Good for the Budget, Better than Botox

A few days ago I read about this guy in New York City, Marco Canora. He’s a chef and says that the first 20 years of his career were fueled by caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. He has quite a story and an amazing life turnaround. He says that he owes his change of habits, health and lifestyle to something called brodo, Italian for “broth.”

Just last month, Canora opened Brodo, a take-out window on 1st Avenue in NYC. He sells broth in coffee cups with sip lids. And it’s pricey at $4.50 for a small 8 oz. cup. Granted, it is nothing close to that broth-like stuff that comes in a box at the supermarket. This is the real deal made from scratch and simmered for many hours until it is rich, dark and flavorful. This is “bone broth,” which some are now calling the new coffee.

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It’s not new. Our grandmothers knew about bone broth, that there is something awesome in good, rich soup made from animal bones. Bone broth has tremendous health and healing powers. My grandmother made it all the time.

How to Protect the Kids From Identity Theft

Dear Mary: I have been following your column for years. My husband and I recently signed up for LifeLock based on your recommendations and I thank you for that.  

Just this past week, he has had numerous credit-card offers taken out in his name and the alerts have been coming through. Orders were also placed for several thousands of dollars for computers in his name.

I believe at one time you recommended LifeLock protection year for children in case someone steals their information and tries to open accounts in their names because you might not know their identity has been stolen for a while since they are not applying for loans or credit cards yet.  

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photo credit: Madmezza

We have 6 children and at $5 per month per child, that adds up to $360 annually just for the kids. I value your opinion and would like to know what you think. Robyn

Dear Robin: You recall correctly. Protecting your children’s identities is vital, and for the reason you state. I’ve read case studies of young people applying for their first credit card or home mortgage, being shocked to learn that someone has been using their SS number to open lines of credit for many years—accounts that have gone to collection, been written off and any number of horrific black marks. Before they even get started in life, their credit is ruined.

Sure it is illegal, sure you can fight to get all of that off one’s credit report. But can you even imagine the hassle? The stress, headaches and total nightmare such a thing would be? It kinda’ boggles my mind to even think about it. It can take up to seven years for negative items to finally clear.

They’re Paid Off and Debt-Free!

Dear Readers: Every day, as you can probably imagine, I get a ton of mail. These days, most arrive via email which is convenient and inexpensive. But I still get plenty of cards and letters in envelopes with postmarks and stamps. Your messages are all so encouraging, I wish I could personally respond to each and every one. Imagine my excitement to get the following report from this couple in New Jersey:

Couple-Jumping

Dear Mary: We just want to say thank you. Your columns, advice, thoughts and ideas helped our family out of debt. On Nov. 1, 2014 we became debt-free and paid off $232,793.59. Your newsletters were encouraging and helpful and we are grateful for your gift. Continue your work and again, Thank You. Judy and Dwayne.

Dear Judy and Dwayne: I get some fabulous mail but I have to admit that after  reading your note (handwritten on a beautiful greeting card, I might add) I had to pick myself up off the floor. Wow. Nearly a quarter of a million dollars in repaid debt. That is remarkable. I am so proud of you. I’d love to know more. In fact I would love to write your story one day. That would be so encouraging to others on their journeys to getting debt-free, and would affirm and validate this amazing thing that you’ve done in your own lives.

What Teachers Really Want for Christmas

I’ve never been a school teacher, but I’ve been a parent. I wish I’d known years ago what I know now about what teachers really want for Christmas. I would have skipped the “Teachers Have Class!” coffee mugs and gone more for the classroom supplies.

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Recently, I contacted teachers I know, asking them how they really feel about gift of thanks from parents and students—at Christmas and other times of the year, too. Each one of them hesitated. I could tell they didn’t want to come across as ungrateful.

Make no mistake—teachers are very grateful for the thoughts behind all of the stuff they get during the year, but particularly at Christmas. But the stuff itself? Not so much. In fact, most gifts become a problem for that teacher. What would you do with 27 random coffee mugs or 16 bottles of cologne or aftershave of dubious origin? 

This year you can make sure that the gifts you give to teachers will be exactly what they really want. So listen up and take notes. There may be a quiz.

