Thursday, June 30, 2011

Six Signs of an Angry Skunk

I was often out and about with my boys when they were younger. Over the years we attended several classes at Chicago's North Park Village Nature Center. Their programs were not always top notch, but they were free and weather permitting, we'd enjoy a lovely romp in the woods or quiet nature walk after the class.

In 2004 we attended a program on skunks. The organizers even had a live skunk we got to touch and smell (its stink glands had been removed but the animal remained unpleasantly musky and slightly malodorous). The teacher told us that skunks are nice. Skunks want to be our friends and don’t just go around stinking things up.

Skunks only spray their stink, the teacher told us, when they are scared or threatened. She told us there are six signs of an angry skunk and that the skunk will show those signs before letting loose the stink.

This got me thinking about my own young children. What are signs they are about to blow?
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That, dear reader, is one of many unfinished essays abandoned on my hard drive. I never forgot the title or the analogy and it still seems to me like it could be an piece with potential. Ah, I remember when I used to write....

At any rate, I thought of the dusty old draft recently when I noticed we have a family of skunks living below our front stoop at the new-to-us-house. Click. Go read.

There is still time to enter the Serta Sleep Set giveaway over at Reluctant Renovator and more great giveaways planned for this summer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Serta iComfort Sleep System Giveaway

Sorry for the light posting here. If you are a subscriber, please follow me over at Reluctant Renovator as that's where I doing most of my writing this summer, which has thus far been a whirlwind of meetings with contractors, electricians, plumbers, foundation seal fixers and floor refinishers.

Good times, y'all.

Really. I mean, I'm thrilled to have a house, I just have to remind myself that A) we bought low and B) we will be living there for reals by 2012.

I hope..

At any rate, I have a bunch of fabulous giveaways planned for the summer over at RR and here's the first one- a fabulous Serta iComfort Sleep System of your choice---free! What are you waiting for--go enter!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chicago Summer Fun with Chicken in the Car and the Car Won't Go

Chicago native Melisa Wells not only knows how to throw a heck of a book launch party, she writes a pretty good book, too. Her latest book, Chicken in the Car and the Car Won't Go: Nearly 200 ways to enjoy Chicagoland with teens and tweens, is chock full of where to go and what to do, with a bit of what to eat tossed in for good measure. My mom saw my copy of the book sitting out and swiped borrowed it from me. I had to sneak it back in order to give it a review.

It sounds like my family follows in the foot steps of Melisa's family or origin in that we often hop in the car or on the train and go to town, literally. But even as a frequent hometown tourist, I learned a few new tidbits from Melisa.

I now know a simple way to make it to Ping Tom park in Chinatown.
I learned that my family and I can get our own room at a hostel in downtown Chicago.
There is a state park in Chicago. (Who knew?)
We can tour the Sprecher Brewery? (Granted, it's just across the border in Wisconsin, as are a few other fun attractions.)

And because of the age group her book serves, I'm reminded of a few outings that weren't a great fit when the boys were younger, such as a trip to the Federal Reserve and Fermilab.

Once my mom clears out her bookmarks from the book, I'm adding a few of my own and using this to guide our summer fun.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to facilitate a review and summer of fun.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Day with @CraftsmanClub: Nearly Wordless Wednesday

Talk about feeling the power. Last week, I spent a wonderful and inspiring day with the folks from Craftsman and a fabulous, patient crew of instructors who taught me new terms, skills and technology.

They really pumped up my DIY mojo and I look forward to tackling projects at Casa de Renovation. After lunch, the team showed us a variety of new/up and coming Nextec power hand tools, and I'll be damned if I couldn't put each of those things to work the minute I got them home. #gadgetlust

No, the bloggers did not receive the whole line, but I do have two goodies heading my way that will likely show up in some form at Reluctant Renovator. But before I think too much about building up our workshop, we have to tear down the walls that surround it in order to locate the foundation crack. :-/

Check out a few highlights:


@MissLori swears she didn't purposely dress to match the goody bag.


@HollyConrad's project could not have been a bigger hit.

Holly simultaneously rocks a skirt, legwarmers and a band saw. #awesome

I rock the double chin and the band saw.

@CC_Chapman simply rocks; check out that ogre knife.
Event Tweets referencing "stripping, sawing and corn-holing" can be attributed to @CondoBlues

@RedneckMommy tackles the most challenging task of the day.

Disclosure: I was not required to post about this event. All opinions are my own. I received a wrench-like Craftsman bottle opener, a Craftsman rain poncho, a tin of Garrett's popcorn(!), a box of Frango mints(!) and a few other items in addition to lunch and an ogre sword which, in case you missed it, I MADE MYSELF, albeit with Craftsman's tools and supplies.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mothers of Intention by Pundit Mom and a Posse of Awesome

I'll be back with a proper review of  Mothers of Intention soon, but I couldn't put off mentioning it now because I am in this book! (Much to my boys' amazement because they think all I do is Twitter my friends all day.)

Moms, Social Media and Politics...oh my!

I can't wait to dig in, not just for the smug satisfaction of seeing my own words in print, but also to read the words of the rock stars of the mom-space who are in there with me.

I spent this morning scheduling electricians, plumbers and basement crack sealers. The house is keeping us busy, but I promise I'll get to this in the near future.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The All-Star, All-Musical Property Sluts Series Finale

I started my not-ready-for-HGTV house hunting vlog series on a lark. The video series gave me a creative outlet for handling the stress of a frustrating house hunt. Who knew I'd have twenty episodes and a loyal fan club?

The day before my family headed down to Orlando for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, we had a contract accepted on a house. Long story short, we wound up withdrawing the contract. The only good thing about that purchase would have been getting footage of me saying, "We just bought a house and now we're going to Disney World!"

