Shopping at Target for Boys | Fashion Haul Friday {Vlog}

Friday, April 29, 2011

For this Fashion Haul I went back to Target. Tyler had a substantial growth spurt and we needed to look for summer clothes. If my dress looks familiar that's because it's from my last Fashion Friday.

If you have boys, where do you have the most luck in finding clothes 
you both can live with?

Four Ways to Raise Money for Schools

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This post is sponsored by Welch's Harvest Grants

Drawing competition for school kids
photo © 2009 Simply CVR | more info (via: Wylio)

Last year, our school started an initiative hoping to get each family to contribute $250 per student to help offset the costs of school programs. They must not have had as many donations as they needed because I got an email two weeks ago that the PE program for 3rd grade is going to be cut. Honestly, how many more things are our children going to have to lose?!

I know this economy isn't helping. Combined with the costs of school clothes, after school activities, field trips, year books, teacher gifts throughout the year and donating supplies to the classroom, that amount of money probably isn't doable for many families.

We try to support Tyler's school whenever we can. We haven't written our own $250 check, but we go to as many of the PTO events as we can and I'm religious about collecting Boxtops. One time when I was at Costco, one of the sampling events was using zipper bags. There was a pile of empty boxes with Boxtops on them. I stood there looking at them and thought "could I? Should I?" before I  chickened out and walked away.

Since my last post about the education system and schools, I've been keeping my eye out for affordable and practical ways we can all help our children's schools:
Many office supply stores offer incentives for teachers in addition to their customer rewards programs. I used a Staples rebate to buy free paper and donated it to the classroom.  Those types of offers are available all the time and definitely help offset the costs of all the supplies the teachers need.

It's sad the extent that families are having to step in to fill the gaps in our schools. I can only imagine how I'd feel if our financial situation were different and we weren't able to do anything above and beyond sending Tyler in every day. 

I don't know what has to happen before our educational system will get back on track. I fear it will have to get even worse before it will get better. And that? Is really, really scary.

Do you have any other ways schools can raise funds or families can get cheap or free supplies for the classroom?


This post was sponsored by Welch's Harvest Grants:
Last year, schools across the nation were invited to apply for one of 100 grants to start their own school garden. Five schools would receive $1000 grants and 95, $500 grants. Welch's had almost 7,000 entries! I didn't apply because our school already has a garden but I think it's fabulous that so many people got involved. Congratulations to the winners!

*I think School Deals is, so far, only local to San Diego. Check all sites to see if they are in your city.

Affiliate links have been used. This is a sponsored, compensated post but the opinions are mine.

Track Your Grocery Prices | Frugal Friday

Friday, April 22, 2011

Today I'm talking about tracking prices. I feel I still have a lot to learn about coupons and frugal shopping but I definitely know more than I did last year. When I go to the stores, increasingly I've been able to look at the price of something and know if A) it's a good price and B) if I might be able to get the item for a cheaper price at another store. I also keep the store circulars for several weeks so I can compare prices against stores and see what an individual store's sales cycle is.

Armed with that information, I'm better able to know when a special trip to the store is justified or not and if an item is at its stock up price. I haven't even considered starting a grocery price book, I keep track mentally, but if you're really serious about saving that's the way to go. When I finally get around to making my coupon binder, I think I'll have at least one tracking sheet in it for the items I buy regularly. 

Last week, Henry's had a great sale on meats. I don't typically buy meat there, mostly produce and items from the bulk bins, but the 72 Hour sale they were holding was a good excuse to stock up. I broke these down and froze them in more manageable meal sizes. The chicken breasts are huge so they're perfect for crockpot type meals. For $25.36 I now have enough meat for at least six meals.

Do you track prices? Have you noticed significant saving? Most importantly, do you have any recipes for all those pork chops?!

*Gift certificate provided by San Diego Bargain Mama and Henry's. No other compensation received. I love this store and shop there regularly. Opinions are totally my own. I'm serious about the recipes.

Mabel's Labels Non Contest | Setting the Standard for Conference Sponsorships

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the buzz for this year's BlogHer conference has already started. Lots of us look forward to this all year. As the conference gets closer, companies are going to start offering various sponsorship opportunities from full conference attendance to money to offset the expenses.

Typically, companies have created an application process that includes submitting all your stats, writing an essay on your site as to why you want to attend, asking others to vote for your entry, changing your avatar, posting on every social media channel you have and linking back to their site using a specific phrase. Now, I get the reasoning behind it. I really do. But I don't like it.

Back in 2009 I participated in one such contest and made it to the finals. I was excited to have been chosen because I like (and use) Mabel's Labels and appreciate the way they've handled their social media and blogger outreach. But, and I'm being honest, by the end of the process I felt a little dirty. Not because of anything Mabel's Labels did. I just didn't like who I turned into in my attempt to win. I didn't like feeling that I was "against" the other finalists or the idea that any one person "deserved" to go more than the other. That's not what this community is supposed to be about.

