Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Released Today: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet

Today marks the release of Jamie Ford's first novel: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet. I heard about this book through his agent as she shared on her blog different aspects of selling his book to the publisher. And somewhere along the line, probably through this agent again, I read an excerpt. It was fascinating! So take it from me (like I really know anything about it, but still), this promises to be a big book. I think Ford is one of those authors who is going somewhere (from what I can tell, he's the next Nicholas Sparks...or something like that). Now that it's been released I'm trying to figure out how and when I can get myself a copy.

In the meantime, if you're looking for some good reading, check it out. I don't know Jamie Ford. He's not paying me to push his book. All I'm in it for is the opportunity to say, "see? I told ya!".

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sweet Good-byes

When you need bread where do you go? The bread store, right? I mean, where else would you get bread?

Oh, you say you get yours at the grocery store?

Yeah, me too. Only we used to get bread at the "bread store". Until yesterday, when Amusing Dad stopped there only to find the place shuttered - another victim to the current recession. It made me sad. There are a lot of fond memories for me because of the bread store.

Growing up, the Wonder Hostess Outlet was what my mom called "the bread store", because it was pretty much the only place she'd buy her bread. But she also bought things like Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Ho's and Suzie Q's. We all loved to hear her saying she was making a trip to the bread store. When she got home our freezer would be loaded up with all these goodies and we could count on finding one in our lunch most days. And sometimes we (meaning me, although I'm pretty sure my siblings did the same thing) would sneek down to that freezer and pull out a frozen cupcake or other treat and eat it right then and there. Yup, frozen Ho Ho's might even be better than thawed.

By the time I got married I had forgotten about the bread store. It wasn't on my shopping route, nor did I find Suzie Q's and their ilk as appealing any more. But then one day my husband came home with a box of Twinkies and a guilty smile. He'd made a stop at the "bread store". I watched him put that box in the freezer with a quick explanation - they tasted better frozen. Aha! Another freezer Twinkie thief!

When his job took him to the other side of town, close to the Wonder Hostess outlet, we began to buy most of our bread there again. In fact I'd gotten used to calling him near the end of the work day to ask him to swing by for a loaf or two.

Suddenly those days are gone. No more cheap, but good Texas Toast. No more discount Ding Dongs and Ho Ho's.

I guess I can be thankful for one thing: my kids won't grow up being freezer Twinkie thieves.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

From 60 to 0 in 2.5

We went to Disney World this week, home of immersive movies, beloved cartoon characters and fast-moving roller coasters. AMusing Dad didn't get to ride the Rockin' Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios theme park, which boasts an impressive exceleration from 0 to 60 in something like 2.9 seconds. But that's okay, because Southwest Airlines gave us a ride to rival that one. We traveled from comfortable 60-degree Orlando to zero-degree (and now sub-zero) Chicago in only 2.5 hours. And let me tell you that the shock of that leaves you reeling much longer than the Rockin' Roller Coaster.

Thankfully we have a "snow day" due to the highly inclement weather to recover from it. And I'm hoping I charged my "warmth" battery enough to tough it through this artic spell.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Resolved: Spend Less

Can you remember the last time you bought a candy bar for a quarter? That was the going rate for candy when I was a kid. And if you were lucky enough to have a quarter, there was a tiny shop in town called Jimmy's that had shelves upon shelves of candy and you could squeeze in there with your friends and pick out a treat.

Ah, memories! But guess what? I bought two candy bars today for 25 cents each! And I got a bottle of dish washing liquid for 55 cents. Two 100-count bottles of Exedrin cost me $6, but I received a $5 coupon in exchange. I'm finding the deals!

It's all part of my New Year's Resolution to cut our grocery bill by 30-40% this year. I'm feeling the need to cut costs, what with the economic uncertainty and my own bent toward thrift. It won't be easy, since I've always been one to shop the sales. But I'm feeling armed with the right tools to really make a difference. This year I'll be "Super-Couponing".

What's that you say? No, it's not cutting and cataloging all the Sunday coupons. That's too much work for nothing. I used to do that and was happy when I could save 10% using coupons at the discount grocer. Nope, Super-Couponing is much more savvy than that. It involves matching coupons to sales in order to cut costs or even earn money shopping. And I'm doing it with the help of some great web sites.

For starters, shoppers in Chicagoland can benefit from the Super-Couponing Queen, Jill Cataldo's advice. Then there's Coupon Mom who has lists for different stores in different states (plus the big Chains like WalMart & Target) that match up the current coupons and sales and show the percent savings on items listed in the current ads. To do your own coupon matchup, check out Coupon Tom's searchable database.

Two quick examples to show you the savings:
This week Jewel grocery store has a promotion going on where if you buy $30 of specific products you'll get coupons back for $15 on your next shopping trip.
I bought:
1-100 oz. bottle of Tide for $11.47 (rings up as $15.99 toward the $30)
minus $1.00 coupon
8 rolls of Bounty Paper Towels for $10.00 (rings up as $14.99 toward the $30)
minus $2.00 in coupon savings
Total Out of Pocket $20.03 plus $15 in savings on my next trip (in theory, the same as spending $5.03)

At Walgreen's I got:
Fructis Hair Styling Mousse (my favorite) for $2.99
less $2.00 Walgreen's coupon
less $1.00 mfr. coupon equals FREE
one box of Quaker Oats Instant Oatmeal for $3.59
less $1.60 Walgreen's Coupon
less $.70 mfr. coupon
one box of Electrasol tabs (20-ct) for $3.49
less $2.50 mfr. coupon
with $1.50 rebate coming (hence they "paid" me 50 cents for this one)
Colgate Toothpaste for $3.49
less $.75 coupon
take off the $5 coupon I had from a previous trip where I spent $14.85 & got $20 in coupons for future trips.
add one Christmas clearance glitter pen for 12 cents to bring me up into the positive before tax
Total out of pocket: $.71

Just on those two transactions I bought $50.97 of groceries for $20.74, with $15 to spend later.
I'm hoping this all brings me closer to that resolution (and closer to prices not last seen since the 1980's?).

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Twinkle Toes

I suppose you may have been wondering where I've been. Life has been oh so demanding during these past few weeks of winter break. I've had to help occupy my family by playing many rounds of Bananagrams. I've been baking gingerbread cookies and crafting cards, playing Mario Kart on the Wii and consuming endless calories of gingerbread cookies and other holiday goodies. Yes, I have been busy.

So naturally I was due for a break, which came yesterday in the form of a trip to the day spa with my friend, everydayMom. We went for pedicures, which is the most obvious choice for January in Chicagoland, no? After all, it's the time of year where my feet, encased in thick, wooly socks and shrouded in sheepskin-lined shoes never see the light of day. My toes get all wrinkled and pasty looking. Hence I'm desparate for colored nails to distract from their otherwise hideousness. Why this concern outside of sandal season? Two words: Wii Fit.

If you've never used this contraption, let me explain. Wii Fit uses a thing called a balance board, which you are required to stand on barefoot. Makes me shudder just to think about it. But thanks to last nights escapade (see everydayMom's post for more details), I am much more confident about baring my feet in the name of physical fitness.

Now if only I could do something about that thing called my "Wii Fit Age". This morning, after chastising me for neglecting to work out for one day, the machine downgraded me twenty years. Fifty-two?!! How can that be?

Well, at least my toes look young and vibrant!