Mission Accomplished: First Half-Marathon

Well, I finally did it!  I ran my first Half Marathon :)  

Shipyard Maine Coast Half Marathon 2016

Finally completing a Half has been about seven years overdue.  I got stress fractures training for one in 2009 and gave up running long distances for awhile after that.  But this time with a great plan by my sister-in-law that focused on interval training over long distance runs I was finally able to accomplish my goal injury-free.  I'm very thankful that I was able to do it, along with all the support I got from family and friends, and especially my husband.  

Before the start of the race, so nervous!  

Before the start of the race, so nervous!  

If any New Englanders are looking for a great Half Marathon to run, I'd highly recommend the Maine Coast Half.  It was great, fun race with beautiful ocean views - and you get Shipyard beers at the end ;)  

Now that I've done this Half, I'm looking forward to focusing more on the blog and my Etsy shop again - so look for more coming soon from Birch Landing Home!  

After the race is done!  Ahhhhh...

After the race is done!  Ahhhhh...

Related posts from Birch Landing Home:  

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How to Get Paid to Shop and Save Money with Ibotta

Ibotta isn't new, I'd heard a lot about it but was always a bit skeptical... "So I buy groceries and the things I always do and get some money back for it?  Really??"  Sounds too good to be true, right?  
Well that's what I thought at first, until a few friends signed up for the app and converted me.  The only "catch" to this program is that in exchange for earning money back on your purchases, you're providing some market research info to Ibotta.. that's it.  Pretty good deal, right?  | This post contains affiliate links |

How Ibotta Works

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Signing up for Ibotta is easy - download the app and create an account (pssst, right now they're offering a $10 bonus for new users!).  Then search for the retailer (Walmart, Target, Hannaford, Kohl's, etc) you will be shopping at next and scroll through the available offers.  When you see an offer for something you want to buy, click on it and view a short advertisement or answer a basic multiple choice question (i.e. "What's your favorite brand of orange juice? - A, B, C, or D"), once you complete that simple task the offer is now unlocked and is able to be redeemed.  

In order to complete the redemption process for most retailers, you will need to take a picture of your receipt or scan your receipt's QR code to confirm what items you bought from your unlocked offers.  Some retailers that have store loyalty cards, like Rite Aid or Hannaford, can be linked to Ibotta automatically - just scan your loyalty card at check out and there's no need to upload receipts.  

Rebates for validated purchases are automatically deposited into Ibotta, usually within 48 hours.  Once you hit a minimum of $20 (which isn't that hard), you can transfer that money to your PayPal account - it's real money.  

Earn Money Back on Things You Never Get Coupons For

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One of my favorite parts of Ibotta is that they always have some rebates for things you buy every week but will very rarely, if ever, get coupons for.  I'm talking about things like dairy products, juice, eggs, fruit, and vegetables - and these rebates are for any brand, even organic!  

These "any brand" rebates can vary from week-to-week on what's offered and the exact rebate amount, but the milk, bread, eggs, and a particular type of fruit or vegetable rebates are pretty standard and seem to be offered almost every week.  For example right now on Ibotta they have $0.50 back on a gallon of milk, $0.50 on eggs, $0.50 on a package of sliced bread, $0.25 on bananas, and $0.25 on tomatoes.  These are items that most people buy every week, and even if you only used Ibotta for these five rebates each week you would save $104 (!) over the course of the year!  (I used the current rebate amounts as an example, however keep in mind that some weeks the rebate amount on items like these may vary - but you get the point.)

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Stack Those Savings!

Another great thing is that you can use Ibotta in conjunction with manufacturer and store coupons, store loyalty programs, sales, etc.  For example - the other week I bought Glad trash bags at Walmart; they cost $8.99 - Ibotta had a $2 rebate and then the Walmart Savings Catcher App found the same trash bags cheaper at Shaw's so it credited me the $1.49 difference.  So instead of $8.99, the trash bags only cost $5.50 = savings of $3.49 (40%) just on this one item!  

Use Ibotta at More Than Just Grocery Stores

So far I've only used Ibotta at the grocery store and Walmart, but you can use it at so many other places too - like restaurants and clothing stores!  You can even "star" your favorite stores to save them on the home screen, that way it's fast and easy to look up rebates on the fly when you're in the store.  

