Party On! Birthday Bargains: Taking Advantage of Loyalty Program

Happy birthday from Sephora!
Happy birthday from Sephora! | Source
Free Stuff

I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for a bargain. Let me tell you about the best bargains out there: free birthday gifts. We all have a birthday (even if we sometimes pretend we don’t) and a number of restaurants and stores want to help you celebrate it. I say, if a store wants to give me something free for my birthday, I am there!

I’ve been on my own personal mission for over a year now to sign up for email lists and loyalty programs, and get as much free stuff as possible. I now have a list of restaurants and stores that will give you presents for your birthday and I want to share this information with other bargain shoppers.

Even if you don’t see a store on this list, make sure the ask a customer service representative if there is a loyalty program. Until recently, I did not even realize The Body Shop had a loyalty program. Since there is a $10 charge to join, I will not add it to the list. However, they do give you a birthday present and discounts, so it does basically pay for itself in no time.
Sephora’s 2012 gift
Sephora’s 2012 gift | Source

Sephora probably has the best loyalty program if you are interested in receiving a free birthday gift. You simply sign up for their program called the Sephora Beauty Insider and you are all set. Once you have the card, you will receive an email from them about 2 weeks before your birthday reminding you to pick up your gift. There are no strings attached. You do not need to make any other purchase at all. You walk through the door, go to the counter, tell them it is your birthday, and they hand over your gift. It is so simple and very generous of Sephora.

The gift for 2011 was shower gel. It was called Happy Birthday, Beautiful, and it smells like birthday cake. Aside from the birthday gift, the sales associate actually handed over a free sample with it. I thought that was really nice. Especially since I did not buy anything. Also, according to the website, there are birthday gifts available for men, so don’t feel left out if you are a guy reading this hub.

For this year, 2012, 2 small lip glosses are the birthday gifts from Sephora. The box includes a mini sugar lip treatment and a mini sugar rose tinted lip treated. Each one is SPF 15. I will also say they are both smooth and smell very nice. What is most important? They are totally free for your birthday!
Starbucks Gift Card $25
Starbucks Gift Card $25
Buy Now


Do you love coffee? If so, this could be the perfect birthday gift for you. If you sign up for a Starbucks Rewards card, you will get a free birthday beverage of your choice. You can get whatever flavor you want, hot or cold, as long as you are registered. Also, there is no limit on the size. Starbucks will send you an email, and then send a postcard so you can take it in and get your free drink.

I received my email telling me to expect a postcard about 2 weeks before my birthday. The week of my birthday, the postcard arrived. I got to enjoy a free caramel coffee for my birthday. Ah, the perks of getting old. Get it – coffee – perks? Never mind.

Panera just recently started their own loyalty program. It is called My Panera and you can easily sign up. Since this is a new program, there has been much debate about it online. Apparently, you can get a free dessert in some states, but not others. I would advise asking someone at Panera if they know the answer to this question. What I do know is they definitely give you something free just for signing up. In Maryland, you can get a free smoothie or espresso drink. I’ve used my card a couple of times there and I’ve already earned another free drink. So I think even if there is no birthday gift, if you eat at Panera at least once a month, it is worth getting their card

Rent a Claw Machine for Your Party

So easy to play. So hard to win.

Everyone enjoys the thrill of a Claw Machine.

In some locations, you can rent one of your very own to entertain your family and friends.
Photo from CCCI on
Photo from CCCI on | Source
Exciting Fun For All Ages

Your guests can enjoy the thrill of an authentic Claw Machine at your next party. You can rent a single machine or several for a large group. Best of all, you can customize the game’s prizes to coordinate with your party theme, everything from plush animals (of course) to jewelry. It could be the impressive centerpiece at your next special event.

Always check directly with suppliers to verify price and availability.
Rent-A-Tilt (varioius locations in US)

NEW 10-10-2011

Get more information at Their website has the coolest way to select items from the menu, it works like a claw machine. Rent a game for private corporate parties. Link:
The Amazing Fun Bus (CT area)

They bring a bus full of fun to your location! Choose from their BASIC BLAST package or their DELUXE package and additional add-ons like a real claw machine and prizes! Link:
WOW Entertainment (NYC/NJ/Philadelphia area)

Rent CLAW MACHINE or PRIZE CRANE GAME that are set on “free play” which means: No Quarters Needed. They have a long list of venues in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. The machines can be branded for corporate events. Link:
Cocktail Hour Entertainment (South Florida)

They have a SKILL CRANE package that includes 1-4 hours with an attendant. Standard or customized prizes and party favors are available as well. They specialize in providing services for the cocktail hour or reception at Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah, Corporate Event, Wedding, Sweet 16, Quince, or other special event. Their services are available for just 1 hour or for the entire party. Link:
Rent-A-Game (Woodbridge Ontario)

