Friday, December 31, 2010

Year End Savings

In order to contribute to our household finances I began couponing August of 2010.  My hope was to make a significant dent in saving dollars so that I could delay entering into the workforce as long as possible.  I jotted down my savings when I thought about it and for the five months that I studied the art of couponing and clipped and wisely shopped, I saved over $1,000.00.  This was for a family of two and 4-6 pets.

Of late, I've been reading about some coupon fanatics that will present a coupon for anything that they can get for dirt cheap no matter if the product is needed or not.  When I began, I decided that I would coupon for only items that I needed, otherwise it turns into A JOB, which is something I'm trying to avoid!

It's been a fun year and I'm ready to roll into 2011 full steam ahead, clipping and saving when I can but not sucking fun out of my life by being too uptight about saving a nickle --- I'll still drink my Mudhouse Mocha and enjoy their divine Pumpkin Bars when I get the chance and go to lunch with my gal pals.  Life is too short to not celebrate life w/good friends, family, pets, and my man.

To end the year, this is my last 2010 posting of my 12/31/10 shopping trip.

 SPENT $17.50

This week many coupons expire TODAY, 12/31/10 so I headed out to grab a few deals and use those coupons.  I had a $3.00 birthday coupon from CVS so picked up 25 mailing envelopes for $1.50 for my Etsy Vintage Shop mailing.  I paid 1.50 for a box of healthy Blue Dog Bakery biscuits at Teeter where my coupon doubled for $1.50 off and it was on sale 2 for 1.  I had a coupon at PetSmart for a free can of IAMS cat food and when you have picky eaters, it's worth stopping to try a free can.  Target has 75% off Christmas items and my husband is a marshmallow addict so he got 4 bags at .29 each for his HAPPY NEW YEAR present.  I had a coupon for .40 off of Archway Cookies and they were 75% off so I paid .27.  I popped into Giant and picked up some NEW YEARs Tofutti Ice Cream for FREE because I had a coupon.  It felt good paying PetSmart a nickel and Giant ten cents --- for sales tax!  
Spent $17.50 and Saved $22.00
I purchased 15 products, presented 7 coupons.

So, what would I have gotten for $17.50 back in July of 2010, during my pre-couponing days?  I probably  would have gone to PetSmart for the cat litter and it would have cost me $17.00.  NOTE:  At Target it was on sale for $11.00 and I had and $2.00 off coupon --- it really all adds up! 

$17.00 (Cesar the cat not included)



Read about more of my deals.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Charitable Arms Open

It's very obvious when you look at the latest newspaper ads that retailers are now trying to persuade you into buying storage bins to pack away all those gifts you gathered this holiday season.  I've never seen so many discounted plastic containers in a variety of colors and designs in all my life. 

My motto is to not accumulate MORE stuff but to swap out the new for the old so a few good charities come to mind that will take lightly abused goods.

If you have general thrift store type items, like clothes, kitchenware, and just about anything but construction type items, there are several SPCA Thrift stores that would love your unwanted items.  There are SPCA Thrift Stores in Charlottesville, Christiansburg, and Nelson County.  The largest being the Charlottesville SPCA Rummage Store on Preston, the drop off is around the back of Shenandoah Joe's Bean Roaster.  This is a great way to direct needed funds toward helping animals in your community.  Please check your local Thrift Store for specific drop off hours as this can be different than shopping hours.

May be you took on a home renovation project and have construction type items to donate.  The Habitat Store will take items such as doors, sinks, cabinets, tools, faucets, light fixtures, and even mailboxes, nails, and door knobs.  There are Habitat Stores in Charlottesville, Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Pulaski.  You may want to contact the store before you haul something large or heavy just in case they won't take it for some reason or another.  I had some plastic 70's bi fold doors and the Charlottesville Habitat Store could not take them because they had so many already they didn't have the space to take any more.  But in general, they take most construction related items.  While you are there, you can check out their merchandise and deals!

Declutter and be generous while writing off that donation to boot.

