I lived in Germany as a little girl, so my schnitzel standards are way up there. Most places in America that serve schnitzel serve something that is, at best, a pulverized version of country fried steak–and at worst, something reminiscent of a Wendy’s chicken sandwich\. It’s sort of like trying to find Hawaiian local grinds on the mainland–a touchy process at best, and you often run into the best stuff purely by accident.
So I was thrilled when I discovered Mozart’s Cafe today on High Street in downtown Columbus. I was going to be happy just to meet a few fellow grad students from Ohio State for the first time and get away from the whine of hardwood floor sanders in my new house, but instead I got one of the top five best sandwiches of my life! For a mere $6.95, they brought me a large Chicken Schnitzel sandwich with a whole mess of potato chips. The schnitzel was good enough on its own, but once they put it on a succulent fresh French croissant with lettuce/tomato/onion, it was out of this world. Seriously, I will miss the Dave’s Open Road sandwich at Ann Arbor’s Zingerman’s Deli (www.zingermans.com), but Mozart’s might help me fill the gap.
Needless to say, I will be going back to Mozart’s. They were nice enough to facilitate my return by giving me a coupon at checkout, which apparently they are giving to all of their customers since the Route 315 traffic and the recession has cut into their business. They have free piano music sometimes too, so the next time I visit, I hope to catch a free concert. www.mozartscafe.com
I’ve been looking for an ideal tool for using Twitter in the classroom, and I think I’ve finally found it. My initial preference was for Tweetchat.com for its spare, clean interface, but it’s a little *too* clean in some ways. It doesn’t make it easy to multimedia tweet directly from the Tweetchat interface. One could easily get overwhelmed by the number of Tweets related to a given hashtag. There’s no way to moderate which Tweets show up on a projector. There’s no way to differentiate question tweets from comment tweets from resource-sharing tweets.
Twubs.com’s Conference Suite, which is free for the moment while it’s in beta, seems to solve those problems and more. And honestly, I would have never noticed it because it was hidden behind the “Hosting an Event?” link on Twubs.com, and I wouldn’t really consider my classes “events”. But the Twubs.com CEO @tferraro (twitter.com/tferraro) was nice enough to walk me through the features, and it’s still highly relevant to the classroom.
Some of the highlight features:
–Ability to project a simplified, show-me-only-the-Tweets-and-nothing else interface.
–If students are sitting in front of individual computers, the Twubs.com interface makes it super easy to tweet multimedia (video, TwitPics, etc.) without having to leave the hashtag feed.
–Your projected Tweets can be moderated in lots of ways. You can pre-select certain Tweets to show up (excellent for selecting student questions or comments for display as a jumping-off point for a class discussion), you can moderate how often new Tweets will show up on the projection (from every 5 seconds to every 2 minutes), etc.
–Ability to show a separate feed of just questions, designated with their own hashtag. For example, if your regular hashtag is #hashtag, your questions-only hashtag could be #q-hashtag. Super useful if you want students focusing on your lecture and not getting sidetracked into investigating resources in other people’s Tweets.
–Can have Twubs within a single hashtag so that sub-groups can use the same hashtag but still differentiate each other. So, for example, let’s say I am teaching two sections of the same class with the same curriculum. They could share a hashtag but be in two different Twubs.
All in all, pretty exciting stuff. I plan to keep blogging it as I implement it. Stay tuned
Today I’m playing around with Posterous.com (http://www.posterous.com/). It’s a new blogging service where you email whatever you want posted to email@example.com and somehow, magically, it shows up on your blog. And if you set a Posterous account, you can email your content to firstname.lastname@example.org and thereby get the post to show up not only on your Posterous blog but also wherever else you say to put it–like your Twitter feed, or your Facebook status updates, etc.
In other words, I may never have to log into the damn WordPress Dashboard ever again. Hallelujah amen!
So here goes nothing! Just a little update on Skyler’s 60 days at Dillman College. I figured a photo and a video of Skyler would be a good test run.
