New Year

2012                                                                                                                2012

                           Happy New Year!


2012                                                                                                                2012

This and That...

This and That...

Word of the Week - "recrudesce" - to reappear again after lying dormant

Quote of the Week - "Wise men, though all laws were abolished, would lead the same lives." (Aristophanes)

New Year's Superstitions and Traditions

New Year's Superstitions and Traditions

Good luck, bad luck?

When I was growing up my Mother was the family "Keeper of Superstitions." She seemed to have some small insight or omen for every little occurence. If you mentioned your hand was itching, she'd tell you that you were going to handle money. If you dropped your dishrag while washing dishes - company was coming. If you dreamed of snow in the summer then "dreaming out of season and you are worrying without reason."

When it came to New Year's, there were two superstitions the family strictly adhered to; the first was that you should never wash clothes on New Year's Day because, (according to my Mother, The Keeper of Superstitions), if you did, you would be washing a dead relatives clothes by the end of the year. Eek! Horrifying! Needless to say, she never did laundry on New Year's Day and now I don't either. I don't know if the superstition is true or not, and I don't want to test it to try to find out!

The second New Year's superstition regards visitors - if a woman is the first visitor to your house in the New Year, it is bad luck! This was a widely known superstition in the area of Tennessee where my Mother grew up, and from this superstition came a tradition - men would go visting family, friends and neighbors on New Year's Day. The men would visit for a while, maybe have a cup of coffee and then move on to the next house.
I wondered where such a superstition might have come from so I did a little research and found it probably originated in Scotland where they have an ancient tradition known as "First Footing." In the First Footing tradition the first visitor to your home for the New Year should be male, preferably a tall, dark stranger. This first visitor should arrive with a gift such as coal for the fire, shortbread, salt, whiskey or coins. This first visitor is invited in, has a drink or a bite to eat, and then moves on. 
Why is the first visitor preferably a tall, dark stranger? Rumor has it that this dates back centuries to the days when the Vikings were raiding Scotland - no one wanted a blond Viking at their door!  
This tradition of "First Footing" still goes on in Scotland to this day during their New Year's celebration known as Hogmanay.  


While my family didn't have a particular New Years' superstition regarding food, many people do. While living in Maryland, I discovered many people eat black-eyed peas and "greens" (such as collard greens) on New Year's Day. According to their superstitions, the black-eyed peas bring good luck, and the greens bring you money.
When I moved to Pennsylvania, I noticed when the New Year approached that there were signs here and there advertising local "New Year's pork and sauerkraut dinners". I later found out that eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day is an old German tradition, and of course, it is supposed to bring good luck.

Traditions Live On

Superstitions and traditions from Germany. Superstitions and traditions from Scotland. And yet many of the people who keep these things are descended from ancestors who came to the "new world" a couple of centuries ago. Perhaps, in a small way, on New Year's Day, our "roots" still stretch all the way back to our "Old Country"?

Does your family have any New Year's superstitions and traditions? Post a comment and share!

Great Deals!

Great Deals at a Retirement Village Thrift Shop!

I was talking to someone over the weekend and she mentioned that the thrift shop at the retirement village where she lives had been having great deals on barely used appliances. When the residents in the town homes move away or decide to move into the actual nursing home facility, the appliances from their town home is given to the thrift shop to resell. They'd had stoves and fridges selling for under $75! That is a great deal for a high quality, barely used appliance! And the money goes to a good cause - it goes into a benevolent fund to help any of the retirement village residents who may need it.
The thrift shop, being in an "upscale" retirement village, also has other great, quality merchandise at reasonable prices.
So if you are looking for a great deal on a used appliances or other quality second hand merchandise, make sure to check out your local retirement village to see if they have a thrift shop!

After Christmas- Now What?

After the days, weeks or months of planning and anticipation, suddenly Christmas is over.

Now what?

  • Head out for the after-Christmas sales. Winter clothing like coats and sweaters are usually a good deal this time of year as the retailers want to move out any merchandise they didn't sell during the Christmas shopping season. Also, there are great deals to be had on holiday merchandise like wrapping paper; the retailers don't want to have to store these things for next year. Stock up for next Christmas!  

  • Go out and enjoy some holiday lights! Many homes will continue to have their displays lit for a while or you might want to check out some 'professional displays'. The holiday lights display at Lakemont Park here in Pennsylvania continues nightly until January 8th. At only $10 per passenger car it's a great deal - pile the kids and grandma in the car and make an evening of it! When you get home, enjoy some hot chocolate or apple cider! To find holiday lights displays in your area go to Google and then search for "holiday lights" and your state. Many of the lights displays will continue through January 1st or even later!

  • Still have gift cards someone gave you last year? Why not make use of them now? Use the store cards to pick up a few bargains or if you have restaurant gift cards, go out and enjoy a lunch or dinner you don't have to cook!

