Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I hate football, but I can pick'em!

My winning streak continues. I discovered today that I have a new talent - football predictions. I hate football. But I like Cheeseburger in Paradise so I entered their weekly football pick'em contest and last week I had the highest # of correct entries (for our local restaurant) and I won a $25 gift card.

I did some shopping today. I decided to stop into Kohl's (since I had 30% off coupon) and found some great clearance, bought 3 shirts and a pair of capris. Shirts were $2.80 (originally $14) and the capris were $5-something (originally $28) so after the 30% discount I paid $10.37 - for 4 pieces of new with tags clothing for me.

Also at a thrift I bought this ugly thing - I had no idea what it was, but I knew it was something. Since it had a old looking pottery sticker on it, that it was just too bizarre, had an original price of $1.00. It's a Hagen-Renaker Little Horribles. In looking online Hagen Renaker is known for making realistic looking animal figurines - so this line of "horrible" creatures is very different from their other stuff. Looked on ebay and someone has one listed for $89.

One other thing I wanted to add about our Amtrak adventure. A few things I discovered - nice houses normally aren't built next to the train tracks. And the USA has a whole lotta graffiti from coast to coast that needs to be cleaned up. If I was a foreigner traveling in the USA via Amtrak, I would have the misconception that all Americans live in junky houses next to graffiti.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Part 3 Vacation Series: Amtrak Adventure aka The Trip that I will Never Take Again

Ok, finally here is the last part of our summer vacation extravaganza. The final part of the trip was traveling via Amtrak train from California to Washington DC (Southwest Chief and Capitol Limited trains). We switched trains in Chicago. We were supposed to have a nice 3 hour layover in Chicago, where we could have hung out in the First Class passenger lounge, used the internet, used a real toilet etc, but it wasn't meant to be. The train was 2 hours late leaving California and then we lost about another hour along the way - somewhere late at night in Colorado we stopped due to a medical emergency - some oldster cut their leg on piece of metal and needed stitches.

Traveling by train is pretty inexpensive, IF you don't get a sleeper room. I wasn't going to agree to spend 3 nights on a train and not have a sleeper. We got on the train on a Wednesday night, rode all night, spent all day Thursday and Friday on the train and then Friday evening we switched trains in Chicago and that train got into DC on Saturday afternoon. When you get a sleeper room, you get privacy, and can eat for free in the dining car. And you can shower. The "coach" people can eat in the dining car if they pay. But they can't shower, and they can't visit you in your room. However, just because 1st class passengers can shower, doesn't mean they will. Oye - there was one stinky guy who was in a roomette down the hallway from us and boy, he stunk. Was glad when he got off the train after the first day. Just walking past his doorway you could smell the funk. He must have gotten on the train stinky cuz no way could a human get that stinky that fast. Even DH noticed it and that's saying something.

For a short train ride, riding coach would be fine - the seats looked very spacious - much more spacious than an airline seat. Back in the 80's when I lived in upstate NY, a few times I took Amtrak down to NYC for the day. But I don't remember much about the actual ride (just a few hours long). For this trip, I didn't want to deal with others talking at night, snoring, etc etc. A lot of people in real life annoy the heck out of me.

Anyhow, the first night on the train was awful. There was one little A/C vent that worked poorly - and going thru California and Arizona in August was toasty. I've heard people say the gently rocking of the rails will lull you to sleep. BS! That first night felt like we were doing figure 8's, doing loop-de-loops and going up and down sides of mountains all night long. So the first full day on the train I was rather grumpy and not my normal cheery wonderful self.

Plus, the train was out of chicken strips and wouldn't be getting any. I had promised Jacob there was chicken strips on the menu. Disaster. He lives on chicken strips. So most of his meals consisted of Haagen Daz ice cream cups. That was one good thing about the dining car - they had great desserts (they are pre-made). Finally when we got to Chicago - he did get to have Amtrak chicken strips and guess what? They were yucky - microwaved, not crunchy.

One of my misconceptions about the Amtrak train was that we'd be able to get off at the different stops and walk around outside for 10 or 15 minutes. Wrong. Most of the stops were to get people on or off quickly and not be sightseeing. Unless some passenger cuts themselves, then you can go outside and look at the Colorado darkness for a while.

