5 Tips for Car Shoppers

Kia Soul

We're proud to announce our latest addition to the family!  Before you order that cute onesie, know that my uterus is closed for business; our new baby is a Kia Soul wagon. Alfie's BMW sedan is nearing its 20-year mark, and we wanted a car to drive around town that didn't use up as much gas as our van.  We decided on the Soul after test driving one for a week (take note, PR companies -- these programs work!!).  We felt that the Soul had all the high end features we wanted, at a great price.  When we saw the tv ads about great Black Friday financing on the Kia Soul, we decided to bite the bullet.  The whole process took 3 days: we saw the ad on Friday, visited one dealer on Saturday, visited another dealer on Sunday, and picked up the car on Monday.  The dealer visits were mainly to check out interior and exterior colors; we did all of the price shopping online and all of the negotiating via text.

It has been 10 years since we bought our last vehicle (the van), and although technology has changed a lot since then, the art of purchasing a car hasn't.  For those of you who haven't been in the car-buying market in a while, there were a few things had to re-learn. I'm glad we did them, because we ended up saving a bundle of money.  Here are my five gems of advice for anyone looking to purchase a car:

Something new and something blue at the American Girl Store

It has been a while since I've dropped by the American Girl Store at the Stanford Shopping Center, and since the holidays are coming up, I thought I'd pay them a visit so I can get a good look at their current offerings and see which items are going to make it into my American Girl Holiday Gift Guide.  As usual, I'd love to get pretty much everything, but there were quite a few new items that caught my eye (note, the full holiday collection is not yet in stores, so I'm going to hold back on my AG gift guide for a couple of weeks!).  Here are my favorite new items at the American Girl Store so far:

Veggie Fresh: Mountain View's undiscovered secret for great vegan food

Do not be fooled by its commonplace appearance. Like so many things, it is not what outside, but what is inside that counts.

The character in the Disney movie Aladdin was talking about Aladdin's magic lamp (and Aladdin himself), but this quote applies equally to restaurants.  Don't dismiss a restaurant just because it looks like a dive!  Almost everyone I know will agree that some of the best food they've eaten can be had places where they spend money on the food, not the decor. 

Our current favorite Chinese restaurant, Veggie Garden, is the perfect example. If you were to drive by this restaurant, you wouldn't give it a second look.  It's right in the middle of a strip mall, sandwiched between a beauty salon and an acupuncturist.  I'm not sure what made me stop that day -- maybe it was the amazing smell -- but I'm so glad I did.  Judging from its outside appearance, Veggie Fresh is just another greasy spoon join, but once you step in, you'll find yourself in an ultra-clean, neat, and bright place to eat.  

Candy, anyone?

We are up to our ears in Halloween candy.  Literally.  Last week our school had a Halloween Candy for Troops donation drive, and guess who coordinated it?  Yup, yours truly.  It seems that not only did everyone's little ghouls and goblins collect far more candy than they were allowed to eat, people also bought far more candy than they could give away.  We received giant bags of candy that hadn't even been opened!  If I had a phone booth, I could fill it from bottom to top with candy.

Nacho Fries Casserole

Nacho Fries Casserole

I wear a multitude of hats in my life these days, so it's always a big win for me when I'm able to multi-task.   Last night's Nacho Fries was a great example.  With that one simple dish, I managed to kill four birds with one stone (okay, that sounded really brutal, but you know what I mean).  First and second, I was able to create content for two different campaigns -- CravOn Fries (one of the ingredients) and Corningware (the casserole I served it in).  Third, I was able to write this blog post.   And fourth, my family was able to enjoy a delicious dinner.

Halloween Costume Watch 2014: Bank Robber

Whew! The Pea's bank robber costume came right down to the wire: I came downstairs today at 7AM and found her furiously making black masks.  I told her there was no way she would be able to make it to school on time without my help at this point, so why didn't she ask for help sooner.  She said she didn't want to stress me out.  Like cutting out felt masks when I'm supposed to be doing a million other things isn't stressful!  Sigh. Kids. I do appreciate her thoughtfulness, though.

The Pea is certainly spreading her wings.  This year, she and her bank robber posse are trick or treating by themselves, without an adult.  The idea freaked me out at first -- four thirteen year-olds, on the craziest night of the year, all by themselves!!  But I consulted my Facebook posse and almost all of them said it would be okay.  And when I think about it, they're right.  The Pea and her friends are good kids, very responsible, not flighty at all.  As long as we set the appropriate boundaries (location and time wise), and ask them to check in every now and then (thank God for mobile phones!), everything will be fine.  I know they'll be fine.  I'm just not sure about me!  But I'm going to be like Elsa and LET IT GO......

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Don't Drink and Fly (or Drive) on Halloween!

Halloween safety

Yesterday I posted about the things you need to take with you when you're trick-or-treating with your kids.  One of the most important items is a flashlight, because when it's dark and you have kids running around looking for candy, the last thing they're thinking about is road safety.  We need flashlights to make sure drivers see us.... but we also need drivers to realize that they need to take even more care than usual.  They have to remember that there will be little kids in dark robes crossing the street, darting in and out between parked cars in their excitement.  The last thing they need is a driver who shouldn't be out on the road... in other words a driver that has been drinking.

Halloween Costume Watch 2014: Minnie Mouse

Minnie Mouse Halloween costume

Minnie Mouse is such an easy and fun character that I don't know why it took me so long to dress up as her for Halloween.  She was an easy choice for this year, because I already had my hands full helping 3Po and Jammy with their costumes, and I've had this costume assembled since April!  I made the skirt and collar at the Disney Social Media Moms fun run, so I was good to go.  I just swapped my running shorts for leggings, my tech tshirt for a sleeved cotton tee, and my Minnie ears cap for a Minnie ears headband. Easy peasy!

How to make an Arabian Nights costume

1001 Arabian Nights / Aladdin costume

Every year the PTA at our elementary school hosts a fancy dress fundraiser. It's always held on the third weekend of October, so parents like to come in a costume that matches the party theme.  This year's theme was 1001 Arabian nights, so we had a lot of Arab sheiks, sultans, genies, and belly dancers.

There's a huge variety of costumes for this theme available for sale.  Most of the women's costumes are pretty skimpy, though; they're totally inappropriate for a school social event, even an adults-only one!  And many of them require more of a $$ investment than I'm willing to make for just one night. I found it cheaper and more fun to put a costume together myself by purchasing individual costume items.

Halloween Costume Watch 2014: Clash of Clans Barbarian King

Clash of Clans Barbarian King costume

Jammy had a lot of trouble figuring out what costume he wanted to wear this Halloween. His brother 3Po already had an awesome Chinese dragon head, and Jammy is extremely competitive by nature, so he wanted something with a significant "Wow" factor.  He and his friends are crazy about the Clash of Clans game, so I suggested dressing up as a member of the clan: the barbarian king.