Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Together Live 2017

I'm going to be real honest here, I had no idea what this was when I entered to win tickets.  All I knew was that Sophia Bush would be there and I love Sophia Bush so if she was going to be there then I wanted to be there too.

Thursday morning I got a comment back from one of my favorite blogs and insta accounts, The Nashville Guide, to send over my name and the name of my +1 so they could put us on the list for the night. Yes! Only six hours of subbing in a middle school classroom and a two hour drive up to Nashville stood between me being in the same room as my favorite actress.

Caitlin and I made it to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center just in time for the event to start. It began with an introduction by the founder of Together Live,  Jennifer Rudolph Walsh.  She introduced her purpose of putting these events together- women sharing their stories in hopes of inspiring others to do the same and working together to empower each other on our journeys to change the world. (Don't worry, men were invited - and celebrated - too!)

The first speakers were author and activist Glennon Doyle and all-time leading scorer in international soccer history Abby Wambach.  Glennon shared her story of her broken marriage and battle with addiction as Abby shared her story of turning to drugs and alcohol.  They shared a love story like only writers can.  Beginning at opposite ends of the stage with their eyes on each other, they spoke of how their lives changed when they met, moving closer together as each page of their story was told.

I love the story telling aspect of this event.  I think about how much I love reading and how I love hearing other peoples stories.  Part of why I started (continued?) this blog is because I love reading blogs.  Reading other people's stories has always been my greatest form of inspiration.

Following Glennon and Abby was Luvvie Ajayi and this girl pulled on my heart strings hard.  Of all the women speaking, I identified with her most.  Luvvie was born in Nigeria and moved to the states when she was a child.  She grew up wanting to be a doctor, and began college as a psychology/pre-med major.  After getting her first D in Chemistry, she ended up dropping the pre-med and graduated with a degree in psychology. From there, she worked in a marketing position. During all this time she had been keeping a blog, just for fun.  She knew she loved to write, but had never looked at it as a career path until her just-for-fun-blog won an award years after she was finished with college.  From there, she grew her blog and wrote a book, all the while taking as many risks and chances as she could.  She made it her goal to do the things that scared her.

Those of you who know me IRL probably just read that and said, "Gretchen, that is nothing like you. You grew up in Minnesota, which is about as far away from Africa as you can get," but hear me out.  Like Luvvie, school came really easy to me. I entered college as a business major, and after getting my first C in Macro-economics (go to class, kids), dropped it for an education major, thinking that was where my passion was.  Now, less than three years out of college, I'm quite certain that I don't wan't anything to do with that degree.  Like Luvvie, my blog that began as a hobby (well, as a way to keep my friends and family updated on my life in Costa Rica), now is something that I would love to turn into a full time "thing." I would love more than anything to just WRITE and do the things that I love.  Also, I'm pretty big on doing all things that scare me! 

Becca Stevens, founder of Nashville's Thistle Farms, was invited to the stage next. I had heard of Thistle Farms, but I didn't know what it was. She shared the origin story that resulted in the birth of Thistle Farms, an organization that's mission is "to heal, empower, and employ women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction" by "providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence, and a strong community of advocates and partners."  So here is the awesome thing about Thistle Farms (okay, one of many awesome things), it is SO EASY to support them! You can visit the cafe on Charlotte Pike for locally sourced breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea.  You can also buy a variety of Thistle Farms brand products such as bath and body washes and lotions, candles, room sprays, apparel, and other products straight from their website linked above.

After a brief intermission, Sophia Bush and Ruthie Lindsey took the stage.  Sophia informed us that though scheduled, Connie Britton was not going to make it tonight due to being stuck filming in LA (boo!) but she had sent a recorded message for us.

Y'all. The woman I came for. And not surprisingly she spoke to my soul.  I was and am a lover of One Tree Hill which is where my love of Sophia Bush came from.  After OTH, Sophia ventured into the show Chicago PD which I also watched (while she was still a part of it).  She recently dropped the show and Sophia spoke of how she didn't feel she had to explain why she dropped it until she was ready to, but that she shouldn't have to go do work every day dreading it (with the "f" word thrown in there somewhere) and that hit me hard.  Because when it came down to it that was what teaching was starting to become to me, and as I recently told my best friend- if you don't love what you do, its not worth doing. As much as we tell ourselves to keep our work lives and our personal lives separate, if we are miserable at work, it is going to leak over into all other aspects and areas of our being.