There was only one major stop where we got to get off for about 20 minutes - that was Albuquerque and I even did a little bit of hurried shopping. I even videotaped it, the closest thing I got to *yardsaling* the entire trip.

The second and third nights were better as far as the air conditioning went, what a difference a good nights sleep makes. The bathroom facilities were down the hallway - so you had to share bathrooms, the toilets were similar to an airplane toilet. They provided towels and soap for the shower. The shower wasn't half-bad. The coach people had their own toilets and the first class passengers had theirs. But still, people are gross. Amtrak needs to hire full time cleaning people. And maybe buy some toilet brushes.

One of the cars in the train was the kind you see in the ads with the glass domed ceiling, the big windows with comfortable chairs etc. But geez, when people have been drinking beer in there all night and leaving their cans and food wrappers and crap all over the place, it's gross. There is also a little cafe car that sells beer, wine, and snacks. People all sprawled out across 3 seats etc. People are pigs. How hard is it to put your crap in the trash can? Didn't spend much time in the special window car.

In the dining car, the way Amtrak works is that they will seat you with others. Most times when the 3 of us were eating together, we sat by ourselves but other times like for breakfast, DH would get up early and eat first and then I would eat later. So they sat you with strangers. Met one nice woman who lives in New Mexico on a 600 acre ranch who said she uses a fire wood stove to cook on. Like a modern day little house on the prairie. I told her I couldn't live out in the middle of nowhere on a big ranch (she said a 600 acre ranch is "small" by NM standards) because I love going to yard sales too much. Her response was "I love yardsales too!"

So bottom line, I would not do a big cross country Amtrak ride again. Three nights was pretty long. Jacob didn't mind it at all. And no internet service on the train! Why can't Amtrak provide internet service? We are considering doing a weekend trip to Philadelphia and taking Amtrak. Some people like Amtrak because as one person said "they don't treat you like a terrorist" - it's pretty low key getting on a train, sure you have to show your ID, but you don't need to remove your shoes or get to the train station 2 hours before your train leaves. And you are allowed to bring a ton of suitcases with you if you want.

Somewhere out West

Kansas City, MO (I think). We were able to get off for about 5 minutes)

Window car - woman next to me sprawled out over 3 seats

Dining car

Inside our cabin - I slept on a top bunk, those hanging straps are like seat belts to keep you from rolling off

about to cross the Mississipppi

Somewhere in West Virginia - people tubing down river

A stop that was considered a "smoke break" - that's DH and Jacob down the track.

Back in DC - you can tell it's DC since there is a homeless person napping in the pic.

and here are some youtube videos of the train trip:

p.s. forgot to mention the rolls on the train were awesome too. Dessert & rolls - yum.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sony PSP + $1 = SOLD! I love church yardsales

Today on my agenda was to hit 3 church yardsales. Plus other miscellaneous yardsales. Church yardsales are awesome for a few reasons: the cashiers are volunteers so most times there is no sentimental attachment to the stuff being sold (when there is sentimental attachment - the price goes up). And secondly, a lot of times they don't even know what they selling or what it's worth.

For instance today - at the first church yardsale I asked the price of two different items (why is it that I always seem to pick the stuff at yardsale with no price stickers? 99% of the stuff at a yardsale can have a price sticker, but it seems like it's always that 1% of stuff with no sticker is what I want)

Anyhow, the first item was an old Nintendo gameboy with some games and accessories. The cashier said it was $5 because of all the games it had etc. I told her I would put it back since I really didn't need it - she then suggested $3 - so I bought it for $3. Then the second item was the above Sony PSP (no cords, no games etc). I know they cost about $170 new. The cashier told me a price of $1. Then she said: "because it probably only has 1 game with it". Sold! Needless to say, she wasn't familiar with what a PSP can do or how much they cost new.

It needs a new battery (battery compartment was empty) so we don't know if it works or not but even so, the memory stick that it came with is worth more than $1. My guess is that it does work, it looks like it was well taken care of - no scratches etc.

At another church sale I bought some clothing for .25 each - it included two high visibility jackets from 511 Tactical I haven't tried them on so I don't even know if I'm keeping them or not. Maybe keep one and make Jacob wear it while riding his bike or something - not that I'm an overprotective parent or anything.

