December 30, 2010
Over the past few months since returning to work I've been pondering ways to become more organized and efficient. So far here is what I have come up with:
1. We hired someone to clean our house twice a month.
2. I realized that I needed to organize myself a little better and combine my many lists and calendars.
With #2 came the discovery of Life As Mom and her fabulous ebook. I purchased this a few months back and have been diligently working on using it to create my very first Household Notebook.
What is a Household Notebook you ask? Great question! If you "google" this phrase you will find all sorts of blogs and discussions on the topic. Quite honestly every person's Household Notebook will be different based on what that person needs it to do for them. For someone else it may include homeschooling plans or sports schedules but for me it is simply calendars, menu planning helps and weekly cleaning helps plus a few introspective pages to help me determine my priorities and set goals for each month or quarter.
I took my notebook to FedEx Office today and had it bound with a plastic cover so that it will hopefully make it through the year. I also had them insert colorful pages to separate the months and I had already added tabbed index pages for each quarter. Here are a few photos of my notebook (these aren't the greatest but you'll get the general idea):
Up until the past week Olivia would eat a little bit of solids, about one cube two times per day. Since her 6 month birthday though it's like she finally gets it! She has increased that to three cubes two or three times per day so I've been working on adding to her palate and increasing my freezer stock. Right now I need to make sweet potatoes and green beans again but here is what my current stock of veggies looks like spread out on the counter (along with the fabulous "cookbook" that my brother and his wife got me for Christmas), and then in my freezer (the two green topped trays and the container behind them) and lastly, the newest food Olivia will be trying this week - bananas!
CVS is my favorite place for such deals and this week I was able to get two items on my "running out of" list plus an extra goodie for myself.
Bought a great smelling exfoliating Tone body wash on sale for $3.88 and used $1 off coupon. Got back $3 in Extra Care Bucks (ECB). Then bought 2 small Dawn dishwashing liquids and 3 boxes of Puffs with lotion which were all on sale - used the ECB from the previous transaction plus $1 in manufacturer coupons.
Total out of pocket was $4.22 for all items. (Photo below of the Dawn and Puffs)
December 29, 2010
Now the type of kites I prefer to fly are two line stunt kites mostly manufactured by Prism out of Seattle, Washington. I am a big Prism Kite fan, I guess because the very first stunt kite I bought was a Prism Quantum and thus I became familiar with the line and the level of support offered by the company. I have just about every Prism kite they make both stunt and single line with a few exceptions mostly on the Parafoil end. I do own a few other brand of kites though but my favorites are always the Prisms.
I happened to notice today on Amazon that there are quite a few Prism Models available right now at greatly reduced prices and thought I would share them with you incase someone might be interested.
The first model is the one that I first purchased back in 2004 from Kitty Hawk Kites which is the Prism Quantum and back then it retailed for about $80 bucks but now they retail for $112. Amazon is selling a few Prism Quantum models in the low $60 range which is a great deal on this entry level kite. It is big, durable and has a strong pull so it is easier to control because you feel the movement of the kite. It also has a built in shock absorber in the spine to help ease the effects of the inevitable crashes that beginners will have. It also has an adjustable bridle that allow for more radical settings one you progress in your flying skills. This kite performs well in a variety of winds although Prism states as little as 3 mph I would suggest 6 mph or more to be more realistic. I have flown this kite several times in high winds around 25 mph and been very pleased with it. I highly recommend this kite to anyone as their first kite and at this price it is very hard for even me to resist buying another one. Here is the link to the kite on Amazon http://www.blogger.com/www.amazon.com/Prism-QUANTUM-Quantum-Stunt-Kite/dp/B003H34NBO/ref=pd_sim_sg_1 and your price will vary depending on the color you chose but there are some colors that are really great deals.