An unexpected but equally important guest came out next.  Equipped with a translator, Lupe Gonzala, a neighbor to Glennon and Abby, came to speak about the unfair treatment of farm worker women immigrants.  She spoke of the sexual assault that she and the other women faced daily in the fields, and how it impacted her family at home.  She and other women had decided to take a stand and thus the Fair Food Sisters was born.  The organization's goal is bring awareness to and fight sexual abuse and forced labor.

Another unexpected guest, Karen Fairchild from Little Big Town was invited on stage next.  She shared about her time in the music industry, and how easy it was for women to be pushed to the back.  Karen discussed the importance of making sure there was room for everyone at the table, and to cheer each other on.  She shared how Little Big Town constantly works together to make sure all voices are heard even when the outside forces in the industry may only focus on certain individuals. 

Inspired by the Me Too Movement, the show ended with the women gathered together sharing their own stories of "me too."  If you're unaware of what the Me Too Movement is, you can educate yourself here.  I'm not going to disclose their stories, because they are not mine to share, but the courage they showed as they shared was empowering. I encourage those of you who don't know what this movement is to take some time to look into it, because just because it doesn't happen to you, doesn't mean it doesn't happen, and just because it doesn't happen to you, doesn't mean it doesn't matter. And on that note, me too.

Can I just say how empowering it was to be in a room of women looking for the best for EVERYONE.  Y'all things got political for a second or two, but guess what- there was no name calling, no excluding people from the "other side." That was such a refreshing thing for me.  Had things turned nasty, it would have totally discredited everything these women were trying to instill in the crowd, but they didn't! I say this because I can't tell you how many people I've lost respect for after seeing them use terms like "snowflake" or "lib-tard," solely because the ONLY purpose of words like those are to hurt and insult, and anyone whose goal is to intentionally inflict hurt in anyway is not a person who deserves my respect.  (I don't know any of the bad slang terms directed towards the other side, or I would have included them there.  You know why I don't know any? Because I am friends with kind people.)

There was no better time in my life for me to discover Together Live.  Those who know me personally know that I'm stuck in a limbo of not knowing what my life's purpose is and what path I am suppose to be walking skipping down.  I want to LOVE doing what I do for work everyday.  Too often I hear people say that work is work and you don't have to love it because that's not what the purpose of a job is, but I disagree.

I had this quote written in my notes under Karen's name, and so I'm going to assume she said it.  The quote was, "I don't have to sound profound, I just have to say the truth."  This quote stuck with me because I sometimes I struggle with writing things, and I struggle with speaking about things and when you have a blog that is a rotten thing to struggle with.  In this day and age, and especially with social media, if you say one thing wrong people can absolutely tear you up about it.  But when it comes down to it, its not always how you say something, but its what you say.  I don't have to use elaborate metaphors to get my point across, I just have to speak from the heart and speak my truth.  I struggled with writing this post, because I felt like these women had such beautiful stories to share and were so eloquent with their words that I would be unable to do them justice with this measly, messy blog post.  If you get the chance, I would encourage going to see Together Live 2018 (the tour is over this year!) so you can see, and hear, for yourself what I mean. In the mean time, they are putting out a podcast that just started called Together Live Presents: Do it on Purpose which I am loving right now!

I'm going to end this post with another quote from Glennon that I love, "Stop asking for directions to places no one has ever been."  So often we ask our friends and family for help and advice, and while there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that, when it comes down to it, your path is YOUR path.  No one has walked it before, and so no one can tell you which turn to take and whether you need to pack a bikini or a parka.  Life is full of never before navigated waters, and the beauty is in pioneering your own adventure!

If you're looking for some inspirational reads, check out the books currently out by the ladies above:

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle

Love Heals by Becca Stevens

I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi

Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach

Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Style with a Purpose Meet Up

I am not, nor will I ever be, a fashion blogger. The only question I ask myself when "styling" an outfit in the morning is "which dress matches my Adidas sandals?" (The answer of course is all of them). That being said, when I heard about the Style with a Purpose event at the Goodwill in Nashville from Betsy, I thought I would give it a go. I loved going to thrift stores with my aunt when I was a kid, and haven't browsed one in a while.

