Shopping strategies

So Carrie asked in the comments: You’ll have to tell us more about your online shopping…Do you have any favorite Web sites? What were some of the gifts that were big hits?

I can’t stand mall shopping. I do enjoy mall browsing with a couple of girlfriends with no goal purchase in mind. That’s different. But fighting through a crowd of stressed out people, standing in long, hot lines? Possibly not finding what I came for? No thank you.

So first I make a gift list. I do this around July/August for Christmas. I list everyone we have to buy for (it’s a short list, thankfully). And I list some gift ideas. If I have people on my list who have similar tastes then I’ll buy in multiples.

My List for Christmas 2007:

Morgan- Crocs Mary Janes (red), purse

Jake & Joey- walkie talkies, umbrellas (luckily they are still young enough that we can still buy in 2s for them)

Papa & Gigi: Pampered Chef stir fry skillet pan (and surprise gift I’ll blog about later)

Jon’s parents: Pampered Chef stir fry skillet pan, greeting card organizer

Marsha & Larry: greeting card organizer, something else???

So, the greeting card organizers I found last summer while shopping at AC Moore for totally unrelated things. I got them for just $5 each and they were stocked full with cards and envelopes. I had given one to my Mom a few years earlier and she loved it. I love mine. Marsha & MIL are busy women so I knew they could use them. So I picked them up.

Also, both Gigi & MIL had commented that they loved our Pampered Chef stir fry skillet. PhotobucketSo I talked to my PC lady and asked her if she could hook me up. Those pans retail for $115 but I had gotten mine for 60% off after hosting a party a year ago. We certainly couldn’t afford to pay retail for them. So my PC lady promised me that if she had any hosts who did not want to take advantage of their half price items that she would order me the pan. And there you go! A $115 pan for $57.50 and I didn’t have to even leave my house to get them!

Now the rest of the stuff I got online. I always start my shopping at Upromise.com. That way a % of what I spend goes into LingLing’s & Morgan’s college funds. Plus, they often have coupon codes for Upromise clients. I do a search for the item I’m looking for on upromise, but I also do one on google. Then once I find the store that carries the item I need, I go to Shopper’s Resource and type in the name of the store. A list of coupon codes will come up. That way I can either save money, or get free shipping, or even get free samples.

During all this a catalog came in the mail from a store I’d never heard of, The Paragon. I flipped through (never toss out an unread catalog) and stumbled upon the perfect gift for wine lovers Marsha & Larry. PhotobucketWhew. They are hard to buy for. That was a big hit. They loved it. We also knew we wanted to get them this cool wine chiller I’d seen in a catalog in the fall. It’s called the Nice Ice and you basically make an ice mold for your wine. Photobucket You can add color and flowers etc to the ice. Very cool. But the place where I first found it was Chiasso (who I LOVE) but they were charging $38. I knew I could find it cheaper. And finally I did. I found it here for $14.99! Plus free shipping! Woohoo!

For Jake & Joey’s presents I had to search a little harder. Seems like kids’ walkie talkies aren’t very durable according to online reviews. So I went more traditional with those. I was going to paint growth charts for the boys, but with everything else going on I just didn’t have time. Then Jake told me he wanted an umbrella. So that solved that problem. I searched for kids’ umbrellas and man were they pricey. Until I found these umbrellas.Photobucket At Journeys Kidz. Jake loves the umbrella we gave him $10 each, plus I found matching $5 wallets. Both nephews taken care of for Christmas for just under $50. And since I found coupon codes on Shopper’s Resource I didn’t pay any shipping. Woot!

Morgan had already said once to my Mom that she wanted some red shoes. And she always likes my Crocs. So I knew getting her the red Alice Mary Janes would be a no brainer. She also wanted a new purse. I knew that Journeys sold both purses and shoes so I went to their site and lucked out. I found the shoesPhotobucket, plus 2 purses and a tote bag for super cheap in their clearance section. They were all a big hit. I got her this plaid bag Photobucketfor just $9.99, this bag in silver metallic for only $19.99, and this reversible tote for $9.99. Again, free shipping, they included a bunch of stickers, AND I found a coupon code for like 25% off. I know I wouldn’t have found all that variety at those prices at the store in the mall. Momo was thrilled and squealed as she opened each box. Momo loves the purse we gave her By the end of the night she had already planned outfits incorporating each item. It was awesome.

Jon and I don’t exchange gifts since we’re saving for the adoption. And Sara/Marc & Jon/I don’t exchange either. We all figure that we already have so much stuff. Plus, Christmas is more about the kids anyway.

So that’s how I did all of my Christmas shopping in about 4 hours (total) online & stayed within my budget.

Burning rubber

As I mentioned in my last post, my nephews Jake (almost 5) and Joey (almost 3) received a set of those battery powered trucks. Joey is still a little too small to operate his so he rides around with Jake at the wheel. Jake & Joey in Jake's new truck! It was the cutest thing ever, seeing this little demo. The two of them tooling around the front yard while the sun was setting singing Jingle Bells at the top of their lungs. Riding off into the sunset! It was so sweet my teeth hurt.Jake & Joey having the best time riding in their new truck! I went over there yesterday after Jake called and asked did I want to see him drive his new “shruck”. Jake is even a good backer upper, better than me! I took Harry Potter & the order of the Phoenix with me. We all cuddled up on the sofa after dinner to watch it. Luckily the boys fell asleep within minutes, cause Harry was a little dark. And he’s growing up hot. Man, that makes me feel a little creepy to say!

Time for joy and time for cheer

Finally- the Christmas post.

Christmas Eve we gathered at Sara’s (my sister) for dinner and presents. I brought over a big pan of baked mac & cheese and I also made a fabulous dip. It doesn’t really have a name, but it’s good. Cream cheese, splash of lime juice, southwest seasoning- all smeared on the bottom of a baking dish. Top with chili (I go bean free on this one) then top that with plenty of cheddar cheese. Sprinkle cilantro over the cheese and bake at 350* for about 15 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

We had a wonderful dinner. Sara set the table with her wedding china. First time I’ve ever eaten off it, so it was a big deal. I wish I’d taken a picture of the table.

Then we all gathered in the living room and opened presents.2 little known reindeer, Jake & Joey The boys loved it, and loved all their gifts. We all did.

After presents the boys went to bed and CSP & my BIL Marc went out to the garage to help Santa with the assembly of 2 battery powered trucks. They were way bigger than I thought they’d be.Momo doesn't fit into Jake & Joey's new jeep.
I’m sure they went nuts the next morning when they saw them.

We were there way too late but I finally dragged CSP home.

The next morning Jon’s parents arrived bearing homemade cinnamon buns and gifts. I learned a valuable lesson on Christmas. Hosting Christmas is a lot of fun, but all that running around getting drinks and putting out hors de voures (sp) leave not much time for picture taking. So my pics are few. Sigh.

Anyway, we opened presents and hung out with them then around 4 Jon’s Aunt Deb & Uncle Erv, their 2 kids Dana & Lee, and Marsha & Larry (honorary aunt & uncle to Jon & I and best friends with my in-laws) arrived. I popped A Christmas Story into the dvd player and we all watched that and visited while snacking on another round of that dip and other goodies. CSP was outside setting up the boil. We did a low country shrimp boil for dinner. It was so good and everyone loved it.Cousins Dana & Lee at my Christmas table
Deb, Erv, Lee & Dana left after dinner and that’s when we exchanged gifts with Marsha & Larry.  They are always so good to us and so thoughtful.

I’m really proud of myself this year.  Everyone LOVED their gifts.  It was easy to tell.  Jon’s mom even jumped up and down when they opened one.  Papa yelled out “Hot Dog!” when he opened one.  And I did everything on a budget and without going to the mall once.  I don’t know how I’m gonna be able to pull that off again next year!

The rest of my Christmas pictures are here.

2 going on 20

Olivia spent the night with us the Thursday before Christmas. I met up with her and Will and we made the transfer. Then O & I came home and played with the “doddies” for a while. She “helped” me with some Christmas cards then we went to bed. When I told CSP that O was coming to stay he responded that he was working late so he wouldn’t be able to see her and he was bummed. I thought that was so sweet.

Friday we got up and had breakfast, played some more with the doddies, then got dressed and went to my Mom’s bank. Sara followed us with the boys in her car. My Mom came with us and we all went to lunch at McDonald’s. We dropped Mom off then went to Sara’s so the kids could play with each other and so O could meet Lucy.

Then unfortunately our day was over. Will had called a couple times but I didn’t hear the phone ring over all the squealing. We were all playing hide and seek. Except I’m always the one who has to hide. The kids would go into the kitchen and count “1, 3, 7…ready or not here I come!” O was the only one who would count all the numbers between 1 & 10 to give me long enough to hide. I could hear them all tip toeing through the house. I could hear O ask Sara “where’d Shanny go?” Then when they’d think they were getting close O would ask Sara to hold her hand. So sweet! They’d come find me and squeal in delight then immediately yell for me to hide again. HIDE!!!

I tried to remember all the cute things O said while she was with me. I swear that girl is so smart. She’s like a 20 year old trapped in a toddler’s body.

-I showed her a Christmas card that had come in the mail that day. It was her family. I said “Who’s this?”

Susan, Will, and Jia Jia. (O’s nickname)

I think it’s beautiful.

Don’t ya love it?

- While trying to get past me in the bathroom: Watch your body!

- We were listening to a radio station that was playing Christmas music and when they would do the station jingle she would sing along “K one oh four point seeeeveeeeen

- While playing with my hair: Shanny, your hair’s jacked up.

I dropped her off with her dad and got back in the car. Just as I was driving my all too quiet car back home the most heart wrenching Christmas song came on the radio. I’d never heard it before and by the time I got home I was one hot mess with a face full of tears. I missed O already.

Homecoming & breaking the law

The Saturday before Christmas Jake and I went to the airport to welcome home Shannon, Mustachio & Emily from China! When I called Sara to ask if I could take the boys (Joey couldn’t go, he had to go to bed), Sara asked Jake

“Do you want to go with Aunt Shanny to the airport?”

“Yes! What’s the airport?”

Sara explained that’s where the planes fly in and out. So Jake was psyched. We got there and parked and went into the baggage area and promptly walked right past Shannon & the crew. We walked all the way to the other end of baggage claim before we found out we had come in right where we needed to be. While walking around Jake said to me “Shanny I don’t see any planes in here.”

I was looking for everyone at the luggage carousel and spotted Mustachio. He directed me over to the gang and there were many hugs and tears. I managed to take just a couple of pictures. Emily & her grandma Sheila

Isn’t she just the sweetest?? Shannon let me hold Em and I just melted. She smiled at me and seemed fascinated by my lip gloss (that’s my kind of girl!). She’s so tiny!

Shannon’s sister Erin was there too. I really like her and it was good to see her for a minute. Plus she told me she reads this blog regularly. So here’s a shout out to Erin! Holla! You’re allowed to leave a comment! :)

So after we visited for a little while they left to go home and searched for a good place to watch the planes take off. I’d promised Jake planes after all! I found a good spot and pulled over and put Jake up on the hood of my car. He wasn’t so sure of our location.Jake wants to see some airplanes! Apparently he wasn’t the only one with that opinion. We weren’t there 5 minutes before a cop pulled up. What’s going on here he wanted to know. I explained I was just trying to show my nephew some planes and he pointed me in the direction of a little overlook park. Who knew we even had one of those? When he left I was putting Jake back in his car seat and said something about how I was worried I was going to get hauled off to jail with my 4 year old nephew in tow. And I would NOT do well in prison. Jake said “Don’t worry Aunt Shanny. Police man only takes bad guys to jail.” Whew.

I followed the cop’s directions and found this great spot where we could see all the airport lights. Charlotte airport The planes were taking off right in front of us. There were benches and trash bins and even enough room for a picnic. If, you know, it wasn’t freezing and nighttime. We watched the planes for about a half hour then headed home. Jakey fell asleep on the ride home from our “date”.

More pictures of Em’s homecoming here. I can’t even tell you how happy and excited I am for the Mustachio Family. I about cried all the way to the airport. And then I cried on the way home. Perhaps I need to adjust my meds.

Merry Merry!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Like always I have a ton to do and not enough time to do it in. We’re hosting Christmas this year. Christmas Eve will be at my sister’s so at least there’s not much travel. I promise hope to get all my BPOH pics uploaded and posted before the end of the day.

For you to enjoy over Christmas, the list of fabulous bloggy peeps who participated in Christmas BPOH:

Lisa L
Kristie: here, here, and here
Michele
Pam (complete with slide show!)
Michelle
JoAnn
Ani
Punchy
Lisa