Category Archives: Home Management

Electronics B&H photo

Why I Buy All High-End Electronics at B&H Photo

We’ve been buying photo equipment and other electronics at B&H Photo and Video since the mid 90s.

Back then they didn’t have an online presence but service was great and shipping was fast.

It’s impressive how well the brick & mortar store adapted to compete online with giants like Amazon, Target, Walmart and the bigger membership store retailers.

I usually buy an extended warranty (2-3 years depending on the item) which has recently paid off-twice on the same item.

We helped Hannah buy her second dSLR two years ago. She decided on the Nikon D610 after some extensive research. It’s a good entry-level professional grade camera that’s reasonably priced. (Relative to other pro models).

She dropped it during a photo shoot. One of the reasons I get the extended warranty (in this case 3 years for about $75) is that it covers damage from drops and spills.

Square Trade emailed a free shipping label, I boxed it up and sent it to their repair center.

It took a couple of weeks which was a bummer, but she got the camera back like new.

A few weeks ago, her shutter froze while she was shooting a Pittsburgh Thunderbirds game. Even though her camera had already been repaired once, the camera was still covered. Woo-hoo!

Pittsburgh Thunderbirds photo via Hannah Phillips Media

Ruh Roh-Camera broke.

I opened another claim. This repair was projected to take a few weeks because they were waiting for a part from the manufacturer.

I learned that when you purchase the Square Trade warranty through B&H, it carries a special 2-5 day guarantee. If they can’t repair your item within 2-5 days, Square Trade will refund the price of the warranty but still honor it until the warranty expires. You have to ask for this benefit, though.

The repair ended up taking less than two weeks after a B&H executive got involved. He explained to me that either Square Trade or B&H will make accommodations on a case by case basis to make sure their customers aren’t stranded without critical equipment while it’s being repaired.

I have opened claims on two other items that I purchased at B&H and got a full refund when they quit working. In both cases, the manufacturer’s warranty had expired so they really paid off.

B&H Photo’s customer service is the best. In the most recent case, I only contacted them to inquire about a rental or a loaner that I intended to pay for when Square Trade customer service was telling me the repair would take weeks. The B&H rep was appalled that the repair was taking so long and insisted on looking into the matter for me. He suggested that I email the customer service/sales executive to explain my situation. The exec ended up being a total badass but also professional. After he got involved, the estimated repair time turned from a couple of weeks to one day.

Here’s the lesson: B & H has your back. Purchase the Square Trade warranty directly from B&H.

Nikon D3100 on Clearance!

Nikon D3100 on clearance at Target stores!*

If you’re in the market for a great entry-level digital SLR, Target has an incredible deal on the Nikon D3100. It’s available in stores only for $299.00! I’ve been pricing this model for a couple of years and it’s never been this low. In the past year or so, it’s been hovering around the $450 range (depending on the lens package).

I’m guessing Nikon is discontinuing the model. I checked other sites to compare. Amazon is selling the same kit (18-55mm DX VR zoom lens) for $409. B&H Photo is currently selling this package for $389 (B&H always has the best deals, a great warranty program and typically has a few extra accessories with their products-like SD cards and/or cases). Target’s website is selling it for $429. So, $299 is really a steal.

My daughter has used this camera for almost 4 years and loves it. Don’t get me wrong, she’d love to have a more expensive camera but this one has served her well. She’s taken tens of thousands of photos and has even produced some finished videos with it. It’s held up great with a lot of use.

The D3100 has a light-weight, easy-to-handle body compared to other DSLR’s

There are more expensive Nikon models with higher megapixels, to be sure. Unless you’re a professional, though,  14.2 mp is plenty. As you can see by the shot below, the D3100 takes professional quality photos:

Rafa Cincy Tennis

Western & Southern Open Champ

This would be a great entry level camera for a kid who’s considering photography as a hobby.

If you end up picking one up, let me know. I haven’t been this excited about a bargain for a while.


*You might want to call your local Target stores to check if they still have any left. Also, the card in front of the display model indicated a price of $429 for the kit to match the price online. The display camera, itself, had a “clearance” sticker on it with the $299 price, which is why I originally thought the price was for the floor model. I have not called other Target stores to confirm that they also have this model for the “clearance” price but I don’t see why they wouldn’t if they have it in stock.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Laws of Motion

My “Word” for 2014

Laws of Motion

In the past few years I’ve chosen “simplify” and “fearless” and those words were perfect at the time. I don’t think I chose a word for 2013 but I seemed to accomplish a lot so I’m fine with that.

