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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Recipe for A Great Party

Grandma's Meatball Surprise
Are you planning a holiday party but not sure what to serve? I have the perfect recipe for a great party. For years my mom has made these meatballs with surprise ingredients. So for those of you looking for an easy appetizer for the holidays, this is it. The ingredients are surprising but result in a meatball that you'll never find in your local Italian bistro.
To make these meatballs you need three things: Mama Lucia's Meatballs (check you local grocery store's frozen food aisle, you want to use about a pound of meatballs per recipe.) Some chili sauce (a whole bottle, you'll find that in the aisle with the condiments at your grocery store) and a jar of grape jelly. That's it. How easy is that?
Yes, I know, sounds like something your three year old would put together but trust me, it isn't. Just dump the meatballs into a slow cooker with the jelly and chili sauce and you are good to go. Let simmer on low for six hours or so. (The real trick? To avoid taste testing so you have some left for your guests.)
Trust me, these are meatballs you will love to hate (because you'll easily pack on the pounds eating too many of them.) But they're also so easy to make and serve that they will become a family staple for parties. Have a nice holiday!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

You Can't Be What You Can't See--Can You?

Miss Representation, is a documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom that first aired at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and was later shown on Oprah's OWN Network. It is a documentary about women in the media and power. It shows why if we want to become a force to be reckoned with we have to take control of the images and the voices in the media. The documentary explores media’s misrepresentations of women and how it has led to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence. Wow! Heavy stuff. Yes, heavy and important.

Are you tired of the violence against women in media? Repulsed by the way sex and women are exploited in the media? I say if you do not want your daughters growing up in a society where these attitudes prevail, it is your responsibility and mine to speak out and to be the agents of change.

In my small way I try to do this with my blog, what are you doing? Are you speaking out? Are you being sure your daughter sees documentaries like the preview of the one shown above so that you can raise the consiousness of your daughters (and your sons?)

Let me make one thing clear, it is just as important to raise the conciousness of our sons as our daughters. You can't a half a**ed job. You need to address both sexes for this to be effective.  So take your children to see this documentary. Get it on DVD. Suggest it to your schools. Be an agent for change. Raise your voice and let the advertisers and media know that status quo is NOT OK.

Miss Representation’s Curriculum gives media literacy a much needed gender focus. The curriculum asks girls and boys alike to think about the effects of the images they see—particularly the ways media affects women and girls’ ability to see themselves as leaders and be seen as leaders by others in society.

Per it's web site the film provides a curriculum for educational purposes. It includes the feature film as well as customized footage and lessons for the following age groups:
  1. University
  2. High School
  3. Middle School
  4. 4th-5th
  5. K-3rd
As you attend your child's school PTA/PTO meeting this year and are considering ways to spend money, give some serious thought to acquiring this curriculum for your school district. What better investment could you make in your children and their future?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My First Post-Kindle Christmas


It's holiday season again  and I face my yearly question 'to send or not to send, this is the question.' Christmas cards that is. Somehow Christmas/Holiday Cards are my Waterloo.

Each year I shop for holiday cards, each year I buy some. And each year I faithfully put notes in each one, slide them into their envelopes and affix the appropriate address and return address--and then--nothing. Somehow I always put them aside and forget to mail them. Sometimes even with stamps on them.

I don't know why. I'm sure a psychiatrist would have a field day analyzing my 'problems' with mailing these on a yearly basis. But since I now have this blog, I thought this would be an easy way to 'mail' my Christmas cards this year.

Why did I choose this card? It's my first holiday post Kindle. --nuff said. Figured I might as well use my old books for something useful! I do love my Kindle!

If you love me, you're already reading my blog. If you are a friend, you read my blog,and if you know me just casually, some of you are reading my blog, and to those who don't know me at all, now that you've been reading my blog you know me pretty well. So Happy Holidays! This year my holiday wishes can be considered 'mailed.' And before December 1. It's possibly a first!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Holiday Gift Giving and Clutter-Free Living

The holiday shopping season is here, and no matter which holiday you celebrate, a clutter-free gift is always appreciated. Organizing specialist, Darla DeMorrow of HeartWork Organizing, has written the definitive list of great gifts for families or individuals trying to  live 'clutter-free.'

