Seriously way behind

So, I am way behind. In life. And, more importantly to the topic at hand, in blogging. And, I'll be honest: There is absolutely no chance of me catching up anytime soon. I have one ginormous birthday present to finish in a week and about 8 other presents to finish by (or around) Christmas. So, instead, I'll give a you a teaser. Sometime after Christmas (and probably into 2010) look forward to seeing these features:
  1. A show-and-tell of all my Christmas craftings (none of which are strictly Christmasy...)
  2. Recipe reviews: Restaurant Ripoff Sweet Pork, Black Bean Soup, Gingerbread, Caramel Turtles, Ritz Thin Mints
  3. What I think about movies, specifically 12 Angry Men, Inkheart, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Inherit the Wind, Star Trek.
  4. More about the books I've been reading: Unlikely Heroes, Pictures of Hollis Woods, Smiles to Go, The Janitor's Boy, Lemonade Wars, and whatever I pick up at the library today
  5. Whatever else pops into my head
Aren't you excited? And no, this post is really a teaser, not an online to-do list to remind me of what I need to blog about when that time comes -- why do you ask?

The Most Inarticulate Generation...

I love this! Even if I may or may not embody this to varying degrees...

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

Lessons in Couponing

I have recently become a couponer. I attended an Enrichment a Relief Society meeting a few months ago where a member of the Savvy Shopper's brigade was teaching a class about saving money by using coupons. Since I am no longer the breadwinner (or even really a bread contributor), I figured that I could contribute to the family budget by saving money, which is just as good as bringing it in in my book. :)

I'm no Savvy Shopper (who reports that she spends about $100/month feeding her family of 6!) but I've saved us enough on diapers alone that I think it is at least worth my time. In the last 6+ weeks of using coupons, I've learned these 3 P's about becoming a couponer:

You must be patient. This means waiting for the best sales (the really really good ones, not just a sale on the item you have a coupon for). When I first started couponing, I would use whatever coupons I had for whatever happened to be for sale (not even on sale) anywhere... I have since learned the error of my ways.

For example, last week I could have paid $6 for 4 boxes of Chex at Macey's. I was already at my budget, so I had to leave the Chex on the shelf. I was really disappointed and even tried to come up with a really good argument for needing the Chex, to no avail. It was all for the best when this week Fresh Market (formerly Albertson's) had Chex on sale 4 boxes for $5. Plus, in the extra time, I had found a printable coupon for $1/2 boxes of Chex, which I printed the maximum 2 times. That made it $3 for the 4 boxes. 75 cents each! Plus, I got a free 5 lb bag of sugar for turning in my Albertson's Preferred card, so I paid $3 (plus tax) for 4 boxes of Chex and 5 lbs of sugar.

You must be persistent. After just a couple of weeks, I was disappointed because I wasn't seeing myself saving very much money. If anything, (due to my impulsively buying something just because I had a coupon), couponing was costing us more money. Before I gave up, I decided to redouble my efforts. I started getting all the coupon booklets from my parents' newspaper (since they weren't using them anyway) and keeping all the coupons, even for products I wouldn't normally be buying often, like lightbulbs and cough syrup. I haven't gone so far as to subscribe to multiple copies of the newspaper (yet?), but I've built up a pretty mean arsenal of coupons (that are still waiting to be properly organized...) that means that I can take advantage of the fantastic sales (like when things are FREE!) when the come around.

Being persistent also means taking advantage of a wonderful store policy: the rain check. Especially at stores that have great sales but not such great stock rooms (such as my not-so-friendly neighborhood Walgreens), the sale items are gone whiz-bang fast. Two weeks ago I was there to get Hunts tomato sauce for FREE (on sale 3/$1 and with save $1/3 coupons). I planned to get 6 since I had 2 coupons (and that was the limit), but there were only 3 left on the shelf. I asked an employee if they had more in stock, and when the manager told me they were all out, she also offered me a rain check (which is great customer service but doesn't happen very often!). So now, once they restock, I have another 6 cans of tomato sauce. FREE. (Luckily I was able to get another $1/3 coupon, as well from playing the ConAgra Recession Payback game. :P )

You must be persnickety (but not in a snobby way).
per-snick-e-ty (pur sni kuh tee) -- adj -- 1 a : fussy about small details : fastidious b : having the characteristics of a snob 2 : requiring great precision
The phrases "It's not worth the fuss," "Oh, just let it slide," and "I didn't notice what it rang up at" cannot be in a successful couponer's lexicon. To  make sure you're getting the right price, you have to watch and make sure that all of the coupons register correctly, which sometimes means handing them to the checker in a certain order or otherwise requiring something of the checker beyond the norm for a transaction.
[Editor's note: Most checkers are nice people, and any checker worth his/her salt knows that of all the people you shouldn't make mad, couponers are top on the list. Not only are most couponers brave enough to just walk out and/or talk to the management, couponers revel in the beauties of the internet. One couponer is treated badly (for coupon-related reasons) at a store, and, before you know it, hoards of couponers are NOT showing up at that store any more, both at that location and otherwise. That said, be nice to the checker, not snobby, as is the other definition of persnickety.]
For example, anytime you "roll" purchases (split up your purchases into multiple transactions to use gift cards, register rewards, $$ off next purchase coupons in the same trip), that requires something of the checker. Be sure you know what you're doing before you attempt to roll. Start with a simple roll, two transactions, and work up. I am still quite a novice at rolling, myself.

