Happy Tipping Season!

It’s here—the holiday season. And the holiday season brings with it lots of tipping.

It may be that you’re eating out or traveling more than usual. In that case, you may encounter more tipping opportunities. Don’t feel obligated to tip at every counter where you see a tip jar or a payment pad that asks about a tip. If all the person behind the counter has done is hand you a cup of coffee, a tip is unnecessary. If, however, that same person, doing that same job, has gone out of his or her way to help you, a tip is absolutely in order. That’s true whether they’ve helped you navigate the large and unfamiliar menu or helped you figure out a way to carry seven drinks back to your car.

Remember that if you’re dining out, and someone is bringing food to you at your table, the standard tip is at least 15% (20% in larger cities). If you are dining at a buffet, where the server is simply refilling your drinks and removing dirty dishes, the standard tip is 10% (again, increase that by adding another 5% in larger cities). That tip is figured on the before-tax total, though no one is going to be upset if you tip on the after-tax total. If you are using a coupon or discount, you should tip on the amount you would have paid without the discount. After all, the server worked just as hard as he or she would have if you’d paid full price. Also remember that tipping a little extra in always welcome and appropriate, especially if the person serving you has done an outstanding job.

Rae of Sunshine Logo

For Peanut Butter Lovers

November is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month. I like peanut butter. The grandkids love peanut butter.

The earliest reference to peanut butter can be traced back to the Ancient Incas and the Aztecs who ground roasted peanuts into a paste. You can buy peanut butter that’s simply ground roasted peanuts or ground roasted peanuts with a bit of salt, but most commercial peanut butter has additional ingredients to change the taste or texture. These are usually sweeteners and oils.

I make my own peanut butter out of roasted, unsalted peanuts. I add a bit of honey and vegetable oil to make it a little sweeter and more spreadable. It does separate a bit after sitting, but it’s easy to stir the oil back in.

I have found, though, that most recipes that call for peanut butter will turn out better if I use commercially prepared peanut butter and not the fresh type.

Rae of Sunshine Logo

Pick the Right Professional

Last week I wrote about the reasons to hire a professional on certain occasions. But how do you know you’re hiring the right one?

First, ask people you know for referrals. Did your friend recently get married? Ask about her photographer. His caterer. Her planner. His [fill in the blank]. Did he or she like them? Were they happy with the results? Were there any problems?

If there were problems, ask yourself whether that was the professional’s fault or the fault of your friend’s unrealistic expectations. I’ve heard lots of stories about brides who expected the caterer or wedding coordinator to do all of the cleanups after a wedding. Unless they have offered that as part of the package the couple paid for, that’s not their job.

Ask the professional for references and/or samples of their work. Check on them. You might be shocked at how many people don’t call references and ask about their level of satisfaction or even bother to check out samples of the work they’ve done.

Rae of Sunshine Logo

Why Hire a Professional?

There are so many times in our lives when we might think, “Why should I hire someone to do _________, when my [friend/cousin/whatever] can do it? Sometimes the answer is that you shouldn’t. But often there are often good reasons to hire someone who is a professional.

Let’s take a wedding, for instance. Your cousin might take good pictures, but is does she know how to capture your special day in the best way possible? Does she know how to adjust for low lighting in during the ceremony and bright lighting during the reception? Does she know how to work with the DJ and the caterer to make sure they’re all ready for the next step? Is she insured in case she trips over the DJ’s cords and wipes out his speaker?

How about the transportation? Sure, your brother-in-law’s friend could drive you in his fancy car. But will he be dressed well or wind up in the photos in his cut-offs and flip flops? Will he indulge in the champagne toasts and wind up getting arrested for driving while intoxicated while he’s driving you from the reception to the airport?

Embrace the Delay

I know delays can be frustrating. Whether they happen due to unexpected traffic, road work, or whatever, delays can drive us a bit crazy. They throw our whole schedule off.

The Furry Guy (TFG) and I had one of those days recently. We live north of Peru, Indiana. He works in Wabash. We were headed to the Mississinewa 1812 Reenactment near Marion. He had to work that morning. Our plan was for me to drive to where he was working and pick him up for the drive to the 1812.

Everything was going fine. I had picked him up. We were just south of Wabash when I realized I’d forgotten the tickets I’d purchased ahead of time. Drat! I turned around. We drove back to get his car, then continued on to our house. I got the tickets, and we set out again. We were running about an hour later than what we had planned.

Rae or Sunshine Logo

Soup’s On!

The cooler weather has arrived, and that always makes me think of soup. I’m not a big soup fan, but a pot of fresh tomato basil, beef vegetable, or chili soup makes me happy. It’s something that’s easy to make if I’m busy with other things around the house. It keeps well. And it’s usually nutritious.

One great thing about making a big pot of soup is that most soups freeze well. So, making soup today can set me up for several quick, easy meals in the future. If I freeze beef vegetable soup, I don’t include the potatoes. For some reason, the potato chunks become mushy after freezing, and we don’t like mushy potatoes. If I think about it, I make the soup without the potatoes. I portion out what I want to freeze, and then I put the potatoes in what’s left and let them cook. If I don’t think about it, I make sure to pick out all of the potatoes (The Furry Guy is all too willing to eat those) before freezing it.

When I freeze soup I often do it in zippered freezer bags. I lay them flat until they’re solidly frozen, then I can stand them up or slip them in between other things in the freezer. Freezing it flat makes my soup take up much less room than if I’d put it in containers. If I don’t have a nice, flat place to freeze them, I place them in a metal pan or on a metal baking sheet and put that in the freezer. If I have a smaller amount to freeze, I have silicone containers in which I can freeze single servings of soup. That way I can easily grab one and microwave it for a quick meal for one.

Rae of Sunshine Logo

Pumpkin Time!

I’m not a big fan of pumpkin spice flavored things. But I do enjoy pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, and such. For years The Furry Guy and I have processed our own pumpkins. The resulting pumpkin is a world away from canned pumpkin. Here’s how you can process your own pumpkin.

First, if you haven’t grown your own pumpkins, you’ll want to buy small sugar pumpkins. They have better flavor and texture, and they’re easier to process.

Once you have your pumpkins, wash them thoroughly. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the stem out. Cut each pumpkin in half. Clear out the seeds and strings. Place the pumpkin, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Bake until a fork can easily pierce the peel and flesh—about 45 minutes, depending on the size of the pumpkin. (You can cut the amount of oven time to about 15 minutes by first microwaving the pumpkin sections, cut side down, on a microwave-safe dish, on high for 10 minutes. But don’t skip the oven altogether. It adds a caramelized quality to the pumpkin that deepens the flavor.)

Rae of Sunshine Logo

The Power of the Mind

I attended a wonderful networking event this past week. The keynote speaker talked about the power of intentionality. In other words, the power of our thoughts. Sometimes I forget how powerful our minds are. It was good to be reminded.

Are you familiar with Roger Bannister, the man who broke the four-minute mile? For a long time, it was accepted that a human being could not run a mile in less than four minutes. It just wasn’t possible. Many, many men tried, but it could not be done. For 9 years the record stood at 4 minutes, 1.4 seconds.