Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville

Saw this today on Instagram & yes, yes, yes.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Where Did July Go?


Whoa -  it's been way too long since I swam these waters! 

How is summer almost over? This is the time of year I get the most excited for fall - fall is my favorite & it can never come soon enough for me.

This summer has been full of change - a ways back, I decided it was time to find a job closer to home.  I was spending too much time in traffic & my patience broke (read: died & left the building for good) along with Atlanta's interstate that collapsed pretty much right in the middle of my, and thousands and thousands of other's, commute. 

It was a difficult decision to make, but the time gained back is huge & I currently have two part-time jobs. One is less than 15 minutes from home with the option of working from home & the other is work-from-home with occasional meetings about 20-30 minutes away - I love it. It's a great balance of being home & productive, but never feeling isolated or alone. 

I've also had more time to give to my side hustles. A few weeks back, I made $75 (in the form of a Visa gift card) in less than a half an hour at a focus group. If you've never done a focus group, it'a fun and very easy way to make some extra money.  If you live in metro-Atlanta, check out Focus Pointe Global or Google your city and focus groups. 

And speaking of Visa gift cards, if you want to easily use them on Amazon (me!), you can buy virtual Amazon gift cards for the same amount with a Visa gift card. This never occurred to me until we contacted Amazon. I wanted to apply the Visa gift card to an order & couldn't figure out how to do it - so there you go. I may be late this party, but glad I finally got the invite!

Other random summer things:

It feels like it has rained every single day and yet a good chunk of Atlanta is still in a drought. 

The show Grand Designs is amazing! Check it out on Netflix.

Catastrophe on Amazon is funny, brutal, honest, crazy, crude, smart, insane, & RIP, Carrie Fisher. :-(

And, Sam Shepard - sigh - I need to watch Baby Boom for the million-ith time. I know it's not his most prolific work, but I love that movie! If you want to see him in something more recent, watch Bloodline.

Did you know that you can't remove bats from your home until after August 15th? Yep, it's true - I just learned this from a volunteer I work with - she has bats in her attic & has to wait because they are protected as they eat so many unwanted pests (mosquitoes!), and it's their maternity season.

I finally got my passport renewed! I know this is not the most interesting news, but it's been on my to-do list forever for years & I am so happy to cross that one off the list.

Despicable Me 3 is super-cute! I got to take my goddaughter on a pre-birthday date to see it & if you love the 80's like I do, you'll get a kick out of it.

Twelve-year-old beagles often have mobility problems & it's the saddest thing. Our vet may be prescribing a dog version of arthritis medicine soon. 




In the meantime, I can't believe this guy is 12 - he doesn't look 12 to me & besides the occasional joint flare ups, he acts a lot younger too. I recently read that coconut oil may help - if you have an arthritic pup & any advice, I'd love to hear it. He lives for his evening walks, so we are hoping he bounces back soon.

His sister has been very sympathetic.

Sort of.




Better:




I have no idea how this post went down the spiral of dog pics, but if you look at my camera roll, that's about it! 

Happy dog days of summer - heh!

Cheers,
S














Saturday, June 17, 2017

Survey Spotlight: Paid Viewpoint


I take surveys, test products (see here, here, & here for a few examples), & attend focus groups on a regular basis. Why? Because besides the extra cash, I think it's a lot of fun & can do it in my spare time or on the go.

Going forward, I will highlight some of the sites I like best - full list here - & will try to give you the pros & the cons based on my experience with each site. These posts may contain affiliate links (disclosure policy here) & if you are a member of a great site I haven't listed, please let me know!

Why I like Paid Viewpoint (I've been a member since 2011):

Pros:


  • You qualify for every survey sent - there are no pre-qualifying questions. This a big pro because it will save you time & you will rack up earnings faster.
  • Surveys are usually short & sweet - another huge time saver, no pages & pages of questions. They are also very smartphone & tablet friendly.
  • Payouts are fairly quick (not as fast as Opinion Outpost - see here for more info).
  • Fairly low payout threshold at a $15.00 minimum (for some this may be a con), but it's never been an issue for me.

