Saturday, May 23, 2015

We Have Visitors!

Jason is here visiting for a couple weeks!

Cory is here, too. But I don't have any goofy pictures of us together.

It's nice to have my guys here. We haven't done anything too exciting - snuggle, read books, work on riding the new bike on the driveway, run around in the yard, etc. - but it's just nice to hang out.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Review: Running Armband for Samsung Galaxy S5 ‪#‎galaxys5armband‬

I've been wanting to try one of these armbands for a while now, so when I got the chance to receive one for review, I jumped at it.  I walk every morning, and my phone can and will keep track of my steps.  However, it's a bit awkward having to carry my phone the whole time or trying to put it into my pocket.  It's just a bit too big.  Enter this handy armband!

The phone fits snugly and securely into the armband.  The neoprene folds right over the top so there's no chance the phone can come out.  I'll admit that I didn't notice that the first time I used this, and I strapped the armband on upside down, which could have been disastrous.  But, it held tight and my phone was fine.  Now I know to tuck it all the way in, and it's definitely safe. The only thing I really don't like about it is that I have to take the case off the phone for it to fit into the armband.  I realize there are many types and sizes of phone cases, so there's no way they could design the armband to handle all the cases.  That really is a minor thing, though.

I like that the touchscreen of the phone is still usable through the armband cover.  The armband straps onto my arm so I can take my walk without worrying about the phone again.  It is taking me a bit to get it strapped onto my arm, but I will get it with time.  It's just a bit awkward trying to get it on using one hand, but that's probably just me.  It's really comfortable once I get it on, and I'm just enjoying being able to take my phone with me when I go for my daily walks.  Now I'm wondering how my phone will work for audiobooks.  Maybe I can start leaving my mp3 player home and just take my phone?

Here's a bit more information (and a link to it on Amazon) about the Best Running Armband for Samsung Galaxy S5 (as well as the S4, S3, iPhone 6 (4.7), HTC One & More): 
  • COMPATIBILITY: Compatible with the Samsung S5 S4 S3,iPhone 6 (4.7) and HTC One phones from all carriers - AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon etc.
  • PROTECTION: Protects and keeps your phone safe from moisture while working out
  • USE: Convenient and easy to use. Easy access to ear phones and controls. Includes convenient key holder.
  • SIZE: Fits sizes from 9 to 14.5 inches. Not for body builders or those with biceps over 14.5 inches.
  • SAFETY: Night reflector feature allows for increased visibility after dark.
  • VALUE : Why Pay more? This is a great value for the price :) So affordable why not buy two?
  • CARE: We strongly recommend that you hand wash and air dry this armband. Treat this armband as you would any phone case and do not place in the washer/dryer as this can cause tears etc..
  • MATERIAL: Nylon, Velcro and Neoprene

Disclosure: I received a free armband for the purposes of review. All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Wish Wish Wish, Wish Wish

I like dandelions.  When they're all bright and sunny and scattered all over the yard.  They're really cheery little things, aren't they?

If only they'd stay like this. 

But, instead, they suddenly get all tall and fluffy - and dandelion seeds spread at the slightest breeze.  Which, I suppose, means more dandelions next time.  If today is any indication, we're gonna have lots.

They say you should make a wish when you blow on a dandelion puff and send the seeds flying.  I didn't exactly blow on them, but I mowed through a whole bunch of leggy, fluffy dandelions today and sent seeds flying in every direction.  Sometimes I had to hold my breath as I mowed straight through a cloud of them.  I guess I should have been wishing my little heart out.

The yard looks better now.  Except, have you noticed how some of those sneaky little dandelion stems lay down to avoid the mower?  I bet they'll be standing up again by tomorrow.  But they'll be naked.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Giveaway: The Hobbit The Battle of The Five Armies on Blu-ray

 I have loved The Hobbit ever since my 6th grade teacher read the book to our class.  I love the book, and I really enjoyed all of the movies.  If you're a Hobbit fan, too, this giveaway is for you!

Warner Home Video will give one lucky reader a copy of the latest movie in the trilogy.  The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings to an epic conclusion the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and the Company of Dwarves.  We loved the movie in the theater, and I'm really looking forward to watching it again now that it's out on Blu-ray.

Special Features on the Blu-ray combo pack include:
  • New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth Part 3
  • Recruiting the Five Armies
  • Completing Middle-earth: A Six-Part Saga
  • Completing Middle-earth: A Seventeen-Year Journey
  • The Last Goodbye: Behind the Scenes
  • Music Video
  • Trailers
And now for some Hobbit fun!  Take the quiz to find out if you have the bravery it takes to journey through Middle Earth and use the interactive map to learn some fun facts about Middle Earth.

