Extreme Couponing Requires Extreme Organization: The Search for a Coupon Binder

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I heard a lot of buzz about the TLC show Extreme Couponing before it aired last night. I started following the Twitter chatter when the east coast feed was on. It seemed people had mixed reactions about how the show portrayed people who take 'extreme' measures to save money. Watch the teaser clip aired on ABC to see how TLC defined extreme. So much of TLC's programming is designed to be attention getting so I took the show with a grain of a salt but here's my quick two cents on the show:

*Some of the people featured have hoarding issues. Period.
*Junk is still junk no matter how good the deal was (who needs 150 Butterfingers?!).
*Saving money is important but it shouldn't be your life. Blowing off the people in your life to clip coupons and shop is unhealthy.
*Having such a large stockpile you feel the need to insure it is also unhealthy (seriously, watch the clip) 
*If you have 30 year's worth of toiletries in your garage, please donate some to a shelter, food bank or to foster families. Look at it this way: you probably got it for free so with the tax write off it will be a money maker!
*Not being able to enjoy the rooms in your home because they are full of groceries is unhealthy.
*Spending 70 hours a week on something you are not earning a salary to do is silly.
*The 40 jars of spaghetti sauce you just had to have might have been someone other family's affordable dinner.

Despite TLC's ratings ploys I was still inspired. I thought I was doing a good job with our grocery budget but those people made me feel like a total amateur! I've had Tyler grab coupon inserts from  recycling bins, but only on our street. One woman on the show, Joyce, puts on her toning shoes and walks her neighborhood every week gathering unused inserts. I wonder if my other neighbors would label me crazy if I started doing the same.

This is just a small part of my stash

While I was watching, I Tweeted that I'm in search of a coupon binder. I use two accordion files now and it's not convenient anymore. A few of my followers chimed in that they were looking for a coupon system too so I went through the frugal blogs in my reader and pulled links for post where the authors have given detailed info on how they organize their coupons. Here's what I found:

Erin of 5 Dollar Dinners
Frugal Coupon Living
A Thrifty Mom
Couponing 101 (vlog)
Keeping the Kingdom First (vlog)
Life as Mom 
Money Saving Mom
Save at Home Mommy (Charlene sells a complete binder system on her site)
Savings Lifestyle
Stretching a Buck

The binder method seems to be the most popular and I think it's the one I'll go with. I looked at some supplies during back to school and I should have pulled the trigger.

I'm spending too much time flipping through my coupons and I don't have a good system in place for my extra inserts. The last time I went shopping I saw laundry detergent on sale and remembered seeing a coupon in my inserts. I had pages spread out all over the store shelves while I was looking. It was messy (but I found two!).

One of my goals for 2011 is to do even better with cutting our grocery budget. Getting organized with my coupons is definitely a good first step.

Do you have a good system I can follow? Did you watch Extreme Couponing? What did you think?

Bright Holiday: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Part of a Candy Cane lane near my Dad's house, taken from the car because of the rain

Baking with PURE DARK Chocolate {+Giveaway}

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

*Closed - Congratulations Amber!*

I don't consider myself a great cook but I'm an awesome baker (toot toot!) Right before the holidays, I got an offer I couldn't refuse. Would I like to review a few items from PURE DARK's line of artisanal chocolates that can be used for baking? Why, yes. Yes I would!

The chocolates arrived in the mail and the smell when I opened the box was divine. PURE DARK's motto is "chocolates harvested from nature" and from the taste I could see why. PURE DARK is hand made. They offer exotic flavors like  cardamom allspice, chocolate dipped fruits and barks with fruits and nuts.

PURE DARK varies the intensity of their chocolates with three different levels of cocoa; Striking (60% cocoa), Serious (70%) and Stunning (80%). I really liked that the chocolates weren't grainy the way some dark chocolates can be. Every piece I tried was smooth.

The slabs and rounds are perfect for baking. Right now I'm obsessed with salted caramel. I think I drooled a little over this recipe that came with my chocolate samples. The recipe uses PURE DARK slabs, caramelized cocoa nibs and sea salt rounds.

(also posted in Google Docs for easy printing, click link above)

½ cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. of water
½ cup heavy cream
¼ tsp. sea salt
tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a heavy bottom sauce pan combine water and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Stir mixture until sugar is completely dissolved.

Increase heat and allow liquid to boil until it becomes a caramel brown. Do not stir to prevent liquid from crystallizing. If crystals form on sides of pan, dip a pastry brush in water and brush down the sides.

When liquid is caramel brown, remove from heat and pour in heavy cream. The caramel will bubble and may seize up.

Return to medium heat and allow caramel to re-melt.

Add vanilla and sea salt.

Remove from heat, transfer to a small metal mixing bowl and cool.

