Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas for Two

Today was my last day of work, and now I get to enjoy a 6 day break! I will work 2 days next week and then enjoy another 4 day break. I am so excited! I am looking forward to spending some relaxing and fun time with family.

Tonight however, Greg and I are having a little Christmas celebration just the two of us. It is a Grosse Family tradition to go looking at lights together on Christmas Eve (everyone including pets pile into the car in your PJ’s, hot chocolate in hand). Since we won’t be with my family on Christmas Eve this year, Greg and I are going to look at lights tonight. We are first stopping at Starbucks – which is a special treat because we hardly ever go there and I am looking forward to a white chocolate peppermint mocha. Then we are going to drive through River Oaks and look at Christmas lights. After that, we are coming back home to do stockings. We realized the other day that we didn’t actually have stockings to put our stocking stuffers in. Hmm, minor detail. So we decided to hide them throughout the apartment and find them. It will be like a Christmas Easter hunt. And believe me there are plenty of good hiding spots right now since you can barely see our floor, or kitchen table, and we still have packed moving boxes ready since our last move a few months ago stacked everywhere.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Singing Talent

My sister's dog Duma is amazingly talented. Go check it out here for a little laugh.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

November / December Catch Up!

Since I haven't blogged in a while, I will have to do a quick summary of what we have been up to in November and December.

First, as I said before, we bought a house! Praise God for His goodness in leading us to a great house. We closed just before Thanksgiving and have been enjoying starting the process of turning it into our home ever since.

Thanksgiving was spent in Dallas at my sister and brother-in-law's house. We rode with my parents there, and we all spent 2 nights together eating great food, playing Christmas Vacation Trivia, napping, shopping, and having fun. Here is my favorite picture from that weekend.

As soon as we got back from the Thanksgiving festivities, Greg and I went to work on the house. His Aunt, Uncle, and Mom came down for a weekend to help work on the house. We are so grateful for their kindness because we got a TON of stuff done. We painted, removed wallpaper, removed carpet, and removed the kitchen!

We still have lots to do but it has been a fun project to work on. We have been watching a lot of you tube videos around here trying to decide what we can do on our own and what we need to pay other people to do :)

We have already met several of our neighbors and they are all really nice. I am so excited to get to know them more and form relationships with them.

Next up, we went to a "Thrift Store Prom". Reason #167 to work with youth: You get to wear things like this.

I hope you noticed Greg's red tights. What you don't see are the argyle socks pulled up over the red tights. He's all mine ladies.

Then last weekend we hung out with our friends D and Little D, and made gingerbread houses! We did this every year as a family growing up and is something I always loved and still love doing.

We also got to go to an amazing Christmas show at our church last weekend. So much time and effort went into it and it was great to watch.

Now this weekend's agenda includes the following:
Finish Christmas shopping
Wrap presents
Work on house updates
Sunday School Christmas party
Mattern Family Annual Christmas Reunion
whew I am getting tired just typing that...

But I am enjoying this Christmas season and the Christmas show at church was a good reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. We have such good reason to celebrate. I can only imagine the celebration that took place the very first Christmas. The people had been LONGING for the promised Savior, and he had finally come. THAT is something to celebrate!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Married a Warrior

Greg announced to me this past week that he is going to participate in this.

Warrior Dash.

3.5 miles of crazy obstacles. Think 5K run meets Wipe Out (tv show).

Mud, fire, water, forests, gale force winds. Costume optional, but there is a contest. You get a helmet like the one in the logo picture.

I think this looks miserable. Greg is ecstatic. But I am going to paint Greg's chest like a warrior so I am excited about that.

The Warrior dash is coming to Texas May 1, 2010. It is in Forney, Texas (near Dallas).

Greg has started recruiting some friends to do this with him.

Ladies, if your husband is crazy like mine and wants to sign up to do the warrior dash, we can all road-trip it to Dallas and cheer on our men. Let me know!

PS- Lauren, make some room - we are staying with you! And maybe some friends too?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

This post is long over due. My blogging has been very inconsistent. Jenny tagged me a while ago and I have been meaning to do this. I had to navigate through her old posts to even find the questions. But better late than never!

1. Where is your cell phone: Somewhere in this apartment. I usually just call it from Greg's phone to locate it.

2. Your hair: Bedtime-do

3. Your mother: Creative genius

4. Your father: Wise in all things

5. Your favorite food: Cafe Red Onion

6. Your dream from last night: Don't remember. But I dream all the time. Even when I fall asleep in the car on a 10 minute car ride, I will start to dream.

7. Your favorite drink: Diet Root Beer

8. Your dream/goal: Still figuring that out

9. What room are you in: Living room

10. What is your hobby: Cake decorating, frisbee golf with Greg, making crafty things, reading blogs

11. What is your fear: Being a widow

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years: A mommy!

13. Where were you last night: At Olive Garden with the Perots

14. Something you are not: Bilingual

15. Muffins: Pumpkin chocolate chip are my new fav

16. Wish List items.: furniture

17. Where did you grow up: native Houstonion :)

18. Last thing you did: Fell victim to a flying head-butt by Greg. Running dive, head meets hip. That could leave a bruise. Greg needs a son.

19. What are you wearing: A hybrid mix of church clothes and pj's. That is weird.

20. Your TV: Found out we had been receiving free premium cable for a year and a half. After moving apartment units we realized we actually only get 13 channels now. None of which interest me. Stink.

21. Your pets: None

22. Your friends: Love to be around

23. Your life: Blessed

24. Your mood: Relaxed

25. Missing someone: I guess family, and extended family. I could always use more family time.

26. Vehicle: Olivia is her name. I am very fond of her. Although she attracts door dings from other people. I think I get a new one a week.

27. Something your not wearing: Make up. I am about to go to bed.

28. Your favorite store: Target, Hobby Lobby, the Limited

29. Your favorite color: Blue

30. When's the last time you laughed: Earlier when Greg charged at me with his head

31. When's the last time you cried: About a week ago. House hunting can be emotional.

32. Your best friend: Girl: Lindsay, Guy: Greg

33. One place you go over and over: Work, Kroger, Church

34. One person who emails me regularly: Greg, usually daily

35. Favorite place to eat?: Red Onion

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I said a Boom Chicka Boom!

