Archive for February, 2012

Well, I finally joined the band wagon and got a smart phone – the iPhone 4S to be exact. My contract had been up for renewal for a while, but I had been holding off because my old basic phone works just fine and I refuse to pay for the internet _again_. Since I work from home most days, I’m never far from a laptop, and my home wifi. A smart phone would mean I have to pay for a $30/month data plan. That’s $360 a year! When we’re already paying for home internet and Domingo’s data plan! Even with me borrowing his phone, we don’t come close to his data limits. (Have I mentioned that I’m cheap?)

Lily helping mommy learn how to use the phone.

Domingo has been trying to convince me to get a smart phone for the past two years. Ever since he got his. He tried to convince me a smart phone would be useful when shopping to price check sales to make sure the final price is actually a good one. It would have been a good argument, if I typically shop by myself. But we’re usually together when shopping and he does have a smart phone. It’s not like we need two phones to price check. He also argued it would be useful to check what’s safe to eat during pregnancy, but again, we tend to eat together so I’m never far from his phone.

However, I’ve finally been convinced it was time to upgrade, but it’s not the access to the internet that convinced me. It’s the camera & HD video on the phone that finally did me in. I love my DSLR and new camcorder, but, let’s be honest, the best camera for taking photos is the one you have at your fingertips. I’m not going to have the DSLR by my side all time, nor am I going to be able to run downstairs and get it whenever the baby does something cute. We figured we’d get the phone a few months before the baby comes so I could get used to it. But when we saw the iPhone 4S was on sale, I figured I would take the plunge.

One thing I didn’t expect is how often I use the phone at home pre baby. It’s true that I am on my laptop more often, but it’s nice to be able to grab the phone while still in bed to check mail & news before getting up and starting the day. Or something will pop into my head as I’m going to sleep and I’ll look something up on my phone, or send a quick email. Given how many days a week I take a nap, it’s been a convenience for sure.

Of course, now I’m committed to the data plan for two years, so I have to make use of it! Here’s hoping I don’t I continue to think that $30 a month is worth it.

February 24, 2012

One Year Blogiversary

One year ago I made the plunge from my own home grown blogging software to WordPress. At the time I was at a cross roads with my website. I wanted to preserve what I had built as a teenager, but the old website no longer ‘fit’ me. After much back and forth, I decided to give WordPress a try.

It’s been an exciting year, one I’m very happy to have the chance to blog about. Over the summer I had an internship at Bing in Seattle, which meant spending the summer away from my husband. Of course, there’s the exciting news of our pregnancy, something I have been waiting for for so long. I was also pinned on pinterest, which I’m still over the moon about! I love looking back at the highlights.

So far I don’t think I have any regular readers. I hope that changes one day. I’ve had some good advice, both over email and comments about the cake pops, and I know some you have great crafting/travel/saving tips, and I’d love to hear them!

While the change to wordpress has been great in general, there’s one thing that annoys me. I often go back over old entries and fix typos. (I’m dyslexic so there are always quite a few.) Each time I re-edit a blog post all the back links get updated to reflect the date of the edit, not the date of the first post. I guess it makes sense, since the first edition may not have had the reference, but I’d rather pretend the typos never existed.

Interestingly, I’ve gotten three requests for advertisers wanting to buy ad space on certain posts. Three! I’ve turned them down. Sure it would be nice to supplement (or replace!) my grad school stipend with revenue from my blog, but I’m missing the two most important features for a blog from an advertiser’s perspective: an audience and a clear focus. Since so much of my blog is about saving money, I’m also not sure how accepting specific advertisements will affect my credibility. Also, I’m pretty sure these offers were spam and not legitimate requests for ad placement.

I may revisit the idea of accepting advertising or sponsorship sometime in the future, but for now I think I’ll stick with Amazon’s Affiliate Program and Google AdSense. After a year of blogging, I’ve earned a full dollar!

February 23, 2012

Early Nesting

Well, actually I _wish_ it was early nesting. I’ve actually been low energy lately, so it’s a lot of forcing myself off the couch. We’re making lists of things that need to happen before baby comes. Wow are there a lot of things that need to get done! We have 18 weeks left, give or take, and I’m starting to freak out a little.

First and foremost we need to make room for baby. Despite my best efforts, I’m still not great with clutter. I have _so much clothes_. We’re converting the guest room into a nursery, but that means figuring out what to do with everything currently being stored there. Over the past year the guest room has become a sort of office annex, with all the extra books, software, music CDs etc. We’ve already dealt with the music CDs by giving away the ones we no longer listen to. The books are harder, since most are still relevant reference materials that we use. I still have my text books from college, which I’m kind of attached to. Then there’s the furniture. I don’t even want to think about how to address that yet.

In terms of safety, half our smoke alarms are missing batteries. Woops. There’s also a new law in California to require carbon monoxide detectors for homes with attached garages as of July 1st. When we had structural work done to our house shortly after moving in, the city inspected the fire alarms (even though they were nowhere near the work.) If we have to do work again, or sell the home some day, a carbon monoxide detector will be needed for our home to be up to ‘code’. If we need to get one anyway, we might as well get one now to protect our growing family.

