Friday, August 31, 2012

10 Uncommon Reasons to Buy Gift Cards

First off let me start by saying that if you are looking for a gift for a close family member or a close friend, gift cards are definitely not the way to go, unless you're throwing one in with your actual tangible gift ;-)  Your friends and family deserve personal gifts chosen specifically for them.  Gift cards are not always going to be your best option, but there are many ways in which buying a gift card can be an excellent idea! Here are 10 of my favorite reasons to buy gift cards.
  1. Discounts - Around the Holiday season many companies will offer discounts on gift certificates and gift cards.  If a company you shop at regularly is doing this, I recommend purchasing the gift cards for yourself (and/or your family).  Reason for this is because it is an easy way to get a discount on a place you know you are already going to be shopping at.  This only works well if it is a place you go very often! I don't recommend it for the place you shop at 4-5 times a year.  In my case last year it was our favorite bagel shop, they offered 20% off their gift cards.  We go there 2 times per month, so we bought enough for the year and it ended up saving us about $30.  One time I got a free sub sandwich for buying a Subway gift card.  I knew I was going to eventually go to Subway again....multiple times over the next year, so essentially I just gave them $20 in advance and got a free sub!
  2. A Gift for Everyone - Gift cards make for excellent gifts for the person who wasn't expecting any gift at all. A friend that is going away to college soon could really use an Amazon gift card for books or dorm essentials.  A friend that has been sick for a while would be so excited to receive just a simple $5 Starbucks gift card in her Get Well card!  
  3. Reciprocating Gifts: Let's face it, gift cards are the best gift for the person you don't know very well.  Every once in a while you are surprised with a gift from a neighbor or acquaintance you don't know too well.  Then you're left feeling bummed because you don't have anything for them! Keeping gift cards on hand can be a very simple way to reciprocate that gift!
  4. Budgeting:  In a way this is similar to the envelope system. If you are someone who easily overspends at a certain store, buy a gift card with the amount you intend to spend.  It helps to leave your credit card at home too that way you can't spend over your set amount.
  5. Experiences:  Many families don't have the money to go to the movies often, go out to a fancy dinner, get professional portraits taken, or to go to even go to the local water park or the Zoo.  Buying gift cards / gift certificates that offer an experience can often times be more meaningful than even a tangible gift!
  6. For the Non-Shopper: They are a wonderful gift for the person who never shops for themselves.  I'm talking about the person who will wear the same pair of shoes for 5 years before buying another pair. Buy your friend a gift card and set up a shopping date to go with her to make sure she buys herself some new shoes! 
  7. Practical Gifts:  We often times associate gift cards with frivolous shopping, but you can buy practical gift cards for your friends as well. For the sister who just bought a house, a gift card to Lowes or Home Depot would be extremely useful!  Back when we were a one part-time income family I was SO thankful to receive gift cards for gas and groceries! 
  8. Client Gifts - If you're a business owner of any kind, gift cards can be an excellent gift to show your appreciation for your top clients! You could also purchase gift cards as incentives for special giveaways you're hosting.
  9. Help Local Businesses - It is always SO beneficial to your city to buy locally. If your favorite local stores offer gift cards or gift certificates, this is one way you can help spread the news about their store!   For a new Mom-to-be you could get a certificate to the local maternity store or a gift card to let your friend know about the new boutique you found downtown.
  10. Giving to Families in Need -  There are always ways to donate gift cards for groceries and household items to people in need, whether it be through your church, a local ministry, or a charity.  
Some of the best gift cards to have on hand that are the most versatile are for Target, Starbucks, Amazon, or popular restaurants.

House Hunting

What I'm Looking For in a House:
  • 3 bedrooms on the same floor.
  • 2 bathrooms (or at least 1 and a 1/2)
  • A fenced backyard, preferably a tall fence (since we have a little ninja dog that can jump over most fences).
  • An updated bright kitchen with a dishwasher or at least an area for me to add one... :-) 
  • Storage space / closet space - where we are right now has very little space for storage.
  • As much light as possible in the house.  Our current house is very dark...and I've never liked that.  I've noticed I really dislike houses with a lot of dark wood. 
  • A separate dining room area because the table I inherited from Babicka is super long and will not fit in most kitchens.
  • Area for me to potentially build a small portrait studio (preferably near a large window or a walkout sliding door for natural light). 

Bonus Things: (These are things I'd love to have but are not absolutely necessary)

  • Fireplace
  • Gas Stove
  • A pantry!
  • A walk out door from the basement.
  • Main floor laundry (rare, I know, but I would love that!)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pregnancy Update - 1st Belly Pic & Reaching the 2nd Trimester

It isn't the greatest photo of all time...but it's a belly pic.  I figured I had to do one now because last time I started doing photos at only 7 weeks.   When I took this pic I was at 13 weeks and 5 days!

If I compare this photo with ones from my last pregnancy.  I'd say I look to be about18 weeks along.  That is how different this is! I seriously thought I might be having twins before my ultrasound last week.   My low back/pelvic pain and the sharp shooting sciatica pains have already started, making it difficult to walk at times and nearly impossible to bend down to pick something up.

As for the hasn't gone away entirely.  It definitely is better than it was but I have many times throughout the day where I am gagging like crazy.  

I have to keep reminding myself that there IS a purpose for all of this though.  Pregnancy may be very challenging but it is all worth it in the end.  In February of next year I'll get to meet my new little boy or girl! I can't wait! :-)

Tuesday (the 28th) marked the first day of my 2nd trimester!  Today I am 14 weeks, 2 days.  I'm hoping that at least the nausea goes away soon.  I know there are many other challenges to come though.

Fall has Unofficially Arrived!

