If I Accidentally Did That, What Else Wasn’t I Thinking About?

My part-time roommate had one of the moments tonight. The moment when you realize you just did something completely avoidable and pointless and you had no idea you were at risk. I liken it to dropping your keys down the space between the elevator and the floor or denting the car door because you didn’t stop it from swinging wide in time.

She poured out my bottle of nice wine.

Backstory: She was kind enough to bring down an experimental bottle for us to try as soon as my mouth healed from the wisdom teeth extraction. Tonight we popped it open, and it was well, not quite right.

No worries, I popped open a bottle of “The Franc” which turned out to be an extremely good choice. We poured two glasses and I headed out to the porch. 10 minutes later I hear my roommate crying “Oh no! Oh no!”

She’d intended to pour out the bad bottle, but after making an effort to get the right bottle, had in fact, poured out the nice bottle.

I was sad the good wine was gone, but was more concerned at how distraught she was. Fortunately I had bought it at the wine shop across the street, so we were able to head over and ease her pain somewhat.

And, I mistakenly thought an open bottle meant they were doing public tastings and presumptously got us in on a $70 Burgandy as well 🙂

But I felt for her. How many times have I done something that I thought I was in no danger of doing? And once I have, I wonder what other obvious things I’m messing up. Did I unplug the iron? Did I remember to lock my car? Is my dress tucked in my underwear?

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Best Gift Ever Could Be A Sweater Defuzzer

Don’t you hate it when your favorite sweaters become covered in tiny balls of fluff and look even older than they are? Or worse, with the growing popularity of ponte dresses, a couple of wearings it begins to look worn and picked.

Throughout college I would painstakingly harvest all the balls off my fuzzy sweaters, which basically just made them clump together, never to be fully removed. Then one year, after doing lots of research, I asked my boyfriend at the time for an electric sweater defuzzer. He asked (multiple times) if that was really what I wanted and I assured him it was, because for some reason I couldn’t splurge on the $15 item for myself.

And it really has turned into the best gift ever. When I take the time to use it, the fabric gets back its original crisp sheen. Not to mention the fun of watching all the rough spots disappear as if by magic.

I had even more fun this past week when I took it into work. I’d noticed a co-worker’s jacket had a really cool white patterned lining, but like my stuff, had one worn area that was balled and discolored. I brought the de-fuzzer in and within 30 seconds the the patch was completely gone and the jacket looked like it could have been new!

Being a cool person, the co-worker was equally excited about the implications of this and even the intern who had inadvertently witnessed this seemed rather interested. Unfortunately, I then took it into my head to wander around the office looking for other people to de-fuzz, but that’s a story for another day.

However, if you, or someone you know has lots of sweaters or soft clothes suffering from picks and balls, you too can have the gift of the lifetime for under $15.


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I Couponed Today

Today I randomly decided to start couponing. When I was 10, I was a coupon master. Not a coupon addict like the folks featured on that show, but an overly precocious money-saving kid who had the little coupon wallet and knew whether the name brand with a coupon was cheaper than the store brand on sale.

Since then I’d fallen into the mindset that my time was worth more than the amount I would save, so I stopped doing anything other than looking at the circulars to determine which store had the most things I needed on sale. When Safeway’s Just for U was launched last year that was an amazing thing. I could “coupon” but with the ease of just pushing the add to card button. Yay!

But last week I had a revelation. While picking up water crackers for my New Year’s Eve fancy cheese selection, I saw someone had left a $.70 paper coupon for my favorite brand. It had clearly been abandoned so I snagged it. Imagine my surprise when I applied it at the cash register and discovered/remembered that Safeway doubles manufacturer’s coupons up to $.99. WOW. $1.40 off with no effort was a big deal.

This experience stuck in my head and this afternoon prompted me to try couponing. And when I say couponing, what I mean is that I shoved a pair of scissors in my purse and headed to Walgreens to pick up some Vanilla reload cards to hit minimum spend and a Sunday paper. I then sat in my car at the Walgreens and cut out all the coupons I thought I might use on my next grocery trip. I also pulled up my Safeway app and looked at the coupons they had. There was a surprising (or unsurprising) amount of overlap. I wondered if they’d let me apply both or which one would trump.

