Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Great Deals For Seniors Only



One good thing about getting older is that some businesses are very kind to us seniors and will give   us discounts.  I use my old age status to get a break anywhere I can.  If I see a sign in a storefront or at a ticket window about senior discounts, I will definitely ask if I qualify.   And sometimes I won't even ask and I will get the discount which makes me feel really old until I convince myself that the cashiers assume I am old enough because I am with Soko who won't dye his gray hair!  But some places don't have any signage or anyone there that will offer that information so I decided to research to find the best places to get discounts, especially for travel discounts.

l.   Hotel Discount - AARP - You can get 5% - 15% off your hotel stay at some hotels if you mention AARP.  I have my card on my iphone so it's always with me because the hotel clerk will sometimes ask to see it when you are checking in.  If you don't have an AARP membership, check to see if the hotel has a senior rate.   Good to know:  Sign up for hotel rewards cards as long as they don't cost anything.  We have the IHG card which I know we will never be able to use to get a free room but when we check into a Hilton we are greeted very nicely and we have been given complimentary water bottles.  Also, because we signed up for a card, we are on their email list and once found out that they were having a special sale that ran during the time we had a hotel booked. Soko called and asked for the special sale price which was about $20 less than we were paying and got it!

2.  Travel Discount - Southwest and a few other airlines offer senior discounts of usually 10%.  Sometimes their "best rate" discount is better than the senior rate though.  If you rather stay on the ground when you need to get somewhere, Amtrak gives seniors who are 62+ a 15% discount on select destinations.  If you prefer taking a bus, Greyhound offers seniors 62+ a 5% discount on their unrestricted passenger fares.  Good to know:   You may be able to get a full refund on your senior ticket if you have to cancel your airline reservation.  Read the fine print or call the airline to make sure of the airline's policies.

3.  Car Rentals - Almost all of the big car rental companies offer discounts for seniors.  Some consider age 50 to be eligible and some consider age 60.  Good to know:  Budget offers a 10% discount to seniors but you may be able to get up to a 30% discount if you go through AARP.

4.  Restaurants - There are many, many restaurants that have senior discounts.  Age requirements start from 50 if you are dining at a restaurant that accepts an AARP card.  Most discounts are 10%.  I like being able to choose a meal from the senior menu that some restaurants offer, Perkins for one, because not only is there a discount but the portion is smaller.   Good to know:   AARP members can get a free donut when they purchase a large or XL coffee at Dunkin' Donuts.

5.  National Parks -  America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass - Annual.   $80.00 for a senior (62 and older) lifetime pass.   Good to know:   Admits the vehicle of the pass holder and their passengers into parks that have vehicle entry fees and/or admits the pass holder and 3 adults into per person fee areas.

6.  Local Discount Cards - Check to see if your state and then your city is a participant in the Senior Citizen Discount Card program.  Some of your local businesses offer discounts with this card. You have to be at least 60 to get a one.  I have used it to get a 10% discount at a restaurant in downtown Wilmington, NC near where I live.

7.  Entertainment - Discounts and age requirements vary from theater to theater but you can get a discount at many movie theaters, if not all.  Also check for discounts at the museums near you for any discount.  The New York Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago both offer discounts.  Also, like the NY Yankees, your favorite baseball team may offer you a discount if you are old enough!   Good to know:  If you are a snowbird like I am and your winter home is Florida, Busch Gardens Tampa and Sea World Orlando offer a $3.00 discount on a one-day ticket to seniors 50+.

8.  Grocery Stores - If  you have a Harris Teeter in your neighborhood like we do, and you are over 60,  you can receive a 5% discount on Thursdays.  Check your local Piggly Wiggly, Pathmark, Meijer, Hy-Vee, Hannaford, C-Town, Albertsons, Publix, Bi-Lo, Kroger and ShopRite.  These stores offer senior discounts but sometimes it is the decision of the particular store to offer the discount or not.

9.  Retail Stores -  Bealls will give you 15% off your entire purchase on Mondays if you join their Monday Club for seniors 50+.  Kohl's gives seniors 60+ a 15% discount on Wednesdays.  Michael's gives seniors 10% off their entire purchase everyday and so does Banana Republic. Other retailers that offer discounts are Belk, Bon-Ton, Dress Barn, Lens Crafters (with an AARP card) Ross and Stein Mart.  Good to know:  You can get 15% off eligible services and products and 5% off domestic and international shipping services at UPS if you have an AARP card.  We didn't know that!

10.  Car Maintenance Discounts - Jiffy Lube offers 10% off services and parts and Midas and Vavoline offer discounts for seniors but you will have to check at your local shop because not all of their shops participate.

I would love to hear from you if you know of discounts anywhere else.   Please send us a comment so I can add it to our list!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Miso Ramen Inspired By Chaplin's



When my daughter, Lisa heard we were going to take a weekend vacation to Washington, DC recently she told us we had to go to eat at Chaplin's.  Now hearing that name, I would not think that she would go on to say that they had some of the best ramen and gyoza she had ever had.  I was a little skeptical but I trusted her taste buds and penciled Chaplin's in for one of our dinners.  We were not disappointed.  In fact, we would take another trip into that area just to eat there again!

