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Archive for November, 2011

Who's in the kitchen with...

November 30th, 2011 at 12:09 am

Now that the holidays are drawing near, I think lots of folks are becoming reacquainted with their ovens, if they haven't visited them in awhile.

Our church is having a cookie walk and they have requested folks make cookies. I made 7 dozen cookies and this is a fool proof recipe. I have, in the past, changed it a little if I didn't want the cinnamon taste and put chocolate chips in and didn't roll them in the dough-ball mixture. The cookies still turned out great. But the original recipe is a good one as is:

Cinnamon Crisp Cookies



Preheat oven to 325



2 c melted butter (4 sticks)

2 c brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 beaten eggs

2 t vanilla

1 t cinnamon

1 t baking soda

1 t cream of tartar

1 t salt

4 1/2 c white flour



(dough ball rolling mixture: 1/2 c white sugar and 1 t cinnamon in a bowl)



Mix ingredients, add flour in increments. Roll dough into ball, then in the dough ball mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 325 10-15 minutes. Cook on cookie sheet 2 minutes and then on a rack. Makes 7 dozen cookies


The funny thing is last year when I donated these, dh bought a bunch of them. I asked him why and he said he knew they were good.

Stuff

November 27th, 2011 at 09:38 pm

I was reading the Sunday paper this morning and there were stories about the folks who hurt one another in an attempt to get the Black Friday deals. The woman who pepper sprayed the group turned herself in. That is good that she had a conscience. It's sad that the pursue of "stuff" led to such a poor decision.

I will admit I have plenty of stuff. I went through our holiday decorations. Some are being donated to our church's bazaar for the gently used Christmas decorations. Others are being donated elsewhere. We have more decorations than we have room on the tree. I remember the mad frenzy of hitting after Christmas sales wanting to pick these items up. It was so darn important. Now, they are a pain in the patootie to store and get out and go through. I have kept a few things that have some sentimental meaning, but after going three big boxes of my ornaments, I think I have half a box left.

Last year after Christmas we did the same thing with my husband's ornaments. He bought tons of them on after Christmas sales and had quite a bunch of them after 20 years of collecting. Some he didn't really like anymore. They were donated and hopefully adorn someone else's tree.

Last year I remember reading about a worker who was trampled as a mad rush went in to get the bargains. What have we as a society come to when things are more important than people?

The article I read today about the goings on on Black Friday had one interesting statement by the reporter -- the article said that the majority of those doing these wicked things to be first to get the sale items were not people who were poor.

So, "stuff" has taken the place of common sense. Sad.

Wasting Food Costs Money

November 26th, 2011 at 02:28 pm

I was reading in the forums this morning and I saw Jeffrey had posted this article:

http://www.nationofchange.org/10-tips-reduce-food-waste-during-holidays-1322153327

It talked about how much food is wasted in the U.S. especially during the holidays.

I know this is something I have tried very hard to stop in our household. There's a commercial for plastic bags that shows folks throwing away about half of their food and how they should buy these great plastic bags to stop that.

I would like to offer a rebuttal to that ad. It's not the use or misuse of plastic bags that results in food waste, it is the fact people aren't careful and use what they have.

We had very few leftovers this Thanksgiving. We had a great meal and enough for another meal which we ate Thanksgiving night. Instead of buying a whole turkey, I bought a turkey breast. It was plenty for three of us for Thanksgiving and just enough for supper. I had planned to make turkey and noodles if we had any leftover after that -- I saved the broth. Since I didn't use it, it will be frozen for something else.

As for the potatoes, I made just enough. That was a tough one for me. I have a hard time judging how much is enough. But, I decided to make a little less than I normally would so there wouldn't be a ton left over. I figured there was plenty of stuff to eat. Our table wasn't sparse either time and we ate plenty.

In my every day cooking, I try to figure out ways to use those leftovers. Last week I used the ham steak for 2 1/2 meals. Leftover green beans from one meal were used to make a vegetable soup for another. Sometimes we have clean out the fridge supper -- some weird choices, but I hate to throw food away. Partially because I hate to see waste, but also partially because it costs money. I was not happy last week when I was using stuff up from the freezer and although we had eated most of the okra, that I had let it sit too long in the freezer. I tried fixing it, but it was beyond using. I know I bought it on sale, but still, it was wasteful. I did manage to use up the small amount of hashbrowns that were in the freezer - I chopped a green onion in with them to give it flavor.

