Saturday, November 29, 2008

We shopped.

Sister-dear and I shopped and shopped and shopped. We were at Kohl's before they opened at 4 AM. You see, my sister had never experienced Black Friday, so it was my job to show her the ropes. She was a trooper. I wasn't so much in need of shopping, but she had some major list filling to do.

Things I was thrilled about:
1. Everyone was courteous, well-behaved and watching out for each other.
2. Kohl's was pleasant, well stocked, well staffed and a lady walked around with a basket of candies. The watermelon Now and Later was just what I needed to perk myself up at 5 AM.
3. It was easy to find things at Kohl's and their sales were lovely. Sister-dear shared a 15% discount with me and added to the $12.22 credit, I only owed $3.68 for my purchases. I should add that I found the Disney Princess Polly Pocketesque set that K- really wanted on sale 1/2 off. With the additional discount, I think that I paid $6.50 for it. She'll be thrilled!
4. Breakfast at Panera was lovely. My friend had sent me a gift card for my birthday and we used it to re-fuel. The bacon, egg and cheese sandwich was lovely. The hot chocolate hit the spot. Yes, I did take the whipped cream option.
5. Lowe's had the sweeper that I needed in stock. A staff member heard me talk about it and lead me right to them. On the way, I found a beautiful Poinsettia for 99 cents and hiked out with both in hand. I was a happy woman.
6. I found beautiful flannel to make Sister-dear's baby-on-the-bake gifts. She even approved of my pattern choice, which was lovely!
7. The gentleman at Ace Hardware that took me straight to my selection. (Being cryptic in case Hubs is looking in.) Grant you, he was trying to sell me everything on the rack, but he was very kind.
8. Long story short, we got to order a new couch! Our current couch is a rental property cast-off that Hubs and I retrieved from about an hour and a half north while in the days of our engagement. The thing is nasty ugly, but wonderfully comfortable. I've always had a couch cover on it and this last one has bit the dust quite sometime back. La-Z-Boy had a sale today, they had the couch in stock that I loved (Mackenzie) and it will be here on Friday. Now grant you, the sales guy really, really, really wanted to sell us a couch with the reclining feature. For us, if we want to recline, we'll buy a chair for that. Believe me, he tried to sell us one of those, too. But, after I finally got him to realize that we didn't want anything other than a basic couch with no dust skirt (or whatever that thing is called) and no big fluff, and that I believed my dream couch was Mackenzie, he said, "Someone's done their homework!" Absolutely! I love the internet for pre-shopping.
9. We've begun decorating for Christmas. Hubs has done a lovely job of putting the tree up and lighting it for me. He also put the lights up outside. I'm the tree decorator. It takes me hours and hours. I pour over the ornaments, line them all up, get all misty-eyed over their sentimental value and proceed to decorate. Unfortunately, I got hooked (no pun intended, really) on the marathon of Deadliest Catch on Discovery and moved a bit slower. This has irritated hubs and I announced that I had to be done for the evening. I will proceed tomorrow. Besides, K- fell asleep at 7 PM and I was decorating by myself. Grant you, she was a bit underfoot, but she was so excited. Now, she is up wanting to take my nativity set to bed with her. Um, that one I had to say no on, though I appreciate her wanting to snuggle up with a porcelain Christ.
10. The Giving Tree sponsored by Fox 8 Cleveland to benefit the foster children of Cuyahoga County. Such generosity was shown today and how wonderful that these children will get Christmas gifts that they might otherwise have not.
11. Did I mention that all the stores that we frequented were mostly within 1 mile of each other? Joann's was the exception, but that wasn't that far off the beaten path. It made shopping so much easier that cross-town hopping.

Things I wasn't thrilled about:
1. The fact that the Black Friday website had the wrong Diamond Castle Princess doll advertised and I thought I was going to be getting the $20.00 singing doll and not the $5.00 Muse. I was not a-mused. (Get it?!)
2. The stock was not easy to find in Walmart at all. $4.00 track suits? Um, there was no display anywhere of them. The stock was dumped on pallets in the middle of aisles and no where near the matching aisle. They even had a huge, heavy display mis-set and it was shifting and leaning. Finding anything in Walmart was a near wreck. Sister-dear and I functioned by cell phone in the store. The shoppers weren't the problem. The store was. I might add that the bathroom was sub-standard. I know that they had bigger fish to fry, though.
3. The line at the cutting counter at Joann Fabrics was very long. The people behind me complained incessantly about "how long does it take to cut a straight line?" Finally, someone piped up and asked if they wanted to stand behind that counter for a while.
4. The lady at the cutting counter that kept going back for more bolts of fabric to be cut. She was at the counter. There was a huge line behind her. She should have finished her selections before she got there.
5. The lady directly behind me shared her cart with me, but only to dog on everything that I chose. "Well, don't they have a more baby themed flannel for you to use?" For the record, they did, but my sister and I aren't necessarily main-stream people. We try to climb outside of the box from time to time.