If you are like most of us, you are involved in a variety of organizations or social groups that gift small presents at the holidays. Add to that, family and friends, and each year you end up with items on your shelves that might not otherwise be there.

Unfortunately, some of these 'small gifts' end up filling your closets or shelves with items that, frankly, you will never use.

So here are a few ideas for 'clutter free gifting.' Read Darla's article to find still more (and to finish off your holiday shopping gift list.)

Downey's Cakes photo from

One trick of clutter-free gifting is the item should be consumable. Food or wine are great clutter-free gifts, so are soaps that can work double duty as sachets until you are ready to use them. Some of my personal favorites are Downey's Cakes. They come in assorted flavors, Amaretto, Irish Whiskey, and more. Suffice it to say a glance at my hips will tell you just where each of these ended up! But they do make great gifts for others, just wrap them as soon as you get home to avoid temptation!

                                                        Photo courtesy of

Darla also offers some ideas for some great photo and tech gifts that will help control your clutter. (How about that Kindle I got last year--if all those books were sitting around my house I'd be in serious danger of 'burial by books!')

She has a whole host of other great ideas for clutter-free gifting so head over to Darla's blog HeartWork Organizing and start making your clutter-free holiday gift list today!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Company Wants To Hire 100 Workers by New Years

What company wants to hire 100 people just in Delaware County, Pennsylvania before the New Year?

Are you unemployed or underemployed? Are you past the 'prime' hiring ages and do you feel like human resources is circular filing your resume based on your age? Do you need some extra cash to help pay those holiday bills or the cost of your child's orthodontia?

Have you faced the long lines of the unemployed at every job fair or waited in line to be interviewed only to be told 'we'll call.' And you never hear from them. No 'would you come in for a second interview?' or 'sorry we chose another candidate.' Nothing. The great wall of silence from human resources around the country.

One company is aggressively hiring people and offering health benefits. Who is it? Avon. OK, before you groan and say 'I'd never...' or 'I couldn't...' stop and think, Avon is a reputable company who has been aggressively growing over the last century. They offer products that people use up and need to replace as well as impulse buys, sounding easier isn't it? They offer training for their employees and have supervisors whose only job is to make YOU successful. And I have to admit, selling Avon is, dare I say it, FUN!

So if you are searching for a job that pays you for the work you put in, doesn't require a large purchase of a kit or specialized training courses, but will make you as successful as you want to be, maybe it's time to give Avon a call. Come to one of their meetings for potential reps and see if it's the job for you. And men, don't let their previous rep as a woman's cosmetic company make you think you can't sell Avon. Many men are highly successful Avon representatives in our area. So give it try! Come out and talk to us. Email me at and I'll hook you up with the local Avon districts.

Why I'm Pulling My Hair Out Today

I know there are a lot of you who follow my blog just to see what is making me pull my hair out today. Well today's irritant--trying to do the right thing, only to hit a brick wall over and over again.

Like many of you, I pay a lot of my bills online. Today I went to pay one that I knew was due shortly and was surprised to see it said: Amount Due: $0. 

OK, it did not say Total Due $0, just amount due $0. I had not idea why this oddity was occurring so I attempted to call the company. This was my first mistake. It seems companies today have no desire to talk to their customers. Instead they have installed a variety of numbered prompts designed to answer every and any question you might have without having you interact with a real person. OK, I get it, the machine doesn't need health benefits, but still...

Have you tried calling a company with a question lately? Here's what happened. FRUSTRATION! Over and over again, 'push 1' (the number indicated for questions about payments) and it sends me on a runaround through yet more choices with canned responses none of which answered my question: WHY did I have a zero payment due. I was just trying to pay them. But I wanted to know if there had been an error made or if there was a valid reason behind the zero amount. Not an unreasonable thing to ask--but obviously not an option that whoever set up their canned responses had ever considered might be an option needed by their customers.

It told me my balance. It told me my credit limit. It told me my available credit. It even told me what to do if I wanted a larger credit limit. But it still did not answer my question. And there was no option that took me to someone I needed to talk to.