  • Start a holiday memories diary. Buy a small notebook, or you could even use a piece of printer paper, and spend some time jotting down your favorite holiday memories from this year - Who came to visit? Whom did you visit? What kind of gifts did everyone receive? Did something funny or especially touching happen on Christmas Eve? Write down your favorite memories and then pack your diary along with your holiday decorations. Next year you and yours can reminisce about this year, and add more memories. Make it a new tradition!

  • Start thinking about your New Year's resolutions. Don't make all your resolutions negative things like "I will lose 20 pounds" or "I will exercise more"; add some things like - "I will go to the beach this year" or "I will barbeque more hotdogs". One year I resolved to watch more football and I think it was the only resolution I actually kept! Add some fun things to your resolutions!

Feeling Stressed Out?

Feeling stressed out? Take a break for a few minutes and ...

Stop and breathe - When you're stressed out and busy, you might find that you are taking shallow breaths. Just stop what you are doing and breathe deeply in and out several times. It is refreshing!

Or do neck and shoulder exercises. First relax your shoulders - if you are stressed out you may discover your shoulders are hunched up and trying to connect with your ears. Once your shoulders are relaxed, gently move your head forward then back up three times, then backward and up three times. Next tilt your head down to the right three times, and then to the left three times. Then drop your head forward and circle around to the right three times, and then circle around to the left three times. Remember to do this gently and slowly. Then rotate your shoulders around and forward three times and then rotate them back three times. A lot of people, me included, have a tendency to tighten up their neck and shoulder muscles when they get stressed out. These exercises help loosen the muscles and make you feel more relaxed.

Or put on some music. Just a song or two will do - put on your favorite classical piece and just listen and relax. Or if you're feeling wound up, put on a pop tune and dance to burn off some of your excess energy. 

Or doodle. Get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and just start drawing. Draw circles or scribbles. Draw yourself on the beach or pulling your hair out - however you are feeling. Express yourself!

If you have a family, it may be hard to grab those few minutes to enjoy a break for yourself; here are a couple of ideas to try -  

Take out the trash - the idea of having to do an unpleasant chore has a tendency to send people running, so you offer to take out the trash and then enjoy being outside for a few minutes. Don't see it as work or just something else that needs to be done - use it as a positive experience.

Or go get the mail. Enjoy the weather as you walk to the mailbox. Listen for birds singing. If it is evening, look at the stars. I remember going out to get the mail one crisp, cold Saturday when I lived in an apartment complex and as I was walking along, the air was filled with the pleasant sound of someone playing a flute! You never know what you might experience along the way!

If you still need to get away for your five minute break - hide in the bathroom with a magazine. I have discovered that if you go to the bathroom to take a long, relaxing shower or bath, you are still fair game for knocks on the door with questions or complaints. But most everyone will respect your privacy if they think you're heading in there for another reason! Sit on the edge of the tub and focus on serenity!

May your day be stress free!

Easy Apple Cinnamon Bread

Apples and cinnamon are a classic combination and this easy apple cinnamon bread is a nice treat for breakfast. Like most fruit breads, it tastes even better if you make it the day before and allow it to sit. The flavors meld into scrumptiousness!

You will need -

For the bread -
2 medium apples, peeled, cored, chopped (1 1/2 -2 cups)
1 stick of margarine, melted
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

For the topping -
2Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a small bowl
Mix the topping - 2Tbsp. sugar, and 1 tsp. cinnamon and set aside.

In a large bowl
Mix the margarine, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well blended.

Stir in the chopped apples.

Sift in the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Stir until well mixed.

Spoon the batter into a greased and floured bread pan.

Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar topping evenly onto the top of the batter.

Bake for 1 hour or until knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

This and That...

Word of the Week - "curmudgeon" - a stubborn, grouchy person - usually an older man.

Quote of the Week - "What is to give light must endure the burning." (Eleanor Roosevelt)
Dear Reader,
If you happen to find a word mispelled, or improper English in the previous post, please overlook it. I usually try to preview and edit posts carefully before I publish them to my blog, but today, there seems to be some sort of glitch in the system. The "preview" button isn't working, and so I published my post anyway and then discovered it did need editing. Then I, who am learning all this computer stuff as I go, get to figure out how to go about editing an already published post. Fun.

And now time for a break!
May your day be pleasant and your grocery savings supreme.

Save Money On Groceries

Save Money On Groceries

Ideas -

Don't go to the grocery store hungry. If you do, you will be like a kid in a candy store and everything is going to look delicious and you are going to want to buy all of it!

Plan meals, and make a list. But, if you haven't strategically planned out your meals according to what's on sale, allow for some flexibility. You might have planned to have chicken on Tuesday, but then find out that your favorite store is having a great sale on beef. 

Look for fresh meats that are on their last sale date. These are often discounted. Either use the meat that day, or put it in the freezer. 

Try store brand and lesser known brands. Some of these items are of comparable quality to the big name brands and they cost less.

