Saturday, November 21, 2015

How to Buy a Mattress Online

Company is coming for the holidays and you've cleaned your house top to bottom, especially the guest bedroom, which you've thoughtfully stocked with fresh flowers, a local travel guide, and cozy slippers. You're ready! Except...there's this nagging feeling you can't quite shake, an inkling your guests aren't going to be as happy with their accommodations as you've hoped. Could it be that beneath those fluffy extra towels and organic duvet, there lurks a dreaded, musty


I've been there. Your own mattress is uncomfortable, suffering from taco-syndrome, so you buy a cushy new one and banish the mattress reject to the guest room. "No one ever sleeps in there anyway," you say. But then your in-laws, the ones with the already bad backs and harsh words for everything you do, announce they're staying for a week. They are going to judge the heck out of that old reject mattress.

They are going to judge the heck out of you. And they're going to tell everyone! Aaaaand, thanks to a lack of sleep, they are both going to be extra, extra crabby.

Okay, perhaps I'm being a bit dramatic (it's fun!) and your guests will be perfectly happy with whatever you provide. It's not too late to upgrade your mattress situation though.

Best of all? 

You don't have to lug your new mattress across icy roads, fighting off holiday shoppers and crazy traffic the entire way home!

No, wait. I have an even better "best of all":

This time of year, all the best mattress choices, including my beloved Amerisleep memory foam mattresses, are on CLEARANCE!
(I love that word. Don't you?)

Step #1
Decide what kind of mattress you're looking for.

Investing in a new mattress is a long-term decision. Do you want one that's soft, like sinking into a warm cinnamon roll, or one so firm it's like you wrapped a board in padding, then removed a layer of padding because it made it too plush? Or are you (most likely) hoping to find a mattress somewhere in-between these extremes?

Although it may sound counterintuitive, a good way to start your online mattress search is to visit an actual mattress store. This way, you can test a variety of mattresses to determine your preferred level of firmness.

Just try not to get the poor salesperson's hopes too high.

Step #2
Research mattress reviews online.

Sexy Nerd and I could have saved more than $1,500 if we'd been more careful with our first mattress purchase. But we were young and naive! We went to the store, the salesman told us the Simmons Beautyrest was a good mattress, and we bought it. A few months later, our "good mattress" was falling apart, complete with two pits for us to climb out of each morning. Had we done our research beforehand, we would have seen the dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of scathing Simmons Beautyrest reviews online, many complaining of the same problems we were having.

Step #3
Look up warranty information - and make sure the company honors it.

Our defective Simmons Beautyrest was under warranty and, at only a few months old, exchanging it should have been no problem at all, right? Sigh. A salesman from the mattress store came to our house and admitted our mattress was even worse than others he had seen. He said it wouldn't be difficult to get us a new mattress. Oh, except that our mattress wasn't quite as clean as when we purchased it brand new. What did that matter, right? The problem had nothing to do with cleanliness and all they were going to do was throw it away. Still, he insisted they could not honor the warranty unless it was clean. 

You can bet Sexy Nerd and I spent the next week scrubbing, vacuuming, and shampooing that mattress to better-than-new condition. It was exhausting and we may have exposed ourselves to a couple carcinogens. It was also somewhat expensive (nothing compared to a useless $1,500 mattress, but still) though completely worthwhile to have the warranty honored. The mattress man returned. He inspected our mattress again. Guess what?
On one of the corners, the fabric was scuffed. It must have happened when the mattress was delivered.

Warranty DENIED.

Step #4
Make sure you're allowed to try your new mattress risk-free.

When I purchased our replacement mattress, I was understandably fed up with going the traditional route. Still, making such a large purchase online, sight-unseen, seemed like a gamble. I'm so glad I took it though! What helped me make the right decision? The mattress I ordered had a no-risk guarantee, giving me the peace of mind to try it for several nights (several months, actually, which I thought was amazing) and return it for a full refund if we didn't like it.

Step #5
Enjoy your comfy new mattress!

My favorite part of the online mattress buying experience is when your new mattress is delivered directly to your door, all at no additional cost. Actually, in the case of buying a new memory foam mattress, my favorite part (my favorite favorite) is when you unpackage the mattress and watch it expand. It's a blast!
This scared the heck out of our dogs, for some reason.

Ready to order that new mattress? Well, your timing couldn't be better. I emailed my favorite mattress company, Amerisleep, and they agreed to let me share their Black Friday specials with my readers early, in the hope of getting all your guest bedrooms ready for holiday visitors ASAP.

Save 20% on all Amerisleep memory foam mattresses, including their top seller, the Revere mattress, with coupon BLACK20.

