Archive for October, 2009

Stingy Jack

Today is the University Union Annual Pumpkin Carving Contest and it made me think about  the connection of Halloween and Jack o’Lanterns.

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I didn’t know much about the history of the Jack O’Lantern so I looked it up and here is what I found:

People have been making jack-o-lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o’lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack o’lanterns. (courtesy of the history channel)

Click Here to see some amazing jack o’lanterns

What is the most amazing carved pumpkin you have ever seen?

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An Apple a Day

One of my favorite Halloween treats is the candy apple.  I remember as a kid that at least one house in my neighborhood would pass out caramel apples for trick or treat.

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Since this is the best time of year to enjoy a delicious treat on a stick I thought I would share my favorite recipe:

Peanut Butter Crunch Caramel Apples

Ingredients

  • 6 Granny Smith apples
  • 6 wooden sticks
  • 1 (14 ounce) package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups chopped Nutter Butters
  • 4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
  • 4 ounces white chocolate, chopped

Directions

  1. Insert wooden sticks 3/4 of the way into the stem end of each apple. Place apples on a cookie sheet covered with lightly greased aluminum foil.
  2. Combine caramels and water in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring often, until caramel melts and is smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Dip each apple into the caramel and gently run apples around insides of saucepan to scrape off some of the caramel. Scrape excess caramel from the apple bottoms using the side of the saucepan.
  3. Spread the chopped cookies out on a dinner plate. Roll caramel apples in the cookies and place on the aluminum foil. Place the milk chocolate and white chocolate into separate microwave-safe bowls. Heat in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until melted and smooth. Drizzle milk chocolate over the apples, then drizzle the white chocolate over the milk chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
What is your favorite fall/halloween treat?

What A Scream

One of my favorite things about halloween:  Haunted Houses!

haunted maze

I love the anticipation of what is to come while I wait in line inching closer to the entrance.  I love the heightened senses when I step into the dark room.  I also love trying to figure out what is around the corner and seeing the people in front of me react.

This weekend is your last chance to catch one of the many haunted houses in the DFW area.  You will spend anywhere between 5-20 dollars to get in and some places do charge for parking.  I suggest getting a group of people together and make sure you bring one person who is easily scared….part of the fun of haunted houses are the reactions of those who are scared.

There are quite a few haunted houses in the area and here are some links:

Dr. Haunt’s

Cutting Edge

Zombie Manor

Do you like haunted houses?  What scares you the most?

 

 

Let’s Do the Time Warp

We are officially counting down the days until Halloween here on the blog.  This week we are going to have some fun and discuss all things Halloween.  One of my favorite Halloween traditions is to watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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On Thursday, October 29th, The Rocky Horror Picture Show returns to the University of North Texas! The annual benefit screening features a performance by Los Bastardos, North Texas’ premier Rocky Horror shadow cast. All proceeds go to AIDS Services of North Texas.

Tickets are $5 in advance at the UNT Union information desk and $7 at the door. Screening is in UNT’s University Union at 10 pm, with doors open at 9pm. Come dressed in character and win a prize in our costume contest! Donations of nonperishable canned goods are also welcome.
Event sponsored by UNT’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and Glad: UNT’s Queer Alliance. Come out and support AIDS Services of North Texas!

Click Here for Rocky Horror Picture Show etiquette and participation tips.

I am a huge fan of Rocky Horror and I could not imagine Halloween without it.  Tell me, what movie is part of your Halloween celebration?

How to Make $1000 in 4 Years

This week we have talked about money.  Many students come to college to get an education so they can earn more money.  The US Census reports that someone with a high school diploma will earn 1.2 million over their lifetime, but getting a college degree will boost your lifetime earning power to 2.3 million.  Getting a college degree pays.

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Here in Texas getting your college degree in 4 years also pays.  Did you know that if you complete your degree in 4 years and you do not attempt more than 3 hours more than what your degree requires will earn you $1000.  Just by going to class, studying, getting good grades and graduating you can get money!

How can YOU earn this $1000 rebate for graduating on time?  I am going to give you some tips to help you earn $1000 in 4 years.

1.  Focus on Core Curriculum requirements your first year.  If you take courses that fulfill your core curriculum then you will not risk being over the credit limit if you change majors.

2.  Meet with your academic advisor every semester.  They can help you pick core classes that meet the requirements for your intended major or majors of interest.

