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Archive for the ‘Shopping’ Category

Rodeo Fun! Mutton Bustin Anyone?

Photo Credit: rodeohouston.comIt is RODEO time in Houston. Every year this time the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is in town for a few weeks. It usually is here during spring break so it becomes one of our day trips as a family. If you have never been to something like this it can be an all day event. Not only do they have a carnival with tons of rides, games and food vendors but there is also over 480 retail vendors with everything like cowboy boots, candy, jewelry, scented candles, furniture, clothing, kitchen gadgets, etc. They also have a kids zone with fun exhibits, rides and interactive activities. Want to see an egg hatch live? They have it! Want to see them milk a cow? They have it! Want to walk around thousands of pens full of stinky pigs, cows, horses, chickens, etc? They have it! They also have livestock auctions and competitions.

The big event is the rodeo and concert held inside Reliant Stadium. They always have a concert after the rodeo that features a headline singer or group. Although I am not a huge country music fan I am impressed with the A list of stars that have sold out shows each year like Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, and Reba McEntire. The rodeo itself includes bucking horses and bull riding, chuck wagon races, barrel races, the calf scramble, calf roping, etc. One of my favorites by far is the “Mutton Bustin”. The announcer actually puts it the best when he says “this is the part of the show where we strap our kids to farm animals and call it entertainment”. If you have never seen it you have to watch the video below. Basically it is a  child around 5-6 years old wearing a heavily padded vest and helmet  put on the back of a sheep, told to grab on to its wool, and then hang on for dear life when the gate opens. As the sheep runs across the pen the object is to see who can stay on the longest. Over the years I have seen a few kids with tears but the majority have huge grins on their faces and are pumping their fists in the air with excitement after they take that dive to the ground.

What is your favorite thing about a rodeo?

Tips for Perfect Cookie Dough

Raw cookie dough in cookie clumps.

Image via Wikipedia

After seeing this article on Yahoo today I certainly am putting “cookie making with the kids” on my spring break list! I think everyone has their favorite cookie and certainly we all want to sneak a taste of the dough even though we have been advised against consuming products with raw eggs. Who can resist? And who doesn’t like the smell of fresh-baked cookies? I mean they make candles with that scent because we love it so much!

Although the perfect cookie for me is the pre-packaged cookie dough in the store that you just pull out of the package and bake, I do sometimes venture to make cookies from scratch. Most people will have the ingredients for baking cookies on hand and these are easy ingredients to stock up when on sale or you have a coupon.

This article gives some really simple tips in the way ingredients are mixed as well as other suggestions of how to get your cookies to come out consistent and how to adjust the recipe to your personal preference for the perfect cookie. This is instructions for a basic a chocolate chip cookie dough but it also has suggestions of variations for the same basic dough so we can get creative!

Check out the article HERE and let me know what cookies you are going to be baking soon!

Crockpot Ham & White Bean Soup

This is so easy it almost isn’t fair! It really takes less the 5 minutes to throw everything into your crock pot and walk away! This is one of my favorite recipes to fix on Sunday because I can start it quickly before leaving for church.

      Ham & White Bean Soup

Pour the cans of beans with the juice and chicken broth into the crock pot. Mix in the amount of ham you desire and place bay leaves in last. Cover the crock pot and cook on low for 4 or more hours. Serve with hot bread or rolls.

** For the ham you can use a ham hock, leftover ham pieces, or I buy the Hormel diced ham which I find in the meat section near the whole hams. I have started only using 1/2 of the package of ham pieces and freeze the other half for the next time! Stock up on the canned products and ham when you have coupons or find them on sale.This makes a really easy meal to always have on hand.

What quick fixing crock pot recipes are your favorites?

Is Phone Etiquette too much to ask for?

Thankfully most of my friends and family are caring enough to use proper phone etiquette but I often have the unfortunate opportunity to speak with customers who could use a little schooling on what they should and should not be doing when on the phone. You would be surprised at how often these incidence happen. These calls could be uncomfortable in any situation but especially to a customer service agent speaking with a complete stranger! Here are just some of the things we are subjected to listening to:

  1. Using the Bathroom: Seriously, we can hear you! Especially when you flush! Please do your business before or after the call and if it is an emergency either ask us to hold or call us back. Just don’t take us with you!
  2. Television or Radio TOO LOUD! It is very hard to get your information when we cannot hear anything but our TV commercial going in the background. What is worse is those customers who cannot hear us either but don’t think to turn their volume down in order to hear better. I am not going to scream to compensate for your loud TV!
  3. Eating: Munching in my ear is bad enough but when you have a mouth full of food and trying to give me your contact information it is impossible to understand you!
  4. Watching Porn: Just like using the bathroom we can hear this too! Please please please take care of your personal business before calling and do not make us listen to your porn during the call. I have asked people to turn their TV down in this situation but believe me I will hang up if it doesn’t stop or I feel you are doing “anything else” during that time. GROSS!
  5. Baby Crying: When is it ever a good time to order something or call someone when your kid is screaming bloody murder? Please get them back to sleep, give them a bottle or calm them down before calling. Certainly do not hold a screaming child when you are on the phone because being that close to the phone that is all we can hear!
  6. Dogs Barking: This is basically the same as the baby crying. If your dog is trying to warn a squirrel or mail man to stay out of your yard please put them up before calling or go into another room!
  7. Gases: Oh yes. We do have ears and we can hear every fart and burp so cover the phone, put us on mute or excuse yourself for a moment please.
  8. Fighting: It’s probably not a good time to call and order a product when you’re in the middle of a fight with someone at home! We are literally the fly on the wall and know all your business now!
  9. Swearing: This can be both happy and angry customers believe it or not. Some just have incorporated swearing into their everyday vocabulary and will just let words fly when doing a normal order. Others get angry and the words start coming. Please realize you are still speaking to a human being and swearing is not acceptable. We do have the authorization to hang up on anyone swearing if we have asked them to stop and they don’t.
  10. Prank Calls: It is bad enough from the kids but as an adult grow up! Even with a few beers in you it isn’t funny to call an order line for a kitchen appliance and ask what the customer service agent is wearing. You really think we sit around in lingerie waiting to take your call? Oh and by the way, we do have Caller ID so you’re not so anonymous anymore!

I am sure the list can go on but these are the most common of the phone etiquette problems I encounter on a pretty regular basis. Just realize that although someone cannot see you they certainly can still hear what is going on. Remember our children are learning proper etiquette from us. Take care of what you can before getting on the phone or even answering a phone call with anyone to avoid an inconsiderate situation on that call!

What unpleasant things have you had to listen to while on a call?

Cash vs Debit Card?

Photo Credit: budgeting.thenest.com

I thought the introduction of Visa/MasterCard debit cards was genius! I hated carrying around and writing checks, carrying cash or using my credit card for purchases only to have to write a check to pay off that amount from my checking account later. Having quick access to those funds makes my life simpler for certain, but does it also have its drawbacks?

The other day my kids had asked if I had any money and I realized that I usually carry less than $5 in actual cash at any time. I always rely on my debit card. It also got me thinking about experiences in the past that maybe I should have learned a little more about the pros and cons of cash vs debit cards.

First we have been victims of identity theft. Around Christmas one year we found someone had spent almost $1,500 fraudulently from our account. Thankfully the charges were flagged immediately at our bank because they were coming from Canada and not where we live so they shut down our debit card access. This was both good and bad. Certainly no further funds were taken fraudulently however we had no use of our cards for transactions we normally use like gasoline purchases. We had to rely on checks and cash until our new cards came in. We also had automatic payments assigned to those cards which we then had to contact those companies to set up a new payment option. By using our debit cards as much as we did it put us at greater risk of identity theft. Although we still use them we are more cautious about where they are used.

The second thing we learned about debit cards is they mean nothing when you have no power! During Hurricane Ike everything you wanted required cash. Checks were not even accepted because there was no way to verify funds. So even if I had a million dollars in the bank there was no way to access funds. Thankfully many stores and gas stations had power restored within a few days either by the electric company repairs or a power generator. Those few days without any power around town made many people realize how vital an emergency supply of cash is.

The third thing is I have been somewhere and had a purchase that was only a few dollars and without cash I had to use my debit card. Stores are charged a fee for card purchases so I am not doing them any favors by making them pay a fee for my small purchase. If I had a little more cash it would be a better option in those situations.

I am sure there are plenty of other pros and cons of both debit cards and cash. I certainly still like the convenience of the debit card but know that cash cannot disappear completely without effecting our lives at some point!

Which do you prefer to use? Debit Cards or Cash?

What’s with that Commercial?

  1. You know a commercial is played to often when you know the jingle and find yourself singing it often. That is good advertising on their part because even if you don’t need their services you still recall their product from the jingle.
  2. What is with the commercials that have just a weird spokes person or character that just won’t go away? I won’t name any specific commercials but we all find those that are just annoying or even a little on the weirdo freaky side. Those companies just keep making more with that strange annoying spokes person or character. I guess the same could be said for off the wall weird or inappropriate slogans.
  3. How about the commercials that are just so hilarious or otherwise awesome to the point that you really didn’t even pay attention to what the commercial was selling? Some go to huge lengths to make sure the commercial is so outgoing that they lose sight of making sure their product is featured. We have laughed at dozens of commercials and even talked about them later to only realize we have no idea if they were selling jeans, beer, or car tires.
  4. Why are some commercials aired on specific channels at all? We saw a commercial for life insurance for seniors while watching a UFC fight one night. It just seemed really weird place to advertise that. We also have seen mens products advertised on mostly women’s channels and vice versa. I’m just saying if you want the biggest bang for your buck advertise where you will have the biggest audience for your product.
  5. The commercials targeting children just don’t seem as subtle anymore.  Some just come right out that if your parents love you they should be buying you this. Thanks for making us have to say no to yet another useless product. Let’s be honest they want it because it looks so awesome on the show but it really isn’t as fun when they get it and will only use once or twice.
  6. Do we really need “that much” truth in advertising? There are just some things that we can leave a little more vague instead of going into full detail please.  Hemorrhoids’, E.D., and feminine odor problems may have numerous products available but when watching TV with the kids that may not be the most appropriate time to be hearing about them.
  7. Do we really want to see commercials anyway?  No. We love to record things to watch later so we can fast forward through commercials. The only exception to that is the Super Bowl where we actually sit down to watch the commercials ON PURPOSE!

