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Friday, March 28, 2008

Saving for college the easy way!

If you have kids, plan on having kids or even if you have student loans of your own, you definitely should know about Upromise and Babymint.

When you sign up with Upromise, you can register your credit cards with their dining program and you can enter your grocery store savings card numbers and everything is tracked for you. You'll occasionally get a little money deposited into your Upromise account because you bought a product from one of their partners. It's not a lot, but it adds up. The real money comes from getting a Upromise credit card or shopping online through the website. It's completely free money that you can have deposited into a 529 savings plan or use it to pay a student loan. You can open a 529 savings plan from Upromise directly, or you may be able to get them to deposit it into a 529 plan you already have. When I signed up, the 529 plan we had wasn't one of the ones that they would deposit into, so my earnings just stayed at Upromise. But, it has since been added and deposits have been happening on a regular basis. I've been a member since 2/2002 and I've made a total of $491.29, $414.32 of which has already been transferred to our 529 plan. It was free money to help pay for Punkin's college expenses and I literally had to do nothing but keep my info up to date to get that money.

Babymint is the same sort of program. But their website says that you can also choose to have a check mailed to you in addition to choosing to have it deposited into a 529 savings plan or paying a student loan. I haven't checked the fine print on Upromise to see if they offer that option as well. Babymint also has their own credit card, and if you use it to make your purchases, they will use it to track what partners you purchased from and you can get a rebate from them. Additionally, you'll get 1% of ALL purchases credited to your Babymint account, regardless of where you spent that money. With Babymint, I've earned a total of $1,560.02 since 2002 and all of that has been deposited to our 529 savings account.

So, altogether, that's $2051.31 that I have earned toward my child's college education that I got doing nothing special whatsoever. And that's only the principle. Who knows how much additional earning that money has done while being in my 529 savings plan.

Check out The Bargain Shopper Lady for more Frugal Friday tips.

More snow

Well, it snowed some more today. None of it stuck here at my work, but Mosquito said it was starting to stick a little where he was. I can't believe this crazy weather!

Happy Friday

Someone emailed this video to me and I thought it was funny.

Also, this is old news, but have you seen the new Miss Surrey? Chloe Marshall will be competing in the Miss England competition and she's a normal size 16. She's gorgeous. Just look at this photo.

Here's a story from UK's Daily Mail

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Seattle Snow!!

Last night Punkin had a school concert in downtown Seattle. It's fun to see all the kids sing their songs. The younger kids seem so little that it's hard to believe Punkin was ever that age. The last number was Singin' in the Rain by Punkin's grade. At the end some of them did a little umbrella dance on stage with those big golf umbrellas and the rest of them went out into the aisles and had umbrella hats and did a little dance there.

Anyway, after we collected our child, we started out only to find that it was snowing! It really doesn't snow here much at all and it's pretty late in the season for snow. But there it was. Big, huge flakes coming down pretty heavy. I managed to catch a few on my tongue, much to the embarrassment of the Punkin. I attempted to catch some photos of the snow, but my battery was super low and by the time I found a setting that wouldn't make the flash go off, the camera was dead. So, I got 2 really bad shots, but as you can see, the big fluffy flakes are pretty visible in them anyway.

The snow didn't last long, but it sure was perty while it was around. All the kids and even at least one teacher were hoping that there wouldn't be school today, but that wasn't going to happen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Patapon -- my latest obsession

I've owned my PSP for a little over a year. I spent some time on a couple good titles, but overall, I find my Nintendo SP or, more recently, my DS have gotten way more mileage in my handheld gaming time.

However, the game Patapon that was released in the US on Feb. 26, 2008 had been holding my attention and calling my name when I'm not playing.

The game was developed by Pyramid and produced by Japan Studios, the same geniuses who brought us Loco Roco in 2006. It's a rhythm game in which each of the 4 buttons represents a different drum and you command an army of little eyeball dudes called Patapons to fight depending on the 4 beat pattern you play on the drums. The first two that you learn make the army march forward (Pata Pata Pata Pon) and attack (Pon Pon Pata Pon.) The army will then repeat the pattern while acting out the command. After their turn, you need to give your next order. If you maintain the rhythm sucessfully you will build up combinations and eventually reach Fever Mode which causes your Patapons to have more speed and strength and their attacks are much more effective. The enemies you kill drop weapons, money (ka-ching) and other loot that will allow you to build up your army and to eventually get new drums and skills.