Do you have a favorite charity that you donate items to, leave a comment and share it with others!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Poo Happens

Our septic next to the house w/the lid up.
To end our joyous holiday fun, our septic decided to CLOG.  I've always been on town water and have never quite understood the workings of a septic system and when we purchased our house we failed to ask exactly where it was located! 

My father-in-law who has built zillions of houses told me to take a metal rod and hammer and try to hit the concrete "block" located about 1' below ground level.  So I was banging away with a hammer in the backyard trying to find where the mysterious "septic tank" was located.  Well, the first thing you need to know is there is a septic "field" and a septic "tank".  The field will be way off somewhere from your home, the tank will be about 15' from your house.  I was hammering all over in the field way behind our house which was totally in the wrong location. 

We tried plunging the line and then snaking - neither came back with a clog - which means, it's time to call the experts in to uncover the SEPTIC TANK and check it out.  Cavalier Septic drove up carting a backhoe - I nearly fainted.  I envisioned that half of the backyard would be dug up.  But also in the back of my mind was an aha moment --- I could use that dug up area as a NEW FLOWER BED. 

They found the tanks location in two wacks of their metal rod and promptly uncovered the tank.  All the companies seemed to charge a similar fee which on the surface seems outrageous but when you consider there are three men and all that equipment and a job that hopefully won't need to be done for another 5 - 10 years, it's reasonable... and are YOU going to go down in that hole and manually scoop out that gunk and dispose of it --- NO WAY.  Plumbing work is up there on the top of the jobs that you would prefer not to think about.

Getting to the root of the problem.
It was an easy out to blame "holiday visitors" for clogging up the septic line -- ha ha -- but actually it was a TREE ROOT!  Darn those roots.  In our prior home which was on town water, we had to replace the entire run of the old clay pipe from the house to the street because of tree roots.  It's pretty much inevitable.  The largest nearby tree to the septic tank on Forsythia Hill is not that close but according to the septic company, it's close enough to cause an issue.  Oaks and maples love to spread their roots way beyond the "drip line". 

The guys discussing serious business.
Even though our septic was not full, we decided to let the pumping begin, the last thing we wanted to do is dig up the yard again any time soon.  I know this might be not the most enjoyable post, but poo happens and there is not a darn thing you can do about it!  At least you know a little more about how it all goes down.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Laughs

Holiday Family and Friends visiting Christmas Day on Forsythia Hill

My family loves to color their hair and look COOL for the holiday festivities.  Mama w/her bling, husband with his "everything is better when wearing pink", and Cindy the grinning GUEST that got us all into this mess!

Not pictured, Dad, Gus, Sylvie, Cesar, and Simba (they all knew better than to get in front of a camera at my house).

Day 2 of  sugar attack.  Got to go and get back to it -- Lindt Lemon Meringue Chocolate Candy is calling my name.

Just a little dusting on Christmas Day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tour de C'ville

For years my dear friend Judy and I used to drive around Pulaski, Virginia and gawk at the holiday lights, naming it our annual "Tour de PU".

This falls into the CRAZY category.
I really, really, really miss Judy and the de PU so I decided to venture out and take a few festive photos a few streets down from our house. 
This is in honor of Judy who we'll miss seeing this Christmas.


-Rebecca, Anthony, Gus, Cesar, Simba, and Sylvie

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chicken Sitting

My neighbors went on a family ski trip and fortunately I was asked to check on their chickens while they were away.  These are "pet" chickens, living with a family of three young primary caretakers.  They built a nice safe coop for the chickens.  They roam the yard and are often picked up and loved.  These are really healthy, "spoiled" chickens that are layers, they are not for "dinner". 

They have a flock of six chickens, three white and three brown feathered... which means you get a combo of brown and white eggs.  During this time of year you get one egg per chicken, laying all their eggs typically before noon.

