Lessons From The Haunt

Both 2016 and 2017 have represented a change in season for my life. Likely, the 2017 Halloween season was my last as a full-season haunted house actor – at least for a while. As I move on to yet another new chapter, I’m amazed at how much the haunt taught me as a person.

In no particular order, I present the 10 life lessons I learned from working in a haunted house over many Halloween seasons. Hopefully, they’ll provide some amusement and a glimpse behind the scenes others might like. Continue reading Lessons From The Haunt

Lies, Damn Lies, and Marketing

Sprouts Logo

Many in the KC metro area might have noticed the press a new grocery store is getting. "Sprouts" recently opened a new store in Overland Park, right off 135th street. Reading the newspaper articles, description, and marketing, I was really excited to see this store go in. After all, Fin and I make an effort to buy local / organic produce when possible. I mean, look at their advertising materials:

Terms that might catch your eye:

  • independent
  • natural
  • farm-fresh
  • natural, organic
  • non-traditional
  • farmers market-type

Now, as this store bills itself directly as a "farmers market", it would stand to reason that they'd have local brands correct? No doubt, they'd have a heavy focus on organics? Wrong.

Sprouts largely stocks items from their own house brand. While marketing materials may indicate "grass fed" beef, or "organic", a significant amount of the produce and meat doesn't fit the advertised bill. True, they have large sections of organics. But, immediately under the HUGE stylized "Organic" and "Local" signs are conventionally grown products from your usual suspects of industrial agriculture. They DO have a large organic section, located in the middle of the store. Helpfully, every single piece of organic produce has a friendly "Organic" green sticker attached, thus advertising your concern for the environment, health, and reducing pollution. Just don't forget to throw it away… er.. recycle it before eating.

This store is located in a convenient location for me, so I wanted to check for a few key staples I'd expect at a "farmers market", namely, locally grown produce and brands. While it's possible they sold out, miss stocked, (or I flat out missed seeing them), I was unable to locate:

  • Shatto milk
  • Boulevard Beer
  • Good Natured Family Farms Meats

Really, what I saw out Sprouts was a minimal presence of local brands.

Generally, this would be my default expectation in a modern grocery store. However, the fact that Sprouts advertises itself as a "neighorhood farmers market", the dirth of local brands and farmers borders on false advertising.

If you look carefully at the advertising materials and information provided by Sprouts, its very clear that their produce is no more gauranteed "Local" than buying the exact same thing at ANY grocer in the KC Metro.

Now, if you want to locate, actual local produce, it's not hard to drive a few blocks down to Hen House, where you can find "Good Natured Family Farms" products. While Fin and I keep shopping at traditional grocers down to a minimum, we've been fairly pleased in dealing with HyVee as another alternative. They might be a big chain (about the same size as Sprouts really), but they have both local and natural foods sections. The managers are also open to suggestions on carrying new local brands or organic products.

Yes, it's possible to put your dollar behind local and sustainable produce without shopping at the newest FAD super market.

If you really want a "neighborhood farmers market" experience, visit KC Food Circle to see what's going on locally. Even in the dead of winter, there IS farmers market activity going on.

I may still stop by Sprouts for picking up random odds and ends, but its definitely not "local" food, and doesn't rise to the selection of organic and natural products as Whole Foods. Sprouts is nothing more than a new grocery chain trying to move into our area… And so far, I'm NOT impressed.

— Fate

Some Things from Around the Web

A couple of things have caught my eye in the last couple days and I wanted to share:

1.  Someone Worked Very Hard To Make That “Natural” Piece Of Lunch Meat Look Imperfect

Just goes to show you what I’ve always said:  the perception of your enjoyment in food is 50% how it looks,  30% how it smells,  and only 20% how it tastes.  Here is another good example. 

2.  KIDS BRUTALLY VANDALIZE MAN’S FAMILY HOME — BUT NOW HE’S THE ONE FACING JAIL TIME

This one just makes me crazy.  I hope it works out okay for that guy. 

