Monday, December 16, 2013

DG Rockers

Despite not having posting any cards lately, I have been crafting every once in a while.  Since I've had the time, I've actually been taking custom orders, which are fun because they can be somewhat challenging.  However, they can sometimes be frustrating too because I feel as if I put extra pressure on myself to make sure the card is up to the standards of someone's request.  For the most part though, I end up pretty happy with the final products, and I hope that my customers are equally as pleased.

One of the orders I had to fill was for Darvin and Teresa from DG ROCKERS (Facebook, website).  I know Darvin and Teresa from my church.  In fact, I've known Darvin since we were both kids, so I think it's pretty amazing to think that years later, we could somewhat collaborate on a great cause as "adults"!  He runs a music school in Brooklyn, and he's focused not only on teaching different instruments but also providing a community for the youth.  I know that the kids who are there like stopping by even just to hang out and jam, and I really respect Darvin and Teresa for doing something that makes a difference in their lives.  For more information about what they do and what they offer, you can check out the links I posted above.

Recently they had a campaign on indiegogo, which is a funding platform.  They wanted to raise money to put together a CD of their original songs.  They asked me to make thank you cards so that they could send them to contributors.  I knew right off the bat that I would use the guitar cut from my Stamping Solutions Cricut cartridge because that's kind of the only guitar cut I had!  I actually think this was the first time I used this cartridge too, and looking at what's on it, I'm really excited to use it again for more simplistic cards.  I love when that happens, don't you?

I wasn't given many specifics with the card, and for DAYS I stressed about it because I didn't know what to do.  It's strange because when TOO many specifics are given or too few specifics are given, I get much too anxious about it when it should all be fun since it is crafting.  I spent some time on Pinterest to get card layout ideas, and I came across a card that split up the space with blocks of color and wanted to do the same.

Here is the completed card!  I used Pink by Design's "thanks" sentiment from "Big Thoughts."  I was happy with how it turned out because of the color choice as well.  I tend to always think in primary colors, so I asked Howard for some suggestions.  I showed him the Recollection paper that I had, and he pointed out that the colors in one pack worked well together, so I didn't have to try to mix and match between packs.

I sent the picture to them to see if they liked it.  Darvin then asked if I could incorporate their name on the front, so I actually had to redesign the entire card.  I was a bit disappointed that I had to rework what I thought was a great card because there was no way for me to add "DG ROCKERS" to the front because of the font of the sentiment.  After attempting to use alphabet stamps to messily spell it out, I had to accept the fact that this would require starting from scratch.

The resulting card is WAY better than the original, in my opinion!  This is the quick picture I snapped to send to them to get the okay before mass producing!

And WAHOO!  I got the okay to complete the order!  I decided to use all 5 colors from that same paper pack and cut out the guitars to layer on the card.  I wanted their business name to be a focal point, so I eliminated the "thanks" and welded the letters together.  I did use a larger sized card than the typical A2 size so that I could use two mats.  I'm ecstatic with the final result because the letters cut out so  perfectly.

Colorful yet clean.  I know it's slightly weird to be a fan of your own work, but I'm pretty confident standing behind this card!  I guess being challenged for round 2 really made me think more outside of the box of what I would typically do.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Smell Goods"

Because of my recent love of Bath & Body Works products, I've come across a bunch of posts and videos (okay, so it's not really coming across them when I looked for them) and the term "smell goods" came up to describe the items quite a few times.  It stuck in my head, and I'm now VERY into smell goods!  It really actually started when CVS had a great deal on Renuzit Cones.  I bought a bunch of them with coupons just so that we could use them in our bathroom.  They look really pretty on the shelf after you take off all the paper it's wrapped in, and it does provide a nice, light scent in the small space.  I didn't think scents could totally change the atmosphere.  I guess I was so used to the idea of strong and sometimes offensive scents because people I knew growing up used things like potpourri.  Let me tell you, these things are SO much better than potpourri.

On Cyber Monday, I placed a small order on the BBW website.  At a certain time of the day, they had online exclusive scents for only $5 each.  It took a while because they got pretty backed up, but I finally got my package in the mail yesterday!  The box was a little torn in some places, but I wasn't too concerned since I didn't order candles or anything that could have been broken.  But look at the design!  It's an awesome advertisement for their own company!

I ordered 2 Dancing Waters shower gels, 2 Rainkissed Leaves shower gels, and 1 Wild Honeysuckle shower gel.  I also chose to get a triple moisture body cream in Rainkissed Leaves as well.  Wild Honeysuckle was the only one I took a "risk" on because I had never smelled it before, but it got great reviews on the site and is considered a top rated scent.  They also provide the fragrance notes so I can see what I like and don't like to help me make my decisions.  I still wouldn't suggest doing this for options that they have in the store because it's much easier to just test out scents in person.  But thankfully, I didn't have an issue with this new one.  I can't pick up all the "notes," but it has a light, honey scent that would seem very refreshing in the shower.

The other two I knew I loved because I had picked up foaming soaps when these scents were still available in the stores years ago.  The only reason I had the opportunity to get them was because I had gotten lotions from students that I exchanged for soaps because I wasn't into their lotions yet.  Dancing Waters and Rainkissed Leaves are good because they're not girly scents, and I think that even Howard could use them if he wanted to.  I had read that Rainkissed Leaves is similar to the scent of some Disney World resorts (I've seen it linked to the Polynesian or Beach Club, so even though I didn't know that beforehand, I think it's pretty cool to have a little bit of WDW at home too).  I didn't use any of them yet though because I was still feeling girly last night and chose to stick with Paris Amour.  

