Saturday, October 29, 2011

Times are tough all over

Just got back from the mountains of North and South Carolina, a country of beautiful vistas, gorgeous waterfalls and (at this time of the year) bright autumn leaves.  My husband and I stayed a couple of nights in Asheville, an oasis in the desert, in terms of being a bastion of progressivism in an otherwise conservative area.  It also seemed to be one of the few places with a thriving economy.  The rest of the region is horribly depressed right now, and I don't mean emotionally (although that may in fact be the case).  Another area that seemed to be doing all right for itself was Cherokee, located in the Cherokee Indian Reservation. I only say that because my memories of Cherokee date from nearly twenty years ago when we lived in Charlotte.  The only word that comes to mind when I think about the town back then is "crummy".  The town is still crummy, but maybe not as much as it was.  It's still littered with more moccasin stores than you can shake a stick at, although we did see one old guy, dressed in full Cherokee garb, apparently doing just that.  I was tempted to walk into one of the stores to see if the moccasins were bearing a "made in china" tag.  At any rate, the town has now been transformed by the presence of a huge hotel and casino complex that has actually brought in a number of other newer hotel chains to provide an alternative to the 1950's style motel courts that still seem to struggle on (one of these even offered "wi-fi" on a cardboard sign taped to the office window).  The casino and adjoining hotel were packed, by the way.  Still not much to choose from in the way of restaurants, however. Heading south of of Cherokee, the signs for "Hillbilly Bob's Flea Market" seemed to indicate the only commercial activity for miles - and when we finally passed it, it appeared to be shuttered and closed, perhaps for the season.  The towns of Highlands and Cashiers were posh spots, akin to Aspen or Jackson Hole, and they were bustling - proving that even in a tough economy the wealthy have to have a place to go.  Heading down into South Carolina, the road into Greenville provided perhaps the most depressing stretch of highway in the area.  Mile after mile of shuttered businesses and house trailers, with thrift shops and auto repair shops being about only signs of commerce. All in all, if you're looking to invest in a vacation home in the mountains of NC, I would highly recommend that you do so now - prices are low compared to several years ago, and I would suspect that the sellers would be willing to cut you a deal.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'm Mad as Hell and I'm Not Going to Take it Any More

I'm not thrilled about Occupy Wall Street, and it's not that I don't sympathize with the 99%  - after all, I am part of the 99%.  To me this movement represents the utter failure of our political and economic system, and in that respect it's not a good thing.  This is a "mad as hell" moment for America.  I've been waiting for such a moment for over 30 years, ever since this:




Now that it's here, I wish I could sit back and savor it.  I wish I felt like participating. Instead I just feel jaded and cynical.  This probably has a lot to do with my age, because I'm getting to the point where hardly anything has the capacity to either shock or inspire, but instead goes into a big bucket called called "miscellaneous bullshit". But I really do want to have some hope for our country, desperately, in fact. So, before tossing the OWS movement into the miscellaneous bullshit container, I am going to take a wait-and-see approach. This is my opinion, for what it's worth: to all those who are looking for some sort of coherent, effective political movement to arise from this, don't hold your breath.  The most that we can hope for is that the folks in congress get the drift of which way the wind is blowing and take some positive action.  Let's consult the Magic 8 Ball to see what it has to say about this.  Hmmm...."Don't count on it."  There you have it, straight from the Magic Orb.  I, on the other hand, in spite of the logic of the 8 Ball, would like to hope that some hearts and minds may be changed.   I guess I'm not so old that I've lost hope, however jaded I may be.

Friday, September 30, 2011

suppose we all start talking like this


This is a scene from the great film noir classic Double Indemnity, screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler. 


I gotta say, I love this witty repartee.  Now let's get real - I would bet a paycheck (right now that equals about zero, but nevertheless...) that people never talked like this, even back in those noir days of the late 40's/early 50's.  Clever dialog like this just doesn't happen in real life.  But wouldn't it be great if it did?