Did some decluttering today in the yard - we fired up my Troybilt chipper shredder (paid $200 at a yardsale for it years ago) and chipped and shredded some overgrown bushes they were turning into trees. They got decluttered.

I put up the new curtains successfully (that means there was no frustration and/or crying on my part). yea!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I hate all things curtains

I hate dealing with curtains. I hate shopping for them, picking them out, figuring out measurements, putting them up etc etc etc. And especially paying for them since new curtains are expensive. So if I'm at a yardsale, and someone is selling curtains - I don't even bother looking since chances are very slim that someone would be selling curtains that fit my windows and weren't ugly. And I wouldn't want to buy used curtains - have to stand around at a yardsale with a ruler and measure them? No thank you. And then have to bring them home and wash them? Nope, not gonna happen.

Our master bedroom has 4 big identical sized windows. When we first bought the house (20+ years ago), I bought new curtains that matched all 4 windows. Long story short, the curtains don't match anymore and haven't in years. I hate dealing with curtains so much that it hasn't bothered me.

But today at Penney's, I saw on the clearance table, curtains that would fit and they even all matched each other! What a concept. And they are in a nice dark color (we like a dark bedroom). Marked down from $50 to $19.99 plus I got an additional 15% off. So $72 to do all 4 windows and the curtain rod is already up on the windows. The curtains look like they are multiple pieces but they are all one big sewn together set (including a sheer) - so don't need to put up individual panels (and then realize I put them on backward) etc.

So here's the curtains I'll be using for the next 20+ years:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I stayed home and decluttered today!

And you didn't think it could be done. Yes, I stayed home all day and did work around the house - aren't you proud of me? I didn't shop, didn't hit any thrift stores or anything! Granted, Jacob was home sick from school, but still. (Nothing major, just a runny nose.)

Anyhow, I really did do some decluttering. Like this, see my first digital camera? In the trash it went. I did however, keep the memory card. Why? I dunno. Now I am rethinking the whole throwing it away part. It would have made a great door stop.

And more about my post from the other day - the house with the pink fireplace - the house did have some redeeming qualities - like this view of the Chesapeake Bay:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I won some Vera Bradley - yuck!

I've been on a winning streak lately - maybe I should play the lottery or go back to Vegas. In the past month I've won the following:

$10 gift card to Quiznos (playing their online game)
$25 gift card to Play N Trade - won that as a door prize at our neighborhood-wide get-together

Then last Sunday I went to an event that the hoidy toidy retirement community was having and it was open to the public. They had a free country music concert, games for kids etc. And they also were selling tickets to a fund-raising Chinese raffle. There was about 30 prizes and you deposited your tickets in a bag at each prize that you wanted to win. So you could put one ticket in a bag, or if you really wanted to win that particular prize, you could put more than 1 ticket. I think for $10 you got 20 tickets, or maybe just 10, I forget.

I got a call yesterday saying I won two of the prizes. A $50 gift card to Smoothie King and a Vera Bradley agenda book. I already know what's on my agenda: go shopping, I don't need to write it down. I figured the senior citizens who bought tickets wouldn't be trying to win a gift card to a smoothie place that is 15 miles away so it was better odds. And I also put one or two tickets in to win a Vera Bradley agenda book - which I ended up winning too. My opinion of Vera Bradley stuff in general, is that you either love it or hate it. I'm on the "hate it" side, so it will be put up on eBay soon. So even though I do not care for Vera Bradley stuff, I am glad there are people who love it, so I can sell stuff to them.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who would want a PINK fireplace?

I went to an estate sale over the weekend - which was truly a blast from the past. It was definitely something. That's the thing about going to estate sales and indoor moving sales, you really get to see a variety of tastes and get decorating ideas for free. I mean, I personally have never envisioned a pink fireplace before - now I know what one would look like. And I would never think to install wall-to-wall carpeting in a two car garage, but now I know it can be done.

I am kinda busy at the moment but since I hadn't blogged in a few days I thought I would at least do a quick post and show you the pink fireplace. And here is a bored Jacob. No, I didn't buy the $5 sofa.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Real Santa Myth EXPOSED!

