Bound by Flames: A Review

bound by flames

I think I have read everything Jeaniene Frost has published thus far and this may actually be my favorite of her books. Bound By Flames is the third in her series of books about Vlad and Leila. Vlad (yes, as in the impaler) and Leila are finally both vampires, finally married, and you would think that they would be able to find some sort of happily ever after…except as per usual someone is trying to kill them. Well, more precisely someone is trying to kill Leila mostly to torment Vlad. Luckily Leila is made of sterner stuff and not without her own powers.

I loved the character development in this book. Vlad grows into less of a control freak. Leila proves that when push comes to shove she can take care of herself. I think this was the aspect that was missing from her other characters and the reason I do not like them as much. Leila has always been powerful but from very early on she decided to use that power rather than run away from it and that is something that just gets stronger in her as time progresses and more people piss her off. Vlad, instead of ignoring this, begins to trust her a little more to take care of herself which is what their relationship needed. We also get to revisit beloved characters from past books and see what they are up to.

I would definitely re-read this book. In fact I have read it twice since it came out at the end of January. Its a good price for the ebook and well worth the read. If you haven’t read the other two books in this series I suggest you check them out now. I’m giving this book a 5 out of 5 for awesomeness!

What have you been reading?

Etsy Shop Review: Buddha Bellies

With a new baby on the way I have found lots of excuses to troll pinterest and Etsy looking at neat things I think my little one “needs”. I have refrained from purchasing a ton of things because frankly I am not overly well off and there are three baby showers in my future. Obviously I will make purchases after that, but until then I am trying to be good.  However I have indulged in a few things. On thing I have purchased are these awesome onesie stickers from Buddha Bellies.

belly stickers

There are 12 stickers included for months 1-12 of babies first year. I am really happy with them now that they have finally reached me. What most impressed me about this shop however was their customer service. They have a ton of cute products which you can view here. When I ordered the stickers I used my paypal to pay for them and unthinkingly didnt check the address. This was unfortunate because it meant my awesome stickers were sent to the wrong address. After about 3 weeks I remembered that I had ordered these stickers and so I looked at my receipt and realized my silly mistake. The shop owners were so kind. They worked with me and when my stickers were returned to them they shipped them back to me for just a tiny shipping fee.

Buddha Bellies shop rating:

Customer Service – 5 out of 5

Product matches description – 5 out of 5

Shipping speed – 5 out of 5

Overall satisfaction with purchase – 5 out of 5

If you ever need something like the onesie stickers, and they have a ton of different ones, I definitely recommend supporting this wonderful Etsy shop!

 

Thrifty Thursday: The Coupon

The title is rather deceptive. I can almost guarantee this is the one and only time where you will see the word coupon appear on my blog. If it appears again it will be a total fluke. That is because I do not coupon. I don’t buy into the lie that it will save you money. I know, I know, there are extreme couponers out there who would hang me by my toes and then have me burned at the stake for such blasphemy, but hear me out.

There are two very simple aspects to the coupon question that I researched a long time ago and have stuck with ever since.

1. Coupon are generally only printed and therefor only good for name brand items.

Yes, you can save a dollar here, fifty cents there, and it can accumulate into quite a bit at the check out counter, but how are you “saving” this money. You are buying name brands first off, which tend to be more expensive, and yet no more effective or better tasting or longer lasting than their cheap off brand neighbors. Lets take for example

St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub, 6 oz

St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub

$3.87 at Wal-Mart for 6oz

Equate Refreshing Apricot Scrub

$1.97 at Wal-Mart for 6oz

I couldn’t find a current coupon for the name brand but I see them every now and again for lets say $0.50. Even with that $0.50 savings your totals still come to:

Name Brand: $3.37

Equate Brand $1.97

This is still a difference of $1.40.

That may not seem like a lot to you, but over time it adds up. I’ve used both and they work just the same. You can take nearly any facial cleanser and find a store brand that will work just as well. Your family doesn’t like store brand conditioner or chicken nuggets and so on and so forth. Keep that name brand bottle and put the store brand in it. If they ever notice the difference I will be astonished. We like name brands. We are supposed to. They spend a lot of money trying to convince us that we like them.

