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4 posts from December 2008

December 28, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Movie - The Family Man


Sometimes I just like to kick back and watch a good movie, especially on a Sunday afternoon.  It's quiet here.  The kids are upstairs playing.  Big Bear is cleaning up his office.  Adolf and Hannah are asleep at my feet.  I think I'll watch a movie.  You want to watch it with me?  I love sharing a movie.

This is one of my favorites.  I've seen it about 5 times already, but I love watching it again, especially with you! 

Here's how it works:


Click the Play arrow.  You'll watch about 15 seconds of an advertisement.  Then move your mouse to the top right corner of the picture and click on that little square to make the movie a "full screen."  Press your Esc key to put the movie back to its original size.  Easy?

By the way, don't forget to enter the contest "Top 10 Things" for your chance to win a $500 Giftcard to Target!  This contest will end at noon on Wednesday, December 31st.

Enjoy the movie! 

December 26, 2008

Here's To A Wonderful Year Ahead


There have been a lot of good memories in 2008, and although the last quarter of the year has been tough due to Big Bear's layoff from Avaya, we've been healthy and we have each other and, well, we're doing okay - for now.

Big Bear has been working in the garage and working on his bike.  Yesterday it was almost 70 degrees here in Charlotte and he really wanted to go riding.  Today, however, it is so cold I have 2 quilts over my lap and some fluffy socks on my feet to keep my toesies warm.  Oh, and of course a fire in the fireplace. 

Did you have a good Christmas?  Did you give and receive a lot of hugs?  Did you gain 5 pounds from all the good grub?  I certainly hope so.  We had a great day, and if I can figure out how to use my new Final Cut software to edit the video I took with my new Canon HD Video Camera, I'll be in business.  In the business of making better amateur home video. As in videos of Big Bear snoring in his favorite recliner, or our dogs Hannah and Adolf playing with each other, or better yet, video of Sarah and Matthew playing the piano and Glen playing the drums.  Maybe we'll call our kids the "Vaughn-trap Family Players" - get it?  The Vaughn-trap Family? ... ol, forget it.  I've seen "Sound of Music" way too many times.  But hey, what's one more time, right?

Obviously, I am short on material here, so I will leave you with this ...

Merry Christmas everyone!  Thanks for dropping by.  I think I'll go make some Raisin Toast with a mug of hot cocoa, sit by the fire with my doggies, look at the lights on my tree, and then take a nap on the sofa.  Nobody disturb me for about 3 hours, okay?  This is what I call my kind of day.

So kick up your feet and stay warm - or cool, depending on where you're at.  And while your at it, give someone a hug.

* * * * *

(Painting above by Dave Barnhouse - "From One Generation to Another")



December 12, 2008

Frontgate - Not the Place to Buy a Christmas Tree

Frontgate Noble Fir

Where do I start - how about in 2004.  We purchased a Noble Fir from Frontgate for about 700.00.  Christmas 2004 the tree was beautiful.  Christmas 2005, we had some issues with the lights and tried to correct the problem ourselves.  Christmas 2006, I got shocked pretty bad - the electricity went thru my right arm.  We called Frontgate right away and took down the tree, and Frontgate told us to box up the Noble Fir and return it.  They, in turn, would replace the tree with another Noble Fir. 

Christmas 2007

Not.  What they sent was a Balsam and Fir mix - an inferior tree to the one that we spent 700.00 dollars for originally.  But, it was right before Christmas, and we set it up.  We used it for Christmas 2006, and Christmas 2007, however, when we set up the replacement tree, it was sitting lopsided and we had to tie it to the window latch to keep it upright.  We did the same thing for Christmas 2007, however, it appeared to be worse.

(No funny comments please about the post of this tree.  I already know what it looks like. LOL)

Now it is Christmas 2008, and we pulled our tree out of the corner of the garage where it has been standing - in a 160 dollar tree bag from Frontgate - so that we didn't have to take it apart and put it back together again every year.  We had it standing in the corner of our garage tied to the large shelving unit we have so that it wouldn't fall over on our car, but also because it wouldn't stand up straight since they sent it to us in 2006.  Well, the tree's post was bent and cracking and it wouldn't stand up at all, so we took pictures and sent it to Frontgate.  They were very kind about replacing the tree - or so we thought.   Just the other day we received a box from Frontgate with the replacement tree and tonight we went to set it up.  Not only is this tree inferior to the last replacement tree, but the last tree was inferior to the first one we purchased! 