*Caramel can be stored, covered and refrigerated for 5 days.

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
¾ cup premium quality cocoa powder
½ tsp. sea salt
½ cup PURE DARK™ Caramelized Cocoa Nibs
1/3 cup PURE DARK™ sea salt rounds broken in small pieces
2 Tbsp. PURE DARK™ Slab grated or shaved
Non-stick cooking spray

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder and sea salt, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar till smooth.

Add eggs and vanilla extract.

Slowly incorporate dry ingredients, mixing until smooth.

Add PURE DARK™ Caramelized Nibs and PURE DARK™ Sea Salt Rounds. Mix until evenly distributed in batter.

Spread batter in pan and bake for 45 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Place individual brownies on small dessert plates and drizzle with Sea Salt Caramel. Serve with a scoop of your favorite vanilla bean ice cream or fresh whipped cream and top with shaved PURE DARK™ Slab.

Recipe created exclusively for PURE DARK™ by Chef Samara Salisbury

The recipe is a little time consuming but I bet it's insanely good! Now for the best part: I get to share PURE DARK with you! (Make sure to read all the way to the bottom)

Giveaway: One winner will receive a $20 gift card to shop PURE DARK!

To enter:

1. Visit PURE DARK, come back here and tell me what you'll buy with your certificate or what other recipe you'd like to try. 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 Tuesday, January 11th at 11:59pm CA time.

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

5. For two bonus entries: (not required) Tweet, and/or blog 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. If the notified winner has not responded within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen.

7. You do not have to follow or subscribe to this blog as a method of entry (but you're more than welcome to!). Tweet as often as you like, but only one Tweet will count as an extra entry. Leave one comment for each entry. Here is the URL to this post: http://bit.ly/PureDarkBaking

8. The contest is open to US entrants only.

I invited friend and fellow blogger Nic of 2 Hot Bloggers and A Bottle of Wine to come over and taste test with me and show me how to pair chocolate and wine. I'm determined to find a wine I like and figured pairing it with chocolate was a good way to start! We vlogged our tasting session for San Diego MOMfia. She also posted a recipe and is hosting her own PURE DARK giveaway. You've got two chances to win!

PURE DARK chocolates are sold in specialty shops and through their online store. Thank you PURE DARK for the opportunity to try your fabulous chocolates and for providing the gift card for the giveaway!

Mission Valley Sky Part 2: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Taken the same night as last Wordless Wednesday

Feeling Guilty About Not Feeling Guilty

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A few days ago, when the snow really started falling on the east coast, I saw a Tweet go by that got me thinking about my Mom Guilt again. The Tweet was tagged with #snowday and read something to the effect of: "my kids are why I work from home, they are not an interruption." Then, my mom said something to me that stung a bit. I told her I don't usually cook a big dinner on the days Tyler's sports end late in the evening. Her response? "But why not? You're home all day." Ouch.

See, I've been feeling guilty for wanting Tyler to go on vacation. By himself. Every year since he turned one he's spent time at my mom's house during Christmas break. Since my Gramma comes from St. Louis and stays with my mom for three months, it's killed two birds with one stone. The Gramma's get some one on one time with their baby, Tyler gets (even more) spoiled and Phil and I get to act like the couple we were before we became parents.
Giant Gavelphoto © 2010 Sam Howzit | more info (via: Wylio)

When we asked Tyler if he wanted to go this year, he said no. I'll admit, my first thought was "how could he be so selfish!" I know, I know. He's only 8. He has no idea why his vacation is so important to his mom and dad. But my gut reaction, combined with that Tweet got me thinking about the idea that we should love being parents 100% of the time. Now that I'm a SAHM the pressure is even worse. It's my job to take care of my family. I should throw myself into it wholeheartedly and enjoy every minute of it, right?

Well, I don't. I love my kid with a fierceness that still surprises me. I love him so much it can be all consuming at times. I love him so much that, occasionally, there's not enough left for my husband, too (another thing I feel guilty about!). And that's my problem. Anything that takes up that much of a person's time, energy and focus is exhausting! I love being a mom. Specifically, I love being Tyler's mom. But every once in awhile I need a break. WE need a break.

Phil and I could really use the time to ourselves this year. We treat Tyler's time away as mini vacation for us too. There's stress that I can't write about just now and it's making me a bad mom and a bad wife. With Tyler gone, in addition to going to dinner somewhere with no kid's menu and watching R rated movies before 9:00, we have a few days to really talk and re-connect. And, maybe my mom and Gramama will crack the whip with eye rolling in a way I've been unsuccessful at so far. I'm sure Tyler could use a break from me, too.

I guess I can't call Tyler selfish without labeling myself the same. But is it selfish to want a break from the daily grind? Society tells me it is. But then there's also the idea that 'if Mama ain't happy, nobody's happy.' And just to throw in another curve, couples who make time for each other have happier marriages. So which is it? Selflessly take care of my family, take care of myself or nurture my marriage?

