Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Watch this space: Giveaway Heads Up for Go-Gurts gift pack

I just got an email from My Blogspark alerting me to a new giveaway opportunity involving Go-Gurts yogurts.

According to My Blogspark: Go-Gurt "Simplify Your Life" will provde me a giftpack that includes a pocket Etch a Sketch, weekly planner and a seat back organizer to give to a random blog reader.

Plus they are giving me 30 free product coupons to distribute for Go-Gurts!!

The photo they sent says the giftpack will look like the following:

As always, Yoplait and My Blogspark are providing me with all the items, coupons, images, and product information.

As soon as I receive confirmation, come here and enter to win (and the first 30 people will take home a free product coupon).

My Sweeties!

(Photos copyright JC Penny 2010)

I used to go to JC Penny's a long time ago, when the children were very small, to get their photos. Every three months I was in there, Portrait Club card in hand. As time went by and the kids were older, I started to buy school photos instead. But you know what? School photos are expensive for what you get. Penny's portrait studio ALWAYS has a coupon (in fact, you should never buy photos without one). A sheet of photos is only $3.99 most of the time. And there are coupons for free sitting fees (typically $9.99) and 30-40% off your entire purchase. Compare this to the typical school package of $29.99 for an 8 x 10,  5 x 7 and some wallets (which no one ever wants anymore).

If you are looking for a coupon, try this one (currently 40% off): 

I know many people who have good success with Walmart photo studios. Our local Walmart is not a Super Store and has no photo department. Additionally, the Penny's studio is really state of the art. They went digital a while back, and you have the ability to have a photo retaken on the spot. It's a nice feature, combined with the fact that the monitors in the studio are large enough and high resolution enough to render an accurate display of what the final photo will look like. This is a must if you have a child that wears glasses. Even the best photographer is going to need to adjust the lighting to reduce glare off the glasses, and sometimes the photographer didn't get it right the first time. We ran into this problem with school photos. Every shot of Catherine had green glare on her glasses. We had to wait another 3 months to have them reshot and delivered.

$115 for 17 sheets (including a custom framed, 10 x 20, triple photo montage--mommy went a little nuts--take out $49 for that one) so roughly $3.88 a sheet. I think I did well.

Do you have a deal on professional photos to share? Let us know and I'll post it here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Holy Cow! I have 30 subscribers!

I have no idea how all this works. Really. I see 12 people follow my blog (although the one in Brazil and the one in Poland I am still trying to figure out) and like 30 people subscribe via Feedburner.

Well, welcome! I hope you're having a nice day! I have no idea who you all are (Feedburner won't tell me--or maybe it will and I haven't figured it out yet), but feel free to leave little comment and say hello.

What's for dinner tonight?

It's a lovely sunny day. Not particularly warm (it's only in the low 50's), and super windy, but it just FEELS like spaghetti!

A few months ago I switched from ground beef in the sauce to ground sausage. It really makes a substantial difference in flavor. I use the store brand mild italian sausage, but any kind will do. If you want to spice it up, go for it!  The main difference I see with using sausage is that it takes a lot longer to brown it. Sausage also does not crumble the same way ground beef does. You get a work out with the spatula chopping and chopping it into smaller bits as it cooks. It also makes more grease, so be sure to drain it well.

Maybe I should cook it on the bottom of this laptop (I mean countertop!!).

The second swap we made a while back is trading out garlic bread for garlic toast, also known as Texas Toast (Hi Bunny!).  I think it just gets a bit crunchier, which enhances the flavor.

For the sauce I prefer Prego. I know some people have stocked up on Ragu after the Jewel Your Bucks sale, but we just prefer Prego here. I like the traditional flavor (I'm not a fan of mushrooms, onions, green peppers or anything crunchy in the sauce).

What? No photos of it? Seriously, this is spaghetti. I trust you know what it looks like!

Ok fine. Here's a photo of bulk sausage.

Dinner will be ready at 6:30pm. Who's coming?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

So why are you here, anyway?

I have a little, free widgit on my site which tells me where people come from that visit me. I get all of about 20 visitors per day (I think most of them are my mom and David from church --hi David!). Oh, and the president of Eli cheesecake came by last week to say hi. I thought maybe I'd get a cheesecake coupon or something, but that's ok. They were still good.

