Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Birthday of Concerts

Chris grew up going to concerts and music has always been something he enjoys and cares about. He can tell you which song turned him into a fan of ____ genre and what band had _____ effect on him at ____ time in in his life. (He's more specific than leaving blanks in his sentences though.) He's been listening to quite a few "new to him" groups over the last few months which has been really fun for both of us.

When I asked Chris back in March what he wanted for his birthday he mentioned that this band called Bon Iver was going to be in town the week before his birthday and he would really like to see them. So, I was on the look out for tickets and last Thursday we went!

It was a different crowd than I'm used to (please note that I did not grow up going to concerts), but the concert was fantastic. The stage set up was really cool and the band much bigger than I imagined and the music was really great. We stood in the middle, not more than 50 feet from the stage and really enjoyed the whole concert.

I'm sure there are clips on the internet for those interested in hearing his unique (kind of high-pitched) sound. Sorry we didn't take photos or anything!

Two days later his uncle and cousin were coming up for a concert in Vacaville (about an hour north of San Francisco). He had invited us along and offered to purchase the tickets for us and put us up in a hotel room for Chris's birthday (that's what he said anyway). The band was "Better than Ezra" which Chris has liked for many years. I on the other hand was pretty much clueless.

The venue was a lot smaller than any of us were expecting and the production was pretty laid back but the concert was really fun. The band seemed to have a blast on stage together joking around and doing their thing. The drummer was incredible to watch too.  Better than Ezra was one Chris's cousin's favorites and she was up front the whole time just loving it. It was really cool to see her so excited! The smile on her face afterwards was priceless.

The rest of the weekend we spent enjoying the heat of the sun and the outlet mall. We don't go shopping very often so I think we'll be set for a while with the six+ hours we put in over the course of two days. Getting out of the city and having a small "road trip" of sorts was good for us. We really enjoyed all the quality time we had together.

Chris's birthday isn't for another day but we sure have had a good time celebrating it over the past nine days!

Coupon Deal at CVS

I had too much fun shopping the other day . . . at the drug store. I feel so silly telling you about the great deal I got because it wasn't for anything special; it was for the most everyday supplies ever. But I paid a fraction of the retail price and it just has to be shared.

CVS has these store rewards called "Extra Care Bucks." They are coupons that are dispensed along with your receipt when you buy certain advertised items. Usually they cover the cost or a good portion of the cost of the item bought making it a really great deal. 

I did separate transactions to use the extra care coupons for the next purchase so my out-of-pocket price would be less.

#1: Halmark cards (Buy 3 and get $3 in Extra Care Bucks)
      - Bought three Hallmark greeting cards for $1.99 each
      - Used a $3.00 off coupon when I bought three
      - Used a $1.50 Extra Care Buck from a previous purchase 
         Total paid: $1.93 (including tax) and received $3 in Extra Care Bucks

#2: Blink eye drops (on sale for $8.99 and get $8.99 Extra Care Bucks)
      - Bought one at $8.99 (Regular price was $12.99)
      - Used a $1.00 off coupon
      - Used $3 Extra Care Bucks from greeting card purchase
         Total paid: 5.75 (including tax) and received $8.99 in Extra Care Bucks

#3: Head & Shoulders (on sale for 3/$14 and get $4 in Extra Care Bucks)
     - Bought three bottles (Regular price $6.00 for 14 oz. bottle)
     - Used Buy One Get One Free coupon
     - Used 8.99 Extra Care Bucks from eye drops
        Total paid $1.54 (including tax) and received $4 in Extra Care Bucks

The total out-of-pocket paid: $9.22 with a coupon of $4 to use on my next purchase
Total value of products purchased (sale price): $31.37; (the regular price: $38.97)

It's pretty exciting to "make money" shopping. In each transaction I ended up with more value in the Extra Care Buck coupon that I had paid for the actual item. That doesn't usually happen for me! 

When I was planning my shopping trip I had forgotten to include tax so I was a little frustrated at the register when my total out of pocket price was higher than I had anticipated. Almost $2 of my total cost paid was in sales tax! But really, it was still pretty cool to leave the store with $30 worth of brand-name products and a $4 coupon for less than $10.

