Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bling Don't Sing in a Recession

Everyone's hip to the fact that ostentatious displays of excess are vulgar in a depressed economy. I've been to the dentist this week, who just happens to be in Beverly Hills, and I noticed that you could shoot a cannon through most of the stores and not hit a single soul.

There are still a few desperadoes trying to shop their way to happiness, but for the most part, establishments are hurting for business.

Cafes, on the other hand, are bursting. People commiserating, confiding stories of financial woes. A surprising development, because no one is ever supposed to admit hardship in Hollywood. Alas, the veil has lifted. The whole country is in the same boat.

Overhearing conversations as I passed by confirmed my personal decision to embrace frugality years ago. I saw this coming and knew it was vital to seek a new approach. Less stuff, more DIY. Cook from scratch, plant an extensive vegetable garden, embrace preserving, exercise delayed gratification, buy fewer clothes of better quality that will last and repair items showing signs of wear before they break. Motto: a stitch in time. It's all been immensely satisfying.

I revel increasingly in things that come for free. Food from my garden and furniture castoffs that I refurbish. Finds!

It's amazing what you can do with an upholstery stapler, some remains of fabric, a sander and Elmer's glue (a secret ingredient for cheap shabby chic paint refinishing.) I scored a beautiful farm table two months ago that would bring a pretty penny in an antique shop. It awaits my sander.

Occasional splurges still occur, but now it's a great cheese or a specialty salt. Food is the new bling.

Proselytizing about the joys (and wisdom) of these efforts no longer brings scorn, but rather, interest. Necessity is the mother of invention. More friends are growing food now and repairing instead of replacing. Even a skeptical family member, who let a spectacular crop of apples rot on the ground for three years running, has begun harvesting and sharing his bounty.

I planted that seed by encouraging him to save a bag of fallen apples for me. Cooked a dutch apple pancake with them, photographed it and emailed him the photo. What scrumptious apples they were.

He suddenly saw the value of his bounty, proudly emailed a photo of his son enjoying one of his now-prized apples, and began trucking them off to other relatives who are canning them for pies and sauce.

A shelf full of apple pie filling? Now that's what I call bling!

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