351095 Giveaway: Budget Bytes, a wonderful cookbook.I’ve often said that food is the budget category with the most wiggle room. After all, you usually can’t bargain down your car payment or your rent. Groceries, on the other hand, can be finagled.

That’s how Beth Moncel came to start a blog and later write a book. Her student loans were “eating her alive,” she said, so she had to cut spending. When a car repair knocked her budget sprawling, Moncel decided to spend no more than $6 per day for food in order to pay the freight.

Having earned a bachelor’s degree in nutritional science, she already knew how to make food healthy. Now she just had to make it affordable.

To keep herself on track she created a blog, BudgetBytes.com. Soon she developed quite the fan base, because plenty of us would love to eat well but also cheaply.

Now she’s also got a book, “Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half.” Reading it makes me hungry, filled as it is with ideas like Huevos Rancheros Bowls (served over grits instead of wrapped in corn tortillas), Spinach & Artichoke Pasta, Curried Potato & Pea Soup, Chicken Tamale Pie, Teriyaki Salmon With Sriracha Mayo, Cumin-Lime Sweet Potato Sticks, Firecracker Cauliflower, White Beans With Spinach & Bacon, Savory Coconut Rice, and Southwest Veggie & Rice Casserole.


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th2 150x150 My minor celebrity moment. Whats yours?

Photo courtesy of Free Images (pachd.com)

During its musical revues the old Fly By Night Club sometimes included a “Minor Celebrities” bit, inviting audience members to write down their furthest-removed brushes with fame. During intermission the cast would pick what they thought were the best – and again, the more tenuous, the better.

Thus we’d hear things like:

“I take dance class with Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeon’s wife.

“My great-uncle invented Cheez Whiz.”

“I once heard Brian Keith belch when I walked past his house in Hawaii to go surfing.”

“I used to carpool a kid whose mother’s father embalmed Babe Ruth.”

All these snippets led, naturally, to a book. The title: “Elvis Presley’s Pharmacist Was My Sunday-School Teacher.” 


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th1 150x150 Another Coffeehouse Cliche giveaway.Picture yourself sitting in a coffeehouse and writing the Great American Novel. Or next year’s Pulitzer for Best New Play. Or just sucking down some java and pretending to be all sensitive and deep.

I can help.

This week I’m having a second Coffeehouse Cliche giveaway, with three essentials to literary pretentiousness:

A notebook. Not the electronic kind, obviously. This is a 5-by-7-inch navy blue book with lined pages and an attached pen. Go ahead. Fill it up.

Starbucks e-gift card. This is good for $10 worth of whatever caffeine you need to jump-start the muse.

Coffee mug. This stainless steel Cutter & Buck mug has a lid with a handle and a leather sleeve if you’re not a handle-holding kind of sipper. The sleeve bears a discreet logo for Bankrate Insurance — yep, I got it at last year’s Financial Blogger Conference.


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th10 Celebrate the Iditarod start: Win a hat!The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has its ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage on the first Saturday in March. People line the streets, which have been prepared by having snow put on them and which are aflame with barking, leaping, howling dogs.

If you happen to speak Canine, you’ll be able to hear what they’re saying: Let’s GO! Let’s GO! Let’s GO!

Come to think of it, you don’t need to know what a dog’s saying — just check his body language (See “barking, leaping, howling,” above.)

I hope to be there myself, although it will be a late night on Friday — I’m reviewing the touring company of “The Addams Family” for The Anchorage Daily News (my former long-time employer), and I’m expected to put the review up on the Arts Snob blog that same evening. The show probably won’t let out until about 10:30 p.m., which means I won’t even start to write until 11 p.m. Who knows what time I’ll get to bed?

I’ll be there in spirit if nothing else, having attended Iditarod starts in the past and enjoyed them hugely. I’ll also check out photos on the Daily News website of both the ceremonial start and then the next day’s re-start in Willow, Alaska. You should, too: The ADN shooters are masters of the art.

But that’s not what I came here to talk about. I came to talk about a hat.*


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144056972X b 150x150 Trending: The post work world.It’s all retirement, all the time around here lately. Ever since I posted a giveaway of Mary Hunt’s “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Retirement,” various once-you’ve-quit-working items have drifted my way. One of them, an upcoming TweetChat, could win you a nice big prize.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.


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