3.  Always have a back up plan.  You could have planned the perfect schedule but when it is time to register one of the classes could be full.  Have a few classes in mind that you can take (and meet a requirement) if a class is full.

4.  Focus on courses that meet requirements and not on classes that meet your sleep schedule.  Yes, 8am classes are not the most popular among college students (sleep is), but making a schedule based on your sleep habits is likely to lead to not graduating on time.

5.  When it is time to apply for graduation make sure you are eligible to graduate (talk to your advisor), apply for graduation, sign and date the application for the tuition rebate and return to the Registrar.

If you are taking out student loans and you are eligible for the tuition rebate the university will send the check to one of your student loans (you can pick which one and I suggest picking the one that has the highest interest rate).

Did you know about the tuition rebate program before reading the blog?  Do you still have questions? Tell me in the comment section.

Buy Now Pay Later

Credit cards….most of you have at least one.  Discover, Mastercard, Visa, they love to market credit cards to college students.  It is a great way to build your credit…and it is an even better way to destroy it.

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My freshman year I picked up a ringing phone and 10 minutes later I had my first credit card.  I was going to be responsible…and I was…for about 2 years. Then I got another credit card because I had been so responsible with my first.  Slowly I started charging more and paying less each month until I was close to my credit limit and could only make minimum payments.  You would have thought that Visa would have done something, here is a 20 year old woman close to her limit and she only makes the minimum payment.  Visa did do something….they increased my credit line.  It became a cycle…I would get near my limit and then they would increase it.

I never worried about my growing debt…I was about to graduate college, I would get a great job and be able to pay it off in no time.  Then life happened and I could not get that great job after graduation and life happened again and I could not work for 3 months.  I could not pay my credit card bills and I was in the middle of a financial disaster.

6 years later and I finally have emerged from financial chaos.  My credit score is improving but what happened 6 years ago still haunts me.  When i went to buy a new car I had to pay a larger down payment and I am paying an insane interest rate.

I am not telling anyone not to get a credit card, but I am telling you to make better choices than I did.  Here are some facts:

  • 63% of college students have at least one credit card.
  • Only 58% of those who own a card pay their balances every month.
  • The longer a student has had a card, the less likely he or she is to pay off the balance.

Here are some tips:

  • If you must have a credit card as a student, keep only one.
  • Deliberately keep your maximum available credit as low as possible.
  • Consider getting a secured credit card (you have to pay the credit card company upfront and what you pay is your credit limit).

If you need a credit card here are some things to consider:

  • Finance charges
  • Annual dues or membership, and enrollment fees
  • Late payment and grace periods
  • Special fees, changes in introductory rates, or penalties

You have to be your own financial advocate.  Visa/Mastercard/Discover want you to have credit because every month you carry a balance…they make money, every time you are late with a payment…they make money.

Click here for more financial guidance.

Click here to learn more about money management at UNT.

Tell us in the comment section: Do you have a credit card? Why or why not?

Loan Lessons Learned

Many of you have a student loan to help pay for the cost of your education.  Like you, I took out loans to pay for college.  Being the first in my family I did not know very much about loans, all I knew was that I needed them.

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Every year in Early February students fil out their FAFSA and mail it in waiting to see what their aid package will be.  For some of us it is a mix of grants and loans.  I bet not many of you think about how much of those loans you really need, I know I didn’t.  I learned to not care because the second week of classes I knew I would get a nice refund from the financial aid office.

While those refunds were great and I had fun with each and every one of those checks….from a new pair of jeans to a trip to Florida…I never thought about the later.

Here I am several years later and I am repaying my student loans.  While I do not consider student loan debt bad…I do consider my semester refund check habit bad.  Because I took out the maximum loan every year and enjoyed those refunds, I get to pay about $40 more a month in loan payments than I would have if I would have just took out the amount I needed to pay for tuition, room and board.

You might think that $40 is not that much…well over the next 30 years that $40 will amount to just over $14000.

On average, students will graduate with $23000 in debt.  That equals a monthly student loan payment of $267.  If that student would have tightened their budget and took out a little less, let’s say $20000, they would pay $230 a month, saving themselves $37 a month (over $4000 in 10 years).

The financial decisions you make today could haunt you 10-20 years from now.  From student loans to credit cards…

What student loan questions do you have?