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     Until two years ago, I lived in a house which would have made Hansel and Gretel feel right at home.  It was surrounded by trees – not even visible from the road.  This is the Google street view of my house.  Looks just like the deep dark forest.  Two years ago, for reasons which made sense at the time, we decided to have all of the trees taken down.  I think we were afraid that one would fall on the house.  Now we live in the Sahara desert, or perhaps it’s the surface of the moon.

Landscaping, I have discovered, does not come easily.  Books on landscaping can be very intimidating.  They suggest drawing  your yard to scale and detailing the placement of every plant.  Any walls or structures which need to be considered should be measured, drawn to scale and located in the correct spot on your landscaping plans.  I stand there in the middle of my own personal disaster area, and I have no idea what to do.  I’m not a big fan of ordinary gardening, but I like flowers so I garden.

Flowers will not save my yard.  Neither will my husband’s approach to landscaping which is to dig random holes and stick miscellaneous plants in the holes.  I’m still checking out landscaping books from the library hoping to find guidelines for success.  If you are dealing with a landscaping disaster, some of these may help you:

Lawn gone! : low-maintenance, sustainable, attractive alternatives for your yard

Landscape solutions for small spaces : 10 smart plans for designing & planting small gardens

The welcoming garden : designing your own front garden

The weather-resilient garden : a defensive approach to planning and landscaping

Outer spaces

The best plants for New Hampshire gardens and landscapes : how to choose annuals, perennials, small trees & shrubs to thrive in your garden

The library has so many more gardening books!  Books on  growing vegetables, flowers, herbs, gardening in containers, gardening in the city.  Take some home and spend these cold snowy days planning your garden.

I’ve been giving my situation some thought while watching a lot of HGTV.  I’m going to go and hang around in local home improvement stores while waiting for “Yard Crashers” or “Curb Appeal” to find me!

Every year I hear people complain about how ridiculous it is that stores break out the holiday displays earlier and earlier. This year is no exception. I actually saw some holiday paraphernalia in a store when I was looking at Halloween decorations. I also read a story in the Nashua Telegraph yesterday about the Pheasant Lane Mall’s plan to open at midnight on Thanksgiving for the early bird shoppers. I couldn’t believe it when one of our customers who works at an eatery at the mall said he’s preparing to work a 23 hour shift.

So all that being said, I figured its a good time to post some sites to look at product reviews. If you’re going to be brave and shop at 3:00 am you might as well be informed and half awake, rather than just half awake.

Consumer Reports (free with your library card)
CNET (electronics and tech gadgets)
Epinions (comparison shopping)
Consumer Product Safety Commission (check for product recalls and safety alerts)

Best of luck in your shopping adventures! Oh, one more thing if you’re reading this thinking, I’d never be caught shopping on Black Friday, escape to the library…we’ll be open and ready for your business 9:00 to 5:30 pm.

Don’t you just love going to the mailbox and finding lots of unsolicited offers?

  • The thrill of anticipation as you sift through them, looking for the one or two legitimate envelopes!
  • The excitement of shredding each and every one to ensure that your personal information is not found in the recycle bin by identity thieves!
  • The rush of adrenaline when you realize you accidentally recycled a bill or refund check along with all the preapproved credit card and insurance offers!

Yeah, me neither.

That’s why I went to OptOutPrescreen.com, the only website authorized by the four consumer credit reporting agencies where consumers can opt out of unsolicited offers from credit and insurance agencies.  In a minute or less, you can stop receiving this kind of junk mail for five years, just by filling out a quick and easy form online.  Want to be rid of these mailings forever?  Just click one more time to print out a form (with all your info already filled in!) that you can sign and mail in.  Poof!  No more junk credit and insurance offers.  Ever.

Do you prefer to do this over the phone, or would you like to learn more about your credit and your rights as a consumer?  Check out the information on their contact page.

Soon after I sent in my signed form, the stream of unwanted junk mail dwindled to nearly nothing.  It’s wonderful!  The best part is that it’s permanent.  If I move, change jobs, or get a new credit card, I won’t have to do anything special.  I will never have to sift and shred most of my mail ever again.  And I’m doing a tiny bit of good for the environment by reducing my household’s paper waste.  Best of all, it got rid of one little daily hassle.  And these days, anything that simplifies life is a very good thing.

You might also be interested in these services:

DMAchoice.org
Provided by: The U.S. Direct Marketing Association
To opt out of: Direct marketing mail (catalogs, magazine offers, retail promotions, etc.)

DoNotCall.gov
Provided by: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission
To opt out of: Telemarketing phone calls

To learn about these and several other ways to prevent unwanted contacts and protect your privacy, read about the Top Ten Opt Outs over at The World Privacy Forum.

Thanksgiving dinner is great  – just the eating part, not the cooking.   Anybody who likes food should love Thanksgiving.  I have been really fortunate over the years.  I have NEVER been called upon to cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner.  Anyone who has ever eaten my cooking probably would view this as something to be thankful for.  It’s enough of a struggle to produce an appetizer or a dessert which family members will eat without pained expressions .   Should you find yourself responsible for cooking an entire dinner, or even your portion of it, help is at hand.

There are any number of websites where you can get cooking suggestions and recipes:  Allrecipes.com Foodnetwork.com, and Cooks.com are all good places to find new recipes for Thanksgiving.   Nashua Public Library also has materials which will help you to entertain gracefully.  Martha Stewart and Jacques Pepin are  well-known names in cooking and entertaining.  The media department has two Thanksgiving videos which might save your day:  Martha’s classic Thanksgiving and Jacques Pepin’s Thanksgiving celebration.  The Martha Stewart DVD has food, decorating and craft ideas.  If you are hoping to impress you family with a truly gourmet dinner, the Jacques Pepin DVD may be the way to do that.

If a cookbook is more your way of doing things, the library can help you with that too.   How to cook a turkey and all the trimmings will get you started.  So will Thanksgiving 101.    Paula Deen celebrates is filled with recipes for a number of holidays.  If you are a vegan in search of celebration recipes, try Vegan yum yum.  If,  like me, your only responsibility this year is dessert, have I got some cookbooks for you!  What’s new cupcakeBaking with the Cake Boss, and an oldie, but a good one The pie and pastry bible are all excellent choices to help you create a dessert which will have your family drooling.

One last suggestion for those of you who would like to amaze, horrify, intrigue, fascinate and revolt everyone at dinner, or even cause them to jump from their chairs and run from the room.  That yummy looking layer cake at the top of the page is not dessert, it’s dinner.  Thanksgiving dinner in a layer cake.  To find the recipe for this amazing/revolting treat just go to Thanksgiving Turkey Cake recipe.  Yum?

Happy Thanksgiving!