Shopping smart…

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Okay…now, I am no Almighty D when it comes to bargain shopping (seriously, she walks out of Target, Rite Aid, the grocery store with a land yacht full of stuff for $10 – I should call her Almighty D, the shopping goddess) but I have developed a few edicts for shopping throughout the last few years. I am going to share them with you now because it’s a better story than “I just went to Nordstrom for another industrial strength bra”.*

First, I love coupons. I am a geek with my purple plastic envelope full of them. (Speaking of coupons, I just sent my brother and his wife an envelope full of diaper and formula coupons – act surprised, Bill!). Right after I hand over my Store discount card, I also shove over the coupons I want the cashier to apply mostly because I get so excited and/or horrified watching the total that I would forget if I waited.

Second, I have a list of items that I Will No Longer Buy Full Price. This includes soda, paper towels, health and beauty items, laundry stuff, condiments and basic staples. Yes, I will literally go without diet soda if I haven’t bothered to stock up on any when it’s on sale. Alternatively, yes, I will live in a house with 6 or more 12 packs of Diet Cherry Pepsi (it’s really not THAT many) when it’s on sale for buy 2, get 3 free. I try to combine store sales and coupons whenever possible.

Third, when I’m shopping on the internet, I have learned that www.ebates.com and www.bing.com are my best friends. I am still kicking myself for not using Ebates when I booked my flights to Malaysia back in 2008 – 1% would have been a nice chunk of $. I started off using Ebates but lately I’ve had better luck with Bing cash back. I also love Slickdeals.net – the people in those forums are crafty (like D). When I’m excited about a tube of toothpaste for $1, they’re annoyed they can’t get it for free. Plus, they have sources for finding out the drug store ads weeks ahead of time, which is great (until I get to the store and think, HEY why isn’t soap on sale??? and realize it’s on sale in July – sigh).

Fourth, I am working on becoming patient and not buying stuff I don’t need. I am also trying to teach this to Gene in terms of video game prices. That said, I am glad I am usually at work on Black Friday because a day devoted to getting a low price on stuff is dangerous for me. Sometimes I think I am a dangerous shopper when I see a deal on something I absolutely do not need (example: washer/dryer set) but….aarrrgh! I still want it! The phrase “The deal will be there later” sometimes works. Other times…well, let’s put it this way: after I finish this post I’m going to scoot over to CVS and turn some Extra Care Bucks into more stuff.

Finally (because I really want to get to CVS!!), I have stopped carrying cash. Gene and I each had a sum of $ on us for the trip to Las Vegas, which made sense because we were traveling and valets, etc do not take debit cards. However, once that money is gone I’m back to plastic only. Dave Ramsey advocates getting out all your spending money (gas, groceries, etc) in cash and once that $ is gone, it’s gone. For me, it’s better to have no cash and have to explain why I went to Wendy’s for lunch. And needless to say, if I did have a ridiculous amount of cash on me, I’d just spend it on stupid things (witness my multiple McDonalds trips this week). Which is how I got the Gymboree stash (now, who wants some boys Gymbo??).

So, those are my thoughts. Yes, pretty obvious stuff to anyone but me, but I’m glad I came up with them. And, it makes me feel like I did something of value.

* RRRRRGGGH. Bra shopping is the only thing worse than swimsuit shopping. At least I don’t wear a swimsuit every day.

Books

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So, I am going to give a big thumbs up to a website I recently discovered: www.bookmooch.com. Basically, it is a book trading website. If I have a copy of Random Chick-lit Book #4 but I don’t want it any more, I can list it in my “inventory.” If you want a copy of Random Chick-lit Book #4, you can “mooch” it from me for the low low price of 1 point. The only real cost is postage for mailing out books, but if you mail them out media mail the cost is really low and if you receive as many books as you receive, it all equals out. I heartily recommend checking it out. So far I have sent out about a dozen books and received one with a half dozen on the way. I am kicking myself for donating so many books to Goodwill all of these years.


