Overcharged on Produce at Walmart in Carroll, Iowa

I don’t normally write such a post, but this one is warranted. We shopped at the Walmart store in Carroll, Iowa yesterday (October 29, 2016). We eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, so of course, I purchased a number of items that needed to be weighed at the register.

When checking out, I didn’t watch the prices as the cashier rang up our items (my mistake). It wasn’t until this morning that I actually looked at our receipt. What really caught my eye was the fact that I saw the price for the ONE honey crisp apple that I bought. I’ve never tried one and since they’re expensive, I just bought one to try. I noticed that the ONE apple cost $3.60. “What??” I yelped! I looked at the weight and according to the receipt that one apple weighed 1.35 lbs. I have an accurate digital kitchen scale. I weighed the apple and it weighed less than 8 ounces. Hence, I was charged more than double what I should have been for that one apple. (Note that at the store, I put the apple was in one of those produce lightweight plastic bags that you can grab from a dispenser, which I had removed after bringing the food home. So the “tare” weight was not added in, but there’s NO way that little plastic bag weighed over 8 ounces. I’m sure it weighed way less than an ounce.)

Then I got out the eggplant that I purchased and have not yet cut in any way. It too rang up for a lot more weight and cost than it should have. Then I checked other items that we had not used, and they ALL weighed more on the receipt than they actually did…way more…sometimes double the weight or more.

I called the store and spoke with someone in customer service. She said they check their register scales every other day. She got the register number from my receipt and said she would go check the scale right away.

This may be an innocent problem, but I’ve heard of such schemes in the past (where stores alter their scales to show items weighing more than they actually do) and I know from reading online that the law has cracked down on such things. I don’t know if this was deliberate or not, but knowing how Walmart does their best to make as much money as they can, any way they can, I suspect that they might deliberately calibrate their scales so they overcharge customers on items that must be weighed.

So…it’s time for all of us to check this out and make it known to any store that overcharges that you caught them in the act. We could go back to that store and easily prove our point by carrying the items back to have them reweighed. However, we live in a different town and that store is about 30 minutes drive from here (country driving, so we’re talking about 30 miles one way). If I lived closer, I’d carry the produce back and have customer service weigh them again and prove my point. I’m estimating I was overcharged $10 to $15 or more (total) on the assortment of produce I purchased that had to be weighed. Because of the cost in gasoline and time factor in going back to the store, I’m opting to make this event known to the public this way, and absorbing the loss rather than driving back to the store. I doubt I’ll ever purchase anything that must be weighed at that store again. AND I’ll watch prices on items as they’re rung up at any store I shop in from now on.

I hope this helps you as a reader in some way, if nothing more than making you aware that such things can and do happen and that we should ALL watch the monitor as items are being rung up at any cash register. As I’ve learned, it pays to watch.

Stop Crochet Pain NOW!!

Stop Crochet Pain NOW!!!

I have been crocheting off and on for probably 50 years and never had an issue with pain in my hand/wrist until recently. I’m sure it’s from overuse of my hand since I’m selling oodles of crochet cloths…hence I’m crocheting for hours every day.

In an effort to alleviate the pain, I tried a number of different things from widening my grip with a foam cushion to investing in different hooks and gadgets. The changes helped, but didn’t really do the trick in stopping the pain.

Then I finally evaluated why my wrist hurt. The bottom line was my hand position. I took roughly a month to force myself to change my hand position and finally, finally (!!) the pain stopped. Now I can crochet all I need to without issue. No surgery, no special braces, no doctor visits.

Take a few minutes to watch my video below as I explain what I did to discover the source of my hand/wrist pain and how I stopped it. You too can do this!

Judi

Athena's Elements Crochet Hook Set

Unbiased Review of Ergonomic Crochet Hook Set by Athena’s Elements

This is an unbiased review of an ergonomic crochet hook set by Athena’s Elements. FYI, I have not been paid for this review; I have not received free product in exchange for my opinion; nor have I been prompted in any way to write these comments. This was written purely on my own accord to help those who are shopping for ergonomic crochet hooks to help them in their crafting endeavors. Now that the facts have been made clear, I hope the following will help you in making your decision on what YOU should get!

