Category Archives: Good News

Two K-cup Waste Alternatives

Since Keurig was bought by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in 2006, the K-cup waste issue has been a long and local one. Here are two alternatives that work. Aside from, obviously, not using them at all.

Problem is, many workplaces have this as the only coffee maker. And I’m pretty sure it’s one of the most re-gifted items ever. People get one as a gift, re-wrap it, pass it on, and on and on, until it finally makes its way to someone who says, “Okay.”

First, if you’ve got a bunch of K-cups you already bought, you can cut the lids off with this little baby and recycle the plastic housings. Not perfect, because recycling is a dirty, energy-consuming process. The recycle a cup® , available all over the place, is fun to use:

recycle-a-cup

Second and better, the reusable  Solofill Cup® vastly improves the “coffee cage” that had in past incarnations brewed a terrible cup of coffee. Available all over the place. Brew on.

solo-fill

 

Sign, Sign, Another Week of Signs

p2Another week, another protest. This one against the “non-ban.” Alt-facts and the temporary lift of the “non-ban” aside, Winooski gathered for the smallest, proudest protest of the Land, held in the center of its infamous rotary. Even the sun participated.

True fact: the Burlington area is famously refugee-friendly, has been for decades. That’s Vermont for you. First in so many things, including outlawing slavery, allowing blacks and women into its (first in the nation) private military college, first state college, and of course the first rope tow. Let’s not forget: first in civil unions. Yay, ‘mont!

Here’s some more signs, mostly last-minute, with heart.

 

 

Travel and Make Art!

natalia-fave-artist-in-fabricMy close and insanely talented friend Natasha has two aws fiber arts classes she’s teaching in Europe this summer. Join us, won’t you? What could possibly be more fun?

Greece in July: http://artsandculturaltravel.com/portfolio/stitched-art-natalya-aikens-july-2-9-2017/

Switzerland in August:  http://texartacademy.com/seminar-natalya-aikens-2017-e/

Be there. Aloha.

 

 

 

On Cheering Oneself and the Bladder Diaries

foliage-closest

Fall is a time of endings. A time to bask in nostalgia and perhaps mourning. Some exceptional people have left our plane recently and it’s easier in autumn, somehow, to wallow in the loss. I go right down to bottom; I’m not a shallow diver. Anything less feels like I’m not getting the job done right.

In middle age, I try not only to navigate but enjoy life’s vicissitudes. When I’m up I know I’ll go down and – mercifully – vice versa. Our experience on earth is to be a rich one. We are not to be stuck in one mood; that would be annoying. So when Stick Season gets a tad dreary, just picture how we all recently hopped aboard the Foliage Express, cruising around in awe in a magical world of dappled, colorful light and canopied dirt roads, the sun low in a Superman-blue sky as we wondered how musicians who penned all-time great songs (Billy Joel; Phil Collins) also wrote such toads (Tell her About It, 1983; Sussudio, 1985).

foliage-mtnLiving here has mental health advantages. As an auctioneer at a fundraiser recently put it while auctioning off a dinner at someone’s home, “And their back yard is a gorgeous natural wonderland … which describes about 97% of Vermont.” True. Most of us can walk less than a mile and see a lovely slice of paradise. Of help during dark tymes.

 

lsu-gospel-choir-7498-l

LSU Gospel Choir circa 2013

And like humans everywhere, Vermonters throw feel-goodevents. Randolph’s New World Festival, Woodstock’s Lobster on the Green, the Tunbridge World’s Fair. All that dancing and eating and merrymaking, the grease of many nations, the musicians and animals and maple and historic historicness of it all … we just had that. We’ll have it again. For now, in blustery weather, why not lift your voice in song? Join a choir or chorus or hospice group. Sing in the car. Public restroom. Feed store. Do it. Cheering!

A friend sent me an article about High Functioning Anxiety. The poor person who wrote it was clearly living a life of self-loathing eased only, if cleverly, by X-treme busy-ness. No stranger to combatting distress with busy-ness myself, I felt bad for the author but had to wonder: why are so many people so miserable in modern tymes?

little-houseA Dalia Lama op-ed piece noted that modern man has more literacy, less infant mortality, less poverty and less hunger. He suggested our despair stems from people not feeling they are needed or contributing. Add to that, IMHO, the unreal images of love and careers projected on all our screens, plus Lord knows what environmental stressors. Hell, when mankind had few choices, struggling to survive pestilence and droughts, we were grateful for a meal and a bed and a set of teeth. Now, that’s not enough. The friend writes: “Laura Ingalls Wilder had a terribly hard life, but did she sit there and worry?  No, she did not!  She went and twisted hay for fuel during the Long Winter.” So what’s the answer?

little-library-from-old-phone-booth

Little Library

A trip to Bethel. Whodathunk? The renovations of its town hall andbethel-church churches, the post-Irene bridge, cozy eateries, good meats at the Central Market, the Little Library in a cleaned-up downtown, pop-up “university” Bethel U, … cheerful progress! I’ve been a fan of Bethel since 1969, because we could exchange our parents’ beer cans for fishing lures and because I hate change and it never, ever changed. But this change is good. You and Bethel: perfect together.

