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Black Friday

Ah, Black Friday. A shopaholic’s joy and bane.

I’ve participated in Black Friday shopping twice in the past few years. One year, my sisters, cousins, and I trekked to Woodbury Commons Outlet at an obscenely early hour. Big mistake. There were long lines to get into the stores and the prices were the worst. Basically retail. Another year we went to Jersey Gardens Mall at midnight. Again, not worth it – crowds and high prices. Finally, we threw in the towel and said no to Black Friday.

For a couple of years.

This year, my aunt brought over a Black Friday circular. Kim picked it up and started casually flipping through it. Suddenly, her eyes narrow and I know the look. It’s the “We’re doing this” look. She gives me the look and I know its futile to refuse or argue. We were going shopping on Black Friday. At the Staten Island mall, since we were at our parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner.

The best deal we saw was at Old Navy – $1 fleece scarves, $15 sweaters, $5 fleece shirts, $5 off $50 coupon, and a free Kodak Easyshare Sport C123 Waterproof Digital Camera for the first bunch of customers. There was no way I could turn this down. My inner shopaholic roared.

Since this was a last minute decision, we were dressed quite inappropriately for hardcore shopping and we knew it – the biggest problem were the flats. These shoes could mean the difference between getting our free digital camera and being trampled. We had to take the chance and trust in years of training. Over the next two and a half hours, we formed a strategy, created a shopping list, and emptied our bladders.

The Staten Island Mall was scheduled to open its doors to crazy shoppers at midnight. My mom, Kim, and I went back and forth as to when we should leave. They both insisted that there wouldn’t really be a line because “Staten Islanders don’t care about this stuff” but I knew we needed to leave early to beat the crowds. In the end, we compromised on leaving at 10:15.

In the words of Dr. Sheldon Cooper: “I informed you thusly, I so informed you thusly!”

There were about 150 people ahead of us. After 10 minutes, we couldn’t even see the end of the line anymore. There were at least 200 people behind us.

Kim was freezing! But we had to tough it out.

At about 11, the line started moving. By eavesdropping on someone nearby, we learned that the mall people were slowly letting people in, ten at a time. There is no one regulating the line except for one mall cop that drove up and down the line. So until this point, people lined up out of politeness.

As we got closer to the entrance, people started pushing, the line got wider, and people started blatantly cutting the line. When we got to the front, we saw that there was one mall cop being shoved by the crowds because they stopped listening to him. Poor guy. But, since this was the suburbs, even though Kim got pushed people still kept it civil and apologized. You can’t beat the suburbs for competitive shopping – you just can’t.

While we were waiting on line, Kim and I pretty much lost all hope of getting that camera since there was so many people ahead of us and surely, they knew about the camera. Once inside though, we realized that most people were headed to Hollister and Footlocker and we started running because we knew there was a slim chance we might make it.

We made it. Come on – did you ever have any doubts?

While Kim was shopping in another store, I researched our cool free gift. Despite it’s Kodak reputation, it’s a pretty nifty little camera. It retails for about $70 and is waterproof up to 10 feet. Plus, Old Navy gave us a free coupon for a free personalized calendar, which is awesome since we make one for our parents every year and they usually cost $20. Two gifts in one! We’re going to give the camera away and it feels so good to have paid $0 for it. Just freezing in the cold for an hour and a half.

I spent $78 in total. Four items were presents so, all in all, it was a good night. Shopping for others both satisfies by shopaholic regressions and gets the job done.

I’d definitely recommend making the trip out to Staten Island for Black Friday. While there were hundreds of people there, it was definitely less than most places and people were still polite. Once inside the mall, there wasn’t really a difference between Black Friday and a typical Saturday night. No stress at all.

Next up on the busiest shopping weekend of the year?

  • A date with ST 😀
  • Pie off at church! I’m bringing a chicken pot pie. Wish me luck 😉
  • Housing Works Buy the Bag Sale again on Saturday, 11/26 – with Helene this time! MEGA excited. Once you get 19 items for $25, it kind of ruins you for anything else. Even Black Friday shopping. Seriously – I put down two items last night because I knew I’d get some great stuff on Saturday.
  • Street cleaning on 8th Avenue with a group from church.
  • Thanksgiving celebration at church.

