Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tiptoe Tuesday Blog Hop

Monday, January 30, 2012

2011 In Review

     I borrowed this list from the Bargain Babe at Zuchinni Summer and added my answers. 
1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
Started a blog!
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Can't remember what they were last year--so probably not. LOL I made a few--hopefully I will keep them!
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
A couple girls at church, but no super-close friends.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
5. What countries did you visit?
Just this one.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
I hope to get more organized and better with things like meal planning. Just making more productive use of my time in general.
7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
My baby's first plane trip, in which she threw up in the middle of the aisle! (Fortunately she wasn't aimed at anyone!) And her first trip to Disney. Also, finding out I'm having a little boy.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Starting my blog, I suppose. We also moved. Again. And I got pregnant.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Letting too much time get wasted
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
If you count morning sickness!
11. What was the best thing you bought?
My Wii Fit
12. Where did most of your money go?
Rent and other bills, without a doubt.
13. What did you get really excited about?
Getting pregnant and finding out it's a boy!
14. What song will always remind you of 2011?
I don't know--I don't listen to music that much.
15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? about the same
– thinner or fatter? .fatter, because of baby!
– richer or poorer?
about the same. Our income went up slightly, but now we have a car payment :-/
16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
organizing, planning and saving. Also, working on my book more.
17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
spending money
18. How did you spend Christmas?
Drove to Florida to see my hubby's folks.
19. What was your favorite TV program?
Wizards of Waverly Place (yes, I know it's a cheesy show for tweens, but at least it's clean!)
20. What were your favorite books of the year?
 I read the Anne of Green Gables series with a friend
21. What was your favorite music from this year?
I don't really have any
22. What were your favorite films of the year?
the last Harry Potter movie and Breaking Dawn (the only 2 I bothered going to the theaters for)

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned the big 3-0 and my parents took us to Genghis Grill for lunch, then we came home and had cake.
24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
 Enough money to pay off my debts
25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
jeans and a tshirt.  "Mom Uniform" (This is the Bargain Babe's response, but I second it!)
26. What kept you sane?
Reading, writing, the internet
27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
You need to take time to reflect once in a while and count your blessings, because it can always be worse!
Let me know if you do this 2011 in Review too, I'd love to read it!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award!

I was really excited to receive the Versatile Blogger Award twice! Once from Frugal Mommie of 2 and also from Rediscovering Our Family!  If you haven't checked out either of these great blogs make sure you do when you have a chance.

The rules for this award are:
1. Thank the person that nominated you with a link back to them. See Above
2. Tell 7 things about yourself. (see below)
3. Pass this award on to 10 newly discovered blogs and let them know that they’ve received

an award.

Seven things about Me:  

1. I've never lived more than 7 years in one place.

2. I'm married to a preacher (going on 7 wonderful years!) 

3. I love Jane Austen novels (and movies). 

4. I've written a novel that takes place in Georgian England. 

(around Jane Austen's time).
5. When I was in college, people would tell me I looked like 

"Rogue" from X-men. (no I did not have the white stripe in 

my hair!) 

6. I have a BA in English Literature. 

7. I'm addicted to Roller Coaster Tycoon 3. (But haven't 

played it much lately)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chocolate and Smiles :-)

     Hello all. Have you heard of She Speaks? If not, you should head over here to check it out! It is one of those really cool "Try and Tell" companies, as I call them, and sometimes you can get into programs for stuff to try out, share with others and let everyone know what you think. There is even a special program for bloggers, if you happen to have a blog. 
       Anyway, right now She Speaks is launching a program in which those of us lucky enough to get in (which I'm happy to say I am!) get to try out the Milk and Truffle Ghirardelli Squares for free. If you've ever tried any of the Ghirardelli Squares, you know this is a program you don't want to miss out on! I haven't tried the Milk and Truffle Squares yet, but I know I love the caramel ones and the mint ones. 
     She Speaks has asked us to go ahead and spread the word about the program and invite our friends to She Speaks, so that makes me think they may just still have some spots in the program open. So I highly recommend you sign up. Now. And if it so happens they run out of spots in the Ghirardelli program before you get a chance, don't worry, I'm sure there will be other great programs coming up that you'll get a shot at. After all, there's always something fun going on at She speaks. 
     Another Try and Tell company I want to share with you is Smiley360. I only signed up for this very recently but it looks like a promising company. When you try something out, the more ways you share about it, the more "smiles" (basically points) you get. 

