Saturday, January 31, 2009

CVS fun run 1/31

Tonight my husband indulged my hobby, and Josiah and I spent some time running around CVS. I love it. I love the thinking and the quiet and the time away. And getting stuff for free is always good, too. :)

Here is the result of our efforts:

And this is how we did it:

Transaction #1 (first store - this is the one closest to my house with a really nice manager, but they often don't have all the things I'm trying to buy.)

4.99 Head and Shoulders shampoo
1.19 CVS cough drops

-1.19 CVS cough drop coupon
-1.00 H&S MQ
-3.00 ecb

= $1.15 oop
earned $3.00 ecbs

I had wanted to buy one of the new Fusion Gamer razors, but they didn't have them yet. I asked for a rain check, and the nice manager wrote one up and then said "this will just get confusing with the ecbs - I'll just give them to you now." So I got an extra $4 ecbs just because I wanted to buy something they didn't have in stock. Nice.

At the larger 24 hour store they had a lot of things that I wanted, including a January "free after ecb" item that I'd pretty much given up on ever finding!

Transaction #1
$7.99 Gillette Fusion Gamer razor
$4.99 Gillette shampoo

-$4.00 Gillete gamer MQ
-$4.99 buy razor, get shampoo MQ
-$3.99 ecb (adjusted down from $4)

= $0.74 oop
earned $4 and $3 ecbs

Transaction #2
$7.99 Gillette Fusion Gamer razor
$4.99 Gillete body wash
$7.99 NasoGel

-$2.00 NasoGel MQ
-$4.00 Gillete gamer MQ
-$4.99 body wash MQ
-$4.00 ecb
-$3.00 ecb
-$2.98 ecb (adjusted from $3)

= $0.91 oop
earned $4 and $7.99 ecbs

Transaction #3

$4.99 Head and Shoulders shampoo
$7.99 NasoGel
$1.29 Comet cleanser
$0.89 Dove dark chocolate

-$1.00 H&S MQ
-$2.00 NasoGel MQ
-$4.00 ecb
-$7.99 ecb

= $0.36 oop
earned $3 and $7.99 ecbs

Total spent: $3.16 oop and $3.00 original ecbs. Since I have more ecbs than I started with, however, this trip resulted in a net profit of $4.83.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ring sling GIVEAWAY

I am late, as usual, to the party. But I'm glad you stopped by, because I really do like participating in the quarterly Bloggy Giveaway carnival. Good times. :)

I am giving away a brand new, handmade by me, Lullaby Slings ring sling. You can win it for yourself or for a friend. Isn't it pretty? It is made of a sturdy bottomweight 100% cotton fabric. Absolutely guaranteed not to slip in the rings (and especially good for someone new to babywearing.)

(One small note: there is a tiny little mistake in the decorative heart stitching - I ran out of thread in the middle of a stitch and had to start again. It isn't very noticeable, but I did want to mention it.)

One of the reasons I'm giving this away is because I want to bring some attention to the new CPSIA lead testing law that will make it impossible for me to legally do business after February 10th. Don't worry, there isn't any lead in my slings! :) Unfortunately, the new law requires anyone who makes anything for children under age 12 to test EVERY PRODUCT they make for lead, regardless of what it is made of, and since that costs thousands of dollars it functionally puts me out of business. I wrote a detailed post about it all here.

But I can certainly give my slings away, and that is just what I'm going to do! To win, all you have to do is leave a comment telling me

1) if you're a newbie to babywearing or a seasoned expert, and/or
2) who you plan to give the sling to and why.

AND if you want a couple of extra entries, you can do the following:

1) Read my post about laws with unintended consequences. I do ask that you read the whole thing, because it really is important to understand what is going on.

2) Send emails to your senators and representatives. There are links to easy ways of doing that in the post I mentioned.

If you do want the extra entries, please leave SEPARATE comments telling me of each thing you did. You can have up to three entries (comment, read post, and send emails) but you need to leave three comments telling me about it. Make sense? Ok.

Please be sure to leave a way of contacting you - either through your blog or include an email address in your comment.

Also, please read the guidelines before commenting. I will delete all comments of the "enter me" and "pick me" and "you're cool" variety.