I have been crocheting since I was very young (and I am now considered a senior citizen by some criteria). I have always used the standard thin metal crochet hooks. I have gravitated toward using the Boye-style hooks because that’s what I learned on and have used for many years, so I’m used to working with them and hence, prefer them over other style hooks.

In the last year or so, I started an online business selling crochet cloths. The business has blossomed into more than I imagined and hence, I’m doing a LOT of crocheting! Recently I noticed my hand (left hand, that is…I’m a lucky leftie) was feeling very “tired”, was starting to ache and my finger tips felt numb. It was obviously from all the crocheting I was doing. So, I decided to see what I could do to help the situation before I seriously damaged my hand. Hence I shopped for ergonomic crochet hooks. I ended up buying a set of hooks from Athena’s Elements. Here’s what I found…

Crochet Hook Case

Crochet Hook Case

Nice Set with a Handy Case
The set I purchased came with a cute case with a Velcro closure. There were color options to choose from, so there should be some color that will appeal to most anyone.

The set comes with 11 crochet hooks ranging from size B (2.25mm) to size J (6.0mm). The case holds all the hooks in their own small slots, and also come with a packet of stitch markers (like plastic safety pins), a hook size conversion chart, and a nice letter from the founder of the company.

Crochet Hook Size Conversion Chart

Crochet Hook Size Conversion Chart

The case feels sturdy and I imagine it will outlast my lifetime. The hooks seem to be of excellent quality and as long as I don’t lose them, they should also outlast me.

Color Coded Handles
The hooks all have different colored handles, so that makes it easy to find the hook you need if you’re working with the same few sizes routinely.

Hook Length and Style
There is 1-1/2″ length of the metal hooks before the start of the grip handle. I have found this to be enough length when making my crochet cloths. I have not tried it with some of the elaborate stitching techniques that may require more hook length. You would need to determine if that’s enough length for projects you typically make.

The hook end is a Boye-style tip. I find that easy and desirable to work with. However, that may be simply personal preference.

Hook Size Markings
The hook size marking on the handle only indicates the mm size, not the US conversion (ie 5.0mm=size H). The mm size is marked on the upper handle of each hook by being cut into the grip on the hook. This way the marking should never wear off nor wear down because it’s on a part of the handle that you don’t hold consistently.

The fact that only the millimeter size is indicated on the handle is only a slight inconvenience for me, since I’m used to using the US lettering system rather than millimeter sizes. As long as I don’t lose the conversion chart, I should be OK. However, I’m sure that conversion information could easily be found on the Internet if the guide does get lost. This may be an issue for some people, but overall I feel like it’s only a slight problem that can be shrugged off.

Crochet Hook View 1

Crochet Hook View 1

Ergonomic Grip Handles

Above all, the ergonomic grip handles are why someone would purchase this set in the first place. I don’t know what the grip handles are made from…probably some type of rubber or vinyl with a texture or “gripiness” to it.

 

Crochet Hook View 2

Crochet Hook View2

The “gripiness” prevents the hook from slipping in my hand or along my fingers. I will admit that the feature took some time to get used to. However, after a few days of adjustment, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. That feature allows me to release my “death grip” on the crochet hook and hold it much more loosely because it doesn’t slip in my fingers. This relieves any tension in my hand and has virtually stopped my numb fingers. I no longer have a “tired” hand after crocheting for some period of time!

Also, the grip handles have a shape to them where you hold them allowing for a good yet light grip, again without having to hold it tightly, and without it slipping in your hand as you work.

Crochet Cloth

Crochet Cloth

Allow Time to Adjust
It took me several days of using these hooks to actually adjust to working with them comfortably. During that time, I wondered if I could really use them in my work. But with time, I adjusted and regained my speed and accuracy in making my stitches. Other people may not need such an adjustment period. I feel the effort was well worth it because of the relief I feel in my hand with the thicker, non-slip, easy grip handles. No more death-grip on the hook. No more numb finger tips. No more tired hand and wrist muscles. No aches and pains!

