Thursday, August 26, 2010

Brookstone - A 45 Year Success Story!

 Hi ya'll!  I just discovered a great company that has not only survived, but has become better and better over 45 years in the retail business.  That kind of longevity makes me perk up my ears and pay attention!  I especially pay attention when they offer me a Coupon Code (found at end of this review) for $10 off!
"Brookstone is a nationwide specialty retailer offering an assortment of consumer products that are functional in purpose, distinctive in quality and design and not widely available from other retailers. Brookstone first introduced itself to the world in a small classified ad selling "hard-to-find tools" in Popular Mechanics Magazine. The year was 1965.

Originally a catalog company, Brookstone today operates a multifaceted Direct-Marketing business that includes catalogs, e-mail and affiliate marketing, and an online site offering hundreds more products than are available in our retail and airport stores."
 As I perused their website, I was really impressed with all of the unique and useful items!  For instance, I think it's important to protect your 'toys of summer' when the weather no longer permits you to play with them.  (Note: I'm not saying that summer is anywhere NEAR done yet, oh no! There is too much left to do!) That way, you'll have those nice patio chairs, bicycles and grills in great shape and ready to use once again!  Why leave your stuff out in the weather unprotected?  Brookstone has a great selection of Outdoor Furniture Covers, rivaled by none!  I give it my 'Need' rating!

Not quite in the 'Need' category but nonetheless very smart to pay close attention to because, if acted upon, may just reap huge dividends, is the Gifts For Dad section.  These include really really great gifts for your Dad or husband that are truly unique!  What man wouldn't love the WeatherCast 5 Day Wireless Weather Forecaster?  Out of 346 customer reviews, I loved what one customer said about it:
I bought this for my elderly father 4 years ago. He had no experience with computers etc and thought this was the best gift he had EVER received..just couldn't get over the technology. He kept it near to him until he passed away. NOW my mother has it with her in an assisted living facility and she keeps it right where she can see it at all times. I think it is like a link to the outside world. She ALWAYS knows the weather and somehow that comforts her. I would buy this AGAIN and AGAIN. No problems with batteries, reception, anything! Best [$] I ever spent!!! 
Isn't that sweet?  I love that there are a ton of customer reviews on the products I looked at, so obviously people are buying, using and then interacting with the site!  Features on the site include:
  • Store locator with Google Maps integration on specific devices
  • Product videos with YouTube integration
  • Reviews and expandable product descriptions
  • Guest checkout with multiple shipping addresses
  • Enhanced search
  • Order tracking
  • Email sign up
  • Careers section
  • Catalog request
Brookstone CEO Ron Boire said it best: “It’s just one more way Brookstone is everywhere our customers want us to be.”
Check out Brookstone and see what is there for your needs that you never knew were needs until now! To help you out, Brookstone will take $10 off any online purchase of $70 or more.  Just use this Coupon Code at checkout:  22SAVE

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The All Encompassing Question

As I listen to news reports of enraged groups of people who are calling out for punishment because of perceived or real injustices, (Dr. Laura's dilemma, "honor" killings of women, ever increasing heated political debates and rumors of imminent war are brought to mind today), I wonder "What happened to Love?"  As I look at my own reaction to a haughty BMW driver who thinks he owns the road and therefore is enraged because he thinks I cut him off!  (He tells me as we are stopped at a red light, side by side, to get my piece of shiz off the road and calls me every name in the book...and my reaction is NOT nice.) "What happened to Love?"  And even as I look at comments on another blog,  making fun of another blogger and making light of her posts, I wonder,  "Whatever happened to Love?"  As that question swirls around in my mind, I happen to see a tweet on Twitter asking 'How Comfortable Are You?' with a link posted beside it.  It piques my interest.  I click on the link and the story there amazes and touches me.  Ah....that is where love is.  In a world that is teeming with misery, unhappiness and for the lucky few, mere inconvenience, love is still here, alive and well.

So I now resolve to do just a little more than what I have been doing lately, to do my share to contribute to the love in this world.  Now I am probably the most preoccupied person on the planet.  When I get involved in something, everything else can wait until I'm done.  But these are a few things I can do:  Intentionally carry some spare change around to give to those in need.  (It's not my place to judge how they will use it or whether or not they really need it--just give out of goodwill!)  What about being a more thoughtful driver?  Maybe I didn't technically cut the BMW off, but maybe I could have been more thoughtful about using my blinker?  Did I secretly want to show the BMW that just because he is driving a Beamer doesn't mean that he's going to be ahead of the pack all the time?  (No, really, I'm not that person, swearsies.)  And here's one--keep in touch with friends, even if it's a quick hello on Facebook, e-mail, or phone.  I may not have the time to personally visit or write a letter all the time, but I can show concern and interest.  You never know when you will talk to someone for the last time. Another thing I can do is encourage my children to act respectfully and kind toward all people.  One may disagree with another opinion without acting out hatefully.