Is that how you spell that? If you are wondering what that means, then you should go on a middle school retreat. I just got back from the Middle School Retreat at Lake Tomahawk, and I had a great time with all the kids! All girls in one bunk room, all guys in another. Craziness from morning til night. Yellow school buses to and from. Lots of singing Taylor Swift songs. Camp food. What more can you ask for? Here are the highlights:

French braiding girls hair at midnight

The perfect October weather

S'mores! You can't leave camp with out em. Some kids couldn't leave camp without 8 of them. Yeah. That is the answer I got to "What number s'more are ya on there?". Yikes. What does that equate to...like 4 Hershey bars?

Playing Zip Boing (a ridiculously funny game involving covering your teeth with your lips and not being allowed to laugh/show them)

Watching 6th grade boys unashamedly and passionately lip sync every word to Miley Cyrus "It's the climb".

Ok, girls were singing too. It was just wasn't as funny as the boys because it is more expected.

Sitting around a picnic table as my girls eagerly look up scripture verses.

Watching a "who-can-finish-their-lunch-faster" contest involving nacho cheese & lettuce coated fingers and faces.

Hearing songs I haven't heard in years. Ex: "I'm squishing up my baby bumble bee, won't my mommy be so proud of me..." and "Hi, my name is Joe, I've got a wife and 3 kids and I work in a factory". Anyone? Anyone? Those are the classics.

Getting to know lots of kids I didn't know before.

Camp games. Who comes up with these things? Pelting the opposite team with flour filled socks? 1 part pain, 2 parts fun!

Learning more about the fruits of the spirit and hearing all the kids recite Galatians 5:22-23.

Overall, an awesome weekend. I just woke up from a 2 hour nap to tell about it. That feels better :)

Here is a picture of some of the 6th grade girls.

C'mon girls, picture time, try to form a clump.

There we go!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Bright Side of Moving

Well, we moved apartments this weekend! We are now the proud renters of a first floor apartment in the same complex. It wasn't the worst thing ever. In fact, it was a pretty easy move. Mainly due to the fact that...(drum roll please)...we got movers! It was absolutely worth it. We were planning on moving ourselves until the boxes began to accumulate, and accumulate, and accumulate. Granted, it is only a one bedroom apartment, but still, it seemed like an overwhelming task. Plus, we were on the third floor. I now LOVE getting movers. They did a great job, and got the whole thing done in under 2 hours. We still had plenty do as far as unpacking, organizing, and cleaning the old place, but things went so much faster with movers. We are pretty much all organized in our new place, and we have cleaned out the old. All in one weekend! I am so happy about that.

So to look on the bright side of moving apartments, here is a list of the good things that have come out of this move.

1) We are now on the first floor- no more carrying groceries up stairs!

2) We have wood floors. I love them! Some apartments in this complex have them, some don't. We didn't realize until we moved in that this one did. It makes the fact that we have cardboard boxes everywhere just a tad more classy. Yep, the boxes are staying like that. Since we are still hoping to find a house soon, we are not unpacking all of our boxes.

3) We are closer to the parking garage. I know this sounds lazy, but it is nice :)

4) Since our new place is the same layout as our old, when unpacking, I didn't have to decide - hmm...where should the bowls go? I just knew. To the right of the microwave, of course.

5) We got rid of some old stuff; such as tylenol that expired in March of 2007, and some old flip flops.

6) We are partially pre-packed for our next move. We are saving all our boxes and packing material so we will be ready to go at any time.

7) Greg and I are getting to practice patience, and contentment. We are fine where we are, and will wait on God's timing for when/if he provides us with a house.

8) We get a chance to be in our third "love nestle" together. That is Greg's phrase. No, not "love nest", "love nestle".

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Stinkertons

We are going on night 3 of an unusable shower.

After several months, Greg and I finally got tired of taking shaths (the dreaded shower-bath that results from a slow/clogged drain where you are standing in 4 inches of water but actually taking a shower).

Greg tried some draino, but to no avail. Actually, things came to a complete halt. Water no longer draining, and actually coming up from the drain. Not a good sign. This took place on Saturday night.

Night 1 solution: Hope the water is gone in the morning.

Water not gone in the morning. Wash hair in sink. Convince self that yesterday's shower still has 5 more hours before it wears off, enough to get you through church. Double up on deodorant and perfume.

Night 2 solution: Maintenance can't come til Monday. Pack up shampoo and towels and go to the Brandenbergers house to shower. Fresh and clean. Thanks guys!

Night 3 solution: I guess maintenance didn't have time to get to our request. Greg and I take different approaches.

Greg's approach: Pre-soap loofa, hop in shower for no more than 13 seconds, hop out and remove all of the accumulated water by means of bucket and cup. A sink hair-washing is scheduled for the morning.

My approach: Decide my lunch time post-workout shower at our work gym is enough to get me through tomorrow. Do a sink hair-washing and call it good enough.

If maintenance doesn't come tomorrow and you are friends with us...and live within 8 miles of us...and have a working shower...and we are close enough friends to where it is not awkward to come over to shower only...you might be getting a call...don't screen our call.

**Ok, I know this is not actually a big deal. Many people do not even have running water, so this tiny inconvenience is nothing. I just needed something to blog about, and this was the current event in our household.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Momentary Marriage

Today as Greg and I were listening to part II of the Matt Chandler sermon we started this weekend, he used in his teaching the parable in Luke 20 where the Sadducees ask Jesus about marriage in Heaven. Here is the passage in Luke.

Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question.

"Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?"

Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage... Luke 20:27-35

No marriage in Heaven? This is a hard teaching to think about.

