Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Meals & Hedgehogs

Last night was McFamily Night!  I guess there are two or three of them per year.  The PTA sponsors a dinner out at our local McDonald's.  Volunteers help out behind the counter, there are balloons everywhere, and 20% of the night's orders go to our PTA.  Last year they raised more than $800!

So since Matt has been doing his chores and being good at school (no more notes home from the teacher about keeping his hands to himself), we went.  It was raining but I just bought a new umbrella so Matt and I decided to walk and bring back dinner for everyone. 

We saw a bunch of PTA officers, but I didn't really talk to them since I haven't actually met any of them yet, despite being a card holding (yeah, got my paper PTA card lol!) member.  Apparently our school only has 3 general PTA meetings per year.  I have an issue with that.  But we also saw two of Matt's new friends from school: Samantha and Gage.  He was pretty amazed to see them there, outside of school. 

On the walk home we saw two deer crossing the street and bounding up a hill heading toward the river.  They ran right in front of us, it was pretty neat. 
I didn't have my camera with me, so these aren't the *actual* deer we saw.

And then, at a part of our walk where Matt usually climbs up on some rocks (but I wouldn't let him because they were slippery), he saw a little critter peeking its face out.  It was a hedgehog!  So cute!  Usualy I'm the one pointing stuff out, but I walked right past that little guy.  Matt spotted him, thought it was a groundhog.  I swear I see more animals with this kid that with anyone else! 
This guy isn't the one we saw either.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Box Top Contest

My son came home with a flyer from the PTA yesterday.  It said "We're Batty for Box Tops!!  Go batty in a race between classes!  The class that brings in the most Box Tops will win a Philly Pretzel Factory Party"  (Wow, I'm really stupid.  Reading this again I see that it's a party... and I've been telling everyone they win a trip to the Pretzel Factory... sheesh!)  This flyer came attached to a sheet that showed 10 bats hanging from a tree and a box beneath each to tape your box tops to.


I've been waiting for just such a thing!   We've been collecting since last year, plus my mom, mil, and sil have been collecting for us.  So I taped the first 10 to the sheet and sent it back to the teacher with a note:
Dear Mrs B.
Can I send the rest of our Box Tops in a plastic baggy, or do they need to be taped to the sheets.  If so, that's fine, please send Matthew home with 27.

Matt came home today with 27 of these "bat sheets" in his folder.  I used up an entire (brand new) roll of tape taping 270 Box Tops to bats.

Was that necessary???

His class better win!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Best Day of the Month

It's funny to see how the magazines I order reflect my life.  I guess this is true of everyone, but I never put too much thought into it.  I got a new subscription, and I think it's a new favorite.  Anyway, it got me reminiscing.

My first ever subscription was to Highlights.  I pored over the pages reading the stories and poems.  At the end of every issue there was reader art, and I remember always looking to see if anyone from my hometown had submitted anything (once I saw a picture sent in from someone just a few towns over!).  My next subscription was to something completely devoted to dinosaurs.  I can't remember the name, or even find it on the internet, but I loved it.   Every issue came with a new set of bones.  At the end of the year I had built a glow in the dark model T-Rex with them.  Because of that magazine I had grand ideas of growing up to be a paleontologist.  Around this time I also loved looking at Smithsonian.  Obviously it was my parents' magazine, but they didn't mind sharing.  ;) 

The next stage in my life belonged to Teen Beat.  I didn't get them, but my best friend did and we drooled over posters of Jonathon Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa, Hansen, and Leonardo DiCaprio (who is still drool worthy, if I may say so myself!).

When I turned 16 my grandmother gifted me a subscription to Seventeen.  Strangely, I don't remember anything about it.  What I remember of that magazine is definitely from more recently than 10 years ago; my sister in law gave me a stack of her old issues, and I enjoyed all the beauty and fashion tips.  But I don't think I used them at all when I was 16 lol!  Actually.... I wonder if my mom was intercepting them because she thought they were inappropriate.  I know she's done that with the laundry lol!  Hrmm, I should ask her.  Maybe my memory is just faulty.

When my hubby and I got our own place I ordered Cosmopolitan.  I wished I could be more like those chic 20somethings.  They finished school, they had careers.  They had nice apartments and full closets of edgy and sophisticated clothes.  I wasn't the target audience.  I was in the right age range (still am, really), but I was somewhere else in my life.  Not to say I didn't appreciate the advice, the articles, the horoscopes etc.  I just felt like half of the magazine didn't apply to me.  After my subscription ended, I faithfully bought the latest issue off the stands for months, even after I got pregnant and it applied to me even less.

Soon after (maybe even a little bit before) my first son was born I traded in Cosmo for American Baby, Parents, and Parenting.  I couldn't get enough!  It was a little bit of overkill, I'll admit it.  At least two of them always seemed to be featuring the same topic each month.  I didn't mind.  I got new advice, but maybe more importantly, I got reassurance that a lot of the things I was doing- but unsure of- were actually OK.  We all want to be great parents, and there's no one right way to do it.  That was probably the most important thing I learned (this was before I found, where I would have learned that eventually anyway).

