Friday, December 30, 2011

2011's books

Most people know that I'm in a book club (I have been for over 2 years now), and as a result, I'm constantly getting asked for book recommendations. I decided to compile a list of books I've read (some with my book club, some without) over the past year. Here goes...

Treasuring God in Our Traditions,  Noel Piper
The New Dare to Discipline,  Dr. Dobson
*Gone With the Wind,  Margaret Mitchell
*The Story of the Trapp Family Singers,  Maria von Trapp
Stay Home, Stay Happy,  Rachel Campos-Duffy
Excuse Me, But I Was Next...,  Peggy Post
*Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul,  John Eldredge
*Bringing Up Girls,  Dr. Dobson
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,  Marc Weissbluth
*Room,  Emma Donoghue
Babywise 2,  Gary Ezzo
Summer and the City,  Candace Bushnell
What Southern Women Know,  Ronda Rich
*Pride and Prejudice,  Jane Austen
*Drowning Ruth,  Christina Schwarz
*Twilight,  Stephanie Meyer
*New Moon,  Stephanie Meyer
A Place of Yes,  Bethenny Frankel
Waiting for Daisy,  Peggy Orenstein
*Eclipse,  Stephanie Meyer
*Breaking Dawn,  Stephanie Meyer
*Freakonomics,  Steven Levitt
Bringing Up Boys,  Dr. Dobson
SuperFreakonomics,  Steven Levitt
*Before I Go to Sleep,  S.J. Watson
*The Hole in Our Gospel,  Richard Stearns
*A Christmas Carol,  Charles Dickens
On Becoming Pre-Toddlerwise,  Gary Ezzo
Habits of a Child's Heart:,  Valerie Hess

Looking back over that list, I'm surprised and delighted! 29 books?! Man, I love to read! It's definitely my #1 hobby (as evidenced by the amount of time AND money I spend on it).

The books that stand out as being my top favorites from the year are "Treasuring God in Our Traditions," "The New Dare to Discipline," "Gone With the Wind," "Pride and Prejudice," "Waiting for Daisy," "Superfreakonomics," and "Before I Go to Sleep." I don't want to go into a review of each book on here because it would make the post much too long, but if you have any questions about any of the specific books listed above, feel free to ask and I'll tell you what I thought!

*=books I've read with my book club

What have you read this year that you liked?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Can be a Snob Sometimes

If you read the title of this post and agreed with it in any fashion, stop what you're doing and call me. Immediately. Because it's obvious that we have some chatting to do.

If you read the title and were somewhat confused, good. Keep reading!

I admit it. I can be a snob sometimes. A brand snob. And this isn't with all things, of course, but for certain, seemingly-random/strange things, I must have a particular brand. This, of course, tends to throws off all manner of savings and only-buying-when-on-sale which is how I normally shop, but I can't seem to change this. I must have certain brands. But only for these few certain things.

1. Spices. Must be McCormick. I remember when Seth came home with an off-brand (that I think was a Whole Foods off-brand!) of some spice. I about cried. I couldn't believe he would subject me (and our taste buds) to something other than McCormick! Crazy, I know. It is probably exactly the same, coming from the same plant or something, just put into a different container... but that means it's a No Go for me. And as McCormick is rarely on sale, and I practically never see coupons for it, I'm always buying them at full price. (I didn't say this list would make sense.)

2. Tissue. I have to buy Kleenex, Ultra Soft. Not the kind with lotion (does bad stuff to my acne-prone nose), not the kind with aloe (does worse stuff to my acne-prone nose), not the cool sensation kind (just plain weird). And not some off-brand. Or even some other brand that ISN'T generic. I like these. They stand the test of a real nose-blowing experience. Not the wimpy kind of blowing, but the real, nose-clearing kind. As a person who is prone to sinus infections, having boxes of sub-par tissue around simply doesn't work. These are soft and gentle to my nose, but I don't have to use multiple layers to prevent the dreaded blow-through situation. Who wants snot all over their hands after a thorough nose clearing? Not this chick. And I also don't want to walk around looking like Rudolph!

3. Paper Towels. Gotta be Viva, baby! I blame Seth for this one. I used to buy another very common brand of paper towels as they were always on sale and they publish TONS of coupons for them. And then he complained. Well, maybe "complain" is a strong word, but he asked why I never bought Viva, explaining that he really liked them and preferred it when I bought those (which I never did because of the lack of coupons and sales!). But now I do. Coupons, Shmoupons. My husband cares enough about our paper towels to take the time to mention it? I'm sold. And frankly, I'm a personal convert as well. The quilted-ness (which I used to think I liked) is a scam, I think. I prefer how soft and durable these are and they soak up better, too. I also buy the ones with the half-sheet size so you can determine how much you want without having to get one huge one. I often get by with only using one half-sheet and I feel better about my impact on the environment as a result.