 Cons:

  • Small payout per survey (usually about 10 cents a pop), but again they are short/can be knocked out fast. They will also send requests for higher paying surveys, but you'll need to jump on those as they expire quickly & are first come, first served.
  • It can sometimes feel like you will never hit the $15 minimum to cash out.
  • Frequency: I wish I got more requests from this site as these surveys are so easy to do.

Worth it to sign up? Yes! I really like this site as it's fun, user-friendly, & payouts are fast.

Cheers,
S


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Blog Stalking: Vol 2



I don't post these types of posts nearly enough, but I read such great content every week & it really should be shared!

So here goes...

I want to buy these towels now. We don't need new towels, but maybe down the road?

Make this beverage stand (it always pays to buy a cheap bar stool!).

I bought this super-cute top recently (on sale!) at J. Crew, but this lovely lady does a much better job of modeling it than I ever would!

Maybe the cutest playhouses in the history of playhouses?

Hurrah, Ellen!

On being brave.

I really want a letter board - can someone send me a letter board? OK, thanks!

Cheers,
S

Monday, June 12, 2017

Redbook Beauty School Beauty Box (Garnier)

This year's cute Redbook Beauty Box arrived with these goodies - see here for last year's box - always a happy mail day!

Garnier products were featured:

 
Some closer looks:

 


The one I am most excited to try:


The only requirement (that I can tell) to score one of these boxes is to be a subscriber. And as I mentioned last year, I am pretty sure I was able to get a free subscription somewhere out there.  I think it's a fun perk! Did you get a red box this year? If so, what do you think?

Cheers,
S

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Survey spotlight: Opinion Outpost


I take surveys, test products (see here, here, & here for a few examples), & attend focus groups on a regular basis. Why? Because besides the extra cash, I think it's a lot of fun & can do it in my spare time or on the go.

Going forward, I will highlight some of the sites I like best - full list here - & will try to give you the pros & the cons based on my experience with each site. These posts may contain affiliate links (disclosure policy here) & if you are a member of a great site I haven't listed, please let me know!

Why I like Opinion Outpost (I've been a member since 2006):

Pros: 
  • The frequency of requests: I get at least one request per day & usually multiple requests per day.
  • A variety of rewards - you can pick from:
    • PayPal (1000 points = $10)
    • MileagePlus (105 points)
    • Alawar Games (30 points)
    • Amazon (50 points)
    • iTunes (100 points)
    • Donate to the American Red Cross (5 points)
    • You can also use points for prize drawings (this one I don't recommend!).
  • Fast payout! When you redeem points for cash, the funds are in PayPal asap - I love this & very few survey companies are this fast. It's the biggest pro for Opinion Outpost.
  • Product tests - some surveys will lead to a product test. Product will ship to you (toothpaste, shampoo, soap, you name it) & then a follow-up survey to gather your thoughts. You often get to keep the item but sometimes, they will ask for it back (free to ship back), so they can analyze wear & tear or keep the product under wraps.

Cons:
  • Even though I get a lot of requests, I don't qualify for every survey sent to me which equals a waste of time (this is the case for all survey sites). 
  • Some survey companies will give a small compensation if you don't meet the requirements needed - Opinion Outpost does not. They will enter you into a prize drawing, but I've yet to win anything more than a few extra points here & there.
  • They also often have small, pre-screener surveys which I also find to be a waste/unnecessary (it feels like they want extra info with no incentive to the survey taker).
  • Their graphics & overall look feel a little spammy to me (they are not spammers); I wish their graphics looked a bit more polished & professional. A small thing, but I also think it matters.
Is it worth signing up with Opinion Outpost? Overall, yes. No, you will not get rich but it's fun & the super-fast payout is a huge plus.

