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Sunday, July 31, 2011


I have been a faithful subscriber of the Sunday edition of the Houston Chronicle for over 5 years now... Not because of their talented writing or page turning stories, but because of the weekly coupons (and the adds, when I'm in the mood for looking at them). I have not calculated my savings over the years, but I know I have literally saved hundreds if not thousands of dollars using coupons. And I've gotten so good at using coupons that my Walmart trips have literally turned into me not putting a single thing into my car without using a coupon to go with it. With that being said, I have been able to justify the cost of paper delivery with the savings I receive by clipping and using coupons.
However, what started out as a good deal at $1 per week 5 years ago, has blossomed into a $2 per week addiction. And to be honest, I was pretty ticked at the Chronicle for inflating their prices to double the cost over only 5 years. And basically there wasn't a thing I could do about it, other than just pay more and more every time I renewed my subscription. I mean, yeah I get it, more people are opting out of the paper delivery thing, choosing to receive their news online, which makes the prices of newspapers go up. And I know, I know.... I could get those valuable coupons online as well. And I could even do the load 'em and use 'em thing that Kroger and some other stores are doing now. But it's just not the same. I like the have the tangible feeling of the snip and store method, which I blogged about a few months back.
So imagine my delight when I saw this!

$1 per week!!!!???  Happy deals dance!!

And the frown on my face when I saw this.

Not valid if used home delivery services in the past 30 days?? Oh No... I do NOT think so. While I threw myself a short pity party, in true Lauren fashion, I was thinking of a way I could get out of this little exception.  After doing some mental time math, I concluded I could cancel my current subscription (which was to be over in a month anyway), wait 30 days (according to the Groupon rules), and the renew my subscription before 7/31 (paying for it with the Groupon).
Boo Ya, I WIN!!!  YAY ME!!!
And to make matters even better, I was going to be out of town 3 out of the next 4 weeks, so I wouldn't even miss my Sunday paper anyways!
So on Thursday 7/28, just 3 days before the Groupon expired and a little more than 30 days after I had received my last Sunday paper, I  successfully renewed my subscription, using my pre-paid Groupon. And today I received my first Sunday paper at $1 per week.  
So tell me, do you have any shameless savings stories in which you worked the system to catch a deal? I sure do, and this is the first addition telling these types of stories. Can't wait to share them!

Peace, Love and Reusable Baggies,
Frugal Girl

Friday, July 22, 2011

Land of The FREE

A few weeks ago, I had alluded to my 4th of July plans. Sorry for not getting to writing about them sooner.  But here we go. 
I had heard about Miller Outdoor Theater a few times but had never had a chance to check it out. After all, I only visited Hermann Park for the first time in over 5 years of living in Houston, this February. Miller Outdoor is a big outdoor theater, located in Hermann Park, in case you didn't know... and don't feel bad if you don't, cause I clearly did not. During the summer, most performances are... get ready for this... FREE!!! All types of performances happen there, including movies in the park, children's shows and performances by the Houston Symphony. For the 4th of July, the Houston Symphony was putting on a  performance, featuring patriotic music. There was even to be a special performance by astronaut and musician, Chris Hadfield.
So, you ask... How does one procure these free Miller Outdoor tickets? See here's the thing... if you want those free tickets to include a seat, you must go in person to the Miller Outdoor box office the day of the event at 10:30am. The box office is actually located at the back of the theater. 

Clearly I have mad paint skills
Parking was no problem, and we found a spot close by the theater very easily. Next, we just walked to the actual and theater from there and looked for the line of people.  Here's what we found. 
This is near the start of the line... the line wraps all the way around the building
And here were all the people in line behind us

Lola was holding my place in line while I snapped shots of the scenery
It's a park... in the middle of the city... you get the idea.
We arrived around 9:45, which was about 45 minutes before the box office started handing out tickets.  I counted about 120 people in line in front of us, cause I'm a dork like that. The idea is you get there early to hold your place in line, and then hang out in your folding camping chairs. We left our chairs in the car, since we only needed to wait 45 minutes, which ended up being fine. However if you did arrive more than about an hour in advance, then I would recommend bringing your folding chair. While our seats weren't terrific, we were glad to have picked up 2 tickets for that evening's performance. 