We were discussing this topic with Greg's family the last time we were in Waco. It a strange thing to think about. But I think Greg's mom said it well when she said that there is no purpose for marriage in Heaven. Marriage on earth is a picture of Christ and the Church. When we are in Heaven, we will no longer need a reflection of that, because we will have the real thing. That is hard to understand though. More along the lines of impossible...at least for me. It is hard to imagine what relationships will be like in Heaven. Will we just be so consumed with being in the presence of Christ that we will not be concerned with others? Or will we in our perfected state have perfection in all relationships with others? For a newlywed, it doesn't sound like the most awesome idea to have no marriage in Heaven. But who am I to question God about His knowing what is best and most wonderful? If there was marriage in Heaven, what would you do if you were married to more than one person? Or what if you were single your whole life but wanted to be married - then for eternity would you have to be single? That doesn't sound fun. I guess it is just going to be completely different in Heaven and we can't understand it until we get there. Greg said we could just be BFFEEs (Best Friends For Ever Eternally) and high five each other.

Matt Chandler didn't go deep into this passage since it wasn't really the point of his sermon series. However, he did mention that John Piper wrote an excellent book on this topic titled, This Momentary Marriage.

I immediately looked up the book and guess what.....you can download it for FREE on John Piper's website! How cool is that of him to let anyone download and read his book for free! Go here for a preview of the book, which has a link to download it as well.

I am only a few pages in to the book but I can tell already that I am really going to enjoy it. I am tempted to stay up really late reading it, but I think I need to put it on hold tonight, and get some sleep.

I'll end with a quote from what I just read...

"There is no human marriage after death. The shadow of covenant-keeping between husband and wife gives way to the reality of covenant keeping between Christ and his glorified church. Nothing is lost. The music of every pleasure is transposed into an infinitely higher key." John Piper, This Momentary Marriage.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Weekend Report

This weekend was nice and relaxing. Nothing too eventful. Friday Greg and I relaxed and started on season 7 of 24 (once again, some sweet friends let us borrow it!). I love this season already. I also did a little furniture shopping...although I'm not really sure why since we just signed a 4 month lease at our apartment complex! Yep, that is right, we are going to stay here for a while longer while we continue the house hunt. But staying in the same unit is just too boring so we are switching it up. Who doesn't love packing up all their stuff and moving out of a 3rd floor apartment? Since we did give our 60 day moving out notice, someone else is already scheduled to move into our unit. That means we have to be out. But, we are so grateful that there is a first floor apartment we can move in to. YAY! We thought we were going to have to move to another 3rd floor apartment at first, but this is so much better. And even though it is not the most convenient thing to do, it is really not that big of a deal, and we are still trusting that God will lead us where he wants us in His perfect timing. We are very thankful that our complex worked with us to get a decent rate on a short term lease (and again, one that is on the first floor), and we will just wait to see what happens next. Maybe we will find a house soon, or maybe we will sign another lease after that. Either way, it is sort of a fun adventure.

And just for the record, this will be the THIRD unit that Greg has lived in. He lived in this complex several years ago before we dated, but had moved out since. I told the leasing managers we needed a frequent leasers punch card. Maybe something like sign 4 leases get the 5th one free? Well, it is unlikely that we will be getting free rent but at least we have been getting plenty of free candy from the leasing office. They always have big bowls of chocolates everywhere. Sometimes I just want to find an excuse to get more Hershey's special dark. Hey it's me again...just thinkin about signing another lease, got any good deals? oh I guess I'll just take a few more candies while you get me that quote. Anyway, back to this weekend.

Saturday Greg and I went out to eat with some friends at Canyon Cafe. That place is so great. The best part is those frozen white chocolate things they serve in the tamale wrappers (what are those called, corn husks?)

Today Greg and I enjoyed a great morning at Church, then played disc golf. This is one of my new favorite things. I love ultimate frisbee, but had never played disc golf until a few months ago. Now Greg and I play fairly often and it is so much fun. Then we came home and I tried out a new recipe - Turkey cutlets with roasted potatoes and mushrooms. It was really good - although I don't think I did the turkey exactly right. I know for next time though. My friend Lindsay gave me a whole stack of theses cooking magazines and I am looking forward to trying out lots of new recipes. I may post some in the future. After dinner I made a few fondant flowers while Greg and I listened to a Matt Chandler sermon. He is the pastor at the Village Church in Dallas which Greg and I have been to several times and really like him. All his sermons are online so sometimes we like to listen to those. Now it is time to go to bed early and get a good night sleep :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Experience the Magic

Does everyone own one of these? Does everyone love these more than anything ever?

I have used them before, but I guess it had just been too long, and I forgot about the magic. The magic that is unleashed in a single foam square. The dissappearing act that takes place before your very eyes.

Mr. Clean just took away this ugly ring that had formed on our bathroom counter that neither 409 nor bleach could tackle. Greg said a UFO (unidentified filthy object) had landed on our counter. Really it was just the stand up mirror. It left a stain after only a few days. But it ain't no thang for magic eraser. Poof, gone.

In my excitement I began running around the apartment looking for other things to erase.

What else? Point to something. Anything. I will erase it. Oh you want me to erase that scratch on the door from our towel rack? Gone. How about that scuff mark on the wall from moving furniture and not pivoting fast enough? Gone. I can't be stopped.

Am I really getting excited about cleaning? Who am I?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tip for My Fellow Swagers

To all my fellow swagers out there, starting today you can download the Swagbucks new toolbar. I'm not sure what all the toolbar does, but they are giving 1 Swag code away every day in September through the toolbar! Yay! I just downloaded it and it told me the first swag code. Is it sad that I still get this excited every time I win a swagbuck?

By the way, if you haven't heard of Swagbucks already, go here to read about it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Cake Class Catastrophe

It's hard to say exactly at what point things went downhill...




Somewhere between too much icing and heavy flowers things went terribly wrong.

Things started to droop a little in class. I whined to my teacher about my sagging basket weave and she said my icing was too thin. After a short car ride home one section had started sliding down onto the board. A couple hours later and more icing was on the table than on the cake. (The picture was taken in the early stages.)