It always takes me a while to decide and I never put the pressure on myself to choose something by January 1. I’ll continue to simplify and confront my fears. My new word feels right and appropriate for all the areas of my life and I can’t explain how it sort of just popped up, but it did.

“MOVE”. That’s my word. For my 2 friends who might still read this blog, I’m not referring to my household. I’m staying put in my 1800 sq. ft farmhouse. I love it here. But in nearly every other category of life, I need momentum.

Mark and I celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2013. That’s all good and I’m grateful to be with him but in some ways, I feel like we’ve let life happen to us.

When you’ve spent 18 years in a house and it doesn’t feel that much different than when you moved in, it can be a little discouraging. I’m determined to “move” on some big house projects so it functions better for our family. With the help of a local contractor, all of us are moving within the house. That plan to make our house more livable and functional for us includes creating a 4th bedroom for our family of 6 without an addition. We’ll be moving people and stuff from room to room. That will undoubtedly be the biggest change but at the end of it the girls will each have their own bedroom and the boys will have a bigger room. The boys don’t mind the room they’re in but it drives me crazy. Their current room will accommodate one person (Kate) much better. Hopefully, the new family room will comfortably seat more than 3 people.

I think it was last year at about this time when I had plans to finish painting the trim in my bedroom (and the rest of the house). Yeah, that still isn’t finished. I’ll be moving on that project. I think I’ve had blue tape on my bedroom wall for an entire year (unless it’s been two-yikes).

I literally haven’t committed to exercising since Hannah was born….16 years ago! I intend to do something to move and sweat on a regular basis. No excuses. If I need shoulder surgery as a result (one of my excuses), I’ll deal with that.

I’ve committed to writing 500 words a day in order to get moving on writing again. Last summer, I accomplished a goal of writing an ebook. I was able to write nearly every morning before the house woke up. I published the book on Amazon on August 29 and two things combined to sabotage my writing for a while. First, I was so sick of words I couldn’t think straight. Second, school started and Mark was up early for a class 5 days a week. I discovered that I have a hard time writing with distractions. It’s also hard for me to write at night.

I’m sure there are other areas which will benefit from some movement as well. I need to move money and move clutter out of the house and garage (that’s a given). I’ll keep you posted.

What are you doing for the new year for a fresh start? Choosing a word? Setting goals? Making resolutions? Starting a new habit? (Speaking of my new habit…I forgot to discuss this with Mark but I’ve been writing down my expenditures. I’m even including mileage to and from tennis -40 miles round trip-so we and Luke have a better idea of the cost). Sorry for the digression…I’d love to hear what you’re doing.

If you want to join the 31 day 500 word a day challenge, head on over to to get the details.

A New Habit for the New Year


It’s the perfect time to begin this new habit

Habits are powerful. In fact, I’d argue that they are one of the most powerful influence in our lives.

A new year always brings talk of new habits, resolutions, words, goals. I think all of those things are great and I plan to do some planning of my own. I usually give myself the month of January to reflect and plan, though, since the holidays tend to be full of activity and wrapping up, literally and figuratively.

One common goal for people (including me) is to get control of finances. Mark and I are better at managing our money and saving than we used to be but we could do better.

This becomes even more difficult as the children get older and we find ourselves spending in response to some need, want or activity that we’ve committed to. Somewhat related to our family finances, it’s also important to us that the kids appreciate the value of everything. Not only material things but the resource of time and the importance of supporting and making sacrifices for others. Being open with them about how much things cost (especially things they ask for or expect) is one piece of that puzzle.

If Mark and I don’t know exactly how much things cost (especially when we fail to plan properly), it’s nearly impossible to expect the kids to have an appreciation for it.

Today I decided to keep better track of our expenses. I think this will be a great way to raise the kids’ awareness of where the money goes and how much things really cost. They have a general appreciation for it but not an acute awareness of it. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told the boys to turn off their bedroom light in the past 2 weeks).

January 1st is a great day to begin the habit of recording expenditures and putting them into categories (food, clothing, activities, entertainment, utilities, gas, etc.). I know it will be an eye-opener for all of us. I also think it will help us make better choices about our expenses and plan better, too. I don’t plan to judge or analyze, I really just want us all to see where the money is spent.

Even if you haven’t decided on your goals, a word for the year or made resolutions (most people claim not to do this, but I think it’s all related to starting fresh), you can write down what you spent today, then tomorrow, then the next day. See if this helps you set some goals for the rest of the year.