The coolest thing about this little widgit I have is that when people arrive from Google, it tells me the search terms that brought them here. Do you know the two most common search terms that bring people here are:

Organic apple tree spray


egg-shaped lip balm.

Sort of funny, really, since the egg shaped lip balm was pretty much a bust for me, and the apple tree spray ended up being useless due to the poor weather, and well, the blight.

I often wonder who reads what I write, and why they read it. Someone once said blogging is an exercise in meglomania...only You think You have something interesting to say.

I don't make any money on this blog. Those Amazon links over there on the right...don't worry. No one ever clicks on them. I just thought it would be cool to load this widgit, and after about ten attempts, I actually got it to work. It makes my blog look cool, don't ya think? About those Google Ad Sense ads--they crack me up. I post about ADT ripping people off and ADT ads fill my blog. Got problems with your HP laptop? Low and behold, all my ads are now for HP. Funny, isn't it? Say, her laptop practically caught the kitchen on fire. I'd better buy one, quick.

Anyhow, to those who are here looking for lip balm, sorry that one didn't work out for you. The giveaway was a year ago. And to those looking for organic apple tree spray, I say rock on. Fight the good fight. If you find something that works, let me know. I might just post it here in my little old corner of suburbia.

Dear HP: Why is your laptop so damn hot?

Seriously, one day you are going to burn my house down or melt my Corian countertops. God only know I cannot use your laptop on my actual LAP since it is too hot to hold. I've resorted to having to use on a ventilated trivet on my kitchen counter.

Oh, I've read your battery fire recall notices...guess what? They never seem to refer to MY model. So I'm mad. No, I'm BURNING mad. You tell me why it is that you used to be able to make a laptop that was compatible with the human lap but no more?

And just in case you're wondering, I'm using it on Balanced Power because anything lower or slower makes it run like a snail.

And just so all the free Internet (except China) world can see, I've documented just what kinds of temperatures this baby can hit in normal use. I started with the laptop in sleep mode, and took a photo every few minutes until it hit its max temperature of 117F!

Please, Mr. HP Pavillion Laptop President, come tell me how this is normal? I'm waiting.

Sitting on a trivet because it's so hot I actually think it would melt the countertop. It's in sleep mode right now.

Battery is on Balanced Performance

Within 3 minutes it's jumped 10 degrees F

Within 20 minutes we clock in at 115F.

And in the 5 minutes it took me to type this blog post, you've reached a new record:

Would you want this on your lap? It's a moot question; you could not STAND to have this  thing on your LAP?

Better make that 117.1F

Make that 118.2F.  I'm shutting off the laptop now.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Left Brain Grocery List

Hve you all heard this hilarious comedy sketch from comedian Jeanne Robertson? Trust me, it is worth it. You may never send your husband to the grocery store again.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Easter baking? Sugar on sale at Jewel starting Thursday

Nice find from ErinIL at couponerwanted.com!

Starting this Thursday 4lb bags of Jewel brand sugar will be on sale for $1.88 each (regularly $2.58 each) (and to think I literally bought one on Saturday--just my luck). Add to this the current Jewel Your Bucks promotion of $1 back on every two bags of Jewel brand sugar.

2 x $1.88 = $3.76
- $1 Your Bucks coupon
= $2.76, or $1.38 per bag, which is a pretty sweet deal on sugar.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Happy 11th Birthday Catherine!

My little girl is turning 11. Time for sushi, of course.

What's a dream day like for this kid? An evening dinner out to Tokio Sake for sushi followed by a trip to Barnes and Nobles to use up the $80 in gift cards she received from family and friends.

Other highlights of today: being selected to sub in for the A team for Scholastic Bowl tomorrow against Fox River Grove (Go Catherine!). I had a feeling she might get the bump up to the A team from the B team when one of the moms from another school we played (and beat) told me that my daughter was "on fire" when it came to scholastic bowl.

We had a small party at Clay Monet on Saturday which she enjoyed. It seemed the theme was to paint dragons, but Catherine chose a cat. I broke with tradition and brought Eli's cheesecake samplers for the treats. Cupcakes seemed too young and boring, and a cake was too much for 6 kids. The cheesecakes were very good.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Less dying today, obviously

I went into the office yesterday but I felt weird when I got there. I was dizzy. I felt like I was falling. Bleh. I am drinking tons of water. I had about 32 oz or more yesterday and today as well. No appetite really. Not eating. Bleh. Maybe I am still dehydrated?