Hopefully I will have no waste coming up during the holidays. Right now my freezer is kind of full from some of the sweet breads I baked and froze for our church bazaar. But, after that, I hope to empty it and start freezing some of the things I can use for other meals. I just need to be careful not to let anything slip to the back and be forgotten.

Black Friday

November 26th, 2011 at 03:41 am

Just looked at Facebook and noticed a lot of the folks I know were either up early this morning and stayed up late last night to go shopping. Yesterday's paper as well as the television was full of ads. Full of deals, apparently.

I didn't succumb. I did some shopping, but it was going to Aldi and a local grocery. It was a wonderful time to shop for food because we went this afternoon so stuff was stocked, but it wasn't busy. The cashiers weren't tired and cranky. And we came home and put things away and didn't feel rushed.

I know retailers claim that they have to make up for the year on Black Friday. I guess economically they do, but I would hate to depend on one day to make or break a business. Especially if the weather got bad, it could really put a dent in the shopping.

That being written, I also have no desire to get up early or stay up late just so I can snag a bargain. I'm sure in the heat of the moment, I might feel like I was getting a good deal, so I ought to buy more with those "savings." I did look at the ads in the paper yesterday and there were some great loss leaders. But nothing enough to coax me out of my cozy home to shop. I don't need another Crock Pot and dh has already picked out his clothes he wants for Christmas which we bought a few weeks ago on sale -- I think it was billed the biggest sale of the season then -- and it was on sale and we had coupons.

So, for Black Friday, I hope the retailers did well. But me, I would rather stay home.

Attitude of Gratitude

November 24th, 2011 at 01:57 pm

I'm sitting here enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee, thinking how truly blessed I am.

I got up early to put on the turkey breast. I put it in a slow cooker because it keeps is moist. For whatever reason, although we have had a frost, we still have fresh herbs. I will admit the sidewalk was cold before 6 this morning as I pranced out there to pick some to put with the turkey. The reason I know the sidewalk was cold was because I was barefoot. I didn't want to open the closet door and awaken my hubby. Needless to say, I didn't tarry!

Last night we had brinner -- ham and eggs. That ham was what we had left over from a ham steak Monday night. We found this wonderful ham steak at Aldi and I baked it in a glaze Monday after work and we had it for supper with sweet potatoes. It was a big hunk of meat and I hate to let things go to waste. I cut up some of it and made ham and beans for dh's lunch on Tuesday and then the rest was last night's meal. I think I made that piggy squeal with all those uses.

That aside, I was sitting here looking at my kitchen. I just peeled a bunch of potatoes and I still have some left over. My shelves appear to be groaning with all the things I have in my pantry. I am indeed blessed. Two friends sent me a beautiful flower arrangement for my table. I like flowers, but being cheap, I don't usually spend money for them for myself.

I need to spend more than one day a year being grateful. I can choose to save money because I have more than enough to cover expenses. I have plenty to eat and plenty to wear and I have a warm house to live in with heat and cooling as needed.

I have a wonderful husband who is a delight. I have caring and thoughtful friends who brighten my days. My job is both challenging and interesting and I am indeed, in today's economy, fortunate to have a full time job that pays decently. I live in a country that allows me many freedoms. I saw a picture on Facebook of troops eating and it said something to the effect of Thanking the troops. Amen to that. If you'd like to send a free thank you to the troops, here's an url for it: http://content.mkt922.com/mson/2011/11/23/u364Polza0o1/index.html

So, while I'm gobbling my dinner, I need to pause and realize how fortunate I truly am. I hope you have a blessed day, whether it is Thanksgiving where you live or a nonholiday. And, my feet warmed up pretty quickly after I got back in the house!

Is the American dream attainable?

November 19th, 2011 at 08:56 pm

As I catch up on my reading, Time had a story about what people think about the "American dream." It asked if people think it is attainable for today's youth, or has it become impossible?

How thought provoking! I've been talking about this with a lot of people and it is interesting to listen to their comments. Some people say they feel it is not attainable like it has been in the past because the economy is hindering the upward movement.