After an afternoon in Nashville, Caitlin and I met up at the Goodwill in Bellevue to check out the event.  There were giftcard givaways, a photo booth, and an assortment of people with overflowing carts milling about the store.  Nearly a dozen bloggers had racks set up down the middle of the store housing their own finds from Goodwill that they wanted to share with the event's participants.

The racks held some super cute, and some super interesting items.  (But actually. Everything was either really cute, or really I-would-never-wear-this-in-a-million-years).  But, to each their own. As a girl whose typical outfit is running shorts and a t-shirt, I have ZERO room to talk about style! That being said, it was fun to see the stylish and name brand things 

While the event was a neat idea, I felt there was some room for improvement. There were only a few dressing rooms and a fairly decent line with carts literally FULL of clothing that people wanted to try on. I know that its not possible to create more dressing rooms out of thin air, but even having more full length mirrors set up around the store would have been helpful.

Another addition I would make to the event would be to have the bloggers actually style the garments that they picked out.  Caitlin and I would often see a piece that was super cute but both say, "I have no idea what I would wear that with!" or "This is fun but I have no idea WHEN I would wear it!" Perhaps this event was more directed at people that already know how to style cute or unique items, but since I am not one of those people I was a little disappointed.

I ended up buying a pink skirt to use for my Halloween costume, and a black and white polka dotted blouse from Betsy's stash (because I'm all about the fun patterns). Caitlin found this awesome dress that she rationalized buying because she's a teacher and surely she'll "need this ridiculous dress for some ridiculous school event, right?"  

For 99 cents, how could you pass this up?

I rarely have the patience to dig through racks of things, and I'm pretty particular about the thrift stores I shop in. If they're in an unclean area of town I usually steer clear.  My thrift shopping usually consists of leaving with a pile of books and maybe a random thing that I can use for a craft project, but browsing through the blogs of the ladies featured in the event may have inspired me to browse the clothing racks the next time I pass by a (clean-ish) thrift store like Goodwill!

Monday, October 16, 2017

10 Things I've Learned About Being an Extra

CP & I with our new friends!
Note: I said being AN extra, not BEING extra. That has its own pumpkin spice and UGGs filled list.

I'm not claiming to be a professional "extra," but the first time I went I had to learn (most of) these lessons the hard way.  The following are ten things I wish I would have known for my first time, and glad I knew for my second time (and every time hereafter!)

  1. Wear the comfiest shoes you have (that fit the role you're playing). Avoid heels at all costs!  The girls I was standing next to one time were wearing heels and both had their shoes off halfway through the set because their feet hurt so bad.
  2. Bring a book (or something to do).  There will likely be a lot of down time.  You may not need it, but its best to be prepared.
  3. Remember your phone charger.  Bonus points if you have a cordless battery pack.  While phones are not allowed to be out during filming, and may not be allowed on set at all,  if you have a lot of time to spend in holding, it is nice to have your charger with in case you wear out your phone's battery life. (Especially if you didn't listen to #2!)
  4. Bring snacks!  They may provide snacks and feed you a meal, but it likely won't be on your eating schedule.  Plus its nice to have food and drinks that you like or that fit into whatever eating plan you may be on.
  5. Pack deodorant! And probably body spray too. When you're crowded in a room with a bunch of people it can get a little toasty.
  6. Bring layers.  Depending on whether you're shooting inside or out, the temperature of the set and holding area can vary. Bring a nice long sleeved jacket that matches your role in case you need it on set. It's also nice to have a hoodie to wear while you wait in holding, especially because it can double as a pillow to take a nap!
  7. Do not make other plans the same day!  Unless they say the shoot is guaranteed to be less than whatever time they specified, expect it to run long.
  8. Network! The extras crew is likely full of people of all ages and many walks of life.  Last time I went with my friend who is a make up artist and we ended up connecting with a photographer.  I also overheard a group of guys at a table who were filmographers, ranging from beginners to veterans, talking with and learning from each other.
  9. Don't expect to interact with the actors. This is their day (& sometimes night) job and just as you don't want people coming up to you all day at your job, they can't be held up talking to every person who wants their brush with fame. This is especially true when it's a late shoot and everyone just wants to go home to bed. That being said, it doesn't mean they won't acknowledge the crowd, just don't get your expectations up.
  10. There is a lot of hurry up and wait. I feel as if there is a much more efficient way of doing things, but since I have no education or experience in the TV/movie production world, I'm probably wrong. Once you're escorted to the production floor, you'll likely be told to stand/sit somewhere and then wait.....and wait.....and wait....until they finally REHEARSE. Then you'll wait some more as they change things. This is where #8 comes in. If you're there with a friend or have made new friends, it makes the waiting suck a little less by having someone to talk whisper very quietly to.