That was the last time I entered for any type of conference contest. For me, I couldn't keep writing the same post over and over. My reasons for wanting to go to these things haven't changed, so the posts themselves wouldn't be that much different than one another. Writing one post for each company who offered would have been just too much. I decided to think a bit more outside the box and save up all my revenue. And that's what I did. 

I know companies think the posts/voting method is the best way to approach these things and increase their profile and SEO. But I look at it this way: when celebrities offer to make a donation to a charity or cause once they reach a certain number of Twitter followers it's a total turn off. Just make the donation without the conditions. I know that gesture would sit much better with me and my opinion of them would go up. It's rare that people do something for nothing. But those are the people who stand out, and in my opinion, inspire loyalty.

Mabel's Labels is offering a full ride to BlogHer again this year but with a huge twist. If you want to attend, fill out an entry form. That's it. No turning your blog, RSS feed, Twitter stream and Facebook page into a billboard. I hope they can hear my standing ovation.

Again, I understand wanting to be visible and create buzz. But the other methods really only seem to generate buzz about the event, not the company offering up the sponsorship other than a "thank you" for the opportunity.  Mabel's has completely embraced the KISS principle with their sponsorship. Even the name, Mabel's Labels Non Contest, is perfect execution. 

Congratulations to the team at Mabel's for, what I think, has set a new standard in social media outreach and blogger engagement. Well done! 

What do you think about brands and conference sponsorships? What would you like to tell the brands about effective ways to leverage their presence at conferences? 
If you were a company, how would you execute your sponsorship?

*Not a sponsored post. I'm not affiliated with Mabel's Labels, just totally impressed.

Out of the Blue

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's been almost a year since I really cried about not having another baby. It happened during BlogHer in New York. I was outside the American Girl store of all places. I went from perfectly fine to crying my eyes out in seconds. The same thing happened while I was watching Parenthood last night. When Julia told Joel she "wasn't done", I nodded along. Yes, I thought, I can relate to that feeling. But when Christina told Adam she was pregnant? I completely lost it.

I knew the decision wouldn't be easy. I even told Phil there were no guarantees I wouldn't hate him every so often though that's irrational and totally not fair since we made the decision together. But I wasn't angry with him last night; just really, really sad. Surprised too, because I thought I've moved on and learned to live with it. I guess I was wrong.

The Hunger Games Trilogy, Very Valentine | Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The amount of books I'm reading is directly proportionate to how much I ignore my site. As you can probably tell, I've been reading A LOT. I seem to have really good reading juju because it's been awhile since I've picked up a book that sucked. (and with that, I just jinxed myself)

These are the books I've read over the last three weeks:

Brava, Valentine: A NovelThe Hunger Games
Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)

I loved all of them!

I've read all of Adriana Trigiani's books except for her essays and young adult titles. I love her writing style, her characters and how all her books are about the importance of family. Brava, Valentine is the second book with Valentine Roncalli as the main character. The Roncalli family business is custom made shoes. How could I not like the books?

If you have not heard of the Hunger Games series, I'm not sure we can be friends anymore. I take that back. If you say you did not enjoy the Hunger Game, *then* we can't be friends. I know the premise of the books sounds bad; kids from a futuristic dystopian society forced to fight to the death; but that part of the series kind of takes a backseat to the love story, political unrest, family and friendship. At least it did for me. I cannot wait for the movie!

What are you reading? What should I add to my shelf on GoodReads?

*Amazon affiliate links used

So, So Smooth

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Scene: It is day four of Spring Break. The mother has been feeling guilty for trying to stay on top of her work and be entertainment central at the same time. She gives up on the work and takes her son to the park where she gets rained on and freezes her ass off for two hours, despite the blanket and gloves she had in the car.

Son: I love you, Mom.

Mother: I love you too.

S: Thank you for taking me to the park today.

M: You're welcome.

S: Tomorrow, we can do anything you want.

M: Aww, that's sweet of you.

S: We can even go shopping, and I won't complain because you were nice enough to give up some of your precious time for me. 

End scene.

I honestly don't know where he gets it!

A Hoppy Easter Giveaway

Monday, April 11, 2011

***Contest closed***

When we checked into our rooms for the Hop screening, there was a gorgeous basket waiting for us. It's full of goodies perfect for an Easter basket: coloring books, bath gels, lip balms, candy, drumsticks, a Pink Bunny beret and a stuffed EB, Pink Bunny and a chick. It's all adorable! But, Tyler has decided it's "too young" for him so I want to share the wealth with you.

Enter to win a basket full of Hop goodies!

1. Have you seen Hop yet? What did you think? If not, what do you put in your children's Easter baskets? Leave a comment below. This is required.

