Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Joy of a home cooked meal

Do you like to cook? Do you know how to cook? I used to pride myself on my ability to cook ramen noodles or grilled cheese as a teenager. Eventually, I learned how to cook scrambled eggs in the microwave and French toast from scratch.

As I have gotten older and become more self sufficient (as an adult should), I have found joy in preparing meals for my husband and family. I first started to jump into the kitchen more when I was a freshman in college. When my husband and I were dating, we spent a lot of time with some friends, Tina and Colin who were also dating at the time. We often would have dinner together and being in the kitchen with my friend Tina gave me more experience preparing meals. I often would watch Tina cook and then I would try it on my own or file “her process or recipe” into my memory for later. (That’s the same way I learned the French toast method---by watching  mom do it).

I’ve often said that cooking is not hard because if you can read, you can cook! And there is some truth in that because all one has to do it read the recipe! In order to do that well, it is helpful to be familiar with some of the cooking jargon, but most of it is straight forward. Furthermore, I learned a lot of different tips and techniques by watching cooking shows on the Food Network.

I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner back in 2010 for my husband's family. It turned out great! I was so proud of myself because almost everything was made by me from scratch. My husband now requests that mac n’ cheese recipe at every holiday dinner! Thanks Fanny Farmer.

I am no culinary savant and I have no aspirations to go to cooking school, but I love trying new recipes that a relatively easy and can be done in less than an hour. Pinterest is now supplying me with lots of new things to try! This joy of cooking comes from the fact that at the end of the preparation, we usually get to eat a really good meal and I don’t have to do the dishes :) The simple act of preparing a meal out of love can really be quite significant to yourself and others. So, get your cook on people!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Does Facebook wreck your marriage?

In a recent news report it was stated that "more than a third of divorce filings last year contained the word Facebook, according to a survey by Divorce Online, a UK-based legal services firm. And over 80% of U.S. divorce attorneys say they've seen a rise in the number of cases using social networking, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers" (Quentin Fottrell, Wall Street Journal).

SERIOUSLY!? Come on people. Can we get a grip on reality for a moment here. This is not the first time we have heard this as a society. The divorce rate in our country has been floating between 41% to 51% for a long time. The usual reason cited for the split has been "irreconcible differences" which can sometimes be ambiguous and all encompassing, but it is what it is.

According to divorcerate.org  the age at marriage for those who divorce in America
AgeWomenMen
Under 20 years old27.6%11.7%
20 to 24 years old36.6%38.8%
25 to 29 years old16.4%22.3%
30 to 34 years old8.5%11.6%
35 to 39 years old5.1%6.5%
So, according to the above numbers, the younger you are when you marry, the more likely you are to divorce. Okay---no suprises there. I heard this college and I teach that in my sociology class when we cover marriage and family. But I am curious to know if the recent influx of divorce petitions citing social media includes more young adults or more middle aged adults?

Are people so starved for attention and emotional connection that the spend a superfluous amount of time online and on social media websites? Here's a thought, get off the computer, put the laptop away, delete the apps off of your phones and ask yourself, "what are my children going to learn from me/us about men? About women? About conflict resolution? About marriage? About divorce? About life?"

I am not saying that every marriage will work out or even that everyone should stay together. I mean, my parents have been seperated for over a year now and I whole heartedly feel that they are better apart than they were together. What I am trying to say is don't hide behind a computer and complain about your spouse/partner or attempt to emotionally connect with someone else via emails, posts, or IMs. Put that effort into your marriage first! If you need counseling or mediators, seek out those people who can help you face to face. Don't give away pieces of you self online or hide behind it. No excuses. Take time to repair and reconnect. It is a simple, but significant choice. It won't be easy, but it might be worth it (for both people) because if it doesn't challenge you it doesn't change you.

Articles referenced in this post:
 http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/05/21/does-facebook-wreck-marriages/
http://www.divorcerate.org/

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"D" is for date night

The importance of date nights – why don’t we rate that importance? If we asked you to rate date nights on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest score, what would you give it?

Do you remember your first date with your special someone? I do. My husband and I started dating in December of 2004. We were both freshmen in college. We were at church one evening and he asked if I would be interested in going to the movies with him to go and see "Blade 3" and I said yes. I remember the day of our date going to the mall and buying a new shirt to wear because I wanted to look nice. I never would have thought that three years later he would have been the man I was going to marry, but I think God had other things in mind because he and I both needed each other....we just didn't know it yet.