Now this has ascended to the level of an experiment and I was ridiculously interested in the outcome. I also found myself wishing more manufacturers would do $.75 coupons instead of $1.00, so I could get them doubled.

So I shortly found myself wandering the aisles at Safeway. To add to the experimental possibilities, they were also running a special of a $10 rewards on your next purchase for $75 in spend (this encouraged me to buy things I would need soon but not at the moment) and $5 off $20 spent on weight watcher’s approved products like Progresso Soup and TV dinners that were also on my list. Sooooo many possibilities.

When I finally had spent an hour or so going up and down the aisles (since remember not only did I not plan ahead on what coupons and when, but I also didn’t even jot down a list to remember everything) I was ready to wait in the long lines at checkout. And since I’d spent so long there, I decided to incentivize myself to put everything away quickly by waiting to look at my receipt until I had finished it.

I did in fact save quite a lot of money, but most of it came from the Just for U offers. Turns out, they are on to multiple coupons for the same item, so the paper coupons only helped me get the double discount instead of a triple one. Still a good deal, but not sure if the extra $5 in savings was really enough to offset the time on a regular basis or the $2 investment in the Sunday paper.

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$100 Mastercard Gift Card for $91

This isn’t as exciting as 5x Ultimate Reward points for gift cards purchased at Office Depot, but 9% cashback (plus more if you have a credit card that bonuses grocery store spend) isn’t bad!

I just logged into my Safeway just for U account and saw a one-time offer for $15 off a $100 Mastercard Gift Card purchase in any combination when purchased by January 5.

You can make use of the deal with any combination of Mastercard gift cards that add up to $100, but with a $5.95 activation fee for each, your best bet is do one $100 card.

How to take advantage of this deal?

1. Sign in to your Just for U account or create a new account.  You need to already be registered for their club card in order to sign up, so if you don’t have one, go to your local Safeway (they don’t have an online means) and sign up for a club card and Just for U at the same time.

2. Go to the Coupon Center and scroll down til you see the $15 off $100 Mastercard Gift Card offer. (If you sort by About to Expire you’ll see if come up under 1/5/13)

3. Click Add.

It will work instantaneously so you add this to your card as you’re standing in the check out line.

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Fun With Root Vegetables

In recent months I’ve been making some progress on my cooking skills — venturing off the recipe path to innovate or at least add more of the flavors I love most. A recent visit with friends left me even more wistful of those who boldly go where no recipes exist. Building toothsome dishes based on their culinary knowledge and tastes.

So on my recent visit he crafted two dishes which left me wanting more and an anti-social desire to rub them all over my face. And what were the amazing dishes? One was a kale, garlic, mushroom, tomato, onion based rice dish. And the other, winter comfort food.

Comfort food in the form of roasted root vegetables caramelized with balsamic vinegar. I aspire to no other comfort! The rice dish I didn’t master, but at least finally managed a passable copy. The root vegetable dish I was nervous about. I mean, I didn’t even know I liked parsnips. or beets. or cooked carrots. (Actually I knew I didn’t like cooked carrots.) So how could I possibly figure out to how to make this dish.

One day my longing gets the better of me so I head to the produce section of my grocery store, get confused, and text my friends for instructions on which root vegetables to buy.

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Parsnips (I didn’t even know what one looked like)
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Fingerling potatoes
  • Avoid turnips or rutabegas (sp?)

I finally find all those items, buy them, and panic. For a week they sit in my fridge until it’s time to go home for the holidays. Dismayed by the idea of losing $15 in produce, I stick most of the ingredients in my checked bags in the hopes I’ll make the recipe at my parents’.

And I finally did! So the instructions I got from my master chef friend was in two text messages: cut up all of the above ingredients, toss them in oil, bake them at 425-450 for 45-60 minutes. Stir occasionally, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper 20 minutes before pulling them out. Easy right?

