We should have ONE day without shopping

Good old New England, it’s illegal for many store to open Thanksgiving Day in 3 of our states! People have three other days to shop, we don’t need Thursday. For the chains that open elsewhere on T-day, I’m boycotting them for the rest of the year.

Open in Morning: Best Buy, Kmart, Lord & Taylor
Not open til evening: Walmart, Target, Macy’s, Toys “R” Us, JC Penny, Kohls, Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Sears, Office Depot, Office Max, Michaels

Pier One, Nordstorm’s, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Sam’s Club, Burlington Coat Factory, Costco, Ross Stores, Lowe’s, Von Maur and Cabela’s, Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, Radio Shack



What will we miss Tomorrow?

I have a favorite towel.  It’s so old, I have no idea where it came from.  It’s super long, which is great for good wrapping coverage out of the shower.  And it’s really soft, like an old pair of jeans that you have worn everywhere.  A section of the towel is worn through, and my boyfriend has repeatedly commented that it’s outlived it’s useful life.  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  It still functions perfectly for my use.  I would be in favor of replacing the towel, but a search of the product name produced no results.  So I believe the company either changed names or went out of business.  Besides, who can survive making good products anymore?

Last year I purchased an immersion blender to ease with blending soups.  When it comes to kitchen items, I rely on the testing and comments by America’s Test Kitchen, I’m actually signed up through Cooks Illustrated to access their recipes and product info.  After extensive testing, they recommended the Kaloric Sunny Morning blender.  Later that year they revised the recommendation and I had a similar bad report to other people, after maybe 5 uses on soup the motor burned out.  I should have read the instruction booklet immersion-blenderdescribing the operating instructions and promptly returned the item.  You can’t operate the blender for more than 1 minute which must be followed by 10 minutes of rest.  That would require about 30 minutes to blend my soup completely.  So back to square 1 for research.

This time I thought to read the product operation manual online before purchasing.  Many amazon shoppers report loving their KitchenAid hand blender that lasted 7 or 10 years, and the revised test kitchen report also recommends that product.  After purchasing, I’m reading some reports of complications with the new model version of this blender.  No motor problems, but the connection of the motor to the shaft has a plastic piece that can break.  I hope this one lasts, but if not, I’m writing to KitchenAid and the Test Kitchen group.  The lack of descriptive information about the motor in all KithenAid info is a bit unsettling for me; if this one breaks, it appears that all major brands use the same plastic connection element so I will be struggling to find a suitable replacement.

It seems like all manufacturers are capitalizing on their past reputation of quality products to sell really cheap goods.  I don’t mind paying extra for reliable products from manufacturer’s like KitchenAid, Pella, Anderson Windows, etc.  But as we are learning in the building design, the products are cheaply made and do not perform well long term.  This certainly helps the economy, when people warranty_nuevohave to replace products every year.  But what is it doing to the environment, and our psyche that we can’t find anything of value.  No wonder we don’t want to spend a lot of money, we can barely stomach the issue of cheap stuff failing before their time.

Product warranties have very short lifespans, 1 year and sometimes 2.  In the world of building materials, even with a warranty you typically have to hire a lawyer to get manufacturers to own up to their responsibilities, and then spend a year arguing while the manufacturer blames anyone who even looked at the product for errors.

I read a post once of someone struggling through difficulties with multiple appliances.  We all struggle to find legitimate online consumer reviews.  Who can we trust?  Know any good repairmen to recommend?

Holiday Shopping or any other kind of Shopping

I am not a shopper and I agonize about finding gifts for other people.  And for those of us following the Occupy Wall Street movement, or general discussion on the US economy, we are looking for ways to be more responsible in our purchases.

I read one post where the author said she would be using cash during this shopping season.  By avoiding the use of credit cards, this will reduce the profit for the big banks instead increasing the profits of the vendors where she shops.  Shopping at local vendors will support the people in your community.  www.yelp.com is great for finding specialty stores and restaurants.

