Free Stuff! How DO you get it?

Mrs. Dash. Budweiser. Nerf. Redbook. L’Oreal. Lawry’s.

These are just a few of the major brands that roll off the top of my head when I think of free products that my family, friends and I have been allowed to try. Some free samples range from a coupon off the face value of one item, to a box or package full of swag that I receive on my doorstep. I am relatively new to blogging, so I don’t have advertisers knocking down my door for me to do sponsored posts (yet!). And my twitter following can best be described as moderate, but growing. So how do I receive all these goodies you say? Read on.

BzzAgent

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BzzAgent is a Social Marketing site where brands connect with BzzAgents; normal folk like you and me who, based upon demographics, geographical location, shopping preferences, etc., are invited to participate in Bzz Campaigns. BzzAgents receive some sort of incentive from the brand such as coupons or free merchandise to try for themselves and then create Bzz throughout their circle of friends, family and social media following. Campaigns last for a specific time frame and BzzAgents are required to complete various activities during the campaign in order to remain in good standing. Some of the activities include tweets to followers, Facebook posts, as well as face-to-face interactions. Based upon your activity your Bzz Score, ranging from 0-10, will either rise or fall. The more QUALITY Bzz you create, the better your score. In the spirit of full disclosure, an Agent should always advise his or her audience that they received an item free or at a discount.

I have been a BzzAgent since 2007 and overall I love it. I like being able to drive sales and influence decisions for brands that I believe in, as well as getting to try those that are new to me. The down side, if there is one, is not getting picked for Campaigns that you figure you would be a shoe-in for. This can be frustrating, but one has to keep in mind that brands set the specific criteria they are looking for (including age, race, income level and geographic region), and it is not personal. Still, it can be difficult to watch plum Campaigns being doled out that you know you would Bzz your stinger off for, only not to get an invite. But not to fret. Another “perfect-for-you” Bzz Campaign is always around the corner and life goes on.

House Party

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If all of the family gatherings and girl’s-night-in’s seem to wind up at your place, House Party is for you. With House Party you fill out a pre-party application, which survey’s your familiarity with a product or brand and your willingness to host a party and give out samples and coupons. Host spots are limited per party and can range from 200 to 2000; sometimes more. With House Party you are given an opportunity to show just how much you want to get a party invite. For the weeks prior up to host selection, there are opportunities to make social media posts, complete surveys, watch video clips, etc.; all in an effort to show just how much you want to be a party host. On host selection day you will either receive a coveted “congratulations you are a host” email, or a “try again next time.” Once selected to host and logging into your party page, you have a set time limit to send out a specific number of invites (usually 10) to lock in your party host spot. You can always go back and edit your invites and your guest list.

I have been a proud House Party-er since 2009. The social butterfly in me loves to entertain. House Party is a natural fit because our house is the usual gathering spot. Being able to feature products and services, give away samples or coupons, all while hanging out with family and friends is lots of fun. Being a successful host means getting guests to respond to your invites, show up at your party and complete a survey post-party if they receive one.

If there are any complaints that I have about House Party, it’s the same as with BzzAgent. While doing all the pre party activities does not guarantee that you will get to host a party, it does improve your chances. So you just have to be a good sport and go into it with the mind frame that you may not get the party.

BUT…

It is free stuff. From trusted brands. And it is fun. And did I mention the FREE stuff? Some of the Bzz Campaigns and House Party are geared towards kids, some for the family, some are 21 and up. You get to control your chances of getting future invites based on the level of activity and participation. Spreading the word about products, handing out free samples and spending time with your friend and family is time well spent.

 

Antandra Campbell is mom, full-time worker, some-time blogger, and all the time trophy wife. The views in this post are hers, and while she sometimes receives products and services for posting her opinion, not a thing was exchanged in relation to this one.

The Day I Almost Died…and Probably Did a Little, Actually

I was going into my 4th month of pregnancy with my 4th child. An omen? Possibly. We were in the midst of a record-breaking heat spell in August 2007, and due to an ankle injury, I had been on bed rest for about a week. So it did not surprise me when, a few days before my near-death experience, I became winded when I crawled out of bed and eventually made my way to the bathroom.

“Maybe it’s the heat,” I remember thinking. Or it was certainly the fact that I was trying to carry 4 months of pregnancy weight around on crutches which I had not yet gotten used to. When that episode subsided and I eventually made it back to bed I remember considering adult diapers as a viable option.

