Christmas Gifts From My Instant Pot: Candied Lemon

I’ve never gotten into the whole Black Friday retail extravaganza. Might be because I’m not a fan of crowds, chaos, and mayhem, which is the way I would describe it.

Or I don’t like the idea of being manipulated into thinking that everything is a bargain on Black Friday, therefore, I must shop til I drop. Nope. Not me.

The theory behind the term Black Friday is not that it’s a dark, horrible thing the way it would be described in say an office environment of the day when all but the boss’ kid got pink-slipped leaving the entire company in a state of shock and awe.

It’s called Black Friday because supposedly, as the biggest shopping day of the year, retailers recoup all the losses they’ve experienced during the year so far—crazed shoppers taking them out of the red (financial loss) into a healthy profit status.

Honestly, I kinda’ doubt that whole red-black thing to be true, but it does explain the name of the day.

Perhaps you’ve guessed already, that I will not be joining any throngs of crazed shoppers next Friday. Instead, I will be home making Christmas gifts in my Instant Pot!

This year my homemade, consumable gifts will include Pure Madagascar Vanilla Extract, Pure Meyer Lemon Extract, Bacon Onion Jam and Candied Citrus Peel. Now here’s the crazy thing—I’m making all of these gifts in my Instant Pot, even the extracts! I’ve discovered that I can make the extracts in one day in my Instant Pot (yes, even pure vanilla extract!), where it used to take up to six months for extracts to be ready for gift-giving.

While I will be sharing all of these recipes and instructions with you soon, today I want to walk you through the simple steps to make Candied Lemon Peel.

Homemade candied lemon peel is a treat—one that is so decadent and classy, it makes for great gift—a treat you know will be gratefully received.

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Best Inexpensive™ Water Filters—Pitcher, Under-Sink, Countertop

You need to stay hydrated, that’s for sure, but is the tap water in your home safe? It is considered generally safe if it comes from a public water system in the United States, such as one run and maintained by a municipality.

When drinking water leaves a treatment plant on its way to your house, it must meet strict safety standards. That doesn’t mean that your water is free of all contaminants, but that the levels of any contaminants don’t pose any serious health risk. And it sure doesn’t mean it’s going to taste good. Or comply with your doctor’s orders should you have a health issue with chlorine and or fluoride, present in most municipal water.

Having some method of filtering the water you drink and cook with is the best way to assure great tasting water without the high cost of having to haul bottled water into the house. And you have choices for how to do that.

Based on lots of research, testing, and tasting here are my picks for the Best Inexpensive™ filtering pitcher, under-sink reverse osmosis, and countertop filtering system.

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Ask Me Anything: Pre-Owned iPhones, Pet Stains, Carpet Cleaning Machine

Have you seen the latest iPhone X? Read about it? I nearly choked when I learned it comes with a price tag of $1,000 or more.

Granted, I’m no iPhone aficionado, but I cannot imagine spending that much on a mobile phone of any brand, size, or capability. Can you?

Debra writes, “It’s time for me to get a new smartphone and I’m having a hard time deciding. Since they are so expensive, I don’t want to make a bad choice. I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy 2 for about five years. Everyone else in my family has iPhones and they suggest I do the same even though they have no experience with Android phones. Also, I’ve come across certified used phones which are cheaper, but I’m a bit leery of going that route because I don’t know how safe it is. I would appreciate any advice you could offer.”

Answer: This is going to come down to your own personal preference, however as one who has never really bonded with any mobile phone (my family members are mostly at their wits’ end with me as I rarely even know where my phone is—let alone think I should answer it if I’m busy), I would be hardpressed to give you a specific recommendation. But I do have some thoughts.

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Great Reader Tips: Packing Cubes, Sink Clogs, Cooking Spray, BBQ Grill Cover

Over the years, I’ve done it a dozen times if I done it once—toss out the clear vinyl zipper bags that come with sheets and blankets. Today’s first great reader tip makes me wish I’d not done that. For sure, I’ll never do it again.

FREE PACKING CUBES. I reuse the clear vinyl zipper bags of various sizes, which come with blankets, linens and some sports apparel brands, to pack for travel. They work as well or better than the pricey packing cubes that are available since they offer a clear view of the contents. I’ve saved many over the years and can pack items by category or pack individual outfits. Packing in the vinyl bags protects the items, (moisture barrier) prevents wrinkles, facilitates potential security searches at airports, keeps the suitcase or duffle organized and makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, thus reducing stress during travel! My husband is a recent convert to this strategy, which made “luggage management” during a recent trip to Spain much easier! Alicia

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7 Ways to Outsmart Retailers’ Clever Tricks That Get Us to Spend More

I blame my suspicious nature on my neighborhood grocery store. The store used to be a logically arranged market with bright lights and clean floors—a basic, friendly, functional place to shop.

