Friday, December 26, 2008

A New Beginning

The end of the old year and beginning of a new year is just a few days away. I don't think many of us could have imagined the changes that have occurred in 2008. These are hard times for everyone, but it is also a time to reflect upon the good things that happened in our lives this year. It is the little things, after all, that are the most important. Just like most, we celebrated the new year with a few traditional superstitions. Mom always said she didn't want to take any chances by not having black-eyed peas for luck. She'd say, 'just imagine how bad things could have been if we skipped the black-eyed peas last year.'

Here are a few traditions, new and old, to try this New Year's Day.

Try Hoppin' John for your New Year's Day meal. This dish includes collard greens, hog jowl, and rice. Click here for the recipe.

Don't wash dishes or clothes on New Year's Day. This tradition is for two reasons. One, you do not want to 'wash away' your luck. Second, whatever you do on the first day of the year, you will do every day. Who wants to spend the whole year cleaning?

If you want to have plenty to eat in the New Year, dine lavishly the first day. The same holds true if you want to eat healthier. There is no time like the present.

Don't let anyone enter your house on New Year's Day empty handed. Encourage visitors to bring something edible.

Wear new clothes on New Year's Day and make sure you have some 'folding' money in your pocket so you won't find them empty in the coming days.

The 'first foot' in your house on New Year's Day should not be a woman, but a man or boy for luck all year.

Traditions and superstitions sometimes go hand in hand. As the New Year approaches, so does a chance for a new beginning. In society, importance is placed on New Year's Eve as the end of the old year is celebrated. In truth, every day is a new beginning. December 31st is just a date after all. Just like a birth date. Do we really need a calendar to tell us we can change today and start over tomorrow? Don't we really make our own luck? When you're making your New Year's Resolutions for 2009, keep this in mind. If you slip here and there, just start over tomorrow. There's no need to give up and wait a year to make a new beginning.

Of course a little luck here and there can't hurt anything.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Sometimes the old hymns say it best and say it all.

God rest you, Christian gentle men,
Wherever you may be,—
God rest you all in field or hall,
Or on ye stormy sea;
For on this morn our Christ is born
That saveth you and me.

Last night ye shepherds in ye east
Saw many a wondrous thing;
Ye sky last night flamed passing bright
Whiles that ye stars did sing,
And angels came to bless ye name
Of Jesus Christ, our King.

God rest you, Christian gentle men,
Faring wherever you may;
In noblesse court do thou no sport,
In tournament no play,
In pagan lands hold thou thy hands
From bloody works this day.

But thinking on ye gentle Lord
That died upon ye tree,
Let troublings cease and deeds of peace
Abound in Christianity;
For on this morn ye Christ is born
That saveth you and me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ice in the Hollow

Well, this is a little more than ice, but I love snow so much that I could not resist posting this picture. Most winters anymore, we just get a little snow and ice. This is from the snow storm we had in February 2008 and it was our biggest in a number of years. Last night we got a lot of ice, but not the pretty kind that hangs on the trees. It's the kind that covers the roads, steps and cars in a thick coating. Even so, it's unusual for us to get this before Christmas these days. The ice storm that recently hit the Northeast is one of the biggest ever. Some of those people will be without electricity for weeks until the lines are repaired. I guess all of this made me think of those winters in the hollow. I remember a BIG snowstorm that hit one January just before school was going to start back after Christmas break. It started sleeting in the early evening. After about an inch of sleet/ice, the snow started falling. The next day we had over a foot of snow and some pretty high drifts. School was closed for weeks, and I didn't actually go back until February. We were without electricity for a couple of weeks, but Mom kept us warm and busy. We played cards, games and put together puzzles by kerosene lamps. Without heat, our pipes froze. Mom had a lot of experience with frozen pipes and living with well water. As soon as the sleet started, Mom started filling every empty container available with water. Of course, the biggest container of all was the bathtub. It was filled to the brim. It was a big adventure to me. I made my biggest snowman ever and of course, Snow Cream! These days everyone hits the grocery store for supplies when a big storm is forecast. But, I have an undeniable urge to fill the bathtub with water just in case....

Snow Cream

1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup of half & half
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Very large bowl of clean snow - enough for desired consistency

Choose very clean snow. We usually took it from the top of a car after several inches had fallen. Scrape off a little of the top layer, and then you only want to scoop off a couple of inches down. Mix milk, half & half, sugar and vanilla. Add snow a little at a time stirring constantly. When it reaches the desired thickness, pour into bowls and enjoy!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

BellaAnne's First Christmas

This is BellaAnne, but you can call her Bella. She may be pint-sized, but she is a whole lotta puppy! She found her 'forever' home with Susan. This pup may not know it now, but she just won the lottery in great owners. She is about to be spoiled rotten! Since she's only a few weeks old, this will be her first Christmas. It looks like she's ready to open her presents now. I can think of several good reasons not to adopt a puppy, but honestly, who could resist this face?
When you are thinking about Christmas gifts this year, consider a trip to your local animal shelter. You just might find a Bella of your very own. If you already have your share of pets or allergies, consider a donation of food, money or time. You'll soon find your heart growing a few sizes this Christmas Season. Just tell 'em Bella sent you.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lowering Grocery Bills

It takes time to save money on your grocery bill. Usually it's time that we don't have in abundance. Clipping coupons, scanning sale papers, comparing products take up a lot of precious time. But, in today's economy it's more important than ever to save money in every aspect of our daily lives. It's a sad fact that unhealthy processed convenience foods are less expensive than fresh and healthy food. With a little time and effort, you can save money and eat healthier.

Plan ahead so you don't make quick trips to the grocery two or three times a week. You must choose when and where you purchase groceries and know in advance what you are going to do with them.

Are store brands and generics a bargain? Yes and No. Yes, because they are lower in cost. No, because some brands are lower in quality or quantity. Pick and choose your items and compare them to the store brands available. Keep notes and you'll soon have an idea of which items retain their quality. Remember, it doesn't matter how cheap it is if no one will eat it.

Are coupons really saving me money? YES! If, you use them correctly. Of course, use them for brands you already use. Check for stores that double coupons. Compare the price to a discount store. If you have a fifty cent coupon that is doubled, you'll save a dollar on that product. Often times, that will make it cheaper than the discount store. Some stores only double coupons up to fifty cents so that the maximum you can receive is a dollar discount. Keep this in mind when sorting coupons.

Buying out-of-season produce is costly. If you really, really need strawberries in the winter, buy them in season and freeze them.

Watch the prices of deli foods. These ready prepared foods save time, but the mark up in price tends to be high.

Look for 'in-store' specials on meat and produce. Often these items must be used immediately, but you can always cook and freeze them for a future meal.

Plan your menu for the week and buy accordingly. Often times unplanned meals lead to extravagance in buying and wasted leftovers.

Make your own 'fast-food'. Think about the cost of the fast food breakfast or lunch you usually purchase. How cheaply can you make the meal yourself? Think about how much time you can save in the morning by grabbing your own meal out of the refrigerator rather than sitting in a drive-thru. Here's a quick and easy recipe that can be altered to breakfast or lunch - Simple Cookery Cheeseburger Muffins.

When you're cooking a meal, go ahead and plate part of it for tomorrow's lunch. You'll save time, money and calories!

It takes time and planning to save money on your grocery bill, but it is worth it in the long run. Have a saving tip you would like to share? Post a comment!