Holiday: Catch-ups, Pick-ups, Follow-ups

Yes, I've been out and about lately, as busy as you no doubt, getting ready for all the holidays and seen some good, bad, ugly. I wanted to post them sooner, but couldn't get on-line, no thanks to stupid wireless access company, so here's what's current.

Don't know how it is in other parts of the world, other homes, but for me: Paper white Narcissus --smell grand, look charming --say "winter" to me. As fond as I am, it's surprising: never remember to buy in November; by the time I get them -they bloom: it's dark, cold outside, gloomy without holiday decorations, inside --perfect time for Paper white perfume --always cheers me. If you and your home could use some January cheer:
-Pick up now: bulbs, small sack of gravel
-Pot up: in any container -roast pan -soup bowl -kettle -can -leftover food packaging --enough for every room
-Place 1 -3 -5 bulbs to a bowl, secure with gravel
-Add water half-way up the gravel --don't let the bulbs get wet; place in warm location, with bright light, wait
-as green stems shoot up: add twigs or chop sticks and gently tie a 'fence' with twine to keep stems from flopping
enjoy --in about 20 days, minimum, till bloom. Few places offer this year, but: Sunset got plenty direct from Holland, about $11 a dozen
Sunset Nursery, Sunset Blvd, Silver Lake, same block as Circuit City & McJunk food, get there by 4:30 daily, Sunday by 2 pm (Be warned: I once told a friend about them and since she was working, sent her brother to pick up for her; he liked them so much gave to his girlfriend, instead --the last dozen Sunset had....)

-Corn flakes: why pay $4 -5 -6 for the 'name' brand or even $3 at TJ's --when you can get a fully-packed box, WIC standards, for $.99 at Ralph's on 3rd x Vermont; of course it's 'no-name' brand, but since "Ralph's" doesn't make corn flakes, comes from same source as "name" brand

-Multi-grain: another good bargain, though it has some added sweetness, it's not sweet (hate "frosted" stuff), has clean ingredients, tastes good --at $.99 Store (did you know: they raised all prices to $1. --what will they do, lol when inflation returns?) at Alvarado x Wilshire or Sunset, at Sunset Junction

-Candy canes: to decorate tree --in cinnamon flavor for eating, if you dislike peppermint; and some charming ones: look like crayons --all at $.99 Store, per box --still plenty available this week, unlike all previous years; pick up some for adding to tree, for next year, child's birthday party, grown-ups summer party or gift-topper

-English Toffee: unique no-doubt temporary offering, clean ingredients, two flavors, quite special, at Alvarado Street $.99 Store. (For some people, sometimes: I skip Hanukkah -Christmas gifts and give gifts and a hand-written note with a sweet attached, on New Year's, to start the year.)

-Whole wheat bun, stuffed with veggies, cheese: good value, good bargain --the 12" is only $4.79 --actually healthy food if you skip chips, soda, cookies, at SubWay, nearby: 1200-block of Wilshire x Witmer and Hillhurst north of Prospect

I know, it's hardly believable, but: Camera --loaded for 15 pictures --only $1 at $.99 Store, only at Sunset - Western, and 1500-block Pico Blvd store, (Alvarado doesn't have any) - look on check-out stands

---loosing signal, have to stop --check back for additions

Wine is a subject I've 'drawn a line' about --it's too complicated/I can't be bothered to learn all there is to know. I used to drink White Star champagne which, to me, tastes superior to all of the "famous" over-hyped champagnes --till it got expensive. I want wine that tastes good, isn't sweet, doesn't cost alot, period. If you're the same, now the best sparkling wine I know of for celebration, Mimosas, light meal and such: Prosecco -Brut - Zonin, Italian sparkling white wine. It's delicious --not bitter, not sweet; $6 a bottle, at Trader Joe's --affordable enough to always keep a bottle tucked away. (A few years: Trader Joe's ran out --in mid-December, but this year Silver Lake and La Brea store still seem to have extra supply, if you want to stock up for the year)

Even though I got to TJ's by 4 PM one day for Thanksgiving shopping, all the pumpkin pie was *poof* by the time I tried to get some; annoyed, knew I didn't have time to come back another day, I went with the 'flow' and bought a different pie, which was so much better than pumpkin, I was surprised: Multi-berry, with whole wheat crust. --I've never even tasted pie with whole wheat crust, didn't know it existed, but it was so good I called the store, after the holiday, to say so. I've since found TJ's offers: blackberry, with whole wheat crust, also good, though multi-berry is better; around $6 --and worth it, clean ingredients --no corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated junk.

