Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Skills and Busy Etsy Bee - September 30, 2010

First, can you believe that October starts tomorrow? Really? REALLY? That also means it's almost my birthday (in November) so start shopping!

Since I am officially unemployed (I'm working on getting a few freelance writing gigs up and going, but my full-time job is still being a mom, yet I have a few hours off from said job each day) I decided I should learn some new skills. I've always wanted to learn Illustrator but, well, that program is pricey. Then I found Inkscape, which is a free, open source vector graphics editor. Yes! Finally! And so I've thrown myself into learning how to do vector drawings via Inkscape's forums and various tutorials (video and text) around the web.

Now I have a few new designs that I'm pretty proud of, even if they are stick figures when compared to actual graphic designers and their work. There's an owl, a pumpkin, a ghost, and a girly skull - all on buttons headed to a local shop in a few days. (Pictures coming to a blog post soon.) And then I made my very own customizable cupcake, which I've added to my etsy store as a necklace set and a single necklace.

Set of six custom cupcake necklaces - great party favors!
Customized cupcake necklace - just pick your initial!

Meanwhile, something is up with Blogger's image uploader, but I'm just uploading images directly to my Picasa account for the time being. I hope the bugs get worked out soon though - or that my computer stops making me think there are bugs...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Delicious Used Book Sale - September 29, 2010

My favorite used book sale of the year began today, and my friend and I were in attendance bright and early. I've been going to this particular sale every year since I moved here and it is always amazing. It's held at a local mall (first at one mall, now at another) and it goes for several days. And there are just So. Many. Books. All priced at around a dollar or two. It's paradise, seriously.

I was VERY VERY restrained this year, because I simply own too many books (I have two big piles on their way out, and I need to make those piles bigger). Oh and also because I'm totally going back on half-price day to see what's left. (I am hoping to score a copy of Skinny Bitch - which I've read - for 50 cents. And wouldn't it be nice if Colbert's book was still there and was a dollar? And all those beautiful Chronicle cookbooks that I put back...half price? Maybe?)

So here's what I did let myself get:

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn - $1 - Food, travel, memoir, all things I love, all in one book...

Comet in Moominland by Tove Janssen - 50 cents! Woohoo! Moomin!

Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Food by Gary Paul Nabhan - $1 - Very much looking forward to reading this one.

I had brain surgery, what's your excuse? by Suzy Becker - $1. She wrote "All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat" and then...this. I am interested to see how she got from a fluffy novelty book to this memoir. It's illustrated but not a graphic novel - and it looks really good.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner - $1. Recommended to me recently by a friend, and of course it's a classic...

Around the World in 80 Dinners by Cheryl and Bill Jamison - $2. I'm having deja vu with this book. I don't own it (I keep a master list of all my books on my iPod and consulted it before I bought anything because in the past, yes, I have bought doubles of books since I own so ridiculously many) but...I've heard of it. Have I read it? Is it on a wishlist somewhere? No clue.

So very, very restrained...we'll see how well I behave on half-price day...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Weekend bargains, Monday blahs - September 27, 2010

  • I spent my Gap Groupon. I paid $15 for it, as I had $10 in credit from referrals, and it was worth $50. I used it to get my daughter a pair of black sparkly shoes (that she wore for approximately 3.7 seconds at a birthday party - they slip right off her feet; I am considering selling them), two hoodies (so cute), and brown tights. I paid about $5 in cash, so that all came out to about $20. The shoes were (not worth it) $26 new (really. not. worth. it.) so I say that was a good deal.
  • I spent *sob* *sniff* *sigh* all of my Extrabucks at CVS and got a 20 pack of AA batteries. It came with a Tide-to-Go pen, which was a nice bonus. I spent about $2 out of pocket for the whole thing. One more scan of my Green Bag Tag, though, and I'll get another dollar in ECBs. 
  • I used $15 in Office Depot rebate money plus a $10/$25 coupon to get a new 1 TB hard drive (on sale) for about $50. I'm running Time Machine on it right now, and then I will be dragging other important files to another partition so I can finally make some space on my laptop, which is overrun with photos and music at the moment.
  • I currently have several Groupons - $25 at a local noodle restaurant, $35 at a local crafters coop, $25 (I think?) at a local nuts-and-other-dry-goods store. I still have $50 to a local restaurant as well. I believe I've spent everything else mentioned in the previous post about this.
Today is dark and rainy, which always makes me sleepy. I want to curl up in bed with my latest book (Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh) but I have a few more things to get done around the house instead. I'm hoping to hit a used book sale not once, but twice in the coming week - once on the first day (for best selection) and once on the last day (half-price day) - it's a huge sale, my favorite of the year, so I'm excited. I have a pile of books to get rid of as well - I'm considering selling a few of them on Amazon and was wondering if anyone has any thoughts on that option.

