Thursday, April 24, 2008

Back at it

I knew I wasn't in New York anymore when in one day the following three things happened:

- At a fast food restaurant, two employees came up at different times and offered to refill drinks. They were so enthused I felt like I was doing them a favor by letting them clear my tray. Great way to start a day.

- At a bank, when we walked through the door an employee literally leaps up from behind his desk to see how he can help us. We needed certified checks since I left the checkbook at home and who knew you had to write a check for a house? :) Instead of waving us on to the teller line, he took care of the whole thing while we sat at his desk, and waived the $8 per check fee. Bliss.

- At Ann Taylor Loft, I remembered I had received a Friends & Family 25% off coupon in my email, but hadn't printed or brought it. I mentioned it to the manager and she said she'd give me the discount anyway. Swwweet. These things may seem usual to most people, but good customer service is not something I've seen a lot of the past four years in the city.

I love Dallas!! We really had a marathon week full of driving around and viewing over 70 houses, which according to our agent is the most she's ever shown anyone. After some hard bargaining, we ended up with the best of the lot and are very excited to move in next month.

But now we're back!! After a week in Dallas I thought I would be glad to see my good ol' friend New York City, but after sitting in a traffic jam at midnight last night with the taxi meter ticking away... I went back to my original plan of being really excited to move.

Charlotte seems to have grown a foot since I saw her last and had been doused in suntan lotion by her grandmother who was afraid of returning a tomato-child to me.

back to her usual haunts

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Secrets Revealed

Can you see both bridges (the real one and the playground one)?

Goodbye Blockbuster. A couple weeks ago we found out that our local Blockbuster was closing, which is kind of sad. This past year we have made many a trip up the street to exchange the DVDs we got in the mail so we would have no less than 6 DVDs on hand at any given time. This was especially useful when catching up on past seasons of Lost, ER, and Beverly Hills 90210 (well, there's nothing else on!) So it looks like we'll be canceling the total access Blockbuster online membership and trying out Netflix for a while. As usual, I checked with Ebates to see if we could get a good deal, and sure enough, we'll get $18 cash back after the free trial ends which is good for at least another couple months.

Shopping Thoughts. I love shopping. It's really fun. When we moved to New York I had major sticker-shock at the prices on everything from rent to bananas. Quickly I realized the only way to enable my shopping habit was to find serious deals. Everyone always says it's not worth the time and effort it takes to find deals, but I disagree. Like anything, it is a skill that is developed. The initial investment of time, effort and diligence can be large. But once you start and commit to this lifestyle, it becomes easier to spot good deals, know where to look, and know what tools to use for what kind of items and services.

5 Easy Shop-like-Christina Tips:

1. I use Discover Card's 5% cash back on certain categories. This quarter they give the 5% cash back on department store, home store and clothing purchases. Next quarter will be gas! I always keep the categories in mind and only use the Discover for those. This really paid off last month when I bought plane tickets and a rental car, since travel stuff was the category. Your cash back builds up quick this way, and you can then trade your cash back for gift cards worth even more.

2. I have a small stack of coupons paper clipped in my purse at all times. This is a terrible filing system. But, coupons do you no good at home in a box. When I'm shopping I can quickly check the stack. Every couple weeks I go through and throw out the expired ones. I only tote around coupons on stuff I actually buy and never shop for things based on if I have a coupon for it.

3. I subscribe to a couple of blogs that tell you when stuff is cheap. My favorite is, which has weekly updates as to where the best diaper deals are among many other baby stuff-buying tips.

4. When shopping for something specific, look at a couple of deal sites. There are a million. My favorite is It doesn't pay to look at those sites when you don't have anything in mind though. You'll end up buying things you don't need just because it's a good deal.

5. I used to subscribe to Lucky Magazine, and one of the benefits was an online click-through cash back operation like Ebates, but not as expansive. They did, however, give 25% cash back on discount theater tickets which we used all the time (you have to here - the tickets are $13!). Our apartment got taken over by magazines this past year though, so I had to stop that madness and now just use Ebates which I've mentioned before. Most beneficial lately was that I used Ebates to book a rental car through Hotwire, where it gives 2% cash back. So add that to the Discover Card's 5% - that's 7% cash back for doing nothing but remembering a couple of clicks. On big ticket items like that - definitely worth it.

Ok, I've shared with you some of my tricks. Tell me what yours are!

This post is dedicated to Andrea because of her comments on Sunday:)

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spring has sprung

High time for a thankful list!

Great weather.
This week we've been able to get out and about and have loved every minute.

Girl friends. Getting together with Julia and Emma at Columbia's main campus for lunch. Getting together with girls definitely re-energizes you. Believe it or not - Julia is pregnant!
Good news. My little brother Mark just got engaged and will be married in June in Salt Lake.

A winner. Helaman's research won first place in last year's competition and he went on to present it in San Francisco's national dental meeting. This year, he was awarded the opportunity to present somewhere else.

One nap. Charlotte's mid-day nap is great - we can do things in the morning and in the afternoon.
Giving kitty "a kiss"

Wonderful counsel. I keep recalling Elder Ballard's talk he gave at our church's annual worldwide conference on Sunday directed to young mothers which I really need to hear.

"After observing and empathizing with three generations of mothers and thinking of my own dear mother, I surely know that there is no role in life more essential and more eternal than that of motherhood.... There are moments of great joy and incredible fulfillment, but there are also moments of a sense of inadequacy, monotony, and frustration. Mothers may feel they receive little or no appreciation for the choice they have made."

Comforting words from an inspired man.

Countdown. To next week's house-hunting trip!

Deals. All of a sudden Charlotte outgrew her size 3 diapers, and there was a great deal listed on BabyCheapSkate for Seventh Generation diapers, which are supposed to be environmentally better than regulars. First, sign up for Ebates, which you should do if you ever buy anything online - it's cash back for every purchase just for clicking through their site. Then, find through the ebates site and buy the Seventh Generation diapers which are on sale for $31.32 (after $5 instant coupon). You will get $2 cash back from ebates plus their $5 sign up bonus, making the size 4 diapers .17 cents each - smaller sizes even less. Of course, you have to be a first-time user of to get free shipping. I was already a user - so I signed up Helaman and it worked fine. You also get cash back from, but you have to use it within a month which I never do before they expire so I didn't figure that in the calculation. The diapers came in two days, and they hold strong in the face of blowouts just as well as the others.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Girl's Night

Back when "24" was on the air, Helaman and I could always look forward to getting together every Monday night with Ellen, Julia, Andrea and their husbands for a night of sarcastic and/or witty commentary, treats and possibly a game. Good times! Since those days, "24" fell victim to the writers' strike, various babies started needing to get to bed before 10pm, Julia moved across the park (might as well be across the country!) and it's been hard to get together again. But we did it! And it was an extremely enjoyable evening, capped by Ellen's rescue of a disoriented elderly man on the subway tracks while Andrea and I cheered her on.

I will be so sad to leave these amazing ladies when we move to Texas! We've had a lot of fun together the last four years.