The 99 cent store isn’t anymore …

No, that’s not quite right. The store is still there, but it’s now the [nearly everything is] “99 cents” store. A few months ago they raised their price from 99 cents to 99.9 cents so they charged $1 for everything. Fair enough. Actually, more than fair. Still an incredible bargain!

bottles with glasses and grapes

Wait — we’re talking the 99 Cent store, right? Why are we looking at a picture of grapes and wine?

(And a note about the picture above. Since I took my computer to Best Buy to correct a minor problem — which cost major bucks! — I haven’t been able to download things I could get before, like the pictures of the 99 cent store. So you’ll have to be content with a picture of wine and I am going there — just be patient.)

My favorite is the raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. 99.9 cents is 1/3 what I pay at the market, and it’s the same brand! I don’t know how it works, but I’m happy it does. Their produce is an amazing bargain. For a ten dollar bill, I can walk out of there with fruit and veggies for a week, even though they’ve started charging for some things by the pound. Well, okay, still cheaper than the market.

And now get this … they are selling WINE!

Moldava Pinot Grigio

The bottle is beautiful with butterflies and flowers.



Yes, I swear!

The wine is $2.99. They have several different labels like “Feeding Frenzy” (such an an attractive name, don’t you think? At least they don’t have a picture of a shark tearing into a fish on the label),  “Swirls and Whirls” (maybe how you feel after drinking some?) and chocolate wine!

I have had chocolate wine before — I’m not sure how they do it, though. Has someone found out how to grow chocolate grapes?  There are some things you don’t want from the 99 cent store, and wine is one of them. I mean, what do they make it out of? Do they just pick up the grapes that fall by the side of the road or what> But as I was staring somewhat in awe at this huge display of wine, I saw it: a lovely, tall bottle which has raised designs of flowers and butterflies. The front says Pinot Grigio. The back says “product of MOLDAVA.”

If you’re thinking “that should be Moldavia,” that’s what I thought, too, but the country changed its name after the break away from the USSR. Still, Moldava, Moldavia … six to one half-dozen to the other. I’m thinking of the wine Paula and I bought for $1.99 one time. It was from Romania — or perhaps Bulgaria — one of those countries that ends in IA. We said to each other “how bad can it be?” Well, there’s a stupid question if there ever was one. There went $1.99 down the drain — literally.

So I had no hope for this wine from Moldava until I Googled it and — would you believe — the country of Moldava is a wine-producing country and it has the biggest wine cellar in the world! Even though we both know that quantity is no indication of quality, I have to say I’m intrigued. Why would you have a big wine cellar if you don’t have something good to put in it? I mean, you don’t put a safe in your house to stow your jewelry from Target, do you?

So I could stand it no longer — I chilled the bottle and opened it. A cork — that’s a good sign. I poured a couple of inches in a wine glass and stood by the sink just in case I had to spit it out immediately, but no. It was not bad at all. It had a slight hint of apricot and then something else. Guava, maybe. Something light and pleasant.

So now I’m thinking this would make a nice summer wine. Trouble is, when I went back, the 99 Cent store had sold out of it. I guess it’s no great loss — I’m not that crazy about white wine anyway. The best part was the pretty bottle. It’ll make a nice candle holder.



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the $40,000 bottle of wine

… and no, I wasn’t the one drinking it!

A short time ago a few friends and I got together for a special dinner of home-made mushroom and wild rice soup that was to die for. We brought our favorite Zinfandels from 2007,  2008 and  2009. They were delicious. Some more fruity and some more spicy. Some drier and some smoother, but all rich and well-balanced, at the perfect age to be enjoyed. With each sip, someone was saying, “this is so GOOD!”

Now THIS is good stuff.

Now THIS is good stuff.

A few days after that I saw a society bit in the paper talking about celebrity friends who had indulged in a $300,000 (yeah, that’s five zeroes) dinner. Alcohol had to be in there somewhere, ya think? Sure enough: “six bottles of Romanee-Conti France’s Burgundy region were purchased at $40,000 per bottle.” I’m told this retails for $13,000 a bottle, but of course you’ve got your 200% mark-up and your gratuity. But even at $13,000 a bottle, I’ve got to wonder:

PEOPLE! Are you crazy?? Do you mean to tell me that you have palates sophisticated enough to appreciate a wine that costs as much as a new car? REALLY?

