Tuesday, March 31, 2009

**Warning** Product Placement!

Unlike Biggest Loser, I warn before shoving a product in your face. Feel free to change the channel if you don't want to hear about it.

When we moved into our last house, it was brand new with new appliances. So, we were stuck with what the guy who built it picked out. Included, was an electric glass top range. Boo. I hated it. It takes FORever to boil water, so you end up wandering away, forgetting about the pot on the stove, then having it boil over and totally mess up the cooktop. I think I "ruined" mine the first time I cooked on it.

So, when we moved, I was really hoping to luck into some gas appliances. Unfortunately, the house we found had a "recently updated kitchen" with, you guessed it, another electric, glass top range. With all the other home improvement to do's, ripping out a perfectly good range and running a gas line did not seem like it was going to happen, so I bought more of the special cooktop cleaner and tried to be careful.

But all of that changed a few weeks ago when I picked up the new love of my life (that was on sale and I had a coupon for!). Let me show you how well it works:

Alright, all together, "EWWWWW!!"  This picture was snapped after making red beans and rice (which simmers on the stove for a good 3 hours).  There is also a burn ring from where the water boiled over when making the rice:

This was cooked and pictures taken the same day I was trying to prepare my cakes and icing for my final, so I was a little frazzled. 

Now enter, my hero:

Scotch Brite Cook top cleaner.  Gross, you can see dried, burned bean spots in the upper right corner!  Ew!  So, you slap one of the cleaning clothes on the bottom of the handled and start scrubbing.  In about 15 seconds, your cooktop will look like this:
So shiny you can see your face in it!  Love it!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Customer Service?

Because we were re-doing the floors, we were without a breakfast table for a few days. We've been hating the table (well, chairs) since, oh about 2005. We thought we'd humor ourselves by shopping over the weekend for a new set. We just wanted to see what was out there, how much things were and take some measurements.

After going to a few "nice" furniture stores, we headed to a cheaper place that sells furniture by the room, if you catch my drift. This was our last stop, so we had 2 cranky toddlers with us, too.

We are greeted at the door by a lovely woman who wanted to "help" us shop. I, however, had the two SKU number that we wanted to see. She showed us the first set, then was leading us to the second, when she looked back and said, "Well, I haven't seen ANYTHING in here that I wouldn't want to take home!" Ok lady. We're not buying the store. And honestly, we probably aren't buying a table (although Hubs cleared out the back of the car already, so you're 80% there you just need to close the deal). Don't try to "sell" me anything.

We make it back to our #1 choice and she offered to see if they had it in stock, ready to go. We wandared over to the kids funiture section and waited. And waited. And waited. At this point, Nugget is so done. She FINALLY comes over and says:

Lady: Great news! We have it in stock.
Hubs: Ok that's great.
Lady: Now, would you want that delivered?
Hubs: No, I'll pick it up, that's fine.
Lady: Where would you pick it up?!
Hubs: Uhhhh here?
Lady: It's not here
Hubs: But you said it's in stock.
Lady: Yes, it's in stock in our warehouse. And the delivery fee is only 6% with a minumum of $65 which is exactly what your delivery charge would be!
Hubs: Oooo Kkkkk. Um, then no, I'll just pick it up at the warehouse.
Lady: I'm sorry, you can't pick it up at the warehouse.
Hubs: Why?
Lady: Because there's no place to pick it up at the warehouse.
Hubs: Where is the warehouse?
Lady: Chicago.
Hubs: So you DON'T have it in stock.
Lady: Yes, we do.
Hubs: It's not here, so YOU don't have it in stock.
Lady: We have it in stock at our warehouse.
Hubs: In Chicago.
Lady: Right.

At this point, I'm wondering why the heck she asked if we wanted delivery if can't pick it up anyway. No, we don't want delivery. We'll just pay you and come have breakfast in the showroom. Is that ok? Crazy. We said we'd think about it and go home and measure our space. She hands Hubs her card and says, "Even if I'm not here where you come back, ask for me! I'll still get credit for the sale!"