Then there’s the repair work. Our home’s previous owner was a bit of a DIYer, only he/she wasn’t very good. She screwed the toilet roll holder directly into the drywall, without reinforcements, so of course it’s loose and falling off. She also installed a makeshift window seat, that’s similarly loose and wobbly. Every time the cat jumps on it, I think it’s going to fall down. Not something we want when zippy starts cruising!

Lastly I want to do a deep clean. I know we’ll be doing only surface cleaning once the baby comes (vacuuming, whipping of surfaces, etc). I want to do one of those really deep cleanings you do before showing your house to be sold, getting into every nook and cranny. I’m also including minor fixes and repairs. That way, a few weeks (months?) of light cleaning won’t be so bad.

So much still to do, so little time.

February 20, 2012

My Coupon Identity

There’s an article that’s been making its rounds through the news groups I follow. It’s about how Target’s advertising algorithms were able to predict a teenage girl was pregnant, before she told her family.

Target looks at shifts of patterns in shopping behaviors as clues. For example, pregnant women are often sensitive to certain scents. If I woman stops buying regular lotion in favor of fragrance free, it may be because she’s pregnant. Target uses several clues before it makes any assumptions, and offers coupons in hopes to attracting the mom-to-be to use target as her baby store. Of course there are other ways of predicting pregnancy. If a person issues query about pregnancy to search engines, or likes baby products, there’s a possibility that he or she may be anticipating a little bundle of joy.

This is interesting to me on multiple levels. My research at school includes interest modeling for advertising, and I am a big data mining geek. And, of course, there’s my interest in dynamic pricing. I’m can’t help but be curious what these advertising models think about me. I’m ‘out’ on facebook; I’ve posted several baby related statuses. I search google for pregnancy related information all the time. I’ve purchased maternity clothes at Target (that should be a much bigger clue than buying fragrance free hand lotion.) I should be rolling in pregnancy/baby ads.

So far, nada.

Actually, it’s worse than nothing. The ads on my Facebook page are for fertility clinics. GMail is a little better, at least I’ve seen a 529 Plan (college savings account) advertised. Of course in the same batch of ads I also got a bridal shower invitation advertisements, which, given that we’re approaching our second anniversary, would be an awfully late shower. In fairness to Facebook, they have relevant ads as well, just nothing baby related.

The theme appears to be focusing on the long term past too much. At one point I was planning a wedding, and trying to get pregnant. Bridal shower invitations and fertility clinics would have been more useful then. But life changes and what was once relevant does not necessarily stay relevant.

By the way, if you’re curious what google thinks you’re interested in, they have a handy utility.

February 18, 2012

Not So Grainy After All

You remember how I was all excited that we were eating healthier? We were reducing sugar, and eating more whole grain? Yeah, apparently I was falling for market hype. And now the FDA is upset with misleading labels. Part of the problem is there hasn’t been a standard for what a “good” or “excellent” source of whole grain is. The new rules will require manufactures list a gram or oz count, to avoid consumer confusion.

Remember those Eggo Waffles I thought were so good for us? They’re more white flower than whole wheat. There’s even an accusation of companies using food coloring to make products appear more like whole grain. It’s sneaky, to say the least. I’m sure this is part of the reason the FDA is getting involved. I’m not saying we would have avoided waffles had we realized the whole grain claim was misleading, but I certainly wouldn’t have paid a premium for them.

While this revelation is a bit discouraging, at least it’s not all bad news for us. I learned you can get a sense of the truthfulness behind whole grain claims by the fiber count. Whole grains are typically high in fiber. One tortilla roll has 48% of the daily fiber recommendation! And the bread we buy lists the number of grams of whole grain (11 per slice and 22 per sandwhich!), which is nearly half of the daily recommendation.

For now, I will stick to products that list a concrete amount of whole grain instead of vague claims like “made with whole grain”. I’ve always preferred ingredients I recognize (‘flour’, ‘sugar’, etc). I knew I was never going to be 100% whole grain, or 100% organic food, or any other healthy category. That was never the goal. We want to continually improve our eating habits. Hopefully with the new guide lines, we will continue to do that, and not be tricked into just thinking we’re eating healthier.

February 15, 2012

Still a Girl

Today was our second anatomy scan (a/s). Yep, Zippy was so uncooperative last time that they weren’t able to get all the images they wanted to see the first time around, so we needed to repeat the scan. The previous technician sort of warned us this might happened. During today’s scan they look at everything again, including double checking her gender. This makes three ultrasounds were she was predicted to be a girl. While I suppose there’s always a chance an ultrasound was wrong, the odds that all three are wrong are pretty slim so I think it’s safe to paint the nursery.

Needing to go in for a second anatomy scan was a little nerve racking. We knew there was something they didn’t like on the first scan, so we would be seeing a perinatologist (a high risk specialist). It also didn’t help my fears that when they couldn’t reach me by phone they still went ahead and booked us at the earliest appointment. Our midwife tried to assure us that the doctor was just being cautious, and the only reason to bring us back in was because they didn’t get enough images the first time around. She said these things happen about a third of the time. When I kept asking questions she pulled up our file and let it slip that they needed more pictures of the brain. That’s when I really started to panic – it’s kind of an important organ!

