Christmas Reflections and Time for a Vacation


I got so many great presents for Christmas, but there was one that you Dear Readers will benefit from. My boyfriend gave me an Apple TV but he also got me lots of great ‘stocking stuffers’. The one you will all appreciate, once I have had a chance to read and digest it, is ‘Blogging for Dummies’.

I started blogging about four months ago and have written 109 posts and gotten 139 comments. I think that is pretty good, since I am totally self taught and have just been flying by the seat of my pants.

So when I got this book, I decided to read it on the airplane tomorrow for my trip to Las Vegas. I’m sure I’ll be all inspired with a ton of new ideas, but while I am gone for a week, I will not be near a computer and so I will not be able to blog until I get back.

I’m really sorry, as I know some of you get your daily ‘fix’ by reading my blog, but that is just how it is.

If you miss me a lot, I recommend that you go back a ways and read some of my ‘older’ blogs. If you go way back to the beginning on day one, you can read the story of my life.

When I get home, I’m sure I’ll have some wild tales to tell about Las Vegas. What happens in Las Vegas, winds up on Sandy’s blog.

I am going on a Vacations Hawaii travel package and staying at the Orleans Hotel. I used to pooh-pooh this way of travel, but no more. It is the only way to go. First of all it is a charter, which means you can take two suitcases for free. This is important as I always overpack. I take one whole suitcase of shoes, hats and purses.

Plus I have to leave some room for a run to Trader Joe’s. We don’t have that in Hawaii and there are certain things I miss and only they have. They used to have a very good wine, sort of a Merlot. It was only $2 and we called it Two Buck Chuck.

I think I read that it has gone up to $3, but i still think I’ll bring back a couple of bottles. They will fit perfectly wrapped in newspaper and stuffed into my boots. Not on my feet, of course.

Also on a charter, they feed you on your flight. The Vacations Hawaii charter is especially nice. Just before landing everyone gets an ice cream sandwich. Real comfort food for the final leg of the journey.

When you go on a Vacations Hawaii package they totally take care of your baggage, so it magically winds up in your hotel room without ever having to wait for it by the carousel or lug it on and off the smart cart. A big bus transports you to your hotel and when you check in you are given a coupon book good for all your meals.

It is a totally worry free way to travel. And in this day and age with body scans and TSA nonsense, it is nice to have the main part of your trip, hassle free.

Vacations Hawaii is also a very good deal financially. If you go with two it is even a better deal. I travel alone, so I pay a little extra for a single room, but even so, it is a bargain.

New Years is the most expensive time to travel to Las Vegas. Most hotels charge four hundred dollars a night with a two night minimum. Caezars Palace charges $1000 for two nights. Plus tax.

The Vacations Hawaii package for a single is less than that and it includes round trip airfare from Hawaii, transportation and baggage handling in Las Vegas, five nights at the hotel plus three meals a day for five days.

I have tickets to the Elvis Circque de Soleil show at the new Aria Hotel in City Center. I am really looking forward to that as I haven’t been to the new Aria, as it wasn’t open, last time I was in Vegas. I will tell you all about it when I return..

So until we meet again, I want to wish you all a safe and happy New Years Eve and a healthy, peaceful New Year in 2011. And I want to thank you all for your support on my venture and for all your great comments these past few months.

Aloha for now…Sandy


Shopping the Day After Christmas

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I woke up to a steady rain. I had some serious shopping to do, so I put on my rain boots, sweater and slacks and drove across the street to the Ala Moana shopping center. The drive took two minutes. Finding a parking space took half an hour. The cars simply were not moving. No one was leaving Macy’s.

The store had opened at seven am. I got there at ten and evidently even after three hours, the customers were still shopping. When I finally got a space and into the store, I saw why. Everything was on sale. 50% off didn’t even seem like much.

60%, 70% and in the Christmas ornament department everything was 75% off. The lines at the cash registers were long. I went from one floor to another, just casing the joint.

