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Monday, December 28, 2015

After Christmas Strategic Shopping

I typically do more shopping after Christmas than before. I've been a bargain hound since way back.

We don't need the usual Christmas lovelies, like lights or gift wrap. I've managed to stockpile that long ago. Nowadays, it's the fancy stuff like Godiva chocolates and the extra cute Christmas cards I found this year.

At this time of year we're usually loaded down with homemade treats from the neighbors so I freeze the chocolates until we come up against a dreary day when only the best chocolate will do.

Sadly, stores have gotten savvy to bargain hounds like me. Inventory is computer-controlled now. They know what stock will move and what won't and they buy accordingly. There's always a margin for error which is why there are still some items leftover after Christmas, but it's not like the old days.

I feel sorry for younger shoppers today. They'll never know the thrill of overstock.

If I can give you one tip for buying after Christmas sales, shop for items that are not tied directly to Christmas


• Cloth napkins trimmed with silver thread will serve long past the holidays. Whereas, snowman-themed napkins are a once a year item.

• Holiday dishware: Last year I bought several place settings of gold rimmed dishes for 75% off. (I waited for the very end of the clearance.) They're great for big gatherings when paper plates won't do.

• Gift wrap in solid colors can be used year round.

• Holiday candles can be used for any festive occasion.

• Christmas-themed, quality dog toys (don't bother with the cheap stuff) is good for any occasion. Dogs don't care if they're chewing on Santa's leg. It's all good.

Speaking of dog gifts, please avoid any rawhide made in China. Too many dogs have died from Chinese products. Because of their size, little dogs are even more susceptible to any toxins. If you can't verify where it was made, don't chance it.


• Don't forget the necessary extras like tissue paper, tape, and baking tins. If they're in the Christmas aisle, chances are they're also marked down.

• As you glance at the pre-packaged Christmas gifts, stock up on things that won't expire. Pajamas, bed throws, slippers, and neck massagers almost invariably get marked down. Now's the time to get them for next year's gifts. Note: If you buy anything with a cord, be sure to check that it works before you put it away.

Did you get anything good for Christmas this year? We don't buy gifts for each other anymore, though somehow Greg managed to get a few toys for himself. Men!


Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Chickens

Chickens normally go into molt as the days shorten. After molting, egg laying pretty much stops. There are some breeds that lay nearly all year, but mine are not one of those.

I usually keep enough eggs to last us through the winter but this year I gave away too many eggs. I had to dole out eggs like a miser for our breakfasts and baked goods. 

A few weeks ago, I realized I was going to run out before the hens started laying again. (For these girls, it's usually February.)

An old standby is to put a light in their chicken coop for a few extra hours after dark. 

You want to mimic 12 hours of daylight. To keep hens healthy, only do this after they've molted and only for a few extra hours--not all night.

I waited and waited. Two weeks went by and nada. I was down to two eggs. 

Can I tell you how much it killed me to buy store eggs? 

On the third week, I made breakfast with the store eggs. That's when the girls decided to start laying again. I swear they clucked Merry Christmas to me. 

A day late and three dollars short.

*****

I hope you have plenty of eggs, family, and friends in your life. 

Merry Christmas, my friends!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Easy-Peasy Chocolate Turtles

I want to share a truly easy treat to make for parties or neighbor gifts. I found the recipe on Facebook but I didn't want to share it until I had tried it out. 

My guinea pig...um...taste-tester was Greg. The royal taster gave it two thumbs up.

Ingredients:
1 package of Rolos (or comparable chocolate candy with caramel in the middle)
1 package of mini pretzels
1 package of pecan halves
 
Instructions:
• Preheat oven to 350 F
• Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. You can go without it, but the parchment paper makes the job easier.
 • Place pretzels single file and top each with a Rolo.
 • Bake for no more than 3 minutes. The original instructions say 3-5 minutes but for me 3 minutes were more than enough. Bake them too long and the caramel will glue itself to the paper.

You want to soften the candy, not melt it completely.

Take the tray out and top each with a pecan half. Pressing the pecan
will spread the chocolate nicely.

Cool and eat. 


They're really good! And super fast to make in a pinch.
 


Monday, December 7, 2015

Of Blogs and Bread

All weekend I've been researching web hosts and trying to glean the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. More importantly, I've been trying to decide which is the best for me and my situation.

Enter tech-guru Tia Nevitt who was kind enough to explain what I was reading. Deciphering technical jargon is like reading ancient Greek...backwards.

After talking to Tia I'm sure now I want to go the self-hosting route. I don't want to be encumbered by restrictions over what I can and cannot post. Chances are using WordPress.com wouldn't hurt me any, but I'm trying to plan for how my blog might evolve in two or three years. WordPress.org is more hands-on, meaning more control on the part of the user.

That's good if you like to have full control of your blog. Not so good if you're a troglodyte like me. But even troglodytes can learn. We usually do it kicking and screaming--but we do learn. 

Whatever I decide won't go into effect until mid to late January. I want to get the holidays behind us before I start anything new.

Speaking of holidays...have you decorated? We were supposed to decorate over the weekend but I came down with a bad sinus headache. 

This year I plan to make gift baskets for my friends. For the neighbors I plan to make some kind of bakery goodness. Sherri Myer on Facebook posted this recipe for cinnamon rolls. I'll probably use Greg as my pastry tester to be sure they came out right. He won't mind. :)

I've mentioned before that I am not a baker, but I would love to get better at it. Please, please, all you bakers out there: What's your secret for making a light, holey bread?



My bread always comes out too dense. I thought maybe I was overworking the dough but even with my handy-dandy Kitchenaid mixer, it's still not light and fluffy.

What am I doing wrong? It tastes good, but it's as heavy as a rock.

Do you bake?
Have you decorated yet?
Anybody out there use WordPress.org?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mini-Review: Julie & Julia

We've had yet more rain. 14 inches, not counting the overflow when it was too wicked-wet to empty out the water gauge.

Cold and rainy, we've been cocooning this past week with a marathon of movies. One of the movies in the queue was Julie & Julia.

It was a movie made out of a combination of two books: My Life in France (Julia Child's autobiography) and a memoir of Julie Powell who cooked and blogged her way through Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

After watching this movie I'm convinced there's nothing Meryl Streep can't do. She somehow adapted Child's voice, body language, and mannerisms into a character that bursts to life. Streep is absolutely brilliant.

Amy Adams plays Julie Powell. I adore perky Amy Adams but I couldn't help feeling she was being kind to an otherwise bratty character. Julie Powell comes across as whiny, self-centered, and immature. Amy Adams handled a difficult character with a lot of grace, but you can still see the brat under the blanket. I get annoyed with people constantly in me-me-me mode and this woman seemed to live in that state.

I loved how the director mirrored Julie's life in the 21st century and Julia Child's life in 1940s France. The sets, the clothes, and the food was sheer artistry. The actors were believable. They breathed life into their characters. There wasn't a poor performance anywhere in the movie.

As I like to do with movies, I did some research on the real life people behind the story. I found a new affection and respect for Julia Child. She was a woman who wasn't afraid to show her passion for food and for her husband. The movie is worth watching just to see the romance between Julia Child and her husband, Paul simmer.

Julie Powell, sad to say, seems to have lived up to my suspicions. Apparently, after her blog fame, she wrote another book, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession, a memoir of her adulterous sex life. :facepalm: Judging by the reviews, it was not pretty.

I highly recommend Julie & Julia though. The performances, the sets, and the food will have you salivating to cook up something fancy. 

Right now I've got a craving for lobster in garlic butter sauce. Bon app├ętit.

Are you a foodie?