The first day Anthony and our doggie Simba joined me to check in on the chickens.  I never knew chickens were so eager to EAT.  My neighbors eldest child gives them cooked oatmeal each morning.  I decided to bring down a bowl for them.  It was devoured in about ten seconds!  Thank goodness I was thinking "possible dog fight behavior" and brought separate bowls.  The chickens REALLY like oatmeal.  There was a lot of commotion, cackling, beak slapping on the container, and wing puffing.  The next day Simba and I brought down triple the amount and bigger bowls.  They really enjoyed their reward for laying six lovely eggs. 
You can't force a chicken to lay - we only got five eggs 1 day.
When you buy "standard - cheap" eggs at the grocery, chickens are raised in a way that is NOT comparable to the Norman Rockwell farm imagery of our youth.  Every time I would drive down to Georgia, crossing the state of South Carolina, I would run into a chicken truck.  That for me was enough to make me at a minimum seek out cage free eggs.  That's at least a step in the right direction.  If you can find a local farmer offering free range chicken eggs and you can SEE the treatment, that of course if the best source for cruelty free eggs.

You as a consumer CAN make a difference.  Chickens are COOL.  I'm so glad my neighbor SHARES their bounty with us.  It's WONDERFUL. 


Monday, December 20, 2010

A Day of Dave Matthews and Tacos

Blenheim Vineyards
Being that I have lived in Charlottesville for only a little over a year now, it is understandable that three newcomers had no idea they had stumbled upon a winery owned by Dave Matthews.  I'm sure if you are reading this post and you don't live in Charlottesville, you may be wondering if I am referring to "the" Dave Matthews... well, YES, I am.  Charlottesville apparently harbors a list of "names".  Probably the most well known name being Sissy Spacek.  I'm still waiting to run into her at Whole Foods Grocery.  I'm told others have seen her shopping there --- I've yet to ogle over shiny locally grown apples with "Dave" or fight over heads of lettuce with "Sissy", but it's fun knowing that may be one day it could happen.

Kluge Farm Shop - "FOR SALE"
Myself and two other Charlottesville semi-newbies headed out Saturday to take advantage of free food and cider at an open house.  We were rather disappointed so decided to venture out to catch the last open weekend for the Kluge Farm Shop Winery.  The famous winery was up on the auction block last week and no one bid on the property (the minimum bid was 19 million).  You could grab a case of Kluge wine at half off.  I'm not much of a wine drinker so we left empty handed.  A tasting was $12.00... may be this is why they are going bust.  That's pretty pricey for a tasting and given they are selling off the last of the lot, one would think a taste would have been free just to unload what was left. The least expensive case of six bottles of Red for $50.00.

After we left Kluge, we noticed a sign for another vineyard and it was only .4 miles up the road, so what the heck.  We ended up at "Dave's Place", Blenheim Vineyards.  A lovely A-frame tasting room nestled in a hill, revealing the most incredible view.  The tasting was very reasonible at $5.00 a person to enjoy sipping eight wines.  We all liked Painted White 2009 the best.  It was a wonderfully snowy bitter day and enjoying a few sips of wine was quite refreshing.  The winery was quite busy on this fridgid day, full of happy tasters chatting among friends.
The delicious Cheese Enchilada.
Our last stop on our Saturday outing was to a little Mexican Cantina in downtown Charlottesville. La Michoacana Tortillema y Taqueria is a little whole in the wall mainly "to go" deli.  I had read review online about it some time ago and decided that a taco was just what we needed as a chaser.  La Michoacana on 1138 E. High Street is an authentic Mexican feed eatery.  There is no Americanization of the food -- no huge portions fried in oil covered with shredded lettuce and a glob of sour cream.  I enjoyed the vegetarian "Super Taco" which was a very small soft flour tortilla topped with rice, black beans, guacamole, lettuce, and tomato.  It was delicious but small, costing only $2.00.  Cindy and Susan split a Cheese Enchilada which was more robust and flavorful.  It was spicy and hot but the flavors were deeply melded together so that it was not offensive to ones tastebuds.  If this was not HOT enough for you, there were three large bottles on the counter that would most likely burn up any future wine tasting opportunities if you were to
douse your food.

