Appetite for Reduction

If you know me, you know that I’ve moved A LOT. By my count, I’ve received mail at 19 addresses since I moved out of my parents’ house in 1997.  Given that I’ve moved at least once a year for most of my 20s and 30s, it really is shocking the amount of stuff I have.

Over the last few months, I’ve been starting the process of downsizing in anticipation of yet another (in town) move, this time with someone with a significantly more minimalist lifestyle. I’ve identified things of value that I can sell, many of which I’ve been moving around with me for up to 10 years despite less than annual use. I’ve been setting aside books for his neighborhood’s Little Free Library, and have been mending, donating, or tossing clothes that no longer work for me. Today I gave my roommate my vintage find of 2012: several boxes of mint condition nylons from the 40s that were incredibly cheap, but could only fit me if I removed several inches of my femurs. No point in keeping pretty things in a box.

Inspired by 10 Excuses We Make To Keep Our Clutter, I’ve decided to take on my biggest challenge: nostalgia. Since moving out, I’ve hauled with me several boxes of letters, photos, and other memorabilia.  As a lifelong letter-writer and creature of extreme sentimentality, I have a hard time tossing anything of emotional value, and have never figured out a good way to decide what stays and what goes. Every so often, I’ll figure out a way to weed some of the stuff, but that doesn’t stop the flow of stuff INTO the boxes.

After recycling a few things last night, I sorted out a small shopping bag full of letters for scanning. The particularly precious letters – like those from my grandparents – will go back into storage, but many will likely be recycled. I’m not sure what my process will look like exactly, but I’ve been using that as an excuse for years, and so decided to start with the less precious items while I figure out a sustainable and durable process for the rest.

This post about Digitizing Old Letters suggests a potentially useful workflow: scanning letters into Evernote, using OCR to translate as much as possible to searchable text, and transcribing the rest. I’ve been trying to figure out how to incorporate Flickr into my process, particularly for friends who send mail art. I’m limited by what I can do on the cheap – using the scanners we make available to patrons at work – but that’s better than nothing.

I would love your advice if you’ve tackled this challenge for yourself – or if you’re a pro who digitizes and stores things for a living. And I will report back here as I figure out a process that works for me now, and for a future sentimental me who wants to revisit the correspondence of her youth.


2/3 Book Challenge: Let’s Bring Back

Vintage Slip Ad

I should have written this review much closer to finishing Let’s Bring Back – sometime in July – as I would have been able to share more delightful specifics. The book is a celebration of nostalgia, of the manners and customs of a better time.

One aspect of the book that I loved was the broad definition of ‘a better time’. In skimming the book together, Mom and I both found aspects of our childhoods – hers from the 50s, mine from the 80s. My grandma, born in 1918, could have done the same. There are remembrances of early 20th century cultural figures – and entries advocating for the return of naps. There are recipes for drinks, and bon mots such as the following list of quotes attributed to Edith Head:

  • “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.”
  • “The cardinal sin is not being badly dressed, but wearing the right thing in the wrong place.”
  • “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.”
  • “Clothes not only can make the woman; they can make her several different women.”
  • “I say sacrifice style any day for becomingness.”
It was thanks to this book that I knew exactly what a remarkable find I’d made when I found a pair of Elsa Schiaparelli stockings in a lot of six pairs for $12. And thanks to this book, I have yet another argument in support of my favorite color scheme: brown and pink and cream, the colors of Neapolitan ice cream: “Strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate side by side: This combination of pink, white, and brown should be made into the flag of some languorous, pleasure-oriented country.”


A languorous, pleasure-oriented country. I like that. Let’s bring that back as well.


This is the fourteenth of at least 15 books that I plan to read in the next year for my friend Mark’s 2/3 Challenge.

Photo by, licensed under Creative Commons

0811 Bacon Sandwiches? Yes, Please!

When we lived in Champaign,  Shane used to love to get a BLRP sandwich from Persimmon and take it, wrapped in white butcher paper, over to the Blind Pig, where he would get a good beer and sit outside enjoying what could only be a described as a fantastic lunch.  Persimmon, the grocery sibling of Bacaro, opened and closed in under two years, and we never found a suitable replacement for it or its sandwiches.