One Toke Over the Line - Part 2

A friend forwarded to me a photo of this delightful Hillbilly High Rise - I would live there myself if I could:


Thursday, September 29, 2011

One Toke Over the Line

I am a real estate junkie.  I find myself poring over the real estate websites, checking out this house and that, imagining myself buying this property or that, driving through neighborhoods, blah blah blah.  You get the picture.  Every so often I notice a house that just stands out to me, not for beauty or charm, but for the sheer audacity of the homeowner to go where no man has gone before.  I am sure everyone has such a house in mind.  One of those spots on the block where you do a second take as you drive past, thinking "What the hell were they smoking?"  I would like to dedicate this post to a couple of those spots.  These houses bring a smile to my face every time I drive past them.  In fact, I have been known to drive out of my way from time to time, just to have a look.  I would like to throw these houses into contention for the "One Toke Over The Line" awards for 2011, homes that seem to have been inspired by or influenced by excess consumption of weed (or stronger hallucinogens, in some cases).  To protect the innocent I will refrain from giving the location of these homes, although 1 or 2 of them may be immediately recognizable.

This first house is one that I feel a personal connection to, since it is in my neighborhood.  This is a landscaping project run amok in a very small front yard.  The project, if you can believe it, started out as a putting green.  Yes, the homeowner started out sanding his front lawn and planting it with lovely golf course quality grass.  That wasn't enough for him.  He then widened his driveway by placing paving stones in a checkerboard fashion, with sand in between.  He then created a lovely glass brick mailbox that at one time had a small gargoyle perched atop it and was lit from within.  The next project, if memory serves, was to plant the area between the sidewalk and the street with crape myrtles and a myriad of other plants.  I do not remember at what point the pond appeared, but yes, one year the putting green disappeared, only to be replaced by a fish pond.  Then the guy built a deck on the front of his house so that he could sit out in the evenings and listen to the bullfrogs in his fish pond.  The natural landscaping and ornamentation have grown over the years, and this is what it all looks like now:

My only regret is that he has never invited me over for a few brewskis and a game of pool.

The next house I must mention is one I used to drive by on my way to work every morning.  I am sure that this house started out as a simple suburban box house, but my oh my, how it has grown.  I can't look at it without having to stifle an involuntary "Oh, my GAWD!"  But isn't it wonderful?  Seriously, what was this guy thinking?

I apologize for the blue tone of the photo, not sure what I did to make that happen.  Look at the teentsy little doors on this place, totally out of scale to the overall structure.  And what's going on with that gigantic diagonal awning over the front door?  For that matter what's going on with that huge, shingled, perpendicular roof thingy?  Or the roof over the carport?  I'll bet that guy in my neighborhood would be glad to show these folks how to install a fishpond in their own front yard, it seems to be just the thing needed to really push the edge of the envelope here.

My last contribution is just something to make you smile, and it happens to be right down the street from the last house we looked at.  I remember when this statue was first placed in the lawn.  Another addition completely out of proportion to the home.  Week after week I drove by the house, wondering what was that large package sitting under wraps in the driveway, while a rather large pedestal was being built.  Imagine my pleased astonishment when at last the wraps were removed to unveil this:


Yes, BY GOD, a laughing buddha!!!!  I had to take the picture from the backside, because I wanted to give an idea of the scale of this enormous thing, but had to include a picture of this jolly rancher's face, hence the inset. 

I do have another candidate or two in mind, but I would really like to get input on this.  Does anybody out there have a really wacky home to share?
 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

kitchen disasters i have known

I don't throw dinner parties, but I envy those who do.  To be able to throw together a wonderful meal and then to come to the table looking as cool as Martha Stewart is a skill I will never acquire.  I can cook.  And I can talk.  And I can drink.  And I can even execute a plan.  But doing all at once is beyond my reach. On the rare occasions that I actually do prepare a meal, it ain't pretty.  After spending a whole day cooking I usually come to the table bedraggled, hair dripping with sweat, foodstains on my shirt, redfaced, barefoot, and wearing the same clothes I threw on when I rolled out of bed in the morning.  At least that describes my Thanksgiving feasts.  The food is usually good, but it's winning ugly.