3. Waldo Farmers Market

I’m glad to see more farmers markets out there that aren’t just on the weekends,  this one is on Wednesday’s.  This one is also a bonus because it’s in the parking lot of one of my favorite stores: Habitat for Humanity ReStore.   I shop there for all kinds of different things to fix up the house.

4.  Bad Seed Farmers Market

This one is open on Friday’s.   This is where I found Parker Farms,  which is where I get all our meat from,  that we don’t raise ourselves.

I’ve been sick now for almost two weeks.  It seems like I caught the flu,  then caught a head cold.   I’m assuming they are the same illness,  but it sure seems like they have been two separate things.  I’m so ready for this to be done with.  Something I’ve discovered that I do want to share: generic mucinex in NO Way compares to the brand name stuff.  The brand name stuff is SO MUCH better!  I sure won’t be buying the generic again. 

-Fin

On getting a new truck and reusing stuff

I totaled my car last week, which is a major bummer to me.  I really loved that car.  It was getting old, no bones about that, and had some issues that were going to need fixing coming up sooner rather then later, but I still loved that car.  It got amazing gas mileage and I could haul a lot of stuff around.  I got an average of 40 mpg….and it cost around $20 for me to fill the tank.

Man, oh man does owning a truck after a car like that turn into major shock at the gas pump.  I got a 2004 Ford ranger xlt.  It’s a nice truck.  Super comfortable, power everything, not too big to drive around.  I get 18mpg.  18.  Bleh. It costs me $40+ to fill it up.  I can’t even go as far on a tank of gas as I could in my car! So not happy about that.  I think I’m in for a lifestyle change about the way I drive around.

I’m having trouble with the halving of my gas mileage, using twice as much gas as I was before.   I’m not even sure if I think this truck can haul any more then my car could.  Using twice as much of a non renewable resource as I was before just does not sit right with me at all.

However…

I was able to respond to an ad on Craigslist for some weathered wood.  A lot of weathered wood.  A whole decks top of wood someone had pulled off to replace and wanted to get rid of.   Non chemically treated weathered wood as far as I can tell.

It’s not any good for a deck anymore, a lot of the ends are rotted and the screws that were left in it are rusted through.  They are mostly 2 x 6’s as far as I can tell of all various lengths mostly over 6 foot.  Most of the screws are gone and I didn’t see any nails.  The boards are solid for the most part if you’d cut off about 2-6 inches off the ends.

Absolutely perfect for my uses.

I am planning on making raised beds in my front yard to hold the dirt I dig out of my new bigger pond project.  The beds will be used to plant various garden crops this spring and in future years.  What doesn’t get used in the front yard will be used in the garden for the same purpose.

I’m got something for free that was someone else’s trash I get to put to a new purpose and it stays out of the landfill.  I got to save money by having the truck to haul it in, it would have never fit in my car at all.  I got to save new lumber from being used for this purpose, saving trees from being cut down needlessly.

Is this one thing worth the environmental hit on halving my gas mileage over all?  Not in my mind.  Not just this one thing.  I hope in the overall ownership of the truck to keep being able to do this kind of thing.  Keep offsetting my overall greater gas useage with an even bigger overall greater ability to reuse various things in my projects going forward.

Balance is an important thing in my life.  I hope to be able to achieve it with this truck.  I think so far with what I’ve done its been a net win, but I will have to be very aware of this in the future to be able to keep it that way.

-Fin

Black Friday Suggestion

If you’re going to do some shopping tomorrow, why not support locally owned businesses instead of mega-chains?

http://kansascity.about.com/od/shopping/tp/HolidayGiftsKC.htm

http://www.kckidsfun.com/2008/11/kansas-citys-toy-stores/

Eden Alley notes on Plaza

Consider stopping by the “HMS Beagle” in Parkville, MO or “Brookside Toy and Science” in Brookside.  If you’re shopping online, consider using a smaller online store, Etsy, etc…  And remember when shopping for yourself, most of these super awesome “black friday deals”, can be met and then some at local thrift stores – with the bonus of supporting various charities.

Happy Thanksgiving All!