The time it took to adjust to these new ergonomic crochet hooks was well worth it, and I don’t believe I’ll ever go back to standard less-than-pencil-thin crochet hooks.

I truly hope this information can help you in making your personal decision about any changes you need to make in your crochet tools. The change was worth the effort for me and I highly recommend these hooks!

Let me know (in the comment section below) if this information has been helpful to you!

Happy crafting,
Judi

Hot Cross Buns (Bakery Recipe)

Hot Cross Buns (Bakery Recipe)

There were a few holidays where I would literally stay up all night baking to meet orders due to be picked up the next day. Easter was one of those holidays. I had countless orders for hot cross buns. If you’ve never tried these rolls, you’re missing something! The recipe is below, followed by a video demonstrating how I make them.

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns

Enjoy!
Judi

Hot Cross Buns
Makes 12 Buns

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 oz (4 Tbsp) butter

15 oz (3 cups) all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 oz (2-1/4 tsp) RapidRise yeast1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried lemon peel
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

2 large eggs
1/2 cup dried currants
1/4 cup sweetened dried pineapple, finely chopped

1 egg white, beaten
2 Tbsp water

Vanilla Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a saucepan, heat milk, water and butter to 120-130°F.

Meanwhile, place flour, sugar, yeast, salt, lemon peel and nutmeg in a mixer bowl; combine dry ingredients. Add warmed liquid mixture and eggs to flour mixture. Stir to combine ingredients. Add currants and chopped dried pineapple. Mix with stand mixer (or hand knead) on low to medium-low speed for 8 to 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Scrape sides of bowl, coat dough with nonstick spray, cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, with a knife, cut dough into 12 equal size pieces. Roll dough pieces into balls and place them in a greased 9×13″ baking pan. Place on the rack in the middle of an oven that was warmed by only the light bulb and a pan of boiling water placed on the bottom rack (or cover the pan and allow the buns to rise in a warm place of choice). Allow buns to rise for about 30 minutes, until doubled in size.

Brush rolls with a mixture of one beaten egg white and 2 tablespoons of water. Bake at 350°F for 15 to 18 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Pipe a cross on each bun with vanilla glaze.

To Make Vanilla Glaze
Combine glaze ingredients in a small bowl, adding only a small amount of milk at a time. Add enough milk to make it a piping consistency. Adjust consistency if needed by adding more milk (if too thick) or powdered sugar (if too thin). Place in a piping bag with a small round tip and pipe a cross (or other design, if desired) onto buns.

Handmade Quilted Table Runner2040

Handmade Quilted Table Runner, Patchwork Tapered Blue, 13″x52″

To my great delight, the color blue is once again becoming fashionable in home decor. Blue is my husband’s favorite color and I too enjoy blue. So, the color blue has always been in our home. It’s nice to have it “fashionable” again, so I can enjoy making more table mats in blue. The following is my latest and it’s a gem!

The runner measures 13″ x 52″ from longest point to longest point. The sides are 38″ long before tapering starts. The assorted blue cotton fabrics were aligned in an angled pattern moving outward from the diamond centerpiece. The runner is bordered in the same dark blue as the diamond center. It’s truly striking AND is a one-of-a-kind item! If you would like to adopt this runner, it’s available on my website (as of the date this post was written), http://www.handmadeiniowa.com/over_40_long.html

Enjoy the pics!

