Black Friday 2013

This year’s Black Friday shopping experience could best be described as an all-nighter, with a three hour nap. Here’s a short clip of it: Recap of Black Friday 2013

But, it’s one of my most favorite times of the year! Mostly because as cranky as I can be in the morning, it’s quality time with my family and a HUGE adrenaline rush. Are you going to get that toy? Are you going to get that deal? Are you and your sister going to find the best parking spot or have to walk 10 miles? Are you ever going to make it to the check out line with the best deal of the season – and then check out for less than you thought it was going to be? So much fun!

For those of you that have never experienced Black Friday – like the real Black Friday where you actually walk through the doors of the store at 5am – I thought I might walk you through my experience. I think that’s the best way for you to understand what this madness is, and appreciate it.

My first memory of shopping in this madness was that big department store – Gayfers. Do you guys remember it? I may have gotten every homecoming dress from them until they were bought out. I can still see those old stores and remember shopping especially with my Mimi there! We adored that store! But, more relevant to this particular story, do you remember those huge bins they would pull out, which were always full of shirts from the end of the season? You could rummage through them for hours and look for that right size, etc. It was a huge thrill when you found something you wanted. Well one time, I remember my aunt – so excited and leaning over to a shirt just out of reach – got pushed in, and was upside down in one of them! Once we pulled her out and realized she was OK, I remember how hard we all laughed. And, that we got that shirt she wanted. Competition, and a great deal, at it’s finest!

So, here we go: Julie’s Aftermath of Black Friday 2013.
And as you will notice, we started on Thanksgiving with everyone else. The boys were hunting; our bellies were full; so, why not go shopping? We did have a little bit of a debate of whether or not we should support the stores being open, but in the end, decided it stimulated the economy, and went!

First stop: Walmart (Thanksgiving Day)

  • Did you know that there is a plan for this place? Like a map – seriously! You can download the map from their website, and most times they will have a copy of it at the store as well.  Why, you ask? Well, the toys ARE NOT in the toy section. Most times they are over by the canned veggies. You need the map to know where you need to be stationed for your first grab.
  • You need a game plan. What do you want the most here? Prioritize, and then you have to wait. Yes, I said wait. There are huge pallets placed in the aisles in Walmart, tapped together, with security walking by making sure no one is pulling any of the goodies too early. Whenever the deal starts, people grab the tape off, grab their box/pillow/item and go. Be prepared. Watch out, and go for gold.
    • Side note, this year I had to talk this guy into getting a Rachel Ray pot set. He stood there for 30 mins with the rest of us waiting for those orange beauties, and then, once everyone started grabbing – he freaked. After a quick pep talk from yours truly – I handed him one, grabbed one for myself, gave one to another girl, and hauled off to my next point of interest. Guys, you might not have me standing there beside you, so get your game face on!
  •  I’ve done this with a buggy and without. This just depends on what you can carry and honestly how bad you want it. (I’ve carried one of those huge box TV’s across a Supercenter a few years ago. I think it was mostly adrenline, but guys, I got it!) If you have a friend that wants to watch the madness, make them get the buggy and have them trailing you. You’ll be quicker for you to weave in and out of the aisle, but it’s nice to be able to have them there to put your steals.
  • It’s always good to make friends when you get there…you will see them all over the store, I promise. Be nice. When you are waiting… smile, be polite and keep going!
  • Pillows go SUPER fast. I don’t recommend even trying for them unless you really need them, and if so, grab 10 – and one for me.
  • I can’t say it enough – know where you are going next!
  • Final word of advice in Walmart: Do not “lolly-gag” in this store!  This is not the time to be shopping leisurely. Sure, you might want to walk around and grab a few more things – crayon wheels, toys, socks, etc. The thing not to forget – the checkout line. It’s going to be long. Get over it. And get out and on to the next stop.

