Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beds, Baths, and Blustery Days

From time to time on my blog, I will do reviews of websites I've been asked to look at, sort of like a survey where I share the results with people. I receive compensation for doing these reviews, but they don't tell me what I have to say, or even that I have to say nice things. All the opinions contained herein are entirely my own.

I just can't believe that a mere two days ago it was sixty degrees here in Kentucky! Today it's back in the thirties, and we woke up to freezing rain. Ugh. It's a perfect day to stay inside, work on a few projects, and of course, shop on the internet! One of my favorite pastimes! In a happy coincidence, I was just asked to review a website called BedBathStore, which is exactly my cup of tea. I love beds, and baths, and I really love the clever little gizmos and space-savers and thing-holders that stores like this sell. The site itself has a nice clean layout and is easy to navigate, which always makes me want to poke around more. The free shipping ceiling is pretty high, $89, but the president's day sale going on now make it a bit better. I dove right in!

My first stop was at the party food and beverage machines section of the site. Now these are way too big and expensive for me to have, at least while we're still in our little bitty apartment, but I love these things. They have a cotton candy cart for sale, for pity's sake! Too awesome. Popcorn carts, hot dog carts, plus countertop versions of those as well. The selection was great. Unfortunately, although there was space for product reviews on each product, every one I looked at in this section was empty. These are luxury items, though, so maybe not as many people have bought them yet. The other big issue was definitely the price There were no deals to be had here. I looked a couple of the products, namely the popcorn cart and the tabletop nostalgia popper, up on Google, and found substantially better prices both on Amazon and at Kohl's. That was a bit disappointing for me, since I'm always out for a bargain. 

For my next foray into the site, I decided I'd look at something I've already shopped for and bought, to see how it stacks up. I found the Premium Solid Insulated Thermal Blackout Curtain Panel Pair, a set of insulated blackout curtains that are quite similar to the ones we bought for Robert's room this summer. (Take it from this mommy, blackout curtains in the nursery are worth their substantial weight in gold.) The price here was a lot more in line with what I paid for my curtains at the department store, and they come in a wider variety of colors as well. Still no reviews in the reviews section, but it was an overall more appealing offering. I've been thinking about getting blackout curtains for the other bedroom too, so I'll keep that one in mind. 

It occurred to me that by now I have not looked at any products that are technically for either bed or bath, so for my last dip in the pool, I decided to look at bedrest pillows, those big firm pillows with the arms that you use to prop yourself up for study or TV. BedBathStore did not have spectacular prices, though they didn't seem outrageous, but their main strength was in the wide variety of styles! They have eleven different kinds of pillows (all basically the same shape) but in different fabrics, colors, and patterns. Every single one had its own picture, which I really liked. Sometimes you can be browsing a store and look at different colors on an item, and you can tell that the second color was simply photoshopped on. These were genuine pictures showing the variety, and I appreciated that. Someone looking to match their bedroom would have an easy time if they looked here. 

Overall, I think BedBathStore is a decent shopping site, with things to recommend it despite the fact that it's not a mecca for bargain hunters. Sometimes finding just the right style or color for something in your house is more important than saving a couple bucks, and the selection here was always good. Just make sure you always remember to shop around! 

Oh, and because I never got around to actually doing anything bath-related, here is an oldie, but a goodie: 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mailbox Fun

One great thing about all the shopping and couponing I do online these days is that it's fun to get mail again. When I was a little kid, I used to always be excited whenever I got mail, even if it was just my bank statement, because it was addressed to me! Then there were magazines, birthday cards, the occasional present, all that fun stuff! As I got older, though, and got my own mailboxes, the novelty sort of wore off. Most of what I got in the mail was bills or spam, and collecting the mail was just one more chore. But lately, what with so many companies trying to integrate the internet and Facebook with their more traditional techniques, I've been getting all sorts of cool stuff in the mail.

Today we got an especially fun package in the mail. Snuggle Fabric Softener did a contest on Facebook a little while back where you could upload a picture of snuggling and win a Snuggle Bear. I uploaded a picture from when Robert was a newborn, of him zipped into my bathrobe and cuddled right up to my chest. We won one of the bears, and it arrived yesterday! Robert was watching me open the box, and you should've seen his face when he realized there was a toy in there. Snuggle Bear was an immediate hit, and even M was a bit envious, remarking how he'd always wanted one when he was a kid, but hadn't gotten one. The new bear is in the crib now, where he is not as loved as the lovey, but a nice soft second choice.

I've also gotten lots of coupons for free things in the mail, which is awesome. In my coupon pocket now, I've got coupons for two bottles of Excedrin, three half gallons of soymilk, and a yogurt cup, all of which came in the mail. I also get some magazines where the subscriptions were free or very cheap. The best ones come with coupons of their own! It's amazing what you can find online. It certainly makes checking the mail a lot more fun!

