Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Big Wag of the Finger to BoA

Bank of America is officially on my Bitch List.

Mark and I have been working VERY hard at getting our finances in order.  Actually, we've been working very hard at it for quite a long time, but we're finally to the point where we are SO close to being completely debt-free (not counting our mortgage of course :) ) that we can taste it. 

Recently, we paid off a credit card which I had through Bank of America that had a small balance from paying a few medical bills when I was pregnant with Jack.  I don't know why we chose to put some bills on this card, but it was one of those, oh we'll put it on here and then pay it right off and of course we never did because that's how the blood suckers get you! 

I opened this particular card to help establish credit when I was 18 years old.  I have hardly ever carried a balance on it, but rather paid it off every month.  At one point they even cut my credit line considerably because they said they had to rein it in since it wasn't being utilized.  Seems really dumb, and unnecessary, but whatever even though I think it's crap I wasn't using it anyway and I guess it's their prerogative. 

So, anyway, back to why I'm angry - We paid off the balance a couple weeks ago and today we see an alert on Mint.com (GREAT tool, by the way!) for an $59 annual fee assessed by Bank of America.

My first response, Uhm, NO!  I've never had an annual fee on any credit card and I don't intend to start now.  So I immediately give them a call expecting that surely they'll be able to work with me on this.  I've had the card for nearly 7 years now and I've never had a late payment. 

Which, side note: therein lies the true problem I'm TOO good of a customer.  I pay my bills, I rarely carry a balance and if I do, it's not a large balance, they just aren't making enough money off of me.

Our conversation goes a little like this:

Me:  I'm calling to find out why I have an annual fee on my card now.

Bloodsucker Representative:  Well, we have the right to change your terms of service and we did.  Your current interest rate of 11.75% is below fair market value so to recoup our money we need to assess an annual fee of $59. 

Me:  Is there any way to waive the fee?

BR:  No. 

Me:  Is there any way to raise my interest rate and therefore waive the fee?

BR:  No. 

Me:  So... there's no way I can get around the annual fee?  I'd really like to keep the card.

BR:  No.  You can choose to close the account if you don't want the annual fee. 

Me:  Okay, I'd like to close the account.  How do I do that?

BR:  Okay.  I can do it for you right now. 


No negotiation.  No compromise.  They didn't even pretend like they cared to keep me as a customer.  Actually, they seemed quite overly anxious to dump me. 

I'm actually more annoyed with them about their crappy customer service regarding this issue than I was about the annual fee to begin with - although I'm fairly upset about that as well. 

I completely understand the way credit card companies work and that they exist to make money.  And just like any other large corporation, they're not there to make a living wage, they're there to make LOTS of money.  More, and more money every year, so they're always going to be searching for a new fun way to screw over their consumers in order to squeeze another dime out of their pockets.  But how they're going to make any money off of forcing customers to leave them is beyond my comprehension.  While I was a customer they at least had the potential to make money.  Now they don't.  I realize I'm small fish to them, but if that's how they treat all their small customers it surely must add up to something! 

So anyway, I did choose to close the account.  I'm frustrated that they put me in that position and I know it might have a negative impact on my credit score, but I'm not going to be bullied into paying a credit card company $59 annually to keep a $2000 credit line open for me.  Sorry, it's just not worth it.  I still have one other card with no balance on it and if I'm interested in having a second, which I'm not at this time, there are plenty of companies out there with better customer service and no annual fee.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Meal Planning Monday - Week of April 24th

Sunday:  Easter - we'll be having a late lunch with family

Monday:  Roasted Chicken with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Carrots

Tuesday:  Lasagna with Garlic Bread and Green Beans

Wednesday:  Baked Chicken Teriyaki with Cheesy Potatoes and Broccoli - carried over from last week

Thursday:  Burritos

Friday:  Chicken Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Saturday:  White Bean Chicken Chili (CrockPot)

I'm linked at OrgJunkie.com

Monday, April 18, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of April 17th