We consider our Black Friday a success. Sister-dear has already planned on doing it again next year. To tell you that she saved hundreds is probably an understatement. Her total expenditure? Oh, she probably spent $268.00 and her budget was $300.00.

So, did any of you brave Black Friday? Did you get deals? What's your day after Thanksgiving Day story?

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Sweetness

As I shuffle off at 3:30 AM to go Black Friday shopping with my sister, I will miss my morning time with K-. Our mornings usually start with the Jar Jar Binks alarm going off and I will hear her stirring in her bed. (Jar Jar shakes when the alarm goes off.) I get up and go to her bed then ask, "May I come in?" "Sure!" I get all snuggly with her and we talk about how well she slept and if she had any dreams. I'll draw on her back and write names. Often, I'll gently trace the little girl features on her face with my mommy fingers. We'll talk about who is the line leader for that day at school. We'll list out the things that we look forward to doing that day. I'll get my three things: a kiss, a hug and "Good Morning, Mom!" It's time that is just quiet-- K- and me together just starting out our day. Just the way a snuggly mom likes it!

Today, however, I'm sacrificing my snuggle time. My sister is pregnant, wants to go Black Friday shopping and has requested an escort. I called to talk over the plan and she said, "Well, Kohl's opens at 4 AM." Fantastic. Girlfriend owes me big. I just hope that we get what we're there for!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Because a Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart . . .

The Thankfulness Song
from the Veggie Tales movie,
Madame Blueberry

Annie sings: I thank God for this day,
For the sun in the sky,
For my mom and my dad,
For my piece of apple pie!
For our home on the ground
For His love that's all around
That's why I say thanks everyday!
Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!
I'm glad for what I have,
That's an easy way to start!
For the love that He shares,
'Cuz He listens to my prayers,
That's why I say thanks everyday!
Junior sings: Thank you Dad for our day,
For our trip to the mall,
For the time just with me,
For my big red bouncy ball!
For the fun that we had,
I'm so happy you're my dad,
That's why I say thanks everyday!
Junior's Dad: Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!
Junior: I'm glad for what I have,
That's an easy way to start!
Junior's Dad: For a God who really cares
Junior: And He listens to our prayers,
That's why I say thanks everyday!
Both: That's why we say thanks everyday!
Words and Music by Phil Vischer

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Free Shoes! Free Shoes!

Kathryn over at Daring Young Mom is giving away a pair of Keen shoes! Go! Look! Comment! I would love to have the Wear Around MJ's. Though I can't decide which color. Nevermind that, I would just love a pair!

It's quiet.

My daughter is sleeping. My husband is downstairs working out. The furnace is running and the computer is humming, but it's quiet. The pies are in the oven. The cornbread is awaiting its turn to bake. Still, it's quiet.

Today was a good day at work. Traffic was a steady pace. People were patient, polite and happy. It was great to see so many people roaming around the galleries with their family in tow, showing them all the neat things that our art gallery has to offer. The traffic makes me so happy. My bosses are such great people and they've both been stressing about the lack of customers into the store. (Remember, I work at a mom and pop-- not a big box.) It's been dead in there. That is not normal for this time of year. The steady flow of folks coming in kept us busy, but not slammed. The seasonals are getting used to the flow. The trees that I so meticulously decorated are being picked to their very needles of the items that once adorned them. That is super.

Christmastime is upon us.

JMom at Lot's of Scotts wrote about gratitude. I encourage you to hop on over and read her thoughts.

Happy Thanksgiving! May your family be awash in thanksgiving and the Peace of the Lord be in your heart. Have a great day!

Works for Me Wednesday: Laundry 101

Seems as though I read a lot about the Blogosphere being overrun by laundry. Dirty laundry, that is. My WFMW is a list of products and tips that work for me with tackling Mt. St. Laundry.