Here’s Skyler standing on the Dillmans’ fancy 3-horse slant with living quarters rig. PS–that’s not me standing there. 🙂 I was further back taking the picture to show my mom how huge this rig is (and to help her recognize it next week at Encore Horse Trial).
And maybe if we luck out, this will be a video of Skyler schooling XC on June 21:
But today, thanks to a tweet from @Freebies4Mom that pointed to her descriptive and highly persuasive blog post about YouData, I signed up for YouData, a service that uses a user-supplied profile of information to generate links that might interests you, then pays you to go to those links.
I’m impressed so far. I made $1.04 in about 3 minutes of link clicking, which apparently can be deposited right into my PayPal account. They are delightfully anal about making sure that you’re a real person, insisting on confirming you with both an email and a text message to your phone.
And since the YouData survey is so detailed, they send you to links that you’ll actually like. My first link-thru was PerpetualKid.com, which was full of just the kind of zany stuff that I love to buy, like a NunZilla. Love!
Excerpts below are from Freebies4Mom’s blog, which I really recommend reading if you’re not yet sold on YouData. Otherwise, go to YouData and sign up!.
There are lots of ways to cheap up and green up your Swiffer, most notably to use reusable/washable pads rather than the disposables, use some kind of cheaper but disposable pad on the bottom, and figure out how to refill the Swiffer bottles (which try to prohibit you from opening them, but it’s totally doable. Excellent Instructables tutorial here about how to open your WetJet bottle and unlock it for future refills.
I am still obsessed with my Firefox Clipmarks add-on, so I clipped a a few of the better tips from Thriftyfun’s excellent page about cheaping up the Swiffer WetJet. Try to ignore all the idiots who buy into the Swiffer/pet liver failure myth and soak up the good stuff here!
Fortunately, the nice folks at Thriftyfun.com figured out YEARS ago
Thank you to @dianadell on Twitter for pointing me to this!
Ugh, been spending so much time with my Twitter feed that I hardly have time to blog! Anyway, just a quickie today.
I took two years off from riding in high school to run on the track team, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Unfortunately, I was dumb enough to STOP running–and once you stop, the best way to get going again is a well-thought-out interval program. The Couch-to-5K at Coolrunning.com is just such a program. Unfortunately, doing it with a regular stopwatch means constantly babysitting your watch, which encourages boredom and bad form.
Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered this iPhone/iPod Touch App for the C25K! You set your Playlist to whatever music/audiobooks/other audio distraction of your choice, turn on the C25K app, and it will briefly interrupt your playlist to tell you to walk, run, or otherwise interval yourself! Sweet!
Or if you really really love it, you could help beta test new versions of it. Click here for that.
Thanks to a link from my Twitter feed, I read a great article in the New York Times called “The Case for Working With Your Hands”. I think everyone in academia, especially anyone involved in helping undergraduates decide what to do with their lives, needs to read this article and think about it. Carefully. And seriously.
Crawford’s article is a gentle apologetics for the vocational trades, beautifully written and carefully thought out. He argues that our service-driven economy has become so obsessed with academic credentials that we no longer appreciate or see the economic and psychological wisdom of pursuing a hands-on vocation. Nor do we think carefully about what we want to do when we grow up; if we can psychologically and physically stand to stay in school, then we run after the biggest academic prize we can find, often without considering whether that degree serves our best interest or our future career.
I was delighted and ashamed at once to recognize myself as one of the people Crawford was indicting as a degree-chaser, at least I was in my past. I used to feel deep shame that I hadn’t blown right through undergrad to a PhD, obtaining a doctorate by my mid-twenties, which is what I’d been told that “gifted students” were supposed to do with their lives. I felt like I was behind the curve. But maybe entirely by accident, I was saved from my own fate when I–gasp!–took a teaching job for 3 years and bought a young, green horse to bring along as an eventer. In my world, that’s almost as “weird” as walking away from an academic job to take up motorcycle repair (as Crawford did). And both, to be frank, were complete accidents of fate.
