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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back to College: Beating the Bookstore Again

Here are a few more tips to help you beat the bookstore:

Refunds - If you buy from the bookstore, make note of the refund policies. For a number of days, you'll be able to get a full refund on the books you buy (with a receipt of course) but after the deadline passes, you will not be able to get a refund. Instead the clerk will tell you that you have to wait until the buy back period at the end of the semester.

Beware of the Buy Back - Unless you just cannot stand to look a book for another second, and you have no hope of selling it elsewhere, or you desperately need money now, I don't advise selling your book to the bookstore.

I participated in the Buy Back program a few times when I was in jr. college to sell books that I had absolutely no use for, and as my husband would say, "it's a big racket."

Here's an example of what I mean: First, they only have a demand for a certain number of books, so by the time you go to sell your book, they may have reached their quota, and won't buy your book at all. But in a way that's a good thing, because if you sell your book to them, you won't get much for it. For example, say you bought a new book for $100. The bookstore will probably pay you $40 for that book. (maybe a little more or less, depending on what kind of book it is), but they will then turn around and resell that book for about $75 (more or less). And it goes on from there, when the next person who buys the book for $75 participates in buy back and only gets $30, and then the book is resold again for a greater value. (so they can profit again and again)

Sell the Books on Your Own
If you don't want to keep your old textbooks, and you don't feel that the bookstore is willing to pay a fair price for them, then you're better off to try to sell the book elsewhere.

Ask your friends and classmates if they are interested in the book. They will be happy to buy the book from you rather than buying from the bookstore, and if they don't need what you have, they probably know someone who does. Or you can make flyers and post them on the bulletin board. Use the college's online message board if possible to advertise your books or advertise on Facebook to a broader audience.

You can also use ebay, amazon, or some of the other websites that I listed in the previous post to sell your books. A few weeks ago I also found out about this website where you enter in the ISBN for your books, and the site makes you an offer for the books & even pays the postage for you to send them the books. It's called Cash4books. I'm not sure how much they'll offer you. It may not be as much as the bookstore offers, or it may be more. I suggest getting an appraisal on this site, and then going to the bookstore to find out how much they offer, and then you can go from there.

In truth, if you're being offered $20 for sure, then you may not want to hold out for $35 potential dollars on ebay. It's up to you, but as for me, when I pay money for a book, I'd rather keep it, than just give it away for practically nothing, and allow the bookstore to profit from it again...but that's just me. =)

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Back to College: Beating the Bookstore

After being in school for 2 or 3 years, I finally decided to check online about buying some used books, and I was very surprised to find that I could get used book for about half the cost of the used books at my school, and used books that were about 1/4 the cost of a new book at my school. Obviously this adds up to huge savings when you take a book that's $50 new and $30 used at the bookstore, and you can find it for $15 or $20 online, or when you find a $100 book for $35 or $40

Here are some tips & strategies that will help you to save money on textbooks (and all books for that matter.)

1. Buy used.

2. Buy an older edition of the book. - Often they put out a new edition of a book, and there are no used copies. You may just have to grit your tooth and shell out the dough for the new book, but you may also consider locating an older edition online. You should check with the professor to find out if it's okay to get an older edition first. Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to buy the new book, as the newer book may contain important passages that the old book did not. (lit books & math books can't really be substituted b/c they make changes) But in some cases, (such as with history books & some social studies books) there really is not much change in the content of the book, and the teacher may allow you to use an older version if it is available to you. The very first day I attended classes, my history professor put this way: "We have a new book this semester. If you know someone who has the older edition, feel free to use it instead. The new book offers no new information that you'll need. Basically every couple of years, they decided to add one or two new photos, rearrange a couple of chapter, jack the price up $10, and then you get screwed." This sentiment surprised me, as I didn't expect the professor to feel that way, let alone say it, but I've found it to be true nonetheless. So if the teacher allows, find an older edition of the book.

3. Buy at the off campus bookstore. If you go to the college bookstore, and they are out of used books, then go off campus. Off campus bookstores generally have a good selection of new & used books, and they are generally a good bit cheaper. But just as with the college store, used books will be the first to go at the off campus store as well, so you need to shop there early.

4. Buy from fellow students. If you look around campus, you'll find flyers on bulletin boards, where people are trying to sell their old books. They are selling them b/c either the bookstore met its buy back quota and would not buy their book back, or because they didn't like the price that the bookstore wanted to pay them for the book. Either way, they want to get rid of that book, and they will be willing to sell to you at a lower price than what the bookstore offers.

5. Facebook. I've been told that a lot of students are now advertising the sell of their old books through facebook.

6. School's Online Messageboard - Same concept. Some school's now have an online email or message board system that allows students to post up books that they are selling (or books they are looking to buy.)

7. Library - A lot of the textbooks needed for various classes should be available at the school library. You'll need to go early if have any hopes of checking them out, and there may be a limit on how long you can borrow them for, but it's definitely something to look into.

8. Book Swap/Trade/Borrow - Talk with friends about the classes that you (and they) are taking or have taken. You may be able to work out a trade, or do some book borrowing. For instance, my husband loaned out a lot of books to friends who took classes that he had already taken. And I had a friend who needed a math book that I had, so I gave him the math book, and he gave me a psych book.

9. Buy Online - This is a sure way to get a good deal of 50-75%, but it does take time to do the research to find all the books you need and make sure you're getting a good deal, so you have to get started early. Here are a few sites to consider:
Ebay - I bought most of my books on ebay and saved a ton.
Amazon - I haven't bought as many books here, but I did buy a couple here when they weren't available on ebay. - I haven't used this site, but apparently you list books here that you are willing to swap for others. I'm not sure if there's an option to buy a book without swapping or not, but I did read that you get 2 free books, whenever you list a book for the first time. - buy/sell books on this site
abebooks - buy/sell books
You can find more by simply searching "Buy textbooks" on your internet search engine.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Back to College: Basic Textbook Q & A

There are a number of things to consider when getting ready to buy textbooks. To get started, I put together this Q&A about some basic concepts of textbook buying procedures.

Should I buy books before classes start or wait until after the first meeting?
It depends on how you look at it and what your situation is. Buying early is a great way to avoid waiting in long lines, and if you're planning to buy used books, buying early will help you to ensure that you get the used books before they sell out. Also, if there is absolutely no chance that you will drop the class, I suggest buying your books early.

However, if you are sort of "feeling" your way through, and you think there is a possibility that you may drop a class that you're unsure about/nervous about, you may want to attend a class before you actually buy the book, in order to avoid having to return the books later. Even if you just decide to postpone the class for another semester, and you keep the books, the books that you have may not be the ones used when you sign up for the class again.