I did test out the triple moisture body cream, and it is great!  I love just how smooth my hands get with the BBW lotions.  They seem to work better than Nivea does when it comes to dry skin (versus slightly damp skin after coming out of the shower), which is funny because I stocked up on a LOT of Nivea by paying next to nothing at CVS.  Don't worry though!  It ends up that a lot of my family members needed lotion too, so I recently gave a bottle to my brother and his wife and then we have two others ready to give to my in-laws and my sister-in-law and her husband.  I don't really know long-term which is the better one, but really at this point, all I can suggest to you is to stay moisturized with something whether you want it to be scent-free or not!  Haha.

As long as I continue to use these products, I don't feel bad about purchases.  I also know that I'm getting the best deals with sales and coupons, and the items really do last a long time!  Because I have the six 3-wick candles, I can rotate a scent each day, so I don't burn through one of them too quickly and feel that I need to buy more.  I love how cozy it makes the apartment feel, and it actually encourages me to clean, haha.  I know that's strange, but the calming scents are with me whether I'm washing dishes or doing laundry.  Don't worry; I don't leave the candles unattended.  With our small space, there really is no way to actually do that anyway!  

I still get excited every morning when I have to decide what candle to burn that day, and I get excited each night as I decide what shower gel and what lotion to use!  I am eager for the semi annual sale that starts after Christmas, but I won't be spending money out of pocket for that.  I had just about 5,000 credit card reward points expiring at the end of the year, so I exchanged it for a BBW gift card!

In the past, I only used reward points on craft purchases (it's how I got my Cricut and Cuttlebug machines), but now I've got a new interest.  I still craft, but it's just in an apartment that now has "smell goods"!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Would You Light My Candle?

There are a bunch of songs that Howard and I often sing in the midst of whatever household chore we're doing at the moment, and one of the songs that comes into rotation for me is "Light My Candle" from Rent.  Other than singing about candles, however, the only time I considered their usefulness was during blackouts.  We utilized a small-sized candle during Hurricane Sandy when we were without power for a good amount of time.  The flickering light was enough to help us see in our studio apartment at night, but once the electricity was restored, the candle never needed to be used again and was put away in the cabinet.  

Recently, there has been a drastic change in how I feel about candles!  One of my DIS friends, Alicia, posted a picture on Instagram after she went to Bath & Body Works and stocked up on her favorite scent called "Flannel."  It intrigued me because it just seemed like it'd be such a warm and cozy scent during these cold months.  

(Photo courtesy of Alicia, @leasha_burns)

When Howard and I went to the mall to return some items from my online orders, I asked if we could stop by the store so I could check out the scent.  We couldn't find it at first, so Howard asked a very nice employee.  He asked, "Do you have something called flannel?" and she said, "What is that?"  Haha, she was able to find the candles for us as you can see below.

There was no sale on the big 3-wick candles, so paying $20 was completely out of the question!  I also didn't have any coupons either.  Despite that, I still decided to purchase mini candles because they were 3 for $10.  It was so strange that I was willing to part with my money, but I had subbed for three days in a row that week, so I felt that it was okay for me to splurge!

The mini candles were perfect in that they gave me an option to choose different scents and to also see if I really would love burning them at home.  I chose Flannel, Mahogany Teakwood, and Sparkling Icicles.  I'm really not the right person to describe scents, but basically I really dislike sweet scents and am not that big of a fan of florals either.  Fruity would be okay depending on its strength.  These candles, however, are not sweet or floral.  The Flannel and Mahogany Teakwood actually smell like men's cologne or something like that.  They have deeper scents, which work perfectly for winter seasons and because I'm married and have a guy with me too!  I have read that Mahogany Teakwood smells like the A&F store, but I'm not a good judge of that because I've never been to one.  Well, scratch that ... I think I went in there once because my mom had to get a gift card.

At home, I immediately began using one of them.  I took this picture and now realize why one of them is tunneling badly!  I didn't let the top layer of wax melt completely before blowing it out, so it hardened unevenly and keeps burning that way now.  I took a paperclip and tried to even it out, but it does look a bit messy now.  I just don't want to waste any wax.  Oh well, that was my fault for not reading about it earlier!  I have had more success since then!    

A few days later, we were back in the mall area again to do some grocery shopping.  When we have the time and the energy, we like to stop by the mall to trade Vinylmation at the Disney Store.  We've gotten some really good ones by stopping by every once in a while!  It also happened to be the same day that they had Room Perfume on sale at Bath & Body Works!  I saw it on Instagram because one of the couponing girls I follow posted it.  Even though I have submitted my email address in the store and on the website, I'm still not getting emails!  At least there's still plenty of other ways to find out news like this via social media!

I figured it'd be nice to have room sprays for the times when lighting a candle isn't possible.  I want to be completely safe, of course, so if it's not in sight, I don't want to light it.  I did choose 2 of the room perfumes after testing a few out.  Mahogany Teakwood just had to come home with me because it's that good.  I also initially had a different scent in my hand for the second one, but then I saw they had a few Peach Bellini ones left in the corner of the shelf!  Howard and I both LOVE this one because peach stuff is so yummy!  This stuff is really strong and lasts, so the directions are completely right when they say just spray twice!  With our studio apartment, I only have to spray once!  This also seems like a nice thing to bring on vacation because sometimes rooms don't smell the greatest if the carpet is old.  I have a travel-sized Febreeze for that purpose, but this seems like it'd work too!  The only reason I wouldn't want to use it though is because of the people who stay in the room afterwards and any potential allergies.

