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In exchange for my sanity...

September 12th, 2008 at 10:36 pm

... I got free jeans, a sweater, lunch and a turkey today.

Yes, that's right, free jeans from Nordstroms, a really, really nice sweater, a so-so lunch and a huge honkin' turkey.

How did this happen, you ask?

Well, my mother who is quite possibly the craziest most difficult human being on Earth (but I still love her dearly), wanted me to go shopping with her for a birthday gift for The Midge because she didn't know what to get her.

She showed up at my house with the sweater and the Butterball. She originally bought the sweater for herself but then decided she didn't like it and rather than take it back decided to pass it to me (and then my sister if it doesn't fit me).

As for the turkey, it's been in the freezer since the Nixon administration -- along with about 8 other turkeys -- and she needed to make room for an Obama administration turkey. Thus, the free turkey now defrosting in my fridge....

So after the turkey/sweater exchange (for which I am eternally grateful because one can never have too dry or old a turkey...), we then went off to the mall. Not being a mall-type person (or even a shopper for that matter), this was going to be a painful trip no matter what, but then my mom had to go and crank up the crazy/difficult mode a notch.

I won't go into the all the crazy/difficult details because to re-create them would be too painful, but suffice it to say that at one point I was seen huddled in the children's department of a major department store begging for someone to put me out of my misery.

After that little meltdown on my part, my mother decided we should eat and ordered me to call my sister to join us. I dutifully complied and got hysterical laughter from my sister when I told her and then nothing but dial tone. (Thanks a bunch, C.)

So off I go to lunch with my mom, which I figured would be safe until she broke my arm when I reached for my wallet to pay.

She then ditched me in Nordstrom so I decided to try on some jeans that were on sale (a planned purchase). After I bought the jeans, I went back to find her and when she saw that I had bought something for myself, she threatened to break my other arm for not letting her buy it (even though it isn't my birthday) -- and then she wrestled $40 into my pocket and said it was time for her to go terrorize my sister for not joining us for lunch.

I'm now home nursing my arm and my sanity and wondering how long it's going to take that turkey to defrost....

Free Starbucks

July 24th, 2008 at 01:27 am

The mailman brought a $10 Starbucks card today courtesy of MyPoints. Life is good....

Gifts from the mailman

March 23rd, 2008 at 12:19 am

The mailman delivered two $5 Starbucks gift cards today. I had completely forgotten that they were the "gifts" I picked when I renewed our newspaper subscription earlier this month.

We also got a newsletter from my husband's employer that discusses some upcoming insurance changes. It looks like the dental plan we had, which never maxed out, is going away and they are adding implant coverage to two of the other plans. Even though I liked the plan that never maxed out because, well .... it never maxed out, I did not like the dentists that accepted the plan -- as you might recall from

Text is some of my rants. and Link is
some of my rants. And, because I've had a troublesome tooth for years that will eventually require either a bridge or implant, the new plans look very appealing. Best of all, we'll be able to go back to our old dentists, who I absolutely adored, so I'm practically jumping for joy here.

Baking soda, vinegar, water and a freebie worth mentioning

March 21st, 2008 at 01:16 am

My mother sent me on an errand this afternoon. She wanted two cases of bottled water from Costco, but can't lift them so she asked me to get them and deliver them to her house when I return her dog, "Spud," who is staying with me while she jets off to Vegas this evening to gamble away our inheritance. ("Our" as in me and the dog's. And let's not get into the whole bottled water discussion. My mother is nearing 80 and isn't about ready to change her ways.... )

Being the good daughter that I am -- and in need of vinegar and baking soda for a massive project I'm tackling -- I went off to Costco for her.

While I was wrestling with the water, a guy was cleaning up his table where he had been giving out samples of liquid Tide. Apparently, he didn't want to pack up the samples because as I staggered by clutching my back he threw about 10 of the samples in my cart. Anyone who has priced Tide lately knows these little babies are the equivalent of liquid gold!

