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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More Quick Product Reviews

Here are a few more products we've tried recently:

30 Day Shred- This is the latest workout DVD from The Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels. She's not too annoying and I liked the workouts, which felt effective. But I don't understand why manufacturers create DVDs so that you can't skip the minutes-long opening. I don't have five minutes to listen to Jillian's spiel every time I work out. So I sold the DVD on Amazon. I guess that's the barometer - I liked the workouts, but not enough to endure the intro every time I exercised.

Bic Soleil razor - I hated this razor even more than I hated the Schick Intuition. With the Intuition, I felt like I was getting a good shave, but was afraid that I would cut myself because of the way it was shaped. With the Soleil, I felt like I was scraping sandpaper up my legs. Needless to say, I tossed the razor immediately.

Oreo Cakesters - Marc described these as "stale Oreos," which I found to be quite accurate. They're not unpleasant, but we both prefer regular Oreos to these.

Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers Cajun Style Chicken & Shrimp - I don't like frozen entrees very much, but keep a few around for quick meals. They pretty much get divided into two categories: I'd buy them again or I wouldn't buy them even if they were free. This particular entree falls into the first category - I was pleasantly surprised.

Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers Sweet Spicy Orange Zest Chicken - Although this dish doesn't have the crunch of traditional orange chicken, it was perfectly edible and I'd buy it again.

Previously: Tips for Selling on Amazon and Earlier Quick Product Reviews

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Guest Post: Types of Reward Credit Cards and How to Evaluate Them

This is a guest post by Mr Credit Card from www.askmrcreditcard.com. Mr Credit Card reviews credit cards. He has also compiled a list of what he thinks are the best credit card deals available.

Firstly, I would like to thank Cathy for giving me the opportunity to write this guest post.

If you are like Cathy and have no credit card debt (or rather, you pay off your credit card bills in full every month), then you should be taking advantage of rewards that credit cards offer. In this post, I'm going to run through the types of rewards (mainly reward programs and cash rebate cards) that are available and and how to evaluate them.

But first, let me just say that there are probably three types of reward cards that folks should consider. And your choice really depends on how you would use them.

The first category are airline credit cards. These cards (to be honest) are only for those who are true frequent fliers of a particular airline. For example, if you are always flying on United, then there is a case to be made for getting a United Airlines credit card. The advantages of getting an airline card are:
  • Most will allow you to earn double miles for every dollar you spend on the card when you buy their airline ticket
  • The higher end cards allow you to earn points towards elite membership status
  • The higher end cards also have perks like free companion ticket once a year
  • Allows you to use your card for club lounge access
The main disadvantage of these cards are:
  • They charge an annual fee (sometimes over one hundred dollars)
  • Their interest rates aren't particularly attractive (never carry a balance with airline credit cards)
It is obvious that unless you are a jetsetting business executive or or business person that flies a lot, you are better off getting regular rewards credit cards.

The second type of reward cards are those offered by the credit card issuers themselves. Most credit card issuers have reward programs that are more well rounded and cater to those who want to earn points for rewards, but are not exactly frequent fliers. Here is what a typical reward program would look like:

Typical Reward Program - A typical reward program has a few types of rewards. They are :
  • Travel Rewards
  • Gift Cards
  • Merchandise
  • Cash Rebates
  • Charities
Travel Rewards - Let's start with travel rewards. Traditionally, this has been the most popular form of rewards. After all, who would turn down a free airline ticket? There are a few types of travel rewards that are available in any given reward program.
  • Transfer points into air miles- Only a couple of programs allow you to transfer reward points you have earned to air miles. Examples would be the American Express Membership Rewards Program and the Starwood Preferred Guest Program. This form of travel rewards would suit those who are members of multiple airlines' frequent flier programs.
  • Use Points and Book Flights - This is the more traditional way of using points for air tickets. With a frequent flier program, you are subject to the airlines' blackout dates and quotas for that particular flight for those who redeem air miles. The credit card reward programs always say that their has more flexibility because they do not have to use a particular airline but can use any airline. An example of this system is to use 25,000 points for a round trip domestic economy flight.

    But this system is not all rosy either. Very often, you have to book your flights 21 days in advance, stay a Saturday night and very often, you will not get your preferred flights.

    If you are a last minute type of person or do not like weekend stays, or if you like searching for your own deals, then this method of reward redemption probably does not suit you
  • Do Your Own Booking - To get around the issue of restrictions, many programs now allow you to use points to book any flights you want on your own. You can then submit your expenses and get a statement credit. The Discover Escape Card uses this method, as does the Amex Blue Sky. Some like Citi's thank you network allow you to book any flights or hotels from expedia.com. This method of redeeming points for travel rewards will suit the true bargain hunter because you can hunt for the best deals. This method is probably the most flexible.