Sore feet and waiting aside, I've had really great experiences in extra-land so far. I've made new friends and got paid to catch up with one of my best friends who joined me on set this last time. Even if I'm only able to catch a glimpse of my blonde hair poking up in the crowd once the episodes actually air, the experience was definitely worth it.  If you're in the Nashville area and are interested in being an extra, shoot me an email at hey_dreamer_blog@yahoo.com and I can hook you up!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tips & Tricks for Beginning Couponers

I wouldn't call myself an extreme couponer (yet), but I do what I can to save a buck or ten. After explaining my strategies to a fellow couponer, she told me that in all her years of couponing, they were the best strategies she had heard.  Because of this, and since I have had many friends ask me to teach them, I wanted to share my routine with y'all.

Before beginning, I want to give a piece of advice.  START SMALL.  Pick a store or two to begin rather than starting with five or six.

STEP ONE / / Browse the ads of the store(s) of your choice and write down every item that you use and see in the ad(s), even if you already have it. I always write down the items from the ads in black ink, I'll explain why in a second. For example, I grocery shop at Publix and Kroger, so I take two pieces of paper, write "Kroger" at the top of one and "Publix" at the top of the other. Then, I browse through the ad and write the products that I will use and their price under the appropriate store name.

STEP TWO / / Browse through your coupons and see which coupons match up with the items you have written down from the ad.  If you don't get the Sunday paper, (or even if you do), you can print coupons here or look on brand websites.  Write down the coupons you have next to the items from the ad, but use a different color ink. (It helps to make a color coded key at the top of your list).

Additional info on coupons: Different coupons appear in the Sunday paper each week, unless it is a holiday weekend. You can find the list of inserts here.  If you don't get the Sunday paper, you can use the list of inserts to determine if you want to buy the paper each Sunday.  I find that the P&G inserts have the coupons with the best discounts.  You can also buy inserts from "Coupon Fairies," but I'm not extreme enough for that yet so you'll have to do your own research on that!  As far as printable coupons are concerned, I like to go through the website once a week and print off anything I MAY use in the future.  Often times sales for products come out, but the coupon is no longer available.  If you've already printed it then you don't have to worry about that!

STEP THREE / / Download the apps for the stores you shop at and browse the digital coupons.  As you go through the app coupons, write the discount down in yet a separate color next to the product that you wrote down from the ad. Remember to add the color to your key at the top of your paper!  I have explained some of the apps that I use below:

KROGER: First and foremost, you need to have the Kroger card to get the majority of the sales and special prices.  (It's free, you can get it from the store and then register it to the app downloaded onto your phone). The app offers digital coupons that you can save to your card. There are a ton of benefits that you can use the Kroger rewards program for.  Often times they have sales like $5 off 5, where if you buy 5 of the advertised items you save $5.  Within these sales, you can pair paper coupons OR digital coupons.  You cannot, however, use BOTH a digital AND a paper coupon on the same item.  Another great thing about the app is that you can search products and it will tell you what aisle the product is in at the store you are at. It also tells you the price which is awesome because sometimes the price on the shelf isn't updated.  For example, we were buying gnocchi the other day, and the original price was $3.49, but since we searched the product on the app, we found that the whole wheat gnocchi was only $0.90, so we bought them all!  Kroger also allows you to build fuel points with their program so you can save money on gas at the Kroger station or some Shell stations. Kroger offers a free item every Friday.  It is listed at the bottom of their ad each week, but you can also find it by searching "free" in the digital coupon section of the app. I've heard from someone in a couponing group that there are sometimes other "free" coupons hiding in the app for some customers, but I've haven't been the recipient of any of those yet!