Okay, there are people on this earth who can truly appreciate an out-of-this-world wine, and maybe some of them were even at this dinner, but I doubt it because …

The article mentioned that this was a 2006 vintage. I know very little about French wines, But I do know that they need to age. 2006 is pretty young, so I looked it up and sure enough, the great DRCs (that’s shorthand for Domaine Romanee-Conti, you peasant), need to age for several decades, the ones from the 1940s being spectacular — or so I’m told.

I’ve read that the 2006s are “tight and astringent.” They need years to develop (or sleep, as some put it) for the tannins to mellow and the sharpness to fall away. I’m guessing the ones who were fortunate enough to be able to guzzle $40,000 bottles of wine had little clue that they were drinking a baby wine that would have been better had it been allowed to grow up.

In the meantime, those of us who are content — not content, but thrilled! — to be drinking $40 wines from Paso Robles probably would have recoiled at the sharpness and acidity of the much-vaunted DRC.

Most wine drinkers know that part of enjoying good wine is the friends you’re drinking it with. Perhaps the people at the $300,000 dinner were just happy to be with each and enjoy the pleasure of a well prepared meal and good friends. And hey, maybe the next time someone is opening a $40,000 bottle of wine, they’ll invite me. Ya think?





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“… the righteous man … “

Yesterday as I was preparing more nectar for the hummingbird feeders, a Bible verse popped into mind: Proverbs 12:10: “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast.”

These little guys sure go through their nectar in a hurry!

These little guys sure go through their nectar in a hurry!

I was wondering — could you classify a hummingbird as a “beast”? and even if you could, it isn’t MY beast. But the little guys have been coming into my yard since the honeysuckle opened up a couple of weeks ago, so I dug out the hummingbird feeder and cooked up a batch of nectar. (And I don’t understand why people BUY this — It is simply 1/4 C. sugar dissolved in one cup  of boiling water. Can’t get much simpler or cheaper than that!)

Anyway, it got me to thinking about taking care of the animals. Two weeks ago, for instance, Lop Ear started to limp. What on earth?? It was just slight at first but after a few days became pronounced. I tried to feel his back leg to see if there was anything obvious like a lump or a bite mark, but he pulled away and I agreed to just let him be. By Friday, I decided he needed to go to the vet. And, of course, it was Friday before the 3-day weekend. Isn’t that always the way? I called and found they would be open Monday so I made an appointment.

Monday morning after breakfast, acting really casual, I pulled out the cat carrier and set it on a dining room chair. Then I went out and picked up Lop Ear, explaining to him in a very soothing voice that we were going to see the doctor who would make him all better.

what I said:  "We're going to the vet." What he heard: "Have you had breakfast yet?"

what I said:
“We’re going to the vet.”
What he heard:
“Have you had breakfast yet?”

Once he saw the carrier, Lop Ear had other ideas — it took some manhandling, but I finally managed to stuff him in and secure the door. He did that howl that cats do — a most unnerving sound. I continued making soothing noises to no avail as I lugged the carrier out to the car. (He weighs 20 pounds). Just as I was ready to set it on the seat, he made a valiant lunge and managed to snap the door open — and he was gone! G-O-N-E, gone. Through the hedge and over the wall into the neighbor’s yard.

I cajoled and cooed, but as soon as I got anywhere near, he took off. He sure could move fast for a cat with a bum leg. I watched in dismay as he darted into the (thank heaven car-less) street and slithered through the fence into another yard — no mean feat for a cat shaped like a bowling ball.

Bottom line — he got better all by himself. No vet needed. When I related this all to my friend Suzy in Houston, she said that sometimes cats will limp to get attention. Well, maybe so but that cat gets plenty of attention. Let me tell you, when a 20 pound fur bowling ball lands in your lap, it gets your attention mighty fast!

So I figure I saved $75 on that little proposition which made me happy and Lop Ear is just fine, thank-you-very-much.

But that brings me back to the beasts who evidently don’t have a person to look after them. Like the twin black kitties who have been showing up here at dinner time, looking for a hand-out. As I pulled out of the driveway last night on the way to a party, I saw them slowly sidling up to the water bowl that I now keep out front and where I occasionally put a handful of kibble. No kibble tonight, kitties, I thought with a slight pang of guilt. They’re not my kitties — nor is the larger black cat who shows up occasionally.

