Monday, December 29, 2008

Kitchen Bargains

Happy post-holidays to everyone!

I've been enjoying perusing all the great after-Christmas sales. Since I'm so excited about some of my finds, I wanted to share them.

This deal, I will confess, I found a few days before Christmas. Tim really wanted a grill, and saw this model at Target for $84. On the site, it runs for $188.95! I told him we probably couldn't afford it. THEN, he got hired as a restaurant cook! So I ran out on my lunch hour last week to get it for him. We made ribeyes last night and they were fantastic! (That's mostly due to his culinary skills though, but I will give the grill some credit) Unfortunately, I didn't realize how expensive propane tanks are! $60 later, I felt robbed. Thanks Blue Rhino!

Out at Big Lots, Tim and I found a Rival Seal-A-Meal unit for $32. After stopping at Sam's Club to buy a box of bulk rolls of Food Saver bags (you can use any brand) we were rolling. It works great, and we were happy that it's much cheaper than other units we've seen out and about. ($100 plus)

Tim has also really wanted a KitchenAid stand mixer. Oddly enough my aunt offered to buy us one as a wedding gift, but I told her that gifts weren't necessary. Hopefully she'll stick by my rule. Since we eloped, I did not want family or friends feeling pressured to buy or give us anything. Our parents have given us wedding gifts, and that's okay. But extended family members I hope don't feel like they need to do that.
During a one day sale last Friday, I saw this pro 600 model for $279.99. Right now on the site, it is going for $349. There is a $50 rebate, so that brings down the price to $219.99. That's the cheapest I've ever seen a KitchenAid mixer, that particular model.
It's the six quart all-metal 10-speed stand mixer with a powerful 575-watt motor. I was so psyched about finding this deal, that I spilled to Tim, even though I was hoping it would be a surprise.
The next day his mother told him she also purchased one. Apparently she's going to return it and buy us some pots and pans.

All in all, for these three items we paid $335. That's less than the regular price of just the mixer alone. I estimate that we saved about $300 with these bargain finds. I can definitely live with that. =)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

New Year's Goal?

To save money, my husband Tim has promised to quit smoking. Many Americans have a goal for the new year to stop lighting up, and many fail. While one of my coworkers is giving Chantix a shot, NicoDerm CQ is another popular option. Here's a link to get a free sample and a $7 coupon. Happy holidays and good luck with whatever resolution you may have for 2009!

All This Stuff Was Free

All of these items were FREE at CVS today. This morning I took trips to two different stores.
At the first one, I used a coupon to transfer a prescription and get a $25 gift card. I also had $50 in Extra Care Bucks. I bought about $60 worth of merchandise that was free after ECBs and used the gift card. Paid $0 out of pocket.
Since that CVS was missing a few items, I went to a second location. I stocked up on free Listerine, Right Guard deodorant, Arm & Hammer Essentials cleaner, and Complete contact solution. I attempted to use my new ECBs but the cashier had some issues and couldn't ring up $15 of them. Still, with the gift card, I paid $10.91 out of pocket... for a total of $127.60 worth of merchandise before tax.
I did have two coupons, for BeneFiber and Zantac 150, so I saved $3 on top of that, and used the overage on Hawaiian Punch and Sunkist orange soda for Tim and I.
Total ECBs earned today: $80.
Not too bad for a Sunday morning, eh?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Wedding Cost $303.50

I am now Mrs. Moore.

Tim and I had discussed wedding possibilities since we got engaged in September. Neither of us were real jazzed about having a conventional ceremony and reception.

So we went to the Pinellas County Courthouse in Florida, where we both now live, last Thursday. (That's why I've been absent from blogging the past few days) It was all that we could hope for.

Instead of spending close to $30,000 on a wedding, we spent $303.50: $111 for the license and six official notarized copies, $30 to have a Deputy Clerk perform the two-minute ceremony, and $12.50 for a commemorative paper framed portrait with the county logo on it. Awesome.

I swear, this sign really was on the door to the ceremony room.

You could say this is a bit hokey, but I'm glad we got married this way. It was simple and just the two of us.

The wedding day is supposed to celebrate the love of two people. I think we did just that.

Afterwards, we ate lunch at the beach and spent the night at a resort. (That was another $150 for both of those bringing the total to just over $300)

The next day we both moved into a rented condo that I was originally going to live in alone.

That was our honeymoon. =)

I did not realize how popular this option really is. At least three of my coworkers wed at the courthouse. Another one wants to do that with her boyfriend. (One guy said he and his now-wife were working as aerial photographers. They met at the courthouse in their flight suits, got married, went through a McDonald's drive thru, and then went back to work)

It was a little strange having a wedding without friends or family present, but since I'm a rather private person about this sort of thing, it was more comfortable for me. (Writing, not so much since it feels more anonymous somehow)

If you are engaged or comtemplating marriage, it's a route I highly recommend. No stressful planning, high costs, or complications.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Paydirt at CVS

I am extremely happy right now.

Last night I took Tim to CVS to spend some of our Extra Care Bucks. We stocked up on soda, disposable dishware (because of the move this weekend), and a few other items. The cashier was very friendly. We chatted about bargain web sites and I explained how excited I am to get to CVS for all the great deals.

Then, he made my day.

He said "We're having a really great sale the week of December 21st. I think I have the circular around here somewhere."

The cashier pulled out THE circular. And he gave it to me.

"You can have this one," he said.

Tim and I took our purchases outside and I just sat in the car in disbelief. I had the CIRCULAR for a sale weeks from now at CVS. And the deals ARE good.

So I want to share them with you. There are lots of free items after ECB deals! Happy shopping!

These deals are good Sunday, Dec. 21 and Monday, Dec. 22 only.

Listerine Antiseptic 16.9 oz - $2.99 - Free after $2.99 in ECBs (limit 5)

Sally Hansen Lacquer Shine nail color - $5.99 - Free after $5.99 in ECBs (limit 2)

L'Oreal HIP Metallic eye shadow duos - $6.99 - Free after $6.99 in ECBs (limit 2)

ThermaCare neck to arm heatwrap - $2.49 - Free after $2.49 in ECBs (limit 3)

Right Guard Professional Strength solid 1.8 oz or aerosol deodorant 6 oz - $6.00 - Free after $6.00 in ECBs (limit 5)

Zipfizz energy mix 3 ct - $5.99 - Free after $5.99 in ECBs (limit 1)

Excedrin Express Gels 20 ct - $3.99 - Free after $3.99 in ECBs (limit 1)

Alteril Sleep Aid 30 ct - $9.99 - Free after $9.99 in ECBs (limit 1)

Halls Naturals 25 ct - $2.59 - Free after $2.59 in ECBs (limit 1)

EAS AdvantEdge bar 2.11 oz - $1.69 - Free after $1.69 in ECBs (limit 1)

Zantac 150 8 ct - $4.99 - Free after $4.99 in ECBs (limit 1)

EAS AdvantEdge shake 4 pk. - $7.49 - Free after $7.49 in ECBs (limit 1)

Benefiber drink mix 16 ct. - $7.29 - Free after $7.29 in ECBs (limit 1)

Iceland Health Joint Relief 60 ct - $29.99 - Free after $29.99 in ECBs (limit 1)

Slimquik 2 pk. - $4.99 - Free after $4.99 in ECBs (limit 1)

Sleepinal 32 ct - $8.49 - Free after $8.49 in ECBs (limit 5)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Liquor On The Cheap

We now have 14 bottles of something called Kohala Bay Dark Rum, imported from Jamaica in our pantry. This afternoon I asked Tim if he could try and get me some empty boxes from Gateway Liquor. I've done that before. Liquor stores usually have a stash of nice, sturdy boxes for desperate movers like myself.

