Month: November 2011

New Year, New Resolutions

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Every year we sit back and make those stupid resolutions to lose weight, eat better, save more money and be kinder to others.  We never actually do it, and we are frustrated when our plans go awry.  If we are to be perfectly honest with ourselves, our plans go awry because we are not perfectly honest with ourselves. If you lie to yourself then how can you expect to honor a promise that you never fully intended to keep?  I am about to break the vicious cycle and start the New Year with some new resolutions. Follow along with me through my thought process.

First, I am okay as I am.  I just told this to myself and I believe it.  Yes, I could stand to lose a few pounds, but right now, it’s not going to happen.  I am not going to beat myself up about it. I am not going to stand in my bathroom on my scale butt naked on one leg, holding my breath hoping that needle moves.  It is not going to move in the opposite direction because last night I ate half the pan of brownies.I was stressed! I’m not unhealthy; I just weigh more than I should for my age and height. Hubby still likes it so I will work on making it tighter.

Next, I worked this year on changing my spending habits. I have a few bucks in the bank and I am not going to spend my money on stupid stuff I don’t need.  I am not going to buy items for my friends that they don’t need so they will like me more. I am not going to buy silly crap, eat out too often, and this should save me money and also help that eating the pan of brownies thingy.

Third on my list is to find a new means to get out and enjoy the day.  I am not going to say I am going to exercise more, but dammit my yard needs some work. I am going to work more in my yard which is going to tone my arms and my legs.  I am going to walk around my neighbor and pick up some trash. I also have a Wii and I like to dance. Combine the two, gym membership goes away, I save some bucks, I am mobile, and again this ties back to number one.

And last but not least, I am going to finish some of these unfinished things in my life.  I have started on this project, made this pile, moved this stack and created a new one. Forget this crap. I am going to buy one of those Neat Scanners. The cheapest I have seen it has been at Amazon.com. It is pricey but this will eliminate so many loose receipts, bills, stacks to be shredded while sorting it all for tax purposes.

I am just going to work a lot smarter instead of harder. I am not going to lie to myself to accomplish, achieve or attempt something that I know it is not my time to do. It is not my time because I have not done the leg work to put it into play. I am, strengthening my resolve to be better at what I do. However, in order to accomplish these things I just need to sit down and have a quiet moment.

I am starting my quiet moment now, but first, to the scale. After I finish this brownie.

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Give the Gift Of Flavor

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Flavired Oils and Vinegars

Okay, Okay, I have been yammering on and on about saving money by giving a holiday gift that you can make. I have offered a few links to a few sites but have not really shared with you an idea that anyone can do at any skill level.  Well here it is flavored oils, vinegars and rubs!  You see these in specialty stores all the time and shop owners can charge some hefty prices.  This year, you can give these über chic gifts for just a fraction of the cost.

First things if first, let’s round up those empty wine and beer bottles. Run them through the dishwasher and use some peanut butter to remove the excess gunk from the labels.  Let’s start simple with a basic herb oil, most people will choose a thyme.  I like to use fennel.  I pulled this recipe from Allyou.com.

Ingredients:

Springs of Dried Thyme, 2 teaspoons of peppercorns, 1 1/2 cups oil (vegetable or olive)

Preparation

Place all ingredients in a pot. Warm over medium-low heat.  Using a candy thermometer, check oil until the thermometer reads 165ºF. Allow the oil to cool, then strain; reserving thyme and peppercorns. Pour into bottle. Add thyme and peppercorns. Cork; chill for up to 1 month.

Pretty simple isn’t it?  Now let’s really go poo-poo Chi-Chi with some rubs for steaks and chops.  I usually make my own instead of paying the $4.50 a jar from the shelf brands.  If I make my own I can also monitor the sodium content. Here is a simple recipe.  I also like to use the little jars for preserves. Prep time for this simple gift idea takes about 5 minutes and this recipe only makes about 2 jars.

