Monday, November 28, 2011

From Gobbles to Gifts - Advent is here

We have many unbreakables on our tree.
This practice is a holdover from having toddlers
 and pets climbing our tree.
Every year, the first time I hear Christmas music in stores catches me by surprise. "Already?" I think to myself. But Christmas is big business, so of course they play it up.

We've barely got Thanksgiving boxed up, and we're inundated with sales fliers. Deals abound everywhere. Need sweaters, boots, or a party outfit? How about stuff for hunting or boating?One of the three dozen or so sales inserts from the Saturday paper will direct you to a bargain.

Anything you can't find locally is just a click away on the internet. Easy, right? Only if you're made of money. Most of us are pinching pennies, trying to stretch what we have to make it last.

Usually I start hyperventilating about now. There are Christmas cards to find and address. Letters to write. Cookies to bake. Trees to decorate. Christmas sweaters tucked away in my closet-where'd I put those things? Invitations to consider. Visits to schedule. And of course, gifts to buy.

Angels are a special favorite of mine.
I don't know what this says about me, but my gift-giving list shrinks each year. I buy for my family, of course, for my choir, and my best friends. One of my favorite events of the season is our First Coast Romance Writers holiday party where we have a blind ornament exchange.

The name for the swap is politically incorrect, but basically, when its your turn you select a wrapped package or "steal" from someone else. Once an item is stolen three times, its frozen and that person gets to take it home. Some years the hot item is a sparkly Cinderella stilleto, other years it's an angel or a purse. The catch is that the gift can't cost more than five dollars. I'm just bursting with the need to tell someone what my gift is, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. All I'll say is that he started life as a key chain fob. Now he's being repurposed as the stuff of our dreams.

This tree is from Christmas past.
 I haven't dragged everything down from the attic yet
 this year. Maybe in a week or so.
Let's talk decorating for a minute. Two of my neighbors are ready to go. One home has soft blue lights on a fence and multi-colored lights on the house. Another neighbor has bright red lights wrap candy cane style up the trunk of her palm trees. Lots of bows and swags on the house lights over there. I wonder if they'll adopt me or at least my yard.

Each year we discuss the pros and cons of decorating more than our tree. This year we'll put white lights on the fence because we have a daughter and her family visiting. We don't want to appear to be deadbeats.

Question: who do you decorate for? Yourself? Your family? Your community? Or do you enjoy looking at everyone else's decorations? I love riding around and seeing what others have done to their homes and yards - do you?

Happy Advent, everyone!

Maggie Toussaint
coming in 2012: Death, Island Style and Murder in the Buff

Monday, November 21, 2011

What's in your ... refrigerator?

A friend of mine is known for coming over to my house, sticking her head in my refrigerator, and asking in a high-pitched voice, "What do you eat? There's nothing here."

My refrigerator is usually fairly empty, but hers was always chock full of stuff. I didn't feel slighted by her comment, as we cook to suit here with minimal leftovers. Fresh meat comes home and goes in the freezer until we need it. Fruit and veges go quickly, so those don't linger about either.

Was she talking about all the sauces, pickles and juices? Not sure, but I have a fridge door of condiments. So, sure there's room in my refrigerator. I don't think its any big deal. Maybe its because I had daughters instead of sons - perhaps less food overall came and went over the transom.

Anyway, to get to the point of the blog, recently I came across someone who said they didn't store their syrup in the fridge, that they used the "ghetto" way of storing it on the pantry shelf. It got me to wondering how many jars of things don't say "refrigerate after opening."

Mini-quiz for the brave: are these things in your fridge or on your shelves: mustard, jelly/jam, syrup, soy sauce, worchestershire sauce, catsup, opened soda pops, pitchers of tea, pitchers of water. Feel free to add anything that you don't refrigerate on a routine basis that the rest of us might.

Inquiring minds want to know.

Maggie Toussaint

ps I'm part of the where there are new 99 cent ebooks listed daily. I'm on the menu for Wednesday. Check us out.

pss I'm also part of a charity cookbook which was recently reduced for gift-giving. Its in both electronic ($6.99) and trade paperback ($14.99) formats. Here's the link: