Christine Park

Friday, October 29, 2010

DEALS AND STEALS: Black Friday Before Halloween?

That's right. I said Black Friday is today. For some retailers, at least. The real Black Friday is still 5 weeks away, but some stores are already dropping prices to get an edge on (extra) early holiday shoppers.

Consumer Reports went shopping, here are some of the major markdowns they found:

Remember that availability can vary from location to location.

Sing-a-ma-jigs (normally $12.99) are marked down to $9.99. It appears they're out of stock online, but check in your local store.

Kung Zhu or Zhu Zhu Pets purchase of $75 or more is 30% off!

All Leapster toys are 25% off.

Prices valid from October 31 thorugh November 24, 2010.

Hoover WindTunnel Anniversary Edition U6485-900 upright vacuum marked down to $189, with free shipping.
Cuisinart DCC-1200 12-Cup Brew Central is $65.50; a factory-reconditioned model is $52.98.
Weed Eater’s FB25 gasoline-powerd handheld leaf blower is $68.60. The handheld electric Toro 51599 is $69.97.
Olympus’ Outback 8x21 RC1 binoculars are $43.99.


Five Dyson vacuums are $100 off: The DC24 Ball Upright ($299), the DC14 All Floors Upright ($349), and the DC23 Motorhead Canister ($499). (Vacuum Ratings.)
Select Whirlpool, Maytag and KitchenAid appliances are 20 percent off. (CR Appliance guides.)
All Energy Star-qualified appliances are 10 percent off and include free delivery and recycling.


On “Sears Days” (Friday and Saturday) price cuts include Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances. Shoppers can also get a $10 off coupon on the Sears website. (CR Appliance guides.)
Select Kenmore Elite dishwashers and Kenmore Elite high-efficiency washers and dryers are 30 percent off. (Ratings: Dishwashers; Washers; Dryers.)
All Kenmore Elite freezers are 25 percent off. (Freezer Ratings.)
Some Kenmore, KitchenAid and Whirlpool appliances and Maytag washers and dryers have had their prices cut by 20 percent. (CR Appliance guides.)
Craftsman 25 cc gas blower is $89.99; a Craftsman 30-inch poly leaf rake is $14.45. (Leaf blower Ratings.)

Home Depot

Prices have been lowered across a wide range of lawn and yard equipment, including leaf blowers and chain saws. (Ratings: Leaf blowers; Chain saws.)
All Energy Star-qualified appliances have been reduced by 10 percent, including free haulaway of old appliances. (CR Appliance guides.)
Select Maytag cooking appliances are reduced 15 percent and prices of some GE cooking appliances have been cut by 20 percent. (Ratings: Ranges; Cooktops and wall ovens.)

Best Buy

Free delivery and recycling on appliances over $599. (CR Appliance guides.)
Discounts of 10, 15 and 20 percent for buying two, three or four major appliances.
Some pairs of steam-equipped washing machines and dryers are 15 percent off. (Ratings: Washers; Dryers.)
Gift cards ranging from $25 to $150 are being offered with the purchase of some Maytag appliances.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Stroller Recall

These days we are bombarded with news of recalls. Every day brings a new announcement from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, so the information often goes in one ear and out the other. Bad booster seats, dangerous dropside cribs, strollers that strangle, the list goes on. If you want to stay on top of all the latest recalls, subscribe to the CPSC's e-mail notices.

Today's recall includes the Graco Quattro Tour, seen in the picture to the right, and Metrolite strollers and travel systems. Four babies died because they weren't strapped in and slid down and strangled between the stroller tray and seat bottom. Obviously, part of the responsibility lies with parents, to strap in their children. But failure to do so should by no means have deadly results! The strollers and travel systems were distributed between November 2000 and December 2007. For the model numbers, which can be found on a label at the lower portion of the rear frame, just above the rear wheels or underneath the stroller, click here. Contact Graco for a repair kit. Strollers purchased after December 2007 should be okay. In 2008 companies started manufacturing strollers with larger openings to prevent strangulation.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Best Phone Apps for Moms

I never knew how much I depended on my Droid until I fried it. More like murdered it by submerging it underwater. Of course it was a natural instinct to save my drowning son, who I had been taking pictures of to post on Facebook just a split second before. But I couldn't help but wonder, if even for a split second, if I made the right choice. KIDDING. Verizon told me I was out of luck. Water damage is not covered under warranty. Two weeks without my smart phone was unbearable. First, I went through denial: I'll be fine without it. Second, I went through withdrawal: actually feeling emotional and physical pain and sadness from its absence. But dear hubby, sick of my moping around and missing appointments, came to the rescue and found me a Droid, just like my old one on eBay. Aaaah, reunited and it feels so good!

This got me thinking, how critical my phone and its applications had become to my life. So TVNewsMom wanted to compile a list of some of the best apps for busy moms like you and me.

Period Predictor ($.99): Ever since hubby got the big V and I got off the pill, my period seems to creep up on me by surprise. My last visit from "Aunt Flow" came during my family vacation to Orlando. Needless to say, I was unprepared. With this app, just report your period, it will keep the record and predict the next one based on the past dates. Available on iPhone. Along the same vein, if you're trying to add to your family, Fertility Friend (FREE) for iPhone, Android or Blackberry phones is a good one. To get to the mobile site enter the following URL in your mobile web browser: Personal Finance (FREE): No more old fashioned checkbook balancing. Add in transactions while you're shopping. The app also provides budget information and a look at what categories (food, entertainment, kids) money has been spent throughout the month. Available for both iPhones and Android phones.

Coupon Sherpa (FREE): This app creates a list of nearby retailers that are offering coupons and discounts. You tap on the store, view the offer, and if you’re interested in the discount, you can bring up the coupon in Safari. Many stores will either scan the code directly from your phone or type it in. Available on iPhone only.

Mom Maps (FREE): Mom Maps provides information about different “kid-friendly" spots in your area, including parks, playgrounds, restaurants, museums and indoor play areas. You can use your phone’s current location to view spots that are nearby. They’ll appear on a map, and you can tap on the spot you’re interested in to see the address, directions, phone number, URL and reviews, if they’re available. Available on iPhone only.

How to Cook Everything ($4.99): This best-selling, first-of-its-kind app of NYTimes columnist Mark Bittman’s bestselling cookbook includes 2,000 recipes and 400 how-to illustrations — plus specially designed features for the mobile user. Recipes can be saved to a favorites list or added directly to a shopping list. This list can be sorted alphabetically or by aisle, which is a great extra feature in a cooking app. Available on iPhone only.

Web MD Mobile (FREE): Every mother has, at some point, worried about her child’s mysterious symptoms. When trying to decide whether to call the pediatrician, consult the Web MD app “Symptom Checker.” It walks you through a series of questions about symptoms to determine if everything is going to be fine or if you need to get help. The app also contains a First Aid section with information and visual guides for emergency procedures like CPR. Web MD Mobile is a great free medical resource. Available on iPhone only.

Amazon Mobile (FREE): Too busy to go shopping? You’ll be able to see the same information that you get on the website: prices, reviews, comments, etc. Plus you can make purchases directly from the app. I often use Amazon Mobile when I’m out shopping and want to see if a product is less expensive online before I buy. Available on both iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones.

Potty Predictor
($3.99): Take the guess work out of potty training. This app gives you all the tools to successfully potty train while still being on the go! This app actually has predictive logic that will help you and your child avoid those untimely accidents, and help teach and reinforce successful trips to the potty. Available on iPhone only.

Urban Spoon (FREE): Urbanspoon is a faithful app that will help you discover new restaurants in your area, based on types of cuisine and price ranges. Restaurant information includes the phone number, address and a Google map of the location. You’re able to tap a button and vote whether or not you like the restaurant. Available on iPhone or Android phones.

e-Nag Reminders ($2.99): e-Nag Reminders lets you schedule text message prompts. You can put the text together while it’s on your mind (feed the dog, pick up dry cleaning, pick up kid) and then tell the app exactly when you want the reminder message sent. Available on iPhone only.