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Invite Friends to Earn More

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Whenever you refer a friend to Ibotta you earn $5 in your account (wahoo!) as well as add them to your Team.  Ibotta always has ongoing bonuses each month to reward teams to save more - for example, right now if you redeem 10 rebates this month and your Team collectively redeems $15 of rebates, you earn an extra $1 in your account.  There are several "Levels" each month, and the more you and your team use Ibotta, the more levels you achieve and the more money in your pocket.  This is all easy to accomplish if you invite a lot of friends ;)  

So How Much Have I Earned This Month?

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I know, I know - you want to know the bottom line.  So I've been using Ibotta for almost a month and I currently have $23.75 in my account.  $10 of that was my sign-on bonus, so $13.75 was earned in rebates and bonuses.  That doesn't seem like a ton, but the grocery store in our town actually doesn't participate with Ibotta (it's an independent grocer), so I can only use it when I make a trip to the big chain stores.  Also, because we buy a lot of organic and natural foods, $13.75 is also more than I usually can save with coupons since coupons for those items are few and far between.  I've also made a point not to buy anything that I wouldn't normally buy, because I wanted to be realistic and get a sense of what I can earn back for our essential items.  

My earnings may not seem like a ton, but it's money in our pocket and it certainly helps!  You can also be more proactive so save even more - I have a friend who meal plans around what's available on Ibotta and saves an average of $35+ every month.  You also earn a $5 referral for every friend you get to sign up (which I haven't done yet, but certainly will be doing).  Overall, I've really enjoyed using Ibotta so far and will definitely continue to use it.  

If you'd like to sign up for Ibotta, please use my referral link here or enter in my referral code:  jkuddhs

Make sure to check out our other money-saving grocery tips:  

This post was not sponsored and all opinions and experiences are my own.  This post does contain my referral link to Ibotta, if you sign up using this link I will earn a small referral bonus (the same one you can earn too for referring others).  

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Our 4th Pampers Rewards: Melissa and Doug Tool Kit

If you're not familiar with Pampers Rewards, you can check my previous post here for all the details - but essentially it's a program to earn free gifts for buying Pampers diapers!  Our little girl has been really into "helping" Daddy build things lately, so we decided to get a tool kit just for her.  | This post contains affiliate links |

The tool kit is by Melissa and Doug and we were pleased with how sturdy it is.  Our daughter really put it to the test, whacking the whole thing all over with the wooden hammer but it still survived.  

The kit contains a wooden wrench, screw driver, hammer, bolts/screws, nuts, "nails", and some pieces of wood with holes in it that you can screw or nail together or attach to the side of the tool box.  

Miss M and Daddy have really been enjoying building with this set and we've even caught her "working" on her trains with the wrench - this Reward has definitely been a big hit!  

Want to see what else we got from Pampers Rewards?  Check out our other posts:  

Please note, items available from Pampers Rewards are subject to change.  

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Family Weekend in Ogunquit, Maine on a Budget

Last Friday we decided at the last minute to spend the weekend in Ogunquit, Maine - the weather looked great, my husband was itching to take some Milky Way photos, and it had been too long since we did a little family trip.  It was also right before "the season" starts, which meant that there would be less crowds and cheaper hotel rooms (yes!).  All-in-all as a family of three we spent less than $175 for the whole weekend, including the hotel room, so I would call that a huge success!  

Family Weekend in Ogunquit Maine on a Budget by Birch Landing Home

For hotel we stayed at The Beachmere Inn which is conveniently located right on the Marginal Way, a 1.25 mile scenic walkway following the edge of the ocean.  Even though we were calling for reservations the day before, The Beachmere thankfully still had a few rooms available.  We opted for the least expensive one ($100+tax, which was this particular room's preseason rate).  It was a nice, modest room with a queen sized bed in the Victorian building of the hotel complex.  This room didn't quite have the view that most rooms at the hotel have, but we didn't mind since we knew we'd be out walking most of the day and then to bed early with our little one.  

The Beachmere Inn

The Beachmere Inn

The view from our private balcony.  

The view from our private balcony.  