And just because I need even more inspiration on the subject, I found these quotes on what others' views of Love are:
Ann Landers
If you have love in your life it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you don't have it, no matter what else there is… it's not enough.
 Karen Sunde
To love is to receive a glimpse of heaven.
Phil Collins
Love can make you do things that you never thought possible.
           Mother Teresa
           Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.
          Meriel Stelliger
         Love burns across the infinitude.

I may not have everything figured out, but this is at least a start for my part in making the world a better place to live! 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Recliner Nation - $70 GC Giveaway! {CLOSED}

A Huge Thank You to Alexandria at CSN Stores and to everyone who loves CSN for entering this giveaway!  The winner of the $70 Gift Card is #101, OhhhFire, who said: i follow you on networked blogs  You will be notified by e-mail and have 48 hours to claim this wonderful prize!  

As I was browsing the website, I got hung up....  Really hung up on recliners.  I really believe this would be a more peaceful world if everyone had their own special recliner, where they could go and relax for a few moments.   Imagine, your own special area, with your own recliner - not too soft, not too hard.  It would be just right and when you settle into it, your mind and body know automatically that it's time to relax.  Sometimes all it takes is just a few moments to gather yourself and feel total relaxation.  Then you are ready to jump up and tackle the next big project that life has in store.  Wouldn't your world be more peaceful?  I know mine would!

Regardless of whether or not you want to take my advice and invest in your own special chair, CSN has been ever so kind and  has allowed me to offer a $70 gift card (excludes shipping costs) to one of my followers! I know that if you take the time to visit, you too will become immersed in browsing through one of their many stores!. You may even get hung up in the Recliner section, like I did!

To earn this $70 gift card, you must first do the following:
Be a Google Friend Follower of AGalNeeds... and visit Tell me what store (Careful! It's not the item, it's the store) YOU would most likely get hung up in!
1 extra entry each, leave a comment for each entry:
  • Follow CSN on Twitter
  • Tell me about a special place you have to unwind!
  • Follow me @Melahelen on Twitter!  Leave me your Twitter name!
  • Follow me on Networked Blogs (on right side bar!)
  • Tweet the giveaway!  Once per day for an entry each day! Leave your tweet status here!
2 extra entries each, leave a comment for each entry:
  • Like CSN on Facebook AND leave a comment telling them you're visiting from here!
  •  Blog this giveaway, leaving a link back to here and telling me where you did!
  • Grab my Blog Button and post it on your blog!
  • Subscribe to this blog through e-mail (on my right side bar)!
  • Be my friend on Facebook!
Well, that's it!  Good luck with another great giveaway from CSN! I give them my AGalNeeds...endorsement.  We all definitely need CSN in our lives.  Thanks!

This giveaway is open to both U.S. and Canada and will run until 9/10/10!  Winner will be chosen through Thanks so much!

Monday, August 16, 2010

CSN - A Place for Exploration

  Have you ever been to the Mall Of America located in Minnesota?  I haven't and I can only imagine how huge it is!  I understand that it is so crowded with people that they don't even use heat in the main mall area during those cold Minnesota winters because the body heat of the crowds is enough to raise the temperature to a comfortable level! is just as huge, and you can shop in the comfort of your own home minus the crowds!  You can browse through whole stores of  bedroom furniture sets or look at the many cookware stores, baby supply stores, etc.  You name the product, and you will find it.  They are second to none in customer service and they are very generous with their shipping.  You can find many products that have free shipping.

 Here are just a few examples of the many beautiful 4 poster beds that I found at first glance!  Gorgeous!