Greg walks in and looks at my cake with huge, terrified eyes - "it's.....beautiful honey" (eeeek!)

So much for cake class #2!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

CVS Deal of the Week

Not every week at CVS is something spectacular, but this week did not disappoint. I just got 4 Clean & Clear facewashes for about 87 cents each! To me, that is amazing. I got different kinds, and two of them even came with a bonus travel size face wash.

I don't want to berate the people about coupons all the time who really could care less about them, but this deal was really good so I had to share. I know CVSing isn't for everyone. It takes a lot of time, effort and consistency. But you don't have to be a fully committed CVSer to take advantage of this.
Anyway, here is the breakdown. I bought the following:

$4.99 Clean & Clear Face wash
$4.99 Clean & Clear Face wash
$4.99 Clean & Clear Face wash
$5.49 Clean & Clear Face wash (I got 3 different kinds, and 1 repeat)

- $4 CVS coupon - "$4 off $20 beauty purchase"
This one was emailed to me from CVS, but if you don't get the CVS emails just go to their pharmacy and ask about their Readyfill program and they will give you a coupon booklet with lots of great coupons, one of which is similar - $4 off $20 Facial Skin Care purchase".

- $8 (I used a $2 off manufacturers coupon for each face wash) You can go here to get links to these coupons - you can print 2 per computer. Yes you have to sign up with personal info (email, etc). That is why I created a junk email account for when I sign up for these things.

Total: $8.46

There is also a deal going on if you buy $15 worth of Clean & Clear or Neutragena acne products you get $5 Extra Bucks. And by the way most of their face washes were considered acne products so the deal worked.

Since I got $5 back in Extra Bucks it was really like I spent $3.46 or 87 cents each! Ok, so I didn't calculate tax, but I can never figure out how CVS calcs tax when you are using all those crazy coupons and paying in Extra Bucks.

Another great thing about getting one of those coupon booklets from asking about the Readyfill program is that it has 2 coupons for $4-off-a-$20 purchase. You may not think you want to spend $20 at CVS, but there are cases where it may be worth it. I am going to use those coupons for razor cartridges. They are so dang expensive. Greg uses the Gillete Fusion and an 8 pack is around $24. I price checked those at CVS, Kroger, and Target and they were all the same (a few cents difference). There was a $4 off Fusion cartridges in the newspaper a few weeks ago, so if you combine that manufacturer's coupon with the $4-off-$20 coupon, that is an $8 savings right there. Ok, and maybe I use the fusion razor too. Don't judge me. Greg and I have our own. I can't believe for more than a decade I never discovered one of man's best kept secrets - the awesomeness of a man razor. I could write an entire post about this. But really, have you ever shaved with a little slice of heaven? That's right. Venus has nothing on Gillete. That is why I jumped for joy when the Fusion razor was 99 cents at CVS one week. Anyway, CVS, you have been good to me this week. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

24 Season 7 Time Share

I really want to see 24 Season 7. We have watched all of the seasons on DVD, and have successfully managed to borrow all of those DVD from very awesome friends. Yep, instead of renting movies on the weekends, Greg and I just watch 24. It is great.

Now it is time for season 7. We didn't watch it when it aired because we still hadn't finished season 6. Now we are caught up and ready for more. Bring it Jack.

We don't know anyone who owns season 7 (is it even out yet?), so I came up with a time share plan. It works like this:

Several couples go in together to buy the DVD. 4 couples would be a good amount. If you get too many on the time share then some people have to wait too long to watch the DVD's. If you get too few, then everyone has to pay more. So let's say there are 4 couples (including us) that split the cost of buying Season 7. Then we create a rotational schedule. Whichever couple thinks they can watch the DVD's the fastest, starts out. Now lets not get crazy here, we aren't asking anyone to cram it all in one night and be lazy tv addicts...but I just mean a reasonable amount of time. The first disc (4 episodes) could be finished in about 2 weeks. Yes, it can be done much sooner, but Greg and I like to limit ourselves to watching it on weekends only so it doesn't consume us. Others can do whatever they want, we just don't want to rush anyone. Anyway, after couple #1 finishes disc 1, they pass it on to couple #2. Then couple #2 watches it, then passes it on to couple #3. You get the idea. After everyone has watched the whole season, we sell it on Ebay and split the money. Seamless, right? And maybe there could be penalties if you don't pass the disc along in a timely manner. Such as, you may have to include a batch of brownies or other delicious treat along with the disc if you are late. Our penalties will be paid in cake. Our freezer is always well stocked with cake scraps.

If you would like to sign up for this time share, please let me know!

And it just occurred to me that I used couples in the example. It doesn't have to be couples though. Anyone is welcome :)

Just after I wrote this Greg read it and said...

"That's already been invented. It's called Netflix."


It's different.

Sort of.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

60 day Count Down

Let the countdown begin! Greg and I just gave our 60 day notice to our apartment complex that we will be moving. Where to, you ask? Not sure. We are busy looking but haven't found anything yet. But we are continually encouraged by friends and family that God is faithful and will provide for us in his perfect timing. Maybe that is in 60 days, maybe that is in 6 months. But He is our Good Shepherd who leads us in the way we should go and we trust that he will lead us in these next couple months.

We are now well acquainted with HAR.com (that is Houston Association of Realtors website for the non-Houstonions) since we search in daily (er, um, hourly), and we have have thought of a few tips for the people who are selling their house on there.

-Try to take decent pictures. Maybe a flash would be nice. Do not aim at the floor unless you are trying to show your nice wood floors.
-If a toddler came and threw every thing you ever owned on the floor, consider picking up a few items before you take the picture.
-Do not stand directly in front of a mirror, aiming directly into it, and take a picture.
-Do not use your spring break 02 picture as your professional realtor picture.
-Do not have a larger than life close up of you taking up the whole wall above your bed. That scares buyers.