So once you’ve sufficiently enjoyed your dark, autumnal introspection, bask in Vermont’s boggling natural splendour, ponder fun tymes you’ve had, read Little House on the Prairie, consult the Thanksgiving Argument Generator online, daytrip to Bethel, and for God’s sake, sing. Time marches on. Before you know it you’re in your 50s keeping a bladder diary. Good warbling, and good day.

Email: uppervalleygirl@gmail.com       Twitter: @uvgvt

Be Happier and More Productive

Actual fireflyLet’s start with fireflies. These magical beetles (lightning bugs) fire up the woods with bioluminescent abdomens to attract mates or prey. It’s odd they use their glow to attract both of those things. I guess people use money for that.

In some of the 2,000+ species of fireflies, the females are flightless — an unkind world where pedestrian women bugs who can’t get a pilot’s license date flying male bugs that can just take off, lit. and fig.  Females lay eggs on or near the ground. The larvae eat slugs and snails, and as adults become either predators or nectar-guzzling vegetarians. You can’t eat them. They taste bad or, worse, poisonous. It is thought that Caravaggio used a photoluminescent powder from crushed fireflies in his photographic painting process, their powder also used back then for FX in the theater. (No PETA.)

Now I’ve seen a few glowing abdomens in my day, but not like these babies’. In the woods they’ve been going haywire. Glowing and throbbing and luring sexy dates every which way from Sunday; there should be a bumper crop of larvae next spring. And so here Tip #1 to be happy and more productive: glow, lure, frolic, multiply, and be poisonous. Fly if you can!

Wow, everything’s rutting this time of year, seems like. It’s technically productive, but causes a lot of road kill as animals race around the woods and highways with one thing on their minds. The young male moose have been kicked out of their fams by now, so (Tip #2) be careful out there. You will be less happy and productive if you drive into a giant quadruped or even a chipmunk for God’s sake.

Tip 3: Studies have proven multi-tasking to be a crock. If you’re doing 2 things simultaneously, you’re doing only one of them well — if that. My idea of multi-tasking is clipping my toenails while listening to music, or doing the dishes while the washing machine does the laundry. That’s doubly productive enough for Bonzo. As for the rest of it — texting while conversing with a “live” friend right there in front of you, driving while digging something out of the seat crack, smoking while changing a diaper: don’t do it.

Tip #4: Compound words like Brexit, the Chunnel, BritComs, brunch and linnner are effective time-savers, as are acronyms. Acronym is in fact an acronym for all characters represent one notion you MIGHTNOTSINGLYRECALL. By necessity in NYC, I invented 5MPL (5 military police? No, avenues, west to east: 5th, Madison, Park, and Lex.). Feel free to use it.

I dig acronyms, esp. the one in Silent Bob. Here’s an acronym for the iGraphics we insert in email and texting. They’re hard to find on your phone because there are so many of them. This acronym will help you locate, say, the nearly invisible “waste basket.” Categorically, from left to right they are: Favorites Emojis Bodyparts People Clothing Animals Nature Weather Food Sports Music Transpo Vistas Skylines Celestial Buildings Tech Tools Whimsy Mail School/Office Hearts Glyphs Shapes Clocks Flags. Resulting acronym: FEBPCANWFSMTVSCBTTWMS/OHGSCF. That should speed things along nicely. You’re welcome!

SCOBY sleep tonic

SCOBY DO look weird in this sleep tonic.

Numero 5: Last season’s antioxidant is this year’s pro-biotic. All the rage, Dear Reader. These li’l critters allegedly prevent everything from bloating to depression, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s via the gut-brain connection. Check out kombucha and other SCOBY-based, cold-pickled foods and vinegars. Ferment and pickle your heart out. SCOBY sure beats “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” PS SCUBA is “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.” My brother taught me that 20 years ago when my memory worked. Let’s hope SCOBY can DO my memory right. Please read online warnings about DIY kombucha, though. Just buy it on tap in Woodstock, I say.

 

jungle boogie - dialm.com#6: Move. Get up from your chair 20 times a day like we did when there was Telex, interoffice mail, lunch hours, and disco. The physical ailments we got at age 40 now show up in 30 year-olds who sit all day and night.  Lets groove tonight. It’ll save you a mint in chiropractic and Advil®.

Naturally, I close with #7: laffs. If you laughed or moved even once during this Upper Valley divertissement, you will be happier and more productive for the next five minutes. Glow, frolic, rut, monotask, abbreviate, probioticize, groove, and snicker. Pay it forward as you choose, for the happiness hog and efficiency monster in us all. Good holiday, and good day.

