Monday, September 24, 2007

A New Kind of Jigsaw Puzzle - Pieceless

Growing up, every year for Christmas I received at least two new jigsaw puzzles. No matter how difficult, I worked them until they were done, typically within a few days of receiving them. I absolutely loved puzzles as a kid, and still do... a trait I am delighted to say that both my daughters apparently inherited. Just yesterday, we stopped by the local Dollar Tree to pick up several puzzles for Christmas. A friend recently told me that the Dollar stores are an excellent source for puzzles and that was no understatement. My husband made me stop before I bought one of each puzzle! Anyway, I have tried all different types of puzzles, the standard ones, the double sided ones, layered ones, the "World's Most Difficult Jigsaw Puzzle" series, Piece within a piece puzzles...

Until I had kids, I would retreat to a puzzle the way a lot of people retreat to a good book. So when I read about Ceaco's new Pieceless Jigsaw Puzzle on a message board today, I was completely intrigued.

I have checked out the Gamewright and Ceaco websites and am hoping to get a sample to test out. The video doesn't really give you an idea of how it goes together, just that it doesn't come apart. Even being two sided, if all the pieces are connected, wouldn't it be easy to figure out which one goes where? The website distinguishes puzzles by age, but doesn't indicate how many 'pieces' the puzzle is made up of. I am very excited to find out more about this new puzzle creation.

If I manage to get my hands on one, I'll be certain to post an opinion so other puzzle fanatics (or parents of puzzle fanatics) can add it to their Christmas lists!

Edited to add: Received it! Read for results!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It just keeps on going and going and...

I have decided that Wrigley needs to hire the Energizer bunny for all future ads for the new Wrigley 5 sugar free gum. As I mentioned in "Gimme 5!", I received samples of the new gum as a BzzCampaign from BzzAgent recently.

On my first occasion to sample it, I tried Flare (the cinnamon flavored variety). I was on my way to an appointment right after lunch and decided it would be best if I freshened my breath on the five minute drive there. When I arrived and had to take the gum out, I felt like a kid debating on where to put the gum so I could finish it later. Obviously, it ended up in the garbage, but for that split second it was questionable.

I decided the next time I tried it, I would do it at a time when I wouldn't have to prematurely dispose of it. Mainly so I could find out how long it really lasts. I enjoy gum for the flavor, so I usually chew it until the flavor is gone, throw it out then get a new piece until the craving is satisfied. On my second attempt, I started the gum at 5:15 pm on my way to run errands. After about 15 minutes, I was pleasantly surprised that the gum had not lost any flavor. Repeat that phrase for the 30 minute and 45 minute intervals. At 60 minutes, I was getting annoyed and was expecting this gum to quit any minute. :sigh: When I hit the 90 minute marker, I decided the gum had won. I was tired of chewing it before the flavor was gone.

Rain, the spearmint variety, provided the same results and I suspect that Cobalt (the peppermint one) will as well. I have yet to determine how long the flavor actually lasts because I can't seem to get to that point. Maybe I should hire the Energizer bunny to try it and tell me how long it lasts...

Budweiser's 9/11 Tribute Commercial

I have a handful of RSS feeds on my homepage - the standard news, weather and stock quotes. Then there's the more personalized ones that keep me informed of the latest posts on my favorite deals site. Today, one of the posts caught my attention. For anyone who isn't familiar with, visit it, explore it, read it, read it, read it... and the next time you get one of those perpetually forwarded "news stories" in your email, go to to research it before forwarding it to another single person. It's the best place to read the truth behind almost any urban legend you can think of.

Today's post at is about a commercial Budweiser aired only once, during the Super Bowl in January 2002, as a 9/11 Tribute. I'm not interested in taking any credit for it, I just want to share it, so please watch the video, then visit the site and read the story behind it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Toddler Left Alone At Park!

I started to explain to someone recently why I originally decided to step up and start a blog. The story chokes me up so this post is going to be in draft mode for a little while until I feel I've been able to express my thoughts well. So if I am kind of all over the place with my days, it's because it took a while to post this...