When I got to ladies clothing there was a table piled high with cashmere sweaters. Surrounding the table were about twenty women. As I approached to see what all the fuss was about, I saw it. Cashmere sweaters, morning special, originally $99, now only $29.99.

Now that is too good a bargain to pass up. I was very lucky. A gorgeous purple V neck and a classic black crew neck both in my size.  I had gotten a $100 gift card in my Christmas stocking so this made a nice dent. The line was surprisingly short with only one other person ahead of me. Unfortunately she didn’t speak English very well and it took quite a while for her transaction.

So while I was waiting, I spotted some very pretty tank tops in the DKNY department. Originally $44, now $22 and another 50% off of that. So I got three of those. My theory has always been, if you like it, and it fits well, buy it in every color.

Now to go shopping for my other ‘needed’ item, a new digital camera. For this I decided to drive to Best Buy, as I thought they would have the best selection. The man who helped me recommended the Canon Power Shot and so I picked one out, carefully got the correct battery and memory card and then I saw the checkout line.

It was like the lines at Disneyland. At first it looks like it just goes to the end of the counter, but when you get to the end of the counter, it turns and keeps going on and on. There must have been over one hundred people waiting to check out. Some were carrying large TV sets.

I marched back to the salesman, handed him the camera and walked out of the store. Life is too short.

There is a store here called Don Quiote. It is a huge shopping store with everything from TV’s to a full market, butcher, clothing, and even a nail salon, a florist and a dry cleaners. They have a pretty decent camera department too.

It was here I found the perfect camera. A Canon Power Shot top of the line, with a touch screen and the ability to take movies with sound. This camera is regularly $250 but because this was the last one, only $169.

I can’t wait to get the hang of it. I sure hope I can figure out how to use all the nifty features before I leave on my trip in three days. Lucky for me, my boyfriend is a professional photographer, so he can set it all up and show me how to do it.

I was able to figure out how to charge the battery and how to attach the wrist strap. I only wonder who wrote the instruction manual. The instructions came with a warning: When swinging the camera from side to side, be careful not to hit people with it. Really, I’m so glad I was warned of this danger.

Christmas Day!

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Christmas Day. It has been a lazy day. Mostly cleaning up all the wrappings and paper and boxes from last night. We always celebrate Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, just open stockings.

I grew up in the jewelry business. Even as a child of ten, I was recruited to go to the ‘store’ and gift wrap during the Christmas holidays. I remember on Christmas Eve, we were supposed to close at six, but we always had to stay in the store for another hour, to deliver the last minute special orders that people forgot to pick up.

By the time we got home, it was soup and bed. Even on Christmas morning, my family was still tired. That is why it is so nice now, just to worry about the presents and the turkey.

I think ham is the traditional Christmas dinner, but I have always liked to make a turkey. This is not just because we are Jewish, I just like the leftovers the next day. If we were really ‘very’ Jewish, we wouldn’t celebrate Christmas at all.

I saw a funny cartoon today. It said, “Let’s celebrate the birth of Christ by going out for Chinese food.” And another, “Do you realize that Christ didn’t celebrate Christmas, but he did celebrate Chaunaka.”

Everything was closed today. You know it is pretty major when Costco and Walmart are not open. I guess they will make up for it tomorrow.

The day after Christmas is traditionally a very big shopping day. It is the best time to buy those Christmas cards for next year as they are all marked down to half price. Same with wrapping paper and ribbons.

And of course if you got cash or gift cards under the tree, it is the perfect day to go shopping for that something you always wanted. I seldom hit the stores the day after Christmas, but I am going on a trip in a few days, and I need a new camera. I am one of the lucky ones, who got money in her stocking.

Gift cards are really a great gift. They are easy to pack and mail, and they always fit just right. Some stores like Walgreens and Safeway carry gift cards from many different stores. Barnes and Noble  also does a brisk business in gift cards.

It really makes a lot of sense to give a gift card. Starbucks has very clever wrapping for their cards, plus you can choose a special design to fit the recipient. We are lucky in Hawaii, as Starbucks always has a special card that you can only get here. It makes the perfect gift for that coffee lover on the mainland.