About an hour later, he sent me a text that said, "They're out of boxes, but will save some for us. We're also getting a housewarming discount."


Tim is a pretty big talker, and seems to attract anyone and everyone into conversation. When he went to the store, he spent some time chatting with the owner and telling him about the move. So the guy offered him an entire case of 750 mL bottles for $76. And he threw in an extra two bottles for free. We have no idea how much this stuff goes for, but cheap bottles seem to be about $12 each. So that much alcohol retails for about $168 -- about a 55% discount.

Tim always surprises me with just how nice people are to him when he simply talks to them.

The moral of the story?

Giving someone a few minutes of your time and attention can be very worthwhile.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Thrifty Gift Idea

This year, I decided to take things easy when it comes to shopping for Christmas gifts for my parents. My folks are divorced, and my mother has remarried. They are all in their 50s and 60s, and do not need another knick knack, sweater, or kitchen gadget. I'm the same way, and I'm only 26! We've mostly been exchanging checks or gift cards.

So I ordered Entertainment books for both my mom and step dad, and dad. They all love to eat out. I've owned my own for about four years now, and they ALWAYS pay for themselves many times over. Most of the coupons are for 50% off or buy one get one free, whether it's for a dinner entree or a park admission.

I have the St. Petersburg/Clearwater edition and it has fast food to formal restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters, local attractions such as Sea World, even coupons for dry cleaning and oil changes. The book is never far away from me. The laundry and dry cleaning discounts can help you save hundreds of dollars a year if you have nicer attire that can't go in the washing machine, or just don't feel like doing laundry.

If you go out to eat once a week, you can save $6-$15 off your bill each time. That's a savings of $312 to $780 alone... all for an initial purchase of a $20-$30 discount book. You can also go to and book discounted rental cars, or print out MORE restaurant coupons.

Entertainment books are great gift ideas, and right now they're having a $10 off and free shipping promotion. I've put a link to the site below if anyone is interested in ordering a book for themselves or for a stocking stuffer! Why not help someone save some of their hard earned dollars this holiday season?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Operation Phone Home

As we are in the thick of the holiday season, I encourage you all to think of others -- particularly troops overseas. Active military members are stationed everywhere from Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, and Korea.

For three years I lived in El Paso, Texas... home of Fort Bliss. During my time there I got to know many Army men and women -- many who had been deployed to Iraq or were training to go there. One friend, Chris, specifically asked me to send him magazines, DVDs and baked goods. He would write emails to family and friends back stateside about his challenges and life in the Middle East. The guy seemed pretty lonely at times, missing everyone.

During their off time, Chris said he would read, watch movies, and attempt to use the unreliable internet service. It was hot, dusty, and foreign.

I found an organization that sends pre-paid phone cards to soldiers, that they can use to call loved ones. If you're looking for a way to support our troops this holiday season, consider Operation Phone Home. With a $15, a soldier can talk on the phone for 45 minutes. That's a small amount to give to someone who gives so much to you. Please consider making a $15, $20, $40, $60, or $100 donation to USO. Thanks and Happy Holidays! If you'd like to do so, click on the link below.


(FYI, this is a real organization and is backed by the Better Business Bureau. And don't forget, donations are tax deductible!)

Not Quite Recovered

This morning I woke up early, so I decided to write down some of my Thanksgiving weekend thoughts.

My fiance Tim finally met my Dad. I think he likes Tim more than me. Dad showed Tim his rifle collection, insisted he ride up front with him on the way to dinner, and told him more about his Navy days than he's ever told the rest of the family. (Apparently Dad once kicked a shark in the nose in the Bahamas)

While other Americans were in Vietnam, my father was deep sea fishing in the Keys and in the Caribbean. Not a bad route to go.

My grandfather had a little "side business" during retirement. Living near a number of golf courses, he would collect discarded balls. He'd then clean them, put them in egg cartons by the dozen, and resell them. I remember seeing that handmade sign out by the road of their house as a child. When he became too inactive, Dad took over the tradition.

He taught our old black lab "Blackie" to retrieve golf balls to help with the venture. What I didn't know is that Dad has gotten himself out of a few situations with golf course owners and managers. Or that he wears camouflage hunting gear to go out "balling" and he'll go to great lengths not to get caught.

According to him, he's known as the Ball Hocker.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Just wanted to wish all of you a happy and safe holiday this Thanksgiving! Whether you're going to be spending the day with friends and family, working, or flying solo I hope you have a great one!

In honor of this special time, I found a special offer to send out free e-cards to those you care about. I sent out a few fun animated ones to coworkers and the good thing about My Fun Cards is that you don't have to register, there are more than 1,000 to choose from, and they're totally free.

If you'd like to send out your own personalized e-card, here's the link:


Enjoy some turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce!

New Year's Challenge 2009

Wealth does not always come from income, but from the way money is handled. I am not rich and I do not make six figures. However, I am in better financial shape than many people who appear much wealthier than myself. When a paycheck comes in, I can spend it frivolously or unwisely... or make the most of what I have.

Some background information about me: my fiance Tim is currently looking for a job. He has significant student loans that will start repayment in a few months. We cannot both live off of my salary and it's a hard reality fo face. I mean, if I was single, I wouldn't really have to scrutinize my situation at all. But until Tim finds work, I really need to not spend any unnecessary funds. He's my partner-to-be and we both need to work together to get through these difficult times.

Tomorrow CVS is having a really great sale (yes on Thanksgiving) with quite a few free items after Extra Care Bucks rewards. I want to go, and many of the items are essentials that I purchase frequently... But... there will be temptation to purchase free stuff that we will not use (ie: makeup products, 5 Hour Energy, toys) Not to mention the fact that it would mean getting up at 5:30 a.m. So we'll see if I end up there or not.

There are a few electronics that I've been eyeing. One is an ultraportable laptop. This one in particular... (The ASUS EEE PC 901) It's so cute and little, and is in the cheaper realm of computers at around $350.

My own computer is on its last legs and I would love to use some of my tax refund next year to buy one. However, Tim has two Sony Vaio's both in good condition. I will make due using his.

In our office, coworkers and I have been checking out a nifty Audiovox Digital Photo Frame / Message Board. It's really cool. At Best Buy it's $130. This afternoon I discovered it online for $70 plus $8.95 shipping. Part of me was drawn to the idea of ordering it for my mom and stepfather. It's such a great price! But is it? You can put photos and a dry erase board on the fridge for a lot less than $78.95!

My goal for 2009 is to consciously spend wisely instead of thoughtlessly buying things I think I need, but really don't.

Here's what I'm going to do: whenever I'm considering a large purchase (something non-essential over $20) I will NOT buy the item when I would normally. Instead, I will post it on here, and YOU will tell me if I should buy it or not. Your comments will be my consumer conscience. Please help me in this ambitious process of becoming a better spender and saving more money. Thank you guys and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Trippin' At CVS

Yesterday I made out like a bandit at CVS.

While browsing online in the morning, I caught the online circular, which advertised these deals:

Buy 1 Maybelline Mineral Power Liquid Foundation at $8.99, Get $8.99 ECBs (Limit 1) Free after ECBs

Buy 1 Complete Multi-Purpose Solution (12 oz.) at $8.99, Get $8.99 ECBs (Limit 1) Free after ECBs

Buy 1 Right Guard Professional Strength Deodorant (solid 1.8 oz. or aerosol 6 oz.) at $7.99, Get $7 ECBs (Limit 5) $0.99 after ECBs

Buy 1 Crest Pro-Health Whitening Toothpaste (4.2 oz.) at $3.49, Get $3.49 ECBs (Limit 2)

Tim had just mentioned how he was running out of contact solution, so I decided to act. Usually when I get to CVS it's on a Tuesday or a Thursday, and all the good merchandise has been picked over. Of course, the free items are out of stock by that time.

