Phone Time with Terry Crews of Are We There Yet?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I've been incredibly fortunate to have some pretty amazing opportunities come my way through blogging. I've made new friends locally, met favorite bloggers face to face, attended some really great events, went to my first red carpet premiere and traveled more in the last 2 years than I have in my life. Now I can add phone chat with a TV and film actor to the list. 

It was a pretty typical day yesterday. The cat pooped on floor, the internet was down, I volunteered at Tyler's summer camp, did some laundry and dishes and then I got a call from my new BFF, Terry Crews, star of the TBS show Are We There Yet? You know, the usual stuff.

Are We There Yet? is about Nick (Terry) and his marriage to Suzanne (Essence Atkins) and how they manage their blended family. I asked Terry several questions but two things he said stuck with me through the day.

One of the main things Terry hopes the show does is offer a return of "the family hour." I thought about it and it's true. TV is pretty different now than when we were younger. I remember being able to watch The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Who's the Boss, Punky Brewster and Growing Pains with my parents before bedtime. Even the kinda lame shows like ALF and Small Wonder were things we could all watch together. I can't think of any network show that we've all watched together, and more importantly all enjoyed, since Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.

L to R: Coy Stewart, Essence Atkins, Terry Crews, Teala Dunn 
of TBS's Are We There Yet?
I'm not anti-TV. I think there's a ton of great programming on TV. We've had a lot of good discussions about things we've watched together, they just happen to be mostly on cable. Network rating aren't what they used to be. Perhaps they should re-visit the shows of the 1980's and bring back that formula and create more content like Are We There Yet? and less CSI spinoffs.

The other thing that's stuck with me has actually been a little bit of a mind blow for me. When the PR team asked if I'd like to speak with Terry about blended families, I kept telling them I'm not part of a blended family and would feel more comfortable talking about the show in general. One thing Terry said to me was, "being a stepparent can be a thankless job."

At first I was thinking about friends and other family members, nodding remembering some of the situations they've been in, but this morning I had a lightning bolt moment. My dad has been remarried for years, yet I don't think I've ever referred to "Sally" as my stepmom. It sounds so simple when I type it out, but I really am weirded out right now. Maybe if '"Sally" had kids I would think differently. I'll have to ponder that.

No matter what quantifiers we use to describe our families: blended, biracial, adoptive etc., they all include the word family. Terry said he wants Are We There Yet? to be an example that no matter how it came to be, "you are a family," and at the end of the day, "good parents are good parents, and good kids are good kids."

(Bloopers from tonight's season finale)

Thank you to Terry for taking the time to chat with me! I wonder if Ice Cube (the show's producer and also star) gives Terry a hard time for playing for the SD Chargers since he's such a huge Raider fan? I'll have to ask him the next time he calls.

The season finale of Are We There Yet? airs tonight on TBS. Full episodes are available online at and

*I wouldn't be me if I didn't also say it's great to see a show with a predominantly black cast where the family is in a strong, healthy relationship!


Friday, June 25, 2010

I do not like spiders. I do not like spiders. I do not like spiders. 

This morning I asked Tyler for the gazillionth time to get his room straightened up so I can vacuum. His floors haven't been vacuumed in so long I bet the carpet will be several shades lighter when I'm finished. 

He straightened up for me but I try to remember to check for stray Lego pieces and Nerf darts under his bed before I start. God forbid I suck up a droid arm! I got down on my hands and knees to do a quick scan and almost freaked the hell out.

Giving these out in place of candy is so NOT cool!
I froze and my heart started beating really fast. If it had wiggled, even a little bit, I think I'd be calling a moving van right now.

Movie Night in the Burbs: Wordless Wednesday

Frugal Gift Basket Idea for Teachers | Video Post

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I made this video last week. In it, I share the end of year, beach-themed gift basket I put together for Tyler's teacher. 

I went to three places: Target, Bed, Bath and Beyond and my local library. I'm really happy with how it turned out, and the fact that I was able to stick so close to my set budget.  

See what I was able to do for under $25!


What did you give your kids' teacher?

Father's Day Gift Ideas for the Stumped

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I generally use Father's Day as an opportunity to buy Phil the type of clothes I like to see him in. He doesn't care one iota about fashion so I can make him my own life-sized Ken doll. But if he doesn't need clothes, I'm usually at a loss. And forget about our father's. They're both so hard to shop for. 

