Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Yet another Thanksgiving is now under our belt (literally) and I've seen so many changes in this year's celebration. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all because of the lack of pretense and expectation. Because it's a holiday set aside to truly count your blessings, however few or many they may be... it seems that no matter who you are you should be able to find a handful of things to be thankful for in your life no matter what. I truly am quite thankful. I have 3 wonderful children, a man who loves me beyond words and truly is my soul mate for life, 3 crazy but wonderful fur babies, a quaint and warm house, food on our table, bills that get paid, and so much more. I have life, which I will never take for granted after fighting cancer so many times. I may have poor health, but I have it easier and luckier than so many others and I'm thankful for that. I also am quite thankful for being able to live in a country that is "The Land of The Free" and has so much.

Ryan Loves to Take His Own Picture
As my children have all grown (my twins are now 21 & oldest 23) they've become adults who have their own lives to live and places to be. My oldest has almost always been away for the holiday as she's been in Emergency Veterinary medicine many years. The difference was, for many years she was till here locally with me and we would celebrate around her schedule or I'd make a whole dinner for the crew she was working with. (They all still comment about 'Mom & how much they loved Thanksgiving with me making it special there). However, this year she's moved into a large city about an hour or so away and is now working in one of the largest specialty vet hospitals in North America. She loves it there but because she continues in the ER, Triage, or ICU unit she is still working holidays most of the time. So we didn't have her here this year. My son has a girlfriend and my grandson (20 months) whom I don't see near enough and they were going between the girlfriends and here, plus he had to work. I didn't want to force that "double dinner" thing on them so I just enjoyed being with them and as I was preparing dinner for my guy, his sister, great-nephew, and I my son enjoyed nibbling on some turkey. He proclaimed that "This is the best turkey you've made yet mom!" as he went crazy taking the seasoned, brown skin off and pulled a few pieces of turkey. My grandson LOVED sneaking some of gram's "Purple Potatoes" and turkey too and then they went to my son's girlfriend's parents. I'm okay with sharing, especially as they grow and have to do the two family thing, but appreciate when they make an effort to at least see me. My son's twin sister has seemed to take a turn that none of us understand. She has decided to more or less ignore that she has family and do everything with her boyfriend's family. She's been with this guy for over 4 years and I've met him twice. Yeah, real personable guy. I've come to the conclusion that one of two things will happen here; she will realize that family should be important and come back to us or she'll be that 'one kid' who graces the family gatherings once in a blue moon or never. Sometimes you have to go with the flow, even if it's hard.

So Thanksgiving dinner was quite nice, plenty of leftovers for the weekend.

The above caption and joke says it all for me. I absolutely despise Black Friday and feel that it would be a great time to consider it "In Season" for cleaning out the gene pool. I'm just saying.

Black Friday is when I let the anti-social person in me come out; or perhaps the "sane" person. If I dealt with that ignorant crowd someone would end up in jail and it would probably be me for punching people in the face. LOL  Yes, I can be dangerous and I hate shopping. Mix shopping with ignorant people and you have a day that this girl stays away from. There is nothing out there worth dealing with that much ignorance in one day!

Instead we did the SHOP LOCAL SATURDAY a day early! I loved it. We went to this great place filled with local vendors called Crossroads in Westfield, NY. What I loved was there was such a variety and it went from homemade crafts and items to small "stores" that carried specialty things like jams and jellies, cheeses, and so much more. It's a wonderful experience. I also appreciated that they had a wheelchair in each building (there are 3 large buildings to go through) for those that come and have difficulty walking. I took my quad cane to help me along and didn't use the wheelchair; however, there was plenty of places throughout to take a seat and let my back relax a bit and my joints take a moment to rest. (I have back issues from cancer, MS, & recently dx'd with Fibro & Rheumatoid Arthritis so there's nary a body part that doesn't hurt immensely with any movement). I liked being able to get some walking in but then not being overwhelmed and in so much pain I couldn't move. I tend to enjoy the small things in life that allow me to think I'm somewhat "normal" in lifestyle and can do something that most people take for granted, like walking through a large shopping area to enjoy just browsing.

Of course I HAD to buy some PUMPKIN PIE FUDGE from the local fudge gal. It was buy a pound and get 1/2 pound free. It is truly the most amazing fudge ever not to mention unreal flavors. My guy loved the peanut butter swirl (a luscious vanilla fudge with a layer of peanut butter, then more fudge, and chocolate swirled on top), while I stuck with Pumpkin Pie and a maple fudge. By the way, rumor has it that the fudge has no calories if nobody sees you eating it (I swear! It says so on the box! It has to be true right?) *Note to self: Remind my thighs of that rule. LOL

I picked up some smoked cheeses too. As odd as it sounds I have not been able to find a good, authentically smoked cheddar cheese in Erie ANYWHERE and low & behold I found some at the Cheese House vendor there called Blanche's Fruits and Vegetables which has a whole lot more than fruits and veggies. The smoked cheddar was about $8 a pound and literally melts in your mouth. I also got a few slices of smoked swiss and came home to make smoked swiss and turkey panninis for us. Can you say YUM?!