You'd think my purchases at Bath & Body Works would end there, right?  I mean, how many updates have I posted about saving tons of money at CVS?  Well, sorry to disappoint, but with Black Friday coming up, I just had to get some more!  I was hoping the 3-wick candles would be on sale, and sure enough, Alicia let me know on Instagram that they were going to be 2 for $22!  I also screen shot this page on IG to reassure myself that I had a few days to get the candles in case I couldn't make it out on Black Friday.

I was anticipating the visit to the store, but I also looked online to see if I could get some good deals that way and not be hassled by driving to the mall and making my way through the crowds.  However, there was the cost of shipping and the fact that you could only use multiple coupons in the store, so it just didn't seem worth it to order online.  One of my other DIS friends, Dani, is a BBW fanatic too and took a picture of her HUGE haul for only $127!  That's some HUGE savings if you know the retail prices of the individual items.  I got a ton of advice from her in terms of what I should do to stack coupons and how I could maximize my savings.  It really did help SO much!

(Photo courtesy of Dani, @dmags)

I drove to the mall close to 2pm or so.  I can't remember the exactly time, but I know that many of the big Black Friday deals were over at 1pm.  I was hoping to avoid big crowds.  Thankfully, finding parking wasn't a problem, and though the mall was crowded, I didn't have any issues maneuvering outside of the stores.  Inside the stores was a different story, but I'm sure it was even worse just hours before!  There were a few people who were "rude" in that they just didn't seem very self-aware.  For example, a mom and daughter were smelling candles when I was there at the same time.  Instead of going around me, they just kept reaching across me because they were just so intent on smelling all of them on the shelves regardless of the fact that I was standing right there.  I backed away and let them go and moved back to my spot.

There were plenty of employees on the floor to help out with questions and suggestions.  I also realized afterwards that they need a lot of people to make sure people aren't shoplifting especially when the store is so crowded.  I liked having them around though because they had bags to fill with TONS of candles and to inform me of special prices.  I really appreciated the one who let me know of their deals even though I was solely there for candles.  She let me know about the special Buttercream Mint candle, which was a Limited Edition candle.  I knew I wouldn't be interested in it though, but like I said, I was grateful for her assistance because she also answered my question about coupons on my phone.  It made me feel more at ease with shopping there since I still felt out of my element in the store.

So what did I get?  This is what $129 worth of candles looks like!

I chose 6 of the 3-wick candles (I actually contemplated getting 9!).  The top row of candles is the same as my mini candles, which I loved so much that I knew I'd want them in the 3-wicks.  The bottom row are also scents that I knew Howard liked because we had tested them during one of the earlier trips.  Peach Bellini and Cranberry Pear Bellini are of course fruity, but the Black Tie one is another masculine scent.  Those 6 candles should have been $66 altogether with the 2 for $22 sale.

BUT utilizing coupons on top of the sales, I was actually able to pay only $36 for ALL of it!  The new cashier ringing up my purchase had an issue scanning my $10 off $30 coupons, so the seasoned cashier to her right told her to split it into two transactions instead.  Later on, I realized she was probably forgetting to press a button between coupons, but the way she did it worked out to my benefit anyway.  

Each transaction had 3 of the big candles and 1 mini candle.  I used a $10 off $30 coupon that I got from my previous purchases, a free mini candle with purchase coupon that she scanned from my phone, and a 20% off coupon that was also scanned from my phone.  I initially only had 1 mini candle (retails $4.50), but since she split it up, I asked her if I could go get another one and she was fine with it!  I used the same coupons on the second set.  For a moment, I was afraid it wouldn't go through again because the seasoned cashier said something quietly about how the 20% coupon wouldn't work but she said that my cashier could try it to see.  I knew that it would go through because of the previous transaction with the same exact items!  Each purchase was a little over $17, so I was SUPER happy.  The smart me might have gone back to get more to do it one more time since each big candle was about $6, but I figured if I'm really going to get stuck on candles, I might want some of the spring/summer scents that come out when it gets warmer out!

For the most part, I've been burning a candle EVERY SINGLE DAY I've been home since I purchased them.  They really are so delightful because our apartment doesn't really feel like OUR apartment.  You know how your house has a certain smell to it that you sometimes can't smell but others can?  Our place doesn't have that.  When we walk in the hallway, it can smell like whatever our neighbors are cooking.  Then when we walk into our actual apartment, it just doesn't smell very good based on whatever scents have drifted in (our door doesn't fit very tightly; even at night we see the light from the hall coming in from the sides and bottom of the door).  Having candles has made it so that there's a pleasant aroma!  What's amazing is that the big candles have such an awesome throw so that it really does fill the entire room!  Even after we've left for a few hours, we can return to have a faint smell in the air.  It makes it so much more inviting.

Clearly, I have gotten hooked into the Bath & Body Works world, and I'm not sorry about it!  I'll have to make sure I'm getting the BEST deals though, so the next time I purchase will be during the semi annual sale after Christmas!  I'm already SUPER excited!  I guess I can justify it by knowing that I save SO much at CVS, which gives me some spending money at BBW, right?  Right.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

3-D Envelopes

On Friday night, my cousin Danielle emailed me to ask if I had a birthday card for Chloe's Sweet 16.  She said that if she was going to buy a card, she'd rather buy it from me.  Yay for a sale!  She specifically wanted an envelope that would fit her gift inside it.  She took a picture of it, and I knew it wouldn't fit inside a regular envelope, so I decided to try making a 3-D envelope.  I did a quick Google search and followed the instructions at Paper Loves Glue.