They have the SKILL CRANE game and many others if you want to create an entire arcade at your next special event. Link:
Claw Master Party Tips

A claw machine is the perfect entertainment for a Toy Story birthday party! has great ideas to Throw A Toy Story Party
Place one special prize inside the game and everyone will try to win it first! Or wrap the prizes so you have to win first then unwrap it. The prize each player grabs from the game can also be their party favor.
Most of the machines are adjustable so you can make it easier for younger guests to win – or make it more challenging for serious claw masters.
Many machines can be branded for advertisement at a tradeshow or for employee appreciation events.

Things to Do with Kids in and around Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia has plenty of family-friendly activities!

My wife and I have three wonderful kids, a fifteen-year old boy, a thirteen-year old girl and a ten-year old boy. We’re always on the lookout for fun (and different) things to do in the Northern Virginia area.

Please take a minute to rate my lens and/or leave feedback in my Guestbook. The more feedback you provide, the better this lens will be. Thanks for stopping by!

P.S. Follow me on Twitter for more frequent updates… @NoVADadLenses
Save $5 at Madame Tussauds
Show your SmarTrip card and save!

I received the following email from WMATA (Metro) yesterday:

Metro has partnered with Madame Tussauds, Washington, DC to reward you with valuable savings just by showing your SmarTrip® card. Just present your SmarTrip® card at the time of purchase and receive $5 off an adult admission ticket. Bring friends and family, this offer is valid for up to 8 guests. Offer expires 12/31/13.

Take Metrorail to Madame Tussauds at 1001 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

Red, Blue, Orange lines – Exit Metro Center – 11th and G Streets, NW

Red, Green, Yellow lines – Exit Gallery Place – 9th and G Streets, NW

This discount offer is not valid for advance ticket purchases and cannot be combined with any other offers. The Madame Tussauds may close for special events, so please call 1-866-823-9565 or visit their website for updates

Enjoy Madame Tussauds and thanks for riding Metro!

I couldn’t find any official press release or web page confirming this coupon; however, Unsuck DC Metro has a blog post about the same e-mail.
The circus is coming…
Lions, tigers and bears… oh my!

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus is coming to the Washington, D.C. area. Shows at the Verizon Center will take place from March 20th to March 24th. The circus makes a stop in Northern Virginia at the Patriot Center from April 10th to April 21st. More details to come…
Do you like movies?

If you like movies, check out my newest lens, DC Film Festivals. I’m just getting started with this lens and will be adding content regularly.
National Museum of the Marine Corps
National Museum of the Marine Corps
National Museum of the Marine Corps

The National Museum of the Marine Corps is located about 35 miles south of Washington, D.C. in Triangle, VA. The museum is very easy to get to. From D.C., take I-95 South to exit 150A and follow the signs to the museum. As your approach the musesum, you’ll see the stunning design of the building, which evokes the iconic photograph of Marines raising the American flag on the island of Iwo Jima. There’s plenty of parking.

The first thing we did upon entering the musesum was to watch the brief 15-minute movie about the Marine Corps. The film was a series of interviews with current (and former) Marines that was a patriotic, yet honest and gritty, look at what being a Marine means. The movie runs every twenty minutes starting at the top of the hour. For you afficianados of military time, that’s 00, 20 and 40.

In the central gallery, there are several life-sized displays that all visitors will be awed at, especially the youngest ones. In addition to aircraft hanging from the ceiling, there are a couple of large displays, including a helicopter and simulated beach landing.

The permanent exhibits in the museum are laid out in sections chronologically, starting with the birth of the Marine Corps in 1775. The first exhibit that we visited was Making a Marine. Starting with the bus that transports the new recruits, the exhibit walks visitors through the intake process. As you walk past the bus, you immediately notice the series of footprints, heels touching with toes pointed outward at an angle, painted on the ground. Next to the bus is a barber’s chair and a series of changing photos that show young recruits before and after their first haircut. My two younger kids enjoyed this part of the museum the most. There are plenty of interactive hands-on activities, including a backpack to lift, pull up bars to pull up on and even a firing range where you can try your hand at shooting a laser beam using an M-16 at targets downrange. There is an additional cost ($5 in July 2011) for this activity. Each participant gets 10 shots. The M-16 is heavy and can be difficult for a small child to hold. There are stands that you can use to help steady the weapon. At the end of the 10 shots, you get a printout that shows you where each shot fell on the target.