Last night I got to see the season premiere of Dexter at a friend's house, and now, oh how I wish I had Showtime at home. I love that show, but I'll have to wait a few weeks before I can get back to her house to see more of it. Or, you know, find...ahem...other ways to watch. Also my friend has a Keurig and I want one in a completely irrational way. I have a Tassimo that was a gift; we never use it because the discs are expensive and the Tassimo itself has a large footprint for such a small kitchen (the Vitamix is our exception to the appliance rule). But the Keurig - so little, so cute, so quick, and the K-Cups come in such delicious varieties. Still, I just can't justify it. Making actual coffee in our coffee press is much cheaper; ditto making tea with loose leaves or a tea bag. I know. I know. Maybe someday.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Consignment Sale - September 24, 2010

Today I hit a large, popular consignment sale with a friend. I spent $40 and got everything you see...after the jump!

Friday Five - September 24, 2010

Courtesy of
  1. What did you do this week?
  2. Not a whole lot. Got a massage. Sent out some emails. Made some phone calls. Drove to Publix for the first time. I'm going to a consignment sale in about 20 minutes with a friend of mine.
  3. Why did things turn out the way they did this week?
  4. I have no idea what this question even means. Seriously. Because...I didn't have many major plans this week?
  5. How will this week’s events affect next week’s, both positively and negatively?
  6. Hopefully I'll feel more relaxed since I'd had the massage. Hopefully I'll drive a few more places next week. Hopefully I'll have more fun plans next week (which I actually do, including a book sale with one friend and a possible playdate (without children) with two others.
  7. What were this week’s pivotal moments where things might have happened differently and changed everything?
  8. My life is so boring, I suppose, that nothing really happened like that this week. Oh, here, I thought of one. When I was driving, there was a bicyclist in front of me. I wonder what would have happened if I'd attempted to change lanes in order to go around her. I didn't - I was too scared of that situation (and honestly, other cards behind me didn't go around either) and instead I drove about two miles an hour while she coasted along, oblivious.
  9. How was your week?
  10. Peaceful, thanks for asking. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Publix - 60% Savings! - September 23, 2010

You know what's more impressive than that receipt up there? That I drove to Publix all by myself for the first time. Seriously, I'd never been in a Publix completely alone before. I'd driven to this particular store twice before - once with a driving instructor (we didn't go in the parking lot, we drove past) and once with my husband (he drove home). This is a huge deal - particularly because across the street from this store is a bubble tea shop (I LOVE BUBBLE TEA) and an independent natural grocery store. And it's around the corner from my friend's house. It's finally clicking! I feel great.

Ah, so, the savings. I saved 60% today, mostly because I stuck rigidly to my list and nearly everything was on sale. I got many, many boxes of Vitatops because they were on BOGO for $2.25 each and I love them; I'm not even sure if I got enough and am debating going back next week (the sales go Thursday-Wednesday) to get more, as we still have room in the freezer. Maybe. That sale was the final straw that got me to get in the car and just go. I also got 3 boxes of pancake mix for 14 cents each (and am planning on donating at least one, maybe more, of those boxes to the local food pantry), Quaker instant oatmeal for 95 cents, an extra-large jar of Prego spaghetti sauce for $1.73, Progresso soup for 65 cents, cottage cheese for $2 (not the best price ever but I like it and my husband loves it), Laughing Cow cheese (it wasn't on sale but I did use a coupon so it was $2), and free laundry detergent thanks to Jen at Saving Cents in the City (she got me three coupons for free Arm & Hammer Gel laundry detergent at BlogHer).

