Ode to the Pizza That Was

pizzaI’m in my mid-forties. I remember when pizza was this yummy extravaganza of gooey cheese that could stretch as long as your arm and rich tomato sauce on a crispy, yet soft, doughy crust. When it was hot, you folded the piece in half to keep on the toppings in place. Oh so good.

I haven’t seen it in years. Sure we’ve been to pizza places across the country but none are even close to the yummy, ummy goodness of the pizzas of yesterday. We knew New York style pizza. Today’s thin crust, with it’s scrape of sauce and often burnt-looking cheese is not New York pizza. Even calling it pizza is questionable. We had wondered for years why is there no one who knows how to make decent pizza.

We went to the local brick-oven place that people were raving about. When our pies were delivered to the table, we looked at each other and immediately said, “Where’s the sauce?” When we asked our waitress for more sauce, she said she would have to talk to the owner. Huh? He came scurrying over and said that they didn’t have sauce on their pizzas; they were California style. We learned that day that folks in California apparently let their local restaurants get away with simply putting chopped tomatoes on their pies and not have to bother making a true sauce. Chopped tomatoes on top we had heard of. Chopped tomatoes in lieu of sauce – sacrilege that should not ever be called a pizza.

Using “real mozzarella” produces blobs of mushy white stuff that looks like blobs of pudding on the pizza. Where the heck is the good stuff? Most restaurants are using flatbread. Flatbread? Yeah, cause it cooks way faster and is no doubt cheaper.

We’ve lost count of the “authentic New York style” offerings we’ve tried…that were big time stinko and held no resemblance to the crust, sauce or cheese we keep hoping to find.

Several months ago, we were watching one of those reality TV shows where a famous chef visits a failing restaurant and helps them turn things around. It was an Italian place in, I think, Colorado. When the pizza hit the table, Mom and I went, “Oh, my God. Look at that!” There, finally was the wonderful pizza we have been searching for. The response of the chef? “Ew, gross. This is a soggy crust and greasy mess. So, old school.” It looked like the wonderful pizzas I had grown up with. He made them change it to the more modern, fresh and blah stuff everyone else has. We read the before and after reviews and quite a few people wanted the old, yummy pizza back. Hopefully, the owners now offer both versions.

What launched me today? Oh, one of those emails from Pinterest with a collection of boards they thought I might find interesting. The topic today was pizza. I looked at one board that had over 400 different Pins and maybe one of the pizzas looked worthwhile. The rest had burnt cheese, little to no sauce and/or tasteless flatbread crusts. sigh.

So, now we know where really good pizza went. It was deemed old-fashioned and systematically removed from restaurant menus. It is now replaced with cheaper, easier and quicker to make copies that the un-initiated don’t seem to know are far from what a real pizza was meant to be. How sad that the public accepts these pathetic copies of a once yummy and decadent delight.

We live in hope that we’ll find a holdout who understands that while just about any pizza will sell, truly decadent pizza is amazing and worth almost any price.

 

The Great Picture Move

So, here I am, almost 4 months after I began the great picture move. Reusable Art needs updating. The gallery software that makes it function needs to be upgraded. It has changed a great deal since I started the site back in 2008. Features from that old version were not include in the new – the developers assumed no one was using them. That always leaves one with a warm fuzzy.

Ironically, it was those same features that made the site so easy for the editor at Wikimedia to scrape.

I’ve been talking about doing something for years. 2014 is finally going to be that year but it does seem to be taking forever. I’m not a database guru by any means. The folks who know more than I do, didn’t seem too interested in taking on the job. Not sure if they didn’t want to mess with it, mix business with friendship or were simply too busy. So, I bit the bullet and opted to move the pictures by hand. Yep, by hand.

First I downloaded the pertinent tables into spreadsheets. Ew, what a mess that turned into. Data that appears correctly on the live site seemed somehow twisted in the tables. Spent weeks trying to build The spreadsheet in hopes that I could use it to port the data to WordPress. Alas, none of my spreadsheet programs would port to XML. OK. Let’s just say some choice words were heard that day.

So, I embarked on the project I had thought I would never have to do…move each of the almost 3,000 images by hand. I installed a copy of WordPress on my new Mac and the journey into learning how my new computer worked and the utter tedium of copy/paste tab tab copy/paste began.

In between keeping my other sites running, a pair of client projects and a flu-like cold that was truly evil; it took me 3 months to move all of the photos, create the new categories and edit most of the posts.

Now, I’m working on making the overall look and feel of the new site the way I want.

I still have to figure out the .htaccess file to finally get rid of those really gross URLs the old software generated without losing the back links. I still have to move everything from my hard drive to the web server. And, I still expect more things to go wrong, but for now, I’m finally moving forward.