There's a nice little winery, Merritt's, that offers free samples of anything you want to try. I tried a wine called XTC (a pomegranate wine, sweet and very good), along with a Raspberry Chocolate (not quite as sweet but a sweeter wine with a hint of chocolate that hits the palate just after you swallow it), and then my favorite type of wine - an Ice Wine (I can't even recall what type but it was divine). We ended up with a bottle of that. Ice Wines are a little more expensive because the wineries literally have to wait for a frost to hit the grapes and then get them all collected as they are partially frozen to frozen as the sugar content is the highest; making it a very sweet wine).

I also took a short stop for one of my favorite items, maple. I caroused the maple items, drooled a lot and for the sake of my large butt decided to buy ONE piece of maple sugar candy from Maple Country USA and not allow myself to buy a tub of "Maple Cream" to spread on (well just about anything) pancakes, waffles, etc. or even a larger box of all sorts of maple sugar candies. I love maple about as much as I love pumpkin by the way. I'm sure the vendor was disappointed that I used my will power just ONCE and spent a whopping $2 to get my maple fix. :-D

While I went for some stocking stuffers I really didn't end up with any. I went to do some Christmas shopping and, well I think I got 3 items (1 of the same thing for each kid for their stockings LOL) but I did come home with a lot of neat things that I liked. Including a special potato sack for microwaving. Very interesting concept that keeps you from nuking plastic (releasing cancer causing chemicals).and two very inexpensive ready to put in your bread machine bread mixes (all natural, giving the smell of fresh bread baking and for less than you can purchase a fresh baked loaf at any bakery). 

So I felt great about our Black Friday! I kept it local and bought from nothing but local vendors and shops. I got to get some walking in, which is a feat for me because I have to stop so often; but with the set-up they had it was possible to walk and rest. I spent a fair amount of money that I probably shouldn't have but, because I NEVER get to truly shop anymore, it felt good! Not to mention I got to spend a nice day with the love of my life and my "sis" just enjoying a laid back morning.

So don't forget to keep you Black Saturday a LOCAL BLACK SATURDAY shopping adventure. Let's keep those "Made in America" and especially those "Made Locally" places in business! Leave a note where you shopped "LOCAL" this weekend or any day and perhaps others will be able to order from their website or someday visit!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Buy American - It's Time To Take A Stand

I have to confess. I used to agree that it was very difficult to "Buy American" and I will admit that sometimes it takes a little effort to do so but I've decided that I AM going to make every effort to do so. AND... if I can't BUY AMERICAN MADE then I'll buy LOCAL.

First off, let me tell you about my weekend. We did a lot of shopping. It was one of those days when we just needed to get some stuff and in particular some household items, etc. I won't lie, I did buy a number of items at a large chain store (however, in my defense it was because my daughter works there and once a year they get 30% off EVERYTHING including already on sale, clearanced items, and regular priced). But while I was shopping at this nationally owned store I noticed something; much of what they offered was proudly displayed as "Made in America." This intrigued me and made me realize it was time to look at the items we purchased to see if they were made in the USA and those that were not I went back and looked for brands that perhaps were made in the USA. In some cases they were the same price, in other cases they were slightly more and in some they were even less costly than the foreign made items.

Case in point; even if you do end up having to shop at a large chain store you can attempt to buy as much "Made in America" as possible. You also have to remember that while you're supporting a large corporation you are also helping those from your community who work there; so this corporation, while perhaps not locally owned, does support the community with jobs.

When you can, try to find the smaller locally owned stores that provide similar items. Think of it in these terms. We purchased an electric heater last year that was absolutely amazing and worked beyond our expectations. We bought it from Valu-Home Center (locally owned and corporate out of Buffalo, NY). The manager came over and spent a good 20-30 minutes talking to us about what we wanted, what HE actually had and used at his own home, how much it's saved him, and so forth. In the end he literally assured us that the one we picked was one he owned and loved and if we didn't like it we could bring it back. He also claimed he's had his for a few years now and they really stand up. Let me say, this was something less than $100 that ended up saving us well over $100 nearly every month in the winter. The blower died on it this year. Now technically it's well out of warranty and for the money we saved it's not a big deal to go buy another one. So i finally talk my guy into just calling Valu Home Center and speaking to the manager there to see if they carry the same one, etc.  Instead we end up with the manager apologizing, telling us 'he will make it right' and literally replacing the item. Now that is called customer service. What did he earn out of that? He earned a guarantee that I will NEVER shop at Lowes where I've consistently been ignored, told 'that's policy I can't do anything about it' and even had our plumber who has a professional account be treated like dirt when trying to purchase a product there to install for us (ending result me buying it direct from the manufacturer and him purchasing all of the other items he needed to install it from a small locally owned plumbing supplier). Valu Home Center not only cared about ONE customer but that ONE customer tweeted to 1,000 others about the wonderful service from them and the horrible service from Lowes. Two others retweeted that tweet and so on.