Judi

Handmade Quilted Table Runner2040 (13"x52")

Quilted Table Runner2040

 

Center view plus backing (Runner2040)

Center view plus backing (Runner2040)

 

Close view of tapered end (Runner2040)

Close view of tapered end (Runner2040)

 

Close view of centerpiece (Runner2040)

Close view of centerpiece (Runner2040)

Build a Better Salad

Build A Better Salad

We love salads…BIG salads. Whole meal salads are what I’m referring to here. These are complete meals in a bowl and not just with a little lettuce, tomato and cheese. These salads are filled with assorted vegetables, protein sources, and fruit. What’s even better is the fact that they are totally flexible in what is put in them, so they can be tailored to individual likes and dislikes as well as what’s available at the moment. These salads are better (to us) than any salad we can get in a restaurant because they’re made the way WE like them, with ingredients WE prefer! You too can build a better salad, YOUR way. The following are the basics of how I build a better salad…

Start with a lettuce bed of mixed greens. Use a mixture of assorted greens as the foundation of your salad. Use whatever you can get and mix them up…iceberg, Romaine, green and/or red leaf lettuces, arugula, baby kale, spring mix, spinach, red or green cabbage, etc. Get creative!

Add a big assortment of fresh veggies. Again, get creative. Use what you have available to you and don’t be afraid to try something new. Suggestions include: cucumber, tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini squash, celery, red, green, and/or yellow bell pepper, fresh broccoli and/or cauliflower, lightly steamed (and cooled) asparagus, jicama, red or yellow onion, scallions, chives, minced garlic, lightly steamed (and cooled) green beans, roasted (and cooled) Brussels sprouts… Explore the produce isle of your favorite grocery store and let your imagine run wild!

Add a protein source (or two…or three). I always add thawed frozen green peas to our salads. They make a nice addition to any green salad and are packed full of protein. They’re for starters. From there, I add garbanzo beans (to my salad), diced cheese, assorted nuts of choice, and sometimes sliced hard boiled egg. If you’re a fan of meats in your salads, thinly sliced grilled steak or chicken breast would be a flavorful addition. Grilled salmon would be a prized addition, too. Whether you add meat or not, there are plenty of options to choose from so that your salad will provide enough protein to meet anyone’s needs.

Build a Better Salad

Build a Better Salad

Add fruit for color, sweetness and eye candy. We started adding fruit to our meal salads after my husband returned from a trip to Hawaii with his college jazz band. He found that restaurants there added fruit to their salads and he really enjoyed it. Thanks Hawaii! Good fruits to include are fresh or canned pineapple, chopped fresh apple, blueberries, strawberries, tangerine (Clementine) sections, grapes (seedless would be preferred). Even diced pear would make a good addition! Try fresh raspberries for added sweet/tang!

Dress your salad…but don’t overdo it. Dressings are added to salads for flavor, moisture and binding properties. The problem with dressings is that many people simply add too much. This can make salads unhealthful to eat. The veggies and fruit are not the culprits. It’s the dressing. The above salad suggestions would go well with just about any dressing you choose. Just strive to go light on the dressing and still enjoy the wonderful flavors of the vegetables, fruits, and protein foods you used to construct your meal. If you can’t taste the other components, then you have too much dressing. Make it your goal to avoid using too much dressing. This will keep your salads healthful and calorie-controlled.

We usually use oil and vinegar as our salad dressing. The ratio will vary according to individual tastes, but a general rule of thumb is 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. A lot of flavor variation can be obtained by using different vinegars at different times: red wine, apple cider, tarragon, raspberry, and rice vinegars all lend different flavors to a salad, so experiment. Added herbs can also bring a new flavor to your salad. Suggestions include: oregano, dill, parsley, and tarragon (used individually, not all in the same salad). Get creative!

Here’s a video showing the construction of the salads in the featured photo. Enjoy! Judi

 

Whole Wheat Flax Bread (Bakery Recipe)

Whole Wheat Flax Bread (Bakery Recipe)

There were select breads that sold consistently well when I ran my bakery. Whole Wheat Flax Bread was one of them. It’s a light wheat bread with flax meal added to it. It’s wholesome and delicious! The recipe is below, followed by a video on how to make it. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Flax Bread
Makes 2 Loaves

1-1/3 cups milk
1/3 cup honey
1-1/2 oz (3 Tbsp) butter
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 lb (3-1/4 cups) bread flour
7-1/2 oz (1-1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
1/4 oz (2-1/4 tsp) RapidRise yeast
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup ground flaxseed

Heat milk, honey and butter in a saucepan to 120-130°F. Meanwhile, place dry ingredients (including yeast) into a mixer bowl; stir to combine ingredients. Add warmed liquid plus eggs to the dry mixture. Stir with a spatula to moisten dry ingredients. Using a dough hook and a stand mixer, mix on low speed for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth. Alternatively, the dough may be hand kneaded on a lightly floured board for 8 to 10 minutes until smooth. Be careful not to work in too much extra flour.

