Meet Grown Up Dinner: A Crown Me Frugal Mama Tip

It’s one of those days where I am trying my very best at supermom. The hub’s car didn’t start this morning so he had to take mine, meaning that my one day this week without appointments and therapies for my … Continue reading

Boxed (gasp) Wine: Crown Me A Frugal Foodie

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This is a Crown Me Frugal AND a Crown Me Foodie Tip about our “house” wine. I am continuing with my new Crown Me Mama tips. If you missed it, read about my Permanent Packing List here. In the past we would only have wine on hand for a special occasion, because otherwise, we wouldn’t think to buy it.  Ironically, now that we have children we drink wine more often than we used to at home.  It replaces going out because let’s face it, parents of young children don’t really go out.  Further, parents with young children don’t think to buy wine, they just realize they don’t have any in the house and would love a glass. That’s where Bota Box comes in.  A boxed wine for anti-boxed wine people. When you think of boxed wine don’t automatically think it’s awful and only for great Aunt so and so.   Tucked right next to the gross boxed wine section of your store is a section entitled, “Premium Boxed Wine.” Premium boxed wines actually tastes good, in fact great. I would compare it to a house wine at a restaurant or the homes of Italy, and now it is our house wine, too.  It’s not the wine you’ll drink on your birthday (Although you certainly could with dignity), however, it’s a very decent, actually award winning wine.  In a blind taste test, Bota Box has actually won several awards and people thought it was from a bottle. On the box it boasts 47 Gold Medals and 19 Best buys Awards.  Trust me book club will never be the same without a Bota Box on hand.

Here’s why you should buy it (and let me say I’m not famous enough for someone to pay me to say any of this – so this is free advice with no strings attached):

  1. Ever think that once you open a bottle you have to find someone to drink it with you or it will go skunky on you? You can have one glass and not go back another day to a partial bottle of terribly ruined wine. It has a vacuum bag inside the box that keeps the air out and the wine fresh for up to a few months.
  2. It’s in an environmentally friendly cardboard box made from recycled materials. And it’s BPA free.
  3. It has the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine in one box.
  4. They even make cute mini boxes to pack in a suitcase, take on a picnic, or throw in your purse for a BYOB. In other words, you won’t worry that you’ll arrive with a purse full of broken glass.
  5. There are other premium wines worth trying, but this is the brand that made premium boxed wine a Thing.
  6. You like red, your partner likes white? No problem, you can have a box of each on hand. If friends stop by you can offer them either.
  7. And of course, the price is more affordable than buying 4 bottles of decent, not special occasion wine. Depending on if there is a sale, it’s about $20 to $22. So, that’s about $5 a “bottle.” When is the last time you had a $5 bottle of wine that tasted good?

I’ll admit the first time I was offered a Bota Box glass of wine, I was skeptical. But as soon as I took a sip, I was sold. And honestly, besides special occasions, this is what we have on hand. Excuse me while I go have an inch of a lovely 2014 Pinot Noir, yep from a Bota Box.

 

*I really want to make it clear that if you have a drinking problem, I don’t recommend buying a box of wine (or obviously keeping alcohol in your house period). If you find yourself drinking more wine than you normally would after buying this to an extreme, then perhaps you should think about not buying it again. All of the normal rules apply: don’t drink and drive; please don’t drink when your pregnant even if your doctor claims a glass of wine is fine (it’s really not, I go to trainings on these things); and please don’t drink if you can’t stop. And please make your own opinion, but respect mine.

Perfect Bargain Throw Pillows and The Couch I Almost Hated

Our first couch was a hand-me-down, actually a loveseat left over from my husband’s dorm room.  If that isn’t bad enough, it had half a table top under the cushions holding it up just enough that you wouldn’t end up … Continue reading

Spring Mantlescape

A friend of mine calls my seasonal mantle decorations Mantlescapes. I don’t know if this is a decorating term or one she made up, but I thought I would take a break from my heavier adoption process topics and share my decorating on a dime trick for the mantle. I get bored with the same look over and over so I when I came upon a piece of fencing in the trash near my office my brain started churning with ideas. I had my husband trim it down so I could fit it on top of the mantle. Then I secured it to the wall with heavy gauge wire wrapped around a screw that is securely fastened into the masonry. It isn’t budging, so my little guy can safely run by.