Can I use financial aid to buy books?
This depends on your school's financial aid policy. In some cases aid is not disbursed for a couple of weeks, and there is no system to deduct the cost of books from you account, so you will need to buy them with your own money. On the other hand some schools will allow you to come and pick up your books ahead of time using financial aid, and the amount will be deducted from your account. Meanwhile other schools will let you use financial aid, but they won't actually allow you to pick up books until the first day of class. Just go several weeks ahead of time to find out what the policies are at your school.

If a book for one of my classes is labeled, "Optional," "Supplemental," or "Not Required," should I buy it? I personally like to have all the books even if they're not required (as long as it doesn't cost an arm & a leg). But often these "unrequired"books are just an added reference, a study guide, or it may be that the book is used by some teachers and not others. If a book on your list is "Not Required," I suggest visiting the professor or waiting until the first day of class before buying the book. (And keep in mind, often these "supplemental" texts are not returnable.)

My school uses to sell books online. Should I use this service or buy on campus?
Efollet is a convenient way to order your books, and it allows you to have the books shipped to your home or you can choose to pick them up at the bookstore, and it's great because it saves you time (& a trip to the school, if you live away). The price will be the same whether you use the website or purchase them from the school store (except that you have to pay shipping costs to get them sent to your home). In fact, when you buy from efollet, the clerks at your school store will actually be the ones that fill the order (at least that's the way it is at the schools I've had experience with). The good thing about buying books in person at your store is that you get to pick them out yourself, which means if you're buying a used book, you can choose between getting a nice looking used book versus one that may be torn or written in.

Do I have to buy books from my book store?
No. You have other options. In short, there are several reputable sites where you can buy new & used books online. And most likely there is an off campus bookstore that sells the books you need at a lower price than the school store. In the next post, I'll be pointing out some more specific ways that you can get your books online and offline and save money (up to 50 & 75% or possibly more).

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Back to College: Textbook Dollars

For the final week of this "Back to College" series, I'll be focusing on textbooks. Even if you have no kids in college and don't go to college yourself, you probably buy books for yourself & family (which can also be quite expensive), and your tax dollars go toward buying elementary & secondary school books for public schools, so this is an interesting and relevant topic for everyone.

In the upcoming posts, I'll have some tips on buying and selling textbooks (which can be applied to everyday books as well), and I'll have some other information to keep in mind before buying your college textbooks.

But first, I wanted to share this information about where the money actually goes when you buy textbooks (and other books for that matter). I first saw this information on a poster outside my college bookstore...I guess they know that everybody complains about the costs of books, so they felt a need to explain themselves.

The information I'm posting here was published in 2003 (sorry I couldn't find a more updated version), but I expect that the numbers are probably about the same today (with perhaps the exception of Freight, which I'm sure is now a slightly bigger percentage of the total cost) You can take a look at the actual chart of this information here: Where The New Textbook Dollar Goes

Here is a summary of the info -

For Every One Dollar Spent on Textbooks:
32.3 cents goes to Publisher's Paper, Printing, and Editorial costs (production)
11.6 cents goes to Author income (research & writing costs)
10 cents Publisher's General & administrative (state & fed taxes)
15.4 cents Publisher's advertising costs (marketing, sending out free copies, etc)
7.1 cents Publisher's income (after they pay taxes -goes toward new product developement & paying dividends to stock holders)
1.2 cents Freight (this amount has probably risen, in conjunction with gas prices)
11.3 cents for College Bookstore personnel
6.6 cents for college store operations
4.5 cents (pre-tax) for college bookstore income

To me, the most interesting part of this data is that the bookstore gets a total of 22.4% of the money. Obviously they have to pay for employees & operational costs, and we could sit and argue all day long about whether schools & publishing companies are profiting too much from poor students, and we'd never agree on a definitive answer...but I think that if the school book store is there to serve the students (& without the students there is no bookstore), they should make no more than a limited profit. (and of course, in addition to the 22.4% they make from the sell of new books, they also profit again when they buy back the book for practically nothing and then resell it for a higher amount than it was bought back for.)

I mean no offense to those who work at college bookstores, most clerks that I've met are very nice people (and you guys don't set the price or buy back policies). But I've never met a single student or teacher that doesn't think the cost of textbooks is too high, so I wanted to highlight this issue and try to help people who will be buying textbooks for the first time in the next few months or years, and I think the percentages on this chart are interesting to look at as an introduction to the topic.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Menu Plan Monday for July 28

This week I've included some pictures of the poulet I made last week, and I've added the recipe here again, just in case anyone missed it last week. The recipe turned out very well. My husband was a little unsure when he first heard what I was making, but when he saw it on his plate and had a taste, he was more than pleased. And for future reference, I found that this recipe was enough to feed us for at least two days. (possibly more, depending on how hungry my husband is)

And between that and the large pot of alfredo pasta that I made last week, we had so much leftovers that I never even got around to fixing some of the other items on last week's menu, so I decided to just move them up to this week (making for an easy menu planning session, which is good because I've had a headache all day!). Happy Monday!

Monday - Chicken Cordon Blue

Tuesday - Tuna Noodle Casserole

Wednesday - leftovers

Thursday - spaghetti w/ garlic bread & salad

Friday - Red Beans & Rice, corn, rolls

Saturday - eat out

Sunday - breakfast stuff

Pictures of Poulet from Last Week:

Recipe for Poulet:
Stuffing Mixture:
1 pkg. stuffing mix
1 stick melted butter
1 c. water or chicken broth

Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl.

Chicken Mixture:
2 1/2 c. cooked chicken, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp. salt

Other ingredients:
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup cream of mushroom soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Butter casserole dish. Layer stuffing, chicken mix and then stuffing mix again. Beat eggs and add milk. Pour over casserole (do not pack or smooth down, leave loose). Let chill in refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight. Before baking, pour cream of mushroom soup over top and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Take out and sprinkle cheese over top of casserole. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

If you'd like to participate in MPM visit I'm An Organizing Junkie.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Recipe of the Week: Crab Appetizer Napoleons

I've been doing a lot of desserts lately, so I decided to post an appetizer for this week's recipe. This crab appetizer comes from Pepperidge Farm, and as you can see it looks very colorful on a party platter. This a great recipe for a summer party, a wedding, a shower, or for just snacking around the house.