I had the miso ramen and Soko had the Chaplin.  I've had some delicious miso ramen before.  One of my favorite things to do when I up north was to go Japanese grocery shopping at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater, NJ and then have dinner or lunch at Santouka.  They offered a shio, shoyu or miso ramen.  I always got the miso which was absolutely worth the wait on their long line of customers.   And at Ippudo, located in Osaka, Japan.  Ippudo also has restaurants in New York City if you don't want to travel as far as Japan to try them but I heard that their ramen is better in Japan. They served amazing ramen in Japan.   I have to say that Chaplin's soup compares very favorably with the other two restaurants.

When I eat ramen at home, though, I open up the package of noodles which comes with a small packet that contains the soup flavoring mix.   I will either add celery stems with the leaves on them to the soup at the same time I put in the noodles or an egg that I break up into the soup after the egg has cooked for a couple of seconds.    It's yummy and perfect for a quick lunch but Chaplin's inspired me to try to create a soup from scratch.



Chaplin's miso ramen, as described on their menu, lists ground pork, pork butt chashu (a slice of marinated and braised pork), bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, onion, scallions and nori (seaweed) so that gave me an idea of the ingredients I would have to round up but I needed some help in getting started to create a broth.  I found a recipe for miso ramen at one of my favorite blogs, Japanese Cooking 101 and pretty much followed their recipe.  It matched Chaplin's ground pork base so I thought it would compare nicely to their soup.  I also followed, and slightly changed,  Noriko and Yuko's  (the hosts of Japanese Cooking 101) recipe for making the pork that Chaplin's used as a topping.  I skipped the bamboo shoots and onion toppings.

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MISO RAMEN

Ingredients

Toppings

sliced pork*
scallions
bean sprouts

For Soup Base

9 cups water
3 garlic cloves crushed
2 Tbsp. ginger sliced
3/4 lb. ground pork
5 scallions
4" x 2" piece of dried kombu (dried seaweed)

For Soup Flavoring

8 Tbsp. miso paste
3 Tbsp. sake
1 1/2  Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. chili paste

3 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 garlic clove minced

Noodles

1 lb. ramen noodles cooked as directed

(If you can't find ramen noodles you can use thin spaghetti and follow these directions:  In a large pot, boil 12 cups of water and add 3 Tbsp. of baking soda - watch carefully as it may boil over.  Then add your spaghetti and cook as directed.  The baking soda will help to give the spaghetti the same texture and taste of ramen noodles.)

Directions


Prepare toppings and set aside.

Put soup base ingredients together in a large pot and boil for 15 minutes.  Strain the broth into another pot keeping all the broth and discarding the other ingredients.

Add the first five soup flavoring ingredients and let simmer in broth on low heat.

Cook noodles as directed.

Add the sesame oil and minced garlic to your soup at the same time you are adding your pasta to the boiling water.

Place cooked pasta in bowls.  Add soup and toppings.

*Yakibuta Recipe

Ingredients
2 lb. pork shoulder butt
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/2 cup sugar
3 thick slices ginger root
1 clove garlic

Directions
Marinate the meat with the rest of ingredients in a plastic bag for 4-5 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350F and bake for 1 1/2 hours.  Keep the marinade to baste the meat a couple of times.  Let stand 30 minutes before slicing.

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I cooked the yakibuta the night before I made the soup and had it with brown rice, stringbeans cooked in the marinade and Japanese pickles.  You can use the marinade also for a dipping sauce - strain to remove the ginger, garlic and fat from the marinade then cook and simmer the sauce before using.  

I thought this recipe was oishii (Japanese for delicious) and came pretty close to being exactly as I remembered it at Chaplin's!  

Before we eat anything in Japan we say "Itadakimasu" which means you are thankful for the food and also means "Let's Eat!!!"


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Update Old Photo Albums

My kids enjoy looking through our old photo albums.  There's something about flipping through the pages that doesn't compare to sliding from picture to picture on their phones.  It's especially fun for them to share the old photos with their better halves.  Our "new" kids, son-in-law Pete, daughter-in-law Nicole and soon to be daughter-in-law Chrissy didn't know our family and friends until we were all much older and they find some of our pictures to be adorable but most of them to be hysterical!   They'll snap pictures of our pictures to save to their phones or to send to one of our family members or friends who they think will find the picture as hysterical as they do.  Older son, Joe makes sure he points out the mushroom haircut he endured throughout his entire childhood and younger son, Mike will still ask why I needed to dress him and his brother alike when they were far from being twins since they are a good 3 1/2 years apart.  And forget about the "tail" he wore all those years when I wouldn't let the barber cut that one piece of hair in the back of his head!  I must have styled daughter, Lisa to her liking because she never complains or it may be that she doesn't think it's as funny as her brothers to poke fun at my mothering skills, or lack of I should say!