Here is my current Mantlescape:

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I reused my gardening theme from previous years. The pots are items I already owned mixed with thrift store finds not individually costing more than 97 cents. I owned all of the garden tools as well. I strategically left the dirt on the tools for extra effect. Then I tucked in a little moss that I had left over from a craft and voila….my gardening Mantlescape.

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My style is really to have something that no one else has, but that also expresses my interests or a piece of our family. We like to garden. I find it therapeutic to get out there and dig and get covered in dirt, much like I did playing as a child. Only this time the result is something more beautiful than making mud pies. At the end of the day I like to walk around our yard and see our flowers thriving (well most of the time) and know that we managed to make something grow and thrive. It is a sense of accomplishment.

I thought you also might like to see my winter Mantlescape for this past year. It is again was a mix of things I already owned. Giving ordinary items a new purpose is fun and thrifty!

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That was the Christmas version.

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I replaced the Christmas objects with the repurposed frames I received as a gift from my father-in-law. This one is made from an old fence post. The mercury glass candleholder is another gift my sister brought back from Ireland for me. I printed out the Love saying to make it a Valentine’s theme. Forgive me because I can’t remember where I printed the free print from.

 

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DIY Big Boy Cars Room on a little budget: Part 3 – repainting and repurposing furniture

Our little boy’s room really started to come together when the car decals were placed on the road we painted. If you missed the DIY Part 1 and 2 feel free to go back for instructions on general painting tips and how to paint a road on the wall.  The main goal of this DIY project was to create the perfect room for our growing son while spending as little money as possible.  Because we are actively waiting to be matched with our next child’s birth mom and because we generally live frugally we didn’t want to break the bank on this one. The need to redo this room came by surprise. It was out of the need to move our son to a twin bed while still keeping the nursery in tact for our future baby. That being said, I am a perfectionist when it comes to decorating. I want our house to express my family and this room had to be just right for my little guy.  He loves his road and cars decals so much that he told me, “Mom, you need some cars on your wall.”  From a toddler’s perspective I am sure my bedroom would look much more fun with cars, but I’ll pass. There are usually cars on my floor so he does do some decorating of his own, right? 
Let’s get down to the furniture.  We started with a twin bed frame that was my husband’s as a child. (Even cooler is that the mattress is from my room before I moved out – a perfect contribution from both parents)  It was an okay stained color but the finish was cracking and peeling.

We rescued this classic children’s dresser from the trash of a house that had a fire.dresser before It smelled terrible and was covered in black soot, but I could see it’s potential.  We use TSP (Tri-Sodium Phoshate) cleaner to wash the dresser inside and out before sanding it and rewashing.* Note to any DIYer living in an old home or working with old furniture: You definitely want to use TSP to wash down your rooms, windowsills, furniture etc. during any project or just because. This helps (and don’t hold me to this because I am just an amateur) minimize lead dust that may have been created in your home or from sanding, moving etc. I use this in every room in my house.

Even though we were repurposing the furniture in this room, I wanted the room to be pulled congruently together.  So we chose a bright yet not too bright, bold blue from Lowes called Handsome Hue. We didn’t want the furniture to shine too much so we went with the suggestion of the satin finish from the paint guy.  It’s durable, washable (we’ve already had to wash it, yes) and it adhered nicely to the wood.  I wanted the wood to look worn and rugged so I only did one coat of paint. There are spots where you can see the wood color come through and cool brush strokes. If you don’t like this, paint another coat and it will disappear. If you are new to painting furniture, it is really important that you sand your furniture, wash it, let it dry, and then paint it. 

