I LOVE eBay. I both buy and sell items on eBay and I have scored some serious bargains over the years. 99 cents for a gorgeous persian carpet? Yes please! $2 for a ring that I get more compliments on than any of my expensive jewelry? Done! One of my favorite tools for buying is called ezsniper*. ezsniper lets you "set and forget" your bidding - which is super important if you are bidding on a budget, like I am! But there are other super simple tips to help you win big on eBay. Here are my six favorite tips for winning big on eBay:
1. Have a Plan
Know what you need, what its worth, and what you're prepared to pay for it. Yes, the last two might not be the same price. I often want to score a bargain or pay less than something is worth to justify the purchase.
2. Get Creative with your Search Terms
Misspelled words are a great tip - if the seller put the wrong spelling in the title, other buyers might not find it.
3. Set up Alerts
You don't want to miss out just because you don't have time to log in every day! You can set up your eBay alerts to notify you by email or text or push notification on your phone whenever something that matches your terms is listed. This also saves you from being distracted by the hundreds of thousands of other things for sale!
4. Use the Sort Feature
Put in your search terms, then sort up by lowest price, including shipping. Then you can snipe all the things that match your list, starting with the cheapest options. Be sure to use the contingent feature in ezsniper so you don't end up with multiple items!
5. Check out the Seller
TopRated Sellers are great but keep in mind that Top Rated Sellers have to sell at least 100 items every month or so to keep the rating. Smaller sellers - someone clearing designer items out of the closet once a season for example - might not sell enough to rank but might still offer amazing deals and great service. For ratings, you want to see pretty high ratings, but one or two bad reviews isn't the end of the world, so I don't stress if the positive feedback rating is 98 or 99 instead of 100%. You do want to see someone who has a few more than say 10 feedback ratings though. But 20,000 tells me I'm dealing with a huge corporate style enterprise, and that might not be who I want to support.
6. Use a Sniping Tool
As a busy working mama of twins, I don't have time to sit and stalk auctions like some other folks do. I can pretty much bet that one of the twins will jump on my knee at just the time I need to be hitting that bid button! So a sniping tool saves my sanity. You put in the eBay item number, the max amount you are willing to pay, and walk away. Don't forget to add contingencies if you are bidding on more than one of the same thing, but only want to win one!
What's your favorite eBay bargain?
PFT 101 Personal Fitness Training
Don't laugh too much, but I've just started a course to become a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer. So I'll be blogging some of my journey as I go, including some of my class discussions and assignments.
This course is designed to prepare me to sit the NASM PFT Certification exam, which is supposed to be quite hard, so I plan to study a lot and do the exam as soon as I've finished the course. Luckily the course is a new course being offered by the College I work for so the tuition is paid for under my employee education credits! Yes it really is a great place to work!
Our first discussion was about the Optimal Performance Model from NASM and how our current workout compared. Here is my post:
NASM's OPT model is a five-step model according to the information on the website [I don't have the textbook yet!]. The five steps are stabilization endurance, strength endurance, hypertrophy, maximal strength, and power. This could be contrasted rather starkly to my current exercise routine, which is based entirely on random acts of strength, usually involving carrying bales of hay, 50-lb bags of feed for my horses, or two 30 pound toddlers, along with several bags of groceries!
I have had multiple periods in my life when I have been in pretty fantastic physical shape, working out regularly, feeling great, and feeling very happy with myself and in myself. This has been alternated with some serious physical and health challenges, including being pregnant three times in four years. I lost the first two pregnancies (the first was twins), the second with serious physical consequences including a rotated pelvis. My last pregnancy was with the twins who are now two, and I was mostly on bed rest after week 15, which is pretty darn rough on the old body at 43. Talk about atrophy and deconditioning!
So getting back into shape after having the twins has been very difficult. Three times I have started out, way too enthusiastically and with a male trainer who was way too gung-ho, and each time I've injured myself - two rotator cuffs and one knee. This is a total drag, as not only do I have a very busy full-time job that I often spend 60 hours a week at, but I also have a lavender farm, the three kids and a sick hubby who can't lift more than 20-lb. Luckily I relish being busy! I also found the gym that I used to love was no longer a good fit, as the "go-all-out" boot camps were a short cut to injury - being based on a hybrid cross fit model.
Anyway, that's why, when I saw this course had a bit of space in it, I thought I would jump in and just take the class so I can be my OWN personal trainer! That way I can make sure I'm not relying on others to avoid injury. I worked out yesterday at my local YMCA, which is rather low key so that's perfect - with so many old people I'm pretty sure they're not pushing members past our limits! I think I will be focusing on machines for a while until I get the stabilization down and my weight down... This is a work in progress!