One day during the summer, DH, the kids & I all went to see my nephew play Little League baseball at a park in northwest Davenport, Iowa. There were three fields, all totally packed but we eventually found him. (Probably would have helped if we knew what his uniform looked like!) We watched him for a little while before the kids just got impatient. We decided to take them to the playground to play on the swings. The playground was close enough to the ball field that we could see the game anyway.

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When we got to the playground, there were a few kids there... and no adults. Most of the kids were "old enough" to play by themselves, I guess. At least I remember being about that age and getting to play at the ball field playground with my friends. As a parent, I can firmly say that I don't think I'll let my kids play out of my visual range until they are driving their own cars. There was one girl on the swing who I guess I could say was old enough to be alone. Alongside her in one of the toddler/baby swings was a little boy, couldn't have been more than two. He couldn't talk, or at least didn't. I figured she was keeping an eye on him while their parents were watching one of the games. She wasn't really playing with him - he was just sitting in the swing. Not swinging. So I asked if he needed a push but he didn't answer. The girl spoke up and said something about him being alone. Excuse me? Alone? I asked "Isn't he your brother?" and she again replied "No, I think he's alone." I looked at my watch to mentally note the time and subsequently checked my watch every 30 seconds for the next 10 minutes.

It was about that time that I decided I needed to do something. I sat on my hands, giving the mom more time to get back, while I looked around. In my mind, I kept thinking, "Thank goodness there wasn't some stalker around." The road was extremely close and cars were parked right there. If another adult approached, I was going to act like he was mine. I started looking around for the concession stand and decided if another minute passed, I was taking the child - screaming, if necessary - to the concession stand or the nearest police officer that I could find.

Shortly after that, a mom, with another child in tow, came strolling back along the pathway from the nearby restroom. I don't know if she was in the restroom or at the field just beyond the restroom, but I didn't really care. She had left that child alone. ALONE. Maybe she didn't realize how long she was gone... or maybe I'm just tarnished from having lived in Los Angeles.

When DH and I first realized that she was the mom (dare I call her incompetent or stupid), he said "Do you want me to say something?" He was just as annoyed and angry as I was. I told him I would think about it. She walked up to the child and said something to the effect of "Hey Bubba. You ready to go?" She pulled him out of the swing and headed back the way she came and continued to the ball field. As she headed off to the field, I sat there steaming, wishing I had let him give her a piece of his mind. After several minutes of being sick to my stomach, I said "Maybe I'll go over to the field and say something." He told me if I wanted to say something, when she first came back would have been the time to do it...

So here I am, months later, still stewing about this one 'insignificant' event in my life. It brings me to tears when I talk about it, even to my husband. I tell him that I'm kicking myself for not doing something. Last night, as we recapped the event and discussed the blog, he said "You didn't 'do nothing', Nicole. You watched him and made sure he was okay. That's not 'nothing'." (Thanks, honey, I guess I didn't think of it that way.)

So here is my official 'something'... putting it out there for others to see. Maybe that mom, maybe other moms, maybe just to clear my conscience. It's only Iowa, but bad stuff happens here sometimes too. For now, I'll stand behind my statement that my kids will be driving before I let loose of the reins.

Monday, September 17, 2007

An excuse to keep all those canvas bags!

I don’t consider myself to be a tree hugger, but I do pat myself on the back every so often for being environmentally conscious. Since I’m headed to the grocery store today, I have this on the top of my head…

A few weeks back, I needed some produce from Hy-Vee, so I decided to take along a mesh breathable tote bag that I had recently acquired at a garage sale. (For the record, it was filled with toys for the kids, so the bag was just a bonus.) I figured it was easier to carry than the typical Hy-Vee bags and it made me feel like my produce would just be happier. When I arrived at the checkout, the clerk saw me hand the tote to the girl bagging my groceries. She said “Oh, don’t forget to ask for your bag credit when you bring that in. I almost missed it.” Bag credit? What is that? So, of course, I asked. She said “If you bring in your own bag, we give you credit for not using one of ours.” Curious, I prodded her for more details. She said “Doesn’t matter if it’s a canvas bag or a plastic bag, if it’s your bag instead of ours, we give you credit.” I double checked my last receipt and it’s a nickel per bag. Cool. Not a lot of money, but every nickel adds up. I currently have a collection of plastic bags that I use for lining the garbage cans or picking up after the dogs, but honestly, how many of those do I need to keep? I also have multiple canvas bags that I’ve acquired throughout the years that I had to recover from my “future garage sale pile.” So I’m quite excited about this new revelation - that I can use my own bags; dwindle my supply of plastic bags and get a few cents back on each trip to the grocery store. As a bonus, it’s good for the environment.