Here is the finished dresser.dresser finished  More on the super cute race car drawer pulls and thrifty accessories in my next post.
Additionally, we repainted a bookcase also originally from the curb that was in the nursery. It was a different blue and used up some red paint we had to make it pop. Our little guy just loves his room. Here he is moving in, which for him meant dragging all of his stuffed animals from one room to the other.
moving the animals inmoving in

 

Keep on trucking,

Crownmemama

 

DIY Big Boy Cars Room on a Little Budget: Part 2

Now that base painting is finished it is time for the fun to begin.  I should mention that the practical side of me won out, and we also added two more coats of polyurethane to the hardwood floors.  That is a project for another post for sure! So what we have here is a nice, clean blank shell of a room.  I love the crisp white baseboards next to the grey walls.  My sister came up with the idea to paint tire tracks on the walls. Which, in theory, we all got excited about.  My sister (#4 out of the 5 of us!), her husband, my husband, and my little guy attempted to paint these tire marks.  Learn from our mistakes and you may be able to pull this off or you, like us, in the end might decide to go a different route. The problem we encountered is that wheels typically are raised in the center of the tread so that only one side of the tread would show at a time.  We used a lawnmower tire. Painted it with black flat paint, put a screwdriver in the center for easier rolling and my sister took a chance.  She had to listen to all of us giving our opinion and my little guy trying to help.  Despite the wheel rolling back and forth on the wall, we all thought is was generally looking good. However, after a few days of looking at it and thinking how I would pull the room together it just wasn’t working.tire marks If you didn’t know they were tire marks you would probably ask me what they were.

So, we began the daunting process of paiting over them.  It required 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint.  If you look closely, you can still see them on the wall. So, I recommend the custom roads over the tire mark look for sure. 

Here is how the road came to be:

1) We placed good quality painter’s tape in one line on the wall. I know I said I don’t use tape, but this is the exception to that rule.  We used Frog Tape as we had read good reviews online.  We did not use a level because we wanted the road to move, but you could use one if you like a little more order. The line started out straight and then I took it up and down hills, around the corner and over a wheel (more on the wheel coming up in Part 3 of this post).  The road spans over 2 walls.

1) We continued by measuring a 4 inch parallel line on the wall. We placed the tape over this line to make the other edge of our road.road taped 

2) We cut pieces of the tape off in no particular size – just based on what we thought would look good for the dotted line in the middle. We then placed these pieces on the wall between the two taped parallel lines to make the dotted line in the middle of the road.  We could have painted in the line later, but decided this would be much easier than going back and doing that. Turns out I really love the differing not quite perfect rectangles that form the dotted lines.  They are so fun! 

* What we didn’t make sure we did was to go back over all of the dotted lines tape and thoroughly smooth all edges down tightly.  What happened as a result is shown in the below photo.big boy room finishing touches 009 

If we had done the careful smoothing they all would have turned out like this, which is what you want to happen:big boy room finishing touches 012

3) Just 45 minutes before due to leave the house for a BBQ, using the black flat paint leftover from the tire mark project gone wrong, we brushed the paint between the taped parallel lines and over the dotted line tape pieces. 

4) We brushed on a second coat after we came home from the BBQ and put the little sleeping guy in our bed while we did that. (Don’t worry we put his rail up and pillows on the other side just in case.)

 

5) Luckily,  I reread the instructions on the tape package and realized we should remove the tape immediately after painting. So, we ripped that off and revealed the road before we even went to bed. I am so glad we didn’t have to wait until the morning. I also want to make note that paint these days is low fume (don’t know the fancy term for that) so it was okay to put our son back his bed in that room to sleep as he has a ceiling fan and the window and door open giving lots of fresh air to the space.

When the little guy woke up he was so excited to see his road on the wall.  He kept exclaiming, “There’s a road on my wall!”  It was so precious.  Except that he also immediately added, “Mama, I need cars on my road.” I explained to him that yes, there will eventually be cars on the road, but that the paint had to finish drying first.

6) I believe the painter’s tape said to wait 3 weeks or something crazy like that before adhering anything to the wall.  I figured after probably 10 days I was sick of waiting. Chances are if I am removing the cars from the road in the future, I will be planning on painting over the road as well. 

7) Car selection – I mentioned in Part 1 of this post that I don’t usually go for premade themes.  I wanted to go with a tad bit vintage car look and happened upon some great decals at A.C. Moore.  I used a 60% off coupon which made them $5.80.  There are so many in the package that I didn’t use them all.  They included everything from a double decker bus, scooters, a taxi to a tow truck.  There are also little numbered race cars that actually go really well with the drawer pulls for the dresser. 