Back to that massive project I mentioned... I was inspired by the freaky mom at

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this site to do some spring cleaning. Of course, I'm a week behind her detailed "to do" list but I did spend an hour cleaning my refrigerator out today. (Exciting stuff, I know....)

I've never cleaned with baking soda and vinegar before, but I decided to give it a go. So far, I've only done the baking soda bit, but it worked wonders.

One would think all of this would be a moot point since I've got
Text is Hazel the Housekeeper and Link is
Hazel the Housekeeper covering my back, but alas I have decided that when I quit my job in May I will also let Hazel go -- unless I pick up a few more clients between now and then for the booming side business.

I haven't discussed the letting go of Hazel with my husband yet. It'll be interesting to see what his response will be when I hand him a mop and tell him to clean his own d*^# bathroom. ....

If only I were a size 2....

March 7th, 2008 at 07:35 pm

In addition to the cookies and ice cream, my mother brought over two pair of new pants for me yesterday. They're Royal Robbins capris, which I would definitely wear -- if only I could get more than one leg in them at a time.

According to my mother, she bought them on clearance for $10 each and didn't bother to check the size. (Who cares what the size is as long as they're dirt cheap. Yeah, ma. This thinking really works for me.... ) She's now banking on my sister fitting into them, which is highly unlikely since my sister is shorter and a little rounder than I am. If that doesn't work, I'm in charge of finding someone who can wear them, so eBay here we come.

What is it with my family buying clothing/shoes that don't fit just because they're on clearance????


February 18th, 2008 at 09:08 pm

Despite being an overly educated, rational, fact-based person, I'm also a strong believer in karma -- what goes around comes around and all that other stuff about good and bad juju.

So the other day when Mini Me fed 50 cents of her own money into a snack machine for a pack of Lifesavers at the rec center and the machine proceeded to then spit out about $10 in quarters, I talked to her about how the right thing to do was to take the money to the rec center cashier and explain what happened since the money wasn't hers.

We had this conversation while about 5 boys who were slightly older than Mini Me surrounded us in awe of all the quarters we were holding. I'm pretty sure I heard one of the boys sigh and say "Oh, man...." when I started in about "doing the right thing."

So Mini Me took the money to the cashier and left with her pack of Lifesavers as the gaggle of boys took their turns trying to hit their own snack machine jackpot. As we left, I told Mini Me, one day your good deed is going to come back to you in the way of good karma.

I was reminded of this today when I went to the automated postal machine to mail some sea glass that I sold on eBay. I actually had two bags for sale and only one went. Instead of relisting the second bag or just hanging onto it, I decided just to combine the two bags and give the winning bidder all of it -- even though the person hadn't asked for it or even know I was sending it.

Of course, I didn't think about the weight difference, so shipping was more than I had listed on my auction. If I sent the package with the extra seaglass, shipping alone was going to cost all the proceeds the buyer had sent -- plus a big 50 cents out of my own pocket.

I was standing at the postal machine lamenting this and decided "what the hell." I've made some decent money on eBay over the last month -- about $300 -- so giving someone a freebie seemed like the right thing to do. Now, here's hoping some good karma comes my way.....

My mom might be crazy, but....

February 10th, 2008 at 05:42 pm

Yes, my mother is certifiable at times, but she is a great cook, who won't let her kids leave her house without taking home a week or two worth of groceries.

This was the case last night when we went over for dinner. In addition to bringing home enough salmon to feed my whole block, we landed a huge vat of mashed potatoes (Mini Me's favorite), a Hefty bag filled with rice, a bushel of brussel sprouts (YUCK!!!!), and half a chocolate cake (to make up for the brussel sprouts).

She also gave Mini Me about five pounds of chocolate for Valentine's, which I've confiscated and hidden. And, she gave me a turtleneck sweater that she wore a few times and decided she didn't like.

My sister also got into the giving mode and pawned off some running shoes that are too small for her. Unfortunately, they're too small for everyone in our family, so if my husband can't get someone in his family to claim them I plan on selling them on eBay since they've only been worn twice (why my sister doesn't return them is beyond me.....).