If you value buying hand made items from individuals check out www.Etsy.com.  You will find so many quality made items and you can search based on your location to support artists in your own community.

We have a 10,000 Villages store in my neighborhood, but you can also buy Fair Trade products made world wide on their website.

Other global impact ideas are listed on this blog post 11 Holiday Gift Programs that Benefit Non-Profits

When Buying Fair Trade, check for the appropriate logo that shows the product conforms to the regulations.  Not all logos and labels represent a quality control program.  Terms like Natural, Environmentally Friendly, and Green are not regulated and companies use these terms to suggest responsible practices without having to verify those practices to anyone.  The system for identifying and regulating socially responsible practices is not yet perfect, but by checking for legitimate logos you will help develop improved practices.

Finding socially responsible companies can be challenging.  Here is a list of 10 by Fortune Magazine.  More Fair Trade Clothing ideas.

Where does our Food come from?

The other day at work, a woman in my office was passing out copies of the movie Food Inc.  She had recently purchased several copies to share with friends and associates believing that the message in the video should be promoted. I have not seen this video, in summary it’s a documentary of modern food production.  (For more details: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/food_inc/)

The two women who received copies of the video did not look pleased and repeated the phrase “I don’t want to know the truth.”  Then the woman offering the video commented “I know, it (the content in the video) just makes you hate the government.”  The two women took the videos saying they could not promise to watch it.  Eventually, the video advocate directed her attention to me.  I commented that instead of watching movies and getting angry at the government I’d rather spend time finding sources of food created using methods I appreciate.  She responded that watching this movie motivated her to start doing that very thing.

Whether you choose to watch Food Inc. to get inspired for being more proactive in your food choices, here are some ideas for getting started (to be implemented one at a time).

Purchase from local farms:

  • Shop local farmers markets.
  • Research the products you frequently purchase.  If something in the store is advertised as “All Natural” or “Organic” or whichever luring label you’re attracted to, research the practices of that brand.
  • Read the labels to determine which product was produced nearby.
  • Some restaurants are using local sources.  In my area this include: Flatbread Pizza, Chipotle, The Fireplace Grill
  • Visit local farms: http://www.pickyourown.org/
  • Some communities have a cooperative (co-op) relationship with where you contribute a set $ each week or month, then the produce from that farm is distributed among the participants.  This system helps the farms by providing a reliable income.
  • Search for options near you: http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?pd=Home

Prepare your own food

  • Cooking does not take as much time as people think.   The effort can be in all the tasks surrounding meal preparation: planning the meal, shopping for groceries, chopping ingredients (there are enough sources for chopping ingredients this can mostly be avoided, otherwise I suggest having a designated chopper during meal prep), trying to think of something to make with leftover ingredients (this drives me crazy sometimes).  I just search the internet for Recipes that require (carrots) or whichever ingredient you have extra.
  • Spend the time sharing the experience with a friend or with a group of kids.  It can be a fun activity for a small group, and less expensive.  You’re going to eat anyway.
  • Create a list food items you eat might regularly.  If you can think of 6 meal ideas you can rotate them through a 6 week schedule to have a home cooked meal once a week.  You might prepare enough for leftovers and save on lunch the next day.
  • Prepare a snack to carry with you.  Granola and trail mixes are easy to make and store.

More intense research

Info for Appropriate Food Sources

Teaching your Children

This time of year is for remembering those who do the LITTLE things for us

Last night I overheard of a young gentleman’s story of gift shopping.  This person picked out a gift for a female coworker of his.  At first, when he described having lunch every day with this coworker I thought maybe it was a girl he would be interested in dating, and that he was hoping this sweater would impress her.  But then he said this person was an older woman and he wanted to do something nice in return for her daily company, but he wasn’t sure if she would appreciate his taste in the sweater.

I appreciate the reminder to acknowledge those who contribute to my life each day.