Small Business Saturday & Cyber Monday

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, I wanted to mention the most important one of them all..

Small Business Saturday!!

This Saturday, November 30th, shop at your local small businesses to support them. From local town shops, to shops on Etsy.com. Since I'm busy tomorrow, I went shopping today at a local cat shop (Purr Tosa in Wauwatosa, WI) and bought a few toys for our cat. The shop had toys that I've never seen before & prices were great, plus they have a 20% off sale going on right now. There was a cute, lovey dovey cat that greeted us in the shop that we just fell in love with & are now in the process of trying to adopt! :)  She is up for adoption through a rescue, the cat shop owner fosters 1 cat at a time. Always adopt from a rescue or shelter!

So get out there & support your local shops this Saturday, or any other day of the year. Help keep the small businesses alive! :) 

Cyber Monday is just right around the corner, which means online retailers are having some of their best sales of the season. I'm not sure what deals are going on for Cyber Monday (I haven't really looked), but ladies, I just ordered something from LaneBryant.com via Ebates with coupon code "THANKSLB" to get 50% off anything on the site (including clearance items!!) and because I shopped through Ebates, I got 5% cash back. So I got a $40 item for $20 with Free Shipping-to-store, and then an extra $1 back. Pretty darn good deal!

Between Small Business Saturday sales, Cyber Monday deals and ordering through Ebates, you're bound to get amazing deals!

Have a great weekend, guys & gals!! Hope it's a good one! :)

Happy Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday..whatever.

Happy Thanksgiving, lil ramblers! And happy Black Friday shopping to ya, as well as Cyber Monday...basically whatever you're doing this week(end), I hope you do it happily. Or something.

Tomorrow, I have to brave going to the grocery store for a few things that I forgot to get such as the much-needed cool whip for the pumpkin pie & buttermilk to make my homemade banana bread. Sweet fancy Moses, it's gonna be a nightmare.

This is what I hate about this time of the year: people are everywhere & they're grouchy. Mix that with constant ringing bells of the Salvation Army people and an overdose of holly jolly Christmas songs, and this makes me one unhappy gal. I never used to be this way, I swear. I think the older I get, the more I dislike this time of the year. I'm hoping to find my Christmas spirit one of these years (that I apparently shoved up somebody's a** one year, I'm guessing). This year, this year..it's just not happening.

If you're gonna bypass the Black Friday crowds and do it the right way...in your pj's & slippers at home with a cup of a coffee by your side...then let me remind ya that you get actual cash back if you do your shopping via Ebates. (I'm up to $30 in cash back from this past month, that'll be nice to put back in my pocket.)

The next few days are gonna be crazy busy, but I'll do a post sometime over this weekend. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving & good luck to all of you who are braving the crowds of craziness on Black Friday. ;)

Rant: Black Friday is Now Called Thanksgiving


There was once a time that I used to look forward to Black Friday. Now, not so much.

Every Thanksgiving morning, I would buy the local newspaper, grab out all the ads, and there I would sit for the next several hours scouting the best deals that I wanted to snag up. I had a system: I would go through each ad twice (just to make sure I didn't miss anything good), circle the deals I wanted with a sharpie, then I would coordinate my Black Friday madness schedule according to opening times, doorbusters, and distance between each destination.

It was an art form, I tell you. You should've seen me. I was the best.

Over the past few years, my love for Black Friday has dwindled down to nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. In fact, I am starting to despise Christmas/Holiday time all together now. And it sucks! It sucks because it used to be my favorite time of the year. . And now, I can't stand it.

Why?
Because of corporate greed.

Now, don't get me wrong, I've always been well aware of corporate greed. But somehow, this particular year, they have sunk to an all time low.

A lot of stores are opening up earlier than ever on Thanksgiving:

*Kmart @ 6am (yes...that is AM, not PM)
*Old Navy @ 9am
*Walmart @ 6pm
*Best Buy @ 6pm
*Target @ 8pm

Really, Kmart?? 6am? REALLY!?!!

A day when we are supposed to be with our families to share thanks & be thankful for what we have, is now being trampled on like a lost shoe at a concert. What has happened to giving people the day off to see their families?