I'll leave the contest open until Saturday (1/31) at midnight. Good luck!

Mexican rice recipe

I always enjoy Mexican rice when I go to a Mexican restaurant, and this weekend I found a recipe that accurately duplicates it! It is really good - even my husband who doesn't particularly enjoy rice said that it was a winner and should go in the "permanent file".

Mexican Rice

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add rice. Sprinkle with garlic salt and cumin. Cook, stirring constantly, until just turning golden. (Be CAREFUL here - my first attempt had to be thrown away because it burned - it goes from golden to burned unbelievably quickly.)

Stir in onions, tomato sauce, and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes. (I found that I had to add another 1/2 cup or so of water for it to cook the last five minutes. The rice was still crunchy at 20 minutes but the liquid was gone. Adding a bit let it finish cooking without burning.) Fluff rice with a fork and serve!

Original recipe is "Mexican Rice II" found at Allrecipes.

"Elective" c-sections

Jennifer Block has written a very interesting article on the term "elective" when applied to c-sections. As she succinctly points out,
if a woman with a scar from a previous cesarean goes to her OB and is recommended to schedule a repeat cesarean—and is told that a vaginal birth would be risky, and that anyway it won't be done by this doctor, this practice, or this hospital—can the surgery possibly be called "elective?"
Over 50% of women who want a VBAC are told that there is no possible way for them to have one. How the resulting c-section is considered the woman's choice is beyond me.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What can you do with $100? (Link fixed!)

I'm sure you can think of something. :) Run over here to enter to win a $100 Visa gift card!

(Did you know that the quarterly Bloggy Giveaway carnival is going on this week? Such fun!)

Sorry about the previously wrong link!

Spit up on my shirt

Shannon wrote a really, really, really wonderful post at Parenting. It made me cry and feel better at the same time. Because I am, indeed, sitting here with spit up on my shirt.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

CVS gift card giveaway

Melissa at Melissa's Bargain Blog is giving away a $15 CVS giftcard. $15 goes a long way at CVS if you know what you're doing, so if you've been enticed by some of my recent CVS posts, head over there and enter her giveaway. Maybe you'll win, and then you can give it a try with nothing oop!

(My husband laughs at me: he says that you need a a PhD in couponing to understand all the lingo...oop, ecb, crt, mq, etc.!) :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Couponing ethics

When I first started using coupons, I didn't know much about them. I knew that you could get them in the paper and sometimes you could find them on the internet and print them. I tried to match them with sales and that was that. A bit of money saved.

But in the past six weeks or so, as I've become far more knowledgeable about couponing at CVS and at various grocery stores, I've run into the big grey area of couponing ethics. It is very big, and in some cases it is very grey.

Some coupon fraud is abundantly obvious. If you photocopy a coupon, that is fraud. Everyone knows that. But in today's technological era, it is possible to print multiple copies of a coupon. Sometimes this is obviously fraud (for example, when you hack a system such as so that it will print more than the alloted two coupons). Sometimes it is much harder to discern; if a couponing blogger links to an IP (internet printable coupon) that takes you directly to a pdf file, how do you know if it is legitimate? You can print as many copies as you like from a pdf file, but some of them come directly from the manufacturer's website in that form (for example: Johnsonville sausage has a pdf coupon up right now) and some of them have been hijacked by someone, somewhere, and put into pdf form illegally. And what about coupons that are printed in a regular paper, which also show up (in printable form) on the paper's internet version? Is the online version an "authorized reproduction" or not? It can take a LOT of work to figure that out. How much time is enough to be "due diligence"?

After awhile, some of these become obvious. I no longer read iheartcvs regularly because the author is a major contributer to coupon fraud. It took me about a month to figure this out, however, and many who read the site may not realize that the coupons she posts or the deals she points out are often not legitimate. In the case of online newpapers and printing coupons, I'm honestly not sure what the right answer is. There is heated debate on the topic and I think it probably would take a lawyer to give a truly definitive answer, since the argument hinges on the legalese in the fine print. (Because I'm not sure, I choose not to use them.)

