Monday, August 29, 2011

The Southern Ideal Home Show

I'm kind of a trade show junkie. I love the atmosphere and the opportunity to see what's new and to talk with vendors who are excited about their products. I've enjoyed being a vendor in my professional life, too. Gettin' paid to chit chat, and making friends with other vendors, seeing clients and sometimes meeting prospects in person. And the swag...there's always the swag! When I covered the auto sector for sales jobs in the video production arena, I worked the Press Days for the big auto shows in Detroit and NYC. I learned that they put at least 16 coats of wax on the show cars, and that the carpet was a lot thicker underfoot at the higher-end car stands. It's all about perception and emotion.

 This past weekend my neighbor Bonnie and I went to the Southern Ideal Home Show. She and I are at opposite ends...I moved in a year ago and am "finished" with my major home spruce ups. She just moved in a few months ago, and has some projects on her list.

A family run company called Southern Shows has been mounting trade shows in the South since 1959, and the Southern Ideal Home Show has been a staple since 1985.

There were over 200 exhibitors and 3 stages with demonstrations...the Cooking Stage, the Build It Stage and the Plant It Stage.

Ever see a stonemason in a kilt? "brings the stonework of Scotland to the Carolinas."

I'm not in the market, but there were a few mattress companies and lots of people flopped out.

The Humane Society had some cute pups!

The timing didn't work out for us to see John Gidding from HGTV's Curb Appeal or Heidi Billotto's "Cooking Up a Storm--Taste of local grass fed and pasture raised beef, chicken and pork" demo, but we're taking Heidi's grilling class on Labor Day weekend.

Among all the vendors selling granite transformations, kitchen remodeling, green energy, landscaping and lighting, pools and spas, garage doors, waterproofing, decks, shutters and custom windows, I did find some that were of interest to me.

I got some good advice from the herb lady about what which herbs will winter over, and how to revive my basil which has turned pale from a dry spell. It just needs a few squirts of Miracle Gro.

I had a good long chat with Matt from King Green Lawn Service. Because I'm big on curb appeal, my misbehaving little front lawn (26' x 6') has been a source of disappointment for the past year that I've been here. The single family homeowners have to take care of their lawns, where the townhouses have underground irrigation and landscaping every week. My dues are less than half what the townhouses pay, but after this past year's experiences, I'd pay more to not have to think about lawn upkeep.

Last summer, I mistakenly replaced the Fescue (which had turned brown) with bright green Zoysia, a warm season grass, and that looked pretty good for awhile. I had lawn envy~~my next door neighbors' lawn looked so healthy! It didn't "take" though, and then I found out anyway that the H.O.A. requires homeowners to have Fescue, a cool season grass. #@!%&*%  I had 'illegal grass." The last thing I needed was a letter . That landscaper came back early May and replaced the dead Zoysia with Fescue, which I watered religiously until I went away for Memorial Day. My neighbor watered for me while I was gone, but the Fescue just didn't root properly. I've had a fully dry, brown thatchy 'lawn' since July 1st, well beyond the normal "browning up" look of this grass' summer dormant period. Why do we have grass that turns brown in the summer and gets green for the winter?? Now it needs serious aeration and reseeding, and then more watering. I'll get 2 estimates and see what can be done...the time to do all that is early September, for a successful winter lawn. I'm thankful that the backyard is slate and mulch.

I took a card from a window washing company. They'll do the exterior and interior for $6 per window. I have 29 windows. It's been a year, so it's time. I keep up with the inside and the exterior windows I can reach on the first floor. It's a good thing that I don't have an extension ladder, so I can't be tempted to handle the upper windows myself. I've done more physical labor than most women I know, aside from my sister. It's gratifying and powerful to figure out and to handle the DIY jobs, but there are limits! I've learned to hand off the big stuff and I've shifted my spare energy to crafts and canning! Saw a quote in today's New York Times Magazine that resonates on a few levels, "Because becoming a man is the waste of a woman." For $175, someone else can do my windows!

Another vendor that was interesting to both Bonnie and me was Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

Annie's two reps were talking about how to use the paint on furniture, household objects, for stenciling and how to make floorcloths.

They give classes and Bonnie and I are looking forward to taking some of them.

Some local vineyards were represented as well as a wine distributor who was putting together cases of "porch pounding" wines (as she called them!) I have quite enough wine at home, but it was fun to taste a few different varietals. There were some food vendors and I picked up some interesting dip mixes that are no carb/gluten free. Also got some flavored sea salt with Cajun and Italian seasoning. Adding salt to olive oil is a good idea for dipping!

With all my major projects behind me, it was fun just to wander the aisles to get some good ideas for general DIY'ing and for the numerous porch parties we'll be having into late Fall here on the "boulevard."