Even Hallmark has jumped on the bandwagon with this one. There is a whole section of Christmas cards made especially to hold a gift card.

Macy’s has a darling Santa hat that holds a Macy’s gift card, and Starbucks has a combo gift card/peppermint bark candy card holder. Of course you can be as creative as you like, and if you really want to surprise someone, wrap a gift card in a hat box.

The Wonders of WD-40

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Before  you read to the end, does anybody know what the main ingredient of WD-40  is?(Don’t peek.) 

‘Water Displacement #40’. The product began from a search  for a rust preventative solvent and degreaser to protect missile  parts. WD-40 was created in 1953 by three technicians at the San Diego Rocket Chemical Company.  Its name comes from the project that  was to find a ‘water displacement’ compound..  They were successful  with the fortieth formulation, thus WD-40.

The Convair Company bought it in bulk to protect their atlas missile parts.

Ken East (one of the original founders) says there is nothing in WD-40 that would hurt you…

When you read the ‘shower door’ part, try  it. It’s the first thing that has ever cleaned that spotty shower door. If yours is plastic, it works just as well as glass. It’s a miracle! Then try it on your stove top …  Viola!   It’s now shinier than it’s ever been.  You’ll be amazed.

Some of the many uses for WD-40

1.   Protects silver from tarnishing.
2.   Removes road tar and grime from cars.
3.   Cleans and lubricates guitar strings.
4.   Gives floors that ‘just-waxed’ sheen without making them  slippery.
5..   Keeps flies off cows.
6.   Restores and cleans chalkboards.
7.   Removes lipstick stains.
8..   Loosens stubborn zippers.
9.   Untangles jewelry chains.
10.   Removes stains from stainless steel sinks.
11.   Removes dirt and grime from the barbecue grill.
12.   Keeps ceramic/terra cotta garden pots from  oxidizing.
13.   Removes tomato stains from clothing.
14.   Keeps glass shower doors free of water spots.
15.   Camouflages scratches in ceramic and marble  floors.
16.   Keeps scissors working smoothly..
17.   Lubricates noisy door hinges on vehicles and doors in  homes.
18.   It removes black scuff marks from the kitchen floor!  Use WD-40 for  those nasty tar and scuff marks on flooring. It doesn’t seem to  harm the finish and you won’t have to scrub nearly as hard to get  them off.  Just remember to open some windows if you have a lot of  marks.
19.   Bug guts will eat away the finish on your car if not removed quickly! Use WD-40!
20.   Gives a children’s playground gym slide a shine for a super fast  slide.
21.   Lubricates gear shift and mower deck lever for ease of handling on riding  mowers…
22..   Rids kids rocking chairs and swings of squeaky  noises.
23.   Lubricates tracks in sticking home windows and makes them easier to  open..
24.   Spraying an umbrella stem makes it easier to open and  close.
25.   Restores and cleans padded leather dashboards in vehicles, as well as  vinyl bumpers.
26.   Restores and cleans roof racks on vehicles.
27.   Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans
28.   Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons, and bicycles for easy  handling.
29.   Lubricates fan belts on washers and dryers and keeps them running  smoothly.
30.   Keeps rust from forming on saws and saw blades, and other  tools.
31.   Removes splattered grease on stove.
32.   Keeps bathroom mirror from fogging.
33.   Lubricates prosthetic limbs.
34.   Keeps pigeons off the balcony (they hate the  smell).
35.   Removes all traces of duct tape.
36.   Folks even spray it on their arms, hands, and knees to relieve arthritis  pain.
37.     Florida ’s favorite use is: ‘cleans and removes love bugs from grills and  bumpers.’
38.   The favorite use in the state of New York , WD-40 protects the Statue of  Liberty from the elements.
39.   WD-40 attracts fish.  Spray a little on live bait or lures and you will be catching the big one in no time.  Also, it’s a lot cheaper than the chemical attractants  that are made for just that purpose.  Keep in mind though, using  some chemical laced baits or lures for fishing are not allowed in  some states.
40.   Use it for fire ant bites..  It takes the sting away immediately and  stops the itch.
41.   WD-40 is great for removing crayon from walls.  Spray on the mark and  wipe with a clean rag.
42.   Also, if you’ve discovered that your teenage daughter has washed and dried  a tube of lipstick with a load of laundry, satur ate the lipstick  spots with WD-40 and rewash.  Presto!  The lipstick is  gone!
43.   If you sprayed WD-40 on the distributor cap, it would displace the  moisture and allow the car to start.