Shopping -

Use store loyalty cards to take advantage of savings. Also, check to see if the store has a website. The big chain store where I shop has a website where you can sign up to have a "personalized page." On my "personalized page" I can view my store's weekly flyer, a list of special buys on items I've previously purchased, and a list of "Things I Buy" and whether or not they are on sale that week. This helps plan grocery trips!
* Bonus - My purchases add "points" to my loyalty card which, when they reach a certain level, can be used for a discount on the purchase of gasoline at the store's gas pumps. Extra savings!

Shop at smaller discount stores. You might have to look around for these because they usually aren't in the prime real estate with the big chains. They might be tucked away in a less popular shopping center, or on a side street in a small town. Look for them in your town, or go online and do a search for grocery stores in your area. These smaller stores often have great prices! The store where I shop has canned veggies for about 20 cents less per can than the big chains store brand, and they are of comparable quality. The store has also been carrying frozen 2lb. chubs of ground chuck for $3.98 - that's $1.99 a pound for ground chuck! Then there are loaves of bread for 88 cents, smoked sausage at less than half the price of the same item at the big chain, and $1 for a box of toaster pastries that taste just as good to me as the $1.59 per box name brand.
These are just examples and your local store may not have the same items at the same prices, but take a look and you might find your own great savings.
* On the down side - at the store where I shop, I have to bag my own groceries. Another store I visited, you have to pay 25 cents to use a shopping cart. But you might find the savings worth the inconvenience.

Check out dollar stores. They often have good prices and great sales. Also make sure to check out their websites - sometimes they have printable coupons to use in store. One coupon I saw listed recently was for name brand 2 liter soda - with the coupon you could buy up to 4 bottles at $1 per bottle. These sodas were $1.29 and up at the other stores - a 29 cents per bottle savings is nice!
Also, dollar stores are a great place to buy household cleaning products - that's what led me to visit a dollar store for the first time - I needed dish "scrubbies" and cleaning sponges and I discovered the dollar stores have great prices on these items. I told my sister, who lives closer to a big city, and she took a look for herself. She found the items she needed and they cost a lot less than what she'd been paying at the grocery store.

Using Coupons -

Check your stores coupon policy - they vary, sometimes from store to store. Ask the manager!
Some stores double coupons, some stores don't.
Some stores accept coupons printed off of the internet, some stores don't.
Some stores have limits on the number of a particular item you can buy using coupons; some stores don't.

Overages - Some stores allow "overages" which means if you buy an item on sale for 70 cents, and you have a 50 cent coupon off of 1, which doubles to $1, then you would have a 30 cent "overage". Some stores will take the overage off of your total bill, some stores will put overages on a store gift card. But a lot of stores don't allow overages; so, in the above example, your item would still be free, but you would not get the 30 cent overage.

Don't buy things you don't need just because you have a coupon! Saving $1 on body wash is great if you do, or will, use the product. But if you're not going to use it, don't buy it! Then you will have "saved" the whole price of the item.

Use coupons wisely! If using a coupon drops a name brand product to $2, but the comparable, lesser known brand is $1.75, then buy the lesser known brand.

50 cents off of 2! $1.50 off of 3! A lot of coupons require you to buy 2 or more of the product to get the savings. 50 cents off of each product is great, but not if buying the required 3 products will take a large chunk of your weekly grocery budget. Look for coupons good for 1 item!
Or consider finding a shopping buddy - a friend, your Mom, how about your brother? He needs orange juice, you need orange juice - the coupon is 50 cents (doubles to a dollar!) on 2. Divide up the groceries later. He gets one of the juices; you get the other. He needs 2 boxes of the "$1.50 off of 3" cereal; you need the other. You'll save on groceries, it's terrific bonding time, and you can complain about rising prices together.  

Look for coupons for "splurge" items. If you are over the moon for fresh baked, name brand cinnamon rolls, or if your sweetheart's eyes light up over a particular salty snack mix, keep a watch for coupons for those products. Watch for the items to be on sale to get extra savings!

If you have a favorite name brand item, see if the company that makes it has a website and, if it's available, sign up to join the site. A lot of brands send out email newletters that contain coupons and/or information about special promotions. Some of the companies even send you a coupon just for signing up!

Current idea - Everyone seems to be baking something this time of year and baking supplies are on sale and some companies are offering coupons! It's a good time to stock up if you can afford it. But remember while colored sprinkles are lovely on cookies, simple supplies like flour, sugar, baking powder and yeast will be useful beyond the holiday season. Warm biscuits or fresh baked loaves of bread are wonderful on a cold January day!

Frost-free Fridge Full of Frost and Ice?

Frost-free Fridge Full of Frost and Ice?  Try a manual defrost...

A few months ago my trusty 16 year-old frost-free refrigerator starting having problems: water was dripping into the fridge section, frost and ice were building up in the freezer, and the motor seemed to be running a lot. After reading about possible "fixes", and doing a little research into how much a new fridge would cost (outrageous!), I decided to start with the simplest thing first - a manual defrost.