PUBLIX: The Publix app is similar to the Kroger app. You do not get a card with the Publix program, you just register your phone number and type it in at the register.  You also do not have to be registered in order to get the special pricing/sales. Like Kroger, you clip the digital coupons to your invisible card.  Also like Kroger, you cannot pair the digital coupons with paper coupons.  One great thing I love about Publix is that they frequently offer B1G1 FREE on a lot of their products.  This works great for products like cereal, where coupons frequently offer $1 off 2 or $1 off 3.  The $1 off 2 can be applied to two boxes of cereal, one of which is free, so it's really like getting the full dollar off of one box. The $1/3 can be applied to four boxes of cereal, you get two free and the $1 comes off of the two you are paying for. Like Kroger, Publix also offers free items, but they aren't advertised (as far as I know).  I find them by searching "free" in the digital coupons section of the app. I just discovered this a couple weeks ago and have so far been able to snag two free yogurts, a free strawberry cream cheese, and free banana chocolate chip pancake mix!

TARGET: Target used to be my go to shopping store, but I've found I get better deals at other stores.  That being said, Targets are everywhere, so its good to know how to navigate the bulls-eye couponing world.  Beauty products and household products typically offer the best deals at Target since they often have gift card rewards.  The best time to buy products here is when they offer, for example, a $5 when you buy 3 of a certain type of shampoo.  Target no longer offers Target coupons like they used to, but you can print manufacturers coupons from their website.  The Cartwheel app, which I believe is now integrated straight into the Target app, offers discounts that you can clip to your account.  You just have to show the QR code on your phone at the register, which they will scan and you will get the discount.  Typically Cartwheel discounts are % off,  which you CAN pair with printed coupons.  Just be aware that occasionally Cartwheel offers manufacturers coupons which cannot be pair with paper coupons.  Sometimes your out of pocket may be a little higher when you're buying items that result in a giftcard, but if you frequently shop at Target, you can get some pretty good deals.

WALGREENS:  I used to never shop at Walgreens because their every day prices are so expensive, but now it is one of my favorite stores. First and foremost, sign up for a rewards card and download the app.  You don't have to have a physical card, I just use my phone number and type it in at the register.  The reason I love shopping at Walgreens is because every purchase you make builds points. You can also become a "beauty enthusiast" (for free) to earn extra points on beauty items. Anyway, to the couponing.  The Walgreens app offers coupons that you can clip to your card.  The beauty of Walgreens is that you can typically pair the digital coupons WITH paper/printed coupons.  (If the digital coupon says "with card" then you can pair it with a paper/printed coupon, if it does not then it is a manufacturer's coupon and you cannot pair it).  They often have bonus points days.  For example, the other weekend was beauty weekend, and if you spend $20 on beauty products, you earn back 7,000 points, which is seven dollars worth of points.  Walgreens also has really great clearance.  You never know when its going to be, but if you're there, its really easy to wander all the aisles and check out the orange price tags.  Its not uncommon to see $30 products for less than $5.

Walgreens often offers Register Rewards (RR) with products (they are advertised in the weekly ad).  Register Rewards are a dollar amount that you can use on your next purchase.  TYPICALLY, you cannot pay with register rewards and receive more register rewards on a product, even if it is advertised.  Additionally, TYPICALLY you cannot pay with points and receive points, even if there is a point bonus advertised. (There are times that you can, but since this is a Beginning Couponers post, I'm not going to get into that). However, you can pay with points and receive RR, and you can pay with RR and receive points.  Walgreens also has a monthly coupon booklet at their stores that contain store coupons.


STEP FOUR / /  Your next step is to download ibotta. Ibotta is a cash back system, and all you need to do is scan your receipt and maybe a bar code or two after you're home from your shopping trip. (Bonus points if you use that link to sign up- it will give me extra credit!) Search for the store that you will be shopping at, then find the products on your shopping list.  You can "search" for your products, but I recommend browsing all of the items as sometimes the search function pulls up products from other stores.  Write down the cash back in a fourth color next to the items that you wrote down from the ad.  If you connect with your friends who also have ibotta, it can help you build bonus rewards.  Ibotta is mainly for groceries, but has a vast amount of stores connected to it and may also have health or beauty items listed.

