Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Gift

A woman who collects sounds, from the lurch of the washing machine to the rattle of trains. This character is the focus of my cousin Ben Tanzer's latest story, "The Gift". The piece is partially inspired by my sister Jenny Makofsky.

You can read the story at the web magazine The 2nd Hand. For those of you who knew Jenny, you'll see her in the details (scuffed black boots, a love for folklore).

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Jenny's Fun Tips: Bring it and Sing it

Jenny knew that whatever can be spoken can be sung. Kids respond to the "clean up, clean up, everybody clean up" catchy tune much better than a repeated nag to clean. Jenny, of course, took singing with kids a step further, into the realm of competitive song.

The game was sing down, the maestro Jenny. Pick a theme, any theme, such as food. Then, people must randomly come up with bits of songs that contain the theme. Endlessly. Jenny managed to incorporate her favorite songs into most rounds:
  • The theme to "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"
  • "I Will Survive"
  • "Like a Prayer"

Sometimes, when I want to evoke Jenny, I try to make the windows rattle, singing as loud as I can: "Life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone. I hear you call my name, and it feels like...home." Who knew Madonna was so deep?

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Tightwad Shops Local

Shopping local in California can typically mean buying from the neighborhood strip mall. In Portland, though, shopping from locally-owned boutiques is a badge of honor.

I prefer not shopping at all, yet I am intrigued by all the start-ups on Alberta Street, my neighborhood thoroughfare. I peek inside the shops on a weekly basis, but am challenged by the $140 sweaters and $20 wind-up toys. It's tough for a tightwad to change her ways but, if I'm planning to buy a gift or a necessity, I'd rather skip Target and walk to my local boutique.

So, this holiday season, I'm slowly devising strategies for shopping local:

1. Buy less--holiday gifts can be fewer and simpler, but from my neighborhood store. I got sweet photo albums at Collage (1639 Alberta) for $5-$8.

2. Buy gifts at the grocery store--in this case, the Mexican grocery. La Sirenita market, next to the taqueria at 28th and Alberta, has good deals on Saint candles, way funkier and cheaper than some pseudo-schmancy tea light lantern at Pier One and the like.

3. Think tiny--my son adores collections of miniscule treasures, like the homies from La Sirenita's gumball machine, the beads & trinkets from Picasso's bead shop (30th and Alberta), and the stretchy reptiles at Grasshopper (18th and Alberta).

4. Try art--this is wild, but small works of art are actually some of the better deals out there. The gallery at 3oth has fused-glass bugs for $15 and Onda (2215 Alberta) has alebrije ornaments for $20.

5. Aim for maximum style with minimal items--one "Anarchy in the Pre-K" shirt from Wild Child (at 14th, see the website at says more than that outfit from Baby Gap.