Apr 24, 2009

"The Frugal Family Guide"

I love Newsweek.  I disagree with it's slant and politics 96.7% of the time, but I still love it.  Can't help myself.  I regularly cancel my subscription in protest of their liberal bias--then see an intriguing cover story while waiting in the check-out line and re-subscribe.

The other day, I stumbled on a short gem of a piece that made all of my conflicting feelings worth it.

When I went to find the digital copy, I couldn't remember the title and therefore had to sift through dozens of bleak articles all related to money (or the lack thereof)--stories that may never have been written if more people were like the parents of Steve Tuttle.  

I, for one, am going to start trying harder!

The Frugal Family Guide

Be like my mom and dad: buy stuff you can afford.

Apr 23, 2009

22nd Annual Japan Day

***Northern Japan is in BLOOM!  See Doug's blog for the very first pictures!***

April 4th
Where? Edgren High School
Hosted by? Misawa International Club
What? Almost 30 classrooms filled with hands-on events and displays including calligraphy, kite making, clay, bonsai and a tea ceremony.

Some of the cool displays...
Max trying the Kogin embroidery under the watchful eye of a volunteer...

Beautiful Bonsai...
If you're the last person finished with your kite, be prepared to pose with the Kite Making Club!

Sometimes I forget he's only 7...and he's 31...
--The End--

Apr 22, 2009

Living with Boys*...still.

"Max's Dresser"

Believe it or not, this photo has NOT been staged or re-touched!!!  This is really what Max's dresser looks like at this very moment!!!

P.S.  Are you a Follower of this blog?  Have you taken me to your Reader?  If not, get on it!  All you have to do is copy (www.actegratuit.blogspot.com) and paste!

*An on-going photo essay of what it actually looks like inside a house inhabited by three little boys, one big boy, and one mama who isn't overly tidy!

Apr 21, 2009


...but only three of you are getting free jewelry...!

I wrote down all of your entries, assigned them numbers, then used random.org to select 3 numbers. (No kids on the trampoline to help this time.)  Should have done it two days ago...after all, I have things to do, places to go, pots to make...!

But anyway, without further ado, here are the winners:

#1  (Black Chandelier)   Melonie  (A new reader who got bonus entries for blogging about the contest.  It paid off!)
#2 (Charcoal) Michemily

#3  (very popular Red Carnelian)  The Wifers 

Congrats Ladies!  I'm happy for you!  And jealous!!!  Please drop me an e-mail (emilydeon(at)gmail(dot)com) to collect your prize!

Kylie, thanks for letting me host this fun contest!  I loved it!  And I'll be contacting you shortly with my Mother's Day order!!! 

If you DIDN'T win this time, DON'T FRET!!!  Just use Snapdragon Jewelry to get your Mother's Day shopping done!   The Ladies are LOVIN' this stuff!  Get it before it's gone!
(plus you can still get 20% off using the promotion code: acte gratuit!!!)

Have a fabulous day, you big winner you!!!

P.S.  Be sure to add www.actegratuit.blogspot.com and www.gratuitousreviews.blogspot.com to your blog roll or Reader so you don't miss out on any future contests!!!  (Or wit.  Or pictures of my adorable children.  I have a lot to offer here, people!)

Apr 15, 2009

Life Update

***Time is running out!!! Leave a comment on the post below to enter to win!!!!!***

The start of this week wasn't much fun at the Dub household. On Sunday night, Sammy woke up with the flu which cursed him until Tuesday. On Monday, Doug caught it, came home from work sick and stayed home Tuesday. Wednesday morning, Max woke up puking and consequently missed school Wednesday and Thursday.Gabe and I somehow managed to avoid the scourge and we were all able to enjoy a day off on Friday.

Despite all the upheaval earlier in the week, (pun intended) we have had some rays of sunshine. For example, SUNSHINE! Monday was hands-down the nicest day of the year. When Doug came home sick at lunch, he found Gabe and I on the trampoline soaking up the sun. When I came in to make pb&j's, he proceeded to take a restorative nap mid-tramp. It felt so good to walk outside with short sleeves and not have to worry about an icy breeze or sleet storm!

In other news, some neighbors of ours have FINALLY arrived home after an extended Spring Break trip to Singapore! (Evidently they don't fly hops on Good Friday. Who knew?) When their 3rd grade son Jonathan arrived on our doorstep Thursday morning to pick-up Max, (to walk to school) he was rewarded with two skinny arms being flung around his neck for a three minute long hug! Max has really been missing his friend!

