Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Christmas shopping!

We've been needing a vaporizer or humidifier.  I saw there was a $5 off coupon if you watched a Rite Aid Video Value, so I did that and headed off to Rite Aid.  For $16.70 I got a Vick's vaporizer and two packages of light bulbs.  I also got $3.98 back in UP+ Rewards for next time I shop at Rite Aid.  Considering the original price of the vaporizer was $16.49 I think that was a good bargain!

Since we were that far, we decided to go on into Morgantown (okay, so it's 25 more miles from that town, but we decided to go anyway.)

Next stop:  Barnes and Noble.  I was in luck.  They had a number of items marked down to $2   I have a Barnes and Noble membership card and got each item for $1.80

What I bought

Dover Pictura Letters and Alphabets CD-ROM and book (original price $39.95)
4 Ravensburger puzzles (original price $16.95 each)
iSpy puzzle (original price $9.95)
3 mini Coke puzzles (original price $9.95 each)
box of Christmas cards of a lady with two Wii remotes and a box in front of her that says Wii knitting (original price $14.50)
box of Hanukkah cards (original price $12.99)
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer game (original price $19.99)
Mr. Owl Tootsie pop blank book (original price $9.95)

Original price for all this would have been: $204.98.  My price after tax, disounts, and rebate? $23.70  All of the puzzles are Christmas themes but those work fine for Christmas gifts!  :)  I think I have a nice start on Christmas for 2011!  :) 

Then I stopped at Kroger, got the overcharge straightened out, and they even refunded the tax I had to spend on their error!  :)

When I arrived home, there was a package on the porch.  It was a win of children's books.
Inside the package:

The Beginner's Guide to Living
Bridget's Beret
Birdy's Smile Book (Christy Ottaviano Books)
Sleepy, Oh So Sleepy
Last Song

Sunday, January 23, 2011

First Thifting of 2011

Yesterday I went to my first two thrift shops in 2011.  I think I had a pretty good day.

I bought 41 books by Oliver Greene from Back to the Bible.

I also bought a stack of other books including a number of Christian puppetry books. 

Not pictured:  vintage Masonic glass, two Fire King saucers.

Total spent?  $29.83

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book Review: The Real Skinny on Losing It

I recently had the opportunity to review the book  The Real Skinny on Losing It: True Confessions and Divine Revelations of a Former Yo-Yo Dieter By Michelle McKinney Hammond.  Here is my review:

I've read a number of Michell McKinney Hammond's books and I must say this is my favorite. Unlike most diet and weight loss books, she talks about what didn't work for her, including poking some fun about some of the radical things she's done to try and lose weight. (Cabbage soup, anyone?) I very much enjoyed the light-hearted look she took at weight loss before getting down to business at the end of the book and instead of setting forth a miracle weight loss plan, she encouraged healthy eating and eating right for your body. Unlike other Christian “diet” books I've read, she doesn't go off the deep end saying how prayer is THE answer to weight loss, but does mention that prayer can help. She pretty much covers it all in this book, everything from the “stretchy” clothes we keep in the back of our closet to the fact that we can't always rely on pre-packaged meals. Like most people who need to lose weight, she mourns the fact that some of her favorite foods are no longer her friends, but then she discusses what that means in the long term, and maybe that chocolate bar never was your friend to begin with. I really liked her approach of discussing her struggles with her weight because it felt like she knows what it's like to step on the scales and groan whereas in other diet and weight loss books the authors looks like they have never wanted a bonbon on a bad day! I'm not sure anyone would find anything in this book they didn't already know, but it's certainly worth a read for entertainment purposes as well as to know you are not alone on your weight loss journey!
Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review. The opinion are my own.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: Lioness Arising

I recently was given the opportunity to review Lioness Arising: Wake Up and Change Your World

In Lioness Arising, Lisa Bevere challenges women to awaken the lioness within each of us. No longer should be be tame and caged, but lioness who will arise to the challenges of life, awaken to the strategy of hunting, and develop the prowess we possess. Be it helping to rescue women and girls who have been sold into prostitution, or “grooming” our young, we all have lioness instincts, and Bevere doesn't want us to ignore them any longer. While I did think this book went a little overboard with the lioness comparisons, it was still a great metaphor of how to live our lives. In community. With strategy. Playful. Watchful. Stealthy. Fierce. Fearless. With a mother's heart to all children, not just our own. As women, no two women are alike. Single. Married. Many children. No children. But that doesn't change the basic instincts many women have of compassion. Use that to change your world! Bevere does a great job of weaving her story of how she learned these concepts into this book. Talking with prostitutes in India to how she always makes her children hug her goodnight and how one benefit of that is she can smell them and often tell if they have been somewhere they shouldn't. She allows us to see the questions and concerns and challenges she faced as she started to develop the lioness within her. Yet she doesn't chart the course for each individual. She encourages every woman to find what inspires them and come into that strength that is unique for each person.

