Christine Park

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Starbucks Savings for Hopeless Caffeine Addicts

The other day, one of my colleagues came into work and I almost didn't recognize her without her customary Starbucks cup in her left hand. It made me do a double-take, because something was clearly missing. Maybe she was protesting Starbucks' price hikes this week? LOL The company says the drought in Brazil has severely limited the coffee bean supply and driven up prices, and now they're passing on the price increases to customers. Tall and venti lattes will see price increases of 15 to 20 cents (grande price won't change). After July 21st, bags of their packaged ground coffee will increase over $1 per bag as well.

Now I'm nowhere near my friend's level of addiction, but I do enjoy a tall nonfat chai latte every now and then. It can be an expensive habit that really adds up. The "latte factor," basically the premise that many small purchases add up to a significant expenditure over time, has been well-documented in the media. So what's a bargain hunting consumer reporter to do?

Turns out, there are tons of ways to save at Starbucks. In fact, many of you hardcore insiders might already know about these. Money-saving expert Andrea Woroch recently offered these tips:

1. Enjoy rewards.
The My Starbucks Rewards card provides loyal customers with such, well, perks as free drinks, free food, free refills and more. Cardholders also receive a free beverage of any kind or size on their birthday, as demonstrated by this gentleman who ordered a 60-shot espresso concoction worth $54.75! Stars are earned whenever the Starbucks Card or Starbucks mobile app is used at checkout.

2. Buy discount Starbucks gift cards.
At, you can buy discount gift cards to Starbucks for as much to 20-percent off. For instance, pick up a $100 Starbucks gift card for just $84.54 and save over $15! In addition to saving on coffee, buying discount Starbucks gift cards is a great way to save on gifts for birthdays, holidays and graduations.

3. Print or redeem coupons.
Even Starbucks issues coupons from time to time. Keep track of these coveted offers by searching sites like, where you can find both printable and online offers for savings. Also, check out Starbucks' website periodically as they advertise special offers like their current "summer surprises" texting campaign.

4. Keep eyes peeled for daily deals.
Ever notice how your Facebook feed explodes when Groupon or LivingSocial issues a daily deal to Starbucks? Once or twice per year, you can score a $10 digital gift card to Starbucks for just $5. You must have an account with daily deal providers to get the deal, but you can personalize your settings to only receive emails weekly. That way, you're not bombarded with daily offers but can be notified about the Starbucks deal.

5. Join the mailing list.
By joining the Starbucks Mailing List, you'll get a coupon for 10-percent off your next order. Plus, you'll find out about special promotions like seasonal offers, member-only benefits and discounts on speciality drinks. You can sign up here, or hold off until you have time to create a separate email account just for promotional offers!

6. Get social.
Follow Starbucks on Facebook or Twitter to get notified when they release special promotions, coupons or daily discounts. Last summer, followers could enjoy the "Starbucks treat receipt" which awarded customers to a $2 grande cold beverage after 2 p.m. simply by showing the morning receipt. Finding out about these saving promos early is easy when you follow the brand on social media.

7. Choose coffee over espresso.
To keep costs down while fulfilling my Starbucks addiction, I sometimes opt for brewed coffee over an espresso beverage to kick start my day. When I'm really in the mood for a latte or Americano, then I satisfy the craving for less by sticking to a tall or grande size over the venti.

8. Look for sale or clearance tags.
When it comes to shopping Starbucks goods, never buy at full price! That cute coffee mug or trendy eco-tumbler will inevitably go on sale, so make a note of what you like and hold off until sale time. Save even more when you buy your clearance good with those discount gift cards I mentioned!

9. Ask for "light" ice.
Iced coffees are just the ticket on warm summer days, but you often end up getting less latte than if you ordered the hot version. That's because ice takes up more than half the cup most of the time. Avoid this issue by requesting "light ice" when you order your chilled beverage.

10. Go halfsies with a friend.
If you and your friend like the same drink, order a venti and ask for an extra cup. Starbucks doesn't charge for the extra cup and you can often save an average of $1.50 by splitting up their biggest size. It's a cheapskate move, but you're probably doing both your systems a solid by not downing a venti of caffeine!

11. Bring your own cup.
As an eco-friendly company, Starbucks is all about promoting sustainable practices and limiting its impact on the environment. As such, it rewards its customers who bring in their own tumblers and cups with a 10-cent discount. Just bringing in your own mug will cancel out the price increase on grande and venti brewed coffee - score!

12. Earn stars with coffee bags.
True coffee aficionados drink the good stuff at home, too, which makes the $1 increase on ground coffee all the more painful. However, you can earn more Stars on your My Starbucks Reward card when you buy specially-marked bags of Starbucks coffee from grocery stores and other retailers. Earning Stars helps you score discounts and freebies!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Jewelry Jumble No More

One of the hazards side effects of being on TV is a sore neck. Let me explain: my viewers only see me from the waist up. So I feel compelled to make my upper half visually interesting. Costume jewelry plays a big part in that. But costume jewelry, especially statement necklaces, are FREAKING HEAVY. So it's literally become a pain in the neck

You know what else is a pain in the neck? How messy and tangled my jewelry collection has become. I got this little jewelry armoire many years ago, when the necklace styles were much... smaller and tamer. In theory, it was a good solution. But my collection has since outgrown it, as you can see from these photos.