Did I mention I got home at 3:30, cleaned the closet, read Inheritance until 4:30 and started browsing Ebates for double cash back offers when I woke up at 9:30? Shopping adrenaline is still in my system.

Happy Thanksgiving

I started the day feeling pretty sad. I always feel sad when I see my grandma in the nursing home. Not because its not a great environment filled with helpful and compassionate staff – because it is – but because she has to be there and there’s not much I can do about that.

She is such a champ, though.

The concept of Thanksgiving is a bit of a challenge for me. I feel overwhelmed when I try to be thankful for everything in my life all in one day. Instead, I try to be thankful everyday. This helps a lot. 🙂


Some may argue that cheating is a way of life.

I remember almost getting caught cheating on a history quiz with a friend in the seventh grade. I also cheated on a math quiz using a little cheat sheet of formulas – this was sophomore or junior year in high school. I was caught for plagiarizing parts of my history textbook in high school. I was never caught for plagiarizing parts of an essay for AP American History during my senior year in high school.

I drew the line in college though. That’s serious business, right?

When I was in college, I remember this girl who cheated on her entrance exams. I have no idea why she did this, since it meant she was placed in classes that were too hard for her. Why would you want to be in calculus so badly? I think she majored in some type of health profession. A quick Facebook check confirmed that she is indeed a health professional… Shudder.

These guys charged thousands of dollars to take the SATs for high school students. Now, they’re charged with felonies. The thing is, they go to some pretty mediocre schools, including my alma mater, Stony Brook University. I’m not trying to demean or offend anyone who attended these schools, but my point is that while they’re solid schools, you don’t have to be a genius to get in. It really makes you wonder how under qualified those kids were.

It really makes you wonder how far have people gotten in life by cheating. How many of our nation’s leaders have relied on other people to get by? George W. Bush, for sure. Newt Gingrich definitely comes to mind. Side note: Is it just me, or does he look like a creepy leprechaun? His wife freaks me out. She looks like a Stepford wife, except ugly.


Birchbox Update

After my second Birchbox disappointment, I decided to call it quits. I e-mailed the company regarding the missing lip gloss. They responded within 48 hours an promised to send a replacement my way once they received them. Then I received this message from them a few days ago:

Hi Carol,

We wanted to reach out to you in regards to your missing/ damaged Anastasia Beverly Hills Hydra full Lip Gloss sample from your November Birchbox. Unfortunately, we won’t be receiving any more of these items to send out as a replacement. I’ve added 100 Birchbox points to your account (a $10 value in our shop, and the price of the monthly box) as a replacement for the missing replacement. So sorry for the miscommunication! Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can assist you further.


I love great customer service. However, points are only good towards purchase and I can’t use them to buy a Birchbox. I had my eye on the Oribe shampoo but it would still be $26 after the $10 off. So, that’s that.

‘Tis the Season

Christmas has never been a “magical” time for me. I loathe snow and anything snow-related, like ice-skating and snow boarding. I’ve never felt that is was a particularly romantic time, either. I don’t have much “Christmas spirit” for Christmas shopping, watching reenactments of the nativity scene, and doing charity work.

I guess I feel this way because I’ve always struggled with the “true meaning” of Christmas. As in, what does Christmas mean to me as a Christian? How do I celebrate Christ’s birth and His life? Somehow, I often find myself feeling guilty during this time; I haven’t done enough charity work or I didn’t buy enough presents. I never feel like I do or give enough. These feelings are, of course, self-imposed.

I remember discussing Christmas with some friends a few years ago. One friend, when prompted about the meaning of Christmas, said, “Presents.” Of course, this led to an argument, during which I sat back, amused. I don’t disagree with what she said. For some people, Christmas is literally just a time to give and receive presents and I don’t think that’s a horrible thing. Christmas-time has become a social custom, a time when people “celebrate” with parties and presents.

Back in my shopaholic days, and even now, I used to go overboard on Christmas. This year, I’m making an effort to reduce my personal level of materialism. Sure, I’ll still give and receive presents, but just not as much. My sisters and their significant others started a tradition last year of drawing names in a gift exchange instead of buying presents for everyone. For us, this is better for the conscience and easier on the wallet, which helps 🙂 We use Elfster to set it up.