JCPenney (Thanksgiving Day)

**Another tip – if the store is not your first stop, don’t wait in a line. We waited until JCP opened – which I think was like 7 or 8pm – in our car? It was freezing, so my sister and I sat there with the heater blasting until they opened the doors, and the line was in the store in five minutes. Once they open the door, it takes no time for people to get in the store. We waited all of 2 mins in the cold, as opposed to 15. Remember those chapped lips and dry hands guys – keep those babies protected and in the warm car for a few minutes more!

  • I was not prepared for this stop. My sister really wanted to go this year – they had a great deal on luggage which was on my parents wish list. So, while we were waiting in the car with our lip balm and hand lotion, I found some toys for my nephew!
  • Truth time. I pitched a fit here, and I’m not sorry about it. I walked in asked three people where the toys where – that were advertised. Final conclusion from the manager –  no toys this year. Are you freaking kidding me?  No Toys?!?  I pulled a “well you know that’s false advertising card” and that got me no where.  There were simply no toys to be found. I guess the Grinch came by and gobbled them all up. Annoying!
  • So, I pouted and found my way over to Sephora (which is inside this JCP) and bought myself some goodies. I needed a pick me up. And it was all discounted 😉
  • Finally, with my spirits lifted, I found my sister who was now ready to check out. While she was in line, I managed to run – yes run- around to find a few more scarves and knick nacks for stocking stuffers for her. Check out line here was a breeze (but maybe it was because I was running around)!

Kohls (Thanksgiving Day)

  • Again, I didn’t have anything here on my list, but it was open on Thursday and it’s right by JCP! So Jessica and I went – you can’t just pass by a good sale!
  • We browsed around a bit, and she found something that was a good deal, so we stood in line. Great time to chat and catch up. This was probably the slowest line we got in, but I’m not sure why. I think we honestly just hit it wrong, and got stuck. Of course, picked up a few things as we walked around the store in the checkout line. Those guys sure are smart to wrap us around like that!

Target (Technically this was through midnight, so Black Friday)

  • We totally missed the madness here. There wasn’t really anything that we wanted here that wasn’t at Walmart (and Walmart was cheaper!) so we were not in a rush to get here.
  • So, that being said, we got a great parking spot, walked right in and started looking at the leftovers. Guys, I’m talking pajamas, DVD’s, cute tops, etc. Struck it lucky here and checked out. We were back at the house be 12:15, unloaded and in bed at 12:45, alarms set for 4:30. And I had most of my major purchases done.

***BREAK TIME – Nap for 3 & 1/2 hours. Think about this like a red-eye flight.  You sleep, but you don’t. But, Bass Pro was opening at 5 am and my brother-in-law wanted some bullets he found in their ad. So, that was my plan, and we were ready to rest our eyes for a little bit!

Bass Pro MADNESS (Black Friday 5am)

  • This was a first time ever for me.  When my sister and I pulled in, we were absolutely intimidated. The parking lot was completely full, the line wrapped around the building and into the parking lot, and it was 4:45 in the morning. Big trucks, men, women, children, people were just everywhere.  We both sat there – dumbfounded. Are you kidding me? Who even were these people?
  • At 5am… as it’s opening…people start walking in.  We decided just to drive to the entrance and just see. All of the sudden, there wasn’t a line and people were just walking in. Before I knew it, my sister had jumped out of the car yelling “I’m running in and running out!”
  • So I did a little loop around, couldn’t even get my old parking spot, and parked a little further out. She was all of 15 mins in there. I can’t even remember what she grabbed, but bullets were not an option so she grabbed something and was out. Brother -in-law would have to get something else from me this Christmas! (Thankfully Auburn beat Alabama in the LAST SECOND of the game so I ordered a canvas print of that play of the century, and he was happy! I purchased the deal on Black Friday, once I was back home in front of my computer!)

