Monday, July 27, 2009

Coming of age - 21st century style

Decisions have never been my strong suit. I can decide things like “Where should we go for dinner?” or “Does this look okay with that?” but when it comes to making serious decisions – ones that involve money or are potentially life-altering – I need a lot of time and a lot of information.

You can imagine, then, my dilemma as my elder daughter’s 14th birthday approached, and the one gift that came up over and over was…you guessed it, a cell phone.

For the past year or so, both my daughters have bombarded me with an endless litany of which friends had acquired a phone, why their lives would be greatly enriched by joining this coveted group, and how could I possibly continue to stunt their social development by denying them this valuable technology.

The arguments fell on only partially deaf ears. I have never been one to buy into the “Everyone’s doing it” philosophy, but as both girls have become increasingly involved in sports and other extra-curricular activities, maintaining consistent communications has been a problem. Practices are changed, games get rained out, I run late – all these become issues when there’s not an easy way to share the information. About 6 months ago, I told both girls that I was thinking about the cell phone idea, but they’d have to prove to me that they were mature enough to handle the additional responsibility. My older daughter rose to the challenge, setting her sights on a cell phone for her birthday.

Of course, once I’d laid the foundation, I needed to follow through, which meant making a BIG decision…or a several small ones, as it turned out. Contract or pay-as-you-go? Verizon? Sprint? Cricket? A few I’d never heard of? Camera or no? Texting or no? I went into information overload more than once as July 25 loomed closer. The biggest question of all was, were we ready this?

I discovered it wasn’t the cell phone decisions throwing me for a loop, it was the idea that the sweet 6-year-old that I brought home nearly 8 years ago is growing up…too fast. (Both my daughters were adopted at age 6.) Gone are the days of Barbie, Legos and Magic School Bus videos. Now it’s computers, cell phones, and the Jonas Brothers. Boys are more than just baseball teammates. As a single mom working two jobs, this prospect is a bit scary.

I was thrown a lifeline of sorts last month when I came to work at the library. We’ve had cards for some time, but now that it’s my second job, my girls have been spending a lot more time here. While I head to the third floor, they remain in the Teen Zone; reading books, hopping on one of the teen computers or usually a combination of both. They love it. Once school starts, the library will be an excellent place for them to do their homework – quiet but with access to computers for research.

In the end, I can’t do anything about my daughters growing up. Like it or not, it’s happening. One thing I can control is the atmosphere in which they grow up, and KPL has become an important part of that. If you’re a parent, check out all that KPL has to offer your child. You’ll be glad you did.

By the way, I FINALLY decided on a cell phone and plan the day before her birthday. Now I can relax until October. That’s when her sister turns 14.

Teresa Cline
Adult Services

Monday, July 13, 2009

How to Shop at Your Farmers' Market in 7 Easy Steps

I've mentioned before what a huge fan I am of farmers' markets. I also volunteer at mine two or three Saturdays a month, and in talking with folks I've learned that people can be intimidated by the farmers' market with all of the assorted mounds of produce, baked goods and plants - let's face much selection can be overwhelming! Also, many shoppers are not used to having a vendor present while they look at the goods. I've spent some time observing the way people shop at the market and of course, I have plenty of experience shopping at my own farmers' market. Here are some tips:

1.) Bring cash. Set an amount that you are comfortable with each time you go and try to take only that amount. Most vendors don't take debit or credit (though some do), and also you will want to make sure that you are not spending more than you'd like each time you go.

2.) Bring a big reusable bag or tote with you - throw your wallet and keys in there so you're just carrying one bag and not multiple bags to keep track of.

3.) Go once or twice around the vendor circuit telling yourself that you aren't buying anything right away. This will give you a chance to see everything that is offered and giving you a mental list of what you want to buy before delving in.

4.) Buy refrigerated items like eggs, meats and cheese, and big items like plants last.

5.) If you are intending to buy bread, buy that first as the good ones tend to sell out quickly. And if you're intending to buy cheese, make that the first of your refrigerated purchases as the best flavors tend to sell out quickly.

6.) Don't be afraid to ask questions of the vendors. The vendors are there not only to sell their wares, but they love talking to customers and sharing their knowledge of the product. You don't have to buy from a vendor if you ask them a question - they realize that not everyone is going to buy each time! The plant vendors are good sources of explaining what you can do to help keep your plants alive (which is always helpful to those of us who's thumbs are not quite yet a lovely shade of green). Herb vendors can help you with recipes incorporating the herbs. These vendors are there because they love their product and want you to love it, too! Ask away!

Also, the market info table, or the market manager, is a good source to ask questions of what vendors are there each week.

7.) Early shoppers have benefits that later shoppers miss out on - the most popular items usually go quickly. However, if you're wanting to have a bit more of a social experience with bigger crowds of locals and music, arriving a little later or midway through the market hours is your best bet.

And here is a tip for vendors: Mark your items clearly with signage!...many shoppers may feel uncomfortable asking for the price of an item, or may not want to wait in line just to find out the price. If price info or names of items are not clearly marked, they may get frustrated and move on to the next vendor.

Check out the book Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets by Deborah Madison - this is one of my all time favorites! Also, if you're interested in getting into the business of being a vendor or just fascinated by all things farmers' market, a good book to read is The New Farmers' Market: Farm-Fresh Ideas for Producers, Mangers & Communities by Vance Corum, Marcie Rosenzweig and Eric Gibson.

And there you have it!...7 easy steps to getting the most out of your local farmers' market (and a couple of good books, too). Enjoy shopping, reading and eating local!

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services
Kankakee Public Library