Sunday, March 28, 2010

How do I earn more Swagbucks?

It is time for another Swagbucks post. As of today, I have earn $130 in Amazon gift cards. I think it is safe to say that Christmas is going to be FREE this year. I know that some of you have signed up and are really enjoying the program. And other people have signed up, but then abandoned the program. Today I wanted to share a few tips and secrets with you, so that you can earn the maximum amount of swagbucks possible, with the least amount of effort.

The easiest way to earn swagbucks is through basic internet searches. If you use their search engine everyday, you are guaranteed to get at least 10 swagbucks. Some days you will be rewarded with even more. I have been using their search engine for 5 months, and I have been rewarded with swagbucks EVERY SINGLE DAY. You won't win on every search, but if you search at least a few times per day, you will receive something. So let's do a little math. 10 swagbucks per day for searching x 30 days = At least 300 points in a month. Not too bad.

In addition to earning swagbucks through searches, they release one or two swag codes per day too. Now to get these codes, you have to keep your eyes peeled. However, there are lots of sites that do most of the searching for you, like this one. If you get all the swag codes released, you will earn at least 10 more swagbucks per day. Let's do some more math. 10 swagbucks per day for codes x 30 days - At least 300 points in a month. Once again, not too bad.

Now lets add everything up. 300 + 300 = 600 points per month. 600 x 12 months = 7,200 points per year. $5 Amazon gift cards are the best deal for your points, and they cost 450 points. 7,200/450 = 16 $5 gift card (that is $80 in Amazon gift cards per year!).

So basically you can earn the bare minimum in terms of points and still earn $80 in free gift cards in one year. Other ways to earn money include completing special offers (some are as easy as watching videos), shopping through their site (I did this once and received points. However it took a month for the points to be credited to my account), and referring friends.

Referring friends is without a doubt the fastest way to rack up points. You will get a swagbuck for every swagbuck your referral earns through INTERNET SEARCHES. Swagcodes and special offers don't earn you points through referrals. So to get points from your referrals, they have to do internet searches. Unfortunately referral points are capped at 1000, and after your referral reaches that number, you will no longer receive points from that person.

might sound complicated, but it is actually really easy once you figure out how to navigate their site and earn points. It doesn't make sense to NOT join. If you are going to be searching the internet anyways, why not earn some extra money in the process? Go sign up!

P.S. If you made it all the way to the end of this post CONGRATULATIONS! My mother is coming to visit this week. I have lots to do to get ready for her arrival, so I am taking a week off from blogging. I'll probably be around commenting, but I won't be posting. See you next week!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Middle class

My cousin and I had an interesting conversation the other day. She asked me what wage I considered to be the starting point for the middle class. Off the top of my head, I said $50,000. She disagreed, and insisted that it started around $30,000. I guess it all depends on what part of the country you live in. And I think personal perspective plays a part in the idea of the middle class too.

When we bought our first house in KY, John only made $20,000 annually. At the time, I thought we were living the good life (Which is laughable now. How did we even survive?). If you would have asked me back then, I probably would have said we were middle class.

I think all Americans like to consider themselves middle class. No one wants to be poor and no one ever thinks they have too much money. So instead, we are all middle class people just trying to get ahead.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The famous

My husband never talks about any famous women that he thinks are sexy. I guess he doesn't want me to be jealous:) However, he will tell me which men he thinks are handsome. Recently, John revealed that George Clooney is a good looking man. I vigorously disagreed. Upon listing a few good looking men, my husband told me that I have really bad taste in men.

So, here is my list of the three sexiest men in order of sexiness...

Fred Savage

Seth Rogen

Jason Segel
Apparently I have a thing for curly headed men. I think what this boils down to is that I don't like pretty boys. I lust after famous people who look like NORMAL people.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Local cuisine

In the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area, chili parlors are all the rage. In these establishments, Cincinnati style chili is served in a variety of ways. First, they have 3-ways, which is chili served over spaghetti and topped with cheese and onions. They also have coneys, which is a hot dog (on a bun) topped with mustard, chili, onions, and cheese. There are other variations too; chili cheese fries, chili cheese sandwiches, alligators, etc. There were 4 different chili parlors in my hometown. We ate at these establishments often, and I have a special place in my heart for Cincinnati style chili.