What about coupons that "work" on items that they aren't supposed to work for? If it works, is it ok to do it? This is a question that many consider to be a very grey area. Let me give you a real example from a few weeks ago. Albertsons was running a really great Procter & Gamble special: buy $30 of specified items and get $15 in catalinas for your next purchase. In the advertisement it noted that this deal was "one per transaction" (as opposed to "one per card" or "one per household") so I planned two transactions. I used the $15 catalina from the first purchase on the second purchase, and the computer system didn't have a problem with that.

The trouble is, later that week I read on HCW that in tiny little print on the catalina it says "not valid on Procter & Gamble purchases". I went back and looked at the catalina that I still had in my purse, and sure enough, that is exactly what it said. Now, this was not obvious at all, and when I used them for my own procter and gamble purchases I did so without knowing of the potential ethical problem. Since the system took them, and since I hadn't read anything other than the large print "$5 off your next purchase" I simply assumed that they were ok to use. But according to the fine print, they weren't.

This kind of issue causes hot debate in the couponing world. Most people seem to think that you can use a coupon however the store allows you to use it. I.e. if the computer doesn't reject the coupon, it is fine to use it no matter what the fine print says. The store has the ability to tell its computer what to take and not take, and so if it takes a coupon it is tacit approval for using that coupon. Others maintain that you should read all the fine print before using a coupon to be sure that you're using it exactly in accordance with the manufacturer's wishes. Their mantra is "just because you can, doesn't mean you should." I can see both sides, although I find the first position a little unreasonable when the same people get mad at stores for not accepting certain coupons!

That position also gets complicated when the computer rejects a real coupon for no discernable reason, as happened to me tonight. The Johnsonville coupon that I mentioned previously is being co-sponsored by Johnsonville and by the company that owns Albertsons. If any coupon should work at Albertsons, that one should! But it didn't. The manager pushed it through anyway after we had a polite but lengthy discussion about their coupon policy and the specifics of that coupon. And I called Albertsons customer care to ask about it after I got home - we'll see what comes of that. I'm hoping for some clarification so I'll know what to expect when shopping at Albertsons.

Another grey area is the use of "e-coupons". There are a variety of sites that let you load e-coupons onto your club card at certain stores. These e-coupons don't double at the store, but they come off automatically and you don't have to shuffle any paper coupons (nice!) In practice, if you buy an item and have an e-coupon for it, you can also use a paper coupon and both coupons will come off the same item. This is known as "stacking". Some stacking is perfectly acceptable (for example, Target allows stacking of Target coupons and manufacturer coupons, as does CVS). I have heard that stacking e-coupons and paper coupons may not be ok. So far I don't have a firm answer on that - I'm still in the process of researching it - but I'm leaning toward Thrifty Mama's perspective that it is ok.

Misusing coupons may save a few dollars right now, but in the long run it hurts everyone. Stores are becoming more and more choosy about what coupons they will accept, and it is common for clerks and managers to be confused about what they should and should not accept.

About a week ago I planned a trip to Walmart (a store I shop at regularly, but not frequently). I had fourteen coupons that I planned to use, some from the Sunday paper and some IPs printed from legitimate manufacturer websites such as Johnson's. Knowing that some stores have stopped accepting IPs (due to the aforementioned technological coupon fraud) I checked Walmart's corporate coupon policy before going. They do, indeed, accept IPs, as long as they meet some basic coupon guidelines (such as having a barcode, and a real address to send them in for reimbursement).

When I got to the checkstand at Walmart, the clerk nicely informed me that she couldn't accept my IPs. I nicely asked to speak with her supervisor, since corporate policy was that they were accepted. To make a long (30+ minutes!) story short, I spoke to the clerk, her supervisor, and two assistant managers before one of them checked with the lady in the back who actually sends in the coupons for reimbursement, and she said "just scan them and see if they scan!" (They did.) Not one of the managers knew what the corporate policy on coupons was, and I'm sure they were all rather annoyed with me. But it would have doubled my bill, and I thought it reasonable for them to honor their in print corporate policy, so it was worth it to me to discuss it all the way to the top rather than give up and go home (especially since I knew that I was right!)