I'm a bit of a beauty products addict, and I'm also a sucker for gifts with purchase, so I wanted to share my current obsessions. I'm pretty keen on avoiding the usual nasties - parabens, phthalates, and sulfates but I need products that work well too. I get a lot of things to try from gifts with purchases - which I think are a bit like Christmas year round! Feel free to follow me on twitter and I'll share the GWP's I'm snagging but one of my favorite blogs for keeping up on the great gifts is www.gwpaddict.com and of course I'm a huge fan of slickdeals.net!
1. Laura Geller Glamlash Dramatic Volumizing Mascara. I got a free sample in a box from birch box and I am in LOVE with this mascara. I have very sensitive eyes and can hardly wear any mascara brands but I have no problem with this and my lashes look long and luscious. It can smudge if I get super sweaty or rub my eyes (hey, I run a farm so I sweat!) but for general wear, its pretty smudge proof and it comes off easy without making me rub my eyes with toxic remover. Available at Amazon* or at Beauty Brands: Use code EC12618 right now at Beauty Brands for $3.50 off your order of $10 or more. Plus they have a great gift with purchase (GWP) going on now. Or if you want to try out Birchbox for yourself, please use this link* and also use RIFLEBOOKS to get a free Rifle Books notepad when you subscribe to the monthly box (just $10 month for 5 travel size samples).
2. Dr Jart BB Cream*: My new favorite foundation replacement - I traded my Josie Maran foundation for this as the JM was starting to feel a bit chalky! This goes on smooth, gives sheer coverage, and lasts all day. Love.
3. Dr Jart Ceramidin Cream. No parabens, sulfates or phthalates and it has the most AMAZING rose scent. I am an essential oils and aromatherapy snob and I can't stand most rose scented products (they usually smell very fake) but this cream smells divine. Rich and soothing and a perfect night cream for me.
4. Carols Daughter Monoi Reparing Shampoo and Conditioner. This stuff smells DIVINE - bordering on almost too perfumey, but it stops just short of cloying. I get so many compliments on my perfume when I've washed my hair with this. And I'm not wearing perfume ;) It is supposed to stop breakage and it really does seem like I have less hair on my brush when I use this. I find it works best if I alternate it with my bliss shampoo and conditioner every couple of days, otherwise it seems to build up a little. My daughter loves it for her long curly hair too, although the amount she uses makes it expensive to buy for a tween!
There was a cleanser in a jar that smells a lot like lanolin and makes my skin just a tad too greasy...
And the mascara with fibers that made my eyes swell up...
Should I name names?
Ok more to come soon but I wanted to post this before I head off to a nice long soak in some gorgeous bath salts I'm trying out! I would love to hear about your faves in the comments!
We're being overrun. By mice. The neighbors theory is that our mild winter has led to a boom in mouse numbers. I’m inclined to agree! I caught four mice in the last two days using snap traps and I see evidence of more.
Don't get me wrong: I actually love mice. I used to breed them when I was a kid and sell them to my friends. But unless they are a cute pet in a cage, there is no such thing as peaceful cohabitation with mice. They pee and poop everywhere and chew wires, so mouse control is important! A trip to our barn loft to find a bin of baby toys found a lot of mouse dirt (poop!) on top of pretty much all the bins! Thank goodness I used mouse-proof plastic bins rather than cardboard boxes, but it is still pretty gross.
That led me to wonder about the options to control mice. What can we do to avoid the next plague? Hire a pied piper? And that wondering led to an argument with my hubby about the best way to get rid of mice. We - grudgingly- ended up agreeing on a combo of snap traps, peppermint essential oil, and steel wool... Here's why:
1. Snap traps. Fast and generally humane as long as the mouse is killed quickly. Kind of gross if you forget to collect said snap trap and dead mouse for a few days. Trust me. Set a few and check them often! Baiting with peanut butter seems to work the best and mice don’t care if the smell of humans is on the trap: If they didn’t like the small of humans they wouldn’t be in your house! Place traps along the walls where mice run or behind furniture. Mice tend to stay close to walls and furniture. Under the stove or in cupboards where you find mouse poop is also a good bet. Actually anywhere you find mouse poop. A good trick is to do it once a week and set a lot of traps at night, then collect all the traps the next morning. This way the mice don't get used to avoiding them and you don't accidentally forget you put one on top of the emergency canned food stash... ***ouch****
2. Glue traps. Cruel. They don't kill the mouse and just trap it to starve or dehydrate to death. Awful.
3. Sonic devices. From the look of our loft the mice might actually like the sound/vibration. I am not sure if these work on certain types of mice or if some work better than others. I've linked to one that is highly rated on Amazon, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet. If you try it, can you let me know what you think?