So everything I bought wasn't absolutely necessary for survival, but it was all things we use and things we will enjoy. I did not buy the Smart Balance milk - after coupon, it was a mere 50 cents, but it also has fish oil in it and...I just couldn't do it. (Full disclosure: My daughter, who I'm raising vegetarian for the time being, takes fish oil supplements, and I do too.) Milk with fish oil just  didn't do it for me, so I played coupon fairy and left the $2 coupon on the shelf in hopes that someone who can use it will find it. I also skipped the cheap Eggland's Best eggs because we didn't need them, but they're only $1.30 after sale + coupon, which I think is a great deal for free-range eggs. (Better deal? Getting them free from my friend's backyard chickens!)

And now I can drive to Kroger, Publix, and YDFM, which means I can finally do the family's grocery shopping by myself if I want to. Wow. (My other destinations are CVS, the pool, and a friend's house. I hope to add Target, Big Lots, and Goodwill in the near future, followed by...just driving where I need to go without making an issue out of it.)

Thank you to I Heart Publix and CouponMom for help formulating these deals!

Book Review: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated

I remember watching Little House on the Prairie as a kid. I remember the ending, with Baby Carrie running and falling down a hill with a dog (right?). I remember one episode where someone (Laura?) got locked into an underground bunker by a crazy lady who wanted a daughter. But I wasn't a huge fan of the show, while I was a monstrous fan of the books and have many of them committed to memory. Still, I was excited to read Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated because every time I've seen Alison Arngrim on TV as an adult, she's been a badass and I wanted to know more about her. Yes, I remember Nellie Oleson, but again, the book version is more prominent in my head than the TV version - and yet, somehow, I can remember Neillie/Alison's screeches and angry faces on the show.

You want dirt on Little House on the Prairie? You'll get it (although there's honestly not that much dirt). But first you will learn a great deal about Alison, including the brutal reality of her childhood. She was sexually assaulted by her brother for years, but somehow she survived it and came out fighting. Really, after a while I was less interested in the television tales and more interested in her personal story. She's become a loud voice for AIDS research, she works with the National Association to Protect Children (and got some important laws changed), and she does stand-up comedy that pulls no punches. I enjoyed following her journey from point A to point B, from kid of moderately famous parents (aren't they all? Her mom was Gumby!) to world-renowned mean girl to activist.

I do like reading a good celebrity bio on occasion, and this is right in line with that: well written (did she use a ghostwriter? I feel like she didn't...), thoughtful, and a good balance of industry information and personal triumph. (Then again, can you trust me? I loved How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale by Jenna Jameson - it is SO good, I promise! And yes, Jameson did work with a ghostwriter.) So now I have to hunt down and read The Way I See It by Melissa Anderson (who played Mary on the show) because Angrim's descriptions of Anderson are biting and yet imply that there was something sad going on behind the girl who was aloof and cold to all around her. I want her side of the story now...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Atlanta Thrashers practice - Pictures from September 20, 2010

(Yeah, they're pretty bad, but I tried! Go Atlanta Thrashers!) Click any picture to see it larger - and please don't steal them - if you want to use any, link back and credit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Smoothie of the Day (and bread!) - September 20, 2010

Well, this part looked good anyway
I've been stuffy and sniffly and drippy for a few days - my chiropractor blames allergies and the changing seasons (it's still in the 90s every day - what change?) while I still think it could be something more sinister. My heart wanted a coffee smoothie, but my brain said no, be healthy. Be strong. Get your veggies in.

Behold, above this text, the smoothie-before picture. I'll give you a bit to look at it, because it looks so nice and innocent. I based it on the Ruby Smoothie from the Vitamix cookbook, with a few tweaks. One apple (Gala), a big bunch of kale, some unsweetened vanilla almond milk, some water, some raw honey from my friend's bees, and a handful of frozen berries from the Trader Joe's berry blend. OK, now scroll.

Yeah, not quite as appealing
How...greenish brownish. How swampy. How not at all what I was hoping for. And the taste was KALE with a hint of apple. It tasted healthy, you know what I'm saying? So I dumped it back into the blender with a half a cold banana and some frozen strawberries. That improved things enough that I'm drinking it. Sigh. Maybe later I'll make a coffee smoothie.

Here's a palate cleanser:

Nom nom nom bread
Just BEHOLD that bread. Take in the goodness. Click on it to read the ingredients. Look at how it was marked down just a touch (it was a day old) and yet even before the discount was reasonably priced. It was so good - I bought it on a whim at the farmer's market and have been dreaming of it since I gobbled down the last crumb.