What are  your feelings about commercials?

 

Homemade Can Rotators

I like to stock up on food items we use often especially when I can use coupons and find them on sale. There are many commercial can rotators available but frankly I would rather spend money on more food storage then a piece of plastic. I found several patterns online to make cardboard can rotators and after some trial and error and a little tinkering I came up with this cardboard can rotator that is literally made with just cardboard, popsicle sticks and glue! The ones I have made have held up perfect for the last 8 months. I have done 3 at the same time assembly line style and it takes about 1 ½ hours. This would be a fun project to involve your kids with for some of the easy steps. Most of that time spent is actually waiting for glue to dry! You can take a label or just write with a sharpie marker the “Name” of the product can in each rotator. Each rotator will hold approx. 15 cans like vegetables or fruit, and about 20 or more smaller cans like Campbell’s soup.

Cardboard Can Rotator:

Supplies: You can use any cardboard boxes you have but I have found those that are used and bent are harder to use. You can easily purchase a 14x14x14 box in the office section of Wal-Mart for approx. 67 cents. They are perfect to use for this project!

  • Need cut and have:                                             Also will need:
  • 2- 14×14 cardboard pieces                                   Utility (Exacto) Knife
  • 2- 7×14 cardboard pieces                                     Elmers Glue
  • 2- 5×11 cardboard pieces                                     Popsicle Sticks
  • 1- 2×7 cardboard piece                                         Ruler
  • 1- 5×7 cardboard pieces                                       Pencil
  • 1- 2×5 cardboard piece

Step 1: Take your two 14×14 pieces and lay next to each other. Using a ruler mark your “shelf” lines as follows:

Cardboard on Right:

  • #1: Starting from the top right corner measure 10 inches across the top and then draw a line 4 inches down from there. From the bottom of that 4 inch line draw a straight line up to the top right hand corner (making a triangle).
  • #2: Then on the same piece of cardboard start at the bottom left hand corner and measure across the bottom 10 inches and draw a line up 4 inches. Go back to the left hand bottom corner and measure straight up 6 inches and mark a small line. Take that small line and draw a line down to where it meets the 4 inch line you just did at the bottom.
  • #3: Then from the bottom right hand corner measure straight up 2 inches and mark a small line. Then go back to the bottom right hand corner and measure 3 inches along the bottom and mark a small line there. Draw a line between the two small marks.

Repeat this same step on the left side cardboard piece but you will change the directions you start with so you basically are making a mirror image of the right cardboard piece.

Step 2: You then will glue 2 popsicle sticks directly under each of the top two lines and then on the bottom line glue just one stick (See picture) and then set aside to dry.

Step 3: Take the 2- 7×14 inch pieces. These will be the pieces for the back panel and bottom. Take your ruler across where it measures 7 inches and mark a small line at 1 inches and another at 6 inches. Draw a straight line up from both of these lines. Score slightly with your utility knife to make it easier to fold, and then fold up the sides.You will take “one” of these 7×14 pieces and at the very top about ¼ inch down glue a popsicle stick across it (see picture below):

Step 4: Take one of the 7×14 panels and put glue on both of the turned up sides and glue the 2 14×14 panels to it and set it aside to dry (you can set a book on it to help it hold together and dry).

Step 5: Once the back panel and two side panels are dried stand them up and fold it in. Taking the other 7×14 panel put glue again on the folded up sides and place the side/back panel pieces inside of it pushing the bottom of the side panels against the folded up sides of the bottom panel. You can use chip clips to hold them together or keep pressing them together until they dry.

Step 6: Once the bottom panel is dried take the 2×7 piece and the 5×7 piece.  Repeat the steps (like you did with the 7×14 pieces) in Step 3 where you measure across 7 inches, marking the 1 inch and 6 inch with a small line, draw a line up, slightly score and then turn up the edges. Take the 2×7 piece and glue the folded up sides.  Glue across the bottom front pressing the folded sides around the edges of the side panels. Repeat this with the 5×7 piece which you will place the bottom of that piece about half way up (the bottom of that piece lines up with the line of popsicle sticks). See picture:

Step 7:  Put glue on all the tops of the popsicle sticks and just above them along the sides of the cardboard box. Taking your 2×5 piece lay it on the very bottom row of popsicle sticks where it rests on the sticks. Press down so it will glue onto the popsicle sticks. Glue all around the edges almost like your caulking the corners with the glue. Repeat this step with the next row of popsicle sticks with one of the 5×11 pieces, and then finish with the top row of popsicle sticks with the last 5×11 piece (this will also rest on the popsicle stick on the top of the back panel). Make sure you put glue around all the edges. Lay the can rotator on its side and place a heavy book on it to help press everything together.

Guess what?  Your done!

What ideas do you have for storing cans and other non perishable food items?