Now I just need to find more shelf space in my closet!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It all happened so fast

It's amazing how quickly your day can change. It's amazing to me how fast one little thing can happen so fast and unravel your plans.

Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling completely refreshed. Chris and I had the most amazing weekend in Vacaville with his uncle and cousin. They took us out to a concert (I'll tell you about that in another post) and we spent the rest of the weekend shopping at an outlet mall and found some really great deals. It was a beautiful weekend; sunny and in the 70s. It was perfect.

My morning routine went as planned and I rode my bike to work just like I've been doing for the past few months. It was a really smooth ride and I made it to work in great time. I hauled my bike into the building and put it away and made my way to the kitchen to get some water.

I was feeling really thirsty and regretting that I would have to wait for the slow water filter to fill up my bottle. I waited . . . but then I started to feel a little hot and light headed. I leaned over the sink and closed my eyes, trying to catch my breath.

The next thing I know, I am laying on the floor in excruciating pain and I can't see. My head was throbbing and my back hurt pretty bad. As I lay there, trying to figure out where I was and what had happened, I heard the water running. I quickly got up to turn off the water fearing it was overflowing (it wasn't) and realized that something was very wrong. I yelled for help, "Can somebody help me!" and two people cam running in. One told me to sit down and breathe. The other asking if he should call 9-1-1. I think I told them that wasn't necessary but I also remember saying, "I don't know what to do." I asked for help finding my glasses which had apparently been thrown across the room.

I put my hand to my head and was terrified to feel a bump the size of a golf ball. I've never had a bump that large before. My head hurt so bad! A few more other people arrived to see what the fuss was about and helped me to the couch where I was given an ice pack. From there I called my husband to see if he could come pick me up to take me to the hospital. Thankfully, he wasn't working and was there in less than 15 minutes.

I tried to get an appointment with my normal doctor but she wasn't available so we ended up going to the emergency room. The waiting room was empty so it didn't take long to be admitted. I was actually very surprised by how nice everyone was. And how quickly they did everything. Overall, I was really impressed with how I was taken care of.

I had some blood drawn for tests, an EKG to make sure nothing was up with my heart and a few X-rays of my lower back. All came back normal. They gave me some fluids and some pain medication and let me rest for a bit. Before discharging me they gave me a list of things to watch out for in case my head injury was more severe than they thought. Their diagnosis was dehydration and lack of oxygen, which made sense since I hadn't had very much water all weekend and then rode my bike for three miles.

Chris was very comforting through the whole ordeal; just having him there put me at ease. I'm also glad he was there to hear what the doctors were saying so he knew what I knew. Once we got home, he made me lunch and watched a movie with me. I slept for the rest of the day.

Although I did go to work today, I feel far from "better." Please pray for me: healing for my head and tail bone; pray for sharper focus in thinking. Pray against nausea and other symptoms that might mean it is a more severe head injury. Also pray for protection so that this doesn't happen again. And praise God that I'm okay and it didn't look as serious as it might have been.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Surviving My First Fall

Last night after work, I was riding my bike downtown to get to a meeting. I've ridden downtown a few times, last night makes three. There are bike lanes, but it's a lot different from my normal route. There are more buses and the traffic is a little more dense than I'm used to. There are also more pedestrians; basically there are people everywhere! I try to be more careful and aware of my surroundings when I ride downtown.

Anyway, although it was my third time riding downtown, yesterday was the first time I needed to make a left hand turn on the busy street. As I got in the left lane, I looked down and realized that there were tracks in the road that the street cars use. As I saw them, I remembered that people have warned me to be careful. And I had heard of and seen others get their bikes caught in the tracks and fall. But before I could even finish my thought of "Oh, I need to be careful!" I was already on the ground. My rear tired had gotten caught in the track as I was attempting to turn left and I was down.

