The Importance of Being Reese: October 2015

That One Time I got PAID to fly to Chicago and have an Awesome Time


Remember when I said I flew to Chicago for $1? This last trip, I managed to snag an even better deal. Last weekend, Mr. A and I flew to Chicago...and actually MADE money. This is in no way a sponsored post. Frontier Flights didn't pay me to give them a good review. A hotel didn't give us a complementary stay. The city of Chicago didn't track me down and promise me an all expenses paid vacation to drop a few good words about Chicago. How did we manage this?

Here's how it all went down...

Since I had such a fabulous time during my first trip to Chicago, I decided that Mr. A and I were in desperate need of a date night in a new city. Frontier Flights had just sent an email about another amazing flight sale, and I had already signed up to be a Den Member so I could have access to even better deals. I figured "why not, you only live once." I booked our $19 flights, and scoured the internet for hotel deals. Sadly, our Chicago date night just happened to coincide with one of the largest annual  convention. Downtown hotel rates were through the roof.  We ended up staying at a seedy hotel (not going to name names) near the airport, on the not so good part of town (internet photos can be so misleading).

The first night was awful. I have a thing about hotels. After watching that 60 minutes expose on bed bugs, I prefer to shell out a few extra dollars and stay in a better hotel. Still, regardless of where I stay, I ALWAYS lift the bed, check the mattress and remove the sheets. Just in case...

After arriving at the Hotel from Hell, we decided to spend as little time as possible in that room. My wonderful Mother-In-Law grew up in Chicago, and had recommended Giordanio's for pizza, so we figured we'd stuff our faces with pizza and have a few drinks to ease the pain of having to sleep in a "Bate-esque" Hotel. The restaurant was actually located about 4 miles away from the hotel, so we figured we could walk to it. 10 minutes later, we were caught in a rain storm, and the sidewalk had run out. We were left with two choices: walk on the side of the highway, or go down a seedy alley that looked like something straight out of every horror movie ever made.

We called a cab, which actually turned out to be a Town Car and Limousine Company. We figured we were losing daylight and since we were only a few miles away, how costly could it be?  $38 dollars later, we arrived at Giordanio's.



Giordanio's turned out to be an excellent choice. The pizza was just as amazing as my Mother-In-Law mentioned. The atmosphere, was relaxing and they have awesome beer. Still, factoring in cab fare, it was decidedly the most "expensive" pizza we've ever had.

The cab ride back to the hotel didn't go any better. The cabby who arrived claimed he didn't know where the hotel was located, and his GPS, just happened to stop working. Luckily we had our phones with us, and managed to give him directions back to the hotel, but not before he managed to take us on a few unnecessary loops around the parkway.

By the time we arrived back at our hotel, we were so exhausted, that we practically collapsed into bed. I actually ended up apologizing to Mr. A because I felt like I had destroyed his first "Chicagoan" experience.

The next day we were up, dressed and ready to hit the road by 6:00 a.m. We had a quick breakfast and checked out. Then we did something we should have done the night before, we used Uber. Our driver was there is less than 2 minutes, and the ride downtown was absolutely free! See the night before, we met an awesome women in the hotel lobby who was a flight attendant and part time Uber driver. She was kind enough to give us a promo code for $25 off our first Uber ride. Still, even if we didn't have the promo code, I realized that the Uber ride was MUCH cheaper than the regular cab rate. Our "4 mile" cab ride the night before ended up costing us $18.  Our 15 mile, 30 minute Uber ride into Downtown Chicago would have only cost $23 without the promo. Our Uber driver was friendly, knowledgeable about Chicago, and had a working GPS. Score! Needless to say, he got a BIG tip!

Once we arrived Downtown, we immediately went into tourist mode. We hit up some of the the "must see" tourist sites in Chicago:

Magnificent Mile
The Cloud Gate aka "The Bean"
Boeing Gallery
The Chicago Institute of Art
The Navy Pier

Needless to say, day two was AMAZING. We met some incredibly helpful people, one who walked us nearly a mile to the bus station, and helped us figure out how to get our all-day bus passes. In the rain...

