Save on Home and Garden Items from Amazon.

Save on Scrapbooking Supplies


Temper’s perking over an Amazon 3rd party vendor

Yes, my temper is perking a bit.

Sometimes a Fine Trade is anything but a fine trade, especially when it comes to returning an unwanted item.

I’m ready to spill the beans over this one.

We received a Keurig K55 coffeemaker as a gift for Christmas. The generous giver included the Amazon receipt, which was handy, since a certain someone in our house (the only one who actually drinks coffee) decided we didn’t actually need this item.

The product package is still sealed and unopened. We assume the item is not defective or damaged in any way. 

I tried to return the coffeemaker.

Usually, Amazon returns go through without a hitch, especially as we pay to be Amazon Prime customers. We have done so for several years.

OK, so I went through all the right motions on Amazon. Within a week or so, I received the approval code for the item return. But it did not include an accommodation for the shipping.

I contacted the third party vendor (a company called Fine Trade).

Something’s brewing here, but it’s sure not coffee.

Checking the order number on the item return, I discovered that the buyer had purchased through this particular third party vendor on Amazon, probably because this seller advertised that a small amount of the proceeds of the sale would go to a chosen charity. That all sounds good.

But their customer service and return policies leave a lot to be desired.

Here’s how this still-unresolved process has unfolded (quoting directly from correspondence I have on file).

December 30th – from
We've accepted your return request. Once Fine Trade receives the return, we'll issue a refund to your Amazon account.

The gift sender will not be notified about your return.

My response:

I am attempting to return a gifted Keurig K55 Single Serve Programmable K-Cup Pod Coffee Maker, Black. I have received your approval for the return. However, the shipping label and instructions do not indicate how to arrange pre-paid / credited shipping or which carrier to select. This is a large item, and (particularly as an Amazon Prime customer), I am not satisfied with paying for shipping to return an item we do not want. Please advise. Thank you.

January 2nd – from

Here is a copy of the e-mail that you sent to Fine Trade. Please allow 2 business days for the seller to respond.

January 3rd – from Fine Trade

Thanks, please provide Amazno [sic] order number so that we can assist you accordingly? Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

My response:

Two weeks later, I still await your reply on this matter. Order: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx. Return authorization: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx . The package has been ready to ship for weeks. Awaiting your shipping code/instructions. Please advise ASAP. Thank you.

January 15 – from Fine Trade

Thanks for getting back to us. I'm very sorry to hear that you have returned your item but yet to receive refund. I apologize for the inconvenience caused. I've gone through the details of this order and found that you have returned this item on your own. So please provide me return tracking number as soon as possible so that I can forward to our return department for refund. Please let me know if there are any other questions. I'll be glad to help.

My response:
Still trying to resolve this issue and awaiting a satisfactory response from your company.
Order: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx. Return authorization: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx .
The USPS quoted a price of nearly $50 to ship this Keurig coffeemaker back to you for a refund that is supposed to total about $75. I am extremely unhappy about this and unwilling to pay this shipping.
I am a professional journalist, and I routinely do plenty of product /service reviews. I have never seen this problem with a vendor before. Please advise immediately about how this situation may be resolved properly.

As of January 24, I have received no response to my latest missive.

Does Fine Trade actually expect me to shell out $47.50 to return an item that will credit my Amazon account with about $75? And that assumes that they will actually follow-through on the credit. Based on their track record with me so far, I am not feeling so sure about that.

The item was purchased in early December. Their return policy goes for 30 days. Sure, I made the initial return request long before that period elapsed. But who knows?

I’m not steamed at Amazon over this. But this third party vendor gives me grounds for growling.

Count me out as a potential Fine Trade customer.

And look out. Somebody we know is gonna get a brand-new coffeemaker for an upcoming birthday.

Lesson learned: Not all Amazon vendors hold to the same customer service standards, return policies, or business ethics. It pays to check them out before ordering. (Of course, all bets are off, when items are received as gifts from well-meaning senders.)

Feel free to follow on Google Plus and Twitter. Like this blog?  Check out Practically at Home on Facebook.


Snow day magic: 21 ways to bring on a school snow day

Try these marvelous magic tricks for snow day success.

“It’s a snow day!  No school today!”

Who doesn’t jump for joy at these welcome winter words? Obviously, education is important, but the occasional sudden snow day off from school can be a rare gift indeed.

