First Friday Freebie: Because There’s a Nip in the Air – Somewhere.

Only 24 more days till Christmas! How exciting! In case you’re having a difficult time with all the suspense, keep in mind that there are 0 – yes, ZERO – days until the First Friday Freebie. That’s right! You get to open this package today!

Mystery Freebie December 2017

It’s December and there’s a nip in the air – somewhere. Strangely, it’s not happening yet in our part of the Midwest. We seem to be getting someone else’s weather. The scary part is – someone else might be getting ours! I chose this gift for you with the hope of keeping you warm and cozy while you’re out and about finishing (or starting – breathe, just breathe) your Christmas shopping. It’s unseasonably warm here, but in this neck of the woods, that could change drastically in a matter of…say, 30 minutes?

Oh, come on! Don’t scroll at such a snail’s pace, like Great-Aunt Fannie trying to save the paper – rip it off and take a peek.

Freebie EchoTouch Gloves

These EchoTouch ladies’ gloves “keep your hands warm while you keep in touch”. It seems that most everyone (excluding Smuffy) carries a smart phone these days. Though we enjoy the amazing technology that lets us navigate its depths with a tap or swipe of a finger, there’s that annoying fact that it can’t be done with gloves on! A few years ago, I received a pair of touch gloves as a gift and I’m hooked! I always seem to have cold hands and this helps me use my phone when I’m out and about without the hassle of taking my gloves on and off all the time. I find myself avoiding the “old style” gloves now in favor of this great invention.

Another problem with gloves, in a general sense, is keeping track of them. Although I don’t want to be seen running around like a toddler with a string running through my coat sleeves, it sometimes seems like a plan. If all the gloves I’ve lost were scraped from the parking lots upon which I’ve scattered them and were then placed end-to-end… Oh, never mind – back to the FREE gloves!

This neutral heather-gray pair of gloves are a Size LARGE. While I don’t consider myself to have large hands, I do have long fingers, so this is the size that always works for me. Not your size? They’ll make a great gift. And to all you guys out there – I know what your doing and the stores will be empty by the time you get finished doing it. Win the gloves and at least she’ll have something.

Similar gloves retail on the Echo web site for $39.00. (You have no idea how tempted I am to keep these for myself!) You can check out there other styles here.

The “Freebie Rules” have just changed to make it easier for you to win, so read on, SUBSCRIBE and share this post with all your friends so they can enter also. A winner will be chosen at random from those subscribers who enter today by leaving a comment which says, “I love the gloves!”

And now, here are the revised rules.

  1. First Friday Freebies are available to SUBSCRIBERS ONLY. That means if you have come to this post through social media or someone has emailed you a link to it and you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you’ll need to hop on over to the right sidebar and do that really quick. If you are on a phone or tablet, the easiest way is to go to the “About Me” page. All it means to be a subscriber is that you’ll receive an email each time Midwest Storyteller has something new, which won’t likely be more than once or twice a week. It keeps you from missing out on all the fun and FREE STUFF! And, I’m not sharing your emails with anybody.
  2. IMPORTANT: After subscribing, you MUST check your email to confirm the subscription or it will not appear. Then, sadly, you won’t be eligible to enter.
  3. To enter the drawing, scroll back up to the top of this post and under the title, click on “Leave a Comment”. Subscribers who comment as directed in the post before midnight on Friday, December 1, 2017 will enter the drawing, provided they are already on the subscribers list and live within the continental United States.

Three simple steps!

Now hurry! Go! Go! Go! Subscribe, Confirm and Enter before midnight tonight!

Want to see some past Freebies and their winners?  Take a peek here and here.

The Rose Leaf Project

I promised in the earlier post, “Creativity Unhampered”, that I’d return to my flight of fancy concerning my new discovery – Triple Thick. I suppose it may have been sitting on the shelf in Hobby Lobby for years, but I never knew it. Now, I’m giddy with possibilities.

Triple Thick

After using it to restore my mom’s vintage clothes hamper, I wondered how it might work on various objects. Check out the hamper restoration here.

Rose leaves, partially decayed and plastered all over my porch after wind and rain, offered an interesting experiment. With nothing left between their veining, they looked like tan lace. I salvaged a few, pressing them between paper towels and flattening them with a heavy book.