We usually rely on the ole 'cute picture of the grandkid' standby if neither of us have an original idea. Here are a few things I've come across for those of you who get stumped the same way I do.

Kicked up cutting boards
I saw these at the International Housewares Show. They're from the Epicurean BBQ Series and I think they're pretty cool.

I love the silicone holders on the sides; one for a knife or tongs and the others for spices (or, more likely, a beer!).

BYOB flip flops
I bought Phil a pair of the Reef Dram sandals from Nordstrom Rack. They have a flask in the sole and come with a key and mini funnel.

The other style, the Reef Fanning, has a bottle opener in the sole. I don't imagine either are very airport friendly but they're really cute.

Magnetic bottle opener
I saw the Clink N Drink at the Oceanside Farmer's Market. It's a bottle opener attached to a really strong magnet. The bottle caps stick right to the surface and stay there until you empty it.

Brian has a lot of different skins for the openers like surf. I think he has more skin options in person than on the site but I haven't verified.

What are you giving for Father's Day? 
(I still need an idea for my Grandfather!) 

*I wasn't asked to write about or wad compensated for this post. The affiliate links are to Amazon.

AJ Wright Shopping Challenge: Bring It!

Monday, June 14, 2010

I first learned the term off price shopping when I went to Boston last year for the TJ Maxx/Marshalls event. A few weeks ago, I got an opportunity to learn a little more about it in the form of a shopping challenge. AJ Wright, another store under the TJX Group of stores, emailed and asked if I'd be willing to take a $100 shopping challenge at their new store in Norwalk. Me? Take a shopping challenge? Does the Pope wear Prada?! 

I decided to make a day of it and pulled Tyler out of school early. I dropped him off to spend the afternoon with my dad because we hadn't seen him since the holidays. The store didn't open to the public for another few days so we had it all to ourselves. We learned a bit about how AJ Wright is different from TJ Maxx and Marshalls, their commitment to the communities where they open stores and their model search contests, and then they let us loose.

Armed with $100 and 2 hours to spend it wisely, I went all over the store. AJ Wright has the same departments as TJ Maxx and Marshalls so I was able to look at bedding, bath items and kitchen stuff. I decided to be selfish and stick with clothes and shoes for me.

I did really well. I bought 4 tops, one skirt, one pair of shoes, 2 Star Wars guys for Tyler and a shirt for Phil (Happy Father's Day!) and only went slightly over budget.

I asked if the stores will have better seasonal selections. One thing many of us said at the TJ Maxx/Marshalls event was that those of us in warm climates get frustrated when the sweaters and jackets start showing up in August. AJ Wright has fewer stores to buy for and can tailor the selections a little better for the market the store is in. I should have asked if there will be A and B stores the same as TJ Maxx and Marshalls.

AJ Wright is compared to Old Navy in terms of where it fits in to the TJX group of stores. I can definitely see that as true. The prices at AJ Wright were lower than TJ Maxx/Marshalls (which is hard to do!) but I could tell the quality on some items isn't the same and there weren't as many designer labels as I can find at TJ Maxx or Marshalls (though there were designer names in many of the departments).

At the event with me:
Amanda of Mommy Mandy
Ashley of  Me and My 3 Kids
Caryn of Rockin' Mama

Thank you to AJ Wright and SBC Advertising for such a fun afternoon!

You can see the rest of my photos on Flickr.

*AJ Wright gave me $100 to spend in the store as well as transportation to and from my father's house.

Book Review: Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

Monday, June 7, 2010

Delivering Happiness
Of the many pairs of shoes I own, I know exactly which ones came from Zappos. Before I was laid off, the site was my p0rn. I would sit on my lunch break and page through the sections looking for my next purchase. I don't go to the site nearly as often nowadays. It's too torturous. But, I appreciate their service and I'm sure I'll take advantage of my VIP status at some point.

I signed up to receive an advance copy of CEO Tony Hsieh's book Delivering Happiness mostly because of my obsession interest in shoes but also because of a piece I read in Inc. Magazine* about Zappos and it's company culture and curiosity about one of the greatest ecommerce success stories of all time.