Happy New Year!

holiday decorations

3 Tips to Simplify Holiday Un-decorating

holiday decorations

Whether you take the tree down the day after Christmas, New Year’s Day or wait for Epiphany or Orthodox Christmas, un-decorating can be a daunting, overwhelming task. Here are a few things you can do to make the chore less “Grinchy” and still allow you to enjoy the best parts of holiday cheer.

1. Keep Your Boxes Handy

This tip might be obvious to some of you but it took me a few years to figure out.

I used to pull out all of my Christmas decoration boxes from the attic at one time, decorate the house,  then store the empty boxes back in the attic. Our attic has a pull-down ladder and a low ceiling so you pretty much have to crawl around up there to retrieve anything. This wasn’t convenient and made the task a little too “all-or-nothing”.

Now I store empty boxes in the basement or garage which provides easier access. DUH.

As a BONUS, since we live in a small house, this provides excellent hiding places for gifts.

2. Small Steps

I take the decorations down over a few days or even a couple of weeks. I remove the things first that feel most like clutter or that I find myself stepping over (like the train under the tree).

My son is sentimental about the various stuffed Christmas toys we’ve received over the years. He doesn’t play with them but he loves to see them out. I don’t especially love these and they feel a lot like clutter to me since my children are older now and DON’T play with them. They are the last things out of the attic and the first things back.

I took our candles out of the windows today since a few have burned out and one keeps falling off the ledge. Since we still have twinkly lights in other parts of the house, I can still enjoy that comfy evening glow that only holiday lights can provide.

Basically, I’ll take the lights down last. It’s amazing how bare the house feels when everything is put away.

3. Remove Ornaments but Leave the Lights

In keeping with tip #2, leaving the tree up and the lights on it doesn’t mean you can’t put away the ornaments.

While everyone usually loves to pitch in with decorating the tree, the task of un-decorating it always falls on me so I tackle the ornaments first. I leave the lights on so we can enjoy them a little longer but the most time-consuming part of the job is behind me.

Another obvious strategy is to purge decorations and ornaments that you no longer love or use. This will make both sides of the chore easier next year.

Do you have any tips that make the task of cleaning up after the holidays any easier? Please share it in the comments.

Aldi Chili Recipe

Easy Crockpot Chili

This Chili is Perfect for a Busy Day or a Big Crowd

I’ve posted about my love for Aldi before. I am so brainwashed that I’ve walked out of our local grocery chain in disgust because I didn’t want to spend an extra $.49 for a bag of noodles.

Here’s a quick dump recipe that costs around $10 with plenty of leftovers for a busy day or a big crowd. I browned the ground beef and threw it all in a crock pot. You could also let it simmer on the stove for a couple of hours.

2-2.5 lb ground beef, browned (2.39/lb)

1 can Fire Roasted tomatoes (.89) (This is occasionally available, stock up if you like them)

1 can diced tomatoes with green chilis (Aldi’s version of Ro-tel) (.59)

3 sm cans tom sauce (that’s what they had on hand) (.75)

1 can of chili flavored beans (.59)

1 can of kidney beans (.59)

2 tsp of chipotle chili powder (I didn’t get this at Aldi but Aldi does carry chili seasoning packets or you can use your favorite chili powder to taste)

Stir it up and cook it on low in a crockpot or simmer on low on the stove top for a couple of hours.

Quick and satisfying chili recipe

Aldi Chili

If you prefer less kick, leave out the tomatoes with green chilies.


Linking up over at The Shabby Nest and The Thrifty Groove……it’s been a while. Go be inspired.

The Shabby Nest

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through an affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much.



Update on My Social Experiment

Wow, I really am surprised. Within a day, the souvenir cup from the Cincinnati tennis tournament disappeared from the toilet tank. Today I noticed that the glass was gone.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Honestly, I don’t even know how to spell hallelujah and I refuse to look it up because you know what I mean.

I’m so shocked. I cannot believe someone carried those things out of my bathroom without me having to hunt them down. I am feeling a big lump in my throat. I think I might cry!

I promised I would tell you if my social experiment failed. But really, as all true scientists know…bias has no place. Data tells the story. Obviously I’ll have to revise my thesis.

Mum, if you told the kids about this, well, shame on you!

Is it me or is this just gross?

Cups on the potty

You never know when you might get thirsty


There’s something about cups in the bathroom that just rubs me the wrong way. We don’t have a counter top so a rinse cup was never an option for us. Have you ever looked at one of those closely?

