Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Your Christmas iPhone Gift Could Still Come!

Okay, so you kept dropping hints for an iPhone Christmas gift, but jolly ol' Saint Nick was either not paying attention or didn't want to give you the sad news that the elves are all iPhone'd out this year. Either way, it's December 26th, and you're iPhone-less.

Well, fret not because you can still get one free as a gift from a benevolent (and profitable) blogger!

Lara Saad, author of I Make Money on, is sponsoring a "win an iPhone" contest just for visiting her site. There are three ways to win entries into her contest:
  1. Visit and leave a comment on her blog post.

  2. Subscribe to her blog via e-mail; you'll then start to receive e-mail updates on her blog. (Want to manage e-mail clutter from various sites? Read here!)

  3. Post about her competition on your own blog. (Clearly my preferred option!)

And do it quickly! Entries are only being accepted until January 10th. May the force be with you!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Search for a Cause:

Every day, probably, you turn on the computer, check your e-mail, read about some tawdry B-list starlet's escapades from the weekend before, maybe read the news, and then spend the rest of your day off and on searching the Internet. Need a restaurant's phone number? Search. Looking for a place to buy Christmas rubber duckies?Search. Want to find what your ex is up to? Search. While you're at it, why not check on what the Internet says about you? Search.

Search is huge, which is why Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google and others (although those are the three biggies) put a ton of money into search technologies, knowing that the better the search results, the more likely you'll use their engine and they'll be able to plaster your eyeballs with their sponsored links and advertisements.

Personally, I have no problem with that. They're providing a service for free, and I don't mind having a link try to distract me now and then. But, it'd be great to know that instead of supporting some corporation, those ad revenues were going toward something a little more meaningful.

Look no more! is a Yahoo!-powered search engine that allows you to choose your favorite charity. For every search, about a penny (50% roughly of's revenue) gets donated to your charity of choice. That may not sound like a lot, but multiply it over enough users, and it is.

So if you use search, and particularly if you use Yahoo! search, make your search engine of choice. (P.S. It also has a search toolbar download.)

Monday, November 5, 2007

eShop with eBates

For the past year or so, I've been a member of, a nifty little online service that gives you cash back on your purchases to select vendors. Here's how it works:
  • Go to <-- use this link please; it is a referral link.

  • Create an account (nothing is required other than your e-mail address and a created password).
  • Search for vendors at which you like to shop (Old Navy, Expedia, 1-800-CONTACTS, Frederick's of Hollywood, iTunes, etc.).
  • Click on the link for your selected vendor and shop as you would normally.

For each purchase you complete, you'll get a percentage of that purchase back in real cash to your ebates account. What percentage you get back depends on the vendor. See picture below.

Once you hit $5.00, you receive a check (or PayPal transfer). In addition, you also get to use coupons, gift certificates, whatever form of payment that vendor normally allows, and any other kind of promos you would normally use when shopping.

In addition, when you sign up, you get an automatic $5 credit that is sent to you after you complete your first purchase. If you sign up and make your first purchase by Nov. 30, you get $10 after making your first purchase. (Disclaimer: By clicking on that link above, I also get a $5 credit when you complete your first purchase as a referral bonus.)

Ebates doesn't store your credit card information although it may track your shopping preferences (just like most Web sites do) for the sake of promoting to you and its partners. Also, I do not have any idea whether you've purchased anything via ebates or what you might've purchased, either.

(Side note: I am a NetFlix member and I am steamed to learn that if I'd signed up for NetFlix via ebates, I would've gotten $18 smackeroos! Man!)

Anyway, so far, just from the occasional shopping we do at Old Navy online and the huge amount of shopping we do at iTunes, we've gotten back about $45 to date. Not bad. Not riches but more than we would've had otherwise.

By the way, the Kingston flash drive deal for $0 via that's listed below? Well, is an ebates partner. So when I purchased it via ebates, I got back 2% of the original $10 price (which was the price before the Google Checkout discount). Okay, okay, that's only $0.20. But the point here is that I just got paid $0.20 to receive a 1 GB flash drive. I like that.

Friday, November 2, 2007

TIP: Managing Promotional E-mail

Okay, first, what I want you to do is go find a big stick, the largest one you can wield. Then, go stand in front of your computer and shake that big stick at all of the promotional e-mail you receive: coupons and coupon codes, online catalogues, and invitations to increase (or decrease) the size of your genitals, waist, hips, feet, nose, or ear hair. Clearly, shaking a stick at all that received e-mail is as futile as the expression "more e-mail than you can shake a stick at" is ridiculous.

Spam filters help manage some of it, but there's a lot of this stuff you want to get. E-mail filters can help you direct it into various folders, but most e-mail applications (whether Web based or not) have a limit on how many filters you can create -- plus it's a lot of effort and not everyone is that comfortable with the technology.

So, whaddya do?

My suggestion, in this age of prolific and free e-mail accounts, is to simply create an "advertising only" e-mail address. I have one of my own (roughly named and this is the account I use for any Web based subscription service, whether it's Coldwater Creek, the Creekside Inn, or In-and-Out Burger. Everything comes to this single account and I look through it at my leisure and delete things freely, never worrying that I might delete that one terribly important e-mail from a family member. (You know the important e-mail I'm talking about. It's the one that warns against eating too many oxlips because the middle toe on your left foot could grow unreasonably large ... and be sure to forward this to everyone you know!)