Who is caring for those beasts? Is there a righteous person out there giving them food and water and a warm place to sleep at night? And please, don’t look at me — I already have four cats and an assortment of hummingbirds. That is more than enough for anyone, righteous or not.


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You want me to swallow WHAT??

Sometime back around the 50s an advertising agency got the brilliant idea of marketing directly to children. So instead of “Hey, mom and dad, wouldn’t little Nancy love a Betsy Wetsy Doll for Christmas?,” the ads changed to “Hey, kids! Tell Mom and Dad you want a Hopalong Cassidy six shooter for Christmas!” (And if you remember either of these products, I’m guessing you’re ready for Medicare.)

You think this is enough pills?

Come on — try our pills!

I am reminded of this because the pharmaceutical companies have decided to bypass the doctor and speak directly to us. Now obviously if you simply have a headache, you don’t need to see the doctor, but they now are essentially saying, “Doctor? Doctor? You don’t need no stinkin’ doctor! Trust us!”

Acid Reflux? Incontinence? Erectile Dysfunction (which we insiders know as “ED”)? No problem. Yes, you might need a prescription but all you need to do is “ask your doctor if [our product] is right for you.” I saw a cartoon of a woman sitting in the doctor’s office with a long piece of paper trailing onto the floor and she was saying: “Is AAB right for me? Is ABC right for me? Is ACC right for me…”

But what intrigues me most is the weasel words as in: “Damnitol [a product aimed to soothe the nerves] may (or may not — we’re really not sure, but the monkeys we tested it on seemed pretty darn happy) help (won’t actually cure the problem but perhaps, if you’re lucky may somewhat alleviate the symptoms) restore your equilibrium after a trying day.”

In other words, we’re not really sure of anything except that it’s making us money, so why not give it a whirl? What have you got to lose?

Oh, that reminds us, let us clue you in about the possible side-effects. Not that we want to, but are mandated by law to let you know … Damnitol may cause rash, hives, swelling of the lips, throat and tongue, and problems breathing. If this happens, stop taking Damnitol and call your doctor (if you are still able to gasp out any words). Do not take if you are allergic to Damnitol or any of its ingredients. (We have to say this because we’re not sure you’re smart enough to figure it out on your own.) It also may cause dizziness, loss of appetite, constipation (or diarrhea — we’re not sure which) high blood pressure, asthma and in rare cases heart attacks or even death.

So, if you’re dead or in a coma, don’t say we didn’t warn you. At least you won’t have to worry about things like stress or incontinence or (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) ED.

Just take our pills and you, too, can be relaxing at this beautiful spa!

And, one more thing — have you noticed that all the ads for these products show happy, smiling people at the lake or the seashore, or perhaps sitting in a lovely park? Never in a crowded office or school room full of screaming kids. You never see someone sitting at the kitchen table with a whole sink full of dirty dishes stacked in the background. That’s who needs the help, not the happy, laughing couple on the tennis court!

And whether you take any medications or not, I’m betting that right now, right where you’re sitting, you can probably name 3 or 4 products without even thinking about it. Geez, talk about saturation. I think we need some product to protect us from the advertisers. Maybe someone will invent something that will render them mute — at least for a few days. Wouldn’t that be nice?





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They keep sending me money!

A few weeks ago I got another one — a $10 off any purchase at Kohl’s. I don’t know why they do it, but I’m glad they do. And now J.C. Penney’s has started. Every now and then, for no reason that I can fathom, I get a card in the mail inviting me to buy something and they will deduct $10 off the price. What’s so good about this is, it’s a free $10, no matter how much you spend — or don’t spend.

More dish cloths than I'll ever need!

With my free $10 from Kohl’s, I got a fun set of dish towels.

Last time I was in Office Depot, the cashier circled a survey number on the register tape before she handed it to me. “You’ll get $10 off your next purchase if you fill out this on-line survey.” “I’m there like a bear!” I said as I stuffed it in my purse.

As soon as I got home I sat down at the computer with said register tape and then saw: $10 off your next purchase of $50 or more. Well, crumb. I seldom spend $50 at any one time. Granted, when I bought ink for my new printer, it came to $90 — coulda used the $10 off of that. But that is not the same as the enticing Kohl’s free $10.