So sleepy…

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(and yes, I know that while I am sleepy, my brother and his wife are drop dead exhausted)

So, today was a day I call SUPER PAYROLL WEDNESDAY. The workday started at 5 am. Ugh, I hate getting up early. And since sooooomeone insisted on watching all 55 hours of the Celebrity Apprentice finale show (despite knowing who won), I didn’t get to bed until after midnight.

And! Here’s something that I did that was extra dumb: So to get to work by 5, I had to be awake by 4 (as in, One Two Three OhFourTheLove it is too freaking early!). Our alarm clock has two settings – typically, I have one set for Tuesday-Friday and one set for Mondays of Doom (stupid Mondays). I set one of them for 4:00 am. And then, in a sleepy haze, I reset it for 5:00 am. (I meant to set one for 4, the other for 5).

Sigh. Imagine my surprise when I woke up out of cold sleep at 4:41 this morning. (Still made it to work by 5:15 – the first rule of Super Payroll Wednesday is we don’t talk about how I got from “just rolled out of bed” to “just rolled into work” in less than 45 minutes).


Aunty

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So I’m an aunt again – my first niece! Macauley/Bill and his wife Michelle had their daughter on Sunday evening. 7 lbs, 3 oz, 20 1/4 inches. Brown hair, eyes are TBD.

YAY!!!!!

I have seen a few pictures on Michelle’s Facebook and the happy family are adorable! Can’t wait to meet her!


Las Vegas, see you in 2022!*

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So, we’re home. We’ve actually been home about 24 hours, though. The flights were fine and getting to fly first class from Las Vegas to Texas was really nice. I was reminded of this on the flight from Texas to Cheesecake City, which I spent in the middle seat between Gene and some twentysomething guy who spent the entire flight asleep, wearing sunglasses.

Here are some final thoughts (ha ha, final thoughts!) on Las Vegas:

First, your baby does not want to go to Las Vegas. Yeah, yeah, shark reef at Mandalay. Yeah, yeah, M&M store. Your. baby. does. not. want. to. hang. out. in. casinos. Las Vegas is the anti-Disney. It is the Unhappiest Place on Earth. (Seriously, what the fuck is your infant going to get out of a trip to Las Vegas? Get that baby home!)**

Second, if you – as adults, minus the kiddoes – go to Las Vegas, I strongly recommend staying in a non-gaming hotel. When Gene told me we were staying at the Renaissance, I kind of felt like we’d miss a part of the Las Vegas Experience. Instead, I feel it was totally worth it. Any time I got near the main entrance of any of the big hotels (MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, etc) and saw that traffic was 6 cars deep, I was instantly glad that I didn’t have to get into that.

Third, the fountain show at Bellagio was totally worth it. I saw it three times – the last time was with Gene and the song was Frank Sinatra’s version of “Luck Be a Lady” from Guys & Dolls. Totally, completely, unequivocally awesome. (And free. And I love free stuff). I regret not seeing it after dark.

Fourth, In-N-Out Burger was delicious and so good. Every meal I ate, I was sure it was the best meal of the trip and then I’d eat another meal and think that that was the best meal. In-N-Out was good, definitely not the best (thank you Red Square…and the Bellagio buffet…and the turkey sandwich I ate poolside), but I will eat there again when I return in 12 more years.

* That is, unless Gene divorces me and I end up married to a man who wants kids. (what, TMI?)
** This message brought to you by the Sisterhood of Bitter & Judgmental Infertiles.

Last day…

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I hate the last day of vacation. By this time tomorrow I will be in the sky, flying from Las Vegas to an unnamed city in Texas that rhymes with Chew-stun. (On the bright side, I have 3 words for you: first class upgrade!).

(Seriously, like I didn’t pay enough for my flight, now they have tricked me into giving them more of my money for a bigger seat?)

(Yes, yes they have).

Yesterday I spent the entire day here at the Renaissance Las Vegas. Maybe because people brought me drinks, but it was a lovely day. Drinks = Diet Coke, BTW. Drinking + LaineyD + Las Vegas = baaaadddd. Don’t forget that I turned 21 here, and there’s a good reason it took me 12 years to return.