Another app you can use like ibotta is Checkout51.  It doesn't have as many offers as ibotta does, but only takes a couple minutes to check, upload a receipt, and scan your products so I think its worth it to check.


STEP FIVE / /  Browse through your list and see where the good deals are.  Best case scenario you can buy something on sale with both a digital and paper coupon, then get cash back on ibotta. (For example, the other week Crest toothpaste was part of the Buy 5, Save $5 at Kroger.  After the sale and using a coupon it was 24 cents, then there was a 25 cents back on ibotta, making me a penny!)

It doesn't always work out that way, but once you can build a small stockpile, you can be a little pickier about how much you're willing to pay for things.  Now that I have a couple extra toothpastes and a handful (or four) of shampoos and conditioners, I will only buy these items if I can get them for less than a dollar, ideally for less than 50 cents. It seems like a lot but once you've done it a time or two it becomes a pretty easy routine and can be done during your nightly Netflix time!

STEP SIX / / You're ready to go! There are two ways to shop:

If you are sticking to a very strict budget, it is best to make sure you're equally strict in sticking to only items on your list. Go in with your list, grab your items, and check out. In, out, and on with it.  This may end up costing you more in the long run, but if you're pinching pennies it may be the better option.

Option two, and my preferred method of shopping, is slow and steady.  I like to go in with my list and all of my coupons, pop in my headphones, put on a podcast, and start at aisle one.  Walking up and down every aisle gives me the opportunity to find sale items that may have not been advertised, as well as clearance items.  Since I always bring my whole set of coupons, I'm always prepared for unadvertised savings.

ADDITIONALLY / / You can join couponing groups on facebook.  People often post their hauls, including sale prices and which coupons they used. I will list the groups that I am a part of, but if you shop at stores other than these all you have to do is search "STORE couponing" to find a group.

Walgreens Too
Walgreens Couponing
Couponing at CVS
Kroger Krazies
Couponing at Kroger
Couponing at Target
Target Couponing
You can also follow the Krazy Coupon Lady and The Couponing Couple on Facebook for deals

  • To truly save money, you can't be too picky on brands. That doesn't mean you have to go generic with everything.  Often times canned products like beans or tomatoes are cheaper if you buy the store brand (roughly 50 cents), but I find that I can get a better price on beauty and health products (shampoo, tampons, toothpaste) buying brand name when there are sales and I have coupons
  • Stock up! The trick is to "stock up" before you need it.  Waiting until you're out is a great way to be forced to pay full price. 
  • Be willing to go to multiple stores (if your location allows for it).  As I mentioned in step one, I shop at both Kroger and Publix, and since both these stores fall on the main road I drive I don't have to go out of my way to hit both in one shopping trip.
  • Always bring all your coupons with you! You never know if you will find an unadvertised deal or an item on clearance that you can apply a coupon to.  
  • If you're beginning your pantry stockpile, use the $5 strategy.  Bring along an extra 5 bucks on your grocery shopping trip for cheap items that you use often.  Examples of these items are: beans, condensed soups, canned tomatoes, etc.
  • The most difficult things to get cheap are meats, fruits, and veggies.  I usually just watch the ads for sales on these products.  Every now and then ibotta has rebates for fruits and veggies.  If you have tricks for savings in this area, please share in the comments!
  • DO NOT GO TO THE STORE ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE SALE. It is always packed with people, and often times the sales aren't all marked yet.  There is nothing more frustrating than finally getting to the front of the checkout line and finding out after all your items have scanned that you grabbed the wrong item because the sale wasn't marked yet, only to have a line full of people waiting after you!
  • Pay attention to the size of your product.  Make sure that the size of the item on sale matches the size of the item that your coupon is for.  Also make sure this matches the size of any rebates you may have.
  • Did you know that Amazon has coupons?? I am an avid user of Amazon Prime, and I just found out that Amazon has coupons for some of their products! If a coupon exists, they let you know at or before checkout.
  • Not a tip or trick, but keep donating in mind when you're couponing.  Some couponers, myself included, don't keep a spare room solely for the purpose of storing their stock piles, but that doesn't mean you have to pass up a GREAT deal when you see one.  You can always donate products to homeless shelters or food banks.  Another great place to donate that isn't often thought of is places like humane societies or other animal rescue places.  They are often in need of things like laundry detergent!


