Hi all! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog because I started a new one! A few months ago, I redesigned my photography website and it now includes a blog. My website and blog now has a strong focus on food, family, and event photography. I’ve been channeling most of my energy and spare time into learning, developing my site, and working with new, wonderful clients.
Thank you so much to those of you who read my posts on this blog! Please join me over at my new “home”!

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This morning I received an email from Borders advertising a going-out-of-business sale. Everything is marked down, up to 40% off. My trip to Mexico in April sparked an interest in learning Spanish again, so I’ve contemplated purchasing levels 1 and 2 of Rosetta Stone. 98 degrees outside, and it feels like 107… Perfect day to check out the liquidation sale at Borders in Downtown Crossing on my lunch break!

Not surprisingly, the store was completely mobbed and the shelfs are beginning to look a little bare. But where’s the 40% off sale? I saw signs for 10-30% off… Naturally, the 10% discount applied to most popular items, like fiction and travel. Business books are 30% off. Where’s the 40%?! The Rosetta Stone program I’ve been eyeing? Only 10%. Borders could have earned a good chunk of change from me today because Rosetta Stone is rarely discounted. But 10% off $249 is not a good deal.

And watching customers run around, grabbing books they could find cheaper elsewhere, was pathetic. What is it about liquidation sales that make consumers flood stores? Is it a nostalgia factor of never being able to shop that particular store or store location again? Or do people really think they’re getting a good deal? Wait a few weeks when items are marked down further, and maybe you will. But the inventory will likely be gone. Believe me, there were no deals to be had and you can most certainly support a wonderful, local bookseller, or an amazing used bookstore, or your library for that great summer read.

After reading a post on Organic Deals‘s blog about Kashi Organic Cereal as low as $1.04 at Target, I was intrigued. There’s a coupon on Target’s website that’s good for $2/4 Kashi products. Pair that up with a $2/1 Kashi Recyclebank Printable (125 points), and there’s a pretty steep discount available.

The blog post mentioned Target selling organic Kashi cereal for $3.54 per box. Not so at my local Target – $4.09 for the boxes of organic Autumn Wheat and Cinnamon Harvest, and they were not on sale. So getting them for $1.04 was impossible. However, I like Kashi’s Heart to Heart Honey Toasted Oat Cereal, and discovered there’s an interesting pricing scheme on two different sized boxes. The 12.4 ounce box is priced at $3.79. The “family size” 21.5 ounce box? $2.48, regular price. More for less? Yes, please! I double checked the coupons for package size restrictions (none), tossed four of the family size boxes in my cart, and paid $1.98 for each one.

Thanks for the tip, Organic Deals!

Target

Surprise Price at Target

 

Beaches in Marshfield, MA

Monday's trip to Rexhame Beach in Marshfield

Perfect summer weather lead to a solid summer weekend – lots of time outside, plenty of fried seafood, and fun discoveries. An impromptu (and incredibly delicious – try the chocolate molten cake) dinner with my boyfriend at Sel De La Terre lead to stumbling upon a movie shoot for Adam Sandler’s “I Hate You Dad” outside of the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. Saturday was a perfect day to fit in a training ride for Rodman Ride For Kids, and Sunday was yet another incredible summer day to spend outside on the north shore of Boston.

If you enjoy antiques, vintage furniture, or anything second-hand, you need to check out Todd Farm in Rowley, MA. It’s worth getting up at dawn and wandering through the acres of tables searching for whatever suits your fancy. Furniture, tools, records, bikes, knick-nacks…It’s an interior decorator’s dream. You name it, you can probably find it somewhere at Todd Farm. We got there around 9:30 in the morning, which was actually a little too late in the day. Some tables were picked over, and a few vendors were already packing up for the day. A sunrise visit will be made at some point!

From there, we drove to Essex and discovered The White Elephant Shop – both the “outlet” and the main store. My boyfriend found two garden weeding tools for a buck apiece, which was apparently a great deal. His brother recently paid over $20 for the same thing. (On the other hand, I have very little gardening knowledge and wouldn’t have known what the heck the tool was! It looks like this.)

The main location of The White Elephant Shop is a treasure trove if you have a little money to spend. A beautiful red Victorian house is filled floor to ceiling with antiques and oddities.

The White Elephant Shop

You can find everything from beautiful hurricane lanterns and old books to a plaster bust of Elvis. It’s one of those fantastic shops where you have to look carefully around you because you might miss something incredibly special. The White Elephant Shop is one of many antique shops in Essex – route 133 is lined with many different stores.

Seafood in Essex, MA

While you’re there, stop at Woodman’s for some lobster or fried seafood. If you go on the weekend, the line will look incredibly long, but it moves very quickly. And the staff has a free lemonade stand set up at the end of the line, which was perfect on a hot day! Oh, and there’s ice cream. And a tent with picnic tables by the salt-water marsh. That scene pretty much screams SUMMER!

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was at another great place called Howard’s Flying Dragon in Essex. Just like The White Elephant Shop, this store is filled from floor to ceiling with second-hand items. If I had a summer home to decorate, I would definitely shop here for rustic beach signs and rowing paddles! I hope you have an opportunity to travel to Essex this summer. There’s certainly something interesting for everyone.

Antique car

Beach House Interior Design

Antiques, Boxing

What a perfect summer day! Low 80’s, a gentle breeze, and the humidity disappeared. I intended to go for a short spin around the pond, but the weather energized me – a short spin turned into ten miles. I could have easily spent the rest of the day on the trails!

In this episode of “Why Didn’t I Think Of That?!”, check out this article on Fast Company’s site about Dogfish Head‘s recent marketing project.

I mean, really? It’s not just the photographic subject of gluten-free strawberry and honey deliciousness – this photography technique beings a whole new dimension to online marketing. I immediately felt like I was part of the brewing process, and therefore connected with the product being marketed to me. Now, I enjoy touring breweries and learning about how things are made. But finding middle ground between still photography and a full-fledged video production is very effective and will appeal to a variety of attention spans. It took less than a minute to look through the seven animated images, connect with the product, and become interested in trying it. SOLD!

As someone who works in a video production field, plays around a lot with photography, and interested in marketing, I want to learn how to do this! It just looks like a fun project! (And it will become more common as social networks and online marketing techniques evolve.) Friends who cook beware – I’m coming your way with a camera in hand! (Or maybe Dogfish Head will someday let me photograph their team brewing Punkin Ale, which is one of my favorites. Hmmm…)

Disconnecting from the world is good for your soul…

I was first exposed to Big Sisters of Greater Boston by a friend who has been a mentor for a few years. I really admire her commitment and the bond she shares with her Little Sister. During my friend’s 4th of July cookout last year, I met her Little Sister’s 14-year-old sister, “M”. We got along really well – we spent the day swimming, playing games, and talking about her teenage world. So where was her Big Sister? Turns out “M” was on a waiting list to be matched.

Over the following weeks, I gave it some thought… Although I wasn’t enrolled in a Big Sister program as a teen, I had a wonderful mentor who happened to fall into my life. (Or maybe I fell into hers…) She made such a significant, positive impact. She listened to me vent about my teenage frustrations, helped me through some particularly scary situations, taught me about Internet safety, and even set me up on a blind date with a co-worker’s son so I could attend my junior prom. And she continued to help me through college, and wasn’t because I pursued the same career path! Although we don’t talk often now, I’ll always remember what she did for me.

I picked up the phone, called Big Sisters of Greater Boston, and made one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. “M” and I were matched as Big/Little Sisters last November, and been having a blast since. We’ve gone hiking, watched movies, baked, and took a day trip to Rockport… She did well in school this year, decided to join student council, and got accepted into a prestigious local children’s chorus – I’m pretty proud of her.

I have to share the Facebook message “M” sent when she found out about the match last November: “Hey , Guess what ? I heard the BIGGEST news in the whole wide world . . . Were gunna become Sisters! Man, I am the happiest person on earth !”

On the trail with my sweet ride

So this year, on September 24th, I will bike 50 miles with the Big Sisters team in the Rodman Ride for Kids. All money raised will help this wonderful organization support matches like “M” and I, and help recruit more volunteers for the kids still on their waiting list. I’m really excited about this ride, but I am going to need your help. My goal is to raise $1,000 for the Big Sisters team. While everyone is in different financial situations, I hope to get 100% participation. Any amount will be greatly appreciated. Please follow this link to my fundraising page. Thanks for your support!

Big Sisters of Greater Boston has a number of ways you can volunteer – be a Big for a Day, volunteer at a school, or become a Community Based Mentor. There are currently over 250 young women waiting to be matched.

After a particularly long and busy day at work, I found myself in a rare mood – all I wanted to do was watch mindless shows on TV. Something I didn’t have to concentrate on, something that wasn’t too loud or obnoxious… I flopped down on my couch with a bowl of pasta and flipped through the OnDemand channels. TLC’s “What Not To Wear” is my typical “go-to” show when I’m in this kind of mood. But a friend posted a comment on her Facebook page about “Extreme Couponing“, which caught my attention.

Whoa.

My first thoughts ping ponged between sheer amazement and criticism. These women got 50 bottles of yellow mustard for free?! Why the heck would anyone need 50 bottles of yellow mustard?! How many bags of chips do they have in their basement?! How wasteful when there are people in this country starving, or who just lost their homes in natural disasters. Yet it’s amazing to see how much money these women save. (There was mention of one woman donating half of her stockpile to her local food pantry. I really hope others do as well… On a side note, as I was writing a draft of this, MSNBC had a banner on-screen saying, “MSNBC poll: 48% of Americans expect the next great depression within a year”. That is a decent force of motivation.)

Saving money with coupons, photo credit Alicia Carlson

I tried to clip coupons in college and it never worked out too well. They’d expire, or it would always be a deal like, “buy 2, save 50 cents” or something like that. Or the coupons being offered were for products I never used and had no interest in trying. But I remember my mom using them at the market when I was a kid, and my grandmother would always clip extras and give them to my mom in a fat, white envelope. But I graduated college in 2002… My grandmother is sadly no longer with us… And it’s now 2011 – a slightly higher tech time than prior to 2002.

A light bulb went on, and I had what I like to call a huge “DUH” moment.

I made a list of all the products I use on a regular basis that I could probably save money on and started searching manufacturer’s websites. Science Diet cat food, Aveeno products, Dove soap, Neutregena products, makeup, paper towels, Kashi cereal, cleaning supplies…the list goes on and on. And it’s a known fact that I can never make it out of Target without spending at least $50 on these things.

I live in a one bedroom apartment that lacks closet and storage space. So my quest to save a few bucks will absolutely not result in another episode of “Extreme Couponing”. My boyfriend and I don’t live together, and I don’t have children, so I don’t need an endless supply of “stuff” on hand. So what’s a girl like myself to do?

Save as much money as I can!

I never find too many useful coupons in the Sunday paper or on websites like Coupons.com. Occasionally I will, and it’s certainly worth it, but I’m not going to order extra Sunday papers just for coupons. So I began a little web surfing… Did you know Target has a coupon section on their website? How about Whole Foods? Visit Science Diet’s website, and there’s a rebate for a small bag of cat food. (There’s one for dogs too!) Did you know you can make money off of recycling? Take a minute to answer a few questions, and you can earn coupons through RecycleBank partners. Take your CVS card into the store, scan it at a coupon printer, and see what gets printed. You can also register your rewards card on their website and find coupons there.

It obviously takes time to visit websites, print out coupons, and organize them. So before going totally overboard, I decided to put my efforts to the test with the help of my “little sis” – a trip to Petsmart and Target. (Note to Big Sister/Brother mentors – weekend trips to shelters and pet stores are really fun!)

Since it was a smaller errand, let’s break down the Petsmart trip. My cat was fed Science Diet food at the Boston Animal Rescue League. So even though it costs more than other brands, I decided to stick with that when I adopted him. A 7 pound bag fits perfectly under my sink, so that’s what I usually grab off the store shelf. It costs about $25.50. During my internet search for Science Diet products, I found a $3.00 coupon. (Whoo-hoo!) It just so happened that the food was on sale.

But I noticed the larger, 15.5 pound bag. It usually costs $32.99, and was on sale for $29.99. The bag also had a sticker saying there were $80 worth of coupons inside. (Bonus!) Math lesson time! $29.99 – $ 3.00 = $26.99. So that’s like buy 1, get 1 free, plus a sample of the other size bag! I’ve heard that more money can be saved by using multiple coupons on smaller packages, but I was only allowed to print one coupon from the Science Diet website. For a newbie to this whole thing, I’m okay with that. (And yes, when I got the coupons inside the bag, I went back to the store and bought another bag before the store sale ended.)

But I did not make a newbie mistake – I didn’t go spend the extra money in my wallet, nor did I keep it in my checking account. When I returned home, I transferred the small amount I saved to a savings account I hardly ever dip into.

I’ve been at this for a few weeks now and have probably transferred a little under $100 into my savings account. If I can do that after a few weeks, how much money can I save by this time next year? I’m looking forward to finding out.

My dear friend Sarah is a marathon runner who had a brain tumor removed in December. Sarah’s shown such incredible strength throughout her ordeal, and she’s sharing her story about her road to recovery. Check out her blog and follow her journey as she trains for her next marathon!