Friday, December 25, 2009

Texas White Christmas

Charlotte wasn't a big fan of posing with Santa this year, but she did enjoy the friendly cows at Chick-Fil-A and we enjoyed all the free food they gave out during their 12 days of Christmas.
We got a surprise storm on Christmas Eve, bringing a few inches of snow and a lot of ice.
Showing off her new kitchen and boots...
and princess set which was a big hit.

Our backyard tundra.

Thank you so much to everyone who shared beautiful greeting cards, treats, meals and gifts with us to make our first at-home Christmas special. It looks like our final present will be a big one - the doctor said our new babe is weighing 7 lbs, 10 oz right now with three weeks to go!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Little bookworm

Charlotte is a book enthusiast. When we went to Houston for Thanksgiving, she made sure no one was spared from their book reading responsibilities:

Monday, December 07, 2009

Deal Reminders

Charlotte, the ever-present tiara, and Uncle Mark
More Thanksgiving stuff to come, don't want to overdo it all at once
photo by Kalina

The lady in front of me in line at Kohl's the other day bought $250 worth of stuff and used no coupon. Unbelievable, since you really have to go out of your way to avoid Kohl's coupons - they really come at you from all directions. A genius marketing move, kind of like their "biggest sale of the year" ad each and every week.

Since I don't want anyone I know to overpay for anything this year, just remember a couple tips:

- When shopping online, use cash back sites! Since starting to do this I have gotten around $150 in checks mailed to me. A lot of this was buying airplane tickets and entertainment coupon books ($10 cash back each last year made them free around March). I've only used Ebates and Cashbaq so far, but there are a lot of them out there now and most have at least a sign-up bonus. is very helpful in finding out which one to use for what sites.

- This year I've gotten $45 worth of Amazon gift cards just for doing online searches on my Swagbucks toolbar. Also not a bad deal.

- Don't buy anything for yourself! Though it is tempting when doing a lot of shopping, if you need something wait until after Christmas - the deals are always better.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Second Chances

Sometimes when I give second chances to things it just doesn't work out, whatever it is just doesn't try to win me back.

I wrote to Target's customer service a couple months ago regarding their treatment of couponers. They sent back a bland, generic "we'll look into it" type of reply. So today I tried getting some bargains for groceries using a bunch of manufacturer and Target coupons I printed. The Target coupons were just not scanning at all, so the checker calls for help and no less than four employees gather around the register and one starts immediately spreading out all 20 of my coupons all over in order to inspect all of them, though it was just the Target coupons that weren't scanning, ironically. She tried to manually punch in a 10 digit code for each 50 cent coupon and it still doesn't work though she tried SEVERAL times on each, making for a very impatient customer (me) who is regretting ever stepping foot in the store and wondering where the last 20 minutes of my life went. The team finally gets those coupons to work and apologizes. But, it's too late. It's over, Target. Sorry. I only give two strikes.

When we lived in New York and I had just had Charlotte, we watched The View a lot, because Rosie O'Donnell was always saying crazy things and stirring up drama. When she famously bailed out of the job, I got a little sick of Joy Behar and her nonstop animosity toward the then-President George W. Bush which really came out once she didn't have Rosie's craziness taking center stage anymore. She can disagree with policies and practices all day, but she certainly didn't have to make personal insults, which seemed irresponsible and disrespectful not to mention extremely immature. I didn't like that kind of nastiness in my home so I stopped watching it. When President Obama took office I thought the tone might be more... cheery? So I gave it another chance. Nope, she still brings up the former President any chance she gets in order to blame him for all of the current President's strategies that don't seem to be working all that well. Strike two.

Artist Rendering

At least, a machine at Gattitown rendering.
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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Our Sick Day

Today Charlotte and I took a sick day. This is not a picture of her today, but during last month's 24 hour fever/virus. She looks a lot better today than that. She was up at lot at night due to congestion (thanks H for getting up with her) and her nose is running like a faucet today, so instead of embarking on our usual busy Wednesday, we stayed home. I can't believe how much I got done!

