From Chuck Roast to “Prime Rib” in Three Hours Flat

Shortly after this column posted on the specific steps to roast a cheap cut of beef so that it turns out like prime rib, I got an email from faithful reader, Mary B. We went back and forth a bit as she prepared this for guests. I thought you would enjoy the feedback.

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But first, here’s a quick refresher on how to do that:

1. Make sure you have a good oven proof meat thermometer and an oven thermometer. Exact temperatures are the secret.

2. Tie the roast with white cotton string so it’s compact and evenly shaped.

3. Place inside a roasting pan, uncovered.

4. Insert meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast.

5. Preheat oven to exactly 250 F using an oven thermometer, not relying on the one that is built into the oven. This is critical.

6. Leave roast in oven until its internal temperature is exactly 130 F.

7. Remove from oven, wrap it in foil and allow meat to rest for exactly 20 minutes.

Garage-Sale Proof the Gifts You Give

Recently, lots of families in my new neighborhood got together to host a colossal Neighborhood Garage Sale.

I didn’t participate as a seller but did my share of browsing.

photo credit: johnbeagle

photo credit: johnbeagle

Of course I was hoping to come across a couple of Longaberger baskets for a buck. Or a lamp with Tiffany written all over it, but in that secret place only we Antiques Road Show groupies know about.

That didn’t happen.

While I didn’t carry anything back to my house, I did pick up something quite valuable: A healthy dose of reality. Gift reality.

Most of what people were trying to unload that day were not antiques. There were a few pieces of furniture; I didn’t see a single collectible. Table after table, what I saw were gifts. Not new gifts, but discarded gifts. Very recognizable items once displayed on the pages of well-designed catalogs; items that were artfully arranged in department store cases. But they don’t look the same once opened and then left to languish in the hot sun on someone’s driveway.

14 Mother’s Day Gifts to Fit Every Budget

Since Mother’s Day is only a couple of weeks away, and since I’m a mom and many of you are moms, and since just about everyone has a mom or mom figure in their lives—it’s hard not to conclude that Mother’s Day is something worth celebrating.

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Which brings me to Mother’s Day gifts. I know this can be intensely personal and emotion-packed. So let’s do this: If you are just not into Mother’s Day gifting or even celebrating, consider what follows to be “Mary’s Favorite Things.”

Truth be told, I’ve had a lot of fun coming up with this  list of great gifts I’d be thrilled to receive—for Mother’s Day or any other day, for that matter.

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1. Rough Day Wine Glass. This beautifully etched wine glass will bring out the sense of humor in mom. What a cool gift. Make it even more special by pairing it with a bottle of her favorite wine.

2. Coffee Mug with Important Message. She already knows it, but why not remind her every day from here on, what a great thing she did when she had you.

3. Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Film Camera. Sure, digital phone cameras are hip and cool, but show me a mom who wouldn’t love to snap a picture and  instantly have that photo in her hand—on photo stock paper. Look at this new version of a “Polaroid-like” camera from yesteryear. This little sweet pea will easily fit in her hand, comes in a variety of pastel colors and is just cooler than cool. Don’t forget she’ll need extra film to go with it. Yes, film like from the olden days.

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4. Shark Navigator Pro. I just read some lame rule for Mother’s Day gifting: Never give your Mother a vacuum cleaner for Mother’s Day. What?! How many ways can I disagree wit,h that? I already have a Shark, but I’d die for an even better one like this particular awesome model. And yes for Mother’s Day! I’m pretty sure your mom will agree.

Six Secrets for the Perfect DIY Manicure

I wish I had all of the money I’ve spent over the years on manicures—both professional and do-it-myself. I’d have quite a tidy sum and still be stuck with these horrible nails and even worse cuticles.

Thankfully, after untold trials and errors, I’ve come up with a six part manicure routine that has turned my nail life around—and keeps me out of the pricey nail salon.

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By way of a little history, over the years I’ve done the acrylic thing (don’t even get me started on what years of that did to my natural nails). I’ve endured wraps, gels, hot oil and superglue.

My cuticles have been snipped, nipped, ripped and clipped. I’ve purchased expensive lotions, potions and nail notions but to no avail. Nothing has ever worked long term.

I’d just about given up completely on finding a reasonable and workable solution for my nails when finally, I put together a routine with specific products that has given my nails a brand new life. I’ve been testing this for about six months now and can report without hesitation: This is it—the best do-it-yourself manicure and nail care program for dry, cracked, horrible cuticles and jagged, splitting, peeling nails.

