Happy Holiday Loot

The Holiday season is the time for a slick deal or two. Unfortunately this year we have been out of work so my normal spending has had to decrease. When this is the case I resort mostly back to my roots, the roots that got me started doing this in the first place: Freebies!

Years ago I started doing Freebies just for the household samples. Truly addicting, as the mailbox filled up every day. I had to have more. I found me a few good freebie sites and clicked like hell. I learned the basics like more than one email, more than one address and more than one browser. But that eventually paled.

Not enough! The addiction had to be satisfied. More! So on I went to extreme couponing. I did that for a few years, walking out of the stores with more money in my pocket than when I walked in (truly) and so much stuff stockpiled I had to sell it at a fraction of the cost just to make room for more. But that eventually paled, too.

On to the true slick deals: coupon codes, free shipping offers, credit card offers, cashback sites, rebates, and the list goes on. I was bringing home straight cash and merchandise for literally pennies on the dollar! And I still watch for a deal on a regular basis. It's the thrill of the deal, the hunt and chase, the victory.

So on to the holiday's, which always offers the best deals, especially for folks on a budget... like me.

Black Friday is the obvious answer. I don't do the traditional Black Friday. You won't catch me walking into a B&M store (that's brick and mortar for you non-deal shoppers) much less standing in line for hours on end beforehand. Part of that is because of my anti-social nature and another part is the lack of stores nearby, me being in a small town and having to travel 45 minutes just to get there. So, I shop online. That's my forte.

So, I present to you my Holiday Loot for this year under these conditions:

  1. I'm on a strict budget. That means there were many deal that were great but I had to let them go because it would have cost me "some" money and I just really didn't need it. Some of those left behind deals like to have killed me.
  2. Everything was purchased online and shipped to me at the house here.
  3. Deals beget deals: some were purchased considering the value of the bonus I would get later.
  4. I'm showing you all costs OOP (out of pocket) including taxes and shipping BUT NOT including your normal cashback on credit cards or bonus sites which are almost impossible to define accurately unless it's a big purchase. (In other words, more coming.)

Holiday Loot - $321.48

  1. 55 inch Insignia HDTV from Best Buy - Yes, I know there were better deals B&M (see above) but I pulled the trigger here for several reasons. I had two $20 gift codes ($40) from a promotion with Visa Checkout, I had a $15 gift card that was refunded to me via my Chase credit card, AND it was shipped to my front door. Keep in mind this is my biggest buy and accounts for $265.99 of the total above. That leaves $55.49 left to be assigned to everything below.
  2. Moto E cell phone with blue case
  3. Hamilton Beach Flexbrew coffee maker (used $20 Amazon gift cards  - see MCR below)
  4. SnapFish - 2 orders of personalized Xmas cards with envelopes- 12 total
  5. Timex Camper's watch
  6. SanDisc 16 GB Class 10 SD card
  7. Fun Loops Set 500 pcs.
  8. Tiki totem sticker kit 12 pack
  9. Giant wiggly eyes 100 count
  10. Jos A Bank King sized brown socks
  11. Jos A Bank shoe laces
  12. Peanut M&M's 42 ounce packages x2
  13. Hershey's syrup 24 oz
  14. Cheez-it's 12.4 oz x2
  15. Nestle Pure Life grape water 16.9oz x6
  16. Maxwell House K-cups 12 count
  17. Swiss Tech Multi-tool
  18. Portable chargers Generic x3
  19. Francois et Mimi Slix Bluetooth 4.1 Hi-Fidelity Stereo Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
  20. Francois et Mimi Elite Genuine 3.5mm Wood In-ear Noise-isolating Earbuds Headphones with Mic
  21. 3.4A Apple Certified Rapid Coiled Lightning Car Charger for iPhone
  22. Francois et Mimi In-Ear 3.5mm Aux Hi-Fidelity Flat Cable Non-Tangle Headphones Earbuds Red
  23. Two movie rentals - Ender's Game and Minions
  24. Digital movies to own - Kung Fu Panda, Paper Planes, Jackie and Ryan, and Divergent
  25. Android apps - Flow Free and Shiver:The Lily Requiem CE
  26. Strange Adventures - bundle 5 PC games
  27. Earmuffs for my bottle and ear warmers for me
  28. Money clip/bottle opener

