What’s On My Mind Today

Books, Books and More Books Please!

I love to read and I love a neatly organized, colorful bookshelf. I have multiple books on my nightstand, laying in waiting for me to pick them up, another stack on my desk at work and a running list on Good Reads. As an English teacher (and one that recently changed grade levels) I am constantly devouring new books to find texts that will engage my students and encourage more reading. My 6th grade son is an avid reader too and he often recommends titles and authors as well. I will read just about anything and everything, I do not discriminate.  And when I walk into a book store I have a hard time walking out without something, even though I own plenty of books that haven’t been read yet. So, I admit it- I have a problem, albeit a trivial problem, it can be a pricey problem nonetheless.

In an effort to curb my book spending I have been trying to visit the library more than the bookstore and I am always looking for deals on books. I’ve tried some audio book memberships for long trips, and when I find free ebooks I’ll download for later. But, there really is nothing like the feel of an actual book in your hands, with nothing else to distract you.  I know I won’t break this bad habit of wanting new books on my shelf, so I will continue to look for discounts and used book sales and I’ll post cheap deals, freebies and anything else I find here.

The Little Free Library

The Little Free Library is a worldwide network of cute, little, dollhouse sized libraries that individuals place in their community- the park, a school, even their front yard. The idea is that you can take a book when you leave a book, so the selection is always in rotation. I first starting see these pop-up in my hometown about two years ago. The local paper wrote a story about it and it grew. My kids and I would ride our bikes around the neighborhood looking for a new one and trade in books we no longer needed for different used books and then trade those when we were done. I’ve already spotted a couple in my new neighborhood and so the fun and the reading continues. You can get info on how to find one near you or how to start your own here.

Resolve to Read in 2018 Contest

The Resolve to Read in 2018 Contest over at Penguin Random House is a great way to get some FREE books and find some new reading material. You just need to enter your email and you could win two free books a month for a year! Once you have entered you can take a quick quiz and you’ll get a list of books you might like along with some preview chapters to sink your teeth into. I have already entered everyone in my family this morning!

Amazon Book Buyback

Take a long, hard look round your house for some old books that may be worth some extra cash. Amazon will buy back used textbooks as well as other books and other items. First, I went through all my old college texts and then I went through old (and extra- my husband and I both teach so we often get multiple copies) professional development books and even some popular fiction. You go here and enter the bar code on the back of the book. You receive an immediate offer, in the form of an Amazon.com Gift Card, and free shipping for your trade-in. Pack them up and once received, your Amazon account is credited. Then feel free to buy more books- or anything really. So far I have earned over $200 just sending in books I don’t need anymore!

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Wait- What!?!

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The Influenza A has finally struck our house. My daughter said she wasn’t feeling good earlier this week and when the fever wouldn’t break and the dark circles under her eyes appeared we took her in to be tested. This isn’t the “flu bug” that everyone talks about with a fever and puking and other gory stuff. This is the real deal. The upper respiratory infection that is highly contagious and if left untreated can lead to other serious health issues.  This virus is constantly changing and is generally responsible for the large flu epidemics we see and hear about. It is so bad that our doctor recommended that the entire family take the treatment an antiviral medication, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza). Fine we can do that. Better safe than sorry. Then I went to Walgreens.

So this isn’t a post about my family getting sick. We have two teachers and four kids, two of which go to daycare- we expect to get sick. It is also not a post about going to the doctors, or the spreading of germs or anything of that other stuff you commonly hear about.  This is a post about the outrageously expensive medicine that you need to get through it. I could not believe it when the pharmacist told me the total. My reaction was like ” Wait, what!?! You want me to pay $222. 99 for one does!?!” Now multiple that by six and you are looking at over 1300 dollars to keep our family healthy.  We are lucky. We have great health insurance and even though we haven’t met our deductible for the year and we had to pay for this out-of-pocket, we are still lucky, because we could. It made me sick to think that there are people who have Influenza, or who have kids who have it, and can’t medicate them because it’s just too expensive. Why in the world would we have medicine available and not make it affordable? I can’t fathom profits over someone’s health. Sure, there are some coupons online, but it is still seriously outrageous to think we have a one of the widest spread outbreaks of Influenza A right now and the medicine to treat it is out of reach for so many people.