It happened so quickly! I fell on my side but somehow also hit my left knee on the pavement, it stung and throbbed pretty bad, but I could still move just fine. I had also attempted to catch myself with my right hand. I got up and noticed that I had stopped traffic (which was good, otherwise I would have been run over) and walked to the side of the road, nearly everyone who saw me (and there were a lot of people) asked if I was alright. A few other bikers stopped to ask if I was okay, too. I told them I was okay, but I felt a little  quite shaken up. I was also a little embarrassed. A moment later a muni worker was at my side confirming that I need to be more careful on the tracks and they are very dangerous. I muttered something like, "Yeah, I realize that, it just sort of snuck up on me."

As I walked, I took notice of what hurt and was thankful I could still walk; also thankful that my bike looked okay. I saw that I had torn my jeans at the knee and my knee was pretty scrapped up but not bleeding.

I called my husband who was also downtown for the meeting. I cried on the phone. He came rushing to my side and pushed my bike the rest of the way to our meeting. He hugged me and told me I was brave. I cried some more. He even talked to someone to get me an ice pack for my knee.

It really wasn't that bad of a fall, I could have broken something (or worst case scenario: gotten hit by a car). I was fine, just a little scuffed up and shaken up. My bike needs to be fixed up a little; the rear tire was slightly bent but it's really not that bad.

I kept thinking about when I was a little kid, falling off your bike seemed like a normal thing, but now that I'm older, it seems so out of the ordinary and almost stupid. Like it shouldn't happen after I turned 10! But in reality, everyone falls off their bikes. Everyone has their stories (many ending much worse than mine). That's just a part of being a bike rider.

I'm a bike rider, and I survived my first fall (even if I did cry a little)!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey

As you know, I've gotten into couponing lately. A friend of mine started it all when she read this book and hooked me up with the website ( Since then my addiction to saving money on groceries has grown and become an actual hobby.

But, after collecting coupons and planning my menus based on store sales, I still felt like I was missing something. I wasn't getting the savings that I had read about on their website, so I decided to check out their book too, Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey by Heather Wheeler and Joanie Demer.

It was a really quick read and quite entertaining. Kind of like talking to your coupon-fanatic girlfriend over dessert or something. Very informative and inspiring. Maybe even empowering. The whole point of couponing is not to brag about the deals you got (although, that part is quite fun), it's about financial freedom and spending your money the way you want to spend it (not giving it to the grocery store). They share several stories of how couponing allowed families to thrive while unemployed or pay off debt while being a one-income family, etc.

The trick it seemed I had been missing is two fold: I only subscribe to one Sunday paper so I only have one set of coupons to clip each week, while the Krazy Lady recommends having at least 4 but preferably 6 copies! The second part is stockpiling. These ladies have garages and cupboards full of food and toiletries. They wait for a great sale, then use their 6 coupons and stock up for cheap! I don't have a ton of space in my one-bedroom apartment, I do stock up when I can, but I can't have a 4 month supply of cereal in my closet! These two things are their keys to saving hundreds of dollars a month on groceries.

I will continue to coupon and try to stretch my grocery dollars but I don't think I will ever save the $600 dollars a month that these Krazy Ladies boast about - I only spend $400 each month the way it is! But if I could get that down to $200 that would be pretty great! Hm . . . what would I do with an extra $200 a month?!?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Wedding Season is Here!

The other day we received two wedding invitations in the mail. Two in one day! I love it when I get an invitation to my friend's or family's weddings. I can rarely go, which makes me sad. But I am so excited for them and really do share in their joy. It's a time of new beginnings and adventure!

When the invites start coming, that's when I know it's time to start making wedding cards. Weddings, of course, happen all year round, and we've had a few already this year, but by the looks of it there are many more to come this summer!

Lately, it's taken a great deal of effort to dig out my craft supplies; there are just so many other things calling my name. But, last night was the perfect night to get comfy, cozy, and crafty. Last night we had a huge thunder storm (lightening and rain included). If you are from the Midwest, that doesn't mean much because storms are more frequent, but this was only the second or third storm I've experienced in San Francisco and this one was pretty intense.

After we got married, I stashed away quite a few of my wedding cards, ones that had pretty pictures or fun patterns; the ones I knew could be reused. I still have a few left, but it's getting slimmer. Here are a few of the cards I have made recently:

If you have any old cards you think could be reused that you aren't going to use yourself, I'd be glad to take them off your hands!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring Sewing

I've been hesitant to share my sewing projects with you because most of them are gifts, and I don't want to spoil any surprises. But I also am just so pleased with the progress I've been making that I just have to tell you!