Yay!!! 2 FREE Tickets :)
Flash forward to that evening, and we made the brilliant decision to take the metro to the concert. We had heard while waiting in line that the parking would most likely be horrible at the park for that night. We left the house about 2 hours early and parked in midtown, near the McGowen stop. And I should mention, parking was FREE since it was a weeknight. Thankfully, the metro is idiot proof, and we were easily able to print our tickets out from the machines. And if I haven't sung the praises of the metro enough already, I should mention it was extremely clean inside the rail cars. So yeah, go Houston metro!
Once we arrived to our destination, which took about 15-20 minutes, we walked straight to our seats. And boy, it was nice to have seats.

Definitely worth standing in line for

Of course you can always bring your lawn chairs and blankets and sit on the hill... but it gets a little crowded.

We also came prepared with dinner in our REI picnic backpack. Glass is not allowed at Miller Outdoor, so juice box wine is in order. I found these guys at Kroger.

It was 2 for $10 and each was 3/4 of a bottle
Free seats, boxed wine, you tell me what could be better...
Oh I know... FIREWORKS!! After the show, we made our way back to the rail station (which dropped us off right in front of Miller Outdoor BTW), and that's when the fireworks started. From the metro station to our car and then to home only took about 45 min... Easy peasy. 

Cheesy reach around camera shot in front of fireworks... I know.
Overall, I'd say it was a great experience, and I would definitely do it again. Going in, I had a bunch of questions and many of people had given me some advice about parking etc, so in an effort to pass along my lessons learned, here is a list of all my findings.

  • DO go early and stand in line to get your free tickets for seats. I estimate arriving to stand in line about 9:30am. 
  • DO enjoy Hermann Park after you get your tickets. The park is beautiful and there are lots of things to do and see. Heck, you already woke up early to get there, and you have a parking spot... might as well enjoy it.
  • DO use the Houston Metro for transportation to the performance. It's a cheap and super easy way to get there. It's $5 for 2 people round trip... your sanity is worth it.
  • DO bring your own food to the performance. I did notice there was food for sale and yeah, I get that purchasing it supports the Miller Outdoor, but I just wasn't that enthusiastic about spending a small fortune on funnel cakes and frozen lemon ices. 
  • DO bring juice box wine to the event. Wine in a box makes everything more fun. 
  • DO bring a towel to lay over your chair. Remember folks, summers in Houston are balls hot.
Has anyone out there tried Miller Outdoor or another outdoor performance? Got any recommendations? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

LOLA!! That is NOT cute.

For those of you who've been distracted by the Caycee Anthony trial and unable to devote time to catching up on America's space program, the last space shuttle mission is underway. I was so honored to be assigned to work a shift on this mission. So you know what that means?? I get to wear fabulous shoes and girly skirts and bake lots of sweets for everyone on my shift to eat, right?!?! Well, not so much during this mission because I was working in the "back room". Basically, that is the support team that backs up the person working in the "front room" of the Mission Control Center. I know you're thinking that it would have been cooler had I been assigned to work in the "front room" but you know I'm rollin' with it. I had some other things going on at work about half way through the mission, so I was assigned to work the first 5 days. But the back room has it's perks too. It's more casual, which can be nice, and also it's way more social. The back room is just a lighter atmosphere than the front room where all the pressure is. That's just a nice way of saying that me and my co workers are just whoopin it up back there while the front room person is the one having to make all the big decisions. But seriously, we are all working very hard, the environments can just be different. Here we will demonstrate.

Front Room - serious business, people

Striking a sass pose for the MCC photog
 One of the reasons why there is so much camaraderie is because more times than not, the hours we work are ungodly. Spaceflight is 24-7 people, and spaceflight work is not for pansies. So when you're up at 12:30am for your shift at 1:30am, by time time 9:30am rolls around, you take pictures like this:

Early morning/ all night shifts are just a part of human spaceflight. They really can throw you off, but hey, it's worth it. Speaking of throwing off your schedule.... unfortunately my entire household schedule is thrown out... I mean, my porch light is on at all weird times during the day since I'm sleeping when I'd normally have it on. My plants don't get watered at the right times, and my mail sits in my box for days cause I forget anything is going on in the outside world. It's basically eat, sleep, eat, work the mission, and eat again. So just picture my house... wilted plants, lights on at the wrong times, mail everywhere, and dog poop hiding in my game room... Wait, what? ?
Yeah, this time around poor Lola didn't take it so well. The pitiful thing was being fed at odd times during the day... half a serving for an early breakfast when I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, another half a serving for a late breakfast when I got home, and an early dinner before I went to bed in the afternoon. And nothing will make you feel like a worse parent than finding petrified Lola turd in your upstairs game room because 1) Your dog's feeding/ pooping schedule is way off because you've been working crazy hours and 2) you didn't even notice there were dried dog turds until approximately  3 days later because you haven't ventured to the 2nd floor of your home in at least a week. Totally not cute.