However I did have to get party favors at Target for my daughter's 11th birthday party tomorrow so I grabbed my 2 x $1/1 qs and my 2 x $2.50/3 cats (printed from Jewel), and grabbed 8 J&J Bath Buddies Bars for a total of 76 cents (plus tax).

I couldn't help it.....

...it's a sickness

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bleach best to beat norovirus

CBC News - Consumer Life - Bleach best to beat norovirus: study

See, I told you. This stuff is BAD.

How to lose 4 pounds in 6 hours

His name is Norovirus.
I am pretty sure I met him in church on Sunday after shaking hands.
I always wash my hands before fellowship coffee, but that day I used hand sanitizer.
Hand sanitizer does not kill my friend Noro.
His outer skin does not contain lipids (fat) and therefore does not dry out and die when exposed to alcohol-based cleansers.
He visited me 24 hours later.
And left 48 hours later.
Highlights of his visit included:
x 25
Low-grade fever
Muscle spasms
Passing out in the bathroom and hitting my head on the tile floor
Wanting to die
Having my husband think I was actually going to die
Being THIS close to going to the ER (better bring a shower curtain for the car)
Oh and wanting to die

Cause I have never, ever, EVER, been so sick for so long, so suddenly
In my life

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Summer Camps

Today was the first day that my husband and I have been able to take a walk outside since November and already I'm worried about getting a jump start on summer camp registration. Something about winter, cold, and snow snow snow doesn't inspire me to start researching camps (even though I know I really should).

My children enjoy camps, which is good, because being a working mom means that I need a fun, safe place for this children during the summer. I've got extremely flexible working hours, which is a blessing, but even when I can work at home more than the two days a week I do now, the kids need something to do or they'll want to spend the day indoors, on the TV or computer (which I limit to one hour a day). A few years ago we tried the summer program offered by the local "mega church" that provides my son's after school care. The after school program was non-religious and offered safe, convenient child care in a facility full of options such as an indoor swimming pool, horse back riding, soccer, baseball, basketball etc. I should add that we are Presbyterians, so a religious after school program was not out of the question, it's just we aren't Bible Baptists. That's a whole 'nother thing.

Unfortunately the summer program offered a WHOLE LOT of Bible Baptist. It turned out that this was where they switched over to their "Come to Jesus" ministry program. I should have known something was up when they never allowed the students of the church's private school to mingle with the non-member children (I can only assume they thought that because we didn't send our children to their church school they were somehow tainted). And the straw that broke the camels back (see how I throw in a religious reference!) was when they started showing the children DVD series that made fun of evolution and told my daughter, who wants to be a geneticist, that scientists were athiests and all going to Hell.

Nice, huh?

So we nixed the denim-wearing Bible fundies and moved to the YMCA down the street, which while more "worldly" has tons of kids, activities and programs that my two enjoyed (including a science program that did not preach the earth was 3,000 years old and Adam had a dinosaur as a pet). I won't say it is a perfect program (some of the music is questionable and some of the children use language that we don't allow) but my children recognize this and we deal with it. Life gives you choices and we teach the children the right ones to make and to recognize the wrong ones. That's part of growing up.

We'll be going back to the Y this year, plus mixing in some theater camp run by the Christian Youth Theater. This is a new one for us, and the kids are really looking forward to drama, singing and dance classes. We've seen several productions already from CYT and they are professional and really outstanding.

I'm also looking into a week at sleepaway camp, also run by another YMCA, about 30 minutes from here. John went to sleepaway camp as a kid (I did not) and really enjoyed it. William is keen on the idea, Catherine not so much. I thought we'd go to the info session and see what we think, tour the camp etc. At $1300 for the week, it isn't cheap, and I'm expecting a lot from it. Still, it makes me nervous to have the kids gone for a week, even though this is sort of a cool thing to do as a kid.