Take 20% off an Amerisleep adjustable/mattress combo with promo PICK2.

Save 20% on all Amerisleep accessories, like pillows and mattress toppers (hint - this is a great way to dip your toe into online mattress shopping if you're not ready to commit all the way) with coupon code BLACK20.

What's even better than 20% off? FREE. Enter my memory foam pillow giveaway!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Budget-Friendly Gift Guide (and Giveaways!)

I'm told Sexy Nerd and I (okay, maybe it's just me) are impossible to shop for. If there's something we want, we buy it. Didn't buy it? Don't want it! For all you frustrated Christmas shoppers out there, brainstorming about the perfect gifts for hard-to-shop-for bosses, far away relatives, and friends who already have it all, there's a solution.

You have to choose a gift your recipient doesn't know exists!
(And therefore has not been able to already buy for themselves.)

With that in mind, this year's annual holiday gift guide features presents from companies you may not have heard of. I've shopped with them all and highly recommend any of them. There's also a few stores you definitely have heard of, like Cost Plus, whose gift ideas were simply too splendid to leave out. It's my best holiday gift guide ever!

holiday guide

Holiday Gift Guide
(With Coupons! And Free Giveaways!!)

Nordic Tea Light Trough
UncommonGoods $40
*Enter below for a chance to win an UncommonGoods gift card
With completion of our mountain dream home still nearly a year away, (and with our budget in shambles!) I'm trying hard to stick to my rule of not buying things for the house until the house actually exists. But I can only resist so much, hence my beautiful UncommonGoods Nordic Tea Light holder, which will one day adorn the mantle in our living room. For now, it casts a warm glow from the wooden buffet in our kitchen (which, incidentally, was also purchased for my future dream home. I'm really having a tough time with this rule!). When I received this candle holder, I was surprised by how substantial it was - it's quite the showpiece, even unlit. The WOW factor is especially clear when casting shadows of trees on the wall, doubling its already large size. It reminds me of camping and I love the cozy, romantic vibe it creates.

Adopt an Olive Tree (and Get Delicious Olive Oil!)
Pomora $12.25 per can with discount, including shipping
*Save 25% with promo code LAMB25
I'm excited to have discovered this olive oil company. It's so much better than what you can buy in stores! My favorite variety is Al Aglio, (the "Vampires Beware!" garlic oil) which is irresistible drizzled over angel hair pasta with parmesan. Pomora does things a bit differently, in that you aren't just purchasing olive oil, but are actually adopting an olive tree. There are two farmers to choose between, Antonio and Carmelo, and the oil you receive is from your tree! How cool is that? Due to the growing conditions, you can actually taste a difference between the two oils, even for the same variety. Plus, with the promo code, the price can't be beat (so maybe support Antonio and Carmelo). A couple years ago, Sexy Nerd and I toured an olive mill in Arizona. Their price for the same amount of oil was more than double what Pomora is charging. The cans come in a nice box of 3, perfect for gifting as-is, or you can create a gift basket, say with a can of oil, some crusty bread, a package of nice pasta, and a wooden spoon. If you're feeling especially generous, you can have multiple packages sent throughout the year, similar to a gift-of-the-month subscription.

Novelty Socks
Dr. Jay's $0.50 and up (Fifty cents! Really!)
*Save an additional 4% or more with a free eBates account
The site doesn't exactly have a classy vibe, and the first time I placed an order with, I was skeptical as to what I'd actually receive. I'm pleased to report everything purchased was as-advertised, not to mention a heck of a deal! Those "Stylish Kitty" socks, by the way, are even cuter in person. 

Chalk Ceramic French Press
Cost Plus World Market $19.99
*Save an additional 4% or more with a free eBates account, plus receive an additional $10 off coupon code through my referral link
 This price for a french press can't be beat, plus this is the only one I've found that's attractive enough to leave on the counter 24/7. To make this gift even more special, I recommend throwing in a milk frother (Cost Plus has a colorful set of 3 for less than $9!) and a bag of coffee. If you buy the coffee from Cost Plus on a Wednesday, they'll double your coffee reward points, meaning you get a free bag for every 3 purchased. It's quite the deal!

Geneva Nautical Anchor Watch with Chevron Print
Tradesy $11.50 with Free Shipping
*Save an additional $20 off your first $50 purchase through my referral link

 I absolutely love, love, LOVE Tradesy. I've found so many bargains on this site. Just yesterday, I received the most gorgeous designer coat I've ever owned, made in Italy from 100% virgin wool. The price? $17.50, shipped! With the ability to limit your search to new items with tags, it's a great place to find quality gifts at a steep discount. To really stretch my budget, I sell items I no longer use on Tradesy and limit my purchases to only the amount I have earned.