Fate Gets A New Job


I don’t talk much about work here for a couple major reasons. First, I’m not a big fan of writing ‘blog-as-therapy’ entries. Second, my old employer forbade work-related blogging. Big companies generally try to keep their outward facing image consistent. Individuals muck that up.

Now, I’m sure all 3 of our readers will likely have noticed something of a sharp decline in the amount of entries here. I like writing, and when I started this blog, I had high hopes the experiments Fin and I were doing in our daily lives (trash reduction, used vs. new, composting, soap) would make interesting reading. We continued the experiments but I never really wrote about them. And really, the experiments continued more from Fin’s stick-to-it-ness than my efforts. For the past year or so, I’ve been fighting depression.

In early November, I stayed home sick a few days with the flu. Staying at home, I realized just how crappy “the job” making me feel. Of course, it doesn’t help when you’ve heard so much news about lay-offs and friends having difficulty finding or keeping a job. The thought comes, shouldn’t I be happy to just have a job? In my head, there’s a whole essay that answers that question. The short version is that in life it’s important to be happy with what you have, but also strive to do what you want. But then, where will you go?

“But where will you go?” is a bullshit question for fear based decision making. When asked by yourself or others, it tends to be more of an answer than a question. It’s implied that there’s not a better solution or way. You’re at the top of the world already, any other direction will be a step down. Being successful means finding where you want to be, not asking a bullshit question to not make a move.

So, I sent my resume out to a select few companies that struck my interest. I interviewed, and managed to find something new. I’m not sure how long I’ll be in this new spot, or happy there, or any other thing really. For the time being though, I’m happier than I was before. Part of that is finding something that better fits with my desired lifestyle and ideals. I’ve moved into a “Green Company” that will be helping me continue with the volunteer work I’ve been doing at local schools.

As advanced as society and tools have become, our lives have also become complicated. Health insurance, transportation, standard of living, job security, etc… etc… It almost seems to me, that as we moved away from the farms into industrialized civilization, that we introduced complexity just to make things in life seem more meaningful. As much as the tools of civilization make our lives easier, I also wonder if they simply enable us to lie to ourselves too.

Recycling and Farmers Markets

So, I called my trash company Thursday to get both my broken trash barrel replaced (the wheels are falling off and the lid is broken) and to set up recycling. Turns out recycling is $18 for three months. I was paying 10.50 for 3 months for just the trash barrel and didn’t really want to pay an extra $18 for recycling so I canceled the trash barrel and added recycling. Next project is to get a compost heap set up. I bet we have almost no actual trash after that happens. Supposedly they are going to drop off the recycling thing and pick up the trash barrel on Tuesday. We shall see considering they were supposed to replace the trash barrel like six months ago.

We went to the Farmers Community Market at Brookside and the farmers market in Overland Park. The market in Brookside is a totally organic market, the market in Overland Park is not.

Prices at the Farmers Community Market at Brookside were on par to slightly more expensive then shopping at Whole Foods. It is a pretty small farmers market, I ment to get some pictures but I forgot, I’ll have to do that next week if I remember. We had Puddin’ Head Coffee and Fate had a breakfast burrito, I had spinach and cheese quiche. I bought some tri color beans, spring mix (thats very spicy!), some tomatoes, scallions, peppers, tomotillos and a couple other things I don’t remember. I had some of the spring mix for lunch, it was very good.

The farmers market in Overland Park is a much bigger market. There was quite a few people there when we arrived around 10 am. They have a big pavillion hall type thing set up that is a permenate structure and everyone pulls up to that and sells out on tables and in some cases out of the back of trucks. You walk down an isle of vendors and basically stop at each one and get what you want from them.

There are quite a few smallish local farmers that come as well as a couple that I recognized as being resellers. Basically people that go and buy from big vendors like Sysco or American Food Service and redistribute to the public at these kinds of things. Most of The City Market is people like this if you go durning the week. I think on the weekends the actual farmers come out. That’s a market I’ve been to during the week and the prices are extremely cheap…but the produce is mostly on line with the prices from what I saw.

We got a cantelope, corn, onions, peaches, an eggplant, and I believe a few othere things at the farmers market in Overland Park. We’ll be eating very fresh this week!

–Fin