P.S.  The basic ingredient is FISH OIL.

And what a great ‘gift’ for that person that has everything. Just print out this page a few times, wrap each one around a can of WD-40, wrap in tissue, put in a pretty gift bag  and your Christmas ‘shopping’ will be all done for 2011. Best of all, it is something everyone can use and your total cost for ten presents will be less than $50. If this doesn’t seem like a ‘real’ present, a can with instructions would be a good stocking stuffer for that man in your life.

The ‘Ove’ Glove and Changing a Light Bulb in the Oven (Plus Dinosaurs in the Kitchen)

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Me with my new ‘Ove Gloves’, Christmas gift from my girlfriend Carol B.

All my friends know I love to bake. When holidays and birthdays come around I often get a great cookbook, a new sifter or cooking utensil. I have gotten waffle irons, bread makers, blenders and convection ovens.

So imagine my surprise when today I got something I had never seen before, ‘Ove’ Gloves. These are such a great idea. Instead of a clumsy oven mitt, these have fingers. And each finger and the palm are lined with silicone.

I can’t wait to try them. Too bad I baked an apple pie just three hours before they arrived. I’ll have to test them out tomorrow when I cook my turkey dinner for Christmas Eve.

These gloves came with a WARNING: Make sure to wash the ‘Ove’ Glove when it gets dirty. Flammable materials can accumulate on the surface and compromise the heat resistance of the ‘Ove’ Glove.

The Warning label went on to say, ‘Wash the ‘Ove’ Glove in warm water as needed to maintain peak performance.

And then in big letter another WARNING: Do not use the ‘Ove’ Glove if it becomes wet. Allow to dry thoroughly before use. Can result in injury if not used according to directions.

Gee, I haven’t seen so many instructions and precautions, since I read the label on my hair conditioner. That one said to apply to shampooed hair and leave on for one to three minutes. Rinse thoroughly and if it gets in your eyes, rinse immediately. Blah blah blah.

Most instructions these days are printed in microscopic size print. I keep a magnifying glass on my desk and one at the kitchen sink, in case I actually want to read some of these.

I am not real good at saving instruction manuals for appliances and can never find anything like that when I need it. The other day the light bulb in my oven went out. Oh, my God. Have you ever tried to change an oven light bulb lately?

First of all it is way in the back and I doubt any woman’s arm is long enough to even reach the back of an oven, especially when bending over the oven door, which has to be open, of course. So I decided to wait till my boyfriend came over for dinner and sweetly ask him to do it.

“Where is the instruction manual”? “What?  All you have to do is take off the wire cage around the light bulb and unscrew it.”. Very funny.

Well he did it. It was quite an accomplishment as whoever designed this oven had to be a man who had never had to replace an oven bulb in his life. And why does it have to be way in the back? How ’bout near the front on top like a refrigerator light bulb.

This oven is stainless steel, another stupid invention for kitchen appliances, as it shows every fingerprint and grease spot. And most brands charge extra for this feature. The worst part is that magnets won’t stick on the stainless steel refrigerator and I have about one hundred great magnets from all over the world.

When I was first married in 1957, my oven was pink. So was my refrigerator. I don’t recall any problem changing a light bulb in either one. In fact, the refrigerator shelves revolved so you could get to the things in the back.

Probably by the time my granddaughter is baking in her very own oven, oven lights will be rechargeable, solar powered and never need changing.