So this time I went early on Sunday morning around 10:20 a.m. Armed with a $1 ECB and a .75 coupon for the toothpaste.

Here's what I bought:

*1 Maybelline Mineral Powder Liquid Foundation (I use one bottle foundation for under the eyes and on blemishes and my current one needed to be thrown out)

*2 bottles of the contact solution

*2 cans of the aerosol deodorant

*2 tubes of the toothpaste

*500 pack of generic CVS cotton swabs for $3.19

My total was $55 and I got $47 back in Extra Care Bucks. With the store card, customers can use ECBs like cash for everything except alcohol, tobacco, gift cards, prescriptions and a few other items. In the store, I also snagged a coupon to get a $25 gift card with a transferred prescription. I do have one, so next time I refill it I'll just bring it back to CVS from Target (where I got a $30 gift card for transferring it to that store).

Currently I have about $45 in Target cards and $47 in CVS ECBs. Hopefully in a few weeks, I'll also have that $25 CVS gift card. That's more than $100 to spend at the two stores. I'm trying to think of staples, things that I need, to spend this money on. Holiday gifts? Groceries? Household items? I am moving in a few weeks and could use a new trash can, closet organizers, cleaning supplies, and dinnerware -- as right now I'm using my room mate's dishes.

Over the next few weeks I'm definitely going to be scouring the ads for ECB deals on stuff I really need and for great sales at Target to use the gift cards on. Any suggestions?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Weekend And Beyond

It's been a relaxing weekend so far. I've stayed home, eaten leftovers, and watched almost the entire season of 30 Rock.

Tim made a leg of lamb earlier in the week and I've been picking away at that ever since. It's delicious. I've had it with potatoes, in a sandwich, and with A1 steak sauce.

Did some laundry, and today I need to make some phone calls, and work a little bit on a project.

It feels so good to get things accomplished, especially since Tim and I are going to Buffalo this week to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. I'm also hoping to see some old friends if our schedules work out.

I hope this trip isn't too stressful. In the past few years I've come to despise airports and flying. I'd much rather drive if I'm able to, but since I live in Florida there's no way I can efficiently road trip to New York state.

What are you doing for the holidays? Are you looking forward to it or do you find yourself anxious about it?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wheeling & Dealing

Yesterday my fiance and I ate lunch at a fancy steakhouse for a total of $24.60 (including tip) and we got steak, prime rib, calamari, and sodas.

How, you ask?

I purchased three $25 certificates to local restaurants for $2 each. Frequently, the site has promotional deals if you sign up for alerts to get discounts. Usually $25 certificates are $10. There are restrictions, but if you plan enough, it's not a big deal. (ie: must have a minimum $35 tab excluding alcohol, must have two or more in your party, not valid on holidays, etc.)

My credit card is through Citi, and there's a great rewards program called the Thank You Network. I go there all the time and if you link to other sites through the Thank You Network, you get bonus points. Whenever you purchase anything from you get 15 (yes FIFTEEN) pounts for EVERY dollar you spend.

If you purchase an Entertainment book through the Thank You Network's link, you get 21 points per dollar spent on the book. Since mine was 20 dollars, that's 420 points right there.

Through the Thank You Network I've cashed my points in so far for a $330 plane ticket and three $100 retail store gift cards. I've had the card for two years.

Today I went to Target on my lunch break. I received coupons in the mail to get a $10 gift card for a new or transferred prescription and a $20 gift card if you signed up for the Pharmacy Rewards program. (I'm still not exactly sure what that is) I did have to open yet another Target credit card but I walked out with $30 worth of Target gift cards for only buying a $9 prescription that I would have to purchase regardless.

Because I was hungry, I did stop at the Target snack area and got the hot dog/soda combo for $2.68. Much cheaper than a McDonald's meal and I did not have to make an extra stop. I love store snack shops. When I was a little girl our local Kmart had a restaurant in it that I liked to eat at. I've often munched on a double cheeseburger from the McD's inside Wal-Marts as I strolled down the aisles late at night.

Sam's Club is my favorite. There's a great deal for $2.50 which includes a HUGE slice of pizza and a monster drink. I like to grab something on Saturday afternoons when Tim (my dude) and I are stocking up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Free Betty Crocker Coupons

Recently, I've become a coupon hawk and have found that there are plenty online to be had!

Betty Crocker

Betty Crocker just came out with a great new offer that you'll want to take advantage of if you like their baking products. Sign up for the Betty Crocker email newsletter by clicking on the image above and you'll receive a free $10 coupon booklet in the mail! I love these types of offers; who would turn down free coupons?!

I checked out the web site and there are tons of yummy looking recipes and even video tutorials on how to make different things like castle cakes and other fun stuff.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Stupidity At Its Finest

I'm a huge Suze Orman watcher and personal finance book enthusiast. Every Sunday morning I watch the previous evening's show that I've DVR'd . This most recent episode definitely takes the case for shock value.

The first guest Dawn was from California. She and her husband make a combined $9,000 a month, but have living expenses totalling $19,000. They have more than $230,000 in CREDIT CARD DEBT. That's more than doctors have in student loans from medical school! When Tim and I heard that number, our jaws both dropped. Tim was so disturbed by that, he had to excuse himself to have a cigarette. I was incredulous. More information on Dawn: her family bought a home for more than $300,000 and now have a mortgage and home equity loans for $900,000.

Dawn loves vacations and openly admitted a jewelry addiction. She'd sent in a home video of her remodeled lavish home that she and her husband have no right in owning. She has a 7 year old daughter who has no idea mommy and daddy are lying about their lifestyle.

Suze's advice to Dawn was to 1) sell the home immediately with everything in it 2) move into a small 2 bedroom apartment 3) she and her husband should both get second jobs 4) paying off creditors as quickly as possible 5) saving up more money and eventually buying another home they can afford.

Dawn's reaction "I don't think that's gonna happen. I'm not ready to give this up."

This woman also seemed to think that having an upside-down home she can't afford is better than paying off the credit card debt.

What a moron. That's really all I have to say.

Although I have to add that we've all made financial mistakes, but that we need to own our decisions and the consequences.

My student loans are particularly a sore spot for me. I should not have student loans anymore. From 2000-2004 I attended a small private college which cost about $10,000 per year including tuition, room and board. My parents are divorced and my father helped me out every year.

Here's where I went wrong. Because I received financial aid, I only needed to borrow $6,000 to $8,000 per year in loans. However, my father would write me a check for 4-5,000 as a gift. Really, I should have taken out a loan for $2-3,000 per year. Instead, I maxed out my student loan allotment and used the money from Dad to live on. Was I careful with it? Yes and no.

Since age 16, I worked as an office clerk at an engineering company. My first wage was $5.25 an hour. During summers through college I had temp jobs at a bank headquarters, as a waitress, and interning at a TV station in West Virginia while working at a dry cleaners. My checking account had a healthy balance at all times from then until now.

Thinking back, I could have lived quite a bit more frugally. I made quite a few trips to the mall to pick up nice clothes, bought electronics like fancy cameras, and ate out more than I should have. Had I saved that money and taken out less in student loans I would be debt free today. My college buddies all thought I was comfortable, as I always had cash for Eat 'N Park and going out to Ben's on Thursday nights. At one point, my ex-boyfriend saw that I had $11,000 in my checking account and saw me as a gift horse. I have no idea where all that money went. That scares me.

