Mailable Cookies to Make Someone’s Day

Whether it’s a care package for a college student, a goody box for someone in the military or a way to say Happy Birthday to a friend or relative, there’s nothing like opening a box of fresh, homemade cookies. And if those cookies just happen to be that recipient’s favorite cookies of all time, even better!

Here are tips to make sure your cookies arrive as cookies and not a pile of crumbs—fresh and ready to enjoy.

1. Always cool cookies before storing or packaging into a container. Packing warm cookies allows too much moisture to get trapped inside the package.

2. Certain cookies tend to ship better than others do. For example, do not mail cookies with custard or custard-like fillings or toppings like cheesecake bars. The custard could spoil, making yours a very unwelcome gift. Any cookie that requires refrigeration is not a good candidate for the mail.

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Got Five Minutes? Make Beautiful, Fresh Homemade Bread

As the stories continue to unfold for how people survived and continue now to deal with the ravages of hurricane season, I can’t be the only one questioning my own disaster preparedness.

One thing is certain. Here at the Hunt house, we’d have bread.

For years I’d had something of a love hate relationship with baking bread. It’s a domestic skill I could never quite master. And that bothered me in the way that little things can.

This would be my pattern: Four out of five tries would flop, then in an act of mercy by the yeast gods I’d turn out a specimen fit for judging at the Iowa State Fair. But the time involved, the angst, the stress—not much in my life is worth all of that and surely not bread.

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7 Habits of the Rich

Habit is defined as behavior repeated so often it becomes almost automatic. I am in awe of the power of habit. It’s a force to change your life, and it is available to anyone no matter your situation, no matter your circumstances.

For five years, author Tom Corley observed the daily habits of the rich and the poor and documented his findings in his book, Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals. Corley defines the rich as those earning at least $160,000 per year, with a minimum of $3.2 million in assets. Individuals with an annual income of less than $30,000 and fewer than $5,000 in assets are defined as poor.

Remarkably, Corley discovered that rich folks have a lot more in common than only income. They share the same habits and daily behaviors, which for the most part he did not find among the poor. Corley presents a compelling argument that becoming rich is not about how lucky you are. It may have more to do with how you spend your day, beginning with the hour you wake up.

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Best Inexpensive Heated Mattress Pads

Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know something called a heated mattress pad even existed. Makes sense since I’d lived in Southern California for most of my life where it is mostly warm all year round.

Relocating to Colorado where the seasons are more pronounced, I had a lot to learn about heating a house without going broke. That first winter our heating bills shot to the moon because we were heating the entire house to a comfortable temperature day and night. It was shocking.

We saw a semi-dramatic reduction in the heating bill when we decided to lower the thermostat to 60 F. at night and use a Bionaire micathermic space heater in our bedroom, but that wasn’t altogether successful. My husband and I have different internal thermostats. He would be cold while I’d be turning the space heater down a notch or two.

That’s when I set out to find a way we could both enjoy a warm and cozy sleeping environment without paying a fortune to achieve it. We tried going the electric blanket route. We got this Biddeford model with dual controls. That sounded like a great idea until we used it for a few nights. While the cords and wires are advertised to be flexible, we could still feel them and they felt stiff and bulky. Another problem is the dual controls require separate outlets. But worse—even at the lowest setting, it felt to me that I was trapped under a layer of heat and it didn’t feel good.

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Skip the Dinner, Bring on the Appetizers!

Fall is more than the kickoff to all of our favorite holidays. For me, it’s also the season of dinner parties, casual get togethers— and lots of entertaining. We’ll be hosting our first big event of the season this coming week and I’m so excited!

I’ve learned the hard way just how risky it can be to kick off a dinner party with hors d’oeuvres. Generally, guests arrive hungry, fill up on the appetizers becoming less than interested in the main event.

Does this mean we should forget about the appetizers? I’m not ready to do that. Instead, I have a great idea: Make it an hors d’oeuvres party, followed later by dessert—just skip that dinner part between and you’ll save a lot of time and money and at the same time give your guests a guilt-free hors d’oeuvre experience.

Baked Bacon and Clam Dip

  • 1 pound jack cheese, grated
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups (1 pint) sour cream
  • 1 pound cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1 or 2 cans minced clams, drained
  • 2 round loaves sour dough bread

Mix together first six ingredients. Cut off the tops of the loaves and set aside. Hollow out the loaves. Pour mix into the loaves, replace the tops. Wrap the filled loaves in foil. Bake at 300 F for 2-3 hours. Serve with the pieces of bread you removed from the loaves that you have cut into large “cubes.” Serves: 16-20.

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Credit Cards in the Hands of Financially Immature Students

Our kids are fortunate to be growing up in the most progressive and exciting time in history. Sadly, the very culture that offers them the world is also perpetrating this lie:

You are entitled to have everything you want even if you don’t have the money to pay for it. It’s not a problem. You deserve it. Buy it now and you can pay for it later!

 

There’s a huge consumer-credit industry out there planning to give your kids their very own credit cards—personal passports into the abyss of consumer debt.  This is not going to require your permission or approval, something that one reader is experiencing first hand.

DEAR MARY: My daughter who is in college got a credit card and now she is in over her head, unable to pay what she owes.

She works part-time and makes a very small salary. With the high interest and late fees, the balance is now over $2,500. I will have to step in and handle the account.

How can I negotiate with the credit-card company to settle for less? I don’t know how she got this card on her salary but she kept quiet about not being able to make the payments until we started getting collection calls for her. I appreciate your thoughts and expertise. Millie

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A Couple’s Guide to Common Money Myths

The wedding was complicated and expensive. But it’s over and you are ready to settle back and enjoy your new life together.

Lucky for you I’m here to warn you about some common money myths that newlyweds have been known to bring with them into their marriages.

 

Myth: Double the income, half the expenses. 

This is what I call newlywed fuzzy math: Merging your lives and incomes into one household is the equivalent of getting a raise. Don’t believe that, not for a second.

Counter: Start out living on only one income and save the rest. This will require going against everything the culture insists you deserve, but it will allow you to move seamlessly into parenthood. When that day comes you’ll have an impressive savings account and options. And a gallery of envious friends. 

Myth: There’s stuff we can’t live without. 

No there isn’t. But it will be easy to convince yourselves that you absolutely must have matching furniture, new cars, and all kinds of gadgets and services to make your lives easier and to keep up with your expectations, to say nothing of your friends.

Counter: Make a pact that you will never go into debt for “stuff.” Period. 

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Ask Me Anything: Kitchen Appliances, Counters, Gunk Cleaners

Want to create enough confusion in your head to make it feel like it’s going to explode? Go shopping for kitchen appliances. Listen to all the sales pitches, let every friend and relative weigh in with their opinions and then set out to find all of it on sale. Yep, that will do it for sure.

To avoid that kind of near-explosive situation, you could do what today’s first reader did—ask me! It seems that I have a response (and opinion) for just about anything.

Dear Mary: We are remodeling our kitchen, which means new appliances. Do you have a suggestion for the brand we should consider and should we get them all to match or do more of a mix-and-match to get the best prices available? Also, which type of countertop do you feel is better? We have nine grandkids so we want everything to be very durable. Liz

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