Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Birthday Party Breakdown: Decorations & Food

Did we ever party like rockstars!  Our daughter's rockstar themed 7th birthday was a big hit this weekend and since several of you have asked for a little behind the scenes, here it is!

Remember my DIY birthday garland that I made last week?  Well, truth be told, I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do with it when I made it. Since the forecast said it was going to be about 90 on Saturday we had my mom bring over her huge canopy and we put it up to provide a little shade. I decided hanging the garland under there would look cute and make the canopy not so plain. What'd ya' think:

Here is a view from the other side:

Before the party on Saturday I had to run to the wal-marts to pick up a few things, I also picked up some $1 treat boxes.  Treat boxes+streamers and cutout shapes + fishing line =

I added some birthday garland to one and it became our pseudo chandelier:

To spruce up the plates and cutlery I folded each napkin, glued a little piece of cardstock around it, put the fork and spoon with it and put it in a cute basket:
Bonus: Having these as a set prevents a kid from grabbing 10 napkins and helps everyone hold onto everything.

Other than some table clothes and a few balloons that about wraps up the decor part of our segment. So we'll move onto food!

What else would a rock star eat other than pizza.  Since our local pizza place has a $5.99 large special we decided to go that route for food.  I also grabbed a cantaloupe, some apples, carrots, cucumbers and bell peppers for  fruit and veggie trays, most of the veggies came from the abundant gardens of our friends and families.  We had a few 2 liters of pop, some water and capri sun juice packs for the drinks.

Oh, and cake.  What party is complete without cake.  I attempted to make a cover the cake in fondant.  It was a huge failure.  A failure of catastrophic proportions. There were tears and angry fists pumps.  Then, with less than and hour until the kiddos got home from school and 2 my hubby's parents arrived I decided to whip up a batch of pink butter cream and call it a day.  I did add a little fondant accent. Here is the cake:

And the top:

Later this week I'll delve into the favors, entertainment and fun. For all of you who scoffed at my $100 or less birthday party here is the budget breakdown for decor and food:
Birthday Garland - $1
Treat Bag Lanterns -$1.50
Table Clothes - $3
Balloons - $3
5 Pizzas - $ 35
Fruit and Veggies - $2.19 since most of them came from gardens of friends and families
Pop, water and juice -  $9

Monday, August 30, 2010

Never leave home without them and more deals and steals!!

One thing I learned quickly when I started couponing is the importance of knowing the coupon policy.  It is your rule book! You wouldn't head out onto the football field without knowing the rules, heading out to coupon is like heading out onto the gridiron.  Couponing can be a contact sport, ok...not really but it does involve a great deal of strategy.  

I have found that carrying the "rule book" or store coupon policy with you when you go shopping can be helpful.  I have encountered many a cashier who doesn't know their store's policy.  The stores change them or employees don't take time to learn them.  I fold mine up nice and neat and keep them in my handy dandy coupon organizer.

What's that? You don't want to take the time to go to each website to print them?  No worries, here are some links that should help out! 

I am still working on getting CVS's. 

Two other hot deals from yesterday:
First, did you catch the mail in form on the second page of the P&G insert. Send that puupy in and they will send you some great coupons!
Also, Dollar General has Olay body wash for $2 this week, use the $1 off coupon and you can snag some for a buck!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Deals and Steals week of 8/29

Rite Aid

First off don't forget your $5 off $25 printable

Transaction #1:
-Pantene Restoratives Beautiful Lengths Hair Care $4
- (2) Nivea for Men Bodywash at 16.9 oz., at $3
 (3) Kellogg’s Cereal 8.5-15 oz., at $2
Nivea Lip Care $2.99  
(2) Doritos Chips at  2 for $4
(2) Gain Dish Soap at $0.89 each
$5 off $25
$2 off Pantene hair care product, Rite Aid booklet
$2 off Pantene Restore Beautiful Lengths product, PG 8/29
$4/2 Nivea Body Products, 8.4 oz + printable
$1.50/2 Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, and/or Corn Pops printable
-$1 off Nivea Lip Care, September All You Magazine
- (2) $1 off Gain dish  soap from 8/29
Get Back:
$2 UP Reward for Pantene Restore
$2 UP Reward  for Nivea Men's Body Wash
$1 UP Reward for Kellogs Cereal (Also, there is a $5 off coupon you can submit for wyb $15)
$1.99 SCR Rebate for Nivea lip care
$1 UP Reward for Nivea Lip Care
=$7.99 for a total oop of $0.28! A savings of 99%!

