Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Soul Pancake

Must say I really enjoy the idea and execution of Interesting and incredibly civil conversation about important stuff, big and small.

Why is Bargain Shopping a Thrill?

Perhaps it's because I feel like an organized super mama - but I left Target feeling so delighted when I got two boxes of Snickers Ice Cream Bars and two T-shirts for my daughter for 5 bucks and change. I can't help but wonder why!

What is the thrill of the bargain hunt all about? Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Making Dinner When You Really Don't Feel Like It

After a long day of work, I often find myself standing in the kitchen at about 5:30 with a darling toddler at my feet, thinking, Oy.

I know, I know, make a meal plan, have something in the freezer, I know. There are so many great sites and resources and plans out there for this. But when I haven't gotten it together, and I haven't got a plan, my husband and I usually share a knowing glance to admit defeat and start discussing carry-out options.

Now, carry-out is great! I can't imagine life without pizza and other good dinners cooked for me by a professional. But after 3, 4, 5 nights in a row, it starts to get old and we start to not feel good from eating less than healthy food. And even fast food can quickly add up to a major monthly expense if you're eating it every night.

So what to do? When I can, when I can muster the physical and emotional strength, I borrow the old Nike phrase and just fricking do it. Even though I don't feel like it, even though nothing sounds good and the kitchen is likely a mess, I just take a deep breath and dive in. I move dirty dishes to the side or out of the way, wash out my favorite saute pan, take out any wilted vegetables that need to be used and grab something--anything--from the freezer, and maybe some pasta or grains from the pantry and then start hacking away at putting SOMETHING on the table.

Nine times out of ten, within 30 minutes we've eaten something (protein, starch, veg, dessert) and have moved on. We've saved $20, a bunch of calories, and used something that needed to be used. It feels great!

And yes, sometimes, it doesn't really come together. A sandwich plan can fall through if we don't have bread. A breakfast-for-dinner plan can quickly become toast and pototoes if I find we're out of eggs once the hash browns are already frying. But it's easy enough to laugh and head out after giving it the old college try, right?

My new motto: Dive into Dinner!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Reader's Digest Condensed Haterade

I find that happy dancing white people wedding video truly delightful. I really do. But I knew the haters would be out there and I was interested to see what they would find to diss. Here are a few select comments from a Minnesota newspaper web site:

Juvenile,immature, typical 21st century brats who have watched too much "American Idol" The world revolves around them.

[Ed. note: Which century would you prefer our young people to have been born in?]

Nice way to act in a Church!
What are they going to do next in a Church? Simulate sex?

[Ed: Can I get you some more punch, Temperance? Or do you want your buggy brought round now...]

Wedding Industrial Complex
The whole wedding thing ("My Big Daaaaayyyy") is such a waste of money - for everyone involved.

[Ed: You made the list for your comment title alone.]

The funny part will be when this video comes back up after they divorce.

[Ed: Someone might need a hug. And that someone might be you.]

I'll leave you with someone's even-handed approach which sums up why I really love the thing:

Even though they do look dumb, mainly being that they really can't dance, at least they had fun.

Amen to that. Write that on my gravestone, people!

Friday, July 24, 2009

I just love the web site Hey It's Free! Otherwise, how would I know about cool stuff like this free sample of Gain with Febreeze. Dudes over there keep me in the KNOW.

Choking Hazard I Hadn't Thought Of

After my daughter got hold of a cassette tape and pulled out enough tape that I decided to throw it away rather than spend the time rewinding it, I briefly paused over the trash can to see if there was any earthly use for the materials I could come up with before pitching it. Because I'm Collier crazy like that.

That's when I realized, wow. Cassette tape is strong. And long. I wrapped it around my own neck and pulled... and the result wasn't pretty. Hopefully my neighbor didn't catch a glimpse of that interesting sight through the kitchen window.

So in the event that you have both small children and cassette tapes, take note! (I realize I may very well be the last one on earth!)

Mars Free Chocolate Fridays Continue

Why is this promotion able to make me so happy? When you sign up they send you a postcard good for a free candy bar. What's the big deal? If someone handed me 50 cents, would I be as delighted? I doubt it. There's just something fun about getting a little sweet something for free.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I love when artists give out free content, because, hey--that's a cool thing to do.

That's why I had to check it out when I saw that Coldplay is allowing free downloads of a live album called LeftRightLeftRightLeft if you enter your email address. Nice!

I think I may have listened to X&Y about 1,000 times to date. Just love the lyrics and beats.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cheap Thrill: Sephora Beauty Insider Birthday Present

The Sephora Beauty Insider Program is a typical retail rewards program. Membership is free. But what I really love about it is the annual birthday present! Show your card and receive a birthday gift. This year it was trio of very nice lip little glosses. I kept one for myself and shared the other two with my sisters. Yes, I glossed it forward.

Driven to Distraction by Distracted Drivers?

