Well Played Kid!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Tyler and Phil rough house with each other at least once a day. Tonight, they were play fighting when I walked into the room. Tyler turned to look at me and Phil popped him one.

DS: "Hey, that's not fair!"

DH: "You weren't looking, how is that not fair?"

DS: "Mom distracted me!"

DH: "So, now it's mom fault?"

DS: "Yeah, because she distracted me with her beauty!"

All together now: awwwwwww.

IHop, Chik fil A, Coffee Bean | Frugal Friday March Freebies

Friday, February 25, 2011

Welcome to Marchphoto © 2010 Ginny | more info (via: Wylio)
Make a note on your calendars. There are some great freebies happening in the first few days of March. 

March 1: IHOP is hosting its fourth National Pancake Day  from 7am-10pm. While the pancakes are free, the event is raising money for Children's Miracle Network. 

March 1: If you have a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf near you, stop into their spring open house from 4pm-7pm for free samples of either the Spring Peach Tea Latte, Spring Peach Iced Latte or Peach FruTea.

March 4: I love Chik fil A. They've hosted special military days in the past. Plus I appreciate that they are closed on Sundays. On Free FryDay, ask to try the new Heinz ketchup packet and get a free order of waffle fries. 

So much yumminess! And so much jiggly-ness if I take advantage of all of them! Do you know of any other freebies coming up? Leave them in the comments and I'll update the post.

*Always check with a location before you go.

Bloodroot and Holly's Inbox: Book Reviews

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Last week I finished two books I really enjoyed, Bloodroot by Amy Greene and Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham. Bloodroot only took me three days to finish. I heard about it the books section of one of my magazines. I loved it! I don't know why I'm fascinated with stories whose characters have 'the touch' or some other mystical power. Same with books set in the south (location was part of the reason I loved The Help, too). This book has childhood friendships, familial loyalty and a little bit of tragedy. It's set in Appalachia and spans almost 50 years. I was sucked in within the first few pages. 

Bloodroot (Vintage Contemporaries) Holly's Inbox Holly's Inbox: Scandal in the City

Holly's Inbox is set in Britain. Every book that came out after Bridget Jone's has had some type of comparison. This is one is called Bridget Jones meets technology. The story is told entirely through emails between Holly, her friends, her family and co-workers. It's not a small book at 672 pages but since it's not all text, it reads really fast. It's cute and funny just as chick lit should be. I have the sequel but am only about 20 pages in. Interesting side note, Holly Denham is the character's name. The author is actually a man. 

Both these books would be good beach reads.

Invitation to the Souplantation Test Kitchen | Things That Pop Up in My Email

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Dad took me to Souplantation for the first time. I was in college. My brother and I were visiting him for the weekend and he suggested it. We went and I was in heaven. Any restaurant that has a huge spread of carbs that I can re-fill at will is my kind of place! Back then, the wait staff would bring around brown paper bags at closing and let patrons take home the muffins left at the bar. 

Anytime we went to visit my dad after that, we'd always ask for Souplantation and wait until just before closing to go. One time, we went the night before we were to leave on a road trip to Vegas. My brother and I made a bee line for the muffin bar and stuffed those bags as full as we could. We ate muffins all the way to Vegas and back.

One semester in college, I scheduled a three hour break in my Tuesday, Thursday classes. I'd take my books to Souplantation right before the pricing changed from lunch to dinner and I'd study for hours grazing on sourdough, pasta and fro yo. Looking back, the fact that I gained a ton of weight should not have come as any surprise. But, I did get good grades that semester.

Fast forward to Tyler's toddlerhood. We decided to take him to Souplantation to see what kind of veggies he'd like. It was the perfect place to spread a lot of little piles of food in front of him and let him go to town. Today, when I tell him he used to happily and willingly eat beets, he looks at me as though I've grown an extra limb. Souplantation is still his favorite restaurant. 

To this day his plate looks almost the same as it did when he was little: noodles, kidney beans, peas, corn, shredded cheese, pizza foccacia, sourdough and blueberry muffins. Lather, rinse and repeat. The last time we went to dinner, he did express slight interest in my baked potato with bacon, cheese and chicken* but I'm not holding my breath.

Where's all this going? Well, it's just a lot of backstory to help you understand why I was so psyched when I got an invitation to meet some of the execs from Souplantation a few weeks ago. All week leading up to the event, Tyler kept telling me how lucky I was. "You're spending three whole days there? You're so lucky! I wish I was going, too. Can you bring me back some noodles?"