If I could give myself a grade on money management in my teens and early 20s it would be a B- . My student loans are pretty manageable, even though out of college I paid $300 a month which is difficult for someone making $1600 a month. I really should have taken about $15,000 in loans instead of $30,000. Last year I was able to net $15,000 with the condo sale so that leaves me now with $8,000 left to go. Imagine if I had only taken out $15,000 in loans. I'd be out of debt. Hindsight really is 20/20.

Lucky for me, my debt is manageable and the payments are well within my budget. Dawn's is much more serious. Dawn, you need a reality check. You need to listen to Suze.

Suze, just to let you know, my favorite food is also hot dogs.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Those Sneaky Drug Makers!

For most of my life, I've felt very self conscious about my face. The rest of my body has this great, soft, perfect skin... But my face is another story. Since college, acne has wreaked havoc on my appearance.

In the past few years I've seen two dermatologists. The first one was a total crook. He tried to sell me obscenely expensive skincare products in his office. The first time I fell for it. I bought a "specially medicated facial soap" for $26 from him. A month later I found the exact same soap for $8.95 on a dermatology products web site. When I slyly asked him whether I could purchase "his" soap online, he told me I could not because it was manufactured special for his office. Liar... (Note: I ordered one of the other bottles online and the ingredients were the same)

The same guy tried to prescribe me Tazorac cream, but my old employers' insurance was not great and it would have cost $150. No thanks.

A year later, I moved to a different state and saw a new dermatologist. He's fantastic. He also prescribed Tazorac cream (You apply it at bedtime. I'm not sure what's in it, it does cause some flakiness, but it sure did clear up my skin) On my new insurance plan, Tazorac was $20.

One year after that, which was a month ago, I noticed the return of the zits. So I called up the same doctor and he called in another prescription for me. The price was the same. The tubes look identical -- except for one thing. Tazorac tubes went from 60 grams to 30 grams. Nice!

It's interesting how I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't still had the old tube. Apparently even pharmaceutical companies are trying to squeeze every penny out of us. Gee, I never would have considered that before.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Not Keanu Reeves' Matrix

Lately, I've read quite a few articles and lists of Best Cars for Fuel Efficiency. Usually the Toyota Prius makes the rankings... But my car is never on these lists. I have no idea why.

Several months ago, my Ford ZX2 was totaled. Panicked with only two days to find and purchase a new car I went to the Toyota dealership. I negotiated a 2008 Toyota Matrix with power locks, windows, and cruise control for about $15,600 plus tax and title fees. (Note: I saw a 2007 model with 28k miles on it going for $17,986 on Craigslist, another 2006 model with 26k went for $16,999)

Originally I'd wanted a used vehicle, but with so little time to research and shop around I couldn't risk buying a lemon. Plus, my insurance company gave me much more for my car than what I would get for it in a private sale. Along with a generous gift from my father, and using part of my savings, I managed to put down about $10,000 on a brand new car.

The Matrix has been my mode of transportation for more than six months and I have to say: I LOVE IT. The gas mileage comes close to 40 mpg highway. The wagon/SUV crossover is built on a Corolla chassis. The Corolla constantly makes most reliable and best car lists. Unlike the Corolla, the Matrix has a lot more room inside! The backseat folds down and you can transport smaller pieces of furniture. The back is also plastic instead of cloth, making for easy clean-up.

The drivers seat is a bit higher up, giving me that SUV type feel. Since purchasing the car, I've noticed quite a few Matrix's on the road, which makes me smile.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Two Thumbs Up For $2.99 Wine

About a month ago, several Aldi stores opened in the Tampa Bay area. The last time I was at an Aldi's was in college. The chain prides itself on very low prices, with streamline operations with cashiers, but no baggers because customers must bring their own bags or boxes. Getting a cart at the store requires a quarter deposit to encourage shoppers to return them to corrals.

Tim and I stopped by after looking at some very interesting foreclosed homes. This includes one in a rather shady neighborhood. Hoodlums had kicked in the door several times and left spray paint messages. We spotted a few crack pipes inside and someone had actually left their weave on the front steps. Seriously?

Anyways, on the way back home we stopped at Aldi. Along with lunch meat, bread, chocolate eclairs, and flour we spotted Winking Owl brand wine. I'd never heard of it before but it cost $2.99 a bottle. I picked up merlot and shiraz. The merlot is good. It doesn't taste like typical cheap vino. Winking Owl honestly tasted as good as $25-$35 bottles I've had in the past few months. Tim thought it was better than the $5.99 wine we also bought at Aldi.

I'm excited to try the shiraz, and the cabernet sauvignon, which the store did not have while we were there. In other good news, another new Aldi store opened up even closer to my apartment!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Most of you have probably perused Craigslist at one time or another. I've used it numerous times to get an apartment or a roommate. Two of those experiences have been decent for me in the roommate department.

What is Craigslist, if you don't already know?

The service was founded in 1995 by Craig Newmark for the San Francisco Bay Area. After incorporation as a private for-profit company in 1999, Craigslist expanded into nine more U.S. cities in 2000, four each in 2001 and 2002, and 14 in 2003. As of September 2007, Craigslist has established itself in approximately 450 cities in 50 countries.

Basically the site offers free or cheap classified ads, for real estate, furniture, stuff, jobs, and personals.

I remember back in the day when Craigslist was only in "big" cities like D.C. Eventually CL even expanded to the city I used to live in, El Paso.

For used items, Craigslist rules. I've bought my couch on the site. Most recently... a Select Comfort Sleep Number bed.

This mattress retails in a queen size anywhere from $1600 - $2200. For what's really a very fancy air bed. So when I searched CL, and discovered a 5000 model that claimed to be in "excellent condition" and six months old for $500 I jumped at it. I called Heidi and asked if she'd take $450. She accepted. This woman told me she worked at a tattoo shop and would have her brother take apart the bed, then pick her up to deliver it to me. Interesting. She lived in Palm Harbor, which is north of where I live in St. Petersburg. This was at 5 p.m.

In the meantime, I went in search of Lysol to disinfect the mattress, a good mattress cover (since it was a used mattress after all) and some queen sized sheets. First, I stopped at a Sears Essentials store. For a year now, I'd thought it was some kind of Sears furniture outlet. It is not. Apparently it used to be a Kmart and has kept the same type of store items. But... the store is closing in January so it will be liquidating inventory soon. The sheets were rather expensive for the cheap quality, and the mattress covers were $30. I passed on those. There was some Lysol priced at $2.79 but when I checked out at the register - discovered it was on sale mysteriously for $1.81. Not bad.

Next stop: TJ Maxx, where I procured hotel style striped 350 thread count chocolate brown sateen sheets for $29.99. This store did not have any mattress covers.

Since Target was in the same shopping plaza, I ended up there and bought a Rival 6-cup rice cooker for $12.99 and a mattress cover for $29.99. Just can't win on the mattress cover.

Rushing home, I didn't want to miss Heidi's arrival. It was now 6:15 p.m. My fiance Tim was at home breaking apart and storing whole chickens and an entire pork loin we'd found at Sams Club.

I decided to call Heidi. Somehow she'd ended up near Eckerd College, which is 15 minutes south of where I live... Hmm...

So Tim and I waited as he cooked grouper, pasta, and a balsamic tomato sauce. When supper was ready, I gave her another call. She was almost here!

Five minutes later: she had accidentally gotten onto the Howard Frankland Bridge ie: I-275 to Tampa. Uh oh.. She had to turn around.