    However, please be aware that some programs allow you the flexibility to book whatever flights and hotels you want but you have to use their own "in-house travel agent" which itself is subject to the seats and quotas made available to them by the airlines and wholesalers.
Merchandise Rewards - Credit card reward programs also allow you to exchange points for merchandise. Most programs are stocked up with many items from Apple iPods to coffee makers to digital cameras. I personally prefer not to use my points to exchange for such items because I feel you always need too many points for the particular price points. Still, if you do not want to pay for a new coffee machine and you have enough points, that's one way to get a free one.

For merchandise, it is really hard to evaluate which program is better. The items keep changing and the points requirement may change from time to time as well.

Gift Cards - You can also exchange points for gift cards. There are some aspects to consider before you a card. The better programs allow you to exchange for example, 1500 points for a $15 card, or 5000 points for a $50 card. The not so good ones require, say, 2000 points for a $15 card or 6500 points for a 5000 card.

If you are a gift card junkie, then the thing that you want to watch out for is if your favorite retailers are on the merchants list. And also, how many merchants do they have as their partners?

Cash Rebates - If you are looking to earn cash rebates, I would suggest getting a dedicated cash back credit card. That is because most reward programs pay less than 1% cash rebates (you get 1% for the most basic cash rebate cards!) and only pay 1% when you redeem for lots of points! You should not even bother with them.

Charities - There will be some of you who are very charitably inclined and would like to donate cash or points to charities. Well, most reward programs do have charity partners. Some like Membership Rewards and Capital One have over a million charities that you can donate to. Others have less, but may have exactly the charity that you were thinking about.

Other perks - Credit Card issuers have become innovative in the types of rewards that they offer. Citi's Thank You Network for example, allows students to use points to pay off their student loans. They also allow you to use points to reduce your mortgage principle.

Online Shopping - Cathy has pointed out that she uses Swag Bucks for her searches and makes money by referring friends and earning Swag Bucks. Well, credit card companies have the same features. Swag Bucks is essentially a big affiliate shopping portal. Credit card companies have the same arrangements with merchants as well. So for example, if you have a Discover Card and you decide to shop at landsend.com, rather than going to landsend.com directly, you could log in to your Discover account and go to landsend.com from there. If you do that, you could earn 5% rebates off what you spend and charge on your Discover Card.

Other cards like Chase are now beginning to implement such programs. Others like shopamex.com do not let you earn discounts or cash rebates, but allow you to earn extra points or use your reward points to shop for what you want.

How Do You Choose a Reward Card?

The key to choosing the right reward card is to actually know:
  • How much you spend a year?
  • What sort of rewards you would like to redeem your points for?
  • Whether these rewards are available in the program
If you do not intend to use reward points for travel or any of the types of rewards available in a typical reward program, then the third type of reward card to consider are cash back credit cards. In fact, if you combine the right card with coupon clipping, you will save even more at the supermarket.Here are some tips to choose the right one:
  • Choose cards that pay more than 1% rebates - Generic cards pay 1% rebates for every dollar that you charge to the card. Avoid these, there are better ones out there
  • Look for cards that pay 3% to 5% on things like gasoline supermarket, travel, restaurants etc
  • Make sure you can earn unlimited rebates
  • Decide how you want to receive your cash rebates - some send your checks automatically, some require that you request a check and some automatically give you a statement credit
How to choose a cash back credit card that's just right for you?

The first thing you have to do is to write down all that you charge to your card. And also categorize your spending into the following categories:
  • Travel
  • Gasoline
  • Supermarket
  • Dining
  • Internet Shopping
There are other categories that you can slice and dice but most cash back cards come with these spending categories. The next step would be to do research on the cash back cards that major issuers have and see which card will give you the most rebates. The is a very tedious task but well worth it because with the right card, you can earn a few hundred dollars in cash rebates in a year.

So I guess that's it from me. Remember, if you pay your bills in full every month, then take advantage of rewards that credit card companies offer. If you are the sort of person that cannot control your spending when you have a credit card in your wallet, then you should perhaps stop using a credit card and just use cash. Just bear in mind that using cash may not work for everybody!.

Here are some other resources for reward programs:

FlyerTalk Forum
Insider Flyer

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Meet my blogroll: Coupon Cravings

Coupon Cravings is one of my favorite deal blogs because Erin seems to take a lot of care in deciding what to highlight. For example, when posting drugstore deals, she only lists what's free or almost free - that makes planning my trip extra easy. A great deal she posted yesterday is about how to get Eggo Bakeshop products for 50 cents a box at Target.

In addition to store deals, Coupon Cravings lists available freebies, like a 10-song download available right now from Amazon, and a kid's activity book and coupons from Organic Valley.

