Just Heather
Allison and Me

Allison and Me

Alternate Title: The family reunion blogging made. Seriously, I organized this reunion in an effort to see long lost cousins. We have reconnected over the last several years through our blogs (and Facebook), but I haven’t seen Allison in over 20 years and I had never met her family. Of course, blogging made me feel like I knew them and it certainly didn’t feel like 20 years had passed. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about last weekend in the days and weeks to come, but for now a pictorial summary will have to do.

I’m about to spill the dirty little secret that most of you won’t believe. I am one of the most disorganized people you will ever meet. I know, I know—it all looks good from the outside. I’ve got the coupon system down, I’m an excellent event planner and I’m a pro at controlling the calendar. But the rest? Yeah, that’s a big ol’ mess!

I want to have a clean, orderly house. 40×40“>I really do. I just don’t know how to go about it. I’ve tried Taming the Paper Tiger, I flunked Flylady, and I’m running out of ideas! It truly is All Too Much! I am so tired of running around like a mad lady every time something is happening at our house or we’re expecting house guests. I love hosting people and parties—I truly do—I just wish our home were company ready a little more often.

I want to park in the garage, find what I need and have more time to spend on the actual cleaning. I like to use green cleaning options, such as microfiber towels and vinegar rinses. Lately, though, I find myself so busy trying to get organized enough to clean in the first place that I pull out the convenient Lysol wipes and Mr. Clean spray. This is not the way I want to do it nor is it frugal.

So, this is my official call for help! The naturally clean need not apply. I love you dearly, but you just won’t get it. However, the perpetually messy—yeah, you over there with the drawer full of dead batteries and the tower of old mail tucked under the bedside table—I need you! I’m sure you’ve found one area of success. Please, share your tips with me! And, if you’ve got frugal cleaning ideas, be sure to link them up at Inexpensively’s Money Saving Monday this week!

Congratulations to Craig, winner of last week’s U-Printing stickers! I don’t usually offer two giveaways within a week, but when U-Printing offered me a postcard giveaway, I just couldn’t pass it up. It was just too coincidental to have this opportunity during the same week that the Money Saving Monday topic on Inexpensively is party planning. We are in the throes of party planning around here—a Feel Your Boobies Cause Party, a Halloween party and Lorelai’s 4th birthday. I have an awful lot of invitations to send in the next few weeks!
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Postcards are my all-time favorite way to send invitations since they are inexpensive to make and to mail! I like to put together a 4×6 invitation, matching the theme of the party. They are just so colorful and fun to receive! The girls can add a personal note to the blank side, add a stamp and invitations are on their way. I’ll be using my award for hosting this giveaway to order the invitations for my college graduation.

After 14 years, I am ready to celebrate crossing #7 off 40×40“>my list. If you have something to celebrate or need invitations, thank you cards or postcards of your own, you can save 10% on your U-Printing purchase now or, even better, win 100 custom postcards here—simply leave a comment, telling us what you’ll do with your prize. You can earn additional entries by:

  • Following U-Printing and me on Twitter
  • Blogging about this giveaway
  • Tweeting about this giveaway: Win 100 free custom postcards from @Uprinting and @JustHeather!

For your extra entries to be counted, be sure to leave an additional comment directing me to your entry. Only one additional entry per method (i.e. While multiple tweets are appreciated it, only one will count as a drawing entry.) The contest runs until October 26th at 11:59pm edt. One winner will be notified by email on October 27th (as selected by Random.org) and must submit their mailing information within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. Open only to residents of the U.S. & Canada and cannot be shipped to PO boxes.

postcard_upYour prize (full color 2-sided printing on 14lb matte paper sized 4×6″ with 4 Business Day printing) will be awarded in the form of a custom coupon code, redeemable at U-Printing.com. Prize includes free UPS shipping in the U.S. (Canadian winners will be responsible for any shipping costs incurred.)


I was offered this giveaway as part of the U-Printing Blog Sponsorship program. I am receiving 100 free postcards in addition to the free product for my readers for hosting this giveaways, but the opinion is 100% real and honest.

2009-09-190Babysitters are pretty hard to come by around these parts, but MFJ has volunteered to watch the girls now and then. When we decided we wanted to use E for exploring, her free Sunday afternoon sounded like the perfect opportunity.  Spencer had actually looked into geocaching a few years ago, but we didn’t own a GPS system at the time. Then, during last year’s fall camporee, I learned about letterboxing. We decided to explore the trailway in our hometown, which we’d somehow never done before, in search of hidden treasures.

2009-09-187We used his iPhone and the Geocaching application to start our exploration along the Monon Trail. Since this was our first attempt at treasure hunting, we decided to start simple. Or so we thought. We had a heck of a time finding our first cache, until we realized that we’d already found it and added it to our trash collection. We decided to combine our adventure with a small eco-effort and collect litter along the trail. The dog toy didn’t look at all out of place along a trail where residents frequently walk their dogs. It just looked like something accidentally left behind.

2009-09-188Once we figured it out, we added our name to the log and moved to our next target. This one we found a little more easily. It was a small treasure cache, but the contents were soggy. We left behind one of the treasures we had brought along for just this sort of thing, but didn’t find anything dry enough to take. The next time we head out, I’m adding baggies to our packing list so we can update any caches along the way. It was a fun experience, for sure, even though we have a lot of learning to do. This time around, we packed water, snacks, a few treasures for trading and a pen, thinking we were set.

2009-09-186_595It worked out pretty well for the few hours we were out and about, but next time I’m packing baggies, bandages and a bigger trash bag. All of that is beside the point, though, because we had a really great time together! I’m not usually an outdoor person, but I enjoyed walking hand in hand with my hubby in the fresh air. It was a great daytime date and one we’ll probably repeat. Next time I’d like to go with more puzzle-solving caches, for a fun twist. I think it would also be fun to hide a cache or two. I’ve always had a thing for pirates!

When MFJ and I went to BlogHer over the summer, she had the brilliant idea of putting our information/media kits into folders to be sure they would actually make it back to the offices of the very important people we were meeting, in hopes of gaining sponsorship for Inexpensively. I originally looked at custom glossy folders, but—Holy cha-ching, Batman!—those puppies are expensive. We settled on purple folders with a sticker sporting our logo, address and phone number.

Next, I’m planning to use the folders for Inexpensively workshops (including the Black Friday Prep Course I’m teaching next month!). It should be a good way to provide participants with the resources and materials they need to start saving money. I am excited that U-Printing is giving me 250 free custom stickers to use on my folders. I think they’ll look a bit more professional than the first set I had printed at the office store down the street. With this many stickers, I’ll be able to include my business info on all the folders plus have plenty left to use as return address labels on packages.

Of course, there are many other things you can do with customized stickers. If you want to make address labels, business stickers or holiday gift tags of your own, you can save 10% on your U-Printing purchase now or, even better, win 250 custom stickers here or there—simply leave a comment, telling us what you’ll do with your prize. You can earn additional entries by:

  • Following U-Printing and me on Twitter
  • Blogging about this giveaway
  • Tweeting about this giveaway: Win 250 free custom stickers from @Uprinting and @JustHeather! http://bit.ly/4Ee2b3

For your extra entries to be counted, be sure to leave an additional comment directing me to your entry. Only one additional entry per method (i.e. While multiple tweets are appreciated it, only one will count as a drawing entry.) The contest runs until October 18th at 11:59pm edt. One winner will be notified by email on October 19th (as selected by Random.org) and must submit their mailing information within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. Open only to residents of the U.S. & Canada and cannot be shipped to PO boxes.

sticker_up
Your prize (full color front, blank sticker back printed on 70lb matte paper in sizes: 2” x 3.5”, 2” x 4”, or 3” x 3” with 4 Business Day printing) will be awarded in the form of a custom coupon code, redeemable at U-Printing.com. Prize includes free UPS shipping in the U.S. (Canadian winners will be responsible for any shipping costs incurred.)


I was offered this giveaway as part of the U-Printing Blog Sponsorship program. I am receiving 250 free stickers in addition to the free product for my readers for hosting this giveaways, but the opinion is 100% real and honest.

You may have noticed that little button over there announcing I am now an official Event Chaser. I mean, it’s bright orange so it would be kind of hard to miss. I signed up last week and just got offered NBA tickets for later this month. I’m so excited about it, all I can think is “Squeee!” I’m not sure that’s quite what they were going for with Wordless Wednesday.

I have always been a huge Pacer fan, although without Reggie Miller they’ve lost a little of their shine for me. I still try grab Pacers tickets at least once each season. Usually, I go with the hubby but this time around I’m sharing my Miami Heat tickets with MFJ—it should make for an interesting girls night! (Of course, it’s always interesting when the two of us get together.)

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So, there’s this guy. He sings stupid (some might say funny), geeky songs. And the hubby is kind of obsessed. Because he’s a geek. A few weeks ago, I decided to see if he was playing in our area around the holidays because I thought concert tickets would make a great Christmas gift. Yes, I know Christmas is still months away but it’s what I do. When I found out that he was playing (kinda sorta) near here in October and that tickets were only $20, I couldn’t really keep the information to myself.

chicagoI thought he might buy a ticket and take a quick road trip with a buddy. Except, apparently, none of his friends cared about the concert either. He was all set to buy a ticket and hit the show by himself (yeah, I married a dork), but I really hated the idea of him making a 3 or 4 hour (which usually ends up being 5 or 6 with traffic) drive on his own. So I made the ultimate sacrifice. I volunteered to go with him to the concert. You see, I’ve had the chance to see a favorite of mine in concert twice in the last year so it’s really only fair.

This is my geek.

This is my geek.

I suggested we spend the night and make a bit of a weekend out of it. The idea even occurred to find a way to turn it into an alphabet date, to take some of the sting out of the price tag (those are budgeted!). My only caveat was he would need to find the sitter. So, he immediately bought concert tickets and then promptly did not find a sitter. My sister finally volunteered to come spend the night with our girls and we were set! The only thing left to do was figure out how it fit into alphabetical order. C was already taken!

We had finally decided on an uber-dorky “G = geeky guitarist” when the trip got infinitely more interesting (for me, anyway). I discovered a very dear, longtime internet friend would be in town at the same time! Arrangements were made to meet Kathryn and her husband for dinner on Saturday before the concert. Meeting internet friends in real life? Yeah, G is for Geek. To top it off, our dinner would be at Giordano’s (a huge personal favorite, even if I do have to swallow a ton of pills just to eat it), rounding out the letter G theme quite nicely.

candy-shopWe were in Chicago less than 24 hours so it was quite a whirlwind. I love Chicago, and I was a bit disappointed not to have more time, but the destination wasn’t really the point of the trip. Alphabet Dating is a journey—it’s all about being in love. I fell in love with the windmill farm (all over again) on the way there, and my new favorite candy shop on the way back. And in between, I fell in love with my hubby a little more too. (Also? Just a tiny bit with Storm, but the hubby’s okay with that.)

Now that you know what all goes into planning an Alphabet Date, I’m sure you can’t wait to hear all about it. First, though, I have to unpack. Because it takes an awful lot of stuff to go away for just one night! (Even when you forget half of what you needed.) I really do want to tell you all about it (okay, not all)—especially the concert that I didn’t really want to go to because it was a-freaking-mazing! And, it’s okay that I preferred the opening act, right? (Don’t let me forget to tell you all about how I told one of the duo that he was going on my list.)

2007-10-167Growing up, we went Trick or Treating year after year, but never to strangers or neighbors. My parents shuttled us around town to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles and family friends. Halloween was not just for candy. We had the chance to visit too! Of course, it had to be a scheduled affair to be sure the family we wanted to visit wasn’t trying to visit us at the same time—but I didn’t realize that as a child. The process is a lot more difficult now that I am a mother since we don’t live in the same town as our families. Yet, we continued the tradition.

We drove all over one night to visit the hubby’s family. Then, traveled to my parents to Trick or Treat in my hometown. As the years went on, and we added children to our collection, I became more and more disenchanted with the process. It was no longer a fun night of visiting family. It was a stressful weekend of coordinating schedules and trying to squeeze in time with people we don’t get to see often. Not to mention multiple food allergies eliminating most of the candy options anyway.

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Then, the party planner in me stumbled on a new idea. Why don’t we get them to come to us?! Two years ago, with an out of town wedding over the weekend preventing Trick or Treating, we hosted our first Halloween Open House. We invited friends & family to visit our girls in costume instead. It allowed us to spend more time with the family who attends, instead of mere minutes as we blow out the door for our next stop.

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And, naturally, the girls don’t miss out on the treats—I’ll take any excuse to make fun, party food! With Halloween on a Saturday this year, I’m looking forward to more of an actual party. We’ll let the girls invite their friends as well as our families for an afternoon event, leaving plenty of time for those who prefer the traditional version of Trick or Treating. I’ll get another chance to make Frankenstein pudding cups, spider cracker sandwiches and strawberry ghosts.

Can a bag full of candy they probably can’t eat even compare to a graveyard cake?


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This post is part of Show and Tell Tuesday at Mom’s Marbles. Join us every Tuesday for a new topic and link up with smart moms sharing even more great ideas! (Also, don’t forget to stop by on Monday when I contribute Money Saving Mondays—ideas for living your life Inexpensively.)