You can download chapter one here:  http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/2010/08/04/sneak-peek-lioness-arising/?ref=BloggingForBooks_Chapter1Link

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my review. The opinions are my own.

Please CLICK HERE to rate the quality of my review (not if you would enjoy the book, but how well I did reviewing it.)  Thank you!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snow Photos

While we certainly don't have the amount of snow we did last year, here's a few photos I took recently. . .

Our garage door sometimes doesn't like to go down when it gets too cold, and here's snow on a shelf of paint in our garage.


Main road in my town:

I saw this bear in the next town when I was out the other day, and thought it looked like it could "bear"ly stand the snow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Where do you live?

After a recent post about swapping books, someone asked why I don't get them from the library.  After thinking about this a bit, it seems like so much of how we save money is based on where we live.

How many of you went into your bank last summer and left with FREE fresh vegetables?  I would highly suspect I'm the only one who did.  Same with driving down the road and seeing "Free" signs beside of a pile of vegetables.  Or a cart of green peppers with a little container by it and a sign "15 cents each". 

In a city that's unheard of!

I am very lucky that a Walgreens went in near me about a year ago.  Before that it was about an hour to the closest Walgreens.  It was somewhere I never shopped because of the distance.

It is an hour to the closest in-state library that does inter-library loans.  About 95% of the books I read are non-fiction and often things most people aren't interested in, so that would mean needing inter-library loans for the majority of what I read. (There is one public library near me that doesn't even have a telephone or computer and is only open about 9 hours a week.  To someone who lives in a larger place this is likely unfathomable.)   The IRS allows anywhere from 14 cents to 50 cents per mile deduction when you drive somewhere.  (Not that it would be tax deductable, but let's say it does cost 50 cents per mile wear and tear on the car plus gas.)  A round trip to this library would be $35.  At 14 cents it would  be almost $10. Many of the books I read are paperback and I could order them from Amazon for the $10 range, so why not just buy it and be able to keep the book.  And that's not counting the trip to return the book!  This is just not an economical option for me. 

Last year I read 94 books.  I earn a lot of free Barnes and Noble gift certificates.  I would watch for coupons for anywhere from 15 - 40% off.  (I just received a 40% off coupon in my e-mail today.  Need to decide what to buy.)  I would then combine the coupon and gift certificate.  Then often times, once I'm finished I will sell the book.  Last year, I read 94 books.  Because of also buying books at thrift shops, yardsales, book sales, etc. I actually MADE money instead of spending any reading my books.  (Yes, this even takes in account postage spent from swapping books.  And keep in mind, there's a rule on the book swapping site you cannot sell books you got from there, you are to swap them if you don't want to keep them.)  Plus I always have the option of keeping a book if it's going to be something I want to refer to in the future.

Where you live can make a large difference in how you save money.  There used to be a man near here who used to sell FIFTY POUNDS of potatoes for $6.  I'm not sure if he still does it or not, but I doubt anyone in a city could find that many potatoes for that price.

Even in the best frugal book ever, The Complete Tightwad Gazette the author talked about how her ways to save money changed after she moved to the country from the city.  Before I read that, I never thought about how it is easier for city-folk to save money in some ways.  They have public transportation, multiple grocery stores, larger libraries, etc.  But we have lower housing costs and when buying locally you can get lower prices on foods that rarely have coupons available (fresh meat, vegetables, etc.)

Learning to save money needs to be adjusted for where you live.  For instance, I lived a summer in Asia.  What's one of the cheapest meals to make in the USA?  Spaghetti.  Over there it was a lot more expensive because sauce was imported from Australia (and I didn't like Australian sauce, and Ragu was like $6 a jar 12 years ago.)  So, it was much cheaper to eat what the locals did.  Ramen noodles were just as cheap if not cheaper there!  McDonalds for some reason was about half the price it was in the USA.  Although I did eat spaghetti a couple times, I considered it a "treat" and wasn't something that I would fix often because of the price! 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Groceries taller than me

I had a difficult time maneuvering my cart in CVS today.  They didn't even have everything I wanted, and one cart was really not enough.  I had an avalance of items out of my cart -- twice.  When the paper products were stacked on the cart, yes, the groceries were taller than I am!

What I bought:

EIGHT 2 liters of Pepsi and Diet Pepsi  (great to have on hand for parties!)
TWO cartons of Caffiene Free Diet Pepsi
ONE carton of Diet Pepsi
ONE bag Lay's potato chips
THREE boxes Fiber One 90 calorie bars
ONE Snickers Candy bar
TENS cans of tuna
ONE package of 24 rolls of toilet paper
TWO packages of 10 rolls of paper towels

After coupons and such, my order came to $46.57.  This is much more than I like to pay for a CVS trip, and I would have done SOME of my shopping today and some later this week but winter weather in West Virginia is unpredictable, and all of this is stuff we use regularly (aside from the regular Pepsi, but I got that in two-liters because I do occasionally host parties and I'll have it on hand.)