The old fridge is working fine, at least for now, and I have some time to save up to buy a new one instead of putting it on credit - that will save on interest charges. Also, the motor isn't running all the time like it was when it was icing up, so that is saving on the electric bill.

* Though this is a messy job, it may extend the life of your fridge, it may run more efficiently, and it might buy you a little time to save up for a new one.

You will need: a picnic cooler, some towels, maybe a mop, an extra freezer if available, some freezer packs or plastic water or pop bottles 

First things first - Put off grocery shopping/restocking and eat up what you can from the fridge and freezer so there will be less to have to keep cold during the long defrost.
If you have freezer packs you use in your summer cooler, freeze them. If you don't have freezer packs, partially fill some plastic water or pop bottles and put them into the freezer.

When You Are Ready To Defrost -

Start early in the day.

Empty the freezer. If you also have a free-standing freezer, put any remaining frozen items there. If not, see if a family member or neighbor might let you toss a few things into their freezer for a day.
Empty the fridge section - Grab your picnic cooler and put your fridge items into it along with your freezer packs or frozen water/pop bottles.

When the fridge and freezer are emptied out, pull the fridge out from the wall and unplug it. While you are back there, look for a pan with a tube running to it - that is your drip pan. When the fridge is working properly, the water from the auto-defrost comes down that tube, into the drip pan, and the warmth of the motor causes the water to evaporate. Sometimes the little tube gets clogged and the fridge doesn't work correctly, or the tube can get frozen up - like it was in my case. Leave the fridge pulled out from the wall so you can check it later. If water starts to drip from the tube during your manual defrost, then it isn't clogged. It it doesn't drip, the tube can be cleaned out; information on how to do that can be found online.

Now open the fridge and freezer door.
PLEASE REMEMBER TO KEEP CHILDREN AND PETS AWAY FROM THE FRIDGE! A small child might get closed up in there while you're not looking, or a small child might decide the fridge is a great place for the family pet. Keep a close watch on the little ones!

Now, the waiting and toweling - As the ice and frost starts to melt in the freezer, you'll have to wipe up the water. You will also be getting lots of dripping into the fridge section that will need to be wiped up.
If you have a lot of ice built up in the freezer, you can carefully poke at it with a butter knife to help knock it loose. You can also (very carefully!) use a hair dryer to blow some warm air into the freezer to speed up the process.
This step may take some time, depending on how much ice and frost you have in the freezer, and how cool your house is.   *Schedule some other kitchen projects for the same day and you'll be right there handy to wipe up the fridge as everything melts. 

After a few hours, check the tube in the back of the fridge to see if it is dripping. This started very slowly when I did this defrost technique and there was only a drip once in a while. As the fridge thawed out, it dripped faster. 
You will need to keep an eye on the drip pan. If it starts to fill up, grab an old towel and soak up some of the water.

After the ice and frost are out of the freezer, the unit will continue to defrost. You will probably get a lot of dripping in the fridge section, so put some clean towels on the top shelves to catch the water. 
Also, tuck an old towel into the drip pan in the back of the fridge. Depending on how frozen your fridge is, you may still end up with some water on the floor. Have a mop handy!   

Then, just let the fridge sit, unplugged, doors open, until the next morning.

The next morning, wipe out any water from the fridge and freezer, and then pull the towel out of the drip pan. Mop up if needed.
Plug the the fridge in, and slide it back into place.

Wait for several hours, to allow the fridge and freezer to get cool, before placing your food back into the unit.

While this technique may not work for every fridge and in every situation, you might decide it is worth a try. Start with the simplest thing first!

Looking for gift ideas? Why not tools?

Looking for gift ideas? 
Here is a semi-humorous look at why tools might be good gift ideas...

An adjustable wrench - Sometimes nothing beats an adjustable wrench. I have hard water at my house and it clogs the faucet heads. A rag, or a rubber gripper to open jars with just doesn't work well to loosen the end of a kitchen faucet so I can get the hard water gritties out. An adjustable wrench works better and is less frustrating.
An adjustable wrench is also handy to twist off the end of a weedeater when you need to put in some more string; so to save you from getting aggravated and throwing the thing across the yard, grab an adjustable wrench and give it a try.

A screwdriver - "flat head" and "phillips" - You never know when a screwdriver will come in handy. Back in the dark ages when you used to have to actually replace car headlights instead of just the bulb, I needed a new headlight. I pulled into a service station to get it replaced and the labor charge was more than it would've cost me to buy a screwdriver! I could've replaced the headlight myself and saved a lot of money.
Screwdrivers can also have multiple uses - I use one to operate my food processor. Some time after I bought my food processor, I accidently dropped the plastic food container part. It looked okay, I thought, until I tried to use it; that's when I discovered that there was a little piece broken off - the little piece that hits the switch to make it all work. Undeterred, and determined not to have to buy a new one because of one little broken piece, I tried poking the switch with a knife. The switch was too far back so that didn't work. Then, I tried a long, thin screwdriver - success! So I didn't have to buy a new food processor and I have used the thing for years now with the aid of a simple screwdriver.