We have seen so many other weird things that I can't think of at this time...but that is a good starting list.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Clothing Rejection

This weekend Greg and I decided to tackle our non-walk-in-able walk-in closet. It was like a Super Walmart crammed into a 7 x 4 ft. space. There was the clothing department, craft section, outdoor world, home goods, luggage & accessories, and more, all packed in together. Since we were getting rid of some stuff, I thought it would be a great idea to take sell our clothes that we didn't wear any more to Buffalo Exchange. I was talking about that with some friends at work last week, and I thought that would be a great way to clean out some of our stuff, and be thrifty.

We had several bag fulls of clothes, plus a few shoes and accessories. We headed over to Buffalo Exchange - which is an adventure in itself trying to find parking, walk several blocks to the store, etc. The line for selling clothes was outrageous. Of course it was Saturday in the middle of the afternoon, but who knew so many people did this? We waited in line and it was not looking good. We could tell from watching the people in front of us that the store is extremely picky about what they buy back. The people in front of us must have packed 10 years worth of clothes in their trunk and were hauling it in load after load. The employees would look through it quickly and not take any of it. I thought, even though I am not quite hippy-cool, do not have any tattoos or a funky haircut, and my clothes are not very vintage and unique, at least they will probably take a couple items. Wrong. They went through our stuff (which was actually all mine with the exception of one jacket of Greg's) and rejected it all. You mean you hate all of my clothes? Come on - AT LEAST they could have bought back the way cool vintage dress I bought NEXT DOOR at the exact same type store several years ago to wear to a Halloween party when Greg and I went as Johnny Cash and June Carter. See picture below - complete with homemade guitars.

Can't see enough of the dress? Here is another view. (I love Julie and Jana's costumes!)

How could they not take the dress?? Wish (the store I bought it from) sells the exact same kind of clothes as Buffalo Exchange. It is old, unique, right up their ally. I also had 2 old tshirts that were the kind that we worn so much they were sooo comfy that I bought at a thrift shop on that same street several years ago. Sheesh. Greg and I left completely defeated. Being thrifty isn't always easy :)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cake Class

I have been wanting to take the Course II cake decorating class for quite a while now, and I think it is finally going to happen in August! Course II at Hobby Lobby has always been on Wednesday evenings. That is our Bible study night, and I definitely was not willing to give that up. I just checked the Hobby Lobby calendar and they are having course II on Tuesdays in August. Woohoo! I am going to run by the store tomorrow for some supplies I need anyway and see if they have any of those fliers for 1/2 off classes. When I took the first class it was a half off special - $17.50 for a month of classes (2 hrs. each week). That is a deal if you ask me!

And if anyone is interested in taking course II at the Hobby Lobby in Meyerland, let me know.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Freebies at Target: Fact or Fiction?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I thought couponing at Target was not worth the hassle. I probably shouldn't generalize it like that. Target does have some good deals since they put out their own Target coupons which you can combine with manufacturers coupons. However, I was having bad luck with the freebies. I would go to sites like Money Saving Mom, and be enchanted by long lists of "freebies" at Target. There would be about 8-10 things that you could get absolutely free - who could pass that up? Most of the items were trial sized - but who cares, right? They are free when you use coupons. And since I buy the Sunday paper every week for coupons, might as well use them before the expire.

So I gathered a few coupons and went to Target one day on my lunch break to try to snag a few freebies. The trial sized items were mostly 99 cents. The coupons however, were for $1 off. These coupons did not say "Excludes Trial Size" as some coupons do, so in theory, you should still be able to use them. Well the cashier scanned them and they all beeped at her and she wouldn't accept them. She told me I couldn't use a $1 off coupon on an item that was only 99 cents. She also said I couldn't use them on trial size items. I pointed out that it didn't say anything about not using them on trial sized items on the coupon, but she said that was just their policy. I tried to explain to her about MoneySavingMom and all the community of couponers out there who shared the weekly Target deals on the web and how it was working for other people...She just stared at me and shook her head. She did ask another employee if I could use the coupons, and they said the same thing. Not wanting to cause a scene, I just said ok, and didn't end up buying the products.

I went back to the computer. Time to do more research. Money Saving Mom is a very high traffic blog with paid advertisements and I'm sure thousands of readers. Obviously these deals had to be working for someone or they wouldn't be posted continually. I read through the comments section about many people having trouble with cashiers accepting the coupons. The reply to those comments was to contact the store for their coupon policy, and you will see that it IS in fact their policy to accept those coupons, and just ask a manager if you have any problems. So I decided to email Target to get their coupon policy to see if that was true. Target was very friendly, got back to me right away, and gave me their policy, which said they can indeed manually adjust the price of the coupon down to the price of the product. They won't give you a penny back if the coupon is for $1 and the product is 99 cents, but they can enter the coupon in the system to be 99 cents.

A few weeks later I saw another alluring list of Target freebies. I decided that I needed to give it one more try. I printed off the corporate email and brought my coupons to the store. I nervously went to the check out line. Same story.

Coupon beeps.

Cashier: Um, you can't use a coupon that is for more than the price of the product.

Me: Oh, well that is what I thought too at first, but I emailed corporate and they said you can just manually adjust it down.

Cashier: (Frustrated Sigh, calls another employee over)

Other Cashier: No, you can't use these coupons.

Me: Same explanation.

Cashier: (Pages Manager)

Me. (Uh oh, nervously smile at the people behind me in line who look like they want to beat me up)

Manager: You can't use these coupons because....blah blah blah.

Me: Ok, but there is this blog I read, and it explains about Target coupons, and I have this email from corporate, let me just show you...

Manager: (Annoyed) Ok, fine, but I can't let you have anything for free. You have to at least pay one cent.

Me: (Hmmm, that sounds made up). Um, ok, fine, if you need me to pay you one cent I will pay one cent.

Manager leaves and by this time the line has cleared out behind me. I am THAT LADY. Oh gosh. I felt so bad. The cashier tries to do what the manager told her, but even when she adjusted it the coupons STILL wouldn't go through. Something about trial items, etc, etc. Unbelievable. So I think I left with one trial size item and it still ended up being 50 cents or something.