I have had the privilege of working with for awhile, doing various reviews and giveaways.  I am going to be doing so again, with a $70 Gift Card to one of my readers!  Please check back within this week because I will be posting that giveaway soon!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Working Directly With A Company vs. PR Firms

Update:  Blogging has changed so much since I started and since I wrote this post!  Nowadays you still have PR companies that broker relationships between the company and the blogger.  Some of these companies are now run by the bloggers themselves. Again, I say that some of these organizations are good and reputable, but others are there just to exploit new bloggers and make as much money off of them as possible, without giving the blogger much of a chance.  I hope bloggers are aware that they can dictate what they are worth and that content is still king!  
I've been happily doing reviews and giveaways on my blog for a few months now (less than a year still) and have enjoyed most of it.  I have had the chance to work directly with a lot of companies and have also worked with PR firms who represent certain companies.  Let me tell you, folks, from my experience, I prefer working directly with the companies, hands down.  Can I just tell you a few reasons why?

When I work directly with a company, I am not going through a middle man, trying to get me connected to the company through them.  I am able to speak directly with a company employee, who can then expedite my requests immediately.  I am also able to tailor my blog article more specifically to that company's needs, based on my conversations with the company rep.    It's so much more involved to request your review product through a PR Rep.  You generally have to visit the review site, use a separate form to go back and tell the PR Rep and then hope that they go back to the company and get your order correct.  The order usually comes much later than I had hoped.  Mistakes are bound to happen because PR Firms represent multiple companies and it's hard to keep every company's policies and procedures accurate. 

PR Reps are getting paid by the companies that are being reviewed.  They want to get the job done so they can get their payment.  I have found that these companies will promise things to you and not follow through with their verbal/written agreements.  If they can get you to produce a great review, all bets can be off once the review is up and running.  Sadly, I know this through experience.

A great example of working directly with a company is  They have PR reps who work directly for CSN and are on their payroll.  They are apparently given a lot of freedom to offer great incentives for bloggers, who can choose to either do a review or a giveaway, depending upon what they would like to do.  They generally don't pay cash for these services, unless you are an affiliate.  I appreciate because they actually look for blogs who might be interested in doing this.  I was approached by a CSN rep early on in my blogging experience.  They asked me if I'd like to do a giveaway and they told me that it would help drive traffic to my site.  I was SO excited that CSN would have the faith in me and my new blog to let me host a giveaway!  It really validated me as a blogger and yes, it drove traffic to my site!  So, naturally, I am a HUGE fan of in general.

Another similar online firm who I won't mention by name, has chosen to hire a PR Company.  This PR company who I will not mention either, approached me and asked me to do a review on said anonymous company.  I had actually had experience with this particular online company.  The PR Rep asked me to put up 5 links, for which they would pay me a certain amount per link.  I wrote up the review and submitted it for approval.  I heard nothing.  I again e-mailed and said that the post would not go up until approval and payment.  The PR rep then e-mailed me back telling me the post was perfect and could I add one more link. I did so....and then my mistake.  I put up the post.  (I was just so happy with the post!)  I never heard anything back after that.  So basically, this rep got paid and I got nothing.  I am obviously ticked.  It's not necessarily because I didn't get paid, it's the fact that the PR rep worked me.  I will never work with that PR rep again and not sure if I'll work with that company again.  I will certainly not post ANYTHING until they come up with their end of the bargain, whatever that may be. 

Another example of a PR Firm, although not so dramatic, just annoying--A PR Rep contacts me and we actually put together two reviews and giveaways.  Although it is a much more tedious process to go through this PR Firm and not work directly with the company, it worked out alright.  But then I am asked to do and am assigned several more reviews and giveaways, which I indicated I would do.  I made the appropriate arrangements, etc.  I just never heard back. Kind of nonchalant about the whole thing is what my sense is from this guy. So any schedule planning I might have for giveaways and reviews or any sense of timing is out the window.  Phoooey on that!  I will blow that one off too.

What I have learned through all of this is that I need to come up with a firm set of guidelines myself and stick to them, certainly not give things out before the companies themselves have produced their end.  It's a sad fact of life, you will get worked if you don't protect yourself.  I am a believer that my little piece of the internet, albeit a very small piece, is valuable!  My time is also valuable and I won't be taken advantage of again!  If a company comes to me and asks me to put up a coupon code or do a review, I had better know something about it first with at least a product experience and maybe even some cash for my time.  After all, companies are saving millions of dollars by using bloggers to reach their extensive sphere of influence for comparative pennies. An ultimate goal for some would be to just find the right blog that will do it for nothing! Some bloggers are willing to prostitute their blogs for nothing--a cyberspace wink and pat on the butt is all they need!  It might even get them a couple more followers!  Wow!  And combine that with the million blog hops that are now going on, they could get to 1000 followers easy.  Just cut and paste this - "Hi I'm your newest follower!  Please follow back at http://...."    But I digress.  I have no problem with blog hops when I have the time and interest.  I certainly am not a cut and paste commenter and don't welcome those on my own blog.  (Although, some of the biggest blogs out there are cut and paste blog hop commenters, sorry to say!)