I don't know why this is such a struggle for me; finding balance. I think because I don't earn a steady income, I feel like I have to bring something to the table and right now all I've got is my time. Time to cook, clean, do laundry, grocery shop, take Tyler to practice, etc. etc. I'm lucky to be an at home mom. I know that. I don't want to go back to work. At least, I don't think I do.

Anytime I feel guilty about something I know it more than likely stems from some insecurity or doubt about a decision I've made. But in this case, I don't feel guilty about wanting Tyler to go visit my mom. If anything, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty, if that makes sense. Don't get me wrong, I miss him when he's away, but the margarita at Happy Hour helps ease the pain.

So, yes, I admit it. I want my son to away for a few days. When he does, I'm going to make a conscious choice to enjoy it and the few evenings I'll spend with my husband. Alone. This does not make me a bad person. Nor does it make me a bad mom. In fact, think it makes me a better mom. Screw you, society.

*Tyler changed his mind and decided to go! Thank you, Little Brother!

Mission Valley Sky: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Snapped at a stoplight last weekend

What I'm Thankful for This Holiday

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

At Thanksgiving dinner, someone asked my Gramma why her finger was splinted. She told the story of how she got the injury and all I could feel was gratitude.
Gratitudephoto © 2009 Kate | more info (via: Wylio)
My Gramma lives in the midwest. She's been taking the bus for years even though she has a license. Last month when she was coming home from the market she got off before her usual stop to get in a little exercise. She tripped, fell and landed on her right side. Her hand and arm broke some of her fall but not enough to protect her face. She was wearing sunglasses and they broke when her face hit the sidewalk, tearing the skin in the corner of her eye.

After the fall, she wasn't aware enough to dig her cell out of her purse. Fortunately, someone drove by and saw her lying there. The woman drove Gramma home, helped her inside and stayed until Gramma cleaned some of the blood off her face. Gramma is not sure how long she was on the ground. She doesn't remember the car ride to her house. She doesn't remember the woman's name. We're sure she must have blacked out.

The doctor visit afterward showed she had fractured the bones around her eye socket. Luckily there was no glass in her eye from her sunglasses and no bone fragments to worry about. She landed on the opposite side of her torn rotator cuff that she had surgery on last year, which is also lucky because that shoulder still gives her trouble. Her eye doctor says she won't need plastic surgery, she's healing well on her own. Her finger probably broke and didn't heal properly which is why she keeps it in a splint. But if that's the extent of her lasting injuries, we'll take it.

What happened to Gramma could have been so much worse. She doesn't live in the best neighborhood. An elderly woman; alone, injured and possibly unconscious is the perfect storm for something really, really bad. This holiday season, I am most grateful for the kindness of strangers.

Happy Birthday to My Husband

Monday, December 13, 2010

If you don't watch The Walking Dead this won't be funny. Even if you do watch, it still might not be funny.
Birthday Cakephoto © 2009 Omer Wazir | more info (via: Wylio)

Today is Phil's birthday. I'm really glad I married such a handy guy. He put in the wood floors in our kitchen and gave me recessed lights in the living room for my birthday. He can reach all the stuff on the high shelves, doesn't mind doing catch and release duty with spiders and I've never had to man the grill. 

But the real reason I'm glad I've kept him around? Zombies. We just watched the first season of The Walking Dead. After almost 12 1/2 years of marriage it took a TV show for me to find out my husband is an expert at the undead!

Each night of the show Phil would say, "That's totally unrealistic! Those people are so stupid!" and tell me what he'd do differently. And you know what? He's right. Those people ARE stupid. Phil's plan for the zombie apocalypse is so much better than what they've been doing on the show.

I know it's only season one, but with the mistakes the survivors have made so far, it's surprising they're still alive. Have they not driven past a single RV lot? Why aren't they sharpening sticks to make more bow and arrows? And what's with the tiny gas cans?

I can't share all the details of Phil's plan with you (gotta conserve resources, right?), but let's just say if you're not married to someone with military base access who knows how to drive a Humvee, fire a 50 Cal, and drive a LARK; you're zombie food. 

So, happy birthday babe. I'm so glad to be married to you. I feel better knowing we'll be just fine when the zombies start taking over. Just think, we could be the next Adam and Eve!

$1 for 3 Redbox Rentals: Groupon Deal Extended

It's still here! Through tomorrow, Groupon has an awesome offer for 3 Redbox rentals for only $1! I got mine last week when the offer first went live. You can buy it as a gift too! Pair this with a box of popcorn and two retro popcorn boxes (I see them in Target's $1 Spot all the time) and this is a very frugal gift!