All in all, it was kind of like Christmas in February for us last night -- without all the debt.

A picture's worth not a whole lot....

January 30th, 2008 at 04:07 pm

A month ago I took Mini Me to a photo studio to have her portrait taken. Last week, the photographer left a message saying the management would like to use some of the portraits in the studio's marketing material. In return, we would get two free pictures -- worth all of $32.

Since I hadn't ordered any photos yet, I figured it was a ploy to get me to actually buy some photos. I'll admit that Mini Me is the most gorgeous child I've ever met (of course, I'm biased). However, the timing of the whole thing is just too suspect.

Nonetheless, I was planning on buying some photos at the end of the month anyways, so the time has come to go sign the photo release and fork over some more cash for the additional pictures. The two free photos will go to the grandmas and my out-of-pocket expense adds up to $75 -- not too bad for a sucker....

One of those days.....

January 29th, 2008 at 05:51 am

After spending the morning volunteering, I came home to a house without power. The county is doing major construction on the road down the street and someone cut an underground cable -- or so the utility company said. As a result, the neighborhood was left in the "dark" from 11:48 a.m. until about 5:30 p.m.

As I've mentioned before, the booming side business is run out of my home office, so a power outage does not bode well for my productivity. Not only was I unable to do any work all afternoon, I couldn't clean the carpets, make the pasta sauce that has to simmer for 3 hours or do any more loads of laundry.

After visiting with my neighbor for a while, I came home and laid down. Two hours later I woke up to a dark and cold house. By the time my daughter got off the school bus, it was clear we were not eating anything homemade from my kitchen so after conferring with my husband we decided to go out to eat. We had plans to dine out tomorrow as part of a fund-raiser for Mini Me's school, so we just switched it to tonight and the school will have to do without our money.

Of course, just as we were walking out the door to go to dinner, the power came back on. However, by this point, we all were tired and hungry -- and I was cranky from lack of productivity today -- so we opted to continue on to the restaurant.

When we got home, I was able to complete one project -- a pro bono job that I do monthly. But somehow in the power outage my printer got screwed up, so I can't officially finish it until I can get that figured out -- probably in the morning.

Meanwhile, I was surprised at how fast the clothes dried on the outside line today. I was able to get two loads of laundry washed, air dried and put away. I put one load in the drier because it had stuff I needed to dry faster, but I think ultimately it would have been speedier to hang everything outside.

Also, I did get a free drink at Starbucks this morning because they messed up my order. Unfortunately for me, two venti teas is more than my bladder can handle, so I ended up giving the extra one to the saintly lady who sits with Mini Me during math time and tries to make sense of what's going on in that brillant little mind of hers.

I now think I've crossed the line into babbling, so that's it for me tonight folks....

Went to a free flick

January 27th, 2008 at 10:48 pm

In need of a few laughs after our dismal discovery last night, my husband and I took advantage of Mini Me being gone for the day and went to see Juno.

We had two free movie passes plus a gift card for the concession stand so we didn't have to pay for anything.

The movie itself is very funny and did put us in a better mood.

Scored some free stuff

January 24th, 2008 at 06:14 pm

I signed up for a series of three seminars on women and finance for February. The only cost involved was $14.95 for the book, which has to be paid on the first night.

A friend set the whole program up as part of her job and was supposed to be there to make sure everything runs smoothly. However, she has a scheduling conflict and said if I would cover for her on the first night she would give me her copy of the book for free. She's going to set the room up and introduce the person leading the seminar. All I have to do is sit through it and collect surveys at the end.

Since I'm going to be there anyways, I have no problem helping her out -- plus I saved $14.95 on the book. Now let's hope the presentation doesn't put me to sleep....

Where's the beef? At my house....

January 21st, 2008 at 02:09 am

The grocer pulled up with the weekly delivery just as I was leaving to go to that office-like setting I sometimes hang out in. I didn't have time to do much more than glance at the contents of the order, but I was surprised to see 6 pounds of ground beef in one of the bags -- especially since I didn't order it.