I went to a church yardsale and also a few other yardsales on Saturday. I didn't find much - but I got my bubble burst big time. Here all along I believed that Santa went around on Christmas eve with his reindeers delivering presents - and guess what? It's not true. He uses a helicopter! I paid .25 for the above evidence of the whole Santa/Reindeer fraud.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Las Vegas Baby: Pawn Stars Mandalay Bay and my boyfriend Drew Lachey

Here's Part 2 of my series on what I did on my summer vacation. I will probably take a short break before the third installment. I got some ebay business stuff to attend to (which means I have a lot of good junk to package up and mail).

We drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in our rental car and stayed 3 nights at Mandalay Bay Because of Jeff's previous gambling in Vegas, we got 2 nights for free and we paid for the third. We could have gotten 4 free nights at the Venetian but in my online research I decided Mandalay Bay would be better for us. And let's just say I absolutely loved it. Staying there definitely helped to soften the disastrous blow of missing out on Saturday's yardsales (we were there for a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night). Drove back to Los Angeles on Sunday.

Jeff thought 3 days in Vegas would be plenty of time. I could have definitely stayed longer. Jacob loved it too. The last time I was in Vegas (I believe, was 1991) and we stayed in the old Aladdin - which ended up getting imploded years later. All I remember about that trip was just getting free junk at the different casinos. One advertised a "free professional slot players glove" when you signed up for their gambler's card. It was the cheapest cotton glove you've ever seen. I still got my free keychain from Fitzgerald's. I had my picture taken with the million dollars at Binions (but lost the photo long ago). But really not doing much except from walking to casino to casino. Sorta boring actually.

Well what a difference a few years make. I loved Las Vegas this time around. I think the difference was having Jacob around to do stuff with - while Jeff gambled. Or should I say, while Jeff won money. I am not really into gambling. Over the course of 3 days, Jeff was $750 ahead. He ended up giving back $100 on the last night, but he knew when to quit and still come out $650 ahead.

While there, he also put a $100 bet down for the Vikings vs Saints on NFL opening day (last Thursday night). So even tho the Vikings lost, he had a 6 point spread, so he still won! He goes back in October for his guys Vegas trip, so then he'll claim the $200 then. I think I deserve a girl's trip (like a Sunday - Friday) so I could be back in time for Saturday's yardsales.

I had 3 things on my To Do List for Las Vegas. Go the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop - you know the pawn shop from Pawn Stars. Go to the The Price is Right Live Show at Bally's Casino and meet Jenndiggy from West Virginia.

Jenn (or Jenndiggy) is a woman in West Virgina who has been a member of my message board that I've known online for at least a dozen years. I know I knew her way before I had Jacob, and he is now 10 years old. It was good to finally meet her in person. She is a big time sweepstakes person and had won a trip for 2 to Vegas thru the Home Shopping Network. HSN was doing a big convention thing with live tv tapings, celebrities etc etc during that time so she was there for that. So I got to meet her and her cousin and I also dropped by the HSN convention and saw Tori Spelling and Criss Angel. I also got some free make-up and other small goodies.

I had Jeff go to a Tickets for Tonight ticket outlet to get discounted tickets to the Price is Right Live show. It's not 100% like going to a tv taping in Los Angeles, but it was still a lot of fun. And Jacob loved it. At the real show, kid's aren't allowed in the audience. But in Las Vegas, they are (since of course you are buying them a ticket.) But only adults are called to Come On Down. We did not get to come on down. Oh well. Next time. They choose people at random - you put your name on a form prior to the show. If they had picked people based on personality, there would have been no doubt. The big wheel, the games etc are all from one of their anniversary shows, so it looks just like how it looks on TV. And the prizes that people can win are much less expensive. The guest host was Drew Lachey and the announcer was David Ruprecht. Afterward they posed for pictures. I bought Jacob a t-shirt and got that autographed. Of course, I had the settings all wrong on the camera so there was no flash. So the pictures look grainy when enlarged. But while the poor girl was trying to get the camera to work, she didn't realize she had taken two. So that just gave me and Drew more time together. And they took pictures of everyone to make it look like you are in front of the big wheel.