Tim and I ate dinner.

Heidi, her brother, and her brother's girlfriend arrived around 9 p.m. They quickly brought up all of the parts for the mattress. Some of the foam pieces to be inserted were ripped but still usable. The air pump had some nicks on it. Six months old my ass, Tim and I thought. The pillowtop mattress cover was dirty. I Lysol'ed the heck out of it and after we put the mattress together, I immediately zippered up the waterproof cover from Target. That was a good purchase!

Still, I couldn't believe that someone from this area would have this much trouble getting to my address, which is in a fairly central location. AND they had a GPS. Seriously?

In order to defray the cost of this pricey mattress, which is, I might add, comfortable to the tune of $450 but certainly not $1600, I decided to sell some items on Craigslist.

  • Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit, & Guitar Hero III with wireless controller - $375
  • My old 8" memory foam mattress - $50
  • A Panasonic 19" TV/VCR combo - $20

The day I placed these ads, I sold the TV. The guy was a new dad/family man type who wanted a junk television for their patio. He had little trouble getting to my apartment.

One day later, another man was all set to come to look at the Nintendo Wii items. I was at work, so I asked Tim to meet up with him. That seemed to go alright, except for the fact that the guy had questions about the system and I wasn't answering the phone so Tim had to stall... He set up the Wii for this potential buyer, and he ended up staying at our house for an hour and a half. He did buy everything though.

That evening a guy named Ray was going to come check out the mattress. He had told me it was for a female friend who had just moved to Clearwater. Ray had a Sarasota area code on his phone, and he was incredibly hard to understand. He made little to no sense, and was honestly pretty weird. We made arrangements for him and his "friend"? to come to our house around 7 p.m.

At approximately 8:45, Ray called to say that they were on their way. At 9:15 he called again to say that he, too, had accidentally gotten onto the bridge to Tampa. If a driver passes my complex they have no choice but to get on I-275 to Tampa. However, this is very obvious and there are signs everywhere. Ray also sounded strung out on... Something. Drugs? Beer? I'm not quite sure but at this point, I felt uncomfortable with the idea of this weird person coming to my house at 9:30 at night. I told him this and he still kept trying to keep me on the phone to give him directions. I'm selling a mattress, not offering the services of Mapquest.

Now, I've gotten lost before like anyone else. But if I'm going somewhere, typically before I leave I make sure to look up where I'm going and familiarize myself with the area via Google Maps. I don't understand how these people can get so utterly lost. I mean, they were intelligent enough to be able to find an item they were looking for on Craigslist and know how to generally work a computer. Why does it take them four times as long as it should to get to a nearby location???

Since the mattress was still unsold, a man named Joe made it to the apartment the night after the Ray debacle, and he needed absolutely no help with directions. When I got home from work I found him standing outside my building. He needed the mattress because he was in the process of getting a divorce and gave his soon to be ex-wife the one they shared. He seemed nice enough and at least was not a moron. He paid cash and before leaving, wished Tim and I the best in our marriage as his case should not discourage us.

At least he got a great deal on the memory foam mattress that he'll be sleeping alone on.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


It took me forever to figure out what this was... after seeing this ad, and hearing it on the radio... What do you think it is?

Hot Apartment Deal

I found a new apartment for an amazing price. It's half condominium half apartment. Right now there is a special that lands the rent at LESS than what I am paying now in a two bedroom two bath with a roommate.

The 1 bedroom 1 bath apartment is 515 square feet, with a washer and dryer in the unit and a cool kitchen island. The price is $675. There was an option of a renovated model with granite countertops, new stainless steel appliances, and a nicer bathroom. I toured both the standard and renovated models, and the newer one was beautiful. However, when it all comes down to it -- I don't need it. I can use the extra hundred dollars I would have spent on it to pay down my car or student loan instead.

Just so you know, I will not pay $675. The complex is having a special where the third month is completely free, and the next six months after that slash one hundred dollars off each month. With my calculations, rent will come out around $600. That is what I am paying now. It is next to impossible to find an apartment that cheap in a good complex with a washer and dryer in the unit. Plus I will have privacy and freedom that I don't have now living with a rather interesting roommate. I have not lived alone in some time, and I miss it.

The one I have locked in will be getting new carpeting and is on the ground floor. I'm not particularly fond of stairs. AND residents are allowed to paint! As long as it's a neutral color, they don't have to paint it back. I'm excited about that! Perhaps I'll do that if the walls are white.
My move in date is December 12th. I took off that Friday and Monday from work to make things easier for myself to get settled in the new place. I feel this is a very good move because the apartment will have my own touch in it rather than someone else's. No doing laundry at the laundry center either! There's even a small patio with storage, and I'd like to put a small grill out there.
Mmmm. Steak.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

$2.99 Gas Is A Dream Come True

On Friday, I loaded up my Toyota Matrix to spend the weekend with Tim. He lives in Miami and has come to spend every weekend with me since he's moved here. He seemed to appreciate not having to drive four hours each way, for once.

When I stopped for gas in Sarasota at my favorite Race Trac, I paid $3.49. Not at bad price at the time.

Then, as we drove around Miami and the surrounding areas I noticed that gas was around $3.39. What? Miami being cheaper than Sarasota? It seemed odd.

On the way home I realized why. Returning to the Race Trac, the prices had lowered to $3.25. Yes, $3.25. It was quite a shock. Not that I'd been keeping up with current events though...

Today, there are gas stations in the Tampa Bay area offering $2.99 prices.

I cannot believe it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

...Elated to Finally Get My Turn!

Okay, so I've been tagged by Science Girl to write a post. This is the first time that I've been tagged by anyone, and I am psyched. Someone actually loves me!

Here are the rules:

So here are 6 Random Things About Me.
  1. My fingernails naturally grow freakishly long. I am too lazy to get manicures or cut my nails, so they are usually at least an inch past my fingertips. I hardly ever paint my nails or really care. To my credit, they are nice.
  2. I like anime. Used to wake up at 6:30 a.m. before school just so I could watch Sailor Moon episodes. In college, a friend got me hooked on Kodomo No Omocha. It's a very odd series about a young child TV star in Japan. She had a formerly homeless caretaker/babysitter. For years she referred to this man as her "pimp" even though she had no idea what it meant. Her mother was a famous author who always wore extremely strange hats.
  3. My best friend and I used to hold all night Monopoly marathons. We modified the rules so that neither of us would lose and the game would never end. We'd also "save" the game keeping track of where our playing pieces were and how much money we had. Frequently the bank ran out of money. What fun.
  4. I'm adopted and honestly, don't have much interest in finding my "real parents"
  5. I have a white and gray mouse. Her name is Mars. (After Veronica Mars) It was a random impulse purchase. Yes, I was at PetSmart and I didn't have a pet at the time. Now I do.
  6. Tina Fey is so beautiful I have a girl crush on her.

Okay then... I am tagging:

David, Babba Gi, Matt, Sarah, Margy, Jonathan

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cheap or Just Plain Clever?

I am pretty excited about this week.

On Thursday, I have an appointment for a very long overdue haircut. At the Aveda Institute in St. Petersburg, the prices are incredible. $12 for a haircut. $35 for a relaxing facial. $40 for an hour long massage. The services are performed by students, and in my experience, they are just as good as anybody else. Especially since they'll be working in a salon that charges triple those prices in six months.

I hate paying full price. For anything.

Growing up, my family didn't have extra money to eat out at nice restaurants, take vacations, or buy designer clothes.

Out of my entire family, I'm one of a handful who went to college.

This is the first time in my life that I have what you'd call "disposable income." Now that I'm in this position, with the economy the way it is, I want to save as much money as I can.