The store didn't charge me for the beef, so my guess is it fell out of someone else's order in the truck and the driver thought it came out of mine. I didn't have time to call the store and tell them to come get it -- and I know from experience they just tell you to keep the stuff and they don't charge you since it's their mistake. But now I need to come up with more freezer space and some dinners involving ground beef.

To ultimately solve the ongoing freezer dilemma, I have started pricing stand-alone freezers. Before I purchase one, though, I need to clear out some space in the mini mart downstairs (thus the fire sale on dusty stained glass supplies currently going on via eBay....). I'm leaning toward an upright freezer for the ease of finding things in it and because they take up less space than the chest variety. Of course, then I'd have a hard time storing any intact bodies in it, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Back to the grocery store, I did get some good deals this weekend. Before coupons and frequent shopper discounts, the total was $120.49. After coupons and other discounts, it came to $72.77 (which included corned beef and half a ham -- in addition to the ground beef -- and a bunch of toilet paper that was more than half off). Tack on another $9.95 for delivery (aka My Sanity Saver) and taxes, and the grand total was $84.29 to feed and provide proper hygiene supplies to a family of three humans and two dogs.

Almost forgot ... the Time factor

January 13th, 2008 at 03:37 am

When I renewed my two newspaper subscriptions a couple months ago, it came with a card for a year's worth of Time magazine for free if I checked a box. I would not normally pay to subscribe to any magazine since I can read them for free at the library or in any waiting room where I may find myself. However, this one was free, so I figured it was a good deal.

I had completey forgotten about it until the first magazine showed up today, which also reminded me that I need to call to change my newspaper subscription. I live in a rare city that has two daily newspapers, which I have faithfully subscribed to for years. But now my husband's work has provided an online subscription for him to both so we've decided to get rid of one of the hard copy papers. I'm keeping the other for the coupons and for loyalty issues that I won't go into here.

The thought briefly crossed my mind that they'll cancel my magazine subscription now, but in reality I know the agency that manages the two newspapers does not have its act together enough to pull something this complicated off (I'm lucky if they can hit my front porch with the newspaper on a good day....). So I'm pretty sure I'll be seeing that Time magazine in my mailbox for the next 51 weeks.

This coupled with the Fitness magazine that I also get for free (due to some reason that now escapes me) and Bon Apetit (which my mother gives me each year in hopes that I'll feed her something besides bread and water) should keep me in reading material for a while.

Strappin' on the feed bag....

January 2nd, 2008 at 02:51 am

I just got back from two days of non-stop eating at my mother's house. She does a traditional Japanese dinner on New Year's Eve, followed by a full day of follow-up eating on New Year's Day. Then she sends all the leftovers home with us, so I won't be cooking or grocery shopping again until next weekend.

I've had a lot of financial stuff on my mind the last few days, so will hopefully be blogging a bit more as I share. But I now must go unpack all the goodies sent home by dear ol' mom.

Survey says......

June 14th, 2007 at 02:10 pm

Wow! I was amazed that everyone was in agreement that they would have taken both of the items offered for free in my previous post -- Starbucks and mussels.

So, here is what I did and my reasoning behind each:

Incident 1: I ended up giving the cashier my debit card. It seems like any other person would have taken the free drink. However, my thinking was that I did have another means of paying for the drink (my debit card), so it would have been different if I only had the $50 and they couldn't break it. Also -- and this is a big ALSO -- I decided that in the end it would result in good karma down the line, which explains how I handled Incident 2....

Incident 2: I took the free mussels because I figured it was the good karma from Incident 1 coming back at me. Not to mention the clerk said: "King Soopers has billions. They can afford to give you 18 mussels." Plus, what kind of grocery store only sells mussels in two-pound increments?!?!?!??!

What would you do?

June 13th, 2007 at 09:04 pm

Here are two actual money-related things that happened to me over the course of the last week. I am wondering how others would have handled them.

Incident 1: I walked into my local Starbucks last weekend at 12:30 p.m. and ordered my usual -- a venti black iced tea sweetened. I handed the cashier a $50 bill for a drink that cost $2.14 because that was all the cash I had on me (although I did have my debit card with me, but usually don't use it for "personal" purchases like this).