The second model is the Prism 4D Ultralight Stunt kite and Amazon has one of the Yellow color for sale around $80. This is a pretty nice deal based on the retail price of $105 for this kite. As the name implies this kite is for low wind or even an indoor kite and actually is quite a good kite for flying in Raleigh as the winds tend to be relatively low here. I don't have this particular model but I do have it's predecessor the Prism 3D Ultralight and have been very pleased with it so far. I just want to mention that since this kite is designed for little to no wind it's construction is not going to withstand the physical abuse most beginner fliers will give a kite so I don't recommend this one as your first kite but if you have been flying awhile and are ready to start building your quiver then this is a good first kite to add. Here is the link to the kite on Amazon www.amazon.com/Prism-4D-Ultralight-Stunt-Kite/dp/B003L2THA8/ref=pd_sim_sg_5 and as mentioned the Yellow color is the one that is on sale for the best price.
The third and final kite I am going to mention is really more for the intermediate to advance fliers but it also is my favorite kite in my quiver and that is the Prism Zephyr.This kite retails for $280 and right now Amazon is selling the Prism Zephyr in the Eggplant color for about $146. This is an amazing price for this kite and probably your best overall deal as far as the savings are concerned. One of the biggest things I like about this kite is the wonderful hard shell kite case that comes with it. The case alone is worth $50 so you are getting a really superb deal on the Zephyr kite at this price. In my Zephyr case I can carry all my line sets, the Zephyr and one other kite and that is usually the Quantum. I can also fit my Prism 3D kite on the outside of the case strapped on by the the bungee cord lacing down the side if I wish. The kite itself is a low to medium wind kite and there is also an included weight set that can be put in the spine to help in the higher wind range. Being an higher end kite you will have some features not available on the lower end models such as a fully adjustable bridle, adjustable leech line and leading edge tensioners and yo yo stoppers making this a great competition kite. At this price even though it is designed for intermediate to advance fliers I would almost recommend it to new fliers who had the money because it is such a great kite. But my real recommendation would be to buy both the Prism Quantum and the Prism Zephyr that way you have something good to learn on now the Quantum and then also have a kite that you could grow into later the Zephyr and all for about the normal street price of the Prism Zephyr. Here is the link to the kite on Amazon http://www.blogger.com/www.amazon.com/Prism-ZEPHYR-Zephyr-Stunt-Kite/dp/B003L7TQB8/ref=pd_sim_sg_7 and as mentioned the Eggplant color is the one that is on sale for the best price.
As a side note I mentioned having different types of kites in your quiver based on the wind but please also be aware of the need for different types of linesets depending on the wind conditions and the length of line you desire to fly with.
I hope this helps someone looking to buy a kite soon. I don't know how long these prices are good for and Amazon's prices fluctuate greatly so take advantage while you can. Now I just need to resist the urge to take advantage of such great deals myself as I really do not need another kite unless someone really just wanted to get me one for my 37th birthday coming up soon then I could always use another kite.
An hour or so ago I heard some cries. I stopped what I was doing, went to the bathroom to wash my hands and quickly swooped in to see what was the matter. Baby girl was all wet, down to her jammies as usual so I made haste to get her changed and all dry so that we could get back to the matter of sleep. She was none too happy about the interruption to her sleep but it wasn't too long before she was snuggled up on my chest ready to head back to her sweet baby dreams. As I was rocking her I began to reflect on the grace of God and the second chances He provides.
You see it was not that long ago when those cries from the monitor would cause my heart to skip a beat. I would feel panicked and completely terrified about entering the nursery to see what was the matter. Becoming a new mom, experiencing post partum depression and having the most unhappy newborn ever stripped me of whatever confidence I may have had in my abilities. Every cry struck fear in my heart because I knew what the outcome would be - hours and hours of me not being able to soothe my baby.
Tonight as I was rocking her I realized how far I've come....how far God has brought me...and how far Olivia has come. I was thinking back to September when we took her on vacation to the beach and how awful it was. I was thinking of how I spent that vacation trying to make an unhappy baby slightly happy and how when vacation was over and it was time for me to return to work from maternity leave, I was thankful. Thankful and ashamed.