Once having done this, be sure to use your "real" e-mail address only for "real" people (real people being humans rather than Web servers and grungy guys you met at the bar who you don't plan on giving your phone number to).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

TIP: Older Electronics + CostCo = CostCo Cash Back

Are you eligible for this?

1. Do you have a CostCo membership or know someone who does?
2. Do you have older electronics?

If yes to both, then consider the CostCo Trade-in Program through which you can send in eligible electronics and receive in exchange a CostCo cash card/store credit. If your item isn't eligible for cash back but you still want to recycle it and reduce the environmental impact of your electronics, this program will help with that, too.

To learn more, visit CostCo's trade-in Web site.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

FREE: Move Fast and Get a Free or Nearly Free Flash Drive

Get a 1GB flash drive/thumb drive for $0-$10 (see below). You can't beat free, and $10 each ain't bad neither.
  • Go to

  • Search for "Kingston flash drive" and add the $10.00 drive to your card.
  • Click through to checkout.

  • At the Checkout page, click on the Google checkout option. If this is the first time you've used Google Checkout, you'll get a $10.00 discount off your purchase making this...FREE!
  • Choose "budget shipping" which is free shipping, 7 -9 days delivery time.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

DIY: Naughty & Nice Bridal Shower

A couple of years ago, my bestest buddy honored me by asking me to be her maid-of-honor. Ask any woman knows, this is your last chance to thoroughly humiliate, embarrass, and torture your friend, all in the name of friendship and giving her a send off with all the best. I was up for the challenge!

When planning anything, it's first most important to know your audience. In this case, I knew that there would be a mix of women including co-workers, future in-laws, buddies from college (who knew the sordid stories), buddies since college (who only heard tamed down versions of the sordid stories), and family. Compounding the difficulty of audience spectrum is that I hadn't met most of these people and I knew that there'd be about 25-30 women there. Consequently, the activities planned needed to be fun, fast-paced, allow for multiple games to be played concurrently, and appropriate - not too staid, not too racy because the bride still needed to be able to look at these people in the eyes the next day...without shame!

The Invitations.

The theme for the bridal shower was "naughty & nice." With my meager graphic skills, I created the invitations (front side shown at right) to put the ladies in the mood. The teaser on the front is "Is Cecile Naughty or Nice?" The back side says, "Only John Knows for Sure! But we can still have fun at her naughty-or-nice themed bridal shower!" Apparently my friend was mildly mortified but trusting that this was the worst of it. Silly girl.

The Decorations.

We didn't do too much with decorations due to time and space. However, we did arrange the tables according to what would be there. Were I to do this again, I'd make simple decorating changes. For example, the naughty table (where naughty food, naughty beverages are found) would be draped in a red satin sheet or black lace (easily purchased at a craft store for just a couple of dollars) with a few strategically placed black and red licorice whips. The nice table would have a pink and white crepe table cloth, perhaps dusted with some opalescent glitter, cut-outs, rice, and decorative doves (also easily purchased at a craft store for a couple of dollars).

The Food.

Keeping with the theme, we had appropriately chosen the hors d'ouerves. Naturally, no matter what the theme, a house full of women need sustenance so we had the basics such as crackers and dips, a vegetable platter, and so forth. But we could definitely have fun with the dessert. For the nice dessert, we had white cupcakes with white frosting and sprinkles. For the naughty dessert, we had chocolate-dipped strawberries and erotic chocolates.

The beverages were likewise coordinated with the basic wine, spritzers, and non-alcoholic beverages holding up the nice side of the table, and champagne, Sex on the Beach, and shots (including the interestingly named Nipple Twister and Cock Sucker) at the naughty table.

The Games.

Ah, yes, the games. (Fingers tapping together evilly.)

The nice games were all the ones you'd expect. The naughty was really where all the fun was had.

Nice Games:

Clothespin Game. As each guest arrived, a clothespin was clipped to her clothing. When someone heard another person saying the bride's name specifically (e.g. Jane, not "the bride"), the person who heard it takes the clothespin from the person who said it. The player with the most "pins" at the end of the shower won a prize. In this case, it was a container of Downy liquid clothing softener to go with the nice (clean) and clothespin theme.

Safety Pins in Rice. A couple bags of small grain rice were dumped into a large container along with a package of about 25-30 safety pins. Blindfolded or with their eyes closed, women were invited to rake their hands through the bowl of rice and pull out as many safety pins as possible. After each woman finished her turn, the pins were counted, noted on a piece of paper, and returned to the bowl for the next woman to try. Whoever had the most won a prize which, in this case, was a 5-pound bag of (unused) rice (plus the very pretty crystal bowl the used rice had been placed into).

