This year was super easy! We went to see Santa (we’re milking the whole “Santa is watching” dealio for all it’s worth this year) and when we purchased a package of pictures, we got a $20 gift card to Shutterfly. So, of course, I came right home and set to work to use it. I uploaded the picture, did a little crop job, picked out a template, used a link from Ebates (it’s actually my start page now when I bring up the ol’ net) and a few short minutes, and 4 template changes later, we have our Christmas Cards. HOORAY! Yours can be just as easy, too! Here’s what we ended up with:

Giggles And Grins Christmas Card
Get custom photo Christmas cards online at Shutterfly.com.
View the entire collection of cards.

I’m a big fan of customer service, in case you haven’t been able to tell. I just wanted to take a minute and brag about the experience I had at Bill Currie Ford last week after the debacle to my poor Stella at Lowes. Bill Currie Ford is the ONLY Ford Dealership in Tampa Bay (yes there are more than 1) worth going to and trust me . . . I’ve been to them all.

If you read about my last visit to Lowes, you’d know that I had to get an estimate to repair a scratch on Stella’s bumper. I have an extended-superstar-cover-everything-you-possibly-can warranty on Stella and I take her to the Dealership for EVERYTHING. I know a lot of you would argue with that . . . and guess what? I buy my cars brand new, too. And I’m not sorry. I know it’s not the “fiscally responsible” thing to do, but I like the POM that comes with knowing exactly what has gone on with my vehicle since the day it was driven off the lot for more than a test drive. But I digress . . .

I swung by Bill Currie and found the collision & repair center in the back. I walked through the door, kneeled down to tie my shoe and by the time I stood up, one of the shop guys asked how he could help me.  I told him what my problem was and what I needed and he offered to take a look real quick. He was hopeful that the damage could be buffed out but I promised him that it couldn’t. I’m sure he was doing the typical “she’s a girl, she doesn’t know” bit, but I do know a couple things. 🙂

He went outside with me, took a receipt out of his wallet to write down my VIN (I saved him the trouble by handing him my registration card), we went back inside so he could get to his computer to type up an estimate and before I knew it I was back out the door and on the road. At the end of the day, the estimate to fix the scratches is $450 and that blows. But getting the actual estimate was the most pain-free process of this whole mess. So thank you, Bill Currie, for continuing to offer me great service.

This past Friday, I went to my Lowe’s to pick up a grill for my husband and father of my child and best friend to celebrate Father’s Day. I had all the plans in place to make it a surprise so he wouldn’t see it until Father’s Day and was SO proud of myself for not letting it slip.

But the management at this particular Lowe’s location ruined it for all of us.

We are a Lowe’s family. With all of the work we’ve done on this and previous houses and both of us having particular hobbies, Lowe’s has really become our 2nd home. With a Target right next door and a Chick-fil-A across the parking lot, really, what more could you ask for?

When I decided to get the grill for my husband, I didn’t shop around. I just headed straight to Lowe’s, knowing full well they’d have something that would fit the bill. And they did. I picked it out, paid for it and was waiting for it to be brought up front and the tanks exchanged all within 10 minutes.

When the grill was brought up to the front, I was asked what kind of vehicle I drove. I responded and drove Stella up to the curb to see if they thought it would fit. I was told that the fit “wouldn’t be a problem” and 3 employees proceeded to load the grill into the back of Stella. It didn’t fit. Keep in mind, we’re in Florida. So while this is going on, its bright & sunny, about 95 degrees and 2462% humidity. So they took the grill back out, we stood around for about 7 minutes while the salesman runs inside to grab a screwdriver, they removed the top, and reloaded. We’re still not in all the way, hanging off by maybe less than a foot, but I only have a couple of miles to go. I told them I’d tie down the hatch, I’ll drive carefully and I’ll still be happy. I happened to look down though and noticed this time, however, upon reload, they managed to scratch Stella. Not a huge scratch by any means (maybe an inch?), but a deep one. Through the clear coat, through the paint and down to the base metal of the car. They also managed to mar up my protective plate in the trunk and make another long scratch along the bumper.

I was upset, but I wasn’t angry. I take care of my property very well and when damages occur, I get them fixed. Things like this happen, right? Lowe’s is reputable, they’ll make good on it and we’ll all be happy. Enter Manager Chad. Eventually.