To save a little extra money we packed our lunches from home for that first day.  We got to the hotel around lunch time and since our room was ready they let us check in early (very nice!).  We were able to enjoy our lunch on our own private balcony overlooking the great lawn of the hotel.  

That afternoon was spent wandering up and down the Marginal Way and walking into town to explore some of the little shops and buy some delicious pastries at Bread & Roses Bakery.  We highly recommend their Cinnamon Butter Puffs and our daughter was a big fan of the massive chocolate chip cookies bigger than her head (no surprise there).  

Running along the ocean = perfection.  

Running along the ocean = perfection.  

Mid-afternoon Daddy watched Miss M so I could get a training run in.  I ran four miles along the Marginal Way and through the high-end coastal neighborhoods, and even did a short stretch of running in the sand on Ogunquit Beach.  This run has to be the most fun and scenic I have done to date - why can't all runs be so pretty?

Dinner options in Ogunquit were a bit limited as it's still the "off season" (many seasonal businesses and seasonal rates start April 14th).  So we opted to drive up the road a few minutes to the Moody Beach area and have dinner at Jake's Seafood where we ate our weight in delicious fried seafood.  The bill for the three of us came in at $40, which was a little more than we were expecting but splurging on fried food is pretty much a must-do of any seaside trip.  

The views along the Marginal Way are breathtaking.  

The views along the Marginal Way are breathtaking.  

A peaceful scene along the Marginal Way in Maine.

After dinner we went back to the hotel and played outside a bit before turning in early.  Adrian was planning to get up at 3AM to capture some Milky Way shots as long as the weather cooperated.  Luckily for him, the clouds held off and he was able to just walk off the hotel lawn and get some amazing Milky Way and sunrise shots (you can see more of his photos on his Instagram, @adrianpelletier).  

The next morning we enjoyed a nice continental breakfast at the hotel.  They had coffee, tea, cereal, bagels, fruit, and yogurt as well as selection of locally made donuts.  (I had yogurt with granola and a very delicious Boston creme donut, because you know, balance.)  

Bread & Roses Bakery - so much deliciousness!  

Bread & Roses Bakery - so much deliciousness!  

After breakfast we walked back into town to do some last minute poking around and pick up more pastries from Bread & Roses to bring home, between our two trips here we spent about $20.  Then we went to Ogunquit Beach to let our little one run around and play in the sand a bit.  It was brisk but sunny and we pretty much had the whole beach to ourselves.  After that we decided to check out a little early and head home to catch Miss M's nap, but if we had stayed in Ogunquit for lunch we would have grabbed some sandwiches from The Village Market, which looked yummy and reasonably priced and had a picnic on the beach or along the Marginal Way.  

Overall it was a great, affordable weekend in Ogunquit.  Lots of beautiful views, good food, exploring downtown, running and photo adventures, and, most importantly, some quality family time.  

Early morning walk along the Marginal Way.  

Early morning walk along the Marginal Way.  

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Getting Back into Running

I've never been a fast runner at all, in fact I'm definitely more of a "slogger" (slow jogger) - but it doesn't matter how fast or slow you run as long as you're getting out there.  I used to run pretty regularly but took a break from it for awhile after getting stress fractures training for my first half marathon years ago.  After that I ran when I felt like it but never seriously and never with a big goal in mind.  | This post contains affiliate links |

Getting back into running.  #motherrunner

Since we're hoping to try for baby #2 later this year I'm working on my "Pre-Baby Bucket List", which includes finally running a Half Marathon.  While I'm sure I'll be able to cover the distance, I'm not sure if I'll be able to do it in the strict timeline set for the course since I'm such a slow runner - but here's hoping!  I've been following a wonderful training plan made by my sister-in-law (who has a Masters in ESS), that includes a lot of interval runs, stretches, and one long run a week to help minimize my risk of injury again.  

Along with following a great plan that builds mileage slowly and includes varied runs and cross-training, I thought I'd share some of my favorite running must-haves:  

Good Sneakers.  I can't say how important it is to have the right kind of running shoe.  Don't just go by what looks cute and feels comfortable at the store - go to a running specialty store and be properly fit for your gait and foot type.  (Also, if you have any inkling that you may have something going on with your feet don't hesitate to see a podiatrist too.  I was properly fit for sneakers but still hurt my foot because I had a structural issue that could only be identified with x-rays and helped with custom orthotics.)  