As my son got a little older I tried Family Fun.  Love it still.  It's just chock full of stuff to DO!  Things to MAKE.  Matthew loves looking through it to see what crafts he wants to try, recipes he wants to make.  I think our favorite has been rainbow cupcakes.  Such a simple idea!  A little bit of a pain in the ass to make, but they are so fun, and so worth it!  Every issue I find myself ripping out pages to keep.  EVERY issue.  When I got pregnant again I did American Baby and Parenting again.  They ran out and I didn't feel the need to renew them.  I'm a much more confident mother this time around.  I still could use Parents, now that I have more than one age group.  And with Matthew in kindergarten this year I've found myself in unfamiliar territory again.  So I'm planning on ordering that one soon.  Around this time, just so it wasn't all baby, all the time, I had a subscription to US Magazine.  All the Hollywood gossip!  I ate it up, but couldn't justify renewing it. 

A few days ago I got my first issue of REDBOOK.  Jillian Michaels is on the cover.  A sign I need to start using her 30 Day Shred DVD again?  Probably lol!  My first impression of the magazine, and I said it to Eric was, "It's like Cosmo for moms!"  It seems to have the perfect blend of love and marriage advice, (affordable) fashion and trends, and parenting and home life.  I think I picked a winner, and I'm really looking forward to more issues.  And guess what.  There was a question submitted from a reader only a few towns away from me!  ;) 

Just as important as my magazines are my other subscriptions... the blogs I love to read!  I love peeking in on someone else's life without feeling nosy about it.  I'm pretty new to the blogosphere, but already these ladies have me laughing and crying, cheering and jeering!  You can see a few of the blogs I follow on my sidebar.  Maybe one of them is yours!  If it is, thank you.  For the entertainment, for the advice, for inviting me into your routine, and of course, for being here to read my blog as well.
Have a great day ladies!

Farmers' Market & Other Adventures

I didn't get a chance to do all this Sunday.  I was meaning to, but...first I got busy and since then I’ve been having connectivity issues. 

Anyway, we had a pretty busy day on Saturday.  We hadn't been to the farmers' market in almost a month.  It had been either too hot or we were doing other things.  So since it was so cool, and since we had nothing else to do, the boys and I walked over to the Easton Farmers' Market.   I LOVE the EFM.  It's the longest running outdoor farmers' market in the country!  They always have live music, a kid tent where there is usually a free craft to do (although donations are very welcome and greatly appreciated), and of course, TONS of food!  They're also very dog friendly.  Most of the vendors have bowls of water on the ground for thirsty dogs, and one vendor specializes in just all natural puppy treats.    All in all, it's a really friendly and fun place to be. 
I was a little upset that we missed the tomato festival, which was last Saturday, but as it turned out, I think we ended up having more fun.  We watched students from a local music school perform their pieces, singing and playing piano.  Matthew made a pendant at the craft table.  Then we saw Tip, the Crayola Factory's mascot!  The Crayola Factory was hosting a free event for Constitution Day.  So we went over there to see what was going on.  There were coloring pages and free boxes of crayons for all the kids.  While we were there we got to meet the Mayor of Easton!  He talked about how kids could be good citizens and then went around talking to the kids.  Matthew showed him his muscle lol.  Lucas got tired of that pretty quickly so we couldn't stay long.  I strapped him back into the stroller and we went to find something else to do. 
Lucas & Tip

Something else turned out to be the Riverside Festival for the Arts.

We walked down there to check out all the local artists and their exhibits.  Mosaics, paintings, photography, wood carvings, and so much more were displayed and for sale.  The Crayola Factory had a tent there as well.  A "test lab" for their sidewalk chalk, stampers, and markers.  Basically just something fun to do for the kids.  The man in the tent next to them makes these really cool... garden ornaments, I guess you would call them, out of wire and glass balls.  Well, he also had cool stuff for the kids to do, involving pipe cleaners and beads.  He helped Matt make a dragon.
Pipe cleaner dragon

I think it turned out pretty well.  While Matt was working on that the Lafayette Leopard was making his rounds and stopped to give Lucas a high five.  The little one is popular with people in huge costumes... you should have seen him with the Easter Bunnies we saw last spring!
After we finished looking at all the great art we headed to the new playground they built along the river.  We stayed there until all of our bellies were growling before we started the walk home.  We squeezed all that fun into less than 2 hours!  So it was time to go home, eat, and in Lucas' case, take a NAP!  Matt ended up staying outside to play with his friends in the courtyard.  He was pretty beat by dinner time, and they both ended up going to bed early.  I wish I could keep that busy every day!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Photo Op

There's something about the beginning of the school year.  Fresh pencils, new clothes, and miles of blank paper in notebooks all symbolize the start of something new.  A blank canvas. 

My canvas has been pretty full.  My canvas being the memory card of my camera.  I had pictures on there from 2009, before I got pregnant with Lucas (my now 18 month old).  With Matthew starting school I realized there was a very real chance I would get caught at some school funtion with a FULL memory card and miss out on some great photo ops.  So last night my husband helped me whittle down 714 pictures.  We ended up with 503 that we absolutely had to keep.  And we burned them to a disc.  And I formatted the memory card.

