Florida vs. Texas

Some of you may already know that I have recently returned from a week-long trip to Florida. Hubby and I had a great time, and criss-crossed the state for our vacation fun. As much fun as we had, I did not like Florida, and Orlando in particular. I just don’t get the appeal.

Part of the problem is that it rained literally everyday we were there. I know this is atypical, since the nickname “Sunshine State” had to come from somewhere, but it was still unpleasant. For the first couple days we enjoyed it, coming from the drought-stricken state that we do. We wandered around, faces toward the sky, talking about how spoiled these Floridians are with all their rain. After a couple days of this, the skin on my entire body felt pruny; I couldn’t get dry. Everything in our hotel rooms, from the carpet to our laundry, felt moist. I worried about mildew growing on me.

We also had issues with the tap water. I don’t know if it’s too hard or too soft, but it tasted terrible, and made me break out. Even though I was using my own soap and shampoo, my skin stayed forever greasy, and my hair was dull and flat. Hubby had the same problems.

Driving in Florida is a nightmare. I love to drive fast, and I think speed limits everywhere should be raised to 85 mph, like in some lucky parts of Texas. We didn’t see anything higher than 55mph the whole trip, even on highways. I don’t know if it’s because all the retirees complained, or so you can avoid running over alligators, but it’s awful. It was so hard to restrain myself to such infantile speeds.

The other huge problem moving around the state is that most of the major highways are toll roads. In order to get anywhere with paying an arm and a leg we had to take long, meandering routes through jungles and swamps. What would have taken 45 minutes in Texas took over 2 hours.

My main gripe with the state is how fake it is. The minute we landed we realized the striking difference. The Austin airport is full of shops of local companies, like Amy’s Icecream, Bookpeople, and Waterloo Icehouse. Orlando’s is full of chains you see all over America, like McDonald’s, the Disney store (which is logical), and Macaroni Grill. It looked more like a mall than an airport. Hubby and I tried in vain the entire vacation to find somewhere local to eat. For seafood we only found Landry’s and Joe’s Crab Shack; for fast food there was Chik-fila (which we did NOT eat at), Wendy’s, and Steak and Shake (they have good breakfast tacos). There wasn’t even anything regional to try, like how Carl’s Jr. and In-n-Out are out west. The whole place was inauthentic and commercial, both things that I loathe.

Now that I have gotten all the complaining out of my system (just on this one topic, so don’t get your hopes up) I plan to write several blog posts about all the fun we had in Florida. It was a great vacation, but I’m content never to return to that state.

 

August 31, 2012. Tags: , , . Random typing. 4 comments.

How to save on college textbooks

Here we are with another Kornberg guest post! Not only did she pet sit while we were out of town, she’s providing useful advice! I’m definitely keeping her.

Kornberg’s guide to not spending obscene amounts of money on college textbooks:

Many of you are already out of college but some of us (me) chose instead to lollygag around and at the ripe old age of 26, I went to college.  You also may have kids heading off to college soon and this will seriously save you thousands of dollars.  In the past 2 years, I’ve slowly learned tricks and as my textbook costs should be rising as I take more specialized senior level classes, they are actually rapidly decreasing.  This is the first semester of my senior year, I’m taking 16 hours and my book bill was a little less than $200.  In true Kornberg fashion, my advice is too late for much use this semester but can easily be applied for the spring.
 
1) Avoid your school’s bookstore and to a lesser extent, any brick and mortar store nearby that sells college textbooks.  Avoid it like going in there will give you the plague, cystic acne, permanent body odor and hourly bouts of diarrhea.  Those shops are the most expensive place to purchase textbooks and school supplies and are only to be used in case of dire emergency.  I once paid $1.50 for a pencil eraser and $12 for a 4 pack of AAA batteries (2 dire emergencies).  My go-to book suppliers are half.com and amazon.com
 
2) Look into renting books.  Most school bookstores have websites where you can rent books through them or a third party but it’s usually cheaper to go through somewhere like Chegg.com.  You pay something like $50 to rent a used textbook for the semester and when you’re done, you print out a shipping label from them and ship them back.  Keeps clutter out of your house and saves you tons of money.  One semester I rented all of my books and calculated the cost of buying them.  If I had bought them at super cheap used book prices, I would have paid $830 for 5 books.  Renting them cost me $275.  
 
3) If you have a Kindle or e-reader app–you can rent or purchase many textbooks for a fraction of the cost of buying the hard copies.  Pro–you don’t have to haul around 5 giant books around campus all day.  Con–books are not always available in this format–this semester I only had one of 3 books available for my Kindle, although one of the others would have worked if I had a Kindle Fire or iPad.  Also amazon lets you purchase rented e-books less the cost of the rental fee if you change your mind about needing to keep that book.
 
4) Register for classes as early as you can and buy books a week or two after finals are done.  College students are not usually full of forethought and rarely plan ahead.  Most of them procrastinate and if you do as well, you will pay the price, literally.  If you buy as late as a week before class, most of the used books will be gone and you’ll be forced to fork out for a new book.  Waiting even longer is even worse.  If you wait until the day before or of or after your first classes–you will have to wait in lines and pay a premium at the book store or you will get to pay for overnight shipping for the same premium price if you purchase online.  Buying right after finals are done gives you first crack at the used books so you can get the best deals.  Plus you don’t have to pay for fast shipping and in many cases, regular 7-14 day shipping is free.
 