Stain Removing:
Put a stain remover on clothing and let it set for a few before dumping into the laundry. When K- was a baby, I had a bottle of Spray and Wash that hung from her laundry basket. I sprayed everything when it came off of her, particularly the collar.

Spray and Wash Dual-- It removed dried on blueberry from a couple of clothing items. I cannot and will not live without it. If it removes blueberry, it has to be good!
Spray and Wash Spray-- It's a good thing. Martha would even agree!
Dawn Dishwashing Detergent-- Mom taught me that it will remove grease stains, even old ones, from clothing. You know what? IT WORKS! Thanks, Mom.
An old toothbrush-- Sometimes you need to roll up your sleeves and get in there. I won't use an old child's toothbrush so as not to confuse the cleaning brush with the tooth cleaning brush.
Rubbing Alcohol-- Removes ink pen from clothing.
Hydrogen Peroxide-- USE WITH CAUTION. Removes blood stains. Can also remove the coloring of your clothing. Did you also know that your own saliva will remove your own blood from clothing? (We're talking if it's a pin prick or something very small. Large amounts call for large amounts of stain removers and spit isn't quite going to get you there.)
Borax-- Great stuff. I toss some in with horribly gross laundry. A giant scoop went in with every load of our tent camping laundry. We had no casualties and nothing needed re-laundered. Keep in mind that we tent camped in 90 + degree heat for a week.
Clorox 2-- Something that I do not live without. I do find that if it goes into a cold water wash and it is a large load, it doesn't want to dissolve that well. Either put it at the bottom or swirl it around in some warm water to dissolve first. (I buy powder in bulk at Sam's because it is cheaper.)
Surf with All Stainlifters, Sparkling Ocean-- I buy it at Sam's Club for about $12.00 for a huge box. As a part of my crazy anal retentive Virgoian weirdness, I date the boxes of bulk items we get from Sam's so I can see how long the product lasts. For us, the big laundry detergent lasts about 2 months or so. We're a sensitive skin family, so we can't use the lower priced detergents.

My name is Amy and I am a
I will soak laundry overnight in the washer, especially stuff from K- playing outside. I used to soak her baby clothes all the time. Just stop the washer once it fills and agitates a few minutes. Restart in the AM.
The Lingerie Bag-- not just for lingerie!:
Baby socks, tights, delicate little dresses and insanely decorated little girls nightgowns-- many things go in these bags. I have several. When K- was a baby, one hung from her laundry basket and I would deposit socks in as she wore them. Zip it up and no baby socks will roam from the laundry! I also have a big, pillow-sized bag that I used to fill up with stuffed animals. Again, when K- was a baby I used to sterilize/wipe things down after a major illness. These are great at wrangling stuffed animals in the wash and keeping their little parts from going astray.
By and large I line dry. I do have a dryer that I use to give the laundry a 5 minute bounce before I hang it up. Again, thanks Mom. The clothes aren't so stiff they can walk away now.

When I do use the dryer, I have those 2 of those spiky dryer balls that I use and 3 tennis balls. Why do I use these? It cuts the dryer time by about 1/3 - 1/2. At least in my dryer that's how they have worked for me. (I have a gas dryer.) I purchased a generic set from the local craft store for $4.97.

Yes, I dry our towels in the dryer
. I'm not thrilled with the option of snuggling up to a towel that feels like a large wad of steel wool. No thank you. I love our environment, but I can only give so much people!

I will re-launder things. I'm not afraid to and do have a reject pile as I'm folding if I find something that needs re-run that I forgot to spot the first time through. Running a chapstick through the laundry will give surprise grease stains on clothing for many loads after. Often, this is my reason for need to re-launder. This is where my Dawn Dishwashing Detergent comes in handy! (No, I'm not a pocket diver. I find things if they wash up. 95% of the time, we don't have an issue.)

Keeping Mt. St. Laundry under control:
Since I line dry about 85 % of what gets laundered here, it requires me to keep up with the laundry a little bit more. It takes about 2 days for clothes to dry on our basement lines. I do have an outdoor line and obviously that is sometimes just a few hours time. We live in NE Ohio, so that's not as much an option right now.
I've found that with line drying, I don't like to spend my precious line space on drying socks, so I've made myself hanging sock trees. The dorky way for saying, I used cable ties and connected hangers together so that I can maximize that sock drying space. (They look like hanger Christmas trees.) I also hang underwear by just one side and let it hang. No use in taking up all that space just to dry my family's underpants!
Happy laundering!