I went back and forth about whether or not to use decals or to freehand some cars on the wall. I knew that while I am creative, I do not have a natural ability to paint and would probably have to call a sister or two for that. (Like we did in the little guy’s nursery – another post perhaps someday).  However, when I saw these cars in the store, I thought they were worth a try. big boy room finishing touches 005I was worried that they would look like a decal.  Do they? Yes and no.  They have a clear background which certainly helps. So, when I smoothed them onto the wall they almost look like they belong there. I would recommend that you stay away from decal with a white background as they will be more noticeable.  I am truly pleased with how this turned out. And of course I know another little guy who is even more pleased than we are!big boy room finishing touches 002

 

One final warning – when your little guy decides he is not going to nap he may have a tendency to peel the decals off the road in the places he can reach. He will cry when you say in your most-patient-but-I-really-want-to-scream-and-cry-voice that was it was not nice to do that and that we shouldn’t pull the cars off the road. Then he will likely do it again the next time he doesn’t want to sleep. It’s all good. I am just still so happy to be the Mama to this little guy to make a road for!  

You may want to subscribe so you won’t miss Part 3.

Happy Road Building,

Crown Me Mama

DIY Big Boy cars room on a little budget: Part One

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coming into June 043big boy room 008 Picture a shabby chic girly guest room with mismatched florals. Add into the mix worn off-white walls with residue from a torn down Winnie The Pooh border leftover from the previous owners. This certainly would not work for my growing little boy or me for that matter. In preparation for moving our son to a twin sized bed we needed to convert our guest room into a big boy room. What else on earth would a little boy want but cars! So, cars it is. I am not one to go with a premade prepackaged overpriced theme. While we like the movie Cars we aren’t interested in using those cars for the room. Over the next few posts I will attempt to show you step by step how you can transform a room. It doesn’t have to be a car themed room, but my hope is that if you are new to the DIYing that you will feel confident that this can be replicated to reflect your style and theme. Let’s start with painting. I wanted to pick a color that was both neutral yet interesting. Turns out everyone in the paint line had the same idea as me and we all were mixing greys. This grey is Pewter Cup by Behr. It is a paint and primer in one in a Satin finish. We were told this was a good option for a kid’s room because it is durable and washable. Spackle your holes knicks with a small tub of joint compound or spackle from your local hardware store using a putty knife. Allow to completely dry before attempting to sand smooth. I like to look at the room in different lighting because I often find spots I didn’t see at another time. Most people know how to paint so I won’t go into too much further detail here because to me painting is something I just want to hurry up and finish so I can enjoy the results. So, the long and short of it is that the walls are a light grey and the woodwork is white. We don’t use painters tape but prefer a good brush to do the cutting in and edging. One thing I would like to suggest is that you paint your ceiling (and do it first). You may look at your ceiling and think it doesn’t need to be painted. However, once you paint your walls your ceiling may take on a more dingy hue. So, paint it and you’ll thank yourself later even if it is frustrating task! In my next post I am going to focus on the custom painted roads we added to the walls. Expect everything to take longer than you expected as it always does. Case in point, we are still putting a few finishing touches on this room while trying to start our bedroom makeover. We’ve lived in our home 10 years and this was the only room in the house we hadn’t painted. Unfortunately, now that that is painted, we have to start back at the beginning. Oh the joys of home ownership! Actually, I have to admit I am ready for some change.

While they say that paint is one of the cheapest ways to make a difference in your home, it really isn’t that cheap once you buy ceiling paint, wall paint, trim paint, accent paint etc. So, here is my advice:
Paint Purchasing pointers to save money:
* If you are close to an approaching holiday weekend and can wait you can often find that Home Depot and Lowes offer rebates on paint for these holiday weekends, especially in the summer.
*There is nothing wrong with purchasing paint at Home Depot. In fact, a few years ago Consumer Reports Magazine rated Behr paint over some of the big name brand specialty paint stores.
* You can take your paint back and get it retinted if you hate it. For example, your butter yellow turned out more like sunflower. Take it back, explain the problem, and chances are a shot of this or that will give you the color you want.
*Check out the oops paints sections at Home Depot and Lowes. These are paints that were returned or mistinted and never left the store. They used to go for $5 a gallon, but are a little more than that now. I have painted many rooms in our house with oops paints. I even got two gallons of yes, a butter yellow that I wanted for our living room. These paints are usually shelved near the mixing paint area or near the contractor’s exit of the store. Check regularly and you might hit the jackpot.
*If you aren’t sure how much paint you will need. Start with less, you can always go back and buy more. They try and tell you that the color might differ if mixed at a different time, but I think that it could differ even if you did it at the same time. It is done with a computer so there should be technically less room for error.
*If you like a color at one store you can take that sample to another. Almost all stores do color matching so they can scan the swatch, your favorite sweater, or whatever and voila you have custom paint.
*If you take care in cleaning your brushes and supplies you shouldn’t have to purchase new ones each time you paint a room. That being said, sometimes I have been known to just throw a roller out without attempting to clean it. I think the water used to clean it might cost as much as buying a new one.