So, I can’t just rant, I need to do something and taking my anger, shock, and frustrations out on the nice lady at Walgreens isn’t effective because she isn’t to blame. But who is? Well, for starters the makers of Tamiflu must be, so I emailed them. You can to by using this link https://www.gene.com/contact-us/email-us. We will see what they say… I will keep you posted, because I am not done with this rant by any means.

UPDATE: I finally spoke with some people at Genentech, the makers of Tamiflu, and it wasn’t because of the cost. I sent the original email asking why and how they could charge so much, and I didn’t hear anything, except for the auto response of “thanks for sending us an email.”   Fast forward two days and my entire family is experiencing some pretty wicked side effects from the drug. Here’s the list of some of our side effects, many of which are not listed on the drug’s labels: blackouts, night terrors, loss of sleep, severe neck and joint pain, mouth sores, nausea and vomiting. Keep in mind most of these symptoms are in people (kids) who are taking the drug for precautionary reasons! So I wrote another email, not only telling them what happened to everyone, but also asking for a refund because we obviously stopped taking the drug. I did get a response saying that our symptoms were reported to the FDA and if I wanted to talk more, here was a number to call, so you bet I called them. I spoke with a representative for the company for about 10 minutes, who then transferred me to nurse who took a whole report. Now, while she was nice, and her concern for my family seemed genuine, at the end of the 45 minute call, in which I reported numerous detail of my family’s ailments, she told me we didn’t qualify for a refund -here’s why: the medicine is not faulty. In other words, if our package had been missing a few doses we would have gotten a refund, but since we got what we paid- a full bottle- there is nothing they can do. I was told that Genentech is sorry this happened to us, and that the quality control team will look into the side effects, but refunds are only issued for faulty medicine, which really means faulty packaging.

I’m more than a  little disappointed in the results, but I’m still not sure I’m done with this one. It isn’t really about the money as this point, although I’m still a bit outraged at the cots. I have been doing some research on Tamiful and it’s not pretty. I do appreciate that we live in a day and age where we have access to good medicine that can save lives and help stop the spread of serious viruses, but at what cost? I know there is a risk with taking almost everything out there, and I am still going to vaccinate my family and follow my doctor’s orders, but I am a little more leery now.

Send a Package to the Troops- FOR FREE!

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Feel like spreading some cheer?  Head over to the Crown Royal website.  After entering your birthday (just to make sure you are 21 or older) you can send a package to our troops completely for free! You get to pick what you want to put in the package- I chose my favorites: chips, cookies, coffee, and chapstick. The offer is good until July 31 and you can only send one per email address. Go ahead do some good today and send a care package via Crown Royal.

 

 

 

How do you spend your Snow Day?

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I am always excited for a snow day- always! A day off, especially an unexpected one, is always a treat, but when you know the night before and can stay up later it’s even more exciting. This week the call came at 9pm, so after the kids did their happy dance, we popped in a movie and snuggled on the couch. My kids know that in the morning we will always make them a pancake breakfast with hot chocolate and then the day is theirs to do what they want- how fun.

As excited as I am to have a day off, I am torn because with a whole free day in front of me- I never know what should I do. Should I be productive or should I be lazy? Do I deserve a rest or do I need to make the most of my unexpected free time? It’s like, I should catch up on laundry… but, I should also catch up on Netflix and sleep. I should attack those papers that need grading… but I should enjoy the book I am reading. I should organize those closets I have been meaning to work on…but I should build a snow fort with my kids. I know I am lucky to be able to be off with my kids, yet I still have these nagging thoughts and I wonder is it mother’s / teacher’s / women’s guilt or something like that or am I just overthinking everything? Now, I know I shouldn’t be greedy, but sometimes I think two consecutive snow days would be best- I can use one to be productive and one to just chill. 

Ultimately, I know I will stay in my Pj’s most of the day, I’ll eat too many pancakes, I will drink coffee all day and I will be grateful for a day off work, no matter what I end up doing.

*A shout out to all those non-teacher parents who have to scramble in the mornings when a snow day is called. Believe me, when my kids didn’t attend the same district as me, I felt your pain. Keep on keepin’ on.

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This time I chose a productive morning followed by a fun-filled afternoon of sledding, board games and scrapbooking!