2. Couponing has a cost

There are several hidden costs to couponing that Idon’t think  get enough credit. Firstly, typically if you are buying a paper to acquire coupons then you are spending money on that endevour. If you get a paper subscription just for the coupons then chances are you aren’t saving any money. Even if you use one the zillions of online coupon printing resources you are still spending money just not in the way we traditionally see it. Your time is valuable. How much time does it take to sit down and find the coupons, cut them out, organize them, keep up with which ones are in date, and then find the best place to use them. I plan all my grocery excursions and I generally have an idea of the prices in various places, and I take a glance at the sales papers that come in the mail for free with the local Courier Journal and that does take a little bit of time, but you have to do that anyway whether couponing or not to find the best deals.

This weeks Thrifty Thursday money saving tip is to use your head. Just because something seems like it will save you money doesn’t mean it actually will. If you just love a particular name brand item, then by all means buy it, but really consider what it is you are buying and whether or not that coupon is actually saving you any money.

How have you been thrifty this week?

Reflections in Lent: We are not called to be comfortable

We are not called to be comfortable. Those are powerful words spoken to me by a generous, and loving woman.

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I love my job, actually these days I love both of them. I have been criticized, mocked, and under appreciated, but I still love my job. It is difficult. It is obnoxious. It is political. It is joyous. It is rewarding.The church is a community and that is one of the biggest reasons that I love it. Children are at the foundation of any community, and that is where I get to focus my energies. The church is built upon the idea that we are to love our neighbors as God loved us and more than we love ourselves. That is the foundational principle of the body and I can support that wholeheartedly. Though I realize it is easier said that done.

I heard a sermon last year given by Deacon Catherine. It was inspirational. She gave a beautifully crafted sermon on the essence of what we are called to be; Servants. We are called to serve our fellow man. Foot washing may seem strange. It seems strange and uncomfortable even to me, but it is a symbolic of the service that we should give to one another and in remembrance of Christ washing the feet of his disciples. It is such an awesome symbol. The message was given, the feet were washed, the altar was stripped, a vigil was kept in the garden…and then comes Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We are not called to be comfortable. We are called to feed the hungry, minister to the afflicted, shelter and care for our brother and sisters, guide our children and most of all to love one another.

It is easy for me to love the children. They are young and innocent and so loving themselves. It is much more trying to show love to grumpy coworkers, stressed out husbands, and erratic family members. Where do we draw the line between love and letting ourselves be stepped upon? Should there even be a line?

I confess that I have a hard time being idle most of the time. At work today I finished something my boss had started because she left it and I had finished what I was supposed to be working on and I just couldn’t do nothing.  I just can’t be idle. This leads me to be not very understanding of people that are idle. Anyone that I feel does not contribute to society is someone that I have a hard time tolerating and showing love and compassion towards. That is one of my biggest personal failings. I have a hard time sympathizing with the jobless, or the homeless. I get so caught up in the way I feel, how tired I am, how put upon I am that I have a hard time finding some compassion for the misfortunes of others.

I was reminded that night to get over myself. Be selfless. Love others. Show compassion. Love, with my whole heart. Love others, love myself; these are hard things…

But we are not called to be comfortable.

The Baby Inventory: Diapering!

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned my Baby Spreadsheet. As part of my All About Baby posts I am going to share with you all in a little more detail the various parts of my spreadsheet. This week I would like to talk about diapering and the various and diverse things that go along with that. Using Excel I made a spreadsheet that including the following diaper related categories.

N Diapers
Size 1 Diapers
Size 2 Diapers
Size 3 Diapers
Size 4 Diapers
Size 5 Diapers
Wipes
Baby bum cream
Diaper Bag

It ends up looking like this (click on the image to get it less blurry)

baby inventory diapers

You can customize this to fit your individual needs. I took a basic estimate of how many diapers I experienced that babies go through at the various stages, as well as looking at the numbers other people have come up with which is how I got my totals. I estimated a little more than 2 wipes per diaper change which is admittedly low. I have location of the items and price (whether I bought them or they were given to me via shower or whatever) which allows me to keep a running tab of how much I have spent. The spreadsheet also automatically calculates how much I need of whichever item after I put in how many I have.

If you are going the cloth diapering route you can adjust this spreadsheet to fit your needs. I’ve also got a diaper bag listed and baby bum cream which will probably be needed at some point.  If you are a stock piler this is an awesome way to keep up with everything. I would be happy to send a sample of my spreadsheet to you, just make the request and provide an email in the comments.

How do you prep for baby?

Uncommonly cute baby goods!