Tonight, though, we managed to put together sandwiches worth of Shane’s nostalgia for those Persimmon/Blind Pig lunches.

Sandwich med auberginecreme, rød peber og bacon
Photo by cyclonebill

No freezer excuse needed for this dinner.  Just bacon, delicious thick-cut bacon.  Oh, and a beautiful orange blossom tomato from the garden, sliced thin. A red pepper from the market, quickly roasted in the toaster oven. Toasted slices of ciabatta and good mayonnaise.  So good.

0705 An Ode to Timbits

In the late 90s and early 2000s, I was pretty obsessed with The Tea Party, a now-defunct Canadian band heavily influenced by blues, prog rock, and various flavors of world music.  They last toured the States in 1997, when I happened to catch them opening for Jimmie’s Chicken Shack at the Barrymore in Madison.  I was blown away – literally, in fact, because the bass was so intense that I had to go stand in the lobby.  It’s pretty accurate to say that for the next 3-4 years, I listened to their music almost exclusively.  I met the band in Paris in 2000 and followed them “on the list” for a couple of European dates while studying in London.  When I got back from London, I found myself in a Tea Party-free wasteland, and so made several whirlwind trips up to Canada to go to shows and meet up with fans from the Sister Awake listserv.

It was on one of those trips that I first encountered Timbits.

Breakfast of Champions

I had driven from Rockford to Sarnia, arriving just in time for the show, then met up with a bunch of SAers and continued on in the Red Car Caravan to London, where I spent the night at Lynda’s.  I was sick, and was up half the night coughing my lungs out, but somehow Lynda and her parents (who I just met that night) put up with me.  In the morning, a bunch of us made a trip to Tim’s – as ubiquitous in Canada as Starbucks is in most major metro areas here – and the native Canadians had a good time watching me figure out my money.

It’s such a funny and random memory – but as a result, I associate Tim Horton’s with these road trips to Canada and with the fun Canadians I met each time I crossed the border.  Other than this nostalgia, however,  I can’t think of a single thing that differentiates Timbits from, say, the donut holes from Dunkin Donuts, other than that Timbits come in a more interesting array of flavors.  This morning we picked up a box of 10 for road trip snacking – two Dutchies (raisin and apple), two chocolate, two honey cruller (less overwhelmingly sweet than the honey dip), and four sour cream (rich and flavorful) – and a couple of iced coffees.  Good stuff, and enough sweets to bring on a rush of nostalgia – or maybe that was just a sugar high.

0607 Buzz Bakery Love

I was going to tell you about the convenience food I had for dinner tonight after picking Shane up from the airport, but really, you don’t care about that. What you do care about it this:

Buzz Cupcake Love

This morning Shane texted me from DC to say that he was going to Buzz with Mike and Sipes, and did I want anything?  One of everything, please!  Except that would be difficult to carry for the rest of the day in DC, followed by airport security and the flight back to Detroit.  Instead I asked for my two favorite things from Buzz: their ham, cheese, and scallion scone and the Buzz cupcake (pictured above).  I’d show you the scone, but by the time Shane got home, it was a little on the flat side.  Not that I’m complaining.

The Buzz cupcake is the signature cupcake on the Buzz menu – chocolate, with espresso buttercream and a dusting of Oreo crumbs.  The cupcake is much taller than pictured, but I was too excited about this favorite treat to remember to take a picture before I started eating.  The cake is dense and crumbly – so good that I couldn’t let the crumbs that stuck to the paper go to waste.  The frosting was thicker and sweeter than I remembered, but that may have been that by the time I got to the frosting, most of the cake was gone.

Did the Buzz cupcake live up to my memories of it?  Definitely.  Am I glad that the 529 miles between our house and Buzz mean that this and other Buzz treats are sometimes foods? Mostly.  Do I still miss having Buzz in the neighborhood all the time?  Absolutely.