New Jersey does not have chili parlors. However, it does have lots of diners. I love our city's diner - they have a veggie burger on the menu, and it tastes heavenly. As you drive through NJ, you will see diners on nearly every corner. Most of these places have a large menus. You can order anything from cheese steaks, to liver & onions, to Gyros. Although I didn't appreciate them at first, I now love eating at all the little diners around NJ. And whenever family comes to visit, I always take them out to eat at a diner.

Tell me about your area? Any unique foods or dinning experiences?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Randomness for little old you

Remember how I told about our action packed outdoorsy weekend? Well, I found another damn tick on me last night! That is two ticks in one year. I am going to get Lyme Disease for sure. New Jersey must be tick central, because I never once had to pull a tick off my body when I lived in Kentucky.

Izzy is obsessed with his father. He dresses like John, mimics John's behavior, begs to go to the bathroom with John, etc. It is like they have a secret boys-only club. Porgie and I feel shunned.

I am in such a lazy funk. For some reason, I just can't get motivated to clean the house. I have started various projects, but I keep abandoning them halfway through the process.

I do things to try to save us money, but I end up costing us more. For example, I read online that Rita's was giving away free Italian ice on the first day of spring. I got the kids all excited about getting a treat, and then we actually drove to Rita's. The line was insanely long. Like out to the road long. Like there is no way in hell I am going to wait in line that long for water ice (that is slang for Italian ice in these parts) long. So, we went to a little diner for water ice instead. And paid full price.

Well, I guess I should go do something productive like twiddle my thumbs and watch TV. Peace out homies.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Basking in the glory of sunshine

You know, for mommy bloggers, you guys sure do have filthy minds. Those little turtles were just hanging out on a log! You perverts.

So, my mother is coming to visit in less than two weeks, and I haven't accomplished any of my goals. The guest room isn't painted (shit, I haven't even picked out a color yet). The curtains haven't been made (I actually ended up buying curtains, but then I returned them). I am blaming it on the beautiful weather. Who wants to stay inside and work, when you could play outside in the warm air and sunshine?

Speaking of sunshine, this weekend was amazingly beautiful. We enjoyed every second of the lovely weather. We went for walks, we visited 3 different parks, we visited a special zoo exhibit at the mall, and we even had ice cream! All around, it was a fabulous weekend. We spent almost every second of it outdoors, which was a wonderful change of pace.

This week I have lots of catching up to do. The pile of laundry in my bedroom is atrocious. My sink is piled high with dirty dishes. The floors are in desperate need of a good vacuuming. I guess we all know how I will be spending the next few days. Thank goodness it is raining, otherwise we would be doomed to live in squalor.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Over-analyzing behavior

When I was a kid, I thrived on positive attention. I was always that annoying kid who got all the awards at the end of the year. I loved the attention that was showered on me for being smart and well-behaved. I definitely had (and still have) a desire to please other people.

But my daughter? Not so much. Don't get me wrong, she is a great kid - funny and smart and clever. However, she is also strong-willed and fiercely independent. As most of you know, Porgie has been in a ballet class since last September. At first, she really enjoyed the class. But as the class became more structured, Porgie became more defiant. Every week, I would watch as the teacher struggled to get Porgie to comply with her requests. At home I talked to her about following the teacher's directions, but she largely ignored me. For the last month or so, Porgie would pout and whine when I mentioned that we had to attend dance class. And maybe it was my imagination, but I started to sense that the teacher didn't like Porgie very much.

After ballet class yesterday, Porgie's teacher approached me in the lobby. She wanted to let me know that Porgie did a good job in class. She actually said, "Today is the first day Porgie has ever followed my directions." I was kind of dumb-founded. My daughter hasn't followed directions for 7 months? Gulp. I didn't know whether to apologize to the teacher or to demand a refund for all these expensive ass classes I have been paying for.