When I got home I sent an email to Walmart's corporate customer care, explaining what had happened, the time it had taken to resolve it, and asking that the managers at the store be better informed as to the coupon policy. The next day I had a call from the same manager I'd talked to at the store, apologizing for the problem and admitting that I was, indeed, correct about the coupon policy.

It is easy to be annoyed when this happens. And I was. But the reason that clerks and managers are confused about this is because people are using coupons fraudulently. The clerk at Walmart told me that the day before a woman had come through with photocopied coupons and tried every single checker in the hopes that someone would let them go through. And it is hard to tell a legitimate printed coupon from a good color photocopy. I see their problem.

I am willing to be polite but very stubborn in a case where I know that I am using a coupon ethically and in accordance with store policy and manufacturer's wishes. It can be frustrating sometimes, and sometimes I feel like the store clerks and managers think I'm trying to rip them off. I don't like that at all! But it helps that I know that I am not doing anything wrong. If I wasn't sure, I would be a lot less comfortable discussing it with managers!

If I truly don't know that something is not right and find out later (as in the P&G case), I don't lose sleep over it. But as I learn that these issues exist, I am spending more effort trying to make sure that I am using coupons in an ethical manner. First because I am a child of God, and when it comes down to it, coupon fraud is stealing. And second because misuse of coupons by some (or many) makes it that much harder for all of us to use them at all.

So why this lengthy post? Because it seems that a lot of people don't even know this is an issue, and it is an important one. I have appreciated those (few) couponing bloggers who have brought issues of couponing ethics to my attention - I wouldn't have known of many of these ethical questions otherwise - and I want to help in the attempt to educate people. Also, I want to be able to use coupons in my quest for more frugal living (and besides, it is fun!) So I would urge any of you who are interested in couponing to be careful. Be educated. And then do the right thing.

Kicking and screaming

That is me, being dragged into homeschooling. :)

My little son just doesn't want to wait. He would like to be able to read and spell right NOW, thank you very much. He wants to learn, and he is always asking me to teach him things, and I've finally realized that I am missing a huge opportunity if I don't take advantage of this time of incredible curiosity. So I have resolved to spend some time each day doing "table time" with him, playing a game or playing with letters or doing an art project. Hold me to that, will you, readers? It is easy to get side tracked or think that other things are more important. But they aren't. And I need to remember that. We're home four out of five days a week now and I really have no excuse not to make this happen!

So. Today I got out the magnet board. He wanted me to help him spell "iguana". And then "frog". And "octopus".

So we did, and we sounded out each letter and then broke the words into shorter pieces, and then put the whole word together and said the sounds quickly. He is thrilled.

I'm teaching my firstborn to read. And it isn't even hard.

Sometimes you just CAN'T keep a straight face

Today it is raining - just enough to create a lovely puddle for stomping, and not enough to make it unpleasant to play outside. So I sent the boys out in their boots and coats to enjoy themselves while I worked in the kitchen.

Happy sounds ensued. But I just looked outside to see Thomas, divested of boots and socks, standing looking puzzled while Jonathan emptied a boot-full of water over his head.

Somehow I don't think he took me very seriously when I told him he shouldn't do that. It might have had something to do with the uncontrollable giggles.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I thought that sounded familiar...

Obama's inaugeral address, though full of high flying rhetoric, sounded very much like President Bush's speeches. Apparently I'm not the only one who noticed. :)

H/T StandFirm

Sunday, January 18, 2009

CVS 1/18

There aren't many ecb deals that I'm interested in at CVS this week (we don't drink sodas and I don't like Neutrogena) but there are some very nice free (or nearly free) items that you can pick up.

