Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Coming Out Ahead?

To the man who's digging through the recycling bins, looking for deposit bottles:

I kind of admire your chutzpah.  It's recycling day, and you're driving up and down streets, collecting the deposit bottles that people have opted to recycle rather than haul back to the grocery.  It's kind of like found money.

But when I think about the time it takes to go through said bins and haul the recyclables to a redemption center, I start thinking that you're doing this out of necessity, and that makes me sad.  Hopefully I'm wrong, and this is just one of your many hobbies.

However, your actions disturbed me on a different level today.  While you're going through the bins, you're letting your car idle.  Um, gas is close to $4/gallon now.  Are you really making enough money off your deposit bottles to offset the amount of money you save on gas?

I really hate to see you working so hard for a few nickels, only to put that money right back into your gas tank.  Maybe if you just park your car and walk up and down the block with a big trash bag for your collecting, you won't have to spend this extra cash so quickly.

Just a thought.

Your pal,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Packed in China

Dear Wolfson Casing Corp,

I picked up your product at our local Stop & Shop so that we'd have some fresh casing to make our Easter kielbasa.  I was pretty surprised at the price--only $5.29 for a 5 oz. package.  Just under 7 oz. cost me over $9 at a fancy butcher shop several months ago.

Initially, the sausage stuffing process was going well.  I was in charge of rinsing out the casing so that my husband could put the sausage in it.  While he waited for me to finish, he took a look at your packaging and saw something that horrified him:

Product of U.S.A.
Packed in China
Really?!  My mind is boggled.  How can shipping casing all the way to China to package it be more economical?  I mean, this is casing, packed in salt, and placed in a resealable bag (much like a package of shredded cheese).  What do the Chinese do to it that causes enough value add to warrant the environmental effects of shipping and the loss of jobs (both at your own company and at companies that supply the bags)?

I understand that if you're a global company, you want an international presence to make shipping to other countries easier, but does everything have to go through China first?  Why not have a US packing plant for the US/North American market?

Needless to say, we won't be buying your product anymore.  China doesn't have a great track record with packaged food (see: milk tainting, bean sprout tainting, pork taintingfake sweet potato flour, steamed bun scandal, etc.).  We can't fathom why a food company would willingly ship their product to a place that's not necessarily tops in food safety and fully believe it will come back OK.

Oh, I'm sure you've vetted your packagers--your website even says your plants are USDA-certified.  I'm sure not every factory in China is bad/cuts corners.  But let's face it--I've seen enough exposes of Chinese factories to see what making a cheaper product entails.  And when it comes to the food I put in my body, I like to be a little careful of where it's come from.

Next time I need casing, I'm heading back to my butcher.  The peace of mind is worth a couple extra bucks.

Your pal,

P.S. -- Do you really supply the Johnsonville Sausage Company, or are they just a "friend"?

P.P.S. -- The link to the Linx game on your site is broken.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Dear Readers,

Think I'm posting in the afternoon because I'm hung over?  Well, you'd be wrong!

I did enjoy a decent of amount of prosecco yesterday during my Easter celebrations.  Lent's now over, and I kept up my end of the bargain to not have booze during it (save the one day in Maine at the beginning of April that God and I discussed when we made our agreement).

I have to say that the last couple of weeks weren't so bad.  Sure, I wouldn't have minded a beer here and there.  Passing up a mimosa at brunch this past Saturday was also tough, but during the second half of Lent, I seemed to have turned the corner of "this is not so difficult."  That was pretty nice.  I even dropped a couple of pounds--though I don't know if that was due to not drinking, or it was due to the Boy's starting a food diary, which made me a little more conscientious about what I was putting into my mouth.

Still, I'm glad it's over.  I'm a little comforted by the fact that I now know I'm able to give up drinking if I had to, but it's much nicer to say, "Oh, I don't feel like a drink tonight," than, "I can't drink at all."  Besides, I have a list of cocktail places to hit up, so it's time to get a move on that!

Your pal,

Friday, April 22, 2011

All I Need IS Now

Dear Duran Duran,

Well, my favorite band, you've done it again.  I got the new album ("All You Need Is Now"), and it's been playing on a continuous loop all week.  I'm not even listening to my podcasts because I like the new album so much, and that's saying something.  I think the Boy might thank you, because I believe he's pretty tired of listening to Adam Carolla and Too Beautiful to Live; however, after I listen to "Meditteranea" for the third time in a row, I'm not so sure.

I'm just glad you've been able to put out another good album.  I was a little worried after "Red Carpet Massacre," which I really did not like.  Oh, I understand you wanted to try working with new people like Justin Timberlake and Timbaland and try something new with your music.  It's good to try new things and stretch yourself.  It's just that I didn't really like the final product.  Duran Duran + hip hop beats does not equal a good thing.  You're better with actual music.

Which is why I like the new album.  It's got a lot of traditional elements in it (yeah, you could say there's a callback to "Save a Prayer" in some of the music), but it also has a lot of really catchy songs that I would love to hear live.