Despite the appearance of slaving in a kitchen, I must confess to being a lazy cook, much given to shortcuts. And there have been disasters, usually stemming from shortcuts that backfired.  On one occasion I got the brainy idea to dry out a dish towel in the oven.  Makes sense, huh?  If 90 or 100 degree heat can dry clothes in 40 or 45 minutes, then 350 degree heat should dry a dish towel in - what, maybe 10 minutes?  I don't recall how many minutes it was before smoke started pouring from around the oven door, but it was something less than 10.  I did manage to salvage the dish towel, although it did have singe marks on it after that. (By the way, just in case you're wondering, it is also not a good idea to try to dry something by placing it over a light bulb.)  Perhaps one of the more memorable kitchen disasters was the time I tried to make she-crab soup.  This was Christmas Eve, our first Christmas Eve by ourselves after we moved to North Carolina.  This low country favorite requires, of course, SHE crabs (no, it was not named after me, these actually are female crabs), heavy cream, and  a double boiler.  I did not own a double boiler.  But, being the resourceful cook that I am, I did not let that stop me.  My idea was to take my Dutch Oven and nest it inside my stock pan.  They were both the same make, I figured, so they nested perfectly.  Well, almost perfectly - they were actually pretty close to the same size.  It did not take very long for me to realize that I had made a mistake.  I don't recall what exactly tipped me off.  All I know is that for whatever reason I decided my plan was not going to work, so I took the soup off the heat and transferred it to another pan.  That was when I recognized that I had a problem. I could not get the two pots unstuck from each other. I had not anticipated that the heating and cooling process would create an almost airtight bond betwen the two pieces of metal.  I tried running hot water over the outside pan.  Didn't work.  I ran cold water over the inside pan.  Didn't work.  By then I was getting frustrated, and was panicking, because these were my only two pots, and they were damned expensive, and I would be damned if I was going to have to throw them out.  I jacked around with it for a while, growing increasingly angry at my failure to separate the two.  My husband wisely stayed out of the kitchen.  Finally I did the only thing I could think of.  I hauled out the tool box and pulled out a hammer and a screwdriver.  I took the tools and the conjoined pots outside on the patio. I tried to insert the screwdriver into the ever-so-tiny crack between the two pots, and used the hammer, like Michaelangelo sculpting David, to drive that son of a bitch down into the crack.  By this time I was swearing a blue streak, and sweat was dripping from every pore, in spite of the near freezing temperatures.  After about 15 minutes I realized I was fighting a losing battle, so I decided that the show must go on, and left my project on the porch and went in to finish preparing the meal.  Dinner was  a grim affair.  The she-crab soup was only so-so, and I was sure it was because I did not have a double boiler.  Or maybe because I had only used regular crabs instead of she crabs.  At any rate, it was not worth the trouble. Afterwards, I returned to the patio.  I had an appointment with destiny.  After a half hour's struggle, I emerged victorious.  My dutch oven was sporting a few groove marks down its side where the screw driver had been driven, and my stock pot was no longer quite circular, but both were still functional.  Of course, our Christmas Eve was shot all to hell.  Later that night I completed the festivities by yelling at my family for failure to participate in a sing along.  By that time my demeanor was somewhere between Jimmy Stewart at his meltdown stage in It's a Wonderful Life and Jack Nicholson at his wacky best in The Shining.  Fortunately, we all were able to laugh about it. Later.

conversations from real life

mom (to daughter):  hey, were you eating anything in your room yesterday?
dau:  no, not that I can think of.
mom: oh, because something smells like food down there.
dau:  yeah?
mom:  yeah, it kinda smells like rotting fruit.  Can't you smell it?  It's all over the house down there.
dau: Oh yeah, that's (insert name of friend)'s shoes.  They really stink, don't they?  He needs to get some new ones.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 and all that other stuff