This new tree has an entire section of lights out and also has a short in the wiring.  We contacted Frontgate and they now refuse to stand by this tree.  This tree also has missing hinge pins to keep the branches in place.  Now, I can't say that Frontgate are being total jerks - I mean, they did stand by the original tree - well, kinda.  It was only after the holidays of 2006 that we realized that Frontgate had not sent us a tree that was comparable to the one that we spent a small fortune on, but by then Christmas was over and we just wanted to enjoy the holidays.

Frontgate Noble Fir 2

So, I'd like to save all my readers the trouble of finding these things out the hard way - and hopefully save you the money, too - of purchasing an expensive tree from Frontgate.  Because although they say they will stand by their tree, and they did send us 2 replacements, they sent us inferior trees that were not comparable to the original one we spent 700 dollars on from their company.  Maybe if they had sent us a quality replacement in the first place, we wouldn't have had these problems.  (By the way, isn't that a pretty picture above?  I wonder if that was taken in Paul Tarvin's home?  I wonder if Paul Tarvin would spend 700 dollars on a tree that lasted 2 Christmases and then settle for inferior replacements?  Hmmm, I think I'll reflect on that over some Cocoa tonight).

Still, I'd like to think that Frontgate would just take back these faulty trees and send us a quality tree that was as beautiful as the first one we purchased from them in 2004.  I loved that tree.  In many ways, I feel jipped, and that is probably compounded by the fact that Big Bear is still out of work - nobody seems to be hiring in this terrible economy, and we just about lost every dollar we had to live on going forward from our retirement funds in the market mess this week. 


Bottom line, my Big Bear and the children just left to go purchase a real tree.  I wish I had the 700 dollars back from the tree we purchased in 2004.  I mean, for that price, shouldn't you get more than 2 Christmases out of it?  I just hate spending the money on this - especially this year.  And it gives me indigestion to think about all the money we spent on that tree from Frontgate that we thought for sure would last us at least 10 years.  Live and learn I suppose.

The children already know that this is going to be a very slim Christmas - and that goes for Matthew and Glen's birthday's too on the 16th and 18th.  On a good note, though, I am thankful and blessed, even in this difficult time for our family, because the difficulties we are facing are hopefully, God willing, short term, and nothing compared to so many other families out there who have lost their homes, their health, or worse.  Believe me, I know just how blessed we are - even in the tough times, and I think about those people who are really struggling and who don't have food.  The gifts under the tree, or lack thereof, are nothing compared to the love that we all share and the joy we have together as a family. 

The faulty Christmas tree is certainly a reflection of the times we live in and the Corporate lugs out there who send jobs overseas or who purchase products from China and Indonesia rather than manufacture them here in the United States.  This faulty Christmas tree of ours is a reflection of the character of our retail market and the inferior goods and products on the market today.  It is a real shame that manufacturers, distributors, and retailers don't take the same pride in the products they make and sell like they used to just 20 or 30 years ago.  Back then, products were made to last.  Nowadays, they are built to break so that you go out and purchase another and then another to replace it. 

Frontgate Christmas Trees

Corporate America has become so greedy that now they are failing and look at the consumers to ask why.  Well, Bob and I had a short-lived conversation on the phone with Charles Jacoby, who claimed, quite boldly, to be the voice of Paul Tarvin - the owner of Frontgate.  He claimed that Frontgate should never have replaced the first tree, and maybe he's right, and he said they were trying to be nice, to which I replied - "it would have been nice if you had just originally replaced the tree with a comparable tree, then maybe we wouldn't have these consistent problems."  Mr. Jacoby didn't care and offered to send us a light tester (sorry, bud, we already have one), and then he got testy with us and hung up on me.  Good customer relations you've got there, Frontgate. 

I'm sorry to have to say this, but Frontgate - your trees (or at least your low end trees that you keep sending us) are the worst.  I'd like to think you would send us your 9' Noble Fir or 9' Frasier Fir that would be comparable to our original tree that we spent so much money on, instead of these balsam trees that are pure crap.  Whoever wired this tree I'm looking at right now in my family room must have wired it at 4:55pm on a Friday afternoon.  Out it goes.


Christmas Tree Lot 2.

I'm anxious for Big Bear to get home with the kids so that I can make some Hot Cocoa and turn on the Christmas music and set up a real tree - spiders and all - in our family room.  In the meantime, I'm just going to sit here and enjoy the fire that my honey built for me just before he left.  I love the smell of a real fire.  The crackling sounds are so relaxing.  This Frontgate tree, though, is stressing me out.  Crapola.  What a year.

