Sunday, March 29, 2009

drab gothic

Every Wednesday evening, Carmi Levy over at Written Inc. posts a Thematic Photographic theme, and invites everyone to join in. This week's theme is...drab. If it's dimly lit, sad-looking, morose-feeling or poignantly-toned, he's hoping you'll post it to your blog. 

 After looking through my photo library I came to realize that living in a place where it's rainy, dark, cold and, well, drab for much of the year, I'm drawn to photograph images that are anything but drab.

So for the past few days, I've gone looking for drab in my everyday life, and it's not exactly in short supply around here, so I didn't have to go far.

I call this one Drab Gothic...I almost felt like I was doomed to wander the moors, calling out to my beloved.  It's actually just up the hill from my house. So, even though it looks dramatically drab enough to be Wuthering Heights, it's only March in Oregon.  

Thursday, March 26, 2009

welcome to my neighborhood

Sometimes I'm just sitting here at the computer, minding my own business, when something outside the window catches my eye. Just now, it was this:

He just got back on his bike after knocking on my neighbor's door. (The neighbor with the overgrown lawn.) Times are bad for everyone, and ya gotta admire the guy's entrepeneurial spirit.

But, Dude...put a shirt on, fer cryin' out loud!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

wednesday's word


I've been collecting pebbles and smooth stones for a long time. (I have a particular fondness for heart-shaped ones.) I love to carry them around in my pocket and hold them in my hand, turning them over and feeling their smooth, round shapes. I even write words on them, so that they become talismans of sorts. The other day, I noticed I'm not the only one who does this. 

Check out these stones over at Geninne's place. She's an amazing illustrator in Mexico whose blog is a favorite of mine. I hope she inspires you, too!

Monday, March 23, 2009

on a roll...

I seem to be on a roll with packaging issues lately. 

Dear Trader Joe, 
  We need to talk. It's about your little packaging idiosyncrasies. As in, what the heck is up with your package designers??? On the one hand, you package your recycled toilet paper in coded, recyclable plastic, and on the other hand, your cookies (your extremely addictive little cookies) are packaged in non-recyclable plastic containers. You gratuitously shrink wrap most veggies, yet your frozen fish is packaged in the smallest vacuum pack possible.  I don't get it. 

It's maddening, I tell you. Usually I can get past it, but the other day it got out of hand. I was making Irish soda bread, and grabbed for the baking powder and baking soda. I ended up having to throw out about 3 cups of flour and butter as well as the above mentioned ingredients. Why?
 Check this out:

This is the iconic baking soda package, right? Pretty much everybody copies this box, because it screams BAKING SODA. 

Just like all tissue boxes look like Kleenex brand boxes. They're icons. You don't have to promote an icon. Everyone knows what it is just by glancing at it, right?
 And this?

Baking powder comes in a small, round cardboard container, usually with a plastic lid to preserve freshness.

Like this.

And this.
So Trader Joe, I ask you: What the heck is this?!

I know. It says "BAKING SODA" right there on the label. And I myself am not exactly a packaging neophyte. I've designed packages and labels for years. In fact, I regularly read the fine print on labels to compare ingredients, nutritional analyses, and even look for who owns the damn company in case it's someone I'm boycotting at the moment.
I just can't believe I missed this.
Sigh. Happy Monday. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

signs of spring

You know it's coming. There are telltale signs:

Number one: The brilliant sun pouring in through every window illuminates dust bunnies multiplying in all the corners of the house

Number two: The buds on the trees are about to burst into bloom at any moment

Number three: Mosses glowing an unearthly shade of green coat every rock in sight

Number four: You trip over dogs basking in the sun on your lawn

Number five: Leprechauns appear in your kitchen

Number six: Spring taps you on the shoulder and says: "I'm here!"

happy spring!

Monday, March 16, 2009

low tide at proctor & gamble

Something stinks in my laundry room. Last week I wrote a post about laundry detergents after reading this post over at Bossy's place, where one of her readers suggested that manufacturers recommend amounts of detergent that are way more than is necessary to get clothes clean, and that you could save a great deal of money by reducing the amount of detergent used.
So, I wrote glowingly about Tide and how it really does a great job getting the laundry very clean, especially the stinky dog bedding and slipcovers.

This led me to notice a discrepancy on my detergent bottles:

I'm an artist, not a mathematician, but even to my right brain self this didn't add up, particularly after I'd checked that the directions on both bottles said to fill cap to line 1 , and the cap sizes were exactly the same. How could you get 12 more loads out of one 100 oz. bottle and not the other?
So I went to the Tide website and asked for an explanation. A few days later I received their initial reply:

I'm sorry we can't answer your question via email. Most of the information we're able to share with consumers is either on our brand or corporate website ( If you've already searched those sites thoroughly and still can't find what you're looking for, please call us using the toll-free number on our product packages, and we'll do whatever we can to help. We're open Monday - Friday 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM EST.

