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Thanks to Hip2Save, I’m discovering all sorts of fun sites lately.  Yesterday, I saw a notice about House Party on the Facebook feed.  After some exploration of Hip2Save’s blog post and the House Party site, I thought it would be a fun site to share.

The concept is pretty cool:  House Party lists a number of different events sponsored by various brands that are looking to get the word out about their products.  As a member of the House Party site, you apply online to act as host for the various events.  If you are chosen, you get some free stuff and great products to use.  All you have to do is host the party!

So what’s the catch?  Parties do have to be hosted on a specific day, so if you’re booked for like months on end like we always seem to be, it might be hard to find something cool to host.  Also, there is no guarantee you’ll be chosen.  Basically, it seems as if you have to meet certain requirements, and there are only so many party packages to go around.  Also, you are expected to be an active part of the community, sharing photos and information from your party.  Fun for a blogger like me, but probably not a real incentive for most other people.

I’m super into this concept.  Number one, because I like free things, and number two, because it’s a great excuse to get people together.  My only concern is not getting enough people to attend!  While most of the upcoming parties are on dates that I wouldn’t be able to host, I’ll be on the look out for some fun ones.

Who’s in??  Would anyone come to something like this, or is it annoying?  Feedback, please!  Otherwise, I’ll update once I have my first party 🙂

Thanks to Living Social, Jared and I recently had the opportunity to check out Cape May, New Jersey for the first time (well, my first time-Jared was there as a kid).  As we walked around, I started thinking about all the great places we’ve been to in New Jersey that might get overlooked for those of us that live in-state.  Hence my new mission to tell you about them as we go along.  🙂

We covered a lot of ground while we were in Cape May, so I’ll start today by reviewing the lodging that we used.  The next set of installments will cover dining and area attractions.  We don’t want a super long post, after all!

The Carroll Villa Bed and Breakfast
The deal we purchased included a one night stay at the Carol Villa Bed and Breakfast, located less than a block from the beach.  Upon arrival, we received our complimentary bottle of champagne, as well as some coupons to area attractions (all part of our deal).  The check-in attendant was very friendly and made us feel welcome.

While the room we stayed in was certainly a bit small, it worked fine for us since we didn’t spend too much time in it anyway.  The shower had great pressure, and the bathroom was very clean and well kept.  Our room was right above The Mad Batter, the restaurant at The Carroll Villa, and during the live music, it was a bit noisy.  As in we could hear the specific songs the singer was performing.  However, we got back to our room around 9:45 p.m., and it all seemed to stop by 10.  If you’re sensitive to noise, though, as I know many are, this may not be the place for you!  I believe there are rooms on the other side of the hotel, so I would ask about those just to make sure.

Given that it was off-season, we were able to find parking about a block away.  In the summer, I can definitely imagine that parking is a challenge for guests at The Carroll Villa.  If you’re planning to stay in the summer, I would recommend calling ahead to find out what is recommended.

As mentioned, The Caroll Villa does have a restaurant, The Mad Batter, which is a great restaurant with a modest bar as well.  I’ll talk about this more in dining, but our deal did included a breakfast voucher, and we liked the convenience of having something right there.

Overall, The Caroll Villa was a beautiful place to stay, with an at-home feel that made even our short stay relaxing and comfortable.  If you’re thinking of vacationing somewhere this summer, I’d call early-I’m sure they book up pretty fast!  Thanks to Living Social and The Carroll Villa for helping us find out what Cape May has to offer!

I talk a lot about shopping online and getting great deals.  In fact, I would actually go so far as to say I’m borderline obsessed with searching for the best prices and coupons.  I have my standards that I’ve mentioned before, like Ebates and Overstock, however, as we begin to decorate a bit more in our new house, I’ve had to expand my horizons a bit to find exactly what I need.

ShopSmart magazine‘s October issue spoke right to me with their “6 New Ways to Save” article.  I was a bit surprised they didn’t mention cash back type sites, but the article was really focused primarily on getting the lowest price, not necessarily the best coupons.  Since I’m a former search engine junkie (and still think I put together a mean search term), I was interested in their first tip regarding using search engines to shop.  The winner out of the four sites they tested was PriceGrabber, a site I have admittedly never used.