Perhaps best of all, Erin periodically shares her personal experiences in public relations as well as occasional guest posts. (I had one a few months ago on how to have hassle-free coupon transactions.) So be sure to check out Coupon Cravings!

Previously: Meet other blogs on my blogroll

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

My best exercise tip: Work out every day

Over at The Happiness Project, Gretchen mentioned a few months ago in passing that it's easier to work out if you work out every day. I've really found this to be true.

My goal in May was to log two miles on the treadmill every day. It didn't matter how I did the two miles - walking or running, as long as I got two miles in every day. And I did, and I felt great.

Then June came along, and I decided to mix things up. I stopped exercising every day. I did a little 30-Day Shred.I did other aerobics workouts. I did strength training instead of cardio. And I still hopped on the treadmill, but not every day.

The discouraging thing was that when I did get on the treadmill, I didn't feel nearly as strong as I had previously. And my desire to run fell like it had gone over a steep cliff.

So in the last week, I'm back to my original plan: Log two miles on the treadmill every day. Because I had the flu last week, I'm still feeling a bit weak and haven't been running. But getting on the treadmill and walking two miles has been good for me. Doing it every day makes it easier to do it every day. (I'm keeping the strength training part, too - I'd forgotten how good it feels to feel strong.)

Of course, I need to add a disclaimer here that this may not be the best thing for you and that you should discuss your exercise options with your doctor. As always, do what works for you!

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Giveaway winners: Clever Party Planning, 101 Pet Jokes & Pillsbury Prize Pack

I've got some catching up to do when it comes to announcing winners! Here are the winners from the last three giveaways:

Thank you to everyone who entered the 101 Pet Jokes giveaway. Congratulations to the lucky random winner:

Cheryl J. (jen***@jen***domain.com)

Thanks to everyone who entered the Clever Party Planning giveaway. Congratulations to the lucky random winner:

Tami (tmong****@yahoo.com)

And thank you to everyone who entered the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest Prize Pack giveaway. Congratulations to the lucky random winners:

T. Yvette H. (taj.hend*****@gmail.com)
and Madonna (mado****@gmail.com)

Winners, you have 48 hours to email me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com with your address.

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A few Quick Product Reviews

Fling Milk Chocolate bars - I had a coupon for a free package, so of course I picked one up. Marc said they were really good. Plus, they have an awesome slogan: "Naughty, but not that naughty."

AngelSoft toilet paper - I've gotten quite a few 4-packs for free after coupon at Ralphs, which is the only reason I even tried this brand. I don't like it as much as our preferred brands, which are Charmin Ultra and Quilted Northern Ultra. I'll also buy Cottonelle, if it's the cheapest, although I don't like it quite as much as Charmin or Quilted Northern. The AngelSoft is at the bottom of my list, so I've decided that I won't pay for it, but I'll definitely get it (and use it) when it's free.

Kids' Crest Cavity Protection Sparkle Fun - Alex says this toothpaste is too "spicy" and hates it. He's had to use it for a week or so, and he still hates it.

Skintimate Cream Shave - These were free at drugstores a few weeks ago, and I just finished up my first tube. It's a little weird, because the texture is so different from traditional shaving creams and gels. But I did find my legs were smoother and more moisturized with this "cream shave" versus traditional products. On the flip side, though, it was harder to wash out of the razor. Still, I'm perfectly happy to keep using this. I won't pay a premium for it when I run out of my free tubes, but I'll certainly buy it if it's below my target price for shaving cream of $1 per can/tube.

Previously: More quick product reviews

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Giveaway: Chex Mix Bars

Thanks to MyBlogSpark, two lucky CFO readers will each win two boxes of Chex Mix bars. I've really come to love these bars - they're chocolatey enough to satisfy my sweet tooth, substantial enough to constitute a snack, and yet they only have 130 calories (Chocolate Chunk) or 140 calories (Turtle). Plus, they're individually wrapped, so they're super portable.

To enter this giveaway, simply fill out the form below. (If you're reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you may need to click through to the post to reach the form.)

For an additional entry, subscribe to CFO via RSS or email and fill out the form again to let me know you've done so. You'll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your favorite feed aggregator or inbox, so you don't miss any weekly giveaways. (If you're already a subscriber, just fill out the form to let me know.)

For a third entry, spread the word about this contesttweet about the giveaway, Stumble this post, or write about it on your own blog. Then let me know about it by filling out the form again.

You can enter up to three times (one for each type), and you must complete the form once per entry. Only one entry of each type per email address will be counted. I'll select the winner using Random.org and announce them here on CFO as well as contact them by email. The winner must respond within 48 hours, otherwise their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be selected.

The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PDT on Tuesday, June 30.

Good luck!