- Mopped kitchen, dining area, master bathroom (not sure this bathroom had EVER been thoroughly mopped - terrible)
- Cleaned m. bathroom sinks and shower
- Swept hallway
- Cleaned microwave
- 3 loads of laundry including a jillion socks
- Vacuumed bedroom
- Collected, took out trash and recycling
- Turned on 1 more hour of my defensive driving online course

This is more than I have accomplished in a long time which is why I wanted to record the effort. Thanks to Char for volunteering to watch me while I worked and not making TOO much of a mess elsewhere (the pen drawings did scrub out of the dining room chairs). I feel like maybe we should have a stay at home day every week, though it is hard when Kroger Mega Sales and Pre-Black Fridays deals are going on...
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Monday, November 02, 2009

Pumpkin mania

We went to the Pumpkin Patch with the cub scouts. Charlotte loved seeing Snoopy, and gave him a kiss. Her dad has been showing her Charlie Brown and The Great Pumpkin a lot!

She also got her first chance at helping carve her own pumpkin, scooping with confidence...and sketching her designs. This girl LOVES to draw, especially faces.
Great job! :) Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 26, 2009


This week there were a couple of really nice days and Charlotte and I decided to go out and pick up the acorns that had fallen from our tree. We had a ton of fun. I had gotten the idea to make them into a wreath from a Martha Stewart Living magazine, so while the acorns dried in the oven, off we went to Michael's to get the wreath form, my first glue gun and a ribbon (all with JoAnn 50% off coupons, of course!). I also got some almonds and hazelnuts to add color, and the next few days really enjoyed putting this together. I wish I was a better bow-maker, however...

This was another project I mentioned before - cleaning up the living room area and making some sense of all the toys. I LOVE this shelving unit and the tubs that I found on clearance at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Family Picture! At Safety Town's annual trick or treat fest. This year we wised up and get there very early, so we could get good parking, and in and out in a reasonable amount of time and avoid the crowd. Charlotte the Kitty was nervous at first but warmed up to it...

... due to her dad's enthusiasm for candy (notice he is already snacking on the booty!)

But of course her favorite part was the go-carts.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Last of the Harvest

We've been watching this watermelon grow in our garden for quite a while, and decided it was finally time to pick it. We think it finally decided to grow (after being planted in early April!) was because I cut back the cucumbers which were monopolizing the nutrients.

It still may have been too soon for picking... or something. It was edible but didn't exactly have much flavor.Our tomatoes also decided to come out in full force, but doubt they will have time to really ripen well due to the chilly weather that has come. Oh well - maybe next year.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Our September

It was Plano Balloon Festival time again in September! Luckily the weather had just turned nice and it was a lot of fun to sit outside and watch the balloons.

When it got dark they lit up all the balloons. Next year hopefully we'll stay for the fireworks. This time Charlotte had had it by that time.I got a new soft green cover for my Boppy pillow which Charlotte really likes. I found her looking so comfortable reading her books that I picked up another Boppy at a garage sale (for $2!!!) just in case we need two of them.

In other news, we have decided to reclaim our living room from the Toy Takeover that has dominated our first year in Texas. I didn't take a picture, but visitors will remember that toys were pretty much all over the room (the room you first see on entering our house no less), and at their best shoved against the wall or all in big toy tubs. No more!! We got an IKEA shelving unit that holds all of them and I can't believe the difference. Charlotte can find all of her toys and everything has a distinct spot. I'm wondering why I didn't do this before. I think it was so hot this summer my brain fried, and now it is [somewhat] emerging again. So... this Christmas, since we will have to stay at home, we're going to be able to enjoy a nice living room to sit in once we get some furniture, which is in process.

Helaman is on his family medicine rotation now, which has been a lot kinder to him schedule-wise than surgery and the tales are less harrowing than neurology.

I have been busy this month with home organization/furniture research, cub scouts, book club, playgroup and as always deal seeking. I feel sooo much better now that it has cooled down and my energy is back. I love fall!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Customer Service?

Good Customer Service:
A couple weeks ago Helaman went to Supercuts armed with a $2 off coupon found in the AdPages. The sole employee at the store didn't know how to enter the coupon in, so he couldn't use it. Since that was the reason he went there, I sent a quick email to Supercuts to report the incident. A couple days later, I received a coupon in the mail for a free cut.

Earlier this summer, our family went to Freddy's, the new frozen yogurt place in town. The place smelled like sewer. I wrote a note on the website and the manager called me to give me a $20 credit for future visits.

