holiday

Ho, Ho, Hold on There!

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For some stupid reason, I waited until the last minute to do some of the needed shopping. Small items like the ham for Christmas dinner and all the fixings, another item or two for my son, and presents for my husband. One, my husband is very difficult to shop for and secondly, well to be honest, I needed one more pay day. It appears that everyone also got paid today as well and the stores, mall and everywhere else was packed.
 
    The day started on a good note. I ran a few errands, got a call from my doctor who wanted to move my appointment up. I was free so I was excited. Doctor’s appointment went well, scored some good drugs and headed over to the soldiers Mecca, the Post Exchange. Found a few good deals, picked up some items for hubby and son and was feeling rather good about myself. I remember the free coffee coupon in my couponizer for Cinnabon but I had to buy a roll to get the coffee. Fine, twist my arm, I will buy the Cinnabon cinnamon roll too. That was when I saw the beautiful, magical table of ooohhhh! It as free gift wrapping and these kids were working for tips. Saying hello, I get in line. A rough around the edges fella spotted me and commenced to bragging about what he had spent on his kids and wife. Ho, Ho, Hold on there fella, if you have bought all of that, I want to follow you home all right but not for what you may think, I am thinking I want to rob you.
    Now along comes Granny and she gets in line beside me. Yes, that is right, beside me not behind me, ho, ho, hold on Granny, it’s not your turn. The same thing happens on the other side. These people are trying to cut in the line. I am patient, the gift wrap is free and I only have three small gifts.

    I leave here and head over to Wal-Mart. Dear Jesus what was I thinking? Every aisle, crook and cranny was filled with people snatching up last minute cheap ass gifts. I was tempted to tell one little man, your Mama don’t want that stinky perfume, but I stopped myself, because it could indeed be his Mama’s favorite. I watched for a minute and the sister confirmed, it was their Mama’s favorite. Oof! Then there were more kids, who were breaking in line, cutting you off, snatching things off the shelves before you can even get to it. Ho, Ho, hold on there! My pimp hand is strong and I will slap a body. Yet, I persevere.
    Last on my stop is Bi-Lo to check out the weekly meal deal. It is the same meal deal they had last week along with a new deal on a no name pie, and get another pie and whipped cream for free. Ho, ho, hold on there Bi-Lo, you seem to be coming up short this holiday season. I am still furious at having to pay seven dollars for some cinnamon sticks.
    Now I am home, and preparing to make Wassail and wrap a few other presents to add under the tree. My beautiful neighbor has shown up with the annual can of Christmas cookies. I am putting away my laptop and keying into my family. I will check back in with you guys after Christmas. In the meantime, and in between time, please be safe, and enjoy your ho, ho, holiday!


Merry Christmas


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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.

Get Crafty This Holiday Season

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This holiday season, you save yourself a few dollars by making some Christmas gifts. I know, I know who has the time? That is the wrong question. The right question is who has the money to buy that many gifts? This nice wreath is made out of Coffee filters. The total cost for this project is about $10.

    There are many simple projects that you can do that can either upcycle items already in your home or those items that need to leave your home. However, before we get to upcycling, let’s get back to those talents that you have that you can use to give or make gifts. Get your mind out of the gutter, you may be good at that but you can’t give it to your Nana!

Are you good at making cakes? You can make cake pops delivered in a nice basket from the Dollar Store. Are you good at making brownies, jams, cookies? All of these items make fabulous Holiday gifts. My neighbor makes a tin of cookies for us each year. The whole cul-de-sac knows when she is baking and we sit around like children awaiting our deliveries. I have another neighbor that makes fudge. I am not a fudge eater but am always glad for a gift that someone took the time to craft for me.

There are many projects and creative ideas available to you for free if you know where to look. I receive a free magazine from Lowe’s Home Improvement called Creative Ideas. It was choked full of so many great ideas that it inspired me to write. I am hoping to inspire you to try something different this year to save money and truly live better. This month’s issue takes you through easy steps to make wonderful holiday wreaths, headboards and upcycling home items. Upcycling takes recycling to a whole new level by recovering or repurposing items you already have in your home. Take that hideous chair that your Mom sent over to your new place. You don’t want it, but you can’t hurt her feelings. Give it a coat of paint, and add some studs and viola, you have upcylced items that you were going to throw away. You have reduced your carbon footprint, reduce landfill input and given that piece of furniture a reason to feel useful again.

I think the most exciting thing about the holidays is the decorations. Each year, we look for that special ornament to add to our tree. Have you thought about making ornaments out of every day simple items or really putting the décor into decorating? I went to visit my favorite crafter’s website, Martha Stewart. I have always considered her to be the McGyver of crafting. I saw where you can take mini picture frames and turn them into cute ornaments for the mantle or the tree.

Many of the websites have free newsletters, Blogs and magazines that you can have sent right to your home. It doesn’t matter what your skillset, there is something you can do that someone else admires. You can make a box of custom greeting cards. You can lay out a few pages in a scrapbook for a family member. You can buy a set of stencils and create a personalized box for a night stand. You just have to try.

Here is your starting point. Here are some Thanksgiving place cards along with the template courtesy of Ms. Stewart.

Happy Crafting!