Transaction #2
Pampers Jumbo Diapers and Training Pants at $8.99
Pampers Wipes at $3.49
Purex Laundry Detergent 50 oz., or 3-in-1 Sheets B1G1 (I estimate these at $6.99 each)
Tide Laundry Detergent $5.99

$5 off $25
$2 off Pampers from 8/29
Free Pampers Wipes 72 ct + WYB Diapers, PG 8/01
 (2) $3 off Purex from Red Plum 8/15
$1.50 off Tide from 8/22
Get Back:
$2 UP reward from Pampers
$1 UP Reward from Purex
$1 UP Reward from Tide
=$4 for a total oop of $3.47 (But the overall cost of the products would be about $32 since the free Purex doesn't add to the transaction total)

Venus Embrace at $8.49
Phillips Earbuds $6.99
(4) Oral B Pulsar at $2.99 each
(3) Dawn at $0.97
$4 off $20 from email
$3 off Embrace from 8/29
(2) B1G1 free Oral B Pulsar from 8/01 (Exp 8/31!!)
(3) .25 off from multiple weeks
Get Back
$5 ECB from Embrace
$5 ECB wyb $10 Oral B products
$6.99 ECB from Phillips Earbuds
=$16.99, a $0.37 moneymaker!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

On this day....

My baby took one step closer to her eventual independence.  Today, the child that I carried for nine and a half months, who gave me all day sickness for 4 months, who was born without a peep and with the thickest, black hair I have ever seen.  The child who, at 18 months, put multiple objects up her nose daily resulting in 3 trips to urgent care within a month, and always during DC rush hour traffic. The child who hides her toys every time my best friend comes for fear that we will determine that she is too big and give another one of her toys to my BF's baby. The child who has the biggest blue eyes and loves to say, "I wuv you momma" 30 times a day. That child started preschool today, as much as I have looked forward to this day, it was hard.  There were tears. 

All day, 4 day a week pre-school.  7 hours away from her loving mommy everyday.  She had a great day.  I, on the other hand may need a minute to get over this.  Until then, I'll be looking at this:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Time to break out the garland!

No, it is still August and unlike the retail industry I don't plan to put my tree up next week.  I'm talkin' about birthday garland, are you still with me.  What? You have never heard of birthday garland?  Where have you been?  Just kidding, I made up the name yesterday when trying to describe it to someone.  Here is a peek at my DIY birthday garland:

This was a simple DIY decor project that I made for my daughter's birthday party.  I saw the idea somewhere a while back, it then became buried deep in the crevices of my mind and recently it made it's way to my daily thought process so I decided to roll with it.  The one I saw used 1 1/2 inch circles using different colors of paper.  Always trying to kick it up a notch, I decided to give mine a little umph and use 2 different size circles and a star.  I also used 4 different colors of paper.

To create this masterpiece you have to sew.  ** Note, you don't need to be a great seamstress!** Maybe, you only sew when you get a crazy idea in your head and have to call your mom to bring her machine over, and then you get a brief lesson. An hour later call your mom to determine why things are so uneven to learn that there is some claw thingy you need to put down, it holds things in place and everything come out nice and straight.  Not that I know anyone like that.  Not here in land of sewing pros, where the seams are straight and perfect.

Anyhow, this is so simple.  You just pick the shapes and or colors at random and sew them together.  I made a bunch of garland of varying lengths.  I plan to use fishing line to put them up under the canopy at my daughter's paar- tay.  And if, by the grace of God, they make it through the party in one piece I plan to hang them from the ceiling in her room. Then, we'll keep the party rocking all year!