I had big dreams of not returning to work after maternity leave. We had worked it out with our finances and I was just waiting to have the baby and make sure it was something I still wanted to do. I was sure that come September I would realize my dream of being a stay at home mom. I took care to hire a replacement at work for my leave that I thought would be a good fit permanently. I even cleaned out my office. I worked tirelessly before my leave to make sure that when I didn't return as planned that the transition would be smooth. Well, you know what they say about best laid plans, right?
By the time Olivia was 7 weeks old I had conjured up more irrational thoughts than you can imagine, had to be put on medication and knew I was not going to fulfill my dream. Making the decision to return to work was probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do that I didn't want to do that I knew I needed to do (is your tongue tied yet?!). Not only did I have to make that decision but also knew that I wasn't even going to make it through 12 weeks of leave as the sole caregiver for my sweet baby girl. I actually had to hire a part-time caregiver before I even went back to work. Talk about shame. I was filled with it.
But tonight I was reminded again of the love of God and His amazing ways. Sometimes you have to go through something really hard in order to appreciate it the way you need to. I don't know if God purposely allowed me to go through what I have or He has just worked it for my good but I can tell you that I find joy in being a mother to Olivia in ways I don't think I would have if it were not for what I've been through. I appreciate God's grace towards me and see His provision of a second chance at embracing motherhood and treasuring even the cries of my baby in ways I would not had I not been through what I have been. It's hard to even think this but sometimes I am actually thankful for the hard road for we would never appreciate the easy road had we not walked the hard one. As a famous poet once wrote "I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference."
December 17, 2010
That is a pretty nice deal in itself if you were planning on giving away Sam's Club Memberships to friends or family. You would receive a 25% bonus that you could save for yourself or give away. But the hidden jewel here and the reason for my blog is that the Gift of Membership cards are really just glorified gift cards. So, if you are attentive enough to read the back of the card you would see that it states "This card may be used for purchase of merchandise at Sam's Club, or any retail format of Wal-Mart stores, INC. in the US and Puerto Rico."
When I discovered this I confirmed with the Sam's Club manager that they can indeed also be used for purchases at either Sam's Club or Wal-Mart. So really in effect you are buying $125 in gift cards for $100 (Advantage Plus Gift of Membership card). Do this enough times and the savings can really add up! It is equivalent to saving 25% at Sam's Club or Wal-mart, your choice.
For my family we buy a $250 Wal-mart Gift card each month to be used for groceries so I know in advance that I am going to have at least $3000 in expenditures at Wal-mart this coming year for groceries so I purchased 24 Advantage Plus Gift of Membership cards. This came to $2400 and I received an additional $600 in gift cards which totaled $3000 - the amount needed for 2011 at a savings of 25 %. That $600 in savings is a new HDTV, Computer, Ipad, Digital SLR or just over 2.5 months of free groceries for my family.
To avoid confusion with the the cashiers I would suggest that you quickly convert the Gift of Membership cards to traditional gift cards by going to Wal-mart.com and just purchasing new gift cards using those Gift of Membership cards as the payment method. I can just see trying to explain to a cashier for 20 mins that the cards are also good on purchases. As a small bonus right now Wal-mart.com will ship the gift cards to you for free which saves you the regular $.97 delivery cost for gift cards.
I will admit I tried to do something similar last year using Microsoft Bing Cash back when it was still around and offered 20% cash back on Wal-mart.com. I bought a year's worth of gift cards then after waiting 3 months to receive the cash back found out that Bing invalidated the transaction because it was apparently not applicable to the purchase of gift cards.....should have read the fine print. So this year I got wiser and got my savings up front versus waiting til later.
I know that $2400 seems like a lot of money and it is to us as well but when I compared keeping the money in savings longer, earning a measly 1% interest, to pre-purchasing the gift cards (that I know will be used), earning a 25% return, the choice was simple.
December 12, 2010
3 weeks ago we made the decision to move Olivia from an in-home daycare situation where she was the only child being cared for to a regular daycare facility. Making this decision was difficult because it meant doubling our childcare costs but also because we had originally felt it was best for her to have one on one care and we were not entirely certain that the change would be okay given her temperament. Additionally, this change meant exposing her to lots more children which would mean more illnesses. On top of all that making the change meant there would be a lapse in childcare so Mark had to take unplanned time off to be at home during the lapse. But for a number of reasons we both knew Olivia needed a change in her daytime environment so we forged on with the decision.
