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Sunday, February 22, 2009

For the Love of Old Things

There are reasons to love old things ...

Some of my most precious possessions are nearly as old or older than me. Considering I am almost 50, I guess your could call them antiques or, at least, vintage.

Take my stapler, for example, made in the 1950s by Speed Products of Long Island, NY. It is heavy and clunky looking, but it is made of sturdy metal, still works, rarely jams and looks great on my bookcase next to my vintage copies of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and “The Prince and the Pauper.”

My wooden desk chair is also mid-century and has the nicks and scratches, and a worn leather seat to prove it. Even though I sometimes worry about falling through the seat, I wouldn't trade it for a brand new $1,500 Herman Miller.

The pencil-holder on my (Pottery Barn circa. 2002) desk is one that I was given at school in the 3rd grade. It twists around to convert standard measurements to the metric system. The tallboy that holds my linens is from the 1940s, and the men’s dressing chest that hides my husband’s favorite “secret compartment” dates to the 1920s. (Even my PowerMac G4 is almost 10 years old, which makes it ancient in computer years.)

Perhaps my love of old things comes from being born when my family lived in an old wooden farmhouse that was built in the 1880s. Or seeing the gentle way my gruff farmer father handled his old metal memory box containing childhood trinkets, including his first nightshirt.

Or maybe it happened later in the 1980s when I worked in an office that used 30-year old IBM electric typewriters, heavy wooden desks and office supplies from the 1950s. It was like stepping back in time every day I went to work. And, oddly, at the age of 23, I found it fascinating.

Just something about knowing that an item or building has history gives me pleasure. I love to watch the classic old Hollywood movies sometimes just to observe the period clothing, furniture and vehicles.

My current home was built in 1952, and though it is older than me it is not from my dream century. In fact, my goal is to live in a house that is at least 100 years old. But our house still has character. And the best part about the house is that it only had one primary owner for almost 50 years. A lady named Mary raised two children in the 1,100 square-foot concrete brick ranch-style home. Can you imagine raising a family in a house this size these days?

Today smaller homes are being torn down to make way for newer structures two or three times their size. Who needs a yard when you have a 1,000-square-foot family room with all the latest and greatest in electronic entertainment?

Regrettably, a piece of Middle America is being lost forever.

Since only one family occupied my home, it didn’t have to go through the renovations and opinions of many owners. It has retained its original crank windows and removable screens, all the beautiful original wood doors, thick oak hardwood floors, and solid built-in wood kitchen cabinets. We even have the original custom-fit metal window blinds -- and still get compliments on them.

It is the love of old things rich with history that draws me to places such as St. Augustine, Florida, Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. But, sadly, most of the “souvenirs” you can buy while visiting these historic landmarks are imported from Asia. How can I treasure a keepsake from a great American city when it’s not even made in America?

Even though it would be nice to be youthful again, I am proud to wear my wrinkles and be able to remember an era when things were constructed well and with pride. Quality craftsmanship, using real materials like wood and copper, created with a built-to-last mentality. People cared for their possessions and didn’t buy them as throwaways. Most things were made by hardworking Americans in small productions, not shipped in massive quantities from some foreign land.

It is hard for me to shop in stores that are stacked to the ceiling with mass-produced merchandise. Somehow that “Made In China” label just doesn’t give me pride of ownership. I worry about all those “things” clogging our landfills instead of resting in a place of distinction on someone’s mantle or bookshelf.

Where will all of those staplers made in Taiwan end up in 50 years? Not on my desk.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

California Organic Flowers

Beautiful, fresh flowers grown in the U.S.A. without toxic chemicals.

California Organic Flowers, located in Chico, CA, is owned by Marc Kessler and Julia Keener, along with their young son Tava, who started growing flowers naturally as part of their philosophy of healthy and balanced living.

“Growing our flowers organically just makes sense to us since our family lives and works on the farm every day,” Marc writes on his website. “After all we don’t want to work with or breathe toxic chemicals.”

In 2005, they launched their online flower company and went through the USDA organic program to certify their land as organic.

The couple says their main reason for starting an online organic flower store was because the only flowers they could find to buy online were grown in and shipped from South America.

“Here we were living on our beautiful flower farm brimming with a huge variety of locally grown organic flowers and all we could find online was hybrid roses,” Marc writes. “Well, we just couldn't sit back and let the demand for real field grown, fresh organic flowers go unfilled.”

Today, Marc and Julia still maintain a small, family farm, but they also employ American workers, known as the “Farm Girls” to harvest the flowers and fill orders.

To read their story and view photos of their farm, visit

Monday, February 9, 2009

No Nonsense Brand Made in USA for 35 Years

Italian Company trusts American labor to make quality products for more than a quarter-century.

The No nonsense® brand of hosiery and intimates was first introduced in 1973 by a company known as Kayser-Roth, based in Greensboro, NC. While the company is an affiliate of Golden lady, a privately owned leg wear company headquartered in Mantover, Italy, a company spokesperson says the “majority” of No nonsense® products are made in four plants in North Carolina and Tennessee and have been for more than 35 years. They also have a design studio/showroom in New York City’s fashion district.

There a several reasons I chose to profile this company, even though it is not American-owned: I like their products and have used them since the 1970s, the products are primarily made in America by American workers and are very affordable and durable. I also like the fact the company is progressive and creates products like their bamboo socks, which are made from a highly renewable resource.

But one of the main reasons I am showcasing No nonsense® is to pose the question:

If an Italian company can make quality products in America with American workers for more than 35 years, why can’t American companies do the same? Why do so many of them have to be greedy and have their products made by slave labor in other countries?

About Kayser-Roth: the company sells No nonsense® panties, bras, pantyhose, socks, sleepwear and foot comfort products. The company also produces HUE® socks, leg wear and intimate apparel, as well as Timberland Casual Socks, Calvin Klein hosiery, PrimaSport, Burlington Hosiery and Burlington Socks, and private label programs for major retailers.

Interesting fact: In 1978, the Kayser-Roth Corporation introduced the first control top pantyhose, No nonsense Control Top.

For more information visit

Take this Job and Ship it - by Senator Byron Dorgan

There are reasons U.S. manufacturing jobs are being sent to China ... and they are not good ones.

If you're not angry about America losing good manufacturing jobs to Asia and other countries, you will be after reading North Dakota Senator Byron L. Dorgan's book about the outsourcing of American jobs to sweatshops in foreign countries.

Take this Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain-Dead Politics Are Selling Out America,
published in 2006, examines how average Americans have been kicked out of their jobs, and how the United States is being cheated out of tax revenue by corporations and certain politicians, who are working together to squelch the American middle class for their own financial gain.

In the book, the distinguished Senator discusses trade surpluses, trade deficits, how U.S. manufacturing jobs are being converted to slave labor in China for 20 cents an hour, and how corporations hide their profits in phony tax havens in the Caymen Islands.

With all the warnings about protectionism and populism that are hurled at us by "conservatives," and those who are afraid to stand up to big business (or who profit from it), this book proves we must be loyal to our own country and our own products. There is nothing WRONG with buying American products.

Check out the book at your local library or buy it at your local bookstore or online. It is well worth the price of admission.