One good thing that came out of all of this is that I have come up with a number of new strategies for managing the site – hopefully, that will mean even more wonderful pictures. I’ve finally got a more efficient way of keeping track of my source materials. I’ve set up a way to keep track of which categories have had new images posted and which ones have been neglected.

arctic-fox-thumbSpeaking of neglected categories, I was shocked to find so many that had not been updated with new images since 2009 and 2010. Granted, some of the image sets will never be updated, there were plenty neglected categories that could easily have new images added to them. I’ve been working on adding new pictures to both the live/old site and the new/hidden site. If you’re interested, there are new images in the H, K, Q, Y, fox and hopefully sometime later today the Greek Mythology categories.

Hopefully, the switch will only improve the site. Hopefully, Google won’t downgrade it, call it a new site or do some other equally destructive and idiotic thing like it did with Blog About Crafts. But, hopefully, the big move won’t take as long as it did to recover this site after it was hacked.

Not sure if there’s anyone out there actually listening but hey sometimes it’s good to just put into words what you’re thinking.

Cat Litter Box Joke

Mom bought one of those little thought for the day calendars this year. It has a picture of a cute cat and a little saying, quotation or other bit of cat-ly wisdom.

I loved the one from earlier this week….

“You know when people see a cat’s litter box, they always say, “Oh, have you got a cat?” Just once I want to say, “No, it’s for company!”

Speaking of litter boxes….did you see that gal on EBay selling used kitty litter? The premise was to use the litter like a stink bomb with someone you didn’t like all that much. eeeuuuwh!

For a while, there was also an Etsian selling hand-made pieces made from wool that looked just like a hairball. The girl seemed totally oblivious to what her wearable art looked like. While I try never to laugh at anyone’s artistic endeavors, seeing her woolen creations adorned with glitter and beads was just too much. Glad I don’t know that gal personally. But, then again, maybe she had never encountered one of those cold, wet hairy things between her toes in the middle of the night.

As I type this on my new fancy-smancy keyboard, the clicking is accompanied by the light snoring of one of our girls. Hapi, a sometimes author on this blog is curled up on her box in the window on my desk having a bit of a snooze after filling her tummy this morning.

Have a good day.

Spring 2014

I so love spring. It is without a doubt my favorite time of year. The daffodils, the crocus, the greening of the trees. All of it signals something of a rebirth of the landscape. But, it’s not until a particular wee little birdie comes to visit that it really means spring has arrived.

It happened yesterday. I was sitting at my desk and I saw movement at the window. The first hummingbird of spring! He flew up to my window and just hovered there. It was if he was saying hello and asking us to put his feeder up. We quickly made a bit of sugar water for him and put it out. After all, most of the nectar-bearing flowers aren’t in bloom yet and after such a long trip to us, he was probably quite hungry. I’m not sure if there’s more than one about in the yard but so far I’ve only seen one. They move so fast and look so similar that we really don’t know how many are around until we see them fighting over the feeder.

ruby throated hummingbirdI thought I would share a picture of one of these pretty little birds. I’m so glad I found one by such a wonderful artist as Louis Agassiz Fuertes. Fuertes is most well-known for his wonderful depictions of the birds of the world.

I also posted this piece on Reusable Art today. If you would like to download the original, larger sized version of this piece, you can find it here hummingbird drawing.

The weather has been quite pretty the past few days. We were lucky enough to be able to play a bit of hooky. We visited a small town in South Carolina. Abbeville was a pretty town with the most friendly folks. It has a large town square. The sidewalks are a combination of segment and cobblestones/bricks. There’s trees, grassy areas and flowers. The town has a bit of French history and the downtown buildings sport colorful fronts with black wrought iron accents. Almost looks like it could be a small town in Europe somewhere, rather than South Carolina.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the square. I wish I remembered the name of it but it served Italian food and pizza. The staff was quite accommodating and the food was wonderful. I had a cheesesteak stromboli and Mom had a small Italian sausage pizza.

It was a fun day to be there. While we were waiting for our lunch, a lady whom we think was the owner or at least the manager came rushing over to one of the other tables. She was almost shouting, “He’s here! He’s here!” Her joy was evident to everyone in the place. There were other people in the restaurant and it seemed like everyone knew everyone. The he in question was a new baby boy. Just born. They teased the lady for her exuberance and joked about who would get the first pictures. She went back to the kitchen but it couldn’t have been five minutes later that she returned to the dining room brandishing a cell phone. While we were not part of the celebration, it just turned our lunch into one of yummy food and utter joy.