A hammer - I discovered early that sometimes a shoe doesn't work as a hammer, and a brick or a rock can be hard to come by. Everyone needs a hammer. Plus shoes, bricks and rocks can't pull nails.

Duct tape - Duct tape is like the wonder fix of the tool box. It can be used to hold up slipping car windows, or to keep a broken house window together until you get it fixed. Duct tape has been used to temporarily fix leaking hoses in cars, and to fix vinyl seats. I had a friend who had an old, old pickup truck and the seat was showing it's age - splitting, and cracking, it made for an uncomfortable ride. Then, she bought a roll of duct tape and covered the whole seat with the stuff. It wasn't stylish, for sure, but it worked.
I used duct tape to make a more comfortable bucket handle. I have a five gallon bucket I use around the house and yard and the little, plastic grip on the handle started to crack and pinch my hand everytime I used it. I wrapped the thing in duct tape and it is a lot easier on the hand than the plastic grip ever was.

WD-40 - This is another product with multiple uses. It is really good at stopping squeaks. When your doors squeak like you live in a haunted house, nothing beats WD-40.

A Handsaw - If for nothing else, a handsaw is useful at Christmas time. When I was young and just starting out, I tried to trim the crooked bottom of a Christmas tree with the sharpest thing I had - an electric carving knife. It didn't work too well. Buy a handsaw.

Pliers - Pliers are the handy person's tweezers. They are great for pulling things like staples - pliers saves your fingernails.
There are different kinds of pliers and at our house we use channel lock pliers every Thanksgiving. I like a particular brand of turkey and it is reasonably priced but the turkey comes with a thick, metal wire holding the feet/legs together. The wire is supposed to stay in the turkey, but I just don't find a roasted turkey with metal wire shackles appetizing, so I call for my hubby and he yanks out the wire with his handy channel lock pliers. The turkey looks better and my hubby gets to think he's helped with the dinner.

So if you are searching for gift ideas, consider something for the tool kit; you never know when someone might need to fix a truck seat, pull a wire out of a turkey or have an urge to throw a weedeater across the yard.
This and that...

Word of the Week - "strata" - from the Latin "stratum" - a horizontal layer

Quote of the Week - "If you think twice before you speak once, you will speak twice the better for it." (William Penn)

I was just made aware that the comment feature hasn't been working.
I think I've got it working now. Happy commenting!

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells....

Jingle Bells, jingle bells...

It's that time of the year again when the sound of holiday music fills the air and one of the most popular songs of the season is "Jingle Bells." But did you know...

  • "Jingle Bells" was written by James Lord Pierpont (1822-1893), a New Englander who moved south along with his brother, the Reverend John Pierpont, when the Reverend accepted a position at a church in Savannah, Georgia. When trouble began brewing in the southern states, the Reverend Pierpont headed north, but James stayed in the south. James eventually joined the Isle of Hope Volunteers of the 1st (later the 5th) Georgia Calvary where he served as a company clerk. During his stint in the army, he composed confederate patriotic songs including, "We Conquer or Die."

  • "Jingle Bells", published and copyrighted in 1857 as "The One Horse Open Sleigh,"  was originally written as a Thanksgiving song.  In 1859 it was re-released as "Jingle Bells or The One Horse Open Sleigh".

  • There are plaques commemorating the composition of "Jingle Bells" in both Medford, Massachusetts, and Savannah, Georgia.

  • It was first recorded by the Edison Male Quartette in 1898. Since then, the song has been recorded many times by everyone from the Chipmunks, to the Sex Pistols, to Michael Buble'.

  • "Jingle Bells" was the first song performed in space. On December 16, 1965, Walter M. "Wally" Schirra and Thomas P. Stafford performed the tune on a tiny harmonica and five small bells. The harmonica and bells can now be found at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

  • The barking dog version of the song came out in 1955 and it's official title is "Don Charles presents The Singing Dogs directed by Carl Weismann."

From 1857 until now "Jingle Bells" has come a long way. One has to wonder what James Lord Pierpont would've thought, if he could've known, that his simple song would end up being performed by Chipmunks, barking dogs, and astronauts!
This and That...

Word of the Week - "salubrious" - from the Latin "salus" - means "wholesome" or "conducive to health"

Quote of the Week - "Remember that men will go on doing the same things even if you should burst in protest." Marcus Aurelius

Don't Forget Small Businesses in the Holiday Rush

Small businesses help our economy and our communities; don't forget them in the holiday rush!

* Buy a sandwich from your local deli or maybe a slice of pizza from a local restaurant.

* Buy a cup of coffee from your neighborhood Mom and Pop quickstop.

* Buy a poinsettia from a small, local garden center.

* Buy local apples for your holiday baking. Some fruitstands are open year round.

Visit a local, year round farmer's market and buy some cookies or whoopie pies.