Today is going to be a short day – Gene only has his conference until noon then he takes a coworker to the airport and then we’re going to go to lunch (possibly at the Bellagio, fancy fancy!). Frankly, I have seen e-freaking-nough of Las Vegas and if Gene said, Screw it, let’s just hang out at the pool I would not complain. Then again, he’s been working all day every day so he’s missed a lot of the fun.

So, we shall see.


Holy cow it’s Wednesday???

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(And the day is half over in the Eastern time zone??)

So, yesterday. Gene was supposed to have lunch and dinner with various people from the conference he’s here to attend. I decided to take the monorail to the stop for the Venetian, the Mirage and (I think) Treasure Island, see what there was to be seen and absolutely! not! walk! a lot! again! today! (Seriously, every day I have thought, ‘OK, I’m going to go out for an hour or two, have some lunch and then come back to read by the pool or maybe write a little’ and every damn day I have failed and returned, limping, to the hotel room about 6 pm).

Anyway, the Venetian – okay, I actually mean the Shops at the Venetian because if I don’t get to walk through a super fancy mall at least once per day the terrorists win. The Venetian shops are very nice (better than Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood, not as nice as the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, and still better than going to my job). The gondola rides looked cool but I didn’t feel like it. Other than that, you had your typical high end shops (is it a bad thing that I was no longer impressed by Louis Vuitton, etc? I really feel like it was becoming a drinking game – “Every time you see a store selling $500 sunglasses, take a drink from your 3 foot tall glass of margarita!”).

Anyway, I was in front of one of the stores when my phone beeped (I never hear it ring, but I always hear the voicemail beep). Gene was calling to see what I was doing for lunch and dinner. I called him back and he asked me to meet him at Mandalay at Noon. At that time it was 10:45. Only in Las Vegas is it completely possible to need nearly 90 minutes to make it a mile down the road. Gene called back at 11:45 and I was still 15 minutes away “Order a Diet Pepsi for me!”. (Mmmm, this entire town is a Pepsi town. Love it).

Lunch was sushi, which was good but not necessarily better than the sushi we get at the restaurant next to our house. Afterwards, we made reservations for dinner at 6. “What are you going to do until then?” Gene asked. “I think I’ll go back to the room and relax,” I said. “But first, I want gelato.” (There are more gelato places here than fancy sunglasses shops). I passed tons of ice cream places but no gelato places, so I ended up at Caesars, where I knew there was gelato.

The gelato was bad (it was just ice cream after all, and expensive too!), but I ate it sitting in front of the Michael Kors store there. I realized midway through that that I should use my money from the focus group on a bottle of the perfume I’ve wanted (Michael Kors Very Hollywood), so I did just that.

Did I mention that when I signed up for my Harrah’s Total Rewards card that they gave me $5 in free slot play? Did I mention that $5 in the slots does not last long? (Did I mention that I don’t like gambling? Yes, I think I did). So I did end up gambling, just a little. I didn’t realize that they’ve done away with the little tokens, which is a bummer. Ended up breaking even at Caesar’s (Being me, I played the quarter slots and the penny slots – what, did you think I was a high roller? I am not even a low roller!) after winning “big” at the “Dean Martin’s House Party” slots. (Thanks Grandma). I also managed to lose my Total Rewards card (sigh) but got it replaced. Tried (and failed) to get a pedicure at Harrah’s, so I continued my (slow, slooooooow) voyage back to Mandalay.

Also ended up playing a little bit at MGM, but ran like hell when I managed to end up ahead a little bit (I probably am the first person to gleefully cash out when I was up $10). By this point, my dogs were barking (did I mention that I wore my “cute” shoes yesterday? did I mention that my feet hurt before I boarded my first monorail yesterday?) so if I say that I limped all the way to dinner, I am not kidding. I took the tram to Mandalay and had one thought: “Socks – and will I get kicked out for walking around in socks with no shoes?”