Or, the way the world is going, probably by that time, ovens will be obsolete altogether and considered a dinosaur in the kitchen. They will go the way of the ice box and the chest freezer.

Does anyone besides me remember those huge freezers? You had to lift up the top and there were baskets and then more food on the bottom. I always had a fear of falling in, when I reached down for the big ice cream container.

When my mother bought the freezer, a man came to our house with a catalog of meat and other frozen food to stock the freezer. It was a Package Deal. You could buy half a cow or a quarter of a cow, all cut up of course, packaged and labeled. Then you got dozens of packages of free frozen vegetables to go with the meat.

This was supposed to last for months and save a fortune over supermarket prices. It was probably a good deal if you ate all the meat, but our family only ate steaks and roasts and there were lots of packages sitting at the bottom of the freezer that after a year, my mother finally threw out.


The New Cranberry Sauce and Apple Pie


Me with a 48 oz. bag of Craisins (Costco, of course)

‘Twas the day before the night before Christmas. This is always a great day for some serious cooking and baking.

I am making something very good. The New Cranberry Sauce. Here is the recipe. One cup chopped onion (or one medium onion) and 2 cloves garlic minced and sautéed in 1 tbs. of olive oil. Cook two or three minutes till onions soften. Add one bag of cranberries, one cup of cranberry juice or pomegranate juice (I think I used orange juice),  3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teas ground ginger (I use fresh grated) and bring to boil and cook 16 to 17 min. till just thickened. Stir in a cut up apple (peeled)  if you like, or a cut up persimmon (I don’t even know what that is). And either serve warm or chill for a day or so. Top with a rosemary sprig, if you have one. This is really delicious and different.

OK. I just got all my ingredients together and guess what? I forgot to get a bag of fresh cranberries. (Damn). It is pouring rain and I was just in the mood to make this. I do have a can of Ocean Spray whole cranberry sauce. I wonder if I just left out the sugar, I could use this instead. I don’t know why not.

Hey, guess what I found in my pantry? A huge bag of Craisins. These are dried cranberries. I think I’ll use those instead of fresh. They should be just fine. Maybe a lot less sugar as these are already pretty sweet.

I think I bought these at Costco once and they only came in a very large bag. I could probably make cranberry scones, cranberry sauce, and cranberry something else and still have some left over.

I know, I’ll use the can of cranberry sauce AND a cup of Craisins. This should be even better than the original method. Again, I always like to improvise with what I have on hand.

OK. I just made this and it came out great. I used one can of whole cranberry sauce and one and a half cups of Craisins. No sugar needed, as there is plenty in the canned sauce and the Craisins. This made enough to exactly fill one of those square Zip Lock storage containers. (And I didn’t put in the cut up apple).

Whenever I serve turkey I have to serve both jellied and whole cranberry sauce by Ocean Spray. I like to use my zester and zest an orange and have the peel mixed in.

Now I will have to add yet another dish, the New Cranberry Sauce. Maybe I’ll add a little orange zest to that too, before I serve it. (Oh wait, I can’t use the ‘old’ whole cranberry sauce, I just used it in making the New Cranberry Sauce).

I was in a baking mood today, so I made an apple pie too. I only had fuji apples and I read where you are supposed to have a few different kinds. Oh, well, I’m sure it will be delicious. I also am getting pretty smart in my old age. I finally learned the best way to peel and core an apple. (After fifty years of doing it the old fashioned way)

If you have one of those apple slicers that core and cut the apple into eight equal parts, cut up your apples this way. Then it is very easy to peel off the skins and cut up each section for the pie.

The latest greatest idea is, leave on some of the skin. This makes the pie even more delicious. And cut the apples in all different sizes and shapes as it is more interesting and there is more texture to the filling.

Also, when making the crust for an apple pie, shred or grate some white cheddar cheese into the dough as this gives it a nice touch. If you forget to do this, you can put a slice of pie on a plate, top with a slice of any kind of cheddar cheese and microwave for about 30 seconds. Be careful, it gets hot really fast.

