Hippie lessons

August 10, 2014

The only thing better than doing a bunch of hippie crap is teaching somebody else to do a bunch of hippie crap.

The first time I did anything along those lines, we lived in Belleville, and a colleague who was particularly impressed with my salsa recipe came by for a canning lesson. We had a lot of fun. I got some help with the prep work, which can be tedious, and I sent her home with a few jars of salsa and a new skill.

A couple of years ago, I taught a neighbor to extract honey. That was mostly penance for a dumb stunt he’d pulled involving one of my beehives, but he really liked the bees and wanted to learn about them, and I won’t be at all surprised if he ends up establishing a hive of his own someday.

Last week, one of my editors mentioned she’d like to learn to can. She’s kind of fascinated with the DIY stuff we do around here, so I promised her I’d schedule my next salsa-canning project on some Sunday when we’re both off.

I like showing other people how to be more self-sufficient — partly because I’m an old teacher and enjoy watching their eyes light up when they learn something new, and partly because it feels as if I’m repaying a debt to someone who unwittingly did me a favor before I was born.

About 40 years ago, my mom worked for the school district in my hometown. A counselor who worked in her office made killer homemade bread. When Mom asked for the recipe, rather than simply scribble it down on a card, he invited her over and spent several hours teaching her to make bread from scratch.

One man’s willingness to share one afternoon of his time with a young secretary is still paying dividends 40 years later.

I like to imagine that 30 or 40 years from now, the children of the people who have spent an afternoon in my kitchen, learning to do something I enjoy, will be standing in their own kitchens, remembering their parents’ lessons and smiling at the thought.

To teach is to own a little piece of eternity.

Emily


Folk Thursday: Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

May 1, 2014

We haven’t heard from Judy Collins on Folk Thursday in a while. Today seems like a good time for it — partly because it’s her birthday, partly because I’m getting psyched up to go see her in concert again in a couple of weeks, and partly because I’ve had this song in my head since I went wandering around the SIU Student Center and Faner Hall last night and saw my youth through eyes that were simultaneously 13, 19 and pushing 39.

I do not fear the time.

Emily


‘Shopping

February 10, 2014

While I was sorting my hard drive a while back, I ran across a pair of images of my younger siblings that Mom had asked me to Photoshop together for her several years ago, as Oliver had his back to the camera in one picture, and Grace was rolling her eyes back in her head in the other. Thanks to the busy background (wallpaper, stepstool, mini-vac, etc.) and the ever-so-subtle difference in angles and depths of field between the two images, I decided that was another task for another time, saved the images into whatever folder was handy, and promptly forgot about them.

I had some time on my hands this evening, so I spent an hour ‘Shopping:

kidshoppedweb

Don’t look too closely. The background didn’t quiet down any, and the angles and depths of field didn’t get any closer to aligning while I was ignoring them, but at least nobody is making a weird face or turning around backwards.

And yes, Mom, I saved a high-res version. I’m still tinkering with it, but I’ll send it to you after I make a few more minor adjustments.

Emily


Route 66 memories

January 27, 2014

In sifting through my digital photo archive the past few days, I’ve run across quite a few images I’d forgotten I had. Most of the stuff in my archive is stuff I shot myself, but some of the most gratifying photos were the ones other people shot of me doing things on or for the Mother Road. For about 12 years, my life more or less revolved around Route 66 advocacy. Here are some highlights I found in my archives:

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I’ve identified the photographers as far as I can remember. If you recognize something you shot, and I didn’t give you credit, please let me know in the comments. Some of these images go back a decade or more, and I’ve slept since then.

Emily


Sorting it out

January 22, 2014

The glory of digital photography is that you can take 30 shots to get the one you want, without having to worry about the cost of film or processing. The flip side is that you end up taking 30 shots to get the one you want, dumping ALL of them off onto your hard drive, and keeping them forever, just in case you might need them, as opposed to looking at prints and scanning only the keepers.

This is fine until you end up with so much crap on your hard drive that you realize it would take a full day to back it all up, so you just live dangerously until the inevitable happens and your hard drive goes bad, at which point you start using language that would make Samuel L. Jackson blush as you contemplate dropping the damn thing off the Bill Emerson Bridge on your way to pick up film and a new typewriter ribbon — except you can’t, because you pretty much have to order typewriter ribbons online. Kind of like how you have to download a slide rule app for your iPhone, because video killed the radio star. Or something. You kids get off my lawn.

Anyway, while I was rummaging through a flash drive last night in search of the one folder of images I was sure I’d backed up and absolutely could not stand the thought of losing, I ran across a keeper I’d scanned a little over 10 years ago, when I was still using 35mm:

vega

 

Ron shot this during the weekend in 2003 when we repainted the sign at the now-shuttered Vega Motel on Route 66 in the Texas Panhandle. Last time I was through there, a little over a year ago, the sign still looked pretty good. It’s probably in better shape than some of the buildings at this point.