Here is another looksy:
I think this idea could easily be changed for the holiday or season: some halloween, or Christmas or baby shower or 4th of July or completely random garland.  What ever you decide.  I'm also digging the whole room decor idea.  Think how much fun this could be in a babies room!

Here is one more look:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Birthday Week!!!

In just a few short days my oldest daughter will turn 7.  A child that I fell in love with the moment I knew she existed, that has made me smile, cry, laugh and beam with pride more than I thought to ever be possible. 7.  As in almost half way to driving.  It seems like just yesterday her daddy and I were laying on the ground trying to teach her how to roll over. Anyway...birthdays are a big deal at our house, when I was growing up my birthday was usually me, my brothers and 87 cousins gathered around a homemade cake and a few presents. I haven't been to counseling but it obviously left me scarred. So, my kids birthdays require much thought and prep work to ensure it is a fabulous day for them.  But, birthdays are can be expensive and we sure aren't gonna abandon our frugal ways for a one day whim.

In the 10 parties I have thrown thus far wearing my mom hat we have manged to have a great time and never needed a bounce house or  any other expensive activity.  We have experienced a barnyard bash, gone on a safari (my fav), brought the circus to life, went boyish with a tonka truck, a princess party that any little girl would love, got all aboard a train party, and went crazy at a luau. This year though is different, my lil' girl is growing up and wants a rockstar party.  Yep, we are gonna party like rockstars!  Rockstars on a budget though.
We are going to have a rockin' party for less than $100, including the favors, food, cake...everything.  I think that is a reasonable amount for a kids party and will be sharing some of the details here on the ole' blog!

Of coarse, the invitation sets the mood for the entire event so here is what all the cool kids in 2nd grade had in their mailboxes this week:

I used Photoshop to create this gem. Confession: I am a self taught Photoshop junkie and have a small card design business so I have spent a good deal of time creating cards.  If you don't have Photoshop you could easily print out the wording from word, and layer it on some colored cardstock to create a similar look.

Invitation cost: $1
All I needed was a few sheets of the cardstock I already owned.  If you had to do the layered look it would probably run more like $7-$10 depending on how many you were sending out.

I'll also be sharing:
DIY decor that will knock your socks off, our Entertainment, and the rockin' favors the kiddos will be packing home.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

DIY: Oatmeal

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days, back to school kicked my butt a bit, but, I'm back now and ready to share my latest endevor! In order to punch my "good mom" card daily I feel like I need to provide my munchkins with a hearty and filling breakfast, so no cereal and milk here.  Well, unless you name is Mommy, then you eat your Lucky Charms and Corn Pops before the kids get up wearing your "I'm a total hypocrite" PJ's.

My oldest loves oatmeal, she can put away 2 packs a morning.  On one hand it makes me happy because you often hear about oatmeal being such a great breakfast choice.  On the other wallet holding hand I cringe a bit every time she asks for another pack, oatmeal isn't cheap! A box of 10 is usually about $2 - $2.50 ($0.20 - $0.25 a pack), I once tried to do plain quick oats and she gagged until I had to throw it away.  But alas, I recently ran across a homemade Oatmeal recipe, a quick Google search lead to a couple more and left me wondering why I never thought of it before. Here's what I used:
-A large canister of rolled oats
-A large canister of quick oats
- Non dairy coffee creamer
-Brown sugar
-Banana Chips

Here is the basic recipe:

Put 1/2 cup oats in a blender and blend on high until powdery. Set aside in a small bowl, and repeat procedure with an additional 1/2 cup oats. If you're using a food processor, you can do the 1 cup of oats in one batch.
Put the following ingredients into each zip baggie: 1/4 cup un-powdered oats, 2 Tbsp. powdered oats, and 1/8 tsp. salt.
To serve: Empty packet into a bowl. Add 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir and let stand for 2 minutes. For thicker oatmeal, use less water - for thinner oatmeal, use more water.

Our system:

We made Brown Sugar and Cinnamon (my kiddos fave) by adding 1 TSP. of Brown Sugar and 1/4 TSP. of Cinnamon.

