Saturday, December 30, 2006

Postcards, Postcards, Postcards

PostCrossing brings so much fun to my post office box. Yesterday I got this fabulous addition to my UNESCO World Heritage collection from a man in UK. The site, Giant's Causeway is on the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland. On the back of the postcard is a real message. Yes, a nice long, by postcard standards, message. This is becoming a rare treat on postcards. Sure, the typical brief "wish you were here" message is mostly expected on a holiday postcard from family and friends, but on postcards sent to strangers I always think there should be a bit more communication. Why bother with postage and writing if you are just going to say "here is a postcard of X," which is quite obvious from the start? Or sometimes just "this is the postcard I promised you from X forum." Yeah... and? Did you visit the place? Does the image mean something to you? What did you have for breakfast today? Something! Tell me something other than the obvious!

On the back of this postcard there is a really nice descriptive caption provided by the publishing company, but the sender used the writing space to give me so much more. Details about the folklore that resulted in these odd rock formations (two giants battling it out), a nice summary of how Britain is divided into four nations, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England. And a bit about the languages in those places. There is even a Welsh greeting, bore da (good morning), to start the message. All this makes this postcard a valuable addition to my collection. It isn't just a picture to add to the book. I have a teeny sense of the person behind the postcard, too. Communication, however small, with a stranger in another land. This is the reason I started collecting postcards so many years ago. Even if I never hear from this sender again, I have made a connection that is more than the obvious.

For many years I traded postcards on Yahoo groups. At first it was great fun because the organized swaps usually had themes and it was like a treasure hunt trying to find postcards to match the theme. The swaps would be to 5 to 20 or more people, so sometimes it would be a real challenge to get the postcards picked out, written, and mailed before the deadline. I enjoyed it, though. But, after a while, I got discouraged because people became oh so fussy about the "quality" of the postcard, the size of the postcard, the postage stamps used, the condition in which the postcard arrived (like the sender has any control over that!). The message became secondary to the image. And the messages were too often just the "this is the card for XYZ swap" and a signature. I started trading less and less, and then Yahoo really made me mad (a whole other kettle of fish), and I just abruptly dropped the groups and stopped trading for a while.

Then PostCrossing came along. I read about it at the forum on BookCrossing and joined up immediately. Random postcards to and from strangers instead of organized swaps. And with each postcard request I am sent, there is a bit of information about the recipient... their interests, likes, philosophy, history. Sometimes the information is thin, but it is rare that there isn't something. Writing postcards became interesting again. And I was receiving postcards with lots of wonderful tidbits, including what the sender had for breakfast since I ask that question in my own profile. But, lately things have been going a bit downhill.

As the PostCrossing project matures, some long-standing members seem to have lost the initial wonderment of the whole thing. I get more postcards with just "hope you enjoy this view of X," the ID number and sign-off. And when I get those sort of "messages," I am almost always correct in assuming the sender has sent 100 or more postcards. The folk who are just getting started with the project are almost always more verbose. I am not disillusioned, like with Yahoo groups, because it is still not common to get the mundane. Usually the message is fun or interesting or informative or all of that. And then I will get a card like the one pictured here, and I forget all the dull ones.

Thank you to all those who send postcards with a bit of themselves attached. You make my world more interesting and exciting.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Grrrrr... wtf!

I discover a page about Literary Landmarks at Friends of Libraries USA and got all excited because it presents me with another idea for a postcard collecting theme. But, the list is broken out into years, not as one complete list! How dumb is that!? The person who designed this page needs to get a lesson in web design. First rule... don't make me think (thank you Steve Krug).

Anyway, I plan to post more about the sites once I click through all the lists and compile them into my own complete list.

Postcard Treasure Hunt

I love postcards. I love finding, or making, postcards that fit someone's particular preferences (and the more particular, the better!). So, I joined a new swap at Swap-Bot that will send me out on a treasure hunt for 8 postcards to send to strangers around the world. You do have to join the site to play, but it is free. So join! And then sign up for postcard with a picture you want swap #2. Maybe we will end up partners... you never know who you will get.