I’d like to point out here that I exercised a great amount of restraint in getting started. My very nature called out to me to collect about five hundred of these beauties, because what if the experiment turned out to be the greatest thing I’d ever done! I reigned in the urge, for once, counseling myself that it could also be the biggest flop I’d ever wasted time and energy on. Forcing myself to keep it simple, I reasoned that Hobby Lobby had more supplies and that the bushes would lose their leaves again next year.

Once dry and flat, I spread my perfect lace leaves out onto a piece of paper to paint.

Dried Rose Leaves

Now for color. I wasted some brain-time on this. Somewhere during my twelfth trip around the mulberry bush, I decided that it didn’t matter -they just needed color. Spray paint seemed the best idea. None of my leftover colors, however, seemed like anything I could tolerate, even as a test. I’m sensitive that way, you know.

So, I raided Smuffy’s paint stash and came out with chrome automotive paint. Why not? I rather liked the result. I let them dry before turning them over, giving the other side a silver coating as well.

Chromed Rose Leaves

Next step: Triple Thick! I could have brushed it on, as I did with the hamper lid, but my curiosity tempted me to see what happened if I dipped them, giving them a thicker, sheeted coating. But then, how to let the very wet things dry once both sides were wet? Hmmmm… I had a brainstorm. (Now, don’t be a smarty-pants and ask me, “What with?”) Placing waxed paper in a cardboard box and up the side, I secured it by sticking straight pins through from the outside. These would provide “hangers” for my leaves while the waxed paper caught the drips.

BONUS: I didn’t find Triple Thick to be overly smelly.

DRAWBACK: The leaves were extremely thin, and doing a complete dip got them extremely wet, so some of them did tend to curl a little. 

Triple Dipped Rose Leaf

Follow the instructions for drying time. I had lots of other things to do, so I probably waited half a day between re-dipping. My leaves got dipped three times. I suppose you could do as many coats as you like.

If you wanted to do this to a larger object, you would either paint the Triple Thick on with a brush or pour it into a shallow tray for dipping. The tray would need to have an airtight lid to keep it from drying out between times.

The results of my experiment? I’m rating it a success!

I know some of you have keen powers of observation and are wondering why there are fewer leaves in some photos than others.

I went to the basement to gather my leaves that had been drying on a large piece of paper on the floor. They were missing. So was the paper. I’ve lived with Smuffy for a long time, so instead of assuming that I had lost all my marbles or taken up sleep-walking, I went straight to the source and asked him what happened. He informed me that, assuming the whole thing to be trash, he’d wadded it all up and put in the garbage can. Sighing, I dove in, muttering something along the lines of, “If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard…” Yes, Smuffy is a tidy man. A very tidy man. Anyhow, in the process, there were casualties.  Another one got stuck to the sleeve of my sweater and came out the worse for wear. I ended up with four. See? I knew I should have collected five hundred!

The leaves came out slick, glossy and slightly bendable. And, I might add – nifty! While I was finishing this post, I also discovered that Triple Thick comes in a spray!  Here we go again…

I began to think how I might use the leaves. Here are some ideas –

Rose Leaf Ideas

I’d love your ideas! Comment and let me know if there are any items that might otherwise be too fragile to keep that you are thinking about preserving with Triple Thick.

One last instruction – When you finish your project, remove the waxed paper from the cardboard box and peel away the dried puddles of Triple Thick. While not half as much fun as dancing on bubble wrap in bare feet, it does offer about ten seconds of entertainment for those of us not ashamed to indulge our inner child.

Speaking of children, I think Triple Thick has possibilities for all sorts of projects with your kids.

Next up: Smuffy’s back! SUBSCRIBE, so you don’t miss “Life with Smuffy: (Episode 2) Smuffy Takes The Cure” (or, “Think You’re Invincible?…Don’t Bet On It!)

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A Store You Can Go NUTS Over!

Throughout the week preceding Christmas, several packages arrived. Most of their return addresses revealed at a glance whether I needed to stash them in my hiding place or put them beside Smuffy’s chair and pretend I’d never seen them. I’m no peeker. Really, I’m not!