If you don't have a Groupon account create one here.
This is a national deal that you might not be able to find easily. I found it under the Ft. Lauderdale page. You may need to sign in to your account and then come back and click the links or image below. 

Plus, if you have an Ebates account, you can get 6% cash back on Groupon purchases. Even better! 

*Affiliate links used

HOT! $10 off $10 Another great Hallmark Coupon!

Friday, December 10, 2010


Well it seems someone ruined the fun. Apparently, the coupon was altered and it's invalid. People who do that really piss me off. Those of us who try to use coupons legitimately end up looking like we're trying to pull a fast one. I apologize. I've used coupons from Deals Plus before with no problems. I hope none of you tried to use it yet and if you did and there were problems I'm so sorry. I'll definitely do more research before trusting that site again. 

In addition to the Hallmark $5 off $5 coupons in certain magazines, there's a great $10 off printable coupon on deals.plus. This is a great way to score free cards, wrapping paper or small stocking stuffers. 

You might be able to score free Almond Butter Toffee or Peppermint Vanilla diffusers depending on the offers in your store. Both are priced around $9. Add two .99 cards* and this a sweet deal!

The coupon is good through 12/24. Print it quickly before it's gone!

*Purchase needs to be $10 before taxes.

Childproof - Until They Can Read

Thursday, December 9, 2010

regulatephoto © 2010 anna | more info (via: Wylio)
From the 'funny things my kid says' files: 

Tyler just got over bronchitis. When he started his medicine I reminded him that he's not allowed to take it by himself. One night at bedtime he offered to open the cough syrup for me. I let him try knowing he wouldn't be able to. He asked why the top was just spinning and I explained what child proofing is and why it's used with medicine. 

A few nights later I told him to get ready for bed and that I'd be down shortly to give him his medicine before he brushed his teeth. When I got downstairs I saw him put the bottle down really quickly and he had that guilty 'I just did something' look on his face.

Tyler: Mom, can I ask you a question?

Me: Sure.

Tyler: If the people who make medicine don't want kids to be able to open the bottles, why do they print the instruction on the top of the lid? 

Me: That's an excellent question. You figured out how to open this, didn't you?

Tyler: [looking sheepish] Yes. [then excited] Wanna see me?

I had to laugh.

Hot Air Balloon: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Give the Gift of Reading {Scholastic Giveaway}

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

*CLOSED Congratulations Cindi!*

Phil and I both love to read. We wanted to pass that on to Tyler so we started reading to him when was a baby. It's been gratifying to watch Tyler's love affair with books develop. He was so happy to get his own library card! When we go to the library I recommend the books I read when I was his age.

He's almost finished with The Chronicles of Prydain series, he's started Judy Blume's Fudge books and some of the Encyclopedia Brown series. He's inherited his father's love of Sci Fi and Fantasy too. We think it's great that his bookshelves are so diverse.

I think reading opens so many doors. People who are well read are on their way to being well rounded. We see the benefit of Tyler's love of reading in his schoolwork and how much he likes to write stories. It feels good to see Tyler with a book. Loving to read is something he will always have.

When Scholastic asked if I wanted to host a giveaway so someone else could give the gift of reading I didn't hesitate. Books are one of my favorite new baby gifts. The sent me two books to review; Captain Sky Blue by Richard Egielski; and It's Christmas, David by David Shannon.

Both of these were really cute. It's Christmas, David is perfect as a bedtime story book for parents to read to young kids. The sentences are short and the pictures are colorful and fun. Captain Sky Blue is also a good bedtime book for younger kids but is also good for new readers.

Would you like copies of your own? Scholastic gave me a HUGE prize pack filled with the most popular children’s books in the marketplace to offer one lucky reader!

One winner will receive these titles: Captain Sky Blue, It's Christmas, David, Ook and Gluk as well as Tony Baloney, Odious Ogre and I Spy Christmas A Tree! The prize pack is valued at almost $90.

How do you win? You know I like to keep it easy. 

1. Is reading important in your home? What are your kids' favorite books? Do they love to read or is it a chore? Answer any (or all) of the questions in the comments and be entered to win (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 Tuesday, December 14th at 11:59pm CA time.

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

5. For two extra entries: (not required) Tweet, and/or blog 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. If the notified winner has not responded within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen.

7. You do not have to follow or subscribe to this blog as a method of entry (but you're more than welcome to!). Tweet as often as you like, but only one Tweet will count as an extra entry. Leave one comment for each entry. Here is the URL to this post: http://bit.ly/ScholasticBooksGiveaway

8. The contest is open to US entrants only. 
Thank you to Scholastic for supplying the review and giveaway items! Good luck!

I'm Not Dead, Just Busy

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Well hello, December. I didn't think I'd be seeing you again so soon! Holy time warp. Where did the year go?! I'm hoping to get back on track with posts this week. 