It took Chad about 10 minutes to finally get outside and say “Yes, How can I help you?’  The words weren’t horrible, but his tone was incredibly demeaning. I felt like I was a toddler that just broke a vase all over again. Except this was MY vehicle and LOWE’S EMPLOYEES caused the damage. So I took a minute to explain the problem and show him the damage and he says, “Well, I will apologize for the scratch but the inside protective plate, you have to expect that . . . well, if this were my vehicle . . .” I couldn’t let that slide. I interrupted him with, “but it’s NOT your vehicle” which seemed effective enough for him to realize just how serious I was AND that I wasn’t going to just walk away.

Chad then proceeded to tell me that I ” . . . should have rented a truck. Or used a friend’s truck. What was I thinking trying to get the grill into the back of the vehicle?” Again, the pompous attitude offended me because I DID mention that I had a truck available and could pick up the grill the following day. When I said it, however, the employees continued to load the grill anyway. Knowing where they work for a living, I gave them the benefit of the doubt in knowing what they were doing. Shame on me.

Chad called out the store liability guy . . . the one with the digital camera. I was actually happy to see that Lowe’s is prepared with having this guy and the equipment on site ready to document any accident. While he is photographing the scratches, Chad proceeds to tell the employees to tie down my hatch with twine and anchor it to my rear windshield wiper. Seriously. This suggestion came from a Lowe’s Store Manager. That was not going to fly. I objected and the Lowe’s Risk Guy says, “actually, we’re not allowed to tie anything down. As the vehicle owner, you can do it yourself, if you’d like. But our employees are not allowed to tie down anything and we relinquish any responsibility for damages that may be caused.”

Chad then decided to jump on Lowe’s Risk Guy’s wagon and says “actually, our employees are not responsible for loading anything into your vehicle. It’s not something we regularly do.” So I told Chad exactly what he needed to say to me. All I wanted to hear was, “I am SO sorry about the damages and I would like to take care of the bill for repairing them. In addition, to compensate you for the extra time you now have to take out of your day to fix a problem caused by our employees and in a gesture of good faith for your future business, I would also like to have one of our employees deliver the grill to your home for you.” When I told him that’s what he should have said, he scoffed and said “there’s no way I’m taking care of the delivery. And if you bring me estimates for repairing the damage, I’ll see if there’s something I can do.” Something you can do? Really? I politely asked him to remove the grill from my vehicle and issue me a full refund. With that attitude and abhorrent customer service, there is no way I’m giving that store credit for the sale.

So while I waited for all the employees to take their time coming back out to the car to unload the grill, I took care of unloading all the parts, accessories and propane tank. Now, it’s 2 days before Father’s Day, I’m sunburned from standing in the parking lot, hot and miserable, staring down the barrel of unknown lost time due to having to get a quote that *maybe* Chad will cover to repair the damages, then having to go back to the shop to have the repairs done, and I still don’t have a grill for Father’s Day.

I’m not so unrealistic that I’ll curse Lowe’s and vow to never shop there again. It really is our 2nd home and this is just one bad experience over the hundreds of positive ones. I really do hope that Lowe’s can come up with something to take this extremely sour taste out of my mouth.

Moose and I unleashed our inner-farmers this weekend. The husband had to work so it was just me and the Moose that got to enjoy Goose’s 4th birthday party. What do you think of when you hear “4-year-old birthday party?” I think of Chucky Cheese, Movie Theatres, Bounce Houses, Duckpin Bowling and parks. But what about Farms? No? Me neither. But it was A BLAST.

Noah’s Ark Farm in Odessa is full of wonderful animals and the party was hosted by Farmer Ben, the owner of Noah’s Ark. The kids got to pet & brush goats, hold baby chicks, tickle pot-bellied pigs and ride a pony. It was such a great experience and all of the kids really seemed to get a kick out of learning about the animals. So much so, in fact, that Moose and I walked away with an extra special party favor.

Someone had dropped a rooster off at Noah’s Ark Farm and Farmer Ben mentioned needing to find a new home for him. While he was extremely friendly and got along great with the hens, he caused problems with the other roosters. There’s really no benefit to having a rooster without hens. Roosters don’t lay eggs and we probably wouldn’t be very popular with the neighbors. But he was SOOO cool. A quick message to the husband and it was settled. If the Moose wanted to bring home the rooster, we would officially have our first family pet.

But Farmer Ben’s wife had a change of heart about finding a new home for the Rooster. Apparently, the youngest of their 8 children had grown quite fond of the Rooster. So instead of brining home a live Rooster, Farmer Ben gave us a different pet. A pet that the Moose could be much more involved with and try to raise all on his own.