After lunch and not wanting to leave Abbeville yet, we walked down the street. Our first stop was what first looked like a gift shop. It turned out to be a wonderful store run by Mennonites. Near the door was a display of baked goods and fresh cheeses. There were grains, spices and all sorts of dry goods. Fresh butter, fresh cheese and all sorts of other yummy stuff too. Then there was the meat cases. Oh, if we hadn’t been so far away from home and the weather not quite so warm, we would have left with far more than we did. The fresh meats looked nicer than what we often see at our local Fresh Market and the prices were better than most grocery stores. A sample of their cheddar ranch dip had me drooling for more – if we ever go back in cooler weather – some of that will definitely be coming home with us. The pecan, chocolate bar cookie was divine. Mom’s molasses cookies melted a bit in the car – butter! they were actually made with butter. Seems like hardly anyone bakes that way anymore.

Next door was a jewelry and gift shop. We’ve visited many tourist gift shops and so many of them have the same stuff everyone else does. This shop was full of wonderful Native American inspired jewelry and other handicrafts. We saw a number of interesting pieces but just felt we shouldn’t indulge. The owner’s disappointment was evident. But, it is definitely a place worth visiting again, particularly if we need a gift for a special someone.

Whatever, I Quit

I started Blog About Crafts in 2006. When looking for a name, I thought Blog About Crafts fit perfectly with what I had planned for this site. The site grew and thanks to a pair of controversial posts hitting the front page of Digg.com, things were moving along fairly well. Until the hacking incident. I was down for around 2 months. Google and to a lesser extent the other search engines, slammed me and slammed me hard. They discounted many of my back links and things that I ranked well for seemed to be treated as if they were suddenly written in secret code that couldn’t be interpreted by the search engines anymore.

It’s been several years since then.

I tried regular posts with lots of outgoing links. I did a bit of guest posting (before the latest edict that says they are now evil). I Pinned, I emailed and I commented on other blogs. Very little changed. And, many of the people I thought I was helping acted indifferent to my showcasing them and their works. Those who supported my efforts and for whom I was able to drive new business to almost made it worthwhile but unfortunately the time vs payback just wasn’t there.

This site gets few visitors. If I add something that I think is appropriate, I might get a small handful of extra visitors but generally I’m ignored. If I revamp the entire site to better match “Good SEO practices” as defined by the latest edicts out of California, there might be a small, little jump but it goes away in less time than it took me to pick out a new theme/design for the site. Google sends a bit of traffic here and there but generally it’s a ghost town. I could write more often but what I felt like talking about wasn’t always “art and crafts.” Couldn’t dare do that, it would hurt my rankings on Google and the other search engines. Well, darn, I’ve done just about everything I’m supposed to do to keep the search engines happy and they still seem to be penalizing me for being down for two months.

Whatever, I Quit.

No, I’m not going to discontinue this site. I’m just going to quit worrying about what Google, Yahoo!, Bing or any of the others might think about this site. If I want to talk about crafting today, WordPress tomorrow and how much I hate beets the next day; that’s what I’m going to do. Maybe some folks will come and visit along the way and perhaps I’ll just be talking to myself. But, whatever, I give up. This is going to be my blog going forward and I don’t give a darn about staying on topic, keyword optimization, back links or any of that other SEO crap.

Furthermore, I don’t really want to be bothered looking for a photo to go with this rant. That will mess up this site a bit, but that’s just too darn bad. Don’t like reading a post without a photo…go away. If you are mad at me now because you think beets are the best thing God put on this wonderful Earth of ours…please just go away too.

The rest of you are warmly invited to join me on this journey. Who knows, maybe that will be the next Google edict…sites that talk about random crazy, mixed-up stuff are more natural because they are obviously not trying to gain search engine positions. And maybe, Blog About Crafts will gain the number one ranking for “gal who quit worrying about SEO and just decided to write about what she was thinking about that day without worrying if anyone was listening.”

In Search of Embellishments?

embellishments on Crafty TipsBefore you take a run to your local craft store and purchase some mass-produced embellishments or make do with a limited selection, you might want to check out the folks who have shared their websites and businesses with Crafty Tips.

This week, I have added a clever button maker. In addition to two artists making buttons from polymer clay and ceramics, today’s new addition is ZzzonkOwl, a newly opened Etsy shop.

zzzonkowlDorothy makes lovely fabric-covered buttons. You can purchase the buttons from her Etsy shop. She also takes her bright and colorful buttons and turns them into necklace pendants, like the collection shown here – act fast and they might be yours – Vintage black and white fabric button necklace. Her future plans include turning her buttons into earrings, pins, shoe clips, hairpins, thumbtacks and a variety of other doodads.

Don’t forget to check out the other great folks offering embellishments for your craft and sewing projects. You’ll find sources for flat-back crystals, rhinestones, trims, tassels and beads too.