General guidelines

Don’t spend a lot on a teacher gift. Keep it reasonable. Parents who go overboard make teachers feel uneasy and awkward.

If you can’t afford a gift, don’t worry. Show your appreciation by volunteering in the classroom. Teachers don’t generally keep score. But they do remember and appreciate classroom volunteers.

Traditions, Like Anchors in Our Lives

It seems like I’ve unpacked and hung this decor, these lights and holiday baubles a thousand times.

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I’m glad the people in my family don’t enjoy the process because I love taking this annual trip through years of memories alone. Besides, I know how everything should be. It must be the same as last year and the year before and the year before that. Any other way just wouldn’t be right. If I tried to pull a fast one, I’d hear about it.

There is not one thing in all of these boxes that doesn’t symbolize an event, a season of life or a small boy’s best work.

As each ornament finds its place on the tree, I relive the years through the memories of past holiday seasons. There’s something about chubby faces framed by Mason jar lids and macaroni angels that bring tears to wash my soul.

I am immersed in the wonder that I’ve been given another year to know my boys and husband. I recall the seasons through which we’ve traveled. Clearly now, I see how things did work together. Those situations we questioned did happen for a reason, trials did bring triumphs and little boys did become good men.

How to Roast a Cheap Cut of Beef

No matter how inexpensive a chuck or round roast, if it turns out so tough and flavorless it’s passed to the dog, that purchase was no bargain.

photo credit: thebittenword.com

photo credit: thebittenword.com

Finally, thanks to very extensive research and experimentation by Christopher Kimball, as reported in Cooks Illustrated magazine, we can confidently purchase those cheaper cuts of beef and expect perfect results every time.

These days, with beef prices hitting all-time highs, buying the cheaper cuts of beef is one way to make our food dollars stretch as far as possible. Just know that what follows is for those of us with more time than money.

When looking for inexpensive cuts keep these three words in mind: chuck, sirloin and round.  The chuck is fattier and more tender, the round is lean and relatively tough.  The sirloin falls somewhere between the two.

Clever Uses for Fresh Cranberries

The fresh cranberry season, October through December, is now in full swing. Americans consume some 400 million pounds of cranberries each year. For sure, cranberries are delicious, but there are so many other ways to use them.

photo credit: FindingHomeOnline.com

photo credit: FindingHomeOnline.com

Centerpiece. Start with some Styrofoam balls, any size. Cut a bunch of wood toothpicks in half. Stick a pick into the ball so that about 1/2-inch is sticking out. Push a cranberry onto the toothpick until it touches the foam ball. Repeat untilthe ball is covered, placing the cranberries close enough so the white ball does not show through. Set your cranberry balls on candle holders of various heights or pile them into a large bowl.

Glitter. In a medium bowl stir together 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon pasteurized egg white (or one raw egg white) until blended, but not whipped. Coat raw cranberries with this mixture. Spread granulated sugar on a baking sheet and roll the cranberries in it until they are covered. Dry at room temperature for 2 hours. Use as garnish for desserts. Sugared cranberries almost sparkle, they are so pretty.

Garland. Wash cranberries. Thread a large sewing needle with waxed dental floss. Secure the first cranberry on the floss by putting the needle through the cranberry twice, then making a knot in the floss. Continue threading the cranberries until the desired length is achieved to decorate the mantel, Christmas tree or banister.

Oh, Christmas Tree!

As tempting as a pricey, artificial pre-lit Christmas tree may be, few things about the holidays are as satisfying as a fresh, real Christmas tree.

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Photo: FindingHomeOnline.com

Fresh test. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh. Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You should not see an excessive amount of green needles fall to the ground. Some loss of interior brown needles is normal and will occur over the life of a tree.

Keep it fresh. The best secret for keeping your tree fresh is water, water, water. Once you get your tree home you want to cut 1/4-inch off the end and immediately put it into water.

Be sure to store your tree in a cool, shaded place out of the sun such as a covered porch or garage until you are ready to bring it into the house.

Never allow your tree to run out of water. If a fresh tree is properly cared for and watered, it should stay fresh through New Year’s Day.