Sunday:  Chipotle Bean Burritos with Mexican Rice

Monday:  Baked Potato Bar with Steamed Broccoli

Tuesday:  Italian Subs with Green Beans

Wednesday:  Clam Chowder with Cheddar Biscuits

Thursday:  Baked Teriyaki Chicken with Cheesy Potatoes

Friday:  Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Saturday:  Burritos

I'm linked at OrgJunkie.com

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Magical Amber Necklace

Behold, the amber teething necklace:

Call me crazy.  Go 'head.  I'm sure you're not the first!  But I am officially a believer in the mystical powers of the amber teething necklace. 

A few weeks back Jack was having an awful time with teething!  It was as if the Teething Fairy (not to be confused with the Tooth Fairy.  The Teething Fairy is like her evil cousin.  She doesn't bring money, just tears) herself had come and plucked up our happy son and replaced him with a big ball of fuss. 

I laugh at my naive self of a few short months ago, momma of a baby with 7 teeth and smugly thinking that the Teething Fairy just didn't know where to find us!  Ho ho!  Even though Jack successfully managed to bring forth 7 teeth with no warning until they popped through into his happily smiling mouth, we just hadn't experienced the REAL teething.  Apparently for us this didn't come until he started to work on his molars.  And once he did, whoa buddy it was a different story! 

He had the full range of possible teething symptoms - fever, clear, snotty nose, fussiness, multiple wake ups overnight, diapers that were... well, just trust me on this, there were a lot of them and they weren't pleasant!, and to top it all off he had a lack of appetite and was refusing EVERYTHING, but jarred baby food.  I'm guessing this is because jarred baby food seems to be pureed to within an inch of it's life and it was probably easier to eat than anything he had to think about chewing. 

Needless to say, after a week of this Mark and I were at our wits end.  We just didn't know what to do!  We tried all sorts of things to help Jack feel better, but at least one point during the day found us with an inconsolable baby.  We couldn't get him to chew on anything for relief, teething tablets seemed to do nothing, and even though we aren't huge fans of over the counter pain relievers we did dose him when he was clearly in pain and couldn't be comforted, but even then the relief only seemed to last a very short time. 

At the end of this hellacious week I suggested to Mark that we track down an amber teething necklace.  I had heard a lot of great things about them and brought it up to him before, but, as he is with nearly all my ideas at first, he was quite skeptical.  This time he was so in want of relief for Jack that he'd try anything!  So, we took a trip to our local natural family store (VERY cool place by the way, check it out if you're local!) and sought out an amber teething necklace.  $24 later we had necklace in hand and put it on Jack to try out the powah! 

The necklace is made of Baltic Amber beads.  Amber contains a property called Succinic Acid, a natural analgesic which helps reduce pain and inflammation.  When the beads come into contact with skin it warms the beads and absorbs this property.  There is more information and a full list of it's benefits HERE

So, how'd it work?

I'm elated to say that (seemingly) this necklace has helped immensely!  Now, I'm fully aware that any benefit could be a total coincidence, but we put the necklace on Jack in the early afternoon.  By that evening he was feeling noticeably better.  That night, he slept through the night!  This is huge considering he had been getting up 2-3 times overnight all during the week leading up to that day AND he wasn't sleeping through the night on a normal night at that time to begin with!  HUGE, I tell ya!  The following day he was back to his normal, happy self and I was truly grateful.  Best money I've spent as of late!

He's been wearing it for about 4 weeks or so now and we've had no teething trouble since then.  Also, for those who are wondering, he keeps it on 24/7 and he isn't aware that it's on him.  We usually keep it tucked down in his shirt so that it has full contact with his skin.  He hasn't messed with it at all and it's so short that he wouldn't be able to get it near his mouth even if he tried.  The beads are also tied individually so if it happened to break there wouldn't be a bunch of little choking hazards rolling around.