That 80% chance that we WOULD by a table, just turned into a 100% chance it would be somewhere else.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A letter to Uncle P from the dog

Dear U. P.,

The family has been talking a LOT about some upcoming Disney trip. It sounds like they are going to enjoy 7 days in Florida witch means I'm going to spend 9 days in a kennel. And honestly, it's sounds like heaven. Lately, it's been hell around here. It's been cold, so we can't spend too much time outside. The kids are driving me bonkers. Do you KNOW what it's like to have 2 crazies fighting over who's going to feed you while holding the giant scoop of food above your bowl?! JUST DROP THE DAMN SCOOP! Ugh. I'm kind of looking forward to my 23 hours a day in lock up, but was wondering if the parents brought me down, maybe I could chill with you and Tay (and that cute girl who has been hanging around for the past FOUR YEARS)? Let me know, because dude, I need a break:


June Bug

Crap, crapity, crap crap

The kiddos' birthdays are pretty close. Actually, Nugget was due the day before Strip's birthday, but came a few weeks early. Because of this, I start planning their parties about six months in advance. I know, I'm crazy. BUT, I like to have an idea about what we'll have/serve/do at both parties so I can start buying in advance and buying on sale.

I'm cheap, and when it comes to things like invitations, I'm super cheap. I like to skimp on things like paper that are going to get thrown away by most people so I can splurge on something like this:

A ridiculously expensive dress for a little girl, but come on. How cute it that?! Perfect for her party!

I got a super great deal on Nugget's from a random store in Alabama, and they turned out really cute. Because Strip's theme is sort of made up, I had to design my own.

Her original idea was to have a Fancy Nancy Bonjour Butterfly Pirates and Princess party. I told her she had to cut it down a little, so she stuck with a Fancy Nancy Bonjour Butterfly party. Ok. I LOVE vista prints, so I started designing my own about 6 weeks ago. 10 days ago, I sent them to my proof readers (my mother and my brother's girlfriend) who both approved.

I placed my order and patiently waited for them to arrive. They got here today and Strip and I excitedly checked the mail. Before dinner, I showed them to Hubs, who also said, "Cute." I took one more look at them and noticed something was wrong. Let's see if YOU can guess:

Ding ding ding! The BIRTHDAY KID'S NAME is NO WHERE on the invite.

Ugh. And I couldn't just slap her name on there with a Sharpie. So my loving hubs said order another batch and have them rushed.

So mom, expect an envelope from Vista in a few days.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I'm gonna have to pull a Stephanie.

Stephanie was our neighbor at our old house/city/state. She could unleash some phenomenal rage. Not on us, on customer (non)service people. It was amazing to watch. Sometimes I think she and hubs should have been married because between the two of them, they could get more free stuff and apologizes in a phone call than I could in a year. Amazing.

So Wal-mart did not let me down. Not only did they ship an opened package with missing parts, they can't send the new parts to me, and they don't have any more in stock. Great. So she told me to call the manufacturer who refused to help me until I registered my product, which would be fine except the nice person who removed the missing parts, also kindly took the registration card. And if that weren't good enough, the registration takes 24 hours to complete and then they would have to ship out the parts. Yay. We leave next week.

But Wal-mart/dvd company won't be the only ones hearing from me today. Our beloved double stroller broke. We haven't used it since the move because it was damaged this summer when I took the kids to the beach. I had it in our roof top carrier and moisture got in, covering the stroller with mildew. I've been thinking it was mold since August, but it just occurred to me that it was mildew and I might be able to clean it! After google searches and posting on cleaning chat boards (yes, there are actually cleaning chat boards) I found that lemon juice and sun will take the mildew right out. I thought even if the lemon juice took the color out of the stroller, it couldn't look worse than it does now, so why not! Can you believe it, 100% clean! Looks like a brand new stroller.

BUT, Hubs folded it up and carried it to the front yard so we could hose it off, and when he opened it up, the side of the frame cracked making the stroller completely unusable. Great. I called COMBI to see what could happen and she said basically nothing. I MIGHT be able to submit a claim and MAYBE could buy a new one at a discount. Woo hoo. Even with a 20% discount, I'm still looking at $200. I WAS TICKED. I LOVED this stroller. It was recommended by a good friend (oh and her's recently broke too) and I recommend it to ALL of my friends. Even complete strangers in Babies R Us. I've probably sold more Combi strollers than any other stroller store. I am a great sales person. Not anymore.