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Meet my blogroll: All Financial Matters

I've been reading blogs for over four years now, and one of the first blogs I started reading was All Financial Matters. I like it so much that I've actually covered for JLP when he's gone on vacation in the past :)

What I love about AFM is that it's all stuff I would never write myself. JLP is a real numbers guy and so he discusses all kinds of investment returns, much of which goes over my head but which is also interesting even if I don't completely understand it. He even creates his own spreadsheets to illustrate his points. He also discusses investing and investing philosophies (if I recall correctly, he's an independent certified financial planner). That's always compelling to me because it's the area of personal finance that I know the least about.

Another nice thing is that JLP's kids are several years older than mine, so it's like getting a preview of what's to come, finance-wise. He's discussed the increasing cost of his son's shoes, his son's summer jobs, and allowances. So be sure to check out AFM!

Previously: Meet other blogs on my blogroll

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

One recall Thursday: Body boards

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Body Boards Recalled by JGR Copa Due to Violation of Lead Paint Standard - Click through for a photo of the logo.


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Homemade Pizza Dough & Marinara Sauce

Ever since I posted my homemade pizza dough tip a few months ago, I've been making pizza regularly - every one to two weeks. The recipe below is adapted from The 1997 Joy of Cooking.For me, it makes 4 ultra thin crust pizzas, 2 6-inch thick crust pizzas, and 1 10-inch breadstick. (In case you were wondering, the thin crust pizzas are for Marc and me, and get topped with sauce, anchovies, chopped fresh spinach, and mozzarella. The thick crust cheese pizzas are for Alex and Tyler, and the breadstick is for Tyler, since he often prefers plain crust.)

Homemade Pizza Dough

2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 1/3 cup warm water
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 - 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

(Note: I use my stand mixer but you could use a large bowl and then knead by hand.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast and water and let sit for five minutes. Add whole wheat flour, 2 cups all purpose flour, 2 tablespoons oil and salt and mix with a dough hook on low to combine. If the dough is sticky, add all purpose flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough no longer comes off on your finger. Knead with the dough hook for 10 minutes. Turn off mixer and remove the bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil, pull the dough off hook, and turn the dough to coat it with oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place for approximately two hours.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper and drizzle remaining oil on the paper. Divide and shape the dough as desired. (If you're having trouble stretching the dough, let it rest and then come back.) Cover with desired toppings and bake for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on thickness. (I check to see if the edges of the crust have browned and the cheese has melted.)

Marinara sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 8-oz can tomato sauce

In a small saucepan, combine the oil, garlic, oregano and basil over medium heat. After the oil begins to sizzle, cook for two minutes, stirring constantly. Add the tomato sauce, stir to combine, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes or until desired thickness is achieved.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Meet my blogroll: My Good Cents

My Good Cents is one of my favorite deal blogs because Kimberly doesn't just post the same deals as other deal blogs. In fact, it's thanks to her that I bought $30 worth of iTunes giftcards for only $25 from Best Buy recently. Another neat thing she does is post cheap fillers that you can find at Amazon to get you over the $25 mark for free super saver shipping.

She also has a weekly schedule for posting that includes a list of sweepstakes to enter on Sundays and a list of sites she made money from online on Mondays.

Previously: Meet other blogs on my blogroll

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Two recalls today: Hoodies & jewelry

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Macy’s Recalls Children’s Hooded Sweatshirts Due to Strangulation Hazard - Click through for photos of additional styles.


Children’s Necklace and Bracelet Sets Recalled by D&D Distributing-Wholesale Due To Choking Hazard - Click through for a photo of an additional style.


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Meet my blogroll: Just Hungry & Just Bento

Just Hungry and Just Bento are two of my favorite food blogs. They are written by Maki, a native of Japan who's living in Western Europe. The best thing about her blogs is the recipes. Traditional Japanese cooking tends to be time-consuming and complicated, or at least it seems that way. Maki makes Japanese cooking accessible, so that I think, I can do that. For example, her Salmon Furikake is something I make regularly.

Both blogs feature occasional giveaways, and there's a relatively new forum at Just Bento. Maki also has a site called Hungry for Words, where she teaches some Japanese. Check them all out!

Previously: Meet other blogs on my blogroll

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Giveaway: Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest Prize Pack

The entry period for the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest ended in April, but for the first time in the contest´s 60-year history, you can help determine 10 recipes among the final 100 that will compete for the $1 million grand prize!

How does the You Be the Judge! voting work? Judges will select 20 recipes to be placed online at www.bakeoff.com in pairs for a period of two weeks for each pair. You can vote for your favorite recipe in each pair. The recipe from each pair that wins the most votes will earn a spot in the final competition in April 2010 in Orlando, Florida.

Voting is limited to one vote per person per each pair of recipes. Voters must be registered members of www.pillsbury.com and 18 years of age or older as of May 1, 2009, to participate.

