I'm always adding new articles because I have found so much good stuff to share that you will surely find of great use to you and your family and friends. Much of what I share involves getting back to the basics and doing for ourselves. Simply click the above image to see the latest of the greatest finds.

I'm big into DIY projects and finding ways to improve things, saving time and money. Quite frankly, I'm tired of paying for overpriced junk and for other people's mistakes. If I'm going to pay for anyone's mistakes, they should be my own. If you agree, then click the above image for all sorts of ingenious ideas.

There's a plethora of stuff and information that I've found to share and I like to feature my favorites for quick and easy future reference -- for myself as well as all of you. Some I've already tried myself and will do again; some I am looking forward to trying. Just click the above image to see what I've added to my faves list.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Try These Scrumptious Holiday Recipes!!

Are you ready for Christmas? It's that time of year when sugar plums go dancing around in our heads. Especially when it comes to wondering what else we could make to ensure there's enough food for everyone and to suit their different tastes!

So I'm always looking for new recipes to try, particularly around the holidays. Even if it's something I wouldn't normally eat -- like cheesecake and Brussels sprouts! I used to steer clear of cheesecake because I simply didn't like it -- until I discovered chocolate cheesecake!

After having a store bought one that was so incredibly good, I went on the hunt for a chocolate cheesecake recipe and have since made my own variations of it. I like to put different toppings on it each time I make it. Whatever I put, it's any combination of peanut butter sauce, chocolate sauce, Heath bits, peanuts, Reese's bits, caramel, or whatever else comes to mind that sounds yummy!

Then I discovered pumpkin cheesecake! last year at Olive Garden and thought, "OMG! That's even better than chocolate cheesecake!" Shhh...don't tell anybody I said that. LOL So, of course, the holiday season is upon us and I find myself looking for new recipes and this one was a MUST HAVE!

I have yet to try Brussels sprouts EVER in my life, but thought the recipe below sounds mighty good. Good enough for me to actually try Brussel sprouts! While my family doesn't plan on making them for the holidays, every last one of us are interested in trying them out soon -- and not one of us has ever liked Brussels sprouts!

So I do encourage you to try both of these recipes. Once we've tried out the Brussels sprouts recipe, I'll come back here and report how wonderful it was! I really would like to get into eating healthier foods, so I'm actually looking forward to trying it. Anyway...

I hope you enjoy!

The Cheesecake Factory Pumpkin Cheesecake

Prep Time: 40 mins Total Time: 1 hr 44 mins Servings: 8


1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs 1 tsp vanilla
5 tablespoons butter, melted 3 eggs
1 cup sugar, plus 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar 1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 8-oz pkgs cream cheese, softened 1/4 tsp allspice
1 cup canned pumpkin whipped cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and put foil part way up the outside part of an 8-inch springform pan.
  2. Make the crust by combining the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and 1 T sugar in a medium bowl.
  3. Stir well enough to coat all the crumbs with the butter, but not so much as to turn the mixture into paste. Keep it crumbly.
  4. Press the crumbs onto the bottom and about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the springform pan. Be sure not to go all of the way up.
  5. Bake the crust for 5 minutes and set aside until you are ready to fill it. For best results, make the crust the night before and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and vanilla. Mix with an electric mixer until smooth.
  7. Add the pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice and continue beating until smooth and creamy.
  8. Pour the filling into the pan and bake for 60-70 minutes until the top has turned a bit darker.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool. Once it has reached room temperature, put it in the refrigerator.
  10. When the cheesecake has chilled, remove the pan sides and cut the cake into 8 equal pieces. Serve with a generous portion of whipped cream.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnut Brown Butter

Prep Time: 10 mins Total Time: 30 mins Servings: 4

1 tablespoon butter (only real butter - no substitutes)
1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons water

  1. Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 450°F.
  2. Put butter on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast until butter is melted, browned and fragrant (4-5 minutes).
  3. Remove baking sheet from oven and toss Brussels sprouts and hazelnuts with the browned butter; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Return to oven and roast for 7 minutes; sprinkle with water, toss, and continue roasting until the sprouts are tender and lightly browned (another 7-9 minutes).
Note: I recommend using a bit more butter and adding extra hazelnuts to help dress up the flavor. You might even try some of your favorite spices -- oregano and thyme are two I'm considering.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Seller Tutorials in Google Docs

Here are the Google Docs I have created with instructions for my fellow Bonanza sellers. Some may be applicable outside of Bonanza, as well, like the sales tax set up, for example.

The title of this article is a link to my main booth page on Bonanza if you need to send me a bmail (Bonanza mail). For those who are not sellers on Bonanza, just click the Contact Seller link in the left sidebar of that page in the area beneath my avatar.

If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a bmail. Good luck!!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Collecting Your Way to the Rarer Side of Josef Originals

While Josef Originals collectibles are still widely available on the internet, many of the more valuable and sought after items are getting harder to find. The favorites among collectors date between 1945 and 1975 when Muriel was still designing the dolls herself. So, to help weed through the clutter, this article will provide a brief history of Josef Originals and discuss how to determine a doll’s authenticity, as well as the rarer, more popular collections.