Then you'll want to check out Maureen Dowd's column today about the dangers of driving while distracted by devices.

I've been known to confiscate my husband's Blackberry before he takes my daughter out for a drive. Because I undestand the addictive allure of it, I really do. But my empathy would not extend into forgiveness if crashed with our baby because he was reading a Google Alert.

I recently turned off my own phone. I weaned myself by first removing the email and Internet connection, then turning off the phone all together. It seemed like such a radical decision, and I dickered over it for weeks, but now that it's gone, so what? The world has kept right on turning, and I'm not spending $70+ bucks a month to make myself available to others 24/7.

It's also kind of fun to announce to others that you don't have a phone, just to see the jaws slacken. And that makes me feel kind of cool and smug. I'm a rebel, baby. With a baby. And no phone to call my own.

I'm a Loyal Subject of the Queen of Free

I love the Queen of Free! She researches freebies from the Web and posts almost daily. She has a bright, positive tone and is fun and easy to read. Check her out!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to Hack Cheap Alternatives to Your Usual Fun Activities.

The U.S. economy has many of us on edge and feeling insecure. Even weekends and downtime can be a drag. After all, most ways that we kick back and relax involve spending money. And if spending money on recreational stuff is now kicking up your stress level--well, that sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Here are some replacement activities meant to fake you out and let you have fun in similar ways.

Old economy: Shopping.
New economy: Shopping at the library!

For those who find the act of browsing, selecting, and purchasing things to be a high form of recreation (ladies, I'm talking to you!) the library could be a lifesaver for you. You get to wander around... pick stuff out... take it to the checkout, swipe your plastic, and leave laden with more things than you came in with. Come on, it's sort of like a trip to TJ Maxx! I highly recommend trying this when you're jonesin' shopping. Just make sure you return everything on time to avoid late fees!

Old economy: Drinks with friends at the bar.
New economy: Drinks with friends on your porch.

For the cost of one apple-cosmo-choco-tini, you can pick up enough sauce to show all your friends a good time. Invite the gang to your house instead of doing a night on the town. You offer snacks, your friends will bring something to share... and a fun time will be had by all. The only thing missing is the gang of desperados who "accidentally" brush up against you as your try to order a drink. Ew.

Old economy: Taking weekend trips (or what Bridget Jones would call Mini-Breaks).
New economy: Fun day trips. (Cue the Beatles song!)

Google Maps is brilliant for helping you find weird, cool attractions within 50 or 100 miles of your home. Strawberry picking? Barbecue festival? Water of any kind? Fun may be closer to home than you think. It's amazing how getting just 20 miles away in any direction can seem like you've traveled to a strange and different land. This works both ways, from cities to country, from country to city--even from city to neighboring city.

Old economy: Major Leagues.
New economy: Little League.

Is there a free or cheap equivalent of the sporting events you love? If your company no longer has box seats for the professional football team, or if you can't swing the $18 hot dogs at the big ballpark this year, opt for a local version. High school or local college games can be super fun. You'll love rooting for the youngin's, and the experience is pretty similar. Park, sit, cheer, eat nachos, halftime, eat more nachos, leave. Right?

Old economy: Buying video games/toys/clothes for your kids willy nilly.
New economy: Buy cool, old school things that are super cheap and super fun,

I KNOW it's tempting to buy for them. I know, I know! You want them to be happy! You want them to be spared the grief, the shame, the utter humiliation you once felt when your parents denied you some basic human comfort such as a Sony Walkman or actual name brand Keds. But a dollar saved is--thanks to Uncle Sam--more like $1.40 earned. And most of the dollars you spend on more stuff for your kids is a waste.

But you can see little Danny playing with this one thing! You see him interested, happy, engaged, laughing, even SMARTER from the presence of this developmentally appropriate toy in his life! Look at him there, occupying himself and leaving you alone!

NO! Chase this image from your mind. This plastic piece of crap will go where all plastic crap goes to die in your home: your floor. In pieces. And Danny is not going to pick it up, laughing, with apple-y cheeks. You are. Unless you slowly put it back on the shelf. And step. Away.

But the point of this post is about replacing fun things with cheaper, fun things. So instead of fancy high tech toys, how about checking out all the top toys from the past? I'm talking silly putty, Play-Doh, yo-yos, kites, bubbles, sidewalk chalk. For older kids, try Uno, chess, checkers, a soccer ball, or a magic set. You could purchase several of these items for the price of one Wii game. And you'll probably get as many hours of entertainment, if not more.

Old economy: Buying $400 shoes.
New economy: Just don't.

Sorry, there's no fun replacement for expensive shoes. I do love and cherish Payless, but it's not going to replace the Nordstrom shoe department anytime soon. If you're facing financial trouble, you're just gonna have to lose out on this particular thrill. But hey, who wants to be Carrie Bradshaw now that she's just in cable reruns?

What old/new economy combos can you think of? Remember, the idea is to get a similar rush, but to pay less!