I think I understand what was happening. Instead of trying to please the teacher, Porgie was focused solely on having fun and playing with the other children. When the teacher reprimanded her for failing to comply with the rules, Porgie stopped caring about dance class. As a people pleaser, this disturbs me. Yet at the same time, I am kind of happy that she doesn't feel the constant urge to be helpful and good and obedient. Maybe she'll grow up to be a woman who won't have a fear of rejection. Maybe she won't suffer from the exhaustion of always trying to be perfect. Maybe, just maybe, she will grow up to be a confident and self-assured woman.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Keeping it real

I think I have been giving you a lopsided view of my world. Yes, I have been making lots of crafty stuff (like my amazingly awesome sweater). Yes, I have been cooking and baking (and enjoying it for the most part). But things in my world are far from perfect. My house has been a disaster area for weeks. I just haven't felt like cleaning lately. Also, I have a HUGE pile of dirty clothes in my basement. After the whole washing a crayon fiasco, I have been avoiding laundry at all costs. So in case you thought I had completely transformed into Suzie Homemaker, think again. I am still a woefully inadequate mommy/housewife.

I feel like I really need to shape up in the mommy department. I have been very short tempered with my kids lately. Every little thing they do pisses me off. It is probably because I am too distracted with my crocheting projects and my baking to properly pay attention to them. To make up for my sub-par parenting skills, I plan on taking Porgie and Izzy to the local nature center this week.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it is really hard to be perfect. Don't let my recent posts fool you. I try hard to be good at everything I do, but I always end up falling short. Such is life, I suppose. Fortunately, these two little cuties make me continually strive to be a better person...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


In an effort to be healthier, I have been trying to eat less sugar lately. And it has been surprisingly hard. I recently got into a really annoying habit of popping a few chocolate chips in my mouth throughout the day. Trying to resist those little morsels of deliciousness is nearly impossible.

Also, I have been attempting to cut down on the amount of dairy we eat. For the first two years of Porgie's life, we rarely ate dairy. We certainly didn't keep cheese, sour cream, and yogurt stocked in our fridge. But lately, we seem to have gone dairy crazy. Somehow, almost every meal I make now requires cheese. I am going to be honest with you - this makes me a HUGE hypocrite. I am a vegetarian because I am opposed to factory farming practices. Yet somehow, I have convinced myself that consuming dairy isn't as horrible as eating meat. But it is. The aim of factory farming is to produce as much meat, eggs, or milk at the lowest possible cost - regardless of the deplorable conditions and the animals' suffering. Dairy is just as bad a meat, and I need to stop candy coating it.

Finally, I am going to attempt a few new things in the kitchen. I want to start making my own bread. I have made bread a few times, and it was fabulous. However, it is hard to find the time to do it during the week. So, I am going to start baking loafs on the weekends and freezing them. Also, I want to start cooking actual meals for lunch. I typically keep food very simple during lunch - grilled cheese, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, boxed mac & cheese, etc. I think we would all benefit from a better meal plan.

Now I just have to find the time and motivation to achieve all of my goals. But as they say, "Lack of time is lack of desire."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Update on Friday's Post

Regarding the gloomy weather: It rained all weekend. We also had lots of strong winds, which resulted in a cable outage. If this just involved our television, it wouldn't have been a big deal. However, we also get our internet and phone through cable. We were completely cut off from the outside world. It kind of sucked.

Regarding the yeast infection: What a difference two days can make! I feel sooooooo much better. Helpful hint - if you are taking antibiotics, it would be wise to invest in some probiotics. Another helpful hint - do not use scented flushable wipes (what the hell was I thinking?). It seems that the yeast infection from hell has finally abated. And holy shit, I am going to take every measure to make sure it never happens again. This was my first yeast infection, and hopefully my last. Truly, it was hell on earth.