Well the first problem is I don’t know how one prepares parsnips, so I google it. Apparently you want small ones (mine was huge bc it was $5 per parsnip, not per lb). If you have a large one, you need to peel it and then remove the woody core. Well, the core looked the same as the rest of it, so I just hacked away at removing the middle, hoping for the best.

The second was that I didn’t know how to prep beets. Another google, you peel and quarter them.

I managed the carrots and onions, but then panicked at the sweet potatoes. Do you peel them or just scrub them really well??? I opted to peel and that turned out ok.

Then I tossed all of this in oil and poured onto a cookie sheet to roast. I poured too many and in retrospect I’d do multiple batches to make sure they have enough room to roast. I’d also (in retrospect) cut the pieces much smaller, maybe only 1-2 inches in size for everything except sweet potatoes and onions so they’ll cook more evenly.

But at the 20 min mark I looked in and they seemed to be happily roasting. I turned them over and then started stirring them about every 10 minutes. At the 40 minute mark I drizzled lots of balsamic vinegar and generous amounts of fresh ground pepper and salt. From that point on I stirred every 5 minutes, finally pulling out the pan around the 58 minute mark.Image

And it turned out great! Everything had a really nice crunchy crust with warm, fairly soft, insides and the most glorious sweet tanginess with no sugar added other than the balsamic. You may want to improve upon the presentation though. 🙂

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$5 off $25 Purchase on Amazon

A great gift from Amazon — $5 off a $25 purchase for sharing on Facebook what’s at the top of your gift list!

Quantities are limited, so hurry and claim yours now!

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4AM should not be familiar to anyone

For about a month this year I went through a rough patch of sleep. And by rough, I mean waking up around 4AM every morning without fail, regardless of when I would go to bed. 9PM, midnight, even 2AM, nothing and no amount of melatonin could apparently prevent my eyes from popping open during the 4 o’clock hour. And of course, I couldn’t be so lucky as to be wide awake and ready to get stuff done. No, I would just lie there in a zombie-like state wishing for the sleep that wouldn’t return.

It wasn’t the first time in my life that I’d been up at 4. Some festive evenings would find me winding down at 4AM, other mornings would find me up and at ’em to catch a flight or hit the road. But those days weren’t consecutive.

It was almost with despair a few weeks into the problem that I realized 4AM had become familiar. All the noises of delivery trucks, early buses, and that one noisy car heading into work for an early shift, I recognized. The twilight was no longer held that “middle of the night” feel. Even the smells of cooled earth and dewy vegetation had become common.

And I didn’t like it. I’m an early riser, I love the look, smell, and sound of sunrise. But the experience of the 4 o’clock hour — neither night nor day, a restive, unenthusiastic hour that so perfectly reflected the feelings of my sleep deprived soul — that I could do without.

So I guess I should be glad that when insomnia kicked in last night it was at 1:30AM?

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When you should have checked the mirror one more time before leaving…

Today I am the victim of a new outfit, a product of my own carelessness. The item was picked out with my mom, so though it has a slightly low cut V neck I assume it’s fine, or there would have been some mention of wearing a tank top under it.

So when I get in the car and look down, I realize the neck is a bit lower when sitting than standing. Hmmmm. Although I enjoy working in a light-hearted office, flashing unsuspecting co-workers doesn’t add to the atmosphere. I immediately start ransacking my desk for a safety pin. No luck, not even a name tag badge to yank one off. I go ask several co-workers. Again no luck.

So then I start getting creative and find a paper clip, name badge clip, and tiny binder clip, opting for the latter. It has a tendency to snap off when I’m reaching for something but is otherwise more invisible than a paper clip and more comfortable than the thicker metal of the name badge clip.

Other random office fixes I’ve found useful?

  • Markers for fixing scuffed shoes
  • Whiteout for pantyhose runs above the hemline

The one thing I can’t live without is my Tide-To-Go Pen for quickly getting out stains. What do-it-yourself “fixes” have you come up with?