Running Belt.  These little belts are handy for carrying your phone, keys, and fuels for those long runs.  I've really liked the SPIBelt because it's very streamline - the pouch stays small and stretches to fit your items so they don't bounce around.  

Running App.  I've found using a running app to be very helpful.  It reminds me what pace I'm currently running, as well as distance and elapsed time.  It's a great tool to keep on track and follow your progress.  I've been using the free version of Runkeeper for years and love it but have also heard great things about the app Strava too, so I think I will give that app a try once my half marathon training is done.  

Reflective Vest.  If you're doing any running on the road at all it's very important to be seen.  Wearing a bright reflective vest gives traffic a better opportunity to see you and keep you safe.  

Road ID.  Do you run with your driver's license and medical info on you?  I didn't think so, which is why you really should have a Road ID.  I've never needed it - and hope to never need it (knock on wood) - but it's so important to have, especially if you run solo.  These totally customizable IDs are lightweight, sporty, and streamline but contain important information like your name, year of birth, emergency contact info, and medical information that paramedics may need if you had an accident (God forbid) or have passed out.  

Pssst... I have a $5 Gift Card to RoadID to share with the *first five people* that purchase using this link.  You're welcome :)

Pssst... I have a $5 Gift Card to RoadID to share with the *first five people* that purchase using this link.  You're welcome :)

Running Stroller.  If you're going to do any training with your little ones in tow, it's important to have a great stroller that you can take on those runs.  We have a BOB and it's perfect for running on back roads and flat trails.  These strollers can be expensive though, so don't be afraid to look for one second-hand - we got ours for only $40!  

There are also a few items I haven't used yet but would love to try, including recovery sandals (which look amazing!), hydration belts and packs, and compression sleeves.  Getting back into running has been fun and rewarding and I'm hoping to improve my distances and times more and more.  Keep your fingers crossed for me that I can finish my half marathon in the allotted time!  ;)  

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Our 3rd Pampers Rewards: Potty Training Chart

If you're not familiar with Pampers Rewards, you can check my previous post here for all the details - but essentially it's a program to earn free gifts for buying Pampers diapers!  I usually try to save up our points for something big, but this time I decided to get the Potty Training Chart for our daughter which is one of their smaller rewards.  | This post contains affiliate links |

FREE Potty Training Chart from Pampers Rewards!

Our little one is currently potty training and it's been slow going.  She totally understands the concept and can be successful when she wants to, but usually chooses not to tell anyone that she needs to go and/or completely refuses to use the potty at all.  We're hoping that a reward chart will help motivate her to see her progress and get rewarded with a special prize at the end.  

Great potty training setup:  potty, books, rewards chart.

We decided to hang the chart next to her little potty so she can watch her progress and see how close she is to earning that special prize.  Some good reading material is important too, to help her want to stay on the potty long enough to finish her business (books pictured are:  Potty Time with Elmo, Potty, and Counting 123).  

Want to see what else we got from Pampers Rewards?  Check out our other posts:  

Please note items available from Pampers Rewards are subject to change.  

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Feeling a Little Behind Lately..

To do? All the things! 

To do list - so much (great!) things to do!!

Feeling really behind lately, I have a million little (good) projects going on and haven't been able to check any off the to-do list in a while.  Between training for a half marathon, working on Etsy/wholesale ornament orders (I get them year-round, wahoo), and trying to work on some projects around the house I've fallen a bit behind on the blog and getting new Etsy stock out there and I apologize.  

Just wanted to let you know that things will be picking up again soon with new Etsy items as well as some great collabs/giveaways with companies like Nuby and We Are Knitters.

If you haven't turned on Post Notifications on Instagram for Birch Landing Home yet, now is the time because you won't want to miss out! 

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New Etsy Listing: "Martha" Snowflake Ornament in Birch

Just added to my Etsy Shop, our famous "Martha" Hand-Etched Snowflake Ornament, now available in Birch!  Even though it's not Christmas season, anytime is a good time to get ahead on holiday shopping.  

And don't forget, I'm still planning on expanding my Etsy shop to include painted signs and more decor items - keep an eye out for those soon!  

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