I’m sad to say that I’ve got a lot of unhappy friends who either hate the career they chose, or more commonly, love the discipline they’re studying but fell into some ugly academic political situations (either because of the economy or because they didn’t know to ask about those things before they chose their graduate program). And I don’t blame them. Based on my interactions with graduate student writers in my work over the last three years, the best recommended reading before graduate school would be The Art of War (if there was ever a hands-on profession that involved creative problem solving, it’s military work).
Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to be pursuing a second master’s and a first doctorate at Ohio State this August, and even more thrilled to have found a program and advisors that seem just as excited about me as I am about them. I think I’ll avoid a lot of the jaded feelings toward academia that I see my friends getting because I took some time to live as a bottom feeder (aka “lecturer”), so I’m going in with my eyes open. But you bet my horse is coming with me, and you bet I’m scheduling 2 or 3 days a week of “barn time” for decompression. I think what I get from having a horse is the same rush that Crawford gets from playing with motorcycles; it’s a way to work an entirely other part of my brain, and it’s the kind of work that requires you to be 100% physically and mentally present. You don’t have any other choice when you’ve got a half-ton animal to control.
I don’t have it all figured out yet, and I don’t think Crawford claims to have it all figured out either. But I dig where he’s going with his logic. Maybe the biggest problem with American society is that we claim to go confidently in the direction of our dreams, but we don’t stop often enough to audit our dream. Crawford is reminding us to do that–even if we stay on the same path, even if very little changes on the outside, maybe we need to embrace new ways to conceptualize our work and our worth.
I don’t pay for toothpaste anymore. Toothbrushes either. I begrudgingly paid 19 cents per bottle for conditioner last Sunday, but usually I don’t pay for shampoo or conditioner. Deodorant and shaving gel are capped at 99 cents. Paper towels max out at 62 cents per roll. And damned if I remember the last time I saved less than 45 percent off retail at the grocery store.
Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about The Grocery Game in a way that I don’t see most bloggers talking about it. You might have already read a blog post or two about the Grocery Game, and it probably ended with “And I just don’t think it’s worth the subscription fee”. That tends to come from people who only tried 2 or 3 weeks of the 4-week Grocery Game trial (which costs $1). Rather than explain the Grocery Game–which is very adequately explained at this link, read it now if you have no idea what I’m talking about–I’ll offer instead some of the main reasons why my lazy friends balk at the idea of joining The Game, plus rebuttals.
Let me say before I start that The Grocery Game is not compensating me in any way for doing this, they did not ask me to do this, and I don’t get anything for doing this. I just really believe in this system. Have a peek at my Kroger receipt from last week. That is a normal receipt in my world. Totally normal. Unremarkable, in fact. On a good week, I would expect to save 65 or 70 percent off retail instead of a mere 45.
COMPLAINTS AND ANSWERS
1. I just shop for me/for me and my husband/for a very small family, so what’s the point? The Grocery Game has saved me well over $1500 in the last year for a household of two people, and apparently that makes me a lightweight; there are people at Teri’s Message Board who talk about supporting families of 6 on $300 per month. And yes, that figure includes food + household items + health and beauty products all rolled into one.
At first I thought it might be a scam, but it is anything but. I soon converted my mother to it, then my sister, then I started converting my horse-loving friends (we have to pay for our horse obsession somehow, you know). And now I want to convert you. Because seriously, if you are not doing this, you are throwing your cash away.
2. I don’t shop at the stores that are available in my area for Grocery Game. Could you be convinced to switch if it would cut your bills in half? You wouldn’t have caught me dead in a CVS or Rite Aid before The Grocery Game, but I’m in there every week now feeling like a downright thief. It’s not unusual for me to come out a few bucks ahead at CVS–yes, meaning that I walk out richer than I walked in AND I’ve got a bag of stuff in my hand–and Rite Aid hooked me up with $50+ of free cold medicine last year (mmm, TheraFlu Warming Liquid). I never thought I could save money at an overpriced drug store, but oh baby, you CAN. Reread my first paragraph if you’re starting to doubt. I was not joking, and most of those deals come from CVS and Rite Aid.