       So right now my "mission" is to share this link and see how many people check out Smiley360. All you have to do is click on it and look--you don't even have to sign up. But I'm sure you will want to, since you get to try stuff out for free in exchange for your opinion. :-) And by the way, I've already been accepted for a "mission" to try out a product, which I should get in a few weeks. So it looks pretty promising so far. So you should check it out. 
     Also, check out my other post on Try and Tells, if you haven't already. All, or none of these may work out for you but I think they are definitely worth checking out. And the best part is, they're all free!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sam's Club--Worth the Hassle?

     Now I have a great (heavy sarcasm on the great) Sam's Club experience to go along with the Walmart cookie experience I already posted about. Now I have a set! Yay! And this is about a week after signing up for a Sam's club membership for the very first time. :-/
     My husband and I had been mulling it around about whether it would be worth it to purchase a Sam's Club membership. We do not have a COSTCO here, though I've heard it is better than Sam's. Paying for "savings" seemed a little counter-productive to me. And the savings weighed against the price of the membership are negligible, in my opinion. But we thought we'd go ahead and try it out for a year. 
     So, we went to Sam's to pick up a couple things on my list that I thought were decent deals. The best deal we found? A 3-pack of Welch's Sparkling grape juice (which I love!) priced at $2.91. That was a great deal, so we picked up 2.
     When I got to the checkout, these 3-packs rang up at 1 cent. Long story short, I was not allowed to purchase the grape juice, even though the sign was still up and there were still other bottles left on the shelf. The supervisor radio-ed someone to tell them to take the remaining bottles off the shelf. She then claimed that she could not override the system to give me a price adjustment, and therefore could not sell me the grape juice. 
      Even after speaking to a higher up manager (who I assume was the manager on duty) I was continually told the same thing--they could not do it. Now, I have been in situations at other stores where something rang up wrong and I was either given the item for free or at least allowed to buy it at the ADVERTISED price. I've never been told I cannot have the item at all. After all, the mistake is on the part of the store, not the customer, right? Why should the customer suffer the consequences?
     I must say this is NOT a very good first impression of my Sam's membership. It really just reaffirms what I've always suspected and continue to hear from people who refuse to shop at Sam's club or Walmart--customer service is simply not a priority at either Sam's Club or Walmart. I suppose they're so far in front of their competitors they don't have to worry about it--but how long will it be 'till people get so fed up they go elsewhere for good?
     To be fair, the manager on duty did end up giving us a $15 gift card to use, and did apologize for the inconvenience, but I am still extremely irritated at not being allowed to buy something at the advertised price. Sorry, but at this point, the few pennies a year I MAY save with a Sam's membership are just not worth it to me. This may be the first and last Sam's Club membership I purchase.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Free Stuff Today!

     I don't often post free samples and deals on my blog, but since there seem to be several today, I thought I would make an exception! Keep in mind some of these are today only and all of them are "while supplies last" so act quick if you want them! 
     1. Free Barista Prima K-cup samples--You have to like their facebook page here and it will ask if you have a Keurig Brewer. Answer "no" and forget it, they will just try to get you to buy one first. But if you do happen to have a one, and haven't requested a sample recently, you get to fill out your info to get your sample (while supplies last, of course).
     2. Free 2 oz Pink Chiffon lotion from Bath and Body Works--Go here to their facebook page and you can print out a coupon to take to the store for a free sample sized lotion--perfect for your purse! This weekend only. 
     3. Free subscription to Martha Stewart Living magazine--This one requires a little effort, but worth it if you want the magazine! I did this offer a month or two ago and got my first issue yesterday! (Actually I got 2.) First, sign up for Rewards Gold, then refer a friend. If you're already a member you can refer 2 friends for the same number of points. Then you'll be asked to complete a short survey on breakfast foods, and then write 4 short reviews on breakfast foods. After these activities you have enough points to request the Martha Stewart Living magazine.
     4. Free sample of Schiff Mega Red--"Like" Schiff Mega Red on facebook here, then fill out your info for a free sample. Simple as that! Today only.
     Like I said, I don't do these all the time, but there were just too many to not share. I will still try to post deals and samples on my facebook and twitter pages, so make sure to "like" me on facebook and/or "follow" me on twitter!