I was rather pleased with how it turned out and how it could easily fit cards with larger embellishments or anything else you might want to send that's thicker than a typical card.  The blog where I got the directions did say it would require 2 stamps because of its thickness, but it's nice not having to go out and purchase an envelope like this.  I ended up redoing it in kraft cardstock since the pink one was the tiniest bit crooked, and the kraft matched the birthday candle card that Danielle bought.

I used my Papertrey Ink alphabet die to cut out the letters for Chloe's name to affix to the envelope.  I really like using dies or stamps to write names on envelopes so that I don't risk messing it up or not centering it properly.  That stuff really bothers me!

Since I had my Cuttlebug out to use my dies, I decided to cut out more letters so that I could use them on the envelope of the card Howard and I were giving to her.  I just had to snap a picture of this because as I was getting the letters and arranging them on the table to see what I was missing, he got confused as to what I was spelling!  It was for "cookadabee," which is the nickname I gave to Chloe many years ago because I call my other cousin Nicolette "Nikadabee."

I'm glad I was able to find a way to make a thicker envelope!  Man, what did people do before Google and Pinterest?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Said I Wasn't Going This Week ...

Last week I said that I wasn't going to be heading to CVS for two weeks.  Then ... this week rolled around.  But can you blame me?  After two transactions, I got $115 worth of items for a combined $9.22 subtotal (boo to an extra $4.91 in taxes) along with $25 back in ExtraBucks.  I was able to get things so low because CVS emailed me a 30% coupon last Thursday and my sister-in-law Sharon has been saving coupons for me!  Yay for having 2 RedPlums yesterday so that I could snag those Pantene shampoos and Robitussin!

Howard went with me, and while I was sorting through the coupons we got from the redbox and clipping them to the proper transaction (yes, I have to binder clip coupons in groups and label otherwise I forget them ... and even then, I still have forgotten a coupon before!), he snapped this picture and posted it on Instagram.  He captioned it, "Come get your coupons at CVS!"  When I saw it in the car after we left, I laughed and he said it out loud in a creepy yet hilarious voice!  I have such a silly hubs!

Okay, here's the breakdown of the purchases in my first transaction:

The Allegra is the easiest one to explain.  I saw on Instagram that it was ringing up as clearance for some people from the original $8.49 cost.  Some people had it ring up as $1.57, but you know how NYC is.  Everything is more expensive!  I scanned it at the redbox, and t was on clearance for $2.12.  I specifically clipped the $1.50 coupon from what my sis-in-law gave me in case it was clearance.  Paying only $0.62 (or only a little over 7% of the original price) makes me a happy camper.  Hopefully, we won't need it now because of the weather change, but when those darn mosquitoes return next year and we inevitably get bites, it'll be nice to have.

The Robitussin is also another thing I only got because I had the coupons.  The 4oz liquid bottles or 20 ct boxes are on sale for $4.95 this week, but there's was also a $3 coupon in the newspaper inserts.  When you buy 2 of them, you get $3 back in ExtraBucks.  That means you end up paying $3.90 out of pocket and getting $3 back.  Each bottle is only $0.45, which is rather awesome considering they're typically $6.49-$7.99 each.  Plus, who wants to spend money on medicine?  Typically, I would rather purchase full-price medicine when it's needed instead of buying it to keep in a medicine cabinet just in case we get sick.  Unfortunately, Howard and I have both needed cough/cold medicine (I needed it during our Christmas trip in Disney, and that cost an arm and a leg in the Pop Century gift shop!) during our first year of marriage, so this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

The last deal combined the Pantene, Dawn, and M&M's.  On the first page of this week's circular, it shows that if you spend $20 on particular products, you get $5 ExtraBucks.  The big seller this week is the Tide detergent because there's a $2 coupon in this week's inserts.  It's a high value coupon, and people have bought a ton of papers just to get the coupon.  We don't use liquid Tide because our machine calls for high efficiency powder, so we use Gain.  I have two of the coupons, but I don't need to use them (let me know if any of you need them!).  So I decided to get Pantene, which was on sale 2 for $7.  I used coupons for $3 off 2 from the paper, so that my out of pocket amount was $2 for each bottle of shampoo, which is normally $5.  I know a lot of people had buy one, get one coupons to combine with the $3 coupons, but I didn't.  I was okay with that because in the past, I got bottles of Garnier for $3.33 with no rewards back.  

Because of the ECB deal though, I still needed $6 to reach the $20 (these ECB deals are attained BEFORE coupons, so that's why it makes it easy to lower your OOP and still get paid money to return).  I grabbed some Dawn with the $1 off 2 bottles coupon.  They were on sale for $0.99, so that was $1.96 for 4 of them.  I still needed $2 more to reach the $20, so I grabbed the M&M's because they were on sale for $0.50 each, and I had buy 2 get 1 free coupons.  Getting 6 packs of them helped me reach the amount I needed to get $5 back.

With coupons including a $5 off $15 CVS coupon, $5 in Beauty Bucks, and another $4 in ExtraBucks, my subtotal was $1.48 with another $1.58 in tax.  My total was $3.06.  Too bad the tax is more than my subtotal!  If that weren't there, I could've paid all in coins.  I put in $9 ECB and got $8 back to use in my next transaction.

Although the second transaction looks like it's less stuff, the cost was actually much higher.  The Eucerin deal was the one thing I knew I was going to get this week once I got the 30% off email.  Since Howard has psoriasis on his hands, I wanted to get some intense lotion especially with the winter weather quickly approaching.  The Nivea is the perfect thickness for me, but the Intensive Repair Eucerin is even thicker!  Each 5 fl oz was $5.79, but when you buy 2, it was $5.25 each.  I also printed out $2 coupons for each bottle.  That means instead of paying $21 for all 4 bottles, it was $6.70.  This was actually a "moneymaker" because purchasing $20 worth of Eucerin products meant that I could get $10 in ExtraBucks.

