If you are like a number of Americans these days you’re in the business of pinching pennies, pulling rabbits out of hats, and “a wishin and a hopin” that something’s going to change here pretty quick. This morning I read a news item that is simply mind blowing. It seems that if you totalled the combined wealth of 6 of the Walton heirs (Walmart) the sum would be equal to the total wealth of the entire 30% poorest Americans. That’s almost obscene, if you think about it in those terms. I’m not saying I begrudge them money they earned, I just can’t wrap my arms around those kind of numbers. Unreal.
If you totalled mine, and included the change jars with my “mad money” in them on the window sill, I could finance a Zagnut and family sized buttered popcorn. Sigh.
What would that look like, I wonder, seeing that in your bank account? For me it would look like either the bank computers had been infected with a malevolant virus , or I’d inadvertantly gained access to someone elses account and was about to be handcuffed and carted off to jail. Whew.
Over the years, as most of us have I would imagine, I have had lean years thrown in with the fat years, and some years heavier on the lean and lighter on the fat and visa versa. I’ve run the gambut from subsisting on a steady diet of Vienna sausage and processed cheese sticks for two weeks (talk about binding), to periods of extreme prosperity that afforded me the priviledge of having enough available jing to enjoy many of the finer things in life, like home ownership, travel, nice clothing, and weekend getaways. However, when I read about people who have amassed fortunes of this size I can’t help but wonder what being a fly on the wall of their pool house would be like.
I have questions. For instance, what do you do in a house with fourteen bathrooms? How many does one need, one wonders? In an emergency situation which one do you use, or do you choose randomly for variety and surprise yourself? What must your toilet paper bill for the month be like?
Once I read a story about a particular star that listed some of her expenses for a given month. Fresh flowers to fill all the vases in several homes cost one quarter of the total value of my house. Remember, this is for a thirty day period. I would like to hope that there were some exotic orchids, or heirloom roses thrown in there for that price, or perhaps, say, a Mazaratti. Nails, hair and shoes for the year far exceeded an above average yearly income for middle class Americans. Mine exceed the average for a box of wine, two cheeseburgers and biggee fries. Failure is a heavy mantle of responsibility which I bear nobly.
I’m particuarly curious about if a person can virtually have pretty much whatever he or she wants, what would they choose? If you already have a private jet, what’s next, a personal submarine, your own military? How much is too much, and are you happy when you have all that or do you have to keep acquiring more to feed the need? Maybe that’s why you read about celebrities who require outrageous treatment while on a movie set. These demands are sometimes laid out in multiple page documents including requests for exotic foods, the walls painted in a particular shade, exacting beverage choices, specifically scented candles, or perhaps their toenails to be painted hourly by Peruvian mirror image identical twin contortionists with one blue and one brown eye each on the opposite side of their faces. People that have to identify their needs that specifically, quite possibly are running out of things they can think of to need. Then what do you do? Start paring down and start over?
All this is coming to mind because I also heard that a trend is taking hold where people are creating gift “wish lists” online or at stores, such as you would for a shower or wedding, for friends and loved ones to chose from when selecting their Christmas gifts. Really? No more fringed pole lamps with nude Greeks dancing on the border from Aunt Barbara, or pajamas with feet in them and a convenient rear trap door from your grandmother? Huh. Don’t like it. Why don’t we just skip it altogether? I’ll tell you that I was planning to spend $50.00 on you, and you indicate that you were going to spend $40.00 on me. A bit cheap, but okay. I’ll forward you $10.00 in an envelope to make up the difference. We’ll just agree not to buy each other anything and spend the designated amount on ourselves thus ensuring we both get what we want. Is it me or does that kind of take the “giving” out of gift giving. What happens to the hand created items, like quilts, mittens, hats, etc. made with love by our relatives? I suppose it would eliminate standing in the return lines the first of the year, but part of the spirit, at least for me, of Christmas is trying to select something for those that you love that you hope they will enjoy.
I try to keep my ears open during the year when people are discussing things they are missing in their kitchens or something special they would like to have but won’t purchase for themselves and keep a few notes. I’m sure I’ve given some real dogs over the years that have been regifted or become permanent dust gatherers in an attic or on a closet shelf, but when somebody gives me something that they’ve taken the time to shop for and personally select for me, I treasure it because they made the effort, even if it is a turquoise retro toaster with a special slot for pop tarts. Even then.
Anyhow, I don’t know if money or things make you happier. The happiest moments in my life are not always consistent with what I have but always consistent with my attitude and who I shared them with. From the behaviors of the chosen few that have so much and constantly find their faces in the news, it doesn’t seem so from the outside. Just meanderings on a Friday.
This is a great salad. Easy and delicious, my mantra. Looks pretty on the table, rarely anything left in the bowl but air, and somebody always asks for the recipe.
Cajun Style Tossed Salad with Caramelized Pecans
1 3/4 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
2 small cans mandarin oranges, drained
1 pkg. rommaine hearts, washed cut for salad
3 slices crisp bacon, crumbled
1/4 red onion, sliced thin and slices quartered
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
To caramelize pecans:
Melt butter in non-stick skillet. Add sugar, pecans, cayenne, and garlic powder. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, on med-low until sugar begins to melt and stick to bottom of the pan (4-5 mins).
Lower heat to low and continue stirring constantly until sugar liquifies and pecans are fully coated – 3-4 mins.
Remove immediately from heat and spread on foil lined cookie sheet to cool. Sprinkle with salt as desired.
2 8 oz. pkg. Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
6 Tbsp. water
1 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. mandarin orange juice (reserve before draining can)
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 small can of mandarin oranges, drained (reserve 1 Tbsp.) and chopped finely
Mix together oil, vinegar, olive oil, and 1 Tbsp. mandarin orange juice reserved from can. Whisk in dressing mix and pepper flakes. Add chopped mandarin oranges. Place in tightly covered container and shake vigorously until well mixed.
To prepare salad:
In large bowl put chopped greens, onion, 1 1/2 cans whole mandarin oranges, drained, caramelized pecans, and bacon crumbles. Add freshly ground pepper as desired. Pour desired amount of dressing on top and toss until well mixed. Sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese. Serve with extra dressing on the side.