10 Easy Ways to Save Fuel

To save a gallon of gas, you need to cut about 22 miles of driving from your week. Here are 10 easy ways to do that:

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Hop on the bus, Gus. Even if you think this is not an option for you, check out PublicTransportation.org. You may be surprised by all the options that you have never considered. Or carpool. Leaving the car at home and sharing your commute occasionally can help you reach your gallon-goal quickly. Sharing the ride—and expense—with another person regularly can cut your gas costs in half. Check out your carpooling opportunities at eRideShare.com.

Take it easy. The faster you drive, the more gas you use. If your average commute includes 20 miles of highway time and you drive it at 60 mph instead of 70 mph, it will take you only three minutes longer to get there, and you’ll save approximately 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day work week.

Trip-chain. Need to pick up a prescription, mail a package and go to the bank? Instead of spreading these tasks out over a few trips, chain them together by doing all of them at one time. Park in a central spot and walk from place to place.

My Perfect Kitchen Trash Can and Perfectly Cheap Bags, Too!

I know “hate” is a strong word, but that’s how I feel about trash. Can’t stand it. But my loathing for trash is nothing compared to Lauren Singer, who has been trash-free for two years. It’s hard to imagine such a thing, but after hearing her story, she’s got my attention.

The entire amount of trash Lauren has produced in 24 months fits into a pint-size Mason jar.

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photo credit: TrashIsForTossers

I can’t say I’m anywhere close to Lauren when it comes to trash. I’m in that stage where I need a proper trash receptacle strategically located by my desk and in every other room of the house and garage as well. The most important receptacle is in the kitchen. It needs to be substantial in size, handy by location, as attractive as possible, impeccably clean and covered.

I have tested, tried and or reviewed every kind of trash receptacle in my search for the most perfect product out there. I have come to the well-educated opinion that stainless steel trash cans by Simple Human are the very best. I have the 30-litre/8 gallon round step can model in my kitchen.

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This beauty fits in a corner, against a wall—just about anywhere. It has a removable rigid liner for easy cleaning. The steel pedal is sturdy and the lid gives a smooth, silent close every time. It does not show fingerprints—also a big deal for me.

How to Win Over Temptation

If you’ve ever stopped by the store to pick up milk and walked out with a week’s worth of snacks to go with it, you know the power of temptation.

Experts say the typical adult is exposed to 3,500 commercial ads in any given day. These hidden persuaders are designed to manipulate our behaviors. With consumer debt at an all time high, it would appear that as a nation we’ve been losing a lot of battles with temptation.

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Photo Credit: jajja

But it is possible to learn how to face down temptation, and win.

Identify the weakness. `Fess up. What are your areas of temptation? Clothes, shoes, collectibles? Movies, food, gadgets? Electronics, crafts, plants?

Stop flirting with danger. If you’re ever going to win over temptation you must stop cozying up to the very thing that causes you to stumble. If you are easily tempted by clothes, don’t spend hours cruising the mall. In fact, don’t even go there unless you have a specific need and a reasonable plan.

Don’t open mail order catalogs. Take them to the garbage and push them way down to the bottom to head off a middle-of-the-night retrieval.

Develop a diversion. Temptation is usually fueled by emotion, rarely by reason. It comes and goes depending on our moods and thoughts, and can come quite unexpectedly. When it whispers in your ear, divert your attention to something equally enjoyable but less injurious to your financial health. For me it’s ironing. You might be more drawn to a book or crossword puzzle. Or a nap.

Grow Your Own Food One Square Foot at a Time

For years I’ve tried to grow a decent vegetable garden. It was the high cost of fresh basil—$3.50 for a few measly, wilted fresh basil leaves, ditto for a pound of somewhat reddish tomatoes—that prompted me to try. In no time I added zucchini and cucumbers to my repertoire—even corn one year.

Photo Credit:  The Self Sufficient Living

Photo Credit: The Self Sufficient Living

My harvests have ranged from disappointing to mediocre. Only one year my harvest produced enough to share with others. I’m still trying to remember how I did that. So far, I’ve been unable to duplicate the results.

One thing I do quite well is weeds. I try not to take too much credit here, but I have to tell you I’ve never seen anyone else grow weeds quite as successfully as I do.

While I love the concept of a garden that’s not only nice to look at but actually produces something we can eat, I’m not 100 percent in love with the anxiety, pressure, guilt, backaches, leg cramps, and fear of needing hip replacements.

While in the past my efforts to garden have been more of a hobby than a serious endeavor, I feel that changing. The high cost of food—specifically produce—tells me it’s time to get serious. We need to become more self-sufficient, but in a cost-effective way.

While I feel that I’ve mastered weeds, I’ve failed miserably in cost effectiveness. I shudder to imagine the true cost of the pathetically tiny bounty I’ve garnered over the years.  That doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on vegetable gardening, only that I’m ready for a new way to do it.