How refreshing!  Now all I have to do is develop some of those 500 pictures. 

What I think I'm going to do, and maybe what you should do, too, if you've got a ton of pictures taking up space on your memory card and an empty photo album, is go to Snapfish and take advantage of the promotion they're running right now.  Up to 500 4x6 prints for only a penny each!  Use code PENNY094U at check out until 9/10/11.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Selling Your Silver & Gold

Here's something you may not know about me.  On Sundays I spend my day at a kiosk in the mall buying silver and gold.  Right now gold is WAY UP!  And it may be the time to cash in on whatever old or broken jewelry or old silver coins you've got sitting on your dresser.  Before you go, here are a few tips.
The first thing you're going to want to do is check the market price of gold and silver.  As I'm writing this, the current price for is $1,882.33 per ounce of 24k gold, and it's NEVER been higher!  Silver is currently sitting at $43.21 per ounce, and is also at an all time high.  You may decide to go right away, or you may decide to wait a month or two to see how prices fluctuate.  It's up to you.

Next you're going to want to sort through all your jewelry, silverware, etc. to try to separate what's real from what's fake.  There are several ways gold buyers test your precious metals.  The first thing they will do is something you can do right at home.  Gold and silver are NEVER magnetic!  Take a magnet to whatever you plan on bringing in and anything that sticks should stay home (unless you're going to, say, a pawn shop who will take costume jewelry and resell it).  If a clasp sticks to the magnet, but the rest of your chain doesn't, you're fine.  The spring inside the clasps aren't usually gold.

Now check carefully for any markings. 
Silver should be marked .925 (sterling silver) or .999 (fine silver)
Gold is usually marked simply with the karat, but not always:
10k or 417
14k or 585
18k or 750
22k or 917
24k or 999
Anything marked with one of the codes below is gold *plated or filled*  or just plain not gold at all.  Most places won't take it.
EPNS (usually on flatware)
14k PT
Gold plated (duh)
Anything with a fraction involved: 1/10, 1/20 etc
Rolled Gold
And some popular brand names:
Sarah Conventry
Lia Sophia

If you've got silver candlesticks they are weighted in the base with sand.  Don't expect to get paid for the full weight.

OK, so now you know what's real and what's not.  For the most part.  Some jewelry isn't marked at all and just because it's not magnetic doesn't mean it's gold.  And just because it's not marked gold doesn't mean it isn't.  So your gold will be tested further by the gold buyer.  Before you go though, if you can, weigh your gold.  Where I work the unit of measurement we use is the pennyweight, or dwt.  To put it in perspective, there are 20 dwt in an ounce.  Some places use grams, but I'm going to go ahead and continue with dwt because it's a unit of measurement I feel comfortable with.  If you can weight your gold at home you'll be able to give yourself your own estimate of what to expect when you sell.  Remember those gold codes?  10k or 417 etc?  Those numbers are important.  10k gold is 41.7% pure gold.  14k is 58.5% pure gold.  And so on.  So in order to figure out how much your gold is worth you will take the current gold price, multiply it by the percentage of pure gold in your particular karat, divide by 20 (to get the price per dwt), and multiply by how many dwt you have. 

Example:  Gold is at $1,882 and let's say I have a bracelet that's 10k gold and weighs 6dwt.
1882(price of 24k gold/oz) x .417 (amount of pure gold in 10k) = 785 (worth of 1oz of 10k gold)
785 (what 1oz of 10k gold is worth) / 20 (dwt in an oz) =  39.25 (how much 1dwt of 10k is worth)
39.25 x 6 (weight of my bracelet) = $235.50

Now... just because your bracelet is *worth* $235 you aren't going to get that price for it.  It still needs to be taken and melted down at a refinery and your gold buyer needs to make a profit.  This is where it gets tricky and you really need to shop around for the best price.  Look in your paper, look on craigslist.  Tell your potential buyers what you've been offered before.  Tell them how much YOU want and they can either afford it and accept it or they'll make you an offer they can afford.

Before you start talking prices, your gold will be tested.  Aside from the magnet test and checking for marks (which you've already done, right?) the gold buyer will take a residue from each piece.  This doesn't harm your pieces (unless it's really fake and spray painted on there), it just makes a mark on their stone so they can swipe some acid over it.  This will confirm the gold (or silver) is real, and also tell what karat the gold it if it hasn't been marked.  It should be separated by karat before it's weighed.  And ALL of this should be done in front of you (which also means you SHOULDN'T send your gold through the mail!!).  If it seems like they are going to take it away to a separate counter, speak up!  Ask questions.  "What karat was that?"  "How much did that weigh?"  And so on. 

Just a one more tip before I send you on your merry way.  If you've got gemstones in your pieces they can probably removed.  You are being paid for the weight of the gold, not the gems or craftsmanship of the peice.  If you think your jewelry is worth more than just the price of the gold, absolutely try to sell it elsewhere.  Craigslist is always my suggestion.  Happy selling!