When I first started getting these, I was puzzled. Yeah, I have a Kohl’s card, but I don’t think I’ve used it in several years. Nevertheless, I went and looked around for something that I needed that cost around $10. I picked out a set of dish towels that was marked $11.95. Turned out they were on sale for $8.95. I needed to spend $10. And wouldn’t you know that there was a convenient rack of Godiva candy bars right there at the cash register and they were “only” $2.50. Well, okay — lesson learned. And chocolate eaten.

The next $10 coupon I gave to a friend who later told me that everything there was too expensive and she threw it away. Oops — I never made that mistake again. Believe-you-me, I prowl that store until I find something that is close to $10 that I can use.

Over the past several months in addition to the original set of dish towels, I have bought a dozen dish rags (do they call them rags anymore?), washcloths, pot holders, socks and a nice set of the new “snapware” plastic food-storage boxes that are actually made in the U.S.A.  No more made-in-China plastic boxes that leak PBAs into my leftovers! Just a few weeks before I had bought another set with my free $10 from Penney’s. How cool is that? I now have enough Snapware to store the better part of a Brontosaurus.

Because I learned from that first time that things are often marked down, I know to trot over to the scanner and wave the price tag under the little red light. That’s why I have a dozen dish rags — they were originally $10.99 but on sale for $6.99 for six, so I had to get two packs. I’ll probably never need to buy another dish rag as long as I live!

Okay, celery stalks, you've met your match! This super-duper chef's knife from Kohl's will make mincemeat out of you!

Okay, celery stalks, you’ve met your match! This super-duper chef’s knife from Kohl’s will make mincemeat out of you!

My latest acquisition is a chef’s knife. It was originally $55, discounted 40%, then marked down again and put in the “final sale” bin for $16. Whee! I don’t really need another knife, but didn’t see anything else that appealed to me. At the cash register, the nice young man scanned the “10% off family and friends” coupon and I walked out paying just over $5 for a quality knife. I’m sure it’s not as good as the ones at Williams-Sonoma, but let’s think about this: $5 v. $300. Trust me, the celery I’m chopping won’t know the difference.

Oh, lookie, here comes the mailman — maybe he’ll have more free money for me. I wonder what fun thing I’ll find on sale — bedroom slippers, a coin purse, maybe some cat toys or a little sweater for the neighbor’s new grand-baby.  Ah, adventure awaits!





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It’s all About ME

it's all about me

One day in the after-school Good News Club, I noticed a little girl wearing a shirt that said, “It’s all about me!” I said, “Um, don’t you think that’s a little self-centered?” The other kids immediately jumped to her defense: “It’s a joke, Miss Robin.” “It’s supposed to be funny!”

I backed off but it got me thinking because it seems that for most of us, it IS all about us.

Case in point: I was telling a friend about a pizza I’d had from a newly discovered little store-front place in my neighborhood. “It had big chunks of vegetables and grilled chicken …” She interrupted with, “I don’t like chicken on my pizza. I like traditional pizza. I want pepperoni and sausage and …” she continued to describe her ideal pizza and then went on to a story about when her sister had ordered a pizza and they had mistakenly sent the wrong one and, and, and …

My original intention of sharing with her about the new place that had really good pizza at a really good price was lost in a quagmire of her pizza experiences. So be it.

However, it got me to thinking how often we are in a conversation with someone and the conversation gets hijacked because they turn it into a story about themselves. As in, “it’s all about me!” Of course, you and I would never do that — it’s rude! I started listening more carefully to what people were saying and to what I was saying, and when. And – horrors! — I was doing it, too. Not all the time, but occasionally. I’m sure that Grandmother Eloise would tell me that even once was too often.

Lois’s husband Bill has an excellent technique for handling these kinds of situations. He simply stops talking or contributing in any way and lets the interrupter ramble on. Finally, when they wind down, they realize something is amiss. They may realize that they’ve done or said something inappropriate or they may continue in happy oblivion. I’ve tried his technique a couple of times with varied success. And I’ve become much more aware of my propensity to jump into a conversation and turn it into something about me, usually in the guise of adding to the conversation as in, “Oh that happened to me one time, too, and you’ll never believe …” (Oops.)

