Bargain shopping, Blogging, Clearance sales, favorite things, shopping

Summer Shoes on Sale

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Attention shoppers; sale in the shoe aisle. With the 4th of July behind us, summer merchandise is on its way out. That means clearance tags and lots of deals to be had. My latest find was on shoes at Walmart.

I’ve acquired some great additions to my shoe collection from Walmart, and the prices … can’t be beat when the sales are on. Okay, so shoes were not on the list on my last shopping trip. But, this time of  year a stroll through the shoe department is required.

Lots of choices marked down. Trust me, it was tough to limit myself to only tossing two pairs of shoes into my cart. At $9 each, these were a steal. And, I left feeling like a winner in the latest treasure hunt.

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There’s still time to check out the clearance sales in the shoe aisle. And, I’m sure Walmart’s shoe department is not the only place you’ll find great deals  right now. But, don’t delay. Great deals don’t last long.

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Bargain shopping, Blogging, favorite things, flowers, gardening, happiness

Flower power! Best bloomin deals

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Even when shopping for flowers, I’m looking for the best deal. Admittedly, I was a bit late to the game in purchasing flowers for our cottage this year. A cool, late spring and surprise vacation to Ireland put me a week or two behind. I set out last Friday on a quest to find flowers to fill my pots, and the best deal.

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First stop was Talma’s Celery Farm, a small family-owned flower spot with what seems like an endless amount of greenhouses. Typically, they have the best prices to be found and incredible selection of hanging baskets and fillers for pots. Strolling through the greenhouses, the hanging baskets were positively amazing, and at 3 for $30, the prices could not be beat. I picked up 3 baskets, even though I only have hanging space for two. The selection of flowers for pots was rather slim, unfortunately. I picked up as much as possible, but not enough.

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To fill all of my pots, a trip to another flower source was required. Local choices include Walmart, Menards, Home Depot and Meijer. I opted for Meijer, which had an impressive collection of flowers on a visit earlier in the season.

At this point, Meijer’s selection was rather slim, too. I managed to gather enough odds and ends to fill my pots. One good thing about waiting to buy flowers, prices are reduced.

A few years ago, I challenged myself to filling my pots and hanging baskets for $100. It was rather late in season then, too. The result was some of the most beautiful flowers I’d planted in years. I ended up a bit over $100 this year. I’m optimistic my pots will flourish into a gorgeous display this year, too. I’d love to hear about and see your flowers this year. Please share your photos and best deals in comments.

Bargain shopping, Blogging, Clearance sales, favorite things, Shop Local, shopping

Clearance sale in the jewelry department

My unrelenting quest to find the best deal lead me to the jewelry section of our local Meijer store. It’s the retail store I frequent most often, as it’s my go-to for groceries. Admittedly, though, what ends up in my cart is not always what’s included on my grocery list.

Strolling through the jewelry department, a bright orange sign caught my eye. The big bold letters C-L-E-A-R-A-N-C-E were irresistible. The sale prices were too good to be true. Seriously, check out these price tags … necklaces for $1.60, bracelets for $1.40 and earrings for $1.00. Way too good to pass up, and time to stock up.

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I love costume jewelry. I believe a bit of sparkle and glitter is like the icing on a cake to any outfit. And finding such rock bottom prices, well that’s the best ever. Can’t promise there’ll be much selection left (especially after I hit the sale rack), but nonetheless, worth checking the jewelry department on your next trip to Meijer. I’m eager to hear what deals you find. Do share!

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Blogging, Clearance sales, favorite things, Habits, shopping

Getting the best deal, one of my favorite things

I have done a few posts in the past highlighting some of my favorite things. From wine, to make up, clearance tags and most recently podcasts, I’ve shared a variety of things that strike my fancy. I’ve decided to follow this theme more often. So, you can look forward to frequent lists, reviews and suggestions of goods and services I encounter in my daily life.

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One of my favorite past times is shopping. Awhile back I wrote of my love for a good deal, including a handful of tips for shopping clearance items. (Check out “My Favorite Things — Clearance Tags”) I recognize value and I’m willing to pay for quality, but most times I’m able to find what I’m looking for on sale.

The mission to find the best deal is a bit like a treasure hunt. There’s something about the satisfaction of finding an item marked down 50% or more. And, when you find such deals, it’s not something you can keep to yourself. Returning home from a sale shopping adventure, I can’t wait to bust open the bags and show off the amazing deals I landed.

Finding incredible deals has become a point of pride. So much so that when I receive a complement on something I’ve purchased, I’m quick to point out the sale price. People typically respond in disbelief and a desire to go shopping to get such a deal, too.

My most recent purchase pride point came in the renovation of the kitchen at our cottage. We committed to a strict budget for the project, which prompted me to be on high alert for the very best prices. My husband was impressed in the purchasing of new appliances.

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I went to our local Sear’s Appliance Store on my quest to buy a new dishwasher, oven/stove and microwave. I am proud to report spending a total of $1,209.85. All three items were on sale, of course. The best deals to be had were on the microwave – $159.93 and dishwasher – $399.93. These prices were offered on display models. Upon inspection both were in perfect condition and being cleared out for new models. Selecting both was an easy decision. The oven/stove was an in-stock item, also on sale at 35% off  the regular price at $649.99. There were cheaper models, but based on ratings and reviews, Samsung was the best choice.