There are still decent people in the world and sometimes you find them on Craigslist selling a car!

I am a pretty sensible girl, but every now and then I do something that even I question. Like buying a car on Craigslist.  We actually did this a few years ago. I have to say I do recommend it when the circumstances are right.  Overall, we had an amazing experience.  Of course, there is a longer story leading up to the purchase that involves my car dying in the middle of the road on the way to vacation 8 hours from home with a baby in the back seat (yes, really) and having to make the terrible decision between pushing the car with the baby in it, or putting the baby in the car seat on the side of the road.  I actually can’t remember what we did. I have stricken it from memory.

Anyway, after we were searching high and low for a car that was in our budget that would last us several years and meet our needs now and in the future, we found one on Craigslist.  I will give all interested parties a few tips a bit later. We have had two occasions since buying the car that you just might not believe how wonderful they are!  A few months after purchasing the car we received an email from the seller saying that he had found the manual and if we wanted it he would mail it to us.  Wow, now that is plain old human kindness. Just recently, mind you this is a few years after buying the car, I scheduled to have remote start installed in my car. This was part of the deal of buying a base model car my husband and I made – that I could install a roof rack and remote start.  I lost my heated seats, and more surprisingly missed by me, heated mirrors. I have since then learned to deal. We had built this into our budget for the car and found a deal on one of those daily deals sites similar to Groupon. When speaking with the woman at the installation place she mentioned that it is cheaper and easier to install if you have the valet key. I explained my situation and said I didn’t have that key. She told me to see what I could do. Something told me to take a chance and email the seller and see if by any miracle he still had it.  Several days passed after I emailed him and no response came. I wasn’t surprised by this.  Then it came, a response!  The seller said he was sorry it took so long for him to respond to me. He was about to email and say he had no idea where it would be when he happened upon the valet key in his other car. He was looking for a CD in the center console and there it was in the bottom staring right at him!  He kindly mailed me the key carefully packaged and everything. There are still decent people in the world and sometimes you find them on Craigslist selling a car!

Pointers for buying a car on Craigslist (or anything of value for that matter):

1) If the deal is way too good to be true it probably is. Do a little research and ask the seller some questions that will reveal if the purchase is legit or not. One major question you want to ask is if they have the title to the car. If they don’t answer you, you avoided a catastrophe. If they chime right back then you are on the right track.

2) Car purchases transactions are often handled by the state. So, that makes it much safer. After we decided we wanted to purchase the car,we met at a title and tag establishment where I had to show proof of insurance, pay the state tax to the staff on-site, have the car registered on the spot, and show the cashier’s check we were using to purchase the car. All details of the transaction including the mileage of the car were recorded and sent to the state.  This probably varies by state so I cannot speak for others. It feels safe this way.

3) Ask if the car has been in any accidents and pay for a CarFax report of the car’s history.  This is reasonably priced and can save you a great deal in the long run.

4) If possible have your mechanic check out the vehicle. If that isn’t able to be arranged ask your mechanic what you should look for. I always look at the oil to see if it looks clean and at a good level. If they kept up with the maintenance of the car this is a good indicator. 

5) Realize that buying a used car is a crapshoot and no one will be able to determine the outcome.  However, if you are careful and wise you can end up with a great car at an even greater price.  Buying used from a dealer means you have to cover the cost of the staff who cleaned it up and slapped the price tag on, as well as the commission of the dealer you buy it from.  We saved about $4,000 to $6,000 by buying on Craigslist. Honestly, it was also cleaner than what we saw at the dealers which was surprising. The dealer wanted to push us into a new car.