Well of course it's all about you -- you're a cat. The whole world is all about you!

Well of course it’s all about you — you’re a cat. The whole world is all about you!

Do you remember your parents — or some older person — using the phrase: “He loves to hear himself talk”? Yeah, it’s like that. I’m not sure if it’s that they just like the sound of their own voice, or if they really believe that what they have to say is more important than anything you have to say. It is possible, of course — no, not that what they have to say is more important, but that they believe it.

So the other day when I stopped by to tell a neighbor that Jet Blue had a sale on airfares to Boston where his daughter lives, I foolishly began with “Hey, Herbie, how long since you’ve visited your daughter?” That was the last thing I got to say for the next 15 minutes as he rattled on machine-gun style about his daughter who seldom calls and his ne’er-do-well son who had once again gone through all the money Herbie had sent him and, and, and …

I never did get to tell him about the bargain fares — when he finally stopped long enough for me to get a word in sledge-wise, I patted his arm and said, “Hey, I gotta get going,” and fled. He was still talking as I walked away, something about wishing he could afford to go visit his daughter.

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Ye Cats !!

We love our pets, don’t we? Sometimes more than others, but you’d do a lot to make your fur friend happy, wouldn’t you? I now have four cats (two were strays who just sort of moved in) and I love them. If you have cats, dogs, parakeets or ferrets, you know what I’m talking about. Goldfish, eh, maybe not so much. But once in awhile you stop at that display of toys and (yikes!) clothes for your pup or kitty and might even shell out a few bucks for something goofy you think they’d like.

An appetizer for your kitty.

An appetizer for your kitty.

So today I was at PetSmart stocking up on food (sure wish I could figure out a way to make those animals earn their keep) when I came across a new product: appetizers for cats. Appetizers. They come in their own little tray — all you do is peel off the top. Because this is a new product, it is at a “special, introductory price” of $1 a tray.

This isn’t just repackaged cat food — no sir! This is “wild caught Alaskan salmon in a savory gravy,” and “steamed tilapia in a delicate sauce.” There was also “white meat chicken with flaked skipjack tuna,” and another tuna (bluefin, I believe) in yet another “savory sauce.” You know how they say you should never go shopping when you’re hungry? Man alive, I was ready to rip off the top and dig in right there!

Now, as I said, it was at a special introductory price. Normally these go for $1.29. (For my purposes let’s say $1.25 because I like dealing in round numbers — well, that’s not exactly round, but fives are friendlier than nines, don’t you think?) The appetizer tray is two ounces, as in 1/8 of a pound. So $1.25 x 8 = $10 a pound. For cat food!  That’s more than sirloin steak! And we’re not even talking a full meal here but a little pre-dinner snack.

Oh, and there weren’t just 3 or 4 of these — there was an entire section. They had probably 12 different appetizers. Heaven forbid your cat should have to eat the same thing two days in a row! Right there by the display was a coupon: $1 off four appetizers. So that now makes them 75 cents each. I actually contemplated that — for about 6 seconds.

I'm ready for my appetizer, Mr. DeMille

I’m ready for my appetizer, Mr. DeMille

I picked up a can of Friskies from my cart — 5.5 ounces for 45 cents. So, about $1.30 a pound which is certainly more reasonable.

Now I’m wondering what the next new cat product will be: Dessert for the Discerning Feline? I mean, we’ve had the appetizer and the main course (which at my house is dry food with a small side of canned), so why not a little something sweet to complete their repast? Anyone want to take bets on when the Kitty Dessert will make its debut?

Or – wait — a salad! I mean we already have cat grass — you know, those little white pots by the cash register with something that looks like chives? My cats go outside and chew on weeds, so it’s not that much of a stretch to serve a little chopped greens with their dinner. As I was contemplating this, a man and woman were in earnest conversation about the merits of Fancy Feast v. Sheba at somewhere around $1.10 for an itty-bitty can. I pushed my basket past them and the woman glanced at it and then looked at me like I was pond scum.

I slunk out of the store with my bag of dry cat food and a dozen cans of just plain stuff (which is now called pate′), wondering if someone was going to call PETA before I could make it home. As I pulled into the driveway, another thought struck me concerning that Alaskan wild-caught salmon — should I serve the kitties some wine? I’ll ask Smokey tonight.




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