I have lots of friends who pout and moan when their favorite grocery store isn’t a Grocery Game store. If your store doesn’t have a List, take that as a sign that your favorite grocer is a ripoff. The Grocery Game doesn’t play favorites–in some areas they have 8 or 10 grocery and drug stores available. But they’re not going to publish a list if the savings are only so-so.
3. The Grocery Game subscription price is too high. Really? Let’s run those numbers. I pay $2.50 per week to look at 3 Grocery Game store lists (Kroger, CVS, Rite Aid) plus $1.00 per week for the Sunday newspaper to access coupons. I saved $5.68 alone in COUPONS at Kroger last week, meaning I’m ahead $2.18 even if we only look at the coupon savings that I wouldn’t have known about. Already I’ve more than compensated for the subscription fee, and I wouldn’t even call that a good coupon week. On a good coupon week, I’m saving $15-$20 with coupons alone.
But that’s before we even start talking about the free stuff from CVS and Rite Aid, the unadvertised sales that The Grocery Game list told me about, the Internet printable coupons that The Grocery Game so nicely linked me directly to, etc. Add in one free bottle of shampoo/toothpaste/whatever each week (and often more than that), plus maybe $3 off for Internet coupons each week, and now we’re talking about some serious savings that really matter.
Do you see how that Kroger receipt says at the bottom “You’ve saved $521 this year?” They don’t even count coupon savings in that Plus Card Savings total, which means you have to add about $10 more per week for coupon savings (about $200 year-to-date just for Kroger).
Across the course of a year, I pay $182 in subscription fees + newspaper subscription costs, but it’s cut my monthly grocery/household bill from $350/month to $180/month. Thus, one year of the Grocery Game pays for itself in one measly month of the year. For the other 11 months, I free ride on my savings.
4. I don’t have time to cut coupons and/or coupons make me feel like a housewife. Cutting coupons ain’t my idea of fun either, but The Grocery Game list tells you exactly where each coupon is located–for example, maybe it says there’s a Ball Park Franks coupon in the Smartsource coupon insert from the April 26th newspaper. I keep my coupon inserts filed in a binder, and when it’s time to use a single coupon, THEN I track it down and cut it. This, I want to add, is one reason why people doing the 4-week Grocery Game trial tend to see only so-so results and then write blog posts about how it’s “not really worth it”. You won’t get the full force of The Grocery Game until you have 12 weeks of coupons in your binder. Then it will cut into your budget like a bat out of hell. If you don’t buy that argument, try making a list during your trial period of every coupon you WOULD have used if you’d had the insert that it originally came in. If you’re like me, it will be at least $10 in coupons weekly, and probably much more.
5. I don’t have time to shop in multiple stores each week. Well if you shop like the other sadsacks that I see who don’t play the Grocery Game, then yeah, you’re going to be there all night. I have stopped going to the grocery store on weekends because I get dirty looks from all the people who are agonizing over the shelves, comparing five different brands of each product on their shopping list, then bickering with their SO’s about whether they “really need” to buy that product because money is really tight. It takes them five minutes to buy ONE item, times dozens of items on their list (and 9 times out of 10, they don’t choose the best deal). And there I am, breezing down the aisle, going directly to the product I need, dropping it in the cart, and moving on. No wonder they sneer at me; they probably think I’m wealthy or insane or both. Just the other day, someone literally sneered at me when I was buying 10 cartons of Yoplait yogurt. He was buying the 39-cent Kroger brand. I’m sure that in his mind, I was buying 55-cent Yoplait brand and was therefore a total moron. He iddn’t know that I was paying 22 cents apiece after coupons–nearly half of what he was paying for the genric brand.