The game is a lot of fun. I enjoy using the items I collect to create new variations on my Patapons and trying out their skills. It's pretty easy to pick up and play, there is a storyline involved in which the Patapons are looking for something called IT at Earthend, but the story doesn't bog you down and you don't even really need to follow the story to enjoy the game.

The only downside I see is that it's difficult to play with music or the television on in the background.

I highly recommend this game for anyone. It's cute and kid friendly, but challenging and interesting for adults as well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

little home accomplishments

Last night after I picked up Punkin from the after school care and headed home, I realized I had lots of energy. Maybe it was because of my morning 3.87 mile run or maybe it was because it was a lovely sunny day in Seattle, which we don't get too often this time of year. So, I decided to start working on some outdoor things I've been needing to do. The first thing I noticed when I got home was that my jeans from the IOS firesale had arrived. So, of course, I had to try those on. They fit just fine. I wish they were a tad longer, but for $5, I can't be too picky.

While I was in the bedroom I happened to look outside where my garden tools ended up somehow and I noticed that some things were not on the back deck anymore. For a moment I freaked out, but then I realized they were moved by the guy that our next door neighbor hired to cut down a tree that was on our property line. She had spoken to us about it a while back and I didn't have any problem with them coming onto our property to get rid of it. It really does open up our backyard a bunch. During our last wind storm a big branch sort of halfway fell. It was cracked and practically on the ground, but still alive and had new growth right before it was cut down.

Anyway, I changed into yard work clothes and headed out. I opened the garage door and went out the front door. Our garage has gotten so bad that I can't actually walk through it anymore. So, my first order of business was to move things around in the garage enough so that I could get to my lawn mower and the rest of my garden tools. While I was doing that my next door neighbor came out and we chatted about the tree removal. The guy had left a bunch of wood in the backyard and so we discussed the fact that he needed to come back and clean that up. She's really nice and I'll be sad when we move.

After she went inside to fix dinner, I started mowing the lawn. I have one of those push mowers, but our yard is tiny. The grass had gotten pretty tall in one area, so I had to go over that a few times to get it cut properly. After the lawn was mowed, I started planting some bulbs. I put some trees in a couple of years ago next to the driveway and I had decided that there should be some flowers around the base of those trees to add some color. When it's sunny, that part of the yard gets good sunlight, but that's the only area that does. So, I planted some ranunculus and gladiolus bulbs and some painted daisy seeds about the base of the two trees. I also cleared out the little bit of dirt under our mailbox and planted some there. Our mailbox is attached to our house and there's a little spot that I can only assume was put there to be a little flowerbed. It's about 3 feet by 1 foot and it's surrounded by the house on one side and the driveway and walkway on the other 3. So, hopefully in a few weeks we'll have at least a few lovely flowers blooming in our yard.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Walking/Running calorie burn

I recently learned something interesting. Walking or running 1 mile burns the same amount of calories, no matter how fast you travel. The difference is that if you run, you burn those calories in a lower amount of time. Basically, for someone who weighs 150 pounds, one mile burns 100 calories. So, if you don't weigh 150 pounds, you can figure out how many calories you burn with the following formula, where W is your current weight and M is the number of miles.

If you need to find out how many miles you walked or ran, you can use the running route tools at run.com to map out where you went and it'll tell you exactly how far you traveled.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

I'm not religious at all, but we always celebrated Easter while I was growing up.  Getting a chocolate bunny and hunting for eggs with coins and candy inside was just always something I enjoyed. 

We went to a brunch yesterday to celebrate Easter.  It was nice.  I haven't seen some of the people there for MONTHS and it was nice to sit around and chat and have girly talk with someone.  I rarely get to do that these days. 

Today we're not doing much.  The Punkin is with her dad and Mosquito and I are just sitting around watching TV.

I hope you all have a nice Easter.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Cleaning Guide

Here's a link to a spring cleaning guide.  I know I suxors at teh cleaning thang, so maybe this will help me get it done.

Richardson backs Obama

I was a big supporter of Bill Richardson while he was running for office. In the past I really thought either Hillary or Obama would be great candidates someday, but 1. I was surprised that Obama decided to run this time around. I felt like it was a little too soon. And 2. I just don't like the way the two of them have been acting in this campaign. Bill Richardson really stood for everything I wanted in this campaign and I was terribly sorry to see him not get the attention he deserved while he was still in the race. Those other two are such attention whores that they detracted from someone who had some really great things to say about the issues that people really care about.