In my continuing obsession to find the perfect scarf valances for our living room (because the ones I bought from Overstock just aren’t doing it for me), I decided to give PriceGrabber a try.  The site has a very simple layout, with a huge search box right at the top, making it easy to get started.  While a search for “288 inch scarf valance” only brought up two options I hadn’t already seen, they actually turned out to be exactly what I was looking for, for the right price.  Clicking on the product takes you right to the manufacturer’s Web site where you can continue to shop.

I can see myself becoming obsessed with this site.  PriceGrabber features a deal of the day, where you could save up to 55% or more (today’s deal is a volt impact driver…not super exciting, but a great price!).  When you register for an account, you have the ability save products as you browse.  I think I’d have to do a lot of shopping to make that useful, but still a nice feature for those of us with a poor memory.

For the coupon lover in us all, there is a section featuring merchant coupons.  The list is ridiculously extensive, today featuring 294 coupons.  With the ability to select a merchant from the drop down list, this is a great way to consolidate deals in one place without clicking around too much.

Overall, I can see why PriceGrabber was rated #1 by Shop Smart magazine for being a great place to start your search.  With community features, reviews, coupons, extensive shopping categories and quick search functionality, PriceGrabber could be the first and last place you need to go to start your online shopping engine.

Oh, and did I mention there’s an App for that?

I never thought I’d be writing a post praising the benefits of a television service.  For the amount of times I actually sit down and watch TV, it’s amazing I even know how to turn it on by myself.  Second, I never thought that the television would actually motivate me to work out.  And then we got Verizon Fios.

I’ll confess, I’m a cable girl through and through.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the satellite TV we had, and would have given anything to get Cablevision. However, as previously noted, considering I hardly ever turn the thing on, Jared is the TV service decision maker.  I’m officially a convert.

Fios, like many other services, offers a Free On Demand service that includes a plethora of workout videos from Exercise TV.  Not only that, but now that we actually have reliable, fast internet through Fios, I’m able to watch movies instantly through Netflix, including a ton of workout videos.  My life is officially better as a result.

For me, the number one thing that stops me from working out some nights is boredom-I’m tired of doing the same things.  My greatest motivator is having a new video that I’ve bought or rented from Netflix.  Now, with tons of these at my fingertips, I never have the excuse anymore that I’m bored with my workouts.

Although I’ve been a bit too busy with work and moving to try these yet, this week I’m hoping to get back on the workout bandwagon.  From time to time, I’ll be reviewing the OnDemand workouts to let you know which ones to use, and which ones to avoid.

Whoever thought that TV could be the one thing that actually makes you get off the couch and get moving?  A big old salute to technology is now in order….

So you survived the moving day-the worst is over, right?  Not necessarily.  It’s daunting to be surrounded by boxes and boxes of your things, especially after you might be exhausted from an all day move.  Below are some strategies I’ve used to ensure we don’t spend an entire month staring down the box piles.

1.) Prioritize which rooms need to be done first. Given how overwhelming it can be to move into a new house with more rooms than you might be used to, you’ll need to prioritize which rooms should come first.  For me, our bedroom is always first priority.  After all, at the end of the day, you don’t want to be climbing over boxes just to get in bed.  If you followed my advice regarding labeling your boxes (and if you didn’t, right now you’ll be wishing you did), it should be easy to tell which boxes belong in the bedroom.  If you do nothing else that first night, set up your bedroom and move those boxes out!

2.)  Go room by room, not box by box. This is another area where if you didn’t follow Tip #1, you’ll be wishing you had.  It’s a lot easier to go room by room than to just start opening random boxes and taking things into each room.  Not only does it waste time and energy taking things from place to place, it also leads to a lot of reorganizing when, say, you find that giant box of kitchen items after you’ve already set everything up.  If you followed Tip #1, all of your boxes should be in each room, allowing you to unpack each room in full before moving on.  Finally, even finishing one room can give you a sense of accomplishment and keep your spirits up as you continue to plow through.