6) This should go without saying but, I recommend that people meet in public places to see the car. You don’t know these people and they don’t know you. If they are willing to meet you in a public place you both should feel better. If they aren’t, then what does that say about them? 

7) Do not pay cash even if you have access to it. I repeat, do not pay cash in exchange for the keys in some parking lot.  You must follow your state rules and they are rules to protect you.  If someone asks you to pay cash, explain that a cashier’s check is just as legitimate and safer for all involved. Offer to let them call your  bank and confirm that you purchased a cashier’s check if they seem worried.  By the way, you can still get a loan when buying from Craigslist. The loaner will ask who to write the check to and you can get the seller’s information prior to the trade off.

A little research and a lot of patience and you can get a lot of car for your money on Craigslist! Good luck.

And… Action!

Well, it’s official. We are now active on the waiting list for a baby at our adoption agency. This comes with surprising mixed feelings of excitement and hesitancy. It isn’t that I am cautious about the adoption, rather I am wondering if we can possibly get our home/lives into order enough to be ready to welcome this baby. We have that long to-do list that keeps growing with things we want to accomplish. Some of these things have been put off too long because of the tremendous effort it takes to become active with an agency. Now that we are all finished with the paper chase, the photo chase, oh and the video chase, too, we have time to work on that list in theory. At close to the top of the list is renovating our guest room to be ready for our son to move into and settle in before the new baby arrives. I am looking forward to sharing with you our project as it unfolds in the next few weeks or months depending on how it goes. It is a little tricky to figure out that timetable of this transition given that we don’t know when baby #2 will arrive. Ultimately, we could be matched tomorrow (not likely, but technically possible) or it could take a year or more. From match the baby could be already waiting for us in a hospital in some state or could still be cooking in his or her birth mom’s womb. So, we plan on getting started.

Also on the top of the list is saving money, of course. When it comes to saving money, doesn’t it always seem that the more urgent the need for you to save money, the harder it is to resist temptation. For example, I love Gymboree clothing for my son. They seem to have clothing that I both like and that my son does as well. He especially loves all of the socks they have with cute things on them (which don’t seem to exist elsewhere in the market of boy socks). I follow http://www.forthemommas.com, where I glean many of my saving and shopping plans. So, they are having their semi-annual sale and the prices are tempting. Additionally, tempting is the fact that for every so much you spend they give you Gymbucks which allow you to come back at a later date and spend more money…very clever. Here is the thing I must remind myself of, as well as any of you reading this who are trying to save a dime here or there, it is not a bargain if you buy something on sale that you do not need! I am so happy for the voice of reason that reminded me of this today on forthemommas.com. Shannon from forthemommas.com had posted a reminder about the sale. Just what I needed to follow that sale reminder was an ad for Pampers Swaddlers diapers. Boom – there is was right in front of me, the gentle reminder of where my priorities need to lie. Yep, that’s right currently my son does not need any clothing. Perhaps he could use a pair or two of pajamas for the summer but otherwise I do not need to buy him a single item of clothing today. Seeing that Pampers ad with the little tiny baby reminded me of what I do need to save for….lots and lots of diapers!

The most important couponing tool

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So, I have discovered what I have been missing all along.  A good pair of scissors specifically for couponing. I have been thinking it about it for a while and thought perhaps I should put a pair on my Christmas list this year. But that is still 6 months away and I definitely don’t have a pair of scissors that I currently love. I purchased a new pair on my lunch break the other day and couldn’t wait to try them out. I was tempted to bring them into the office but didn’t want to forget to bring them home.  So, after dinner last night I ripped open the package and tried them out. They are fabulous. They have a beautiful crisp cutting sound!  I love them and have already warned the hubby not to use them for anything other than couponing. I didn’t see the exact pair I bought on-line, but these are similar:<a href="” title=”scissors”>

The ones I bought are Westcott and I believe the real key here is the bent handle.  When you use them on coupons which remain on the table you can still glide easily through the paper without cutting clumsily.