Who doesn’t like saving time? Or money.
I’m online more than I’d like to admit. In fact, my entire life is coordinated via my Google calendar and email. It tells me when my kids have appointments and games. It reminds me when I need to be at school for a “special presentation” or to drop off another teacher appreciation dish. Thank you, Google calendar, for the oh-so-necessary email and text reminders when my mid forties brain doesn’t operate per the instruction manual.
It’s all there.. my life on the little screen. My computer, probably like yours, has become an indispensable tool that’s front and center in managing our household. Matter of fact, our Mac is stationed two steps from the kitchen counter, the hub of all family goings on.
Besides my trusted Google calendar, I started thinking about all the websites I visit regularly–many of which some LoCo folks don’t know about. And since I have nothing better to do this afternoon (okay, I could be planting shrubs, scrubbing floors or getting my dinner started), I can’t help but share my go-to sites. Maybe you’ll find some of these websites become bookmarks on your laptop, too. Or that every now and then, you need to do a little recipe shopping or shoe shopping–and you can’t remember where to go. My list is my list. I’m sure you have your own. And if willing to spill the beans on your quintessential sites, write me a comment. For now, let me share a little of where I go when I let my fingers do the walking.
1. Hotwire.com — I am head over heels for this travel discount site. It’s definitely my favorite–even let’s you scout out deals on competitive sites from their homepage. Whether it’s booking two hotel rooms in New York City so we can take everyone to see Mary Poppins, or snagging two hotel rooms at 11pm on our drive home from vacationing in Maine, Hotwire.com has never let me down. For NYC, Hotwire hooked us up with two $115 rooms at the midtown Sheraton. On the way home from Maine, booking from our iPhone, we landed two $49 rooms at one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever stayed in as a family. They served a buffet breakfast with real plates and glasses–we felt like celebrities.
The secret to booking through Hotwire is to be fearless, and smart. The site doesn’t reveal which hotel you’ll be staying in until you’ve checked out, but the company works with some of the most familiar names in the business, plus some of the chicest boutique hotels. Hotwire does reveal all the amenities of the hotel before you book: fitness center, breakfast, restaurant, pool, wireless internet, and more. It also gives each hotel a star-rating, which is comprehensively explained on their site. We’ve booked plenty of hotel rooms and rental cars through Hotwire.com–and even explored many of their vacation deals. Don’t let the process scare you away–take a chance and save BIG BUCKS! I give this site a definite A+.
2.Yipdeals.com — Yep, I’m signed up for the daily emails from major players, Groupon and LivingSocial. But I’m LoCo, and not very many of Groupon’s or Living Social’s offerings are at my back door. That’s what I love about Yipdeals.com– it’s specifically targeting Loudoun County residents. One of the best deals going, which seems to repeat monthly, is Leesburg’s Tally Ho Theatre family movie package. Get this: $20 for 4 first-run movie tickets, good any day of the week, a large popcorn, two medium sodas and a box of candy. Okay, read that again. $20 for what could easily run you $60 elsewhere. They’ve also featured Pev’s Paintball specials, and Layng’s Flower Farm deals. To win brownie points with my teens, I’ve purchased the Tally Ho deal and treated my teen and some friends to a movie night in downtown Leesburg. It’s an easy pickup and drop-off, and they think I’m pretty cool (for about five minutes).
3. Takethemameal.com – This site was started by brilliant woman from Harrisonburg, Virginia, who was trying to figure out a way to better coordinate meals for friends and family in need. One person typically is charged with heading up this complex undertaking–weeding through a morass of response emails. Takethemsupper.com streamlines the entire process. There’s still one coordinator, but he/she simply sets up the page where mealmakers log in and sign up for a night of delivering dinner. The process takes all of about five minutes–there’s a place to make special notes about meal delivery or diet restrictions, add contact information, and even contact mealmakers about changes in plans (more servings needed, or switching delivery dates). After finding out which days are best for meals, the coordinator inputs the information and Viola!, an online sign-up sheet is created where volunteers register for a date and specify the meal they intend to deliver, thus avoiding four straight nights of lasagna.