The Colgate deal was to spend $10 in Optic White products to get $5 back in ExtraBucks.  I bought 2 tubes of toothpaste for $5.99 each and had a store coupon for $3 off 2 along with manufacturer coupons for $1.00 and $0.75.  Instead of paying $11.98, I paid $3.64 and got $5 ECB back.  Another moneymaker, yay!

Lastly, the Nexxus deal was to spend $20 in product and get back $10 ECB.  Each bottle was $11.79.  Yes, shampoo costs almost $12 a bottle!  That must be some amazingly good shampoo!  Two bottles cost $23.58, but I had the 30% off and two coupons for $3.00 off so it was $10.51 to get $10 back.  

I basically do those quick calculations to make sure that it's a deal, but the actual CVS registers computers things differently.  There are some types of coupons or ECB (ex. Beauty Bucks) that actually reduce the amount that gets the percentage off along with what is taxed.  When there's a percent off coupon to use, I can't really predict the exact amount that I'll spend, but after I did the math at home, I told Howard it would be about $10 out of pocket.  It was pretty close to that with a $7.74 subtotal and $3.33 tax for $11.07 out of pocket.  I was pretty accurate considering I figured it out using prices from CVS online, which had cheaper costs compared to the NYC prices in the actual store.  The great thing is that with the sales this week, it was a great way to easily build up ECB because in the second transaction, I used $14 and got back $25 ECB for next time.

What sweetened the CVS trip even more was that there's a Dunkin' Donuts in the same shopping center, so Howard and I both got a small iced coffee to celebrate National Coffee Day!  I'm not crazy about iced coffee and have only gotten it a few times in my life, but when it's free, I love it!  Doesn't that free flavor taste so good?  I had the milk and sugar added in for me so that I don't have to feel bad adding in sugar by myself at home, but Howard got his black so that he could add Lactaid from home.  What a great post-CVS treat!

Okay okay, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to CVS next week ...

Monday, September 30, 2013

Chloe's Sweet 16

This past Saturday was my cousin Chloe's Sweet 16!  I just can't believe that she's already 16 because I remember being super excited when she was born because we had another baby girl on my mom's side of the family!  Her party was at Elaine's Asian Bistro & Grill in Great Neck, so it was a bit of a drive for us.  Howard and I doubled the actual amount of time that it would require to get there and gave ourselves an hour and a half even though it should've taken 45 minutes.  Thankfully, we arrived there right on time despite traffic everywhere!  Phew!

There were a lot of the high schoolers and college kids from church and a bunch of Chloe's friends from school.  Howard and I sat down before the party officially started with my cousin and his fiance, and my uncle came over and said that we're still considered the same generation as Chloe and everyone that was there even though we're technically adults!   

Once my aunt welcomed and thanked everyone for coming, she told us that we could help ourselves to some appetizers.  We grabbed plates of food and sat down with my cousins and their significant others.  It was fun because I don't get to see and talk to them very often anymore.  It was hilarious that we were so strangely seated around the table because we weren't all necessarily next to our guys, haha.

The centerpieces were these mason jar mugs filled with candy.  We divided up the yummy candy at the end of the party, and then Howard actually "won" one of the mugs (post-it under his seat) and no one else wanted the other one, so we got both of them!  Yay for new mugs!  Haha, he actually tried seeing if anyone would trade because he saw pink and green ones, but we still ended up with the two orange ones from our table.  

Each person also got to take home 2 of the cupcakes made by my aunt.  She makes cupcakes from scratch with more unique flavors.  Since we were 4 couples, we each got to take home one of EACH flavor!  Edible favors and centerpieces are clearly the BEST.

The food was really good.  I had eaten a small breakfast, so I was very eager to eat!  The appetizers included buffalo chicken eggrolls, fried shrimp, and scallion pancakes.  After I had eaten my plate, I smiled at Howard, and he knew to get me some more, hehe.  He was sitting on the outside so it was easier for him to get up and get food to feed his ravenous wife.

Then everyone got salad with the regular ginger dressing that you get from sushi places, but this was better than other salads because there were slices of avocado on the top!  Yum!  That definitely kicked it up a notch, and now when I have a salad like this, I'll wonder where the avocado is.

The main part of the meal was done buffet style just like the appetizers.  I took a little bit of everything, and I thought it was very good.  I was surprised that I liked the beef as I'm not always that big on cow, and the chicken was really tender.  The noodles were also really good too!  And I'm never one to say no to some spicy rolls!

Here's another picture of my table.

After the food, the lights were turned down and the fancy lights were turned on along with the dance music!  We're not that big on dancing (at least not in public cuz we dance a lot in our kitchen!); we didn't even dance that much at our own wedding!  But we had fun spending some time together and watching everyone else with all their energy!  I, on the other hand, was ready for a nice nap due to all the yummy food I had just eaten.

Before Chloe cut into her cake, groups were called up for pictures.  This is the group of girls from church.

This was the cousins and aunts/uncles picture.

And then we had to make some room for cake!  Doesn't funfetti look like Fruity Pebbles melted in the cake batter?

Lastly, one of the girls from church grabbed Chloe's camera and went around snapping photos and got this funky one of us, haha.