The first pair of recipes was posted on May 14, 2009 and a new pair of recipes will be posted every two weeks until 11:59AM CDT on October 1, 2009. Visit www.bakeoff.com for the official rules.

Thanks to our sponsor, MyBlogSpark, two lucky CFO readers will win a Pillsbury prize pack containing a magazine of past Bake-Off® recipes and a Pillsbury Doughboy giggle doll.

To enter this giveaway, simply fill out the form below. (If you're reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you'll need to click through to the post to reach the form.)

For an additional entry, subscribe to CFO via RSS or email and fill out the form again to let me know you've done so. You'll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your favorite feed aggregator or inbox, so you don't miss any weekly giveaways. (If you're already a subscriber, just fill out the form to let me know.)

For a third entry, spread the word about this contesttweet about the giveaway, Stumble this post, or write about it on your own blog. Then let me know about it by filling out the form again.

You can enter up to three times (one for each type), and you must complete the form once per entry. Only one entry of each type per email address will be counted. I'll select the winner using Random.org and announce them here on CFO as well as contact them by email. The winner must respond within 48 hours, otherwise their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be selected.

The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PDT on Tuesday, June 23.

Good luck!

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Sleep tips for kids

This is a guest post from the Better Sleep Council, and their spokesperson, Lissa Coffey (@coffeytalk).

Children need at least nine hours of sleep each night on a regular basis to be healthy, active, and able to perform their best in school, sports and other extracurricular activities. During the summer, it can be hard for parents and kids to keep a steady sleep schedule, resulting in lost valuable sleep. Here are some tips to help parents ensure a good night’s sleep for their children:
  1. Set a Regular Bedtime For Your Child and Stick to It. A regular bedtime can help make sure your child gets a full night's rest. The Obama daughters have an 8:30 pm bedtime. This is an ideal time to tuck children in, especially when kids need to be up early for summer activities.
  2. Help Your Child Get at Least 9 Hours of Sleep Each Night. To be their best, children need 9-10 hours of sleep every night. This is important, even on the weekends.
  3. Don't Over-Schedule Your Child. Too many summertime activities and commitments can keep children from precious sleep. Allow your child plenty of time during the day for outdoor recreation, summer lessons and chores to ensure that they are not up past their bedtime. And try to avoid scheduling after-dinner activities like club meetings during the week; these tend to be very stimulating.
  4. Develop a Sleep Ritual; Help Your Child Unwind Before Bed. Allow your child at least one hour before bedtime to relax and unwind. Try relaxing activities, like taking a bath or reading with your child, to help him or her transition into sleep mode. This is also a special time to share with your child. They’ll fall asleep easier and faster if they can relax before bed. Avoid loud music and television prior to bed, especially violent programming.
  5. Avoid Caffeine. Consuming caffeine, found in soft drinks and chocolate, even in the daytime, can make it more difficult for your child to fall asleep.
  6. Keep Computers and Television out of the Bedroom. The bedroom should be used for sleep only. The temptation of watching television or going online can be tempting for children once you’ve tucked them in and left the room. Also, be sure radio and MP3 ear pods are out of their ears when you say goodnight!
  7. Make Sure Your Child's Bedroom is Dark. Create a room that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool for the best possible sleep. A small nightlight is fine, if necessary, but a dark room is most conducive for a good night's sleep. The ideal sleeping temperature is around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Some children like the comforting feel of a heavy blanket on top of them; it’s like being wrapped up in a hug.
  8. Pay Attention to Your Child's Mattress. Handing down an old mattress to a child isn't a good idea. Because mattresses wear out over time, it's important to maximize your child's chances of restful sleep by making sure he or she is sleeping on a mattress that is comfortable and supportive enough in order to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up refreshed. As children grow, make sure the mattress is large enough for them. The Better Sleep Council recommends parents evaluate and consider replacing a mattress every five to seven years.
About the Better Sleep Council: The Better Sleep Council (BSC) is a nonprofit organization endowed by the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA), the trade association for the mattress industry. With a quarter of a century invested in improving America’s quality of sleep, BSC educates consumers on the critical link between sleep and health, as well as the role of the sleep environment, primarily through an informative consumer Web site http://www.bettersleep.org, partner support and proactive consumer media outreach.

About Lissa Coffey: Lissa Coffey is a relationship expert, author and broadcast journalist. An Internet celebrity, she writes for eight different Web sites, including coffeytalk.com and whatsyourdosha.com. "CoffeyTalk: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Style," is an Internet television show seen on YouTube and iTunes.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

The effects of long-term marriage

I realized something today: I’ve been married a long time.

I came to this realization while watching Glee. The show is about a high school Spanish teacher, Will Schuester, who brings together a group of outcasts plus the football team’s star player in the school’s Glee Club. I love the way the football player comes to embrace his musical side, and the performances in the show are great.