Obviously a stroller that is 80% plastic is bound to break, but come on! I've had an Inglesina Zippy for 4 years and that thing is still perfect and I love it (and it has been used and abused). Ugh. Really the kiddos don't use the stroller anymore, but we need it for our upcoming trip to Disney. I refuse to buy another stroller (because honestly, I think I could have already put BOTH kids through college with the money spent on strollers we have), so we'll see if Combi can help. If not, I'll have to see if they let me bring a wheelbarrow to the Magic Kingdom.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh, did I mention...

I've passed course one? I have a certificate proving that I'm a Wilton certified (course 1) cake decorator :-)

How do you like them roses:

And I was totally struggling that night. I remembered just as I was walking out the door that I forgot to make an extra 1 1/2 cup of white icing, so I didn't have any to make my border and dots. So, I used blue and skipped the dots and still got the seal. Woo hoo!

Help! I'm trapped in my own house!

When we moved into this house, the hardwood floors needed to be refinished. So, Hubs had the guys come out before we moved. However, when we got up here, we all agreed that they felt rough and were discoloring/scratching waaayyy too easily. We had the guys come BACK out and they insisted that "that's how it is." Then the guy who actually did the work made the comment that on the invoice we paid for two coats of sealant (or whatever it is) and he put down 1. Well, hello. Slap another coat down please.

But, they put it off, and are just now getting around do doing it. So our fun week has been made even more fun by moving every piece of furniture and all kitchen appliances out of the downstairs living area and into the carpeted dining/living room. But wait! It gets better. Because we have the pup, we had to break out the crate so we didn't have puppy prints all over the floor. Hubs was able to work from home, so he just hung out in the basement while they did their thing. About 2 hours later, the fumes were so bad, he put the pup in the garage and had to leave with the instructions, "Just stay off of them for 24 hours." Awesome.

What did I do? I took Strip to school and Nugget and I went to the book store where he played with trains for THREE HOURS. I kid you not. Knowing we couldn't go home, we picked up Strip and headed to our favorite chicken fast food restaurant for a long, late lunch. After getting ice cream (and dripping it all over themselves) I realized there wasn't enough time to take them to the museum, so I figured they could come with me to get some stuff for their upcoming birthdays. BIG mistake. Between Nugget's fatigue of skipping a nap and both of their sugar high stickyness, they were nuts. Strip actually tripped a woman on the cake aisle. Yikes. We finally got home at 8 and they went straight upstairs and to bed while I took the dog on a walk (oh, and by the way, dear neighbor; I know you trust your invisible fence, but I don't, and your dog looks like a wolf that would eat my face off. So why, why, why, would you let the wolf dog out AS YOU SEE me walking my little old lady dog? That's just mean!)

This morning, we had to get up and moving, but because we couldn't get into the kitchen we headed back to our favorite chicken restaurant for breakfast. Then I had a bible study and we came home to clean. Fun times.

I've locked myself with kids and dog, in the basement and they have 5 minutes to play before we clean. Right now they are locking each other in the dog crate and screaming hysterically. Is it nap time yet?!

And yes, Hubs, I'm off to clean! I promise!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Whew! That's more like it.

So the package did get here on time/early. Still shocked, we opened the package to find that it was a previously opened box. Hmmmm. Shipping from the warehouse, you would think it would be brand new. After opening, we found it only had one case and one mounting bracket. So, I emailed Wal-Mart.

Ball's in your court, Wally!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

You just never know.

Yesterday morning, we had breakfast and started to get about or day.  Strip had wandered upstairs, so Nugget and I headed up as well to make sure beds were made and night lights were off.  I peek into Strip's room and she is wearing her Cinderella dress, Snow white tiara, glass slippers, some green St. Patty's day beads and has a magic wand.

Oh!  Are you playing Cinderella?
No.  I'm playing Fox and the Hound.

Ok.  Would not have guessed that one.

Oh my. The world is coming to an end!

So hubs was cleaning out the basement and found some tapes that don't fit in our video camera.  He suggested taking them back to wal-mart to swap them out for something else.  And we've all heard the joke about Wal-Mart taking EVERYTHING back, including dirty diapers, so Nugget and I headed over to Wally World.  