This year we decided to go to the Apple Orchard BEFORE all the apples were gone :-)  The apple orchard opened last week so we went on Sunday after church.  Usually this is a fall activity for us so I have decided that fall has arrived, even though we're still suffering from 100 degree days.  I seriously can not wait for Fall! It is my favorite season :-)  I've been drooling over all the wonderful fall crafts, foods, and decorations I keep seeing all over Pinterest.  It's such a beautiful season!

We've gone to the apple orchard I believe 4 out of the 6 years we've been here.  It's become a fun tradition for our family.  We pick apples and I always try and make sure I get some apple slices in caramel from the store.  Yum!

In addition to picking apples, Z enjoyed her first pony ride! She insists it was her second but no one has any memory of her being on a pony ever so... I say it's her first.

Now if only it would cool down... I never though I'd be hoping for cold weather here in South Dakota!  At least it isn't humid.

Now to figure out what to do with all of these apples!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Baby's #2's First Pictures!

Today I had a genetic screening that included an ultrasound! Not only was it my first time seeing the baby but my first time hearing the heartbeat! Gage was able to come with me to the screening part. It was so exciting to finally SEE and hear proof that I'm pregnant. Of course I knew I was pregnant from the at home tests and my 2 months of nausea and my growing belly but it makes it so much more *real* when you can actually see the baby or at least hear its heartbeat.

Everything appears to be normal and my due date is still Feb 26th!

Here is our precious new little one!

The genetic screening also included blood work... which I was able to combine with my regular appointment blood work which meant that they took 7 vials of blood.  I thought FOR SURE that I was going to at least feel faint.  I've never had an experience that involved giving blood that didn't result in me nearly falling over.  Nothing happened though! I felt totally fine.   Yay!!

We plan to find out the gender but that won't happen for two more months.  With Zoe I had my ultrasound at 18 weeks for some reason... and usually they wait until you're at 20 weeks.  I'm 2.5 weeks behind my last pregnancy schedule when I had Zoe and with her we had the ultrasound on Oct 19, 2007.  This time my ultrasound is scheduled for Oct 17, 2013.  Almost 5 years to the day!  Crazy!

October will be a fun month!  California for more than two weeks (including my best friend's Wedding and my sister's birthday), finding out the gender of the baby, and a possible trip to Tulsa, OK for Halloween / Jessie's 5th birthday party.  We'll see how I'm feeling then... if I'm still feeling sick then there is no way I can sit in a car for 10 hours (one way) and then 10 hours back...

I'm so glad that the first appointment is over with.  Altogether I spent 3 hours at the hospital today.  Future appointments will be much shorter.

Time to go fetch Zoe from our neighbor's house and go pick up Gage from work!


Speaking of free stuff....

I recently discovered that I had $90 in store credit for!  $90!! Apparently I had more than that at one point but they had been deducting credit with each month that passed by that I didn't shop on there (it had been probably 6-8 months).

I got all of this stuff and I still have $17 in credit left! Sweeeeet!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

On the Road and Pregnant

On that day that I found out I was expecting I took Zoe to the mall to find her a "sister" shirt.  While we were there she decided she wanted to get her ears pierced so she did.  :)  Unfortunately a week later one of them was accidentally ripped out so now she only has one earring.  I'm still trying to convince her to get the ear re-pierced but I think it may take a couple years.

We went on a long road trip the week I started to get sick from the pregnancy so of course now my mind associates the smell of the car with the nausea feeling.  The smell of the car actually makes me gag.  It is by far the worst aversion I have this time around!   I have to put up with it if I ever want to go anywhere though.  The great thing about this car is it is nearly twice the size of our old car and it gets way better gas mileage.  We drove from St. Louis, MO to Sioux City, IA on one tank of gas!

My house in KY

Our trip was to St. Joseph, MO on the night of July 3rd, then on the 4th we drove to St. Louis, MO.  We visited with Ryan and his wife Kacey for a while, we visited with our friends Brady and Jessi as well.  After a couple days there we drove to Kentucky.  We stayed with my Mom's Aunt Jane in Frankfort, KY.  We visited Danville, KY on the 7th.   It had been exactly 7 years since I was there.   I showed Gage and Zoe where I used to live with my Mom, where my Mom lived after I moved out,  where my Mom was when she passed away, where Gabby and I went to high school, etc.  We visited with some old friends in Danville, went out to eat at a new Pizza place downtown.

During this KY trip Gage and Zoe were also able to meet my Mom's Aunt Nancy.  Uncle Stanley and Uncle Tommy are both suffering from Alzheimers and are in separate nursing homes.  We weren't able to visit them... they wouldn't know who I am at this point anyway.  :(

Zoe looking at my Mom's last home. 

With friends at a new Pizza place in Danville

Overall it was a good trip but I felt so sick the whole time it was very hard for me to enjoy it.  I'm surprised my sickness started so early! I was only about 7 weeks at the time.  Now I'm at 12 weeks and still sick and SHOWING already! I should post a belly pic soon.  Hopefully the sickness ends in the next week or two.  I really hope that it does.  I would really like to ENJOY being pregnant even if it's only for a little while.

We just announced the pregnancy on Facebook on Aug 15th.  We did it by posting this photo done by my friend Ashley Kelly :-)

2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid = Our New Car!

We got a new car! We got a new car!  One with an air conditioner!  And power locks! And power windows! And it's automatic! And it has 4 doors! And no key!  Just a little sensor that needs to stay in our pocket or purse. We can't even accidentally lock our "key" in the car because a little alarm goes off to stop us from doing that. 

...and of course the first music we listen to in the new car had to be Hanson's "Shout It Out".

Finding Joy in the Winter Months

For our family, this time of year is full of two things: celebrations and a slightly overwhelming sense of cabin fever. Both Gage and I cel...