To anyone who wants to roll themselves up in the flag and moan about 9/11 please stop reading this right now, because I am going to offend you.  I am going to say right here and now that I am not ready to memorialize that date.  Far  from it.  I would like to forget that date.  I would like to rub it out of  my mind as if it never happened. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have been in the WTC or the Pentagon or on any of the hijacked planes on that day. Nor can I imagine what it would have been like to be a first responder.  Nor can I imagine what it would have been like to have lost a loved one on that day.  Furthermore, I do not want to know.  I do not ever want to experience anything remotely similar to what any of those folks experienced.  I would like to hope that nothing like that ever happens again to anybody anywhere, but I know that it will, because that is the nature of things.  Terrorism against against just plain folks existed for years and years before we Americans were introduced to it up close and personal.  Before 9/11 it was always something that happened to "those people", you know, those poor unfortunates who live in those poorly run countries "over there", thank God, not to US. But 9/11 put an end to that, didn't it?  Yep, that nasty shit can happen right here under our noses, to Americans, just like you and me.  We are not special. We can no longer feel secure in our daily lives.  We can no longer feel that it can't happen here.  To me, that was the lesson of 9/11, and I wish I could forget it. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

THE HELP

I saw that movie The Help last night.  I enjoyed it.  I had read the book, and it opened my eyes to an alien culture.  The culture I am talking about is the white Southern culture that says that there are certain things that white Southern ladies just don't do, such as laundry, ironing, grocery shopping, vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing floors, changing diapers, cooking and washing dishes.  This culture is alien to me, because in my clan, we are do-it-yourselfers.  The very thought of hiring someone to do something for you was alien to my parents, and I am sure they would have been scandalized to learn that for many years I had a cleaning service come in and "clean" my house a couple of times a month.  (Eh, so what.  I worked.  I figured  if I had to work for a living I'd be damned if I was going to spend my weekends cleaning.  I stand by that decision.)

When my family moved to South Florida back in the 60's, my mother got a job working for a widow who ran an insurance agency out of her home.  Mrs. Moore was her name, and yes, my mother had to address her as "Mrs. Moore." Being a typical Southern lady, there were certain "things" Mrs. Moore would not do. One afternoon my mother came home shocked at the fact that Mrs. Moore would not change a burned out light bulb. She had to call "her man" to do the work, some black man whom she had hired to do odd jobs around the house.  Of course, this entailed waiting a day or so.  Mom was beside herself. "It's CHANGING A LIGHTBULB, for crying out loud!"  We all hooted in derision.

There is a definite racial component to domestic servitude in the South that does not exist in other parts of the country.  In the South I cannot imagine that a white person would ever have been a domestic servant.  I have actually asked one or two people that question:  have you ever heard of a white woman being a servant in someone's house?  And the answer was always a puzzled "No." Of course not.  The job of the maid was the domain of black women.   And in fact, I would wager that no self-respecting white woman would have lowered herself to such a job, no matter how desperate her economic circumstances.  I actually had a great aunt who was a live-in domestic servant in the home of a family in St. Louis.  She was unmarried and domestic service was her career.  No shame attached to it, it was a living. I doubt that would have happened in the South.  Had she been a Southern lady, she would have stayed home with her parents doing nothing, I suppose.

