Sunday, September 7, 2014

maximizing swagbucks

It's pretty easy to earn a little bit through swagbucks without altering your on-line activity in any way.  If you're not already on swagbucks, it's about time you join.  Or you can read more about my experiences with it here.  What I'm going to talk about here is how I've found ways to maximize my swagbucks.

For starters, buy the $5 Amazon.com gift cards!  You can get anything you need from amazon and the $5 gift cards are a bargain at only 450 swagbucks each, versus 500 for any other denomination or brand gift card.  If you average around 2200 swagbucks a month, that's a difference of 6 gift cards - or $30 every year!

encrave
One of the most beneficial things I do is to try and always have something earning SB's. Many people find it helpful to run the video app on their phone, but I seem to have more luck with the encrave activities (located under the 'discover' tab on the homepage).  I just pull up one of the auto plays (the ones with the little circular arrow icon) and let it play for a while as I browse the internet, check my email, or play a game. 

SBTV
I do the same with the SBTV.  Click the 'watch' tab on the homepage and there's thousands of videos to choose from.  These don't auto play, but if you're going to be online for a while anyway, it's no trouble to click the next one every now and then.  And - you don't need to watch the video in it's entirety either, just watch until the progress meter at the top goes to the next level, then click the next video.

to do list
the 'to do list' on the left column of your homepage should be your best friend.  You won't earn much here, but it's a few SB's you'll get every day.  And, as for the NOSO (no obligation special offers), there's no need to sign up for anything.  Just click 'next' and scroll through them quickly to get your 2 SB's.

Read
the reading section here is pretty new so I'm not sure how well this will work for continued earning opportunities, but so far, it's been great.  The 'read' activity is located under the 'discover' tab on the homepage.  Every so often some new books are listed there and there's a pretty good reward for completing these activities.  Some ask you to sign up for a newsletter, others to view a short video or read an excerpt.  Just hover over each book to see what is required to earn your points!

Swagcodes
Do take advantage of swagcodes.  There are sites out there, like swagcode spoiler that will compile these codes for you and let you know when they're available.  You can sign up for text, twitter, or email alerts so you'll always know when a new code comes out.

Swagbucks is always changing too, so keep up to date on the newest ways to earn and decide for yourself if they're beneficial (many aren't).  If you have another trick to earning, share it with us so we can all earn!

Happy Swagging,
Nicole

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Now that it's no longer Mother's Day...

People tell me how great of a mother I am surprisingly often, given the fact that I'm not really as great a mother as everyone seems to think.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not neglecting my children.  They don't go without meals, clean clothes, or proper medical care.  But one thing's for certain: they do go without a lot of things, because of me.

I see children at the playground, going on walks, or riding their bikes with their parents and I often think about how much I would love to do those things.  But just the thought of what it would take to get all 3 kids presentable, somewhat behaved, and on bicycles is exhausting.  It's so much easier to let them get their outside time in the backyard, where they're fenced in and I don't have to worry about one escaping while I'm chasing another; and if they throw a tantrum - there's nobody there to judge me for it.

My oldest comes home every few weeks with a flier about the activities they're going to be having at school in the upcoming weeks, but we've never once gone.  She excitedly tells me about art shows, music groups, and book fairs that I know we aren't going to attend.  Again, it's not that I don't want to, really.  I'd love to pack her up and go.  But dragging along a 2 year old and a 3 1/2 year old?  where there will be children's precious artwork, instruments, or books? 

None of my children are involved in any kind of organized activities, despite them asking.  I struggle to commit to a single event, let alone a steady stream of commitments.  I tell myself that when the kids are older we'll get involved, but how much will they have missed already? 

I know a lot of this has to do with our schedules.  With my husband working nights on a bi-weekly schedule, it's difficult to do anything during the day.  And even those activities that are evenings, are either scheduled just as he's needing to leave for work, or tend to be weekly commitments, and our schedule simply doesn't allow for that.