1/2 pkg. Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet)
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. prepared horseradish
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 can (about 6 oz.) refrigerated pasteurized crabmeat, drained
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup sliced almond Paprika
THAW pastry sheet at room temperature 30 min.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
UNFOLD pastry sheet on lightly floured surface.
Cut into 12 rounds, using 2" cookie cutter. Place 2" apart on baking sheet. Bake 15 min. or until golden. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.
STIR cream cheese until smooth. Stir in milk, horseradish, pepper and crabmeat.
SPLIT pastries into 2 layers, making 24 layers in all. Spread crabmeat mixture on 12 bottom layers. Top with onions, almonds and top layers. Sprinkle with paprika. Makes 12 Napoleons.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Back to College: Dorm Room Supply List, Part 2

Here is part 2 of my dorm supply list. Boy, this looks like a lot of's very easy to see why college kids on their way home for the summer have their cars packed to the ceiling with stuff. It's crazy to think of just how much stuff we need...even with just the bare essentials.

    Household items

    • Vacuum cleaner (the dorm may have one for tenant/community use, but a lot of students prefer to have their own)
    • Alarm clock
    • Desk lamp
    • Towels and washrags
    • Microwavable Plates, bowls, eating utensils. (disposable or reusable)
    • Laundry hamper/basket
    • Garbage can (and bags)
    • Plastic drawers and/or storage bins/containers for extra clothes, shoes, bathroom items, dishes, snacks, etc.
    • Sheets, bedspread, pillows
    • If you have an actual kitchen area with stove, then you'll need pots, pans, cooking utensils, etc.
    • Can opener (something small and forgettable, but very important)
    • Additional appliances such as a toaster or a mini grill. (check dorm regulations b/f purchasing extra appliances.)
    • Hair dryer, etc.
      Clothes iron
    • flashlight (in case of power outage)
    • Fan
    • Mirror
    • Electric blanket (space heaters are usually not allowed)

    Everyday items

    • Groceries (drink, sandwich stuff, microwavables, easy prep stuff, snacks)
    • Laundry detergent & supplies
    • Dishwashing liquid
    • Handsoap
    • Several rolls of quarters for washing machine/dryer, coke machine, etc.
    • Cleaning supplies
    • Soap, shampoo, conditioner, razors, etc.
    • Plenty of clothes (especially if you live several hours from home and don't know how often you'll be coming home.)
    • Medicine & first aid items
    • Bathrobe (especially if you have a community bathroom)
    • Shower shoes (ditto)
    • Ziplok bags

    Decor/Personal touches

    • Pictures, posters, picture frames
    • Bulletin board and/or marker board
    • Figurines, souveniers, momentos
    • Small area rug


    • TV & DVD player, or personal dvd player
    • Video game system
    • Stereo
    • Ipod/MP3 player
    • Appropriate cables, cords, adaptors, surge proctectors, etc.
    • Camera (to capture all the memorable moments)
    • Bicycle, sports equipment
    • Books/magazines (I know it may sound a little archaic to some teenagers, but at least one or two shouldn't hurt them too much.)
    • Batteries
    • board games

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    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    Back to College: Dorm Room Supply List, Part 1

    With fall semester coming in just a few short weeks, parents and students will be flocking to Wal-Mart, the mall, office supply stores, and more to get all those must have dorm room supplies. But for a kid that's never lived away from home, and for a parent that's never sent a kid to college, it can be an overwhelming experience, and it can be hard even knowing where to begin when it comes time to shop for everything. The best thing to do is to sit down and make a list of items. It's best if you divide the list into categories for organizational purposes (and to make sure nothing is forgotten)

    But I don't think you ever really have an idea just how much time and effort goes in to preparing to move in to a dorm and how much stuff you actually need until you do it yourself or watch someone you know do it. The good thing about online schools is that you don’t need all these supplies. For that reason, I'm posting my own list here of college supplies.

    For the first half of my list you'll find School & Office Supplies, and Furniture/Big Items. And part 2 of this post will include Housewares, Everyday items, and Entertainment items.

    School Supply Items
    • #2 pencils
    • blue/black ink pens
    • Loose leaf paper and printer paper
    • Backpack
    • Planner
    • Wall calendar
    • Spiral notebooks or 3 ring binders (I prefer binders w/ clip & pockets b/c you can always add more paper, and it gives you a place to put handouts/syllabus/internet articles)
    • highlighters
    • Jump drive/Removable computer drive to store work. (a must!)
    • Computer (I recommend a laptop, must have internet/Microsoft office, Word is a must, and Adobe Reader)
    • Printer (good to have your own for 24/7 use, to save you a trip to the computer lab, and to keep you from having to pay for copies)
    • Post-it flags (I use these to mark my page in a book I'm reading and to flag important pages in books and articles)
    • Post-it notes (obviously to write reminders to yourself, but I also use these for research purposes...I leave the post-it note on the appropriate page, and make a note on the post-it about what is important on that page)
    • Stapler (for print outs and work that is to be handed in)
    • Hole punch (to place syllabi & handouts into a binder)
    • Paper clips (comes in handy for research projects)
    • Envelopes & stamps
    Other Office Supplies You Might Need
    • File box/cabinet (great to keep important notes and term papers, although for myself, I keep all my papers/notes in large binders)
    • Index cards (good for research notes)
    • Graphing calculator (if taking math/chemistry/etc)
    • Notepad
    • Tape
    • Tape recorder
    • file folders or folders with pockets (good for keeping up with and organizing research articles)
    • tab sheets
    • page protectors
    • For certain classes you may need other tools, software, or supplies as well.

    Furniture/Big items
    • Student desk (if one is not provided)
    • Mini Fridge
    • Microwave
    • Desk chair
    • Bookshelf (at least a 3-shelf, if you don't have a collection of books now, you'll have them soon. between text books & library books, they'll pile up soon.)
    • Futon, loveseat, or extra chairs
    • Night table
    • TV table/stand

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    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    Back to College: A "Major" Decision

    Continuing with my Back to College series, I decided to write this "little" essay on choice of major. This is a subject that my husband and I have discussed a lot with each other and with professors. And because it's such an important topic for students, I wanted to share this with you just as a little food for thought:

    (artwork credit - Trina Clark Designs -

    To begin, I want to say that while it is important to pick a major fairly early in order to take the proper courses and and prevent yourself from taking extra courses that you do not need for your degree, students should not feel pressured to pick a major before they begin classes. It's perfectly okay to spend a semester or two taking the core courses that count for just about any major without focusing on a major. During this time you can access your experience and decide what your real interests are. I actually started as a secondary education major (specializing in English) but during my first semester, I had the privilege of taking a history course under an extraordinary professor, who really took my interest in history to a whole new level, and for a while I thought about taking the proper courses to teach both. Then upon transferring to a new college for my junior year, I decided to drop the education major all together and get a straight BA degree in history and English both, so that I could focus on the subjects I love rather than focusing on methods and other things that have nothing to do with the subjects at hand.