By the way, we have 2 trees here - one has a faulty post that may be fixable with a blow torch, and the other has an electrical short in it, but could probably be rewired.  Both would cost a few bucks to repair.  I would like to donate them to a family in Charlotte, NC who don't have a tree this Christmas or who have a few dollars they don't mind spending to repair these trees.  They retail for hundreds of dollars and if not for the post problem and the electrical short, are otherwise pretty trees.  Please let me know if you would like one.  I have two for anyone who can pick them up in Charlotte as Frontgate does not want them back.



December 07, 2008

Yummy! Platinum Blondies Holiday Goodness and a Surprise for You at the End!

DSCN2453_2.jpg by you.

Congratulations to my "Winner!"

CONGRATULATIONS to Sissy!  She wrote the following:

I love making xmas cookies most of all with my children. Growing up we would make cookies with our mom and invite our friends over and make a party of it. Now that I have my own children, we have at least one special day in the month of december that we invite our children's friends over for a baking day of cookies, holiday music, and memories.


You are the winner of a new Williams & Sonoma Holiday Cookie Cutter!  I hope you will enjoy it for many holidays to come.

Email me at susan@raisin-toast.com to claim your prize!


Don't they look delicious?!!  I want one.  Now.  How about we bake them first.  And I'll bet if you bake them on Christmas Eve, Santa will love you for it.  By the way, those Tomato & Mozzarella Skewers were such a big hit at Thanksgiving, that we took some more with us to a casual get-together of friends and they were a big hit again.  Thanks Beth!  So let's get to the kitchen and whip up some Platinum Blondies.  How about it? ...

DSCN2415_2.jpg by you.

Our team of players include:

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

After you get your players together, preheat your oven to 350°.

DSCN2424_2.jpg by you.

Beat the sugar and butter together with a mixer until blended. Add the egg and vanilla.

DSCN2425_2.jpg by you.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture. Mix until just till blended.

DSCN2427_2.jpg by you.

Stir in the cranberries and chips. The batter will be stiff. You can pat it into your pan by hand or spread it with the back of your mixing spoon.

DSCN2431_2.jpg by you.

Use an 8-inch square glass baking dish coated wth cooking spray. Bake for around 30 minutes or less or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center. Don’t overbake! Cool in the baking dish on a wire rack.

DSCN2453_2.jpg by you.

When cool, you can dress these blondies up with vanilla frosting, or serve plain, though they are anything but plain! Makes 16 blondies.

And although they are not exactly platinum, you can dress them up with a sprinkling of dried cranberries throughout, these give “brownies” a whole new meaning.

DSCN2460_2.jpg by you.

Beth doesn't know which one is sweeter, her Peggy or her Platinum Blondies.  Hmmm, that's a tough one.

Ready for your Sweetness of a Surprise?  I thought so. 


How about this wonderful Cookie Press from Williams & Sonoma?  I mean, it's the holidays folks!  And we should all pull out the cookie sheets and bake, bake, bake.  What a great way to spend the season with our children?!!

Here is a little bit of information for you about this great gift to you ...


Count on this efficient press when you need to make a lot of attractive cookies in record time. The extra-large barrel holds enough dough for three-dozen large cookies or crackers, so there’s no need to refill it in the middle of a batch. Shaping the dough is as easy as squeezing the ergonomic upright handle. Included are 16 discs, shaped for every season and occasion, along with sweet and savory recipes. The plastic barrel and discs are dishwasher safe. 3" diam., 13 3/4" long. A Williams-Sonoma exclusive.

Sounds great doesn't it?  A 39.95 value and it is Brand Spankin' New on the selection of great products at Williams & Sonoma!

And how can you win this delightful gift for the holidays?  Just answer the following question in the comment section:

What was your favorite Christmas or Hanukkah holiday tradition in the kitchen?  Did you create something special with your parents?  Do you share in the same tradition with your own children? 

I love hearing from my readers, and because I love you all so much, the contest winner will be announced tomorrow morning (in other words, sometime before noon. LOL)

My children will read your comments and put them in a bowl (they love to print them off, cut them apart, and fold them.  It keeps their little hands busy.  And then one will choose the winning entry from the bowl.  Good Luck Everyone!  Happy Holidays!

One entry per person please. 



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