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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Free Class with Pottery Barn Kids

Pottery Barn Kids and Real Simple have teamed up to offer an exclusive class designed to make the transition back to school easy, and even fun! Real Simple editors will share their best tips on creating the ultimate study space for your child, getting everyone organized for back-to-school, easy, delicious meals and more.

Attend and receive 10% off featured products and get an exclusive back-to-school guide.

Join the fun Wednesday, August 12th or Saturday, August 22nd at all Pottery Barn Kids stores nationwide.

Space is limited, so call your local store to RSVP today. To locate a store, visit

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Multi-tasking? Try the test

The NewYorkTimes Online has a terrific "test" that you can take to see why texting while driving is such a bad idea (as if you couldn't figure that out).
But since so many people can't seem to figure that out ---- and so many others are lured by the ching of the blackberry or cellphone saying there's a message, and they'll just peek --- I'm glad the NYT did this.
Its almost shocking how quickly you deteriorate with this little test.  Scary, really.  And this is what's happening when otherwise responsible drivers start looking at the cellphone rather than you and me who are sharing the road with them.
Try it yourself.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Entertainment Book

We've always been huge fans of the Entertainment Book.  We started out buying just one -- the edition closest to my husband's office and using it primarily for dinners out and hotels.  As time went by, we found it to be such a valuable resource that we moved to purchasing two books -- one edition near his office and one edition near my work.  
I really thought that we got the most out of our Entertainment books.  We use the daylights out of those things.  By the end of the year, they are a dog-eared mess and barely holding together at the binding.  
I know other people who tell me that they are a waste of money and never get any use out of them.  So what do we do differently??

  • we team up with two other couples who also have the book.  We have seasons tickets together to a small local theater.  Each month after the play, we go out to dinner using the Entertainment book deals.  We go to very nice restaurants for very little money.  
  • we go out to lunch together -- date night, sort of.  When I'm off and can join my husband in the middle of the day, we pull a lunch coupon from the Entertainment book and head out for a lunch date.  We usually end up spending about $10 for the two of us and we have a nice time together.  
  • we utilize the coupons for savings on car washes.  Our Entertainment book has a set of coupons for monthly car washes at great discounts.  We alternate which car gets the royal treatment (they vacuum, do the windows, give you a fancy air freshener in addition to actually washing the car).  It keeps our cars looking and feeling great.  We feel richer and more pampered when our cars look great and feel great to ride in. Plus we're never embarrassed by the dog fur or other stuff in an uncleaned car.
  • we use the coupons from the grocery stores and convenience stores.  They're not always for things we really need or want --- the grocery store often has a coupon for free bread -- we make our own so I really don't want or need free bread from the store.  But it makes a great take-along to a pot-luck, or fine french toast for breakfast at work, or a donation to our community dinner.
  • We take it along with us when we travel.  You just never know what you'll find when you're out and about.  
But even with all of that usage, I just discovered that I am certainly NOT getting the absolute most out of my Entertainment Book.  I stumbled across a terrific e-book on maximizing the Entertainment Book written by Julie Parrish, one of the founders of Hot Coupon World.  Go here and you can download a copy for yourself.
Julie has me outdone by a mile. She actually buys three of these books each year (a total investment of about $60)  She figures she saves over $4,000 a year.   
There is also a deal going on right now that can get you the 2009 Entertainment Book for free!!  When you reserve your 2010 Entertainment Book, you get the 2009 Entertainment Book for free!  Go here to reserve your 2010 book and get the 2009 book as the bonus.  Can't beat that.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Homemade Ice Cream

We tried making ice cream the other night.  It was a little bit messy, but otherwise absolutely wonderful.  Give it a try --- you'll never go back to store-bought again.

Take a quart size ziplock bag (use the freezer strength and don't skimp on quality --- its going to take some handling)
Pour into it:

  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar
  • your choice of fruit -- about 1/3 -1/2 a cup (we used peaches and some chopped up crystallized ginger)
Seal up the baggie and place it inside of another ziplock bag -- this one a gallon size bag.
Into the outer bag (around the quart bag) put about 4 cups or so of ice and 1/4 cup of kosher salt.
Take turns shaking the bag (don't squeeze it!!)
It will feel like nothing is happening -- and then --- all of the sudden the inside bag will puff up ---
Take the smaller bag out of the big bag and wipe it off (salty ice cream is yucky)
Put it into the freezer to firm up a bit -- about a half an hour or so.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Low Flow Showerhead

This project was so easy that even I was able to do it.  Really ---  with no technical or vocational skills whatsoever --- it was that easy.  
The only tool you really need is an adjustable wrench (that's the one with the twirly thing in the middle that makes the opening of the wrench get bigger or smaller depending on which way you spin the twirly thing -- see I told you.  No skills whatsoever). 
So, first you just unscrew the old shower head. 

That leaves a really ugly pipe sticking out of the wall.  
Take a bar of soap and rub it on the pipe in the wall -- sort of like when you rub a bar of soap on a stuck zipper -- it lubricates it (don't let that technical talk scare you -- I still know NOTHING)
On the package of the new low-flow showerhead there should be a diagram of all of the parts (there's only a few, don't panic) Stack everything up in the order shown on the diagram -- 
Then just screw the new shower head onto the really ugly pipe jutting out of the wall.
Ta da!!  That's all there was to it --- done.  
Seriously --- the benefits to this little home improvement project are several fold: 
1.  You get a new showerhead -- spring for a semi-fancy one -- We are riding on the coattails of luxury after all -- I went for one with the "rain" setting -- it doesn't feel like rain to me at all, but its a lovely relaxing shower.
2.  You do something really, really good for the earth.  As Americans, we use far more than our share of the earth's water -- this cuts that down a little bit without impacting your lifestyle, sense of hygiene etc.
3.  You save money, honey.  Nearly a quarter of the water that you use in your home is in the shower -- if you save that water --- voila, your water bill goes down. If you're like me, you like your shower hot rather than cold.  That means you're heating that water and paying for the gas or electricity to heat it.  If you heat less of it --- voila -- your energy bill goes down too.  

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Soothing the Savage Beast

I've always believed that music has an amazing ability to calm both us and our animals.  Our current little terror, Hurricane Ginger, is certainly soothed by her favorite Tim Janis .   We kept it playing in the house during the early days when she was truly terrified by life in her new home and even played it in the car during some of those early rides in the crate.  I've joked several times that I need to figure out how to hook up the Ipod for walks and for obedience classes -- can you put earbuds on a dog??
Now, Paras Lakhani M.D. has gone and proven me right --- The study didn't use Tim Janis (sorry, Tim) it used Handel's Water Music (another lovely piece).  It found that the heartbeats of humans actually dropped to match the pace of the music -- in the case of Water Music -- about 60 beats per minute -- far slower than most of our regular heartbeats these days.
And according to the study -- this has a surprising effect:  it makes concentration and learning easier.
Who knew??

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Cheap Chic Daily

I stumbled upon this website recently and its quickly got its own bookmark in my browser --- every day they post some chic little item that is well within the budget of those of us who don't live in Richville.  Some of the picks are a little trendy and youthful for me -- but there are some great finds and fun ideas in the mix a well.  I love the striped Sephora makeup bag -- adorable, chic and only $7.00.