3.)  Don’t be afraid of storage. Every time I’ve moved, I’ve always “traded up” so to speak for more space.  You’d think this would mean I could have everything out on display, right?  Not the case.  I’m not a fan of cluttered spaces, and for this reason, I’m not afraid of storing things, whether it’s in the basement or in a storage center.  We all have things that we don’t use every day.  Why stress yourself out trying to make it fit when it could easily be stored?  As you go room to room, start a box for things that don’t need to be out on a day to day basis and work to find a solution to store these things if space does not allow.

4.)  Set a goal for yourself. I know people that moved months ago who still haven’t finished unpacking.  I understand it takes some time to get to know your space and figure out what you want.  However, for me, I wanted everything unpacked within one week of moving in.  Keeping to this goal helped me to prioritize rooms and other weekly activities.  Unpacking within one week is NOT an unreasonable time frame.  In fact, I even logged some extra hours at work during this time and still managed to meet this goal.

5.)  Save the decorating for last. I’ve made this mistake dozens of times.  You come upon your box with all of your pictures/curtains and want to start hanging things up.  However, if you’re not totally unpacked, you run the risk of having to take things down as you continue to rearrange.  Once I cleared all the boxes out of each room, I was able to really step back and see if the furniture made sense where we had it and also assess where we needed pictures aas well as what curtains to use.  I know decorating makes everything feel more homey, however, save this for last if you value your walls and don’t want to put in nails unnecessarily.  🙂

6.)  Share the burden. When it comes to unpacking, I tend to be pretty territorial.  However, it’s unreasonable to think that I could unpack Jared’s office boxes and put things where he wants them.  Have an honest talk with your spouse/roommates about who is responsible for what.  If there’s something they want to be involved in, like setting up the kitchen, find out first before you start.  Also, be honest about your expectations as far as when you expect things to be unpacked.  It’ s not overbearing at all to say that you are hoping to have all boxes out by Sunday, for instance.  Setting goals together helps everyone stay on track.

To be honest, I secretly enjoy the unpacking process.  Take the time to realize how much fun it is to set up your things in a new space.  If you’re organized and stay on track, unpacking can happen quickly and efficiently, while still leaving you time to have a life!

As most of you know, over the weekend I completed my 8th and final move into our new home.  8 times is a lot of times to move, whether it’s been via the DC Metro or through a professional moving company, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.  Whether you’ve moving soon or in a few years, here are some tips to keep in mind!

1.)  Maintain an organized packing system. Hands down, this is the #1 thing that kept me sane during these crazy 4 years.  Knowing what’s in each box saves precious time and effort, ensuring you’re not opening every single box to find that bottle opener.  😉

As I’m packing boxes, I maintain a list of what I’m putting into each one.  Each box then gets a number that matches my list of what’s in it.  For instance, the first box I pack is #1, and on my list, I have a list of everything in Box #1.  It’s ok to be vague and put “Kitchen” next to Box #1, but if you know you’re going to want certain items, the more detail the better.

This really came in handy this past weekend.  We had the movers put all the boxes in the living room so we wouldn’t have to clutter up other spaces with our 70+ boxes.  Obviously, this created quite the pile.  Once the movers were out, Jared, my sister and I went in, list in hand, and were able to move each box to it’s appropriate room, clearing up the living area and allowing us to assess what rooms needed the most work.

If you follow no other tip on this list, FOLLOW THIS ONE!  It’s seriously a life saver.

2.)  Be realistic about what should come with you. I’m not a very sentimental person.  Nor am I a pack rat.  In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how much storage space you’ll have on the other end of your move-if you aren’t going to use something, it shouldn’t come with you.

My general rule of thumb has bee if I’ve moved a box from place to place and only taken it out when it was time to move again, it’s not coming again.  Take this time to weed through old documents, receipts, college memories, etc.  Donate what you’re not using, and move on!  I promise you won’t miss anything too much…I never have!