     Some days being pregnant is easier than others… Last week I had a really bad day. Sick and headache and general ick. The weepy weather and horrible cold didn’t help much.  On days like that I find it best to focus on something else because most of the time you just have to wait the symptoms out. Luckily I had stumbled upon the Uncommon Goods website where I spent a lovely bit of time perusing the various cuteness that could be found. I compiled a few things that are on my list of things to buy for the new baby with my spare change.

nerdy ABC blocks

1. I stumbled across these Super Nerdy ABC blocks from Uncommon goods the other day. This is definitely on my list of this to get the little man with my odd spare change.

orgnas

2. This is a neat set of plushies that just happen to be educational. Yep. I am a nerd.

photo

3. I am a bit of a nerd at heart and this Photosynthesis onesie is right up my alley. You can find it here at Uncommon Goods.

4. I love, love, love this onesie! And I actually bought some gnome fabric the other day! I don’t think I could ever justify $35 on a onesie, but I will definitely be making my own version.

5. Steven and I both grew up listening and learning from Nursery Rhymes and as much as I want to teach little Carl to be respectful of books this is a neat and practical alternative until then.

What neat things have you found while scouring the internet this week?

Week 28: Or I suppose this is actually happening

Week 28 is much different from week 6 or 7 or even 10. I found out I was pregnant almost 4 weeks in. I had it confirmed at 6 weeks, 4 days. From the very beginning I was somewhere between disbelief and shock and the conviction that it wouldnt last. Sure I might be pregnant, despite all odds, but there was not way it would stick. This was just one of those fluke things that happen. When I took the test, the first 4 times, I was convinced that it was false positives. Then the last three times I convinced myself it was cancer, or a tumor or a tubal pregnancy. I wasn’t supposed to even be able to have babies. I certainly wasn’t in a place in my relationship where that was a particularly bright idea….and furthermore I was having a lot less sex than any other point in the last five years. WTF!! That thought actually had a running loop in my head.

Anyways I went to the doctor for the confirmation ultrasound and from the beginning I told the tech that it was probably cancer…or a tumor…or a tubal pregnancy. Turns out is was a very normal, very healthy little blip who turned out to be rather tenacious. I got through that appointment with a ton of sample vitamins and a lot of shock to process and a picture of a blip that resembled a Lima bean that they reassured me was a tiny human. Even then I figured there was no way this was a thing that would stick. People like me don’t get good things like that. We get tempted with them and then they get taken away. Cynical I know but that’s been a pretty common theme in my life. Don’t ever get too comfortable and happy cause someone will inevitably come and take it away. A friend of mine lost a baby at week 10 right around the time I found out I was pregnant so I had already resigned myself to that in my mind. I looked up tons of statistics, researched what was normal and what was not and tried to soldier on the best I could.

Then week 10 past, we had another appointment, the baby was fine. Time seemed to pass slowly then, but eventually I made it into the second trimester. I was still unconvinced I would carry to term. I pretty much expected disaster. Never the less I began to plan for life with a baby. Maternity leave, clothing, food, breastfeeding, baby classes, more doctors visits, breast pumps…all of that came up at one point or another. I am fairly certain I didn’t start to let go of the idea that something terrible would happen until week 20 or so after we found out the gender and started calling him by his name. People think that is odd, but to me he is a tiny human that just happens to reside inside me at the moment.

Fast forward quite a bit and we get to week 28. Not much eventful happens here. Braxton Hicks contractions are a thing. The hospital bag is a thing. Nausea is back. My back is killing me. Everything is sore. That is pretty much what week 28 looks like. I have found that as time passes the actual week is less important and the impending sense of the end is nigh.

Fifty Shades of Grey: A short review

I’ve avoided the whole Fifty shades of Grey controversy mostly because despite whatever I might feel about it I just didn’t particularly want to argue. I’m tired and pregnant and people are judgmental and silly and will get mad over absolutely anything. Having said all of that I have read the books (several times, cause I am reader and I read everything several times) and I saw the movie. If you haven’t done either of those things please stuff your opinion where the sun doesn’t shine because it is worthless. That would be like me giving an opinion on Dr. Who beyond that I watched one episode, didn’t care for it, and don’t think I will be picking it up again any time soon.