One of the saddest phrases my oldest daughter has taken to saying is "I don't mind."  She uses these three words to preface every question she has about an activity she'd like to join in, or a special treat she's like to have.  She's grown so accustomed to my explanations of why we can't do things that she prefaces every question with "I don't mind" so I know she won't be too disappointed when I tell her no. 

Despite the fact that my children seem very happy with their lives, I am painfully aware of all my shortcomings as their mother.  I hope they know that I will always give them my best, even if it's not always enough.  And I hope some day they can forgive me for all the things they went without because of me.

~Nicole

Friday, May 9, 2014

Swagbucks



So, there's this website called swagbucks.  It's awesome.  I've used it on an off for a couple years and without really trying, I legitimately earned several gift cards.  In the last few months alone, I've earned about $50 in Amazon gift cards.  I know, it sounds like a scam.  But I promise you it's not. Please use this swagbucks link, or copy and paste this into your browser:  swagbucks.com/refer/NikkiHoag  I'm sure you've figured out by now that I'll get some referral swagbucks if you use my link.  But this is good news for you too, because if you use that link, and enter "FreeGiftCards" on the sign up page, you'll start off with an additional 50 swagbucks right out the door!

How it works:
You use the website to do your normal daily activities, like searching the web, playing games, clipping coupons, etc and some of the activities you do will reward you with swagbucks.

When you've got enough swagbucks for the reward you want, you simply cash them in and get your reward in a few days.

Things you can do on their site:
Search the web.  The search engine is powered by google, and you'll receive the same search results as you would if you searched there.  Not all searching will reward you with swagbucks, but periodically, you'll get a nice little reward!

Clip coupons.  Each coupon you redeem at the store will earn you 10 swagbucks.  So you'll save money at the store, AND earn swagbucks, double win.

Play games.  Kill time playing a variety of games and you could be rewarded.  The games are free to play, and a few swagbucks will be awarded after a few plays.  OR, you could enter game tournaments which cost a few swagbucks to enter, but could multiply your swagbucks winnings if you play well.

Take surveys.  Surveys can reward you generously for your time if you're interested in taking them.

Watch videos.  All kinds of videos from fashion and food to home and health.  Earn a few swagbucks after you watch a handful of videos.

Rewards you can earn:
Gift cards.  These gift cards can range from $5 - $500 for anything from amazon.com, walmart, or target, to much more grand things like hotels, airlines, and cruise ships!

If you're into risk taking, you can also use your swagbucks to enter swagstakes for a chance to win all kinds of amazing prizes including cash, electronics, or gift cards.

Happy Swagging,
Nicole

P.S. check out This post I did about easy ways to increase your Swagbucks earning without devoting a lot of time or spending any money.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Photo Book


Click here to view this photo book larger


I'm not doing some kind of advertising for shutterfly here or anything.  But I had a coupon and some wedding pictures I needed to do something with, so this is it.  I should be getting it in the mail tomorrow (pretty darn quick considering I ordered the week before mother's day).  Can't wait to see how my digital pages come out in print.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

DIY Silicone lights

When Zach and I first started living together we got a hand me down Christmas tree.  That first year, we didn't have any ornaments so I tucked all the Christmas cards we received in it and we loved it.  After the holidays that year I bought a crap ton (technical term) of ornaments for 90% off!  They were all golds, rich reds, and purples.  The following year we purchased lights for the tree.  What I didn't realize then, was that the new LED lights that were clear are actually 'cool white,' which shines a sort of silvery blue.  I was thankful to have lights on our tree, but I've always hated that they aren't the same golden yellow of the old fashion lights that I love, and that would match my gold ornaments much better.

SOOO......

I'm exploring ways to change the color myself, since buying a new set would run me around $50 for the whole tree.  Today I tried tinted silicone:

Looks good, right?  Not perfect, sure; but they look like candle flames.  Actually, these would make GREAT bulbs to simulate candles.  Well, back to today's business.