Congress Dropped SOPA!

     If you haven't heard of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) it is a US House Bill that proposes to crack down on the "online trafficking of copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods." While this sounds good on the surface (I certainly don't want anyone's intellectual property stolen) the ramifications of such a law are much greater than simply putting a stop to the "pirateing" of copyrighted works. 
     If passed, this law would allow an entire internet domain to be shut down because of something one blog posted. In effect, punishing the whole for the actions of a few (or even one). Linking to a site deemed "offending" could cause a site to be shut down. A "copyrighted" song that happens to be playing in the background of posted video could get a site shut down, or at the very least, the video removed. And this bill would only affect American consumers. The United States has no legal jurisdiction over foreign countries. 
     So on January 18, 2012, there was a huge online protest that included sites like Wikepedia and Google and thousands and thousands of others (see the numbers here). Petitions were signed, emails were sent and sites were "blacked out." The end result--Congress has dropped SOPA to reevaluate. However, I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Our Second Hospital Tour

     Last week we went on a tour of the labor and delivery unit of one of the two hospitals I have to choose between for the birth of my baby in February. Remember, before the holidays, I told you about the tour of the nice, new labor and delivery unit that will be opening later this month at the other hospital. 
     My doctor prefers hospital number two. He claims they have a better NICU, but somehow, after touring both facilities, I'm not sure I completely buy that. I think the real reason is that hospital number two is across the street from the doctor's office. But allegedly, he delivers at both hospitals. Though when we asked him about that, he was really pushing us toward hospital number two. 
     So, we went to check out hospital number two so we could weigh our options and make an informed decision. The tour was pretty short. All we really got to see was a delivery room and a recovery room. There were a couple of things about procedure that I wasn't that enthralled with, like the baby being taken to the nursery soon after birth for "observation." 
     The real kicker, however, was that this hospital charges $1,200 more than the other one (with the nice, new unit) for self-pay patients (which we are) and that is if we pay ahead of time (as is the other hospital's price) and doesn't include some things that the other does. We tried to negotiate a lower price, as my doctor had claimed they would, but they couldn't or wouldn't do it. They were very polite, but claimed it was out of their power. 
     So, today at my 35 week appointment, we talked to the doctor about the dilemma. He was understanding and said he wouldn't blame us for choosing the hospital we really wanted to deliver at.  So after weighing our options, we will be going to the nice, new one that opens later this month. :-)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Another Frustrating Walmart Experience

     So, you know how many grocery stores (including Walmart, most of the time) offer free cookies to children? Well, the other day I took my almost 2-year-old to Walmart because I needed to get a couple of things. Before we got to the store, she was starting to get fussy, so I told her we were going to the store and she could have a cookie if she was a good girl. She immediately calmed down at the prospect of a cookie. 
     When we got to the store I asked the greeter if they had the "cookie club" stickers (since a previous time the person in the bakery asked if we had gotten the sticker) and he found them and gave her one. So, to the bakery we went. After waiting for the lady behind the counter to finish her phone call (which started between another customer and myself) I asked if she had a cookie for my little girl. Then she said they were out of samples to give to kids. 
     Well, I asked if she could just open a package of cookies, since that's what they do at HEB when they're out behind the counter. The lady said she couldn't do that, sorry. Though a little annoyed, I would have just moved on, but my daughter, still anticipating her cookie, was starting to get upset and saying "cookie." 
     How do you explain to a 2 year old there are no cookies when she can see 50 dozen cookies sitting right there? So I asked another employee where I could find a manager. She directed me to the little podium in the middle of the front where someone is available for info or to page someone. So I went to over there thinking the whole time "this is way too much hassle for a cookie." 
     Anyway, I told her what the situation was, and after a little more here and there, calling on the walkie-talkie, they finally decided to open a container of sugar cookies. So we finally got our cookie. I felt like an idiot causing such a big deal for a cookie, but I knew my daughter would scream the whole time if she didn't get her cookie. And really--is it going to put a dent in Walmart's massive profits to open a container of cookies? 
     My daughter was actually pretty good and patient until getting her cookie, though she did start to fuss a little when she thought she wouldn't get one. If they had single cookies for sale, I would have bought her one, but I wasn't going to buy a whole dozen. And after getting her cookie, she was actually pretty good the rest of the time I was in the store. 
     So, for those of you who refuse to shop at Walmart for whatever reason, there is just one more thing to add to the list of frustrations. I know it's usually crowded, the company doesn't seem overly concerned about customer service and some of their "made in China" products aren't the best quality, but for some reason, I still find myself shopping there for low prices and convenience. Though I do tend to shop there less than in the past. :-/