Oh, and here's the picture I entered in the contest. Very snuggly! It's amazing how much he's grown.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Baby Contest

This morning Robert and M and I went out to take part in a competition! Robert raced in the Huggies Diaper Dash at Babies R Us. He was on the high end of qualification age, but still legal, as long as he didn't stand up during the race. Babies who walk in a crawling race get disqualified! Since Robert still doesn't stand up without pulling up, this wasn't much of a problem. The races started at 11, and technically all the competitors were supposed to show up then, but because of a quick freak snowstorm, it was just us and one other family (twin girls!) Robert raced against the bigger one in the first heat and won handily because the competition was content to sit at the starting line and grin about how much attention everyone was paying her. It was very cute! Robert raced for the love of his lovey and the pretzel stick I was holding down at the finish line.

After that, we had to spend an hour and a half or so sitting around and waiting for the championship race. A few other competitors trickled in, which the store allowed and even strongly encouraged so they could get enough competition for the championship race. In the meantime, we wrangled our contender baby and tried to keep him from burning all his energy or getting so frustrated by waiting that he wasn't having fun anymore. In the last preliminary heat, the winner was a baby about Robert's age, who was a pretty good crawler. His dad cheated by putting his hands down in the field of play during the race, but it wasn't our race and the other competitors didn't complain. All the winners of the heats got gift cards, and that was very cool!

The championship ended up being between Robert, this other kid almost his age, and funnily enough, the tiny twin of the baby Robert beat in the first round. She raced in the second round, and because her much larger competitor couldn't figure out the "Now it's time to crawl" thing, she managed to army crawl her way across the mat to victory. She was not really a contender in this one, but she was just as cute as could be. The race began, and Robert made it halfway down very quickly before hesitating. I think he was a little scared by the mom next to me who was clapping and yelling pretty loudly. The other baby crawled entirely off the mat, but ended up making it to the end of the line first. They called it a victory, but the fact of the matter was that it was a disqualification. The rules of the competition were absolutely clear that the babies must stay on the mat that marked the field of play. (Again, these were the people who entered the field of play illegally in the earlier race.) This time, since I had a stake in things, I pointed out the rules.

The other baby's parents and grandparent were not very happy about not getting their victory, but as a compromise, instead of the disqualification, we ran the race over again. This time, for whatever reason, Robert was like a ball out of a cannon, and just barreled across the mat when I waved his sippy cup at him. The other family were very sore losers about it, which tarnished it a little bit, despite the fact that their baby hadn't been in the store for 90 minutes sitting around already, and they'd gotten away with several rules violations before being called on one. Anyway! We were still happy to win, and Robert had a great time, which was the main thing. He enjoyed socializing with the other babies, and getting to crawl around Babies R Us with no pants on for a couple of hours. And for the grand prize, we got three coupons for big boxes of diapers, which is great! Right now I've got a thousand Size 4 diapers stockpiled, but there is always Size 5 coming sooner than we think.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dreams of Vacation

Man, it's cold and gross out. We're lucky here, because we didn't get the Snowpocalypse descending upon our heads, but February 1 is still not a pretty day in our corner of the world. I remember how it was last year, this first week of being alone with Robert after all the grandparents had gone home, when the world was covered with snow and M was gone all day at school. It's an easy time of year to get depressed! This year is a little better. Instead of snow we have rain, and instead of a wailing bundle of newborn, I've got my guy throwing lettuce and peapods off his high chair and demanding more pretzels instead (we are working on the food thing). Still it's hard not to imagine heading off someplace warm for awhile, maybe a visit to Santa Cruz or a vacation in Jamaica. Warm weather and beaches, shopping and tourism. Yes please!

Of course, that's not too likely to happen for awhile yet. I got our taxes filed, and we're getting a pretty decent return, but it's pretty much all allocated already. Since we're getting even less income this summer than last, I need to put more money into our summer emergency fund, and I'm going to get all crazy and put some money into our teeny-tiny IRAs as well. With anything left, we're going to get super-indulgent and hit the dentist! Woo! This doesn't leave a lot of money for other things, especially not trips. But I've been looking into other ways to beat the winter blues. The sun may not shine, and it's too wet to play outside, but I can still take care of myself. Today I'm having a big salad for lunch, and this afternoon, Robert and I are going to try and get some exercise, even if it's just perambulating up and down the halls. Eating well and exercising are two good ways to perk yourself up in winter, and heck, they're good for any time of year. I figure I can't really go wrong.

Another option I've been thinking about is maybe getting a sun lamp. I have a friend whose seasonal affective disorder was improved by simulated sunlight, so it might be worth a shot. Plus, I have extreme amounts of hate for our only lamp, which is old and has two non-working sockets and doesn't have a secure fitting shade anymore. Really, replacing that old thing with anything that doesn't drop its shade when I bump it would be a lift to my mood! And of course, I've got my guys, who are usually good for a mood lift (when they aren't the ones driving me crazy!) One of these years we'll take a winter vacation somewhere warm, but for now, I think we're all right.