All other stores

  • We visited several other stores during the rest of our trip, based on when they opened. Bed Bath and Beyond opened next at 6am, followed by a trip to World Market, Apricot Lane, B Boutique, Williams Sonoma, etc.
  • At all of these places, it’s better to think about who you still need presents for – aunts, uncles, friends – who’s on that list?  And, who of those people don’t know each other – so maybe they can get the same thing?
  • Look for deals, unique items, and follow the stores on their social media outlets. They will give a few deals on there too to award their followers. The more deals, the happier I get, and the more people that get Christmas presents on my budget!
  • Another tidbit – grab the local paper. They will have all the sales papers, ads, etc. This will help you plan where you need to stop.
  • I don’t have as many details on this part, but we found some super cute ideas that covered our whole list of people! I can’t emphasize how much money you can save, and still manage to get really great stuff for your family and friends. It is by no means Rolex’s for everyone- but it’s almost as sweet!

And…I’m done with everyone’s Christmas presents, and all within my budget. I’m talking at least 70% off these gifts, and when you are smart, they are really good gifts! The only thing left I had to worry about – wrapping the presents! And, all before 10am!

Stuck on Food: Gnocchi with Thanksgiving Leftovers!

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Thanksgiving = family time and fantastic food! I absolutely love Thanksgiving. My mom sent a email about two weeks before wanting to know what two dishes was wanted. I requested broccoli salad and macaroni and cheese. YUM! After all the Thanksgiving festivities are over, we had a ton of leftovers. It looked like we didn’t even put a dent in the food! But with stuffed bellies all around, I know we did some damage 🙂

So what do you do with the leftovers? I found this recipe, from The Art of Doing Stuff blog, that looked super easy and yummy. So, I decided to give it a whirl!

Sauce Ingredients:
(** I used a lot of leftovers that were in the fridge, so I’m not sure on the measurements. Just make it taste good!)

  • Leftover cherry tomatoes – I had about 1/2 a container and I cut up all of them
  • 1 can Campbell’s tomato sauce
  • Leftover chopped red and green peppers – together I had about 3/4 a cup
  • 1/2 onion – chopped
  • Oregano (really any Italian spices would help!)

This is easy – cook the onion with some olive oil first over medium heat. Once the onion is translucent, add the tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes, and peppers. Turn down the temperature to low, and let it simmer while you are making your gnocchi. Once you are about ready to serve, add the spices and some salt! DONE! Not a hard recipe, but it’s homemade and tastes better than plain ol’ store bought sauce!

Gnocchi Ingredients:

  • Leftover mashed potatoes – I used 2 cups
  • Williams Sonoma Gluten Free Flour – I used almost 1 cup. Make sure you are paying attention to your dough. You don’t want it too sticky, but you don’t want it too tough either! I sprinkled a little more once I was really working with my dough.
  • 1 egg – which you want to beat before adding to the mixture
  • Salt

I asked my mom to help me with some pictures this time, so hopefully I can explain how I did it. Do look at the blog I posted above too – their pics are amazing and super helpful! Basically you make the mixture, you separate it out to make it more manageable, and then you cut your gnocchi. Super easy – don’t add too much flour, and you can’t mess this up!

Start with 1/2 the flour on your working surface – I put down a sheet of freezer paper. Dump the potatoes right on top. Then, make a little well for your egg. Add the egg and sprinkle (or two) of salt. Dump the rest of your flour over the well and get to mixing! I didn’t have a dough scraper, so I used my hands – just as easy. I had to use more flour on my hands though. Separate the finished dough out to workable pieces. You will want to roll them out into a log, cut, and then create your shape. I used a fork to give the gnocchi some ridges so the sauce would stick. After you make the gnocchi, add to boiling water and wait for them to float.

When I did a test taste, I wanted just a little more flavor for the gnocchi, so I melted some butter and tossed them in it. Who is counting calories anyway? It’s Thanksgiving people? Next time, I would definitely pan fry them with a little butter right after they are done in the boiling water. Since you might not want a lot of gnocchi, I want them to be as rich in flavor as possible.

I plated the gnocchi and added the sauce on top. Overall – fantastic! Mom and I both cleaned our plates. I’m still waiting to hear if my Dad actually liked it or not. He’s not as adventurous with food, but if he likes it you know you’ve hit a home run!

I pinned a few more ideas for what to do you with your leftovers – check them out!