Thanks again for writing.

P&G Team

Okay, I'm not sure why Bernadette and the rest of the P&G Team couldn't answer my question via email, but I think it may be a simple tactic of presenting a little speed bump to weed out less determined consumer advocates. So, stubborn consumer that I am, I called them up.

After navigating through at least 10 speed bumps choices on the automated phone system, and listening to plugs for Tide Total Care and how Good Housekeeping proved how much money I could save by washing my valuable clothing (most of which was purchased at the Goodwill) with this amazing new product, and reminding me that I can get answers to my most frequently asked questions on the website, I was subjected to some vaguely familiar music that sounded like it was from an old musical...followed by:

"We're sorry, but we are currently experiencing a high call volume. We understand that your time is valuable, and thank you for your patience. Please continue to hold and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received."

I continued to hold, dozing off every now and then, but the familiarity of the hold music was starting to get to me. What was it? I know I've heard it before!
After about ten minutes, my call was answered in the order in which it was received.

I asked for an explanation for the difference in the totals, and the pleasant, but somewhat dense young woman on the other end of the phone tried to oblige. Her justification was that the Tide with Febreze had more ingredients than the unscented formula, and therefore you needed to use more, so you got fewer loads from the same size bottle. I didn't get it. I explained again that the cap sizes were the same, and that each bottle was 100 oz., and that it seemed to me that she was trying to tell me that in one instance, 1+1=2, but on the other hand, 1+1 could also=3.

She couldn't grasp what I was getting at, and kept repeating what she was probably reading off the customer service screen in front of her. I asked if there was someone else I could speak to about this, and she suggested I hang up and call again and I would most likely get another customer service representative. (Thereby relieving her of responsibility for this nutcase.)

Since I didn't feel confident that calling back would get me any farther, I asked if perhaps she had a number for the Marketing department. She then warned me that it would be a long distance call, but she gave me the corporate headquarters number. (In case anyone's interested, it's (513) 983-1100)

I went back down to the laundry room basement and checked the bottles again, just to make sure I had all the facts straight before I made a stink with HQ. And darned if I didn't notice something I hadn't seen before:

The cap sizes were the same, but "line 1" isn't in the same place on each cap. I checked the measurements just to be sure, and confirmed it. You have to use more of the scented formula than the unscented.

Just then it came to me...the music that I heard while I was on hold?

followed by:

I give up.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

whatever happened to global warming?

March has certainly come in like a lion this year. It's just after 1 am and I'm drinking chamomile tea trying to quiet a nasty cough...

Then I look out the window, and it's snowing again: 

Someone should tell Mother Nature enough is enough!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Price check at register 12...

Over at Bossy's Poverty Party today, they're talking about laundry detergent. It's expensive, but sometimes trying to save money on it results in dingy whites and faded colors. And dingy whites and faded colors make me feel, well, they make me feel all dingy and faded.

photo borrowed from here

One blogger suggested that you only need a fraction of the recommended amount of detergent. (Note that this tip came from a washing machine repairman who probably never does his own laundry) I've tried this, both in the interest of saving money and the environment. I was not impressed. Dingy. (Although when everything's dingy you don't always notice that it's also not clean) She also recommended using a very highly concentrated brand of detergent from Sears, and says that she's still using a box of it she bought a year ago.

This made me take a trip downstairs to the basement to peruse the labels on our detergent bottles. I used to buy whatever brand was on sale at the best price, figuring they're all pretty much the same, right? Until I bought Tide a few times on sale, and then went back to using All or Cheer or whatever was cheapest. Guess what? Yep, dingy, dingier, then after awhile, really dingy. (I love that word: D-I-N-G-Y!) So, now I buy Tide when it's on sale, and I stock up. We use the unscented, uncolored formula for all the clothes and towels and sheets because Dave thinks the regular formula makes him itch. Then we use the Febreze-infused formula to wash all the slipcovers and dog towels and bedding, because they stink. (sorry, pups - but it's true)

So here's what I noticed:

I rubbed my eyes, then looked on the back for the explanation...

Oh yeah. That really explains it.

Guess I'll be writing an email. I'll let you know what they say. In the meantime, check out Bossy's Poverty Party for a link to the Duggar Family website, where you can learn how to make 10 gallons of laundry soap for about $2...and they'll even throw in their famous Tater Tot Casserole recipe!