Customer service is something that most locally owned companies not only give but care about. They want word of mouth. They know they can't beat prices from most of these huge companies but what they can beat is the service. I'll pay a dollar, three dollars or even ten dollars more for something from a locally owned company and be treated like a valued customer as opposed to being treated like dirt.

So I wanted to take this moment to make a list of AMERICAN MADE items I purchased (very easily) this weekend:

Henn Pottery and Baskets -Made in Ohio for the past 25 years - quality products and customer service. They have everything from baking dishes to serving dishes to collectibles. Baskets made of the finest quality and even better yet they have outlet stores that sell these amazing items at a fraction of their value! Findley Lake, NY is where I recently found a black version of this 8x8 baking dish for $8 and an Americana Collectors Plate for a friend for $2! Their baskets are the types that people used to buy at "parties" for hundreds of dollars, many with nice lids, leather handles, and accents. Basically they sell high end pottery, baskets, candles, and more.

Tervis - Made in the USA, BPA Free tumblers, mugs, hot/cold thermal glasses, etc. Available at Bed Bath & Beyond among other places. 65 Years of being made in the USA - began in Detroit and manufactured in North Venice, Florida USA

Dimplex - Makers of fireplaces, heaters, etc. Made in Canada (Not USA but I'll support our good neighbors any day). We've tried other brands and they couldn't even match up. Not to mention they sell these at Valu Home Center (see below) and Valu stands behind their products even when they don't have to. Dimplex also goes by ElectoLog (the brand we purchased) and this tiny fireplace/heater not only adds ambiance but saves us hundreds of dollars on our gas bills in the winter!

Valu Home Centers - Yes they are now a "chain" of stores but locally owned and operated; they are based out of Buffalo, NY and have been around since their small beginnings in 1968. They're big enough to give you good deals and small enough to give you customer service that stands out FAR above these big, worthless, stores like Lowes (where I've literally had not only myself but my plumber treated like dirt & worthless - although when I tweeted about it I will say their headquarters contacted me almost instantly and asked to let them make it right... we'll see).  I just have a lot of good things to say about the service and the way they treat you like family at Valu Home Center.

Duluth Made In The USA - everything from tools to clothing and more, from Duluth, Minnesota. I swear by their No-Crack Hand Cream. Men who work hard with their hands love this stuff because it keeps your hands from cracking and bleeding. You "real men" know what I'm talking about... a hard day's work in the elements. They are also the makers of the, yes quite infamous, "Ballroom Jeans" - let's just say Duluth is basically a company for REAL men.

Made In The USA Forever Website - this is a website that prides itself is listing ONLY truly USA made products. Think you can't find that item made in the USA and only China or Pakistan or some other country can make it? Check here. Chances are you will find what you're looking for.

Wendell August Forge - this company is a short drive from me and recently experienced a fire that destroyed their entire building. Amazingly much of their castings and items survived because, well they're made to "forge" in high heats. They worked out of a small place donated to them quickly in their hometown as they rebuilt. If you want beautiful iron work pieces this is the place to go. They've been around since 1923.

Poof! - AKA Slinky - Poof Slinky has been a kid favorite for years. They make other POOF products/toys too. While they are not 100% American Made the Poof Slinky and Poof products all carry the Made In The USA Flag Label.

Our Own Candle Company - made in Findley Lake, NY and I guarantee you that these candles are even BETTER than Yankee candles for a fraction of the price! I used to be a die hard Yankee Candle fan. I would pay high prices for a good quality candle. Now I don't have to. I can drive to this tiny town and get scents that will rock your world in candles that a fraction of the price. All poured and made in the USA. This is truly my ONLY resource for candles and all natural carpet freshener that is amazing. Don't let the great prices fool you, these are QUALITY candles. You don't have to pay $30 or more for a candle that no longer seems to have the quality it used to. I'm sorry Yankee Candle, you have gone bad. You don't burn well (do not tell me I need your candle ring for on top... tried that... still doesn't burn right & I've burned your candles for years... I KNOW how to burn them). You don't smell nice and strong through the entire burn time anymore. BUT I don't really care because I pay a LOT less for a MUCH BETTER candle!

Wegmans - This grocery store grew from a "mom & pop" type of grocery store in Rochester, NY to a phenomenal grocery store chain. While growing they never lost sight of true customer service. It takes nothing but an email to their corporate office to get a quick reaction. Locally we can't say enough about the friendly staff and customer service. Family owned, family oriented this is the place to not just shop but relax with friends in their cafe; where they serve up the best subs EVER!  Get the combo meal and you not only get the best sub ever but you get a drink and an amazing cookie. We won't discuss the calories!

So there you have it.... literally a quick list of items we fell in love with while we shopped all weekend, saved money buying, and kept AMERICANS working while they made these wonderful products.

It's time we started standing UNITED.... buy local, buy US made, and stand proud to be an American! Show that pride by helping to keep American's working because you buy American made!

Do you have a product that is truly made in the USA? Perhaps it's someplace in your hometown? Add it to the comments with a link to their website. Let's make the move to promote shopping local, shopping American Made, and most of all standing united!