We spent the afternoon exploring and tasting our way through the bustling streets of Chicago. Mr. A was beyond impressed at how gorgeous Chicago is. Day two quickly washed away the horrors from the night before.

Soon, it was time for us to head to the airport. This time we called Lyft (we had another promo for $10 off your first ride). As we headed to the airport, I started to check us into our fight. But then I realized our flight had been delayed for two hours. We were ecstatic. This meant we had a few more hours to kill. Luckily our Lyft driver knew Chicago like the back of his hand and recommended this awesome restaurant called Portillo's. We spent the next hour or so stuffing our faces with the most amazing hot dogs I've ever had the pleasure of eating (little did we know a few days later The Who would release a report saying that hot dogs are just as carcinogenic as cigarettes).

We arrived at the airport early and made it to our gate with time to spare. Since we still had time, and I'm a bit of a nervous flier, we decided to get our pre-flight drink on. After I paid a visit to Margarita, we spent time aimlessly wandering around the airport. We boarded shortly after and 1.5 hours later, we were back in Raleigh.

That's when I got the first email. Because our flight had been delayed for 2 hours, Frontier Fights sent us $100 a piece in travel credit. The next day I woke up to another email, we had been given an additional $50 a piece in travel credit as another apology for our delay. That means we spent $80 on a roundtrip flight for two to Chicago, and were given $300 in travel credit, meaning that we were basically paid to go to Chicago and have an insanely awesome date night.

The moral of the story is three-fold, one: Horrible reviews aside, Frontier Flights is one of the least expensive ways to fly!  The flights are pretty basic, and I can't always promise that you'll get travel credit for flight delays, but I appreciate their attempts to put the customers first. Two: Sometimes a flight delay isn't a bad thing (unless you have a fight connection). Make the best of the delay. Three: Be friendly and talk to people. Because we were so chatty and friendly, we met some amazing people on our journey. Overall, they saved us MAJOR dollars just by giving us free promo codes and helping us navigate the busy streets of Chicago.

Since we have $300 in flight credit, Mr. A and I are already planning our next free trip. Luckily we're only a few hours away from ATL, which of course has one of the largest airports in the country. Frontier Flights has flights out of Atlanta to Montego Bay Jamaica, Punta Cana and Cancun for as little as $115 one way. Needless to say I have a feeling we're going to be adding a few more stamps to our passports sometime soon!

What is your best travel story? What are some of your money saving travel tips? Sound off in the comment section below!

Next week I'll be sharing some awesome photos and tips on what do see, do and eat in the Windy City!

Until next time,



The Most Important Parenting Lesson I've Learned (so far)

“[Motherhood is] the biggest gamble in the world. It is the glorious life force. It’s huge and scary—it’s an act of infinite optimism.” ~ Gilda Radner, American comedienne and actress

“Giving birth and being born brings us into the essence of creation, where the human spirit is courageous and bold and the body, a miracle of wisdom.” ~ Harriette Hartigan, Photographer


"If you ever want to know how badly you suck at life, have a kid." ` Reese, The Importance of Being Reese

Before my daughter came along, life was grand. The hills we alive with the sound of music. I was the perfect daughter who could do no wrong. I had already graduated at the top of my class with one degree and I was nearly done with the second. I had traveled the world, and I was laying down the foundation for a successful (and probably way too stressful) career in Public Relations.

But then I had a kid. Then suddenly everyone had an opinion on how I was raising said kid. My mom, my mother-in-law, my friends who have kids, my childless friends, my neighbors, my mailman, the strange lady who wanders down the street wearing her underwear outside her pants...

It's exhausting listening to others point out the various ways in which you are screwing your child up so badly that she'll require years of intensive therapy to recover from that one time you told her "No, you can't have an Oreo for a bedtime snack." Four years in, and I'm here to tell you that it doesn't get better.