When using multiple coupons, such as a combination of manufacturer and store coupons, for one item and/or transaction, I figure that it's my responsibility to make sure that they are all valid to use in that way. Some coupons will automatically double if you're buying multiple items; some don't. Sometimes the checker will have to scan them in in a certain order.

For example, I got a great deal on Huggies diapers at Walgreens this week -- $22 for 4 jumbo packs! To get the great deal, though, I used 4 manufacturer's coupons and 2 store coupons, plus I had to purchase a small filler item so that my $5/$25 store coupon was usable. The checker had to scan the 4 diaper packages (plus filler item), the first store coupon ($1/1 pkg of Huggies, which quadrupled because I was buying 4), then the 4 manufacturer's coupons (one for each pkg), and then the last store coupon (save $5/25 purchase). She was nice enough and experienced enough to re-scan the first store coupon when I had given the coupons to her in the wrong order and remind me about the filler item (which I had placed on the counter but she hadn't seen), but some checkers aren't. That means you either have to make a bit of a fuss or, like my father, end up paying WAY too much for your Pepsi fridge packs.

Here's to getting more great deals!

Meatball Monday

My husband loves meat. Meat can get expensive. Pasta is cheap. Spaghetti sauce is mostly cheap. Thus was born at our house Meatball Monday.

(These are not my meatballs, but they could be!)

Every Monday we have spaghetti and meatballs. Hubby loves it because he gets meat. I love it because I can make one very large batch of meatballs and freeze them. Reheating them is as simple as tossing the meatballs in the sauce to simmer for about 20 minutes. Easy Monday meal means there's a better chance that we'll put some thought into our Family Home Evening. Win - win - WIN.

Monday Meatballs
(Original healthier recipe from Alicia, unhealthy recipe notes are all mine)

Mix the following ingredients with 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites (or just 2 whole eggs):
1 lb ground turkey breast
1/2 lb lean ground pork
(Or 1 1/2 lbs of whatever ground meat you have around -- turkey, sausage, hamburger...) 
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (or more!)
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (or more!)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper (or more!)
Minced onions, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Mix well and roll into balls (just smaller than a ping pong ball). Place on cookie sheet, not touching. (Because we use fattier meats, we place our wire cooling rack on the cookie sheet and place the meatballs on that to allow the fat to drip off.) Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Add to simmering sauce for 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Reaching for Sun

I want this summer
to be a wildflower-seed mix.
And me, surprised
by what blooms.

Reaching for Sun is the story of Josie, a middle school girl with cerebral palsy, a hovering mother, her first friend, and a gardening grandmother. Josie tells her story through free verse prose that is straightforward and talkative in parts and elegantly descriptive and heart-touching in others. Her prose carries you through a full year of ups and downs, and at the end, I just loved Josie and wanted to give her a hug and take her out for ice cream.

Final word: A. Definitely worth checking out from the library. The loose prose makes it a quick read, but reading it out loud (like I did to my baby) gives it so much more meaning. I teared up at the end just thinking of my own gardening grandma.

TAKEN: Bourne (+) Burn Notice (-) mercy

Disclaimer: I am not a movie critic. Just a girl who watches movies occasionally and sometimes shares. So I'm not going to talk about the artsy side of the movie, like the angles and things, unless I am particularly moved by them. I am all about the plot and the story and character development. Feel free to disagree with me and know that I apathetically embrace your thoughts. :) Also, I try not to include spoilers but I can't promise anything...

After hearing definitively that Taken was an action/thriller type and not a creepy/I'll-sleep-with-the-light on type, we rented it last weekend. And quite enjoyed it. While it's a scary real-life type situation, I liked the fast action and the fact that the movie is short and sweet (as long as Liam Neeson shamelessly wreaking havoc on criminals is sweet to you) at only 93 minutes.

Mark LOVED the action. If you hate when the good guy doesn't win every fight definitively, you will also love it. Mark (and I quote) "loved it because the good guy never got beat and always kicked the trash out of everyone." That's not even an exaggeration. This movie is all about Liam Neeson's "set of skills" that help him kick some major bad guy booty. Quite satisfying, actually.

The storyline, however, not quite as satisfying. Overall, the plot is solid. Liam Neeson's daughter is kidnapped and he spends the rest of the movie hunting her down (which you learn from the trailers). It's a scary concept to think about, but not close enough to home that I couldn't enjoy the movie for the action and Liam Neeson. :) But, the story isn't compelling enough that I would have felt like I missed something if I had stopped halfway through. The daughter is kind of a self-centered brat, so at some point, I figured it wasn't worth it to save her... Does that make me a terrible person?

Final review: B+. Worth $1 at Redbox, but probably not worth a "real" rental in my book.

If life were a musical

In high school, my friends and I regularly toyed around with the idea of making life a musical--getting a dozen or so of us to dance a choreographed number down the hall, just like in so many musicals. Even though our dream never came to fruition, check this out:

Thanks to Katie and YouTube for sharing the joy! :)
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