I bought:
2 Crest toothpaste $3.98
6 Reeses Whips candy bars $3.00
3 American Greeting cards $2.97
2 Excedrin Migraine $3.98
2 Bic Twin Silky razors 10pk $5.98 (B1G150% off)

Coupons used:
2 crest $1.50/1 (PG 1/18)
3 reeses whips $1/2 (SS 1/4, the one with "new year, new you" on the front)
2 Excedrin $2/1 (adjusted down to $3.98)
2 Bic $2/1 (SS 1/18)

Paid with $4.99 ecbs and $1.92 oop, and received 3 ecbs (from the greeting card deal), for a total cost of $3.91. Which is pretty awesome, I think, for toothpaste and razors and medicine!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Old Navy clearance sale

I know that many of you reading have small children, so I thought you might like to know that Old Navy has some good clearance deals on kids clothes right now. AND if you use the coupon code "EXTRA50" you get an additional 50% off the clearance prices! I just bought these nice collared henleys for Jonathan:

for $3.50 each.
You can't get them for that at Walmart! Hie thee hence! :)

Thanks to Erin at I Am Frugal.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hickory Farms

I have a very soft spot in my heart for Hickory Farms meats and cheeses. Nearly every Christmas, my parents would give a basket of them to Grandpa. I'm not sure if Grandpa ever got to eat much of it, though, because every year he would invite us kids to come over and eat it with him. And I'm pretty sure that we ate most of it. :) Good food; really good memories.

So you can imagine my glee in discovering that Hickory Farms is having a 75% off sale right now, AND if you use the coupon code "clipper" at checkout, you get an additional 15% off your bill.

This is CHEAP meat and cheese, folks. I just placed my order and even with shipping charges I'm paying just under $2/lb.

It is taking all my will power not to order a whole lot more. :)

I'm sure that they'll run out quickly as this is obviously a clearance event. So skip, hop, and trundle yourself over there before it's all gone!

Dr. Phil on inner peace

(This is a compilation of a few things I found on various blogs - most of it is compliments of SwagGrabber)

How to find inner peace and calmness? Follow this simple advice from Dr. Phil:
"The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started and have never finished."
So, I looked around my house to see all the things I started and hadn't finished, and before the morning was over I finished off a bottle of White Zinfandel, a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream, a package of Oreos, the remainder of my old Prozac prescription, the rest of the cheesecake, some Doritos, and a box of chocolates.

You have no idea how good I feel right now...that Dr. Phil knows what he's talking about.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Brotherly love

Tonight Gabe and I kissed the boys and asked if they'd like to be "snuggled in" (a nightly tradition). Jonathan said "no", and thus Thomas also said "no". As I walked out the door to get their cups of water, Thomas started fussing about not being tucked in, and I heard Jonathan say "but Thomas, you said no!"

Two minutes later I went back in, water cups in hand, to see Jonathan standing on the rocking horse, leaning over Thomas' crib, gently tucking the blanket around him.

Such moments are very sweet.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fun with thank you notes

Today I decided that it was high time to start writing thank you notes for the lovely Christmas gifts that we received. But how best to do this without frustrating both myself (because of interruptions) and the kids (because of a distracted mommy)? Let the kids make them, of course!

I am so brilliant. :)

We had a lovely hour painting and coloring and writing together. And aren't the results nice?

Family, watch your mailboxes for your very own masterpiece!

Monday, January 12, 2009

One car family

Gabe and I have decided that, at least for now, we're going to be a one car family again. We don't want to be rushed into buying a second car, especially since we have a very limited amount of cash to buy it with, (total loss payments are NOT what the car is worth!!) and we're wondering if it would make more sense to use the money to pay off our van quicker instead. We never intended or expected to have a monthly car payment, and while we're grateful that the loan was available when we needed it, we do not like living with it, and want to pay it off, well, yesterday. :)

Regardless of if we choose to do that, we're pretty sure that right now is not the right time for us to buy a second car. I personally feel that God has been preparing me for this; leading me in this direction for some months (since Josiah was born, really). I have been methodically attempting to simplify our daily life, eliminating or combining errands in an attempt to keep us at home more. Part of this was a result of the craziness of doing errands with three children in tow: when you factor buckling, unbuckling, and buckling three children at every stop, and walking at the pace of the smallest legs, ANY errand becomes a 45 minute excursion. And you can't stack too many of those when you need to be home in time for various naps! Also, as Josiah gets older he can't just sleep where he sits as easily, and when I disrupt his naps my sweet, happy baby becomes much less happy. Overall, I had noticed that the more days I spent "out and about" during the week, the less home-making happened and the less happy we all were.