The girl behind the counter called her manager over, which has never happened to me before, but then, the manager scanned the tapes and said, "I'm sorry, but these didn't come from here so we can't take them."  WHAT?!?  I wasn't mad, because honestly, I have no idea where they came from, but wow!  I'm kind of proud of Wal-Mart for actually enforcing a return policy.  I never thought I'd see the day when something, unopened and unused was refused at the return counter at Wal-Mart.  WOW.

But, wait, there's more.  I'm not really a Wal-Mart fan.  I'm just not.  However, after the move, we had to switch banks because there aren't any branches here for our old one.  We are just now getting all of our old accounts closed when we find that we have a bazillion points from our old debit card.  Hubs had the good idea to use them to get a new dvd player for the car since we have some big road trips coming up.  I agreed, but the one they had in the catalog didn't look that great, so I suggested getting a gift card at one of the stores and buying it there.  And who was the only retailer with a dual screen auto dvd player?  You guessed it!  Wal-Mart.  

While I was waiting for the gift card to get here, I went into our store to see if they had it in stock.  They didn't, so I figured I would order it online.  We got the gift cards in the mail yesterday, so I hopped online to place the order.  W-M has free shipping to the store, and I thought, "Oh wow!  That's nice!" especially if you have ever ordered something from Target.  Good grief, you would think they were having to ship and elephant, not a cd.  Their shipping charges are crazy.  So back to Wal-mart, the estimated shipping to the store gave a range that on the later side would put it after we left for big road trip 1, and I didn't want to take that chance.  So I thought I'd suck it up and pay the slowest shipping which estimated it arriving the Tuesday before we left.  Perfect. So I click on it to update my cart, and it adds in the shipping for a whopping $.97.  Yup.  LESS THAN A DOLLAR to ship!  

That's when the unthinkable happened.  Before I could stop myself, I uttered the words, "Oh.  I love you Wal-mart!"  GASP!!  What next?!  Am I going to be falling in love with Graco strollers?!  Yikes!  

But wait!  There's more!  I'm checking email this morning, and I get a shipping notification.  Hubs asks when it will get here and I said that it would probably be a week at the earliest.  He told me to track it, but I had not because I'm an over tracker and normally track packages too early and get some message about the package being delivered in San Diego because the recycled number hasn't updated.  Of course, I check it anyway and it says, "Scanned out for Delivery."  Hmm that's funny.  And it even has our city as the destination.  I go to he detailed tracking, and sure enough, it's being delivered TODAY.

Slap a blue vest on me and call me a greeter, because I think I've just fallen in love with the low price leader.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It was totally his choice

While Strip is in school, I try to take Nugget out and teach him how to be a person.  Being the second child, he too often gets tossed in the stroller or cart, and never has the luxury of getting to walk with someone and hold their hand.  So I made it my mission to do all of our errands sans stroller and to celebrate, we would go to the toy store.  His birthday is coming up and I was thinking he needed a man trike.  Again, being the second child, he tends to get most excited about whatever Strip is excited about, meaning, the kid loves to rock a tiara and heels.  

Because Strip's first trike was pink and purple, I thought it would be fun to test drive a few in the store that were man colors.  We make it past the trains and manage to keep focused past all of the dinosaurs when we stumble upon the row of trikes.  Now we have a John Deere green one, Cars and Thomas.  It was a tough call, but I would have put money on him going for the Cars one.  Which one did he pick?

Yup, pink and purple.  And yes he picked out and put on the sparkly pink helmet himself.  Safety first!

It was like the "Buy Crap" party from hell.

And even worse because I paid to go!

Everyone's been to those parties.  Let's say it's a "cooking and kitchen" party.  You go, you eat, you drink, the nice lady shows you all the wonderful things that you can do with all of these gadgets that cost at least $19.99 + shipping, and they pass out the magazines and order forms.  I'm using a "cooking and kitchen" party as my example, because I went, I ate, I drank, I ordered at one of these a few years ago.  I was good and only ordered a cook book.  But when I cracked it open to test out my first recipie, I realized, it was written in "cooking and kitchen" party-ese.  