 

 

8 Ways to Repurpose Your Ipsy Makeup Bags

If, like me, you subscribe to Ipsy- the beauty subscription that comes with a makeup bag each month- you may find yourself overwhelmed with cute, little makeup bags and not enough uses for them. Sue, I can use them for carrying makeup, and for toiletries for overnight trips, but there are still more lingering and more piling up each month. So here are eight ways to put these bags to use and feel good about it. So grab some labels and prepare to repurpose those bags and perhaps even get a little organized while you’re at it.

1. First Aid Kit

What a cute way to carry around extra bandages, gauze, wipes, antiseptic sprays and lotions. Keep it in your car, your purse, or anywhere you might need it around the house. Slap a label on it so everyone knows what’s inside and you are good to go.

 

2. Pencil Cases

If you have kids these are great for pencils, pens, markers, crayons, really any type of school supplies. The kids need them for school anyway and now you have them ready and backups for when your kids wear them out. I use them to organize all the different writing tools I use and keep them in my backpack. If you don’t have kids, consider donating them to your local school, where kids in need can use them for the same purpose.

3. Chargers and Earbuds

My entire family is notorious for losing chargers and earbuds, especially when we are traveling. These little bags make it easier for everyone to keep track of their own accessories. I keep one in the car and one in my backpack just for myself. Label each family members’ case so that everyone can be responsible for their own accessories.

4. Toys

If you like your toys organized, or your kids do, these make-up bags are perfect for game board pieces, trading cards, Barbie shoes and accessories, pretty much any little toy that can get lost in the shuffle.

5. Gift Bags

Some of the bags I get from Ipsy are so pretty they are better than gift wrap or a store bought, paper bag. Fill the bag with small gifts or stuff it with cash or gift cards, either way it’s an original and functional way to present a gift.

6. Loose Change

Let’s face it that loose change in the car never really makes it into those little individual coin holders. Instead, it usually ends up all over the center console and then stuck to the bottom of a cup holder. One little make-up bag can help with all that. Putting all that extra change in the same spot makes it easier so you can actually grab it when you need that change on the go.

7. Clean out that Junk Drawer

Everyone has one of the these drawers somewhere in their house, maybe even more than one. Use these bags to organize all that junk. Playing cards can go in one, extra batteries in another and screws, clips and tools in one more. You’ll get organized and all your “junk” will now be in cute little bags.

8. Extra Scraps

If you are into crafts like scrapbooking or sewing, chances are you have little bits and pieces of materials and tools that you don’t want to throw away. Use these little bags to organize your scraps so that they can be right at your fingertips the next time you need them.

No Wash Wednesdays

IMG_2735Let me just be up front and lay this one out without any build-up: I had no idea that washing your hair everyday was a bad thing. I have been dutifully washing away, sometimes twice a day (gasp!), my whole life. How did I go almost forty years of life without knowing that you are not supposed to wash your hair every day? I mean I have a mom and two sisters, you would think one of them would have said something. I have been to a hair salon too many times to count and I have female friends who I have talked to about everything under the sun, so you would think I would have heard at least once that I shouldn’t be washing my hair so diligently or should I say haphazardly. So, why all the fuss?

I came to this realization one night when I was out with some friends for drinks. I don’t know how it came up, but one of my friends told me she only washes her hair once a week! I was shocked- her hair looks great. Naturally I had a ton of questions, but I was shocked to find out that this was common knowledge. In other words, “everyone knows you shouldn’t wash your hair everyday.” Really? Everyone? Since when is washing bad? Since forever it appears. I asked my sisters, my mom, my friends, even my hairdresser. I asked people I work with and people I met waiting in line at the store. It seems everyone knew this. Even my husband knew this! Why did no one tell me? Why did no one stop me?

At this point, I’m thinking this is the answer to all my hair problems- but how could I make it work? You see, I sweat. I sweat all the time. But, when I’m done working out, I’m soaked, hair included. If I ever do anything after leaving the gym, I am wearing a buff or a hat. I’ve tried dry shampoo, but that was always just a temporary fix until I could get in that now-forbidden shampoo. I have gone without washing, but never on purpose and never without a plan to wash as soon as I could, let alone to style it like it was no big deal. So since that conversation, I have been trying to wrap my brain around not washing my hair and not looking like a disgusting mess of sweaty, snarled hair.