After getting frustrated and finally (OK, I admit I actually did this) yelling into the phone (with all it's canned responses) I finally got a response, 'let me send you to customer service.' THIS was all I wanted to begin with. An ENGLISH speaking representative who had the vaguest idea what was going on. (and believe me the answer was still vague!) I wasn't mad at the customer service rep but I was mad at this company who made it so hard to pay them money!

Yes, I could have simply paid them a 'guess-timated' amount, but I guarantee if I'd done that and it had not been enough, and it was an error, I would have been blamed and charged a 'late fee.' It's just the way it goes.

It seems there were two possible reasons for the $0 amount. One, I'd made a return that was more than the amount of what my payment should have been. Two, they were giving customers in the 'hurricane zone' a month free from payments. If either of these options had been presented as 'if you have a zero listed under amount due it could be because of : .... ' it would have saved me fifteen minutes of frustration and phone bashing. (OK I didn't really bash my phone, but I was AGGRAVATED beyond belief.) Why do they make it so hard to do the right thing?

So if you see a bald woman walking the mall on Black Friday, you'll know it's me. (Or one of the many other people who have run into the 'brick wall of corporate America' when trying to pay a bill online.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Getting Something For Nothing

Ever wondered how you can get some of your holiday gifts for free? Oh do I love the word "FREE!" Getting something for nothing, the feeling just can't be beat. Whether it's using coupons, stumbling on a buy 1, get 1 free sale, or a company that wants you to promote a product for them and is willing to send you a free full size product to hold a giveaway on your blog or write about it, it all has the same result, I get something for nothing. Free, the very word is mellifluous.

One of my favorite ways to save money and often get things for free is to use CVS Pharmacy's Extra Care Bucks. (CVS has double bucks right now!) Other stores have similar promotions, but I admit, I am in love with CVS. It is possibly the most dangerous store to go into when I am trying NOT to spend money. I've learned to only go in with exactly the amount of money I need to purchase what is on my list (always things I get Extra Care Bucks back from purchasing) and nothing else. I also always take my coupons holder in with me (filled with the Extra Care Bucks I've earned on previous visits.)

While I cut coupons religiously. I haven't moved to electronic coupons on my cell phone yet, it's a hassle to get to the place on the 'net that I have to in order to get access to them, but sooner or later I'll find just the right app to make this easy. 

My other favorite way to save dollars is to act as a hostess for home party companies. Whether it's Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, Tupperware, or my personal favorite, Avon, you can earn free products just by inviting your friends to your home and letting them shop from your living room! Wow, how easy is that? This is particularly effective near the holidays when people are shopping for gifts and are looking for a way to avoid THE MALL.

What can you expect to earn? It varies with the rep and the company, but you can often earn 20% of your gross sales. So if you invite a few good friends, fill your living room with fun, and shop till they drop you can earn a nice chunk of product. Be sure to choose a company whose product you need or want to give as a gift. Some companies have 'hostess gifts' others offer you a choice from their current catalog.

I admit, after doing this a few times for my Avon lady I was hooked. Since I love their high end face creams and lotions it's nice to be able to earn my product by having a few friend over. Friends who can't make it can shop online. How cool is that?

So if you are looking for a way to finance your holiday gifts without finance charges, consider hosting some holiday home parties to help pay for your gift purchases. I can hear it calling me now... FREE PRODUCTS, FREE PRODUCTS, FREE PRODUCTS!

Eventually I got so hooked that I became the Avon lady, but I still go to and host home parties to earn the gifts or products I love! I didn't even attempt to list all the companies that do home parties, you probably know them all. If not, let me know and I'll pull together a list.

If you live in Delaware County and want to act as the hostess for an Avon home party (and earn free gifts) you can reach me via my Avon website, just look for the little envelope that says "contact me." If you live in the surrounding counties I can help you as well.

Do you have a home party in your future? (Not to mention free gifts?) Oh yeah, the word 'free' just makes me smile!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention

Photo courtesy of Maker Faire Africa

Four African teens, 14-year-old, Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin and 15-year-old Bello Eniola have proved the maxim that necessity is indeed the mother of invention (note I said mother not father.) They came up with an innovative energy source and  powered a generator using (excuse the expression) pee. Yes, it's a pee powered generator. Thought you'd heard it all didn't you? Then along comes this story.