Across the Northern half of the United States (and in many other areas as well), youngsters for years have practiced marvels and mystical techniques for conjuring up snow days. Countless teachers (and even parents and school principals) have participated in snow day magic tricks as well.

One might even jokingly call these snow day tricks white magic. Would you like to know these wintry wonders for causing school closures for snow?

Adapted from public domain photo.

First, what makes a snow day so marvelous?

A snow day is a surprise gift, an unexpected respite.

At the first sign of snow, students and teachers awaken early to stare at the news-flash tickers at the bases of their television screens, watching county after county list their school closures. Others click eagerly on cell phones and computers, checking online listings for snow-closed schools.

Prayers are uttered, fingers are crossed and wishes are made.

“Please! Please! Please! List our school,” kids of all ages cry out.

Finally, as the desired schools are listed among the snow day school closures, youngsters and educators may rejoice, even as working parents begin pounding the phones to arrange emergency child care for the day.

A snow day is an unplanned vacation day.

No one seems to mind that too many snow day school closures may extend the end of the school year or cause the omission of certain teacher workshop days during the spring semester. In fact, no one seems to mind an occasional snow day school closure at all.

Students who have completed their homework and teachers who have finished their classroom preparations the night before may be delighted to have the day off – with no agendas or obligations. Those who may have fallen behind on their assignments may see a snow day as a rescue, offering them a one-day extension to finish their projects.

For all of these reasons – and perhaps more – students and teachers have practiced snow day magic tricks for generations, hoping to tip the scales and mystically make meteorological matters work in their favor. According to most kids, of course, the snow day magic tricks only work with maximum (or unanimous) participation at any particular school.

Certain students have been blamed for failing to perform snow day magic tricks – when the snow day magic has not resulted in days off from school.

Whether these snow day marvels work or not may be difficult to prove or disprove, but folks swear by these legends. 

What are the snow day magic tricks?

Snow day magic includes a myriad of steps. To optimize results, students and teachers may perform each and every snow day magic trick – at the first sign of snow. Here are 21 of the most popular snow day magic tricks:

NOTE: Written by this author, this copyrighted material originally appeared on another publisher’s site. That site no longer exists. This author (LAN/Practically at Home) holds all rights to this content. No republication is allowed without permission.

  1. Do all your homework.
  2. Draw a white chalk outline all the way around your bedroom doorframe.
  3. Drop a snowball in the toilet.
  4. Hide a frozen white crayon under your bed.
  5. Line your bedroom doorway with white crayons.
  6. Place a white plastic spoon on your bedroom windowsill.
  7. Plan a couple of extra appointments for the day.
  8. Put a white crayon in the freezer.
  9. Run five times around the kitchen table in each direction, while wearing pajamas.
  10. Set a white stuffed animal toy on your windowsill.
  11. Sleep backwards in your bed (head to foot).
  12. Sleep in pajamas, but while wearing them backwards.
  13. Spin around ten times in each direction, wearing pajamas.
  14. Sprinkle several ice cubes in the toilet.
  15. Stand on your head, and sing “Frosty the Snowman.”
  16. Stash a soup spoon under your pillow.
  17. Stick something silver under your pillow.
  18. Store a snowball in the freezer.
  19. Throw ice cubes at a tree outside.
  20. Tuck a wooden spoon under your pillow.
  21. Wear pajamas inside out.

Of course, after completing all of these snow day magic tricks, folks may find themselves so tuckered out that they actually need a day off.

Do snow day magic tricks work?

Whether the weather is affected by snow day magic tricks may be debatable, but snow-loving folks seem to enjoy the process.

No one seems to know the origins (or meanings) of these snow day magic tricks. But snow day magic tricks sure are fun … and you can take that to the (snow) bank.

Feel free to follow on Google Plus and Twitter. Like this blog?  Check out Practically at Home on Facebook. You are invited to visit my author page on


9 ways to repurpose old Christmas cards

Don’t toss all last year’s holiday greetings! Turn them into a gold mine of creative ideas.

Lovely Christmas and holiday cards delight, as they appear in pretty red and green envelopes in mailboxes each year. It’s fun to open the festive cards, look at the family photos, read the newsy holiday letters, and rejoice over cheery greetings. Most recipients display Christmas and holiday cards each year by placing them in baskets or bowls, hanging them up in card garlands, arranging them on fireplace mantels, or lining staircase railings with them.

Adapted by this user from public domain artwork.

After New Year’s has passed, however, what can be done with the past year’s Christmas and holiday greeting cards?