Ingredients

1/3 cup cumin                          3 tablespoons allspice             4 teaspoons garlic powder

4 teaspoons cinnamon           1  1/2 teaspoons cayenne        1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl, mix well and then distribute evenly in jars. Seal jar tightly and add ribbons of cute labels. I found some really regal labels on the Microsoft.com template page.

And last but not least, herbal vinegars.  I picked this little recipe up from Colorado State University.  These require a little more work and know how, but once you learn the technique, this is a gift that can literally keep on giving.

Herbal Vinegar

  • 4 cups red wine vinegar
  • 8 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sage leaves

Thoroughly wash herbs and dip in solution of 1 teaspoon household bleach in 6 cups water. Rinse thoroughly under cool running water and pat dry. Place herbs in sterilized quart jar. Heat the vinegar to just below boiling point (190 F); pour over herbs. Cap tightly and allowing the vinegars to stand in cool, dark place for three to four weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain out herbs. Pour vinegar into clean sterilized bottles with tight fitting covers. Add a fresh sprig of cleaned and sanitized parsley, if desired. Store in the refrigerator.  This recipe makes 1 quart.

Check back with me later in the week as I start to tackle those New Year’s resolutions you have been thinking about and know you are not going to follow.  Hopefully, I can help you plan some new resolutions that are doable.

Tis the Season To Save Big!

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          It is that time of year again. It is the season of giving. It is the time of year when we sing Joy to the World, wish peace on earth and show good will towards men. It is also that time of the year to buy new small appliances and stock up the pantry and linen closet! Yes, that’s right, it’s the time of the year to buy some of the stuff you really want and need to make your life easier!
    I’m not different than my fellow man with the exception that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the major shopping days for me! Yes, I will pick up a little something for Nana, big sisters, my favorite cousin as well, but right now, I am stocking up for me. This is the time of year when stores begin to overstock for the holiday season, but the beauty is they start to slash prices on December 26th as well. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, all the way through the New Year, you can really stock up and save. But before we get to the after Christmas deals, let’s get smart about the items for the holidays.

For example, these cups from QVC.com, you can get the set of six for a mere $25. Think about it, this makes six gifts for your co-workers or team mates. These are also great “extras” for those neighbors or people who drop by with a little something for you, now you have something for them. Now that is music to my ears.
    Speaking of music, this is also the time of year for great deals on DVD’s and CD’s, you can also buy now for birthdays and Easter baskets. Many of your favorite artist realease “Best Of” or live performances this time of year. Great stuffers for stockings, gift bags and baskets are picture frames, tools and bath products. It is also a great time of year to buy storage bins; they may all be in red and green, but what the heck, they are dirt cheap. This handy tub is $2.74 at Lowes and you can buy one and get one free. While in Lowes, every girl should have her own set of tools and for around $10, you can get the lady started.
    Last but not least, one of my favorite ideas, is to stock up the pantry with buy one get one deals. There are great deals on flour, sugar, cooking oils, broths and spices. The http://www.thecoupongodess.com also suggests that if you have room in the freezer, go ahead and buy that turkey or extra ham. I was also reading on mommysavers.com you can buy a set of eight dessert plates with mugs and separate these into sets of fours. Add in some small stocking stuffers like hot cocoa, or Bath and Body Works (5 for $5) products, you are good to go! Also, if you are a Foursquare user, look for the hidden deals and specials when you check in, it can save you a few bucks and often will give you a certain percentage off your purchases.

    Shopping for the holidays are great, but smart and savvy shoppers have loaded up all year and this is season to replenish the coiffures. I even scored a new food chopper and waffle iron for $2.84 on Black Friday at Wal-Mart. Forget the perfect card, here ya go neighbor, for your birthday, a new waffle iron! Now, I always have on hand a cute card or item for a birthday gift and you can too. After all, tis the season!

For These Things I Am Thankful

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I am going on strike. I have been asked by six people what I am planning to cook for Thanksgiving, and each have been shocked when I have responded, “very little.” I have the bird, I have some vegetables and I have stuff to make desserts, but am I cooking for two days to eat left overs for four, heck no! I plan to celebrate Thanksgiving, but not in the traditional way.

