Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Money Saving Websites

I've already educated you about Priceline, which is kind of cool because this is the most popular post I've ever written. I've also told you about how to use drugstores to your advantage.

Well, today, we're going to talk about ways to save money again. But this time, it's simpler. All we're going to do is look at some websites that can help you save money in your daily life. All you have to do is either add some blogs to your RSS feed, or mark some websites as favorites and check them occasionally.

So are you ready?

Money Saving Mom
I'm not a mom, and most of you aren't either. But this blog is great. I rely on her for keeping me aware of all the hot deals going on. She posts some free samples, where you just go type in your name and address and get mailed samples of food, toiletries, and even dog food. (Toiletries are great for travel!) She also posts restaurant deals - for example, did you know last Tuesday, Starbucks had a Free Pastry day? True fact. Finally, she posts grocery coupons - often these are printable, and sometimes they mail them to you.
If you go to this part of her webpage, you will see a list of about every grocery store that exists. You can sign up specifically for store deals from whichever store(s) you shop at. For example, I'm only signed up for Walmart because...well...I live in Waco. Each week, she posts the weekly store deals and ways you can combine those deals with coupons to save the most money.

Hot Coupon World
This is a website basically full of message boards where everyone posts all the latest deals and coupons they have found. The most valuable part of this site (I think) are the forums. There are forums for each store, as well as for free samples, and other topics. The other extremely helpful tool on this site is called the "Coupon Database." You can search for coupons for anything on your grocery list either by type of item, by brand, or whatever you want! It's so helpful if you have the time to do this before you go shopping.

A Full Cup
This is similar to Hot Coupon World - it's just another good resource. Sometimes if there isn't something you need on one website, you can go to the other one and find it.

This is like the coolest website ever! You go here and type in the ingredients you have and want to use. As you add ingredients, different recipes from sites all over the internet come up using those ingredients. It also lists what other ingredients you would need to make that recipe, so you can check at a glance if it's something you're able to do. This is a great way to make sure nothing goes bad in your kitchen - it's so easy to find a use for all your random ingredients through this site.

Hillbilly Housewife
I don't use this site as much, but it's very helpful for making your groceries stretch out as much as possible. I have used a lot of tips from the articles from her site. For example, in one article, she shares how to buy regular ground beef and make it low fat just by cooking it a little differently. (And regular ground meat is way cheaper than the low-fat kind, so it saves a bunch of money!) She also has an emergency $45 menu for a week, and recipes for homemade convenience foods such as homemade biscuit mix, salad dressings, and beverage mixes.

Are there any websites you use to help you save money?

Reason #151 Why We Need A Queen Size Bed

(Reasons #1-150 are all Sammie, of course. That girl somehow stretches out enough at night that neither Dan nor I can roll over without falling out of bed.)

So the night before last night.

I'm dreaming away.

Dan's dreaming away.

Then, out of nowhere, I wake up to being punched in the chin!

Unfortunately, this is not a joke. Although Dan disagrees with my use of the word "punch," (his actual response to that was "Although technically it may have been a punch, that's not really what happened," which really does not help him much), either way we still had a violent incident at around 2:00am.

Apparently, Dan was dreaming of something - he can't remember what. All I know is that I woke up to being punched in the chin, hard enough that I bit my lip and made it bleed!

I remember that it really hurt and I had no idea what was going on. I remember Dan apologizing and then rolling over to go back to sleep. I remember thinking, "This really hurts, I think I'm bleeding," and then rolling over to go back to sleep as well.

But when I woke up in the morning, there was the proof! Blood caked all over my lips! And even today, FORTY EIGHT HOURS LATER, there is still a mark there. And it still stings when I eat certain foods. I've reminded Dan of this approximately 214 times so far. For some reason, he objects when I call it "spouse abuse."

Am I overreacting? Possibly.

Am I going to milk this for all it's worth? You betcha.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Authentic Happiness

I've been reading the book "Authentic Happiness" by Martin Seligman this week. Well, I actually started it last week but then the whole Breaking Dawn weekend marathon got in the way. So I started it again Monday, and I've really, really been enjoying it. It's all about why some people are happier than others, and how to become happier yourself.

One of the main concepts that stuck out to me is the differentiation between "pleasures" and "gratifications." Seligman calls pleasures things such as a bite of ice cream, a back rub, smelling a nice perfume..anything that is a sensory and emotional experience.

Gratifications, on the other hand, don't necessarily have an accompanying emotion. Think about things where you get "in the zone" and almost lose track of time - things that you get completely absorbed in. This might be rock climbing, scrapbooking, volunteering, gardening...when you really get into them, you're not thinking about how much you enjoy this activity, you're just thinking about the activity. Gratifications take more work and effort - but they end up making you a happier person in the end. The more time people spend in these kinds of activities, the better off they are.

The other thing that I have been interested in so far is the concept of "strengths." Seligman notes that we spend most of our effort trying to correct things that are wrong with us, but we would be much better off if we spent our efforts developing our strengths and figuring out ways to use them every day.

He has a website - If you go there, you can take a Strengths quiz for free. (You do have to register at the website, which means putting in your name and email address.) The quiz is sort of long, it took me about 25 minutes. But then it lists your strengths and in the book talks about ways to best utilize them!

So here are my top 5 strengths:

1. Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness: Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.

2. Perspective (wisdom): Although you may not think of yourself as wise, your friends hold this view of you. They value your perspective on matters and turn to you for advice. You have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and to yourself.

3. Social intelligence: You are aware of the motives and feelings of other people. You know what to do to fit in to different social situations, and you know what to do to put others at ease.