Anyone have any good sleepaway camp stories to share?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Organic Thursday: Whole Foods Printable Coupons

Whole Foods online coupons have been updated again! Here is a list of the current coupons offered.
  • $1.00 off any ONE (1) 18-oz jar 365 Everyday Value® Organic Peanut Butter
  • $1.00 off any ONE (1) Lightlife Products
  • $1.00 off any ONE (1) 4-pack of Stonyfield YoBaby Meals Organic Yogurt
  • Buy any FOUR (4) Brown Cow Yogurt Cups, Get ONE (1) FREE
  • $1.00 off any ONE (1) 4.25 oz. Box of Blue Diamond® Nut Thins®
  • $1.50 off any TWO (2) Nature’s Path Organic Cereal items
  • $1.00 off any TWO (2) 32 oz. Helios Kefir Products
  • 50¢ off any ONE (1) LUNA® Bar or LUNA® Protein Bar
  • $1.00 off any ONE (1) Organic Valley Cheese 6oz or larger
  • $1.50 off any TWO (2) Nasoya Products
  • 75¢ off any TWO (2) flavors/varieties LARABAR® or JOCALAT® bars
  • $1.00 off any ONE (1) Michael Angelo's Frozen Entrée or Pocket Calzone
  • $1.00 off any ONE (1) Seventh Generation Disinfecting Product (Sprays and Wipes)
  • $5.00 off any ONE (1) Vitamin Code Raw Multivitamins (EXCLUDES Targeted Nutrient Formulas)

Your Bucks apologizes

Well, sort of...

Dear Valued YourBucks Member,

As a result of an email that we provided earlier, we have received feedback from some of our valued consumers. We apologize for the way in which we communicated the change in some of the offers now available to you on the YourBucks website. While the Terms and Conditions of the YourBucks program allow the Store to modify an offer, we regret suggesting that there was any improper use of the program by our YourBucks consumers.

Thank you for your support. We hope that you will continue to enjoy the YourBucks program.

Very truly yours,

Debra Friar
VP, CPG New Development

The fact of the matter is they screwed up and blamed the consumer for their own problems.

PS: Your Bucks is STILL giving you $1 for every 89c you spend on Sauve. I guess I'll get the blame for that, too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An open letter to Catalina Marketing

If you participated in the Your Bucks program at Jewel, you'll have by now received the following email:
Dear Valued YourBucks Member,

As the company proud to bring you high-valued savings, we want to express our appreciation for your participation in the YourBucks test pilot.
This test is designed to reveal the unexpected. Meaning, if the YourBucks program is rolled out nationally, we want to deliver a flawless, exceptional experience for our members.

Unfortunately, during this period of learning, some offers are being abused by a very small group of shoppers which is forcing us to modify the following three offers:

- Buy any ONE Ragu Pasta sauce 26oz or larger - $2.00
- Buy any ONE Suave® product excluding trial or travel size - $2.00
- Buy any ONE Degree® Anti-perspirant/Deodorant item excluding trial or travel size - $2.00

- Buy any 1 (One) or more Ragu Pasta sauce 26oz or larger - $1.00
- Buy any 2 (Two) or more Suave® product excluding trial or travel size - $1.00
- Buy any 1 (One) or more Degree® Anti-perspirant/Deodorant item excluding trial or travel size - $1.00

Please know this is not a decision we take lightly. And, we apologize that you are being impacted due to the questionable actions of so few.

Ultimately, our intention is to secure the long-term viability of the YourBucks program, and to continue to offer you and your families high-valued savings. Again, thank you for your participation and patience as we work to build a solid, lasting YourBucks platform.

If you have any additional questions, please connect with us at http://tv.catalinamarketing.com

YourBucks Customer Service.

To which I replied:

I am completely APPALLED to receive an email this morning stating that I indirectly abused your Your Bucks Promotion catalina offer that is currently at Jewel grocery stores. This program produced catalinas at checkout for the purchase of select items. I would suggest that you contact your client and tell them that in no way did consumers "abuse" this program. The Catalina marketing/promotions department responsible should have determined well ahead of time (as in three WEEKS ago when this program started) that offering $2 back on an 89c item, for example, would cause consumers to buy tons of this product. And per the terms of the Your Bucks promotion: "Quantity Limits: There is a limit of one YourBucks Award for any particular Program Award per transaction. You can participate as often as you wish during any Broadcast period." You never limited the number of transactions a consumer could do, nor limited the total quantity an item that could be purchased. How is this the consumer’s fault?

Is it the consumer's fault that you had such poor programming of items that you allowed trial sizes and well as sizes not stated on the advertisements to qualify for Your Bucks? As the consumer, is it MY responsibility to double check YOUR math and quality control YOUR program?