    I've had a few visitors to my blog who tell me they were English majors too, and I'd bet that all of them got the same questions I got: "What are you going to do with your degree? Are you going to teach?" First of all, teaching is not the only job that you can get with a history or English degree. In fact, you can get a great paying job in any business as long as you have a degree, regardless of the major. Obviously you can't be a chemical engineer or lawyer, etc without the proper degree, but there are a lot of other options. A friend of mine who is a supervisor for 2 departments at a chemical plant actually majored in elementary ed. Another friend of mine is a manager for the research and development department at a major defense contractor, and he majored in journalism. And my husband is currently applying for positions that have nothing to do with his degree.

    Again, while it may be prudent to have some level of knowledge or experience in a particular field in order to obtain a position, just having a degree tells an employer that you are educated and that you're able to take on a big project and see it through. And often your degree may be more relevant to the job you're seeking than you think. (Ex: A history degree helps you develop research and writing skills. A biology degree gives you research and lab skills. A psychology degree would help you to understand people and help to analyze and solve problems.)

    Employers want workers with good written and oral communication skills. They want problem solvers and critical thinkers. They want workers who can get along with other people, who learn fast, and can teach/train others. And you can use just about any degree as evidence that you've developed these valuable aptitudes.

    As far as deciding on a major, I would advise that you (or you child) choose to study something that you (they) really love (regardless of the availability of jobs in that field or the money that can/can't be made). If you really want to be a nurse or a teacher, these are admirable professions that provide steady work, income, and benefits, but it also takes a certain kind of person to do these jobs, and if you're heart isn't in it, than you will either leave the job after a couple of years or stay in it for security reasons and possibly be miserable. The same can be said for higher paying professions like doctors, lawyers, accountants, and engineers.

    The fact is that college (higher education) evolved out of the ancient teaching of philosophy (meaning love of knowledge), and it began as a way to help students develop thinking and reasoning skills. It taught them to ask questions and ponder about the world they live in, in order to gain a better understanding of themselves and humanity. Unfortunately this no longer emphasized. We have become a more money driven society, and as a result of this, the purpose and intent of a college education has transformed into a means of getting a high paying job, rather than as a means of gaining knowledge and understanding about the world, helping humanity, and learning how to think.

    Obviously we all have to make a living for ourselves and our family, and today the best way of doing this is by pursuing a degree or a technical certification of some sort, and I applaud anybody and everybody who attempts and succeeds at doing this. But for my post today, I'd like to encourage people who are in college (or those who are sending their kids to college) to keep in mind that young students have an entire life ahead of them. And whether you spend your life in front of a classroom, behind a desk, or at construction site or plant, it would be wonderful if more students spent their 2, 4, or 6 years (or more) of college learning something more than a trade, that is, finding something that their interested in and learning more about it, whether that means actually majoring in art, psychology, creative writing, etc. or simply taking a few classes in a subject of interest. A good education lasts a life time and is worth its weight in gold no matter what you "do" with it.


    Sunday, July 20, 2008

    Menu Plan Monday for July 21

    I did a lot of thinking about this week's menu. The other day I was looking through my recipe books, and I found a couple of things that I had marked before and forgotten all about, so I'm planning to make some of those this week. One is a recipe of Chicken Poulet, which I'm sharing with you. I've also included a picture of the Chicken & Brocolli Alfredo that I made several weeks ago, which I'll be having again this week. Have a good Monday, and enjoy the rest of your week!

    Monday - Chicken & Brocolli Alfredo - the recipe calls for linguine, but for the pic below I used rotini instead.

    Tuesday - Chicken Poulet (new recipe, posted below)

    Wednesday - Leftovers

    Thursday - Spaghetti w/ garlic bread and salad

    Friday - Chicken & Cheese Quesadillas

    Saturday - Tuna Noodle Casserole

    Sunday - Leftovers

    Recipe for Poulet:

    Stuffing Mixture:
    1 pkg. stuffing mix
    1 stick melted butter
    1 c. water or chicken broth

    Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl.

    Chicken Mixture:
    2 1/2 c. cooked chicken, chopped
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    1/2 cup chopped onion
    1/2 tsp. salt

    Other ingredients:
    2 eggs
    1 1/2 cups milk
    1 cup cream of mushroom soup
    2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

    Butter casserole dish. Layer stuffing, chicken mix and then stuffing mix again. Beat eggs and add milk. Pour over casserole (do not pack or smooth down, leave loose). Let chill in refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight. Before baking, pour cream of mshroom soup over top and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Take out and sprinkle cheese over top of casserole. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

    Join in on all the fun meal planning action at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

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    Saturday, July 19, 2008

    Recipe of the Week: Strawberry Pie

    Now here's a perfect recipe for this time of year: Strawberry Pie. My dad got this recipe several years ago from a coworker, and it remains one of his favorite summer time recipes. The only difference is that he uses a baked pie crust out of the freezer section as opposed to the graham cracker crust. He also uses frozen strawberries when strawberries are not in season, and these taste just as good as the fresh ones. If you're a strawberry lover, you should give this one a whirl!

    2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    1-1/2 cups cold water
    1 package strawberry gelatin
    3 tablespoons sugar
    1 graham cracker crust (8 inches)
    2 cups whipped topping

    Directions: Set aside four whole berries for garnish. Slice remaining strawberries and set aside. In a large saucepan, combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in gelatin and sugar until dissolved. Stir in sliced strawberries. Pour into the crust. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Cut reserved strawberries in half. Garnish each serving with whipped topping and a berry half. Yield: 8 servings.

    Here's a thought: For a little something different, instead of strawberry flavored, try blueberry or raspberry. I'm also curious as to how this would be if you use orange jellow and little mandarine orange slices. mmm...

    I'm posting this for Recipe Exchange over at Life As Mom.

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    Friday, July 18, 2008

    Back to College: Financial Aid, Part 2

    The Positive Side of Getting Financial Aid Through Your School:

    • Convenience, you read the info. they give you and sign the proper paper work. They do the rest.
    • Easy to get a loan regardless of credit history, or lack their of.
    • You are guaranteed that you don't have to pay it back until you've been out of school for 6 months.
    • When the time comes to pay back, you have options for postponing payments
    Negative Side of Getting Financial Aid Through Your School

    • The school processes your loan & disburses it to you, and for doing that they take a small portion of your loan money.
    • Because they process your loan for you, they also control when and by what means you get your money. Years ago you would get a check within the first couple of weeks of classes(even on the first day of class in some cases). But as schools are adopting the corporate model, it is becoming a common practice to issue debit cards instead. I have nothing against debit cards, considering the fact that my husband and I have one with our 3 bank accounts. But I believe that when you take out a loan you should have the option of getting that loan in cash. Then there's also the issue of the school having your money in the bank of their choice (till you use the debit card), and of course, the debit card gives them the opportunity to monitor your purchases.
    • Also, if the school still gives you the option of having a check issued to you, it often comes from an out of state bank, which means that when you take it to your bank, they may put a hold on it, which means you won't be able to use the money for 2-4 weeks.
    • These loans often have a very high interest rate, and though the payment plans can be quite flexible, the interest adds up, and over time you will be in debt for a lot more than you had expected.
    • A lot of loan companies, like Sallie Mae, actually pay the school for the opportunity to process your loan. In turn, the loan company (subsidized by the govt) and charging you a huge interest rate, stands to profit from every loan they oversee.
    My Advice:

    • Shop around for a private loan from the institution of your choice. This is the only way you can truly get a competive interest rate and have total control over the kind of loan you take out, and ultimate control over the money you borrow. (& you don't have to give you're school a cut)

    My Experience:

    • The first two years I was in college, I got a government subsidized loan through Sallie Mae, which I'm currently paying. I won't go into all the details, but the following is a very revealing estimate of my payment history: My original loan balance was around $5250. And over the past year, I've been making payments, totalling nearly $1200, and yet my current loan balance is still over $5000. hmmm, the numbers don't add up to well, do they? But that's just an example of the high interest rates that can get tacked up to these government loans. Actually I've now talked it over with my husband, and I've decided in a couple of months when my husband and I start our new jobs, I'm going to begin making "large" payments on this loan until it is paid off.
    • Also, I had considered postponing my payments (after I had already begun paying) And I found out that I would have to pay a fee of $50 per loan in order to "process my request for forbearance," and each school year is counted as a separate loan. Since I was at my first school for 2 full years and then 1 extra semester, that means I have 3 loans, so I would have to pay them $150 before they would let me stop making payments, but since my monthly payment is lower than $150, why would I want to pay this amount?
    • As for my other loan, it is a William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. I will not begin making payments on it till sometime next year, and I believe the terms of this loan are far better than SM...but again, by getting the loan through my school, I had no real choice in the matter (and didn't have full control of the money) but when I start making the payments on this loan, I'll let you know how it goes from there.
    More Articles & Info on Sallie Mae:

    News America

    Buy a copy of Outrage

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    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    Back to College: Financial Aid, Part 1

    Money is often the deciding factor when it comes to what school we choose to attend or if we choose to attend at all, and long after the diploma is in hand, the financial burden is still felt.

    While I'm not an expert of student loans and financing, I have learned a few lessons about student loans and aid, and as I am currently paying back a student loan myself (and will begin to start paying my husband's very soon as well), I can tell you that I wish I knew then what I know now about student loans.

    So here are a few tips and basic info I've come up with:
    • If possible, begin saving for your child's tuition as soon as you can. Find a pre-paid college tuition program. (In which you put back a certain amount of money each month.) Or invest a little money in bonds or cds early on in your child's life, or at the very least start your child a savings account. (small deposits can add up)
    • Every college student is required to fill out financial aid application. (aka FAFSA)
    • Shortly after filling out your application, you'll get a "reward letter." If you receive a grant, you should definitely accept it, as this means that you will not have to pay the money back. But before you accept a loan, you should review how much money you actually need for tuition, room/board, books, transportation, etc. More than likely you will be "rewarded" more money than you actually need. If you don't need all the money they want to loan you, don't accept the loan. Instead except a reduced amount. (though if you are on a fixed income, the extra money may be of great help to you, so just use your best judgement.)
    • A few months before your first semester you need to talk to the people in charge of financial aid at your school to find out what the procedure is for paying tuition. Where I went to school, you had to pay tuition out of pocket, and the financial aid would later be disbursed to you. However, at the school where my husband currently goes, his tuition is subtracted from his financial aid total, which means he doesn't have to have the money ahead of time. (very valuable information to have)
    • Also, when you receive you're reward letter, don't forget to turn it in to your school's financial aid department, and make certain that the person you give it to does something with it. If you're reward letter is not signed, turned in, and processed you will not get your aid money on time (if at all). I ran in to this problem myself when the person I handed my reward letter to failed to deliver it to the proper person for processing.
    • If you mail in tuition money and/or reward letters, it is a good idea to call about a week later to confirm that it was received and processed into their system. If for some reason there is a glitch or an oversight, and you don't take care of it before the start of semester, then you will have a big headache on your first day.
    • And this is important tip: If possible, avoid getting the loan through the government & the school at all! Instead shop around for a private loan with a competitive interest rate. And when you get your school's reward letter, just decline the loan. More on this, on the next post.
    • Adding to my last point which I will expound upon in the next post, I advise you to be especially careful if your school uses companies like Sallie Mae to process loans. If you have bad credit, and can't get a loan from a bank, than these loans will obviously have to suffice, however, they carry a very high interest rate, and if you ever miss payments or want to stop/postpone payments, you have to pay penalties which can cost you a lot of money.
    • While in school, you will be getting notices about paying interest early. If you are able to do this, I'd advise paying. But you don't have to. And before deciding on whether to pay or not, you need to look over your loan documents to make sure that the interest will not be compounded at the end of the year.
    • After graduation, if you're on a fixed income or don't yet have a well paying job to help you make the payments, postpone your payments for as long as you can. Once you start making the payments, it's hard to stop. However, be aware that the interest on your loan will continue to accumulate, and at the very least you should try to pay this every quarter.

    Next time, more on the positives and negatives of getting a loan through your school

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    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Back to College: Deciding Where to Go

    Things to Think About When Choosing a College:

    For many the first two on the list are the most important, but don't underestimate these other factors.

    • Location
    • Cost of tuition
    • Cost of room/board (if living away from home)
    • Programs/courses offered
    • Teachers/Faculty (a lot more important than you may think)
    • Social atmosphere of the campus

    After taking cost and location into account, it's very important to do your own research and really get informed about the colleges you are thinking about attending (or thinking about sending your kids too). Even if you are looking at community colleges or universities in your immediate area, the decision should not be taken lightly.

    • Always visit the campus before deciding to attend a college.
    • Use the internet to read about the colleges you are looking at attending (but take their message with a grain of salt...go see the place and meet the people yourself. Remember the website is designed to make you want to go there.)
    • Talk to students that attend the school.
    • When you go for your scheduled campus tour, take the opportunity to meet professors working in the department that you're most interested in.
    • And/Or contact "potential, future" professors by phone/email and let them know you're interested in their program. It's very important to find out about your instructors ahead of time, to find out about their classes, and their perspective on the subjects they teach, and their teaching philosophy.
    • Read department newsletters and school newspapers to find out what kind of cultural events are held at the school. (plays, exhibitions, guest speakers, ) While this may not seem important, it is because it can tell you a lot about the school's political leaning and agenda.
    • Also, when finding out about the college, you should find about about work study programs and inquire about student organization and the overall campus environment.
    • Prospective students should also consider attending a class or two to find out what the classroom environment is like. (or you can sign up to audit a class for a semester)

    Why This is Important to Me

    It may seem kind of silly that I devoted an entire post to "deciding where to go to college," and really in some cases it's just a no brainer that you would find out about a college before you go there. On the other hand, I know that a lot of people (myself included) attend a college because it's affordable and nearby. But I wanted to write this post as a word of caution to some.