I couldn’t find socks but I found Nirvana in the form of the “Flip Flop Shop”. Gene couldn’t believe I shelled out money for flip flops but if he’d seen how swollen my feet were…I literally had to be helped into them which says a lot.

Oh, and immediately afterwards I gambled a little bit more at Mandalay (still had time before Gene’s class let out) and ended up $62. Woohoo. While I waited for Gene (because, yes, I did run like hell after winning!) I talked to my sister in law, who is 5 days past due w/ my niece. No progress, but hopefully soon!

Today’s plans are…well, it’s nearly noon and I am still in the room, so I think I really will get that relaxing day here. Finally. (Plus, my monorail pass expired, I think, so I may just have room service).


Monday, Monday

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(I am so boring. Why can’t I come up with zingy blog post titles?)

Still no gambling, still no drinking. Still the dorkiest girl walking around Las Vegas. Woohoo! I had intended on getting out of the room by 9:30 (so I could enjoy a lovely buffet breakfast as part of my $35 all you can eat buffet pass) but ended up running late because I was entranced by this silver thing that makes noise. I think you call it a television, but I didn’t have use an XBox controller to work it, so maybe not.

Had an 11:45 am date. Here’s an interesting story: So yesterday while I’m at the MGM Grand, a lady gives me a ticket for “Television City,” a free thing where you can watch a TV show and tell the people what you think of it. I’m not actually sure how it works, because the people at the Television City desk instead asked if I was going to be around tomorrow (which is now today). I had nothing going on, so I said I would be around. Basically, instead of watching a TV show I got to be part of a very small focus group to discuss something. And for doing that (it took 2 hours), I was paid the handsome sum of $100.

Yes, I am the only person to come to Las Vegas, not gamble and actually come out ahead. (Without working as a hooker, that is).

After that, I ambled (via monorail, because I was! not! going! to! walk! a lot! today!) to Planet Hollywood and had their buffet for a late lunch. It was incredible. (So, yes, I think I did get my money out of the 24 hour buffet pass). And then I wandered around the Planet Hollywood mall (why???) and then when my feet fell off again, I got back on the monorail and came back to the hotel. My feet are done for the day!

Supposedly Las Vegas has 300 beautiful days a year, but I think today (or at least right now) may not be one of them. In looking out the window of my hotel room (with its view of the Hilton, the Stratosphere, and if I stand all the way to the right I can see Encore by Wynn) I just noticed that I can also see mountains in the distance. Hmm.


And today…

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(Today is Sunday still but it’s midnight in Cheesecake City).

Got up, kicked Gene out of the hotel room (again). Bought a monorail ticket because I’d be darned if I was going to do that much walking again (hahahahah). Eventually met up with Gene and two of his coworkers and had lunch at Mandalay. After lunch, walked through the MGM again and planned to do the Television City thing where you watch TV and give your opinion (more about that tomorrow – long story).

Took the monorail back to the Bellagio and watched the fountains again (must do that after dark soon although not sure how as my feet have fallen off). Walked through the Gallery of Fine Art at the Bellagio ($2 discount with AAA card! Woot!), which was nice but small and probably ultimately not worth $13. The Bellagio is very very nice and I would some day love to stay there. I saw a sign for “Aria and City Center” and thought, hey I haven’t been there yet! So I took the train to that. Wow. Woooow. Again I was the mayor of Hick City (“Gawwwwleee, that is the shiniest mall I have ever seen!”).

And here is something I can take off my Bucket List: I walked into the Louis Vuitton store. Now, if you know me, you know that I don’t like logo stuff. Old Navy, I am not going to give you money for a tshirt that says “OLD NAVY”. I am not a billboard. And everywhere I have been, both at the airport in Houston and in Las Vegas, women have been carrying these frigging LV bags. Aaaaaaand, awhile back I happened upon their website and found a bag I genuinely like. (And since this is me we’re talking about, rest assured that is very sedate and tasteful. And sadly unavailable in knockoff form).