Is it the legitimate couponers fault that you implemented a program which allows Your Bucks to print BEFORE the consumer paid, opening yourself to those unscrupulous people who stole from you? You could have reprogrammed the system in hours to fix this but were you asleep at the wheel?

It seems to me that declaring the consumer, who did nothing wrong, somehow abused the system which Catalina implemented, is ridiculous at best and a poor example of customer service at worst.

You should be ASHAMED! You owe everyone you sent that email to an apology!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reynaud's Syndrome

It's a slow news day here apparently....

I was driving home on this cold, dampy day when my fingers went white. I've had this happen for years and years now when my hands get cold. It's worse in weather like this: chilly, damp and about 50 degrees. The entire sides and tips of one or two of my fingers on my left hand (rarely my right hand) go completely white and numb. It's a very odd sensation, but no particularly frightning or anything that extreme. It's a nuisance really. It takes about 15-20 minutes for this blood flow to return to my fingers. Only a few years ago, with the advent of the Internet and my ability to search such things as "white fingers on cold days" did I learn that I have a rare condition called Reyanud's Syndrome, and affects approximately 3% of the population.

The Mayo Clinic describes it best:

Doctors don't completely understand the cause of Raynaud's attacks, but blood vessels in the hands and feet appear to overreact to cold temperatures or stress:

-Cold temperatures. When your body is exposed to cold temperatures, your extremities lose heat. Your body slows down blood supply to your fingers and toes to preserve your body's core temperature. Your body specifically reduces blood flow by narrowing the small arteries under the skin of your extremities. In people with Raynaud's, this normal response is exaggerated.

-Stress. Stress causes a similar reaction to cold in the body, and likewise the body's response may be exaggerated in people with Raynaud's.

Blood vessels in spasm

With Raynaud's, arteries to your fingers and toes go into what's called vasospasm. This narrows your vessels dramatically and temporarily limits blood supply. Over time, these same small arteries may also thicken slightly, further limiting blood flow. The result is that affected skin turns a pale and dusky color due to the lack of blood flow to the area. Once the spasms go away and blood returns to the area, the tissue may turn red before returning to a normal color.

Cold temperatures are most likely to trigger an attack. Exposure to cold can be as simple as putting your hands under a faucet of running cold water, taking something out of the freezer or exposure to cold air. For some people, exposure to cold temperatures isn't necessary. Emotional stress alone can cause an episode of Raynaud's.

You're more likely to suffer from Reynaud's if you're a woman and live in cold climates (that would be me).
It starts like this. Half of one finger turns completely white.

After about 15 minutes the blood flow begins to return, from my palm towards my finger tip.

Then finally all the blood flow returns and my finger turns red (it never turns blue).

Sometimes I'll get this on my nose, or my left big toe (strange?). It doesn't hurt and the doctor doesn't think much of it since I've had it for a long time. If you develop Reyanuad's later in life you might also be suffering from autoimmune disorders and should have it checked out. Mostly it's just a sign I need to wear gloves and keep the heat set to 73 in the house.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Giveaway: Mambo Shopping bags

Are you ready to ditch the frumpy plastic bags and start sporting reusable ones! Enter to win one of 3 stylish starter kits or 2 chill bags from Blue Avocado by pledging how many plastic bags you’re willing to give up. Simply fill out the form below to submit your pledge! If you are a Twitter user, your pledge will automatically be posted on Twitter!

Go here: http://www.mambosprouts.com/contests-giveaways.php to enter

Enter by March 22nd! Winners will be chosen and notified by email, on or around March 23rd.

What's for dinner? Applebee's oriental chicken salad

Photo from Applebee's website

UPDATE: It was FANTASTIC! Everyone loved it (as usual) and my husband declared make this more than once per week. The chicken crispers made this dish for me, but broiled salmon or roasted chicken would also work well.

Yummy!  The secret to this dish is the dressing. Make sure you don't skimp on the ingredients.  I'll be adding some Tyson crispy chicken strips I got a great deal on at Jewel, plus some hard boiled eggs (the kids love those--I'll just eat the whites because my cholesterol is like 252--hereditary!)