We had a good day tasting new things!  Do you know of an interesting spot in Charlottesville that we've yet to discover?  Leave a comment. 
- Rebecca

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dedication of Lights

Saturday, my fellow Siamese Rescue volunteer and friend, Jennifer and I attended Dedication of Lights at the Virginia Siamese Cat Rescue Center in Locust Dale, VA.
The Siamese Cat Rescue Center of Virginia has saved nearly 700 cats in 2010 ALONE.  It was my privilege to work with the Siamese Cat Rescue Center when I was the Director of the Pulaski County Humane Society.  They were a very organized group and they were responsible for saving many surrendered Siamese that would come into our kill shelter.  This freed up kennel space for us to save other breeds of cats.

Virginia Siamese Rescue Center

Lilly is available for adoption.
The center is a very interesting place.  Basically two kind souls have converted their home and spacious garage into a Siamese adoption center.  It's pretty serious business, having computers located in the kitchen and cats in the two-story climate controlled converted garage. 

Of course the homeowners have many Siamese of their own, several that would have been euthanized and looked upon as unworthy of placement due to their medical issues.  All cats at the party were snugglie and comfortable, making an appearance for the 50 or so guests and then roaming off to find a warm window seat. 
A few of the many tags strung up.
The big holiday fundraiser for the center is to sell lights and display them as "in memory" tags at the center.  Proceeds help Siamese cats that have been rescued from kill shelters or pet owners that can no longer care for them.  Some of these cats are also in foster care homes.

To each a good night.

If you are looking for a worthy cause this holiday season.  I can highly recommend this wonderful organization.  It's full of dedicated cat lovers that go the mile to save these sweet creatures.  -Rebecca

Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Snow

Ok, I had to do it - publish my "first snow of the season" photos.  It's kinda a mushy looking snow event so far.  I love being inside on the computer on days like this.

The snow is coming down a bit harder now - COOL.  I love the snow and seasons of the year.  As much as I miss HEAT, I do like the time off from gardening and sitting by the wood stove on a chilly, snowy day.


First Snow of 2010 on Forsythia Hill

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Secret Santa Fun

Tonight my Etsy Lab Rats Team revealed our Secret Santa's.  My santa was BySaraLynn.  Her work is beautiful and very fine.  I'm amazed.  Visit her Etsy shop and check it out! 

These were my gifts from her shop.  THANKS SO MUCH ! -Rebecca

Handmade initial "R" hoop on office door.
The  handmade little flower magnet is darling.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Halloween in December

VelorK EuphoriLux - Laptop images and music.
Friday we went to the outdoor light installation, Let there be Light, at the Piedmont Virginia Community College.  A little encouragement from my friends got me out of the house on a cold - last day of the week - night.  Not to mention, the temptation of FOOD and Hot Chocolate kept me motivated.  It's not going to get any warmer any time soon and I can't just lock myself inside until Spring - but that certainly sounds appealing.

HERD - Cool EYES in the woods (and one BigFoot Friend).
Nineteen artists created diverse outside artwork installations.  We started our tour inside where we stocked up on hot chocolate complete with whipped cream and cinnamon. We walked down straw lined wooded paths discovering art only guided by a flashlight. 

Friends GEARed up for COLD !
We bundled up armed with two flashlights and began our walking tour.  Following trails of strings of lights placed on the ground and colored light sticks we inhaled the Winter Solstice.  Watching spooky flashlight beams bounce down trails to only disappear in a grove of trees and then later reappear.  The creative light art kept us distracted from the lack of feeling in our toes and hands.  We followed the provided map and ended back inside where we had some pumpkin bread, cookies, and hot cider.  We all agreed it was an interesting event and the below art installation and music accompaniment was our favorite. 
- Rebecca

The Language of Water - John Grant

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What's a Girl to do ?

Each Thursday I'll list several Charlottesville events upcoming this weekend that I'm interested in attending. Hope to see you there!


PVCC Light Show, Let there be Light, Piedmont Virginia Community College, 6-9pm, FREE.  Light-centered art 6-9 p.m. on the grounds. Nineteen local artists will create artwork, music and dance in keeping with the Winter Solstice.