At 11 people, our gift list is by no means short. We’ve already begun to chip away at some of it.

  1. Gift exchange – family (2)
  2. Gift exchange – fellowship
  3. My parents
  4. ST’s parents
  5. ST’s little sister
  6. ST’s nieces
  7. My grandmother
  8. ST’s grandparents
  9. ST’s baby cousin
  10. Our god daughter
  11. My nephew

To get a head start on the madness, I’ve been trolling my favorite shopping websites, Ben’s Bargains (for tech-related gifts) and Brad’s Deals (for everything else). I’ve also tried to purchase from websites that offer cash back via Ebates (referral). This requires a degree of savviness. I found ST’s present on Amazon but since they don’t offer cash back, I had to search using Ebates to find the same item at the same or lower price. 3% cash back might not be much for a small order but it really makes a difference when the item costs hundreds of dollars. Something I noticed is that while Amazon is convenient (especially if you have a Prime membership), it does not always offer the lowest price. They also charge sales tax, which is a total bummer. I purchased the same item for a lower price, with cash back, no sales tax, and free shipping through, saving a nice chunk of change.

Ebates is also known to double up or more on points. I was just about to order a present for my nephew with a 20% off coupon from Piperlime but I hesitated when I saw that the cash back was only 2%. Cash back for Piperlime, Gap, and Old Navy is often 10%. 10%! Since Piperlime has free 3-5 day shipping, I can l wait on this purchase.

For the kids’ gifts, I ordered toys through Target since I got their credit card, which gives me 5% off every purchase and free shipping. Thanks for tip, Winn!

To be honest, I’ve been thinking about Christmas presents since the beginning of October – insane, I know. But you have to have a game plan to stay on top of things. And I think it helps me to reflect on my past spending habits and attitude.

Let the Games Begin!

The Hunger Games trailer debuted this morning! I’ve watched it four times already 😀

It looks like it’s going to be AHHHHHHHHHSOME.

Want to hear something lame? I actually choked a little when Katniss ran after Prim! Jennifer Lawrence, I take back every bad thing I said about you, including the bit about how I thought Emily Browning would have been better for the role. I’d forgotten you were Oscar-nominated for your role in Winter’s Bone. Judging from the trailer, your portrayal of our beloved Katniss was pretty on-point. Thank you.

P.S. I’m not mad at you for ruining parts of X-Men: First Class anymore.

One thing that inexplicably irked me: Katniss’ jacket is supposed to be her father’s old hunting jacket, not something that came off the Elizabeth and James’ runway.

Anyway, this weekend while we were in Dallas, I finished reading the trilogy and I felt a wee bit sad it was over. The trailer for the movie is just what I needed. In fact, before heading through security I purchased a copy of the current issue of Vanity Fair which features a photo of The Hunger Games’ cast. Unfortunately, there’s only one picture but at least  it’s something.

We arrived at the airport early and the wifi is only $4 for two hours so I figured, what the heck. I’ll take pictures of the spread and post it on my blog while paying our car insurance bill. You’re welcome.

From left to right: Clove, Marvel, Foxface, Thresh, and Glimmer.

From left to right: Cato, Rue, Peeta, Katniss, and Gale.

I’m not sure why they decided to include minor characters such as Marvel and Glimmer and not Cinna, Effie, or Haymitch. I was disappointed that the photo is so stylized; it would have been better if they were dressed in character. I think it takes away from the film, which I was pleasantly surprised to find is as gritty as I’d imagined. The trailer is, anyway. I hope they don’t give these minor characters bigger parts than Suzanne Collins did. Even if Marvel (Jack Quaid) is the son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan.

The trailer will play during the previews for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1. There have been a lot of comparisons made between Twilight and The Hunger Games. One thing I loved about both books was that the authors wanted to preserve the innocence of their characters instead of romanticizing teenage lust. Edward Cullen was adamantly against pre-marital sex. After Gale told Katniss he loved her, she didn’t reciprocate because she didn’t feel that way about him. Hollywood of course, ruined Twilight for everyone with the Bella and Edward make out scenes. But there is still hope for The Hunger Games. I really hope they didn’t sexualize the main characters just to get people to watch the movie. People will watch the movie no matter what; there’s no need to cheapen Katniss, Peeta, and Gale.