Between the walk, leaving town for Thanksgiving, having my Gramma here for a week, Tyler's bronchitis, more family in town this weekend and the Charger Raider game this afternoon (we're all going) I've been running around like the proverbial chicken.

I want to tell you all about the walk, I have a giveaway and want to talk about a book I read, The Conversation by Hill Harper. It's a relationship book. The chapter on interracial relationships (which I skipped ahead to) made me sad. 

Have a great Sunday!

2010 Breast Cancer 3 Day: I Made My Goal! {Hanes Pink Giveaway}

Friday, November 19, 2010

**Giveaway is closed. Congratulations to Jennifer!**

By the time you read this I'll have been walking for several hours in my second breast cancer 3 day. I'll be with my mom, the new friends I've met through the message boards and 3,798 other people united in finding a cure for breast cancer.

My Facebook friends might remember me asking for positive thoughts a few weeks ago. I wrote an essay on why the 3 Day is important to me and sent it in to Toe Sox. They are a local company with a team who will be walking too. They posted a $500 scholarship contest on the 3 Day message boards. The winner would have the money posted into their 3 Day account to help with fundraising.

I decided to enter at the last minute. I honestly didn't think I had much of a chance. My inner voice told me there would be so many touching stories submitted from people who had lost someone and that their reasons for walking were so much more personal and real than mine. But fundraising was so hard this year I figured there was no harm in trying. This is my submission:

This year is my mom's 10th breast cancer 3 day walk. I'm so happy I get to share it with her. She's the reason I got involved with the 3 Day. I've been her Pink Pitt Crew since the 3 Day moved down to San Diego. For years I spent the entire weekend following her through the route. I'd spend the day cheering for the walkers, passing out stickers, mints or baby wipes and I'd run to the store if Mom needed BenGay or hairspray. When my son was old enough I started taking him with me. We've had a blast! He knows what the 3 Day is and why the cause is important to us.

Mom and I see some of the same people and teams year after year. Team I Hope You Dance walks for Cindy who died in 2000. And there's a woman who always wears a pink bra on her head and carries a neon pink sign that reads, "my sister says thank you." One man, The Smile Guy, lost his wife to breast cancer. He's been bringing his daughter, Little Grin, to the walk to hand out buttons since she was in an infant car seat. It's been bittersweet watching her grow. Year after year these people walk or cheer because they've been touched by breast cancer.
2008 and 2009 walks
After a few years of cheering I decided I wanted to be more involved. I volunteered for the 2008 3 Day and was lucky enough to work the closing ceremonies. I showed up in my pink pants, feather boa and wig ready to help wherever I was needed. I got a choice assignment: I'd be handing out the pink roses and T-shirts to the walkers as they took their last steps of 60 miles. I spent the day cheering, laughing, hugging, taking pictures and crying. And crying.
2008 San Diego walk
One team of eight walkers moved through the tunnel. Five women picked up their white walker shirts and waited across the finish line for another woman and a man I assumed to be her husband. She picked up her pink survivor shirt and pulled it on to the cheers of her team. She raised her arms and tilted her face to the sky, laughing and smiling. But in an instant, she did a complete 180 and broke down, sobbing. The man wrapped his arms around her and then the rest of the team made a circle around them. All of them were in tears. It's a moment I'll never forget and I cry when I tell people about it.

That moment, watching her and imaging the hell she must have gone through to get there, was the reason I decided to do my first walk in 2009. During that walk, I saw a young girl of about 8 holding a sign that read, "I never knew my Grandma and she never knew me." I took a picture of her and it's stayed with me. I think that message is why I decided to walk again this November.

I'll be walking the 2010 3 Day for the survivors, the fighters and the angels. I'll walk for my Godmother, Margie who died in 2005. I'll walk for my best friend Debbie's mother who died in 1997. I'll walk for the woman I heard in a radio interview last week who needs grants from Komen to afford the $8400 monthly prescription for the drugs that are keeping her alive. I'll walk because I have my breasts and they are healthy. I'll walk to continue showing my son what it means to do something bigger than ourselves.

Breast cancer is a monster. It's attacking mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, cousins, best friends and even husbands and fathers. The money we walkers raise is needed. It funds research, mammograms, grants and education. Without that money, the monster will thrive. I walk to slay the monster. I walk because I can.

I'm so glad I ignored my doubts and sent in an essay because I won! I got the email and literally screamed. Talk about a huge weight lifted. I was worried I would have to back out. I'm so happy and grateful to have made my goal and not had to stress about it these last few weeks that I decided to have a 'thank you' giveaway.

I really do appreciate all the support and donations. I would not be able to walk without all of you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Now for the giveaway. For one winner, Hanes has given me two of their Hanes Pink Collection shirts designed by actress Melina Kanakaredes and a $50 gift card to Hanes.com. 