It was a fun day to celebrate with family and friends!  We got home safely after some more traffic, and we slept soundly that night because we are old, and partying does that to us!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Favorites

If you've been following my blog over the more recent weeks, you clearly know that couponing has become one of my favorite hobbies.  It's amazing how much you can save just by doing some research and learning how to stack coupons and watch for sales.  If I sat down and actually calculated the amount of money we spent during our first few months or even first full year of marriage versus what we spend now on groceries and necessities, I'd be hoping for an opportunity to go back in time and give myself a slap or two as a wake up call!

However, despite the incessant posts about couponing, it's not the only thing I'm enjoying right now as hard as it may be to believe.  There are a few other things that I think would fall under my "favorites" that I'd like to share with you!  I know other bloggers write about favorite things on Fridays or have segments depending on the day of the week, but I don't know how good I'll be about that so I'm not going to promise anything other than my continued random outbursts!

Favorite #1: Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread with Dark Chocolate

I've never been a fan of eating waffles with syrup mainly because of its stickiness and the sweetness.  On occasion, I'd drizzle a little bit on a waffle to have an extra sugary jolt in the morning especially being hypoglycemic, but what I typically enjoyed was peanut butter on my freshly toasted Eggo.

Unfortunately, over the past year or two, peanut butter has been giving me heartburn and discomfort especially in the morning, so I've been avoiding one of my favorite quick protein and carb breakfast.  That all changed when I heard about Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread with Dark Chocolate.  We picked it up at Pathmark when there was a $1.99 sale on Skippy with a coupon.  Love the doubling of coupons at Pathmark and Stop & Shop!  Oh wait, I shouldn't be writing about coupons here ...

I tried this chocolate-y spread on a waffle many times, and it's been so delicious!  It hasn't really given me stomach issues, so that's why I'm a fan of it.  I especially wanted to see how it compares to Nutella, and I actually like it more than I like Nutella.  That could be because I feel as if I need to be in a certain mood to enjoy the taste of hazelnut.  Plus, it helps that Skippy is much cheaper than Hazelnut!

Favorite #2: Kitchen Nightmares

Before I got married and left my parents' house, we often watched Restaurant Impossible with Robert Irvine.  It was entertaining for us to see how he would help the owners of a restaurant do things the right way.  We couldn't believe just how many establishments on the series have frozen food and use microwaves to cook!  I wanted to watch more episodes at our apartment, but we don't have a TV, so I had to search online for some.  There are only a few on YouTube, so I started watching Kitchen Nightmares on Netflix.  And now I just discovered that more seasons are available on Hulu, yay!

First of all, I have to point out that I truly dislike how Gordon Ramsay spews out so many profanities.  He has a completely different approach than Robert Irvine.  But the basis of the show itself in terms of seeing a restaurant get back on the right path is what intrigues me.  Yes, I'm fully aware that this is still a reality show and things are contrived, but I still think it's entertaining.

Oh, except for the ones that have cockroaches and mold everywhere.  Blech!

Favorite #3: Oriental Trading Double Sided Tape Rolls

After a few years of crafting, I read a lot about Scor-Tape and other redline tape by companies like Ranger.  I wanted to try it because I know it's supposed to work really well with putting together 3-D paper items.  In the past, I've always used my Scotch ATG gun, but over time, some of the things would start to fall apart.  I decided to buy some redline tape from Oriental Trading.  I don't now just how well it'll last in the long run as I only just began using it, but so far, I can see that it's better than using an ATG gun.  If this doesn't have long staying power, I will invest in more expensive redline tape, but I know now that it's easy to work with and sometimes easier than using a tape runner.

Of course, let's not forget the best of all Friday favorites ... I get to spend the weekend with Howard!  Yay!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Free CVS-ing

If all my CVS posts haven't already convinced you to get a CVS card, this post should do it!  I mentioned in the past that CVS likes to email random ExtraBucks for absolutely no reason other than the fact that you're a member.  A few days ago, Howard and I both got an extra $3 emailed to us, so after spending some time with my parents yesterday, we stopped by the one closest to our apartment on the way home.

This part of our trip wasn't free, but I'm always happy to get inexpensive dish detergent for our apartment.  Palmolive is on sale this week for $0.88, and I had mentioned to my mom that people were stocking up with coupons.  She told me that she had 2 of the $0.50 that she wasn't going to use as she's not that big of a fan of Palmolive, so I was able to use them!  Yay for $0.38 dish detergent!  For big messed, I do very much prefer Dawn as it really does cut through the grease, but since we wash all of our dishes by hand, Palmolive is usually less expensive and does a good job for what we need.  I haven't tried this particular kind with Oxy in it though, so we'll see how that compares to Dawn (we keep both Palmolive and Dawn on our sink counter depending on what we're washing).

With the money that they sent us, we were able to get free things!  I went through the circular and discovered that Honey Bunches of Oats was $2.99 with a $1 ECB offer.  We don't ever buy cereal for that much, but it was free!  I initially picked up the almond one, which is our normal choice, but Howard saw that the Greek yogurt one was also included in the offer.  I was excited to try a new one especially considering I'm kind of not as big of a fan of Honey Bunches of Oats at this moment.  Right now I'm going through a Cheerios and Life phase.  When I scanned it at the self-checkout, it kept saying I couldn't use the coupon because it exceeded the purchase amount.  The employee tried it too and said that it couldn't be used, but I politely asked if he could just manually input $2.99 into the machine.  He did, and so there was absolutely nothing coming out of my pocket for this cereal!  And I still got the $1 for next time!  Yay!  