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Melting Snow and Car Trouble

     Well, we got another snow here yesterday. It snowed a few inches at least. We didn't actually go out in it this time. And it's already melting today. It looked nice yesterday, but the melted snow is dripping off the roof like rain. Kay-kay is looking out the window and saying "raining!" because of the melting snow. This Texas weather is really erratic. 
     My husband went to the office today and when he was going to get a bite to eat, the car wouldn't start. Apparently our car is part of some kind of recall involving the ignition. We actually got a notice about this but hadn't contacted the dealership yet. Our car has one of those funky keys that doesn't really look like a key. 
     So anyway, the dealership had to send a tow truck to get the car and my husband is now sitting down there waiting for them to fix the problem. One of our elders kindly agreed to come get my key for my husband (since the dealership needs both) and I was able to send him something to eat. So at least he isn't starving anymore. I just hope they can fix the problem today. 
     Don't forget to stop by tomorrow. I'm going to be continuing my "series" about online market research companies. Tomorrow I'll be talking about the ones I don't really care for. So be sure to check back!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

How Plum District Helped Me Get $71 Worth of Products for $6!

     If you haven't heard of Plum District, you might wanna go check it out--especially if you're a fan of natural and organic products. It's kind of similar to sites like groupon or restaurant.com in which you buy vouchers  for less than the vouchers are worth. 
     While Plum District's offerings aren't quite as broad as groupon's, the sites it promotes are mostly for moms and, more specifically, seems to be geared toward moms interested in natural and organic products. 
     On Black Friday, because of Plum District I was able to pick up an amazing deal on ecomom.com--$71 worth of products (mostly Melissa and Doug toys) for about $6 out of pocket. Here's how: 
     Plum District was having a "Black Friday" special where they were giving an extra $10 in credits good only on that day. I already had $10 in credits from a sign-up bonus. That deal is not currently available, but you can get a $5 sign up bonus if you sign up through this referral link
     I bought a $50 voucher to ecomom.com for $25 ($5 out-of-pocket after the $20 in credits!) and ecomom was having their own Black Friday special where they gave an additional $20 if I spent $50 (plus free shipping).
     So, I got my total up to $70.98 and spent $0.98 after all my vouchers. So, that's how I got $71 worth of merchandise from ecomom through Plum District. Pretty nice, huh? 
     Right now, through 1-10-12, Plum District is selling vouchers for 3-month memberships to blumm.com. If you're not familiar with blumm.com, it is basically a service that sends out "sample" boxes each month of your membership. These sample boxes contain 4-5 sample natural/organic products for mom and baby (this could be anything from organic baby food to expensive stretch mark creams). 
     I have not actually received a box yet, but according to testimonials, they are good sized samples! Every box is a surprise, so you don't know what you are getting ahead of time. But they are generally guaranteed to be high quality products. You can check out blumm.com to see what past months' boxes contained. 
     The 3 month membership is usually $36 (which makes it about $12/mo, but with the Plum District voucher it will cost you $18 (or $6/mo). And you if you sign up with my referral link, you will get a $5 credit, making your total out-of-pocket cost for this deal $13 (or about $4.33/mo). Please note there is a $1 flat shipping charge and like purchasing anything, you should read the terms and conditions first. But this is probably as good a deal you will find on this particular membership. But you gotta act soon, because Plum District is only offering it through Jan 10, 2012.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Drinkable Water Isn't Always Free!

     Lately I've seen several posts/emails about drinking more water and how it can save you money. Well, we live in west Texas and have always been told the tap water really isn't good for drinking. So we've been buying gallon jugs of spring water (about 74 cents each) without even bothering to try filtering, as we did in Florida. 
       Also, lately, I've been seeing ads and reviews for the Zero water filter pitchers that are supposed to be better than any other filtering pitchers. So I thought "Ok, maybe we should try filtering again and see what it saves us." So I bought a Zerowater pitcher and it included a TDS (total dissolved solids) tester. This tester was supposed to read "000" (thus the name Zero water) on filtered tap water. You're supposed to replace the filter when it starts reading "006." Here is the graph that shows how long a filter should be expected to last.