* Take a stroll through a small town holiday bazaar and buy a gift or two from a vendor.

* Enjoy a local museum or other tourist attraction. A lot of small tourist railroads operate Christmas trains through the holiday season, and many historic homes are decorated for the holiday and offer tours.

* Check out a local hardware store for holiday needs, or maybe a bag of bird seed to scatter for your feathered friends.

* Get a haircut at a neighborhood barbershop or hair salon.

* Splurge on a real Christmas tree or holiday wreath.

A Tale of Two Thanksgivings

(image source)
A Tale of Two Thanksgivings?

When we think of Thanksgiving here in the U.S., we think of pilgrims and Native Americans and the Mayflower and Massachusetts. If you are of a certain age, you may even remember school pageants celebrating Thanksgiving. Perhaps you got to dress up as a "friendly native", or a prim pilgrim in stiff black and white clothes. But is that the real story of Thanksgiving? Not according to some people!
A controversy rages as to who celebrated the first Thanksgiving, and where it took place.

Was the first Thanksgiving in Florida?

On September 8, 1565 over 600 Spainards under the leadership of Don Pedro Menendez Aviles came to what would be known as St. Augustine, Florida.
They celebrated the first Mass of Thanksgiving, and then partook of a meal, inviting the local natives, who according to records, "imitated all they saw done".
The celebrant of the Mass was chaplain of the Menedez ship, and St. Augustine's first priest, Father Francisco Lopez de Medoza Grajales.

Or was the first Thanksgiving in Virginia?

On December 4, 1619 a ship from England landed in Virginia carrying 38 colonists who were to settle "The Berkeley Hundred." The Berkeley Hundred was a land grant given to  a Richard Berkeley, William Throckmorton, and others by the Virginia Company of London. The new plantation's charter included instructions that the colonists keep the day of their ship's arrival perpetually as a day of Thanksgiving. According to the stories, upon their arrival, the colonists knelt in prayer and began the Thanksgiving tradition.
This first Thanksgiving, held in Virginia, was recognized by President John F. Kennedy. Written on November 5, 1963, his Thanksgiving proclamation began:
"Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time for Thanksgiving..."

So where did the first Thanksgiving take place?

Florida? Virginia? Some believe it was Texas, but that is a whole 'nother story.

Traditions are hard to change. For most of us, Thanksgiving will always be about pilgrims, and native Americans and a big turkey dinner. But regardless of the who, and the where,  the tradition began, it has been, and should always be, about giving thanks.
This and That...

Word of the Day - "dendrology" - "the study of trees". From the greek 'dendron' - "tree" and 'logia' - "the study of"

Quote of the Week - "Do not neglect your music. It will be a companion which will sweeten many hours of life to you." (Thomas Jefferson to his daughter)

Get Your Vitamin D

Get Your Vitamin D

Essential for healthy bones...
experts recommend 600 IU's of vitamin D per day for most adults.
Vitamin D, along with calcium, helps prevent osteoporosis in older adults.
Older adults can be at risk of vitamin D deficiency because they are likely to spend more time indoors, and also as people age, their skin doesn't synthesize vitamin D as efficiently.

How to get your vitamin D -


People get part of their vitamin D from sun exposure on their skin. The experts recommend five to thirty minutes of sun exposure at least twice per week during the sunniest part of the day, 10am to 3pm, on the face, arms, legs or back.

From foods -

Vitamin D is found naturally in a few foods: salmon, mackeral, and tuna are the top vitamin D foods.

Most people in the U.S. get the majority of their vitamin D from foods fortified with the vitamin:  milk and some yogurts contain vitamin D, as do some ready-to-eat cereals and some brands of orange juice. Check your labels.

Supplements -

Vitamin D is also available as a supplement. Ask your doctor if you should take vitamin D. And remember to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist about any supplements and medications you are taking - some supplements can interfere, or interact, with medications.


Simple Tuna Burgers

Drain and flake a can of tuna packed in water.
Add a couple of teaspoons or so of flour, enough to make the mixture hold together.
Form into patties and fry in hot oil until lightly brown.
Flip and fry the other side.
Serve plain or as a sandwich. Tartar sauce or ketchup makes a tasty tuna burger topping!

Cream of Tuna

Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter or margarine in a heavy saucepan over low heat.
Add 4 Tablespoons of all purpose flour and stir until smooth.
Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Slowly add 2 cups of milk, stirring constantly (a whisk works great for this part!)
Increase heat to medium and cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.
Add one can of drained, flaked tuna.
Cook and stir for another minute or so.

Serve over crispy toast.

(Note - When your bread is starting to go past it's last sale date, plan a meal that uses toast or breadcrumbs and use it up!)

Gratitude - Pay It Forward

Having a gratitude attitude has many positive affects; it increases your optimism, and gives you a greater sense of well-being. Feeling grateful can even make you more motivated to exercise! But according to the experts, being grateful can make you look at others differently. Studies show that being grateful makes you more empathetic towards other people and less likely to judge a person based on their material goods.  