Ann can be reached at uppervalleygirl@gmail.com. Twitter handle: @uvgvt.

 

 

Reflections upon the Passing of a Vermont Friend

hole popsugardotcomA cherished friend left our plane recently, taking his himness with him. His passing leaves a vast hole we look into and ponder. Am I living life as richly as he? Do I spread joy like that? With whom will I now discuss the peculiar appeal of sherry? Prince was not the friend, but he’s also left a giant void.

Fact is, in your 20s and 30s you’re pretty much the same. In your 40s you begin changing. In your 50s: boom. You’re different, inside and out. I told a friend, “Suddenly we’re older than the parents of school children.” His response: “Way older.”

Earth too is rapidly changing, her creatures with it. The YPs (young people) — my lord — they’re self-assured, clever, upbeat. And TALL. Especially the girls. Like herds of longhaired gazelles. Their male panther counterparts greet each other with, “Hey bro, what’s good?” or, “Tell me what’s good.” One parent says that because the world is so screwy, they specifically request good news. I like it. I like them.

kanye awesomeluvviedotcomAs Kanye designs ugly velour tracksuits and Teletubby-like outfits and Taylor Swift’s haircut eclipses real news, I feel like an old dino. But as a Baby Boomer, I am not outnumbered. I enjoy baffling the YPs by singing, “I’m so glad we had this time together,” or the theme to Gigantor. The YPs are like, “Huh?” – a “word” my generation considers gauche, much as our parents did the word “like” as used here.

Try dropping pearls such as “the old switcheroo”; “Oh, Miss Crabtree”; “Your muffler: fix it!”; or “The agony of defeat.” These and the hook used in Vaudeville are lost on the YPs, akin to our parents’ referencing Your Show of Shows. We can’t memorize phone numbers and we know little about social media, gaming, graphics, or the actors with three names, but we remember like yesterday how every time Rob Petrie opened a closet, a snowshoe fell out.

dr evilIt’s a lot of work to avoid becoming hopelessly out of touch. My chiro’s daughter said recently, “Mom, instead, could you wear, like, leggings and boots?” So twice a week she does. When did pants become foolish? Our mothers didn’t want us to wear pants in public; now our kids don’t. Hell, we fought to wear pants. I’m wearing them. Corduroys, painters pants, cigarette pants … bring it awn. Let’s bring back knickers. Bloomers.

seniors dance viraldotusAlas, we’ll have to keep up or give up – in planned communities, retirement villages, or facilities designed for people who can’t climb stairs. Considering this is depressing. But mostly we don’t think about it. Like old jalopies, my People have seen a lot of road and have hit some motherless potholes. So we’re kind to each other. We still see each other as we were: vibrant, sexy, hilarious, relevant. Who cares how the rest of America sees us? Our People’s opinions are what matters, right?

And we’re losing our People. With them goes our inside jokes, our shared memories, who we are. So with the (still many) friends yet here, we toddle off into the future. We’ll floss our receding gums to Physical Graffiti and snort about wattles, jowls, Portosan® waiting line etiquette, air raid drills, Mystery Date, fake ID’s, and Match Game ’76 as we MacGyver our walkers. We’ll know we’ve become pathetic, but we’ll have the sun and the moon and each other. We won’t have to be 5’11”, we’ll be the right height to see each other without hurting our necks. We won’t need mirrors, we’ll have our People’s chortling visages to reflect our own. We won’t even need our minds any more; we have what a friend calls his “external brain”: the smart phone. Or whatever that device evolves into by then. Some sort of implant.

The world seems worsening with miseries, often monetary. Following, dear Reader, are causes for hope: 1. As financial experts report, the market is turbulent during presidential races; after the election, regardless of who wins, the market soars. 2. My hunch is that once the economic inequity that has plagued Earth for so long balances out some, ISIS et alia will wither from lack of interest. 3. As the races and creeds intermingle throughout the Lands, there is ever less fear of Other. The earth becomes more diverse locally, breeding a new level of understanding (the Age of Aquarius, YPs!). When we work or play with someone unlike us, we see them as a person, not a type. This, of course, if there’s any land left after the glaciers melt.

And so, in what time you have left, what do you most want to do? Of your many possible contributions, what is your best choice? What gets your groove on? What will matter in the end? Do that. If you’d like to discuss it over a glass of sherry, ring me up. I’d like that. Good day.

Departed friend, we’ll miss so your wit and empathy, wisdom and cheer. Safe travels.

uppervalleygirl@gmail.com ann.aikens.7 on Facebook. Twitter handle: at @uvgvt.