But there are other storylines, in particular the difficulties in Will’s marriage. His wife, Teri, is extremely unlikeable - she’s materialistic and superficial and keeps trying to get Will to become an accountant because it’ll mean more money, even though he loves teaching. The opposite of Teri is Emma, a fellow teacher who has a crush on Will, admires his efforts with Glee Club, and encourages him to follow his heart.

In years past, I would have rooted for Will to come to his senses, realize that he’s meant to be with Emma, and cheered as he dumped Teri. But not anymore.

I look at Teri and think that Will needs to help her be more fulfilled. If she’s not willing to examine why she’s so shallow and unhappy, then by all means, he should leave her. But there’s a reason he fell in love with her and part of his responsibility as a husband is to help her be happy.

That sort of partnership is not something I really understood before I was married, and probably not even during the first few years of marriage too. But now I have too much respect for the institution of marriage to think that it should be abandoned without full effort on the part of both parties. I would love it if the show's writers and producers don't follow the obvious path and instead nurture the Schuesters' marriage back to health. That would be a true happy ending.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

CSAs: Are they worth it?

Meredith's post at Like Merchant Ships about using up their box of CSA produce reminded me that I've been meaning to look into CSAs myself.

"CSA" stands for "Community Supported Agriculture." In essence, it's a way of buying produce directly from farmers. You pay a set amount, and receive a box of fresh produce in return. LocalHarvest.org has a more detailed explanation.

They also have the best CSA locator that I could find. (It's right on their homepage.) There are a fair number of choices for the LA area, but they all require that you pick up your delivery at a farmer's market. I've found one that might work for me, so I'm thinking about it. It would be $25 per week, and all of the produce is certified organic. I'm going to visit the delivery site and if I like what I see, I'll probably sign up. I like the idea of supporting a local farm, getting super fresh produce, and having the chance to try new fruit and vegetables.

If you're a CSA member, what's your experience been?

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

One recall yesterday: Hoodie

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Children’s Hooded Sweatshirts with Drawstrings Recalled by Winterbee Due To Strangulation Hazard - Click through for a photo of a different style.


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Giveaway: 101 Pet Jokes

This week's giveaway is a paperback copy of Phil Hirsch's 101 Pet Jokes.

The book describes itself as "the friskiest joke book yet!" Examples include:
Who is one cool cat at Christmas?
Answer: Santa Claws

What kind of weather excites a duck?
Answer: Fowl weather, of course!
To enter this giveaway, simply fill out the form below. (If you're reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you'll need to click through to the post to reach the form.)

For an additional entry, subscribe to CFO via RSS or email and fill out the form again to let me know you've done so. You'll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your favorite feed aggregator or inbox, so you don't miss any weekly giveaways. (If you're already a subscriber, just fill out the form to let me know.)

For a third entry, spread the word about this contesttweet about the giveaway, Stumble this post, or write about it on your own blog. Then let me know about it by filling out the form again.

You can enter up to three times (one for each type), and you must complete the form once per entry. Only one entry of each type per email address will be counted. I'll select the winner using Random.org and announce them here on CFO as well as contact them by email. The winner must respond within 48 hours, otherwise their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be selected.

The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, June 17.

Good luck!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Two recalls yesterday: LaJobi cribs

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

LaJobi Recalls Bonavita "Cabana" Drop Side Cribs Due To Entrapment and Strangulation Hazards
- Click through for a closeup.


LaJobi Recalls Babi Italia Pinehurst and Bonavita Hudson Drop Side Cribs; Risk of Entrapment and Suffocation - Click through for a close up.


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Random observations on the economy

We drove by the mall over the weekend because we've promised Alex an Up! toy from the Disney Store as a reward for various good deeds. But there was no parking. The only conclusion we could draw is that the economy isn't be that bad, at least not in this particular neighborhood, because this mall has nothing going for it besides shopping. (There's no movie theater, and only a minimal play area for young kids, a small food court, and a couple of counter-service type sit down restaurants.)

Gas prices are skyrocketing again. Last week, I spotted the first "3" I'd seen in the dollar slot in a long time, but it was only for premium. However, on my way in to the office yesterday, I saw a Mobil station where super and premium gas were both over $3 per gallon. If the rise continues at the same pace, we'll be hitting $4 again by the end of summer.

Some Albertsons markets in Southern California are being rebranded as Lucky stores. I don't remember this, but apparently Supervalu, Albertsons' parent company, bought Lucky markets some years ago and changed the name. I'm inferring from the article that the Lucky name has greater prestige than Albertsons, hence the change. The one mentioned in the article isn't too far from me, so I might check it out sometime.