I've said before that one of the best things about blogging has been getting to meet to execs from companies I admire and having them listen to our ideas, share their visions and ask if there are ways we can help them achieve them. I made a few suggestions as to how they could honor our men and women in uniform and make school fundraising a little easier. Add to that one of the contacts I made has asked for my help with their social media and it was a win all the way around. 

People often ask me what the benefit is to attending a blogging event. I never know what I'm going to get out of an event until I go. I have no idea if I'll write about events I attend until they're over and I can find a way to weave something personal in that will (hopefully) make it interesting for you to read about. 
In this case, how could I pass up the opportunity to meet the people behind a company I've loved since I was a teenager?

What about you? What do you get out of blogging events? Is there a company or brand you'd love the opportunity to get to meet with?

*They'll probably get mad at me for telling you this, but instead of buying the side of chicken meat at the salad bar, I take some of the chunks out the chicken noodle soup. 

This is not a compensated post though Souplantation fed me well for the three days of the event. Caryn of Rockin' Mama has a little bit of video of the event and I have a few pictures on Flickr.

Neglected Blog, But More Family Time

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hello! I was gong to apologize for not being around but I changed my mind. I wouldn't have anything to blog about if I didn't step away from the screen every once in awhile, right?

My Gramma was here visiting. She's set to head back to the midwest soon and wanted to spend a little more time with Tyler. Gramma spends the winter at my mom's, arriving in early November and leaving in February. This year's trip has been a rough one for her. Two friends and her brother died while she was here. My mom said after she got back from the east coast for her brother's funeral, she seemed to have lost a lot of her usual energy and vitality. I think it was good for her to be with her Sweetie Pie (me) and Grandbaby.

Gramma and Tyler are totally in love with each other. They have such a great relationship. That they've been able to spend so much time together over the years is something I'm happy to be able to have done for him. Some of my happiest childhood memories are of time spent with my grandparents. 

We didn't do a whole lot while she was here, but that's the cool thing about Gramma. We don't have to. We shopped, she showed me how to make chicken and dumplings and we all played Wii. My Gramma is a lot more competitive than I remember and a pretty good bowler too. We took her Tyler's hockey practice and she said 'woops!' every time one of the kids fell, which was often. And we laughed. A lot.

We've been teasing Gramma about her selective hearing. We say one thing, but she hears something totally different. The resulting conversations have often been hilarious. Example:

Me: Gramma, do you want an Oreo?

Gramma: Sure, thank you. (as she takes the whole sleeve) Where did you get these Oreos in a sleeve? Don't they usually come in a package?

Me: I got the Family Size box at Target.

G: You don't want to tell me? Why not?

Me: What?!

Gramma: Why don't you want to tell me where you got the Oreos?

Me: I said I got them at Target.
Gramma: Oh. I thought you said you didn't want to tell me.

Me: Those two sound nothing alike!

Gramma: You're right, I guess they don't. Want an Oreo? 

Oh my gosh, we were hysterical. Reading it, it doesn't seem very funny. I guess it was one of those, 'you had to be there' moments. 

Anyhoo, that's where I've been. I'm staring down a whole week's worth of To Do's but it was totally worth it. My Gramma makes me happy. Hopefully I'll be back to regular (maybe semi regular) posting next week. Happy Friday!

O Magazine $5 | Mamapedia Deal

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I love it when magazine subscriptions drop down like this! My current subscription total is up to 16. 18 if the freebies I found this week go through. What can I say, I'm addicted! 

Mamapedia is another site offering daily deals (current subscriptions to those sites about the same as my magazines!). One of their current Sweet Deals is a one-year subscription to O Magazine for $10. Code OPRAH5 should take $5 off at checkout (please let me know if the code isn't working). The deal is on the right sidebar.

I definitely want to keep up with this subscription since her show is ending. I like OWN but not as much as The Oprah Show. Are you watching OWN? What do you think so far?

*Offer fine print: Valid for 1-year subscription only. Valid for new subscriptions and renewals. Limit (1) per household. May purchase as gifts. Offer valid Feb 11-14, 2011 only. Will automatically receive subscription in 4-6 weeks after order placed. Affiliate link.

Print Grocery Coupons at Cheap Sally: Frugal Friday

Friday, February 11, 2011

Yesterday I Skyped with Steph and one of the many things we talked about was budgeting and saving money. I told her continuing to trim our grocery budget is a big priority for me. One thing that has helped me the most is printing grocery coupons. 

Many sites will issue one or two new coupons throughout the month, but for the most part, printable coupon sites are re-set on the first day of month. I've bookmarked all the sites I go to and I try to hit them all within the first two days of the month. If I wait too long, many of the good coupons hit their print limits. 