The permanent exhibits in the musesum are impressive in the amount of information provided, as well as the quality of the pieces shown. If you like military memorabilia, you’ll love the Marine Corps Museum. You can see the Marine Corps uniform as it changes over the years. There are hundreds of flags, medals, swords, weapons and vehicles (ground, air and water) throughout the museum. Kids will love the larger displays where you, the museum goer, are part of the action. One minute, you’ve boarded an amphibious vehicle ready to storm the beachhead, the next minute, you’re outdoors in the dead of winter helping defend your position from the relentless enemy. All in all, the exhibits are extremely well done, with the right combination of information and objects to look at and interact with.

The museum has two restaurants, both located on the second floor. The Mess Hall is a casual, cafeteria style restaurant. On the day we visited, the Mess Hall was serving typical fare like pizza, hot dogs and cheese fries. The second is Tun’s Tavern, a slightly more upscale sit-down place. While we didn’t eat at either restaurant during our visit, the prices in both restaurants were very reasonable. There is a museum store that carries all kinds of Marine Corps sourvenirs. Again, the prices in the store seemed reasonable compared to other muesum stores I’ve visited. If you prefer to bring your own lunch, there is an outdoor picnic area with a great looking playground.

Capitalization Rules: Grammar Guide

When to Capitalize Words in English

The English language has many rules about when to use capital letters. In general, always capitalize proper names (the names of unique people, places or things), months of the year and the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs in titles.

The most important thing to remember is the be consistent. If, for example, you are preparing your resume and you capitalize the title of your previous jobs (Director of Human Resources or Assistant Vice President of Communications) make sure to capitalize each title the same way throughout the document.

Below is a guide of capitalization rules followed by examples. As usual, read the comments for more and leave your own at the bottom of the Hub!

Capitalize the First Word of a Sentence

This Hub is about when to use capitalization.

Use Capital “I”

My friend and I are going to a musical.

Capitalize Proper Nouns: Specific Person, Place, and Organization Names

Abraham Lincoln was born in Hardin County, Kentucky in 1809.

Women for Women International is a fantastic organization supporting women all over the world.

Use Capital Letters for Religious Figures

The Bible has many stories of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, was the daughter of Zeus and Dione.
They prayed to God for the storm to end.

Capitalize Days of the Week, Holidays, and Months of the Year

My favorite month of the year is November.

Note: Seasons are not capitalized unless used in a title.

I love the fall because of Halloween and Thanksgiving.
The catalog for Spring 2006 will be out in February.

Capitalize Countries, Languages, and Nationalities

We went to Spain to learn Spanish.

Capitalize Family Relationships Only When Replacing a Proper Name

I went on a trip with Father. (Father could be replaced with the father’s name.)
Your father is six feet tall.
When we go to the movies with my aunts, my Aunt Marlie always has to be reminded to be quiet.

Capitalize Titles that Precede Names, but not Titles that Follow Names

Senator Dianne Feinstein was first elected in 1992.

Dianne Feinstein was the first woman mayor of San Francisco.

Capitalize North, South, East, and West When Used as Names of Regions, but not as Compass Points

We lived in the Pacific Northwest for four years.

Our house is northwest of Fremont.

Use Capitals for Letter Salutations and Closings

Only capitalize the first word (and any names).

My dear Ms. Taylor,

With much love,

Capitalize the First Word in a Quote Even in the Middle of a Sentence

My Uncle Bob used to say, “The last time I said no was when they asked me if I had enough.”

Use Capitals for Major Words in Titles of Books, Written Works, or Songs.

A wonderful grammar book is Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.

Note: Short prepositions and articles including the, a, or an are not capitalized unless they are the first word.
Capitalize the First Word of Each Line in Poetry or Verse

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
Use Capitals for Members of a Group

Many California Democrats will likely vote for Phil Angelides.

Barry Bonds played for the San Francisco Giants.

Use Capitals for Events and Periods of Time

The Roaring Twenties was a period of affluence.

The Democratic Convention is a nationally televised event.

Capitalize Company Trademarks

My infant eats Earth’s Best baby food.
We prefer Coke over Pepsi.

Use Capitals for Words and Abbreviations of Specific Names

Katie Couric recently switched from NBC to CBS.

She studied Jungian psychology, which focuses on the collective unconscious.

Capitalize Solar System Names

The fourth planet from the sun is Mars.

Note: Sun, earth and moon are not usually capitalized.

The moon revolves around the earth.

Capitalize First Words in Outlines

I. Food Pyramid

A. Whole grains

1. Breads, cereal, crackers, rice, and pasta
Whether to Capitalize “Bachelor’s Degree”

How to write the term: bachelor’s degree
This is a great hub on the proper punctuation and capitalization of “bachelor’s degree.”