Saturday, October 22, 2011

Attention, Target Shoppers!

Did you know that you CAN shop too early for Christmas?  At least if you shop at Target, that can be the case.

I am a procrastinator by nature.  People who learn that about me are often surprised, but it is true.  I'm organized and efficient ... I'm just slow in getting started.  I "mull" things over for quite some time ... waking up at 3 a.m. worrying about what I have to get done, when I will find the time to do it, what piece of it to begin with, etc.

Take Christmas for instance  In early October every year, I find myself starting to "panic" about all that must be done in only 2 1/2 months.  What's everything?  Oh, Christmas shopping (I buy approximately 80 presents),  wrapping those 80 gifts, decorating the house, putting the tree up, writing and mailing our Christmas letter, picking a date to frost and exchange cookies with the kids and grandkids, etc., etc.  So on approximately October 10 each year, I start what I call the 3 a.m. heebie jeebies (this is where the procrastination piece comes in).  After tossing and turning for several hours in the wee hours of the morning, I get out of bed, acknowledging that "the season" has begun (my season of panic, that is), but then I might spend 2 hours that night sitting in front of my computer playing Free Cell or looking at pictures on Facebook, or working the Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzle .. all the while my stomach is twisting and turning in anticipation of all that must be done!!!! 

So I was quite proud of myself when, in April of this year, I bought my first present for Christmas 2011!  No hints.  It's a secret, so I'm not telling who it was for or what it was. Suffice it to say, I was pretty darn pleased with myself.  Maybe I was finally shedding that old bugaboo, procrastination!  The gift made its way into a closet, with a sticky note on it advising as to who it was for and the occasion (just in case, I'm kidnapped by aliens and my family is left behind to sort through all of the stuff I have in various closets throughout the house) ... or, in the more likely event, that I just plain forget by December who it was I purchased a gift for in April.

In August, I picked up 3 more gifts.  I was on a roll and was happy to say goodbye to this nasty character flaw.

One day last week, I decided to REALLY prepare early by wrapping the gifts already purchased.  As I pulled out what I had bought, I started second guessing myself as to the size (oops, a clue!) and decided that an exchange was in order in case the recipient had grown a bit since August.

A quick glance at the receipt brought a smug glow as I again patted myself on the back at my early preparedness.

A trip to Target's return desk brought me face to face with a very helpful customer service rep.  I couldn't help myself .. I had to tell her that these were early Christmas presents I had bought IN AUGUST(!) and was already returning, BEFORE I ever gave them to the intended recipients.  I explained I wanted to get different sizes and waited for her to congratulate me on being one of the "early Christmas shoppers" that we all aspire to.

Imagine my shock when she told me it was a good thing I had returned them because the receipt would expire on 11/17/11.  I pointed out that I had gift receipts that would accompany the gifts.  She said that wouldn't matter.  The gift receipts would be expired also.  I asked what that meant (I felt as if we were speaking in two different languages).

It means, all you early bird shoppers out there, that the person returning the gift would be given whatever the clearance price of the item was the last time it was sold at Target. You've all seen those "clearance stickers" on items ... some of them say things like "$1.38."  I'm frugal, but I don't want people to think of me as cheap!

I was flabbergasted.  I observed that shopping early, then, really wasn't such a great idea. She advised me to never start my Christmas shopping before October ... and to always check the expiration date on the receipt to make sure that it would occur after the date the gift was to be opened!

While I was disappointed that Target's return policy is so penurious as to discourage a population that might want to avoid the craziness of the Christmas rush, I was also pleased to finally realize that no matter how early I started worrying about Christmas' impending arrival, I absolutely cannot start shopping before October 1 if I suspect that someone might need to exchange a gift from me.   And, historically speaking, that DOES happen periodically (I really don't know why my husband didn't like those striped coveralls I gave him for Christmas that year.  I thought they would be perfect to wear while blowing out the driveway!)

So, if you are planning to do your Christmas shopping early, avoid Target until after October 1.  Oh,and that gift I bought in April?  Guess I'll keep it for myself and start all over again!  Level 2 of panic setting in ....

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just Peachy Keen

What says summer better than a peach pie?  Possibly, strawberry shortcake or corn on the cob .. or even watermelon!  Be that as it may, I look forward every summer to the arrival of peaches .. my favorite fruit.  Beginning in July, we start seeing peaches from California, Idaho, Georgia, etc.  But it's almost fall before the king of peaches arrive ... Colorado peaches.  Big, firm and yet juicy!   Perfect for baking or eating fresh.