4. Baby Goods: Diapers=Pampers, Wipes=Huggies. Give me a Huggies diaper to put on my son, and my internal workings will practically stop. I HATE Huggies diapers. Always leak. Terrible fit. Awful. Can't. Stand. Them. BUT, I do LOVE their wipes. The Natural Care ones, specifically. I buy them through an Amazon subscription account, and get them for less than 2 cents/wipe. I love how they don't have the added chemicals, love the price, and LOVE how durable they are. Thick, not very stretchy, and always make the job easier. Give me a Pampers diaper, though, and I'm thrilled! The fit and non-leaking success that we've had with Pampers (Swaddlers and now Cruisers, specifically) has made me a Lifer. However, I DISLIKE their wipes. They're too stretchy. They only ever seemed to smear the mess rather than clear the mess. Yuck. 

5. Napkins. Must buy Bounty. I used to buy whichever one happened to be on sale, and then I got a package of generic ones. Bounty Imposters, really. And well, with a baby (and a dog) around, napkins get used a lot. I don't have the patience for my napkins to disintegrate during use. I immediately swore off anything but these Bounty ones. And even went so far as to tell Seth to remind me should I ever waver over spending that much on them. I'm anti-quilting when it comes to our paper towels, but there's something about the different uses we have for each that makes these quilts ok. And the actual paper is tough, too. They don't tear when wiping food off of little fingers (or big ones, for that matter!). LOVE these.

6.  Laundry products. I ALWAYS buy All and Downy. I love this All because it's safe for the baby skin we have had around here, and it cleans well AND has a nice smell. I use the white bottle of Downy because it's safe for baby skin, so when I combine them, the boys' clothes are safe, soft and have a smell too. But for the hubs and me, I use a Downy that has a smell in it.

7. Body Soap. We use Dove in the Spofford household. I'm not sure how I got started using this, but I'm a Loyal Customer. I buy this whenever it's on sale, with coupons and end up paying about as much as I would if I were to buy the cheapie stuff. The difference, though, is that I won't end up with flakey, dry skin.

8. Hand soap. I always buy Method, Sweet Water, foaming hand soap. But only for the guest bathroom. These Method containers are refillable too (I recently realized this is true even for the foam kind of soap!), so it's an environmental and monetary savings this way!

9. Shampoo & Conditioner. Aveda. Aveda. Aveda. I began using Aveda skin products a number of years ago because of some fairly serious skin issues I was having, and decided to try the shampoo and conditioners as well. Total fan. #1 convert. Never going back. My hair is extremely fine, gets colored several times a year, and has a "nice," Hawaii-esqe wave to it. I currently use the Color Conserve line and love it. I have used the Smooth Infusion line too, but it turned out to be a bit too heavy for my fine hair. 

10. Mascara. Lastly, though not leastly, is my Covergirl Mascara. I'm not sure how this one got started either. It's not the kind my mom uses. It's not Aveda. I don't actually know anyone else who uses it. But I've tried others, even other Covergirl ones, and always come back to this. Thankfully, though, this is something I often find on sale and/or have a coupon for, so it's not something I have to spend a lot on in order to be the brand snob that I am.

This is not an exhaustive list. By any means. I walked around the house just now looking for things which I would only buy of a certain brand and found many other items I could list. But given that most of them were found in the bathroom, I think that's probably a bit too much sharing for a public venue like this. (If you're interested though, feel free to ask the next time you see me!)

Am I alone in this? Is there anything you're a (brand) snob about? Perhaps you have a product suggestion for me/us. I'm open to trying new versions of products. Just not of certain products. ;-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I'm a Sponge Convert

I used to detest sponges. (And dish rags.) Detested them. All I could think of was the smell. And the germs collecting inside. Only to be spread around on whatever you were trying to clean. It seemed to me that things would be dirtier, not cleaner, post-sponge use (or post-rag use). Yuck. And then there's the smell again. Double yuck. 

So, because of this, I became A Wipe User. I've been A Wipe User for most of my adult life. Clorox Wipes. Pledge Wipes. Baby Wipes. Wet Wipes. Anything I could use to clean something up, and then throw away. I could avoid both the smell and the lingering germs this way. I keep a pretty clean house this way--all the nasty germs and smell are tightly sealed in the trash can.

And then I saw a commercial that rocked my world. I was sitting on the couch a couple weeks ago with Anne Marie, each of us minding our own business, when this commercial comes on. It struck us both so much that we stopped talking, watched it, and then turned to look at each other with our mouths hanging open. And then we both, at the same time, started talking about how great it was. It was crazy how much power this sponge commercial had!

The thing that really got me is that you can put it in the dishwasher to clean it. That was the kicker! I wouldn't have to worry about the smell. Or the germs. But mostly, the smell. I bought the sponge as soon as I could, and I've been completely converted. I am now A Sponge User. 

I like how well it cleans and can scrub, but without scratching anything. I like that it's made from natural fibers. I like the color (it doesn't show dinginess). But best of all, I like that I can put it in the daily dishwasher cycle, and it'll be clean and ready to be used again tomorrow. (This is different than dishrags. Dishrags collect for almost a week, smelling up the laundry room, cuz I don't do laundry every single day like we run a daily load of dishes.) 

I am excited about this change in my cleaning routine and excited about the money savings we'll enjoy. And, of course, the environmental savings.