It has now been 2 weeks since Olivia started at her new daycare and I am simply amazed at how much she has changed. By being around other children she is developing at an appropriate pace and learning to play and both those things make for a happier baby. She is much less fussy than she had been, is not as demanding and is able to nap which in itself is reason enough for me to be ecstatic!
So, I am filled with gratitude to God. Gratitude that He gave me the discernment that Olivia needed a change, gratitude for the changes in Olivia that are enabling us to enjoy her more and more and gratitude that He led us to the right daycare.
December 08, 2010
Another cool deal this week was at CVS, my favorite deal gettin' place! I wish I had a picture but we have a new camera now and Mark is hogging it. I got 3 12-packs of soda, a package of diapers, a box of wipes, baby nail clippers and baby oragel toothbrush for $3.26! How you ask? Well, it was a combination of extra care bucks, CVS and manufacturer coupons and gift cards received for purchasing a new prescription there. I held out on these purchases until it was just the right buying time and yes, I scored!
After spending about 30 minutes to get the little girl back to sleep, I decided I should probably stay up just a bit longer to ensure that she really was fast asleep. No sense putting the head back down on the pillow and just about to fall asleep to be awoken by an upset baby. So I decided to go to the office in the next room and check on my favorite deal site http://slickdeals.net . This was the right thing to do because as it just so happened I was able to get in on the ground level of a deal before it went on fire.
Amazon.com was selling Battlefield Bad Company 2 Ultimate Edition for $28.96 normally about a $60 game while at the same time offering a Trade-in credit for the game of $27.00. Just at a base level it looks like ok nothing really special here I could play the game for a week and then return it only losing a dollar but the kicker here was that this game qualified for Amazon's current promotion of Buy One Video Game or Accessory and get the 2nd 50% off. So by buying two games for just about $40 bucks I could then turn around and ship them back to Amazon for a trade in credit of about $54 in amazon gift cards.
Before proceeding with the purchase I needed to lock in my trade-in credit price because it was surely about to plummet once the market got flooded with a bunch of other Slickdealers doing the same thing. The only problem with this was that now I was locked into a seven day window in which the games must be shipped out back to Amazon and I didn't have the actual games in hand yet. The one good thing about most of the online trade-in sites is that they provide you with a prepaid shipping label so the package only has to be postmarked by the deadline not actually received. But if I were to miss the seven day window I would forfeit my guaranteed trade-in price and would be stuck with what ever the current market price was at the time received. Luckily though I am an Amazon Prime Member which means I am entitled to free 2 day shipping . So I should be able to get the games in hand before I actually need to send them back. This netted me about $14 and so I decided to repeat the deal once more but this time with the XBOX version since Amazon limits the number of trade-ins it will accept from a single user of each title. So in the end I had about $28 in credit coming to me for about 15 mins work.
As expected by the morning commute all the trade-in sites were flooded with the game and of course the premiums went down accordingly. So I got in early before the word got out all because my sweet little girl couldn't sleep and needed her Daddy at 4:00 am .
On a side note Amazon doesn't just accept trade - ins on games but also some books too. Another good site for trading in games and electronics that I like to use is http://gazelle.com . There you can get cash delivered to your Paypal account and they will sometimes even offer you a bonus amount if you accept a giftcard to a certain retailers like Amazon.
December 02, 2010
Organizing Life As Mom eBook. The eBook contains a number of printable documents to help you put your own Household Notebook together so I am slowly working through them to determine what my notebook will need to contain. Once I have it all together I am going to get it spiral bound at FedEx Kinkos. I am looking forward to seeing how this helps me to bring my homemaking tasks under control in the New Year. I think just having everything in one place will be helpful in itself.