Speaking of Max, I just heard from his teacher that I'm not required to meet with her for a Parent/Teacher conference this round. Why? Because he's doing REALLY WELL!!!! HOORAY! (And no, he's not being medicated!) There have been a few issues through-out the year, (including one trip to the Vice Principle for elbowing a little boy in the stomach), but other than that, he's doing great!

What about Sammy-Boy you ask? Well, he hasn't had to be carried screaming to the carpool car in days! That's about all I can say at the moment. (Update: Sammy came very close to being carried screaming to our car this morning for church.)

Since I updated you on the oldest two, I may as well keep going...

Gabe is alternately sweet and stinkerish. He has taken to calling "Mom-mom-mom-mom-mom-mom!" non-stop all day, every day--while following me from room to room. He drools like a leaky faucet, loves his "dee-dee" (binky) and his brothers; Ahsss and No-name. (When I say "Can you say 'Sam'?" he shakes his head, glares, and says "Uh-uh!") He loves jumping on the trampoline with the big boys and has to be watched extra carefully now that he knows how to open the front door and escape to the great beyond. (Which is wherever his brothers are.)

Doug is enjoying work because he gets to do lots of cool stuff. Like poke and prod and graft and stitch and saw and drill in little people's mouths. (I'm pretty sure those are all the technical terms.)

I am immensely enjoying my new gig as a pottery teacher. I teach two nights a week this month. (Wheel on Wednesday, Hand-building on Thursday.) and one class for home-schooled kids for an hour on Friday. (Gabe gets to come to that one with me.) I'm raking in the dough (about $8/hour) and am planning to buy a beach house in Carlsbad with my newly acquired wealth.

It really is a fun job and I'm extremely proud of all of my students. Especially this one:

Well, this is starting to sound like my Christmas letters, so I think that means I should wrap up. (Get it? Christmas...wrap...like wrapping paper....boy, I'm funny.)

Stay tuned for "Japan Day" and "Tales From The Party Bus" coming soon.

-The End-

You may now comment freely!

Apr 14, 2009

Another Fabulous Giveaway!

I have some great news people!  I already have another FABULOUS giveaway for you!!!  Just in time for MOTHER'S DAY!!!!  Yes!  So soon after the Frame-Name giveaway!  You should be feeling extra loved!  (If you are one of the five Frame-Name winners, be sure to cash in!  My dad wants to send you your prize!!!)

So here's a little back story since I LOVE back story:  
(Or you can just skip right to the giveaway details.)

When I was 16, I moved with my mom from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Carlsbad, California.   I (tragically) left a tight group of friends back in Salt Lake.  My best friend, Ang, fortunately didn't forget about me and we stayed close despite being a few states apart.  After I left, Ang did something unforeseen.  She got into Ska.  No, it's not some crazy illicit drug.  It's a musical style. (genre?)  Sort-of a mixture of Reggae and Punk and Big Band (high school band?) and abject silliness.

At some point, I think at a Ska concert, Ang met Kylie who went to another area High School and also liked Ska. (Alta?  Highland?)  And then at some other point, I met Kylie through Ang.  I'm thinking I met her in California.  But it's quite possible I met her on a visit back to S.L.C.  Anyhoo...

She's a super cool girl.  And she married the big brother (Jonathon who is super funny) of another friend of ours, Malia.  (Who stole my Moses collage freshman year.  I'm still waiting to get him back.)   And we kept in touch.  And whenever I threw a party with my roommates in Provo (Party-o) I invited Kylie and Jonathon to come down from Salt Lake.  And they usually did.

Since I've known her, Kylie has never stopped doing artistic and creative things.  First, she was in a band...(possibly still is?)  Then she went to school for Graphic Design and worked as a Graphic Designer doing really super cool stuff.  Then she and her cousin Shawna started their own jewelry business:  Snapdragon Jewelry 

And they make some VERY COOL STUFF!  And they want to give some of it away to YOU!   Lucky, lucky YOU! 

Giveaway Details:  Snapdragon Jewelry is generously offering three beautiful prizes:  (All found in their Etsy shop.)