Yet others say it is still in one's reach, but people have to be willing to work hard and look for ways to reach it.

I'm going to agree with the latter. The reason I believe this is I think people can still move up and better themselves. I think it can be difficult and challenging. However, I also think people need to prioritize what their dream might be. Plus, they need to work for it, not figure it will be handed to them.

For example, I have a friend who works two jobs. Neither job is super high paying, but could be adequate. She still runs out of money. She rents, drives a beater, and complains about her situation. I have encouraged her to budget, open up a savings account, and not rely on credit cards. A few years ago she wanted to buy a house and went to the bank to be pre-approved. When she told me how much she was pre-approved for, I told her not to spend that much because it would keep her from having any disposable income. She looked at houses and since they weren't what she wanted, she never bought one. A friend of mine had a stroke and her daughters sold her house -- very reasonable and far less than what my friend had been pre-approved for. But, since it wasn't "perfect" she didn't want it.

Another friend of mine works one full time job. It's not anything that is going to make her rich -- in fact she makes less than the aforementioned friend. But, she owns her home, bought a used car where she can afford the payments, and saves up for things. When she bought her house, she bought it at a reasonable price and fixed up what she needed to fix up to move in and has been working on it since. She will probably never be wealthy, but she feels she has done very well and is satisified with her life.

I think in a lot of cases, the person needs to figure out what their dream is and then work towards it. Yet, I think it is that four letter word that is hindering many: work. There are those who feel "entitled" to a fancy house, big car, and large salary.

If watching some of the house hunting shows are any indication, many people are not willing to buy a house and fix it up -- they want a house with all the bells and whistles like what their parents have, the parents who have worked over 40 years to achieve what they want.

I think today's economy reflects this mindset. Another friend laughs at me when I tell them we have a regular savings, a Christmas club, a vacation savings, and then another account that we put money in for whatever thing we are saving for, be it a fridge, dishwasher, or now, a new furnace. I guess immediate gratification brought about by credit cards has made saving and anticpating a thing of the past for many.

So, I wonder what others think. Is the American dream attainable, or is the youth of tomorrow doomed?

Thanksgiving is almost here!

November 18th, 2011 at 01:29 am

Can you believe Thanksgiving is a week away? Where in the world has this year gone?

We are looking forward to the day of feasting, but I'm also looking forward to a day of rest. It's been a wild beginning of the year and things haven't stopped at work. Right now my schools are working on school improvement plans -- documents that are required by the state stating what we need to work on.

I have a lot to be grateful for...I have a wonderful husband, a terrific home, a good job, and delightful friends. I live in a world where I can choose what to eat and what to wear. My brother and I have been working on a relationship -- we didn't have anything to do with each other for many years because of our mother.

As you head into the American holiday, pause and think about the good things in your life. We all have bad and good, but for this moment, try to think about something good. It won't make your pocketbook fuller, but it might make your heart happier!

Some Christmas Ideas or Ideals

November 13th, 2011 at 06:10 pm

Let me preface this with, I didn't write it. Wish I had, but I liked the ideas of supporting the local economy.

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.
Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
Benjamin Franklin

Christmas 2011 -- Birth of a New Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into
high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply
produced goods -- merchandise that has been produced at the expense of
American labor.

This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of
genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse
that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by
American hands. Oh.... Yes there is! It is time to think outside the
box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in
Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift
certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about
some health improvement.

Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American
owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift
certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plunking
down the Benjamins on a Chinese-made flat-screen TV? Perhaps that
grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed
for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local
golf course.

There are a gazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift
certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what
about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint.

Remember, folks this isn't about big National chains -- this is about
supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the
line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or
motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services
of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy
who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people
spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and
pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and
leave your server a nice tip.

And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown
theatre. Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local
bands.

Honestly people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand
Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of
light, about fifty cents stays in the community.

If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy
or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so
that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about
caring about US (We the People), encouraging American small businesses
to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about
other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come
back to us in ways we could not imagine.

THIS is the new American Christmas tradition!!


Please pass this around we can make a difference, can't we ?

Shopping Savvy

November 12th, 2011 at 10:19 pm

I'm a little behind in my reading, but I did have a chance to read an article in "Time" yesterday morning. It had a story about how a grocery chain was conducting research on how people shop.