History of Josef Originals

Josef Originals was started in 1945 when the artist behind these quality collectibles, Muriel Joseph George, decided to stop making her Lucite jewelry (Muriel of California) due to the higher cost of producing it as a result of WWII. In the beginning, Muriel and her husband, Tom George, were operating their new pottery business out of their garage and basement in Arcadia, California.

Vintage Josef Originals Career Girls Series Debutante 1960s Japan $129.99It wasn’t long before her dolls gained such popularity that cheap reproductions from Japan began making their way into the market. Naturally, this caused Josef Originals to suffer financially, so Muriel tried her hand at producing new and even better quality pieces that would be more difficult to copy. Unfortunately, this became too costly, as well.

What saved Josef Originals from financial ruin was a representative and distributor of other California ceramics producers. In 1959, Mr. Good convinced the Josephs that they could greatly reduce production costs by moving their operations to Japan. So, in 1960, their new factory opened in Japan where Muriel spent some time training workers to produce her ceramics to her specifications.

With production taking place on a grander scale in Japan, Muriel was now free to get creative when designing new pieces from home. Muriel would provide the factory with drawings and instructions and each piece required her approval before production would begin. Although Muriel had retired in 1981, she continued creating new designs until 1985 when the company was sold to Southland Corporation.

After the Josephs sold their share of the company to their partner in 1982, the company started producing figurines with brown eyes and did so until 1985 when the company was sold. Currently, the company belongs to Applause, Inc., which produces earlier pieces with red-brown eyes and matte finishes, marking them with paper labels and signing them as “Josef Originals by Applause” or “Josef Originals by Dakin”.

Authenticity? What to Look For…

Authentic Josef Originals dolls can easily be identified by their most distinctive markers. If an original doll is missing any of the following, the value of the figurine may be diminished:
  • The signature black eyes, produced in both California and Japan until 1982 when the Josephs sold their share.

  • The “Josef Originals” and circled “C” impressions on the bottom, which is lightly glazed. The earliest pieces bear the name “M.J. George”.

  • The black oval stickers with gold or silver lettering. Those made in California will have stickers that say “Josef Originals, California”. California was later replaced with a curly-cue (shown to the left) when production began in Japan and a label with “Japan” in script was added, which is typically found on the bottom (as shown above).
Of course, the most collectible pieces are those made during Muriel’s ownership, particularly those made in California. Most collectors prefer the figurines with black eyes, which were made in both California and Japan. All others were made after 1970 in either Taiwan, Korea or Mexico. Then, of course, there are those cheap reproductions that were produced in Japan beginning in the 1950s, as mentioned earlier.

The Rarer Collections

SOLD SOLD Vintage Josef Originals Figurine Parasol Lady Very Rare $139.99Naturally, the more popular dolls would be among the hardest to find as few collectors are willing to part with them. Plus, as time goes on and as unfortunate as it is, pieces do get broken and are forever lost, much to the dismay of avid collectors. So, of course, fewer become available, making them even harder to find.

Most pieces are worth between $30.00 and 60.00 and some range from $75.00 to 100.00. However, there are those earlier pieces that can go up to anywhere from $125.00 to $150.00. So, if you see any of these rarer items priced below that, be sure to read the description and view the photos provided carefully to ensure there is no damage. When in doubt, ask questions of the seller.

Following is a list of some of the hardest to find among the Josef Originals figurines:
  • Josef Originals Early Years (1945 – 1962)
  • Josef Originals Tilt Head Dolls of the Month (1945 – 1962)
  • Josef Originals Favorite Sayings Series (1950 – 1960s)
  • Josef Originals Little International Series – A favorite among collectors. Muriel made the original 18 dolls in 1959, but 11 more were added over the years.
  • Josef Originals Happiness Is Series (1960s) – A favorite among collectors
  • Josef Originals Career Girls Series (1967) – including a debutante (pictured at top), a florist, and an actress, among others.
  • Josef Originals Little Commandments Series (1970s) – Consists of 12 Dolls
  • Josef Originals Big Sisters Little Sisters Series
  • Josef Originals Ecology Girls Series (1974 – 1975) – A favorite among collectors
  • Josef Originals Flower Girls Series (1975) – Each doll is made with a flower as a hat

Want More Information?

There are a few guidebooks available, which are as treasured by collectors as the collectibles themselves and, therefore, can be quite pricey as guidebooks go. However, if you are patient enough and have the time to do some hunting, you can find good deals on them.

The three best guidebooks for Josef Originals are written by Jim and Kaye Whitaker, which include hundreds of photos, informative text and descriptions, and price guides. The first two books pertain to earlier pieces made during Muriel’s ownership. While both books include some of the rarer figurines, the second book seems to include more of the rarest.

The third book is mainly a showcase of the Whitakers’ own collection of Josef Originals and includes photo comparisons of the Applause figurines next to Muriel’s originals. So, if you are serious about collecting Josef Originals figurines, I highly recommend purchasing the first two books as each contains some dolls that the other doesn’t.