To enter the giveaway:
  • Leave a comment on this post and let me know what you found out when you took the quiz.  Are you brave like Bilbo?
For an additional entry (Can be done once per day; leave a separate comment w/ link for each):
  • Tweet about this giveaway - be sure to include a link and use the hashtag #TheHobbit 
  • Share this giveaway on Facebook.  Make sure your post is public so I can see it.
Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents, and all entries must be received by 11:59pm ET on April 20, 2015.  Good Luck!!

Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Blu-ray The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one winner per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Bonus - enjoy this behind the scenes look at New Zealand. (That's one place I'd love to visit someday, and not just because they filmed The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies there.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Madonna's #RebelHeart

Madonna's 13th studio album Rebel Heart released March 10th on Interscope Records.   Thanks to OnetoOne Network (#O2O), I have enjoyed listening to this album for the past couple weeks.  Though I used to really enjoy Madonna's music, I haven't really kept up with her career, and I haven't seriously listened to her music in years.  It has been fun to catch up.

Madonna recently told Billboard that this new album explores two very distinct sides of her personality, the rebellious renegade side and the romantic side.  Of course, I didn't read that before I listened to the album, so had to go back and listen again to see if I could figure out which songs and lyrics reflect which sides of her personality.  (Yes, I know, tough, but someone's gotta do it!)

I find myself liking Madonna's softer side best, though it's hard to resist that Unapologetic Bitch side.  Madonna is who she is, and she's not afraid to tell the world. 

The songs I like best are Body Shop,Wash All Over Me, and Best Night, but overall I am enjoying the whole album.  I really like Madonna's voice, and the music on a lot of these tracks make it really hard to sit still.  So why try?  All the lyrics may not be entirely appropriate, and I may not really understand what Madonna is trying to say, but I'm still liking the listening.
"I'm in Heartbreak City, and it's not that pretty"

You can download Rebel Heart on iTunes, and be sure to check out Madonna on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

I participated in the Madonna Rebel Heart album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.

Friday, March 06, 2015

True Healthcare Reform

Medical BillingThis whole Obamacare idea of requiring everyone to have health insurance or be fined for not having it, doesn't seem to have anything to do with healthcare reform or making health care affordable.  In fact, I have a friend who was quoted over $900/month for insurance - not remotely affordable.

True healthcare reform would mean that doctors, hospitals, and clinics would be required to charge reasonable fees - to everyone.  The biggest step in moving toward in true healthcare reform seems to be a requirement for reasonable charges and fees - not a requirement for those in need of healthcare, but a requirement for those providing it.  It's crazy how much a basic doctor visit or lab test can cost!  But that's not the craziest part.  The craziest part is that they charge those ridiculous amounts, then, if you have insurance, the insurance company looks at the charges and says, "No, that procedure or visit should only cost this small fraction of the original charge.  That's all we will pay."  And that's that - the doctor, hospital or lab gets paid what the insurance company says they get paid.

 Example: We got a recent bill for some kind of lab tests.  For some reason, the lab hadn't gotten the insurance information, so they billed $70.  We didn't pay that.  We gave them the insurance information, and the end result was that the insurance company disallowed basically $60 of the original $70 and paid the lab $9 and something.  And that was that.

 But why do we even need insurance companies for this?  If the lab would simply charge about $10 in the first place, most people could afford that.  (especially if they're not forced to pay money they don't have to get insurance in the first place)  And for those who can't afford even that, those subsidies the government is supposed to provide would go a lot further if they would go toward providing actual care instead of paying some insurance company.

Doctors and hospitals should have to make their costs and fees for everything public, so people could look at them ahead of time and be able to choose a provider based on cost, if that's what they want to do. Where else do we 'buy' something without knowing beforehand what it is going to cost us?  Groceries, clothes, cars, houses, etc.  We get to decide ahead of time what we are going to buy and what we can and cannot afford (never mind the over-use of credit cards) because we are given the prices and costs up front.  But go to the doctor, and that cost is always a surprise after the fact, and even if we did know ahead of time, who knows what a normal and reasonable cost is.  Is this doctor charging me more than the one down the street?  Is this charge reasonable or maybe an extremely good deal?  There's no way to know.

It seems to me they went at this whole idea of healthcare reform the wrong way.  But, they didn't ask me...

Medical Billing and Coding companies

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I'll Just Stick with the Coffee

Broccoli.I went shopping last week, back when the weather was a bit more pleasant.  Seriously, it was a nice day - snowed in the morning, and then the sun came out and it was practically balmy.  That isn't the point, but what's better than talking about the weather?  It's practically the only thing anyone talks about these days.  Cold, cold, cold.