Right out of school, my first job paid (take home pay) the equivalent of about $9.00 an hour. Miraculously I was able to buy a condominium on that salary. Renting one of the bedrooms made this option cheaper than having an apartment. The only upgrade to the place I made was installing mirrors above the bathroom sinks and putting in toilet paper holders. In the two years I owned the condo, the value jumped close to 35% based on the price I sold it for in May of 2007.
I've also managed to conquer my student loans. They used to be close to $30,000. Now, I only have $8,127.54 to go. Much of that progress came thanks to the profit made from the condo sale.

I do have to set aside money every paycheck for my bi-annual car insurance premium and that kind of sucks.

In my current position, I'm making considerable more money and am finally trying to save up some money in an emergency fund. It's going slower than I anticipated though. Why is it that no matter how much money you make, it's always hard to save?

While many of my coworkers are living a comfortable life in the Tampa Bay area, I still sometimes feel like a college student.

I eat off of the dollar value menu at McDonald's a lot. I hate paying more than $30 for a pair of shoes. One pair of boots I own retailed for $200. I got them for $19.99.

My guy recently commented on the lack of furniture in my apartment. It's true. I have a hard time buying large ticket items sometimes. Although I do admit that I have a weakness for electronics, like a Nintendo Wii and an LCD TV.

On most days, I try to stick to a daily food budget of $5 give or take. This is not as difficult as it sounds. It does involve making sandwiches to bring to work, eating leftovers, drive-thru windows and the like. Lately I do find myself eating out more than I should, racking up the food bill quickly...

Priceline has become an ally of mine. For Thanksgiving I'm going to visit my parents in Buffalo. I got a great deal at $18 a day for the rental car. In a week and a half I'm going to Miami. Booked a three and a half star hotel with a bid for $40 a day. Woo hoo! On the hotel's web site, the cheapest room is $139 a night, and on discount sites rooms go for $120. Score another one for me!

So now my goal is to keep contributing to my emergency fund. I'd like to have at least 8-10 months of living expenses. When I get my tax refund, that's where that money is going.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's Like Hanukkah

Every year at work, the company (a TV station) celebrates its anniversary with a 9 day celebration. It reminds me quite a bit of the Jewish celebration Hanukkah. And yes, there are presents. Each employee receives raffle tickets to enter drawings to win items like an iPod shuffle, a blender, air mattress, and the like. The winners will be announced tomorrow.

So far it's gone like this...

Day 1 "Gift Day" - Came into the office, and coworkers inform me that I'll never guess in a ten million years what is in my mailbox. They were right. It was a pizza cutter with the station logo on it. A pizza cutter.

Day 2 "Pizza Day" - Sensing a theme? Two deliveries arrived throughout the day at 11:30 and 4:45. Two meals covered! Luckily, the pies were already sliced so we did not have to use the pizza cutters.

Day 3 "Shirt Day" - Employees got to go to HR to pick up new logoed pique polo shirts. I got a size small. The shirts are white. When I took mine out of the plastic bag, I discovered that the underarm seam was destroyed on one side. So I exchanged it for another one. This one has a tiny stain on it, but I soaked it with my Tide stain stick pen. Hopefully it will be okay. The shirt is white. We are being encouraged to wear them tomorrow on Casual Friday. Perhaps I'll wear a colorful bra underneath? On second thought, no.

Tomorrow is Day 4 "Raffle Day" and I would very much like the blender or the air mattress.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Functioning on McD's

Something you might not know about me is that back in the day (high school) I would routinely eat five Big Mac sandwiches at McDonald's.

I'm not kidding.


At the time, there was a special promotion going on in which they were only 99 cents, so much more cost effective than doing that now.

At a height of 5'2" weighing in at 85 lbs. I wasn't unlike Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas the competitive eater.

My senior year of high school I was in the work study program. I'd already collected most of the credits to graduate. In the morning I took classes and in the afternoon I worked as an office clerk at PCB Piezotronics (they make sensors) in Depew, NY making minimum wage. I was so proud of that job. It was my first taste of independence and making my own money and driving my Dad's old car - a teal '93 Ford Escort station wagon. Those cars sure were everywhere in Western New York, let me tell you.

Unfortunately, I did not get to taste lunch at school. My schedule did not have room for a lunch period. If memory recalls correctly, my last class ended at 12:30 and I had to work from 1-5 p.m. Most days I would stop at McD's for a quick bite to eat. On a few occasions, I stooped to eating beef jerky while driving to the office. Breakfasts consisted of an entire large bag of Cheddar Bacon potato skin chips and a can of soda.

I was so into soda that I started a side business at school selling cans to classmates for 75 cents out of my locker. The vending machines at Lancaster High School would not turn on until after the school day was over to promote healthier choices. That meant monopoly for me! Every Sunday I would scour ads looking for the cheapest Pepsi or Coca-Cola soda, then would literally stock up and fill the trunk of the Escort. Since I grew up outside Buffalo, NY it was cold for the majority of the school year. When I brought a 12 pack into school, it was chilled and ready for sales. The cheaper the price, the higher the profit margin for me. By the end of the year I had about $300 in quarters, and that was after paying myself in soda. Not bad for a hobby that took up a few minutes of time each day plus shopping that I did anyways.

Those junk food memories are good to look back on and smile. At the end of my senior year, I still weighed about the same. How did that happen?

This week has been a bit of a flashback. Due to the Republican National Convention, I've been working 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. On the way to work, I've been stopping at McDonald's and getting the Happy Hour $1 iced coffee and chicken McNuggets. On the way home last night, I stopped there again to get a few items off the dollar menu. And earlier in the week, I took advantage of the 2 sausage egg McMuffin sandwiches for $2 deal.

Today will be a break from that though! This afternoon, we have a dining story shoot at a very nice steak house. Hopefully we will get to sample some of the fare. Definitely a good change of pace from my McD's diet.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day

I like NOT working on Labor Day.

This has been yet another oddly weird week.
  • Sarah Palin - the relatively unknown Governor of Alaska is tapped by McCain
  • Gustav makes landfall in Louisiana
  • Somehow a group of anonymous girls ended up at a baseball stadium at 4 a.m.
  • My friend had a bounce house at her surprise birthday party
  • I'll never get seven hours of my life back spent at a certain crappy event in which complete morons asked me a string of pointless questions
  • Today's fortune cookie read: "Your spirit of adventure leads you down an exciting new path"... and for once, I believe it!

The past few months have meant turning point after turning point for me. Nothing's the same. Everything continues to change. I'm definitely not the same.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rich or Middle-Class?

Newsweek has an article written by Daniel Gross titled "Sorry, Pal, You're Rich" addressing the question of whether a $250,000 per year salary makes the earner middle-class or wealthy.

Apparently only 35% of people rolled by CNBC believed that a 250 K income qualified a household for elite rich status.

Keep in mind, the median household income in this nation for 2007 was $50,223.

$250,000 is five times that number. Only 1.9% of U.S. households have an income greater than that amount.

Barack Obama has promised to scale back tax cuts for people making more than $250,000, and now the business class is griping that people who make that much aren't rich, especially around metropolitan areas such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

Now, let's break this all down...

For 2008, the federal tax brackets for a single person (keep in mind, there's a rather complicated gradual calculation) are roughly 30%. Let's say you live in New York City where there is a state income tax of 8.14% and a city income tax of 4%.

So overall, you pay 42.14% in income taxes total.

First, let's assume you automatically deduct 10% for your company 401K - $25,000 a year to get the 50% match (free money!)


$130,185, or $10,848 per month.