CVS today:  Spent $46.57  Saved $64.81  Received back in ECBs $24.89  (And since some items were already out of stock just a few hours after the sale started for the week, I'll hopefully be able to get back to CVS this week and finish my shopping!)


ONE gallon milk
ONE Lysol no touch hand soap dispenser
ONE bottle hair color
THREE cans tuna

Spent: $15.85  Saved: $16.09   Received back in Register Rewards: $7.00

Not the best shopping trips to start the new year when looking at that much out of pocket, but can't rely on the weather to be good enough to be able to get out later in the week, so needed to get everything today.

Was quite happy to find tuna on sale.  It was on my grocery list and I didn't realize it was on sale both at CVS and Walgreens until I was at the store!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Book Review: Radical

I recently was givn the opportunity to read and review the book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream  I was skeptical at first because I had heard so many good things about this book, but I have to say it is one of the best books I've read in a long time!

A plethora of books have been written on living out your faith, however, David Platt takes “Radical” to another level. Like the title implies, what he suggests in his book is anything but living the normal American life. Why should we take the Gospel to people who have never heard? The average American church member probably thinks God gives special grace to those who have never heard the name of Jesus, but Platt explains why he believes this idea is not at all acceptable in light of what the Bible teaches. We can spend thousands of dollars a year on frivolous stuff all the while there are people dying because they don't have clean water. Why is the church looking the other way on this? Missions. How many people never get involved in fulfilling the Great Commission? They will attend when a missionary comes for a missions conference once a year, but the thought of them ever doing anything to reach out either in a local neighborhood or overseas is unthinkable. While this book is a hard read, it is not judgmental. It lays it on the line but even the author admits he doesn't believe he can live up to the radical lifestyle he believes God is calling us to lead. Rather than being a judgment, it's a call to living what Jesus taught his followers.

I received a book from the publisher in exchange for my review.  It in no way influenced my review of this book.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Contacting companies through social media

Social media (facebook, twitter, blogs) is a HUGE part of the Internet.

How many of you last summer saw the mold that someone found in their Capri-Sun?   Do you realize the power of social media when you're not getting something solved otherwise?  Not all companies monitor their Facebook and Twitter accounts regularly, but for the ones who do, it's a huge boost to the consumer who isn't getting treated fairly and has exhausted all other forms of communication.

However, last summer I had an employee get upset with me for posting about a problem on Facebook.  I won a trip to Vegas from HSN.  They told me all the fun events I was going to get to attend, until they realized that Pittsburgh is a more expensive airport than, say flying from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.  They started hemming and hawing, and eventually told me that I couldn't go to half the events and that I would be spending 27 hours in travel to be in Vegas 23 because of the flights they wanted to put me on.

I said that was unacceptable, that I wanted to go to all the events as promised to winners.  I made multiple phone calls, e-mails, etc.

Finally, I posted on the HSN facebook page and said I was a winner wasnt' getting my full prize and had they come up with a solution yet.  Within an hour acceptable flights were booked.  (However, an employee, and posibly she was a contractor started yelling at me in Vegas for "not being patient".   I expect she is the one who should have done something to solve this weeks prior, but didn't.  I think two weeks of phone calls and e-mails was very patient before pulling the Facebook trump card.)

Again, before I went to Vegas I "fanned" the hotel on Facebook.  We had a broken window blind in our room, and I called the front desk.  They told me I needed another department.  I called them.  They said I needed another department.  (By this time I needed to be leaving to go somewhere.)  So I just posted on their Facebook page that "The blind in Room ---  needs fixed."

When I returned to the room, it was fixed.

That said, I would only use Social Media for big complaints I've tried to solve other ways, but when you can't get any satisfaction any other way, this does sometimes work.  Remember the whole Capri-Sun incident last summer?  That was a mommy blogger who garnered so much attention
by posting about the problem on her blog and it gained national attention.

Consumerist Article about the Capri Sun

And, yes, I must say, in the end my flight problems to Vegas were solved and I had a fantastic trip thanks to HSN!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Book Review: Walls

I recently had the opportunity to read the book Walls: Why Everybodys Stuck (and Nobody Has to Be) in exchange for a review.  I was provided an advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for this review.

The Berlin Wall. The author likens the walls in our lives to that fortress that separated two sections of a city for so many years. But how do we change? How do we overcome the obstacles that surround us? In this book, Ryan Rush shows us how, or at least attempts to. To me it felt more like a book of encouragement with lots of Scripture and some great stories than a how-to book on overcoming whatever it is that you're facing. Rush is the father to a special needs child and her medical complications allowed me to not feel like he was some preacher who had no idea what real life can be like, but that he knows the hurts and pain that can come with life. While I can't say this book gave me any practical advice on how to knock down the walls in my life, it was inspiring and I very much enjoyed the stories of others, and I would say it's worth reading this book just for those.