The site also allows you to add links, like to one of my other favorites, youvegotsupper.com. When you sign up for weekly menus from youvegotsupper.com, you receive a week’s worth of menus–varied, relatively easy to make, and typically kid-friendly. Choose the recipes you’d like to make for the week, and print out the recipes and grocery list. This site gives me fresh, quick-fix ideas for family dinners, keeping me out of the casserole rut and reducing my “What’s for dinner?” panic attacks.
4. The 36-hour boutique sale sites. There are too many of these deep-discount websites to list, but I already have my favorites: Zulily.com; ideeli.com; ruelala.com; beyondtherack.com; hautelook.com and 6pm.com. The basic idea is that at a specific time each day, normally 10am or 11am EST, each of the aforementioned websites feature five or six new boutiques of designer items that will be on sale for just 36 short hours. The key is to be ready to buy when the sale goes live. You can preview the items in the hours before the sale begins, but only premium members, of which I am not, are permitted advance purchasing. Shelby, my high school junior, loves these deep-discount sites, because the designer brands she loves (Joe’s, Rock & Republic, 7 for Mankind) are featured at typically 50-70% off retail.
But if you’re a mom with young children, you MUST find Zulily.com–which is teeming with gorgeous name-brand apparel (including maternity and nursing wear), fashion accessories, custom-order stationery, home decor, shoes, toys, books and more for moms and their children alike. Ideeli.com showcases everything a man or woman requires to make a fashion statement–from high-end sunglasses and footwear to full-length gowns and bathing suits. My best Mom buys so far? A $17 purse for summer, and $100 worth of personal stationery for $50! Shelby’s list is longer and thick with designer names (all bought at steep discounts)! You’ll need to be “referred” by a member to join ruelala.com–but all you need is the email of someone already using the site. Like Ideeli.com, Ruelala.com offers an colorful collection of designer essentials–from reasonable to ridiculous in price, but all ready to go home at the 11 am bewitching hour.
I stop over at beyondtherack.com when I’m doing my rounds, but I haven’t ordered from this site yet. Ruelala, Zulily, and Ideeli appear to be the best and brightest we’ve uncovered so far. Orders from Zulily, Ideeli and Ruelala have all been fulfilled and delivered as promised.
Check out 6pm.com and sign up for special sales alert emails. 6pm carries all your favorite dress-for-success brands, from Betsey Johnson and Johnston Murphy to Nike and Ray Ban. If you’ve seen a brand at Nordstrom or Amazon, more than likely you’ll see it featured on 6pm.com. The special alerts notify you when the sales are, quite frankly, irresistible.
Every day offers something different on each of these steep-discount sites, which is why you’ll quickly find yourself patrolling your favorites, previewing upcoming sales, waiting for that one extraordinary pearl and gold necklace or one-of-a-kind floral sundress.
5. Etsy.com. I LOVE craft shows–I find unique, handmade works of the heart absolutely magnetizing. I’ve driven all over the map in search of the next best craft show: Crozet, Richmond, Old Town Alexandria, Harper’s Ferry, Frederick, Chantilly and beyond. With gas prices closing in on $4.00/gallon, thank God for Etsy. I can spend hours admiring the custom crafts of work-from-home moms from around the nation. Sure, there are dads on the site–but they’re completely outnumbered by the ladies. I’m one mom who likes that disparity–go GIRL POWER! I also majorly like the talent.
I’ll have to dedicate another post to some of my favorite Etsy shops. For now, here are a few of my current favs: Jennaration Yarns (especially love the hand-knit owl hat); gypsymoondesigns (stunning bohemian jewelry–lightweight statement makers); tannei casey (groovy patterned totes and purses); evalinen (striking felt jewelry creations); and ecoblingcouture (reclaimed and redesigned jewelry for your own red-carpet moment).
Thanks for letting this Loudoun Crazy Mom gush about some of my best online finds. I’d love to hear about yours–so write away. Thanks for stopping by–now get off the computer and enjoy this incredible spring weather. Plant a tree–a mandate from my own eight-year-old earlier this evening. Plant a kiss. Plant yourself in a new, unexplored part of your world. You don’t have to go far. Just go.