But I’m happy to report everything looked great! She’s a very healthy little girl. What had concerned them before turned out to be just a miss measurement.

As an added benefit of the second anatomy scan, the specialists had one of those neat 4D ultrasound machines. (The first place we had the a/s didn’t have the capability.) This early, the 3D scan looks a little weird. I keep referring to it as the ‘lumpy baby’ or the ‘alien baby’.

Zippy at 13 weeks

Zippy at 21 weeks, lounging away

And I thought those predict what your future baby would look like simulates generated scary images!

The technician did confirm that her position is very close to the surface. This could be why we’ve been able to feel so much movement so early on. It’s also part of the reason why the ultrasound technicians always struggle with her. Just like in photography, the depth of field is determined partial by the focusing distance. Since zippy is so close to the surface, the focusing distance (distance between the ultrasound wand and zippy) is small. Therefore the depth of field is shallow. This means the technician often can’t focus on multiple things at once. The technician joked I needed more “padding” to make things easier. Ha!

I’m a little sad that this will be the last time we get to see our baby girl until she arrives. I have to admit I’m tempted to do an elective scan just to see her again at 30 weeks when the 3D scan will look less alien like. I’m torn. There’s no medical need for an additional scan, and I know once she’s born, the ultrasound pictures will not be as exciting as photos of her! On the other hand, she’s our first and no more ultrasounds means waiting 19ish weeks to see her again.

We’re 20 weeks today! I can’t believe how much I’m showing since this is our first. I think it has a lot to do with her position. A couple weeks ago Domingo started feeling fetal kicks from the outside. At only 18 weeks. That’s crazy early for a ‘first’! Despite the colossal 20 week bump, weight gain has been non-existent. For the first trimester into the beginning of the second trimester I’ve actually lost weight, but I had the weight to lose so I’m not complaining.

We had our anatomy scan a week ago, so I can happily report Zippy is a girl! She is doing great although she continues to be very active and a non-cooperator. During the appointment, the ultrasound technician saw my belly move with a colossal kick. We were only 19 weeks and 1 day at the time! Neither Domingo nor I saw it (though I did feel it), as we were focused on the monitor. But at least I know I’m not crazy when I say I can already feel so much movement. If the technician can see the kick, than it’s reasonable to assume Domingo really was feeling it.

As for the non-cooperation part, zippy was hanging out pretty low. The technician was having a hard time getting the images she needed, so she ended up tilting the table so my head was lower than my feet in hopes that gravity would help slide zippy into a better position. I think that is why she started kicking so feverishly, she didn’t want to move!

I can’t wait to meet our little girl, she has so much personality already.

February 2, 2012

Gender Reveal Jewelery

With our anatomy scan a few days away, I’ve been thinking about creative ways to reveal baby’s gender to the world. I wanted to do something fun and quirky, but also subtle, that I could keep with me over the following twenty weeks. Since I’ve been itching to start another jewelry project, a mother’s pendant was the perfect fit.

A birds nest pendant with Swarovski pearls I made in 2010.

Completed mother’s pendant using rosaline and light blue swarovski pearls and silver wire

The pearls and jewelry wire came from Fusion Beads. Fusion Beads is great for this kind of project because they allow you to order just what you need. Their per-bead prices for these small projects are excellent. At any other craft store I’d have to buy a package of pearls, even though I only need three in each color.

I ordered 8 mm pearls in rosaline, powdered pink and light blue. Rosaline is closer to what I normally think of as baby girl pink, but I tend to prefer darker, dusty pinks. The pearls were on sale for 13 cents a piece when I ordered, but even at 23 cents (the current price), it’s not too costly to purchase a few extras if you’re not sure which color you want. I splurged on the wire and got non-tarnish 24 gauge wire for $4.16 (current list price is $4.90). Total cost of the project $5.33.

To make this pendant, start out with with about five feet of wire. Insert three beads onto the end and make a loop to end the wire.

Wrap the wire around so the three pearls are nestling tightly together.

Continue to wrap the wire around the pearl cluster. You’re going to want to periodically string the wire between the pearl cluster and wrap it around the loops to help hold them together. Chris cross behind of the pearl cluster as you go, it will help keep the loops from getting too unwindy and fill in some of the gaps. Don’t worry about being neat; messy is more bird like anyway.

Keep wrapping and looping the wire until you get a nest of desired size. I find it tends to look unfinished and sloppy for quite a while, and doesn’t look much like a birds nest until you get to the last foot or so of wire. When done, tuck the end of the wire behind the pearls.

I used three pearls so it would be more obvious that it’s a bird’s nest, but I’ve also made it before with singleton pearl. If you’re having multiples, you could easily adjust the pearl cluster to match the number of babies, or if you have children you could have each pearl represent a different child.

Team green? How about a pea pod necklace?