Life Lessons from a Daffodil Garden

I love the story author Jaroldeen Edwards tells (Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner) of the trip she took with her daughter one bleak and rainy day. She wasn’t that thrilled to drive more than two hours to see flowers some woman had planted. But her daughter was insistent. “You’re going to love this, Mom!” Tell me what mom could resist going along with that kind of enthusiasm.

They drove along the Rim of the World Highway, inching their way toward Lake Arrowhead through fog and drizzle in the San Bernardino mountains, north of Los Angeles, Calif.

By now, Jaroldeen was so agitated, she was certain she was being kidnapped by her daughter. Still not convinced this could be worth the trouble, Carolyn parked next to a small stone church and announced they would need to walk along a path, through huge, black-green evergreens and over a thick blanket of old pine needles.

Just as they turned the corner, Jaroldeen stopped dead—literally gasping in amazement. “There before me was a most incredible and glorious sight! So unexpected and unimagined.”

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From the top of the mountain, sloping down several acres across folds and valleys, between the trees and bushes, following the natural flow of the terrain, were rivers of daffodils in radiant bloom. Every color of the spectrum of yellow blazed like a carpet before them.

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Cooking in Foil Packets Gets Everyone Out of the Kitchen

No matter what you call them—hobo dinners, meal-in-one packets or fun-with-foil—packet meals are a real kid-pleaser that gets everyone out of the kitchen. If you’ve never tried cooking in foil packets, you’re in for a tasty treat.

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Here’s what’s so great about packet meals: You don’t heat up the kitchen because you cook these meals outdoors on your grill or camp stove. And cleanup is a cinch. No pots or pans, only foil and that goes straight into the trash.

Surely there is a scientific explanation for why ingredients wrapped in foil and set over a hot grill taste so fantastic yet require so little effort. However, I prefer to think of it as magic. And what fun it is.

General instructions

Preheat grill to medium-high. Cut pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil that are 12 by 18 inches each. If using regular foil, prepare double thickness foil for your packets.

Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Place items in the foil per the recipe. Bring up foil sides. Double fold top and ends to seal packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside. 

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Secrets of Super Savvy Grocery Shoppers

I flinched at the thought. Buy produce from that store where nothing costs more than a dollar? I probably came across as a snob when I asked my friend if it was even safe. I mean, where would food that cheap come from?

She pushed, so I agreed to go along, but only as a spectator.

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Oh, the bargains I found there—beautiful, first-quality produce: lettuce, scallions, a seriously large bag of ginger root, five pounds of Russet potatoes and six heads of gourmet garlic in a mesh fabric bag. Five items, just 99 cents each for a total of $4.94. On that day the same items would have cost $11.88 at the neighboring supermarket. My skepticism evaporated quickly making me a convert and a regular.

My experience with chopping the cost of produce is a drop in the bucket compared to the food shopping methods of people I consider extreme grocery shoppers. Just keep this in mind: Not every method works for every person. Discover what works for you and then hone that method to a razor’s edge. Soon you’ll be bagging bargains and bringing your food costs down—extremely!

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Cheapskate Gardening Tips, Tricks and Recipes

Is there anything more gratifying than a beautiful garden when you just happen to be the gardener? One trip to the garden center to pick up soil amendment, weed cloth and weed killer can pretty much zap all of the joy for the expense that can represent. That’s why I love today’s tips, tricks and, back by popular demand, homemade weed killer.

But first, check out my garden—spring flowers and a few weeds I treated only yesterday.

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GARDEN VITAMINS. While you may have no use for spent coffee grounds, your garden would love them. Used coffee grounds are like mega-vitamins for the soil. They’re rich in phosphorus and magnesium—important nutrients that help plants grow. It’s easy to just sprinkle coffee grounds around the plants and work them into the soil. They’re even the right color. If you’re not much of a coffee drinker, don’t despair. Starbucks has a program called Grounds for Your Garden, where they package up their used coffee grounds in the bags that the beans originally came in and offer them to local gardeners, for free. Pre-packaged bags of Grounds for Your Garden may not be available in all stores. Check with your barista to see if used coffee grounds are available at your local Starbucks.

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Cybercrime Alert for Grandparents

There is a very real and terrible scam going on in the U.S. and abroad, in which grandparents are being targeted.