But the the pictures we enjoy more than anything are of the vacations we took.  Every year we went on a camping trip with four to five other families.  We have camped in almost every state along the east coast with our best friends.  The photos jog our memories of the fun we had, the things we learned about each state and who we enjoyed it all with.  Every year we also went to Florida to visit Grandma and Grandpa.  Our photos remind of us of how much we loved spending time with them and how they loved playing cards with us and joining us on our visits to Disney World, Sea World and every other amusement park in Florida.  We have lots of pictures of the wonderful times we spent with our family and friends in Japan and the vacations the five of us took by ourselves to Washington, DC, Ohio and so much more.  If we didn't have our pictures we would never remember what we did where.

So I've always kept our photo albums out and accessible to everyone but they were getting so worn and old and becoming such an eyesore in our living room.


 I really didn't want to buy brand new albums and not only have the expense of replacing them but also the task of transferring every picture from the old to new so I came up with this idea of updating our albums.  If you have old photo albums that need a quick update this was a pretty easy fix.  

What You'll Need:


* Roll of mailing paper (a brown paper grocery bag also works)


* Card stock

* Number and letter stickers

* Ruler

* Scissors

* Paper edger scissors

* Glue dots

What You'll Do:


Place photo album on the mailing paper and measure leaving 3" from each side of the album and 1 1/2' on the top and bottom then cut.


Measure 1 1/2" from bottom and top and fold.
  

Fold the two sides over and insert the front and back covers.


Taping the corners of your photo album cover will help to keep the cover on your album.



Measure and cut one 11" X 2" piece of card stock and another of contrasting color that measures
 9 1/2" X 1 1/2".


Trim the edge of the smaller piece of card stock with your edger scissor.  Identify your album by using your number and letter stickers.  Attach your two pieces of card stock with the glue dots. 


Cover with clear contact and attach identification strip to covered photo album.


That's it!  Now call over a family member or friend to sit with you on the couch and enjoy looking through your photos together!





Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Free Things To Do In Las Vegas


I have been to Vegas many times because my mom had a passion for slot machines.  I would bring her and either my daughter, Lisa, or my sister, Sandie, would join us.  We would leave Mom at her slot machine and we would go and find things to do on the strip or downtown.  There is so much to see and do in Vegas and lots of it is free!

1.  Check out the hotels.  If you walk it will be a totally free and fun thing to do.  Every hotel is different and lots of them have something extra besides their unique decor to get you to stop by for awhile.  You'll want to see the gorgeous flower displays at Bellagio's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.  It's absolutely free and well worth the walk to see it.  It's really impressive.   Across from Bellagio you'll find Flamingo Las Vegas.  They have a wildlife habitat there that we love.  You can see many different kinds of exotic birds, fish and turtles and of course, flamingos.  When you're downtown take a look at the 61 pound gold nugget at Golden Nugget.  They paid more than $1,000,000.00 so that it could be displayed and enjoyed by everyone visiting the hotel.  You can't see a nugget bigger than this anywhere in the world.   Just a little heads up - the hotels are not as close to each other as they appear to be and you might be walking miles depending on how many hotels you plan to see in one shot.  Some hotels though are easily accessible to each other via a free shuttle or tram so well worth looking into as you're planning your tour of the area.  Also the bus that runs up and down the strip is reasonably priced though not free.


Bellagio

2.   Collect the hotels player's cards.  Me and Lisa spent most of our time, on one of our many trips to Vegas, just going from hotel to hotel signing up for their player's cards.  Almost all of the hotels will give you something free to sign up.  We got free play money to use on the slot machines, decks of cards, tee shirts and more.  We had a great time collecting our free gifts and some of them wound up being souvenirs for the hubbys we left at home!


3.  Enjoy free shows offered at the hotels.  One of our must-sees when we are in Vegas is the Caesar Palace's free show Fall Of Atlantis.  The gigantic talking statues along with the special effects makes this show very entertaining and attracts many viewers so get there early to get a good spot to watch it.  The spectacular outdoor water show presented by Bellagio is not to be missed.  The combination of the dancing water, light show and music is such a treat for all your senses.  Do you love circus acts?  From the trapeze artists to the clowns you can see them all at Circus, Circus.  It's the only free circus I know of so go and enjoy!


Caesars Palace

4.  Find free things to see and do along the strip and downtown.  You can find lots of free things to do when you venture out of the hotels and onto the strip and downtown.  Visit M&M World to see more M&M's in one place than you'll ever see then enjoy the free 3-D movie starring Red and Yellow.  Head downtown to the Downtown Container Park, created from recycled shipping containers, especially if the kids are with you.  They'll enjoy the playground, that includes a 33-foot-tall slide and over sized foam building blocks, while you enjoy the food from one of the restaurants in the park.  We really enjoyed the tacos at Pinches Tacos and the brisket at Big Ern's BBQ.  (We did have to shell out some cash for that!)   Stay in the downtown area until evening to enjoy the Fremont Street Experience.  You'll find free live music there and make sure you look up as you stroll down the pedestrian mall to witness an amazing light show suspended 90 feet above the ground.


These are some of the free experiences we've enjoyed in Vegas.  There is a lot more free things to do and see there that can keep you very busy.  You probably won't be able to do it all in one vacation. Vegas can be a very affordable vacation for retirees on a budget as long as you don't run into too many one-armed bandits!