Regarding dentists: I made an appointment with my new orthodontist. They couldn't get me in until Mid-April. I am frustrated by how long this entire process is taking. I decided I wanted to fix my teeth last October. Six months have passed, and I have made very little progress toward that goal. If I am not in braces by summer, I am going to flip the fuck out. Why is this so hard? Also, my insurance company refuses to give payment on my oral surgery bill from January. First they needed more information from the doctor. Now they are consulting with another dentist about the work that was performed. I know what they are doing. They are trying to find a way to deny the claim. And it really pisses me off. Once again, I am left wondering why we shell out money for useless insurance.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Feeling sad, disappointed, upset, and itchy

This has been the looooongest freaking week of my life.

Dental issues are stressing me out again. After being at my dentist's office for 5 months, he recently admitted that my case is too complex for him. He has referred me to another dentist. I have mixed emotions about the whole thing. I appreciate that he is admitting his limitations, but I am annoyed that he didn't admit this from the beginning. I have wasted lots of money on his "consultations." Jerk.

My UTI turned out to be a yeast infection. I guess. I was prescribed Diflucan, which I promptly took. However, three days later I am still having symptoms.

The weather has gone from sunny and lovely, to rainy and melancholy. I think I'll end on that note.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Big kid bed!

Last Friday something bad happened. Izzy fell out of his crib and landed on his head. Ouch! My poor little baby. Since I love imprisoning my children in their cribs, I tried to convince my husband that it wasn't a big deal. "Honey, all kids fall out of bed periodically. Landing on your head isn't so bad." But despite my protests, John turned Izzy's crib into a toddler bed this weekend. Since he is still a little guy, I attached a bed rail to his mattress to prevent him from rolling out of bed while he is sleeping.

Izzy loves his new big kid bed! And best of all, he is sleeping like a champ. I can't believe how quickly my little baby has transformed into a big kid.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dumbass strikes again!

Lately, I have been feeling like Super Housewife. I bake! I crochet! I sew! Frankly, I was getting a little too cocky. Yesterday I was knocked down a notch. Much to my dismay, I realized that I am still a jackass.

I washed and dried a crayon in the laundry. I have ruined every article of clothing my children own.

Any advice?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I hate surprises

You know, life is full of annoying little surprises. These surprises, without fail, throw my budget completely off kilter. This past week has been full of unpleasant surprises.

1. SURPRISE! It turns out that I ran over a nail and one of my back tires was flat ($25).
2. SURPRISE! I went shopping at Target because I needed milk. After wandering around the store collecting things I didn't really need, I discovered that they were out of milk ($36).
3. SURPRISE! I went to A.C. Moore because I had a 40% off coupon. When I got to the register with my yarn, I realized that I left the coupon at home ($12).
4. SURPRISE! My last dentist appointment wasn't covered by my insurance ($77).
5. SURPRISE! This winter has been very destructive. After weeks of ice and snow, we have finally thawed out. And my beloved garden gnome, who we affectionately nicknamed Gnome Chomsky, was crushed by the weight of the snow ($18).

This budget shit is REALLY freaking hard. We should have all of our credit card debt paid off by July, but sometimes 4 months feels like an eternity. I want to have extra money NOW. I am so sick of talking about money and thinking about money and worrying about money. I am counting down the days until we are credit card debt free.

P.S. I won a small battle with my health insurance company. I appealed $300 worth of medical claims from November and December, and somehow, my insurance company agreed to pay these bills. YAY me!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I am totally and completely AWESOME (in a 90 year old woman kind of way)

I crocheted a sweater for Porgie. Enough said. Feel free to leave a comment telling me how awesomely amazing I am.Porgie modeling her spiffy new sweater

Friday, March 5, 2010

Better Know a Cupcake 5

This is the 5th installment of my 75 part series, Better Know a Cupcake. Today I am featuring chocolate cupcakes with butter cream frosting (and marzipan decorations!).
I made these little beauties for my beloved husband, on his 35th birthday. How better to celebrate turning 35 than with a Super Mario Brothers themed party. Everybody knows that 35 is the new 13. In case you are video game challenged, was attempting to replicate 1up mushrooms and super mushrooms...
I know, I know, I am amazing:)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The minimum wage worker

I needed laundry detergent yesterday, so I packed up the kids and headed to the grocery store. When we arrived, I noticed a huge sign in the lobby that advertised 20% off of all purchases. I thought, "Hmmmm...that is strange," and I continued on my merry way.