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Audiobooks, Blogging, Personal growth

Rising popularity of Audiobooks proves our love for storytelling

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My love for storytelling started before my addiction to podcasts. It actually began about 25 years ago. I was making the two hour trip back to Mt. Pleasant from metro Detroit. Our oldest daughter was strapped into her carseat in the back, asleep. I popped a cassette into the player and I was soon fully engrossed in a book — an audiobook.

I can’t recall the exact title of that first audio book. But, I know upon reaching home, I wanted to keep driving to finish the story.  I realized why children love bedtime stories.

Audiobooks are not a new form of media. In fact, back then there were retail stores where you could rent an audiobook. Much like the Blockbuster method, you could rent an audiobook for a few days and return it to the store when done. I frequented a small chain called Talking Books in the metro Detroit area.

The audiobook industry has evolved over the years. Nowadays, it’s much easier to listen to audiobooks. Thanks to sources like Audible, you can download more titles than you can possibly consume. Easy access for sure; available for a fee. The cost can add up, depending how many books you choose to download.

Audiobook listening is growing in popularity. Recent figures from Nielsen Bookscan show sales of audiobooks doubling in the last five years. A group of 18 well-known authors are bypassing print and going directly to audiobook format with a new collection of short stories. Could be the sign of a new trend.

In my constant quest to find things for less, I recently discovered an abundant collection of audiobooks for FREE. Our local public library is an incredible resource. The Chippewa River District Library – Veterans Memorial Branch offers far more than just the titles it owns. By tapping into public libraries throughout Michigan via Digital Media Zone, users can borrow hundreds of titles through the Mideastern Michigan Library Cooperative.

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Checking out an audiobook can be done without ever walking into a library branch. There’s an app for that, of course. OverDrive app makes it simple and fast to search titles, select an audiobook and download it to your device – aka … cell phone.

If the book you’re interested in is not available, you can place a hold on the book. Once the book on hold is returned to the library, it’s added to your “shelf” ready for downloading. An email alerts you to the book’s availability. You’re allowed two weeks to listen to the book. Upon the deadline, it will automatically be returned to the library. A very efficient process. All done remotely. It doesn’t get much easier or more convenient, and the best part … not late fees.

I’ve always been an avid reader, however over the years, lack of time and exhaustion have limited my reading consumption. Listening to books is a perfect fit for my multitasking lifestyle. Now, while I’m driving, exercising or chores around the house, I’m “reading’.

I’m on my fifth audiobook since discovering freebies from our local library; almost caught up on John Grisham novels. The choices are endless.

Blogging, Habits, Personal growth, Podcasts

My top 3 favorite podcasts. What’s in your ears?

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I am a big fan of podcasts. Some might say I’m obsessed. On headphones or on my handy little portable speaker, a podcast is almost always playing. Someone talking in my ears has replaced the sound of music.

I could blame my oldest daughter for my latest obsession. A few years back when picking her up from law school for a holiday visit, she introduced me to “Serial”. The NPR podcast series was red-hot at the time. After consuming a few consecutive episodes,  I was hooked.

The attraction to podcasts can probably be traced back further. As a child, we all loved to have a story read to us. Podcasting is storytelling at its best. I have a renewed love of a story and appreciation for how many stories there are to be told.

Podcasts are not new. They started as an outgrowth of Apple’s iPod. It was an effort to bring original programming to MP3 devices. Back then, getting access to most podcast shows was a pain, not nearly as easy as it is today. Listening to your favorite shows no longer requires the laborious steps of downloading to your computer, plugging in your iPod and then transferring.

Smartphones have made it easy to access podcasts and has grown the audience by leaps and bounds. New apps allow the opportunity to listen to shows directly. Cars equipped with Bluetooth connections play audio from smartphones through car speakers without plugging in.

The popularity of podcasts is definitely growing. Edison Research says podcast consumption is surging. People listening to podcasts every week listened to an average of five programs per week. I count myself in on these stats. 

Certainly, room to grow the audience. Asking my journalism students, who has listened to a podcast recently … or ever, only a few hands raised in response. Forcing them to choose a show to give a listen, I heard lots of positive comments about talk versus music in their ears. Perhaps the audience of podcast listeners has grown, just a bit.

The library of podcasts on my phone continues to grow. Here are a few of my top three  current favorites. I highly recommend adding each to your library and giving talk versus music a try. I’m eager to hear what you think. If you’re a podcast listener, I’d love to hear what’s playing in your ears.

#1 Reveal – 

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As stated on its website — “The Center for Investigative Reporting’s award-winning journalists hold the powerful accountable and reveal government fraud and waste of taxpayer funds, human rights violations, environmental degradation and threats to public safety. We consistently shine a bright light on injustice and protect the most vulnerable in our society.”

Their mission is noble — “We engage and empower the public through investigative journalism and groundbreaking storytelling to spark action, improve lives and protect our democracy.”