Dedication of Lights, 12-6pm, FREE, Siamese Cat Rescue Center, Locust Dale, VA.  Lights can be purchased (at the event or online) in memory or honor of any cat that has touched your heart!  Proceeds help Siamese cats that have been rescued from kill shelters or pet owners that can no longer care for them.

- Rebecca

Monday, December 6, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness

In Sunday's Daily Progress Newspaper there were so many shopping inserts that they had to put the "real news" in a separate plastic bag all to itself.  There were enough "deals" inside to provide a joyous holiday to a family with 50 kids...  I wonder how much money you would spend if you purchased every deal that was in each insert?  May be $100,000 ?

We are inundated with BUY, BUY 24X7, the American way, keeping the economy moving... Black Friday, Ciber Monday, Day after Christmas Sales, and the list goes on.  -- STOP -- Luckily I have a very short shopping list which hopefully will allow me time to focus on Holiday related things that I really enjoy... decorating the front porch and assembling my little artificial tree in which I hang my Grandmothers handmade eggs.  Drinking hot apple cider with cinnamon and listening to a few "themed" tunes.  It always seems I wait to decorate the front porch AFTER the temps dip - it's a really frigid week but the season must go on.

When I think of "the season" I try to push the continual selling of goods to the background and bring forward random acts of kindness.  If you did not hear about the brave soul that jumped down into the subway track to save a person, then you have missed such a random act.  It probably is more suitable for the heroism category but it truly was a random act of kindness.  I'm sure on the way to the subway the rescuer never dreamed they would jump down into a deep, dark and scary hole to save a life right before a massive speeding train shot at him.

As I was watching the local news last week, they showed a Salvation Army Bell Ringer that had been injured when someone stole his red pot.  Lawrence Agnor (UPDATE - READ BELOW - UGH) was trying to collect money for a cause that had helped him in the past when someone pushed him and stole the donations - pot and all.  The good news to the story is that Sam's Club donated $500.00 and I'm sure the story generated even more money.   The Bell ringer was eager to get back to his post and was so outraged that he actually became the hero of the story.  I wanted to go and hug the guy and give him all my money. UPDATEThe "hero" was in on the heist - so instead of hugging him I would like to slap him up side o' the head.  Talk about LOW.  The good news is that he was led away in handcuffs today.  I'm giving him the 2010 "Killer of Kindness Award".

I'm feeling a bit Grinchy today
 It also gave me an idea that wouldn't it be a random act of kindness to drive around town from bell ringer to bell ringer carrying coffee?  I've never seen a bell ringer that was not bundled up to their eyeballs and kinda jumping in place - have you?  What a horribly COLD job.  May be someone will read this post and take me up on my idea.  UPDATE:  I met a nice bell ringer today that was outraged at the other bell ringers behavior - so let's hope there is just one bad apple and the rest of the bunch is not spoiled.

You never know, there are random acts of kindness all around, if you can wade through the newspaper inserts to find them.  -Rebecca

Friday, December 3, 2010

Saving your Dollars

 SPENT $6.50

This week was Kroger Mega Event which happens fairly frequently.  You get $5.00 off when you purchase 10 participating products.  Since I only shop for a household for two, it really has to be the right combination of products in order for me to take advantage of their Mega Events.  Kroger also matches coupons up to a face value of .50. So, for example, if you have a coupon for .35 off, you actually get .70 off.
Kroger Spent $6.50 and Saved $22.00
I didn't get anything for free but nearly everything was really cheap.  Never any deals on bananas - so sad.  I purchased 13 products, presented 9 coupons and several were .50 or less so matched by Kroger.  Ten products qualified as "mega deals" so got $5.00 off my total.
This was my second strike this week. 
My first trip I spent 23.00 and saved 40.00.

So, what would I have gotten for $6.50 if I had not taken advantage of the "Mega Deal" and used coupons?  Three items: a lousy loaf of bread, some Party Mix, and evaporated milk.  