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These are a few of my favorite (food) things…

A few weeks ago on HeelsFirstTravel.com I offered my gift ideas for travelers, now here’s one for casual foodies! All things I myself wouldn’t mind getting this year 🙂

1. Old Bisbee Roasters Coffee — Coffee roasted to order and shipped two-day, available in whole bean or choice of grind. Ever changing selections from small coffee plantations around the world. The real answer to free trade inclinations. Also some of the best decaf I’ve ever had! New customers should sign up for their email list for $5 off your first order.

2. Robbins Family Ascalano Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar — I never dreamed how much I loved olive oil or that I liked Balsamic Vinegar at all until I tasted them at Kenneth Volk Vineyards. Fortunately they have an online store, so everyone can enjoy. It’s also family run — I got a sweet note from one of the owners who packed my shipment.

3. Cheddar with Thai Curry — One of the most unique cheese’s I’ve tried (that’s saying something!) and perfect with a gewurztraminer or sweet riesling. Plus you get free two day shipping from iGourmet.com with ShopRunner.com!

4. Chocolate for Wine Pairing — Chocolate goes great with various red wines based on % of cacao (and supposedly even with some whites). You can probably find many options locally, but if not, I suggest Godiva’s Large Belgian Chocolate Bar Set or Wine Lover’s Chocolate Gift Set.

5. Wine Aroma Kit — My time in the Mendoza Smell Room vastly improved my ability to discern different flavors in wine. This gift isn’t cheap, but for someone getting in to wine, you can make every bottle they drink that much more fun. Not to mention its dual purpose as a party game.  It’s definitely a luxury gift. I’m still saving up to afford one.

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Things I Wish I’d Known About Selecting & Decorating a Christmas Tree

I’ve been around Christmas trees every holiday of my life. And yet, when it came time to deck my halls on my own this year, I was thrown by unexpected issues. So, for the person who, like me, has apparently seen without observing all their lives, here are some handy tips

Look at multiple trees. I went in to Home Depot bright and early the Sunday after Thanksgiving and headed straight for the 5’-6’ section. I didn’t really know the difference between Douglas, Frasier, or Balsamic (I still don’t) other than the way the needles look. So I went for the value and chose Frasier. I started unwrapping one of the trees which actually appeared pretty full and well branched in the 30 secs I spent shaking it out. Having no one to consult and thinking that this was one of those times when you really could find the best tree on the first try, I bought it, delighted that I could get in and out within 15 minutes. Well, get the tree home, and it looks great, except it’s missing what would be the butt region on a person. Or not missing exactly, but excessively sparse. So I’m just turning that portion of the tree near the wall…

Get a stand with good quality control. On the way out of Home Depot I grabbed a capacious tree stand good for trees up to 8 feet tall. I get the stand home, and begin the simple task of screwing the metal tree anchors through the holes in the stand. And discover after 30 minutes of painful twisting, that one of the five holes is a tiny bit too small to allow the tree anchors through. And now I’m too tired to head back out to Home Depot for a replacement, so I resign myself to a potentially lopsided tree. That will just be part of its charm!

This independent do-it-yourself attitude being too much for me, I wait a few days before putting on the lights and ornaments I bought.

Beware mini light sets that say they’re twinkling. I assumed, in my speedy 30 minute visit to Target that I was so proud of, that twinkling meant it was optional. So I decide I probably won’t do twinkling this year and string them around 1/3 of the tree with the rest of the lights. Well I should have read more closely, because it’s 20 twinkling and 80 steady, no option to turn it off. So my tree does look slightly like it’s having spasms around its midsection since none of the other strings twinkle.

Beware resin. My live tree may not smell, but boy is it sappy. While stringing my lights and hanging my ornaments I became well bedaubed with resin. This leads to the next tip…

Don’t assume they smell.

On to the happy tips! When choosing lights, do get a string of small red globes, they’ll look like berries on the tree. And get a pickle ornament. There’s just something happy about that artificial green reflecting the lights.

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