Strength and Hope T's by Melina Kanakaredes

I've received a few pairs of Hanes socks at Blissdom and BlogHer and they are some of the most comfortable I've ever worn.

How do you win? Easy:

1. Leave a comment on this post telling me how breast cancer has touched you, if you learned anything new during breast cancer awareness month or if you've had a mammogram ('enter me!' and 'I want to win!' aren't gonna cut it). 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. I'll leave this up for awhile since I won't be home for a few days. Comments will close on Tuesday, November 23rd at 11:59pm CA time.

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

5. For two extra entries: (not required) Tweet, and/or blog 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. If the notified winner has not responded within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen.

7. You do not have to follow or subscribe to this blog as a method of entry (but you're more than welcome to!). Tweet as often as you like, but only one Tweet will count as an extra entry. Leave one comment for each entry. Here is the URL to this post: http://bit.ly/HanesPinkGiveaway

8. The shirts will be mailed by the agency for Hanes and I will send the gift card. The gift card expires on December 31, 2010!!
Thank you to Hanes for supplying the giveaway items! Good luck!

$25 for $50 to American Apparel: HOT Groupon Deal

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I told you there were going to be some awesome Groupon deals coming! Today's national deal to American Apparel is for a $50 voucher for only $25! It is listed for Miami but it's good anywhere because it's for AmericanApparel.com and not the retail store.

If you're not already a member:
1. Sign up for a Groupon account.
2. Look for the deal in Miami.
(If you already have a Groupon account this link takes you directly to the deal)

The fine print:
*Expires Feb 19, 2011
*Limit 1 per person. Online only
*Not valid on Multi-Packs, California Select Vintage, Multibrand products, or shoes. Not valid with other offers or sale items.

When Groupon offered the same deal for Gap it sold out really fast. Go, go, go! 

PS- I know of another really good one for this weekend. I'll be walking the 3 day so someone hop on it for me? 

*UPDATE 11/19 - The American  apparel offer has been extended through the weekend and the $25 for $50 at Nordstrom Rack is live! (brick and mortar stores only)

Pink Explosion: Wordless Wednesday

9 Ways to Save: Sticking to a Holiday Budget

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This holiday will be the first we're creating an actual budget. I'm pretty good with finding deals and not overspending for gifts. Last year I bought gifts for 9 people for $120 total. It wasn't easy to do but it was worth the time to be able to get gifts for everyone and not just immediate family. 

But this year we're making a plan. We're not buying for everyone. I'll be doing a lot more baking. I'm also scouring the web all the time looking for deals. Several things have been working for me so far so I thought I'd share my strategy with you.

Piggy Bankphoto © 2009 Carly Watson | more info (via: Wylio)

Nine ways to save money this holiday season

1. Daily deal sites
These are popping up like weeds! So far, I have joined 13. Not all sites have offers in every market yet, but the larger sites have deals posted just about everywhere. Lots of the deals may be offered in a specific city but can be used anywhere. For example today's San Diego Groupon side deal is for $20 worth of calendars or printed gifts from Pulp Factory for only $9. Lots of these sites offer the option to buy the deal as a gift so be sure to search the city your recipients live in. 

These are some of the sites I've signed up for:
The Foundary (gorgeous kitchen and home items)
The Daily Save (San Diego only)
Daily Deal (San Diego only)
Rootz (deals from socially responsible companies)

So many of these deals are good for teachers, coaches, babysitters, the postman or anyone you want to give a little something without spending a lot.

2. Gift card swapping sites
I have a $100 gift card to a store that I don't usually shop in. I didn't know what to do with it so I started looking into swapping sites. Most of the offers I got were for $78 cash or $81 credit on Amazon which isn't bad for something that I've had in my wallet for almost a year. Many of the sites also sell discounted gift cards. The percentages may not be a lot but every little bit helps. Here are a few of the ones I found:

Plastic Jungle
Gift Card Granny
Swap A Gift
Gift Card Rescue

3. Sites that give cash back on purchases
These are best for people who do most or all of their shopping online. The cash back site acts as a shopping hub. Search for the store you want to buy from and follow the link. You'll earn a percentage of your total back and the site will cash you out when you reach a certain dollar amount. 

Occasionally a featured store will offer extra cash back for a limited time. I did a quick search and Piper Lime and Barnes and Noble are both offering 8% cash back through Ebates (up from 2% and 4% respectively). Cash back combined with coupon codes makes for great savings. Shop At Home has a great deal for dining out. $25 gift certificates are usually 80% Off at Restaurant.com! When the $25 certificates went on sale last year for $2 I bought a ton and got cash back into my account. 