I guess what I am saying by all of this is that the whole culture of servitude in the South is beyond my comprehension.  I respect the role of black women in the culture, and I can relate to it:  women working to support their families. What really puzzles me is the role of white women:  what the hell was it???  Breeder? Ornament? How many of these white Southern ladies went crazy from boredom? Seems to me that the culture of servitude is dying, if not already dead, and I think that's a good thing. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

FISH

I actually do like fish, in spite of my mother's best efforts.  Throughout childhood the only fish "dish" I ever enjoyed was fishsticks, and I use the word "enjoy" very loosely.  It would be more correct to say that I tolerated fishsticks.  My first memory of fish is unpleasant.  My mother had served some unidentifiable white fish that was full of bones.  I remember her admonishment to us kids as we sat at the dinner table:  "Now this fish has bones in it, so make sure you chew it very carefully and spit out all the bones.  If you swallow one, you could DIE."  Nothing can take the fun out of fish more than the thought of one false swallow and you're dead.  I chewed my fish very carefully.  I chewed it until it became a paper-like paste in my mouth.  I carefully removed every tiny bone and placed it in a little pile on my plate. And then, finally, I swallowed it - little by little, just to make sure I hadn't missed any bones the first time around.  It took me ten minutes to finish the tiny piece of fish on my plate. Uncharacteristically, I did not request seconds.  My conclusion from that experience was this: fish are too much work.  Oh, and by the way, they taste like paper.

Another memorable dish my  mother used to serve was salmon patties.  This is a dish that has mercifully fallen by the wayside over the years.  She served these salmon patties with a Heinz product called "Chili Sauce".   As I recall, it was very much like ketchup, only lumpier.  I have no idea how she created these salmon patties, but I assume she purchased canned salmon and added a mixture of milk, eggs and breadcrumbs.  What was particularly loathsome about the patties was the strange tubular bones in the salmon.  I was assured by my mother that these were "OK to eat", but I did not want to eat them.  They had a crunchy texture to them, and although they did  not kill me, they did not make for a very pleasant dining experience.

The first time I had a fish or seafood dish I really enjoyed was on one particularly memorable Easter Sunday.  In our family we had a tradition on Easter.  After church we would go out to eat.  Sometimes the restaurants would be fairly close by, but other times we would take a drive to a restaurant.  This particular Easter we drove down to Key Largo (we were living in Broward County at the time).  We pulled into the parking lot of one of those typical seafood restaurants, with weathered wood siding and pelicans on the pier.  (I could never resist the opportunity to quote poetry, and upon viewing the pelicans I launched into one of my favorite limericks:  "Behold the lowly pelican, his beak can hold more than his belly can.") Upon being ushered into the fine dining room, complete with white tablecloths, red glass candleholders, and various fishnets hanging from the walls, we were all handed large menus containing a multitude of seafood selections.  I read the menu carefully, and read it again.  My eyes lingered on an exotic dish called "shrimp creole".  The price did not seem too exorbitant, so when the waiter came to take our order, I ordered it with confidence, casting a sidelong glance at my parents' faces to make sure I wasn't going too far overboard.  Neither raised an eyebrow.  The dish was served to me in an oblong metal dish, still bubbling from the oven.  Hot pink shrimp were swimming in a rich garlicky, tomatoey broth, with bits of onion and celery floating about for good measure, and the whole concoction was served over a bed of lovely white rice. I had never tasted anything so delicious.  That day marked the dawn of a new era in my life.  I suddenly realized that perhaps there was more to this whole seafood thing than I had ever imagined.  I also realized that if I wanted to explore the finer aspects of fish or seafood that I would have to range beyond my mother's kitchen. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summertime

I can't think of summertime without thinking of swimming, and I can't think about swimming without remembering the first swimming pool I ever went to, Turner's in Belleville, Ill.  I remember the dressing room at Turner's, smelling strongly of chlorine, jam packed with mothers and their children, the mothers trying to squeeze their daughters into those unforgiving cottom swimsuits, and the daughters squirming with anticipation.  (As I recall, it was even more difficult to remove the swimsuits when wet.  It was a process that required the utmost patience and skill, with the suit acting like a chinese handcuff, squeezing your body harder the more you tugged to remove it.) Inside the dressing room was a cacaphony of conversations punctuated by the sounds coming in from outside - the slap of a diving board, the splashing of water, the chorus of children's shouts and laughter. I was never happy about the floor at Turner's.  It was wet and littered with bobby pins, used band-aids, and sopping lumps of toilet paper.  I cringed at having to walk across it barefoot (even as a young child, I was very fastidious about certain things).  But that was a small price to pay for the sheer pleasure of what awaited beyond that gauntlet. There was nothing about the pool I didn't like.  Just being in the water was heaven to me, even when I got splashed by the big kids and got a noseful of pool water.

