto the frying pan and cook about three minutes on one side, until brown. Carefully flip. Cook for another minute to brown the other side. Eat with jam, if you don't care about carbs, or just eat unadorned. Serves one.

01 September 2006

the office

Today, a delicious part of my day (minus the 10 a.m. hour of chomping on peanut butter M&Ms) was flipping through the Office Max catalog.

I had a purpose: find a new gel wrist rest. The lycra on my current one has stretched out, much like the ass of a bathing suit after a couple seasons. (Not to mention said M&M crumbs, et al., are mashed into said lycra.)

Oh, but I was seduced by retractable gel needle point pens and all means of desktop storage! It was so easy to lose myself in this little black book for sluts of organization.

I've always been kinda slutty for office supplies (and work). Who else, at age ten, revels in receiving paper clips and file folders for his/her birthday? Those gifts came in at the height of my office-playing days. It was not just some passing fancy, either, but a good few years of office "work."

I guess all of my early practice stamping, filing and scheduling solidified my destiny to work in an office for the rest of my life. Granted, the bulk of my work is not the administrative kind, though I do actually enjoy that part—the paperwork so many curse.

Now excuse me, I have some forms to fill out...