Other than that I have been working on decluttering areas of my house when I have time. I have decluttered and reorganized two large cabinets in our kitchen and the drawer in the living room that holds the baby's bibs, burp cloths, etc. I also have finished some craft projects that now need to be hung. I am really excited about
Also, I am excited to tell you that we have found someone to start helping with getting our house clean again. Ever since the latter part of my pregnancy the house has just gone to pot! Seriously, it is nasty. Sure, it looks fine on the surface but the dust bunnies have multiplied so much that they recently attacked the dog and cobwebs have totally taken over all the light fixtures. My hope is that after a few months of regular help I will be at the point I can maintain it myself. I realize that having paid help is a luxary in a world where there are children who don't even have enough to eat. I am thankful beyond words for God's provision in my life. Kelly Blowe of Kelly's Cleaning Closet will be starting in about a week and she will be coming three times in December. After that we'll see where things stand. I am hoping that with the basics getting done (as well as some desperately needed deep cleaning) I'll be able to focus more on the decluttering that is needed in order to scale back our belongings to make room for Olivia's things as well as my sewing projects.
I have agreed to review some FLYlady products for my FLYbaby group so rather than just post my thoughts there I decided it made more sense to post to the blog and then post that reference to the group. My plan (ha ha!) is to blog on Wednesdays about a different product I am trying until I have covered all the ones I have.....don't hold your breath....my follow through is notoriously poor! (Just a comment, I am not being compensated for this review. This is a product I purchased for my own use and I am just sharing my thoughts about it with you.)
So first up is the Rags In A Bag product. This is a set of three purple microfiber cloths that arrive in a mesh laundry bag with zipper. I have been using these for a few weeks now and have decided that they are a winner! I really like them. I have used microfiber cloths before but these truly are a superior product in my opinion. One thing I am really loving about them is that I can dampen one corner and clean mirrors or glass without using any cleaning products. If necessary I will wipe over at the end with the dry end to make sure there is no smearing. Something like this really comes in handy when you have a child. Seriously, who has time to go get the paper towels and glass cleaner? Not me! I also like that they are generously sized whereas ones I have purchased in the past were not. The only negative thing I can say about them is that they do shrink in the dryer; however, I failed to read the instruction about air drying them so I am entirely to blame!
You can find this product in the FLYshop for $9.95 plus S&H.
Personally I like to take as much of the work out of it as possible! If you are like me then can I be bold and suggest an idea to you? Shutterfly! Have you used Shutterfly before? If not, now is definitely the time to try it out. I use Shutterfly for anything I want to look really nice. I have used it for countless cards and photobooks. I posted one of my favorite projects recently and I wanted to share the Christmas card we designed for our first married Christmas as well but it has been discontinued so I cannot post a link to it - boo! It was cute though!
So, I'd like to show you a few designs that I think are worthy of your consideration -
So, lo and behold Christmas is just around the corner. Do I have a tree up? No. Do I have a stocking for Olivia? No. Do I have a plan? No. In short, this mama is way behind! The only thing I can proudly claim is that most of my Christmas shopping is done. That is a first for me - normally I wait til the last minute because I haven't made it a priority but this year I had an idea and ordered a variation of it for almost everyone on my list which made things rather simple. I have a large extended family that I like to do a homemade project for each year and just this week I settled on what I'm going to do for that so I'm well on my way to being completely done with the gifts but I have no tree to put them under! Oh well, I'm not overly worried about it. Olivia will see plenty of trees and lights even if they are not at her own house!
I did put up the adorable Little People Nativity Set I got last year when I knew I was pregnant and would want my baby to have his/her very own nativity set. One of my childhood memories is of having a small tree of my own in my room each year. I'd like to do that with Olivia but using the nativity scene so I can incorporate the real meaning of Christmas into her bedtime routine as she grows up.
One of the things we also have not done yet is take a Christmas picture for our Christmas cards. We have had a Christmas dress for Olivia for a while but just have not had a chance to get a photo. Mark ordered us a new NICE camera this week so we'll probably wait til it arrives to take our photo. I'm just hoping and praying we get it done in time for me to create and order our cards! And speaking of that, I'm going to write a whole separate blog post regarding the use of Shutterfly for your Christmas cards so stay tuned!