So as of Tuesday evening, we will be a one car family. We think that Gabe will be able to telecommute on Thursdays, allowing us to make it to the park for Mom's Group, which I think will be important for Jonathan's pleasure and my sanity. :) Other than that, we'll be at home or within walking distance of home.

Today I had a list of "last minute" errands I wanted to get done ahead of the Day In Which We Shall Have No Car. But we all woke up sick. Nasty, uncomfortable colds. No one wants to go anywhere, thank you very much. So we are staying at home today. And it is good.

Instead of errands, we've done laundry, colored train pictures, built with duplos, and built a huge brio train track (complete with cardboard tunnel) while listening to the Music Machine. In the midst of that, I've been working on updating our budget online, a weekly chore that has been sadly neglected for nearly a month. I've discovered something wonderful: if I do my computer work on the laptop I can sit right with the boys in the midst of their play, and be much more available to them even while working on something boring and adult. The result is that I can get some work done without the frustration of kids fighting or always calling me away, which is what always happens when I sit at my desk at the regular computer. Amber, I appreciated the hand-me-down laptop years ago when you guys gave it to us, but now I am REALLY appreciating it. :)

We're sick, and we're all existing on tylenol, but it is a good day, and that makes me very hopeful that taking the stress of errands out of the day to day pattern will make our life a lot more pleasant.

In the interest of making this a success, could you all leave your best suggestion for smooth at-home days? I would love to hear them!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Handmade Christmas

This Christmas I, and many of my family members, decided to "go handmade". Not "oh. um. how nice. thanks." handmade. Oh no, this Christmas was a "wow! you made that?? wow! cool!" handmade. :)

My sister made beautiful earrings for me:

magnets for our refrigerator:

cute as a button onesies for Josiah:

and a really stellar magnet board for our fascinated-by-the-alphabet preschooler:

My brother Jonathan and sister-in-law Jenny made us yummy applesauce and crabapple jelly (unfortunately unphotographable because we have already started eating them!) and a beautiful quilted potholder:

Jenn is quite the quilter - last fall we received a gorgeous quilt from her as a "welcome Josiah" gift.

And why blogger won't let me put the pictures of the quilts right side up I cannot imagine. Boo.

Jenn is also an amazing photographer. The boys were delighted with a poster-sized photo of an excavator (really, how cool can you get?) :) And part of our Christmas gift was a set of photo cards, each different, with photos that she had taken. You can see some of the photos she used at her website - I strongly encourage you to head over there and check it out. Jenn has an eye for beauty, and an ability to capture it that makes me green with envy.

My parents made this beautiful quilt block wall hanging. I love it especially because it reminds me of all the quilts that my mom and dad used to decorate the house when I was growing up.

We haven't received our gift from Christopher yet, but I have it on good authority that he's spent hours upon hours working in the garage, hand-making things, so I'm excited to see what eventually arrives. (The trouble with hand-made gifts is that they take such a long time to make, and Christopher can't start working on them until he gets home from school in mid-December!)

I made hammocks for my two brothers and my sister's husband. It was a natural extension of making slings - I just made some really big ones! :) Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of them before I gave them away. Maybe someone will take one for me?

And for all the women in my family: handmade soap.

I loved teaching myself how to make it, I loved the fact that I could purchase my supplies from other etsy moms, and I loved how nicely they turned out. Also, I like that they are gifts that can be used up. I'm very into gifts that can either be used or used up right now - probably a by-product of living in a somewhat cramped house and tripping over lots of kid stuff. :)

I love all the creativity that showed up this year. And I love that my family is the sort to appreciate handmade gifts.

(Thanks, Sarah, for the pictures which I stole from your post on the same subject!) :)

The place to shop this weekend:

Strangely enough, it is Albertsons. I never shop at Albertsons because they generally have high prices and they don't double coupons. But this weekend they are running some really good incentives.

** P & G buy $30 of participating products, get three $5 catalina coupons ($15 total). The $30 is on sale prices (not pre-sale, like at Shaws on the East coast, too bad!) but it is before coupons. Also, as stated in the weekly ad, you can do this deal once per transaction. Some of the checkers think that it is per card, but that is not the case. You can do your transactions at self-check out to avoid any hassles about this.