2. I MUST have a way to get in touch with you! I will have to delete comments with no contact info.

3. Comments will close on Sunday, April 17th at 11:59pm CA time.

4. I will use to draw the winner and post the results/notify winners via email and Twitter.

5. For two bonus entries: (not required) Tweet, and/or post about this contest and leave each of your links in a separate comment (three contest entry opportunities total). You will need a free Twitter account.

6. Because of the timeliness, if the notified winner has not responded within 24 hours a new winner will be chosen.

7. You do not have to follow or subscribe to this blog as a method of entry. Tweet only once per day. Leave one comment for each entry. Here is the URL to this post:

8. The contest is open to US entrants only.

9. NOTE: Some of the items in the basket may not be suitable for small children (candy, bath items, lip balms).

Disclaimer: The items in the basket are part of the giveaway but not the basket itself. Universal provided the contents as well as my lodging and incidentals for the junket. They are not part of this giveaway. I am shipping the items to the winner on my own. 

Congratulations, Laural!

The Hop Junket: A Real Housewife in Beverly Hills Pt 2

Friday, April 1, 2011

You may have heard there's a new Easter themed movie opening today. I went to see HOP a few weekends ago as part of a press junket. I'll be honest, my expectations were low. The early trailers were not inspiring. Live action and CG hybrids that both kids and adults enjoy seem to be a rare breed. I'm hoppy (get it?) it to say that HOP is one of those rarities. 

Parents will enjoy it because it's humorous, has great music and dialogue and is well cast. Kids will love it because of the sight gags, music, drumming and colors. 

Blogger-Press-Junket-for-the-movie-HOPThe movie has themes we've seen before: finding one's passion, living up to the expectations of our parents, the relationship between fathers and sons, believing in magic and the need to find your own way in life. One of the good things about HOP is it doesn't beat us over the head with the themes and lessons.

We were lucky enough to get some time to interview James Marsden, Russel Brand, Kaley Cuoco, Tim Hill and Chris Meledandri. I enjoyed speaking with all of them just as much, if not more, than watching the movie itself.

It was easy for me to not get caught up in the messages of the movie because director Hill and producer Meledandri did such a great job with the visuals. The scenery in HOP is beautiful.
Mr. Chris Meledandri: One thing that Tim was very intent on was that, if we were going to be peeling back the curtains of this mythology that you’ve never seen before, that just the depiction of the world itself visually had to be spectacular.
Tim Hill in between Catherine and Dan; Chris Meledandri kneeling
It had to have the scale of spectacle that you would associate with a part of our cultural mythology. Tim worked for months and months and months with our teams of artists in really trying to visually define what this magical place underneath Easter Island has, what it would look like.
He [Tim] then had to figure out how to immerse the audience in it. He’s done a fantastic job. The virtues of these mediums that we’re working in are that world is just marvelous and fantastical, but on the other hand, you really believe that you're in it.
I grew up in a pretty religious household, but my parents hid a basket for me and we went to Easter egg hunts. I was curious how the movie would treat the role of the Easter bunny and if parents who have children who still believe would need to do any backpedaling to keep the magic alive. That's not the case with HOP.
Blogger: My two oldest children are the same age as your children and I’m wondering how you deal with the magic of holidays. Is your 10 year old son mumbling things to your five year old daughter?

James Marsden between Renee and EB
Mr. James Marsden: No, because my 10 year old son is a believer. He hears things from kids at school, but my wife has been really good about that. My wife still believes. She’s said, “My father taught me that if you believe in it, it’s there.”
Tyler still believes in magic though I have a feeling that will change in a few more years. If, after seeing HOP, he asks me if the Easter Bunny is real I can paraphrase Russel Brand (who voices EB):
Blogger: Did you ever or do you now believe in the Easter Bunny?
Mr. Russell Brand: I believe in the possibility of all things because of the nature of infinite space. If the universe is infinite, that means, inevitably, all possibilities exist.
So, somewhere, there is an Easter Bunny. Somewhere else, there's a one-legged Easter Bunny. Somewhere else, there's a robot Easter Bunny. There’s an Easter Bunny crossed with a Darth Vader because of infinity. With infinity, everything would occur.
Me, Meredith Sinclair and Kim Grundy
Who knew that a discussion of a family film would evolve into something so existential? 

I won't recommend Hop for kids under 5. It's not scary but there is a scene they might find disturbing (think Fatal Attraction), but I can honestly say Hop is a movie I won't mind seeing a second time.

Other recaps of the movie, junket and interviews:
Matt from Geek Dad
Renee from Cutie Booty Cakes
Meredith writing for Mom in the City 
Dawn writing for 5 Minutes for Mom
Catherine from Her Bad Mother
Kim writing for She Knows
Sara writing for Baby Center

My own photos from the HOP press junket on Flickr. Photos in this post courtesy of Chris and Kristen Photography. Thank you to Universal for hosting me for the weekend and providing hotel and meals.
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