The young women invented their generator for a innovation fair. While it is not meant to be a way to power your home, and would not be efficient for this purpose, it might have applications for use in the waste water treatment plants where the urea is being removed from the water anyway. Why not harness it and use it to help power the plant? Obviously their idea is 'not ready for prime time' yet, but with some serious tweaking, it could help offset our energy needs at waste water plants in the future.

Gerardine Botte, a chemical engineer at Ohio University who invented the urea electrolysis process, told NBC News "what these kids are doing is taking urea electrolysis and making hydrogen and then using that hydrogen to make electricity.” Botte applauds their ingenuity in taking one liter of urine and turning it into six hours of electricity. Professor Botte has her college students at Ohio University's Russ College of Engineering and Technology model, design, construct, and test novel electrochemical technologies like this one.

While I don't quite see all the denizens of the Jersey Shore powering their homes using this source during the recent storm outages, it is an example of how people can be creative and take simple objects and turn them into an energy source.

I admit I am in awe. At 14 I had not even heard of urea electrolysis, let alone considered entering innovation fairs with the resulting technology.

The Next Web explains how it works:
  • Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which cracks the urea into nitrogen, water, and hydrogen.
  • The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder.
  • The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas.
  • This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.
  • 1 Liter of urine gives you 6 hours of electricity.
While I don't see us converting our power stations over to this method of creating power anytime soon, it shows us that when someone thinks outside the box they can come up with all sorts of creative ways to do a task.

These young ladies provide the rest of us with a good example of how to make something out of a formerly 'flushable' product.

**(the details of their innovation are courtesy of Good, a web site that puts challenges out there and invites you to solve some of the larger problems facing our communities and the details are courtesy of The Next Web.) 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Acorns Aren't Just For Squirrels Anymore

Yes, it's true, acorns aren't just for squirrels. They're for people too. I was reading a cupcake blog the other day and came across a recipe for acorn cupcakes. Yes, that's right, acorn cupcakes. Must admit I'd never heard of them.

Out of curiosity I googled the term. It seems that some of the cupcakes are simply decorated with acorns on top (fake ones of course) like the photo above, while still others are make using acorn flour. See the photo below.

Acorn flour? Hmm... guess it adds a nutty flavor, sure to please all the squirrels if your family doesn't like them. Also acorn flour is that great buzz word "Gluten Free." Aficionados suggest mixing it half and half with another type of flour to get the best taste.

Seriously though, it seems you can grind your own acorn flour using acorns from your yard that you wrest from the paws of those rascally little rodents before they can bury them in your front yard. You grind them between two rocks. Too primitive for your?

Actually according the cupcake blog, Cupcake Project, acorn flour was originally made by Native Americans and is the best way to eat acorns. It has a walnut-like flavor, a nice change from your white flour. Unfortunately, it can take three days to grind your own.

However the good news is you can also purchase it in your local Korean supermarket, this would be my option. Or you can buy it online at Sue's Acorn Cafe and Mill.

But if you are looking for a long term family project that your kids will enjoy, let them help you gather and grind the acorns, perfect for little Pilgrims and Indians at Thanksgiving. Learn how to make your own acorn flour here. It will make great family photos of all of you working together to create part of your Thanksgiving feast.

Cupcake Project is one of the most creative blogs out there. If this project doesn't appeal, they have dozens of other great ideas that are fun for bakers at every level. And even if you don't bake but just like to read about food, it's a great read.

Let me know if you decide to make some acorn cupcakes. Would love to know how your grinding turns out. I'm going to go the easy way, and order the flour online.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Presidential Politics and Pizza

Decision 2012. Did you help decide the outcome of the Presidential election in 2012? If you live in Drexel Hill, two of the local polling places reported almost half the registered voters had already voted by 4PM. And the 'after work rush' was still to come. Poll workers and voters all seemed in good spirits, there was no arguing in lines over partisan issues. Actually the workers moved voters through so seamlessly that there were little or no lines at the times I was there.