I am thankful to be able to have the means in which to purchase the needed items to make such a splendid meal. However, with the cost of food and fuel, I see no reason to spend $200 to make dinner. If I am going to have a $200 dinner, the Chef best come to my table and make sure I enjoyed every savory morsel!

I cook five or six days a week and Tuesdays are my baking day. I bake fresh each week and my friends are all well aware. I am usually asked to share what I make and often do. Today is Tuesday so I have decided to make a pie. I am thankful that I have friends who enjoy my cooking 52 times per year. I do not need them to wait until the final Thursday in November.

Because I cook so often, I have found clever if not unusual means to recycle my leftovers. The roast from Sunday is often cut down to make tacos on Mondays or soups or stews throughout the week. The left over cornbread I made on Sunday is perfect for some cornbread dressing. I am thankful that there is enough leftover and I do not have to make a fresh pan special for Thanksgiving.

I have potatoes, both white and sweet, along with peas and other items bought from local growers. I am going to cook for the week anyway, but this week, I am planning to cook a turkey. Since the bird is mid-sized, it is also perfect for making turkey pot pie, turkey noodle soup and turkey salad. I am thankful that I know how to stretch my food budget.

So often we spend this day of Thanksgiving engorging ourselves with overly rich foods, overspending and annoying the hell out of each other. Again, I am protesting. My modest dinner this Thursday will consist of a bird and two side dishes. I am not heading out on Black Friday to shop for items I don’t need either. I am staying home.

I have been blessed this year with clarity to understand my place on this universe. I have learned in the past year that less is more. I have learned that to be an educator, I must first educate myself. I have learned that in order to be loved, I must, without reservation give it to those who deserve it, as well as those finding their way. I have, most of all, learned that I am still learning.

I do not require a certain day in which to cook a meal to share with my family and friends. I have learned to manage my money so that I do not have to shop like a maniac the day after Thanksgiving. I have learned to be crafty and can make my friends items they will appreciate, so I do not need to spend money. And for these things, I am thankful.

Old People Are Bullies

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           Yesterday, I was blessed by my friends to check out the dinner theater on Fort Gordon.  If you have not had the opportunity to see a show, please take the time to get out and support local artists and small theater production.  However, I think attending this event on a Saturday night was a mistake.  I am uncertain if it was senior’s night or someone just unloaded the wagon from Shady Acres retirement home, but one thing I do know, old people are scary.

            Please don’t misunderstand; I have nothing against the elderly.  I do not advocate elderly abuse, death panels or any reason whatsoever to mistreat another human being, but again, old people are scary and bullies. One octogenarian is not bad, 75 of them, Good Lord, I can still smell the moth balls and Ben Gay! For some reason, the ceremonial dousing of Old Spice or Estee Lauder Youth Dew, does not help the situation.

We entered the lobby on a semi cool evening and there was a big gap in the middle of the floor.  We filled the gap, unbeknownst to us that the gap was caused by two lines; two lines of cranky seniors. When the last of our party joined us, some lady, began to chastise us about breaking the line. It was dinner theater, all of the food at the buffet is mediocre, and I politely told her so, and even added, “there’s plenty to go around.” She frowned, made rude comments to her equally cranky spouse, and honestly, it just left a bad taste in my mouth that replaced the twinge of Estee Lauder I was munching on. I think as I turned, they shot me the bird.

            One the other side, behind me, were Red Hats and what appeared to be survivors of the Holocaust. For some reason they just kept blocking our way.  We had reservations and a corporate table, and finally, one of them got smart and said, “Oh, you are with the group?” Only with this acknowledgement were we allowed to move through the line. Inside was even worse. It did not matter which line we were in, they would just push and shove their way in line, at the bar, at the buffet and even in the bathroom.

I understand you have earned certain privileges and I am going to honor and give you the respect due your age, but old people are bullies. Just because I have not lost all the pigmentation in my hair does not mean that I am stupid.  I understand you may have grown up in a time where some who looked like me was not allowed to sit and eat with someone that looked like you, but that was 45 years ago. The same can be said in reverse, you cannot hate an entire race of people based on some incidents in history. Here’s a hint, it wasn’t the entire race, but a few people.