Serves 4-6

15 wonton skins, cut into strips (or if you don’t want to fry: 1 cup fried crispy chow mein noodles)
oil for frying
1 head lettuce, leaves shredded or torn
2 cooked chicken breasts, meat shredded with your fingers
1 cucumber, sliced
handful snow peas, sliced on diagonal
11 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

For the dressing a la Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad Dressing
Makes 1 cup (use half for the salad and store the rest in refrigerator)
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

To make the salad dressing, whisk together the honey, mayonnaise, mustard until very smooth. Then whisk in the oil and vinegar.

To fry the wonton skin strips, heat 1 inch of oil until 375F. If you don’t have a thermometer, just slide one wonton strip into the oil - it should sizzle immediately and turn light golden brown in about 30 seconds. Fry the wonton strips in several batches and drain on a rack or layers of paper towels. Each batch should take about 30 seconds to 1 minute to fry.

Assemble Chinese Chicken Salad with lettuce, chicken, cucumber, snow peas, mandarin oranges. Drizzle on salad dressing and sprinkle with wonton strips.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Is your home security provider robbing you blind?

Recently an old high school friend asked me my advice on home alarm systems. I let my resident home technologist (AKA the husband) write my very first guest post (thanks Honey!) And wouldn't you know it--the instant I hit submit EVERY Google AdSense ad in my sidebar is from ADT! I guess ADT doesn't realize this post is about how they are ripping so many people off!

The alarm business is dominated by a few national brands such as Brinks and ADT. Consumers don't want to pay a lot upfront for an alarm system. Alarm companies want to maximize their profits and the way they do this is through recurring monthly revenue.

So what is likely to happen when you call ADT or Brinks is that they will have a "special" where you will pay $100 or so for an "alarm system." They will also have you sign a contract for $30-$40 per month for a two year term. This contract will also automatically renew for another year at that same rate, unless you contact them in writing between 30-60 days prior to the two year anniversary and ask to discontinue service. If you do discontinue service, you will also likely find that some of the equipment they installed is proprietary to that vendor and can not be reused if you change alarm service providers. The wholesale cost of providing an alarm service is around $5 a month, so this low upfront, high recurring charge deal is very profitable for them.

These national alarm companies typically will offer a very minimal alarm system which consists of a sensor on the front and back doors, a single keypad, a siren and a single interior motion detector. This is really not what most people should be using if they really want to adequately protect their house and their family. From their point of view, all you need is --any alarm system-- and they get their $30-$40 per month.

A good alarm system should protect the perimiter of the house via window contacts and/or glass break detectors. It should have several interior infrared motion detectors as a backup in case the bad guy gets past the perimeter. It should also detect smoke and automatically notify the fire department. A smoke alarm that goes off when no one is home to call the fire department won't keep your house from burning down. It is important to protect the entire perimeter of the house so that a burgular is scared off and never gets the chance to enter the house.

Most times the national alarm companies want to get in and get out fast with the installation. So they will use wireless components in a "lick and stick" installation. These components will be stuck to the interior of the buidling with double stick foam tape. Using wireless components costs a little more, but saves them the cost of having to run wires. Wires are preferable for the homeowner (if installed by a skilled installer) as it means better reliability and no batteries to change ever on sensors! Wireless installations will require service calls for battery replacement every few years.

So what would I recommend? I would recommend contacting a local alarm company not ADT or Brinks. You can find them in the yellow pages. Tell them that you want to pay for an installation, but that you don't want any monitoring service. Have them quote only the cost of the installation and alarm system programming. Tell them that you want them to leave you with the "installer code," which is the code that allows additional changes to be made to your alarm system. They may balk at this initially, but they do this deal all the time for new house builders. They really want to get the monthly monitoring commitment (and the recurring revenue it provides), but be firm. Pay their hourly rate for time and materials (or a quote for the job) and have them install a system that protects the perimieter, includes fire and includes motion detectors throughout the basement and first floor levels. Include an "alpha" keypad in both the entry areas as well as the master bedroom. (Alpha is important so that when the alarm goes off a 3 in the morning you can see "basement window alarm" rather than "Zone 12 alarm." Are you going to really remember what "Zone 12" is at 3:00 in the morning?)

So after you have the equipment installed, go to an Internet alarm service provider such as nextalarm.com or alarmrelay.com. They will be able to walk you through getting your alarm system conntected to their service. And now the best part -- their service will cost from $8.95 to $11.95 per month! These services will likely include additional features (e.g. we get a text message to the cellphone when anyone arms or disarms the system, also medical panic monitoring) that you would have to pay extra for with the big name companies. Very quickly the monthly savings will far more than pay for the extra upfront cost for the more advanced alarm system.

