Day #83: Finding Betty Crocker

Finding Betty Crocker

My grandmother began working as the cook for a doctor’s family in the small town near their farm when she was 18. Her brother was the family’s chauffeur. It was a very small town. I’ve always been bemused that the family had servants. My grandmother was a very good cook. She had a large family who could always be assured of tasty meals when they visited for a weekend or a week. Grandma had a large garden. She canned, froze blueberries and the fish Grandpa caught, and ordered 20 pounds of flour at a time for the six loaves of bread she baked every Monday morning and the pies she baked several times a week.

I remember distinctly going to my grandmother’s pantry in the late Sixties and finding two boxes of cake mix. I was shocked. My grandmother had never made anything out of a box. “It’s much easier,” she explained. “And it saves time. It’s cheaper, too.”

I have the records of my grandmother’s cooking: recipes she saved which she annotated, newspaper clippings, and ads she cut out of magazines for products she must have wanted to try. There are recipes written in other hands sharing a dessert or bread or salad enjoyed when everyone got together for a meal. It was the late Sixties when more and more of those recipes called for a cake mix. Betty Crocker. Duncan Hines. Pillsbury. Each of those cake mixes had a persona who helped to sell the brand. Duncan Hines was a real person. Betty Crocker was not. And the Pillsbury Dough Boy ….

I am grateful for the book Finding Betty Crocker. Author Susan Marks shares how the marketing techniques developed that would make Betty Crocker one of the most well-known brands—and women—in the country. It’s a wonderful, chatty, eye-opening book about marketing and the anthropology of women’s lives in the United States. I once had our marketing book club read the book and it engaged us in conversation for hours. It’s eye-opening.

Day #82: Charley Harper

If you need a rest from the day’s challenges, enjoy the creativity of Charley Harper (1922-2007), an artist who celebrated nature with his “minimal realism.” For me, his compositions are joyful and reverent. Here’s a video about his work and here are illustrations from The Giant Golden Book of Biology. I am grateful for Charley Harper’s commitment to expressing his connections with nature so we can enjoy them forever. [below, “Red and Fed,” by Charley Harper]

"Red and Fed" by Charley Harper

Day #81: Sound as Memory

I very clearly remember the sounds of bowling. When I was small, my mom belonged to a weekly bowling league. She would take me along and I would sit at a restaurant table, easily in view of the lanes, watching the game, creating stories about the women who played on her team, and reading once I had learned how. The sounds of bowling are distinct. I remember them faithfully. I heard them over and over again during the bowling season for eight years.

bowling ball and pins strike!

Memory fascinates me. Another one of my goals with this Gratitude Journal is to explore memories. But they cannot be only that this happened and that happened. What is our awareness of the senses involved in our memories?

Neuroscientist Mark D. Humphries writes, “But the brain is constantly surprising us. Things that we think must be true about how neurons work often end up trashed by reality. So it is not a foregone conclusion that the hippocampus must represent all the sights, sounds, and smells of the world. And we know less about the brain than you think. No, less than that. A bit less than that too.” Episodic memory. Echoic memory. Memories of sounds. Fascinating stuff. I am specifically grateful for the memory of sounds (and acutely aware that this is a gift not shared by everyone). [“The Sound of Memory,” Mark D. Humphries, Psychology Today, 16 Sept 2017 }

Day #80: Stock Photos

When we first started our graphic design firm, purchasing a license to use a photo in our print designs was a challenge. Photo licensing companies sent out thick, bound catalogs. We’d page through to find an appropriate photo, call the company, and negotiate a price. That price depended on how many copies we’d print and which eyes would be seeing them and how long the piece would be in circulation. It wasn’t uncommon to be charged $500 or more for one-time use of a particular image.

The advent of online stock photo companies changed that process. Some high-end photos are still licensed that way but for many there is a small licensing fee ($3 to $50). We haven’t seen a printed photo catalog in 15 years. There are some days that I spend hours on a photo search. A project I just completed needed 11 photos. Instead of a $5,000 bill, the fee was $35. So the internet is a blessing in this regard.

Puppy and bunny

I am grateful for this improvement in our work process, especially for our clients’ budgets, and for the plethora of possibilities for visual impact. And then there’s the added bonus of doing a search for “bunny” and finding a photo that touches my heart. A bright spot in my day.

Day #79: Color and Optimism

I made this commitment to write daily about something for which I’m grateful because I felt A NEED FOR OPTIMISM. Realizing that I have more than four things things to write about is … gratifying. After searching the term “need for optimism” the results are intriguing. Many good articles to read.

One of the most surprising was an announcement of the Pantone Color of the Year, something I follow as a graphic designer. This year it’s “Living Coral.”Pantone reports that the color was chosen because of our “innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits.” Laurie Pressman of the Pantone Color Institute explained, “We see the environment taking on an even greater role in the world we live in today for two primary reasons, one being how connected we are to technology. Because we are so connected to something that’s not real, we really need to find that balance closely and intimately with something that is real and you don’t get more real than nature.” For me, this is a three-fer: optimism, color, and honoring our environment.

Pantone Color of the Year Living Coral 16-1546

Day #78: I’ve Got Mail!

When I was quite young, my grandparents had a mail slot in the front of their house. It was metal. There was a flap that clanged to announce the mail had arrived. When the mail slid onto the floor, I rushed to pick it up and deliver it to my grandmother. Receiving the mail remains a daily thrill for me (except when it’s -40ºF and they smartly keep the letter carriers at home). In an era in which sending an e-mail or an e-card is expedient, I am always grateful when a card or letter arrives in the post. I especially appreciate those that appear for no reason at all but to say “Hello. Here’s what’s going on in my life.” I always notice the stamps, how it was postmarked, and the visual aspects of each piece. I love mail!

postal mail

Day #77: Snowstorm!

On this Minnesota day, I am GRATEFUL to be working from home, as I have been for 30 years. (When I first began working from a home office, it was so unusual that I was written up in several magazines. How times have changed.) There are disadvantages (I can work 24/7) but I am thankful to not be on the roads. I am mindful of all the people driving in challenging conditions, sending my best wishes for your safety. (Thanks to Steve Palmquist for bravely stepping outside to take this photo. Mind you, as of 4:00 am, our weather forecasters were quite certain we would get no more than one inch of snow today. Um-hmm.) Apparently I am also thankful for parenthetical statements.


Day #76: Showering

What’s your best place to think? Mine is in the shower. All kinds of ideas are borne in that soothing cascade of water. I get a lot of writing done. I have to focus to remember what I’ve composed in my head until I can write it down. I’m grateful for the privilege of taking a shower. I have to think fast. I am sharply aware that the world’s water resources are threatened so my thinking has to occur quickly. How about you? Where do you do your best thinking?

shower head

Day #75: Cancer Research

My mother was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma just 10 days before she died. An incredibly healthy woman all of her life, this was a shock. Her brother had died of lung cancer 25 years earlier but otherwise cancer had left our immediate family alone. Nature, nurture, environment? We tried to find reasons but it’s far, far more important to find means for making bodies healthy again when one of the many types of cancer attacks them. I am grateful to the American Cancer Society and ALL of the medical and research professionals who have dedicated decades of their work to mitigating, and blessedly curing, the effects of cancer. Support their work. I am and I will.

American Cancer Society