If you need help getting started or have found deals yourself this week - would love to hear from you - leave a comment below. - Rebecca

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Help Feral Cats

I'm feeling no pain waking up from surgery
One Saturday a month during the cool seasons of the year, Voices for Animals coordinates the Feral Cat Clinic held at the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA to spay and neuter approximately 100 cats in 8 hours.  Ferals are cats that can not be handled by humans and require trapping in order to be safely caught.

--- A female cat continuously cycles in and out of heat and can get pregnant while nursing a litter so spaying is the humane way to control feral cat populations.  Otherwise you can guarantee continual births of babies in the wild time after time after time. ---

Your ears are fifie dirty!
This is my second year of volunteering for the Feral Cat program.  The clinics have been run for so many years that it is a very structured and organized effort.  Some volunteers have participated season after season and are pros.  Most volunteers work "hands on" at various surgery "stations" such as prep, pre-surgery, fluids, medications, and recovery. 

Other volunteers provide support by trapping and returning the cats back to where they originated or bringing in food for the volunteers.  Mass quantities of delicious vegan dishes magically appear each morning and continue through lunch.  Seventy volunteers have to be fed throughout the 8 hour (+/-) surgery day.  Approximately five vets perform the surgeries along with licensed techs and other trained staff.

The program addresses a community need by controlling cat populations in order to help these animals which may otherwise never receive vet care.  If an injury is discovered the cat is treated or patched up.  All cats are vaccinated for rabies and distemper and are humanely sterilized, undergoing the same surgery protocol found in any veterinarian hospital.

Just a few trapped cats - cages are covered to reduce stress
You may be asking, why not just permanently remove the cats?  This has been studied and once you remove the cats, more cats come into the community and set up camp, restarting the cycle once again.  Working in a shelter, I can promise you that euthanizing feral cats does nothing to control the population.  The same people would bring in cats year after year, never relieving themselves of cats!  The proven solution is to stay on top of the situation and get them fixed and release them back where you found them.

If you know of a cat that is roaming in the Charlottesville area and may need to be fixed OR if you can help volunteer, please contact Voices for Animals.  They are eager to help guide you through the process and help a feral in need!  


For Southwest Virginia Readers, Spay Clinics in your area:  Pulaski County, Montgomery County

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Etsy Trunk Show

Forsythia Hill Rhinestone Mittens - Vintage 50's
8 pm - 9 pm
Online Trunk Show - DEALs and DISCOUNTs
Shop from your computer!


The annual Etsy Lab Rats Holiday Trunk Show is a sale featuring twenty sellers over two evenings and I am one of the featured sellers on TUESDAY NIGHT!
Jackthemanabouttown Frog Hat
After beating off shoppers this past weekend, I know you're ready to relax with a cup of tea in front of the computer to complete the rest of your shopping.  Etsy, IS the place to discover unique gifts.  Etsy, plain and simple, is a storefront where talented artisans and collectors of vintage sell their wares.  Worldwide, for the month of October there were nearly $30 million dollars worth of sales through Etsy.  There are over 300,000 sellers.

THIS TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY participating sellers that are members of the "Lab Rats" Team will be offering discounts at the annual "Trunk Show".

You can participate in the Trunk Show by creating an account with as a buyer (it is easy - go to and select "Sign in").  You then can purchase items at the show if you see something you like.  If you don't find something at the show, trust me, you will find something to purchase on Etsy - for the month of October alone, over 2 million items were listed.

Scrap Happie in AZ Cupcake Apron
To participate in the Trunk Show, I recommend you get your account set up prior to Tuesday, then start exploring Etsy.  To get into the "show" you will need to venture into the category called "Community" then "Virtual Labs" (the button below will take you there).  You will be entering into a new world of technology and viewing some really cool finds.  You don't have to buy anything, you can just sit back and listen and watch, but if that great item gets shown you want to be ready to grab it because many items are one of a kind.

Click on image to enter "Trunk Show"

The whole process is the coolest thing!  Email or leave a comment if you need help prior to the show.

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