Then the bulldozers morphed it into a big fancy supermarket complete with clothing, mood lighting and cushy chairs. And hidden cameras.

I have nothing against beautiful spaces and modern conveniences, but I’m no fool. I knew all of this effort was to one end: to get me to spend more. Take the “Three for $6!” special of the week. “Why not just say $2 each and drop the exclamation mark?” I muttered to myself as I placed one jar of spaghetti sauce in the cart. Before I could wheel away I had my answer: I saw several customers dutifully place three jars in their carts. Not two, not four, but three jars.

That response was no accident. In fact, that’s a simple example of how retailers use tricks to persuade consumers to buy more.

It’s been a few years since I had the privilege to interview Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science Of Shopping. Retailers hire Underhil’s company, Envirosell, to follow thousands of shoppers a year in person and on videotape, observing their every move.

Using this information, the stores find ways to get people to shop longer, spend more and return often. Underhill and his crew are so good at what they do, they can tell retailers what will entice people to enter the store, which way they’ll look once they’re inside, and more.

How important is consumer persuasion to the marketplace? “If we went into stores only when we needed to buy something,” Underhill told me, “and if once there we bought only what we needed, the economy would collapse. Boom.”

No one wants the economy to get any worse, but we don’t want to overspend either. So our defense as consumers is to educate ourselves. Here are 7 tricks together with easy ways to outsmart those sneaky  retailers.

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How to Make Fabulous Meals Using a Formula, Not a Recipe

Ever feel like kitchen klutz? Wish you could take that odd assortment of stuff in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and make something delicious without a specific recipe and without having to run to the market?

Well, grab your whisk and shout for joy! Thanks to this Fool-Proof 5-Step Formula you can create fabulous, original, homemade, delicious and nutritious entrees designed by You, using the items you have on hand.

Step 1: Combine 1 8-ounce carton sour cream, 1 cup milk, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper with one item from Group A, which is coming up below (omit sour cream and milk when using tomatoes).

Step 2: Stir in one item from each of Groups B, C, D, and E (ditto)

Step 3: Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9- x 2-inch baking dish.

Step 4: Sprinkle with one or two choices from Group F (yep, below).

Step 5: Cover and bake casserole at 350 F, for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 additional minutes. Servings: 6.

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Mistakes Teach Us What Doesn’t Work

NEWS FLASH! Tomorrow marks the start of our 40-Day Christmas Challenge! For 40 of the days between now and Christmas, I will be posting a challenge on our Facebook Page. Each challenge will suggest something to do that day to get ready for Christmas. We’ll do this together using the comments feature to discuss, encourage and share ideas. Together, we’ll reduce our stress, increase our joy, stay out of debt—and have fun, too! Are you up to the challenge? Go there now and “Like” our page to get on board and you won’t miss anything!

Have you made any mistakes lately? Want to talk about it? Most people don’t. Can’t say that I blame them. It’s embarrassing.

And when it’s a really dumb mistake, well that’s something you hope to never have to think about again. And that’s a mistake.

Mistakes are useful because they teach us what doesn’t work. But making the same mistake over and over again while expecting different results—well, that’s the definition of insanity!

I’ve accumulated a list of mistakes over many years. It’s like a trophy now—a specific compilation of things that I do not have to do again because I’ve proven they do not work.

It doesn’t work to be in a supermarket without a plan.

Walking into the grocery store without a plan (written list, coupons and cash) is a terrible mistake. I know me. Without my “crutches” I am a $200 mistake just waiting to happen. And if I’m hungry? Make that $300.

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How to Shop with CASH at Amazon

I can’t think of many things worse than waking up on Dec. 26 with a raging debt hangover—an all-too-common after-Christmas condition.

The only reason you paid for everything with a credit card is that it was convenient. Besides, it’s not safe to shop online with a debit card, so what were your options?

Of course, you promised yourself that you would be paying the balance in full the minute the statement arrives, but who are we kidding here?

You were already carrying a balance on every card in your wallet, so now all of those new purchases will exacerbate the problem by plunging you even deeper into debt. Worse, you don’t even know for sure how much you spent because who keeps track when you pay for everything with a credit card?

Just imagine if you’d kept your promise that this year would be an all-cash Christmas—that you locked those credit cards away where they were safe from you. You’d be heading into the New Year with a much different attitude. No excuses, no hiding the holiday bills; no worries and no regrets.

I’ve got some good news for you. This year really can be an all-cash Christmas. You can do it and make your cash stretch even further when you take advantage of the lower prices when you shop online. You really can shop with CASH at Amazon, absolutely no credit card or debit card required.

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