On Howard's card, we didn't see anything that we wanted even though we could have done the cereal deal on his as well.  But we decided to "splurge" and use the $3 kind of frivolously and get some AriZona.  Even though it was $0.66 each and Walgreen has them on sale this week for 2/$1, this is still "cheaper" in the sense that we didn't have to pay for it!  We picked up 5 of the Half & Half Iced Tea Lemonade and only had to pay $0.30 in coins, of course.  What a great deal!  We'll once in a while decide to treat ourselves to a fun drink as we'll split one with our dinner because normally we just drink water or I'll have tea afterwards.  This may not have been the best way to roll ECB, but we're not complaining about the free goods!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Husband, the Crafter

Last year when we had the blackout due to Hurricane Sandy, Howard and I crafted by candlelight to kill the time.  It's so strange that we were initially at a loss for what to do because so much of it is dependent on Netflix and our computers.  It was so loud out with the wind that sleeping wasn't really a possibility either especially with my anxiety that the windows would blow in, which is right where our bed is located.  So that meant crafting in the dark!  It ended up being one of my favorite memories of our first year of marriage (minus the devastating storm aspect of it).

This is one of the cards that Howard made.  It's definitely so him!  He started by searching for a sentiment that he wanted to work with and found the "I love you s'more" in Pink by Design's set "Woodland Critters."  He chose colors from my cardstock and then made some squares using a punch.  Then he played around with the geometric design to figure out proper spacing to make it obvious that it was a s'more while still being his style.  I really love how it came out!  He should have entered it in a CASual Fridays challenge or something!

Clearly, you can see that his style is different than mine because my s'mores would've had a smiley face on it or something, haha.  I think that the two of us should craft together more!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Paying with Coins

If you've noticed, I've been having updates scheduled to post at 5am in the morning, but I didn't have one prepared last night.  It's okay though because here's the update!  I always have writing ideas on my mind, and blogging (which I consider more simplistic writing compared to what I would like to write) helps me get back into the habit of communicating through the written word.  Though it might not be the most interesting read if you're not interested in couponing, I know that it's good "exercise" for me.  I did add a little bit of non-couponing stuff in this post including a food picture!  Scroll down if that's all you're interested in seeing, haha.

My cousin's Sweet 16 is coming up, so I had to stop by the mall yesterday to pick up a gift card.  Since I was out and about, it obviously meant that I was going to stop by CVS, haha.  I know I had said that I wasn't going to return for a while because the sales weren't going to be good for the next two weeks, but this doesn't count, right?  It's the same sale week!  Haha.  I checked my CVS account two nights ago and saw what coupons would print out from the redbox for me, and it included GREAT savings.  There was no way I could pass up on it considering I knew my subtotal could be negative.

The CVS by my parents' house wasn't going to work for my plans because not everything was available.  I tried to see if I could rearrange my plan as I stood there in an aisle on my phone, but I didn't want to pay more out of pocket than planned.  So I scrapped that idea and just picked up more of those free toothbrushes using Howard's card.  He had $4 ECB to roll, so I got 2 toothbrushes for free with 2 coupons and got $4 ECB back.  I think even for those of you who don't want to take on major couponing, these deals would work out well just to slowly get free things for your family.  Of course, you need to always make sure you get your coupons at the redbox though!  And sometimes that means having to ask an employee for help when the machine says it has no paper to print.  This is the second time I've seen the machine opened (the first time, my coupons got stuck inside as they printed so they had to be redirected out of the little slot on the side).  I got super excited and snapped this picture even though another lady was also waiting for coupons too, haha.  As you can see, this is one of the older machines.  The new ones seem to be better as you can input your telephone number in case you don't have your ExtraCare card.  I also believe that the new ones have more space to scan a card or an item, so scanning your phone (if you use CardStar or another app like that) might be able to work.  I'll have to test that out at a newer machine.

The small total for my purchase at the first store was paid with coins!  I decided that from now on if it's possible, all CVS transactions will be paid with the spare change in my wallet and from the little plastic container we have at home since it's money that we have that technically just sits there!  Since I do self-checkout, I don't have to feel silly handing over $1 or $2+ in coins including lots of nickels and dimes.  I just slowly feed the machine whatever I have in my wallet and it deducts as it lets me know how much I owe.  I do plenty of math with my planning, so it makes my life easier knowing the machine will do the math for me there!

Afterwards, I drove to the mall to pick up the gift card and popped into the CVS there, but it's never one that I enjoy frequenting.  It's cramped and not as clean and organized, and for some reason, their products weren't scanning at the correct price.  I didn't want to bother dealing with it there, so I just left.  

Since I was at the mall though, it made sense to pop by the Disney Store and trade Vinylmation!  There was one from the series called Mickey's Wild West in the visible portion of the box, but I wasn't sure if I should trade for one in the mystery portion since last time we snagged Eric from The Little Mermaid series.  I asked if I could trade, and then I said to the guy, "Hmm, you have mystery ones too, right?" and he proceeded to pull all of them out for me to see!  There wasn't anything in there, so I snagged "Dewey" from Wild West.  I was happy about that!  What was funny is that I traded a Vampire Goofy even though in the trade box, there was a Goofy Vampire in there already along with a Werewolf Pluto!  Haha, clearly those were from us since we cleaned them out of those as traders ($2.99 for the set) twice!  But it was the best investment ever to build up our Vinylmation collection on the cheap.

Yes, it's kind of strange that I'm talking about paying for my CVS hauls with change and then mentioning Vinylmation.  Haha, we did buy those Vinylmation way before I got into couponing.  Plus, now that I coupon, it will allow us to get a few fun treats every once in a while.  Howard's interest has now turned into one of mine!  Trading pins and Vinylmation have become part of the memories we make at Disney World as we make great trades and interact with other guests and cast members.  It's just exciting that we get to have some Disney magic at home too.