I have always looked forward to spending time with husband and it is so important to make the time
for each other, even more so now that we have a baby. We live in an ever flowing fast paced society and it is very easy for married couples to get lost in that hussle and bussle. Sometimes, living the day to day occupies the forefront of our thinking like "I need to go grocery shopping," or "I had such a crazy, frustrating day at work." Insert the saying that fits your life because we all have one. Is it possible that if we spent only a quarter or more of our time and energy on our marriages that people would be happier or more satisfied in their relationships?

At our house, date night can be simple with takeout and a movie or a dinner out with drinks and dessert and both are equally enjoyable. I am blessed to have in laws who are willing and able to take our daughter for a while or a night to give me and my hubby time to our selves. I recognized that not everyone would be comfortable with something like that, but it is what works for our family. Date night are not simply excuses to get away from the kids though. It is a chance to talk and get reacquainted with one another. It offers you the opportunity to talk and remember the reasons you wanted to be together in the first place.

You can start out slowly (and cheaply if necessary) by making date night a once a month event. Here is a list of fun dating ideas: http://strongermarriage.org/htm/dating/fun-dating-ideas. No matter how simple, the time you spend with your spouse or partner is very significant. So, make time for it. You might just be surprised by the impact!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Do You Speak Coupon?

So if you have read my "coupons are awesome" post, you know that I have a small addiction to
couponing! And what I want to share today is a small break down of how to read coupon "lingo" on the coupon blogs.

The blogs do the match ups for you so all you need to do is reading the weekly matchups, find the coupons you need or want to use and then go shopping! Remember, it takes a while to build your coupon stock so never fear, you will eventually be able to have a stock pile!

 When I first started couponing, my stock piling began with toiletry items such as shampoo, conditioner, razors, shaving cream and hair gel. I did a lot of shopping at CVS and Walgreens. It wasn’t until later when I had more coupons to work with that I was able to stock up on food and pantry items. I use coupons and sales to purchase stuff we need---not random stuff. I do have some brand loyalty but it’s flexible. I want the best deal for buck. I shop mostly at Publix now. I occasionally go to Winn-Dixie and Wal-Mart.

When looking at the coupon match-ups for a particular store, these abbreviations will be used regularly:
BOGO & B1G1 or B1G2
= Buy one Get one free (or two free)
Blinkie = Coupon that comes out of a box hanging on the shelf
GM = General Mills insert
Hangtag = Coupon hanging from a product bottle
MFR = Manufacturers
OOP = Out of Pocket
OYNO = On your next order
P&G = Proctor and Gamble Insert
Q = Coupon
RP insert = Red Plum Insert
SS insert = Smart Source insert
WYB = When you Buy

Again, check out my favorite websites: www.mycouponexpert.com, www.divinesavings.com and
www.southernsavers.com

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Coupons are Awesome

I got started with serious couponing a few months after I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Prior to getting serious about couponing, I was what you might call a "casual" couponer who might only use a coupon now and then--not necessarily when the item was on sale.

A co-worker of mine is a serious couponer. I mean, you have to do something when you have four kids! She showed me her coupon binder and invited me to go a work shop with her. So I went to the workshop and I did learn a little bit about the couponing game like you can use two manufacturer coupons on a BOGO deal or if you use a BOGO coupon on a BOGO deal the offer the items are FREE---you just pay tax! How awesome is that?

So do you want to get started? If so here is what I did thanks to mycouponexpert.com. First thing you
need to do is purchase your Sunday papers every week and before leaving the store, check the papers to make sure the coupons are there! For those people starting out, I would start with 4 papers a week. I will note that it is easy to get disorganized sometimes with the papers. Here is my dining room table right now:


But never fear it is easy to get coupon organized. All you need to do is go through the papers and pull of the inserts, file and date them. Here is how I organize my coupon file:
It takes some time to get your coupon file stocked with coupons, but once you do it is worth the savings you can build for your family. Some of the websites that I use are:
www.mycouponexpert.com
www.divinesavings.com
www.southernsavers.com
Good luck getting started! And be forewarned, once you start couponing.....it will be hard to stop! Stay tuned to more tips, tricks and super savings stories.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Books are the best

I love to read! And that's not just the reading teacher in me talking. I look back on my childhood and it was full of books. I remember reading the Bearenstein bears, gold spine books, and Dr. Suess. I always looked forward to the book fairs at school---best week ever! I think one of my favorite book fair purchases was, "The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales" by: Jon Scieszka.
 