But you do.

You'll learn ignore the blatant stares of disapproval; in fact, some days, you'll stare right back. Unblinking. Undaunted.

You'll be that mother that realizes that life is so damn short that feeling inadequate because your child has a meltdown in the candy isle, is a waste of your time. Some days you might even lay down on the ground next to her kicking your feet and wailing.

You'll let her pick out her own outfits, and only slightly cringe when she chooses to wear polka dot tights, a hot pink tutu, a striped shirt and cowboy boots.

You'll learn to cherish the nights she crawls into bed with you because she needs her mommy to keep her safe from the monsters under her bed.

You'll do all of these things because one day you'll realize that they'll come a time, much sooner than you think, when she no longer needs you the same way. And it will hurt. Badly.

There's this one universal truth when it comes to parenting-- we all do it differently. Some days we're on our A game. We manage to pack them a perfectly nutritious lunch, get them to school on time, pick them up from school, chauffeur them to and from band, football, basketball, cheerleading and/or soccer practice, help them with their homework, prepare a Pinterest-worthy dinner that could give Rachael Ray a run for her money, and tuck them into bed at night. But some days all we can do is close our eyes and hope for the best. Parenting is the only role in which you are simultaneously the teacher and the student.

We are not supposed to be replicas of one another. We should celebrate our individuality in parenting and strive to do things differently. We should revel in it and appreciate the wealth of diversity that parenting brings.

I know I'm not the perfect parent. I don't have all the answers, not even on my best day. But I know this, I am forging a bond with my daughter that is absolute and unequivocally unbreakable.

I am flawed. I make mistakes. I am not a perfect mother-- in fact, some days I'm not even a good mother, but I am hers and she is mine. That's what parenting is. It's not always getting it right or following some universal guidelines. It's being there--being present.

So the next time someone tries to tell you how to be a parent, remind them that in your eyes, your child is the most precious person in the world, and that despite all evidence to the contrary, you've got it all under control.

Chin up Buttercup, it only gets better from here.




That time I flew to Chicago for $1


 Hi there, remember me?

I'm sure by now you've noticed my lack of presence around these parts. 2015, or more specifically these last four months, has been a hell of a test for our family. If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, you probably know by now that a few months ago my dad had a stroke. What you probably don't know is how absolutely devastating it was for my family.

When a loved one has an unexpected medical crisis, it feels a bit like getting tossed into a blender. Even when things start to calm down, you still feel discombobulated. For the first few weeks it just didn't even seem real. It felt like I was literally trapped in a waking nightmare. I just kept waiting for my alarm clock to drag me out of my sleep induced coma. In some ways I'm still waiting.

Which is partly why I suddenly decided to take a random trip to the Windy City. I realized I had become so content with getting caught up with work, and putting off living because "there's always tomorrow." And as we all know, that only works until it doesn't. In some ways I took what happened to my dad as a warning. His job was incredibly stressful and he spent so much energy trying to keep up with it. It was only a matter of time.

A few weeks ago, I happened to be pursing the Internets when an article caught my eye. It was an ad for a $1 flight sale for Frontier Airlines. I remember chuckling to myself. There's no way it could be that easy? Right?

Turns out it was.

Two weeks ago, I flew to Chicago for one night for $30 (the flights there and back were $1 a pop but I paid $14 in taxes and fees). Because the Travel Gods were apparently smiling down on me, I managed to book a room at The Whitehall Hotel a block away from Magnificent Mile for only $80 (Thank you Groupon).

I cannot explain how anxious I was before my flight. This was the first time I had traveled solo since the appearance of Little J. I kept expecting everything to go wrong. I figured I'd get to the airport and discover my free carry-on was too large or heavy so I'd have to pay some absorbent fee. Or I'd realize I booked my return flight on the wrong day. Or during takeoff a gaggle of geese would suddenly decide to commit suicide and fly into the propellers, causing the engine to jam up and us all to plummet to a fiery death (Note: I binge watched Zoo the day before my trip. Probably not the best choice of cinematic entertainment right before a flight. Double note: I probably should avoid watching Fear the Walking Dead Flight 462 until I get back from our next trip).