4. Turn points into rewards
These sites work best for internet surfers. I've earned a lot points through both sites by spending about an hour a month on them. Lately my points are increasing fastest from MyPoints because of all the coupons I print. Download the toolbars for faster earnings and redeem your points for gift cards. Most of the gift cards I've used for giveaways on this site I earned this way. No money out of pocket!

My Points

5. Swap gently used
There are so many Wii and DS games Tyler wants for Christmas. I'm hesitant to buy them full price in case he either doesn't like them after all of they're too hard (which has happened before). Swap Mamas and ThredUp are both good resources for trading all things child related. 

6. Schedule family visits after the holiday
Since both our parents are divorced, the holidays are always a juggling act. We usually end up in at least four places between Christmas and New Year. When I was working for Godiva, this was totally advantageous. Phil and I would schedule to meet with one set of parents after Christmas and I'd hit the day after sales hard. I'd go into Godiva when the doors opened and snap up all the nicest boxes of marked down chocolates and gifts (they should all be half off the morning after Christmas unless they've changed policies). I was able to get giant boxes for a fraction of the cost.   

7. Plan ahead for next year
I know the stores are insane in the days after Christmas but a little hassle goes a long way in terms of planning for next season. I haven't had to buy Christmas cards, wrapping and tissue paper, gift tags, gift bags, paper plates for cookie trays and treat bags in 2 years because I spent a good half a day hitting all the day after sales. It's helped so much not having to include those items in my budget. 

8. Amazon
There's a reason the site is labeled a retail giant. They know how to do things well. Between the Lightning Deals and Deal of the Day there are opportunities for big savings several times a day.

If you know someone who is getting an MP3 player, you can take advantage of the $5 album sale and free music. If they repeat last year's offer, you'll be able to download one free holiday song per day starting December 1st. When I bought my mom an iPod Shuffle I loaded it with music before I gave it to her and she loved it. Amazon's free shipping through their Amazon Mom program increases the savings.

9. Shop Black Friday
Stores are moving up their deals and offering them before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Almost all the big stores have 'accidentally' leaked their ad scans online already. If you make a detailed list and go out with a plan and the stores you want to shop broken down by location and when they open, you can save big.


Saving money has turned into a labor of love. It does take time but it's so rewarding. I hope some of these are helpful for you. If you have a frugal idea for cutting holiday expenses that I missed please share!  

**UPDATE Groupon is sending out advance emails of big holiday offers. There's a really good one for later this week that I know will go FAST. Sign up ahead of time so you're already a member!
*Some of the links above are affiliate links. This is not a compensated or sponsored post.

My Bad Habit and an Embarrassing Story

Friday, November 5, 2010

I have a bad habit. I walk around the house in my birthday suit. A lot. It's kind of accidental and mostly happens when I'm alone. I'll be getting dressed, undressed or about to get in the shower and my scattered brain will remember I left coffee in the microwave, forgot to push start on the dryer, didn't put soap in the washer or need the bra I have on the drying rack. Whatever has distracted me I have to see to it right then, or I risk forgetting. My habit has only gotten me in trouble once until recently.

The first time was back in college. One day I had to go to campus in the morning and then to my restaurant job in the early afternoon so I could help out with Happy Hour. I ended up having enough time to leave school and go home for a shower and something to eat before work. 

I decided to make a box of mac and cheese so I'd have leftovers for after work. I got the water boiling, added the pasta and forgot all about it while I was watching TV. I was literally one foot in the shower when I remembered. I ran into the kitchen not bothering to grab a towel. My roommate came home to find me in the kitchen, naked and cursing, scraping a pot of fried elbow noodles into the trash. 

"Is this what you do when I'm not home? Cook naked?" 

She got a great laugh out of it and teased me about it for awhile. That was the last time someone has accidentally caught me in the buff. But, a few weeks ago, I almost exposed myself to the neighborhood painters. 

I'd dropped Tyler off at school and came in through the garage the way I usually do. There are two doors in my laundry room; one from the garage into the laundry room and the other from the laundry into the house. I often leave the garage door and both house doors open to bring some fresh air and what little breeze I can get into the house. Of course I forgot they were open and went downstairs to take a shower.

Occasionally, Tyler doesn't flush and when I walked into the bathroom for my shower it smelled "less than fresh" so I flushed. Did I remember that the toilet had clogged the night before? Nope. Our toilets totally suck at their job so the gurgling instead of swooshing is all too familiar for us. I've become quite adept at turning the valve off really fast and avoiding overflow. 

Anyway, I figured I shouldn't leave it like that. I went upstairs to get the plunger and a bucket. Which are both in the garage. The wide open garage. I was so focused on the task at hand and thinking about the errands I was going to run the clues that I was about to put on a peep show went right over my head:

1. The bright daylight coming into my kitchen
2. The sound of at least three different male voices 
3. The noise of the air compressors for the paint sprayers

Why yes, I am that clueless sometimes. 