4. Gratitude: You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you never take them for granted. Your friends and family members know that you are a grateful person because you always take the time to express your thanks.

5. Love of learning: You love learning new things, whether in a class or on your own. You have always loved school, reading, and museums-anywhere and everywhere there is an opportunity to learn.

What's neat is that I use four out of the five of these every day right now. Gratitude...well, I'll be honest, I was surprised to see that on there. But I am really thankful for everything I have... so I guess it's up to me to figure out how to incorporate that more in to my daily life.

Thanks everyone, for reading my blog!

What activities do you consider "gratifications?" Mine would be reading novels, scrapbooking, sometimes cooking, sometimes running, and sometimes therapy sessions with clients. (But sometimes those things are just chores, too - I think only the first two are always gratifications.)

What are your strengths? Go take the test! Or just read about the strengths and guess! I'm curious!

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Website for Couples

ItalicSo it's Monday, yuck. Supposedly it's supposed to get warm again today - I hope so! It has been nasty, cold, and rainy here all weekend long. (Which was maybe why I was able to read all 769 pages of Breaking Dawn in one weekend? Wow, I'm lame.)

I wanted to share with you guys an article in the local paper today (the very well-known Waco paper, haha). There's an article about my research advisor and the website that we just put up! It's a really cool website if I do say so myself, so you all should check it out:

And here's the article about it from the Waco Trib:
Baylor Professor Develops Couple Conflict Website

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Day in the Life of Sammie

Remember when you guys asked for this, like, 6 months ago? Well, your wish is my command - and my apologies for the lateness! But here it is, a day in the life of Sammie.

Sammie usually sleeps under the covers in between her mom and dad. When we wake up and get out of bed, she stays under the covers and somehow is able to wrap them all around her so that you have no idea she's even under there.

Then she slowly peeks her head out from under the covers and waits for a while until she decides she's ready to get up...

See, here she is!
Because Dan doesn't have class until 9:30, he usually goes into the office and reads his email and Bible for a while after he wakes up. Sammie has her own special chair that she sits in while he does this.
Then she goes to the kitchen for a few hours while we're at work and/or school. When we get back, Sammie goes right to the couch and stretches out...she sure was cramped being forced to stay in the kitchen all day!
If she gets cold, she wraps herself up in a blanket. Dan guessed that Sammie spends approximately 50% of her time curled up in blankets.
The other 50%? Somehow squished in a small space as close as possible to her mommy or daddy.

If we go upstairs to the office to do homework or check email, Sammie comes up too. She likes to keep watch over the neighborhood while we're working.

Of course, if you try to sit in her chair and do your studying, she'll be sure to let you know that it's her domain.
If it's a weeknight, Sammie then gets to eat dinner, go on a walk, and then snuggle some more with her daddy.
If it's a weekend night, however, she goes out on the town! Sometimes she gets to play her favorite card game, Euchre.
And then it's back to bed and the whole cycle starts over again...I know, she has a hard life. :)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Homemade Pasta

What have you been cooking and eating lately? It's been a while since I shared with you what I've been making so I thought it might be fun to share my latest adventure...

First of all, I took a pasta making class a couple weeks ago at a place in Waco called Gourmet Gallery. It's a cute little kitchen store and they also hold lots of classes where they teach you how to make things such as pasta, tamales, bread, Mediterranean food, Easter desserts...I mean it's quite the range of classes. It's amazing. The only negative thing is that it costs money to take these classes. (Shocking, I know!) And often more money than I have.

However, this class only cost $35 so Camden and I decided to take it together! We learned how to make homemade spaghetti with marinara sauce and butternut squash ravioli with brown butter sage sauce. Amazing. So we decided to try it at home.

Here I am rolling out the dough:

Here are our noodles waiting to be cooked:

And here they are after they were cooked!

Those noodles are definitely much thicker than any of the ones we made at our class, but we were working without the help of a pasta roller. They still tasted great.

Here's the recipe we used for the dough. This recipe is from our class we took and courtesy of chef Juanita Barrientos, who taught the class:
2 cups flour (we did half whole wheat and half all-purpose)
1 t. kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Cornmeal, for dusting

On a flat, clean surface make a mound of flour. Add salt and make a well in the center. Crack all the eggs inside the well, add olive oil, and scramble them with a fork until combined, gathering some flour from the walls in the process. When dough is dry enough to handle, begin to knead dough until elastic in texture. This process should take at least ten minutes - even longer with whole wheat dough! You will notice a huge change in the way the dough feels after it has been kneaded long enough. It will be so soft compared to when you started.

Next, divide the dough in half, rub each half with olive oil, wrap them with plastic, and let them rest before it's rolled out. Or don't, whatever. Then roll out the dough by hand until it's 1/8 an inch thick, if you do it the way we did. Or do it the way the chef recommended, and the way we did it in class, and use this amazing pasta roller Kitchen Aid attachment that I really really really want...(Hint hint, to those of you who sometimes buy me really expensive presents...) But anyway.

It's so good! It tasted delicious! And you can buy spaghetti sauce if you want, or you can make it! Camden and I made our own vodka cream sauce from a cookbook I have to go with it, and it was delicious. If you go to the cookbook on Amazon and click "search inside this book" and then search for vodka cream sauce, you can get that recipe too. Of course, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but oh well.

So that's my latest cooking accomplishment! We haven't been brave enough to try the ravioli yet, but I will eventually. And hopefully I'll even branch out further. Seriously, this stuff was good. And extremely cheap to make. That's a winner in our house every time!

Have you had any cooking adventures lately?