Even after taxes and future retirement savings, that's definitely not bad. Heck, that's way more than I make!

On craigslist, there is an elegant 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom Upper East side brownstone steps to Bloomingdale's and subways including a washer and dryer in the apartment listed for $2,350.

We'll estimate that the cable, electric, phone, and water bills make housing and utilities cost about $3,000 per month. Since there's really no need for a vehicle in NYC, we'll factor in the $89 a month cost for a MetroCard and about $250 a month for Taxi cabs...

Since you're making a decent salary, we'll assume you have a Blackberry with $100 a month service... and ya gotta eat, right? So $750 a month for food and groceries. $1,000 a month for fun & entertainment. Another grand for shopping...

Many folks have student loans, so we'll factor in $900 (which comes out to about $100,000 in debt)

Monthly Budget


$2,350 (Rent)
$ 650 (Utilities, phone, cable)
$ 100 (Blackberry service)
$ 89 (MetroCard)
$ 250 (Taxi cabs)
$ 750 (Food/groceries)
$1,000 (Entertainment)
$1,000 (Clothes)
$ 900 (Student Loans)

$7, 089 (Monthly expenses)


$3,759 is left at the end of the month as disposable income (more than $45,000 per year)

Wow. Even in America's most expensive city, living comfortably on a $250,000 a year salary would still leave you with $45,000 to play with after saving for retirement, paying taxes, living in a nice apartment, and not having to be too frugal. Imagine how much living in a suburban or rural area would make a difference.

I don't know about you, but that seems like a wealthy lifestyle to me. But perhaps it's all based on your perspective. True, a $250,000 income would be stretched much farther if it was earned in a family of two adults and four children. Yes, I get that. Whether someone is rich or not should not just be based on income, but on circumstances.

Regardless of whether a $250,000 income makes you rich or middle-class, this post does not have the purpose of proving that the rich should not get tax breaks. I've never understood why someone making $10,000 a year pays less in taxes as a percentage than someone who rakes in $10 million. If someone has the drive, determination, and work ethic to earn that much cash legally, they should get to keep most of it.

Some coworkers and I were discussing this article heatedly this afternoon. One of them pointed out how a flat tax would make the most sense. And I have to say that I whole-heartedly agree. Although if I had my way, the flat tax would be 5% and would only cover basic government expenses and infrastructure.

I don't want to pay for someone else's short sightedness, fleecing of the system, pork projects, and the like. If I make my own money, I believe that I deserve to keep that for myself. Whether or not I help those in need should be my choice and not a legal requirement. That takes away the liberty this country was founded upon and I feel it's wrong.

So, yes, a $250,000 income in most cases, does make a person rich. But taking away approximately $100,000 of that for the U.S. government makes me very queasy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Unwinding on a Tuesday Night

Red wine. It's become my new friend. My vice. I love the savory, salty, sometimes spicy taste of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and shiraz. It rolls over my tongue like a warm comfortable embrace. Finally, I've gotten to the point where I can have two glasses and not tip over. Maybe I'm actually becoming less of a light weight.
It's the perfect way to start off the evening after work. This week I've been getting home around 5:15 instead of 7. Today was a bit tense at certain points, so on my lunch break I went grocery shopping. Beringer's wine was on sale for $7.99 a bottle. Since I've had decent luck with the zinfandel, I decided to go for two bottles. (In my journey to Publix I also picked up Gouda cheese, milk, eggs, sushi, soda, juice, thinly sliced chicken breast and pita bread)
And I had a glass of wine with a microwaved hot dog. Now that is the art of sophistication. It is technically a red meat after all. To match the entertainment to the meal, I watched the latest episode of In Plain Sight on Yes... on my computer.
Very fittingly, I produce wine television segments called Wine 101. It's hosted by one of our head honchos and a man who owns a local liquor store. In fact, I've seen both of them recently. The store has the best prices imaginable and a great selection. The owner has never steered me wrong on what to purchase. He's extremely nice. Just remember that 2005 was possibly the best year ever for wine.
The weird thing is -- I'm not much of a grape fan.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Missing in Action

Sorry, it has been quite awhile since my last post. I've been on vacation this past week and have had a visitor in town hence the absence. In a nutshell, I've gone to the beach twice -- have eaten way too much great food -- and even took another trip to Bern's Steak House, one of the best steak houses in the entire country. It's been fun! I promise I'll update again soon!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Butterfly Effect

Attraction: Interpersonal attraction can be thought of as a force acting between two people tending to draw them together, and resisting their separation.

One of the most exciting and passionate emotions a person can feel, is a result of just that. Attraction. Chemistry.
Whether it's someone you've known ten years or ten minutes, it can happen with the snap of a finger.

Currently, I find my self smack dab in the middle of the strongest chemistry I've ever felt with anyone. Over the past week, I've been so distracted it's been hard to work! It's such a wonderful, euphoric, giddy feeling. I could get hit by a bus right now and still have a smile on my face.
If you couldn't tell by now, I've got someone new in the picture. He's absolutely wonderful. And knowing that he's crazy about me is probably the best thing that's ever happened to me. Things are progressing quite nicely and I find myself daydreaming often.
One indicator that I really like a guy is if my stomach gets the fluttery or tickly feeling. Yes, I get them. Butterflies. According to Wikipedia, this sensation can be a physical sensation related to the body's fight or flight response or it can be an ineffable experience related to the psychology of love.
Back in college, there were a few young men that I admired afar and never really talked to. Those instances always gave me a bad case of butterflies. But now it's almost multiplied since I not only like this one, but I actually know and talk to him. Not to mention the fact that I was intensely attracted to him right away.
After winding up heartbroken a little over six weeks ago, this is literally the last thing on Earth I expected. After my first break-up, I spent six years (yes, years) in the desert of singleness. I find it incredibly ironic, that it's only been six weeks instead. So needless to say, I'm still in shock. Complete shock. This situation pretty much snuck up on me without me having any idea what was going to happen.
I love the beginnings of a new romance.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Face Value

In this day in age, it is extremely difficult to believe in people. We say things we don't really mean and make promises we know we'll never keep. "Sure, I'll come to your party." "I never miss a Bucs game!" "I love pizza." "I'll do it." Everything is exaggerated and over the top. We are intense, impatient, and full-tilt running on empty. My favorite phrase is "trust me." Really, when I hear that, I think the exact opposite.

Don't get me wrong. I think many of my fellow human beings are well intentioned... but I'm sure not going to rely on any of you. No offense. Sometimes you just have to be an island.
So many people I talk to are literally, just spinning crap. They almost seem to be missing the essence that it takes to have a true soul. Everything they say is completely worthless, because they'll never follow through - never take action. Never do anything about it. Basically, the wheels are turning but the wagon's going nowhere. What a waste of freaking time.

Talk is easy, and as I've heard quite a bit these past few days - it's cheap. What I hate about meaningless talk is that it makes it so hard to separate the truth. When most of what you hear is just lies, how does one find a genuine statement... Or real honesty? Especially when much of what you hear, you immediately dismiss.

Obviously, I don't know, otherwise this post would explain exactly how to pick out the real McCoy. But now I'm in a situation where I have to do that and I feel lost. How do you distinguish truth?

In my particular case, I really am leaning toward believing in what's been said to me. The individual that's involved understands being lied to, and I've never experienced such raw honesty before. That's why it's hard to recognize, because it's so rare.

Many of us have a filter when it comes to people. Over time we learn (unfortunately the hard way) who we can trust and who to discard. It takes a lot of sifting through the trash to find the treasure.