Keep up the good work--I'm so glad you're still around as a band and keep bringing new music to my life.

Your pal,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Yearly Dilemma

Dear Readers,

Oooo, it's been a while.  I've been off in roller derby land and am just now coming down off my high.  We had a bout this past Saturday, and my team of non-skating officials did a really nice job.  We got all kinds of praise from our head ref, so I've been more than a little proud of what we accomplished.  Most of our officiating team is new this season, and they've really stepped up to become a formidable little crew.  Quite pleased, I am with them.

Anyhow, while I still have derby on the brain, I need a little advice from you.

I'd like to apply to work some of the WFTDA "Big 5" Tournaments.  These are the four regional and one championship tournament that determine who's on top in the women's flat-track roller derby world.  They're a lot of fun to work -- I did the North Central one a couple of years ago, and last year I did Eastern's and the Championship.

This year, I'd like to apply for Eastern's, North Central's (it's in Indy, so it's also an excuse to visit some friends), and the Championship.  However, North Central's lands on my wedding anniversary.  My question is, do I apply to work it?

The Boy says I may, but that gives him more fuel for the fire.  On our 2nd anniversary, he suggested ordering a pizza (it was a Monday; he'd just gotten back from a business trip).  I replied that pizza was for "special occasions."  Yep, I'm never living that one down.  Should I add another to it?

I'm not much of a romantic, and the Boy and I aren't big on celebrating other milestones.  I mean, I can calculate when we had our first date if I had to.  I could probably look up the day we met.  He sometimes has to confirm when we got married, but I don't think too much of it.  Can't we just celebrate the fact after it happens?  Wouldn't a belated anniversary be just as sweet?

A friend in Indy asked if it was an "important" anniversary.  It's not a big milestone, so she basically said to apply and come to Indy.  She's not much of a romantic either.

What do you think?

Weigh in and let me know.  The application's not due for a little while, so I have time to make a good decision.

Your pal,

Friday, April 15, 2011

Extreme Blogging (a 2 for Friday)

Dear Extreme Couponers,

I have three words of advice for you:  Pop goes bad.

The "Extreme Couponing" show on TLC portrays a bunch of people who love a bargain and get a lot of product for next to nothing.  I know you love your stockrooms full of groceries that you paid pennies for.  But seriously, if you have 40 bottles of soda*, can you drink it all before it goes bad?

In Massachusetts, there's been a little controversy about serving school lunches made with frozen food that's past its expiration and/or "use by" and/or "best by" dates.  Many of us know that "use by" and "best by" are guidelines, that this food isn't necessarily spoiled, but it may be losing its nutritional value.

That's not the case with carbonated beverages.  Ever have a two-year-old Coke?  The Boy did once one spring when my mom pulled a bottle of Olympic-labelled Coke out of her stockpile in the basement for him.  I commented that it seemed a little early in the year for the Beijing Olympic labeling to be out....and then we noticed that the bottle was from the Torino Olympics two years earlier.  The Coke tasted pretty bad and had to be dumped.

I just wanted to let you extreme couponers know that factoid.  Use up that product in your storeroom before it really goes bad.  If you waste product, did you really save money on it anyway?  If you have to throw out 20 bottles of expired BBQ sauce that cost you 50 cents a bottle (after coupons and sales), well, you've just thrown away $10.  Seems a little extreme to me.

Your pal,

[* Note to readers--Am I losing my Midwestern roots?  That should be "pop."  POP!!!]

Dear Readers,

Madgal alerted me to the new TLC show "Extreme Couponing," which of course I ended up watching--with my mouth open in shock for most of it.  It profiles some people who really really really love to use coupons -- and have piles of food and other products to show for it.  One guy has deodorant for years.  Someone else bought over two dozen bottles of Maalox (I'm guessing you need all of that because you're also using your coupons on food that's not all that great for you, so you get a little acid buildup).

That's not the only crazy thing about the show.  People spend hours and hours walking through stores, creating super-detailed shopping lists, breaking up their five-shopping-cart haul into 18 distinct transactions in order to maximize their coupons.  One couple even shopped early in the day, then called friends into the store to act like they were buying the stuff because a store coupon was limited to one-per-person (note to friends:  If you call me before 9 AM to go to a grocery store and pretend to buy food so that you can save an extra $5, you will be put on my shit list.  I don't care if said food is going to be served at a party I'm attending.  That's beyond the "above and beyond" I like to do for my friends).

Luckily, the couponing world is a bit up in arms, so it's nice to see that not everyone with a coupon insert is like this (I'm certainly not....while I do use coupons and sometimes manage to get some pretty good deals, I'm in no way a master of the game).  It's just the magic of reality TV + extreme anything = good TV.

What I would love to see is one of these families living off their massive stockpile until it's gone.  What happens when these extremists aren't allowed to go to the grocery store?  Can they survive without their habit?  This, unfortunately, probably doesn't make good TV....though it might make a good blog.  If you see a "recovering extreme couponer" blog, let me know!

Have a good weekend!
Your pal,

Monday, April 11, 2011

Drop and Give Me Ten (Pages)!

