Saturday, October 22, 2011

To Do: November

Y'all, I have quite a month ahead of me.   In no particular order the following festivities will occur in November

  • Trip to South Carolina for Thanksgiving to see Nana and Papa and also watch way too many movies
  • Visit from my boss (!) who is here over a long weekend
  • Trip to _______ for a surprise visit to see ____________ *
  • Visit from my aunt and uncle and cousins that includes trips to Disney World and water parks and other fun places
  • Trip to Colombia to visit Michael's aunt and uncle and coincidentally, a fellow Cornellie who lives there too!

If I'm not traveling, someone is traveling to see me!   Literally every weekend in November is booked.    To quote Michael:  Oh this is going to be fun for me!

*Seriously- this is all you get.    I can't give any details.   Just in case that person is reading.   Doubtful, but you just never know and I love surprises.   So we all can wait in anticipation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Photo Book

My sister is not always known for her proactive behavior relating to gifts.  When we were younger and our non-imagintive relatives would buy us the same darn gift at Christmas, I wrote a thank you card and Al signed her name.   If we need to give a major gift (graduation, wedding, etc) I choose a gift and Al writes me a check for half.  Minimal creativity and brain power involved.

Anyway.   The point of this is not to tease my sister.   It is in fact to sing her praises.  This year, just after Christmas in fact, Al approached me.   Boue, she said.  She calls me Boue, pronounced Boo, as in ghosts.   Have we talked about this?  Boue, I have a really good idea for a gift for Mom and Dad.  You know how you do Apple photo calendars at Christmas?   Well what if for Mother's Day and Father's Day we made them a book that is pictures of us when we were little? 

CREATIVITY AND BRAIN POWER RELATING TO A GIFT!   What an excellent idea!  The catch?  Al was bound for the airport to fly back to her home in the big city.   I was still in Ohio.   Which meant.......    I had the dubious honor of sorting through literally more than 20 photo albums full of family photos.   Luckily my mother is OCD about organizing photos.  Like crazier than me OCD.    She has every photo since her wedding shower in 1978 in chronological order in albums. It is quite impressive.

So I spent much to long curled up on the floor of the living room sifting through photo albums.  I had to be covert because this was a surprise and Mom tends to pop up at all the wrong times for surprises.   She is notorious.  But through some small grace of God I was able to grab what I needed, throw it in an envelope and take it back to Ithaca with me.

Then!   I spent hours and hours and HOURS scanning 1980s photos.  It was not particularly enjoyable.  But I would do anything for my sister.   After the worst was over, I got to also gather the digital photos I've been taking since college, and arrange the darn things in a book.   How to approach it?   Chronological?  Al pages and Boue pages?   Photos just with mom?   Family photos together?  All Christmas pics on the same page?   The combinations were endless.

But finally it was finished and I placed the order.    I ordered the book in early June after we got back to Florida.   Logic here: Ship it to my house so I could hand carry it home in July for Grandma's 80th and present the gift in person, with Al.    I did not want to risk it arriving at home and my mother, who we know spoils surprises at times, to be tempted.   Plus- I wanted to see it!

I obsessively tracked the order and shipping.  Finally it was delivered as per the FedEx site.   I went onto my porch and --- my doorstep was empty.   (not really- there was a welcome mat)  So I paused a moment and came back inside.  Michael did not hear the bell ring nor did I.  I checked the ground below the porch.  You never know.   Nothing.    So then I took a walk around the neighborhood and checked homes whose addresses are the same digits as ours but in different orders.  Nothing.  So I came back home and called FedEx.   This resulted in a very thorough detective search between customer service managers on the corporate level and local level and all sorts of folks in between.  It was a mess and lasted more than a week.

I explained the gift was for my parents, not an iPod.   The item was sentimental and had no street value, so to speak.   It was time sensitive because of the impending trip home.  Blah dee blah.   Well, turns out the box was delivered to the wrong house.   The driver came back out and drove to the house where he dropped the box and.... it wasn't mine.  At least he admitted it.  But since we live in a resort community and he dropped it off at a rental property I couldn't even ask a neighbor.   That house has no neighbor.

Good news: I called Apple and had the book reprinted and shipped to Ohio.   Of course at this time the darn book was going to arrive AFTER our July trip.   Darn it.  C'est la vie.   It did arrive the following week and Mom and Dad loved it.