A few days earlier that week, I had tweaked my ankle when I lost my balance and fell back onto the sofa. It was nothing though. Because by the weekend I was at Giant City State Park hiking with my family and it felt fine. And then it didn’t. There was a doctor’s visit and testing that revealed nothing major at the time and then a diagnosis of severe Achilles Tendonitis. And there was pain, and heat and swelling. All classic symptoms of my diagnosis. And the knowledge, thanks to some internet doctoring, that it would “get worse before it got better.” How much worse, I could never have imagined.

So there I was, a couple of days after my initial almost-fainted-when-I went-to the-bathroom spell, and again nature called. This time when I got winded, I had to sit on the commode a lot longer than the first. As I panted and tried to catch my breath to call out to my husband, my kids, or God in Heaven, all I could think was “hurry and get your undies up in case they have to call the paramedics.” Somehow I got back to the bed. Perhaps it was the unbearable pain from the swelling. Or the extreme heat. Or the lack of inactivity due to bed rest that made me so winded and out of breath. By some stroke of luck, the whole family was home and my oldest nephew was pulling up. I was able to somehow get enough breath in my lungs to tell my husband that I think I needed him to take me to the hospital (DUUUUH). Our bed was directly in front of the air conditioning vent so I was literally sitting on it. But I could not cool off, and I could not seem to catch my breath. I remember watching Q put on his shirt, and thinking that maybe if I changed my position I could get some relief. I remember trying to turn onto my right side…and then…darkness. There was no white light. No life, husband or children flashing before me. And most memorable of all, no pain. Just me drifting, drifting, drifting…until I was no longer aware that anything was even wrong. Or existed.

My next conscious recollection was of me puking into the garbage can that my husband had dragged into the room (no time to clean that bad boy out), cold water pouring over me and the stench and feeling of me having lost control of my bodily functions. I could hear my nephew on his cell phone directing the EMT’s to our house. And my husband was doing all he knew to keep me here in this life. And all I could manage out of my mouth was “what happened?”

To this day I vividly remember the EMT’s wheeling me out into the hotassness of that 2007 August day and the gratitude I felt for the oxygen mask they had placed on me. I remember apologizing to them for smelling so badly (I can laugh at it now). I remember the ashen look as the blood drained from my husband’s face when the ER doctor said your wife has a blood clot in both lungs, she could die and the baby probably won’t survive. I also remember my primary care doctor taking charge when she arrived at the hospital, calling the ultrasound technician out of bed to come in and discover that this otherwise healthy, relatively young, pregnant woman had a blood clot that started behind her left knee and went all the way to the groin.

BUT GOD

It seems as if every week I hear about some (usually relatively young) person dying from complications due to a blood clot. It reminds me of my mortality and how close I came to that end. And it also lets me know that “when it is your time to go”, is more than a cliché. Fortunately parts of the huge blood clot in my leg broke off and went to my lungs, which caused me to pass out. Fortunately my lungs have a catcher’s mitt as big as the Eiffel tower. And thank God that I had people around me who responded quickly and thoroughly and worked hard to help keep me and my now 6 year-old baby girl here. But the truth of the matter is that all that good timing, that difficulty breathing, the DVT that turned into a double PE…THAT WAS DIVINE INTERVENTION. And no matter which God, force or element of the universe you serve, you must realize there are powers in motion that in spite of you, work for the benefit of you.

Even now, when I think back on those scary events, the thing that scared me most was being airlifted to the hospital in St Louis. I’ve been a squeamish flyer since I was a teenager and putting me in a damn helicopter was no comfort at all. I kept my eyes closed most of the entire 30 minute flight, shakily answering when I heard the medics ask me a question through my headsets. But almost instinctively, as we crossed the Mississippi, I nervously opened my eyes, saw the lights and stars and thought that all things considered, it was a beautiful sight.

After a weeklong hospital stay which included visits from every specialist known to man, I was able to return home and begin my road to recovery. Up until that point, we had not told many about the baby because we had previously suffered a miscarriage and were being cautious. So the news of the baby softened the blow of my life-threatening experience just a tad bit. We have lived so much life since that hot, wretched summer and we have so much more to live. There is a chance that I may have to be on blood thinners for the rest of my life. This means (in theory) a diet that limits vitamin K intake, which is plentiful in green leafy veggies. But you know you can’t tell a Southern gal she can’t eat the entire pot of greens in one sitting. So other healthy lifestyle modifications are necessary, such as reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. And that is a work in progress. And I do have to be extra careful using my husband’s filet knife. But all the inconveniences aside, I am here. I did not die. It was not my time. And for that I am grateful to the Universe.