(I found the Uncle Sam graphic on a line drying site. I thought it was kind of funny. In all fairness, I know that there are many people who do not have the time, space or the bylaw's that allow them the opportunity to line dry. But by all means, if you can and you are willing to give it a shot, why not? Your earth thanks you as well as your utility bills!)

Next week's WFMW: Gift Wrapping Tips (Afterall, it is a chunk of my job!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tales from the Trenches

I've decided to do Potpourri Week here on Tales. I have fantastic little snippets of things to share. I thank you in advance for allowing me to vent my holiday season frustrations. And yes, believe it or not, I do love my job.

1. Just because we offer free gift wrap doesn't mean that you should select 30- $1.00 items and want them wrapped. Of course, we still do them, but do you know that we are making no money at that point? Oh, and please don't complain about the wait.

2. Since we're on gift wrap, it is free. Please don't request that it be re-wrapped like "the package that was wrapped at the end of the counter." We don't find that even slightly amusing.

3. If you saw an item while you were window shopping and we no longer have it, please understand that it is the Christmas season, we have limited stock and are most likely unable to get you another one prior to the holiday no matter that it was "the perfect gift for - - - ."

4. We are a converted house. We have a one-seater bathroom. Please, if you must have an extended stay in the restroom, feel free to use the can of spray provided. Leaving the fan on and the door CLOSED is special, too. Um, you know what you needed to tend to in there. If it fails to enter your nose, know that it might hit someone else's. Take preventative measures for us all. Please don't leave the door wide open into the middle of the retail establishment at the busy holiday season for all of us to enjoy your odor.

5. I'm not stalking you when I yell hello when you come in the door. I'm just trying to be friendly and let y'all know that I care that you are there. When I tell you goodbye or to have a nice night, please throw me a bone. Don't treat me as the stomach flu.

6. The cell phone. Yes, um, feel free to have that overly loud conversation out in our courtyard on the porch or in just a few minutes. If you need to be inside because it is hideously cold in Ohio, please feel free to keep the volume down to a minimum.

7. Out in the retail world, we can all hold the door for each other. I promise, really, it's okay. Oh, and especially for those with strollers. I'm out of that stage, but I particularly loved (and still do) those folks who skinny in the door with barely enough room for themselves so that they don't have to take the extra second to help out a fellow human. My favorite was the time that I was at Kohl's, was slinging K- into the doors while in her stroller and I had a fellow wait for me to hold the door open for him. Both doors, actually. Could he help me? Um, no. BTW, I did hold both doors open for him and allowed him to pass.

8. It doesn't matter what side of the counter that we're all on, please remember YOUR PLEASES AND THANK YOU'S! Service folk are being run extra thin this year with cuts in seasonal staffing and whatnot. A please or thank you goes a long way. I once tried to order myself a button that said "Please" from one of our artists. I wondered how many people would ask me why I was wearing it. I think that my bosses purposely did not order it for me.

9. If you are running on a tight schedule and "should have been out of the store" 15 minutes prior to the time you got to the counter because you found lots of cool stuff to buy, please don't huff at the staff for the time that it takes to process your order. We're going as fast as we can. I promise.

Remember that we're all out there running ourselves ragged. Be nice to each other. Just like the following folks were kind to me.

Last year during the Black Friday Madness, I was out shopping. We were in need of some very specific sale items, I was armed with my Discover Card and the cell phone. Hubs knew my route. He would check in from time to time with me. I was at my second Target and the line was wrapping around the interior of the store. I had a middle aged gentleman in front of me and an early 20's gentleman behind me. The middle aged gentleman's wife called to tell him that the jewelry register had opened and that he needed to hoof it over there, as there was no line. He gathered me up, brought early 20's guy with us and they sandwiched me in between them. In all the craziness, they both made sure that I was able to check out and the 20's guy even made sure that I made it to my car safely. How wonderful!