            I also know that I cannot be afraid of an entire group of people based on one horrid smell, Ben Gay. And just to be perfectly clear, being old does not give you the right to be a bully. I am honored by your wisdom, but it does not necessarily mean that you are right. You instilled home training in your children and respect, can you display some of your own? Let us also be honest, if you are that far along in age, shouldn’t you be more concerned with being nicer to people to ensure your conversation with St. Peter is filled with the positive?

My Favorite Things!

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If Oprah can have a list of her favorite things, then why can’t I? As I was walking through the grocers, I came across the magazine rack and saw the Lady Oprah dancing across the cover of “O.” She looked so pretty I almost bought the magazine that is until I saw the $4.50 price tag. I was bad, I picked it up and flipped through the pages. Personally, her favorite things weren’t really all that awesome. I can see no real use for these Chocolate Bears for $12 plus shipping and handling. For exactly the same twelve dollars, I can buy some of my favorite things, like frozen vegetables at the ten for $10 sale, which mean I have vegetables to eat for at least 10 days.

    I continued to look through some of Ms. O’s favorite things. I did see some items that made me stop and wonder what where she came up with these items.

 http://zappos.com retail $120

Originally $137, now $109 with code OPRAH  DeuxLux.com
$125 | Saks.com

These are really nice items, but really, we are in a recession and I can’t afford these things. What I have learned over the years is how to take the things that I truly love, and make a version of them.

First on my list is Moose Munch made famous by Harry and David, retailing at $29.95. This is Crunch and Munch on steroids. I sometimes will buy it as a treat, but most of the time, I make it myself. Here is a simple recipe.

Second on my list of favorite things are any items that I can make. The holiday season I love placards for my holiday table settings. Oriental Trading Company is always on my holiday shopping list, because I can pick up these easy placards for about $5.00. The kit creates 12 settings, and at this price, I can afford to buy several, even to give them as gifts.

And last but not least, some of my favorite things are bags. Purses, satchels, book bags, shopping bags and anything that I can carry my stuff in. I love to shop on http://Ebags.com. There is everything there for your pockets and your pocketbook. Best of all, the prices are right for your purse.

The whole point to my thought process here is to not over spend or get caught up in the haze of Black Friday and the holiday shopping madness. There is enough retail therapy to go around without breaking the bank and acting like a mad person on a spending frenzy. Out of curiosity, what is on your list of favorite things?

You Just Got Served!

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It was a long day my friends, so I popped into my friendly neighborhood bar and grille for some libation and something on which to nosh. I came face to face with Joe A. Customer; the standing “A” for abnormally large, pulsing hemorrhoid. I must tell you, as a customer, I know I’m not always right, but what happens when a customer is totally wrong?
    Well, here begins the story of Joe A, who began his evening being inappropriate with his young, busty waitress. Her look of disgust was evident to all who looked on, but did not seem to faze our overly friendly Joe. The waitress, being a smart little cookie, swapped tables with a strapping young man. Joe was not happy and began to migrate into a class” A” duodenum. The wait staff was not happy. The customers were not happy. The waitress scratched her ass, and then fondled his food.
    I saw it. The couple next to us saw it as well. Joe, did not because he was busy flapping his lips because he could no longer flirt with something half his age. She had no interest in your tawdry advances. The waitress had no interest in you. Here’s the irony. The ass you wanted to touch, you ended up eating. I wonder if it tastes like crow? Joe, you just got served your just desserts for being a jerk.
    If you are going to go through life being a grade “A” assmunch, then be smart enough not to anger the people serving you food. I know I should have said something to her about Karma, how life is reciprocal, and what we give out, comes back to us. I saved the words to the waitress because maybe all of those things were now being applied to Joe.     

 Be nice to your wait staff and tip them with cash. If you tip them with your credit card the bar owner takes a piece. But most importantly, act as if your mother taught you some manners.