In conclusion, I have decided to cover my eyes and run the other way when I see lists of Target freebies. They just have not worked for me. But every Target is different so it would still probably be worth a try for others who want to give it a shot. Obviously some people are getting these freebies and loving it. Maybe your Target is more coupon-friendly and the cashiers are better trained on the coupon policy. Just my experience. If you have had luck getting Target freebies, please share!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer Book Report

I finished this book a couple of months ago. It is a very popular book that takes a look at the difference between the cultures of poverty, middle class, and the wealthy. This is a great book to read, especially for teachers, for anyone interacting with people in poverty, or just anyone who wants to get a new perspective on poverty and the different classes. This book probably only skims the surface of all the ins and outs of poverty, but it definitely has opened my eyes to some misconceptions and preconceived notions I had about poverty. I wonder what a person from poverty would say about this book - if from their perspective they would say it is accurate or not. Either way, on the whole, I think it was a good book for me to read.

One thing I realized that I incorrectly assumed about people in poverty, is that they had the resources to keep their stuff nice, but they just chose not to. For example, when Greg and I would drive by poor areas of town, I would notice that things were usually very messy. I know this is not always true, but I noticed that this was true often. Front yards would be cluttered with junk, cars or even boats would be sitting there out of service, just rusting away and used for some other purpose, and things would generally be falling apart. I would think to myself - even if you don't have much money, you can at least clean your stuff and keep it fairly nice. Well, I was assuming they had the resources to do that. However, having tools, is usually an identifier of middle class. When something breaks, I have the resources to fix it myself, purchase the tools I need, or pay someone to come fix it. That may not be true for someone in poverty. So when things break, sometimes they just stay broken. Also, their houses may be very cluttered and messy. But when I think about it - I am able to stay (somewhat) organized because I have spent money on organizers, filing systems, storage containers, racks, etc. Just think about how much money total you have spent on everything in your house that is organization/storage related. If you make $7K a year, you aren't going to be zipping on over to the Container Store to invest in the Elfa system. Hence, clutter ensues. That is just one example of many, in which I try to apply a solution to poverty from a middle class mind set, and it just doesn't work.

Here are just a few random, interesting facts that are in the book. Side note: If you were at the Houston Project meeting where Malcolm gave the training, he taught straight from this book :)

Generational Poverty is defined as being in poverty for two generations or longer. Situational poverty is being in poverty for a shorter period of time and is caused by a circumstance such as death, illness, divorce, etc.

Schools and businesses operate on the middle class norms and use the hidden rules of middle class.

People bring with them the hidden rules of the class in which they were raised.

For many people living in poverty, jail is just a part of life, and not necessarily always bad. The line between what is right and wrong is blurry and often crossed. Middle and upper class people also cross the lines, but less frequently and usually have the resources to avoid jail.

In middle class, money is to be managed. In poverty, money is to be spent. There will always be needs and emergencies, but entertainment comes first. Entertainment is a way to escape the current situation. Also, it is a hidden rule in poverty that any extra money is to be shared.

People in poverty view the world as locally. Middle class people view the world nationally. Upper class people view the world globally.

Typically, the family structure in poverty is matriarchal (the mom is the head of everything -that is why you don't make fun of some one's mama!), in middle class it is patriarchal, and in upper class it depends on who has the money

In one section of the book, there was a little quiz to see which class you fall in to. You are supposed to put a check next to the ones that are true for you. Here are just a couple from each category.

I know how to get someone out of jail.
I know how to get and use food stamps or an electronic card for benefits.
I know how to live without a checking account
I can get by without a car

Middle Class
I know how to get my children into little league, piano lessons, soccer, etc.
I know how to get one of the best interest rates on my new car loan.
I know how to decorate the house for different holidays.
I know how to properly set a table.

Upper Class
I have several favorite restaurants in different countries in the world.
I support or buy the work of a particular artist.
I am on the board of at least 2 charities.
I know how to host parties that "key" people attend.

Also in the book, there are many made-up (yet realistic) scenarios given - with different characters and different problems. (Ex: Mom has to take sick baby to doctor, boss threatens to fire her if she is late one more time, car just broke down, no money to pay for the baby's medicine, brother just asked her to come get him out of jail, son has school project that requires supplies they don't have). I get stressed out just reading the scenarios. I read several to Greg and he almost had a panic attack as well. But for many people in poverty, these may be real life situations.

Overall, I think this opened up my eyes just a little bit (I'm sure I have way more to learn) to the differences in the classes, and has helped me be more compassionate and less judgemental towards people in situations that I might not understand. I would definitely recommend this book!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Should it concern me that Greg wants to go on this show?

If you haven't seen it, it is basically an obstacle course where people have to do things like this.

And this.

Greg actually looked up how to get on this show. He really is the perfect candidate though. There is nothing this man won't jump. The only problem is, which picture to send in with the application?

Sunday, July 5, 2009


I only paid 60 cents for all of those items at CVS, and increased my ECB's! Keep reading to find out more...

I started the "CVS Game" a few months ago to see if it really does work. I had never heard anything about this until recently. I have had a CVS card for quite a while (similar to a Kroger or Randall's card). I remember in the past those ECB (Extra Care Bucks) things printing out at the end of my receipt and I would think - oh great, I'll have to use that on my next purchase. But then those receipts would just get lost in the black hole of my purse of the abyss of my car, never to be seen again. Now I look back on those days and think....how could I have been so foolish? :) I am like the person who throws away the Bed Bath & Beyond coupons. Crazy!

Let me start out by saying CVS is expensive. It is quick. It is convenient. It is a drugstore. What do you expect? Of course it is going to be considerably more expensive than somewhere like HEB or Walmart. With that in mind, it only makes sense to shop there if you are doing the ECB system.

Here is my goal in shopping at CVS - to get most our hygiene products for free or almost free, and therefore reduce our grocery bill. This would include toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream, razors, body wash, face wash, etc.