Your OCD super-organized spouse can only complain so many times about the pig sty in the corner before it becomes a fight trigger. So for the sake of my marriage, I started researching jewelry organizing solutions. There are plenty of cute DIY options on Pinterest... using everything from cheese graters to paper towel holders.
These are all gorgeous!  But I have hundreds of pieces of jewelry, so none of these crafty solutions would work for me. I then turned to Amazon, the seller of everything under the sun. Surely there would be a nifty doodad that solve my #firstworldproblem.

A lot of them were highly rated, but this $59.99 Longstem Organizer had five stars and looked the most promising, with 38 hooks to hold 300 pieces. It's pricey, and doesn't even qualify for free Prime shipping, but I was desperate. As soon as it arrived in the mail, my husband was so eager to get my bathroom counter de-cluttered, that he busted out the drill to help me mount it on the wall in our closet.
It's quite tall. 29 x 4 x 20 inches  and 7 pounds. We used the included brackets and anchors to mount it on the wall. It also includes over-the-door hangers, but our doors are too tall to use it that way. My only complaint, it covers the light switch.
 The steel frame is very sturdy, and it comes in a bronze coat or white. But the true test: would it hold everything and display it in a pleasing and accessible way?

 Sounds crazy, but it took me hours to sort through and hang, as well as purge unwanted pieces. But in doing so, I discovered:

1. A long-lost diamond earring stud
2.Many necklaces I had forgotten about
3. And that I need more jewelry. Just kidding honey!

But after painstakingly putting everything in its place, I was really happy to see that lo and behold, everything fit. Some of the back hooks aren't as easily accessible, you have to reach
between stuff hanging in the front. Some other cons: if your earrings are post earrings, it's a little tricky putting the backs on from behind. The plastic tray for rings/brooches is a little shallow, so it doesn't hold as much as I'd like.

But overall, I'm thrilled with this organizer. Every morning, I can clearly see my accessorizing options. This makes a big difference when I'm rushing to get out the door, and every minute counts.

Now on to my pantry. Anyone got any good organizing ideas for that space?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Teaching Kids: Money May Not Grow on Trees, but Your Food Does!

I have dusty boogers every time I blow my nose. My kids have scratches on their arms from tree branches. But we aren't complaining. Here's why: 

When Two Sisters U-Pick Apricots offered a tree adoption option this year, I jumped at the chance. Not just for the fun and educational opportunity, but for the bargain. By gathering five other families, we each chipped in only $25 to cover the $150 "adoption" fee. It was fun, but A LOT of work. And that was just one tree. My kids and I have a newfound appreciation for the farmworkers who harvest our food. Each tree yields 200-400 pounds of apricots! Let's just say I now have more apricots than I know what to do with. So naturally I started baking.

 Apricot-blueberry crumble
Apricot-cranberry scones
Next up: apricot jam, and a half dozen other recipes I've been dying to try on my Pinterest board. While helping me in the kitchen tonight, my 7-year-old daughter remarked how "cool" it was that we were literally cooking with something that had been on the tree until we picked it this morning. Light bulb moment inside her little head! She never made that connection before with anything we bought at the store, or even farmer's markets. I think it's important for her to feel connected with and invested in the food she eats. Check out this site for a pick-your-own farm to visit near you! Summer is the best time, with stone fruits and strawberries in season.

My fascination obsession started around mid April. I decided this would be the season to educate my young ones on the concept of farm (or garden) to table. After all, we do live in one of the most amazing and fertile farming regions in the world! I was further inspired by a friend of mine who has an amazing green thumb, and even though mine's brown, I too wanted to give it a try. So I enlisted the kids' help in building a raised garden bed (this kit from Lowe's), filled it with garden soil, and we planted herbs like basil and oregano and thyme, as well as vegetables including zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. To be honest, I did not have high hopes. Ask my husband: my plant survival rate in my yard is about 10%. The other 90% end up in the green waste recycling bin after weeks of neglect. I swore this time would be different!

April 27th, 2014: Here are the "before" and "after" pictures. Well lo and behold, a little bit of TLC and the garden flourished. The kids eagerly helped with the watering over the course of the month. But I don't know who got more of a kick out of watching everything grow, me or them! 
May 31st, 2014: Obviously I planted too much in one box and didn't give the zucchini and cucumber enough spacing, but I'm pretty happy with how my first attempt is turning out!
 Harvest Time!
The bell peppers were the first to bear fruit.
The saying "enjoy the fruits of your labor," has never rung truer. We felt a sense of giddiness as we plucked our first bell peppers. Marveled at the baby tomatoes. And I am now literally stalking the other plants, looking for the first signs of fruit. Mint for my mojitos, check! Basil to make pesto, let me just run outside. I can't believe it took me this long to do this! No more paying $$$ for herbs at the grocery store, only to have them wither in my fridge and go bad before I need them again. 

If planting a garden, or making a trip to a farm or orchard isn't a possibility, there are plenty of books that teach kids where their food comes from too. The Cow in Patrick O'Shanahan's Kitchen and Growing Seasons are a couple that are highly recommended.

All you country folk might be laughing at me right now, but for this city girl, I feel like a whole new world has been opened for me and my family!

Homemade pepperoni and veggie pizza, toppings courtesy of my humble little garden box.