It’s a bathroom germ party, that’s all you need to know. Glassware in the bathroom just makes me think of broken shards of it all over the tile floor.

We don’t keep a cup in the bathroom, let alone on the toilet. I can’t say I was surprised when I noticed the small glass on the toilet the other day. Random things are all over this house on a regular basis. When the tall souvenir cup made its appearance next to it on the toilet tank, I was like what the…..?

I have my suspicions about who’s responsible for the second cup but I’m not throwing anyone under the bus. I decided I’m not saying anything about them. Both cups have been there since September 1. Remember how I wrote about how Sept 1 is a nice date for starting something, like launching an ebook? I’m conducting a private experiment. I really want to see how long those 2 cups are on the back of the toilet if I don’t move them.

I’m confident they’ll be there through Christmas. I guarantee you that if certain people are assigned to clean the bathroom, they won’t take them to the kitchen where they belong. (I think 2 of the kids would think to do that).

Let’s have a contest! Find some random, obviously out-of-place thing in your house and see how long it’s there. Leave me a comment. I promise to let you know if someone moves it. I wanna keep it real, here.

the road to being home

Being Back Home!

the road to being home

The best roads always lead back home!

I’ve had sort of a whirlwind June. Luckily I had no plans for an “intentional summer” or big DIY projects like last summer, otherwise, I would be feeling frazzled and defeated right now. The first weekend took my girls away. Kate has since returned. After Mark got a mini-retreat with Hannah at my aunt’s, he came home, too.

Junior tennis

Backhand: weapon of choice

Luke spent the 2 weeks after that training all day, every day for a big tennis tournament in Lancaster. Although he lost a 3 set heart-breaker in the first round, he kept winning in the back draw and ended up playing in the finals of the back end. He got a lot of great matches and played really well overall. The logistics of that tournament were tricky since every day is unpredictable. Mark left with him on Friday, I stayed behind while Mark’s baseball team played their play-offs (and won the championship!) I ended up leaving home on Monday mid-match, willing to turn around if Luke lost but he ended up winning. Mark left him with another tennis friend who also was still alive, I intercepted Luke and we were there for 2 more days.

I’ll pick Hannah up this weekend and we’ll all be under 1 roof for the first time in 3 weeks. Hannah asked to stay with my aunt for another week. Since she has no formal obligations and my aunt is really enjoying and benefitting from her company, I agreed.

As I mentioned in his birthday post, Mark is LOVING baseball and loves being with his team so I fully committed to allowing him to play All-Stars. This is a first for us. Usually, I like to leave July and August open for us to go to our cabin in the mountains on the weekends. In the past, both boys have been ready for the season to be over after play-offs and played a few post-season games. It turns out that Mark’s team will likely play throughout July and I agreed to take him to a tournament overnight 3 hours away. He’s looking forward to staying in a hotel and he really loves being with this group of boys, one of whom is his best buddy in the neighborhood so that makes it nice.

This summer, I’m letting life happen. It’s been a little hectic but enjoyable. The kids being older and more self-sufficient helps. As much as I’d like to finish some projects around here and at the duplex, I’m not stressing about it. We still evaluate each opportunity or obligation as it is presented. I really want to allow the kids to have unique experiences if they’re able. Cost is always a factor so, we’ll try to make it work.

Traveling up and down the Pa Turnpike hasn’t been bad but it makes me realize how much I love Being Home 😉.

Ebook Bundle of the Week-Time Management, 5 eBooks for $7.40!

A New Bundle every Monday!


If you love ebooks as much as I do, you might be interested in a site I just discovered. Ebook Bundle of the Week combines 5 related titles each week and offers a huge discount to readers.

This week’s bundle is  all about time management including “Tell Your Time” by Amy Lynn Andrews which I recently reviewed here.Summer is in full swing here and while it was nice to indulge in the laziness of it during the transition last week, I am craving some routine and structure.

Here’s the official description:

Running a household, caring for children and still finding time to pursue your passions is not an easy order, but this week’s bundle is designed to give you the tools to make the most of the 24 hours you’re given each day. Discover tips for creating schedules and routines, the importance of rest, strategies to help you be on time and more!

Get this bundle for almost 60% off this week only.

With your purchase, you’ll get all five of the following ebooks:

Get yours today!

I’ll be checking it out.

Disclosure: If you purchase the bundle through a link from this blog post, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I really appreciate it and I’d love to hear what you thought of any of the titles. I hope to review some or all of the others after I get a chance to read them all.