Anyway, shopping.  I usually look over my receipts before I leave the store, just to be sure everything rang up right.  It just seems to be that, if I look at it in the store, everything will be fine, and if I don't, something will be wrong.  Not always, but looking at the receipt in the store means I can take care of any problems right then, while I'm there.  This time I did look it over, but not well enough, I guess.  That evening I noticed that the broccoli crowns I bought had been rung up as just regular broccoli.  So instead of paying 99¢ per pound for approximately 1 pound of broccoli, I paid $1.99 each for 2 bunches of broccoli, or $3.98.

If I still lived in Wisconsin and had to drive 15 minutes to get to the store, I'd probably have let it go or called the store to see if there was anything I could do about it the next time I got to the store (probably not for 2 or 3 weeks).  But, since the store is only 5 minutes or so away, I decided I'd run back to the store the next morning and get it taken care of. And, since they recently opened a Starbucks in the store, I thought I'd treat myself to a salted caramel mocha from Starbucks.
So, I did.  I ended up getting the broccoli for free, and I grabbed a few things I forgot to grab the day before.  They were things we could have lived without, but since I was there...

Next time (because there will probably be a next time, no matter how careful I am) I'm just going to skip the coffee.  I'll make coffee at home.  I got $4 back from the broccoli and spent $5 on stupid coffee.  Do people really do that all the time?  (Obviously they do; just search Starbucks on Flickr.)  How?  Why?  I mean, it was good, but it just doesn't seem worth it.  I can buy an entire bag of coffee and make my coffee at home for weeks for that same $5.

I might buy a flavored syrup to use occasionally, should I want something a bit different.  I have been mixing my coffee up with some coconut oil and milk in the mornings - whir it up good in the Ninja so that it's foamy, and that's pretty yummy.  I bet a little syrup would be nice once in a while.  And not quite the waste of money Starbucks seems to be.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fast and Thorough Tenant Verification

If you're a landlord, you should definitely check out Tenantify.  It's a site that helps prevent fraud risk, and makes renting worry-free for landlords.  While I have never personally been a landlord, I've heard some horror interesting stories from some of my friends.  It's not always easy finding the right renters, and it doesn't sound easy to get rid of the bad ones once you've got them in your place.

Tenantify gives landlords tenant screening powered by employment and income verification, allowing landlords the ability to assess a potential renter's ability to pay rent each month.

It's a fast and thorough tool that makes it easier for landlords to verify income and employment of a potential renter conveniently, securely and without fraud risk.  Even better, it's a free service for landlords.  The potential renters pay all fees once verification is complete. Fees are very reasonable and can enhance the chances of application success for a qualified renter.

Tenantify empowers landlords to make informed decisions and helps to reduce friction in the housing market and build trust between landlord and tenant.  If you're a landlord looking for a better way to screen potential renters, be sure and check it out.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Rest of the U.S. Cellular Story

Anybody remember when I posted all the problems we were having when we canceled U.S. Cellular service? - Nothing BUT Empty Promises

I said I was going to post the rest of the story, and then I never did.  First we were in the middle of trying to get things resolved, so I didn't want to cause any extra problems - though it probably wouldn't have made a difference anyway.  And then, I just didn't do it.  So, in case anyone is still interested...

We left off when Jeffrey finally got our account canceled and the charges reversed, and we finally got the cases we ordered.

Then - a couple weeks after we thought the account was canceled, our daughter, who was still a U.S. Cellular customer tried to get one of our old phones activated, only to find out that it was still active on our account.  So he again had to call and see where things stood.  Apparently the account was in line to be canceled, but no one had gotten to it yet.  That customer service agent took care of it right then, I think.  But then when we passed another one of our old phones on to one of our daughter's friends, who is still with US Cellular - this was several weeks later - they were told that the phone had been reported lost or stolen when they went to activate it.  Being the owner of the phone, I know I never reported it lost or stolen.

We eventually received a final bill, which was supposed to be automatically zeroed out (promised by the customer service rep who actually did cancel our account), but Jeffrey called just to be sure it was taken care of - can you really blame him, after all of this?  At that time, he was told that the phone could not be activated because there was still a balance on the account - NOT because it had been reported lost or stolen.  At that time, while he had the customer service rep on the phone, he specifically asked about each of the phones we had on our account - 3 of them - to be sure that each one was free to be passed on and activated by current US Cellular customers.  He was told that they were all good to go.

Then, a few days later, Beth called again.  They were in a US Cellular store trying to get the phone activated.  Again.  Guess what?  They couldn't do it because "the phone has been reported lost or stolen."  We were just told a week or so before that that it was available for activation.  Guess not.  Since we were on the road, Jeffrey told the customer service rep at the store to put her on the account so she could deal with it.  It was supposedly going to be taken care of, except that she called again the next day.  When they told her that they couldn't activate the phone because it was supposed to have been returned, which was another lie. That phone was part of my compensation for working with the U.S. Celular Better Moments Blogger Brigade, and  there is nothing in the contract saying the phone was to be returned at the end of the program.  In fact, if we hadn't moved out of the US Cellular coverage area, they would have given me a new phone to use, again as part of my compensation.  My phone was part of my payment, making it mine to do with as I chose.  I chose to let someone who is a current US Cellular customer use it.