I've been working on a set of doll clothes for my neice (who I assume doesn't read my blog) for a while now. It was meant to be her Christmas gift but I didn't get to it in time. I actually cut out the material and that's as far as I got. (I know, I'm a great aunt . . . don't worry, she got something for Christmas) So, after the holidays I was determined that I would finish it.

Doll clothes tend to take me a while, most of it is taken up by reading the instructions and since I don't consider myself an advanced seamstress, directions are sometimes hard to understand. But this little top went much quicker than the jumper I had made last fall.

My hope is that this little top will match the jumper my neice got for her birthday; next up, little trousers. Then she'll be able to mix and match! Let's just hope she still plays with dolls by the time I finish!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Indoor Gardening: Take 2

Last March, I attempted to grow my own lettuce in my apartment. I had never done any indoor gardening before so I wasn't sure what to expect. I was both excited and hopeful that I would have fresh grown lettuce for my salads on a regular basis.

I had two seeds that actually grew and gave me a small handful of leafy greens. But that was it! I was honestly quite disappointed and packed up my gardening supplies early.

This year, I decided to try again. I started a little earlier and used the exact same supplies I had bought last year. And just as the package stated, it took about 10 days to see the first sign of growth and after that it just didn't stop! I didn't really do anything differently except water it less. It got plenty of sunshine this month too. It had grown for about a month and this is the beautiful plant I had in the window of my dining room:

I harvested the bigger leaves the other day. They looked absolutely gorgeous and my salad the next day was incredible! So fresh and delicious! I'm hoping the smaller leaves continue to grow and I'll be able to have a few more harvests out of this batch.

I'd like to plant another batch in a second pot I have (I attempted to plant another kind of lettuce in that one but those seeds had no life in them.) Hopefully the second batch will do this well. It's exciting to watch it grow; I could see some change happening almost on a daily basis! I almost forgot that eventually I would get to eat it. And it was so pretty I almost didn't want to.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Committed . . . for now

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and giving me some advice on weather or not joining this gym I had been checking out. After much more debating and discussing with my husband, I decided to go for it (for this month anyway). Most likely, this will be a month-by-month decision based on how I'm feeling, my budget, and if I still like it or need a change.

Fitting an hour of exercise into my daily routine has been more difficult than I had orginally anticipated, but it is definetly worth it. Even on the days I really don't feel like going or can't fit in the full hour, I go for 30 minutes and feel so much better!

I'm really looking forward to another month of consistent exercise!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ready to Commit?

A while back, I purchased a daily deal for a one-month gym pass at half price. I had been wanting to get more cardio in my schedule and with the pain in my legs going down, I thought I was ready for it. And I was! I got to use it in March. And I loved it!

I loved it too much actually, because now I don't want to stop! But the question "Is it worth it?" keeps nagging me and preventing me from full-heartedly commiting to their plan. I only have a few more days to decide before they revoke their offer of a reduced rate ($10 less per month).

The benefits: it's on my route to/from work and easy to get to, never have to wait for a machine, doesn't feel crowded, it's clean.

The things that keep me from joining: the monthly fee and the classes aren't included with basic membership (and right now the classes don't really fit in with my schedule).

I could sign up for another gym for much less, but it's just a little out of the way. They have more classes, but they are often crowded during the evening hours when I would most likely go.

What is important to me in a gym? Well, for starters it has to be affordable. I don't want to feel a financial pinch or pain because I need to go to said gym. Secondly, it needs to be easy to get to. I'd prefer if I didn't need to drive to it everytime I wanted to go because I really just don't like driving. The third thing on my list would be the equipment they have: do they have the machines I like to use, or the supplies I use when doing my physical therapy exercises? Do I have to wait to use them?

I was hoping that in writing out my thoughts it would become clear to me if I should join this gym or keep looking but it hasn't. I could make it work financially. But again I have to ask, "Is it really worth it?"

What do you like or look for in a gym? What made you join/get a membership? Any regrets?