I distinctly remember my 4th and 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Gridley, reading books to the class the last little bit of the day. She read, "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" by AVI and "The Sign of the Beaver" by Elizabeth George Spear to name a few. I remember doing AR (accelerated reader) tests and seeing my name on a paper star in the library from earning 100 points or more during the year.
 
My reading tastes vary from genre to genre. Some of my favorite books include:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

I could read those books over and over and enjoy them everytime! They are proudly displayed on my bookshelf in my living room. Other authors I have enjoyed, Denise Hunter (christian romance), Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Series (yes! I will admit that I have read and own the movies and books. This series might not be one of my favs but it was an enjoyable teen read. Not mind blowing for an adult, but entertaining), Sophie Kinesella, Cecelia Ahern, Allie Condie, Veronica Roth, Lauren Oliver, and Dan Brown. I have recently read "The Help" By Kathryn Stockett and "Water for Elephants" By Sara Gruen (*contains some sexuality) and I would recommend those books to anyone who has not read them yet.

Books help us to take a break from reality and let your imagination have a moment. We get ideas about what we think the characters look like. We root for the hero, cry for losses, gasp at shocking moments and keep turning the pages to find out what happens next---sometimes to the point where you count down the days until the next book is released (and you rush to the book store to get your copy in the early morning air).

If you haven't made the time to read in a while, I encourage you to do so. You might not be able to read a book in sitting, but reading for 20 minutes or so here and there could be just time to your self you need. You can make reading a family affair---read aloud to your child or vice versa---great memories can be made there.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Introduction to Mommyhood

My introduction to mommyhood was not picture perfect or "hallmarkesqe." It was scary, exhausting and full of tears. I am sure that it is like that for many first time mommies, but I personally didn't hear those stories in the 40 weeks leading to my daughter's birth. In a round about way, you know that it is going to be hard, an adjustment of sorts, but really that's an understatement!

The night before I went to the hospital to be induced, I could not sleep. I woke up at 1:30 am wide awake. I decided to watch some TV in the living and see if I could catch some last minute ZZZs before 4:30 am (when the alarm was supposed to go off initially to be at the hospital by 6 am). Alas, "Cake Boss" did not put me to sleep and thus began my bout with sleeplessness because let's face it hospital rooms and beds are SO UNCOMFORTABLE you do get much sleep. Plus, I was recovering from a c-section so I was oober-sore (not to mention the late night feedings.)

I was very blessed upon returning home to have my husband to be at home with me for Avery's first two weeks and a devoted mother in law who I don't know what we would have done without her. Sleep continued to still be elusive at home. I tried the whole "sleep when the baby sleeps" things and it wasn't working. I couldn't nap because of the stress and hyper attentiveness to the baby. So more tears there. I my mind, I thought that post partum depression was knocking at my door for real. Looking back on those first few weeks, I definitely think it would have gone a lot better if there was a little more sleep, but it was my first child and I didn't know what I was doing per se. I would say I did not get decent sleep for a few weeks. Avery had her days and nights mixed up for a while, but we got that switched back normal---lots of light and noised during the day, dark and quite at night. The introduction to mommyhood has a learning curve full of hormones!

It wasn't just the lack of sleep that was an adjustment. It was the what I like to refer to as "the death of what my marriage used to be." When a baby comes into your world, it's no longer about you and your spouse, it's about the baby and what the baby needs when the baby needs it. Period--no ifs ands or buts about it. Our whole home life had to readjust. There were thoughts and spats of "what were we thinking?" and "I never want to do this again!" It really sheds a light on how selfish we are sometimes when we are called to be unselfish. But we adjusted and got through it---together.

Now six  months and many diapers later we're still here. One little happy family. I could write so much more here, but I will save those "adventures in mommyhood" stories for later posts. In closing, I am thankful to the "village" of people who loved and supported me during this introduction period. I am grateful and I will pass it on whenever I get the chance.