Careerwise Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Job-related Joys Zmrzlina Is Seeking

1. A desk that I can personalize
2. Regular 9-5, M-F, work hours
3. Work at home option
4. Time off requests treated with respect
5. Enough pay that I can afford fun work clothing
6. Bus pass
7. Incentives to take advantage of the city's cultural and historic activities
8. Generous vacation time
9. A goal that is more than just making a living
10. Co-workers who love to read
11. Work that challenges my technology skills
12. Good coffee
13. A cat on-site would be the best thing of all

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gadgety Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Kitchen Gadgets Zmrzlina Loves

I'm pretty hopeless in the kitchen. I am vegetarian and I'm usually happy just stir-frying a bunch of veggies until they are merely warm, tossing in some spice and/or soy sauce, and serving over wild rice or soba noodles with a side of seasoned tofu. But, since moving to Pittsburgh I've tried to vary things and I am starting to enjoy cooking.... just a little bit. It helps that G is willing to try whatever I cook, and often does his own experimenting in the kitchen. These are some of our favorite gadgets.

1. Rev 'n Chef Herb Chopper. I use this for herbs, but also to make quick work of dicing up small bits of onions and peppers.

2. Silicone Pinch Cups. I like having everything all measured out and ready to use before I start cooking.

3. Stainless steel hanging baskets... the old fashion kind that don't seem to be in many kitchens anymore. I keep my garlic and other non-refrigerated produce in them.

4. Glass jars, on the shelf over the sink, where I store my grains. I use lots of whole grains and like to have the out so I know exactly how much I have left with just a glance. I also store my most often used spices (cumin, curry, chili, turmeric) in small glass jars on the same shelf.

5. Silicone cooking utensils. I love these. I am getting rid of all the ugly plastic ones and getting all silicone.

6. Cooking utensil holder. I have a vintage looking container on the counter to hold all my utensils. For the first 30 years of cookinghood I had them in drawers. So much easier to have them out and ready for use.

7. Nut chopper. I like chopped nuts in my salads and this little gadget is perfect to pull out and chop a few nuts. Rinses out easy and back into the drawer.

8. Pampered Chef Wine Bottle Opener. Love how the little foil cutter takes the top off so neatly. I collect those little cut off tops. And the cork remover is pretty cool, too.

9. SiliconeZone Lid. Covers my biggest pot and skillet. Very cool for letting me see what's cooking. Just have to be careful of escaping steam and hot water when lifting lid.

10. Recipe book holder. I have a plain, stainless, no-frills holder that folds up small to slip beside the cookbook rack. Cooked for 30 years without one and now I can't imagine why. So much easier to have the book, or magazine, held open and upright in front of me!

11. Perfect Tear Paper Towel Holder. Mine is a bit different than the linked one... brushed not shiny and a nicer top. I love how the towel comes off with just a one-hand tug.

12. Hershey silicone bakeware. I don't have these, but I want them. We saw them a while back, but since we don't eat sweets and I don't ever bake, I didn't buy them. But I do want them. I don't know why, I just do.

13. Lastly, a bit more than a gadget, but indispensable, my Keurig Coffee Maker. I love the perfect cup of coffee I get and I can use my own coffee in the resusable K-cup filter assembly that I bought separately.

Lately we have been finding it very hard to stay out of shops like Sur la Table. But, we don't really buy many gadgets because we have a tiny kitchen with not very much storage space. But someday....

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. WestOfMars
2. Writing Aspirations
3. zzz

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

'rents, you gotta love 'em

It ain't easy being a parent. We all know that. Kids can be mean as hell. We can be as mean as hell. And then there are the other times. Most of the time, if you are lucky (and I am). I've received two cards in the last couple days that make me think about being a parent.

The first is from a woman in Massachusetts whose daughter got one of my random postcardx postcards. The woman wrote that her daughter always loved receiving cards, and then that her daughter had died in September. I did a quick bit of research and found the obit... 33 years old, "peacefully in her sleep," the only child. The mother's husband died a while back. I don't know if she is alone now... I hope not.

And then today I got a card from parents in Pennsylvania whose daughter had posted to postcardx that she had been "causing them a lot of grief lately." I sent a pretty snowflake postcard with something simple written on it (I don't remember what) and ended by saying "Julia loves you." I am guessing that Julia does love them, because why else would she post their names and address to a public website and ask for "beautiful things" to be sent to them? Anyway, the card I got today is signed by Julia's mother and she says she has read and reread my postcard and will keep it. She ends by saying I'm "very fine." It made my day.