Edited to add...that I myself did not read the ingredients closely enough, apparently. I ate the bread, I took the picture, and I thought "I'll post it on my blog so people can see it has things like cage free eggs!" I missed the partially hydrogenated oil in it. AKA trans fat. DAMN. DAMN AND DAMN AGAIN. Because that bread was so good, but I will never be buying it again. Sniff. How could you do this to me, farmer's market? My heart, she is broken.

Today was my daughter's first day back at preschool after her week break. She used her walker to RUN down the hall, and she walked into her homeroom with her hands above her head, cheering "yeah!" as she did so. Hooray! I'm more worried about tomorrow, when she realizes that yes, she has to go back every day, but today was good. Plus we picked up her first birthday party invitation from a classmate. The party is Saturday and I have plans to pick up a present from my favorite local independent children's bookstore, Little Shop of Stories.

I was going to shop today, but my husband just invited me to go see the Atlanta Thrashers practice, so I'm off to do that instead. Maybe I'll get some pictures I can share with you later...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Book Review: Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void 

I have loved Mary Roach's work since I discovered that her book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is the funniest nonfiction book about death that I could possibly imagine existing. That one's still my favorite. Bonk was great, Spook was pretty darn good if a bit lacking. I requested Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void as soon as I realized it was coming out, and I finally finished it.

What I was looking for in this book was Roach's trademark humor and irreverence, and I found it overwhelmingly in the last third of the book. There are the discussions of sex in space, food in space, and eliminating in space. Hee hee, ho ho, I'm a ten-year-old boy, apparently. It's informative, it's fascinating, and it is hysterical. And make sure you read every single footnote too. It's been awhile since I laughed aloud while reading a book, but I did it several times while reading this one.

Some of the book was slow going for me. It's not Roach's fault - I have limited reading time and no attention span these days. You have to grab me or I drift away and start thinking about the buttons I'm going to make or the next time I'm going to drive somewhere. The first half of the book is kind of a blur for me; there were some interesting interviews, some great anecdotes and some setting-the-record-straight stories, but the discussions of the chimps, for example, just didn't grab me - surprisingly - the way I thought they would. (Although, POOR LAIKA! I knew, but I forgot, and and and *sniff*!!!!) And the vomiting stuff that you'd think I would love, well, I didn't, although I did find it fascinating. (Will you die if you throw up in your space helmet or won't you?)

The book also sent me to Wikipedia to relive the Challenger and the Columbia. I remember the Challenger day very vividly (I missed watching it live, got home and my mother told me what happened, was glued to the TV and watched the replay a million times [which I did again on September 11], and then went to Hebrew school where everyone but me was too cool to care, so I sat in the back and replayed it a million more times in my mind.) Columbia, though more recent, was a bit fuzzier in my mind. Go figure.

Bottom line? Yeah, you should read this. You should particularly read it if you like nonfiction, irreverence, bodily functions, angles you never thought you'd actually want to explore being explored, and Mary Roach's writing. But if you haven't read Stiff, read that first. Seriously. It's amazing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Friday Five - September 17, 2010

Courtesy of

1. What kinds of nagging injuries do you have?

My knee has really been hurting a lot lately, and I have a bad lower back (made better by a lovely chiropractor, but it still gives me trouble).

2. What long-procrastinated task is nagging at you lately?

I have a phone call to make to a government agency. It always requires being on hold for about a half hour and navigating a maze of "press one for this" and "oh, let me transfer you." But I have to do it.

3. In what way have you been a nag to someone else?

Oh man, that's a loaded question.

4. Who in your life is a world-class nag?


5. Nag is such an ugly word. What would be a nicer way to describe someone who exhibits nagging tendencies?

Caring? Concerned?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

America's Got Talent final thoughts plus I Love Groupon - September 16, 2010

Here's my final thoughts on this year's America's Got Talent Finale - pbbbbpbbbhhhtttt. Not a fan of how it all came out at all. Another singer wins (talented, but NOT a Vegas act). Ho hum. I didn't think Prince Poppycock would win, but I still was wishing... (I just read on a message board that he was supposed to perform a David Bowie song instead of the opera, and it fell through. If that is true, and he had gotten to do another pop song, would he have ranked higher?) I still hope the tour lineup is good...