Half way through the trip I realized that something was wrong. The shelves were nearly bare. I stopped to ask a worker why everything was in disarray, and she told me that the store was closing in one week. Oh. I continued on with my shopping trip, but my stomach was tied in knots.

I hate that the poor people are the ones who are hurt the most by the economic downturn. These people have shitty jobs, low wages, little or no health care. And to top it all off, they are the first people to lose their jobs when things aren't doing well.

I couldn't help but get a little teary eyed as we said goodbye to the mean old black lady, who has a soft spot for my kids. I wanted to hug the ditsy young cashier, who talks WAY TOO MUCH. I wanted help the old guy who collects carts in the parking lot. I like these people. And I am sad that they won't be working in our neighborhood anymore.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


My baby boy doesn't like to wear clothes. He runs around in his underwear 90% of the day. For weeks everything was fine and dandy, but then Izzy encountered a problem. What is a naked boy supposed to do with his cell phone?
Problem solved.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Staying busy

I recently came to the realization that I am an introvert. It is not that I am shy or self absorbed, I just like time to be alone with my thoughts. After a period of being outgoing and social, I often need time to decompress. I go off the radar for a few weeks. I won't call my family or friends (although I will talk to them if they call me). I find that I am happier if I have time to myself. Unstructured time to play with the kids or read a book or write a blog post or bake a batch of brownies. If I can't find time to do these simple things, I get cranky and mean.

When I feel the need to be alone, I often embark on crazy home improvement projects. Fixing up the house = peace and quiet. So, I have decided to paint our guest bedroom in anticipation of my mother's upcoming visit in April. I have been fretting endless about colors. To save money, I am also going to attempt to hand sew new curtains for the room. I would make them with my sewing machine, but I don't know how to use it. I am pathetic.

So, be expecting before and after pictures in the next few weeks!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Nom nom nom

As you know, I have a girl crush on Isa Chandra Moskowitz. What? You don't know who she is? Gasp! She is the author for my favorite cookbooks - like this one and this one and this one. Her recipes are amazingly awesome and best of all, she curses in her cookbook. How could you NOT love her?

This weekend I made her vegan lemon bar recipe. OH MY GOD! They were delicious. Everyone loved them - including the kids. I found her recipe listed online, so I thought I would post it for you. It calls for a few rare ingredients - like agar-agar and arrowroot. However, I found both items at Whole Foods. So, without further ado...

Vegan Lemon Bar Recipe


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 cup non-hydrogenated margarine


1 1/3 cups water

3 tablespoons agar agar flakes

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/8 teaspoon tumeric

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons arrowroot powder

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from two large lemons)

1/4 cup soymilk

Extra powdered or confectioners’ sugar to decorate finished bars

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

Pulse flour, powdered sugar and cornstarch in food processor. Add margarine in spoonfuls and blend, 8 to 10 seconds, and then pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle mixture into prepared baking pan and press firmly into an even layer with slightly raised sides to hold in the filling. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes and then bake for 25 minutes; remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

In a sauce pot, soak the agar agar in the water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, zest your lemons and squeeze your lemon juice. Mix the arrowroot into the lemon juice to dissolve.

When the agar has been soaking for 15 minutes, turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, or until the agar is completely dissolved. Add the sugar and tumeric and boil until dissolved, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the arrow root and lemon juice mixture, then add the lemon zest and soy milk. Wisk constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. It should not be rapidly boiling, but lowly bubbling is ok.

Pour the mixture into the prepared crust, let cool for 20 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until the filling is only slightly jiggly and set. Use a sifter or a fine mesh strainer for sprinkle the bars with powdered sugar. Slice into squares and serve.

You're welcome! Now get busy baking!