3.)  Don’t save everything for the last minute. There are definitely items that need to be saved for the last minute, such as things you use every day.  However, don’t wait too long to take care of these random items.  Doing so wastes a lot of time on moving day that could be spent loading up the truck.

Start in the rooms you spend the least time in.  For me, this was our office and guest bedroom.  Take the time to assess what you’re really going to use between now and your moving day.  Sure, it doesn’t look pretty, but it will save you some precious moments the day of your move.

Seaking of precious moments…

4.)  Don’t start packing at the last minute! Everyone’s busy, I get it.  In fact, our recent move came at the worst time professionally and personally for me.  The fact that I started packing even before we closed on the house saved me a lot of stress later.  If I had waited, things would have gotten ugly very quickly.  As I mentioned in #3, start as soon as you can!

5.)  Give yourself plenty of time. I know sometimes it’s hard to plan exactly when your move will take place.  Leases and other factors certainly can be inflexible at times.  However, if you know you’re not going to renew your lease, regardless of whether you have signed the dotted line for a new place, START PACKING.  I started packing up random things and clearing out crawl spaces long before our closing day.  Once again, it saves time and helps you chip away at the small stuff so you can focus on the big stuff.

As the day approaches, keep in mind it’s perfectly fine to give yourself some time to move in.  My preference has always been to start a lease mid-month, but not move in until the end of the month.  This gives you time to clean both places and start taking things over yourself.  Sure, there’s a reason why you’re hiring movers/getting a truck, but it doesn’t hurt to take little things over yourself, such as plants and other valuables.  For me, I wanted to take over all of our wedding things myself, just in case.  Saves valuable box space too!

6.)  Enlist help. This is something that I’m very bad at.  I like doing everything myself, but I’ve learned over the past 8 move times that help can be invaluable, whether its help with cleaning out your old place, or help the day of.  Enlist a close family member or two to be with you the day of to help you handle last minute things.  I say a family member or two, because there is such a thing as too  much help.  When you’re moving, sometimes it’s hard to figure out what you need to be doing next, let alone what other people can be doing.  Limiting the amount of people around on the day of will create a stress-free environment and help you focus on what you actually need to be doing!

Coming up next….some helpful unpacking tips!  Happy Moving!

Normally, I wouldn’t feature a site like this as part of my Friday series.  However, as you know, Jared and I are in the midst of our house search, and one of the main reasons we went with Weichert had a lot to do with their Web site.  So, let’s take a look!

Weichert is very heavily concentrated in our area, so I can’t lie and say we only went with them because of the Website.  However, I do find their search features to be among the best of all real estate Web sites.  When we were first looking and were not ready to commit to a particular group, Weichert was one of the only sites that would let us see as many details as possible without logging in and being harassed with phone calls and emails.

The best part about Weichert is the search functionality.  My biggest hangup with other real estate Web sites was how long it took the photos to load and the flash-type platforms they would use.  I really don’t have time to click in 1,000 different places to find out information about a house.  Weichert keeps everything within 1 click, allowing you to scroll through pictures in the same screen you’re already in, avoiding pop-ups and flash sites loading and slowing things down.

The only trouble we did experience with the search functionality was that it would often give us listings that didn’t meet the criteria we had selected.  For instance, we wanted 2+ full bathrooms, and we would still get listings with only 1 full bathroom.  There must be a reason behind this, but I have to admit it was annoying.

Once you do establish an account on the Weichert Web site, you’re able to have email alerts sent to you with new listings within your search parameters.  Once the email arrives in your inbox, all you have to do is click on the link to the new house, and you’re taken right to the page without having to log in again.  Love that.  Made looking at new listings so much easier!

In addition to providing a great way to look at listings online, Weichert provides a lot of great area information on their site as well.  We were particularly interested in the school and community information.  By doing simple Web searches, I think that information is hard to come by.   It was nice to have it all in one place.

As we approach our potential closing date of August 30th, I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say about the service we’ve received from Weichert….stay tuned!

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