Being grateful also makes you more likely to help other people. In one study, people who kept a gratitude journal helped others more often than those who kept journals of normal daily events or of what they thought they had and others didn't.

Also, people who were made to feel as if someone was grateful for them or their actions were more likely to pay it forward and help someone else.   

Can you increase your gratitude attitude?
Start keeping a daily gratitude journal!
Are you grateful for your significant other? Your children? Your job? Are you grateful you woke up this morning? Are you grateful for a beautiful day?

Idea - if you are on Twitter, why not send out a daily gratitude tweet and spread around the positive?

And don't keep your gratitude to yourself - remember always to say "thank you!"

One Item, Two Uses

One Item, Two Uses

Using common household products and items for more than one use is a great way to save money.

Vinegar is inexpensive and can be used in a variey of ways. Here are just a few -

Clean Shower Heads - Vinegar works well to remove hard water deposits from shower heads. Remove the shower head and soak it in a mix of half hot water and half vinegar for an hour.
Buttermilk Substitute - Have a recipe that calls for a cup of buttermilk but you don't have any on hand? Just take one tablespoon of vinegar and add milk to make one cup. Let sit for ten minutes and it's ready to use.

Glass Cleaner - Vinegar and water make a great glass cleaner. Just mix half vinegar and half water in a clean spray bottle. You can use the mix on windows and mirrors to make them squeaky clean!

Note - if you are going to reuse an old spray bottle, make sure to wash it very well before you put the vinegar and water into it!

Clean Your Coffee Maker - Vinegar works great to clean drip coffee makers! Pour straight vinegar into the water resevoir. Put a filter in the filter basket. (This will catch any little hard water bits that come through the line.) Put the coffee pot in place and start the brew cycle. When the vinegar reaches the halfway point in the coffee pot, turn the switch off and let it sit to 'soak' for half an hour. When the half hour is over, turn the switch back on and let the rest of the vinegar run through. Dump the vinegar and then run two brew cycles using only clean water.

Clean Your Floors - You can clean no-wax floors with a vinegar and water mix. Just add one cup of vinegar per gallon of water.

Note - Instead of throwing away the vinegar you used to clean your coffee maker, why not reuse it in your mop water? Just dump a cup of the vinegar into a bucket and add a gallon of water.

Vinegar isn't the only common item around the house that has more than one use! 

Mayonaise -

Hair Conditioner - Did you know mayonaise makes a great hair conditioner? Instead of tossing that last bit of mayo in the jar, spoon it out and massage it through your hair. Comb it through using a wide-tooth comb and leave it in for half an hour. Then wash your hair as usual. Makes your hair shiny!

Furniture Polish - Out of furniture polish? Put a little bit of mayonaise on a soft cloth and polish away. Wipe again with a clean cloth to remove any residue.

Note - A little "mayonaise furniture polish" goes a long way. Try just a teaspoon or so to start.

Soda Pop -

Toilet Bowl Cleaner - Cola can be used as a toilet bowl cleaner. Pour a can of cola into the commode, let it sit for an hour. Clean using a toilet bowl brush and then flush.

Loosen Bolts - Cola can also be used to loosen a rusty bolt. Soak an old cloth in cola, wrap it around the bolt and let it sit for a while.

Baking Soda -

Clean Your Stovetop - Baking soda makes a great no-scratch cleaner for your stovetop. Sprinkle a little baking soda on a crusty food spot and then scrub it with a wet dishcloth.

Freshen Your Carpets - Sprinkle some baking soda on your carpets and let sit for a few minutes. Vacuum as usual. The baking soda acts as an odor absorber!

Fabric Softener Sheets -

Dust Your TV - Reuse fabric softener sheets that have gone through the dryer to dust your tv screen. It helps reduce static that attracts dust.

Deoderize boots - Got stinky work boots? Stick a couple of used dryer sheets in them over the weekend to absorb moisture and give a clean scent.

Old Socks

Clean Window Blinds - Use a clean, old sock to dust window blinds. Just slip it on your hand like a mitten and dust away!

Cobweb Catcher - Old socks can be used to get cobwebs out of the corners - slip a clean, old sock on the end of the broom handle and use a rubberband to hold it on. Swish it around the corners to grab the cobwebs.

What is your favorite "second use" item or product?
This and That...

Word of the Week - "mononymous" - being known by one name; examples - Abraham, Shakespeare, Cher.

Quote of the Week - "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith." King Solomon 

Stay Warm With Thrift Store Finds

Winter is coming quickly and fuel prices are rising...

and everyone is trying to find ways to save money.

Take a trip to your favorite thrift store and search for these "stay warm" items -

Search for heavy curtains -  Using heavier curtains in the winter will block drafty windows. Close them at night and then open them up during the day to let the sunlight in.
Your thrift store curtains don't have to be stylish or match your decor if you're using them to keep warm. If someone comments about them, you can always say you are recycling, saving money, staying warm, and the money the thrift shop makes goes to a worthy cause!
If you can't find heavy curtains, consider a blanket or a quilt. You can tack it up or hang it over the curtain rod at night.