5) Email your professors and ask if an earlier edition will be ok to use, especially if the required text is a new edition and there are no used books available.  Many times if the 8th edition just came out, the 7th and 6th editions will be nearly identical and will cost around $15 online instead of $300.  Most professors are understanding and will let you know if that is ok or not. Some professors even make old syllabuds available if they recently changed to a new edition so that those of you buying the old edition can have accurate chapter and page numbers and will provide resources or excerpts if there are any passages or discoveries that are not covered in the old edition.  Last semester I did this with 2 books and one was even available to rent on the Kindle for $10.  It was awesome.
 
6) Resell your books online yourself.  Usually I’d pay $50 for a used textbook, get $10 from the bookstore when I sold it at the end of the semester and then see it for sale for $50 the next semester.  Keep that cut!  It’s super easy and cheap to sell them on half.com.  It’s run by ebay so the selling procedures are about the same–you list, you sell and pay a small listing fee.  Charge for shipping and send it off.  You can even undercut the bookstore and still make more money than if you had just sold it to the bookstore.  Media mail and the flat rate shipping boxes are the easiest options.
 
7) Don’t bother with Half Price Books.  They never ever have anything that is in a current edition with all of the pages in any sort of usable condition.  They do sell textbooks online through half.com and it’s great but since they do that, they never have textbooks actually in the store.  Everyone says to do this but it’s usually a waste of time.
 
 
 
And that’s it really.  By planning and thinking ahead and shopping around and keeping your options open, you can save tons of dollars and then have enough room in your budget to buy me presents.  Hooray!

August 29, 2012. Tags: , , , , . Thriftiness is Cool. Leave a comment.

How to Air Travel

Hubby and I are heading off on a Magical Mystery Tour of Florida, and I had to refresh myself on all the rules of air travel. We’re taking Jet Blue, which allows us to check a bag for free, but otherwise I would be packing light and taking carry-ons for everything. One thing I have learned when traveling, is you might not have access to your checked bag. It might get lost, or, if your flight is delayed, the airline just might not give it to you. After living through this twice, I always make sure I have my most important stuff with me in my carry-on, such as an extra shirt and pair of panties, toothbrush, toothpaste, and especially contact case and solution if you wear them. Here’s the low down on packing liquids in your carry-on:

First of all, you only get a QUART sized zip lock bag to put your “liquids” in. I thought I could use gallon sized, but no, not even close. I included all the stuff that normally goes in my purse in my liquid bag, since I’m using a big purse for my carry-on. Throughout the year, I collect sample sizes of toothpaste, shampoo, and whatever else I might need, and I store them up in my bathroom specifically for traveling.

All of my stuff fit just fine, but I could have removed some stuff if necessary. All of your travel sizes have to be less than 3.4 ounces. Now that these travel rules have been in effect for awhile, almost every small product I found met this criteria. Remember that each person traveling gets to have one quart sized bag, so between me and Hubby, and our checked bag, we had ample space for our needs. Also, since we’re going to Florida, not the Ukraine or something, we’ll be able to purchase things we might need when we get there, so I’m not too worried about it. I also have very low beauty product requirements, which is a huge bonus for traveling light. Here’s the official site for info about liquid carry-ons.

The other thing to think about is going through the security line. You are allowed one carry-on bag, and one “personal item” like a purse or lap top. You have to set your bag on the belt to go through the x-ray, put your zip lock bag of liquids on separately, empty your pockets, take off your shoes and send them through, take your lap top out of the bag, send it and its bag through separately, and your jacket has to go through. It doesn’t seem that bad, but when there’s a line of people behind me, I get a little frantic. I’m not sure why. For your shoes, for the love of Valhalla, wear slip-ons, and socks. You don’t want to be the person in line having to untie your Doc Martens while everyone behind you sighs and looks at their watches. Since I’m going to have to walk across a questionable floor with no shoes, I’m wearing old black socks so if they get dirty, it won’t be visible. Here’s the official info on how to get through the security line easily.

There will be another post about hot to travel light, but right now I need to run around in circles and dance a little because I’M GOING TO FLORIDA!!! SUCK ON THAT!!!!

August 18, 2012. Tags: , , , . Random typing. Leave a comment.

Dress Alteration

 

I found this dress at the thrift store, and loved the pattern immediately. I grabbed it so I could turn it into an apron, but it actually fits me! And it fits really well (I mean, I know I’m gorgeous, but in this I look amazing!), I just wasn’t enamored of the neck line. It reminded me of terrible 1980’s, tacky, overly-tan people for some reason.


I used my seam ripper to removed the neck strap, and separate the two booby cups. I then ripped open the end of the strap (which was one long piece), and I pulled out the giant, terrible, uncomfortable beads that were inside it. Yeah, because I want giant chunks of plastic rubbing on my collar bones.

I folded the strap in half long-ways, then cut it into two pieces to be two separate straps. I sewed the ends shut, including the extra hole I made to remove the beads, which wasn’t actually necessary since I was cutting it open anyways. I see that now. 

 

Once I had the strap detached, I put the dress on and pinned the cups until they were the same size and shape. My goal was to create a more 1950’s-style sweet-heart neckline. And I think I succeeded:

BAM!!! See, hotness! I told you! I took the two halves of the original strap and attached them to the top of each cup so I can tie it around my neck. Again, I acheived this by putting the dress on, looking in a mirror and pinning it, then wriggling out carefully, and swearing a lot when I stabbed myself on accident. If there’s a better way to sew, I don’t know it. Hopefully, I’ll learn soon. 

 

August 13, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Thriftiness is Cool. 2 comments.