Monday, April 18, 2011

Much Needed and Long Awaited

Sunday Deb and I enjoyed a fabulous Girls Day. It's been ages since we've had one! The day was chocked full of massages and lunch and shopping - what more could a girl ask for?

Our first stop was a wonderful foot massage spa in Thousand Oaks. Man! It was fantastic. I wasn't too sure that I could take a 1 hour massage just on my feet, but as it turns out, I didn't need to worry about that - they also worked on my neck, shoulders, arms, back and legs. Sheer Heaven.

Next up, lunch at PF Changs. The food was delicious, but our waiter left a lot to be desired. For instance, at the end of our meal he brought us the check. Our bill came to just over $31.00; Deb had a $25.00 gift card from a student, so we used that and I put in a $20.00 bill to cover the overage. Our waiter took the folder, came back and said, pointing to the total "This is your total after the gift card is deducted (showing us $6.25) -- did you need change?" Uh - YEAH! Kevin's standard tipping rule: double the tax and you come out with the correct tip. A standard tip is 15% and tax here in good old So Cal is 9.75%, so if you double the tax, you're still leaving more than the standard 15% Can you believe the nerve? He seriously thought we'd leave him a $13.75 tip?? Apparently if this is what waiters are being tipped nowadays, we're all in the wrong business. Unless, of course, you're a waiter. So ... he brings us back our 'change'; three quarters, three singles ... and a TEN DOLLAR BILL. Nice try, buddy, but you're still not getting that ten as a tip. Between the two of us, Deb and I were able to dig up exactly $5.75. (Now, be a good waiter and use all of those coins on your laundry. Hrmph.)

Off to Crabtree & Evelyn we went. Oh.My.Gosh. To say that we got a bit carried away is an understatement. But then again, if you've ever shopped in this store, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. They have a new fragrance that I absolutely fell in love with: Lily. If you're familiar with the store and it's products, you'll know this isn't really 'new'; it's a remake of one of their older fragrances, Lily of the Valley. The scent is fresh, light and absolutely swoon-y. I couldn't help myself -- I bought the 3-pack of French milled soaps, the dusting powder (Isn't dusting powder just dreamy? Especially for the summer. You so rarely find dusting powder - this is a real treat!), and the small bottle of perfume. Even the image on the bottle is just darling:We had coupons and they were giving away all kinds of freebies with your purchase so both Deb and I walked out with a TON of things from Crabtree & Evelyn. So much so, in fact, that Deb has declared she needs to open her own C&E store!

With very little money left (after our major splurge), we still managed to fit in Penney's and Kohl's for a few more bargains to round out our day.

WHEW! At this spending rate, maybe it's a good thing we don't have girls day more often! Thanks Deb - I had a great day! Can't wait until next time =)

Ultimate Sandwich Makeover PAR-TAY

Friday was the big day - Kraft Ultimate Sandwich Makeover day!

About a month or so ago I was chosen to host this fun - and delicious! - party. I decided to have the party at work and share the fun with some friends. It was a huge success and a great way to kick-off the weekend. Here are a few of the photos from our party.

The conference room before our picnic party was set up:
Just beginning to get 'the goods' together:

This is starting to look like quite a spread!:

The 'stars' of our show:
Mmmmmm - cupcakes!(These are to die for, made-from-scratch, orange chiffon cupcakes. We all deemed them 'contest-worthy', so most likely they will be making an appearance in our town's upcoming Cupcake Contest.)
All of the party-goers (Kevin, Linda, Semeen, Nancy, Pam, Amy, Bev, Jaydene, Steve, Merilyn, Connie and Kimi working on and enjoying their sandwich creations:

We all had such a great time! I can't wait to host another party!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Powdered Drink Mix Sticks

We've all seen these drink mix sticks, right? In fact, they're so popular that every time you turn around, there's another brand or another flavor to choose from. Though I see them all the time, I'd never really given them much thought -- until last week.

Last week dad was in the hospital for a small surgical procedure and I stopped in at the cafeteria several times getting either coffee or cold drinks for mom and myself. At the cash register I noticed that there was every type and flavor of powdered drink mix stick that you could possibly imagine. And do you know what they wanted for them?? $2.00! TWO DOLLARS - EACH! Are you kidding me?!! Even more of an insult, if you don't already have your own bottle of water (or cup of hot water), you have to buy that, too. I can't remember how much the bottles of water were going for - my guess is somewhere between $1.50 and $3.00 depending on what size you bought.

Holy cow. Have we all lost our minds? I wondered to myself how many people buy those ridiculously expensive things. And moreover, why? I understand that sometimes you want something besides soda or just a plain bottle of water, but ... really? Why not just buy a box or two to keep at home and put one or two in your purse 'just in case'.

...which is what I did. The following day I was at Walmart and picked up a box of raspberry lemonade sticks, and a box of Taster's Choice coffee sticks (I received some as a free sample a while back - they're surprisingly good - even to a coffee snob like me!) and I put two of each in my purse. Oh, and two Wild Sweet Orange tea bags. YUM! Now, the next time I want something besides just plain water, I can pull one of these out of my purse for a little treat. Without feeling like I got robbed!


As I was leaving school today, I ran into one of my all-time favorite students. He is a very smart, high functioning autistic boy who never ceases to amaze me. We always have interesting conversations and today was no exception.