No, I didn’t buy it…I saw it, though! I was hoping the salesgirl might offer to let me touch it (“You, over there, the homeless girl with the plain leather Coach bag…wanna touch a purse?”) but she was busy helping a mother and teenage daughter select a $1000 bag for her to carry her school books in. (Yes really). So, it was fun to dream. And if somehow we strike it rich here (unlikely since I haven’t gambled at all) I am buying it.


Weekend in Vegas…

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So, I think I now understand why most people don’t stay a week in Las Vegas:

After about 4 days, their feet fall off.

(I take that back: I am pretty sure my mom could do all the walking I have done today and then go run a mini marathon. As you know, my mother cannot be stopped).

Yesterday: Kicked Gene out of the hotel room to go to his class. Later, Gene comes back to the hotel and we have lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Mandalay Bay (Shrimp tacos = delicious). I decided I was up for an adventure, so after Gene and I parted ways at Mandalay, I start walking. And walking. And then I walk some more just to prove a point.

The map from the hotel claims I only walked about 1.5 miles but I know it was more like 50. Here is a map of the Las Vegas strip so you can follow my adventure. I started at Mandalay (#1 on the monorail map), then walked the strip (all the time thinking “I bet in about 8 hours a hooker will be walking where I’m walking now”) to the Luxor (#2). Proceeded to gawk like the Mayor of Hick City (“Gawwwleee, we ain’t got a pyramid you can live in where I’m from!”).

Honestly, I can’t remember if I went into the Excalibur (#3) or not because I walked through about 20 hotel/casinos in the last 2 days and they are a blur. (Seriously, each of them has a Starbucks, a hot dog place, 50 places where you can buy a 3 foot tall glass of frozen margarita and 11 trillion slot/video poker machines). Next: New York New York (#8) and the MGM Grand (#6) for reasons I can no longer remember.

Saw the Bellagio (lucky #13) down the street, decided it “wasn’t far” and that I’d go there next. Watched the fountains and talked to Mom. (Saw the fountains again today and they did their routine to a recording of “All That Jazz”). Remembered that I wanted to go to Caesar’s Palace and it “wasn’t far” even though my feet were tired and I was definitely getting dehydrated (I knew this because I had considered asking the tourist pushing the Bugaboo stroller to hold my purse so I could jump in the Bellagio fountain).

Walk walk walk walk waaaaaaalk. Finally make it to Caesar’s (#18) and join their club (so I could get a $5 discount on their all day buffet pass – they also gave me $5 of free slot play which I have yet to use). The other thing I wanted to accomplish at Caesars (and in fact, the only thing I really wanted to do in Las Vegas entirely) was to find the Vosges Haut Chocolate store in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace (#23 – and the fact that the hotel and the mall are different numbers on the map should have been a clue!).

(Fun fact: Actually, they are entirely different stops on the monorail, too).

Proceeded to walk through a mall (“The Forum Shops in the same state as Caesar’s Palace”) so fancy that they should not have let the likes of me in. Walked past 10 or more Louis Vuitton stores (more about that later), which is impressive since there are only 6 in all of Nevada. Perhaps I actually walked to a neighboring state. (That explains a lot). Found Vosges and bought chocolate (yes, I did). Nearly delirious, I ask the cashier (a hippie who I’d disturbed from writing in his dream journal and who clapped every time I selected a chocolate) where do I go to get a taxi. Right before I walked out the doors to the taxi stand I found a Mexican restaurant and bought a huge Diet Coke to go.

I think the taxi driver thought I was a drunk the way I slumped in my seat and desperately sipped at my gigantic (non-see thru) cup. Limped up to the room, headachy, filthy and d.o.n.e. Popped two Aleve and ended up taking a bubble bath and felt restored, albeit wrinkly.

Dinner was In-n-Out Burger, a fast food restaurant. (I explained to Gene that people out here love In-n-Out the way I love White Castle and he wasn’t in the mood for a fussy meal anyway).