For Bananas and Cream: Blend 1 cup of banana chips on high until powerdy, add 1 TSP. of creamer (we went fancy and used French Vanilla) and 1 - 2 TSP. of the banana powder.  You could use any type of dried fruit here or add frozen or better yet, fresh fruit!

My assistant scooping it in a baggie:

The cost breakdown:
Rolled Oats - $1.17
Quick Oats - $2.37
Creamer - $1 (we still have a bunch left for next time)
Brown Sugar - $1.50 (but we already had some)
Cinnamon - $1 (again, we had this)
Baggies - $1
=$8.14,  my cost was $5.64 since I had some stuff
I made 70!!! packets of oatmeal which came in at $0.08 per pack.  A huge savings! I know, while it is a huge savings oatmeal wasn't a high dollar purchase to begin with.  But...wait!  My killer analytical skills have arrived at this:
We average 15 packets of oatmeal a week
15 packets* 52 weeks = 780 packets
780 * $0.25 (non sale price) per packet = $195 per year
780 * $0.20 (sale price)  per packet = $156 per year
780 * $0.08 (homemade price)= $62.40 per year
A savings of  $95 - $132 a year or about 2 weeks worth of groceries at my house!!!! And my oldest munchkin liked getting in on the helping and even learned a little math!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sports equipment on the cheap!

Are you ready for some Football! Or Soccer! Or Baseball! Or Dance! Or Golf! Ok...I'll stop now.  Fall sports practice is in full swing in our neck of the woods.  In every field or park in our little community there is a football or soccer practice going on, dance and gymnastics class registrations are popping up too.  I love my girls to be involved in sports and activities, I was as a kid and even had modest track & field and soccer scholarships in college.  Sports develop self esteem, confidence, team work and many other great character traits,  but they can also pack a little punch on the ole' wallet.

Between registration fees, uniforms, gear, equipment and travel parents can shell out a small fortune.  According to a recent NBC report parents will spend an average of $2000 throughout their child's life on sports. Some sports however are much more expensive, here are some yearly averages I found at various websites:

Baseball: $20 - $400 (for AAU) for registration plus $40 to $150 for equipment
Soccer: $10 - $700+ (for competitive travel teams) plus $35 - $200 for equipment
Football $50 - $400+ plus $75-$200+ for equipment
Hockey $450 - $1600++ (for travel teams) + $200 - $450 for equipment
Basketball $10 - $700 (for AAU) plus $40 - $150 for shoes and uniform
Dance and Gymnastics $350 - $1000+++ (for extensive coaching) plus $100 - $300 for uniforms

So, you get the picture, sports are expensive.  But most parents will do whatever they can to ensure that little Billy and Susie have that wonderful childhood experience.  But alas, here are some tips to lower costs:

1. If you know you can't afford an expensive sport like hockey or dance try to steer your child toward something else that is more affordable.

2. If you kid is determined to play an expensive sport ask about payment plans or scholarships.

3. Pitch in! I read that several leagues that allow coaches, assistants, and Board of Directors kids to play free or at a reduced rate.

4. Buy used equipment!!
 This can lead to massive savings and may be the easiest! If you live in a bigger area you have probably heard of Play It Again Sports, a chain store that sells, buys, and trades used sporting equipment.  Right now on their website they even have a $5 off coupon after you select your location.  Another option is my old standby, ebay.com! A quick search a minutes ago produced $6 Adidas soccer cleats, $4 Nike shin guards, $6 Umbro soccer balls, $12 youth football shoulder pads...the deals go on and on.
Last year when my oldest decided she wanted to do dance I was able to get everything she needed for less than a 20 bucks!  We found $3 NEW Ballet shoes, $0.99 tap shoes, a $4 Tutu, and 2 leotards for $7.50! The cost of just the ballet shoes new was well over $20, I was quite proud of my deal finding, especially since she was a one hit wonder in the dance world and didn't want to sign up again.

5. Set up a trade day with your league.  I was really impressed that our small town youth soccer league does this.  At our end of the season fun day you can bring your equipment that is getting too small and trade it in for larger sizes for free.  It may take a bit of leg worth but may be worth getting it set up in your league.

