We saved for a long time

French restaurant receiptIt was going to be our great extravagant dinner to end all dinners. The atmosphere was nice. Very French cafe. Very authentic.

We had saved all year long, putting the money toward one great event. (Yes, even the kids made sacrifices.) We decided to have an elegant French dinner. Heather had been inspired by a book written by Julia Child, describing her years in Paris.

Huge disappointment. No baguette and butter as a warm-up. Ben’s entrée was the most expensive – and the worst. (I won’t even describe it.) The dessert was far less tasty than what we had at the pâtisserie just down the street from where we stayed.


Moral of the story? Don’t put all your hopes in one basket. You may be disappointed. And, be sure to read those guide books before you make a commitment.

Don’t worry, I gave them a really bad writeup on Google Places.



MyLincoln Touch adLincoln is moving forward with their technology. The on-board MyLincoln Touch system has all kinds of things that your internet-connected home computer offers: the ability to upload photos, find music, and sync your contacts.

The problem is that many of those things should only be done when you are parked. And they would all be done much easier on an iPad. The $400 cost is not much less than an iPad, and you can use an iPad in far more places than your Touch system.

Park your car, queue up the songs you want, plug your iPad or iPod into your car stereo – and then drive. You don’t need photos or contacts in your car’s computer anyhow.

If you’re in the market for a new Lincoln MKX, maybe consider a used Acura MDX or Honda Pilot for a third of the price and an iPad for each member of your family (or for several of your friends).

This ad appeared on the back cover of the September 2011 Automobile magazine.


What once held value

While we were visiting my sister and her family in Belgium, we went to the Kringwinkel in nearby Herentals. I had a great time photographing things I would have enjoyed buying. One was an old bicycle, circa 1975. It had full Campagnolo components. When it was new, this derailleur was state of the art. Alone, it then cost something like $60 or $75. The aluminum was forged and not cast… ultra-strong and ultra-light.

I didn’t think to look at what the bike’s price was. Transporting it back to America would have cost a lot. Storing it when I returned would have been a challenge. And restoring the old bike to its original glory would be about number 3,000 on my list of priorities.

But it was fun to fantasize.

If you liked this post, here are two more you’ll like: Go digital and Archive it and More Kringwinkel fun.


The Giving Tree, Redux

This is a guest post by Elizabeth Howard. Read more about her at the end.

A giving tree, by Elizabeth HowardRemember that book – The Giving Tree – we all read it, or listened to it when we were kids?  About the boy who kept taking and taking from the beautiful, old tree until all that was left was a stump?

Why are we supposed to love this book? Other than it teaches us to FEEL sad, which I suppose isn’t such an awful life lesson to learn.

A Giving Lesson

Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal more about giving, and what it takes to carve out (pardon the pun) time in each day to do something thoughtful for someone else.

I’ve been thinking about this because in the last two years, I’ve been a living, breathing sponge.

We took in four kids at our house and we needed a LOT of help. We asked and asked for it (that’s what you are supposed to do, right?) and people helped. Of course.

This is not to say I haven’t been putting out. I am a mother after all. I put out all day long, all the time, for the beautiful little needy ones that I am obliged to make full, make happy, make cookies. And most days I do end the day feeling like that generally-happy, but used-up stump.

But I think I am exhausted because I haven’t been giving ENOUGH back. I haven’t spent ENOUGH time doing those little things that take weight off the shoulders of friends, and stangers.

The not doing is what is making me tired.

So I think that Shel Silverstein didn’t quite get The Giving Tree right. It wasn’t the giving up and giving away that made the tree old, used up, and made us readers bummed.

It was knowing what the boy missed out on: not planting another tree for company, not sprinkling his friend with water, or planting the earth around her with bulbs to make her beautiful in the spring.

It’s the giving back that’s missing.

At Let­ters from a Small State, writer Eliz­a­beth Howard exam­ines how we sur­vive and occa­sion­ally thrive in Amer­ica, through the lens of our small­est details. A writer and poet liv­ing in Con­necti­cut with her new fam­ily, she works daily in her own sliv­ers of cre­ative space and time. She also took the photograph.


You pay the price

Loveland Pass hike and traffic jamHeather, Jay and I went for a hike up at Loveland Pass, Colorado, yesterday. It was wonderful. (That’s the two of them in the snow, just off the trail – yes, and only a day before August.) We were cut short by thunderstorms… It’s not nice to get hit by lightning at 12,000.’

Anyhow, though we live just 90 minutes’ drive from that beautiful spot, we paid the price on the return… stop and go traffic for about 3 hours. (The traffic was stopped enough that I actually got out of the car and stood up to take the lower photo.)

So nothing’s free.