One final point -- alarm systems (especially wired ones without sensor batteries to change) require very little monthly maintenance. Don't sign up for a service contract. Just pay for repairs when they are needed.

Laugh out loud

All photos from icanhascheeseburger.com

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Another day, another great trip to the grocery store! Saved 85%

When you can cut your grocery bill down from $103 to $23 and walk out with another $34 in store coupons towards your next purchase, you've done well.

I snagged another 11 boxes of hot chocolate for the church, free Sauve (plus overage), FREE bread (plus overage), FREE baby powder (plus overage), plus tons of regular stuff for cheap, and then got the salmon filets, organic snack bars, fresh vegetables, organic dairy, and meats we normally buy. The only difference is that I chose items to buy that while I may not use (like all that hot coco, shampoo, powder etc) I can DONATE these items to the shelter and apply the overage to my other transactions.

Overage is when they store gives me $2 on my next order for a 79c loaf of bread, for example.

My favorite moment was when the checker said to me in disbelief: YOU GOT A GREAT DEAL!

Total cost of everything I bought:

- $49.78 in preferred card savings
-$78.50 in coupons (primarily catalinas from prior deals)
- $1 off the salmon store coupon
I paid $23

Total savings 85%

You CAN DO THIS.  I work FULL TIME.  I do NOT spend hours and hours doing calculations and cutting coupons. Find a great website that has women all over your area who work out the scenarios and learn from them, edit and change to suit your family's tastes and needs. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

PS: I'm planning to hit Jewel again tomorrow! Shhh!

Nesquik milk x 2 = FREE
Suave conditioner = FREE + overage
Ragu pasta sauce= FREE
Jewel bread= FREE + overage
11 boxes of Swiss Miss= $1
5 boxes of fruit snacks= $1
Johnson and Johnson baby powder x 2 = FREE + overage
Colgate Total toothpaste= 99cents
Planters cashews and almonds x 4 = $4

Total expected out of pocket: $6

Weeee! Cross #1 off the list

Just ran to Jewel at lunch (lucky me we got told to go home for the rest of the day to celebrate an office accomplishment).  I managed to hit a nice, quiet Jewel and grab items from the Conagra (Swiss Miss), Betty Crocker (Fruit snacks), YourBucks (Nestle) and Kraft (Kraft cheese) deals. My total out of pocket for everything below was a whopping $5.39.

Not bad for a newbie. Combined with all my other shopping I did, I bought $125 worth of groceries for $34. That's a savings of 73%.

AND I got another $35 off in coupons for my next purchase to boot!

Plans in the Works

Juggling multiple projects right now, but the three big ones:

1. Jewel
I've got to get to the Jewel today to do a few deals on items I want and need. I won't be spending hours there or wiping clean any shelves, just snagging a few good deals that we can use or donate to church. My big thing to plan is lunch for the weekend. Lunch is the hardest meal for me. I am at work during lunch most days, so I grab a Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine from home. But that won't work at home. I'm sick of sandwiches. Sick of soup. Sick of hot dogs. What a rut!

2. Trip planning for DC in June
I wrote to our congresswoman in January to arrange for tours. I was pleased to see an envelop from them this week with confirmations for our tours of the US Capitol, the Library of Congress and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. I had to go online myself and book the National Archives self-guided tour (the docent-led tour was sold out). Now that the biggies are taken care of, it's time to figure in all the little specialty museums the kids want to see. My MIL sent me a nice little book (Fodor's Around Washington, D.C. with Kids, 5th Edition (Around the City with Kids)created just for children visiting DC. I had the kids mark which ones they are interested in. It turned out most ALL of them (plus the national zoo which we need to work in for one day).

3. Windows and Doors
We need to begin researching new windows and doors for the house. Am sooo not looking forward to that (looking forward to it being done, but not the cost, stress or aggrevation). I have a lot of windows. A lot of them.

Here's the cover of this little book if you see it in stores. It's really very good.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Is 111 boxes of Swiss Miss enough to claim dual citizenship?