Why is it so difficult to take anything at face value?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Not Found in the Wedding Album

After all the turmoil surrounding my efforts to get onto Jared and Leah's ftp site, I discovered that Jared has redesigned the site. Yay! I can finally check out other wedding photos and upload my own as soon as I can find my SD card. I discovered these "lost" snapshots taken by the best man's wife, Kristen.

This is the entire wedding party (excluding the bride and groom) at Quaker Steak & Lube for the rehearsal dinner. (L-R Tim, Myself, Hillary, Becky, Ed, Matt, Andrew) It was a good night!

Seriously, what's up with my dress? Major gatherage in a very obvious place...

The ceremony was rather casual. No flowers, just rolled up mass programs for bouquets.
Being in a wedding party is a great way to stock up on matching jewelry sets.
Why the hell am I holding the flowers up like that? It's so awkward looking.
In this shot, I'm probably thinking about food. But hey, what's new?

Friday, August 1, 2008


What a great way to ring in my 26th birthday! Today I fired off a few bullets on an MP5, a 9 mm submachine gun made by German manufacturer Heckler & Koch. We were out at a large gun shop on a shoot, and this is the owner's personal piece of weaponry. He told us that he bought it for $8,000 back in 2001 and it is now worth $20,000 since it is no longer being made. The main component dates to 1986.
The MP (Maschinenpistole) is the most popular post-war submachine gun. It is used by a multitude of special forces, police and army units. It's a favorite due to its compact size, stopping power, and reliability. More notable users include the United States Navy SEALs, special forces, the German GSG9 group and the British SAS special forces.

So our crew donned protective eye wear and headsets and walked into the shooting range. I'd never held a gun before, let alone fired one. This MP5 wasn't terribly heavy. The store owner gave me an extremely brief tutorial including the advice on leaning the machine gun into my shoulder. I did that. This model has a laser which made aiming much easier.

I expected the blast to knock me down backwards, but the recoil was much less than I thought it would be. The gun had a suppressor on the end to reduce firing noise. Much more pleasant! I tried it out on both single shot and the fully automatic mode.

Believe it or not, I found this activity very enjoyable. I've heard that going to a firing range can release tension and stress, and I never bought that. But it was actually true. When the photographer and I left the store, we both agreed that we felt happier than when we walked in. The store offers a Concealed Weapon or Firearm License class. Perhaps that's something to look into.

Really, as a woman, I do believe in the right to my own protection and self preservation. Of course, the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to keep and bear arms which is something I really don't support taking away from citizens.

The smile on my face looks a little creepy, considering the fact that I'm gripping a machine gun, doesn't it?


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trick or Treat?

I have to admit - Criss Angel is much better looking in person than I expected. He's in the Tampa area to do a death defying stunt tomorrow night at the Spyglass Hotel on Clearwater Beach. Part of my job involves field producing celebrity interviews from time to time.

Prior to this event, A&E hosted a press junket at the Hilton. There was actually food at this one! And it was good! The photo above, I took of him during our interview. He's actually kind of cute...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mr. & Mrs. Thomas

Leah and Jared Thomas should be on their way to Maine for their honeymoon as I write this. This weekend... was really incredible.

Thursday night I flew into Pittsburgh International Airport, picked up my lovely Hertz rental car - a black Mazda M3, then drive up to Zelienople to stay with my friend Mike in his new place. Zelienople is one of those really small towns where the main drag is about a quarter of a mile long with three traffic lights. As we walked with Max the German Shepherd down the main street, a group of high school kids in an SUV invited us to the St. Greg's fair. What that is I have no idea. We had Yuengling and a blooming onion, chicken wings, and a cheeseburger at the local bar, which was a block from the house. The tattooed, pierced, bartender wore an "I <3 Zelie" t-shirt. They were on sale for $15. I almost bought one.

Friday morning, I drove a little more than a half hour to Rachel's Roadhouse, a restaurant we used to hang out at in college. Leah's aunts threw her a pre-wedding lunch. The food was excellent. For dessert, I tried a blueberry cheesecake that was out of this world.

We then went to the Acker household to help Leah with her gifts and other miscellaneous tasks.

Leah Thomas (nee Acker) received most of the gifts on her registry, and two more boxes were delivered as we hung out at the house.

Nelly the little poodle sat right in the middle of the action. At first, I thought she was a bichon frise. Then I learned that the family had originally wanted one, but after learning that bichons are difficult to housebreak, just "got a light colored poodle and let her hair grow long."
Check out all the loot! A quesadilla maker! Not one, but TWO picnic baskets! Stemware! A clock!

At the rehearsal dinner at Quaker Steak & Lube, someone anonymously sent Leah a shot. She didn't refuse!

Later on Friday evening, we went back to the Acker house while Jared and Leah stopped by at her grandmother's house. Andrew Acker (Leah's awesome brother and my wedding partner-in-crime) told us story after story about the bride while rolling on the floor laughing. Then he suddenly remembered that he'd left Nellie outside 45 minutes earlier. She wasn't too happy about it.

Before the weekend of the wedding, I had never met the other two bridesmaids. Let me tell you, they are fabulous ladies. Hillary lives near Boston and was Leah's roommate for a semester at Grove City College. She passed out while waiting in the Acker's basement.

Calling all guys! You need to meet Becky (pictured below). She should be Maid of Honor of the year or something like that. She is organized, let me crash at her house. Woke me up the morning of the wedding, laid out towels, brought over a delicious homemade breakfast to the Acker house for everyone to eat that morning, SANG beautifully at the ceremony and reception, and God knows what else! Becky is a sweetheart. It was both an honor and a privilege to be in a wedding with her and Hillary.

Finally, the happy couple showed up around 2 a.m. Just kidding! It was more like 10 o'clock! But then they started doing Jared's laundry for the honeymoon. Jared actually took off the shirt he is wearing in this picture to throw it in the washer. Andrew actually finished up the load. What a great brother.

"You are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you."

It's all a result of us getting a little too rowdy at the late night Bachelorette gathering/Sheetz run. As you can see, I couldn't resist the lure of Fufu Berry Jones soda.

So after that, we went to sleep early! I stayed at Becky's house. Slept like a baby. Was out of bed and in the shower by 7:15 the next morning.
After a few hours at Leah's house, we made it to the church. Don't you love Leah's outfit? The bridesmaids were given pearl earrings and necklaces. I'm telling you, being in weddings is the best way to get a good collection of jewelry. Aren't they gorgeous?

One of my favorite parts of being in a wedding party, is getting to know the parents. Peter and Pat Acker were so gracious, kind, and fun to be around. They met on a blind date and have been married since 1980. I know. I saw the wedding pictures to prove it. Don't they sort of remind you of Laura Bush and John McCain?
Mr. Acker is a local attorney and Mrs. Acker is a high school teacher. They did most of the planning for the Acker-Thomas wedding. We took wedding photos at a park gazebo named after the family. The reception location was absolutely stunning. The food was excellent and the wedding cake was carrot cake. Yum. They are such warm people, and am very glad we got to spend some time together.
While driving to the reception, the brakes cut out on their car, and they managed to coast into a parking lot. Thank goodness they were okay. I guess you can say they sort of hitch hiked to the reception? What a day!

Here I am waiting down in the church for the ceremony to begin. I'm holding off on putting on the shoes though... They are not that comfortable.

Andrew drove Leah, Jared, and I around town on Saturday. He's a hell of a driver! I'm trying to convince him and his dad to come down for the St. Pete Grand Prix next year. Mr. Acker actually roomed with Bobby Rahal back in the day. Crazy, huh?

Guess who's holding hands in the backseat?

Answer: Leah & Jared Thomas

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