Since we had our rental car, we drove to the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn store (713 Las Vegas Boulevard). The place is a tourist destination now - had to wait in line to get in, they had misting sprays out front. The only person from the show that was there was Chumlee and he was in the back. But then as we were leaving he also walked out and I sorta played paparazzi and taped him leaving. I brought my Batman ring to the store and they were just gonna give me $3 for it to melt it down! I recently sold it for $30. I bought a "I heart Chumlee shirt"

At our hotel, the Miss Universe pageant was going on - Jeff met Miss Canada at the craps table. I thought about applying to be in the pageant as a last minute entry, but since I'm married they said no. Otherwise I'm sure they would have let me.

The pool area was gorgeous. A person could really spend a lot of money there if they wanted to, you know, rent a cabana for the day, rent a special padded lounge chair, buy food/drinks, buy inner-tubes for the lazy river etc. We didn't spend a dime at the pool. You don't have to have a inner-tube to float around in the lazy river and we only spent like an hour or so at the pool each day. Perhaps if we were there all day long it would be another story. They provided free beach towels and we just sat on the plain, non padded, lounge chairs. There was a wave pool, a few other pools and they also have an adult only private pool (which I did not go to).

We accidentally got a deal at the Paris Eiffel Tower. We were at the casino and told Jeff I wanted to take Jacob up in the Eiffel Tower. He starts complaining about what a waste of money, you can go up in the Stratosphere for free and it's taller, yadda yadda. He thinks he knows all of Las Vegas since he's been going every year for the past 20 years or so. So I said, whatever, I'm taking him. Stay with him while I go buy tickets. I had picked up a Las Vegas coupon booklet that had a Buy 1 Get 1 Free coupon. So I go and pay for two tickets $10 (for both) for me and Jacob. I find Jeff and Jacob and what does Jeff say? "Where's MY ticket?" Sheesh. So we are standing there *discussing* the ticket situation - I was telling him to go buy another ticket if he wanted to go so bad) meanwhile the Eiffel Tower lady sees me holding the tickets and rips them and half and tells us all to enjoy the view and pointed where to get on the elevator. I don't know if she noticed I only had 2 tickets in my hand or what. So Jeff got to go for free. I don't feel that bad, I don't think the casino is hurting for money.

I am disappointed that I didn't take more pictures of the inside of our hotel room. Our bathroom had a tv. We were only on the 7th floor but could still see the strip all lit up at night. I took some videos with my cellphone - but they are some weird format that I have to reformat or something. I can't see them as is. So.....even after my vacation series is over, you may still have to hear more about it later.

Now pics and videos:

driving up to Mandalay Bay

Jacob as Miss Universe. He is modeling his Las Vegas t-shirt that I bought him - NEW. It was $2 at a seedy discount place in downtown Las Vegas.

Pool/Beach area

The stuff I covered with a towel within 5 minutes of getting into the hotel room. I didn't need Jacob eating $5 Pringles. The Doritos were ours. We had stopped at a grocery store for some Basic Needs.

Trying out the tub.

Our floor was the floor with the big X's on the windows.

As I've said before, the primary reason for going on vacation is so Jacob can play computer in other locations. haha. You can see Luxor in the background.

In the Eiffel Tower. Mandalay Bay is the gold looking hotel way down the strip.

One evening we went to the Fremont Street Experience. And they had a Partridge Family short bus. (They were doing a 70's music theme). That reminds me, it was a year yesterday that I got to go to David Cassidy's moving sale and see his stuff and try out his bed and see his toilet. Oh what memories!

Here was a casino four me!

Jenn's cousin, me and Jenn (photo taken at a restaurant. Jenn's cousin bought it, and me being cheap, just took a picture of it).

Fremont Street laser show

The Price is Right Live (no pics allowed during the show)

Family Christmas Picture 2010. Me and Drew Lachey getting to know each other. Yes, my name says Jacob. Jacob tore his tag off the minute the show ended and I wanted to save it as a memento so I stuck it on my shirt. I regret not telling Drew that we had *dancing* in common. Many of you do not know this but I took dance lessons as a child and toured. Ok ok, it was only Polish dance lessons and we mainly appeared at the local nursing homes, but hey, I know all about the stress and physical endurance of taking dance lessons. My mom's friend was the dance teacher.

Drew Lachey and me with Jacob and some other people:

The World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn

Had to take a picture of the Jim Morrison picture. ($20,000)

The back of Chumlee's head

At the HSN Convention. Tori Spelling at a Meet N Greet. I was too late to get in line.

HSN live show with Criss Angel