Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Close Enough for Barbecue

That's our new twist on the old saying ("Close enough for government work"), now that we're living where barbecue is a verb and/or a grill. Just for fun, we've included one of our favorite educational videos about barbecue:



We finally found a decent BBQ place: Famous Dave's. They have a combination of different styles of barbecue. It's a chain, but (as far as we know) it's the best we've got up here.

Pros
  • They actually serve real sweet tea (i.e., brewed--not from syrup or powder). In the Midwest.
  • Their beef brisket is excellent.
  • They have the perfect variety of sauces. On the table. In a caddy. That's how you do it.
  • They let us sample the sauces (using BBQ-flavored potato chips) while we waited for our food.
  • Their "Georgia mustard" sauce is really good. It has just enough vinegar in it to make it interesting.
  • They don't refer to vinegar as "sauce".
  • They offer mashed sweet potatoes in addition to regular (actual) potatoes.
  • The service is great.
  • They send coupons via e-mail.
  • They totally used the word "hankerin'" on their web site.
Cons
  • They have chopped pork--not pulled. Close enough. Tastes the same but doesn't soak up as much sauce.
  • No fried okra.
  • No hush puppies. But they do have very good (and sweet) cornbread muffins. We'll accept that.
We know where to go now when we get a hankerin' for something a little more southern (i.e., when they send us another coupon).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hobby Lobby

Speaking of craft stores, I'm glad we live near a Hobby Lobby again. We didn't have any nearby in NC. One of the many reasons I like Hobby Lobby is that they have a Christian perspective. They are closed on Sundays, like Chik-fil-A. They play Christian music in their stores (ever been in there and noticed?). The employees are (in my experience) very nice and helpful. And since 1997, they have been putting out full-page newspaper ads with Christian messages for Christmas, Easter, and (since 2006) Independence Day.

Last year's Easter message:

2010 Easter Message from Hobby Lobby

It's hard to read at this size, but it quotes Acts 3:19--"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord" (NIV).

You can actually view all of the past messages on their site. If you get the paper, look for the Easter message this year. If you don't get the paper, you can go to the site and view it there once they post it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Craft Store Coupon Tips



In honor of National Craft Month, here are some coupon tips for shopping at craft stores:
  • Because it's National Craft Month, you can get some pretty sweet coupons this month. Be on the lookout.
  • Don't forget Mommy$avesBig. Also check the store sites/weekly ads.
  • Many craft stores (like Michaels, AC Moore, Hobby Lobby, and Joann) accept competitors' coupons, so keep that in mind whenever you need something.
  • Almost all craft store coupons can be used once per day, per person, per store. That means you can print the same coupon more than once and either 1) go to multiple stores in one day, 2) go to the same store as many days as the coupon is good for, 3) take someone with you and each of you purchase something separately with the coupon, or 4) any combination of 1, 2, and 3.
  • The majority of craft store coupons are for one regular-price item. This is important to remember, because the sale items change each week, so keep an eye on that as well.
  • You can find all sorts of stuff, not just normal crafty stuff, at craft stores (like home decor items, baking/candy supplies, small gifts, etc.). Just beware that they may be overcharging for stuff you might find at a regular store, so compare the price using the coupon with the price it normally goes for elsewhere.
  • You can also shop online at Joann, so you don't have to drive to a store if you don't live close to one. They almost always have online coupon codes. I haven't done this yet, but I think I'll order some fabric online (they're notorious for long lines at the fabric cutting station). I'm planning to use one of their printable 50% off coupons for some sewing items I need before Saturday. You can also shop online at Hobby Lobby.
  • AC Moore has a rewards program, if you live near one. There aren't any around here (sad face), but they used to be my favorite craft store, because they always have good coupons, sales, and the rewards program (and they accept competitors' coupons). Hobby Lobby is now my favorite, by the way.
Happy couponing and crafting! Please leave a comment if you score something with a coupon and/or put these tips to use! Share your craft projects, too!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Printable Coupons

I'm not trying to get you to spend a bunch of money (because, let's face it, sometimes coupons make you want to buy stuff you wouldn't buy normally), but if you plan on buying stuff anyway, you might as well use coupons! In fact, here's a good rule of thumb: Using a coupon is only a good idea if you would buy an item and/or need it before you know about the coupon.

I've come up with some tips specifically about printable coupons for this post:
  • A good site for printable coupons is: Mommy$avesBig. Check it out! You must! You can also, of course, check the store sites/weekly ads.
  • If a coupon has a bar code on it, try to print with normal or best quality, so it will scan at the store.
  • If you go to a certain store a lot, sign up for e-mails. They often include printable coupons.
  • Make sure before you print coupons from the web that they aren't expired and that what you want isn't excluded on the coupon. Also make sure you can use the coupon locally (sometimes they're only for certain locations, but not often). In other words, read the coupon before printing.
  • Many coupons can be used once per day, per person, per store. That means you can print the same coupon more than once and either 1) go to multiple stores in one day, 2) go to the same store as many days as the coupon is good for, 3) take someone with you and each of you purchase something separately with the coupon, or 4) combine 1, 2, and/or 3!
  • Beware that some more specialty-type stores may be overcharging for stuff you might find at a regular store, so compare the price using the coupon with the price it normally goes for elsewhere. This is where some of the work comes in; you have to already know or go to the stores selling the item(s) to price compare.
Remember that couponing takes time, effort, and ink/paper (for printables). It also requires being more aware of your options (like price comparing), which you may need to get accustomed to. The most important thing is to be willing to wait for a good deal. Coupons are only good for a certain amount of time, so wait for a good one if the item isn't needed immediately.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Progress Report

Ed is doing so well at his new job that he was promoted after six months! He now gets to interact regularly with people in the Southeast, and occasionally will get to go down that way for work trips.

In other news, we've been taking a ballroom dance class at the local college. Our teacher is 70 years old (but doesn't look it!), so she's been doing this for quite some time! So far, we've learned the basic steps for the foxtrot, waltz, and swing. So, we think that counts as doing something fun together (and exercise!).

Speaking of which, to date, I have exercised every weekday this calendar year, exceeding my goal to exercise at least four times a week! Ed has been exercising pretty regularly, too.

For some reason, I recently got the itch to stitch. I've been trying to figure out how to crochet and/or knit and failing at trying to teach myself, so I've decided to take a class at a local craft store. I'll update you when I finally make something somewhat recognizable. I'm also about to take up some sewing projects to ease my way back into that. I'll be posting on those as well.