On the calendar...the Southern Women's Show and the Southern Christmas Show. I'm looking forward to both!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Marking Time

Well, here it is...the Big 5-0, the half-century mark! I've been smiling all day. I've got a great, friend-filled weekend on tap. I'm down 39 pounds towards my 50 x 50 goal. I'll get there, not exactly ON but near enough to my 50th. Being down 3 sizes is close the heck enough for me to feel pretty darn good. My confidence trumps others' perception of perfection or imperfection, every time.

I just wanted to pause before the festivities begin tomorrow, and reflect on how blessed I am. I have friends who are going through pain that knows no depth and that has no reason. it makes me realize that I'm so very lucky. I know that luck can and does run out. With little or no notice. I'm gulping life and treasuring every day. I'm healthy, and getting healthier. I'm in a good place emotionally and geographically and my family is on an even keel, relatively speaking.

50 is just a number, but it got here pretty fast. I feel late 30's at most, but have been shaped by my 40's.

When I moved from NY to NC last year, I started wearing this #2 charm. It signifies my "Chapter 2." I'm writing one page at a time and I like the way the story is unfolding. It's my "midlife" celebration, not a midlife crisis.

As independent as I am, I still love traditions. I like getting Happy Birthday e-mails, texts, cards and calls from family and friends...and I love that they still take the time to think of me, after all these years. I looked forward to receiving my prezzie boxes from my mom and my sister. They always hit the mark!

My mother's boxes are always nicely wrapped, and this was especially nice because there was a milagro tucked under the ribbon. She and I both collected milagros ("promises" for miracles) from visits to Greece, a decade apart. They are usually stamped out of tin or brass, more rarely silver or gold. This one is gold! Milagros might depict a symbol of someone or something that needs prayers. Could be a loved one, a leg, a horse, a house, a baby, etc. I love to hang the few dozen that I have, from my Christmas tree.

The side of the box was nibbled by mom's pet bird, Binky, before she could get it in the mail. That's a homey touch ;-)

Among the lovely things packed by my sister and niece, was this plate with a saying that I like. "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away." It should be, anyway!

I don't take prezzies for granted. Time and thought goes into buying, packing and mailing the box...and everyone's busy, so I appreciate the effort!

Today I was blown away by two separate deliveries. First, I answered the doorbell, and there was a young guy standing on the porch holding fresh flowers in a mason jar. I was confused, because he looked somehow out of place.  While I was saying hello, I was trying to think of what florist could have such a rustic presentation. He said, "Happy Birthday from Poplar Ridge Farm!"  I've blogged about Poplar Ridge's wonderful Farm to Table Dinners. The owners are unable to attend my birthday party tomorrow, but I never, ever expected flowers! I asked the young man to please tell Marianne and Phillip, ahead of my thank you note, that I was utterly flummoxed by this surprise!

A pretty, rustic and very fragrant bouquet!

Here's the card:

If you ever get to Waxhaw, NC...Poplar Ridge Farm is worth finding. Real good people, a lovely setting, and great veggies and flowers!

The second unexpected delivery was via UPS. The delivery man does the "ring and run" so the truck was almost out of view when I saw the Pro Flowers box on my porch.

Now, who could have sent me 100 (ONE HUNDRED) baby roses? There were so many they didn't fit into one vase. I have a second arrangement in the master bath...a nice bonus! They are from my NY realtor and friend Joan. The flowers were quite unexpected and so very thoughtful! Joan said that the 100 roses were meant to "celebrate twice my 50 years, and so that I may have double the luck from this day forward." She and I reconnected on the #7 subway platform a few years ago, after having a passing acquaintance as teenagers on Long Island. Funny how people move in time and space. Joan did a spectacular job helping me sell my home, and is truly happy for me as I live each page of Chapter 2, out loud.

I smiled alot today. I'm truly blessed, and it's heartwarming to know that I've also touched some lives in return. Happy Birthday to me.

Life is good. Level & Plumb.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

When to Replace a Small Appliance

When do you know it's "time?"  Sometimes it's technology that drives the decision. For example, computers have replaced typewriters and iPods have replaced 8 track tape players.  But by and large, we Americans live in a disposable society and we tend to get rid of things and replace them before it's really "time." The good news there is that there are loads of people who will buy your old (read: vintage) stuff at a tag sale, or from the Salvation Army, Habitat ReStore or consignment shop. Donate a working appliance, don't toss it in the garbage!

In the case of small appliances, there is a point where a decision has to be made. It's a personal decision...based on want versus need, comfort versus aggravation. If you're happy working with a 12 lb steel iron, go for it! If I'm going to spend an hour or more on that task, I want a lighter iron, one made with plastic and metal is fine...and it's gotta have reliable fabric settings, a spray/mist feature and a retractable cord.