There are tons of blogs dedicated to explaining the whole CVS game - such as MoneySavingMom, or IHeartCVS. The basic idea though, is that there are certain products each week at CVS that give you Extra Care Bucks (ECB's). So for example, the weekly ad may say - Buy Colgate toothpaste at $3.99 and get a $3.99 ECB. When you buy the toothpaste, the ECB will print out at the end of your receipt, and will expire in one month. You save that and use it like cash on your next purchase. There are some restrictions to how you use it - such as you can't buy gift cards, etc. This makes the toothpaste practically free, although you will have to pay out of pocket the $3.99 the first time. Other items may give ECB's for less that the total product, such as - buy body wash at $4.99, get $2 ECB's.

So the theory behind using ECB's is that you go to CVS the first week, and buy whatever items are free after ECB's (such as the Colgate toothpaste example). This first trip you will be paying out of pocket, and having to pay CVS high prices. But then the second week, you use the ECB's you got the first week, to pay for the products the second week that are free after ECB's. Then you just continue doing that week after week - rolling forward your ECB's.

Also, sometimes you can get products for even better than free. For example, in the Colgate toothpaste example, if you also had a manufacturer's coupon for $1.00 off, you could use that. Then you would only have to pay $2.99 for the toothpaste, but you would still get $3.99 in ECB's. Basically you would be making $1.00.

You don't have to figure out all the coupon match-ups yourself. I go to MakingCentsinTexas or MoneySavingMom each week to see what is free at CVS that week - and which coupons to combine.

This whole thing sounds great in theory, but there are a couple of things that could keep you from saving money.

ECB's have to be used exactly. So if you need to pay for an item that is $2.00, but you only havve a $3.00 ECB to use, they aren't going to give you a dollar back. They can manually mark down the price of the ECB to $2.00 (watch out, not all cashiers know how!) and you will effectively lose one dollar, or you can buy a filler item - such as candy. But then you are just sort of wasting money on something you don't need, and will have to pay a small amount out of pocket for the overage.

There are some weeks where there is nothing free at CVS. If there are no good deals, I just wait until the next week. Your ECB's expire one month from the date you get them, so you still have time to use them.

The new deals at CVS start each Sunday. I recommend shopping early in the week - on Sunday or Monday. The items that are free after ECB's for that week WILL sell out. You can get a rain check, but it is just better to start early to get the deals. When I am doing my shopping I am like a mad woman - swiftly walking all over the store snatching up the products, eyeing the other customers thinking - You better not be headed over to the refrigerator to buy the last free vitamin water, I will take you down! Ok, I wouldn't really :) The other customers are probably completely unaware the ECB program even exists, and do not present a threat at all.

Now you may be thinking - do you end up buying stuff you don't need?


The items that are free after ECB's may or may not be things we need. Toothpaste is a common one. We can always use that. It is good to stock up on it when you can get it free so that you don't have to pay for it later. We are also flexible on brands. I will use any brand of face wash, body wash, toothpaste, etc. if it is free. But some people might not like that. But then there are random things that are free that I end up buying like - Therma Wraps for neck or shoulders, or Soy Joy bars (imagine eating a slightly crunchy and grosser-than-normal fig newton...i think we have 5 left, any takers??), or glasses lens cloths. I would never buy those things normally. But if I can pay for them exactly in ECB's, and they return the same amount in ECB's - might as well get them, if only to extend the life of your ECB's so they don't expire.

Another reason I buy things that I don't need is because sometimes I need to reach a certain amount to get a better discount. About once a month CVS emails me a coupon for $4 off my purchase of $20, or $5 off my purchase of $25. So if I can buy enough things that are free after ECB's that add up to $20 or $25, then I can get an additional $4 or $5, so I actually make money (by increasing my ECB's).

Again, I only buy the stuff that give back ECB's. I could use my ECB's to buy stuff we actually need, but then I would be back to paying the CVS high prices. If I only use ECB's to buy things that produced ECB's, then I am just continually rolling my ECB's and getting stuff for free. And some weeks the ECB producing items are really good products!

The other week there was an amazing deal. If you bought 2 pairs of sunglasses you got $10 in ECB's. Well I wasn't about to buy any sunglasses, but I read on a blog that if you bought 2 glasses lens cloths at 99 cents each, it would give you $10 ECB. I tried it, and it worked! I didn't have a $2 ECB on hand, but I had a $3 one. So I bought a pack of gum, paid for my transaction with a $3 ECB, and got a $10 ECB back. I just made $7. CVS didn't even know what hit them. I called Greg and told him he could quit his job because we have a new source of income.

My shopping trip today was also a money-maker. The picture above is what I bought. Really random, I know. But those were all things that produced ECB's (except the gum and candy - those were filler items to get to $25, since I had a "$5 off $25 coupon"). I used manufacturers coupons for several items. I paid $14 in ECB's that I already had from prior weeks. Then I paid 60 cents out of pocket. Then I got back a little over $16 in ECB's. So I basically made money on that trip. So fun!

We will definitely eat the cereal, use the dish washing soap, toothpaste, tape, and gum/candy. The other stuff we won't need/use, but I had to get them to make the deal work. Pencils can definitely be donated for back-to-school stuff. Maybe even the other stuff.

This system is pretty complicated and overwhelming at first. It takes a while, but I think I am getting the hang of it.

If you are going to start shopping at CVS and trying it out, I would suggest trying to get a $25 gift card from filling a prescription so that you can learn with that money. That way when you have to pay out of pocket, you can put it on the gift card and it can sort of be your play money. So if you have a prescription that needs to be filled try to find one of those coupons that is "$25 with new or transferred prescription". CVS also takes competitor versions of these, so if you can find one online for another pharmacy (Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc), those will work. I have gotten $100 in CVS gift cards using those coupons. I have printed out competitor's coupons, used ones that CVS sent me in the mail, and used ones that printed out at the end of my receipt randomly.