I can get in and out of Kroger in 10 minutes if I really scurry. So pick your poison: Spend 45 minutes in the grocery store agonizing over your shopping list, or spend 10 minutes blowing through + 10 minutes at home to prepare your shopping list. Personally, I like the 20 minute option.
6. I tried the 4-week trial, and the groceries that I needed weren’t on the list every week. This will seem to go against all common sense and logic, but to play the Grocery Game, you must understand and accept that not every product you need goes on super duper ridiculous sale every week. But over the course of 8 to 12 weeks, damn near anything in the store will go on super duper ridiculous sale–that’s how the manufacturers and stores rig it. And their favorite part is to stagger the best possible store price and the week a coupon is issued onto different weeks, so that you’ll run out and use your coupon on a week when the item isn’t yet optimally priced.
Part of the Grocery Game’s service is that they keep a price database of prices over the past weeks, so they can tell you when the iron is hot and it’s time to buy something at super duper ridiculous price. Smart Grocery Gamers stockpile important items when they go on sale and don’t wait to “need” the item. I might not need a 74-cent bottle of Softsoap now, but I will need it in 3 weeks when it’s not likely to be on sale, so in the cart it goes and I’ll store it until I need it. Ask my husband about the 12 boxes of Rice Chex and Cheerios that we have in the pantry closet–all purchased for $1.67 per box or less (retail price $3.99), or about the 150 packets of instant oatmeal purchased last year for 8 cents apiece that we’re still working our way through. Stockpiling a little trickier to do with meat or produce, but I freeze a lot of meat and cook with whatever produce is on sale that week. Chris said that when we move to Columbus, we should buy a chest freezer so we can really work the meat deals.
7. I already do fine buying the generic brands and buying in bulk. I used to be like you. I really thought I was doing great, making the rounds between Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club and Dollar Tree, sharking for the best deals. Let me say it one more time, folks: compared to that method, the Grocery Game cut my monthly groceries and household bill in half. HALF. I know it’s hard to believe. My mother certainly found it hard to believe. So did my sister. But if you’ve got $11-$20 to invest in the 4-week trial plus 8 more weeks to really build your coupon stash, you will see that it works.
If that’s not convincing enough, I can only say one more thing. My sister, in past years of her life, was poor. She knew Wal-Mart well. But she called me last November, deeply dismayed, and I thought maybe she was going to say that her dog was sick or her husband just lost his job. Instead, she said, “I tried to go to Wal-Mart today. Everything in there is so expensive compared to the Grocery Game. It wasn’t fun to be in Wal-Mart anymore!”
Now if that isn’t a testimonial, what is?
So let’s talk about what you’re going to do if this Grocery Game gig really interests you.
Good luck. Now excuse me, I’m off to score some 8-cent-per-bottle brand name salad dressing.
The cat’s out of the bag on this to most of my real-life family and friends, but I suppose I should make it official.
After teaching for U of M’s CSP Bridge program in July and August, I’ll be leaving my lecturer gig in the Sweetland Writing Center to attend Ohio State University’s MA/PhD program in English, where I hope to dissertate on digital rhetoric in the undergrad curriculum. The MA part shouldn’t take too long thanks to my transfer credit from my MFA, and the Digital Media Studies faculty at OSU English are a dream team for the kind of research that I want to do. I guess they like me based on the financial offer they made! I thought I was going to have to downgrade my lifestyle to go to grad school, but I might actually get to upgrade!
OSU English gets five stars thus far for outstanding academic advising. I had my advisor assigned before the end of April (school doesn’t even start ’til the end of September), they gave me exactly the advisor I wanted, and her first official email to me starting with the subject line “Yippppppeeeeeeee!”. Having been around the grad school block once with my MFA, I was shocked to see the “we want you and love you” vibes continuing even AFTER I submitted my acceptance. How…unusual. And cool.
For my personal friends, here’s the answer to the four most popular questions that follow this big news:
Anyway, I’m pretty psyched. My “self assigned vacation job of the week” has been to find a good realtor, and I think I’ve pulled it off. More on that as the house search continues.