But THIS people, is freaking adorable
Does anyone out there want to share their pet accident stories? Oh yeah, and in the spirit of oversharring, I picked up exactly NINE poop pieces. But with a snaggle tooth face like that, how could I be mad?
That is all. 
Have a nice dog poo free day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cupcakes and Champagne

I visited Crave Cupcakes, located in the Rice Village, a couple months ago and love it! Over the 4th of July weekend,  I was up in Houston, and I wanted to visit a cupcake bakery... More on what I was doing over the 4th soon. I still have quite a few cupcake shops to cross off the list! However, there weren't many cupcake bakeries open on the 4th of July. After calling around to ALL OF THEM, I found that only Crave was open. They've got some smart folks over there at Crave. So, we headed over there to pick up some new flavors. We brought them home and enjoyed them with some mimosas.
I ordered lemon (on the right) and Malibu Ken ordered hummingbird (on the left)
I was excited to try some of the daily specialties off of "Monday's" menu. I thought my lemon cupcake was delicious. It wasn't too tart and it tasted really fresh and creamy. Malibu Ken's hummingbird cupcake was fantastic. I actually liked it better than mine... shhhhh. For those of you who are unfamiliar with hummingbird cake, it is a cinamon cake with bananas, pineapple and pecans. Yummy!

Our cupcakes went great with our mimosas, which Malibu Ken has perfected. He says his secret is half champagne and half orange juice. I like Florida's Natural, original style with no pulp.
A perfect way to spend the afternoon
Cheers, Engineeringirl

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hold on folks, it's about to get earthy crunchy around here.

I'm in love with Groupon. They have good deals on doing cool stuff around town. Cool stuff and deals.... That's pretty much how I roll.
I like nature. Experiencing nature is nice. Like from an air conditioned car. Also, I like art. I can totally dig painting stuff, like nice birds and flowers.... in my air conditioned house, while enjoying a glass of wine. Note to my readers: do not get your wine and your watercolor water confused. Just sayin'.
I bet you're wondering where this rambling is going, so I'm going to tell you. I got a Groupon for Artist BoatGroupon + Art + Nature = does it get any better? I'll tell you what is better... doing said trip with Malibu Ken who loves him some earthy crunchy kayaking adventures. I have to admit, floating down the ocean in a kayak, painting some pictures sounded like romantical times, but what do I know? I don't explore the wilderness often, or ever. Okay, my idea of the wilderness is the ravine that runs behind Jaime and Charlie's house. There are snakes and bats back there people!
Fast forward a few months to May when Malibu Ken and I tried to use our Artist Boat Groupon purchase. Luckily we had a "dry run" as I like to call it, since the kayaking adventure was canceled minutes before we arrived due to high winds. While Malibu Ken had correctly chosen appropriate kayaking attire to wear, I had decided that I would wear my Cole Haan mary jane walking shoes and jean shorts. Thankfully the instructor noted my outfit, and while complimenting me on my adorable footwear, suggested I might invest in some water shoes for next time. So, I put on my hippie hat, and I picked these up last weekend.
The foot with the painted red toenails is mine. That's Malibu Ken's foot in the merman shoe.

The kayak instructor also recommended wearing shorts that were a bit more light weight, instead of jean shorts. Look people, I'm a nature girl in training... Give me a break! So with those 2 outfit modifications, a lunch packed in Ziploc bags, sunscreen, and my watercolor brushes, I was ready.
Yup. I was ready. But I'll tell you what I wasn't ready for... Wading into the Galveston Ocean prior to getting in our kayak. Nope, wasn't ready for that. Our instructor advised us to get ourselves wet before starting the kayak trip since it was very hot that day. While I can completely understand the logic behind this request, I hadn't fully mentally prepared myself for this experience. So, what did I do? I wadded into the dirty water bay and got myself wet, including my hair. 'Cause that's what real nature girls do.
Wet hair. Workout gloves. That's how we do.

Malibu Ken in his element. He paddled the entire time so I could take little rest breaks... now that's a good boyfriend.
Overall I would definitely recommend Artist Boat to anyone looking to have adventurous times in Galveston. And now that I am the proud owner of water shoes, I will be on the outlook for other kayak Groupons around town.
So friends, share you kayak experiences! Any recommendations for kayak rentals around Houston?

Granola girl