Today's Groupon deal is $12 for $25 at Noodle in both Decatur, GA, and Atlanta, GA. I love Noodle - big bowls of warm, yummy noodles with delicious sauce and fresh veggies. They're extremely vegetarian friendly but also great for meat eaters. Check it out.

I had a whole CVS run planned, and I was going to get freebies and make a bit of money (in Extrabucks currency), and then I found out that some of the coupons I had planned to use weren't for the size product that was on sale. That raised what my out of pocket (OOP) cost would've been, and I didn't need any of the things I was going to get, so I skipped it. So different from how I approached CVS a year ago, when I didn't care what I got as long as it was free! My stockpile is overflowing now, though, and my time is limited, so I have to choose my deals more carefully.

It's tricky finding time to blog while my kid is out of school... Staycation activity for today is lunch with friends and possibly an afternoon snack of New Orleans-style snoballs with different friends. Tomorrow we're supposed to go to the children's museum - I hope it works out!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quick America's Got Talent Post

  • Prince Poppycock sang beautifully and did not deserve to get buzzed (has an act that was buzzed EVER gone to the next round?), but I agreed with Piers that it was a boring performance. Technically wonderful, and it looked slick and pretty, but I expected the Prince to suddenly switch to a pop song or change his outfit or something. Oh well, I still adore him.
  • Michael Grimm is fine. I am just not that into him. Dark horse here, he could win it all but I don't think he deserves to in this particular competition.
  • Jackie Evancho has a stunning voice and more talent in her tiny body than most people I know. I just find her a bit cloying. But if she wins, it's deserved.
  • Fighting Gravity deserves this though. It will make the best Vegas show. And I'm tired of singers winning AGT. 
  • My favorite moment of the night was when they brought back other acts. This really was an entertaining season, and I may even consider catching the tour, depending on who goes along on it.
I don't think I'll blog about America's Next Top Model much, but I am watching that too. I don't have much time for TV, but that's one that I happily let Tivo grab for me for the next day. And How I Met Your Mother starts back up next week, hooray!

I have a cold and feel overall pretty icky. I'm hoping my visit to the chiropractor later today will help a bit. Yesterday's Staycation activity was me napping while my husband took our daughter to watch some newbie Thrashers skate. Exciting, I know. Today we don't have much going on either. I'll try to wave my magic wand and make a fun activity or two appear.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Staycation Day 1 - Zoo Atlanta - September 13, 2010

My daughter has this entire week off from preschool; just when we'd gotten used to the whole routine (six weeks of it), everything's gone topsy turvy. I suppose this schedule of six weeks on/one week off works well for teachers, and older kids may benefit (or may just sleep late all week), but man, it's disruptive. But we're making the best of it with a Staycation.

Today we hit Zoo Atlanta using tickets I'd gotten for half price from Half Off Depot. The kid was OK with the whole thing - not entirely thrilled to be there, several whiny moments, but no all-out meltdowns, really. That's a good day out for her. We spent two hours exploring and did manage to see just about everything. The budgie exhibit (parakeets all over the place!) amused me greatly. We got a nice view of the lions snoozing, saw a snake laying non-fertile eggs (a woman near us was asking the zoo worker if she could have some and was making arrangements to pick them up later - I wish I'd heard exactly WHY she wanted them), and got really close to a ring-tailed lemur. Good stuff.

Then we tried out Grant Central Pizza & Pasta for lunch. Delicious. Seriously, some of the best pizza I've had since we moved to Atlanta. Crispy crust, fresh toppings, nom nom nom. My husband's calzone was monstrous, and my daughter's cheese slice came kid cut without me asking. We'll definitely go back.

Snoozing piggie in the petting zoo
Baby giraffe! Just before I took this pic, she was nursing, awwww
Vacuum cleaner sucks up budgie...oooh...bye bye.... (that's for my husband)
The lioness checks us out
We always say one of my cats acts just like a meerkat
Also, I listed a few more new goodies in my Etsy shop:

Dishwasher magnet - are the dishes dirty or clean?
Daily affirmation pocket mirror #1 - You Are Loved
Daily affirmation pocket mirror #2 - You Are Worthy

More daily affirmation pocket mirrors on their way! I really love this idea and this new line - I just feel like everyone could use a hug these days, you know what I mean?