Monday, August 10, 2009

His best girl

(via text)

SKEETER: I came home to surprise you. You aren't here.

ME: We are @ Target, but we will be home soon.

SKEETER: We need trash bags and chocolate.

ME: We are buying the trash bags.

SKEETER: And chocolate. I haven't seen Little Debbie in some time. I kind of miss her.

SKEETER: She is my not-so-secret crush. Even though she is Michael's girl.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Christmas Carol train tour

Next stop: Dickens' London.

To promote the new Christmas Carol movie, Disney has a train tour that is traveling throughout the US.

First, this was marketing genius. Seriously. It's just a movie. But the promotional tour that they are doing is great!

But before we get to the tour, let's talk about the line to get in.

OH YEAH. There was a two hour wait. There was a worker dude at the end of the line asking everyone, "You made sure to notice that there is a TWO HOUR wait from this point, right? TWO HOURS." It was as if he was even surprised that we were staying. I know I was.

But wait we did. For two hours. It was 92 degrees.

OH PEOPLE. The things that I do for my children. I should have taken a photo of the guy in front of us. He had this cool little camping belt with two canteens hooked to it. And a pocket for snacks. The woman two families behind us had a folding camp chair. I felt thoroughly unprepared.

But we stood in line like troopers, minus water and snacks and camp chairs. We did a lot of standing in line.

But, as usual, we made friends with the people near us. (Not with Mr. Prepared with Camping Gear though. He was a little snooty, as if we were beneath him because we didn't anticipate the two hour wait.) (I didn't. I was pretty shocked by the wait time.)

Ahem. Back to the friends. We actually found out that the family behind us was just starting homeschooling, and we had a mutual acquaintance. That was unexpected.

Anyway, the chatting made the wait much more bearable. And about an hour into our wait, Christmas carolers showed up! Sass sang Christmas carols all day after that.

But alas, even with the carolers, we had more waiting. A little closer to the train itself, there were three of these cooling fans set up. My children thoroughly enjoyed the mist generated by the fans. But it really looked more like a spray once they were finished.

Finally! The wait was over! And once we got inside ... WOW! The first car was set up with period costumes and portraits of characters from the film. Plus it had three cases full of books and letters on loan from the Dickens Museum. I could have stayed there longer reading the letters.

Aside: Did you know that Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins were friends? And even wrote a book together? I didn't until reading some of the information in the cases.

But alas, the two hour wait seriously cut into the "seeing" time because Spyder had to get to fencing class afterward. So we moved on to the models.

The movie uses computer generated animation, but they used models in some of the process. This model of Big Ben was amazing.

We weren't allowed to use flash photography, and so this photo was the best I could manage.

Next came the ... I'm not sure what it's called. The actors wore suits like in the photo and acted out the scenes, then they were animated in a later process. It was pretty interesting, and there were screens set up along the wall that gave the information about how it was filmed that way.

I loved the way they used the mirror to make the train car seem much bigger than it actually was.

On the way out we visited the interactive car, where the favorite activity was taking photos of ourselves and morphing them into the movie characters. That was really fun. But let me mention here -- that particular car was hotter than waiting in the sun outside. I felt like I was about to faint when we got out of there.

And finally, the end of the train cars. A happy ending, of course.

We also got to see a 10 minute preview of the movie in 3-D. My children were in awe. And YUP, 3-D still gives me a headache, even with all of the improvements since the 1970s.

The bottom line: If the tour is coming to your city, it's worth going. Just make sure to bring a camp chair and a cooler.


Monday, August 03, 2009

One week

School starts in one week.

The last of our materials are scheduled to be delivered tomorrow. I will spend the next few days going through and organizing, but I am afraid that I might have to hide them. The urchins are really excited about digging into their new studies. (Let's hope that continues for quite some time AFTER we have begun.) Truly, I think that I am just as excited as they are. We have some fun and interesting things this year.

This year we have scheduled for three bookwork days and two non-bookwork days. I am a little nervous about that, and we might end up changing. We have never had two non-bookwork days each week. We are attempting it this year because we work at the food pantry for four hours one day per week, and it can be tiring work. Friday is generally set aside as a free day for museum or zoo visits, but it can be used as a catch-up, catch-all day if necessary.

As always, it's a work in progress. I am sure that things will get rearranged during the first couple of weeks to see how it works best for us.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Couponing, an update of sorts

This is EXACTLY where I am. Skeeter and I changed over to a cash-only system for grocery shopping last month.

Anything pertaining to food or toiletries comes out of our grocery budget. That includes any eating out and food for the dogs. I spend $10-$15 a week for coupons, so I subtract that from what I take out of the bank. Oh, and I toss my change into our Disney fund every night. I do SPEND the change when I'm out though -- if I haven't dumped it yet -- so it's usually less than $1. I am all about change management.

Changing over to the cash system made it evident that I was going over budget regularly -- sometimes not by much, but regularly -- in search of that elusive deal. Not good. That has stopped due to the cash-only constraint. If the money isn't there, I can't buy it, no matter how good the deal is. I can also honestly say that I've learned to choose the deals I buy more carefully. I was moving there before, but changing the way we handled grocery money is making it a reality.

When I first began couponing, I was really overwhelmed with all of the information available. I spent hours finding deals and even more time getting the coupons together to do them. But deals will come around again! If I miss it, no big. I will get it on the next go if it's something we need.

I've changed to choosing the stuff we need that week (bread, milk, produce ...), then finding the deals on items that we already use, then finding deep, deep deals for things to stockpile or donate. I have certain sites that I check, and that's about it for the searching. I use the time that we are waiting for Spyder at fencing class to sort coupons so that I have to spend less time doing it at home.

The deal sites that I use have become more of a launching point than anything, looking for what others already know is available. Some of the best I have found simply by looking at the clearance sections to see what is there.

Last week, I lucked upon half gallons of organic milk discounted to $.99. I bought two of them, but I should have bought at least three. I should have known that we would use them before the expiration date. (We did. They all had a July 31 date. I had to go back and buy more milk -- full price -- on July 30. My urchins love milk.)

Kroger has a fantastic clearance area. Absolutely fantastic. I never know what I am going to find there. A few weeks ago I bought dental floss for $.19 a package after coupons. I found Pull-Ups for a friend for $2 a package.

Target also has fantastic clearance sales. I've been shopping those for years; I'm just using coupons to make them better now!

So it has only taken me a year (!!), but I think I finally have a handle on how it works best for us. Changing over to the cash system was just another piece in the puzzle.