Our first Family Pet

Farmer Ben taught us how to take care of it and incubate so we could hopefully have our newest family member in just 21 days! Last night I ran out to Lowe’s and picked up a grow light and the husband set up a little bed outside on the porch. We’re not going to name it or get any more involved at this point because there’s a very large chance that it won’t work out. But the Moose is VERY excited and pitched a fit last night when we didn’t let him sleep out on the porch with it.  So we’ll keep you posted . . . we’ve got 20 more days to go!

Lately, I’ve become a much bigger fan of marketing efforts. It’s because I understand it more and I’ve been able to see some actual results from it. But I’ll be honest: I’ve always associated Marketing & Sales to each other and never in the best light. They’ve just always seemed like high-pressure fields and I’m not down with pressure much.

I’m also not down with wasting money, killing trees and trying to shove a message down someone’s throat. Based on the contents of my mailbox lately, it seems that Verizon and I don’t see eye-to-eye on all this. Seriously, there is not a span of 3 days in a row where my mailbox is Verizon-ad free. At this point it’s beyond getting on my nerves so I thought I’d share a little of my frustration with you.

These 4 envelopes arrived all on the same day

I think that’s INSANE. Keep in mind, this is just one day and doesn’t include all the generic flyers that come with our junk mail (there’s AT LEAST ONE in every pile) and envelopes addressed to “current resident” of our address. My issue with waste of money is simple: granted, we’re just 1 house, but think of how many millions of duplicates they send EVERY mailing. There’s money spent on the paper, money spent on the printing & envelope stuffing and money spent on the postage. Seriously? You think four advertisements in one day is appropriate? How many trees did you help to waste with this nonsense?

Really, the solution is simple: how about you run a quick analysis on your mailing list and eliminate any duplicates? Would that really be so hard? Trust me, it might do you some good. Because at this point, seeing how much you waste is an instant turn-off. I have NO DESIRE to switch to your services now. If you harass me this much and I’m not even a customer, I could only imagine what it would be like if I WERE a customer.

As an important note, incase you think I’m bashing on Verizon in its entirety . . . we are Verizon Wireless customers and are VERY happy with that service with no intention of changing any time soon.

I took the Moose down to Palm Beach Gardens yesterday to see one of my bestests and we had a great time. Well . . . other than the 8 hours in the car. In one day. But I’ll post about that later once I have the videos edited.

The real reason for this post is the SHOES. Alli took us to this mall-type-thingy and these things were calling my name. loudly. Really – it was obnoxious. Even Alli heard them. Eh, okay, so it was really the 3-year-old throwing a temper-tantrum outside the store, but I like to remember the good things. Like these SHOES.

I have no idea how I would wear them, but I would wear them everywhere. I might even wear them to bed. And in the shower. Problem is, I don’t have the benji’s to afford them. Yet. Check ’em out at www.oldgringofootwear.com – they ain’t cheap. So I have 2 options: SELL, SELL, SELL. Tell your friends. OR I could find a super fantastic uber friend to buy them for me. <insert hysterical laughter here> Right. So tell your friends . . . I have some sales to make.

And in case you need some inspiration to help me reach my goal, here you go. I NEED, NEED, NEED!!

Behind our house is what the State calls a “preserve.” We call it a swamp. Regardless, no one is allowed to touch it (we can’t landscape it and no one can build on it), it provides countless viewings of all kinds of birds, it provides that most awesome chorus of frogs, is home to crawdads that eventually find their way into our pool and is also home to a new family of raccoons. They are THE CUTEST things – so tiny with short little ring tails.

A few weeks ago, Momma actually got caught on our porch somehow and freaked out a bit. But with a little coercing and an open door, she made her way back out. She had 3 little babies following her around for days but recently, we’ve only been seeing two of the babies. Of course, they’re not so much babies any more, but they’re not full-grown either. They like to hang out together and are pretty much inseparable. They’ve made a play area in the neighbor’s tree and even get along with the cats.

Of course I’m sure it helps that we all feed them, too. How can you not? They’re the cutest little buggers . . . and I’m sure this kind of activity will win us “Parents of the Year” awards some day. But don’t worry, we’re not crazy. Moose knows not to get too close and the instant they stop being cute and start treating US like the pet, we’ll make the call to have them relocated. Until then – we’re just enjoying the Preserve and its many inhabitants.