Every year about this time I get to wondering how to explain the sort of celebration I observe come the 25th of December. I do like to give and get presents on Christmas, but I am not christian and don't think of the holiday as a religious celebration. I like the crazy shopping. I like the wrapping. I like the decorations. I have a Christmas tree. It is purple with white lights and is decorated with snowpeople and snowflakes. But, I don't like to say I celebrate Christmas. I celebrate Giftmas.

I don't like the nasty required gift giving that may come with the holiday, those gifts to people you barely know just because you can't go empty-handed to a gathering of more than two at this time of year. I don't like buying gifts for people who expect something perfect. I don't like buying gifts for office parties. But, I do like buying gifts for family and friends. I usually have no trouble at all finding gifts I want to give. And that's how I shop for gifts. I think of what would make me happy to give a particular person and it usually results in the recipient getting something that makes them very happy. Although, I have to say, it hasn't been quite the case with G. I don't have a great track rating with giving him gifts that work, though I am getting better.

Anyway, this year, because I am unemployed, I am not observing Giftmas. Instead, my daughters and I will take a road trip next spring, out to Ohio to ride coasters and maybe to Hershey, PA, to ride coasters and eat bad chocolate. I would love to buy Greg something wonderful, but I can't. Once I am employed, there will be gifts, though. I know just what to get him, and this time I am not going to be wrong. Christmas weekend we will go to visit his parents in West Virginia. They aren't so into the holiday, so any gift giving will be limited to books and bags of good coffee. But, I did go up north, to New York, last month for a family gathering where we celebrated every end of the year birthday (there are lots) and a sort of Giftmas.

We had agreed that there were to be no gift exchanges between adults. Just the kids would get gifts. There are three boys, my nephews, ages 9, 10 and 11. I spent the $150 worth of Borders Rewards money (one good reason to quit working at Borders... I spent too much money there!) and my last monthly employee $30 gift card on the boys. They didn't get as much from me as in the past, but I find some good buys and I am sure they are happy with what they got. The rest of my family went nuts. It was a gift orgy. We did make the boys open presents one at a time, and made sure they acknowledged the gifter, but even so, it was a crazy scene, which I can't really capture with this image, but I don't like to have photos of people other than myself on my blog.

I don't really like the gift orgy thing so much. I would have preferred something a little less frantic, but I guess with three boys that young, frantic can't be avoided. I don't know what we will do next year, but I kind of hope there won't be any gifts at all. I'd rather do something like take a family holiday somewhere warm, or go to a show in the NYC and stay at a nice hotel. We can send gifts to the boys to open when they open all their other presents. When frantic happens and I am not in the room to observe it, then it really hasn't happened.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Strange Sister Cult of Tom Robbins

I have three sisters, all younger. One is 12 years younger, the other two are 3 and 4 years younger. We rarely agree on anything, but years ago we discovered a common denominator, Tom Robbins. It was a surprise to learn that my sisters enjoy his books as much as I do, although my youngest sister seems to have navigated away from the cult in recent years (well, his stuff hasn't been nearly as engaging, so maybe I can't blame her... maybe). I have an idea for a book, fiction, about four sisters who read Tom Robbins, but it is still just a rough idea of a rough idea.

Anyway, years ago I bought Tom Robbins: A Critical Companion by Catherine Hoyser and Lorena Laura Stookey because I found it used somewhere (list price is too rich for my blood!). I didn't really enjoy the analysis all that much, but it did add some detail to the books, so I mentioned it to sister #2 (the second to youngest). Joyce wanted to borrow it, but knowing Joyce, I figured I'd never get it back since she moves around lots and is quite the pack rat. So, I bought it for her... new. She was thrilled, and I figured "well, at least there are two people in the world with the book."

At this year's family gathering to celebrate every end of the year holiday and birthday (we don't "do" Christmas, but we like to have a tree, or two, and give gifts) Joyce gave sister #1 (the second to oldest) a copy of the very same book (it was bought used, but in great condition). Jeannette also got the trade paperback edition of all of Tom's books, which she has been lusting after for years. I'd rather have old beat-up hardcovers. I have a hardcover Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates that is signed by Tom, to Pete. I don't know who Pete is, but the book ended up at Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown, WV and I bought it for $6. But, Jeannette is equally thrilled to have her paperback collection, and the coveted critical companion.