Remove dough hook and spray the dough with nonstick spray, and (optionally) cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap to retain moisture. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, divide dough into 2 equal parts. Form each part into a loaf and place each into a greased 8″x5″ loaf pan. Allow dough to rise until doubled in a warm place. Preferred method: place a medium size pot of boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven. Turn the oven light on (but do not turn the oven heat on). Place UNCOVERED loaves on upper rack in the middle of the oven. Close oven door and allow loaves to rise. Alternative rising method: Spray loaves with nonstick spray, cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper. Place in a warm place and cover with a clean towel. Allow to rise until doubled in size or until an indentation remains in the loaf when lightly pressed with a finger.

Whole Wheat Flax Bread (Sliced)

Whole Wheat Flax Bread (Sliced)

Remove pan of water and unbaked loaves from oven after they have proofed (if using that method). Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake loaves in the middle of the oven in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until golden. Brush with melted butter and allow bread to cool on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy this fabulous bread any way you eat sliced loaf bread!

Setting Health, Wellness and Fitness Goals

Well, it’s that time of year again, when people are setting resolutions and goals to (hopefully) achieve in the new year. In reality, many people do not realize those goals. They keep them for a little while, then they silently slip away often without notice.

I too played that game in my earlier years, especially when it came to exercise. I was not a “habitual” exerciser yet I knew how important it was. I knew I would feel better and be healthier if I exercised on a regular basis. Yet, I’d start a program and it wouldn’t last long. If I got interrupted only once from my newly established “routine”, it went down the drain. Such is the case with way too many people.

Then one day I had a horrible health-related episode (not going there right now). THAT episode sparked me into realizing I wasn’t doing myself any good with my off and on exercise regimen. So, I decided once and for all I would tackle it. Here’s what I did…

(1) I truthfully examined my daily schedule to see if I could find a time of day when I would be the LEAST interrupted. After all, it was those “interruptions” that would literally wipe out my regimen. I found it… EARLY in the day. I started setting my alarm clock one hour earlier than I was used to. (Sure it wasn’t easy, but so what!) I would then get up before anyone else in the house, before the phone started ringing, before I had to get the kids going off to school, even before my husband got out of bed! It WORKED! I put in 45 minutes to 1 hour of exercise regularly, without interruption and that started what became a lifelong habit (from there on out).

(2) I developed a “motto” that has literally kept me going for decades. Really. I was 38 years old at the time and wanted to be in shape by age 40. Not a bad or unrealistic goal. So…here’s the motto or goal list I established:

I wanted to be…
Firm at 40
Fit at 50
Sexy at 60
Sophisticated at 70
Elegant at 80

Well, at the time I couldn’t think of anything for 90, so I pondered that literally for decades. Recently I ran all this by our younger son and he came up with the next line…

Naughty at 90 (LOVE it!!)
With that I was able to finish it out with…
With God’s help, still standing at 100! Done

The above goal list or motto has kept me moving for decades (I won’t share where I’m at in the scheme of decades). It worked.

Initially I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it. Now it’s well ingrained in my memory banks so no written reminder is needed.

I suggest YOU set such a goal list, especially if you’re having trouble keeping those ever-renewed new year resolutions. Making changes for our health’s sake should be a lifelong endeavor. Not for 6 weeks, 2 months, 6 months or 2 weeks. The best way to realize change is to be consistent and to do it over time. If you get off the band wagon, forgive yourself. Life happens. Then get back on it as soon as possible and carry onward. That’s the only way you’ll really benefit and gain the health and wellness you’re wanting.

