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!