Oh, and one more thing - CVS gives you 2% back on all your purchases, which is paid out quarterly. On my shopping trip today I got a $2 ECB for my Q2 purchases. I am not sure how this is calculated, since I definitely have not spent anywhere near $200 out of pocket at CVS. I guess they count every time I use ECB's, or maybe the price before coupons? Either way, I am happy with getting a couple extra ECB's each quarter.

Confusing enough?

If there are any CVS shoppers out there, please share any tips! And also, if you have done this in the past, do you think it is worth it? Or am I getting sucked in to thinking I am getting a deal when CVS is really the one making money off me?

ps - I have a coupon for "$25 gift card with new or transferred prescription" if anyone wants it. It expires July 18th and I don't have any new prescriptions to fill. Lauren, do you need it? I could mail it if you do.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lessons in Couponing

I have been stepping into the world of couponing. Learning the ropes, learning the language. It is a whole new world. It takes much study and practice. I have been at if for about 3 months now. I buy the Sunday paper every week, then check different coupon sites for the current deals. My biggest question is...

Is it worth it?

Is couponing worth the time and effort to save a few extra cents?

I haven't figured out the answer yet. Over all, I think it is different for each person. Depending on your buying habits, coupons may or may not be beneficial. For example, we buy a lot of generic brand items. I don't care if I am using Hill Country Fare brand mustard, buying Kroger select bread, or eating Double Stuffed Kiddos. I will even buy the shampoo that looks almost identical to the Panteen Pro V bottle, but is actually the generic look-a-like.

Obviously, generic brands do not offer coupons. They are already cheap. And they are usually still cheaper than the brand name products even when you use a coupon AND your store doubles or triples* your coupons. (See bottom of post for what that means if you don't know...I just found out a couple months ago)

Plus, sometimes you have to buy in bulk to get the benefit of coupons. There might be a coupon for "40 cents off when you buy 3 gallons of milk". Um, what? We would never buy 3 gallons of milk at once. But later on, when we have little ones running around, this might be a great deal.

The thing I am learning about coupons is - if you just use coupons by themselves, you probably won't save that much money. You have to combine coupons with a sale. Most coupons don't expire until a couple months after they come out in the paper. Sometimes they are good for 6 months. So I check different coupon sites and blogs which tell you all the current coupon match-ups. For example, maybe hand soap is on sale for $1.00 at Kroger one week - then you can use a "35 cent off hand soap" coupon that came out in the 4/19 Sunday Paper, which Kroger would triple, and you would end up getting it for free.

But then I think to myself - Hmm...I have already done my shopping for this week, is it really worth it to make an extra trip to Kroger just to get one bottle of free hand soap? I might spend that much money on gas to get there, and I don't even really need hand soap. It just depends. Not every deal is worth it.

I have learned a few lessons over the past few months that I will share. If you have any tips or advice, please share because I am still really new at this and could learn a lot from the more experienced couponers :)

Lesson 1: Couponing at Target is not worth the hassle.
Lesson 2: Playing the "CVS game", has been fun, and I do think beneficial for me so far
Lesson 3: Even though at first I thought CVS and Walgreens basically had the same "game strategy" (Extra Care Bucks @ CVS seemed the same as Register Rewards @ Walgreens), I think CVS has a much better system, and it is not nearly as easy to save a lot a Walgreens.

All three lessons will be expounded upon in a later post.

*Doubling or Tripling Coupons means that your store will double or triple the value of the manufacturer's coupon. Some stores do this, some don't. The Kroger by me will triple coupons up to 35 cents and double coupons up to 50 cents. (I think...but check your own store to be sure). So if your coupon is for 30 cents off rice, when the store triples it, you will be getting 90 cents off rice. If your coupon is for 50cents off shampoo, you get $1 off shampoo.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Catching up in Pictures

There are a ton of pictures in this post, brace yourself.

Last week we went to Estes Park, Colorado with the Mattern Crew. There were 9 of us. It was like traveling with the Duggars. Well, half of them at least. I always wanted a large family so this was great! Never a dull moment. Unfortunately we didn't have a picture of the whole group on our camera, but here are the "kids".

Here are Greg's sweet parents who planned this awesome trip.

I love this picture of the Bryants!

The weather was beautiful - cool at night and warm during the day. You can still see the snow on the mountain peaks.

The Rocky Mountain National park was minutes away from where we were staying, so we went just about every day to go on a hike or check out the scenery.

The brothers.

Family picnic.

This is a typical picture of Jameson and Michelle. 50% funny, 50% awkward.

Just kidding :) I think those were Greg's words.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was seeing the animals. Chipmunks are everywhere! And they are so much cuter than squirrels.

And you didn't think we could leave without taking a jumping picture did you?

We went rafting one day, and I was completely terrified. But it actually was not as scary as I thought, and turned out to be really fun! We don't have any photographic proof because Greg said he would rather put our kids through college than spend all our money on a ridiculously overpriced picture CD souvenir. I agree.

At night we had game nights - including Quelf! Thanks to Abby I discovered that awesome game and Greg and I brought it. It was pretty hilarious to play with his family. Greg's dad had to ask his foot for permission to speak every time he wanted to say something, and could only speak in 3 word phrases. Greg couldn't bend his arms or legs for half the game. I won't give too many of the rule cards away, but it was really fun. I highly suggest this game if you really enjoy weirdness.

Also, I have a few pictures to post from the weekend before our vacation, which we declared to be the first annual "Man Weekend". Greg and Cody's birthday's are 2 days apart, and the same week as Father's Day. So we celebrated all 3 occasions in one weekend. It was a blast. Lauren and Cody came in town for the weekend, and Greg and I spend 2 nights at the "Grosse Compound" - as my dad likes to call it. We all went down to Galveston for the day to take part in a Grosse family favorite - crabbing.

We came back home and that night had a crab boil, and celebrated the men. My dad is the greatest dad ever. And him taking us crabbing all together just reminded me of all the cool things he took us to do growing up. We have so many great family experiences like that.

Here are the birthday boys.

Alright, that is quite enough pics for now. More posts to come later!