Clearance Merchandise
Sierra Trading Post $0.18 and up (EIGHTEEN CENTS!?)
*Save an additional 2.5% or more with a free eBates account, plus use promo code ALGRAVY5 to take off an additional 15% and pay 1/2 price shipping
I'm still in disbelief about some of the deals I've found in the Sierra Trading Post clearance section. A Lands' End leather belt for eighty cents? High quality Dylan shorts for under $4? Crazy! To top things off, I checked the website a week after the above order was placed and discovered my socks, shorts, and hat had each dropped an additional $1 in price (because they couldn't sell these things at the prices shown?!) and when I inquired about having my prices adjusted, they apologized and sent me an additional FOUR PAIRS of Terramar All Sports High Performance Socks (which, by the way, are the most comfy socks ever) for free! Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, Sierra Trading Post blew my mind with above and beyond customer service.

Vacation to Iceland
Wow Air $99 each way
*Save on lodging with Airbnb. You get an extra $20 off through my referral link. On top of this, you can get an additional $50 off your Airbnb stay when you pay with a participating American Express card

You knew I'd purchased the wool hat and wool coat mentioned above for a reason, right? Recently, Sexy Nerd and I had a conversation that went like this:

"We need a vacation."
"Yeah, but we need to save money to build our house."
"We could go to Iceland."
"No, really. It's like $400 for both of us, round trip."

How thrilled/shocked/in love with you forever would your family be when surprised with a vacation for Christmas? We were able to get to Boston on the cheap using Southwest points and we even added an extra stop in Copenhagen for just a little more. Why Iceland, you ask? They have tiny, fluffy wild ponies that run right up and let you pet them!

Meaningful Mug
Let's be clear. These days, mugs are given away by businesses and as part of cheap gift sets so often that no one wants another garbage mug to cram into the cupboard. However, everyone also has a beloved, favorite mug that reminds them of warm memories every time they use it. This is the mug you're seeking. You can even build a gift around it, by including fancy tea for a tea lover, gourmet cocoa for a chocolate lover (bonus points for including a unique recipe card - the cocoa you see here is spiced with cardamom) and so on. The mug above is Sexy Nerd's favorite, but I don't necessarily recommend smoking, peeing frogs for your gift recipient. Unless they're into that sort of thing, of course.

On a side note, how cool is my Nana for picking out this mug?

Christmas Cookies
Cheryl's Cookies from $0.83 each, delivered
Get free 2 day shipping at this store and others with ShopRunner. Most American Express cards qualify for a free account!
 Before the internet, shipping gifts to friends and family out of state ate a chunk out of gift budgets every year. Now there are free shipping opportunities for just about anything you might want to purchase, baked treats included. My workplace recently used ShopRunner to deliver Cheryl's holiday cookies (from the Clearance section - don't tell!) as a thank you to referring businesses all over New Mexico. It cost much less than paying an employee to drive around making deliveries (and it saved soooo much hassle!).

Bat on a Branch
UncommonGoods $40
*Enter below for a chance to win an UncommonGoods gift card
 UncommonGoods is one of my favorite places for unique gifts (just look at all their great items on Pinterest) and when I saw this charming metal bat, I couldn't believe the price. I've wanted one of these for years! There's a shop in the Albuquerque airport selling bats like these for much, much more. Plus, the ones from UncommonGoods come signed by the artist!

It's a great company to support. The starting wage for their lowest-paid, seasonal workers starts at 50% more than minimum wage. According to UncommonGoods, "We make it our mission to support and provide a platform for artists and designers; in fact, half of what we sell is made by hand. Most of the products we carry are created right here in the USA, and about one-third of our entire collection incorporates recycled and/or upcycled materials."

Antique Silver Beaded Cake Stand
Lamps Plus $29.95 with Free Shipping
*Save an additional 3% or more with a free eBates account, plus use promo code 36AFFDC6 to take off an additional $10 from a $150+ purchase
 I love the crystals! This top-rated stand can be used for much more than serving cake. My silver stand is in the guest room with a note card to welcome visitors.

Exotic Truffle Collection
Vosges $45 for 16 pieces
*Save an extra 15% with promo code OCT14...which, oddly enough, is good through November 20th
 No, these are not exactly budget friendly. But they're the best truffles I've ever had! Before these, I didn't even think I liked truffles. But the flavors - curry! wasabi! black sesame seed! ginger! banana! chili! candied violet! - are worth the cost. Really, it's only $2.39 per chocolate after the coupon, still quite a bit for one little chocolate. But it's so worth it! You'd think the sad photo of them above, all melted and oily in the middle of August, would be a bad thing, but the melted ones still tasted darn good and receiving my order damaged just meant Vosges sent me a replacement box for free. Score!