Cheers,
S

ps: you can read even more about Opinion Outpost here via the Survey Police website.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Favorite Things: Anne with an "E"


In another version of I get a lot of value out of our Netflix account, I dove into Anne with an "E." I've always been a fan of Anne of Green Gables, but if you want an exact remake of the original TV series (which I also recommend watching if you've never seen it), you may be disappointed. 

Netflix's take is not for purists.

This version is loyal to the original storyline, but it's more honest & modern, & darker. Anne's spiritedness, stubbornness (played so well by the actress Amybeth McNulty), & smarts are perfectly juxtaposed with what the world can be - not always kind, cruel, & ignorant. It tackles child abuse, bullying, sexuality, women's rights, poverty, obligation, & education equality while putting love, acceptance, forgiveness, friendship, & family at its center - it balances light & dark beautifully - I shed more than a few tears. 

My favorite character, besides Anne, is still Matthew Cuthbert (he's the hero!), but I love the entire cast. I also think the opening credits & theme song are gorgeous - it's a gilded work of art. I can't wait for Season 2.

Cheers,
S

PS: Other Netflix faves that are back (House of Cards being a given) - The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (love!) & Bloodline (so good!!!).

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Favorite Things: Master of None

The 2nd season hit Netflix this past Friday & I devoured it all by Sunday afternoon! 

When I first started watching, I stepped away after the first or second episode. My theory: I was way too old for the show (I'm guessing a married, 45-year-old is not the target demographic, but I'd like to think Aziz Ansari loves everyone who's a fan/doesn't care). Then I read his book, Modern Romance (it's listed on this page), & revisited the series. I'm sure I'm outside the target demographic for the book too, but it was beyond funny, insightful, & don't care!

Anyway, I am so happy I went back to watching the show. No spoilers here, but it does such a great job of defining & showing emotion. There's a scene in the first season where Dev (Ansari) & friends are out one night at a bar/restaurant & it beautifully sums up what it's like to be 30-something, single, & in a big city - living.  They are alive, it makes you feel alive, & remember (I hope) those feelings as well. 

How can we not love that?

The second season does the same thing, but even better. You are there in the moment with Dev & his world & it feels personal.  

It's worth checking out!

Cheers,

Monday, May 15, 2017

Happy (belated) Mother's Day!



This is one of my favorite pics of my Mom (& me) & honestly, she looks almost the same to this day! Even better, the spiritedness she gives off in this photo remains in full swing.



I got lucky getting this one! And even luckier that we got to spend the day with her this past Saturday.

Much love to my Mom & the women (& men who fill both roles) who mother so many (kids, pets, friends, parents, the world!) each & every day.

Cheers,
S

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Smile Like You Mean It



When I was 14 & a freshman in high school, I tried out to be a cheerleader.  One of my aunts had been a cheerleader (was great at it/loved it) & I wanted to be like her & it was kinda a given that I too would try out.

So I did.

But being clueless about sports in general (still kinda am), I tried out to be a basketball cheerleader & not a football cheerleader as I had assumed. Not that I had a preference, but we had a killer basketball team & a not so great football team - the competition to be a basketball cheerleader was fierce; there was a lot more cache.

Again, I had no idea.

I worked my a$$ off during tryouts. I didn't stop & I really wanted to quit. I was not athletic at all & at times I thought I might actually die on the field where we did the workouts & practiced the audition routine. My clearest memory is doing these bouncy squat things where we'd countdown & chant, "THIS FEELS GOOD!" 

Y'all, it did NOT feel good.  

It felt like my legs would burst into flames. Couple all of this with being socially awkward (lack of hair will do that to you) & this was waaaay beyond my comfort zone. I don't think I even knew what a comfort zone was. Trying out to be a cheerleader might as well been like trying to fly to the moon - flying to the moon with pom-poms as my wings! 

The day of the tryout I nailed the routine. I could have done it in sleep & apparently I did; I didn't make the squad because I didn't smile enough. I was so scared that I forgot the cheer part & didn't smile. This was the specific feedback from one of my teachers who was also one of the judges - I did just fine, but I looked as terrified as I felt. 