Now that all of that is out of way I’ll share with you my thoughts on the movie adaptation. The book is better. That is true of nearly everything from the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson movies to Angels and Demons. The book is inevitably better because we can all individually use our imaginations and fit what we are reading within our own experiences. Having said that, the movie did stay true to most of the premises of the book. Fifty shades has the same problem that most book to movies have in that you can’t hear the internal dialogue of the characters. The actors they picked for Ana and Christian are great, but you still can’t hear Ana’s internal struggle or Christian’s and that is a vital part of understanding the characters. About an hour into the movie I had three simultaneous thoughts:

I wish there was more dialogue cause they are really good at that

This would be awkward to watch with my mother or brother

She didn’t shave…which is true to the book

The scenes where Ana and Christian are just being Ana and Christian are the best. The scenes where they have sex are sometimes sweet and good, sometimes awkward, and at other times painful to witness. To be fair this was true to the book as well. I think the next movie will be better because the first book and movie end on a cliff hanger and I will go into the theater knowing what to expect and hopefully they will learn to stick with the dialogue heavy scenes and skip some of the sex. I prefer to read my smutt.

Will I watch this movie again? Yeah

I give it a 4 out of 5.

Later, when I feel like getting on my soap box I will share with you all my other Fifty Shades related opinions. ;-P

Did you all see it? If so what did you think?

MASH: or it could always be worse

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I’ve been a bit of a funk the last couple of days. Mostly to do with the fact that I feel like I am alone in realizing the severity in a situation of having a little one in less than 90 days. I’ll condense my drama into one sentence. I have been told we are going to go pick out a crib at least three times now over a period of a few weeks and it hasn’t happened yet…. Anyway something this afternoon finally perked me up a little bit. I watched the pilot episode of MASH which is now on netflix.

The first episode introduces us to Hawkeye and Hotlips and all our other favorite characters. This show was a staple of my childhood. The adventures of that little medical unit during the Korean conflict were something I watched a great deal of as a child though never in order, just randomly as the episodes came to TV. They often showed several in a row on some random channel and I would watch them and laugh at their antic and cry at their suffering.

The pilot episode features Hawkeye doing what he does best, helping people and being irreverent. He cooks up a plan to raise college tuition for a Korean boy to go to his alma mater back in the states. He somehow manages to throw an unathorized party, raise all the money needed, give the prize away to a priest who can’t partake in it, and not get court marshalled by the visiting general who just happens to be a former boyfriend of Hotlips. All while keeping his good humor and attempting to woo the ladies. This kind of show is the kind I miss. Forget How I Met Your Mother with its unsavory ending and silly plot line. Friends was never my thing. MASH is raw and real and funny in the saddest way and I love it.

I’m currently diving into season 4. With that season comes the great Colonel Potter. I always remember liking his character but I had forgotten how much. MASH is a good mood lifting show and Netflix is kind enough to bring me the first five seasons. Here’s to hoping for seasons 6-11!

Thrifty Thursday: The online swap

pig

When the Tightwad Gazette was written many moons ago back in the early nineties, which actually doesn’t seem like that long ago, there were not as many communications options as there are today. The internet was popular, but the world was not nearly as inundated with global communications as it is today. If I want to share something with a friend in Russia it only takes about 30 seconds and almost everyone has access to the technology to do that. Because of this the sorts of thrifty gathering techniques that she mentioned are not nearly as up to date as they could be. One thing I stumbled upon in the last year was thrift through social media. Facebook has this nifty page option and through it people in communities,  like my small town, have created junk swapping pages. Essentially if you want to sell something (usually at a highly negotiable or significantly reduced price) You just take a picture or two, suggest a price and post it on the internet in a group of 15000 other people from your local area. Needless to say this is a highly effective tool for the savvy tightwad.

I’m part of three such local pages. One for my specific city and two for the surrounding counties. obviously the one for my city is the most helpful. You see a lot of junk this way, but if you follow the method of a true tightwad and keep an ever present list of things that would improve your life then this is perfect. I got a bouncy seat for $10. It looks brand new and works perfectly.

bouncy

I met the lady is the parking lot of my local Walmart, the exchange took 30 seconds and I came home with exactly what I needed. I also got baby Carl a Bumbo chair and tray the exact some way

bumbo

This time the combined set cost $15.

 

Both of these items were on my list of needed baby things and I was really happy to be able to get them before the baby got here. If you haven’t looked up your local “buy, sell, trade” pages I highly recommend doing so. I’ve also sold several pieces of furniture for myself and my sister. It is a great tightwad tool.

 

What thrifting adventures did you have this week?