Thursday, October 28, 2010

A few of my favorite things...

Oprah is well known for her favorite things. Since she doesn't announce her "favorite things" episode until the audience is seated, can you imagine the thrill of finding out that you are part of THAT show? Each audience member goes home with at least $5000+ worth of items.

Well, I concede that this blog isn't half as exciting as going home with a new car, iPad, or Kindle but I wanted to list a few of my favorite things that have made my life easier- and cheaper- this year... : I tooted this horn a few weeks ago but I'm loving it now, even more, as I'm beginning to redeem my gift cards for Christmas purchases online. Don't forget, you can only redeem two 'items' from their store a day, up to a total of five per calendar month. Swagbucks is a search engine that randomly gives out 'bucks' that can be used to earn (or .ca for my Canadian friends & family) gift-cards (!!!) or iPads or anything else. Click HERE to sign up. Use their tool-bar daily for 1 point, enter the daily poll for 1 point, and check out the surveys daily for another point. If that's all you do, you'll earn 1000 points per year. If you refer a friend, you also get a matched total of their first 1000 points. I love Swagbucks!!

Search & Win
Groupon : a new deal (or more) per day per area. Groupon's expanded into Canada, with local sites in Vancouver, Victoria, and Edmonton. Also, American cities like Salem and Eugene, Oregon, for my Oregonian friends;-) They offer restaurants, fitness classes, online store products (like!!), and swim schools (like ours!) for 50%-80% off the regular price. I even was able to score a boat tour around SF Bay when my parents came in August. I've never had a problem using the coupons and most companies are thrilled to see that you bought their ticket item. Sign up HERE for your daily posting. : I hit this site before I do ANY online shopping- even If you sign up thru this site HERE, then click on you desired company (Groupon, Gap, Sears, REI, for airfare!- anything- except Gymboree:-(, you'll score a percentage back from 2% to 10% cash back. The checks are mailed out every four months, I believe. You get $5 just for signing up:-) I've had no problems with this site and it's great to get a check in the mail that I deposit into my thrift-store account to dip into later. : a rival company to . Hey, I don't mind! They also are a cash-back company that combines their site with online coupons. Click HERE to sign up. Sometimes they'll have a higher cash-back percentage so I check both sites before shopping online. Both these sites are SO easy to use, it's just a waste not to take the 20 seconds to shop via their sites.

ShopAtHome Banner

All this to be said, I've come to appreciate the time that these sites have allowed me to have this year. Instead of dragging the kiddos from store to store, I can do my shopping online during room/nap times and usually my packages are delivered free of shipping or a nominal fee- less than the cost of gas to get to the stores:-)

I hope this coming Christmas season is a blessing to you and not a burden. It is wonderful to show others we love them through the ritual of gift giving, but going into debt over it does not say "I love you." You might not be able to save enough points, bucks, etc. right now in time for this holiday season but you'll be thrilled when next year's birthdays and holidays come around and you can cash in your balances for free or cheaper items. I hope you enjoy a few of these favorite things- just in case you don't make it onto Oprah's "favorite things" episode this year;-)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Finding our Princess her castle

Today, our Princess Camille turned one year old. What that really means is that it's been one year since my waters broke and then waiting for ten hours for labor to start and feel painful and then for two hours of intense pain before Camille was born. That also means it's been one year minus one day since Russell succombed to croup. Ah, memories!

Camille's 12-month stats: 18.2 lbs, 28" in length, and 25% overall in size. She's the same size that Russell was at six months of age. I'm glad she has her big brother to take care of her! Russell took the above picture of Camille with our camera at our latest camp-out at HMB.

We haven't officially bought Camille a present yet. Russell plans to buy her a pink purse. She's always into mine and he figures she needs her own;-) What we hope to buy her is a castle.

In the last five years, our rent has gone up $250/month since signing our original contract. Thankfully, at this time we are not in contract so if we move, there is nothing to break. We've reached our max in this condo. I've loved most of the memories here... the friends & family visits, the births of our two children (well, at the local hospital), and the awesome location; close to San Franscico and close to beautiful views of nature. The straw that broke the camel's back was just two months ago when we received our latest notice of rent increase.

At that time, Dan started researching VA loans and we talked to a finance guru who told us how much we qualified for in purchasing power. In the last few weeks, Dan and I have viewed homes in our price range and last night we put in our first offer. If this offer isn't accepted, that's okay. We'll keep castle-searching and place another offer. VA loans are tricky to work with so that will be our "fleece" with a potential purchase. As we read Russell his nightly devotions, it is amazing how the bottom line of most Biblical stories is obeying God and His directions.

We cherish your prayers for our family during this time. We won't be leaving the Bay area but we will be moving 25+ miles south of here- which means eventually finding a new church community. In light of our family/married life this will be a small move but for now, it seems so overwhelming. I'm just glad we'll still be close enough to keep in easy contact with our current friends.