It's good to know there are three people now who own the critical companion.

Maiden Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Captions from Zmrzlina's Camera

1. A Fistful of Beads To Aid Battered Women
2. Reading Legacy Trumps Hell
3. Gift Orgy
4. Quilted Love
5. Now Three People Own It
6. These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things
7. I Miss Stone Walls
8. No Smoking
9. Over the Bridge
10. Vienna in Pittsburgh
11. Is This The Little Girl I Carried
12. I Am Cat, Hear Me Roar
13. Another One Off the List!

The above are captions to the most recent 13 photos in my digital camera. I plan to go back and link each list item to its photo and perhaps a separate future post. That's the plan...

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. WestOfMars
2. Writing Aspirations

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Thursday Thirteen

I have seen this "meme" on other blogs, but never did one myself. I don't think it will become a weekly event, but I am going to give it a try this week because of a list at The Scratching Post. It may take me the rest of the day, but it will go up.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Alternative Gifts

Got someone on your gift-giving list who loves to read, but has a ton of "TBR" (to be read) piled in little mountains all over the house? Bet they would love a gift that provided a literacy instructor for teaching adults to read in Haiti. Maybe your 80 year old grandmother has enough shawls and knickknacks and would love to be part of a program in Peru that aids old women in passing their stories and wisdom to others. Give a goat to your boss. Or just donate a where help is needed most. I've bought lots of gift through Alternative Gifts International. I like that I can pick the project so I know what organization is getting the money. There isn't a barrage of mail from the AltGifts, either... just the one catalog a year. Give something different this year.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Pittsburgh Plus

Pittsburgh Plus is up. Now I just have to make sure I post to it as often as possible.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Buy A Friend A Book

When I first saw the above link on WestOfMars, I thought, "Yeah... nothing new with doing that. I do it all the time." Follow the link and discover there is a bit more to it than just buying a book. Lots of rules, though not too difficult to follow. Not sure I'll get involved since finances are thin (this starving artist thing is not fun), but I like the idea. Susan (WestOfMars author) did a contest to find a new friend for the next gifting spree. Cool idea.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Oh my goodness! I was shopping at Whole Foods today and at the checkout they had these cute little cloth bags to use for wrapping, an idea I have loved for a long time since they can be used again and again, however these come with a tracking number so you can send a gift, the receiver logs it at the site, then they use the bag to send a gift to another person, and so on. Like BookCrossing and Postcrossing. I bought one to send off to a random person through postcardx and plan to buy lots more. This will be fun!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Reminder of Things To Edit in Template

1. Must get rid of the big white space and line between date and title.
2. Must figure out how to edit link widget so I can annotate each link.
3. Must find a photo to put somewhere.
4. Would like to add the List widget with an activism theme

will add more as I think of them.

Thought of something else, but I think it will need its own blog. My wishlist/gift journal....

I get tons of catalogs because I shop almost exclusively online. All through the year I cut out the stuff in the catalogs that appeal to me (for myself or others) and paste them into a journal with annotations about why I like them, or who would like them, or why I hate them if I want to spend a bit of time ranting. Makes for a creative way to capture my thoughts. And when I want to buy a gift, I just look at the name index in the front of the journal and find the pages with stuff for that person that I've found throughout the year.

I also use a smaller journal to make notes about websites that have interesting stuff. I don't like buying from Amazon but I sometimes browse the stuff there for ideas.

And, when I do go out shopping, I go to the small indy stores in my city. Much more fun and I usually find lots of unusual gifts. That is what I think I should make a different blog about, indy shopping in Pittsburgh.

I Manifest My Bufflehead

This morning's batch of spam brought the above subject line, and made me giggle. That will be my mantra for the day. The second best subject line is "I Atlas to Centerpiece." Both spams are about (love Gmail's preview space!) "bestest" replica watches.

Also in my inbox is a newsletter from Giant Microbes announcing their newest cute germs, toxins and pests; Malaria, Lyme Disease, Red Tide, Krill, Sea Sparkle (Bioluminescence), House Fly, Mosquito, Heartworm, Mange, and Rabies. I've already got 4 Giant Microbes (Kissing Disease, Bookworm, Sleeping Sickness and Bed Bug), but I'd love to add a few more. They are quite dear decorating my bookshelves.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Just remembered my logon for this page and thought I'd get it going again.