Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Cheapskate Next Door – Book Review

Title: The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means

Author: Jeff Yeager

Genre: Nonfiction, financial, self help

Published: Crown Publishing, 2010

Recommended by: The Today Show

Review: Booklist. Starred review.  Ah, yes, belt-tightening is the procedure of the day, from how giant businesses conduct themselves to managing one’s own personal finances. It is the latter aspect of conservative spending that the author of the popular Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches (2007) and of the blog Green Cheapskate addresses in this delightful—yes, delightful—guide for me, you, and everyone else. Personal finance is a universal concern, particularly in these tight economic times. It is a topic that people need to know about but still shy away from. Yeager is here to draw you in and does so easily. He does not use the term “cheapskate” in a pejorative fashion; after all, he lists himself as one and wishes that all his readers would aspire to cheapskateness. A cheapskate to him is someone who lives below his or her means and does so happily. How to spend less than you are spending now is the program he details; the amazing fact about this book is that in addition to his instructions making perfect sense, like no other book of its kind, this one
can be read simply for the humor of the author’s prose.

Notes: This was an excellent financial guide that I related to in nearly every chapter.  The book included tips and tricks that I’d not thought of, and gave a bolster of support to our already “cheapskate” tendencies.  We’re the most frugal of our group of friends, so it was a relief to know we’re not the only ones out there pinching our pennies and enjoying it in the meantime!

Rating (out of four stars): four stars

Date Finished: 8/30/10

Exercise Will Improve Our Marriage

There are dozens upon dozens upon dozens of reasons to exercise.  Yet I still have a difficult time hauling myself to the gym.  When the school year begins in full force, my plan is to stick to a Monday Zumba class, Tuesday workout in the fitness center at the Y, and a Wednesday weights class.  (Also, a Thursday night happy hour, but who’s keeping track?)  Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays will be for walks and bike rides, with a few sessions of YMCA workouts or an exercise DVD if the weather is disagreeable.

Even with a schedule set in stone, I find myself tempted to skip exercise, so I thought I’d put a new spin on the reasons why working up a sweat is something that’s worth my time and effort: exercise will improve our marriage.  Inspired by the Chicago Tribune and Engaged Marriage, I’ve compiled ways that exercise will benefit our relationship.  All of the facts in bold are from reputable sources,* but the commentary is mine.  Feel free to add more benefits in the comments section!

Exercise improves your mood. The phrase “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” comes to mind.  Rotten moods are contagious, but luckily, so are happy moods.  Exercise can stop a bad mood before it starts.

Exercise boosts your energy level. Getting in better shape can improve your relationship – you can both go on a long walk without getting winded, or spend a morning in the garden together without stopping to rest.

Exercise helps manage your weight. Just as importantly as a physical benefit, your mental health will get a boost.  Feeling confident about your appearance can go a long way.

Exercise promotes better sleep. Who’s in a great mood after a terrible sleep?  Certainly not me.  I know that it’s easier for me to be in a positive mood all day if I can wake up on the right side of the bed, which usually happens after a peaceful night’s sleep.

Exercise can put the spark back in your sex life. Beyond the good mood and increased endurance, exercise has the power to increase arousal in women and decrease erectile dysfunction in men.

Exercise improves your health. From cancer to diabetes to the common cold, regular exercisers have resistance to disease.  A serious illness can put excessive strain on a marriage, but even something as small as the sniffles makes me cranky.  And, as the theme seems to be, a happy wife=a happy husband (and vice versa!).

Exercise can be fun. A hike at a state park trail, a YMCA class, a walk downtown, basketball at the local elementary school.  All of these things count as exercise, and can be turned into a date… two in one!  Quality time and exercise together… count me in.

Exercise improves learning. Maybe I’ll finally remember to fill the gas tank before it hits the Empty marker… or perhaps we’ll start doing more sodoku puzzles together.  Though this might not fit hand in hand with marriage as well as the other benefits, I certainly think it’s worth noting!

* Sources include Mayo Clinic, Center for Disease Control, US News

Cheesy Wild Rice Soup – Recipe

Nothing says autumn like a hearty soup.  This one certainly fits the bill – it all but screams turtlenecks, new notebooks, and pots of chrysanthemums on the front porch.  While leaves aren’t falling yet, school starts this week, and it seemed fitting to make.

This recipe makes my all time favorite soup, ever.  I’m starting to tweak it to make it a bit more natural – the original recipe calls for both Velveeta and condensed cream of potato soup.  I replaced the processed cheese with colby jack with much success, and am working on a substitution for the condensed soup.  I don’t know where to start.  Possibly with a roux, and add flour/milk/potato cubes?  That’ll be an experiment for another afternoon!

And just to note… you’ll need a stock pot for this recipe – it makes quite a bit.  We freeze about half of it for nights we’d like comfort food in a hurry.

Cheesy Wild Rice Soup
adapted from Leanne’s recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup long grain/wild rice mix
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1-2 cups chopped celery
  • 1-2 cups thinly chopped carrots
  • 1-2 cups chopped onion
  • 3 cans condensed cream of potato soup*
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 lb shredded cheese

Directions:

  1. Prepare rice with broth.  Meanwhile, steam vegetables on the stovetop until crisp-tender.
  2. In a large pot, combine rice, vegetables, condensed soup, milk, half and half, and cheese.
  3. Heat, but do not boil.

