Airlines make it harder to earn free flights for loyalty

DALLAS — Airline loyalty programs are losing much of their allure even for frequent flyers, and the rules for navigating the system have changed.

Flying is no longer the best way to earn miles or points. The biggest bang for your buck comes from signing up for the right credit card.

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And those come-ons from the airline to sell you miles? Ignore them unless you are very close to a qualifying for a big trip.

Frequent-flyer programs get relatively little attention from Wall Street, and their financial importance to the airlines is not widely understood by travelers, who just hope to earn a free flight now and then.

Airline profits are subject to vagaries like the price of fuel, the actions of competitors on key routes, even the weather. Amid all that uncertainty, the airlines have found a reliable source of revenue in selling miles to banks, which then use the miles to persuade consumers to sign up for the cards and use them as much as possible.

“The bottom line is that the business of selling miles is a very profitable one and has proven historically to be far less cyclical than the core airline,” Joseph DeNardi, a Stifel analyst who tracks airlines, said this month in a note to clients.

The downside for airline customers is that the world is awash in frequent-flier miles, and the airlines are constantly making each mile, or point, less valuable. Many trips don’t earn as many miles or points as they once did, and the price for claiming a reward flight keeps going up. In many cases, availability of reward seats on flights has gotten worse.

“It is harder to use miles at the price that people are expecting to pay,” says Gary Leff, who writes the View from the Wing travel …read more

Source:: East Bay – Lifestyle

Putting the brakes on pomegranate-stealing squirrels

DEAR JOAN: Again this year the squirrels are destroying our pomegranates. There are more than 50 green poms — and counting — littering the ground beneath our tree.

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We used to get 200 or more wonderful, sweet poms, all of which we gave away as they are too sweet for me, but friends love them.

They are such wasteful little beasts. At least the crows clean out the pom, and I mean clean it out. It is a bit disconcerting to find a beautiful red pom only to find it is empty. But the wastefulness of the squirrels is unforgivable.

We thought of getting a “working cat” — that is the term used at the cat rescue place — that I would be more than happy to feed if they discouraged the squirrels. But someone on Next Door said they had several feral cats in their yard, and the squirrels totally ignored them as they ate — and probably wasted — their peaches.

So then we would be stuck with a cat we don’t really want. Plus I kind of disagree with having outdoor cats, as they are hard on a neighborhood and I hate pulling weeds and digging out what I think is a rock only to find it is kind of squishy.

I would find a way to get an owl box, but apparently that won’t work for squirrels, either.

Any suggestions?

Doris Tuck, Bay Area

DEAR DORIS: Pomegranates are considered one of those worry-free trees. They’re fairly easy to grow, and they usually don’t have a lot of pest problems. However, squirrels love them.

When it comes to protecting your fruit, remember that one is unlikely to covet what one can’t see. Try putting brown lunch bags over each piece of fruit and …read more

Source:: East Bay – Lifestyle

Elvis’ favorite recipes (besides fried peanut butter and banana)

Go online to search used books and you’ll find there’s no shortage of Elvis Presley-inspired cookbooks.

Some boast the real recipes from family members and his longtime cooks and maids. Others sport appropriately cheesy titles (“Are You Hungry Tonight?” and “All Cooked Up”).

And you can bet that every single one of them contains a recipe for Presley’s favorite, a Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich.

We’re guessing that you can make one of those without instructions, so instead we offer a few others you might consider whipping up to honor the 40th anniversary of The King’s too-early demise.

CHEESY GRITS CASSEROLE

According to Mercury News archives, this recipe is from Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen’s “The I Love Elvis Cookbook” (Courage Books), which also includes Elvis favorites such as smothered pork chops.

Vegetable oil spray or vegetable oil, for greasing

2 cups milk

2 cups water

3/4 teaspoon onion salt

1 cup regular grits

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

3 eggs, lightly beaten

4 to 5 green onions (scallions), finely chopped

Cayenne pepper or hot pepper sauce, to taste

Paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 1-quart baking dish. Put the milk, water and onion salt in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in the grits and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover, simmering very gently for 12-15 minutes, until the grits are thickened, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and 1 cup (4 ounces) of the cheese, stirring until melted. Stir a large spoonful of grits into the beaten eggs and return the egg mixture to the green onions and thickened grits, stirring vigorously. Season with cayenne pepper or hot pepper sauce.

Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, until just set and golden. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for 5 minutes longer, until the cheese has just melted. Sprinkle with paprika and serve. Serves 6.

SUNDAY MEATLOAF

Food blogger Tori Avey reached back into “The Presley Family Cookbook,” written by Vester Presley (Elvis’ uncle) and Nancy Rooks (a cook for the Presley family), for a commemorative recipe, then tweaked it for today’s tastes. She used less salt and pepper, sauteed the veggies, changed the cooking temperature/time and added an optional glaze. The wheat germ is original to the Presley family recipe.

1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced celery
2 cloves garlic, …read more

Source:: East Bay – Lifestyle