So, once it was down to just the two of them, I decided to back Hillary. There are several reasons why I chose her over Obama. Mostly, I just like her. I went to high school in Arkansas while Bill was governor and I saw both of them speak at state events and I just really liked them. She's a strong woman and she really supports health care reform, which is one thing that is important to me.

I also have some sort of spiteful reasons for choosing her over Obama. I REALLY hate it when people say that Hillary voted for the war and Obama didn't. Obama wasn't in any position to even cast a vote period. And trying to say now what you would have done back then and comparing it to what someone actually did back then is just a low, unfair maneuver. Everyone knows hindsight is 20/20 and the information available at the time was completely different that it is now or even what it was 2 years ago. There were a lot of democrats who voted for the war. (Vote roll call) This was the number one thing people were saying at the caucus I attended. I practically bit someone's head off when they used that to try to convince the Hillary supporters to move Obama's side. I was so furious at the ignorance of people. And yeah, yeah, I know he never actually came right out and said that, but he sure has been doing things to reinforce that misconception.

I also just think Obama is naive. We need someone who is savvy and can patch up a lot of our foreign policy issues. I know he speaks well and has a certain charm about him, but he needs to have some clue about what's going on. I mean, if he's at this point in his run for president and he doesn't even know that Canada has a prime minister and not a president, then that just doesn't do much for my confidence in his knowledge of world politics. I mean, really. This is Canada we're talking about. If he doesn't even know what the hell is going on in our neighboring country's government, then what's that say about his knowledge on the rest of the world? Our local NPR station has a reporter from Canada on once a week to talk about the news and that was where I first heard about this. I don't think it got a lot of attention here, but it was the laugh of the week for Canadians.

I also like the argument that says Obama would beat McCain in a general election and Hillary wouldn't. Well, polls are not accurate enough to count on when the numbers are as close as these are. But oops, lookie here. The current numbers (as of 3/21) show that isn't the case anyway.
Obama vs. McCain
Clinton vs. McCain
But, like I said, these polls are not accurate enough to make any kind of determination, but it is fun to look at them. I know that I plan on voting for Hillary if she's the candidate, but I can't say that for sure with Obama. McCain doesn't look too bad to me. I'm registered as an independent, so I have no party lines to cross.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not saying that Hillary is a saint. We all know what kind of problems she's gotten herself into in the past. But, I feel like she doesn't deserve the kind of hatred that is directed toward her. I found this article on cnn.com that was written well before this current election started. I'm much more willing to trust things that were published prior to the current he said she said crap going on now.

I just have to say that I'm disappointed in Bill Richardson for choosing Obama over Hillary.

Big Dog

I've been super busy at work the last few days trying to get some features cleaned up and submitted. I sort of missed my deadline, but they weren't showing off my stuff for this quarterly demo anyway because of some other technical issues, so I don't feel too bad for being a couple days late.

So, I've been a bit behind on my reading and web news. There's a robot that is being developed by Boston Dynamics that is intended to be "a robot with animal-like strength, speed and mobility". This movie was posted on Monday and I just got around to seeing it today. It's amazing. The best parts are at about 0:36 when someone tries to kick it over and 1:23 when it starts slipping on some ice.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hoodie project

Look at this super cute hoodie on the Craftser.org forums.

Britt from cucumbersome had a link to this among some other cool things. I totally am going to do this....someday.

Very nice detailed instructions here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Domain name

I bought the domain name itsalwayssomethingwithher.com yesterday and I'm getting it setup to redirect here.  I set up the CNAME record to direct the root domain here, then changed my mind today and reverted the root domain back to my webspace host's DNS and added a subdomain blog.itsalwayssomethingwithher.com with a CNAME record to point here.  Last I checked, the DNS entries weren't fully setup yet, so I haven't done the blogger half of setting up the custom domain.

I have been playing with wordpress on one of the other sites I maintain, so I may move this over to a fully hosted wordpress install eventually.  I get so picky about how things are set up and since my own wordpress install is completely under my control, there are SOO many tweaks I can constantly be doing.  It'll take me a while to have the time to actually get my wordpress looking just the way I want, so for now I'll just keep my blog here.  I'm concerned about losing the history here, but I've been doing a little research and it seems like it should be pretty easy to do.  Here's a great link I found with pretty detailed instructions on exactly what I will eventually be doing: http://underscorebleach.net/jotsheet/2006/05/move-blogger-to-wordpress.