I understand that not everyone has family, or lives near family, so this isn't that big of a deal to them. I can relate, all of my family are half-way across the country. I get it. But it's about the principle of the matter. It's the corporations that are laughing...at you, by the way...all the way to the bank. I take it as a huge insult, and I know I'm not alone.

*Gets up on her soapbox*...

I would love to see our nation rally against those stores that don't give a flying %$#! about your family time, your Thanksgiving meal that was prepared with love, or simply, just a day off! Stand up to those that stores that are forcing their employees to work on Thanksgiving, so that you can save a few bucks on a t shirt. It's time to say...Enough is Enough!

Speak with your wallets on Thanksgiving by not going to the mentioned stores above. Instead, go to stores that are CLOSED on Thanksgiving and actually open on Black Friday! Need a list? Here ya go...

Stores That Open On Black Friday..not on Thanksgiving:
*Aeropostle
*Ace Hardware
*Bed Bath Beyond
*Bass Pro Shops
*Costco
*GameStop
*Home Depot
*JoAnn Fabrics
*Lowes
*Menards
*Nordstrom
*PetCo
*PetSmart
*Radio Shack
*RiteAid
*Sams Club
*Steinmart

So go out & shop your little Black Friday lovin' hearts out on Black Friday, not Thanksgiving Thursday. If not, don't be surprised to see "Pre-Black Friday Sales" starting on the Wednesday before T-Day next year. The more you buy this year & make it worth the companies while to open that early, the more they'll keep opening up earlier & earlier. It's time we push back.

*Gets off of soapbox*

Freebies: How to Get Them

I love freebies!! I LOVE THEM!! And the best part? They're everywhere! In this post, I'll share my knowledge of how I get freebies. Though I'm not an expert on freebies (*I'm far from being one of those people on that Extreme Couponing show), I do know a secret or two on how to get them.

Birthday Freebies:
The best time of the year for me is the week of my birthday, not only because it's my birthday, but because I also get freebies galore in my inbox! Lots of free food from local restaurants that send me e-coupons for a free entree or dessert simply because I signed up via their website for their email alerts.  

Here's my list of birthday freebies:
*Applebees: free sundae (walk-in/ask) ($4 value)
*free meal @ iHop ($9 value)
*Buy 1, Get 1 for $2 @ Old Country Buffet ($10 value)
*Local casino for birthday comps (see post below for details)
*Local Frozen Yogurt (I recieved a free small fro-yo)
*Noodles & Co: free bowl of noodles ($8 value)
*Chilli's: free dessert w/ entree purchase
*Moes Burritos (local Milwaukee eatery): free burrito ($8 value)

Note: Most coupons were good for 2 weeks, so print them out & go to a different place each day! :)

I'm sure there's more freebies from other restaurants (check local & national chains), these are just the ones that I'm currently signed up for.

Casino Freebies: 
Here in Milwaukee, we have a casino that gives you $25 on your players card that can be redeemed at any of their restaurants and gift shops, or towards bingo play. So every year on my birthday, I go to the casino to get a free meal ($10+ tip usually) and then spend the rest towards free bingo play. This year was even better: I received a $5 off bingo coupon in the mail plus a $10 off at any restaurant coupon, so I was able to eat for free ($10 value), play bingo for free ($20 value) and still have enough left over on my players card to play bingo for free at a later date! Total score!! Every casino is different, of course. If you live near a casino, even if you don't play, go & sign up for their players card. You'll get coupons and hopefully some awesome birthday comps, too! If you're lucky, you'll get both on your birthday and have a great night out--for FREE!!

Online Freebies:
I'm just going to lightly touch on this subject since I could write a book about online freebies, but my 2 favorite sites for freebies are Spoofee.com & Walmart.com has freebie section to get samples in the mail. After a few weeks of ordering samples, I started to collect a nice pile of useable stuff--for free!