I hope that you have been or will be wiser than I was when dealing with those who approach you with great "opportunities"  to promote them on your blog!  I know I have learned---BIG time!



Disclaimer: This is just my own opinion and does not reflect all people's experiences.  There are many GREAT PR Firms out there and I've worked with a few of them.  I value them even more!  

Friday, August 6, 2010

$10 Target Gift Card Giveaway!

Congratulations to #9, Jackie!  Thanks to all of you for participating and giving me great feedback!  Hugs!

Hello Lovelies!  Just wanted to let you know that I am giving out a $10 Gift Card on August 13th!  It's just a little motivation for some of you to read and make a comment on my newest post, 'Couture Fashion On A Recessionista Budget'.  I'd really appreciate it!  Here are the entries (You must do the first one, the rest are optional):

Target, A Great Place To Shop!
  • Take a peek at my article, then make a comment there and come back here to let me know you did!
  • Sign up for my e-mail updates!
  • Tweet this - "Couture Fashion On A Recessionista Budget!  Win a $10 Gift Card to Target"!
 I will select the winner with on Friday, August 13th and let the winner know with e-mail!  I will then have the card shipped that weekend!  This is totally my own little incentive giveaway.  Hope you enjoy!  Thanks so much for participating!  Check back here for the winner because I will be posting it here!

Couture Fashion On A Recessionista Budget

Even tho' most of us are more strapped for cash than say, 5 years ago, we don't want to look like it has taken a toll on our fashion sense or the quality we want and need in our fashion items!  So let's take a look at one of the best stores out there for high quality at the best possible prices!  It's called!  Ever heard of it?  It first caught my attention when I kept hearing 'Go For the Big O!'  I thought, "Wow!  I think I'd like the big O.....what is it anyway?"  Thus my awareness of was born.  (Brilliant marketing ploy, I must say!)  I since have learned that they are based in Utah and are one of the brightest and fastest rising stars in the online shopping industry!  Why, you ask?  Because they have great stuff and really great prices!

Now, let's talk fashion!  Your sunglasses are the last things you want to sacrifice quality on.  They are also such personal fashion statements.  This year, many women are choosing aviator sunglasses.  They look good on many kinds of face shapes and are chic and casual.  Here is Julia Roberts sporting a pair!

You can find a variety of name brand aviators at in the sunglasses area, plus many more styles for a much lower price than you would pay at a retail store.
Womens Shoes are an item where we could be on our last dime before giving up the cute styles that come across the runways each season.  Let's take a look!  First a ridiculously frivolous but adorable shoe that we all secretly would love to wear on a night out on the town with our special someone! 
Charles David, $180
Here is an alternative answer and every bit as stylish shoe found at

'Nine West' Consuela $37.49

Also, if you haven't noticed, Gladiator Sandals have a huge following.  Here is a yellow studded gladiator that could turn heads with a price tag to match!  These are from Jeffrey Campbell, $104.  But here are some adorable studded gladiators  found at  Guess how much?  Just $27.49!  Good for a summer of fun and at those savings, not a big deal if you wear them out by fall! 

Our men and children deserve great fashion and quality too!  Of course they need our help in that area. Here is a quick example of a practical, no-nonsense ensemble that would be great to outfit our great guys in, all for less than $40.00  So when you order your shoes, you can just throw in this great pair of  casual mens jeans and this shirt. Shipping won't be any more because all orders ship for $2.95! (Ex. AL, HI and Int.)

And look what I found for a sweet little girl!  A Jo Jo Designs Ladybug Baby Girl Outfit!  It's almost half off the price you'd pay at the designer's site!  It's $22.49 compared to $41.99--Adorable!  Find it in the Children's Clothing Section.
I think I've saved a whole lot of buckaroos on this little shopping adventure and for all of that, a token of gratitude and appreciation is in order!  Santa baby, give me a ring!  I've been really good and this one is really pretty! (And only $33.24 in the diamond ring section!)

For those friends and loved ones whom we are not fashionably responsible for, but whom we love nonetheless, check out these lovely gift baskets!


P.S.  For those of my readers who made it through this post, I have a special surprise.  If you go to and enter this special discount code at checkout, you will receive an additional 10% off your entire order!  The code is:  121728