So, instead of saying separate egg whites, beat until frothy, add garlic and coat chicken in the mixture, my cook book said using your stage 2 press, mince garlic into a fine pulp.  Take your 1/8 cup spoon measurer and place egg in, allowing the yolk to rest in the spoon.  Using your #3 whisk, beat mixture until a light foam appears.  Now, take your three-plate-divider and allow chicken to rest in the purple tray -- thus insinuating that there was NO way you could make a chicken parmesan without $300 worth of "cooking and kitchen" party accessories.  

Why am I still reading this and why is there a picture of cake at the top of the page?  I hear you.  I'm going to answer that.

So I've been saying for a while that I wanted to take a cake decorating class.  I do a pretty ok job whipping out the kids' birthday cakes, but wanted to really learn what I was supposed to be doing.  Tucked inside my Valentine's card from my parents is a gift card to our craft store for the 5 week course!  YAY!  I excitedly take Nugget with me to register, but was so excited that I left the gift card at home.  The cashier let me go ahead and sign up for the class, and I confirmed that I was good to go after I paid for the class.  I came back later, with both kids, to pay and asked if there was anything I needed to bring.  Nope!  The teacher has everything.

One of my best buds took the course (in a different state) so I had heard a lot about it, and knew obviously that we were going to be decorating real cakes.  However, in my pipe dream, the teacher would provide us with little mini cakes, disposable parchment icing bags and tips, but would show us how great the "real things" were so we could all buy what we wanted/needed either during or after the class.


I show up, excited to get my cake on, sit down only to realize everyone has a box in front of them that says, "Course 1."  Hmmm.  She didn't give me that.  ::raises hand:: Do I need one of those?  Oh yes, they are available in the cake section of the store.  Well, crap.  As I sulk over to the cake section, I am thinking about all of the bags and tips I have at home that I COULD HAVE brought with me, but nooooo.  I spy the box... and the price tag.  Well, great, now I'm $50 into this thing, and I haven't done anything yet!  

THEN, we spend the next 20 minutes talking about all of the GREAT cake company products that you need to get in order to take the class that are NOT in the kit.  Awesome.  Dollar signs, dollar signs, dollar signs.  

Next, we make icing.  She holds up the most expensive brand of confectioners sugar and says, "This is the only kind you should use," then the most expensive brand of shortening and repeats the phrase.  I'm surprised when she got to the add milk section, she didn't say, "And I always drive out to the organic dairy farm and pull the milk straight from the cow."  Ugh.  Then she mentions that this is what we need to bring next week to class.  I'm still in shock at what I've had to put into this already, now I have to make and bring in my own icing?!  Luckily, the gal across from me raised her hand and confirmed that we needed to do this, and she says, "Oh yes," then  under her breath, "along with a cake."  WHAT?!?  So I pay for the class, have to buy this kit, now you are telling me I have to buy all of these other accessories AND bake my own cakes every week AND make my own icing?!?  Why the heck did I not just pull up a youtube video and do all of this from the comfort of my own kitchen?!

Ugh.  So after class, she walks us over to the cake decorating section to show us where we can get everything we need, but I am fuming at this point.  All I could do was add up what we all paid for the class and what we all paid for the stupid box.  Add too it everything that we "need" located conveniently in the front of the store.  I didn't feel as bad though.  One girl in the class is maybe 13, and her mom picked her up.  "Hang on mom, I have to get a few things for next week."  She scurries off and reappears with a cake taker, powdered meringue, a giant icing tip, another icing bag, the three stared tip, couplet and bag and some clown heads.  The mom, flabbergasted, takes it all from her daughter and says, "Well.  Is that all?"  Nope!  I still need the cake tuner, a leveler, gel, parchment and some disposable piping bags!  I thought the mom was going to throw up.

After I got home and basically exploded and almost cried a little, Hubs said just do it, you know you want to take the class and yeah this sucks that we didn't know about all of the added expense up front, but just do it.  You needed some new tips and you can always use a few new bags.  I called my buddy who had done it before and she suggested going ahead and buying the mega tackle box kit all at once instead of buying every little thing as you need it.  It would also be good because I would finally have a safe (locked) place away from the kiddos.  So I broke down and bought this bad boy (cue angels singing):

Yup.  I went all out and bought the 101 piece tool kit.  From the Craft store's competitor.