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The Next Five Years in American House Trends

Consumers stay at home more, and housewares industry takes note

By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — As the recession takes a toll on most businesses, the housewares industry is actually expecting to see some benefit as more consumers eat, entertain and generally spend more time at home in order to save money.

In a presentation earlier this week, Mirabile pointed out several home trends he’s expecting for 2010. Below are five trends he predicts for the kitchen and beyond:

The live-in kitchen. Consumers spend three to four hours in the kitchen every day, not only cooking there but using it as a place to entertain, work, craft and spend leisure time, Mirabile said. The kitchen is being reinvented as a second living room, he said, as appliances are camouflaged and functional objects are hidden or minimized, allowing people to create ambiance in the room.

Living within our means. The recession is changing long-held opinions on how we spend our money. Consumers are looking for quality and durability in products — a shift away from disposable consumption, he said. They’re canning food more and growing their own herbs, they’re brown bagging lunches and they’re shopping in bulk at warehouse clubs or stocking up during grocery store sales to save money.

The green kitchen. Americans continue to make their lives more environmentally friendly, but they’re increasingly confused and frustrated about what is really “green,” Mirabile said. While they want products to be eco-friendly, they’re not going to pay much of a premium for it either — they expect retailers and manufacturers to deliver green products at competitive prices.

The wellness kitchen. Buying local food and/or growing your own often means it will be fresher and free from pesticides and preservatives — in short, more nutritious, he said. Today’s consumers are also interested in purifying their water and air.

Cooking for fun. We’re a nation of foodies, Mirabile said, quoting a Nielsen survey that found one in every five households has a “budding gourmet chef.” It’s not just women spending more time in the kitchen, either; “gastrosexuals” are men who consider cooking more of a hobby than a household chore, and use kitchen skills to impress friends and prospective partners. The popularity of the Food Network has helped to inspire a new love with food and cooking, and he expects consumers to continue to search for new recipes, techniques and cooking tools.

Amy Hoak is a MarketWatch reporter based in Chicago.

March 29, 2009 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Building, Cooking, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Marketing, Statistics | , | Leave a comment

Geraldine Brooks: People of the Book

I love the way Geraldine Brooks writes. I got hooked when I read Nine Parts of Desire and then again when I read Year of Wonders. You can read my review on her award winning March here. So I could hardly wait for People of the Book to come out in paperback, so I could read it. (Those hard cover books hurt too much when they fall over if I fall asleep, and are too heavy and bulky to carry on airplanes.)

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Here is what I like about Geraldine Brooks. Her books are not easy to read. They make you uncomfortable. They make you think. They give you another perspective, and that perspective challenges your assumptions.

The heroine, Hannah, is not very likable. She is cold, she makes poor decisions, and she has a very uneasy relationship with her mother. She is, on the other hand, a master of her craft, which is stabilizing and restoration of old books. She is the specialist called in by museums to help preserve masterful works, and to identify forces at work which can cause grave damage to these books.

While this is a work of fiction, it is based on an actual book and some of the history surrounding it. The Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish holy book, is a real book. Some of its history is known – including the fact that it was twice saved from destruction by Moslems, one a very brave librarian in Sarajevo who rescued and preserved it risking his own life, the fact that it was saved from destruction during the Italian inquisition by a Catholic priest. From tiny bits of physical evidence, Geraldine Brooks weaves an entire book creating a story how all the individuals and forces that might have been involved in the creation and preservation of this one special book.

People of the Book is a mystery – Hanna goes in and in the process of evaluating and analyzing the book, gathers tiny bits of “evidence” – a tiny grain of salt, a hair, wine stains. As she investigates, lab results come back, filling in missing pieces of how this book might have travelled from Spain of the convivencia (Medieval Spain) to modern day Sarajevo. Slowly, slowly, Brooks reveals to the readers the real (fictional!) people behind the tiny pieces of evidence.

The plot is interesting. What grabbed me from the beginning, however, is that this is a real book-lovers book, written by a woman who loves books. We learn about how books are created, how book conservators know, from looking at the origin of a sheet of paper, where a book was created and about what time period it was created. We learn about different treatments of paper, we learn about inks, we learn how pigments are created, and we learn about illustrations.

I was captivated by all the love of book-creation present in this book. Most of all, I love it that she dedicated this book to the librarians of the world, those unsung heros who devote their lives to the preservation of information. It was definitely worth a read – and, as an exception to most of my rules, it will probably be worth a re-read.

A friend recommended a video of Geraldine Brooks discussing this book at a book-talk at Northeastern University. It is a little long – you will need about 38 minutes of your time if you want to listen to this amazing woman:

March 29, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Relationships, Technical Issue, Women's Issues | 3 Comments

Dumbest Thief of the Month

from today’s BBC News. I don’t think anyone will ever beat the Kuwait idiot who ended up in the bed next to the cop who had been chasing him, and told him he broke his leg running from a cop! That still makes me laugh every time I think about it.

‘Dumb’ thief picks police summit

A man in the US state of Pennsylvania accused of a robbery at a narcotics police convention has been described as probably the state’s dumbest criminal.

Retired police chief John Comparetto was attending the meeting of 300 officers when he was allegedly held up at gunpoint in the men’s toilets.

He handed over money and a phone but then he and some colleagues gave chase as the suspect tried to flee in a taxi.

They arrested a 19-year-old man over the incident near Harrisburg.

‘Retired police chief John Comparetto says he was held up at gunpoint

Mr Comparetto was wearing an ankle holster with a gun, and when told to drop his trousers, he managed to conceal his weapon.

He described the suspect as “probably the dumbest criminal in Pennsylvania”.

The Associated Press news agency reported that when a journalist asked the suspect for comment as he was led from court, he said: “I’m smooth.”

March 29, 2009 Posted by | Community, Crime, Entertainment, Law and Order | 2 Comments

Ghostly Sunrise

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One minute I looked and there was nothing, the next, this faint outline of the rising sun. It doesn’t look like rain – remember the forecast for today was 100% precipitation? Today the forecast is only for 30% rain.

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I wouldn’t mind a little rain.

Today is one of those “miles to go before I sleep” kind of days. While it isn’t a snowy evening, and “woods” is not a word I would easily associate with Kuwait, nonetheless, I have promises to keep . . .

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

March 29, 2009 Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Poetry/Literature, sunrise series, Weather | 8 Comments