Search for scarves and turtleneck sweaters - A scarf or a turtleneck sweater will help keep you toasty on a cold winter's day. Layering clothing retains body heat better than just wearing one heavy layer; so consider buying a sweater in a size larger than you normally wear and you can easily toss it on over another shirt.

Search for blankets - Keep a blanket or two in the living room or den to snuggle under while you're watching tv; when you're sitting still you are more apt to feel the chill.

Search for rugs - An area rug will provide an extra layer of insulation against the cold. Scatter rugs work, too - put a rug in front of your favorite arm chair or desk chair to keep your feet off the cold floor.

Search for draft blockers - You can roll up a thick towel or even a heavy shirt, and tuck it at the bottom of a drafty door. Wrapping it with heavy string or putting some rubberbands around it will hold your make-do draft blocker together.

Search for your own keep warm ideas - While you shop around in the Goodwill, Salvation Army or other fine thrift store, see what you can find to make your winter warmer!

This and that...

Word of the week - "derring-do" - meaning "daring to do"; used especially of heroic deeds.

Thoughts -
"It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one." (George Washington to his niece.)

Potato, spud or tater

Potato, spud, tater - whatever you call them you probably eat a lot of them...

The average American eats about 130 pounds of potatoes yearly and fifty-four percent of us eat potatoes in some fashion every day.
From it’s humble beginnings in the Andes mountains as a staple in the diet of the Incas, this fantastic tuber has grown to become the world fourth largest food crop with a yearly worldwide production of 320 million tons.

Simple Potato Soup

This easy to make soup is a warm comfort food on a cold winters day and also a soothing
dish when you feel a little under the weather -

Peel, chunk and cook potatoes like you would for mashed potatoes. You can experiment with the variety of potato you use; white potatoes will make a thinner soup; russet potatoes will make a ‘meatier’ soup.

When the potatoes are tender, pour off most, but not all, of the water. Leave the potatoes a little “sloppy.”

Add some salt, pepper and butter or margarine to taste and beat using an electric mixer.

Add milk until the mixture is the consistency of a thick cream soup.
If mixture seems too cool, reheat it to serving temperature.

Dish up in bowls and top with a favorite seasoning- a shake of parsley or chives works well. Or you can stir in a little extra butter, a spoonful of sour cream, or a shake of garlic powder.


A Cyclamen Can Brighten Up Your Home

Need a little color to brighten up your home?
Enjoy the beauty of a cyclamen
It is the time of year when cyclamen are showing up in abundance in grocery stores and garden centers. In folklore this lovely plant means resignation and goodbye - what a colorful way to say “goodbye” to the old year!

cyclamen in bloom

With green leaves, sometimes mottled with silver, these delightful plants have abundant white, red pink, or purple flowers reminiscent of butterflies perched atop tall stems. With a little care they will bloom right into the next year.

Choosing - find a plant with some flowers, and look to see if there are buds tucked down in the leaves. These will grow and develop into more flowers!

Temperatures - Cyclamen like it cool - 40-50 degrees at night and 68 degrees during the day. That is cooler than most homes, so consider moving your cyclamen to a cooler area at night and then bringing it back out during the day.

Light - Cyclamen need bright, diffused light. Keep them in a bright room, but away from sunny windows.

Water and fertilizer - Watering down through the top can cause the plants tuber from which it grows to rot, so lift the leaves and water from the side. Fertilize every third time you water with a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength.

Helpful hints - Allow your cyclamen to dry, but not wilt, between waterings. Overwatering can easily kill a houseplant! Also consider using plain, bottled water on your houseplants; some plants can be affected by the chemicals found in tap water. Or you can save a little money and go green - put a bucket outside to catch rainwater to use to water your houseplants.

Cold Weather Blues

Here are three easy things that might help you break out of the blahs...

1. Make a list of things that pique your interest. If you can’t think of anything, go on a search. Take a drive or a walk through town to see what’s around. Is there a new shop you’ve never been in? A sign for an upcoming local event? Or search online and see if something sounds interesting. Check out news sites, blogs, ezines. An interesting article or a stroll through a neighborhood bazaar might just make you refocus and feel refreshed.
2. Change one thing. If you always drive a certain way to work, change your route for a day. If you always drink your morning coffee at the dining room table, try having it in the kitchen, or in bed snuggled under the covers. If you always vacuum on Tuesday afternoon, do it in the morning instead. Do you always seem to eat the same thing every week? Check out the frozen food or produce section and pick out one thing you’ve never tried. Have you ever had a perogi? How about a kiwi fruit?
3. Think of a question and search for it’s answer online. Did you ever wonder why we have daylight savings time? Whether or not George Washington went to college? When Stonehenge was built? Why men wear ties? Where the Happy Birthday song originated? What have you always wondered about?