On the plane ride to Orlando, I penned a clever ditty based on a well known Disney song. The ride based on that song has been known to leave park guests pulling their hair, screaming, "When will it end?!"

That's how I felt about our house hunt.

But it's over. Property Sluts is over and I've moved on to the Reluctant Renovator, whose first video is scheduled for next week and whose blog is now well-established. You can even follow along on Facebook.

I leave you with this final episode, It's a Buyer's Market After All. My sincere thanks to the all-star cast of bloggers who participated. With an average rehearsal time of about 23 seconds, I think they all did an outstanding job. Visit their blogs via the links below.



Selfish Mom:
We've seen houses big and some houses small,
We've seen moldy basements and shower stalls.
Though the market is weak, sellers price like it's the peak, but it's a buyer's market after all.

MacaroniKidNYC, Honest and Truly, Jen Rab, SAHM Reviews, and Dancing Hot Dogs:
Chorus:
It's a buyer's market after all,
It's a buyer's market after all,
It's a buyer's market after all,
It's a buyer's market after all.

Sweet Life, Rock and Roll Mama:
Interest rates are low, but the prices are high,
Even for estate sales where the owners have died.
The recession isn't nice, you may need to cut your price
Cuz it's buyer's market after all.

Classy Mommy, Me:
Chorus

Same Old Shannon, French Foodie Mom, A Savings Wow:
The housing supply now exceeds demand,
So if you want to sell give your buyer a hand.
Though it's hard to admit, makes you feel like sh*t, it's a buyer's market after all.

Thanks for following along!

P.S. If you're keeping track, as I predicted, the Smokin' House is still on the market, as are most of the overpriced houses. Many of the houses we toured eventually sold once the owners accepted local market conditions by cutting their prices $20 - $80K. The house we now own was one of the few that went on the market at the right price; the owners received multiple offers within one week of listing it

Also. the Home Office episode has remained one of the most popular of the series. Have you seen it?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

MyExtra Gum and Other Chewy Delights from Sweets and Snacks Expo 2011

MyExtra Gum, customized packs of chewing gum, was one of the true delights from this year's Sweets and Snacks Expo. It was love at first sight for me, a gal who is often chomping on gum--most often Extra Bubble Gum (which I've been warned makes me appear--or smell--like a kid. Hmmm.)

At any rate, I was pleased as a kid in a DIY candy store when their PR peeps contacted me with a discount code for a five-pack order. Five packs is the minimum order. Five packs of a single design, I should say.

If you've ever created an online photo album, it's a breeze to create your custom pack. They offer themes based on events like holidays and even bar mitzvahs or you can create your own from scratch.

Even with a pre-designed theme, you have a choice of styles, fonts, background colors and such. You can even alter the appearance of your photos giving them a high contrast look, a 70s feel, remove color and more.

Creating a custom pack was easy and enjoyable. I felt somewhat guilty for designing the packs without the boys around because I knew they'd have fun doing so.

The design process was straight-forward, but ordering that goofed me up momentarily. I knew orders came in units of five packs, but I didn't understand until checkout time that all five packs need to have the same design.

This after I'd crafted 5 different custom packs. At $5 per pack ($25 for the 5-pack unit), it would have cost me more than $125 for the gum when all was said and done. So for Father's Day the dads and grand-dads are getting one measly pack of gum each.

I'd love to see the folks at Extra bring down the price closer to $3 a pack, which I think would make it an easier sell for party favors, birth announcements and such.

In other chewy news

Glee Gum provides the most natural chew. Made with ingredients like real chicle and no artificial colors or flavors, it's tasty, but doesn't provide a long lasting chew for gals like me who will chomp on a piece for hours.

Rev 7 claims to be "the world's most environmentally friendly gum" in that it is degradable and removable. It promises to make our sidewalks a little cleaner. I'm not sure of the brand's secret, but perhaps it has something to do with the sugar-free gum's sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol or maltitol. This could become a favorite with moms; the brand folks say it won't get stuck in hair, but I'm not brave enough to experiment on my own.

Speaking of making the world a better place, each time you buy a pack of sugar-free Project 7 gum, your purchase helps fund a variety of causes, like feeding the hungry or planting fruit trees. The peppermint vanilla I sampled was an intriguing combination reminiscent of that first taste of a minty TicTac. I found the peppermint to be a bit strong, though.

Disclosure: All samples were provided for me; opinions are my own.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Wait is Over. Now I'm Feeling the Power

Sort of. We're moving ahead. Literally. Take a look! And yet another person reassured me that our renovations would be over within six months. Six months?!

It's all good though; the future is ripe with possibilities. And tools. Power tools. I'm headed to Chicago for a Craftsman Blogger Summit later this week hoping to pick up some handy DIY tips so I can make use of our new house's large basement workshop, as well as the two saw horses I nabbed from someone's curb the other day. (It was garbage day; I'm cool. Though perhaps I do need to add some new levels to my disclosure statement to clarify what was given to me and what I scavenged.)

I'm looking forward to hanging with Busy Dad, Mom Start and CC Chapman. And apparently my friend Condo Blues is set to be one of our rockstar DIY instructors.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Waiting Place

We are set to take position of the new-to-us-house soon. I am a bundle of nervous energy. I have a long list of things to do before school ends this week and I find myself stuck. Anxious. Unproductive.

Three years we've been with my parents. And it's not over yet. "You'll probably be in the new place within six months," my mom reassures me. Only that's not very reassuring.

There is much to do in the new-to-us house, assuming the closing goes through. If we can avoid the mess, the ever present noise and dust and constant flow of workers, we'll hide out here a bit longer. But that's what it feels like. Hiding.

A shower and a Starbucks. Perhaps those will get my going today.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Housemoon

We're headed off on a housemoon this weekend!

Read all about it at Reluctant Renovator, my new/old house blog.