If anyone else has money saving tips sports feel free to share the comment section!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

DIY: The Write Stuff Part three

Whew! What a week!  Things at our house have been super busy this week so I haven't had time to finish up this series.  But today, the clouds parted, the sun came out and the school bus pulled up, ahhh, the first day of school.  Ok, it was kinda gloomy and dark and I drive my munchkin to school, so I was just joking about that sun coming, cloud parting, bus pulling up stuff.  But I did have time to do this post really quick.

Part III is the monogramed note card set:

This was actually so simple it's silly! You use some plain, white cardstock along with some patterened cardstock and a little two sided tape.  First, cut the white cardstock, I went with 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 so that I could get 9 per page, the note card was still big enough to write a little note but not huge.

Next, cut your patterened cardstock, mine was about 1/2 an inch bigger than my paper on all sides, but make sure you leave enough for the fold at the top and bottom. Next, place your paper and fold the top over to make a little "bed" for the cardstock.

Then, add a crease at the bottom and put your 2 sided tape in the crease:

Now, align your paper and put it in. Make sure it adheres to the tape at the bottom, then fold the crease again:

Add a wee little piece tape at the top to serve as a closure device:

Almost there, stay with me now! Finally, print or stamp or write the initial(s) of the recipient onto a cutesy piece of coordinating cardstock.  Cut it out and mod podge ( I love to use my mod podge anytime I can!) or glue it on:

Then add it to your other items, add some ribbon or twine to tie it all together and gift it.  It may help if you actually remember to give it to your child's teacher on the first day if that is your intended purpose.  Don't get so caught up taking pictures and holding back tears of joy/sadness/ exhilaration that you forget it at home. Not that I know anyone who would do that, nope, we have it together at our house!

When it finally makes it to school (or whomever you give it to) I'm sure it will be loved and adored:

Monday, August 16, 2010

DIY: Rockin' shirts

Summer is winding down here in the hills of WV, although you wouldn't know it with our killer humidity.  Since my kiddos only had a few days left before they headed back to school we decided to do a fun little project: bleached shirts.  I'll admit that I saw this somewhere else but thought it was too super cool not to share. 

Here are the essentials for your clan to make your own:
Colored T-shirts, ours came from Wal-Mart for $3. You can get cheaper ones at Hobby Lobby but I like my girls to wear the more "girl fit" ones.
Freezer paper
Spray bottle and optional squirt guns

First things first, you and your kiddos need to determine what you want to put on the shirt: initials, a football, crown...whatever.  Our daughter is having a rockstar b-day party in a few weeks so they wanted to make shirts for it.

Print out your stencil, cut it out.  Then transfer it to the freezer paper and cut it out.
Now,  iron the freezer paper onto the shirt with the waxy side down.

Mix the bleach with water, I did about a 1:1 mixture.  I couldn't find squirt guns so we just used a spray bottle and adjusted the nozzle for the desired spray. 

Then head outside, hang the shirts up on a clothes line with cardboard in the middle to protect the back.

Spray a light layer around the stencil then adjust the nozzle to a more direct spray and hand the bottle over to your kiddos.  *** Make sure your kids are old enough to understand that they should only spray the shirt, not others or drink the water.  Use gloves to if your bottles leak like ours did***

 Let the kids spray them a bit, in the sun it won't take long to start seeing the change.  Notice the intense concentration!

Then, let them hang out a bit until they reach the desired level of fade.  If you leave it too long the bleach will start eating through the clothes though.

When they have faded to your satisfaction take them in , remove the freezer paper, and throw them in the wash to get the bleach out.  I wouldn't wash them with any other clothes though!

Now, get ready to be a total rockstar:

Here is a close up of little sister's.  She fully intends to wear it to preschool the first day!

So, $3 shirts + household products = ending the summer on a high note....Hey, a music note! That would be a cool design too!  I think this would also be awesome for custom onesies and plan to make some for a prego friend. 

Stay tuned for step 3 of the DIY Stationary Set later this week!