I needed a day I wasn’t doing serious cardio (see my workout post about my new commitment to a weekly yoga practice) so I wouldn’t be a hot mess. I do yoga on Wednesdays and while I do sweat, it’s not drenchingly excessive.  I still shower, yes, but I am not washing my hair and that’s what matters. I am wilfully not washing and it’s working- I think. I have to remind myself over and over in the shower not to,and I bought some dry shampoo to help me feel a little refreshed. So far, my hair looks decent on Wednesdays and it holds its style all day. I’m feeling so good about it, that I have even taken to skipping the wash on the weekends- sometimes.

Now, I know that some people are into laying down some serious cash for hair products to go along with this no washing, protect your hair, natural, no chemical lifestyle, but I am not ready to make that type of commitment. For the time being, I’m committed to my Wednesdays, but I still look forward to that Thursday wash!

Update: So I had no idea when I wrote this that there was a whole “NO POO” Nation out there! Seriously this no shampoo method has a it’s own wiki page- that’s big time to me. Anyway, these believers are actually washing their hair, with varying degrees of frequency, with water and some other more natural products than the regular shampoo (ie: backing soda, vinegar, and lemon juice). Their reasons vary as well, from protecting the hair and scalp, to environmental and economical. Whatever the reasons this was another shocker to me and now I have more options to try. Also, I’m up to twice a week without washing and things are looking better! 

Give Back Box

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In my closet, filling up my first box.

Ok so it’s the new year and whether you make resolutions or not, what I am about to offer you is really something you could do anytime of year. I am just pushing it now partly because I just discovered it and partly because I am a New Years Purger. I like to get out the old junk and start the year fresh and reorganized. Couple that with the fact that I just moved and I have a tiny bit of an online shopping addiction. What that means is, I have a lot of empty boxes laying around. Enter Give Back Box! Their mission is to help you recycle your old boxes by providing “an effortless and convenient method of donating your used household items.” You fill an old box with your old stuff and ship it to them for free!

Here is how it works: Open your package and empty out all your new goodies. Dump in all the old stuff you don’t want anymore. Tape it up, print a shipping label, slap it on, and drop it at the Post Office. You can even schedule a pick-up from your house if want! How easy is that?

For me, I use New Years to set goals and one of them this year is to organize the closets and storage areas in my house. Give Back Box is perfect for this, because now I can dump all that stuff I want to get rid of right into one box and ship it off. My closets can be clean and I can I do some good!

You would think that since I just moved I am totally organized. In my dream world, I carefully packed my house up, getting rid of stuff I didn’t need, donating and organizing as I went. My boxes were perfectly labeled and placed in the correct rooms when we arrived at our new house and I carefully put our belongings away in an organized and timely manner. Yeah right! In reality, I was offered my new job on a Thursday and moved a family of six on Saturday so I could start work on Monday. Yes, we had a ton of help from friends and family on both sides of the move and I am grateful for all of their help. But it was, and still is, a huge mess. There were boxes full of random toys, towels, food, and toilet paper. Boxes that were labeled and boxes with labels I couldn’t read. Just last week, I opened a box that had dirty laundry from August in it!

As we moved box after box and as we slowly unpacked (and continue to) my husband and I keep asking “why did we pack this?” and in some cases we didn’t actually pack it. But we have it now and so it goes to the donation pile and sometimes, rightfully so, the trash. Thus, I am far from organized or even unpacked, but I do have a lot of boxes that I need to get rid of. Add to that, the boxes of Christmas deliveries and  I need Give Back Box in my life!

Side story: Last Christmas we were given a beautifully hand-carved nativity that’s also a music box. I forgot to put it away with the other Christmas decorations and so I wrapped it up and put it in a box in my closet where I knew it would be safe. Fast forward to the end of the summer, and while frantically packing up my house, my friend Stephanie stopped by for a few hours to help. I showed her the way to my closet and told her to throw everything in boxes and mark them as my clothes and shoes, so at least I knew I could get dressed for work once we moved. I left her to work and went to pack up another room. When she finished, she whispered to me, “I got everything packed, except your naughty box.” What!?! I looked at her like she was crazy and said, “You are our of your mind! I don’t have a naughty box!” She simply said, “don’t worry, I didn’t look in it.” I followed her up to my room and she pointed out the box. A box that I had hastily written, in my horrible handwriting “nativity” and she thought it said, “naughty.” We laughed about that one as we packed the rest of the day and I giggled again as I unpacked that box this Christmas.