Description:  Try our sleek and whimsical Black Onyx Earrings! They are hand-wired Chandelier Earrings with black Onyx beads, sterling silver wire and hooks.
I love these because a) I love black, and b) they would make a statement without being too heavy.

#2  Charcoal Glass Earrings
Description:  Our sleek and sophisticated Charcoal Earrings will add glamour to any style. Made with Charcoal colored foil glass beads hanging on hand-shaped sterling silver hooks; Hangs about 1.85”  You could basically wear these every day and look super hot and chic.

Description:  Try out our beautiful crimson Carnelian Earrings. They're perfect for Mother's Day! Deep red Carnelian beads and sterling silver wire and hooks; Hangs about 1.25”
I love red.  LOVE IT!  Red is the perfect color to add punch to whatever you're wearing!  So pretty!

Here's the dealio:  To enter to win, leave a comment on THIS POST saying which jewelry item you love the best!  Either one of these three, or something else from their fabulous Etsy shop or Snapd website.

To get an EXTRA TWO entries, put a link to this post on your blog (and tell me you did it in the comments.)

Anything from Snapdragon Jewelry would make a GREAT Mother's Day gift for YOU (If you are married just do the shopping for your husband.  He'll thank you for it!), or your WIFE, (I know I have 5 or so male readers out there!  You can thank me for this fabulous gift idea later.) or your MOM!  (Honestly, you should be giving your Mom a new house since she DID give you life.  But she'll love this jewelry just as much.  Mom's are good that way.) 

And since not everyone can win, (especially if you're too lazy to enter.) Snapdragon Jewelry is offering a generous 20% discount on their already affordable items to my readers.  

(To take advantage of the 20% discount: e-mail snapdragonjewelry@gmail.com with the item you'd like and "acte gratuit" for the promotion code and you'll get an invoice e-mailed back to you. OR purchase directly from the Etsy store.  Enter "acte gratuit" in the "message to seller" box and DO NOT finalize the order...Kylie will send you an updated invoice first.)

So chop-chop people!!!  Mother's Day is coming right up!!!

We're going to give this 5 days!  You have until noon on Monday to enter (Japan time) and winners will be announced shortly thereafter.  (Which is Sunday night for all y'all.)

 I leave you with--
A few other little beauties to tempt you...

(The above sets were found on www.snapd.net.  Happy shopping!!!)

What's in a Name...?

When my sister Jenny was little, she had a hard time saying "Brandon".  The name of my big brother who is 3 years older than Jenny and 7 years older than me.  So she dubbed him "Bubba" and it stuck.  To this day, he is still referred to as "Bubba" by my siblings and parents.

So this begs the question:  Should I be concerned that Gabe (age=almost 2) pronounces "Max" (age 7) as "Ah-sssssss"...???

That's right.  Say it out loud.  "Ahssss".


Apr 12, 2009

Easter in Japan

Friday afternoon:
BBQ Lunch and Easter Egg Hunt for Med Group families outside the base hospital.  Creepy life-sized Bunny in attendance.  Numerous eggs gathered.  Max cashes in candy for nickels.

Saturday Morning:
Church Easter Pancake Breakfast and Egg Hunt.  (I'm the Activities Chair so I got to make the pancakes!)  Fortunately, no life-size Bunny in attendance.  Once again, numerous eggs gathered.  Max cashes in--again.

Saturday Afternoon:
Listened to General Conference

Sunday All Day:
More General Conference.   The talks were all excellent as usual.  We got a few games for Max and actually forced him to watch one whole two-hour session.  He did pretty well!  

Then our friends came for dinner (bringing most of it with them.)  It was OH so delicious!  
On the menu:  Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, Parker House Rolls, (THANK YOU ERIN!!!) Susan's Scrumptious Spinach Salad, Martinelli's Sparkling Cidar,  America's Test Kitchen Carrots, & Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce for dessert.  With a side of this little cutie pie...
Unlike Thanksgiving, when Gabe fell backwards off his seat and had to have his head stapled, and Christmas when I bashed my head on the bottom corner of a cupboard (blunting the corner permanently and requiring the three adults in the above picture to glue me back together...) NO ONE got injured at this gathering!!!  HOORAY!

Monday Morning:  The Easter Bunny, who is SO not talked-up in our family, finally decides to visit and leaves the boys baskets.