So, it's true.  I'm a full convert to the power of amber.  I will 100% recommend this to anyone experiencing teething trouble or any other sort of persistent pain.  If you're constantly having to dose your child with over the counter pain reliever to help with teething pain definitely check out an amber necklace.  It's a much safer, gentler alternative! 

Note: I was not provided with a free necklace or compensated in any way for this review.  I merely want to give a shout out to this amazing product and inform weary mothers that there's an effective option out there that I hope works as well for them and their babies as it has for us!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of April 10th

Sunday:  Burgers with Cheesy Potatoes and Grilled Zucchini

Monday:  Chipotle Cheddar Chicken Panini with Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries - carried over from last week

Tuesday:  Baked Chicken Chimichangas with Deluxe Tomatillo Sauce with Corn

Wednesday:  Honey Chipotle Glazed Chicken with Elly's World Famous Black Beans

Thursday:  Grilled Salmon with Asparagus with Tomatoes and Feta

Friday:  Bacon Pierogi Bake with Green Beans

Saturday:  Pizza

I'm linked at OrgJunkie.com

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Works for Me Wednesday: Time and Money Saving Kitchen Tips

I recently saw on a daytime TV show that you can save yourself time in the kitchen if you buy pre-prepped kitchen staples from the grocery store.  Things like pre-chopped onions, celery, and carrots and pre-peeled garlic.  Sure that's handy, but do you enjoy paying more for something you can easily do yourself?  I sure don't. 

Here are a few tricks I use in the kitchen to not only simplify but to make sure that I don't unnecessarily waste food!

The key:  Utilize your freezer! 

Our freezer used to be stocked with all sorts of processeds food until we discovered why real food is so much better for you.  So now, where those frozen pizzas, chicken fingers, and garlic bread slices from a box used to live, I keep all sorts of handy things:


If you only need a small amount of a vegetable chop the whole thing! 

For example, when I buy onions from the grocery store they are HUGE!  Like softball-sized huge!  When a recipe calls for a medium onion they are talking about an onion about 3 inches in diameter, about the size of a tennis ball.  Or better yet, I have many recipes which call for just 1/4 or 1/2-cup of onion, which isn't anywhere near a full onion. 

So, what I do is the first time that I need an onion I go ahead and cut up the whole thing.  I note the recipes that are coming up later in the week to see if I need onion within the next few days.  If so, I'll cut the needed amount of onion to specifications and then put it in a container in the fridge so I can pull it out later in the week.  If I don't need anymore onion that week, or I still have extra left over I just chop it up and put it in a sandwich baggie and toss it into the freezer.  It's so handy to have there because so many recipes call for onion! 

When I need it I just dump it straight from the bag in the freezer into a hot waiting pan to saute.  It's already chopped so it defrosts quickly during the cooking process!  I use this same method for celery, carrots, and green peppers as well. 

To save even more money, think ahead and buy things on sale and then prep them and put them in the freezer so they're still good when you need them!  I did this with peppers at the end of last summer because they were $0.50 each at the farmer's market, while they can be found at the grocery store for as much as $2-$3 each over the Winter! 

Ginger is something else that freezes really well!  Usually you buy a large piece of ginger root and a little freshly grated ginger goes a long way.  Just toss the remaining root into the freezer in a baggie, peel and all, and it'll still be fresh when you need it again!

A few other freezer tips to save money, food, and time:

Make ahead freezer meals:  There are TONS of recipes floating around the interwebz that are specifically suggested to make ahead and freeze, but my favorite thing to do is package large recipes (or doubled small recipes) into two pans (one to eat the night of, one to pop in the freezer for a later time).  This way, it's no extra work, but I save money by making sure that all the food gets eaten and I have backup reserves in my freezer for days that I need food ready fast which keeps us from the temptation of ordering in!

Freezer foods that have worked out really well for us:

Pizza Sauce (I've also heard you can do pizza crust/dough, but I haven't tried this yet, although I'm planning to!)
Chicken Enchiladas
Garlic Bread
I'm just using up the last of a big batch of Pesto that I made with fresh basil purchased at the farmer's market last summer. 