Hungry Campbell’s Take On The Hungry Bear

They say you never forget your first time doing something, and the first installment of Family Thyme SI at The Hungry Bear Cafe was no exception. On last Friday night, the Campbell’s set out for what we hope will be our first of many experiences at local businesses in and around the Southern Illinois area. Justin Gray, General Manager, sat down a spell with us to talk about the restaurant’s menu offerings and its future direction. More on that follows, but first let me tell you about our experience.

When we walked in we were greeted by smiling faces of the wait/host staff and by Justin himself. We took our seats and were promptly greeted by our server Danny. She was all smiles and handled my family of five (plus one of my children’s friends) with ease. The indecision and interruptions did not faze Danny one bit. I had the fresh catfish (which I opted to have fried) with pasta salad), my husband chose the Italian Beef, while the kids had classic burgers and their sides included onion rings, french fries and macaroni and cheese.

The catfish fillet was huge and fried to perfection. And the pasta salad had artichokes, which I loved, and was quite good. The kids inhaled their Classic Burgers, which they also offer in a kid size for those with smaller appetites, like my five-year-old. During dinner, Justin Gray sat down with us and graciously answer a few questions.

TTIT: Why The Hungry Bear?

JG: The owners purchased the old Tippy’s and other restaurants in and throughout Southern Illinois and are repurposing them into new, fresher restaurant options.

TTIT: How would you describe the restaurant?

JG: Country Italian. Southern Illinois Italian. I’m not Italian myself, but growing up in Herrin, IL with a large Italian population, I’ve grown an appreciation for Italian food with a down-home-grandma’s-cooking flair.

TTIT: What can patrons expect from The Hungry Bear that sets you apart from other restaurants in the area?

JG: For starters, we serve beer, and who doesn’t enjoy beer and a good steak (I know I do).Not only do we carry your typical domestics, we’ve added Shiner Ruby Redbird, CoorsLight, Saluki Dunkeldog, and others. We also serve wine. At The Hungry Bear we are focusing on what we do well. One of our customer favorites is our rib eye steak,
and soon we’ll feature a bacon-wrapped sirloin. We also feel we have great burger and sandwich options.

TTIT: Tell me about your menu options and plans for the future.

JG: We will continue to offer more steak options. We also offer spaghetti (a kid favorite) and my own Italian Beef recipe. Another thing we are focusing on is our lighter menu options including cucumber salad and vegan pasta.

TTIT: If there is one thing customers HAVE to try, what is it?

JG: (Justin deferred this question to Danny, our server) The Spaghetti!

TTIT: Why should families choose The Hungry Bear?

JG: We are family friendly. From our spacious seating to our kid friendly menu options like spaghetti and kid-sized burgers, we are a great option for families.

And the bonus question:

TTIT: Explain the bear (yes I said bear) out front.

JG: The restaurant sign can be a little hard to see from the street.  So we decided to put a 950lb concrete bear out front.
TTIT: Makes perfect sense!

The Hungry Bear Cafe is located at 1603 Walnut Street in Murphysboro in the old Tippey’s location. They have plans to open other locations in Anna, Cairo, and Mounds.

Take note: In exchange for a review of our experience, we received sustenance from the Hungry Bear Cafe. Carry on.

All’s Well…

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This is seriously how I felt…almost too serious to be funny ;)

Started out my day by FINISHING the 1st day of C25K (couch to 5K). Started in earnest last week, but only got half way through Day 1 and then with the busy weekend and the rain we’ve been having, let’s just say I got off track. And I am not yet that dedicated to run in the rain. Just wanted to post a quick after-my-run pic now. I have lots of details later about why and how I’m gonna do the C25K. Ya’ll pary for me!

The lips have it!

Covergirl blastflipstick lips

It’s been a while, and I should really do a more meaningful post, but…just a quick nod to my vanity. I was at Joann’s Fabrics today adding to my fabric stash and  a lady in line could not help but comment on how pretty my lip color was. It shimmers, it glows she gushed. I thought so too. She even got the clerk to chide in. Because I received the Covergirl Blastflipstick as part of the Bzz Campaign, AND because I am such a good Bzz Agent and all around humanitarian, I had my wonderful $2.00 off Covergirl coupons to hand out to all the ladies within earshot. The Blastflipsticks are two-sided lip duos that come in colors like Minx, Stunner, and Glimmer. They provide looks that take your lips from day to night. I have been wearing this color combo in this older photo (I beleive it’s Minx) the most since I got the samples. For some reason it appeals to me. Plus my daughter (and the ladies at Joann’s) think it looks good on me.  And so do I.