And then there was Shutterfly. Between Kellogg's Family Rewards and offers from P&G (subscriptions still active from my freebie/coupon days) I had several codes for all kinds of stuff with free shipping. Remember these are all personalized and I have the photos to go with them! These are kind of tricky to put together but here's what I got:
  1. Mix and Match 3x5 folded Stationery cards and envelopes set of 12
  2. 6 foot roll Xmas Wrapping paper
  3. 8x11 Soft cover Photo book 20 pages
  4. 16x20 Print
  5. 8x8 Soft cover Photo book
  6. 15 oz Ceramic photo mug
  7. 4x5 Stationery Photo cards and envelopes 12 count x2
  8. Metal Xmas Ornament and gift bag
  9. 8x11 Photo Calendar
  10. 5x7 Greeting Card
  11. 11 oz Ceramic photo mug x2
And the Piece de resistance this Holiday season were the offers from MyCokeRewards (MCR). I had several hundred points in my accounts accumulated over the past year but with their Instant Win Game (Boxes of Joy) I have won several thousands of extra points and still going. Here's what I have either won or redeemed points for so far:
  1. Thirty (30) coupons for a free 12 pack of Coke products. These go on sale every year. I will most likely redeem them for B2G1 (buy 2 get 1 free) in store for a total of 45 twelve packs.
  2. Two $10 Amazon Gift cards (I redeemed these for the Flexbrew deal mentioned above.)
  3. Seven (7) $10 Nike Gift cards (I cashed these in for $56. Already got the check!)
  4. Four (4) coupon for 32 oz PowerAde (Hoping for a BOGO sale!)
  5. Four (4) $5 Wal-Mart Gift Cards
  6. Two Personalized Bottles of Coke
  7. $25 BoneFish Grill Gift Card
  8. $5 Rewards Digital code (Redeemed for one of the movie rentals above.)
  9. $5 Dunkin Donuts Gift Card
Whew! That's a lot! But wait. I am still sitting on the following:
  1. $13 MGo credit
  2. $5 Amazon Digital credit
  3. $5 Best Buy Reward (earned from the TV purchase above.)
  4. 35562 MCR points 
  5. Eight (8) Shutterfly $20 codes won with BOJ and MCR (I think I only used one of these. If you are interested I can send you a code or two. Please, just ask!)
I think this year turned out really well considering my budget!

Happy, Happy Holiday Loot!

My Mom - Mattie Nell Jaggars Wegner

A long story and rambling at times, but in the end this is about my Mom, Mattie Nell Jaggars Wegner

I've been somewhat depressed lately. Things have changed at our house, some of it my doing, some of it out of my control, most of it for the good. Or so one would think.

The depression was a slow thing. Looking back I think it began when Mike quit his job.

We were on track, huge savings, good paying job, all our ducks finally in a row. But there was a price to pay... and Mike was paying it. A thankless job with thankless employers, long, long hours and a long commute. He'd had enough. He'd been doing it way too long and he damned well needed a break. He took it, by golly.

Unfortunately, we had just thrown a huge chunk of our savings at the house, paying down that god awful mortgage. No, problem....  judging by the past, Mike would have another job in about 5 seconds.

Well, not so much. This is Labelle and there is no work in Labelle, at least not above the part time, minimum wage work, that is.

Meanwhile, I took a trip to Kansas City to visit Chris and Stephanie. It had been a full year since I had seen them on my last trip. Chris and Steph are two hard working, fully engaged people. Steph is going to school full time plus she has three (3) part time jobs in between. Chris works full time, pulls all the overtime he can, volunteers at least once a week, manages a baseball team, and managed to train for half marathon in between! Wow!

While I was there Chris took a casual picture of me when we were doing the Mother/Son Photoff! I'm looking at this pic and I'm not liking it... AT ALL! When the hell did I get so fat and ugly!