I was once served apple pie this way in a restaurant and did not realize that the filling becomes like molten lava, if you do this a little too long. I burned the entire roof of my mouth.

So again, I say, be careful and depending on your oven, ten or twenty seconds may be plenty. You just want to melt the cheese a little. Don’t let it get all bubbly.

Christmas Eve is not until tomorrow. I may have to taste test a piece of this tonight. A big glass of cold milk and apple pie. I think that will be my dinner. Tomorrow on the Real Day, I’ll have this with a glass of French champagne.


Christmas in Hawaii

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Christmas ball earrings and a reindeer sweat shirt

It is really hard to feel very Christmasy living in Hawaii. Even the photo above has a big sunspot on my face and shirt. It is about eighty degrees and muggy today. It sure doesn’t feel like December.

In the interest of the holiday, I try to look festive when I go out. Today it was the drugstore and the market, so I put on my reindeer sweatshirt and my Christmas ball earrings, and off I went.

It is so unusual to see anyone dressed for the holidays, that I actually got three compliments on my earrings. I bought them several years ago at Claire’s and I think they were about $3.

I don’t know if they still have them, but I should check. It would be fun to have a few different colors for next year. I do have some Santa hats, but that looks ridiculous.

The checker in the market was wearing a Santa hat, but other than that, nobody I saw had anything on even remotely looking like the 25th was in three days. When I lived on the mainland, women wore Christmas sweaters, adorned with holly and sleigh bells.

If you went to a Christmas party, all the guests were decked out in some sort of holiday attire. Maybe a red outfit or a sparkly dress for the women, a jazzy vest for the men.

I was in Macy’s the other day and their women’s departments are all stocked with sequined clothing. Dresses, shirts, skirts, even shorts.

I did not see one person even looking at these clothes. I can’t imagine who is going to be wearing these things here in Hawaii. There will be some heavy duty markdowns the day after Christmas.

I wandered into the juniors department and I found two tank tops covered with sequins. A tank top is a tank top, and upstairs they were $59.95. Only $17 each, one in red and one in gold.

As I am going to Las Vegas for New Years, this seemed like something I could use. (Nice under a sweater or jacket). Plus it was buy one, get one half off.  And I had a 20% off coupon also. How could I resist?  So only $21 for two tank tops that will look very ‘in’ for the holidays.

I went to a Christmas party last week and all the women wore slacks and the men were mostly in shorts and aloha shirts. Most of the guests left their shoes on the front porch, but those that decided not to go barefoot, were wearing sandals or slippers.

When I was growing up in Hawaii, we didn’t have airmail for packages, just letters. That meant that all Christmas presents had to be sent to the mainland by ship. I think the mailing date was something like October first, for guaranteed Christmas delivery. It was almost impossible to get into the Christmas spirit more than a month before Halloween.

Now the stores start putting out Christmas merchandise right after Halloween. Poor Thanksgiving takes a back seat. The Thanksgiving stuff is buried next to the 90% off Halloween candy.

In fact I tried to buy some Thanksgiving paper napkins at Bed Bath and Beyond the week before Thanksgiving and No Dice. They did have a good selection of basters and those metal things with string that you use to sew up the turkey. Turkey lacers, I think they are called. I usually use a needle and thread, which works just fine.

Back to Christmas. I always ‘do’ a stocking for my sister and my boyfriend. The problem is, where do you hang it? No fireplace and very few walls in this condo. I usually hang the stockings on the knobs on the closet doors, but somehow this doesn’t seem quite right.

I could stand them in a corner, but we don’t have any corners in this condo either. When I was a child, we used to lay the empty stocking at the foot of our bed and Santa would come while we were sleeping, fill it, and leave it on the floor next to the bed.

I could never figure out how he got in. We didn’t have a fireplace or a chimney. In all the children’s books, Santa always came down the chimney. My mother explained that in Hawaii, all he had to do was to walk in through the screen door which was never locked.


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