** Albertsons is concurrently running a "buy $25 worth of baby products, get a $5 catalina good for your next baby product purchase" promotion.

Pampers are part of both promotions, so if you buy 3 jumbo packages of pampers for $30, and use 2 or 3 coupons (I only had two), you will pay $28 oop and get $20 back.

Large boxes of Tide are also on a good sale ($11 for an 80 load box), made GREAT by this promotion.

** In the weekly ad there is a coupon for oroweat sandwich bread for $1.79 (limit two) and one for 6oz of blueberries for 99 cents (limit two). Nice. :)

I also wanted to point out that P & G have a bonus coupon book offer available right now: if you purchase $50 worth of their products before 1/31/09 and send in your receipts, they'll send you $120 worth of coupons on their products.

Thanks to Amie who pointed me to this weekend's deals!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

CPSIA update

Well, it is a start. It looks like electronics with lead components inside (and thus inaccessible to children) will be exempted. Also, wool, cotton, gemstones, and pearls are included in the exemptions proposed today. Why they didn't include wood, I can't imagine.

This still leaves many questions, particularly those regarding component vs. whole item testing. As it stands, exempting cotton allows me to sell one style of mei tai (with no drawstring) but not the other style and not slings.

Still, it is a start. I'm glad that the CPSC is listening to the concerns, and I hope that in the next month it will make the rest of the needed changes. Please, keep contacting your representatives:

congressional representatives
and senators


oh, this is so EXACTLY how I feel sometimes...

I can't stop laughing. Jonathan wants to know what is so funny and why I am crying if I'm not sad. I finally told him that he would understand why it was so funny when he was a grown-up. He said "huh" and stared at me.

Thanks to Jenni at One Thing for the laugh. I've needed that!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

RIP corolla

It is official. Our little corolla that was going to carry us around forever has been declared a total loss. Final mileage: 219,955. I guess that's a pretty good life for a car, but I'm still sad because she was in such good shape and I supposed I thought she'd last forever. Besides, I liked her. :)

Goodbye, little girl. You were a sweet car.

Monday, January 05, 2009

CVS 1/4/09

(to give away):
18 soyjoy bars
3 johnson and johnson first aid kits
6 colgate toothpaste
1 fructis shampoo
1 bandaid
4 stayfree
2 cvs pantiliners

Most of these are things that we do use, but I already have plenty and I don't feel the need to stockpile in every corner. :)

(to keep and use):
6 throat coolers
1 pkg cvs heatwraps
3 rolls cvs mailing tape
40 rolls cottonelle tp
4 rolls cvs tp
clearance christmas candy (we do our stockings on Epiphany, so we get awesome deals!)

I'm not going to detail exactly how this worked out, because it would take too long. BUT the results were pretty awesome. I started with $6 in ecbs. I spent $6.53 oop. And I ended up with all this and $12.99 in ecbs, for a net profit of $0.46. And I would have spent the same amount on just 1/3 of the tp if I'd bought it on sale at the grocery store. Pretty sweet. :)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Laws with unintended consequences

Last August, HR4040 was quietly signed into law. Known as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, it has the laudable aim of ensuring the safety of all toys, clothing, and other products marketed to children under age 12. In pursuit of this, it requires third party lead testing of every single product meant for children, no matter the components used to make the product and no matter the size of the business.

The unintended consequence is that I, and thousands of other artisans, will be forced out of business. HR4040 requires that every baby carrier, blanket, or burp cloth that I make be tested for lead, at a cost of about $4000 per item. Since my items are all one-of-a-kind, I can't pay a one-time fee to get a sling tested, I would have to pay it for every sling.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission's website,

All children’s products (as defined by the CPSIA) subject to the lead limit of the Act will eventually require testing for lead, not just those with surface coatings.

Children’s products manufactured after February 10, 2009, when the lead limit may not exceed 600 ppm, will need a general conformity certification based on a test of the product or a reasonable testing program for products after that date. Children’s products manufactured after August 14, 2009, when the lead limit may not exceed 300 ppm, will have to be certified based on third-party testing of the product by accredited third party laboratories after that date.