Mattel has agreed to pay $2.3 million in penalties for violating the lead paint ban (remember all those recalls back in 2007?). Here's the kicker: Mattel denies any violating any laws. One of these days when I have some free time, I'll go look up the statute containing the lead paint ban to see how they're getting away with that. In the meantime, here's an article about "how Mattel managed to finesse its PR and legal headaches connected with the recall (mostly it was by hiring lobbyists and keeping quiet)."

You can now get free lifetime membership into any Freepeats group. (Freepeats is like Freecycle for baby, kid and maternity-related items.) Pay $1 up front (reduced from the previous membership fee of $4.95), and get that $1 refunded when you post two qualifying offers in June. Details at Baby Cheapskate.

Finally, this has nothing to do with money, but I have to say, The Next Food Network Star may be the best-edited show on television. Sunday's season premiere was fantastic!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Reader poll: Do you give a birthday gift when you don't attend the party?

The boys have gotten to that age when it seems like there's a birthday party nearly every weekend. In fact, this past weekend, we had to decline one invitation because we'd already committed to another party. Which got me thinking: Do you give a gift when you don't attend the party?

I've embedded a poll at the end of this post because I'm really curious what the general consensus is. (If you're reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you'll probably have to click through to the post to participate in the poll and view the results.) I'll tell you what I've done until now, but I may change my practice when I see the poll results.

Whether or not we attend the party, I always give a gift. The value of the gift depends largely on how close we are to the child and his or her family. But I've noticed that people who don't attend often don't bother with a gift, and I'm not offended. Which makes me think that perhaps I needn't bother with a gift myself.

So what do you think? If you are so inclined, after you vote in the poll, please leave a comment explaining your reasons. I can't wait to hear what others think about this issue!

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Safeway Stores Mix & Match Event: Some great deals (Updated)

There's a new promotion at the Safeway family of stores, which out here in Southern California includes Vons and Pavilions. It's the Mix & Match Event, which gives you $5 off whenever you buy 10 qualifying products in a single transaction. And you'll get $5 off per 10 items, no matter how many you buy at once (i.e., you can buy 30 items at once and get $15 off).

The weekly ad only lists selected items, and at least where I shop, the shelves aren't always tagged properly. I can't guarantee anything, but this is how I plan my shopping trips:

I go to Safeway's Home Delivery site, and find an item that's included in the promo - for example, Kraft BBQ sauce. Then I click on the link at the bottom of the listing that says "Special Online Offer." A new window will open and all of the qualifying items that are sold online will appear (it may take a while for the window to load). I don't know if the list includes all of the qualifying products, but it gives me a good idea of what to look for in the store so I'm not wasting a ton of time wandering around and studying the shelves.

I found some good deals, too. The aforementioned Kraft BBQ sauce is on sale for $1.25. There was a 75-cents off coupon in the 5/3 inserts that will double to $1. I calculate my promo savings at 50 cents per item, which means the BBQ sauce will be a 25-cent moneymaker after coupons.

Also, if you sign up for the Cheerios 10% in 1 month program, you'll receive four weekly $1 off printable coupons. The 8.9-ounce box is part of the promotion at $2, so with the coupon and promo savings, it'll be only 50 cents per box. (Thanks to CouponGeek for the link.)

Finally, Joint Juice is 99 cents during the promo (I'm not sure if it's only one flavor so you should definitely check tags - hopefully they're up). There was a $1 off coupon in the 4/26 newspaper, making this a 51-cent moneymaker after coupon and promo savings. But keep in mind that the coupon will probably beep because the sale price is less than the value of the coupon. The cashier may adjust it down to 99 cents. Alternatively, you can buy more than one item because as long as the total value for that item is greater than the value of the coupon, the register won't beep. (For example, if you have an item that's on sale for 50 cents but have a coupon for 75 cents off, if you buy two for $1, the coupon won't beep and if it doubles, you still get both for free.)

Update: If you still have the $2 South Beach Diet coupons that were printable a couple of months ago, this is a good time to use them since they expire at the end of the month. The Fiber Fit Smores variety is $2.49, so it'll be free after the coupon and promo.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Little Quack's New Friend Giveaway Winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the Little Quack's New Friend giveaway. Congratulations to the lucky random winner:

Stacey M. (sdgmitch******@gmail.com)

Stacey, you have 48 hours to email me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com with your address.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

One recall today: Warm Biscuit Bedding Loungewear

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Children’s Loungewear Recalled by Warm Biscuit Bedding Due to Violation of Federal Flammability Standards - Click through for photos of additional styles.


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Guest Post: Tips for Talking about Money with your Spouse

Money is one of the biggest sources of frustration in many marriages. The main reason for this is that a lot of people have never learned how to talk about money in a relaxed, communicative manner. This is particularly a problem during times of financial stress like we're going through right now with the recession. Learning to talk appropriately about money can reduce stress in your marriage. It can also lead to greater savings because it puts you and your spouse on the same financial page.