Not a shopping story, but a crowded park festival story for this one. We were at our local park district's Fall Festival and K- was in need of the potty. The upright boxes were all full and I thought that maybe we could skate in and use the public facility in the building. Perhaps the others would forget about it! Um, no. So there we were standing in line. Just as we were the second to the next to go up, K- was dancing. "Oh, Mommy. Are we next? I really have to go potty." Do you know what? The lady in front of us let her go first. The same thing happened at another park function for a different park district about 45 minutes from here. Hubs was working the event and we had gone to visit him. K- announced that she was in need of a facility. We were left standing behind someone again, only this time it was a non-flusher. Ugh. I'm standing there waiting and so is the lady in front of us. The lady who was obviously working the function (she was in costume) was trying to carry on conversation with K-, who was rolling around on the ground announcing that she "Has to poo*pst really badly, Mommy." When it became available, the lady let us go ahead. I warned that it might take sometime, but she said to go. By the time K- was done, the lady had gone. K- wanted to thank her for her kindness. 'Mommy, I couldn't talk to her earlier because I just had to poo*pst so bad that I couldn't even talk!"

The sample lady at the grocery knows K-. Whenever she sees K- around, she always tracks her down and gives her an extra big sample. She's run through the aisles to give her extra yogurt, 1/2 of a toasty cheese sandwich, pie, cookies and you name it. K- always looks for her when we are there!

A small sampling of good stories I have. So see I do have good public stories, too! Any stories that you would like to share?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Winter Driving: Not Everyone is Designed for It

Photo courtesy of Paul Tople, photographer.*

I'll remind you that Bailey's Leaf is coming to you from snowy Northeast Ohio. Winter driving isn't an option around here, though for some, I think that they shouldn't practice it. I thought that I would trip through the thoughts that I had while driving through near white-out conditions on three separate occasions Friday.

I had K- firmly strapped into her seat (I double checked, believe me.) Our mission: Little Gym. We made it, 25 minutes late. On our way, there had been an accident that involved two young ladies. From what I could gather as I was involved in Rubber Neck Alley was that it was slick, someone slid and they both ended up with significant car damage and on opposite sides of the roadway. They were upright and walking about the crowded highway, talking on cells. They appeared to be fine.

As I creeped along with my hazard lights on, I couldn't help but to think that gee, it would be super if people would USE THEIR LIGHTS! Um, its hard enough to see anyhow. Lights. Lights would be good.

On my way up the expressway ramp to the general roadway, folks were slip-sliding away. Rear wheel drive vehicles aren't completely fantastic in winter conditions, particularly when the snow on the roadway has reached several inches thick. As I was sitting on said expressway ramp, in my rear view mirror I watched two cars very slowly twirling towards each other. I'm sad to say that later I found that they connected. But tires, tires are very important. I'm not saying that this is the reason for the collision, but if you have bald tires they will not allow your vehicle to go. I've driven with bald tires. It's not good. (I was in college and poor.)

Neutral is your friend, people. If you are sliding or spinning, neutral will help. Just pop that baby in there and a prayer doesn't hurt.

4WD doesn't mean that you are invincible. You will slide on ice and you can still skid on thick snow. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it isn't the extra security from an accident that you were hoping for. You still must drive carefully. It just means that your likelihood of skidding or sliding is decreased. Do you know how many 4WD vehicles that I've seen off the roadway recently? Um, yes. Be careful folks!

Those hazard lights? They put them there for a reason. They didn't have an extra hole to fill in the dashboard assembly. If the weather is extra icky and visibility is, well, less than fabulous-- feel free to use them. Some people may laugh as they drive past, but if visibility is crubby, they are seeing you as they are laughing. That is the aim.

Windshield washer fluid is a must. Keep an extra bottle in your car. Nothing is worse than running out of windshield washer fluid in a blizzard. I've also done that. It's not pretty. You are driving down the road much to close to the car in front of you, hoping to catch the salty road spray from their tires so that you can attempt to streak some of that sludge off of your windshield. You know that it is a crapshoot, because 9 times out of 10, you are just making a smeary mess that makes visibility out of your window glass even worse.
I've purchased some cheesy cracker packs and placed them into my center console. You never know quite how long you might be stuck in traffic and K- doesn't do hungry well.

Well, that should be it for the Bailey's Leaf Winter Blog Driving Clinic. Do come back again when we learn, "Tire Pressure, It is Your Friend."
*This was an offshoot leg of the expressway near to where I happened to have been stuck in Rubber Neck Alley.