I left the mall and drove home, which meant passing by the CVS close to my apartment (yes, the 3rd CVS in one day).  So we may have spent $2.99 on a set of 2 Vinylmation, but I spent way less than that on all of the things below!   

The night before, I checked out past receipts and figured out what would get taxed and what wouldn't.  Then I checked to see what coupons would reduce my taxable amount.  Basically, anything that scans as a "CVS Coupon" should be deducted from your subtotal before figuring the tax.  That includes any of the $ off $$ coupons, the % off coupons, randomly emailed ExtraBucks, earned Beauty Bucks, and emailed birthday ExtraBucks.  It was nice being able to figure it out because then I could be more exact about anything OOP and keep it to the barest minimum.  So how did I get all of the above products for only $2.19 in change?  Just a bit of homework!

The Nivea deal is the same as all my past updates.  It's the LAST week for it.  When I left CVS last time, I saw at the bottom of my receipt that I only needed $6 more to get another ECB deal.  That meant that it carried over from my FIRST week of Nivea purchases.  I also got a coupon from the redbox for $2 off 2 body lotions so I picked up another bottle along with another body wash to complete the final Nivea deal.  Basically that breakdown was as follows:

2 Nivea lotion = $12 sale price - $4 in manufacturer's coupons - $2 in CVS coupon = $6 OOP
1 Nivea body wash = $4 sale price - $2 in manufacturer's coupon = $2 OOP

That meant putting in $8 OOP and getting $6 back so it was a pretty great opportunity to roll ECB.  

The candy deal was to spend $10 and get $3 ECB.  I got a $4 off $10 coupon from the redbox including Halloween candy, so it was a fabulous opportunity to get some bags ONLY if I could find proper coupons, and I did!  Here's that breakdown:

2 Hershey's ($0.99 sale) = $1.98 - $1.00 manufacturer's coupon = $0.98 OOP
3 Twix ($3 sale) = $9 - $1.50 manufacturer's coupon - $4 CVS coupon = $3.50 OOP

That meant putting in $4.50 OOP and getting $3 back, so that too was a pretty good way to roll ECB.  It amazes me because last year, I waited until after Halloween to get some of my favorites on sale.  That meant getting one bag for about $2.00!  I spent so much less for a ton of it!  I'm looking forward to sharing chocolate with friends.

Lastly, I did the Got2B deal again because of a $1.50 off $5 styling products coupon from the redbox, but I didn't get any ECB from it.  The website said limit of 5 per card, but the circular actually says limit of $5 per card, so that meant no ECB.  I will be returning them during my next trip.

As you can see, my subtotal was exactly as I calculated it to be at negative $0.68.  I miscalculated the tax because I thought the candy wouldn't be taxed.  Silly me.  I paid the $2.19 in coins again and did my best to get rid of my nickels and pennies, haha.  The first 3 coupons that you see on the receipt are coupons from the redbox, the next 3 are my ECB, and the remaining 4 are manufacturer's coupons.  I read that that's the way to do it to allow the overage to dip into your tax, but I've had negative subtotals before without doing it that way, so I'm not sure if it's necessary.  I'll definitely still do it that way though just in case.  I left with $9 ECB, which is less than what I put in, but I also got an email for $3 ECB for being a member, and I will be getting $5 in Beauty Bucks, so it'll bring my ECB total back up again.  Phew.

Back home, I saw that it was a good snail mail day too as I got a free sample.  I love free samples!  When I lived at my parents' house, I used to keep free samples until I might have needed them for vacation.  I just used whatever was there.  Nowadays, I actually truly appreciate free samples because I can try something out to see if it's worth purchasing.  Being in charge of our household means that we have to be careful about what we spend our money on, and I would be upset if we bought a product that we ended up not liking.  Getting free samples is how I tried the Tums freshers and decided to buy a bunch of them instead of only having regular Tums!  We've also tried Centrum Flavor Burst Chews and know that those are pretty awesome as well!  I personally thought that the vitamin C VitaMelts were kind of gross although Howard didn't mind them as much.  Seriously, such a perfect system these companies have for consumers to try products!  Now we can try Herbal Essences body wash.  I associate Herbal Essences with shampoo, so it's a great opportunity to test something new.

The last picture of the night is what we had for dinner.  When I make chili, it's a LOT for just the two of us.  Thankfully, the hubby is absolutely fine with eating leftovers, so when it's made, we usually have it two nights in a row for dinner or for lunch leftovers.  Even so, there's still some leftover, so I froze a batch of it.  We had it for leftovers last night over some cottage fries.  I think it worked out really nicely because having a part of the dinner that's freshly made with a part that was frozen makes the meal extra appetizing.  To think we used to have chili out of a can is disturbing when it's so easy to make from scratch.

The cottage fries are also really easy to make.  I just washed and peeled the potatoes to prepare them, and then Howard sliced them and mixed it with a little bit of olive oil and whatever spices depending on the meal. They're baked for about 40 minutes, flipping them after each 15 minutes.  It makes me wonder why we used to buy Ore-Ida products in the beginning of our marriage as "backup" side dishes.  We would have a $2 bag that would be split for 2 meals.  Nowadays we buy a bag of 5 lbs of potatoes for about the same amount and can make so many side dishes from it.  Plus, it's much healthier, of course.  Too bad having too many carbohydrates isn't recommended because I love 'em!

Saving money and having more food made from scratch ... you'd think we were mature adults if we weren't also trading figurines, hehe.