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The scam begins with something most grandparents don’t get enough of—a phone call, email message or a message through Facebook from a grandchild. The scammer, impersonating that grandchild, is frantic and says he’s been hurt in a car accident, or arrested, or gotten in some kind of trouble and needs money fast.

One former scammer told CBS News that he can easily make $10,000 in a single day. He just keeps calling until someone bites. Then he does it again and again.

A typical conversation goes like this:

Hey, Grandma, Hi Grandpa … It’s me Johnny. I’m in a little bit of trouble right now. Yeah, Ashley is good. But I’ve got a problem. If I tell you, just keep it between us. Don’t tell Mom and Dad—they’d freak out and they wouldn’t understand. I’m on vacation, but I got into a little accident, and I was arrested for a DUI. Things got out of control, and I need you to pleeeeeze send me money.

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Extremely Offensive Odors and How to Deal with Them

Many years ago, Nok-Out and I met completely by accident. We found one another in my desperate search for ways my readers could deal with extremely  offensive odors. I’ve used Nok-Out continuously in my home and business since then and have recommended it to readers facing serious and potentially expensive odor issues.

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DEAR MARY: Recently you gave the tip of diluting Nok-Out in a 1:4 ratio with water. I had always wondered if you could do that but didn’t want to waste the valuable product testing it only to find out it needs to be used full strength. I had some clothes that had a terrible odor no matter how many times I washed them. I was to the point of having to throw them away as they were not wearable in that smelly state. I diluted the Nok-Out as you said, soaked the clothes in this solution, wrung them out, and then washed as usual. It worked! Nok-Out saved my clothes. The odor is completely gone. This product is so worth the money. Loyal reader, Robyn

DEAR ROBYN: Great news! Nok-Out is so highly concentrated, diluted 1:4 it remains highly effective. There are times you can dilute it even more. And then there are rare times you really need to use it full strength. Read on ….

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Cilantro-Lime Rice Like You’ve Never Made It Before

I have no idea why on the one hand I seriously DO NOT care for cilantro but on the other hand I’m crazy for Cilantro-Lime Rice as served by both Chipotle and Qdoba casual Mexican restaurants.

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How do they do that? How do they take rice, lime and cilantro for goodness’ sake, and turn it into such a delicious side dish?

I’ve been asking that question for a long time. Finally, I believe I have figured out how to make delicious, amazing Cilantro-Lime Rice that tastes for all the world just like the restaurants’—and for just pennies.

But before I get into the specifics for how to make Cilantro-Lime Rice, I want to tell you about something I have learned in this process—a super fast way to prepare plain rice from scratch in about 12 minutes give or take.

My rice cooker takes nearly 2 hours to do the same thing. More traditional methods include preparing rice on the stovetop or in the oven with proper liquid to rice measurements followed by covered cooking at low temperatures until all of the liquid is absorbed.

There is another way and I’m talking about the way we prepare pasta: Get a big pot of water boiling, add salt and pasta. Boil rapidly for 8 to 12 minutes. Drain, rinse. Done. Perfect every time. Yes, that defies every rule we’ve ever learned for how to prepare rice, but it just works!

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Confused by Product Dating? Yes, We Are!

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Pop quiz: You pull a chicken from the fridge to fix for dinner and notice that yesterday was the “Sell By” date. You should:

A. Throw it away because not many emergency rooms offer a stomach pumping family plan.

B. Cook it to an internal temperature of 195 F. minimum to kill the salmonella; serve with a pungent sauce to mask any residual fowl odor.

C. Relax. You and the supermarket have complied with FDA regulations requiring that this chicken be sold before the date on the label.

D. Refuse to answer on the grounds that obviously this is some kind of a trick question.

If you selected “D” you are right. This is a trick question and what better way to introduce an article on confusing dates than with a confusing pop quiz!

The truth is that “C” would be correct if not for that word “regulations.” Except for infant formula and some baby foods, product dating is not required by federal regulations. It is a convenience offered to store owners by food manufacturers.

Although dating of some products is required in 20 states, dating is voluntary on the part of manufacturers and processors. To further shake your confidence, stores are not legally required to remove outdated products from their shelves. So, it’s up to you to make sure you are getting the freshest products.

That means scrutinizing the package labeling and purchasing items with the most recent dates.

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