Why is that so hard??

This is when I posted to U.S. Cellular's Facebook page because I was just so frustrated.  I got a pretty immediate response, telling me they would look into this and that this was not the experience they wanted me to have.  After giving all the pertinent information about the account to the USCC Social Team representative, I got this email:
Hello, Anna.
I want you to know that we have not intentionally caused these difficulties with transferring your phones to other US Cellular customers.  We would have nothing to gain by doing that. 
I have taken a long look at your account and there is not any apparent reason why this is happening. I have submitted a research ticket to our Internal Support department to resolve this issue. This process will take a few days.  I will contact you by email on Wednesday with an update.
Thank you for your patience.
Best Regards,
Danielle G.
USCC Social Team     

and then I waited... and asked for updates, and never got an answer - from the Internal Support department.  I got emails from Danielle telling me she hadn't heard anything, but the ones who were supposed to look into it and resolve the issue never responded.  2-1/2 weeks later we still hadn't gotten an answer.  But then I talked to Beth, and she told me they'd tried again and got the phone activated after all.  So, I guess someone at U.S. Cellular got things taken care of, but they never bothered to get back to us and let us know what was going on.

But at least it got taken care of, right?  And I never had to think about U.S. Cellular again - and never bothered to finish the story - until recently when I was talking to a friend who still lives in Wisconsin and recently changed cell phone providers and signed up with U.S. Cellular.  It all sounded good - national plan, better signal, etc.  Except they didn't bother to tell him that when he got out of a U.S. Cellular area, they'd really throttle his data speed.  Did you know that U.S. Cellular doesn't have much area anymore?  They've sold out in many markets.  And since my friend is a truck driver, he's out of the U.S. Cellular area often.  Oh yeah, the signal is great at home, but when he's on the road that data he needs to do his job is not available.  Does U.S. Cellular care?  Not at all.  They got him to sign a contract.  Sucker!

So, if you're looking for a new cell phone provider, do not look at U.S. Cellular.  It's just not worth the headache and the hassle.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bloominous Makes DIY Wedding Flowers Easy

I read recently that most wedding coordinators and bridal planning guides suggest that couples set aside 8 to 10 percent of their total wedding budget for the flowers.  Depending on the overall budget (the national average wedding cost is $29,858), that can be quite a bit.

In an effort to cut costs, many brides turn to Do-it-Yourself flowers - DIY.  Just check out Pinterest, and you'll see that DIY wedding flowers (and decorations) are BIG.  I think every young lady I know who has recently planned a wedding or is thinking about her someday wedding has a board full of wedding ideas.  The problem with your typical DIY floral project - in this case wedding flowers - is that you have to do all the research, purchasing, and arranging yourself.  I have friends who are great with flowers.  One of them even did all the flowers for her daughter's wedding, and she loved it.  Me?  I would have no idea where to even start - besides calling in those friends - if my daughter decided she needed my help putting together flowers for her wedding.  (When she decides to get married, that is)

That's why I love this new site I was just introduced to - Bloominous.  Launched in 2014, Bloominous offers brides an alternative to traditional florists, and makes DIY wedding flowers easier.  You really don't have to be a floral expert to get gorgeous wedding flowers while saving 30 to 50% off your floral costs. They make DIY wedding flowers beautiful, affordable and easy.

Flowers from Bloominous come cut-to-order, dethorned, trimmed, shipped along with matching accessories (vase, ribbon, etc), and ready to assemble. Each kit comes with step-by-step photo instructions for easy assembling within 10 to 20 minutes per piece, as well as flower care products and design tips. The collections are all designed by experienced wedding florists to be easy and beautiful. And, it’s not just the flowers—from trends to vases to favors, Bloominous designs the whole look for your inspiration.

Be sure to check out Bloominous and browse their beautiful selections.  They offer trial kits of each design so you can get your hands on it before making a decision and commitment - make sure the design is right for you and that you really can do it yourself.  Each and every package can be customized, and Bloominous guarantees that you will have flowers in time for your wedding, usually 2-3 days before the wedding so there's time for assembly. They are so confident you will love their product that if you are not satisfied with the product you received, for any reason, they will immediately replace the order or issue a full refund.

Read the Bloominous story - find Bloominous on Facebook - follow Bloominous on Pinterest for even more wedding inspiration

Disclosure: I received compensation from Bloominous for this post.  All opinions are 100% mine.