LRNthelingo ($.99): LRNthelingo is a great resource for parents of children who are sending texts and instant messages to their friends. It provides explanations and descriptions of text codes, emoticons and slang. If you’re looking for something specific, LRNthelingo will let you search their library. Things can be viewed as expressions or in the form kids use when they type them: as slang, emoticons and text codes. If you want to understand what your children are
saying to their friends, this is a great resource. Available on iPhone only.

Grocery IQ (FREE): Grocery IQ is a grocery list app that is designed to help you quickly make and share lists by typing in items or scanning product barcodes. Lists can be created for different stores and can be sorted by aisles. You can rearrange the aisle order for the different stores so the list shows items in the right spot. Grocery IQ is linked in with and shows you coupon offers within the app. These coupons can be “clipped” and emailed or printed out for later use. Available for both iPhones and Android phones.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Starting a Hobby Without Breaking the Bank

I scrapbook. Or I should say I scrapbooked. As in past tense. There are hundreds of dollars worth of supplies collecting dust in my closet. Papers, ribbons, and stamps that I once HAD to have after attending a scrapbooking convention. Yes, I KNOW how nerdy that sounds.

But this is my modus operandi. I also have a brand new sewing machine, a gym membership I keep having to freeze, and a brand new tennis racquet with adorable, but useless tennis skirts.

So before you dive into your next hobby head first, here are some ways to do it without breaking the bank.

PICK A CHEAP HOBBY: This might seem obvious, but some hobbies are a LOT cheaper than others. For example, if you're trying to decide between golf and jogging, jogging is a LOT more affordable. All you need is a pair of running shoes and comfortable clothing. Whereas golf clubs, green fees, shoes... all add up very quickly.

TAKE A CLASS: Craft stores Michaels and Joann have tons of classes for popular hobbies like bow-making, crocheting, you name it. Home Depot has classes that are a do-it-yourselfer's dream. Classes allow you to get a hand-on experience for a small fee.

RENT EQUIPMENT/BORROW FROM FRIENDS: When you're starting out with something new, see if you can try it for free before investing any money. If you want to learn to play a keyboard, see if a friend will lend you hers for a few weeks. I could have easily borrowed my husband's tennis racket for my beginner's lessons before buying my own. If you want to try out ice skating or bowling, those facilities always rent out the necessary equipment.

BUY BASIC EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES: As a beginning photographer, you don't need the latest and greatest camera from Canon. As a wannabe chef, hold off on the top-of-the-line cookware. It's tempting, but recognize your passion for your new found hobby can quickly wane, and your new things (like mine did) could end up collecting dust. You can find basic, entry-level products on eBay or Craigslist, or secondhand in classified ads. Shop around and look at reviews – you want something which will give you a good introduction to your new hobby, not something that falls apart after a few uses. Consider hobby kits -- they're also a good introduction to crafty hobbies like model building, scrapbooking, knitting -- and they contain everything you need to get started.

AVOID ADVANCE OR SUBSCRIPTION PAYMENTS: However enthusiastic you're feeling right now, gyms make much of their money from all the people who pay monthly and rarely or never set foot inside. Look for ways to try out a new hobby without paying up-front for weekly classes, a monthly magazine, or similar. Yes, it's more expensive on the face of it to pay for individual gym sessions or to buy copies of a monthly journal in the store, but if you lose interest after a month or two, it'll work out a lot cheaper.

SELL YOUR OLD STUFF: Most of us have a lot of stuff which we're not using. Exercise bikes, musical instruments, DVDs, computer equipment ... all sorts of things which we bought a while ago and haven't touched in months or years. How about selling some of that clutter on eBay? It might be trash to you – but treasure to someone else. With a bit of extra money (and extra space!) you'll find it much easier to get started on your new hobbies and interests.