Yep!

I wasn't completely heartbroken or surprised when I didn't make it (clearly in over my head, of course), but it seemed, even at the age of 14, such a stupid reason to not make the team. I could learn to remember to smile, right? Wouldn't making the squad give me dozens of reasons to smile? Concentration, hard work, & not quitting don't often beget smiling. Isn't skill & showing up more important?

I don't write all of this because I harbor a cheer leading grudge, although I do think it would have been a positive influence on this weirdo kid's life & changed so many things in my world. I started thinking about it when I read this:

“Smiling doesn’t win you gold medals” - Simone Biles to the “Dancing With the Stars” judges who suggested she smile more.

Amen!

I don't follow the show, but I hope she wins & even if she doesn't, bravo for competing, for showing up, for trying, for doing something outside her realm. That's the stuff!

I'm also glad I didn't have to learn to remember to smile; some days though, I think it's something we all have to remember. I am a huge fan of "fake it til you make it" but smile because you want to smile

Shake your pom-poms & cheers,
S

ps. if you aren't familiar with the song I referenced in the title, check it out here ('cause it's one of my faves!). plus, Brandon Flowers, y'all! :-)


pss. that song is like 10 year's old now! what?!?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Endings & Beginnings

I've been trying to write this post for days & every time I do, I get teary-eyed & it's hard to cry & type at the same time! Also, I know I can't do the kind of writing this space deserves - but, don't care, I need to write it, so here's to imperfect writing (which is the majority of this blog - duh!) & giving honor to the people & memories that matter.


Last week, I lost my godmother & a few days later got to see my goddaughter celebrate her first communion.

My godmother would have loved this. 

She was 95, a devout Catholic, loved crafting (all kinds), shopping via catalogs, & was one of my biggest cheerleaders (always!).

She & my godfather had their home stocked with the best junk food whenever my brother & I visited. They had an epic Lego collection & Battleship which my brother always beat me at & I always accused him of cheating - there's truth somewhere in the middle there. She also let me eat only biscuits for dinner (because I was picky) & even let me take the leftovers home! 

They bought us new coats every year. It was Florida, but it was so much fun getting new coats!

They were there for every holiday, birthday, or event that mattered. I believe they have had long lives because of their never ending kindness. They are good people, great people to the core.

My godmother never judged me. How many people do we have in our lives we can say that about? 

I don't have one unhappy memory of her. 

When I was 8-years-old & this nonsense started, she didn't try to shame me or scare it out of me, she told me "I think my friend has a problem...". Or something to that extent & I knew I was OK with her, could talk about it if I wanted to, or not talk about it all (pretty sure I erred on not talking about it at all). 

She loved me for who I was - all defects & flaws.

She was a religious person & had high ideals, but she was also down to earth & worked hard to help others who were less fortunate. She kept change in her car to give to any homeless person she encountered. She & my godfather volunteered their time & resources at Daystar (in St. Petersburg, FL) for years.

She was a Parent.

When I was in my 20's & attending retreats, I was asked to give a talk call "God Experience." I was stumped about what to talk about until I realized all I had to do was talk about my godparents & the impact they've had on my life. 

I am beyond lucky. 

I can only hope to give the kids in my life the same kindness & love they've always bestowed upon me. I have big shoes to fill, need to keep the junk food stocked, build a Lego collection, get Battleship (& beat my brother at it - she would love that too) & remember that leftover biscuits are love - true love!

Love you, Mrs. Schoen (you too Mr. Schoen) - forever & always!



 


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Happy Easter!

Happy (belated) Easter!

The irises we planted ages ago decided to bloom! Yay!


 These "Easter Beagles" send you lots of happy wishes too!


One was a bit tired, but the love is there.

Cheers,
S

Friday, April 14, 2017

#duranduran (again!)

Last April, I took my Mom to see Duran Duran for their Paper Gods tour (so.much.fun!) & guess what, y'all? 

They came back to Atlanta on April 8th!