So, I hatch a plan, I'm going to get in shape. I'm going to exercise and lose that horrible muffin top!I'm gonna give up all those sweets and, well, it looks like carbs are the culprit. Cut the bread, pasta... and so on.
Good plan. Walking, a mile, two miles, 3 miles, running, well not so much. I do this for several weeks and hell, no results! I actually gained weight! 

Turns out between the ever ongoing hot flashes and old age and 40 some odd years of smoking that running was out of the question. (sigh)

WWW. I wanna quit smoking, I can forgo some of the weight if I can quit. They sent me nicotine patches and gum and a quit plan. Wow, I can do this! I set the date and off I went.

Here's where the whole thing went off track. Day 6 of not smoking I discovered I could actually run for a bit without dying of it. Yeah, it was great! I thought I had this! And that lasted one day when I blew out my knee. I can barely walk on it now. The exercise plan is off.
Day 11, no smoking... guys, I'm weak. It liked to have killed me. I'm back to smoking....

Mike still has no job...

During all this, in the background, I learn that my mother is to have her leg amputated (AMPUTATED!) from complications of a wheelchair injury mixed with the her ongoing diabetes. For those of you who don't know, my mother has been is a nursing/rehab home since January when her medical situation was beyond her means to be taken care of at home. Out of nowhere they said she had gangrene.. GANGRENE!
  FANTASTIC! I can't deal. Me and depression, failure after failure, unknown future, dwindling savings....

So she called me, my mother, when I didn't have the nerve to call her myself. This is the woman who had been dealing with medical mishaps for many, many years, who I would call and she was unresponsive and really didn't care about anything, who had gotten to the point where I had little hope she would ever again be the mom I knew her for and all I wanted was for her to be taken care of for the rest of her life. 

That woman is fine! Well, to say that is bit much because she is fine because she wants to be. She knows what she has lost but it seems not to phase her a bit. She has had her freaking leg cut off above the knee and there she is on the phone, talking to me just like she did so many years ago. Positive! Positive! No regrets! Ready to take on the world! Ready to strap on that prosthesis and walk her ass right out of that nursing home as soon as she can.

This is the mom I grew up with. This is the mom that you all know. She is back! I don't know. I'm guessing that her time in the home with regular care, regular meals, regular meds has gotten her back. I do know she has inspired me today. I'm not depressed anymore. I'm just fine, ya'll. I don't care about all that other stuff so much anymore because...

My Mom is back!

We Made Florida Christmas Reindeers from Palm Fronds

Another paint project. When will I run out of paint?!

And before we get started I thought I'd add some of my usual nature like pictures. I haven't done that in a while.

On to the project...
Here are the palm fronds that I gathered. Some had been sitting awhile and were muddy and bug infested. So I scrubbed them and sprayed them with bug spray and laid them out to dry.
Notice that one is a little different than the others. Hm, what shall I make with that one?

Here they are all painted up.

And here is the family all laid out after I glued on the embellishments. 

Your traditional Florida Reindeer is usually made with a plain palm frond, wiggly eyes, a pom-pom nose and maybe a bright ribbon for effect.

I didn't have those things so I used what I did have. I hand painted the eyes and used various different things for noses.

Some were quite brittle so I had to be careful but it was a lot of fun trying to make each one a little different.

I shall call her Snowflake.

Break for another nature picture...

Meanwhile Mike was busy with his own project: a Tiki Guy Totem Pole Thingy.
He really did a good job with this using fronds and tying them to an old dead tree stob we had laying around.

Green Tiki Guy

Yellow Tiki Guy

Blue Tiki Guy

A few more of my creations...
The Bride

The Groom

And a Baby!

Okay here's that odd frond I told you about earlier. 
The Minion!

I also baked a cake for the upcoming holiday.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Here's the whole family in a row with Dusty doing a photo bomb in the background.

Here's Mike's Tiki Guy Totem Pole planted along the driveway.


I hope you have enjoyed this!
Comments are always welcome.

We Made a Tiki Shell CheckerBoard Fountain Sitting Area

 Here we go again with another "We Made" project. This time we're re-doing an entire area and I really don't have a good name for it.