So what do you put in an Easter Basket when you're avoiding candy?  (Besides a "Frame-Name" which they didn't get since they both have two from Grandpa Dale.) A T-shirt, (Sam's is pictured below.  Max's say's "Batman for President") Shortbread Animal Cookies, Extra Sugar-Free Bubble Gum, mini cans of Japanese juice, (at least we think it's got juice in it...) a church book or C.D. and a banana if it's for Gabey.   

They did all get a Pez Dispenser too...but only because I found STAR WARS ones at the Commissary and couldn't pass them up.  I told Max just to throw his candy away and he was fine with that.  (You think we're being mean not giving him candy, but you should see the dollars signs gleaming in his eyes!  Believe me, he doesn't feel deprived at all!)

Me:  "Show me your new Easter Shirt Sammy!!!"
Sam:  "No mo pictoes, okay, Mom?"(Notice the laundry on the kitchen table?  It was placed there in the middle of the night when we had to put all of Sam's bedding in the wash after he threw-up.  Twice.  Unfortunately, Doug is sick now too.  Darn Misawa-Petri-Dish-of-Germs!)

All in all, it was a wonderful holiday.  And we're especially grateful for the Reason for the Season!  My friend Melissa says it very well on her blog!  

As does Elder Holland in this video clip:

Happy Easter everyone!!!

Apr 6, 2009

Two Pressing Japan Questions: ANSWERED!

People frequently ask, what (American Product) do you need that you can't get there?
Actually, between the BX and the Commissary, we're pretty well covered.  We have all of the staples.  The only thing is, there is no VARIETY!

For example: at the Commissary right now, I can get chocolate chips and baking chocolate.  But can I get the brands I want?  The good kinds that came in on top in the Cook's Illustrated Taste Tests?!  
I cannot.  
I can get Tollhouse Chocolate Chips and Baker's Baking Chocolate.  Passable, but definitely not extraordinary.

I can get Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil which earned a "Not Recommended"  (*See below for the review.)  But not Columela which came in on top at "Highly Recommended".

I can get facial moisturizer, but I canNOT get Clean and Clear Oil Free Dual Action Moisturizer. (I've been using it since 9th grade!  I can't switch now!!!) 

Today we went to the BX to look for new Crocs for the boys.  And what did we find?  Well, Crocs.  For boys.  Name brand.  The problem is, I can't buy name brand.  In fact, my head might explode if I tried.  They cost something crazy like $24 a pair!  WHY would I pay that much when I can get them at Target or Wal-mart for $4 a pair?**  They're going to get trashed on asphalt either way.  It just ain't happenin'!

So there you go.  I don't actually NEED any emergency care packages.  (Unless you feel you must.  Then who am I to stand in the way of your better judgement.)

Next question:
What are some of the more obvious cultural differences?
Off the top of my head?  Cleanliness and Happiness!
"What's that you say?  We American's are clean and happy, aren't we!?!?"  
Well, maybe a little, I suppose, but let's look at the competition:

When is the last time you saw a CHEERY construction zone in America?

When is the last time you were greeted in a restaurant by no fewer than 6 smiling (GENUINELY HAPPY!) employees?  (Admit it.  Never.  You can't fool me.  I used to live there.)

And when is the last time you saw a Road Crew sweeping up after themselves?  (I never see a road crew NOT sweeping up after themselves here.)

And in what other country do you remove your shoes so frequently AND get your bum cleaned for you, by your toilet,  with soothing warm water?!?  (Besides probably a bunch of other Asian countries of which I know nothing.)

All of these things are common occurances here.  So you see!  Like I said:  Clean and Happy!  Happy and Clean!  Don't you wish you were here?

That's all for today.  Any OTHER questions???

*Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Cooks Illustrated taste test results:
 “Nothing remarkable here—just greasy, no flavor,” summarized one taster. “Where did the olive go?” said another. This oil was judged to have a “kind of rancid” aftertaste that was reminiscent of not only “soil,” “tree resin,” and “ammonia and grass,” but even “kitty litter smells” and “a set of sweaty hockey pads.”

**Oh right.  Because there is no Target or Wal-mart here.  Guess we'll have to go without.  I can't risk losing my head.

Apr 3, 2009

Winners have been Announced...


And since that alone would make a very boring post, here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure:

This is what I see when I look up:

This is what I see when I look down:

This is what I see when I look left:

This is what I see when I look right:

Good thing he's cute!

Apr 2, 2009