Today the building that was Turner's is on the Top 10 list of endangered historic structures in the State of Illinois.  The two links below state that the structure was built in 1923, and that the name "Turner's" was actually an anglicized version of "Turnverein", a German gym and social center that at one time was one of the largest of its kind in the country. The building was designed by an associate of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and is architecturally significant for its Art Deco style.  I have absolutely no recollection of the building displayed in any of the pictures; I believe the outdoor pool was behind the main structure and on a lower level. The memories that I do have, however, are some of the fondest memories of my early childhood. They speak to me of summertime and endless days and happiness.     

http://bellevilleartsandculture.org/turner-hall-project/turner-histor/
http://preservationresearch.com/2011/04/belleville-turner-hall-makes-illinois-statewide-endangered-list/

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Accounting Humor - Oxymoron?

Accountants don't get credit for having much personality at all, let alone a sense of humor.  A quick google search of accounting humor will yield such gems as, "Have you heard the one about the interesting accountant? We haven't either." Having worked as an accountant for many years, I have met quite a few accountants, and I have to admit that as a group we do not stray far from the stereotype. But every so often I will run into a square peg, someone who just wandered into the field of accounting and never wandered out.  It is among this group that one is most likely to find the quirky eccentric who will send an e-mail out to the Director of Accounting in January announcing that he is unavailable for auditors until March 15. That sort of dry humor is what I would consider the best of "accountant humor."   Comedian Bob Newhart actually did time as an accountant briefly before ditching his job for the life of a standup comic.  Newhart's deadpan delivery was the epitome of accountant humor.  My father was an accountant, and he was a big fan of Newhart. He listened to The Button Down Mind Strikes Back over and over again.  In one of the monologues on this album, Newhart stated that the reason he was unsuccessful as an accountant was that he just couldn't get upset about small discrepancies.  As I remember it, he said that his accounts were more or less accurate, "give or take a thousand."  This joke never failed to crack Dad up.  

Beyond the deadpan sarcasm, some accountants share a type of geeky humor that can eke a laugh from even the dullest moments. Unfortunately, this brand of "humor" is an acquired taste that most folks never acquire.  Here's an example.  Back in the early 80's I used to work with an old accountant named Owen.  He was a quiet, bald little guy who sat in his office and spent hours recording and analyzing production costs with pencil, adding machine, and a pad of greenbar.  One day as I was walking past his office he called out to me eagerly, "Hey, come in here, I want to show you something."  He proceeded to show me how two different numbers from two different sources were coincidentally EXACTLY THE SAME.  After revealing the miracle, he looked at me expectantly for some sort of appreciative exclamation on my part ("WOW!!!"), after which he exploded into a fit of giggles.  "You don't see THAT very often," he declared gleefully.  Which brings to mind another quip about accountants.  How does an accountant liven up a party?  By leaving.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pancakes for Breakfast