Most soups, lasagna/casserole type dishes, and breads freeze well.  Homemade bread whether it's a typical sandwich loaf, quick bread, waffles, pancakes or muffins all need to be eaten within a few days, which is sometimes hard to do with only 2 adults in the house so I always freeze whatever I know we won't get to within a day or 2 so that it stays fresh. 

Cheese and butter are also good options for freezing and obviously all varieties of meat freeze well. 

Broths/Stocks are another good idea to keep in your freezer.  If I have leftover store bought broth I'll just pour it into a container and mark how much is in there so I can use it up next time.  Likewise, you can make your own broth/stock at your convenience and then freeze it into 1-2 cup portions.

I'm planning to try to cook some dried beans and package them into can-sized servings for when I need them.  I also know that some people like to keep cooked ground beef, shredded chicken, and taco meat on hand in the freezer so it's ready to go when they need it for something! 

I'm linking up with We are THAT Family for Works for Me Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Recommended Reading

Lesson 12: Working Moms vs. Stay-at-Home Moms -- Worst Cage Match Ever - In response to yet another recently published study which examines why children of moms who work outside the home will grow up to hate life, this blogger humorously examines the pros and cons of both walks of life.  I definitely gigglesnorted when I got to, "Your partner wants to rest after a long day of work and they don’t understand that you need to rest too and they say something like, “Why? What did you do all day? This house is a wreck” and then you have to go to jail for stabbing them in the shoulder".

Vitamin D & Preeclampsia Connection - This post talks about a study which has found a link between the levels of vitamin D in a mother's bloodstream and the likelihood of developing early onset Preeclampsia.  It links to a really interesting study and I hope with some more research doctors will have found a way to lessen a women's chance of developing this somewhat common complication.
When Food Dyes Color Our Child's Behavior - Yet another reason to avoid processed foods.  This article talks about the negative impact that manufactured food dyes have on our health, and of course on the health of still developing bodies.

AAP: Toddlers in Rear-Facing Seat Until 2 - The American Academy of Pediatrics has finally changed their wording to be more beneficial.  They have always recommended that children remain rear-facing as long as their car seat allows, but previously they had advised parents that the minimum to consider turning their child's car seat was 1 year and 20 lbs.  Thankfully, they have revised the wording to set the minimum recommendation at 2 years, but again, parents should still defer to their individual car seat manufacturer's recommendation.  I'm so glad that they have changed the wording.  I've previously talked about my feelings on this topic here.  We have always planned on keeping Jack rear-facing until at least age 2.

Monsters Inc. How to thwart the $17 billion marketing effort to steal your kids' dreams, infiltrate their friendships, plaster their PJs with logos, hijack their imaginations, fragment their attention spans, make them obese, and drive a wedge into their relationship with you. - Scary article on advertising to children.  I read a book about this called Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood.  If you like the article and want more information I would recommend reading it.  It's terrifying as a parent to feel like you're up against this giant, multi-million dollar industry because even with the best of efforts there's pretty much no way to shield your child completely from marketing.  Beginning at a terribly young, impressionable age, they methodically infiltrate everything, including schools, to teach children who to admire, what foods to eat, and how to dress, among other things and there are serious ramifications.  It's terrible that there's little to no restrictions on this type of thing in the U.S., but of course some other European countries have it figured out. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of April 3rd

Sunday:  Homemade Pizza - carried over from last week

Monday:  Spicy Bean Burritos with Mexican Rice

Tuesday:  Southwestern Pasta and Cheese with Green Beans

Wednesday:  Grilled Buffalo Chicken wraps with Ranch Wedges

Thursday:  Baked Chicken Chimichangas & Deluxe Tomatillo Sauce with Elly's World Famous Black Beans

Friday:  Pizza

Saturday:  Chipotle Cheddar Chicken Panini with Sweet Potato Fries

I'm linked at OrgJunkie.com