Flashforward: Today Michael saw a package on the porch.   It was the original book its cardboard sleeve- not original box.   So here we are 4 months later and the poor sap who thought he was getting a free MacBook Pro opened the damn box and saw it was a book of a bunch of crazy midwesterners with bad 80s fashions.  So I guess they - covertly? - dropped it off today.   Neither one of us saw anyone.  Um way to be late, poor sap.

So I am keeping it.   I have a new coffee table book.  It's just like my parents' book and it's awesome.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Do you know BzzAgent?  One of my colleagues told me about it about 6 months ago.  It all started at lunch.

K was microwaving a new LeanCuisine product that included a soup and sandwich duo.  I had recently seen the item advertised in a magazine, so asked her if they were good.  K told me this was her first one; she received a coupon through a free product-trial group.  Now,  I love new products and I love coupons.  I was instantly hooked and asked to know more.

BzzAgent is a group that promotes free products to its members.  Products run the gamut: cleaning supplies, cosmetics, diapers, iPhone apps, not-usually-free websites with financial services, coupons for food, etc.   It really runs the gamut.  I took a look at the website that evening and signed up.  Again, it's free to join and participate.

Once you create an account, you take surveys.  They are brief questionnaires: 5 or 8 questions.  They do not take all day thankfully.   And, more importantly, they are useful.  They want to know about you so they send you the right products.   I am a married 28 year old female without kids.  They will not be sending me diapers.  Nor will they be sending me One-A-Day's newest line for men over 65.   Helpful.

So the more surveys you answer, the better tailored the products will be.  Don't worry, they don't give you 100 surveys to start.   They give you maybe 5 and then the next time you visit the website, there might be 2 more.   They are literally 5 questions and take about 10 seconds to answer.  The more surveys you fill out, the more likely it is that a) you will receive a free product and b) it will be a product you just might buy.   (Especially if they send a coupon too!)

Now that they know you, you'll start to get emails about free stuff.   If you indicate that you would like to try the product that is described, you will get a box in the mail!   Don't worry, they do not send anything unless you indicate you actually want it.  Now, this is free, but the folks at BzzAgent do want you to talk (Bzz) about the products.  Tell your friends and colleagues and neighbors and sisters  and hair stylist about the stuff.  Write about it on facebook.   Blog about it (guilty as charged).  Give friends the coupons.  Help the big corporate giants promote their new products in a more viral, social media type way.

So far I have received and used the following:

-A rather large box chock full of SCJohnson cleaning type products
A bottle of pledge (LOVE!), some type of floor cleaner, scrubbing bubbles auto shower cleaner, scrubbing bubbles stick on toilet cleaning gels, glade plug in refills in a springtime scent, a glade candle in a springtime scent, glade spray air freshener in a different springtime scent, and 5 coupons for each product.   I was to share coupons with friends and save some for myself to buy additional products if I liked them.  And these were good coupons, y'all. Each were at least $1.00 off, some more.  Whoa!
Verdit: I love the SCJohnson company and everything in the box.   Not a surprise.   I will continue to buy my favorites but unless I have a coupon I am not spending full price on the toilet cleaning gels.

-A new L'Oreal eyeshadow
L'Oreal One Sweep Eyeshadow, which has an applicator brush shaped like your eyelid.  The corresponding survey even asked about my eye color so my free sample would be the exact product I would buy in the future, should I like it.
Verdict: I hated the applicator but loved the colors.   The applicator is too small for my eyelids.   Gave this product to my [also brown-eyed] sister.   I don't know if she is still using it or not.   I will not be buying this product.

-Burt's Bees Sensitive Skin Products
Burts Bees Sensitive Skin Facial cleanser (full size!), BBSS moisturizer (full size!), and a bunch of free samples of the moisturizer to share with friends.   Along with a handful of $1.00 off coupons to share.
Verdict: So far, mixed reviews.   I am an exfoliator.   Sensitive skin face wash does not have exfoliants, obviously.   There is no scent, which is probably a good thing for me.  The moisturizer feels nice, but I still think I prefer my Olay.
Prediction: I will use it up but likely won't buy it again

Had I been thinking ahead, I would have photographed the boxes and their contents so as to provide a visual for the post.   Alas, I did not.   I have room to improve in this department.

Can't wait to see what comes next!

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated in any way by the folks at BzzAgent nor any of the above mentioned brands.  Just sharing a fun free way to try new stuff!