I recently reached the decision point regarding the blender.

Ah, the blender. Melangeur. Licuadora.

I'd bought the 25th Anniversary Waring Professional Blender back in the mid 80's. Loved the classic beehive base and the solid glass 5 cup pitcher. The thick, black 3 pronged cord screamed "Professional!"

If I'd truly been a professional, I'd have known to buy at a restaurant supply store rather than at Williams-Sonoma. I was wooed by other factors, namely the entire Williams Sonoma experience. But, I digress...

The Waring served me well for almost 25 years. It's still serving, just not as well. It's got one button and 3 speeds...Off, Hi and Lo. Early airplanes flew with a flip of a switch, so this one was perfectly serviceable. The pitcher is narrow, and herbs/leaves would get stuck when making pesto or it wasn't as versatile as I'd have liked.

The Waring kinda did everything that my mom's Osterizer (was it Harvest Gold or Avocado Green? I can't remember!) did with it's many speeds that ranged from Stir to Frappe. All the milkshakes I made in the 70's came out the same, and I used every single button, up and back, playin' that Osterizer like a piano.

Now, the Waring's button gets hot when the blender is running, the twirly piece connected to the chopping blades is loose with no way to tighten it, liquid is leaking out and the piece is hard to clean when it gets calcified. Um, I clean the crumb tray in the toaster---I like things to be very clean. So, before I have a "situation" mid-smoothie, I decided to look into a replacement. I'd rather that, than to spend time cleaning pureed fruit out of the grout in the backsplash.

I like Cooks Illustrated as a source, because they don't accept advertising, and it seems like a balanced 3rd party opinion with pretty deep kitchen experience.  They recently did a comparison of blenders, and chose the Kitchen Aid 5 speed as their top pick.  Here's a link to the story.

There are those who swear by their VitaMix, but I'll never spend $600 on a blender. The Kitchen Aid 5 speed, 7 cup blender is listed as $149.00 in the comparison, but I have a tip for you. If you get it in Black, rather than Stainless Steel, the price drops to $99.00. And, if you buy it at Bed Bath & Beyond, using one of the pile of 20% off coupons that you have surely amassed, the final price is $79.00. Not a huge investment after all! Yes, the pitcher is plastic, but this is for home use and I'm one likely is it that I'll have a problem?

The twirly piece underneath the blades is metal and hard plastic, and very easy to clean. If anything breaks, the warranty ensures Kitchen Aid will replace it. You can use the removeable cap as a measuring cup, before adding ingredients or streaming in liquids. Oh, never blend hot liquids with the lid on tight~~the force will blow the top and you'll have stuff on the ceiling, under the cabinets, on your clothes, etc... Learned that the hard way, years ago. Anyway, the cord length is adjustable, by weaving it into channels under the base.

Now, about those 5 speeds...

Stir, Chop, Mix, Puree, Liquefy. That pretty much covers it. There's a Pulse and a Crush Ice mode. I like the encased keypad grody food or liquid to get stuck in between buttons. The new Oster blender has 16 speeds! I use my eyes and judgement for doneness so I don't see the need for the gradations between Grate, Blend, Stir, Shred, Beat, Grind, Puree, Mash, Chop, Liquefy, Whip, Frappe and Mix.

Now I can use the Kitchen Aid blender for simple jobs rather than using the food processor (and taking the latter apart for cleanup) for making bread crumbs, chopping fruit and veggies into chunks or purees, and to grate cheese in 15 seconds.

I'll update this post in 2036 when I'm 75 yrs old if I'm ready to trade up again!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Permission Granted

View 5x7front_...jpg in slide show

I got an e-mail the other day from someone who'd found a photo via Google Image Search from one of my blog postings.

Stephanie Jackson of GoDesignInc was asking if she could use my photo of Savannah Harbor Golf Club for an event flyer.

I played the course last September, and I blogged about photos I took there, twice since.
The sky was so painterly that it was distracting.

It's flattering that someone else found my photo attractive.

After looking into, I granted permission for the photo to be used. This non-profit, based in Savannah, was given 501c3 status in June 2011. They partner with international and national groups in need of buildings, for shelter and schools.

The September 18, 2011 event is a golf tournament being held at Savannah Harbor Golf Club, to raise funds for a school building. Stephanie's husband Scott is an architect who graduated from SCAD...Savannah School of Art & Design, and he's designing the school, to be built in Kofele, Ethiopia this Fall. If I didn't have out of town guests coming that weekend, I'd sign up to play in the tournament!

Check out the link, to see the work that Stephanie and Scott Jackson are doing.
Life is good. Level and Plumb.