4. Poison. Works but if anything else eats the poison - or the poisoned mouse - they can die too. Plus the dead mouse stench is horrendous and they usually crawl into walls and die. If you use poison, make sure to use the
bait holders that keep it away from cats and kids.
5. Cats. One of our cats is an awesome mouser, but we have two allergic people in the house - one so allergic she gets welts and has to carry an epi-pen. So that doesn’t work for us, but otherwise, a good mouser is worth its weight in gold! Rescue a kitty cat today! You can rescue a cat from your local humane society, or check Craigslist: There are usually free cats on there that really need a home.
6. Peppermint essential oil. Yes folks, another use for essential oils - although I’m not sure I’d call this application “aromatherapy” ;)… Mice are apparently repelled by peppermint essential oil. Soak cotton balls and dot them around the place. You must use pure peppermint essential oil and frequently (at least every week or so) reapply essential oil to the cotton balls as essential oils are volatile (which means they evaporate). I've found this quite successful to keep mice out of my pantry. My favorite source for essential oils is the Apothecary Shoppe. I think the best use of peppermint oil is to deter mice from areas you REALLY dont want them, like your pantry or kids toys. Be careful kids can’t get to the cotton balls as the essential oil could sting their eyes. If you have no mice in your home, placing them by areas where you think mice could may help keep them outside. But if you can spot areas where you think they might enter, the best bet it to block that space with steel wool!
7. Moving into a condo in the city… But I hear they have rats in the cities.
What other ways are there to get rid of mice? Please share your stories in the comments...
*** Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which help me support my blog. Thank you for using these links :) ***
Prepping for Winter & Other Emergencies
It is shaping up to be a cold, wet and possibly very snowy winter here in the Pacific Northwest. Add to that to all the media about the "big one" (or a potential 9.0+ earthquake), and the fact that our Chihuahua is being extremely clingy, and our family has been talking a lot about getting prepared for emergencies, both big and small!
Here's what we've done so far:
1. Bought an emergency jump starting battery from Amazon: BESTEK 400A Peak Current Car Jump Starter Battery Charger with 11000mAh Power Bank with 2.1A USB Charging Port, Built-in Escape Hammer, Air Compressor Outlet, Powerful LED Flashlight*
I saw one of these emergency battery jumpstarting gadgets on QVC in the middle of the night a couple of nights ago [the one downfall of cutting the cord and not having dish network anymore is being forced to watch home shopping channels when insomnia hits!] And realized what a boon this could be to our emergency kit. actually, it will come in handy pretty regularly, since our tractor battery is constantly going flat! This gadget also has an air compressor outlet, flashlight, and you can even charge your phone with it! Needless to say, this win at the top of my Christmas present list for hubby - killing two birds with one stone - prepping and gifting!
2. Bought an emergency kit. I just fell in love with these kits when we got them in at work and had to have one! Heck, it even includes astronaut ice-cream! I've already added a few extra things to it, but it has lots of eco-friendly/green features, and gave me a great place to start without having to run out and spend a lot of time gathering items, which is hard to do with twin toddlers!!! Use this friends and family link then just search for the kit - you'll get 15% off your order! http://apothecaryshoppe.refr.cc/ZKJJLKB*
3. Bought a copy of San Andreas*. Because there is nothing like a bit of CGI to get hubby motivated to stock up our emergency rations!
4. Bought a NOAA radio*. Because Blake (the daughter) got hold of one in San Andreas and it seemed to come in mighty handy!
5. Restocked our emergency rations! We've been eating them the last 3 months to ensure that they don't expire, so it was time to replenish. I use amazon*, costco, and grocery outlet (check the expiry dates carefully!) to stock up on canned food, dehydrated food, rice, and chocolate! I also have a stash of protein shake mixes. Ahem, lots of these are left over from various diets I've "done", but no-one else needs to know that!
6. Drained and refill our water tank with emergency water supplies. It was slimy. Yuck. We will still boil water before using it, but at least we have something to boil!
7. Got my snow tires on and my chains in the trunk!
8. Stocked the car with a first aid kit*, some bars*, extra warm coats, and water. Couldn't fit the folding bicycle* or inflatable kayak that my daughter wanted, plus where would I stash the little kids?
What I want to do next:
1. Buy a generator. Our power has nasty habit of going out and our fireplace needs the blower going to really heat our house. I'd love one of those fancy gas ones that turns on automatically, but since saving for that seems to be taking a long time, I might just go the diesel route for now!
2. Get our curtains up. Help keep the heat in when the power goes out. My mum gave us her old curtains - so this energy conserving measure will be nearly free!
3. Update my CPR training and have my hubby and oldest do it too! I need someone who can do CPR on me!!!
4. Hook up rain barrels to the downspouts so I have plenty of water for the animals. We have a well so no power = no water. That loops me back to the generator...