Earlier this week I got an email from a local PR firm about a new site for coupons. Since I hadn't heard of it before I thought I'd share in case you haven't either. Having access to multiple sites for printable grocery coupons is the best way to get duplicates of really high value coupons or for items you buy all the time. 

The coupons on Cheap Sally are powered by Coupons.com which is my favorite site (look under the more savings tab). Cheap Sally also has coupon codes for online shopping, discounted gift cards and event tickets. I'll keep those things in mind but I know for me, the grocery coupons will be the most valuable part of the site. 

What site do you visit most for printable coupons? 

Peekaboo! I See You! Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Oprah Let Me Down

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

'Book Addiction' photo (c) 2010, Emily Carlin - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
For the past few weeks I've been juggling two books. One was our December/January book club selection and the other just because. Both are really meaty books, 600+ pages. Both are on Oprah's book lists. Both of them suck! 

I usually stick with a book. No matter how awful it is, I'll keep plugging away, especially if the book is something tons of other people talk about and love. Well, not this time. I waved the white book mark, threw in the proverbial towel. I took Freedom back to the library yesterday after about 250 pages. 

I didn't like the characters. I didn't like Franzen's writing style. I didn't care about the story. It was a giant snooze. I feel like a quitter but I have about 50 books in my 'to be read' and most of them look so good. I'd walk past them all on my way to bed knowing that one of them was going to knock my socks off and then open Freedom. I couldn't take it anymore. 

Then there's Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True. I'm about 360 pages into it. I was really looking forward to it because both Deb and Mary loved it. But it's soooooo depressing! Not that depressing is bad. I've read books with heavy themes before and still enjoyed them. But this? Whoa.

We already had our book club meeting so I know the ending. This one I'm going to stick with (I think) but only because I want to see how certain plot lines play out. I will say I enjoy the writing in this book much better than Freedom. I haven't read too may of Oprah's book club selections but I've liked all the titles I've read. Until now.

What books have you waved the white book mark on? Have you read Freedom or I Know This Much is True? What did you think?

Amazon Valentine Playlist Freebie

Monday, February 7, 2011

Kissy Face White Puppy Dog Love, Kahuna Luna covered in Lipstick Kisses for Valentine's Day & 1st Birthdayphoto © 2009 Beverly | more info (via: Wylio)
Amazon has another great freebie up. Surprise your sweetie with free music for Valentine's Day. The free playlist has 14 songs. You can also get a $2 discount when you send MP3's as gifts with code VDAYMP3S.

One of the February MP3 specials is 100 albums priced at $5 like Lady Antebellum, Norah Jones, Sara Bareilles and Train. With the code, these would make a super cheap Valentine's Day gift.

(Code and free playlist end on Valentine's Day, affiliate links)

Raising Kids Who Read: Parents Don't Give Up!

Friday, February 4, 2011

I've heard some parents say they can't get their kids to read or that their kids don't like reading. To that I say, why not try reading with them? I just had a whole classroom full of kids, sitting quietly at their desks, hanging onto my every word. I wonder how many of those kids' parents, the ones who think their children don't like books, would be surprised to see their child so engaged?
Books, books, books, books, books, books, and books.photo © 2008 Kenny Louie | more info (via: Wylio)

My son's teacher has made reading a priority in her classroom and I love it. She has a giant class library, the kids have assigned reading time and she's asked parents to volunteer to be Mystery Reader. That's what I did this afternoon. We parents give her five clues going from generic to specific that the kids use to guess who the Reader might be. She starts the clues on Monday and gives one a day. It keeps the kids excited, gives them something to look forward to and makes reading fun, the way it should be. 

It's true there's a lot more to distract kids than when we were younger, but reading is such a gift! I can't imagine not making as much of an effort as possible to give that gift to my child. The kids in Tyler's class today loved being read to! I took The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Treasury with me and read the Won't Pick Up Toys Cure. The kids laughed and I asked them questions.

When I finished the story they clapped and asked if I would come back again. "We love it when you're Mystery Reader!" "Will you bring Mrs. Piggle Wiggle again?" Talk about feeling like a rockstar! To paraphrase the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes. And when one of Tyler's classmates hugged me on my way out? It totally burst. 

It makes me sad to think that, for some of those kids, the classroom might be their only exposure to be reading. Especially since they so obviously enjoy Mystery Reader Fridays. I'm sure I'll get a little flack for saying this, but I wonder how many parents who feel their kids aren't readers just gave up too soon?

There are so many options for reading besides 'traditional' books like digital books and ereaders, that there's plenty of opportunity to expose kids to reading. Maybe through these more 'techy' methods, there will be an increase in kids who learn to love reading. At least I hope so.

Are you kid readers? Do you have advice for parents who want their kids to read more?