Suffice it to say, none of those things happened. In fact, right before take off, a very kind flight attendant noticed we had some empty seats in the back of the plane, so she allowed me and a few other passengers to spread out in the back. Which meant I had prime access to the window for my in-flight photo taking pleasure.

Two of the guys that sat across from me had caught the $1 flight sale as well, and were traveling to Chicago for the sole purpose of bar hopping their way across the Windy City. We chatted for a bit, and then the flight attendants started making their rounds with the snack and beverage cart. I decided to partake in a can of wine to calm my nerves. Yes, you read that right. A can of wine. Before my flight, I had no clue such a thing existed. But I am incredibly grateful for that can of wine. I was fighting the terrible weight of mommy/ wife/ daughter guilt, and that can of wine managed to snap me right out of my guilt funk.



By the time the flight touched down in Chicago, I was ready to hit the ground running. And I did.
Being a city girl has it's perks. Once I made it into Downtown Chicago, I felt like I was at home. Chicago is a gorgeous city, and I'm going to enjoy sharing my recap of my one day adventure with you guys this week.  In the effort to keep my Chicago adventure from turning into a Chicago novel, I'm going to break this post up into a few parts.

Later this week I'll share some of the sites and foods I took in while in Chicago!

Before I take off, let me share this final bit of advice with you. Please heed my warning, Slow down and treat yourself. Life is incredibly fleeting. Enjoy every precious moment you have with the ones you love. Life doesn't wait for you.

Until next time,






Goosebumps: A Giveaway and a Recap




Disclaimer: I was given a set of Goosebumps books and free tickets to the Pre-screening to facilitate this review. As always, all thoughts and opinions about how awesome the Goosebumps franchise is, are truly my own. 

If you don't know by now, I'm a bit of a book nerd. My obsession with reading began somewhere during my socially awkward preteens years, and hasn't quite ended yet. So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard that my favorite teen series, Goosebumps, was going to be making it's way to the big screen. Yes, adulthood has done nothing to cure me of my insatiable desire to  read--ALL. THE. BOOKS.

Today, I'm so excited to help Goosebumps kick off opening week with an awesome giveaway for my fellow book junkies and their kiddos. But before we do that, let's talk movies.

Last night Mr. A, Little J and I got to attend a pre-screening of Goosebumps, and I was pleasantly surprised! The movie kicks into gear right away. The humor is on point. There's just the right amount of  young love. And all of R.L Stine's spookiest monsters made at least one appearance.

It was an exciting trip down memory lane. Something that I enjoyed being able to share with Little J. Which brings me to my next point, it's perfect for adults AND kids.

Here's a bit more about the movie:

Synopsis

"Upset about moving from the big city to a small town, young Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) finds a silver lining when he meets his beautiful neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush). The teen is surprised to learn that Hannah's mysterious father is R.L. Stine (Jack Black), the famous author of the best-selling "Goosebumps" series. When Zach accidentally unleashes the monsters from the fantastic tales, it's up to Stine, his daughter and Cooper to return the beasts back to the books where they belong."

Trailer



Goosebumps opens this Thursday nationwide. Grab your tickets and the kiddos because this is one the whole family will love! 

Now about that giveaway...Three of my lovely readers will win a spooky set of 3 Goosebump books. Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. Open to U.S. Residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Visit Goosebumps.com for more behind-the-scenes treats, like this awesome Goosebumps Activity Kit, and stay up to date with movie information and contest on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Also, be sure to check out some of these spooky books for your kiddos this Halloween!
 