I Dare You to Watch This Only Once

Aunt Napper’s Easter Egg Tree

napper easter treeSome things are perfect. The old tymey songs you sang with your aunt in Bellows Falls, the laughs you had together doing so, and the Easter egg tree on her piano.

No room for improvement.

My Zolovka, the Artist

little hump backed horse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sister-in-law, a former costume designer for film and TV, is the craziest mad genius, what with the portraits she does of people’s homes using their own memorabilia, and how her talents are put to use at the Russian school and dance recitals. All the children of the Lands should be so lucky as to have a Natalya in the wings.

See more Russian kids’ costumes here, including those made by other parents, most if not all designed by my beloved золовка. Love the Sun and Moon executed by Marina Bagrova! Don’t miss Natalya’s stunning sketches of the costumes as they appeared in her noggin, before their worldly realization, at the end of this version. Quick, before that page changes!

Because We Work With Children

At work, it seems the kitchen is always a battleground. Not only do people steal each other’s creamer or entire lunches – even groceries – cleanliness is an issue. People leave befouled utensils and dishes in the sink as if they will magically cleanse themselves. I asked a male colleague why this occurs. He said, “Because we work with children.” He didn’t mean their physical age.

 

 

God love the women who install workplace signs like, “Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here.Do Your Dishes.” Otherwise-likeable people in offices everywhere “soak” their dishes in the only sink big enough for lactating employees to rinse their breast pumps. Once I taped up a laminated medical photo of multiplying bacteria in a wordless volley on behalf of the breast-feeders. Someone removed it (as another sign in my condo recently warned, “We don’t know who…YET!”) because, apparently, the sign-remover thought it gross. Look in the sink, pally. There’s your gross.

It’s just another terrible example of how mankind has made little progress. We’ve killed each other differently over time, from spears to boiling oil to nerve gas to WMD, but we are still murdering each other and taking each other’s stuff and many, many of us won’t pull our own weight. Not to mention the littering.

I realize there are brain health issues. Some people are just barmy. And for most of my adult life I had neither a dishwasher nor washing machine and I promise you those items make a BIG difference, and it’s one reason why many peoples of the lands hate Americans. We don’t have dysentery every Thursday or have to beat our clothes with rocks, riverside.

protourgolfcollegedotcomThey resent our easy lives, if in part only because they don’t know how crazy we are. I understand because I have struggled in my life on many occasions and I resent handsome, moneyed, model-marrying quarterbacks, golfers, and rock stars, and the models themselves who had to work even less hard. Some say, “Oh, the life of a pro golfer is extremely difficult.” Try custodial work, my good man.

My point being some people are bonkers, and some are resentful and devoid of hope; this discourages them from making an effort. I get that. But there’s a big difference between quietly begrudging the people with charmed lives, and making a disastrous mess out of the corner of the world you share with others because you’re deranged or angry.

Mercifully, there are many good people. A stranger once said to me, “Most people are good. The bad people are noisy and obvious in their destruction so it seems there is a lot of them. Really, there are only a few bad people doing all the bad things.” Repeat offenders, I guess. So I take solace in that good people are quietly stoking their woodstoves and paying their rent and raising gentle citizens and shoveling their neighbors’ driveways. There are countless individuals doing decent things you’ll never hear about. If you are feeling bad about humanity, think on that. I’ll ponder the kindly employee at my gym who washed dozens of water bottles in Lost & Found and put them out for their owners to claim. She didn’t have to wash them. She did.

elle kingAnd when you hear some great piece of music, the second you hear it your soul soars and you are in absolute awe with, “This must be some kind of genius!” and you know for certain there is a God of some sort, inherent in us, and that despite the madness and laggardly sloppiness in this cruel world there is brilliance and kindness and a dancing bird and art of all kinds. And you also know there is no possible way this is random. For every crazy or selfish maniac ruining everyone’s good time there are millions more making a good time, improving things, usually unheralded, unthanked, and unassuming.

I’m not one to candy-coat things in the present, but the past is another matter entirely. The Nostalgia Monster lives inside me, handed down from my father, I think. I’m a nostalgic, to the point of missing people, residences, jobs and situations that I didn’t actually enjoy at the time. It’s one of those species-perpetrating neurological tricks, like women forgetting the pain of childbirth –  if we remember our past fondly, we’ll want to keep going! The good news is if you were ever unkind to me, I’ve probably forgotten. I remember only the sparkly thing you said while ice skating, and I miss you for it, and there are others out there like me who bear you no grudge.

If you’re pinching lunches or littering or hurting people or assuming the world owes you something, like a big, petulant baby, for God’s sake, knock it off. In the future, we’ll like you either way. But in the present, we’ll like you a whole lot more if you’d tighten it up. It’s nice to be responsible; it’s fun to be liked. Give it a go. You’ll see. Good day.

Facebook: ann.aikens.7 … Twitter: @uvgvt.

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