    And here's why: My husband and I went to college together, and he's currently in graduate school. My husband has loved the subject of literature for his entire life. He is very passionate about it! Before he began attending grad school, he looked over the website of the college he currently attends, and it sounded like it would be a good fit for him. Unfortunately for him, he was never more wrong. He's taking the last of his classes right now, and all he has left is to write his thesis, but his love for the subject....his fire and flair, has fizzled out dramatically.

    He began with thirst for knowledge, and he's leaving with a bad taste in his mouth. This college, like many, is filled with teachers that bring their political beliefs in to the classroom, and they are very indifferent and even hostile to students who believe differently. And aside from that, they've taken a subject that my husband loves and changed it completely, focusing not on works of literature themselves, but on what's missing in the works and focusing more what critics say about the works, and they completely lack objectivity.

    I could go on longer, but for the sake of trying to keep this post as short as possible, I'll just leave it there. But if you have any questions or would like to know more about this, you can contact me and I'll be glad to answer your questions.

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    Monday, July 14, 2008

    Back to College: The Importance of Planning

    As part of the goal of Simply Sweet Home, I like to give out information not just on recipes and housekeeping but on other topics that are relevant to families. Several years ago I was starting college. Neither my parents nor my brother went to college, so it was a new thing for my family. And even though we had other relatives to get advice from, for the most part we were just feeling our way through it and really had no clue about what was going on. And if I had known what I know now, I would have done things differently and had a much better/different college experience. (Not that my experience was bad, but you know what I mean.)

    So I decided to do this series on college issues, mainly to help those who have no experience themselves with college. Whether you're sending kids to college, or you, yourself, are going to college, there's a lot of stuff to know in terms of planning to get started and handling things once you get there, which can help to save you money and help you in your overall college experience and career.


    My husband suggested that to begin, I should focus on the importance of planning. Planning is a key that cannot be stressed enough. Other than choosing a spouse and a career, choosing a college is one of the most important things you can do in your life, and after starting at the college, ultimately the major you choose and the courses (and teachers) you choose will impact you in one way or another. And for this reason you should really think on this a while before making any decisions. (more on that in a later post)

    But also, a lack of planning means that you will spend more money in the long run. Whether you're deciding where to go, registering for classes, looking at financial aid options, deciding where to live while in school, or even purchasing text books, a lack of planning will cost you.

    Even if your kids are young, it is never to early to start thinking about college. When I was younger, my dad looked in to doing a pre-paid college program, but my mom didn't want to do it, and this cost us. Aside from financial planning, it is a good idea to start planning and preparing kids for college by making sure that they enroll in high school courses which will help them in their college career. Even if you're child is going to a community college or a college without strict admissions requirements, taking courses like advanced math & science and honors English & history, will help them when they get to college and have to take these difficult courses.

    Also, starting in the 9th grade, your child should go and visit the guidance counselor every semester so that they can be sure and stay on track, in terms of researching colleges, preparing to register for the courses in high school that will best help them later on, registering for ACT and other college placement exams, and sending off college admissions forms and scholarship forms. It's also not a bad idea to get the phone number of the guidance counselor and talk to them yourself, or schedule a meeting with them each semester to make sure that you're doing everything to get your child ready. The guidance counselor is there to help's their job! (and they should also be more than happy to help, because when they are up for a raise or looking for another job in the future, they take credit for all the scholarships and etc. that they "help" people to get.)

    You should also carefully plan your class schedules. Usually colleges post a tentative schedule for the next few semesters for planning purposes. If future schedules are not posted then you can speak with professors to find out when certain classes will be offered. This is very important because some classes are offered every semester, while others are only offered once a year (or less than that). It's very important to know when classes will be offered in the future to make sure that you don't miss out on a class, which would cost you more time and money in the long run. Schedule planning is especially important if you plan to transfer to another college.

    Planning can save you a lot of time and money and it will keep you from backing yourself into a corner and being trapped in a college or a program that you aren't happy with. And if do decide to change colleges or majors it will be much easier for you to come up with a new plan for yourself

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    Sunday, July 13, 2008

    Menu Plan Monday for July 14

    First off, a little "programming" note: as the "Back to School" season will soon be in full swing, I'm planning a big series of posts on college stuff, including a few posts on college text books, and some general posts on financial aid, registration, and etc. So if you have a kid who's about to enter college in the next few years, or you know some else who's child is going off to college, you might want to come by and check out those posts in the next few weeks.

    And now here's this week's menu.

    Monday - Zesty Italian Chicken w/ corn & steamed veggies
    Tuesday - Creamy Ranch Pork Chops & Rice
    Wednesday - Ham Steak, Mac & Cheese, Black Eyed Peas
    Thursday - Leftover Buffet
    Friday - Eat out
    Saturday - Sloppy Joes & french fries
    Sunday - Red Beans & Rice w/ corn & rolls

    Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie to view other great menus and recipes.


    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Summer Safety: Sunburn Remedies

    As as kid, I got sunburned a lot. I was--ahem, am-- very fair complected, and some of the times even Water Babies couldn't save me. But as an adult I've learned to be more careful and reapply my sunscreen, but sometimes in the name trying to get a tan, I still little burned. After going to the beach several weeks ago, I looked up some sun burn cures/remedies on the net, and I thought I'd share some of these with you. I wish I'd had these years ago!

    Showers - Right after coming in from the sun, take a warm to hot shower (before it actually starts burning. The hot water can help to open your pores, draw the heat out of your skin, and can help to ease the burn before it starts.
    And after your skin actually starts to "burn", take cool showers (at least 2 a day) to moisturize the skin and ease pain & itching.

    Aloe - One of the most popular cures for sunburn. Use actual aloe leaves, or buy it in a bottle at the store. Apply several times a day to keep skin moist.
    After-Sun Lotion - I use Banana Boat Moisturizing After Sun Lotion. It contains aloe & vitamin E. It's designed to keep your skin moisturized and "extend" your tan.

    Apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar) - Apply apple cider vinegar to the burn with a cottonball, or make a compress. This remedy should prevent peeling. **A few weeks ago, after a day at the beach I tried this one myself. I was unsure of the immediate effects of it, but I can tell you that I didn't peel--and my skin was burned worse than a previous beach trip where I did peel, so I think the ACV helped.)