Thoughts on Mortality

Mosquito had a friend who died suddenly last week. He was only 26. He's out of town for the funeral. I would have liked to go, but someone needed to stay home with the Punkin. I only met the deceased once and I honestly don't remember talking to him all that much. It was at my SIL's wedding and I was meeting so many new people. I know his parents better. I had met them on one of my first trips out to visit Mosquito's parents when his mother threw a brunch to introduce me to all her friends. Then they came out to our wedding and we had some lovely conversations. And I spoke with them quite a bit more at my SIL's wedding. They are such nice, sweet people and I can't even imagine their pain right now.

When things like this happen, I always think about how I need to get my affairs in order. I think about how I really should have a will. I think about how messy my house is and how much junk I have scattered everywhere that the people I leave behind will have to deal with. It makes me want to hug my daughter and tell her how very much I love her. We're all going to die someday and we don't know when or how it'll happen. We need to live each day to the fullest and not take our loved ones for granted.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

IOS Crazy Clearance sale

Individual Original Style is going out of business and everything is on sale for $10, but if you buy 2 or more items, they are each $5.  I picked up 3 pair of jeans and I can't wait for them to arrive!!

Of course, I talk about buying stuff shortly after I talk about how much debt we're in, but since I'm losing weight I really do need to buy some new clothes that aren't actually falling off me, so I figure brand new pretty jeans for $5 apiece is worth it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Where does it all go?

We're in debt up to our ears right now. Part of the problem is that Punkin goes to a private school and we make a bit too much to qualify for financial aid. So, tuition payments plus our mortgage takes up all of my take home pay, so we're left with Mosquito's take home to pay two car payments, insurance, gas, utilities, food, clothing, daycare expenses, sports/activities fees, etc.

We definitely haven't been sticking to any kind of budget lately, so I'm working on steps to save some money. We've cut down on our dining expenses since I've been on my weight loss plan. Now we need to stop buying all the expensive items in the grocery store and start seriously clipping coupons. Those are a couple of things that I know we need to do. I also need to sit down and take the time to go over everywhere else our money ends up going and try to find other places to save money.

A seemingly obvious place to cut our expenses would be in gas.  Mosquito and I both work pretty far from home.  Our workplaces are in the same general direction from home and so we try to carpool as often as we can, which is usually 1-2 times per week.  But, with one of us needing to fight traffic and drive back across the bridge to pick Punkin up, we usually do need two cars.  We just can't drop her off, commute to work, work an 8 hour day and still be able to leave in time to get her.  I have a bus pass that my company provided, so I can figure out a schedule to add at least one bus trip into my work week.  That should be easy to do.  I can always carpool with Mosquito one way and take the bus the other way, which I really hadn't thought about a lot. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Faux sushi

Another fun thing to add to my possible bake sale item list.

The first set is made with marshmallows, fruit leather, Swedish fish and nerds, with a little chocolate mint "wasabi" on the side.  The second set uses twinkies and mini donuts.  I also saw some using rice crispy treats.  So much fun we can have making those!

From cucumbersome.

From not martha

Monday, March 3, 2008

bake sale item ideas

I'm starting to come up with a list of items for the bake sale I'll hold along with the garage sale day on March 19th.  If you were out and about on a Saturday and you saw some goodies for sale, what kind of thing would tickle your fancy? 

Below is my list so far.  This is basically things I like and that I can make pretty easily the week/day before. I'm not a very good pie maker, so pies are not on my list, unless I can find someone to volunteer some. 

Haystacks -- chinese noodles, cashews and butterscotch.  This is something we always had at Christmas time, but it's also very similar to the Edible FSM I posted about before that may be a fun novelty as well as tasty.   But, I think for simplicity's sake, I'll pass on the googly eyes and figure out a simpler way to do the eyes.

Lacy Oatmeal cookies -- recipe from my Mrs. Field's cookie recipe book.  They are easy to make and I just love them. -- These should be able to be made the weekend before and kept in an airtight container.

Chocolate Chip cookies -- old standby, gotta have em. 

Cupcakes -- I'll buy a few kinds of cake mixes and offer a bit of variety.

Rice Crispy Treats -- super easy and everyone loves them.