About 2 weeks ago, a friend of mine delivered half a lug of beautiful Colorado peaches to my house.  I had ordered them as a fund raiser, intending to freeze them, providing us with a quick taste of summer sometime next January or February. But they were so darn good that we started eating them out of hand. Before I knew it, there were only a few left.  I wanted to have something to show for the peaches, so decided to make a peach pie.

Normally, my fruit pies have to be served in a bowl with a spoon. Even I have to admit that fruit pies are not my forte (although I make a darn good pie crust from scratch!). 

Being a modern woman, and following the technology standard these days, I searched the internet for a peach pie recipe.  Who uses cookbooks anymore?  Anyone???  I didn't have to be a genius to know that if I used my regular recipe it would turn out runny (sorry, Betty Crocker).

So, off I went to Recipe Girl, a great place to start ... wonderful recipes and pictures of the finished product (always a benefit).  What did I have to lose (other than my reputation as the soupiest fruit pie maker in town!)?  I wasn't disappointed.

Here is the recipe I used.  Recipe Girl's Peach Pie.  And here is the finished product.

The results?  My husband said it was the best pie I'd ever made ... and ...

wait for it .....

It wasn't soupy!  

Thank you Recipe Girl!  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beauty in My Own Back Yard

The first 10 days of October have been absolutely breathtaking in their beauty.  We had 8 days in a row of 80+ degree weather.  We almost set a record on Monday, October 10, but the mercury only managed to inch up to 76 degrees that day!  What a paltry effort on Mother Nature's part.  Had we reached 80 or higher, it would have been our 9th day IN A ROW of 80 plus temperatures in October ... a new record.

I'm not complaining. We've gotten in several days of fall golf.  We've visited apple orchards.  We've cleaned up leaves .. sometimes 2 and 3 times in one day.  Okay ... in the interest of full disclosure, ED has cleaned up leaves ... but I've been right there applauding his efforts and praising him! We've slept with the windows open and the ceiling fans whirling.  I've washed a few windows and mopped a few floors to remove the black dirt that a 60 mph wind blew in, leaving unclothed trees (and dirty floors) in its wake.  We've gone to high school football games in tee shirts and sandals (unheard of in Minnesota in October) and applauded the work of the cute cheerleaders (especially our granddaughter!), watched a grandson play football in the Metrodome, and enjoyed a walk on a school nature trail with another grandson on a beautiful October afternoon.

In between all of these activities I've also found time to sit on our 3-season porch now and then and admire the beauty of our own back yard.  We have a small back yard which is encircled by trees and shrubs.  The first year we lived here, I didn't realize there was a house behind us until winter arrived and all of the trees were bare!  Our 3-season porch is a haven from the world for me. When we went house hunting 18 years ago, it was the one feature on my "must have" list.  There is no television on the porch.  Just windows, lovely, comfortable furniture, and the world outside.  Periodically, Ed "wishes" for a TV out there, but I remain adamant that it is the one room in the house that must remain a respite from football, cooking programs, old cowboy shows, and other daytime distractions.  A book is allowed out there ... a newspaper is allowed out there ... even a radio/iPOD is allowed there.  That's it.  In appreciation of the view from that room on beautiful autumn days, and the serenity it brings me, I captured a picture of it with my camera about 10 days ago.  I didn't have any real reason to take the picture.  Didn't even intend to share it with anyone.  The view itself just begged to be captured.  Little did I know the purpose it would later serve.

On Tuesday of this week, we made the drive along the Mississippi River (on both the Wisconsin and Minnesota sides) to "look at the leaves" and enjoy the company of good friends.  We saw hundreds of migrating birds flying low on the Mississippi River (snatching fish from shallow water?), read the history of the Indian woman who threw herself off the bluffs at Maidenrock, Wisconsin (so named after the young woman), and bought a beautiful loaf of black pumpernickle bread at a bakery in Stockholm, Wisconsin.  While we had an enjoyable time, the fall colors were a bit of a disappointment. The trees were drab and even bare in many places, victims of the wind last week.  We were a day late and a dollar short as they say.  

I have to admit to probably being a bit less disappointed than our friends as I realized that I had already enjoyed the beauty of fall ... sitting on my own porch, taking in the beauty of our own back yard.  Capturing it on my camera means I am able to enjoy the colors and the serenity of that porch whenever I want to.  I don't have to wait for a beautiful day .. I don't have to drive 50+ miles from home .. I don't have to spend $3.59 a gallon on gas to go where the colors are!

I guess it's true what they say.  The best things in life are free .. and are often found in your own back yard.