Here are some key tips to follow when discussing money with your spouse:
  • Know what you want to say before you say it. This is always a good rule to follow before initiating any controversial conversation with your partner. Then make sure to stick to the topic.
  • Understand your own weaknesses. Do you waste money on certain things? Do you get defensive when talking about the bills? Knowing what your own flaws are will show you what you need to work on in order to have a better financial relationship with your partner.
  • Create a system for dealing with finances in your home. There are a lot of different systems to choose from (such as joint accounts vs. shared accounts) and you'll have to find what works for you but it's important to make sure that you have one.
  • Identify your shared financial goals. The best way to do this is to sit down individually and write out your ten most important financial goals. Come together and see which items are on both your list and your partner's list. These are the major goals to work towards together. Revisit these goals annually; tax time is a good time to do that.
  • Celebrate the small goals. Within those big goals will be smaller goals. Celebrate together when you reach them to keep your money life happy together.
  • Set aside one day per month to discuss money. This is the time when you can haggle over expenses and discuss bills. Make a commitment not to argue about money the rest of the month. You'll still be dealing with the important issues but you'll have the rest of that time to just enjoy one another.
  • Continue to learn about money together. By taking financial classes together and reading finance books together, you and your spouse can really get the conversational ball rolling about money in a non-controversial way. Plus you'll be benefitting yourselves financially.
Learning to talk to your spouse about money is all about learning how to communicate in a calm manner. A lot of us have a hard time doing that when it comes to money because money can be such a stressor in our lives. Taking the time to relax by ourselves and with our partner, waiting until we're calm to discuss money problems and generally just keeping those doors of communication open will all go a long way towards improving our marriages.

Guest post by Kathryn Vercillo. Kathryn is a writer for Promotionalcodes.org.uk which gives away free promotion code deals (like this m and m direct promotion code) and also publishes a money saving blog.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Giveaway: Clever Party Planning by Suzanne Singleton

This week's giveaway is a paperback copy of Suzanne Singleton's Clever Party Planning: Parties for Kids, Teens and Adults.

The book is out of print and so hard to find that this was the best picture I could locate online (credit to Amazon, of course). From the back of the book:
Clever party plans are at your fingertips in this complete party guide. Plan imaginative celebrations for kids and adults, and the teens in between! Organizing one of these 80 party themes will be a snap as you choose from a vast selection of ideas for everything on your party "To Do" list.
To enter this giveaway, simply fill out the form below. (If you're reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you'll need to click through to the post to reach the form.)

For an additional entry, subscribe to CFO via RSS or email and fill out the form again to let me know you've done so. You'll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your favorite feed aggregator or inbox, so you don't miss any weekly giveaways. (If you're already a subscriber, just fill out the form to let me know.)

For a third entry, spread the word about this contesttweet about the giveaway, Stumble this post, or write about it on your own blog. Then let me know about it by filling out the form again.

You can enter up to three times (one for each type), and you must complete the form once per entry. Only one entry of each type per email address will be counted. I'll select the winner using Random.org and announce them here on CFO as well as contact them by email. The winner must respond within 48 hours, otherwise their prize will be forfeited and a new winner will be selected.

The giveaway ends at 6:00 p.m. PDT on Tuesday, June 9.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

One recall today: Bugaboo strollers

If you think you have the following item(s), click through to the CPSC press release for more details:

Bugaboo Recalls Strollers Due to Risk of Brake Failure


As always, I highly recommend signing up for recall notifications by email at the CPSC web site.

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Bacon & Zucchini Frittata

There won't be a giveaway today because Google Docs was having trouble last night and I couldn't create the entry form. Hopefully tomorrow ...

Meanwhile, here's what we had for dinner last night:


Bacon & Zucchini Frittata
Serves 4

3 medium zucchini
1/2 tablespoon salt
6 slices bacon, diced
6 eggs
6 egg whites
1 cup shredded cheddar (or other kind of) cheese, divided

1. Grate the zucchini and place in a colander set in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let drain in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Add the bacon and saute until browned, about ten minutes, stirring frequently. Drain the bacon, reserving two teaspoons of fat.

3. In the same pan, combine the grated zucchini and bacon fat and saute until the zucchini is lightly browned, about ten minutes, stirring frequently.

4. While the zucchini is browning, combine the eggs and egg whites in a bowl and beat well. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese.

5. When the zucchini is browned, return the bacon to the pan and pour the egg mixture over the zucchini and bacon. Stir well to distribute the zucchini and bacon, Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top.

6. Transfer the pan to the oven. Bake for ten to fifteen minutes, or until the eggs are set and edges are lightly browned. Serve with a green salad if desired.

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