Until next time, 

Five Freebie Sites You Should Know About



Everyone loves to save a buck or two. At least I know I do. Back when I was into coupning, my days (and nights) were spent clipping hundreds of coupons and organizing them into my binder--which I affectionately named Reese's Moneymaker. Seriously, my binder has a name. And a cover page. Don't judge.

Now that I'm no longer actively couponing, I'm finding other, more resourceful ways, to save some pennies. Enter the internet. Although the internet is filled with completely useful and titillating information, such as how Buffalo, buffalo, Buffalo, buffalo, buffalo, buffalo, Buffalo, buffalo is actually a grammatically correct sentence, there are other, even more useful things in the hidden depths of the internet. You guys may remember this post I did a few months ago about freebie sites? Well, I recently stumbled upon a few more really great sites that I wanted to share with you all today.

1. BzzAgent.com: I've been a BzzAgent for over a year and this is actually one of my favorite freebie sites. The best thing about BzzAgent is that you don't have to be a blogger in order to be a BzzAgent. Basically you go in, fill out ALL the surveys and sit back and wait for the campaigns. So far I've gotten over more than two dozen freebies, one included a Draftmark Beer Tap System valued at more than $60.00. I've tried cereal, Neutrogena hand cream and even Dr. Scholls in-soles. I actually prefer this over Influenster because it is a lot less demanding, and in my personal opinion, you get better opportunities. Also, you typically get tons of free coupons and samples to give out to friends and readers. I once got ten little bottles of Neutrogena hand cream that made great stocking stuffers!

In exchange for all these awesome freebies, you will have to write a review, tweet, post on facebook, and if you want additional points, you can post about it on your blog. The more you do, the more points you get. And then there's the bonus. Every time you complete a task from the campaign you get points which get redeemed on a site called My Bonus Points. Once you rack up enough points you can redeem them for gift cards. It takes a while, but I've already gotten 2 $25 gift cards to Old Navy and Barnes and Noble. Not bad at all.

2. Influesnter: As I mentioned before, I prefer BzzAgent, but Influenster definitely it's perks. In order to take advantage of Inluenster, you just have to be social media savvy. Not necessarily a blogger, but it is a bonus. Inluenster differs from BzzAgent in that instead of reciving one perk at a time, you get a box, called a V-box, filled with various freebies.

In order to get picked to receive a V-box, you'll have to fill out your profile and choose various categories that you are considered an influencer i.e. Parenting, Beauty, ect. Once you've established a relatively high score, you may be selected to received a V-box. The V-box typically comes with 5-8 (sometimes) full sized samples. Here's a V-box I received  last year.


In order to remain eligible for future V-boxes, you will have to take a mandatory post-box survey. In order to get selected for more campaigns, you typically have to follow all the companies that provided a sample via twitter and Facebook. You'll be required to tweet and share via Facebook and you'll get bonus points for unlocking various challenges. It's fun if you have the time and you get tons of free perks.

3. Freeflys: With a tagline like "Cheap is good, but free is better," you just can't go wrong. The simple, but cute layout makes it easy to sign up and navigate. The site is updated daily with useful and practical samples. You can choose from various freebies, including:
  • Health
  • Beauty
  • Children 
  • Food
  • Cleaning supplies
4.That Freebie Site: I've actually been using this site for years. I've gotten some pretty sweet swag from here. A few full-sized bars of deodorant, free totes, and dishwashing detergent. But the best part is, in addition to all the fun freebies, you can sign-up to take part in surveys for better products, and sometimes even cash. Although it can be difficult to qualify, I've made it in a few times and have a few extra dollars to show for it.

5. Freebie Finding Mom: I'm a huge fan of freebie finding mom. Back when I was a crazy couponing addict, I would stop by Freebie Finding Mom to get the scoop on the latest sales and coupons. I still swing by from time to time to get the lead on big sales, freebies and giveaways. The site is very well organized, one of the best out there. The freebies are practical and useful. 

So there it is, my roundup of some of my favorite freebie sites. What are some of your favorite sites for freebies?