What are you doing to get ready for winter?
We LOVE our Soma water filter (seen above!) - it is pretty on the counter, easy to fill, and we always have filtered room temperature water and don't have to wait for the refrigerator filter (slow and cold!).
My friends know I am a bit of a water pusher - and my mum has been going on for years that the wars of the future will not be over oil, but will be over clean water.... Sadly, I'm beginning to see she might be right. We can't drink the water out of our tap due to the number of farms around us that spray and use fertilizer - our well water just isn't reliable. Ick! But thankfully I stumbled on the folks at Soma Water! They do good, which I love, and they provide an excellent product. Win win.
Right now, Soma Water has a special going on where you can get $10 off your order by using this link and using the code GOODFRIENDS - you'll get $10 off and I get $10 off - which is perfect, because I want to order the bigger filter carafe next so I can use this small one beside my bed!
Enjoy and let me know what you think!
1. Guest Soap
Yes, you need to provide soap! No one takes their own soap when they travel. We provide large bottles of liquid soap at each sink, and I tend to go for nicer brands that I pick up at Marshalls or Homegoods. I also like to provide bar soap and I get these two places. I used to provide full size bars, but have decided that is just a waste, since guests inevitably leave the unused bar behind and it has to be thrown out. So I've just started providing these half ounce individually wrapped guest soaps from Amazon: H2O ECO Amenities Spa Sachet Individually Wrapped 0.5 ounce Cleaning Soap, 500 Bars per Case.
If you prefer, you can also choose a one ounce size: H2O ECO Amenities Spa Sachet Individually Wrapped 1 ounce Cleaning Soap, 300 Bars per Case
Update: My latest order of the .5 oz bars arrived with a large number broken and smashed so I'm only recommending the 1oz bars - they seem to hold up better in shipping!
2. Shampoo (and Conditioner) for Guests
It is always handy to have guest shampoo available. I'm in two minds about this, since those little bottles often just come home with people (hey I have a collection from hotels I've been in so I bet most of my readers do too! and all that plastic isn't good for the environment. Part of me wants to just provide big bottles. But in the interests of hygiene, the little bottles can't be beat. I like these ones: H2O ECO Amenities Transparent Tube Screw Cap Individually Wrapped 22ml Shampoo and Conditioner 2 in 1, 288 Tubes per Case
3. A New Scotch Brite sponge
No one wants to use a nasty old sponge to clean the counters. Who knows if the last guest used it for raw chicken? So do everyone a favor and leave each new set of guests a nice new sponge still in the wrapper so they know that it is new! My favorites are Scotch Brite Non Scratch Scrub Sponges and you can get them at amazon or often at Costco too.
Lotion is a bit more discretionary. I don't know anyone who doesn't have their own lotion. But if you forget and your hands are parched, a small bottle of lotion can be a lifesaver. I keep the brand the same as my choice for soap and shampoo, so that guests get a nice cohesive set on the bathroom counter. H2O ECO Amenities Transparent Tube Screw Cap Individually Wrapped 22ml Shampoo and Conditioner 2 in 1, 288 Tubes per Case
5. Laundry Powder
There are two schools of thought on laundry detergent. You can provide two or so of these cute small boxes like these little individual boxes of All detergent but sometimes that just feels too wasteful. So you might want to go for the larger sizes. I buy large full sizes at discounters like Grocery Outlet. I can usually get a full size laundry detergent for $3. However, I've noticed our water bill keeps climbing and climbing and I'm betting that guests are doing a ton of laundry to use that much water. So as an experiment, I'm switching to the small boxes for a while to see if we can get that water use down!
What are your favorite guest amenities to provide?
Favorite Baby Products, Places, and People from the Portland BabyFest NW Show: Stuff You Need Part Two
There were just so many great vendors and products at the Portland BabyFest NW show that I simply couldn't pick a top 12. So here are the rest of the vendors and products that I loved!
That's it for the rest of my faves from the show. I know when I was on bedrest with the twins, I spent hours surfing for recommendation on baby supplies and to see what was new. I hope these tips are helpful for you and would love to hear what you liked!
A disclaimer: I have not been sponsored to write this post. All opinions are my own. I purchased a VIP ticket to the BabyFestNW and received a VIP gift bag with some free items, others I purchased at the show. Some of the links in this blog (asterixed) are affiliate links - you pay the same when you click on them and it helps support my blog! Thank you!
Hi! I'm Erika and I'm an info addict! I love travel, vacation rentals, online education, primal and paleo living, crunchy (ish) parenting, holistic nutrition, lavender, bees, animals, technology, and sustainable living. This blog is a central space to pull together my research and writing on a wide variety of lifestyle topics! I hope you'll join me for a few minutes and share your thoughts in the comments :)