Dear Readers,

Tomorrow is D.E.A.R. Day - Drop Everything and Read Day. Celebrated on the birthday of one of my favorite kiddie lit authors Beverly Cleary, it's a day to celebrate reading...and making sure you set aside time for it.

I love reading--I love getting lost in other worlds and reading about other people--so I'm ready to celebrate by taking a chunk of the day to do just that.

I hope you decide to celebrate too--leave a comment, and let me know what book you choose to read!

Your pal,

Friday, April 8, 2011

Who Do You Know?

Dear Readers,

I'm in a bit of a bind, and I could use your help.  It's money-related, yes, but I'm not looking for PayPal donations or anything like that.  I'm looking for story ideas.

See, last year, I was profitable as a writer, which is awesome because it seems like my little writing career is going well.  However, it means that I'm paying my taxes quarterly this year, which is a rather frightening prospect.  2010 taxes + 2011 Q1 taxes + accountant fees (worth every penny) + paying for a desperately-needed new computer have pretty much wiped out both my account for setting aside my tax money and my general savings account.  I have to come up with a nice-sized chunk of change by June 30.

You might think I have a whole three months to do this, so what's the big deal?  If you're a freelancer, you know that's not a lot of time.  I have clients who pay me within a month of the work.  I have clients that pay me within a couple months of the work.  And I have clients who pay me only after I've bothered them for a year -- and then the check bounces.  It's the downside to this job.

Although it would be great to have story assignments just come to me, the system doesn't always work like that.  I need to find story ideas and pitch them until they get accepted somewhere--by a paying publication.  The pitching process can take a while too, so I need to light a little fire underneath myself and generate some work so that I can have money coming in not only next month, but six months down the road.

That's where you come in.  Even though I have a short list of story ideas, I need more.  Do you have any unusual hobbies--or even, what are your hobbies?  Own a small business that's doing something interesting?  Work for a big business that does things a little out of the norm?  Fight for a worthy (and not-well-publicized) cause? [and by that I mean, something that's story-worthy.  It's nice if you're doing the marathon to raise money for charity, but so are thousands of other people.  What makes your story unique?]

Let me know what's going on in your world - either comment, or shoot me an e-mail [jilljaracz AT yahoo DOT com], and I'll follow up with you.  I can't guarantee anything, but I certainly would appreciate the help!

Your pal,

Monday, April 4, 2011

Raising My Glass

Dear Readers,

As you may recall, I gave up booze for Lent.  Not the most brilliant decision, but I'm managing.  It helps that in what the Boy refers to as "my contract with Jesus," I gave myself an exception for April 2.  Before Lent, we'd made arrangements to see some friends in Portland, ME (where I'd be officiating a little roller derby action), and we planned to go to a brewpub or two while we were there.

It was a small fact I remembered as I made my Lenten resolution.  Hence, the exception.

Let me tell you, the drinking was fantastic.

Well, backing up a minute.  We went to two beer joints: Sea Dog Brew Pub, and the Lion's Pride, which is a big Belgian beer place.  At Sea Dog I had two beers, a blonde and a blueberry wheat.  Both were tasty.  Both were <5% ABV.  Both went straight to my head.

Food helped a little bit, and I managed to finish a Stillwater Of Love and Regret, this really tasty herby beer that I'd love to drink again.

However, by the end of the evening, I was fairly crocked over a small amount of beer, and I didn't really like that feeling.  I enjoy a beverage at the end of the day, should I feel like one.  I don't like seeing my tolerance slim down to nothing.  I don't like getting silly over nothing.  It's not fun--I feel like less of an adult when I can't manage a couple of drinks.

The good news is that I only have a few weeks left in my Lenten adventure.  Then I can resume enjoying beverages the way they should be enjoyed.  Do I think this experiment is silly?  No.  If anything, it's taught me that everything in moderation is good.  Drink too much, and you'll have to stop drinking for life.  Enjoy a little bit, and you can savor it forever.

Your pal,


Friday, April 1, 2011

What Size Picker-Upper?

Dear Bounty Paper Towels,

When you were deciding on the sizes for your paper towels, did you conduct focus groups of children to help you with this process?  I'm only asking because yesterday I stood in Target in the paper towel aisle, a little perplexed over whether I should choose:

  • The "Giant" roll multipack
  • The "Huge" roll multipack
Both are amazingly bigger than the "regular" roll (but then, I can't tell what "regular" is anymore, since finding a "regular"-sized roll in the store can sometimes be tough), but "giant" and "huge" tell me nothing about how big either of them really is. 

It took me far longer than it should have to choose my Bounty, and that was kind of frustrating.  Usually I'd think it'd be harder to figure out which brand would be better, but no.  I had to do some math and figure out what was the better deal in terms of square footage and what I was able to afford.  Then it dawned on me that I should purchase the roll that wouldn't get stuck in my paper towel holder, and that turned out to be the Giant roll.  Yep, because "huge" is bigger than "giant" in Bounty's book.  

Thanks for the frustration.

Your pal,