Since then, I have mentioned it to a few friends and none have been aware of the Hy-Vee bag program. Fortunately, all the checkers are familiar enough with it that I haven’t had to mention it once to get the credit. I just throw the canvas bags on the belt in front of the groceries and they punch in the credit.

Thanks to Hy-Vee for this program! Do any other stores offer similar bag credits?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cheering for a sport I know nothing about

Dragon Boat Racing. That's right...Dragon Boat Racing.

Next week, I'll be logging on to the World Dragon Boat Championships website to see how Team USA is doing. Considering that I only know as much about Dragon Boat racing as I have read on wikipedia, I'm very excited about the competition.

Good grief, why? Why not focus on my favorite NFL team, our FFL team or even cheer for the Cubs to make the playoffs? For the single reason that one of my instructors, Leah Kurth, from the Bettendorf (Iowa) YMCA, is on Team USA. She is among those representing the USA in Sydney, Australia (September 19th-23rd). Technically, I'm not really cheering for the sport, I'm just cheering for Leah and Team USA.

Good luck, Leah! Bring home a medal!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Gimme 5!"

For my latest BzzAgent campaign, I'll be taking on the part of a vending machine. For some odd reason, I didn't meet the demographics that Wrigley and BzzAgent had outlined for their new "5" sugar free gum, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to participate. Giving out gum samples just sounds like too much fun... after all, who doesn't like free candy? Maybe we'll hit the jackpot and they'll send enough to hand out on Halloween.

I just picked up the campaign, so I haven't received my kit yet. I'm making a trip to WalMart later so I may grab a pack to try it out. It's awfully hard to Bzz about it unless I've had it at least once. Some of my friends already have dibs on some of my samples so I'm obviously not the only one excited about it.

Hmm... this gives me an idea. Maybe I should dress up like a vending machine for Halloween while handing out candy at the door.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Waitressing... Not a job I could do!

My family and I had dinner at the local Red Robin a few days ago. As we arrived, there was a large group that was in the process of being seated. As we found out later, there was already a party seated.

With 4 and 3 year olds, we typically put in their order right away. It's always a pain trying to get them situated when all the food arrives together so we put in a request that their food arrive early. For a change, we decided to snag an order of appetizers to get us by until our dinners rolled out. After all, we were behind the two parties.

My husband ordered a milkshake which was completely melted by the time he got it. Not a good start, but it still tasted good. We weren't in a hurry. The table behind us left after their drinks - probably because the food was so slow. We started to consider that, too.

After a long wait, our waitress finally brought out the appetizer and kids' meal. But we weren't too concerned; the kids had food and were behaving...we just hoped our dinners were spaced with enough time for us to enjoy our appetizer. No sooner had we made that comment that our waitress showed up again. After explaining the kitchen chaos surrounding the two concurrent parties, she apologized and said she could have the dinners remade so we had time to finish the appetizer. We politely said "No, we don't want to wait a long time, just return the appetizer." She was totally frustrated and didn't take our situation very well. Knowing she has a tough job and that it wasn't her fault, I tried to reassure her that we were 'okay' but just didn't want the appetizer since it took forever to arrive. Not interested in compassion, she said she would take care of it.

We started eating and a manager showed up at our table. She said the waitress had requested she visit with us about the problems. The manager was very kind and removed the appetizer from our bill and offered to package it for us to take home and enjoy later (which we did). I reiterated that we were not disappointed with the service from our waitress, understanding that she had no control over it. We asked the manager to again relay our assurance that we thought the waitress was doing the best she could given the circumstances. The manager explained that our waitress strove for high quality and took it personally that we weren't completely satisfied. I wish all servers took such pride in their performance.

But I'm babbling along in this entry to send a shout-out to all waitresses - You have a tough job and I'm glad I'm not wearing your shoes!