Without even opening the register, the cashier said she couldn't make change and asked her manager what to do. The manager said to give the drink to me for free. Would you have taken the free drink or insisted that the cashier put it on the debit card?

Incident 2: I went to the seafood counter at a grocery store that I had never been in before to buy mussels. The mussels were marked $6.99 for two pounds, but I only needed 18 mussels. The clerk, who clearly didn't work in the seafood department, counted out 18 mussels but couldn't figure out how to print a sticker with the price for 18 mussels. He went to get the guy who usually works at the seafood counter.

The guy walks up, takes one look at my measly 18 mussels and says they could only be sold in the 2-lb netted bags that were in the display case. I said I was making paella and only needed 18 mussels, but if he couldn't sell me less than 2 pounds I would take them all and steam the rest as an appetizer. He then said he would just give the 18 mussels to me for free. Would you have taken the free mussels or insisted on paying for them or the whole 2 pounds' worth?

After I see what all of you would have done, I will share how I handled each situation.

How to make a man happy

April 23rd, 2007 at 04:15 pm

Yeah, well, I know that would make him happy too, but we're talking about something else here....

We're talking CAFFEINE!!!

Yes, in addition to his little alcohol fetish, my husband has become a coffee freak of late. He says it's my fault because I "made" him go to Starbucks in Times Square last fall and I "made" him get a grande mocha -- even though I personally don't drink mocha or any type of coffee for that matter. Now he has to have a coffee or two every day.

As we all know, though, that can get expensive and we are trying to pay off the debt here so Starbucks twice a day is just not going to happen.

Instead, my husband has been scoring his caffeine from the free dispenser at work. (At least he says it's free. For all I know, he's been stealing it in a fit of caffeine-induced insanity.)

But what to do on the weekends? Ummmm.... Perhaps make coffee at home????

The problem is that we don't have a coffee maker -- at least my husband didn't think we did. So last night he asked me to find a used coffee maker when our neighborhood holds its community garage sale in June. (An annual rite of passage each summer in the suburbs, followed immediately thereafter by "Big Trash Pick-Up Day.")

I, however, did one better than that. I climbed up to the tallest shelf in the kitchen and dug way back behind all the unused kitchen gadgets. Lo and behold what did I find but a two-cup coffee maker that I have owned since my days as a single girl living large in the big city.

Oh, but wait, we have no coffee filters for the cute little coffee maker.... Once again, I did some digging around where no woman dared to tread in at least a decade or two and found the filters as well. (OK, actually, I made my husband dig those up, but I did tell him where to find them....)

So you think all this would have landed me a big kiss or at least a "Thank you, honey, you're GREAT!"

Not even!

Instead, the caffeine fiend ran out the door as fast as he could and sprinted to the nearest grocery store in search of coffee beans.

This morning I walked in the front door after my run and was greeted by the smell of freshly made coffee. And, oh yeah, a very happy husband. To think I didn't even have to put out.....


April 14th, 2007 at 01:28 pm

(I just need to preface this post by saying that I do not drink unless I'm sitting on a beach and I'm having a frou-frou drink with an umbrella sticking out of it.....)

Last night my family attended a birthday dinner for my husband's brother, who will be moving to the Pacific Northwest soon. As my brother-in-law prepares for his move, he is cleaning out his condo in order to sell it. He decided that my husband should be the recipient of his entire bar collection.

When my husband told me this on the way over to the party, I envisioned bringing home a few bottles of whatever. What I forgot was that said brother-in-law used to be a bartender and had been collecting a vast range of alcohol for years.

As a result, we came home with three huge -- and overflowing -- boxes of alcohol, most of which has barely been open.

My husband enjoys a glass of wine or two with dinner, but he essentially now has the makings of his own neighborhood bar. We're talking BIG bar here, folks.

If I were doing the $20 challenge, I'd say we just saved at least $500 -- if not more -- on alcohol. But since I'm not doing the challenge, all I have to say is: