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Lets Go To The EX!

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I am re-posting a past blog for a few reasons.  First reason, I have bought my own little piece of cyber-space and am in the middle of trying to move my blog to the new site.  Reason two, @letsgototheex tweeted an invite for people to send pictures taken during recent visits (last two years) to the CNE.  Some of the pics may be used for promotion of the CNE so should be in high resolution.  Do you have an amazing pic that you think they would be interested in?  Visit the link, it opens up to the CNE Facebook page for more details on submissions. 

Tweet from April 8, 2011

LetsGoToTheEX CNE We’re looking for EXcellent CNE Photos. Win prizes! Click here for info: http://on.fb.me/dImSyF

 

Original post date: March 9, 2011

Canadian National Exhibition

The EXHIBITION Place landmark is located in Toronto, Ontario.  Last summer I was pleased to be chosen as one of ten official bloggers for the CNE 2010 season.  I got to visit the grounds at will over 18 glorious days of shopping, visiting exhibits, attending concerts, and eating specialty foods from around the world.     

*Official Winning Entry for ‘ Blog for the EX ‘*

Adventures in Parenthood Part 2

 I’ve been making this same pilgrimage annually for nearly twenty years and had it down to a fine art…until it was time to bring my ten month old daughter along for the ride.  Yes, I know I’m not the first person to travel alone with a baby. And I certainly am not the first mom who wanted to pull their hair out while their child screams during most of a three hour flight.  It is bad enough to sit in a cramped seat, with two strangers squeezed into the seats on either side of you.  Now these strangers are peeved at the ear blasting screams from an over-tired, teething, Baby that wants to be anywhere else but in this tin can with wings and wheels.  As I met the stares of some of my fellow passengers, I felt guilty and a little embarrassed…until I remembered that I used to be the stranger squeezed into the tight space next to a mom traveling alone with a squalling infant. How life turns full-circle.  I have visions of all the patience and empathy I will have for my fellow traveling parents.  And finally my tired baby closes her eyes and drifts toward sleep.  Her cries are silenced by drowsiness.  Then my reverie is jolted into reality as a faint aroma of #2 fills the air.    

 By superstar1975

a.k.a. Amy Dell, author of weekly blog “Grace and Me”

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When I Learn How to Fly You’ll Be the First to Know.

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*Disclaimer* No innocent customer service employees were harmed in the production of this blog.  Only the lazy ones, no just kidding.  I have had a few retail and customer service jobs, so am well aware of how crummy they are treated at times.  I try really hard to be patient and kind with the front line staff.  They often take the brunt of customer complaints and general lack of patience.  Often, when mistakes are made by co-workers, it effects everyone on the team/department.  This retail experience was one of those examples…

I have been on a search for new furniture, specifically a dining room table.  This search has dragged over years, mostly because of a tight budget and the fact that most of our funds are now drained by the need for various baby gear.  I am even willing to get second hand furniture, but it has to fit in our tiny space and be in better condition than what we have.  I had my eye on a new 5 piece table set in my local department store.  Recently the price dropped for a two day sale, from $399.99 to $199.99!  Oh I wanted that table! 

 On sale day I walked over to the store and found that they still had one left, but the box was perched on a tall shelf.  At least 7 feet high.  That was a strange place to put a box that, according to details printed on the side, weighed 50 KG .  I had two issues; I needed to measure the box to see if it would fit in my hubby’s car.  Second problem; there was a man already standing under the shelf, staring up at the same box I was eyeing.  I didn’t know how long this man had been waiting.  I knew better than to try and look for an employee to help me with measuring.  I had worked in this store and knew that they were under-staffed in early morning hours.  I marched off to the hardware section to find a measuring tape to borrow, then grabbed a ladder to help with the reach.  Once again I thought; ‘Why would they put this box up here?  Anything over 70 lbs is supposed to be on floor level’.  I set myself up in front of the shelf, climbed up, and measured as best as I could as it was still out of reach. 

The Waiting Man was now sitting on a stool and reading a paper, looking out the corner of his eye once in a while.  Just as I was finishing my calculations, a store employee, I’ll call Joe came down the aisle.  Joe didn’t seem bothered at all by my borrowed items from the hardware department.  I guess he is used to customers taking things into their own hands.  I heard him tell the Waiting Man that he was unable to find the lift that would get the box down from the shelf.  The Waiting Man asked if he could buy the table set and come back when it could be rescued from its perch.  Joe said he was sorry but they couldn’t hold Door Crasher items.  Waiting Man was done being patient; “When I learn how to fly you’ll be the first to know, but I have been waiting here since the store opened an hour ago for you to get this box down!”  Joe apologized and wondered out-loud if a fellow employee was pulling a April Fool’s prank, by putting the box up that high in the first place.  The humor was lost on Waiting Man

I couldn’t stick around to see the resolution for this sit-com.  I had to start work soon, and I had recieved a text from my hubby.  It wasn’t the news I was hoping for…the box wouldn’t fit in our trunk.  As I was unpacking boxes at the home decor store I work at, I had a light bulb moment.  When break time came, I went back to the Department Store.  The ladder was still there, no surprise to me.  I found something to poke the box and climbed up.  *POKE POKE* Haha, the box moved.  It was EMPTY!  Which means it was the DEMO box.  The poor schmo that had been stuck putting that DEMO together, couldn’t be bothered to mark DEMO on the box before putting it out of reach.  April Fool’s indeed.  I wondered what the Waiting Man would have to say about that bit of news.

You Had Me At Free

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I am cheap by nature, but that doesn’t mean I’m not generous.  I am generous with my time and affections, for sure.  Money? Not so much, teehee.  I clip coupons every week, much to my husbands annoyance.  I have stopped telling him how much I spend in a shopping trip.  At the beginning of the month I find out my budget and instead come home reporting how much I saved.  Coupons and flyers do take over our tiny kitchen sometimes, but I am learning how to keep them more organized.   

First place to start? Get a purse-sized organizer with accordian folds.  I got mine at my favourite dollar store, and it has ten pockets to organize my coupons.  I sort them into categories, and put the closest expiry dates in the front of the pile.  My every week shopping list gets tucked into the front.  This list has items I need every week because I can’t rely on my memory anymore.

Coupons can offer a way to try something new without wasting too much money.  Two weeks ago I got a FREE MAIL-IN REBATE for the new Lysol No-Touch Hand Soap Pump.  I bought the pump for $9.99, filled in the rebate and mailed it with my original receipt.  In a few weeks I should get a cheque in the mail.  I make sure to only do this with brands I trust. 

I plan my meals and purchases for the next week, based on the new flyers I get on Thursday evenings.  This is when the second list gets made, list your needed items by store and include the prices advertised.  This saves you from reading through all the flyers over over and over again.  I decide who has the best deals then bring ALL my flyers to the store that will price match.  There are people that still don’t know about price matching.  It is practised in many grocery stores, but in some stores it can also be applied to appliances, electronics, health & beauty, pet food, and baby items.  Sometimes it is only a matter of saving a few cents, but other times it means getting a $50 video game for $20.

Patience is important when it comes to getting good deals.  I will wait for the perfect sale and still hang on to every receipt.  Just in case the item goes on sale even more in the next two weeks, I will wait in line to get a price adjustment.  Some stores will give you money back up to a month after original purchase (Future Shop, I love you for this reason).

When I find a really good deal, will ask friends for the coupons in their newspaper too.

Visit websites of  the companies that make or promote your favourite things.  There are also free coupon websites that will let you browse through the brands that have offered deals.  Companies want your business.  They will give out free samples, coupons, and hold great contests to get your interest.  I just got 30% off my OLD NAVY purchase and saved more than $30 including the markdowns on the clearance items.  I got a long sleeved T-shirt for $1.23!!!  My total bill was $36 (for two T-shirts and a pair of yoga pants for me, and spring outfit including; 6 pairs of socks and a pair of sandals for baby girl).

Can you tell that I love a bargain?  I could go on and on about how much I love free stuff.  I am happy to do a little bit of work every week, to clip coupons, search the web, or pour over flyers to find the best deals.  It means that we get to live well, and within our budget, so we may have enough money to treat ourselves to a dinner out.  In the really tight budget months it means we don’t have to use credit cards just to eat and put diapers on the baby.  With a little time and planning, a good deal could mean stretching your budget a long way.  For me it means sneaking in a cute shirt, or a new lipgloss.  Especially when I shop at a department store that has everything under one roof.  Happy Savings!

*stock photos courtesy of dreamstime.com

My Not-So-Secret Addiction

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Mabel's Labels Hoard

It all started with an order of Tag Mates and Skinny-Minis, but has quickly grown into something that can no longer be contained in my Buzzmama Welcome Kit box.  But I’m getting ahead of the story, let me rewind a bit…

Last year I was contemplating putting my daughter into childcare for my return to the full-time work force.  Being a preschool teacher for many years, I knew that personal items can go missing on a daily basis.  It was frustrating enough for us teachers, looking at ten pairs of Spiderman shoes in a size 7, and trying to figure out which child they belonged to.  Now I am a parent and really get the full spectrum of the cost of raising a child.  Of course you start out a school year with labeled clothing, shoes, and bottles, but labels made of masking tape and markers don’t last long.  So I had remembered in my adventures as a teacher, that Mabel’s Labels, made our lives a lot easier.  When I saw a parent arrive with their children’s items in those colourful, custom labels, I could breathe a sigh of relief.  In fact they could only make life easier if they changed diapers and wiped runny noses too.

So back to the beginning…I searched Mabel’s Labels on google, found them very easily, and within moments had placed an order for Skinny-Minis (custom sticky labels that are dishwasher safe) and Tag Mates (custom sticky labels for clothing that survive the washing machine).  I knew the Skinny-Minis would be small enough to put on my daughter’s soothers and the Tag Mates would fit even the smallest tag on her favourite sleep stuffie.  My order came in the mail, FREE of Shipping charges, later that same week.  I went on the site again and shopped around.  I soon found a link for something called the Buzzmama Program.  This peaked my interest.  So I applied and was chosen into this volunteer, word-of-mouth ‘club’ to receive perks for spreading the love of Mabel’s Labels

As you can see in the picture, I have amassed a small mountain of quality items from this Canadian company.  There are other items missing from the shot because they are in my purse or in use already.  Return Address Labels, Mama Cards, Shopping List pads are never out of reach.  The Buzzmama reusable canvas bag is folded and kept in my purse, which comes in handy very often.  I can’t seem to visit any friend without talking about it, and even have strangers stop and ask where I get those cute labels.  I had lost my daughters sippy cup in Zellers one day and didn’t know until my last name was announced over the store intercom…My husband thinks I have gone Mabel’s crazy, which reminds me.  I need to go check the mailbox before he gets home, I’ve got a Neat Freak Combo on the way…

Stranger Danger

For someone who never really had the nerve to speak up about anything for most of my life, things have really changed in the last year.  It is easier to talk to strangers than it is to people I have known for a long time.  I find myself talking to strangers more and more everyday.  Not just behind the privacy of my computer aliases, but in line ups at stores, coffee shops, and random places that my wander lust brings me. It used to be that I would stand stoic in line, waiting for my turn to be next, sometimes grumbling under my breath at the hold-ups.  I used to be able to stealthfully slip into stores and get my purchases home with little attention being drawn to me at all.  Now, I feel like I need to have a little more patience and to put on a happy face during shopping trips. It’s not that I am in any less of a hurry now, or have less on my mind.  I feel like everyone is watching the crazy lady with the cute kid to see what she will do next.  Paranoid?  

The biggest change in the last year and a bit?  For those that don’t know me, I am usually wrestling with an 18 month old while loading and unloading a cart, loading bags, handing over coupons, and paying the cashier.  And then if the totals come up wrong, hold on for another endless wait for correction, or worse yet, be sent to another line up @ the service desk to get your OWN money back.  Phew…excuse the mid-blog rant.  The physics of shopping have changed, so I have had to change too.  It is almost impossible to travel unseen or unheard in public places when you have a baby.  And the odds seem stacked against you for even the simplist of outings: 

1)A stroller or cart loaded to capacity, almost impossible to turn a corner without being Hercules. 

2)The Toddler screaming for the snacks on the shelves or in the hands of other people nearby.

3) The mommy brain that won’t let you remember what was on the list you left on the kitchen counter.

4) Getting on or off a bus with a fully loaded stroller and traversing 3 foot high snowbanks so carefully carved by the plows, and hard packed by the cold.

5) I forgot what I wanted to write for this one…

That being said, I can choose to let the frustrations come out and bombard the people who happen to share my personal space.  Or I can try to put a humourous spin on the situation.  The talking to strangers factor can sometimes pay off.  And generally I find that a smiling baby brings out the best in people, and somehow gives them the desire to be friendly in a situation that could be stressful or irritating.  Yes, I know there are people who claim to hate children, I have met many over the years.  I’m not addressing them today.  A smiling baby also distracts people when you cut in front of them in line.  Talking to strangers has become a newly learned social skill for me.  Apparently it’s not too late to teach this old cat some new tricks. Now if only I could remember what my closing point was supposed to be.