Ten years ago when we moved in there was this concrete patio set on the property that we had managed to haul all the way out to the pond. This thing weighs a ton and it like to have killed us then. It's sat there ever since.
It looks pretty good here but the years have taken it's toll. The thing is dirty and cracked and an eye sore. Time to break this apart, re-do, re-use, and re-purpose.

Firstly we hauled the bench seats to the front of the house to use as a concrete pathway. Yes, they're broken but will serve a purpose for now.

Next we re-do the bases of the benches. These are dirty and heavy but I think we have an idea. We scrubbed them down and got to work.

This was fun. Lots and lots of colorful paint.
 We were going for a Tiki guy kind of look. What do you think? (And remember we are NOT artists. We slobbed that paint on as fast as possible.)

 The table top was put aside and I'm sure we'll find a use for it later. We ended up just tilting it over to get it off the pedestal and it broke up a bit. 
This is the pedestal of the table. It's in pretty good shape so let's make it into something else.

A fountain!
Well, kind of. This is the leaf bird bath we had made earlier. Below is a metal bowl I had scavenged from the trash. 

And also scavenged from the trash are these rusted saw blades. I soaked them in white vinegar and scrubbed the hell out of them. I wonder what I can make with these 2 palm trees?

Yup, paint them up and glue them together.

These old plastic chairs have seen better days. A good hard scrub and some spray paint are what's needed.

Wow, what a transformation!
Our little area is coming together.

These are tiles that I had saved from when we tore down the old mobile years ago. They've been sitting in my shed all this time gathering dust. So, scrub, scrub, paint, add some painted shells and we have a Shell CheckerBoard!

All set up! 

View one...

View two...

Fountain view...
(Okay we are cheating here. This fountain has no water source until it rains. Mike is just out of the picture pouring a bucket of water into it so I can get the shot. LOL!)

 All done. What do you think?

Before and After

2015 Mother/Son Photoff Results

Last year I had upgraded my camera to a newer better slicker model and I gave my son Chris the old one. He took to taking nature pics just like me and I was very happy to see the results. He took these 2 pics on a recent trip to Chicago and, wow, was I impressed. He's already out-doing me!
So in the vein of pure fun and friendly familiar competition, we decided to create the Mother/Son Photoff.

We agreed on several different categories and a few basic rules. The only editing tools we could use were your basic auto correct and, of course, the all important crop.

On my recent trip to KC we broke out our cameras and Chris and I went to Loose Park and also the Lakeside Nature Center. One is a beautiful landscaped park with rose gardens and the other is a beaten muddy path down in a small wooded valley area.


The Results

After I got back home I edited out my shots and sent them to Chris who paired them up into categories. We then posted them to the Facebook so our friends could vote on their favorites from each category, not knowing whose was whose.

 Debbie - 20              Chris - 10
Birds - One of my specialties but Chris has obviously had experience here, too. (See first pic above.)


           Chris - 12             Debbie - 17    
                       I think Chris should won this one. He got points taken away because folks refused to vote for spiders. lol

                        Chris - 21                   Debbie - 8                    
An odd category set up because we had two interesting pictures with nowhere to go. Chris has an excellent pic of a frog and mine was an opportunistic lucky shot as a train raced by.


 Debbie - 16                 Chris - 13
As Chris followed the railroad tracks I came upon this pipe that was 20 some feet up in the air. I walked the whole thing to the end and then climbed back down into the valley.


           Chris -  12                   Debbie - 17 
                    I think Chris should have won this one also. His is very striking close up.     


                                  Chris - 15                Debbie - 12
We had the most fun with these 2 critters. 


Debbie - 18                Chris - 6
And this is the one picture of Chris' that I was positive would blow me out of the water. I saw this one straight from the camera and was amazed. Unfortunately, I believe the impact was lessened when he cropped it too tight. Rookie mistake. 


Here's Chris on the railroad tracks attempting a close shot of a bug. I said the kid was talented, I never said he was bright.

Thanks to everyone who voted!