Let the games begin! I’m so excited 😀

Yelp’s House Party to Fight Hunger

Last Tuesday, I attended my first Yelp house party for the NY Coalition Against Hunger with my partner in crime, Helene. It was dubbed as an “Alterna Office Party” and we were encouraged to wear ugly office clothes. I love Yelp, but they need to hire new party planners.

The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory served mini cones. Score. Momo Sushi Shack, Scottadito Osteria Toscana, and Brooklyn Brewery provided hors d’oeuvres (WOW, it just took me 3 minutes to spell that) and beverages. We entertained ourselves by getting nerdy in the BK Booth. Fun. Side note: I was wearing 5 inch platform booties. Helene wore flat-bottomed boots… yeah, I’m a midget.

Since this was clearly a fancy party, there had to be swag. I picked up a Yelp key chain, lip balm, and nail file. They also had these “Blood, Sweat, and Yelp” sweat bands that I decided were too hardcore for me, but not for Helene.

Usually, I feel awkward at parties and don’t know what to do with myself. Since we’re not big drinkers and the food was meh, after about 40 minutes, we were partied out. Then it was sushi, girl talk, and in bed by 11. What can I say, we party hard. All in all, fun times and a good cause.

Mississippi Voters Reject Initiative 26!

What a victory for Mississippi. Voters rejected Initiative 26, a proposed anti-abortion law that would have outlawed in vitro fertilization, abortions to save a mother’s life, abortions due to rape and incest, and Plan B.

In all honesty, I didn’t think they could do it. But there you go. Thanks for restoring a measure of my faith in Americans, Mississippi.

Birchbox, Dos

So despite my disappointing initial Birchbox experience, I decided to keep the subscription and give it another go.

Bad choice.

The November box arrived today and I couldn’t be more disappointed. Let’s take a look inside my sad half empty box.

  • Harvey Prince Eau Flirt – Smells like something Britney Spears concocted.
  • Supersmile Professional Whitening Toothpaste – This is actually useful since we’re going to Dallas this weekend. However, I could have purchased one for $1.50. Sure, it wouldn’t have been a whitening toothpaste but really, who cares?
  • Zoya Nail Polish in Holly – Admittedly, this is a cute color. But it’s tiny and I don’t need new polish.
  • Chuao Chocolatier Firecracker Chocopod – This was awesome! It’s a piece of dark chocolate that’s spicy and filled with popping candy.
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills HydraFull Gloss in Sugar Pink – I wouldn’t know because IT WASN’T IN THE BOX. 😦

I canceled my membership. That missing lip gloss was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Honestly, I never wear lip gloss and I don’t even like the Anastasia brand but still! $10 for that?

In all honesty, their samples are high quality items. I was a bit harsh with my initial evaluation of my first Birch Box. This was what I got:

  • Two packets of Oribe shampoo and conditioner samples. I originally reviewed these as lame but they turned out to be magical for my hair. The downside is that Oribe products are sold at Bergdorf Goodman for $30-40 per bottle. So while I loved using the samples, the chances are slim that I’ll purchase them full-size.
  • Befine lip exfoliator. As a lip balm addict, my lips are never chapped. So I gave it to a friend.
  • Caudalie night cream. There’s nothing special about this cream. I haven’t noticed any kind of change in my skin. Lame rating stands.
  • Laura Geller Spackle Tinted Primer. This wasn’t bad since I did need a primer. It’s sheer and the bronze color is subtle. I’d never buy it full size though – I already know which primers are for me.
  • Orofluido hair oil. Originally rated as lame but came out as the surprise hero. It’s light and absorbs quickly. It also smells pleasant. I don’t have to much use for it, but on days I need a bit of oomph, I believe it achieves that.

Here are some Birchbox pros:

  • High quality products
  • Cute packaging
  • Getting a little present every month is fun 🙂

Now, onto the cons:

  • Not enough samples. The box is half-empty. I’d suggest using a smaller box to help with the empty feeling.
  • Missing sample.
  • Not worth $10 monthly, $110 annually (yikes!)
  • Not into every product.

Birchbox was fun while it lasted. The $10 is better spent on this delicious chocolate 😉

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