These simple tricks have worked for me. Starting out, I was no different than the average person, knowing I needed to exercise, but having an almost impossible time doing it. I truly hope my story helps spark something in you that will get you moving and living a healthier lifestyle. One you know you need, but have had a hard time establishing. Let me know if this works for you.

Best wishes and happy new year to all!
Judi

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Homemade Marinara / Spaghetti / Tomato Sauce

My mother was a first generation American. Both of her parents were from Italy. Since I started cooking at a very early age, she taught me how to make homemade marinara / spaghetti / tomato sauce (whatever you want to call it) when I was in elementary school. Really! After all these years I had not put this recipe in a written form. I thought it was about time I did that, if for no other reason than to pass it along to my children. So, lucky you! You get to share in this recipe too!

Below is the recipe, followed by a video where I demonstrate making it. Of course, it’s very flexible with the seasonings. Feel free to adjust to your taste.

Enjoy!
Judi

Homemade Tomato / Marinara / Spaghetti Sauce
Makes About 2-1/2 Quarts
(No worries…freeze the extra in small containers)

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp dried garlic powder)
1/2 medium onion, chopped (or 1 to 2 Tbsp dried minced onion)
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled, left whole or finely grated (recommended, but optional)
2 (28 oz) cans crushed or diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz) can tomato paste
1 (12 oz) can water (or more if needed)
1 tsp granulated sugar
1-1/2  to 2 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Bay leaf
1/4 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste

Preheat a large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and vegetables (garlic, onion, bell pepper, celery, and carrot). Stir and saute the vegetables until they start to soften. Add the remaining ingredients; stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low to low and cover the pot. Allow sauce to simmer gently for about 2 hours or more if you want a thicker sauce. Stir sauce occasionally as it cooks so it does not burn on the bottom. Taste after 30 minutes and adjust seasonings, if desired. Continue cooking until sauce is thick and flavors are blended well. Serve with pasta, stuffed cabbage or peppers, chicken cacciatore, Swiss steak, and use on pizza, or in any dish calling for a tomato-based sauce. Cool extra sauce and freeze in small containers, enough for one meal at a time.

Note: If you want to add ground beef or sausage to this sauce, brown the meat in the pan you plan to cook the sauce in. Drain excess fat and proceed as directed. If a little fat is left in the pan, you can omit the olive oil.

If you want to add meat balls to the sauce, it is best to prepare the meat balls and precook them before adding them to the sauce. This avoids having excessive fat in the sauce. Add them to the sauce after combining all ingredients. Allow the meat to simmer in the sauce as it cooks.

When time is short, this sauce cooks well in a slow cooker. Simply place all ingredients in the slow cooker early in the day, and cook on low until supper time. You’ll have homemade sauce, ready to go!

Traditional Apple Pie (Bakery Recipe)

Traditional Apple Pie (Bakery Recipe)

Pie season is here! Apples have fallen off the trees and the pumpkins have been picked. Snow will be falling soon, and ovens will be hot, filling homes with delightful aromas of fresh baked goods, casseroles, breads, and other delicious goodies.

So, it’s time to share the recipe I used at my bakery for a traditional apple pie. I sold literally hundreds of these pies over the years and had MANY orders for them at Thanksgiving. The recipe is below, followed by a video showing how I make the pie. Some extra tips are also included in the video.

Enjoy!
Judi

Traditional Apple Pie (My Bakery Recipe)
Makes 1 Pie

6 to 8 tart apples, peeled, cored, sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp butter
Prepared pastry for one 9″ 2-crust pie

In a medium bowl, combine apples, sugar, cinnamon and flour. Pour into a crust-lined pie pan. Dot with butter. Place top crust over pie and cut slits in top crust. Flute edges. Bake at 375°F for 1 hour, until bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool 1 to 2 hours to set up before cutting. Refrigerate if pie will not be eaten right away.

*Note: If you prefer very tender fruit filling, the apples may be cooked briefly before being used in the pie filling.