I Love the Web

I guess Cyber Monday is as good a day as any to confess my absolute love of internet shopping.  Here are some of the goodies I’ve scored online, items that most sane women would never purchase without touching, seeing, trying on. 

14’ canoe

80 year old rolling library ladder

Mother of the Groom wedding dress

Lakefront property

Not your typical shopping list is it?  And they all went off without a hitch.  

Well, the property purchase was a bit sketchy.  Both the broker and the seller were new to internet sales and taken aback by my offer.  They refused to believe someone could purchase property without seeing it and insisted I fly in to meet them personally to complete the sale. 

Other than local grocery runs, pretty much all of my shopping is done from my desk.  My husband and I visited the local mall a few weeks ago, about 18 months since our last visit.  It was like I was in another country.  The music was loud, the lights were blindingly bright and all of the stores I remembered had moved.  The store aisles didn’t seem very wide; merchandise spilled out of end caps or was haphazardly arranged.  Do people still go to the mall for fun?  How do they ever find anything? 

 So I have to encourage you if you’re new to holiday shopping online.  You can’t imagine the time savings you’ll enjoy.  Be smart about the sites you visit; stick to your list, watch the budget.  I promise you, you’ll wonder why you waited so long.  Happy Shopping!

Colleen, 1962I love to read and I loved the teachers who taught me to read (Colleen, 1962).  I’m sure my mother, also an avid reader, instilled that first kernel of interest way before Miss Teske here led our reading group.  My mother used to schlep the five of us to the library every Saturday, to pick out new books for the week. 

Our library was akin to a place of worship for me.  I remember the huge spans of glass that let in enormous light, even on the overcast days of a Wisconsin winter.  The library had a certain hum of activity that I felt proud to be a part of.  I knew the language that was spoken here, the language of words.  It was thrilling to pick out any book I wanted, without obligation or censorship, from a seemingly everchanging supply of fresh books with uncracked bindings. 

In turn, I loved reading to my children.  A quiet afternoon with a baby and a book on my lap was a stress reliever for both of us, and more often than not led to an afternoon nap.  We recycled the same favorites from child to child - Green Eggs and Ham, Good Night Moon, The Pokey Little PuppyLove You Forever was Mom’s favorite to read, a copy of which still lingers among the baby blankets and hospital wrist bands safely stored away. 

I’m curious to see how e-readers will affect our new generation of moms and babies.  Although I love mine for absolute simplicity, it’s not the same experience, is it?  I miss having an open book on my night stand.  Our home office is now sans bookshelves, since more up to date information is just a keystroke away.  And giving an e-book as a gift eliminates the tactile experience that says “from my hands to yours, I want to share these words with you”. 

So I’ve vowed that any potential grandchildren of mine will have a soft, shiny book to hold, without recorded words or electronic pencils attached, to be read and reread by someone with a soft lap and a quiet afternoon. 

Hot Cocoa Mornings

My mother, and way before her, my german grandmother, used to fix hot tea as a treat when I was a child.  Steaming hot, with lots of sugar and milk, it was such a comforting drink during those long Wisconsin winters.  I carried the tea habit with me into adulthood, bypassing coffee altogether.  Only now it’s decaffinated tea and I add Splenda and soy creamer to top it off. 

In time I made this same concoction for my children, when they weren’t feeling well or on those rare cold Florida evenings.  They’ve all moved on since then, several of them to exotic coffee and chai blends my midwestern palate would never understand.  Where was the warm, fuzzy feeling in that?  What about a beverage consumed just for comfort?  Leave it to daughter number two to remind me of breakfast hot chocolate - a very occasional treat on winter school mornings.


A cinch to make, I used a powdered cocoa mix, whole milk and maybe a bit of canned milk, stirred on the stovetop for just a few minutes.  As the kids trooped in, excited about the chance to wear pants and sweaters, I threw in a handful of marshmallows and served just warmed mugs with breakfast.  Certainly a small effort on my part, but it added to the overall “holiday” mood - the kids loved it.

Which is really what it was all about.  Small things leave big memories - just ask my 28 year old daughter. 

Toy Shopping

I can’t remember the last time I was in a toy store, surely over a dozen years ago.  As I recall, toy shopping was the only really “fun” shopping of Christmas.  As the kids got older, we switched from $20 trucks to $200 electronics; $20 Barbies to $70 jeans.  No longer could I get away with quantity vs. quality.  We went from mounds of pretty wrapped gifts to a dozen shirt size boxes wrapped in the same paper to checks in an envelope.

Toy shopping went like this.  Toys R Us flyer arrives in the Sunday paper.  Mom hands out black marker for children to carefully circle the gifts they would like Santa to bring.  Mom takes heavily circled flyer, puts it on the front seat of the car, and forgets about it until December 20th.  Mom arrives at Toys R Us at 10 pm on December 20th (alone at last!) and buys whatever is left on the shelves.   Mom destroys flyer, so no proof remains of what kids originally asked for.  Kids are overwhelmed by sheer volume, sugar high from breakfast cinnamon rolls and asking when we can leave to see Home Alone at the theater.  Another successful Christmas - that’s a wrap.

As for my childhood Christmases, we were decidedly at the bottom of middle class growing up in the 60’s and although I’m sure we had a tree and I’m sure we had

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PB&J - a Pantry Staple?

I was shocked to hear on the news last evening that the cost of peanuts was expected to climb to $1200 per ton this year, up from $450 a ton in 2010.  The droughts that occurred earlier this year in Georgia and Virginia have decimated this year’s peanut crop.  The price of peanut butter is expected to climb significantly, just in time for peanut butter cookie season.

I don’t know a household in America without a jar of peanut butter in the pantry.  According to the National Peanut Board, women and children prefer creamy, men prefer chunky.  The east coast prefers creamy, the west coast goes for chunky.  The average child will consumer 1500 pb&j sandwiches before they finish high school!

Growing up in Wisconsin, creamy peanut butter was the preferred topping to buttered toast in the morning (we buttered everything back then).  I didn’t do the pb&j combo, although my siblings all remember peanut butter and jelly sandwiches quite vividly.  I don’t even remember seeing crunchy peanut butter until I was buying my own groceries but it quickly became my go to spread.

After marriage, that monument to compromise, we became a two jar household.  The kids and dad stand by their smooth, and I keep a small jar of chunky hidden in the back, right next to my stash of 70% dark chocolate bars.  I stopped making pb&j sandwiches a dozen years ago, so long ago that when my last son was a teenager he came home from a friends’ house to tell me about the great new sandwich he had there - peanut butter and jelly together! 

A search on the Hometown Favorites website turns up a good fifty products with peanut butter as a main ingredient, including the scrumptious Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter.  If you’re a fan of any of these, please stock up this year.  Nothing worse than finding that the last spoonful at the bottom of the jar doesn’t balance the jelly you already have on the bread…