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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Oh Target, you fickle fiend.

If you’ve never heard of The Five Love Languages (and no, I am not talking about the Romance Languages) then stop!
Go take this quiz and read up on the love languages here.
If you are too lazy to take the quiz, then I’ll quickly sum it up for you. This great book explains that people have specific ways in which they prefer to give and receive love. The five primary means we show our love for others include: words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, quality time and, my personal favorite, gifts.
It’s important to know which love language is your language of choice because it can really improve your relationship. For example, if your husband shows his love through acts of service and you show your love through giving gifts, he may be changing your oil and washing your car but you are not feeling loved because he never brings you flowers. Conversely, he is not feeling loved because you may be showering him with gifts but all he really wants is a simple act of service, such as making his favorite dinner.
I grew up in a home where gift giving is a very big deal. We give (and receive) gifts on nearly every holiday. St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Nick’s Day[1]... to name some of the less conventional holidays we celebrate via gifts.
So what does this all mean? It means I should not be allowed to go into Target during the holiday season.  That place draws me in like a moth to a heat lamp.
You walk in and immediately you are greeted by the cheap-o section.  If you are like me, you take a preliminary sweep and wind up with host of things you don’t actually need with a one-week warranty in your cart. Stickers for your nieces, treats for your dog, socks for  your sisters, and some flimsy plastic bowls for your holiday party.
Stocking stuffers -check!
Next you pass the accessory area, a dangerous area for anyone with an X and a Y chromosome. You grab a scarf for your mother-in-law, a wallet for your coworker and some new gloves for yourself.
Heaven help you if you get anywhere near the Christmas section. A mini Christmas tree that plugs into a USB port!? An ornament of a duck playing hockey?! The PERFECT gifts for so-and-so.
Finally you make your way to the check-out counter where you find some great DVDs for $5... another great stocking stuffer!
Just before you put your items on the conveyer belt, you are seized by panic...
Must eliminate a few items from this cart! Should I get rid of this doggy santa coat? No... Bosco would look too cute in this coat to pass this up! Should I get rid of these light up earrings? No... If I do then I’ll have five gifts for Bonnie and only four for Katrina...
In exasperation you ditch the eggs and milk and wait for the cashier to give you the total. 
$127 dollars later you load up your car with a bunch of junk you didn’t plan on purchasing. As you climb back into the driver’s seat you see the crumpled up shopping list you forgot to bring in with you- there, you see the following:
·         Toothpaste
·         Dish soap

At least I know I’m not alone... someone is going home with those faux fur coats and denim rompers, and something tells me they probably aren’t that happy about their purchases either.
Oh Target, you fickle fiend.  

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[1] If you just asked yourself, “what the heck is St. Nick’s Day?!” Then here is your answer: it is a holiday celebrated in regions of Northern Europe. Old Saint Nicholas leaves candy and trinkets in the shoes of good boys and girls on the morning of December 6th. This tradition has been going on in my family for as long as I can remember, but we receive gifts in our stockings instead of our stinky shoes. Yes, we are the only family I know that celebrates this holiday.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Making candles has its ups and downs. Despite the fact that Drew has to deal with the constant wax mess I'm creating and his perpetual fear that I'll burn the condo down... there is a certain joy to candle making known only to those wonky enough to give it the old college try.

The picture in the book is what the candles should look like. Lemon/Orange candles were a "down" moment. 
Creating 20 unique rock candles for my friend Bryana's wedding was a definite "up" moment. We also made candles out of invitations for a few of our friends that were married this summer, another up.

The first Amandle craft up, and a down...

I've been filling mason jars from the wedding with wax every weekend. I also started making these gourd candles:

I definitely overestimated the demand for these candles.

First, I made about twenty candles.

Then, Bry and Kristen were due for a girls' night. I decided I'd take advantage of their free labor.

Bry and I ran to Target to pick up some gourds to carve and transform into pumpkin candles.

"So, two bags or three?" I asked as I picked up the little gunny sacks of gourds.

"Ummm, I was thinking one would be plenty." Bry responded.

We compromised on two. *I'd like to note here that the "free labor" idea did not pan out as these two ladies just sipped on their wine and watched me carve the pumpkins.

So now I had about 45 gourd candles...

But that didn't stop me. I picked up two more gunny sacks of gourds while grocery shopping with Bonnie.

Bry and Kristen were wise enough not to offer to help. Bonnie wasn't so lucky, she had no choice- I just gave her a spoon and told her to start scraping.

Seventy gourd/pumpkin candles later, I was ready for my very first craft sale.  I thought I was going to be rich. I was planning to sell the candles for $5 a pop, or maybe $3 at a minimum. I thought they would go like hot cakes.

I'd only been at the sale about 5 minutes before I reduced the price to 3 candles for $5, or $2 each. By noon, I had sold one gourd candle.

Drew joined me for lunch and immediately struck the prices even further. He changed the price of gourd candles to $1 a pop, and still we couldn't get rid of them.

Turns out, people don't really want to buy candles that will eventually rot. We made $45 whopping bucks, whoo hoo! Looks like my family will be getting mason jar candles for Christmas, and I'm sure my Thanksgiving spread will look even better with about 30 gourd candles to spruce things up!

I did manage to spend most of the profits buying crafts made by my coworker Alyssa. I can't post any pictures of them here because I'd be spoiling the surprise for their intended recipients on Christmas day!

Ending on a positive note, the name "Amandles" received rave reviews. Now I just need to work on the product!

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reflections on the election

Last night I had a girls' night with two of my favorite friends and political wonks. We share ideas, news articles, good books, crafts, recipes and experiences- quintessential ingredients for lifelong friendship.

Kristen shared her experience working at the phone bank for Minnesotans United For All Families. She called one young man who told her he didn't know how to vote because his religious beliefs suggested he should not support gay marriage. Kristen then asked him what he valued most as a Christian; she offered that she strongly values the importance of loving your neighbor as you love yourself. The young man was moved  by this; he thanked her and told her he would be voting no on the marriage amendment.

Bryana has worked extremely hard to inform others of the importance of voting no on the marriage amendment. She posts facts and stories on facebook and even had a "Vote No" sign at her wedding this August.

I shared my experiences writing the blog and the emails and fb notices I receive with questions, comments and criticism.

As we watched Saturday Night Live we wryly laughed along with a sense of disappointment in the election in general.

I think the three of us are very representative of many Americans at this time. We are informed, independent individuals that value the importance of pragmatism and compromise. We don't appreciate the extreme partisan politics in Washington.

We simply want intelligent representation in Washington, individuals willing to work with one another to rebuild America. We don't have any time for politicians waging wars on issues we've made peace with; we accept physics, math and biology. We know we need to work to become carbon neutral and a green economy that produces less plastic and waste. We know that climate change is a very real and very dangerous aspect of our future that we need to address now, so we can acclimate ourselves to the changes it will bring. We know that we must spend less on entitlements and the military in order to reduce the enormous deficit. We know that we need a practical approach to tax reform, reform that will ease us through the fiscal cliff and allow the deficit to become small enough that interest rates can become larger than 2.5%.

We also respect the rights of women, Hispanics, homosexuals and those struggling financially. Politicians forget that nearly every American felt the recession in some way. Maybe we had a friend or relative that lost their job at age 50 and is now struggling to start a new business. Perhaps we have a niece, nephew or daughter that graduated from college and has been working a minimum wage job for two years. Or perhaps we know a family that lost their health insurance when they lost their job, and now the family cannot afford adequate medical attention. We don't appreciate the hate mongering and disdain so callously displayed in debates and political ads.

The mood of America is sober; we're tired and frustrated with politics as usual

We long for politicians that abandon the extreme left and the extreme right, and move beyond the battles of the past. We need to stop talking about birth control and start talking about tax reform. We need to stop pretending that climate change is a political issue and accept it as a scientific reality agreed upon by 99% of scientists.

My hope for Tuesday is that the newly elected and re-elected officials enter Washington with a sense of earnest humility so that four years from now we aren't listening to the same tired arguments and political cliches, but proud of what has been done and eager to build upon the achievements of the past.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Don't like wasteful government spending or restricting rights? Vote no on Voter ID, here's why:

The Marriage Amendment has taken center stage on the major issues Minnesotans will be voting on in four days. There is another amendment on the ballot this year that deserves equal attention.

I want to explain why I'm voting no on the Voter ID amendment.
1. This amendment is very expensive.

MN has run deficits 8 of the past 11 elections. This amendment has been estimated to cost the state  somewhere between 10-14 million over four years. These costs will cover  the "free" IDs and taxpayer education.

The costs to local governments will be much higher, somewhere between 26 million and 64 million. These costs will cover provisional balloting, electronic rosters for polling places, converting mail-in polling places to in-person precincts. These costs will be largely paid through property tax revenue; property taxes are already at an all time high.

This amendment is an example of wasteful government spending that will limit one of our most important rights, the right to vote.

Disclaimer*** You may have noticed by now that I tend to be a bit liberal, but that doesn't mean I don't think fiscal responsibility should be centerstage in alll important political decisions. (-:

2. Voter Fraud is not a problem in MN (or in the US)

There is no evidence of voter impersonation in any MN election.

We had statewide recounts in 2008 and 2010 and voter fraud was not found to be a problem; in fact, the recount illustrated how sound the voting system is here in MN.

3. This amendment will keep an estimated 200,000 Americans from the polls.

This legislation allows only 4 kinds of photo IDs for voting: a driver's license, a MN issued photo ID card, a tribal ID or a newly created form of voter ID. (Which means you could NOT use a passport, military ID or student ID). To obtain a "free" voter id, you'd need to obtain a driver's license of birth certificate. This disadvantages anyone who has moved far from their county of birth, cannot drive, or does not have the means to obtain such documents as they cost money and time to obtain.
The right to vote is protected by both the US and the MN constitution.
Republican, Democrat, who cares? Vote No on Voter ID.

For more info:
It should also be noted, that the entire wording of the legislation is not included on the ballot. For the full wording, see this document:

Some related links if you'd like to know more:

Non-partisan group the League of Women's Voters provides a multitude of information on their site:

A summary of the MPR debate that took place on Tuesday, October 30 2012.

The Cost of the Proposed Election Amendment (source of stats above):