When I first joined couponing groups they were using all these abbreviations and I had no idea what they meant!  In case you decide to join one, I wanted to leave a brief guide here of the most commons terms I have come across so you aren't as lost as I am when others share their hauls!
  • OOP: out of pocket
  • MM: money maker
  • MFC/MQ: manufacturer's coupon
  • IVC: Walgreen's instant value coupon from monthly coupon catalog
  • CAT: catalina coupon (prints from register after purchase of certain items at stores like Walgreens and Kroger.  Cannot be used on current purchase, but can be used on next purchase).
  • PEELIE: coupon that you peel off of a product
  • WYB: when you buy
  • YMMV: your mileage may very (basically the deal depends on the store)
If this post interested you, I have another couponing post in the works! Stay tuned!

Monday, October 2, 2017

4 Days in Ft. Myers


"Final boarding call for Delta flight #1709 departing for Atlanta," I watch the guy announce over the intercom as I nervously waited for Carl to meet me at our gate. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 5:40 AM, so we figured if we were at the airport by five, we would have plenty of time to check our carry ons before boarding.  We figured wrong.  With an entire volleyball team ahead of us, and only one TSA line open, we barely made it to our plane in time.  After getting stopped by security for a couple ice packs, Carl had to literally run from TSA to the gate in order for us to make our first flight. From there, however, it was smooth sailing flying. On both legs of our flight to Florida, we were the sole members in our row on our side of the plane. Carl let me have the window seat both times too!

We were picked up at the airport in style by Carl's parents who arrived with the top down on the BMW.  We swung by their condo and got situated before heading to The Dixie Fish Co. for lunch.  There is something about being in a new place that inspires me to be a little extra adventurous in my food choices, so I ordered the Yucatan Shrimp tacos with parsley potatoes for lunch.  (If you didn't know, I am not a seafood fan.  In fact, I tend to avoid it at all costs...I'm working on it.) Any place that serves me potatoes AND tacos is a good place in my book.  It was tasty, too!

We walked the beach and marveled in the change brought about by Hurricane Irma.  Since I'd never been to this part of Florida, I didn't have a "before" to compare the area to, but I learned that the size of the beach had changed due to water levels, and there were a handful of dead sea life washed up onto the shore.  One of the fish I saw in the sand was the size of my head! I should have taken a picture.

After wandering the beach, we went to downtown Fort Myers to explore a little more.  There were many cute little boutiques we wandered into before stopping for a drink at Ford's Garage.  Y'all. the onion rings we had there were the best I've ever had.  From there we wandered down towards the marina.  There was a sunken sailboat, likely leftover damage from the hurricane, but it just looked so goofy.  Another missed picture opportunity (sigh). 

For dinner we went to an Al Capone themed restaurant, conveniently named Capone's.  It is technically a pizza joint, but the pasta and meatballs were calling my name.


Carl spent the early part of the morning on an 8 year long bike ride with his dad and a neighborhood friend, so I took some time to read out on the porch. (Side note: I'm not being dramatic when I say an 8 year long bike ride.  I say 8 years because that's how long it would take me if I rode as far as they did...but I digress.)  I couldn't believe how warm it was so early; what a great way to start the day!

Once everyone was home and ready, we drove out to Bowman's Beach on Sanibel Island to walk along the water before our cruise at 2.

We left the beach and headed for Captiva Island to hop the on boat for our Captiva Cruise!  Two hours on the water with the wind in my face and the sun warming my skin was just the thing that I didn't know I needed. Our tour guide, George, gave us a spiel on the history of the area, the damage caused by the hurricane, and a PG run down of how the dolphins like to "play" with each other in the water. We got the see how the salt and fresh water combine to make brackish water, boat houses in the middle of the water, and an airfield that ran east-to-west on a narrow north-to-west island.