Every year Panettone is always displayed for the holidays, but not being Italian, had no idea what it is or why it's expensive. Two years ago I was at a party where one of the 'party favors' was a boxed Panettone for each guest, and I liked it alot. If it's unfamiliar to you also: it is very tall, light, yeast cake, lightly studded with raisins & candied fruit --and de-lish. This year: I found the classic red-boxed treat was offered at, of all places, Food4Less --at amazing $4.98 --far less than Trader Joe's --at the store on Wilshire x Union Street - above Home Depot

Having been a purveyor to hotels and high-end restaurants for many years, a chocolate lover, amateur scientist and California native, I could write pages about quality, benefits -eating -baking -my pastry chef clients --about the only LA chocolateer I know of who offers hand-made marzipan--all year--at Farmer's Market, on 3rd x Fairfax --and much more, but I won't.... During the holidays, it has to be our own: See's --but what few know: you Don't have to get malled --or pay $7+ to get it shipped to you.
I joined Many in disappointment when See's closed its Los Feliz store, early 1990s (--start a letter-writing campaign to get a See's store open in Silver Lake!)
There is an alternative: every year See's is available at Los Angeles Visitors & Convention Bureau, downtown, on Figueroa x 3rd. You can't get custom-packed, of course, but if you hate malls as much as me, don't want Glendale mall crush trek, See's already boxed at the Bureau is a good thing. --Go early as possible, they often don't have any left by Christmas week. For ages it was a bargain, at under $8 a pound...this year, raised again: $15 a pound, but still superior to not-as-good & over-priced Godiva, at $38 pound. Hedge against inflation: buy a gift card --for yourself --for next year!

Didn't want to/had no choice: had to go to the DMV, recently. I sure was dreading it, so much I decided to go to the market afterwards, to pick up various odds/ends. Surprise: I was in/out of DMV office in :23 total --the people working at Hope Street branch couldn't have been any nicer, more helpful; what a pleasure. Same sure couldn't be said of: Ralph's market, downtown. Sheesh, what's with that place?
-Bakery: every single dessert offered --loaded with corn syrup -and/or high fructose corn syrup -and partially hydrogenated oil (--if you don't know: hydrogenated oil lines the walls of heart arteries; causes obesity; shouldn't be allowed in food; banned in Europe, Canada) --cheap garbage --in Ralph's
-Groceries: much more expensive for same things offered at every other market
-Employees: at cheese counter -hot food -salad bar -deli: act like they've never seen food before --clueless about what's offered -ingredients, any thing --Where do they get such employees...
-Management: no better --they spout policy at every question --actually more officious than DMV! Want just one bottle of beer? Too bad: it's six-pack and policy or none. I'll take none, thanks. Ralph's, on 3rd x Vermont: less expensive --and way less clean. I'm crossing Ralph's off my List, they don't have any thing I need so much I'm willing to tolerate such negatives...especially when there are GOOD others.

As I mentioned in this month's Calendar: it IS possible to ice skate in Los Angeles --downtown, in Pershing Square across from the Biltmore Hotel (--no, I'm not going to call it this year's new name; it's The Biltmore, period). I was there this week around 4:30 pm and it wasn't crowded at all --and pretty, surrounded by lights (there's a seating section, with over-head cover, to watch). At 5 pm: Parking is $6.65; during day: it's $15+ to park underground; better deal, if you must take your car: park just outside of downtown, on a DASH bus route -take DASH to Pershing Square: $.25 --skating rink: free, skate rental: $2 - until January 19th.

Do you know any unique deals, good secrets for the holidays? Send to Silver Lake daVine, at davinely@wildmail.com

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