Smuffy came in for lunch one day, carrying another he’d found on the porch. I looked at the return address, which read, “Mariani Nut Company”. I’d never heard of the place. For a split-second, I considered giving Smuffy the stink eye. Had he seen “Christmas Vacation” one too many times and decided to enroll me in the Nut-of-the-Month Club? No, he would’ve hidden the box and given to me on Christmas Day. Perhaps someone else had done it. Now that I could handle! I love nuts!

I opened the box. It contained a bag of Mariani walnuts and a letter.

It may sound silly to offer a review of one’s grocery store, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due. Our favorite place to stock up had surprised us with a gift!

Aldi StoreAlmost every week, we stop by our nearest Aldi. I’ve shopped Aldi for a long time. I could always count on coming out of Aldi with that warm and fuzzy “trunkload feeling”, knowing that if I’d spent the same amount anywhere else, my purchases would fit into two paper grocery bags. Their quality is excellent.  Over time, they’ve continued to expand their variety and their brands.  There are usually only a few items from my weekly shopping list that I may have to pick up somewhere else. More recently, they’ve expanded their line of organic and/or gluten-free items. Fabulous!

For years and years, I tried to get Smuffy to go to Aldi with me. He always found an excuse to drive on by. Once, however, with gas prices soaring, he stopped a time or two to avoid a second trip. Now, Smuffy’s hooked. If I go without him, he becomes a little dejected. I think their upgrades, and the fact that he made a few trips to other stores and came out reeling with sticker shock, turned the tide.

How wonderful can a grocery store be, you ask?

Since I’ve made some changes in the way I eat, walnuts have become a frequent snack. I’ve always liked walnuts, especially in my oatmeal. Now, I seem to nibble away at them all the time. Anyhow, I picked up my usual bag of Southern Grove walnuts at Aldi last fall and discovered them to be “different”. While I can’t say they fell into the category of “rancid”, they definitely fell short of the required standard – nothing you’d notice in a recipe – only if you ate them by themselves. I passed it off, thinking it was just that one bag or shipment.

However, the next bag seem to have the same “something” about it. I must be a loyal shopper, or a little slow, because I bought another one. Same issue.

I found the phone number on their web site and called Aldi – not to fuss – only to let them know that that they needed to be aware. They were friendly and apologized for my issues, stating their satisfaction guarantee. All you ever need to do is return your leftovers with packaging and they’ll replace them them with other products.

I thanked them, re-stating that I only wanted them to know about the issue so they could correct it, because I love their store. We never discussed them sending me anything.

So, not only had they offered me their usual satisfaction guarantee, they’d now sent me this letter along with another  bag of nuts!

Courteous Mariani Letter

I’m not sure where the connection comes in between the Mariani nuts and Aldi. The only walnuts I’ve ever seen in their stores have been the Southern Grove brand. However, I found the Mariani to be fresh and tasty. Here they are, along with the letter, next to my mini blender and knife set, both of which I purchased at Aldi.

Aldi ListensThe non-food items offered at Aldi seem to be of excellent quality for the price. We’ve purchased quite a few of these over the years and have been pleased with the items, which include a body-fat scale, convection toaster oven, bluetooth wireless speaker and a digital food scale.

Check out Aldi at their website. If you don’t have one in your hometown, contact them and invite them to move in. When we travel and try to stock our vacation kitchen in an Aldi-less town, we’re always reminded of how blessed we are to have one nearby.

Here’s our most recent Aldi haul – all of which we brought home (after tax) for around $106. See my wonderful produce, organic coconut oil, organic salsa and healthy cheeses? See Smuffy’s ice cream, processed meats and the rest of his junk food? Just thought I’d better clarify matters in case my doctor sees this post!

Latest Aldi Haul

Aldi, based in Germany, was started by the Albrecht family. Founded in 1913, Aldi has become a huge, worldwide grocery chain.

So, by now you know, I’m nuts about my grocery store! I mean, really, they sent me a Christmas present!  At least, it felt like one.

Seems we always hear people talk about their disgruntling shopping experiences. Maybe it’s time to share the good ones.

Questions? Comments? Any places you’ve shopped that really showed you they were made of the right stuff?