Even though I'm not a business person or entrepreneur I still really enjoyed the book. Hsieh has a really casual writing style, more like story telling. The beginning section had me laughing with his early attempts at building his fortune. At age nine I was still playing with Barbies and he was setting up his first business.

What I like about the book:
*That he wrote it himself, no ghostwriters.
*The emphasis on money and profits being happy byproducts, not the main goals
*The theme of finding one's passion is all throughout the book, not just in the title. It's not marketing, it's what he really believes. 

What I didn't like about the book:
*The section about the development of the Core Values lost me a little. I like that Hsieh uses emails and stories from other employees to illustrate the values but with 10 of them, it got to be a little much (though the transcript on page 166 of a live chat between a customer and  Zappos employee Jonathan is hilarious!).
*I really would have liked a few pictures. With all the emphasis on the importance of the culture, photographic examples would have been fun. 

Inc. Magazine** hosted a live chat with Hsieh this morning. I submitted two questions and both were answered! (I screwed up my screen shot, boo!) I'm paraphrasing Tony's answers:

Q: You found your passion early in life, what advice would you give to late bloomers?
A: "Try a little bit of everything."

I'm enjoying blogging a lot more than I was at the end of last year. It's giving me new perspective. While I can't say I've found my passion, but I definitely feel being part of this community and social media scene has opened so many doors, given an outlet to my creativity and inspired so many ideas that it's just a matter of time.

Q: Do you thin Zappos will be using brand ambassadors as so many companies seem to be doing lately?
A: "I'm not sure what other companies are doing, but at Zappos we'd like to think our loyal customers are our brand ambassadors."

I asked this because it seems that all of the Zappos social media comes from inside the company. The employees are the ones to blog, Tweet, and Facebook. It would be interesting to hear how an "outsider" would report about the company.

As part of my review, I got a second copy to give away. To keep it easy for myself I'm holding the giveaway on Twitter (family in town this week).

1. If you'd like a copy Tweet out something with #ZapposDHBook in it. I need the hashtag to track the responses. If you're not on Twitter but think you'd like to read it, leave a comment below and I'll see what I can do (no promises though). Follow @dhbook to read the other reviews and enter other giveaways.
2. The contest will close this Friday June 11th at midnight CA time. Any Tweets after that won't count.
3. I'll send the winner a Tweet letting them know they've won. If I get no response by Sunday night I'll choose another winner. Good luck!

All in all I really enjoyed Delivering Happiness. I don't often read business books like this but I can see myself looking into some of the titles Hsieh makes available to the staff in the Zappos library. Lessons about doing what you love, looking beyond profit (or a paycheck) and being passionate translate into all areas of life, not just business.

*Not the piece in the current issue, this was some time ago.
**This sounds like I'm pimping Inc. but I'm not. I just really enjoy the magazine.

I received both copies of the book from Zappos as part of their blogger review program. I didn't get anything for it other than a good read. Book cover image from Amazon.

Vons Deals: My Awesome Shopping Trip

Friday, June 4, 2010

I had a fabulous trip to Vons today! I so appreciate all the hard work the frugal bloggers do. I've saved so much money since I started really focusing on cutting our grocery bills. If you'd like to start but feel intimidated, finding a site that gives offers for what's available locally to you is a great way to start. Kerri from Save at Home Mommy has been my go-to for So Cal stores.
We have friends coming into town next week and school is out soon, so I've been stocking up on snacks and kid drinks. I wasn't planning on heading to Vons but the in store promotions coupled with the available coupons were just too good to pass up, especially the Buy 8 Save $4.

This is my shopping trip:
10 SoBe's*
2 Cheerios*
1 Lucky Charms*
3 Coffee Mate creamers (major score)
4 Mac N Cheese (braces friendly)*
3 Crescent Rolls*
6 Yoplait
2 Chex Mix* (might have been free)
1 pretzels
1 Ritz Crackerfuls*
2 milk
4 Odwalla smoothies* (also a major score)
3 Lunchables (do not overlook the manager's specials sections of the store, these were .88 each)
1 half dozen eggs

43 items
Total: $90.13
Paid: $37.20
Savings: $52.93
(*Buy 8, Get $4)

The way Tyler is eating lately, this will all be gone before school is out!

What have you scored on lately?

My Latest Toy: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A 75-300.  Can't wait to figure this baby out.
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