Comfort Classic Memory Foam Pillow
Amerisleep $84.99 and up - or win one below!
*Receive an extra 10% with coupon code SAVE10, plus receive a referral discount by emailing Amerisleep after your order is placed to let them know you found them on my website
Memory Foam Pillows AND Cheryl's Cookies. Don't you wish you were my guest?
We all know the importance of a good night's sleep for health and happiness. This Christmas, treat your loved ones to a more comfortable rest with what I'm certain is the world's most comfortable pillow. Sexy Nerd and I have 2 of these for our bed and like them so much we now have them for our guest bedroom too. Guests rave about our pillows! Unlike other memory foam pillows, the ones from Amerisleep don't get hot. You ever-so-gently sink into them, cradling your head and neck in a cushy embrace. We've been sleeping on these for years and they're just like new. We actually have another memory foam pillow from Tempur-Pedic, which I paid much more for before I heard of Amerisleep, and it's so thick and bulky that neither of us can use it without waking up with neck pain. At least, I think we still have it, taking up space in one of our closets somewhere.

Which leads me to...

Amerisleep and UncommonGoods Giveaway
Win an Amerisleep Memory Foam Pillow or a $25 UncommonGoods gift card!

 And now, the part you've been waiting for - the chance to win some of these amazing holiday gifts for yourself! Simply enter via Rafflecopter, below. This giveaway has TWO LUCKY WINNERS (!!!) who will be chosen randomly. The first winner selected will have their choice of prizes, Price is Right-style, and the second winner will receive the remaining prize. You don't have to be in the USA to win the UncommonGoods prize (a gift card can be used anywhere in the world) but the Amerisleep pillow can only be shipped within the continental USA. The giveaway ends at midnight on Saturday, December 12th.

Good luck, everyone! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Long Hair Problems

This story begins simply enough. I made macaroni and cheese for dinner. The leftovers were boxed up for a future meal.

With the addition of bacon, green chile, and a handful of cheddar, the macaroni and cheese was especially delicious.

This looks like a tasty bowl of cheesy goodness, right?


Sexy Nerd removed the container of leftovers from the fridge, twirled it around, and exclaimed "YUCK!"


"You can have the rest of this," he said, now laughing.

Do you see the problem yet?

Food fail!

It was all one piece, I swear.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Invite Us Back, Dairy MAX (Pretty Please?)

Last week, I was invited as a blogger to a fabulous 9 course dinner at the Casa Rondena Winery, courtesy of Dairy MAX. The menu was created by Chef Caitlin from Cooking with Caitlin, featuring foods made with dairy that can still be enjoyed by people with lactose intolerance. Homemade blue corn blinis, chile rellenos, lavender honey ice cream - everything sounded so yummy, you savored what you were eating while simultaneously counting down to the next item on the menu.

Lucky me, right? Well, fearing unknown and social situations, I nearly chickened out at the last minute. Sexy Nerd was no help. On the drive over, he suggested we skip the 9 course dinner and go to Texas Roadhouse instead!

Me at the beginning of the evening - a socially awkward, super nervous bundle of anxiety.

 The fun times beckoned you in (but I was terrified!)

Sure, there was delicious food on the other side of this wall, but there was also the most scary thing in the world - PEOPLE! Strangers who might want to talk to me. Or not talk to me! I'm not sure which would be worse.

My heart is racing just typing that.

Luckily, the Dairy MAX folks and Casa Rondena had just the thing to help me forget my nerves.

 You got it, my winey friend.

Blogging this, I just realized Sexy Nerd pinned his name tag to the middle of his shirt instead of his pocket. He's such a goofball. A sexy, nerdy goofball.

We scoped out the seating options - all large tables. My socially awkward nightmare! I joked we should make a point of being the last ones in, in hope there wouldn't be enough chairs. We finished our wine, grabbed a refill, and hurried inside.

Well, guess what?

All the seats were gone!

Sexy Nerd (my hero) dashed outside and returned with two extra chairs. I have no idea where he got them. Now, we had a private table for two! 

I hope he didn't steal the chairs from the welcome table with the name tags. I mean, that's really the only place that would have had two chairs like these, but I'm sure he wouldn't have done that. They weren't using those chairs anymore anyway, right?

Glass of wine #2
The room was beginning to have a beautiful, hysterical glow.