Launched in 1977, the organization has been serving as a watchdog for more than 40 years. Voice of REVEAL’s podcast, Host Al Letson takes his job seriously and it shows in every broadcast.

Favorite episodes: 

Where criminals get their guns

This episode: “Across the country, criminals are arming themselves in unexpected ways. In Florida, they’re stealing guns from unlocked cars and gun stores. In other places, they’re getting them from the police themselves, as cash-strapped departments sell their used weapons to buy new ones. On this episode of Reveal, we learn where criminals get their guns and what cars can teach us about gun safety.” – REVEAL

Rise of a movement

This episode:  “While covering Sunday’s “Rally Against Hate” in Berkeley, California, today, Reveal host Al Letson witnessed a man being attacked by a group of protesters. The man was balled up on the ground, fending off blows from several people. Al jumped in front of the batterers, protecting the man from further injury. On this special episode of Reveal, Al talks about what happened and how the battles between right- and left-wing protesters are playing out.” REVEAL

#2 – How I Built This with Guy Raz

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Guy’s voice alone will reel you into this podcast. His interviewing style and genuine curiosity about everyone’s success story is infectious.

As described on website: Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.

Favorite episodes: 

Starbucks: Howard Schultz

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Five Guys: Jerry Murrell

“Jerry Murrell’s mother used to tell him, you can always make money if you know how to make a good burger. In 1986 — after failing at a number of business ideas — Murrell opened a tiny burger joint in Northern Virginia with his four sons. Five Guys now has more than 1,400 locations worldwide and is one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in America.”

Rent The Runway: Jenn Hyman

Jenn Hyman got the idea for Rent the Runway in 2008, after she watched her sister overspend on a new dress rather than wear an old one to a party. Jenn and her business partner built a web site where women could rent designer dresses for a fraction of the retail price. As the company grew, they dealt with problems that many female entrepreneurs face, including patronizing investors and sexual harassment. Despite these challenges, Rent The Runway now rents dresses to nearly six million women and has an annual revenue of $100 million.

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#3 The Daily

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This daily rundown of current news is a great way to stay informed on the latest happenings. Part of the New York Times news network, The Daily is hosted by seasoned journalist Michael Barbaro. The 20-minute podcast focuses on a top story of the day, bringing in the reporter who covered the story for an insider view. This leaves the audience knowing a bit more than most people. Each episode ends with a brief rundown of other news you need to know. Worth 20 minutes of your day.

Serial – best of the best

If you haven’t listened to a podcast yet, best place to start … Serial – season 1. There are 12 episodes. Trust me you’ll want more when done.

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Blogging, breaking news, CM Life, CMU, CMU shooting, college campus, local media, mental illness, Mid Michigan, Newspapers, school shooting

From the classroom to real-world, active shooter on CMU’s campus

At the beginning of the semester, I assigned students in my Journalism 102 Intro to Journalism class the task of creating a personal blog. Seemed a good motivator for resurrecting my blog, it’s been far too long. So, here goes …

In teaching various lessons to help students become better media consumers, we recently covered a topic I did not assume would apply to our own campus. Yesterday Central Michigan University experienced the all-too-common tragedy of an active shooter on campus. The result — two dead and a campus and entire community locked down during a 12-plus hour manhunt for the shooter.

In class, we addressed the topic of navigating the media during breaking news of an active shooter. We initially focused on the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014. While progressing through the different lessons associated with that shooting, news broke of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Fla. Having a current event happening before our eyes (sadly) allowed the opportunity to apply firsthand some of the strategies of tracking a breaking news story. Little did we know ours would be the next school shooting story to break in the news.

Armed with tips from WNYC’s “On the Media” podcast’s Breaking News Consumer Handbook helped in following ongoing news reports as the story evolved. However, no handbook in the world can prepare you for an active shooter at your school in your hometown. Consumed with fear and uncertainty, you can never get information fast enough.

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As suggested in OTR’s Consumer Handbook, tuning in to the most local media sources served well.Being closest to the incident, they had the most immediate access to the scene, to local sources and the ability to push out information fastest. Student reporters at the on-campus newspaper CM Life and staffers at the Mt. Pleasant community newspaper The Morning Sun were quick to report the latest happenings.

 

They also served as sources for other regional, state and national news outlets. They did a great job providing accurate up-to-the-minute reports. The efforts of CM Life’s student reporter staff did not go unnoticed. Their dedication to reporting the story meant forgoing spring break plans. It didn’t matter. They stayed with it, reported late into the night and have continued to do so. CM Life has received applause from fellow student newspapers. Even rivals from Oklahoma State’s student publication, O’Colly’s offered praise to CM Life for coverage of the event, and their ability to depend on the reporting of another student news outlet as the best source of information. Proof again of the importance of local media in the face of breaking news.

Watching, listening and reading posts throughout the day, the desperation for information to restore a sense of safety grew, and with it the increase of speculation, assumptions, and rumors. Thus, making it even more important to turn to news sources closest to the incident, able to verify information before reporting. A lesson learned in the classroom, but not expected to apply in our own backyard.