     So, guess what our tap water read on the TDS meter? 750! Unless, of course, the meter was faulty. So that means we can expect a filter to last us 8 gallons or less, according to the chart. A filter costs a minimum of $14, as far as I've found. So that's $1.75 a gallon, at least! And even after going through the filter, the water read "018" on the TDS meter. 
     So, for us, the Zero water filter is not worth it. Now, if you live where the TDS reading are "average" and you can get 25-40 gallons per filter, it might be worth it for you. Amazon has some pretty good reviews. But assuming we drink at least a gallon a day, we'd be spending about $53/mo on water. Buying the spring water, we're spending about $23/mo. Still more than I want to pay, but less than we would be paying to replace Zero Water filters.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Baby Talk

     I had my 33 wk appointment today and we got to see another sonogram. It's still a boy. He was being a little shy today and wouldn't move his hand from in front of his face. But he's measuring a little over 4 lbs, which is right where he's supposed to be at this stage. 
     On another note, my baby is 23 months old today. She spent her first night in her toddler bed last night. She's taken naps in it before, but we had always put her in the crib overnight. But we would kind of like to get her used to thinking the toddler bed is "her" bed, so that when the baby gets the crib, she doesn't feel like she is being displaced. 
     She actually did really good and when she got up, she promptly came into our room (we had both bedroom doors open) and exclaimed with glee when she saw us. How cute is that? And she was wearing her 'Santa" slippers her daddy got for her last month and they rattle when she walks, so we could hear when she was walking around. 
     Every day we are more amazed by what she is absorbing and he ever-increasing vocabulary. Tonight we went through the McDonald's drive through and after we ordered, she said "eyes" ("fries" in baby-talk) and we were like "uh oh" because we hadn't ordered any. So we ordered some at the window. She then said "donalds" (McDonald's) and we were really surprised because we didn't know she recognized McDonald's and even knows it by name. I guess that means we eat there too much--though we really don't eat there that often. (Honest!)

Monday, January 2, 2012

My New Year's Resolutions

     Well, it's the beginning of the new year and it's that time when everyone starts to feel guilty about what they didn't accomplish the previous year and we all resolve to do a little better this coming year. I am no different and I have plenty I would like to accomplish in 2012. Wow, is it really 2012? 
     Now, I don't consider myself a complete failure in accomplishing some of the things I wanted to do in 2011. And I don't think many of us are complete failures, even if we don't necessarily accomplish everything we hoped to at the beginning of last year. But if we hadn't made any of those "resolutions" in the first place, how much less would we have accomplished? 
     So, instead of making "new years resolutions" something to laugh at, because we just know we won't keep them, make your goals a little more specific and set reasonable expectations for yourself. If you set the bar too high right away, chances are you will quickly become frustrated at your lack of success and give up altogether. And that seems to be where many "New Year's resolutions" end up around the month of February. 
     So, start small an specific. And don't hate yourself and give up if you don't completely achieve it--just pick yourself back up and try again. Instead of saying "I'm gonna lose 100 lbs this year" start at--"I'm going to try to lose a pound a week." At the end of January, reevaluate if necessary. Instead of saying "I'm not going to eat out at all this year" start out by trying to eat out half as often each week. You will quickly find out whether such things are realistic expectations.
     All that said, here are a few I would like to accomplish this year. 
     1. Meal plan more. This helps with both eating out too often and going over the grocery budget. See my previous post on this. 
     2. Pay off two debts. Even paying minimums, I know at least one will get paid off. With a little effort, I think we can manage two. 
     3. Try making homemade laundry detergent. I hear great things about the stuff, not the least of which is it saves lots of money and gets clothes just as clean! I may have to wait till I have a couple of empty detergent bottles, though. Just letting you know up front!
     4. Use less cleaning products. I read somewhere that baking soda and distilled vinegar are the only cleaners you really need. Hopefully I will get around to trying that out this month! 
     5. Exercise at least an hour a day, starting in April. I say April because that will be about when my 6 week post-partum period will end. I'm sure I will try to do it in more moderate amounts until then. 
     These are just a few things I can think of that I would like to try. But remember, set your goals moderately and keep in mind what you can realistically accomplish. Once you reach those goals, set another one just a little higher, then you'll be on your way to where you want to be.