A presentation was given on lactose intolerance and all the misconceptions about this problem. I'd always thought being lactose intolerant meant you couldn't have any dairy, but that actually isn't true at all. Different dairy products have different amounts of lactose, and certain ones, like cheddar cheese, have almost no lactose at all. I would have guessed cheddar cheese to be one of the worst. The Big Bang Theory lied to me!

From what I gathered from the name tags and the presenters, this event counted as continuing education credit for nutritionists. In college, I had wrestled with the idea of becoming a nutritionist, so I loved the presentations. I would have made a great nutritionist, if only UNM hadn't made Public Speaking (EEEK!) a required part of the coursework.

Did you know most people should be consuming 1,200 mg of calcium a day, and that hard cheeses are high in calcium but low in lactose, making them an ideal way for folks with lactose-intolerance to meet their daily requirement? Now you know. See? I would have been the best nutritionist ever.

Sexy Nerd took notes for me on his phone: 

Lactose intolerance is not necessarily hereditary. The enzyme to process lactose is a use it or lose it. Children should drink milk. Once you lose it, you can't get it back.

Greek yogurt is lower in lactose because it has been strained more.

Casa Rondena wine is awesome!

I'm not sure the last note was all that helpful.

After the presentations, Sexy Nerd decided to help himself to some cheese. Apparently, that was his take away from the lectures.

"For us to share," he said.
Like I was going to fill up on cheese cubes at a 9 course dinner.

I decided to tweet the napkin hashtag.
Alas - no free Wi-Fi!

Not that we were lacking things to do. The food kept coming!

Milk-braised beef tacos with calabacitas, featuring lactose-free milk and natural cheese

Sexy Nerd ate all those cheese cubes and was still able to say yes when a second taco was offered. But it gets even better. While waiting for our 5th course...

My crazy Sexy Nerd popped outside for a cheese refill!

The kind folks at Dairy MAX must have felt sorry for us, all alone in our makeshift table for two against the wall. They kept coming over to apologize for the seating situation. Two people from a large table even offered us their seats. But, of course...

...we were having a great time on our own!
Cheese, wine, free food, and no socializing = one happy blogger

We love you, Dairy MAX!

Just when I thought the evening couldn't get any better, Sexy Nerd pointed out that the grand, incredible room we were in was almost exactly like the living room and kitchen in the house we're building.

"No way!" I told him, my second glass of wine completely gone.
"Way!" he insisted, also out of wine.

"And these doors?" I asked, taking a photo. "These are, like, the most beautiful, amazing, perfect doors I've ever seen in my life."

 Apparently, we can have these exact same doors as well. Funny enough though, when reviewing the photos the next day, they didn't look as beautiful, amazing, or perfect as I'd remembered.

There was also talk of me renaming my site, which I thought was genius at the time.

 We were having the time of our lives.
Of course, you know what happened next.

More cheese cubes. Sexy Nerd is a cheesaholic! He must have devoured a pound of each variety.

"But it has almost no lactose," he reminded.

The presenters had all mentioned the importance of 'everything in moderation'. Funny, he did not recall anything about that.

 Outside with the cheese, we had a front row seat to the little winery kitchen. It's cute, but it's one thing from Casa Rondena I do not want in our Paa-ko house. Can you believe they prepared all the gourmet food in there?

After 6 courses, and a cow's worth of cheese, it was time for 3 desserts!

Greek yogurt cheesecake with pinon nut crust and roasted raspberries

Pinons are like $30 per pound. Are you kidding me? 
This thing even had whole pinons in the crust. 

 It was quite possibly the most delicious food I've ever eaten in my life. Like, if I was on that Food Network show where they ask you, I would say this cheesecake. Hands down.


 Homemade sopapillas with lavender honey a la mode featuring lactose-free ice cream

The take away from this photo is: 
When eating cold ice cream, you need to wear a warm jacket.

Or something like that.

Mexican hot chocolate with homemade honey marshmallows featuring lactose-free milk

I've made homemade marshmallows before. "These are better than those," Sexy Nerd was quick to point out.

They really were. 
 Full and happy, it was time to head home.

(On a side note, do you see how greasy my hair looks? It's practically glued to my head! In a fit of social anxiety that morning, I'd covered my hair with fancy hair products from my sister-in-law, the hairdresser, in an attempt to make my hair look amazing. I may have gotten carried away.)

Off to the car we went. 
But first...

No, Sexy Nerd! Enough with the cheese!


It's from a different night, but I can't help think this is really the best photo to end this post:

Nailed it.

Want to try this yummy food too? Several of the recipes can be found on Enjoy!
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