I have a prodigious appetite, or at any rate, I used to have one. As a child I learned early that in order to get second helpings, I needed to wolf down my first helpings very quickly. There were very few foods I disliked, but even those, I ate - just not with as much gusto.  My mother always used to warn me that I would become fat, but I was willing to take the risk. Being the austere person she was, my mother rarely kept sweets around the house.  She would go grocery shopping on Friday nights, while the rest of the family watched the Flintstones, and would usually come back with a package of Fig Newtons (my Dad's favorite) or Windmill Cookies among the groceries.  This was our allotment of sweets for the week. The rest of us did what any sweet-deprived group of people would do - we descended upon the cookies like locusts, and by the time the groceries were put away, the cookies were gone. The one exception to our spartan routine was when my mother would make pancakes for breakfast. She would fry up batch upon batch of pancakes until we could eat no more.  I was usually good for 2 or 3 helpings, slathered in butter and drenched in syrup.  I preferred my pancakes looking like islands in a sea of syrup.   My brother was also a great pancake lover. My sister never got into the spirit of the thing, but she married a pancake lover. I remember one particular morning that marked my family's apex of pancake gluttony. It was after we were all adults, on one of those rare occasions when the entire family was gathered together. We were all seated around the table as my mom fired up the griddle. The griddle was an industrial-sized monstrosity that plugged into the stove and actually covered one half of the stove's surface. Mom brought the pancakes to the table as they came off the grill , initially parceling them out to each of us.  My sister was the first to drop out after only one serving.  My husband and father dropped out after a couple of servings, but the three of us remaining had just hit our stride.  My brother, brother-in-law and I devoured batch after batch of pancakes, piping hot off the grill.  At one point Mom had to stop and make more batter. I don't remember which of us ate the most, but I can say this: I have never put away that many pancakes before or since, and I am pretty sure that it was a record for my brother and brother-in-law as well. My husband talks about it to this day.  It was truly epic. These days I subsist on low calorie foods.  I don't allow myself too many splurges.  But every so often I will order pancakes for breakfast. It's one of the things that makes life worth living.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Waste Not Want Not

As I have mentioned, I am a Midwesterner at heart.  My mother came from a long line of German farmers - a frugal, no-nonsense bunch of people if ever there was one.  Which is not to say they didn't enjoy their fun.  A weekend down on the farm getting drunk with the boys, followed by a boisterous round of fisticuffs, was one of my grandfather's favorite pastimes. But for the most part these folks were all business.  The concept of waste was alien to them.  In fact, if had they written their own Ten Commandments, the first one would have been "Thou shalt not waste."  (What the remaining nine would have been is a topic for another day.) 
My mother took this commandment to heart.  She was legendary for not letting anything go to waste. In fact, she was a recycler long before it became fashionable.  Her brand of recycling did not involve letting someone else recycle her cast off items, however; to Mom recycling meant that before she would allow anything to be thrown in the trash, she would carefully consider whether or not it could be put to some other purpose - and usually it could.  Whether it was margerine containers, milk jugs, coat hangers, stockings, diapers, t-shirts, buttons, or even those styrofoam trays that meat gets packaged with, she would find another use for it.  Margerine containers were handy for leftovers. Gallon milk jugs were cut in half and the bottom half was perforated with an ice pick so that she could drain her garbage before throwing it away (in the days of paper trash bags, it would never do to have wet coffee grounds soak through the trash bag). T-shirts were great for buffing rags for polishing shoes (or polishing the car).  Speaking of leftovers, no quantity of food was too small to put back into the fridge for another day.  One never knew when one might be just a little bit hungry for last night's leftover corn. But when heating such a small quantity, it seemed pointless to dirty a big old pan, so Mom confiscated the frying pan from my toy cookware set.  She used it for years.  It would be surprising if none of this frugality had rubbed off on me.  I do in fact save margerine containers, jars, plastic grocery sacks, paper grocery sacks, and even those little blue plastic bags that the newspaper comes in (they're great for picking up cat or dog poo).  The other night my husband actually threw away an empty spaghetti sauce jar, and it distressed me, even though I knew the reason he had done so was because there was no room for it under the sink in my jar cabinet. I remember once I was having an argument with my mother-in-law.  I don't remember exactly what it was about, but her parting shot was, "At least I don't save margerine containers." That was one of those moments in life when one is forced to see oneself from another's point of view.  I realized then that something I considered as natural as breathing might actually be considered quirky or eccentric to someone else.  The realization did not change my behavior, but it gave me a fond sense of kinship with my mother.  I may be a bit eccentric, but I come by it honestly.