Pin the Bridal Bouquet. Get a large piece of poster paper or foam core board and paste a large outline of a woman wearing a bridal gown with the bride's face pasted at the top. Have available a cutout of a bouquet of flowers with plenty of double-sided tape on the back. Blindfold the guest (or have her close her eyes) and have her pin the bridal bouquet on the place where the bride's hands would be on the poster. The prize for winning is a small bottle of floral-scented lotion.

Naughty Games:

Guess That Lubricant. Go to the store of choice (I chose Spencer's, representing the first time I finally bought something at that store!) and purchase 3-4 different flavors of lubricant or erotic jellies. Also, at a craft or grocery store, buy a small package of stirrers or mini paint-mixing spatulas (about $1.99 for more than you'll need). Squirt a small amount of each flavored lubricant into a clear bowl/glass. Put a sticker on the side with a number. Keep a record of which number corresponds to which lubricant flavor and tuck it away. Invite women to taste, touch, smell the lubricants using their own personal sample (scooped out on the stirrer/spoon) and write down their best guesses for what each flavor is. Whoever has the most correct wins...the lubricant!

Pantie Decorating Contest. Go to Wal-Mart or your local outlet store and purchase whatever underwear you can find on clearance. Plain, tacky, gargantuan, small, it does not matter. Also buy some pom-poms, glue, lace, dried fruit, licorice whips, glitter, individually packaged candies, and so forth. Prepared with your supplies and some scissors, open everything and lay it out on the table. Invite your guests to enjoy the craft-making part of the evening by decorating a pair of underwear for the bride-to-be to wear her wedding night. Afterward, invite everyone to display their creations. No prize is needed for this game -- the experience and laughter is its own reward for all!

Grab the Snake. Purchase several of the liquid filled water snakes available at a party supply store. Instruct your guests to rub a little bit of vegetable oil, regular hand lotion, or water on their hands. Then, have them grab one of the water-filled snakes and, hand-over-hand, try to hold onto it as long as possible. Whoever holds onto it the longest wins the snake toy (hey, this could be good practice!).

The Party Favors.


- Chinese food boxes (available at Michael's or similar)
- Salt or sugar body scrub (purchased at Trader Joe's)
- Lotion (purchased at Trader Joe's)
- Chocolate syrup (purchased at CostCo)
- Scent-infused body oil (made my own)
- Small jars or tight-lidded containers (available at Michael's, Wal-Mart, the Container Store, or similar)
- Avery labels and printer

This party favor can get a little pricey if you aren't careful, particularly with the body scrubs. I'm lucky because I had Trader Joe's nearby. If you haven't been there yet, let me assure you that there are some great finds at the store, high-quality and very reasonable prices. Among those great finds is a sea salt or raw sugar body scrub, equal in quality to what you might find at Origins or in a spa but for a mere $5.99 for a large container. This salt scrub, plus the lotion, comprised the nice gift.

The chocolate syrup, purchased in a 2-gallon container at CostCo, and some scent-infused oil made for the naughty gift.

Each person received four tight-lidded containers (you can also use recycled baby food jars or something a little larger if you have the time, advance notice, habits, and energy to collect them). Within each container was about 3- to 4-oz. of the chosen product (syrup, scrubbing salts, lotion, and oil). The containers were branded accordingly with custom-made labels (you can use evocative names, too, like "Cecile's Luscious Lotion" or "Cecile's Not-so-Sinful Salt Scrub"). The four mini-servings of products were placed in the Chinese food box with each person receiving one box of "naughty and nice" party favors.

By the way, to make your own scent-infused body oil, go to a health or drug supply store warehouse and purchase a large container of vitamin E oil. Then, go to a craft or candle-making store and purchase the fragrance of your choice (use the sort that would be used for soaps or candles that comes in oil form, not wax or anything that requires melting!). Add the fragrance to the oil until it reaches the desired potency. Other good oils are safflower or almond oils, and there are many fine recipes online for making a variety of fragrances.


Just for perspective, my friend lived about 800 miles from me so I had to put most of this together and home and get it to her location, doing only the final shopping (for lubricants, pantie decorating materials, rice, safety pins, etc.) in her city. I left about 95% of the food planning to the other bride's maid so I took care of games/entertainment, party favors, and invitations. All said, it probably took about 15 hours worth of preparation, shopping, and assembly.

Yes, that was a lot. But, if I do say so myself, the party was a smashing success, the bride was appropriately blushing, and the future in-laws had an unholy good time participating in the pantie decorating contest. It was totally worth it.

FREE: Who Doesn't Like Free Popcorn?

While I wouldn't recommend eating this all in one sitting (remember, people, carmelized popcorn does not constitute your daily servings of vegetables!) hungry people have the opportunity to munch away on some of life's less nutritious food groups: popcorn with chocolate and sugar. Yum!

First, for the free popcorn, try Dale and Thomas Popcorn. For a $2.95 per bag S&H fee, you can get up to two 5-cup bags of popcorn snack (Chocolate Chunk 'n' Caramel/Cinnamon Creme Drizzlecorn or Chocolate Chunk 'n' Caramel/Butter Toffee & Walnut Crunch). So, while the S&H fee does keep this from being truly free, I'm willing to give it a shot and try this out. This is a "limited time only" offer -- vaguely put so we have no idea when it ends.