Black Friday… Bah Humbug!

ChristmasTree2December! Where did the year go? To make matters worse, the calendar has imposed a shortened shopping season on the retail trade. The distance between Black Friday and Christmas has never been closer. Let me rephrase that. The day after Thanksgiving has been this close to Christmas, but not since Black Friday was deployed in 2004. Yes, Black Friday was developed by the retail industry. Businesses claimed that Black Friday would be the busiest shopping day of the year, and so it has become. The Black Friday concept has been very lucrative, but years like this one, when Thanksgiving and Christmas are only a few weeks apart, actually limit shopping. That doesn’t bother me as a consumer, but my tradition of supplying Holiday fun for readers is now compressed. (thanks retail industry)

I still have time for my annual Christmas audio, but we need to move things along. So, let’s get to my other December tradition… Helping you find gift ideas. I have issues with Christmas gifts these days.  Black Friday has lost its zeal. Take for example a little retailer that rhymes with “wall art”. Most of the population shops there every week. Even more see the weekly flyers. Do you remember what was in the flyer every week this year? TV’s, tablets, PCs, and phones. Black Friday ads? TV’s, tablets, PCs, and phones. Cyber Monday? TV’s, tablets, PCs, and phones. “Shop now! Cyber Monday week continues!” I have actually become a promoter for any store that uses the word Christmas instead of Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, but that’s just me. Here is some outside the box store advice for Christmas this year.

Unless you are led by the hand, and have the item carried to the checkout counter by the gift recipient, do not buy anything “computer” related for kids. This is not meant to offend a generation of well-meaning gift buyers. I am in my 40’s and make no attempt to understand the electronic needs of anyone less than 30 years old. There is no such thing as being “hip” anymore. If there were, it would not include buying obsolete or unusable gifts. Kids have more expensive computer gear than you can afford. The young adult mind now recognizes any software worth having is free on the internet. An important note… you cannot compete with the internet. Computer and internet usage is too personalized these days. How many USB ports do you need? Umm… USB 2 or 3? Would a solid state drive in addition to the SATA improve performance? Is your printer on a wireless network? Wait… You have an IPhone that accesses the printer with your Windows 8 PC? Is that a 32 or 64 bit operating system? I didn’t know it was touchscreen. These are just examples of why you should run screaming like a banshee from computer related gifts for the young’uns.

“Gee thanks Paul. You have destroyed every gift giving idea in the “wall art” flyer. What am I supposed to do now?” Don’t worry. We are gonna turn this nemesis, known as modern technology, into our ally.  Let’s look at this as a scammer, or identity thief would (in a slightly less threatening manner). Your potential target leaves tracks all over the internet. Follow them! There are plenty of gift ideas to be had from Facebook photos and posts. I just took a look at my Facebook account and saw 3 kids who need some soap, 5 parents who needs a dictionary, and 2 grandparents that would benefit from a bottle of whiskey.

Pinterest. Now we are getting somewhere. Pinterest users spend much of the year posting photos of things they want.  It only makes sense to pay attention once a year when gift giving time comes around.  I reviewed my wife’s Pinterest account. There is a picture of a shirtless guy in a barn, a shirtless guy leaning on a pitchfork, and a shirtless guy riding a horse on the beach. It is obvious that she wants a horse. See?  Simple. If you are strong of heart, check your better-half’s Pinterest page, and SHAZAM, instant gift ideas.

Let’s get more seriouser. If you are having a tough time finding a gift for that hard to buy for relative, here is my web find of the year… Woot! That’s not an exclamation. The name of the site is Woot.  The best I can gather is they are a subsidiary of Amazon. Don’t go to Woot expecting a hard sell. The ads are funny, entertaining, and yes, I have ordered from them. Definitely worth a look if only to see what comes next in their “12 Days of Crapmas”. As of day 3, I have seen 3 wrench pens, 2 turtle gloves, and a Partridge Family DVD. My other picks include Onestepahead for the kiddies, and Spilsbury for off-the-wall gifts and puzzles.

Time is short my friends, but fear not. The unsolicited and non-income generating ideas above will give your gift buying spree a well-deserved kick in the pants.     

Happy Thanksgiving, Pass The ummm… Sauce?

I am thankful for many things.  The list includes my wife, family, my job, good food, a place to live.  There is one thing not on my list...  cranberry sauce!  You know exactly what I am talking about.  As the real food gets passed around, there is always a tin can shaped gelatinous mass on a plate in the center of the table.  Why is it there?  What did the cranberry guys  do to require us to place this thing on our Thanksgiving table?  My biggest complaint (and the reason nobody eats it) the texture.

Is it really a sauce?  "Hey, can you toss me a slice of sauce?"  I think not!  According to the definition of sauce, it is "A flavorful seasoning or relish served as an accompaniment to food, especially a liquid dressing or topping for food".  I have doubts about flavorful, but since the definition includes "topping" I guess I will let in slide.  There is always a chance that I could get the slice of sauce to balance on my pile of turkey.

How do I get into this market?  Maybe if I made a spinach jelly, it could be just as popular.  You don't have to eat it, just cut it into slices and place it next to the cranberry jelly, er, umm, sauce.  I think my point has been made, now for the cure.

For years, I have made what is known as a cranberry compote.  A compote actually is a relish.  A fruity, tasty relish.  Simple and almost bulletproof, there is no reason not to make your own cranberry sauce, or compote.  Here is one simple recipe from


1 pear, peeled and chopped
1 medium apple, peeled and
1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until the berries pop and sauce thickens, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve warmed or chilled. Store in the refrigerator.

While that recipe works, I add walnuts, vanilla, and nutmeg.  Give it a try.  Taste as it cooks, and make your own cranberry sauce.  You won't even need the can opener this year... unless you serve Spam with your canned cranberry jelly.