    Aspirin - this will relieve pain, reduce fever, and reduce inflammation. It should be taken within 24 hours of getting sunburned.

    Ice packs - These can help to keep the skin cool & basically numb the skin. (very good, if you're itching!)

    Baking soda - Dissolve some baking soda in water and make a compress using a clean cloth or add baking soda to bath water. Let the skin dry on its own. This should also help to keep skin moisturized.

    Oatmeal Pack - Place some instant oatmeal in a bowl. Place a small amount of water in the bowl, just enough to moisten the oatmeal. Take a damp cloth and dip out some of the oatmeal on to the cloth. Place it on the burn for 15-20 minutes. (I actually tried this one; I placed a towel on the couch, then laid the oatmeal pack on top of it, and laid with my back on the oatmeal pack. It immediately relieved my itching.)

    Milk - Before taking a bath, make a compress of cool milk. Apply it to the skin and leave it on for 20 minutes. Then wash off. The fat content is said to help cool the burns but it shouldn't clog your pores the way butter would.

    Cucumbers - To soothe the burn, rub the sunburn with fresh cucumber slices.

    Epsom salts - Dissolve epsom salts in water and make a compress using a clean cloth.

    Potato -Grate a potato and apply it to the burned area to cool and soothe the burn.

    Yogurt -apply plain yogurt with live cultures, let it stand for a few minutes, then rinse off under cool water.

    Lavender - Mix 20-25 drops of lavender oil in one cup of water and bathe the sunburned area.

    Lemon water - Mix the juice of three lemons into two cups of cold water and rub it on the burn with a rag or sponge. The lemon will cool the burn, act as a disinfectant, and will promote healing of the skin.

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    Recipe of the Week: Pina Colada Plus

    For this week's recipe, I chose a non-alcoholic Pina Colada drink from BHG. It's fruity. It's sweet and smooth. And it'll help you beat the heat on a hot summer's day! Yum!

    1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple (juice pack), chilled
    1 medium banana, cut up
    3/4 cup soy milk
    1/2 cup orange juice
    2 tablespoons bottled or canned pina colada mix, chilled
    Ice cubes (optional)
    1. In a blender container combine the undrained pineapple, banana, soy milk, orange juice, and pina colada mix. Cover and blend until nearly smooth. If desired, serve over ice. Makes 2 servings.

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    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    Works For Me Wednesday: Remedies for Insect Bites & Stings

    I decided to participate in W4MW again this week, and in keeping with my Summer Safety theme, I came up with a list of treatments for wasp, yellow jacket, and bee stings. Shortly after I met my husband, we were outside walking, and I got stung. I had told him before that I was allergic to wasps & bees. And in the days following the sting, he admitted to me that he had kinda thought I was exaggerating a bit about how allergic I was, that is, until he saw how badly swollen my foot got. When he saw that my foot was still swollen after 4 or 5 days, he swore he'd be taking me to the hospital if I ever got stung again...and looking back, that's probably not a bad idea.

    It's I think about all my topics for this week's posts, I'm reminded why I don't like the outdoors...because every time I go out there, something happens to me!


    If you are highly allergic to wasp & bee stings, you should seek immediate medical attention. Don't wait for the the sting to swell, etc. At the emergency room they will remove the stinger & will most likely give you a shot to prevent pain, swelling, and itching.

    Otherwise you can take care of the stings yourself through a number of techniques and treatments. Here are some which I have used to provide relief:

    If stung by a bee, you should remove the stinger as soon as possible. It is said that using a credit card for the removal of the stinger, rather than using tweezers is best, as to prevent the stinger from breaking and/or releasing more poison in to your body. But the most important thing is to remove it.

    Shortly after being stung, use tobacco on the sting. Use chewing tobacco or tobacco out of a cigarette. Place a few drops of water on the tobacco and then place it on the sting. Cover with a bandage or gauze. It doesn't feel good to have this one the sting. You'll feel a little pressure and a pounding/pulsating feeling. But this method is very effective at preventing some of the pain and swelling.

    Take an antihistamine, such as a Benadryl.

    As with other injuries, you should wash the sting with soap and water.

    Ice may used to relieve itching and pain.

    Use creams such as Cortizone or Benadryl.

    Also, try Campho Phenique. I've never personally tried this for a wasp/bee sting, but Campho Phenique works wonders on mosquito bites (more so than the other creams), and I imagine that it would work better on stings as well.

    Use a pain reliever such as Advil or Tylenol for the pain.

    Keep the sting elevated if possible. Elevation is very important; this prevents a lot of blood flow from going down to the area of the sting, and will help with pain and itching. And if stung on the foot, avoid walking if possible, as this will cause more pain and swelling. You should also avoid writing, typing, or doing other work with your hands, if you are stung on the hand.

    Lightly rub the sting, Don't Scratch!

    What Has Worked for Others:
    Here is a list of other items you can try. I've not used these personally, but on the around the internet, others have attested that these remedies work.

    • applying meat tenderizer
    • applying toothpaste
    • applying tobacco
    • applying chili paste
    • applying mint leaves
    • applying clay paste, and
    • applying a copper coin
    • applying hot water
    • applying lavender oil
    • baking soda
    • vinegar

    To view other Works for Me Wednesday posts, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

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    Monday, July 7, 2008

    Summer Safety: Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke

    In planning for my posts for July & August, I've thought of a variety of topics having to do with safety. And since I try to make the posts relevant to the calendar and have the majority of the posts sort of build on one another or be on a common theme, I decided to make this week Summer Safety Week.

    I'm starting with some information on heat stroke and heat exhaustion. As I child and as an adult, I've had heat exhaustion myself. As a kid, I wasn't aware of what it was. But basically whenever I went outside for a long period of time, whether we were at a park, a ball game, minature golf, or just anywhere, I would suddenly become ill, and as a result we'd all have to go home. Even now, my husband and I go outside and play disc golf, and I have to be very careful about what I eat before we go, I can never go on an empty stomach, and I have to stay hydrated. And unless we go early in the morning or late in the afternoon, (after 5pm or later) I won't be able to stay out for a long period of time without getting ill.

    Luckily in the past I've come inside to rest before all the symptoms hit me, so I never actually had to go to the doctor, but a friend of my husband actually went to the hospital for this just last year. And with our humid climate and our heat index often being 100 degrees or higher in the middle of summer, we have a lot of heat exhaustion and heat stroke cases, some of which result in death. So it is definitely a topic to be informed about & to take seriously.

    Who can get heat exhaustion or heat stroke? Anybody and everybody. But small children and the elderly are most likely to get it. And whenever you get it once, you are more susceptible to getting it again.