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes – Book Review

Title: The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes

Author: Diane Chamberlain

Genre: Suspense, Romance, Realistic Fiction

Publisher: Mira, 2006

Recommended by: Erin at Blue-Eyed Bride

Synopsis: (from the publisher) In 1977, pregnant Genevieve Russell disappeared. Twenty years later, her remains are discovered and Timothy Gleason is charged with murder. But there is no sign of the unborn child.  CeeCee Wilkes knows how Genevieve Russell died, because she was there. And she knows what happened to her missing infant, because two decades ago she made the devastating choice to raise the baby as her own. Now Timothy Gleason is facing the death penalty, and she has another choice to make. Tell the truth and destroy her family. Or let an innocent man die in order to protect a lifetime of lies.

Notes: Again, couldn’t put it down.  I actually had to ask Paul to hide it from me so I could get some work done!  I’m not used to reading suspenseful books – around the middle of the book, I had to read the last three chapters so I could fall asleep.  While I enjoyed reading it at the time, though, I don’t think it’ll be a lasting favorite.  It was very plot-driven – not necessarily a bad thing, but not my favorite type of book.

Rating (out of four stars): three stars

Date Finished: 8/18/10

Before Baby

In no way, shape or form am I pregnant.  Or even trying to get pregnant.  (Though I must admit, if a little one came along I wouldn’t be the least bit disappointed.)  Inspired by a post by Kathleen over at Project M, I’m trying to enjoy our childless days to the fullest.  I’m not making a list of all the things I’d like to do before baby comes along, but rather I’m consciously enjoying the moments that may become less frequent in the future:

  • Having the house stay clean after I pick up.  Or, if it doesn’t, I know there’s no one to blame but myself.
  • Leaving out nick knacks, keeping small objects lying about, and generally not worrying about anything in our household being swallowed.
  • Cooking meals based on adult tastes that I really enjoy.
  • Waiting until the last minute to do… well… anything.  Leave for the dentist, grocery shop, go on a date.
  • Meeting up with friends whenever, wherever we’d like.  No babysitters to rely on, no sick child to stay home for.
  • Sleeping  on a very regular schedule – going to bed at the same time, having an uninterrupted rest, and waking up at the same time every day.
  • Reading books for an hour at a time.
  • Listening to my Playaway while I clean.
  • Eating dinner late in the evening.
  • Staying at work until I’m finished, or at least until I’m ready to stop for the day, even if it’s hours after the school day ends.
  • Focusing on my Happiness Project.
  • Taking the opportunity to be selfish once in a while.  (What an awful thing to enjoy, right?)
  • Shopping at a leisurely pace.
  • Blogging uninterrupted whenever I please.

I could make a list about about twenty times as long about all of the wonderful reasons I’d love to have a child, but I think if I focus on enjoying the era that I’m living in, I’ll be happier (and so will my husband!).    I really do need to focus on my happiness project, as I mentioned above, since I do have the time.  I’m getting a bit lax on it, particularly this month.  So here I go to get my tush in gear for a walk, as I’m supposed to focus on staying fit.  Not a stellar workout, but certainly a start!

On the Menu…

Now that summer’s over and our days are much busier, I’ve started meal planning once again.  I’m starting out by planning about four meals to get to sometime in a week.  We’ll see if I go back to planning day by day, but for now I think I’d like a little more flexibility.  If I can remember to dethaw the meat with time to spare, I think it’ll be a success.

Meal 1:

  • Chicken casserole
  • Rice
  • Cooked carrots

Meal 2:

Meal 3:

Meal 4:

  • Shepherd’s pie

Seven Link Challenge

One of my favorite blogs is Penelope Loves Lists.  A few weeks ago, she completed a Seven Link Challenge to expose new readers to some of her previous posts.  Because my readers number in the tens on a good day, I can’t really justify this as new-reader-exposure.  Instead, I’ll admit, it’s purely for the fun of looking back on past links.  I’ve been blogging for less than a year, and it’s amazing how much I’ve recorded in that short amount of time.

My First Post: Ongoing Goals.  Catchy title, I know.  This was the start of my happiness project before I knew what a happiness project was.

A Post I Enjoyed Writing Most: It really had a good time with my About page.  I think this is because I posted it and then kept coming back to review and revise.  It’s always a work in progress, whereas my posts are published and that’s that.

A Post Which Had Great Discussion: My posts don’t typically generate a lot of conversation, but I found a comment in Know the Low to be extremely helpful.  It led me to the Grocery Hop website, which I use frequently (but have yet to blog about).

My Most Helpful Post: Homemade Pancake Mix Recipe and Famous Amos Cookie Recipe.  Nearly all hits I get from Google come from these two recipes.  I’d recommend trying both recipes!

A Post with a Title I Am Proud Of: An Unfortunate Case of Granola.  This proves that I stink at coming up with titles.

A Post I Wish More People Had Read: How about every post I’ve ever written?  I can’t complain, though – I have to comment on other people’s blogs if I’d like a little more traffic on my site.

A Post on Someone Else’s Blog I Wish I’d Written: Christmas in July – Family Cookbook on Beantown Baker, mainly because her cookbook is not only genius, but also the best Christmas gift idea ever.  I wish I’d thought of it… but I’ll have to just be satisfied with copying the idea and claiming it as my own.  (Just kidding… I always give credit where credit is due.)