I know this isn't anything new, by any means, but the examples the story gave was interesting.

Apparently there were cameras in real stores and they were observing how people shopped with certain variables. The first was counting how long people stayed in an area and if they rushed through it, it meant they spent less. So, the powers that be changed the flooring so the carts would make a clickity clack noise and people slowed down. When they slowed down, they stayed longer in that area and therefore, bought more.

Another instance was how signs were written for "sales." If the dollar sign was put on a sign, people appeared to buy less than if they left the dollar sign off. Apparently the dollar sign on a poster made people think they are spending more.

The other instance was writing a limit on a sign. The price was the same for the items, but when there was a limit, people tended to buy more.

All very interesting. And a little bit scary if you think about it.

I wonder if the cart with the crazy wheel also has a purpose!

Finding a way to add to furnace fund

November 11th, 2011 at 01:41 am

One of the "joys" of being a homeowner means replacing or repairing things when they break or wear out.

Earlier this fall we had to replace our 13 year old water heater.

We figure we better start a furnace fund. The furnace was here when we bought the house -- it is over 14 years old and knowing the previous owners who replaced it, it probably wasn't top of the line. We have it checked every year and I replace the filters each month. It had quite a workout last summer with the extreme heat and so I we are hoping it will last through the winter.

So, I've been looking for ways to contribute to this savings. I found a broken gold chain and dh took it in today we received $24 for it. Not too bad for something that was sitting in the drawer.

I had to drive some for work last month and received a mileage check...it's going in the fund too.

I think I'm going to ask the credit card for a check for our cashback bonus and put that in. Plus, I'm trying to put a set amount in each month.

Now, if the furnace will be good and not break before we can afford a new one!

Frost on the pumpkin...

November 9th, 2011 at 12:42 am

OK, the title is misleading, we don't have any pumpkins...but here in Central Illinois, I think we will get a frost tomorrow night. We've come close a few times in the past two weeks, but with the rain we've had and the sudden temperature drop, I think our garden will succumb!

Last week on Halloween we were chuckling that usually by this time dh has removed the garden because it has frosted...I said wouldn't it be something if we still had tomatoes and bell peppers on Thanksgiving. Looks like we are coming close. We aren't getting a bumper crop of anything, but we are continuing to use what we get. I will miss the herbs too. We have them in large pots on the sidewalk and we don't have any place to store them during the winter. I have frozen some of them, but although they are OK that way, they aren't the same as fresh ones.

Well, I guess if there's frost on the pumpkins or tomatoes or herbs, I will be grateful I have a warm house to be in!

They're only paperclips...

November 6th, 2011 at 09:00 pm

A gal I work with recently was demoted. Not only has her job drastically changed, her salary went down almost half. This was not a sign of the economic times, but apparently, from the rumors, a result of some poor decisions made professionally.

She is now working on a regular teacher's salary and complains nonstop about paying union dues, and how hard it is to make it on this salary.

The other day she was asking me how come I don't complain about the salary. I told her because I feel like I'm getting paid a fair amount and that I feel blessed to have a job.

She said it must because I don't have kids. I told her I don't think that was it at all, but that I have a different set of priorities than she does.

This gal has always had to purchase name brand everything. She has to have the expensive purses like Coach. And one is not enough. She has to have a different one for each outfit.

She has jewelry and we aren't talking about the reasonable stuff.

And her clothes have all been top of the line, name brand items. Each week it was a pursuit to buy the latest and greatest.

I know she has looked down her nose at my shoes (which are not only reasonable, but comfortable), to my clothes, and especially my purses. OK, I'll admit it, I buy cheap purses. I have two criteria -- they have to have a comfortable shoulder strap and I need to have room for my iPad.

I told her my priorities are far different than hers and I discovered that being satisified with the things I own has made me far happier than always trying to buy the latest and greatest.

She told me she has changed and that her priorities have changed and she didn't buy a purse last weekend, even though she wanted to.

As she said that, she finished paperclipping some papers and the pile she had left, she gathered into her hand and threw them into the garbage.

They may only be paperclips, but I think it shows her character...and I am not buying the priority change. Would you?