December 11, 2007


Start Decorating

Filed under: Cooking Tip,Organize,Shopping Tips — sandilarson @ 7:48 am

The time for decorating is always a personal or family preference.  If you like having the decorations up for a long time, start now!  If you get a few things out each day for the next week or so, and they finish with the tree-trimming, it might be easier for you, and more fun for the kids, since they get to prepare for Christmas every day.

If you’ve made Catalog orders, it’s time to check on them.  Has everything arrived?  Shop for substitute gifts if necessary.

Finish wrapping all the gifts you have purchased for your family and friends.  If the tree is already up, you can tag the gifts now, and begin placing them under the tree.  Want to keep them in suspense until Christmas morning?  Don’t use tags at all, just wait until Christmas and let them know what their individual wrap design is then.

Double check your shopping lists, menus, and supplies.  If you are invited to Holiday parties, save invitations until you have written a thank you note.  Take baked goodies or snack mixes as hostess gifts.

December 6, 2007


Christmas Cards and a Cookie Exchange

Filed under: Cooking Tip,Organize,Save Money,Uncategorized — sandilarson @ 9:41 am

As you begin receiving Christmas cards, save the envelopes or record their name and correct address in your Christmas card record book.  If you don’t have a book, just save the envelopes, and you can update your records in January.  You can order a book here:

Plan on saving all your Christmas cards that you receive from friends and family.  If money is really tight next Christmas, you can make post cards, re-purposed Christmas cards, ornaments, decorations, and lot’s of other decorative embellishments from used cards.  If you get to next Christmas and don’t have time or need to use the cards, you can dispose of them, or continue saving them along with the new ones for future use.

Call all your friends and neighbors, and plan a Christmas cookie exchange for next week.  If you’ve never hosted one before, here’s how it works.  Each invitee (and you) bakes his or her favorite Christmas Cookie.  They will make one dozen cookies for every other guest, plus one dozen for tasting.  (If you invite more than 12 people, the tasting cookies need to equal the number of people invited.  When everyone arrives with their cookies, you spread out all the tasting cookies, provide milk, coffee, and tea.  Explain the rules.  Each person can taste one only of each different kind of cookie.  When everyone leaves they will take home one dozen of each kind of cookie.  Your best group size is 12 people including yourself.  Each person bakes 13 dozen cookies.  At the end of your “party” each guest goes home with 12 dozen different cookies, and an amazing sugar high!  You clean up the mess, and now have 12 dozen Christmas cookies.  You can freeze most of them, and take them out as needed throughout the holiday season.  NO MORE BAKING!

Time to pamper yourself a little.  Think about your Holiday wardrobe.  Does anything need to be altered, cleaned, hemmed, pressed, or altered?  What new accessories do you need to dress up or change the old basics?  No one will remember what you wore last year, and you can save a lot by purchasing a few accessories instead of new outfits. 

Mail all your out of town packages and your Christmas Cards.  (Overseas Packages should be mailed in late October or early November.)

Plan your menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  If you are planning on having a fresh Turkey, Goose, or Specialty Ham, place your order now.

November 26, 2007


Lots to Do

Filed under: Cooking Tip,Craft Project,Organize,Save Money,Shopping Tips — sandilarson @ 7:46 am

Begin making a special “I love you” gift for each family member.  Plan on opening these gifts on Christmas Eve.  You’ll see some ideas in some of the up-coming pages.  This is also the time to begin making any special “from your kitchen” gifts for friends, family and neighbors.  Make a few extras for hostess gifts.  Herb oils and vinegars, fruitcakes, sourdough starters, plum puddings, and other items like these need time to “mellow”.

It’s Time to open the Christmas Tin.  If you’ve been working this plan since last Christmas, you’ll have enough money in the tin to pay for all gifts, events, food, and entertaining.  If you’ve only been doing the plan for a short while, you may not have enough, but do EVERYTHING you can to avoid using the credit cards this year.  Follow the plan to the best of your ability, and by next Christmas you’ll be set.

Take all the money from the tin to the bank.  Try to make this a family event.  It’s very exciting to see how much everyone has been able to save.  Don’t go to one of those “change machines” at the grocery store, they take a percentage of your money, and you’ve worked too hard for it to leave a portion in a machine.

November 4, 2007


Catching Up

Filed under: Cooking Tip,Save Money,Shopping Tips — sandilarson @ 2:14 pm


            It’s Halloween, and unless you are going to a party, this is the perfect time to finish off your Christmas Cards, or to start if you haven’t already.  I find that there is little time between answering the doorbell to accomplish much tonight, so I use the time to sign and address Christmas cards.  I’ll often include little notes, or add to my notes on those cards where I wrote notes earlier in the year.



            If you have little children on your Christmas list, one of the most fun gifts I have ever given was a dress-up box.  The kids loved it, and played with it for years.  The few days just after Halloween are the perfect time to purchase items for this gift.  For boys, super hero costumes are the best.  Be sure to buy costumes in sizes larger than the child so they can play with them for at least one or two years.  Usually 2 sizes too big is just right.  Girls love princess, fairy, and other filmy, frothy type dresses.  Dress up shoes, jewelry, tiaras, and boas are very popular.  Avoid masks.  All these items will be on sale, and you can usually fill a whole box with dress-up for under $20.



            If you are mailing Christmas packages overseas, pack them up, and mail them this week.  You can mail later, but you will pay far more, and run the risk of having them arrive in time for Valentine’s Day.



            Finalize Thanksgiving plans.  If you will be working on a large meal, work on the menu and make a list of everything you need to purchase.  

August 26, 2007


A New Recipe to Try

Filed under: Cooking Tip,Gardening,Save Money — sandilarson @ 9:14 am

This time of year, we do our best to take advantage of all our garden produce.  Last night I tried a new recipe with zucchini. Our plants were prolific this year, so I have lots to experiment with.  This was so easy and so tasty if you can get your hands on a couple zucchini you should try it.  Very inexpensive too.  I just cut a couple zucchinis into julienne strips, chopped up a couple cloves of garlic, toasted some pine nuts, shredded a cup of parmesan cheese, and chopped fresh basil.  Then, I started a pot of pasta.  Any kind would probably work, but I used  a combination of mafaldi and fuslli  because I had a little of each left in a package.  While the pasta was cooking, I put a little olive oil and a little butter in a hot skillet and tossed in the zucchini and fried it up until it started getting slightly caramelized.  I  removed it from the pan with a slotted spoon and set it aside.  OK… I added a bit more butter and olive oil to the pan then tossed in the garlic and the toasted pine nuts and stirred them around just until the garlic started to smell good… less than a minute.  I added the zucchini back into the pan and stirred.  When the pasta was done, I drained it, then added the zucchini mixture, the shredded cheese and the basil to the pasta.  Toss it all well and serve.  Salt and pepper to taste.  6 ingredients, 2 pans, and it was absolutely delicious.  It cost us under $2 too, since the zucchini, basil, and garlic came straight from the garden.  Oh, and it only took me about 15 minutes to make, and that included picking the zucchini and  basil.  You could serve this with a good artisan bread if you wanted, but it wasn’t necessary. 

I simply can’t resist sharing good recipes with you when I find them, because if you can serve a family of 4 a great meal that they will all love and only spend a few dollars (and a few minutes) you are going to save so much money.  For those of you that are saying, “I cant stand zucchini”, in this recipe you’ll hardly even notice it.  The other flavors are so intense and the textures all blend to make this a fantastic pasta dish.  Even the kids will like it and won’t even realize they are eating the dreaded zucchini unless you tell them.

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