Barnes & Noble $20 GC for $10 | Hot Groupon Deal

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fellow readers, you'll want to jump on this. Groupon has a great deal for a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card for only $10! Holla!

If you don't have an account yet, sign up for one. The deal is listed under Chicago but it's for everyone. The fine print:
  • Expires Apr 10, 2011
  • Limit 1/person. Limit 1/trans. Valid in-store or online. Valid on sale items. Groupon value reduces by $10 on 4/11, except where prohibited.
The deal will be up on the site through Monday but could sell out before then. Happy reading!

*Yes, these are affiliate links

My Ode to Coffee {Smart and Final Ambience Giveaway}

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This sponsored post and giveaway are inspired by my sampling of the new Ambiance line of coffee by Smart and Final. *Contest is now Closed - Congrats to #27, Kalea!*
"Over second and third cups flow matters of high finance, high state, common gossip and low comedy. Coffee is a social binder, a warmer of tongues, a soberer of minds, a stimulant of wit, a foiler of sleep if you want it so. From roadside mugs to the classic demi-tasse, it is the perfect democrat."            ~Author Unknown
I'm sure you're all dying to know how I feel about coffee. You could skip straight to the bottom for the gift card giveaway, but you'd be missing out on a chance to get to know me better!

I didn't start drinking coffee until I was in college. I've always liked the smell of the beans and a fresh brewed pot, but before I went away to school I couldn't take the taste. Even when I started drinking it, it wasn't really because I wanted a cup of coffee. It started, like most people I knew, as a tool for cram sessions or a way to wake up after a long night of partying, er, studying.

Before I learned to appreciate the taste and recognize a bad cup of coffee, I drank mine like Clarence, a character in one of the best movies ever made.* "It's not a good cup of coffee unless the spoon stands up." The sugar to liquid ratio was totally skewed toward sugar. My teeth feel gritty just thinking about it.

I've become a bit of a coffee snob in my old age. We prefer to grind our own beans, only drink flavored coffee and always have an assortment of creamers and half and half in the fridge. Also? I don't mix flavors. If my coffee flavor is creme brulee, the creamer has to be, too. French Vanilla and Hazelnut do not go together and never shall the two mix in my mug.

Speaking of mugs, I have two favorites. There's my everyday mug that I went to several Starbucks to find, and my Copco travel mug. I don't let anyone use them so don't even ask.

Coffee Break! from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 LenDog64, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

Does anyone remember that TV show from the early '90's Grace Under Fire? In one episode, Grace's neighbor, Nadine, got into a fight with her husband Wade over how she takes her coffee. "Doesn't he know I like my coffee taupe?!" That's me. I can't drink my coffee unless it's a certain shade of taupe.

I also have pretty specific tastes when I go out for coffee. Most people stop offering to go on a coffee run when I'm around because I will hand you my drink order on a Post It note. Yes, I am that person.

I may have gotten a late start, but now coffee is a big part of my life. I usually start my day with it. I've had meetings over a cup. I've made new friends, reconnected with old friends, caught up on life, laughed, had serious discussions and read great books with a cup of coffee nearby.

I love my coffee. I need my coffee. I crave coffee. I have driven out of my way for coffee. Coffee!!!!!!


I've told you my coffee quirks, now you tell me yours. I have a pretty cool prize up for grabs. Smart and Final wants you to get addicted to enjoy their new Ambiance coffee. 

You'll get the same gift basket I was given with a sampling of their 6 flavors AND a $150 gift card. $150 goes a long way at Smart and Final (more on that later). So how do you win? Easy:

Prize: One winner will receive an Ambiance coffee product gift basket and $150 Smart & Final gift card.

Rules/ways to enter:
1. Comment here with your favorite coffee moment, quirk or your beverage of choice.

2. You can earn extra entries for tweeting about this giveaway and using the #MyAmbianceMoment hashtag. Leave a comment with a link to your daily tweet (one tweet/extra entry per day).

3. Post the contest on Facebook and leave a link.

4. You don't have to follow me, friend me or Smart and Final to win. There are 14 other bloggers doing the same giveaway and all links are being Tweeted and posted on the Smart and Final Facebook page.

Sample text: "Enter to win an Ambiance Coffee gift pack and $150 gift card from @smartfinal http://bit.ly/SFSmartiesAmbience #MyAmbianceMoment Pls RT!"

5. You know the drill, no contact info, no entry.

6. I'll post the winner here and on Twitter after I've used Random.org.

7. Winner has 24 hours to respond or I'll choose another.

Deadline: Tuesday February 8th, midnight PST.

Good luck!

*If you can tell me what movie that line is from you'll be my new BFF.
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