Emily

 


Eco-Saturday: Switchplate insulators

January 18, 2014

When I was little bitty, we lived in a huge, drafty old house that was in the process of being renovated. During the bitterly cold winter of 1978-’79, that house was unbearably cold, and Mom did absolutely everything she could think of to try to seal out the drafts and keep us warm. One of her projects involved recycling styrofoam meat trays into insulation for the electrical outlets. Thirty-five years later, it’s still a good project, especially for outlets on exterior walls, where the space around the sockets traps cold air.

I like this project because it doesn’t cost anything and can be done in a matter of minutes.

switch1

1. Start by removing the switchplates you want to insulate. You’ll use them as patterns.

switch2

2. Lay the switchplates on the styrofoam trays and trace around them with a pen.

switch3

3. Cut them out. On the outside edges, don’t cut along the lines; just use them as guides to cut about an eighth of an inch inside them.

switch4

4. Check the fit. If the styrofoam doesn’t fit inside the switchplate, trim the edges until it does.

switch5

5. For light-switch covers, cut out the openings and use a pen to make holes for the screws to go in. For outlets, instead of poking a hole for the screw, completely remove the narrow strip of styrofoam between the two openings.

6. Slip the styrofoam insulator into the back of the switchplate and screw it back onto the wall.

This works best with fairly thin styrofoam. The pink tray you see above worked fine; the green one was a little too thick and made the switchplate stick out from the wall.

Emily


Munchkin Tuesday: Packard-Bell Navigator

January 14, 2014

OK, so I wasn’t technically a munchkin when this technology came out in the mid-’90s, but my younger siblings were, and I’d forgotten all about it until my sister said something on Facebook that made me think of the Packard-Bell my mom bought somewhere around my sophomore year of college.

Skip to 9:30 to see the part I remembered and was trying to describe to my sister, who had also forgotten about it until just now.

It doesn’t make me feel quite as warm and fuzzy as the reassuring “PRRRRRRRRRRRRRRT! Chk-chk-chk-chk-chk” of an Apple IIe powering up, but it’s pretty good.

Emily


Measuring

February 2, 2013

“Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise.”
— Mary Baker Eddy

I don’t pay attention to birthdays or discuss my age much, because I’m generally inclined to take Mrs. Eddy’s advice and maintain my “vigor, freshness, and promise” without regard to dates on a calendar.

Last night, I ran across one of those Facebook memes where you click “Like” on somebody’s post, and they give you a number, and you have to answer a series of questions about where you were at that age, then answer the same questions as they apply to you at your current age. I don’t usually click on age-based memes, but this one appealed to me as an opportunity to reflect on growth and experience.

I have always understood age in strictly experiential terms. I’m only interested in people’s age to the extent that it helps me extrapolate whether they were around for a particular historical event. If you’re a Baby Boomer, I want to know your thoughts on Vietnam, Watergate, and Dylan’s decision to go electric. If you’re older than the Boomers, I want you to tell me what it was like to watch Jackie Robinson on the basepaths. I need to know these things.

Left to my own devices, I’d establish a new system for expressing age. Instead of basing it on the amount of time that has elapsed since someone’s birth — which has a tendency to “measure and limit” — I’d base it on cultural experience, which prompts conversations about shared experiences.

How old am I?

I have a near-Pavlovian response to the Cheers theme song.
I conjure up images of British ice skaters when I hear Ravel’s “Bolero.”
I watched the Sandberg Game.
I thinkĀ Sesame Street was better before Elmo moved in.
I feel warm and fuzzy inside when I hear the sound of an Apple IIe computer firing up.

Try measuring your age in terms of pop culture rather than years. How does your pop-culture age influence who you are today?

Emily


Munchkin Tuesday: Crayon factory

January 29, 2013

Best thing about YouTube: vintage Sesame Street clips. This one has always been one of my favorites.

Emily


Munchkin Tuesday: Tiffany

January 15, 2013

So today I’m running an errand for work, minding my own business, when I walk into a store and hear a spectacularly wretched cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” come over the speakers.

I don’t know who was responsible for this monstrosity, but as a child of the ’80s, I cringed.

I know it was originally recorded by Tommy James and the Shondells, but if you ain’t Tiffany, I don’t wanna hear you sing “I Think We’re Alone Now,” because I spent most of seventh grade belting that into a hairbrush and trying to decide whether to be awestruck, inspired, or just wildly jealous that she had a record contract when she wasn’t even out of high school. (I think I mostly opted for awestruck. I harbored no delusions about how my own pipes compared to hers, and even at age 12, I recognized how frickin’ brilliant that mall tour really was. Talk about marketing to your target audience — a teen pop act playing shopping malls in 1987? Holy crap. That’s genius.)

There wasn’t much I liked about junior high, but dammit, Tiffany makes the short list. If you’re anywhere close to my age, I bet you can’t even listen to her voice without remembering the scent of Salon Selectives hairspray, the taste of raspberry New York Seltzer, and the sound of an Apple IIe powering up. (You just heard it, didn’t you?)

Here she is a couple of years ago. Stay with her through “Could’ve Been.”

Girlfriend’s still got it … and how great is it to hear her sing it like she knows what she’s talking about this time? ‘Course, y’all know I’m a sucker for that sort of thing anyway.

Emily


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