Bad Customer Service:

To Whom It May Concern:

I would very much appreciate it if you would train your employees on store coupon procedures and have them refrain from treating customers who present such coupons like they are trying to cheat Target.

On my last visit, the cashier spent no less than 3 minutes reading the fine print of the Target internet coupon I had printed out before asking me to dig out the item from the already bagged shopping cart - before even trying to scan the coupon. She then consulted with another cashier who told her and me that they absolutely would not take the coupon I had given them. When I asked for a manager, he simply had the cashier scan in the coupon, but wouldn't take another coupon because the value of the coupon exceeded the price of the item, though I had bought the precise item specified on the coupon. I had to dig it out of the cart too.

Now- I feel like Target is trying to cheat ME when it presents good store internet coupons to draw me to Target instead of the much-closer grocery store, then when I have a whole shopping cart full of groceries (not just coupon items!) you won't honor those coupons on some technicality though the rules you cite are never specified on the coupon. Not to mention treating me like a thief. Until customer service for coupon customers improves, I will avoid Target.

Christina Erickson

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

It's a .....

We just found out today that we will be having another little girl! I am 21 weeks along with a due date of January 12. As you can see, Charlotte is very excited, both about having a new baby and a new shirt, and Helaman can't wait to be completely surrounded by girls:)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Helaman!

Today is Helaman's birthday! He gets to celebrate by getting up as usual at 4am, though I advised calling in sick, or calling in just plain tired. Hopefully he finds the Snickers and Twix I left him. I love you H!

Monday, August 10, 2009

weekend fun

This weekend we had my mom come and visit us from Houston. She and Charlotte were inseparable and did all kinds of things, like....

crochet lessons

beanbag toss

She was very sad to see "mee-maw" go home (to see "pee-paw"), but is now back to her regular activities like...

car lineup

noodle cleanup
and general cuteness
Worthy activities all.

What I didn't get pictures of was my Mom weeding, mowing, and hedge trimming my front yard, taking Charlotte to the park in 100 degree weather, allowing us two wonderful date nights, getting fabric to start a quilt for my guest room and giving me a pedicure. Thanks Mom!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pay Day!

Have you ever wondered if those cheesy pop-up ads asking if you like Subway or Quizno's better and promising $500 for your vote are scams? Believe it or not - they do pay out. Today I got a $500 check card!It is NOT easy money. I read a deal blog called Money Saving Methods. Carrie the author outlines a very detailed summary of all the companies who do the deals and exactly how to do them. She had tons of pictures of readers who posted their pictures along with their gift cards, so I thought I would give it a shot.

First I read and re-read all of Carrie's instructions. This took about an hour. During one of Charlotte's naps I signed up for all the offers and made a spreadsheet documenting all of it - phone numbers, account numbers, contact people, websites and every piece of info I could. This took two hours. I also set up a new email account to get all the junk - crucial.

After that I just checked up on it every day to make sure to cancel trial memberships when necessary and make sure I was getting credit for all the offers. Within two weeks I had credit for everything and then I just had to wait for the gift card.

Not a bad deal. I did invest $73 in the memberships, trials and shipping charges which included Dr. Suess club books, two months of emusic tunes, free mineral makeup, face cream and jewelry samples.

So, $500 - $73 = $427
1 hour researching
2 hours signing up and documenting
1 hour cumulative email checking
1 hour membership management
1 hour worrying

$427 for 6 hours = $71/hr
I can live with that, since I got some cool stuff and can probably cut some of the worrying out next time since I know now it will work if done correctly...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yellowstone Vacation

We got back from our vacation a week ago. It was fabulous to get out of the heat and hang out with family for a while.

Charlotte and I drove out with my parents to Island Park, ID, near Yellowstone in a three day journey. Charlotte was a perfect passenger, enjoying Elmo and Dora videos and countless puzzles and books that filled the entire second seat. Here are just a few highlights from our week there.

Family Photo. You can see a high-res version here. This is the first time my whole family has been together in a while and we were lucky to get a group shot despite the rain. Charlotte chose this time to become a world class nose-picker.
Old Faithful. The geyser behind us is a different one, but this is a better picture.
White water rafting!
Quality cousin time.
Cool wildlife.
Helaman coming. I was so glad Helaman was able to fly out for a few days to join us. His flight was severely delayed going home and after 13 hours of travel he arrived home just in time to go to work at 6 a.m. He is a trooper!