This time my husband came with me - he had never seen them before - shocker! :-) & we had a blast. He was super impressed & I got to be a 12-year-old superfan/so in love for a couple of hours - never a bad thing! 

I felt like this version of me (this was part of a birthday gift from a very talented co-worker years ago):

 
This concert felt especially special as it was the last stop on this leg of their tour. The weather was a little chilly, but it was a beautiful night at Chastain Amphitheater & a perfect way to welcome early spring & get out on a Saturday night. If you live in metro-Atlanta & have never been to a concert at Chastain, you need to get on that - it's a great venue.

So, as usual, please pretend these are great photos:




If you ever get a chance to see them - go! They have the awesome problem of having too many great songs to perform & not enough time to play them all. They perform with their all too - they seemed genuinely happy to be there (maybe because they were about to get a break ;-) & their energy filled every seat. 

To me, it's such a gift that they are still making music (great music!) & touring. We've lost so many talented musicians & life is...well, life. If you have a favorite, go see them - it might sound cheesy, but it's important. Life is short & connecting with people, places, & things you love is life-giving & joyful. We all need a little extra joy. As an introvert, the connecting part is always hard for me, so music - music has always helped me feel & stay connected - even it if it's to reconnect to a younger version of myself, that's important too!

Cheers,
S



Friday, March 31, 2017

Home Fri: Vol. 10


Ornament overload 

One of my favorite things to do after Christmas is to hit the holiday clearance section at Target. I'm not able to do this every year, but I had a day off in early January - I figured nothing would be left but lo & behold everything was 90% off!

90% off, my friends!

I had also just purchased some clear glass ornaments at our local Ace Hardware (we have the BEST Ace!) for 50% off making them about $1 an ornament - score! I bought as many as I could & used the Target finds & some paint to make a ton of different ornaments. I'm going to use them next year on our tree or attach them to presents.

So here's why you want to buy glitter, ribbon, pom-poms, stickers, fluff, garland, etc. when they cost about 10 cents a pack (all the stuff I bought was well under a dollar!) - also, if you ever come across clear glass ornaments - buy them! They are so versatile, make great gifts, & are pretty on their own as they reflect so much light.

Here are some I put together (I broke at least two while trying to photograph them - snowy ice on your deck + glass don't do well together - doh!). I also used up some other craft supplies I had on hand: leftover ribbon, beads, yarn - it was fun!

Reds:



 Greens:



 A little blue:



Shiny:

Mixed up:




And, one of my favorites - white paint (coated on the inside of the ornament) with Happy Mail stickers:



Cheers,
S





Thursday, March 30, 2017

Favorite Things: BookBub

If you love to read check out BookBub - not an affiliate link, just have been loving this site. I've been using it for about a month now & everyday it emails me eBook sales (Amazon, Google) - so it's dangerous too! It's free to sign up & when you do you'll pick which genres are of interest to you. 

It's fun to see what's available each day & sometimes, I'm a little relieved when there is nothing I have to download - my wallet feels the same way. :-)

Do you use this site?

Cheers,
S


Friday, March 24, 2017

Thanksgiving 2016


I'm still trying to wrap up 2016 (how is it spring already?) & one of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving. I especially love Thanksgiving because it means a trip to see family in New Jersey & a visit to NYC too. 

Fall in New York? Yes, please!

We flew into Newark, rented a car, & then made our way into Hoboken - I posted this photo before - it was our Thanksgiving day greeting & I took it as a positive sign. :-)




Hoboken has the best views of New York City:



During our long weekend we walked the High Line Park - it was my first time exploring & I'm ready to go back! It's a 1.45 mile elevated (old railroad) pathway full of art, gardens, architecture, people/pets, & some amazing views.







The moody sky stole the show:



Drama!





You can also see the Statue of Liberty - you'll have to squint to see her in my pic, but she's there in the center of it all:



And again, that sky!



Yep!



Cheers,
S

PS - if in Hoboken, get a coffee at La Isla (eat everything at La Isla!)