    Heat Exhaustion:
    severe thirst
    muscle weakness
    nausea, sometimes vomiting
    fast, shallow breathing
    increased sweating
    cool, clammy skin
    elevation of body temperature to more than 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius)

    severe, throbbing headache
    weakness, dizziness, or confusion
    difficulty breathing
    decreased responsiveness or loss of consciousness
    may not be sweating
    flushed, hot, dry skin
    elevation of body temperature to 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) or higher

    Go indoors immediately. If you cannot go inside immediate have a seat in the shade.
    If you are having heat exhaustion/stroke symptoms, don't drive. And don't let others who are experiencings the symptoms drive.
    Take off clothing.
    Lie down and elevate feet slightly.
    Get into a bath of cool water or sponge yourself off. You may also apply cold rags or ice packs. In extreme cases, get in an ice bath.
    If treating a child, place the child (if conscious) in a cool bath or sponge-bathe the child repeatedly. If outside, spray the child with mist from a garden hose.
    Drink plenty of fluids. You should drink water, juice, or sports drinks. I also remember hearing that Pedialite was good because of the electrolytes it contains. (avoid drinks carbonated beverages, drinks containing caffiene, and alcohol.)
    If you are treating a child who is vomiting, turn his or her body to the side to prevent choking.
    Keep temperature monitored.
    **If the person has a temperature of 104 degrees or higher, you could call 911 immediately. If you suspect the person has heat stroke, treat them while waiting for paramedics to arrive.

    Avoid being out in the extreme heat, especially for an extended period of time.
    Drink plenty of water and other fluids before going outside and while outside.
    Wear clothing that is light in color and loose fitting. Wear hats.
    If outside, stay in shaded areas.
    Stay in an Air-Conditioned Environment if possible.
    If you're home isn't air conditioned, go somewhere that is, and if you have air conditioning turn it on! (last year a woman in our area died from heat stroke in her home. She had air conditioning, but she didn't have it on b/c she didn't want her electric bill to go up.)
    If you have an elderly relative, friend, or neighbor, check on them frequently, and make sure they are keeping their home cool and avoiding the heat.
    Do all yard work in the early morning or at the very end of the day (after 5 pm) to avoid getting over heated.
    If you work in the heat, take breaks often, and go inside for your breaks if possible.
    Avoid running, bike riding, and other strenuous exercise in the middle of the day.
    If outside in the middle of the day, pace yourself to preserve your energy. (Don't run when you can walk. Etc.)
    Eat small meals, and eat frequently. Avoid eating foods high in protein, as this increases Metabolic Heat and increases Water Loss.
    **At first sign of any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, get out of the heat immediately. Don't try to wait it out. If you are outside with anyone else, let them know what is going on so that they can treat you if necessary.

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    Sunday, July 6, 2008

    New Poll: What is your favorite topic?

    For the past week, I've been doing some planning and organizing for the future of the blog.

    Among other things, I've decided to try and be a little more interactive with the polls. For starters, I've moved the poll to the topic right of the screen so that it is more visable to new visitors. Secondly, I plan to change the question more often than I have in the past. And in some cases, your responses to the polls will have an affect on the content of the blog. The question that's currently posted is an example of that.

    I actually posted this question a few weeks back, but I wanted to edit it, and it won't let you edit it once someone has voted, so I removed it and re-added it. So if you've already voted, then you should vote again because your response was erased.

    The question is: What is your favorite topic? (On this blog or on blogs in general, what do you like to read about?)

    The answer choices are as follows:
    Saving Money
    Home Decor

    I picked these answer choices, because I think of these as the core subjects of Simply Sweet Home. But obviously some of these subjects are featured more than others, and sometimes I wonder, what do people really think of my topics? Do they even like crafts and decor? What about the recipes, maybe they prefer less desserts and more casseroles....? Anyway, I'll look over any answers that I get to the poll, and this will help me to decide if I want to do more posts on a particular topic.

    Personally I love posting the recipes. I also love organizing & information about saving money (though I don't post on these subjects as much), but I definitely want to focus more on these 2 in the future, and perhaps some of the others as well.

    But I'd love to know what you think, so please vote in the poll. And if you have any specific ideas or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment.


    Menu Plan Monday for July 7

    It's time once again for another Menu Plan Monday. How time flies! I can't believe it's July!

    I had a little extra time today to spend on the post, and I've picked out a couple of favorites from my recipe binder to share with you. I've also included a couple of photos from previous fixings. In the future, my goal is to make more photos of my new dishes. I have several photos on file which I took months ago, but I just haven't put those recipes on MPM yet. And I've flagged several new recipes to try in the future, but it always seems so much easier to go with the old faithfuls instead. But I will try to take photos whenever I make a new dish, and I'll post them here. Hope you enjoy this week's menu!

    Monday - Au Gratin Chicken Bake (recipe below)
    Tuesday - Red Beans & Rice w/ corn & crescent rolls
    Wednesday - Easy Chicken & Dumplings (recipe & photo below)
    Thursday - Leftover Buffet
    Friday - SteakFajitas
    Saturday - Baked fish w/ steamed veggies & long grain rice
    Sunday - Cheesy Chicken, Bacon & Ranch Wraps (pictured below)

    Au Gratin Chicken Bake
    1 bag (14 oz) frozen broccoli forets, thawed & drained
    1 box Betty Crocker Deluxe creamy Cheddar au gratin potatoes
    2 cups of boiling water
    2 tablespoons margarine or butter
    1/2 cup milk
    4 boneless skinless breast halfs
    2 cheese sliced (halfed) or shredded cheese

    1. Heat oven to 400. Spray 11x7 baking dish or 2 quart casserole with cooking spray.
    2. Spread broccoli in baking dish. Stir potatoes, sauce mix, cheese sauce, boiling water and margarine in medium bowl. Stir in milk. Spread over broccoli. Place chicken breast halves on potato mixture.
    3. Bake uncovered 30 minutes. Place cheese slices on chicken. Sprinkle with topping. Bake 3 to 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted and juice of chicken is no longer pink when centers of thickest pieces are cut. Let stand 5 minutes or until sauce is as thick as desired.

    Easy Chicken & Dumplings
    (This started out as a noodle casserole, and it tasted just a chicken & dumpling recipe that someone I knew, used to make but this is a lot easier)

    1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
    1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
    1/2 cup milk
    2 cans of white chicken (3/4 - 1 lb of cooked boneless chicken breast)
    3 cups of egg noodles

    Directions: Cook noodles according to package direction. When finished drain off water.
    Mix milk soups, and chickens in a large cooking pot. Heat through. Then stir in noodles.

    Here are the Easy Chicken & Dumplins with a side of Black Eyed Peas. (yum!)

    (Cheesy Chicken, Bacon & Ranch Wraps. I made these a while back and they were very good, if I do say so myself.)

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