Tips:
No matter what you use/buy/shop at, make sure to sign up on their website for the email list. Sometimes I luck out and get freebies through doing that. For example, I signed up a year ago on BlueBuffalo.com (dog/cat products) and I just received a freebie coupon for a bag of kitty litter that is valued at $9. Being a cat owner, I'll take free litter any day! (If you're not a cat owner, you can always donate it to your local animal shelter. They'll love you for it!)

Cash Back:
I already did a post on this, but definitely check out Ebates!! They give you actual cash back for online shopping. (*Reminder: Black Friday & Cyber Monday are coming up soon! Might as well get cash back on stuff you're buying online anyways!) I use them when I shop online and I'm already up to $25. Hey, $25 bucks is $25 bucks..I'll take it!

There's all kinds of freebies out there and if you love to save money like I do, then hopefully you enjoyed this post. Yay for freebies!!!


Buying a Used Car: Get Ready for Stress

 

This post is more of a rant, but one that I think many of us can relate to.

A year ago, I had to sell my Chevy Blazer due to it being an older car & things kept breaking on it. With over 180,000 miles on it and it being nearly 20 years old, it was time that I sell my money pit and just share a car with my better half. The past year has not been fun, to say the least. One car between 3 jobs = not fun.

After saving up for a year for a used car (I didn't want a loan), the time has finally come to start car shopping for a decent used car. The experience has been stressful and overwhelming. From cruising the lot of used cars after-hours so that we wouldn't be harassed by salesmen, to looking online at cars, it's become a part time job.

I first started looking online to gauge the prices of cars. Then I started reading reviews of local dealers to see how their past customers rate them, which most of them were downright scary! People being sold cars that were totaled out on the title, or rusted out frames, to plain old lying & using the bait/switch tactic when signing the papers. Scary, scary, scary.

After hours of research, I found that there are 2 things to consider when buying a used car, when it comes time for negotiating: the Kelly Blue Book Value & the True Market Value. Somewhere in between those numbers, you'll find a good negotiating point. Also, don't forget to get the CarFax& an inspection for the car you're looking at. (A good dealer will have the carfax online for free to look at and/or in person upon request). This will tell you if the car has been in any accidents, been totaled, flooded, etc. Getting a car inspected can not only save you from buying a piece of junk, but it can also help in negotiating if you buy from a private seller on Craigslist.

I didn't want to go through Craigslist, for the fear of being ripped off. I'm not saying that all people selling cars on Craigslist are dishonest sellers, but there are handful of dishonest people that are trying to con someone into buying their car for any number of reasons. 

It's been a month of looking for the perfect-for-me used car, and my search still continues. Hopefully I'll get a get reliable car and not a lemon. So if you're in the market for a used car, I wish you luck, strength and patience.
 

Bow Wow Bistro: Dog Treat Maker (Review)

With all the news stories about dog treats making dogs sick (or worse) recently, I figured now would be a good time to start making my own treats for my Golden Retriever, Bella.

This is Bella:
For my birthday, my amazing boyfriend (and pet-daddy to Bella), bought me a Dog Treat Maker! I was so thrilled that I could now start making homemade doggy treats for my fur daughter! :) The treat maker didn't come with any dog treat mixes, but he bought me 2 of the mixes that are sold separately. He picked the peanut butter flavor mix.

Right off the bat, I ran into a problem: the mix required a rolling pin to roll out the dough. I had thrown out my old one months ago & never replaced it. Doh! After a speedy trip to the nearest Target, I grabbed a $20 rolling pin and was on my way to baking up some delicious doggy treats.

With my trusty rolling pin now by my side, I started making the mix, which only required some vegetable oil, an egg, and some water. Oh, and a lighly floured counter-top to roll the dough out onto.
*Note: The dog shaped cutter in the pic came with the dog treat maker.

After I wiped down the dog treat maker with a damp paper towel (to get the dust off from the factory/boxing), I plugged it in to pre-heat it, as I made the dog treat mix. I then placed them on the treat maker and waited 5 minutes for them to be done.


They looked great! The mix also came with icing (you just add water, then put on top of the treats).


After letting them cool off for about 10 minutes, I gave one to Bella to see if she liked it..and she loved it!!! Since they're so small and thin, I gave her a few more to see how much she liked them, and yep..she loved them all!