For those of us who are sole proprietors or have just a few employees, hand-crafting our items, it is simply not possible to conform to the requirements of this law.

It is tempting to think "I'm a little guy - they'll never even notice me" and ignore it. But built into HR4040 are strong deterrents to this thinking: $100,000 fines per violation and up to five years in prison. Sure, they might not notice me. But if they did? It isn't a risk worth taking.

The unintended consequences go farther than just putting me and other artisans out of business. The LA Times online posted an article yesterday detailing the results of the law on thrift stores:

Barring a reprieve, regulations set to take effect next month could force thousands of clothing retailers and thrift stores to throw away trunkloads of children's clothing.

The law, aimed at keeping lead-filled merchandise away from children, mandates that all products sold for those age 12 and younger -- including clothing -- be tested for lead and phthalates, which are chemicals used to make plastics more pliable. Those that haven't been tested will be considered hazardous, regardless of whether they actually contain lead. (Emphasis mine.)

I think that the people who drafted, supported, passed, and signed this law had the best of intentions. But it is written far too broadly and without thought for the unintended results. It is in desperate need of amendment.

The Handmade Toy Alliance is working towards that goal. You can join their group on Facebook, and they have written a sample letter that you can use. Etsy has an open letter regarding the CPSIA. You can contact your congressional representatives and senators, as well as the Small Business Ombudsman.

I also strongly recommend writing to Representative Bobby Rush, the sponsor of the bill. If you are an artisan, you might like to send a small handmade children's item to him, along with a letter explaining your opposition to the bill and pointing out that the item you have sent will be considered "hazardous material" as of February 10th.

HR4040 is already law. We can't change that now, but we can cause our representatives to take another look at the repercussions of the law and consider the need for amendments.

So please, if you care about handmade toys for your little ones, or the availability of thrift store clothing for children, or have a friend who (like me) is about to lose their business, take a few minutes and write your representatives. It matters.

Save Handmade Toys

Friday, January 02, 2009

Three boys

How they grow!

This evening I left Josiah lying on the bed on his back. A moment later Jonathan called "Hey, Josiah likes tummy time!" I returned to find Josiah rolled over onto his tummy - not exactly enjoying tummy time, but quite definitely not in the position I'd left him!

Well, little three-month-old, you certainly are growing up.

Josiah is such a happy, happy baby. He loves to watch his big brothers as they play, and he is content in a swing beside me as I sew during naptime. He smiles with his whole face - mouth wide open and eyes crinkled - and laughs out loud when we play with him.

Thomas has a speech therapist now. She comes to our house twice a week, and we are starting to hear results. He's more verbal, and his sounds are becoming closer to words. He's so proud of himself when he discovers how to make a new sound - a couple of weeks ago he said "baa" to almost everything, so pleased that he could. :)

He is very good at building with duplo blocks - great tall towers - and enjoys drawing pictures on his magnadoodle (our Christmas present for him this year). He is incredibly sweet to Josiah; every night before bedtime he wants to kiss Josiah on both cheeks and the top of his head.

Thomas has a smile that lights up the room and gladdens my heart. He has his faults, but overall he is one of the sweetest children I've ever known.

Jonathan is getting closer and closer to being a four-year-old. Not just chronologically, although he is that as well of course, but developmentally. I look at him and I don't so much see a three-year-old anymore. He is growing up by leaps and bounds. He can dress himself entirely without assistance (do you realize what a wonderful thing that is? I can send him off to get dressed and he does!) and chooses more and more advanced stories when we read together. He creates incredible scenes with his duplos and brio trains - his imagination and creative ability surprise me almost every day. Jonathan has started to draw pictures of people - a circular head with two large circular eyes inside, and two lines dropping down from the head for legs. They look a little alien-esque, but it is obviously the beginning of intentional "reality" drawings.

Jonathan lives in a make-believe world much of the time. Whatever we have recently read about or seen in a movie gets acted out for days at a time. Recently we let him watch Mary Poppins, and he's been dancing, singing, and being the characters in that movie ever since. It makes me smile, and also gives me pause as I realize how very, very careful we must be in our choices of stories and movies.

I love our little family. It is a good life we are living here.