Something to consider. I do like Switzerland

But I digress...there is a sale starting Thursday at my Jewel grocery store. It goes a little like this:

Conagra (the manufacturer of such fine merchandise as Wesson Oil and Hunts Pudding--both with a shelf life to rival polystyrene), is offering $10 back on a $25 purchase. The $25 you spend is based on the normal (shelf) price of Swiss Miss hot chocolate mix, not the sale price. The shelf price is $2.49 and it's on sale for $1 starting Thursday. The trick, you see, is the SPREAD (I feel like a Vegas booky).

11 boxes x $2.49 =  $27.39 but I only pay 11 x $1 = $11
I get back $10
net net 11 boxes for $1.

Rinse and repeat 10 times.

I don't need 111 boxes of hot chocolate, but the church could use it for Fellowship. And 111 boxes for $11 isn't a bad deal, no?

Yeah! It's fixed

Curse you faulty flow switch valve! I don't know what you do but you won't be causing me grief anymore.

$70 later. Still getting a text message and email every 30 minutes but the temperature is going up at least!

The Not So Hot Tub

We took a cruise a few years ago and I will never forget "Goofy's Not So Hot Tub" for children on deck. I think Goofy's hot tub was warmer than ours is right now.

I'm sitting here waiting for the service man and then I really need to get into the office. The hot tub is on our deck, or I should say IN our deck, as it sits flush with the deck floor. It's an older tub, about ten years old, and nothing fancy. It was back in 1998 a Home Depot "special." We would never have bought a hot tub, but it came with the house, and like a puppy, it requires attention. For all intensive purposes, it makes hot bubbly water, and that's about it. These newer models I've seen in hot tub stores have digital displays, TV's, stereos, even WiFi in them. Ours doesn't have more than a set of bench seats around the edge, and maybe ten jets (new models have hundreds of jets). But these are merely accessories. The prime purpose of a hot tub is to keep the water hot, and ours doesn't.

Every once in a while it stops heating. The water is all swirly in anticipation, but the little red light stays solid, calling (I'd like to think DESPERATELY) for the damn heater to kick in. John, my personal home technologist, rigged the hot tub up to a heat sensor and it records the heat in the tub wirelessly on our home weather station (don't ask) and into a chart. We can watch the water heat. Except right now it isn't heating. In fact, the hot tub is paging me every 30 minutes to remind me that the temperature has dropped below 90 degrees and won't I please come and help it.

That's right, my husband has the thing tied into the cell system. It pages us when in distress. Starting, say, 3am when this problem occurred and every half hour after.

It emails me, too, in case I'm not paying it enough attention.

See, it really is like a puppy. A super, high tech, 82F puppy.

Monday, March 1, 2010

This, that and a sick kid

What? No image Marie for tonight's dinner? That's because tonight's dinner is beef stroganoff, and despite a strong proclivity to wanting to use the crockpot, I've never done beef stroganoff in a slow cooker. Add to this the fact that my recipe for in it a slow cooker calls for canned cream of onion and cream of mushroom soup, both of which I don't have on hand. So it's the old fashioned, stove-top variety for me. I'll even pat my beef stew meat dry before I brown it (Julia Child will be so proud of me!).

We did get in a lovely dinner with friends on Saturday night at one of our favorite local French restuarants. I forgot to take photos of all my meals (and frankly it would have been a pretty weird looking thing to do) but I did sneak in just this one for you. Beignets stuffed with chocolate ganache and red rasberry dipping sauce.

It was yummy. I don't think I have to tell you that.  I ended up having the same thing I'm always getting there: mixed green salad with toasted rounds of goat cheese, steak frites and dessert (above) although truth be told I never eat more than a third of the entree (the rest came home) and John ate most of my dessert (and regretted it the next day).

Sunday was supposed to be pretty easy but William fell ill with a stomach virus/fever. It came on from nowhere and I am pretty sure he must have caught it on his field trip Friday to the Adler Planetarium. Poor thing spent all Sunday and Sunday night lying on the floor of the bathroom (we moved the TV in there, and he was comfortable on pillows and blankets). Standing up made him sick. It was better to keep hm lying down and he did not want to move.  He didn't go to school today but is eating and watching tv and much more like himself. See?

Lastly I am beginning to see signs of spring: namely an increase in the number of days where we actually see a little sun (like once a week if we're lucky). But it's just enough to make Mr. Ficus come back alive. I told you he would (ok, I had my doubts afer he dropped a gazillion leaves) but I just have to remember to breathe.


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