Certainly, it feels a bit wasteful to toss such lovely images out. By recycling these resources, however, one can save on future holiday decorating and gift wrapping expenses, while helping to preserve valuable natural resources.

Christmas and holiday cards can be quite lovely and useful for several recycled purposes, if one simply use a little imagination and sense of practicality. Here are nine creative applications for used Christmas and holiday cards. None of these require any craft flair or artistic abilities at all.

NOTE: Written by this author, this copyrighted material originally appeared on another publisher’s site. That site no longer exists. This author holds all rights to this content. No republication is allowed without permission.

1. Festive gift sacks

An ordinary economical brown paper lunch sack can be instantly transformed into an adorable gift bag. Simply cut the front off of an old Christmas card. Trim the edges neatly (or use pinking shears or deckle-edged craft scissors). Place a Christmas or holiday gift inside the paper sack. Fold the top down neatly, and staple the Christmas card to the front, holding the top closed.

This holiday greeting card recycling idea works very well for creating goody bags for seasonal parties.

Don’t toss those handled paper shopping bags from grocery stores or retail shops. Cover their emblems with the fronts of pretty greeting cards instead. Craft glue or staples will do the trick. Reusable cloth shopping bags can work just as well, particularly if their pre-printed emblems are small enough to mask with holiday cards.

3. Glitzy gift boxes

Skip the wrapping paper by dressing up unadorned boxes (or even brown corrugated cardboard cartons) with the addition of a few old Christmas cards. Simply cut the front images from a few favorite old Christmas or holiday cards. Paste them on the box. This is an excellent way to camouflage package labeling, product pictures, and brand names, particularly on larger, unwieldy items. Add a pretty holiday ribbon, if desired.

4. Great gift tags

Save money on holiday gift wrapping supplies by making package gift tags from old Christmas or holiday cards. Cut pretty pictures and graphics from several old Christmas greetings.

For added interest, try tracing holiday shapes (with Christmas cookie cutters, and cutting those out as well. Old Christmas or holiday cards work well, as do colored construction papers. Hand-write “to” and “from” information on each gift tag. Use a hole punch to perforate each tag, and tie it to a Christmas or holiday gift with string or ribbon.

5. Fun photo frames

Christmas or holiday cards often sport pretty graphic borders. By cutting these out carefully with a ruler and a razor or a craft knife, one can make lovely photographic frames. Simply affix a special photograph to a cut-out frame by taping the picture from the back. Why not dress up those annual school pictures for gift-giving?

6. Pretty place cards

Make Christmas dinner table more festive by creating holiday place cards from old Christmas cards. Choose several cards, and cut out small squares. Fold each square in half to make a place card, and write a dinner attendee’s name on the front. Try to position the cutting to leave a pretty holiday accent on the front of each place card, while allowing sufficient blank space to write a name on it.

7. Spiffy snow globes

Small Christmas and holiday card artwork can produce lovely snow globe images. Around Christmas time, many craft shops and discount stores offer do-it-yourself snow globe kits. These little plastic domes snap together quite easily. Cut an old Christmas or holiday card to fit the snow globe, using the pattern provided in the kit. Slip the image inside the snow globe, and snap the base on securely. Christmas or holiday snow globes make super teacher gifts.

8. Terrific Christmas tree ornaments

Some Christmas and holiday cards feature darling seasonal images, such as angels, nativity scenes, Santas, snowmen, or wreaths. Cut out these pictures, using manicure scissors, to make pretty Christmas tree ornaments. Punch a small hole in the top of each cut-out (with a simple hole puncher), and string it to the tree with yarn or ribbon.

9. Whimsical wreath

Old Christmas cards (particularly vintage holiday cards) can produce a stunning holiday wreath to display at home or present as a gift. Create a wreath form by cutting a large circle from a sheet of cardboard or poster board. Cut a smaller circle from the center. Trim the fronts from several old Christmas or holiday cards. Arrange the card fronts on the wreath form. Mix shapes and colors, as desired. Paste cards in place.

Why not recycle greeting cards all year?

Lovely greeting cards may arrive all year long. Birthdays, Easter, Valentine’s Day and other occasions often lead to collections of elegant and adorable greetings. Try these recycled card solutions any time of year to realize seasonal cost savings and save paper for holiday decorating and greetings.

Feel free to follow on Google Plus and Twitter. Like this blog?  Check out Practically at Home on Facebook. You are invited to visit my author page on


Blog Widget by LinkWithin