At this point, I was so happy because it was easy to make and Bella loved them!! ...but then I ran into a problem the next morning. When I went over to Bella's dog treat container where I had put the baked goods the night before, I could feel that the treats were no longer hard/crunchy feeling. They now felt rubbery, soft, almost like uncooked dough (though I know they were cooked thoroughly). I gave Bella one to see if maybe they still tasted okay and she wasn't too thrilled with it. At that point, I threw them all out. They were crunchy the night before & even left a few crumbs on the carpet. This left me puzzled.

I'm not sure where I went wrong...did the icing making them soggy? Should I have put them in an air tight container? Or perhaps I didn't let them cool off enough before putting them in her dog treat container? I'm not sure.

So while at first I would have enthusiastically gave this product a 5 out of 5 stars, I'm going to have to say the maker itself is great (even if you use your own homemade recipes, which are included in the booklet that came with the maker) and I give that 5 stars, but as for the mixes, the jury is still out on this one. I have a 2nd box of mix that I'm going to try and when I do, I'll update this post (give me about a week).

Conclusion:
Dog Treat Maker: 5 out of 5 Stars
Dog Treat Mixes: (to be updated)

UPDATED:
I decided to just return the treat maker because I want to make homemade dog treats in the oven. So instead, I'll be ordering a dog treat cutter to cut the dough into dog bone shapes. 

If you're interested in a dog treat maker, or perhaps silicone baking bone pans, check out the stuff I found on Amazon. I think for Christmas, I'm going to ask for a silicone baking bone pan so that I can make large treat bones, which are Bella's favorite! ;)

Free Homemade Dog Treats Recipe: (per the booklet from the dog treat maker)

*2 cups whole wheat (or gluten free) flour
*1 cup rolled oats
*1/2 cup low-sodium peanut butter
*1 cup hot water

Whisk flour & oats together, then add peanut butter and water. Mix until dough begins to form. Place dough on lightly floured surface & knead by hand 2-3 times. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thick & cut dough into bone shapes. (The maker then says to put bake them for 5-6 minutes, but you can bake them in the oven at 325 degrees for a few minutes. Just make sure to keep an eye on them so they don't burn.)

Want more? Here is another homemade dog treat recipe that I found.
Enjoy!!! :D


Poo Pourri Review: The 'Before You Go' Spray

If you have not yet seen the hysterical YouTube commercial for Poo Pourri, then I highly suggest you stop what you're doing & go watch it. It's hilarious! And yes, it's a real product!

Poo Pourri is a 'before you go' spray. You simply spray it in your toliet (4-6 sprays) before you go, and just like that..no smell during or after! No more spraying your bathroom with huge amounts of your favorite odor masking spray or, if you're old school, lighting a match to get rid of the not-so-pleasant smell.

Once I saw the commercial for it, I just had to try it! It got amazing reviews on Amazon (4.7 out of 5 stars), and that's the best reviews I've ever seen for any product on there. With reviews like that, I just had to buy a bottle for myself & see what all the rave was about.

There are a variety of scents, with creative & funny names, to pick from. I picked the "Party Pooper" scent.
It has essential oil scents of mandarin, tangerine, and lily. It has a very pleasant citrus (like a lemon) smell to it. I bought the 2 oz bottle (pictured above), but I wish I had bought the bigger bottle (though I'll just use this bottle as a travel bottle & stick it in my purse once I get the bigger bottle).

Both the boyfriend & I tested this out and let me tell you, it really works!! I am officially a fan of Poo Pourri and as long as it's being sold, I'll continue to buy it. I bought my "Party Pooper" bottle a week ago and I still have about 99% of the spray left, so it should last for a long time.

With Christmas coming up, this would be a great stocking stuffer, or a gag gift that actually works!

They have other scents such as:

*Sh*ttin Pretty
*Deja Poo
*Christmas Santa Poo
*Original
*Secret Santa
*Trap-a-Crap
*Royal Flush
*Heavy Doody
*Party Pooper

Check out all the scents on Amazon& pick up a few for those on your holiday shopping list and don't forget to get one for yourself! Trust me, you'll love it!!