Sun-burned and sandy, we headed back home for a sea food dinner.  Though I'm not a seafood lover, I was excited (albeit a little bit nervous) to try home cooked shrimp, scallops, and triple tail fish.  While I can't call myself a sea food lover, I didn't hate it either.  It was definitely a texture over taste kind of thing. I'm so sensitive to texture that sometime foods I like I can't even eat (bananas, yogurt, etc.)

After dinner, the community pool finally opened for the first time since Irma, so we walked down for a quick dip before the sun sank below the horizon.


Beach day!  Slathered in sunscreen, we laid out the beach chairs on Fort Myers Beach and waded into the water in search of shells.  I don't like to touch things I can't see, so when I stepped on something that I thought felt big enough to be a cool shell, I had Carl reach under my foot to grab it.  Yep, it was a LIVE SAND DOLLAR, all fuzzy and stuff.  I was not a fan.  The no-longer-live ones that were found were cool though!

The water had receded since we had been there on Thursday, leaving a larger beach area to relax on.  Carl and his dad went off to rent a sailboat while his mom and I stayed back and read, soaking up the sun.
Eventually the guys came around with the sailboat and threw a life jacket at me.  After being chased down by an employee of the boat rental kiosk to sign a waiver, I jumped on and sailed off with them.  Let's just say I am surprised that I am still alive to tell the tale... Okay, I'm being dramatic.  It was a lot of fun, but when the boat leans too far onto one side or the other, I get a little nervous that I'm going to fall into a pool of sharks.  (being dramatic again)


After a little more sailing and a little more beaching, we packed up the car and headed back home.  Guess who didn't get sunburned? This girl! (That never happens).  On the way back, we stopped at the infamous Love Boat Ice Cream.  I had orange creamsicle and blue moon- YUM!

We ventured back out to Captiva Island for the Island Hopper's Singer Songwriter Festival.  The first stop was Doc Ford's for dinner and music by Natalie Hemby.  Unfortunatly, the small area that the music was in was already full by the time we got there, so we had to sit near the area out in the restaurant dining room.  Despite being right outside the room housing the performance, we could hardly hear the music.  The service was not great either, and we were delivered a wrong meal (and cold fries!)  After three strikes (and finishing dinner), Doc Ford's was out, and we left for R C Otters.

Buffalo Chicken Sandwich from Doc Ford's on Captiva Island

At R C Otter's we got front row seats to Carl Anderson (and another guy whose name I have forgotten!)  They were mediocre, so when I realized that it was time for the sun to set, I wasn't disappointed to leave and run off to the beach for a few minutes.

Y'all I love sun sets.  I could watch them every night- especially sitting on the beach!  Unfortunately it was a little cloudy, but I didn't let that dull my excitement.

The last stop of the night was at the Key Lime Bistro for Kim Paige (and another lady who clearly didn't make an impression on me as I don't recall her name). Y'all I would highly recommend you go listen to Kim Paige.  You can find her facebook page here, her instagram page here, and her twitter page here.

We drove home with the top down and it was awesome.  I wish I had a more descriptive word but I don't.  Night drives are hands down one of my top 10 favorite things, and they're made that much better when you're with people you love, the music is turned up, the stars are out, and the wind is blowing your hair into so many tangles it will take two handfuls of conditioner to be able to brush out.


Ah, the unwanted day of departure.  We were originally expecting to have a late flight Sunday night, but it was canceled and rebooked for Monday (whoohoo!).  Carl had to be back to work though so we called and were booked onto an earlier flight (boo!).

We spent the morning at the pool before showering and packing up for one last drive into town before heading to the airport.

With our last day, the one thing I really wanted to do was go back to the Edison Ford Winter Estates and see the (now tipped over via Hurricane Irma) banyan tree. The fact that Mother Nature could take down a tree of this size just floored me.

Root system from the bottom

I didn't take any other pictures of the Irma damage, but throughout Fort Myers there were piles of brush and downed trees lining the sides of the road waiting for pick up.  I only saw one or two houses that trees had fallen onto, and a handful of business signs that had been severely damaged.

By 3PM we were at the airport, waiting for our first flight to Atlanta.  I was definitely NOT ready to go home, and can't wait for another trip back!

Travel Reading:

Lifestyle Blogging Basics by Laura Lynn
Closure by Randall Wood

You can find all travel posts from Hey Dreamer Blog here.