You'd think I'd just go back to the shower and plunge later. But then I'd be all clean trying to keep poop water from sloshing on my feet. Better to just get the dirty work over with. 

So, I'm naked in the kitchen (again!) wondering how I can avoid having to go all the way back downstairs for my bathrobe. I was thisclose to grabbing a sweater jacket from the coat closet but I grabbed something from the laundry pile instead.

I wrapped myself in Tyler's Star Wars sheet, went into the garage, hit the button to close it and got the plunger. I prefer to think of it as industriousness rather than laziness.

Have you been caught in the buff? Please share your embarrassing stories so I don't feel so alone.

Mmmm, Brains: Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Zombie Boy, Halloween 2010

Peeing in the Trunk

Monday, November 1, 2010

After what I saw in the Target parking lot yesterday, I'm wondering if I missed something in the potty training books or if this is a new trend in getting little ones out of diapers. 

As I was walking to my car, I noticed a little girl sitting in the back of a really big SUV. She was reading a book. The woman I'm assuming was her mother was unloading her cart into the other side of the trunk. I did a doubletake because the little girl wasn't sitting back there just because, she was on the potty.

I don't remember any of the books telling me I had to tote a potty with me everywhere I went. Even if they did, I'm not sure I would have. Those little potties are horrid! They're hard to clean, they absorb the pee smell and emptying them out was never easy. It was hard enough dealing with them in my bathroom, let alone having one sloshing all over the trunk of my car. *dry heaves*

This chair is sold all over online. I guess I am really out of the loop.
I get that public bathrooms are gross. I remember hearing someone giggle after I told Tyler to please try to keep his boy parts from touching the toilet rim. And having to hold them under the arms while they poop so they don't fall in is a pain.* In my opinion, the choice between having my kid pee in my trunk or going back into the store is a no brainer. It seems much easier than having to dispose of a bag of pee after a day of errands.

Am I alone in this? Is having a literal porta potty the new way to do things? Did you have one? Would you?

*The folding potty seat with handles was a lifesaver!!

Disparity Between Schools

Friday, October 29, 2010

This is sponsored post from Welch's Healthy Harvest but the opinions are entirely my own.

Are you watching School Pride? I just caught up on the first two episodes and I am horrified. And embarrassed. I know educators need help updating their classroom materials, keeping arts programs and keeping their quality teachers from moving to other districts. I also know that, when it comes to urban versus suburban and socioeconomic factors, there are huge disparities as to where money goes and how much certain districts get.

When we bought our house it was a compromise and, to me, a little bit of a sacrifice. We chose a fixer-upper condo in a nice area over a detached house somewhere else. We paid a little too much. The area we live in is kind of expensive in general. But, we wanted to be in this part of the city for the schools. That was criteria number one. We know we made the right choice. 

We've been very happy overall with Tyler's school. The students have a computer lab as well as computers in the classrooms. They still have PE class. The library is well stocked. The lunch program is better than most. The kids get to grow and eat things from the science garden. Our Halloween carnival? Looked like a county fair. We have on-site before and after care for working parents. I know how lucky we are.

But I'm embarrassed that I didn't really know how bad some of our nation's schools are. When I thought of the kind of conditions some kids were attempting to learn in I pictured run down buildings, no buses, no after school programs and not enough sports equipment. I was not picturing mice, rats, roaches, no paper towels or hand soap, playgrounds overrun with gopher holes, mold and general decay. Knowing our school has so much when others have so little makes me feel a little pampered, if that makes sense.

It was ironic that, while I was watching the show, someone I follow on Twitter mentioned that she was at her child's school earlier in the day and got to see all the kids working on their own iPads. The School Pride host was asking a junior high student how they play basketball with only one deflated ball and a broken backboard while someone else's first graders have their own iPads. Incredible. 

Well, my eyes have definitely been opened. I'll be paying more attention to legislation that effects schools and helping promote companies and causes that offer schools opportunities to apply for things that will enrich their student's educational experience like Welch's Harvest Grants program. I'm not quite ready to join the PTO but I'll definitely be looking at how our school uses its funds.

Singer John Legend was quoted recently as saying the state of education "is the Civil Rights movement of our time." If the first episodes of School Pride are any indication of what we can expect to see, I think he's absolutely right.


-From now until February 11, 2011, schools can apply for one of 100 grants to start their own garden. 
-Five schools will receive $1000 and 95 will receive $500. 
-Grants will include seeds and tools.
Pass on the information to your teachers and administrators!

*I am being compensated for this post but the opinions on the state of schools and the incredulity and disgust that some children have to try to learn with roaches at their feet is all mine. Photo credit belongs to me.
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