Here's what you'll need:

DO use 100% silicone
DO protect your skin with rubber globes
DO this project in an extremely well ventilated area
DO practice a lot before the real deal
DO NOT get the silicone or mineral spirits on your hands, it can burn
DO NOT make too much at once; it'll cure before you can use it

Mix a batch of the paints you chose to use.  If you plan to use the color paint straight from the jar, skip this step. 
 
Squirt your silicone into the cup, you want to make sure it's deep enough to cover the entire bulb, but don't make too much at once.  Add a dollop of your paint.  You can choose to thin it out a little bit with the mineral spirits if you wish, though you don't have to.

Mix, mix, mix, until you get a gloopy, evenly colored glob.  It helps to cut the top of the cup off at this point so it's easier to dip your bulbs.  Work fast now, because it will start to cure in as little as 5 minutes (which is why you don't want to make a huge batch of this stuff.

Dip your bulbs in the silicone until it touches the plastic at the top.  If you don't dip it in all the way it'll have a hard time adhering to the bulb and you'll find a lot of it just slips right off.  After the bulb is covered, slowly pull it out to create the nice little tail.  If you've thinned it out, you should have something like above.  It's covered in a very thin layer with a short tail.  If you want a thicker layer with a longer tail, leave the silicone full thickness and pull the bulb out VERY slowly.

 
Take your time with this.  It's not hard to do, but it takes time to learn the best technique to achieve the look you desire.  If you don't like the way it's looking, wipe it off with a rag soaked in mineral spirits before it cures and you can try again, no harm done. 
This is so much fun, and I can see the applications year round!  Can you just imagine the Halloween lights?!  Oh, I'm daydreaming again.
 
Happy Holidays,
Nicole
 


Saturday, December 7, 2013

"Gingerbread" trees

I love doing crafts with my kids, and holiday crafts are no exception.  The problem with Christmas crafts?  They're all so messy and time consuming!  Maybe they're meant to be done while everyone is on Christmas holiday from school and work, but in my house, there still doesn't seem to be enough time. 

Growing up, I always LOVED making gingerbread houses out of graham crackers and royal icing, but even the thought of doing that with my three kids is daunting.  So instead, we're making "gingerbread" Christmas trees:

 
 

These are so much fun, and can be as long or short a project as you'd like.  It's simply a waffle ice cream cone, turned on it's head, frosted with green icing, and decorated with anything you'd like!  Including a zebra, and zebra droppings... My family has a twisted sense of humor, but that's how we like it.

My 5 year old had the patience to fully frost hers and thoroughly decorate, but my 3 year old just globbed some icing on, a few m&m's and started eating.  Oh well.  I wasn't at all disappointed because I hadn't invested hours into the prep the way my mother used to when my sister and I were younger.  (I appreciate it mom, but I just don't have the patience for it myself).

I hope you make some of these, and come up with some GREAT 'ornaments' to put on your tree.  Send me some pictures of your edible holiday creations, I'd love to see them, and even share them here on my blog!

Have a sweet night,
Nicole

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

doodle shoes

So my daughter wanted some shoes that were "not boring," but all we could agree on in the store were glittered or sequined.  While I know they're beautiful and tempting to buy, they're expensive and don't wear well.  Since Quinn is very active, I knew we needed something that would last better. So I took this old, well worn pair of $5 sneakers that she wouldn't wear anymore, and made something she wanted to wear:


Obviously, they aren't perfect.  But I saved them from the landfill and gave them at least a few more months of life.  These are nothing more than freehand doodling with a paint pen.  Because these shoes were canvas, the paint soaked into them well and didn't rub off for anything.  I didn't use any coating on them or anything, though I'd imagine you could use a waterproof canvas coating to give them a really long lifespan. 

[update: She outgrew these shoes before the doodling wore off.  She wore these shoes for months and the doodling only wore off slightly on the toe where she drags her shoe when she walks.]

Happy Doodling,
Nicole