What made the difference in your decision to vote? I talked to a variety of people who all reported having voted tonight when we talked to them after the polls had closed. This unofficial poll, conducted chatting with the other diners at one of my favorite restaurants, Bertucci's in Springfield PA, showed a split down the middle almost equally between the President and Mitt Romney.

But what was impressive was only one person said they had not voted. It was good to see that people had taken the initiative to get out and vote. If for one reason or another you did not get out to vote in this election, be sure to register the next time you renew your drivers license this year, it is so easy, just click 'yes.'

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...traffic that is. This weekend I was on Baltimore Pike in Springfield and I realized Christmas shopping has already started! Yes, the shoppers were out, ready to put a dent in their holiday shopping. Drivers were nudging their cars in without using blinkers, going crazy at Best Buy, and coming out of Kohl's carrying huge bags.

Fortunately, I didn't go down as far as the mall, I suspect it was just as bad down there. Even if the rest of the mall isn't too busy, Target is mobbed!

Personally, I was out doing some last minute wedding shopping (my daughter is getting married this winter, not doing any Christmas shopping, but I could tell when I stopped for lunch and saw the Hallmark bags filled with wrapping paper that people are getting into the swing of the holidays. (Those long rolls of wrapping paper are dead giveaways!)

My personal Christmas shopping? I do a lot of it online. And I never leave home for my brick and mortar shopping without a specific plan for exactly where I am going and knowing why I am heading to each store. And like many other Americans, I am leaving my plastic at home--no credit card bills!

But as important as hitting the sales is saving on gas and saving my sanity by spending as little time in stores at Christmas as possible. And as little time on Baltimore Pike!

So save your sanity, stay home and boot up your computer to shop. I hate to take the business away from the local stores but when I weigh the choice between sanity and being stuck in Baltimore Pike traffic, I'll take sanity any day!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Jon Bon Jovi and Friends Performing to Help Victims of Hurricane Sandy

Photo courtesy of NBC Universal

8 PM Tonight--Watch and Give as media and rock stars join together to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy. As the residents of the East Coast begin the clean up from the disaster left by Hurricane Sandy, NBC Universal and Matt Lauer stepped up to the plate and planned a disaster aid concert. The concert called "Hurrincane Sandy: Coming Together" will be broadcast on NBC, CNBC, Bravo, E!, G4, MSNBC, Style, Syfy and USA. Lauer will host the event that will air on Friday at 8 PM. Proceeds will benefit the Ameican Red Cross funds for Hurricane Sandy relief.

As we get closer to the event it is possible that all networks will decide to air it simultaneously. It will also be simulcast on Springsteen's E Street Radio on SiriusXM. There will be a tape delay for the West Coast.

If a decision is made to air the concert across all networks, it won't be unprecedented, in 2010 the telethon for the Haitian earthquake spearheaded by George Clooney aired on NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox and MTV, HBO, PBS and more. Hopefully everyone will join in again.

Artists planning on performing? Jon Bon Jovi (the face of Avon's newest fragrance, Unplugged), Christina Aguilera, Billy Joel (of Asbury Park fame, a town hard hit by the storm), and Sting are all scheduled to perform at the benefit. Jimmy Fallon and Brian Williams are also scheduled to appear, possibly performing together (although no announcement has been made, I'm just hoping!) Aerosmith's Steven Tyler just announced on The Today Show that they would be performing as well.

In case you've been living under a rock and  haven't heard any news in the last week, Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast. There is a massive need for aid in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and parts of Massachusetts and West Virginia. Also hard hit were Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Some people lost homes, others lost family members. There is a massive need for financial aid in all these areas to help individuals and businesses get back to normal. Hospitals say the need for blood donations is critical. So even if you cannot donate $$, you can make an appointment to donate blood. We all have that to give.

I saw shore communities where I spent my childhood happily playing on beaches and walking the boardwalks destroyed. Some of these communities are not just summer vacation communities but have year round residents who have lost their only homes. Often their businesses were also destroyed.
Many are still living without power.

If you gave when New Orleans was destroyed, or for other natural disasters farther from home, it's time to dig even a little deeper in your pockets and donate one more time to your friends and neighbors in need. Tune in to watch Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together and enjoy the music (and give) at 8 PM tonight.