I asked him if he'd enjoyed his Spring Break last week and he told me he was "very productive". I inquired as to what he'd been busy with and I imagined that, like most teenagers, he'd reply that he'd caught up on movies, video games and sleep. Nope, not this boy. He told me he was very, very busy working on his priorities. Only after he addressed all of his priorities did he relax.

What was his #1 priority? He told me that he was learning not to be an impulse buyer. "If you buy on impulse, you ruin any money saving chance that you may have had if you didn't buy on impulse."

See. I told ya - very smart ;o)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Bits and Bobs

When I was growing up, my grandmother always had what I call a 'Bits and Bobs' basket. It wasn't particularly fancy, but in the eyes of a small child, that basket held pure magic. Every time I was allowed to look through it, I found new treasures. It was one of my absolute favorite things to do: spend a rainy afternoon sorting through all of the trinkets in the basket.

A couple of weeks ago while cruising through the Goodwill store, I came across a charm bracelet. A Halloween charm bracelet to be more precise. It caught my eye the minute I looked at the case and asked the clerk to take it out. Upon inspection, it was clear to me that my grandmother wasn't the only one who had a Bits and Bobs basket! Each of the 'charms' was both glorious and goofy in their own right. In reality, they are just small pieces of plastic, glass or metal, but when combined, they form a very charming vintage-y charm bracelet. At just $2.99 I couldn't resist. I bought it. (You knew that was coming, right?) Here it is - see for yourself: Kitschy, no?

So. As you might have guessed, I was inspired. As it so happens, I have my grandmother's old basket. I thought what better use than to fill it up with Bits and Bobs?! I headed to yet another Goodwill store to see what I could find. Luck was a lady and I came upon a florist's vase filled with baubles - who knew what treasures would be inside?! - for just $14.00. Sounded like a fair price to me, so I bought it, brought it home ... and was thrilled! It was exactly what I'd had in mind; inside there were cute bobby pins with embellishments, actual charms (9!) with clasps, a couple of funky pins, a menagerie of vintage clip-on earrings, necklaces of all shapes and sizes that can be used as fun beads, a broken strand (but with LOTS) of black vintage glass beads, and so much more. Next stop was Patty's Antiques (which is closing - boo/hiss) where I came across a couple of $5.00 grab bags that had more fun vintage-y Bits and Bobs. Plus, I came across some old Monopoly game pieces, so I added those to the mix, too.

WHEW! Here's are a few photos of the new generation Bits and Bobs basket: Isn't it fun?!

Now I ask ya, who wouldn't want to spend an afternoon sifting through all the treasures in this basket? Not only that, I'm pretty sure I see some fun, funky, vintage-y charm bracelets on my crafty to-do list ;o)

The (Savings) Power of One Single Shopping Trip

Yesterday I combined a bunch of errands and saved a fair amount of cash in doing so (and 'earned' a bit, too). How? Actually, it was much easier than you'd think! Here's what I did:

1. Went through all of the Sunday circulars and all of my coupons. (Lots of potential savings; more below)
2. Mapped out the most direct route hit all of the places I need to visit. (Saves gas ... and who doesn't need to save gas?!)
3. Bought the items I had on my list, but kept an eye out for any other bargains that might be around. (Saves money - both ways, as long as you don't buy on impulse.)

The long and short of it:

I wanted to go to CVS, Walgreens, Ralph's and the Goodwill drop off station. Lucky for me, they're all less than a mile from our home and all in the same general area.

First stop: CVS - I did a total of five transactions. I earned $7.00 in Extra Care Bucks and used them to lower the cost of the items I bought. I wound up with 1 large tube of Gold Bond body wash, a package of 150 tooth flossers, four boxes of Puffs + Lotion, and five Oral B toothbrushes (one even had a small size toothpaste with it). I spent a total of $13.00 and saved $15.71 in coupons.

Next stop: Walgreens - I was able to do it all in just one transaction. They didn't have one of the products on my list, but they generously offered to substitute a very similar product. I bought four large bottles of Old Spice body wash, 2 Old Spice deodorants, a four pack of Duracell batteries, a package of Windex wipes and a bottle of Fantastic. I spent a total of $22.65 and saved $21.80 in coupons. PLUS, they offered me a free gift from the Easter basket they had on the counter (I chose a toothbrush - my dentist would be proud), and I got two different coupon booklets that are good through the month of April.

Next stop: Goodwill Donation Station - Luckily, it's right across the parking lot from Walgreens. I had just one bag - the result of paring down my summer T-shirts and shorts. Plus, an ollllllld pair of shoes I haven't worn in at least two years.

Final stop: Ralph's - This grocery trip was a combo fill in what we need for the week/and stock up on a couple of good deals. They are also running a special where you receive double Rewards points when you buy certain products (juice, yogurt, cold cereal, detergent .... hmmmm...which of these things is not like the other?) I didn't buy them because of the points, but I did buy yogurt and juice so was able to accumulate more Rewards points. Plus, I brought my reusable grocery bags, so I earned Rewards points for that (WOW! I just checked my receipt; they usually only give you credit for 10 bags at 5 points each, but for some reason, I got credit for 16 bags. The checker just kept adding bags until it wouldn't allow him to go any further = 80 points!). I used just $4.75 in coupons, but added to my Rewards card, I saved a total of $34.74.

Total savings for the day: $72.25!! Not bad for just the small bit of planning I did. I wish everything was this easy!