Chicken Parm a la easy

We loooovvvve pasta, the hubster and I both have Italian dads so I think that is a contributing factor.  In fact, we are the most Italian bunch of blonde haired, blue eyed people you'll find.  Pasta hits our dinner table often because: 1. The 4 year old doesn't complain when we have pasta for dinner, 2. It's cheap, 3. It's easy.  Cheap n' easy dinners are my favorite kind.  I have tried lots of marinara recipes and taken my favorite parts of each, so mine is a collaboration of many of those.

Here is what ya' need:
- 2 large cans of crushed tomatoes, any brand
- a quarter of an onion, diced small
- 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, diced small
- chicken, about a pound feeds my family of 4
-spaghetti, we prefer the whole wheat kind but whatever tickles your fancy
- red wine or red cooking wine, nothing too fancy though.  Ahhh....fancy wine how I yearn for thee.  Sorry I got sidetracked with visions of wine that costs more than $5 a bottle.
-fresh parmesan cheese, go ahead and grate about 1/3 - 1/2 a cup depending on your love of cheese
-flour, sugar, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, olive oil

Use a meat hammer and pound the chicken flat a bit, go ahead and get out all the pent up aggrevation and frustration.  After you have pounded your chicken, dredge it through flour mixed with a bit of salt and pepper. Heat up some olive oil in a large pan (I prefer to use my big cast iron skillet) and brown the chicken on both sides.  After it is finished set it aside somewhere until later.

In order to minimize clean up I use the same pan for the next step too.  Toss the onions and garlic in the hot pan.  Pour in about 1/3 cup red wine and the add your crushed red tomatoes. Now add 1/2 cup of sugar ( to kill the acidity of the tomatoes), oregano, basil, salt and pepper.  I don't use exact measurements so a few shakes of each should work : )  Then add in a pinch of your grated parm. cheese. Put it on med to low heat (2-3 on my stove), cover and let it simmer for about 15 - 20 minutes.

Don't forget to start cooking your spaghetti in about 5 minutes!

After the sauce has simmered a bit, get your chicken out.  Place the pieces in the sauce, add a bit of cheese on top and let them cook about 5 minutes in the sauce.

Breathe a sigh of relief, another meal is about to be finished! Plate everything up and add a bit more cheese if you so desire, I always desire and use an ample amount!

Also served with this meal was yummy bruschetta, the recipe for it will be featured soon.
Budget breakdown:
Chicken $1.78 (mine was $1.78 per lb. and I used a pound)
Sauce $1.76 (2 cans at $0.88 each)
Spaghetti $.50 (used half of a dollar box)
Cheese $1 (use 1/3 of a $3 block)
Other spices were probably about .75
= $5.79 divided by 5 servings = $1.15 per serving!

Not too bad but I'll use the rest of the sauce for another meal later this week, the added cost for the second meal is $2 bringing the total to $7.79 for 2 dinners. Yahhhh!

Eat, drink and be merry!

Better than cheap, it's free! Hurry!

Snapfish just re-launched their site, they are celebrating by giving away free 8x10 collages with FREE shipping, but only through 8/17(tomorrow).

To get yours simply create or log in to your snapfish account. Create a collage and put it in your cart, type GRANDSHIP in the promo code box and you will get it shipped for free too! What a great way to remember your summer,  or babies first year or vacation or....you get the picture!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Deals and Steals 8/15

Here are my top deals for this week:
Rite Aid
Trans #1:
itunes gift card $25
use $5 off in add coupon (note, you can't use a $5 off $25 to buy a gift card)

Trans #2
Purex 3 in 1 Laundry Sheets   $5.99, $1 Up
Bounty Paper Towels or Charmin Toilet Paper $6.49, $1 Up
Pilot G2 pens 2 for $6, $2 Up
Pantene 2 for $7, $3 Up
$5 off $25 printable
 $3 off Purex from today's paper
$1 off Charmin from 8/01
2 $1 off Pilot printable
2 $1 off Pantene from 8/01
= $12.48
Get back: $7 Up = $5.48
A little higher than I'd like, but it is hard to ever get a really good deal when you have to buy toilet paper or paper towels. 
* $7 will count toward the P&G mail in rebate:


Purex 3 in 1 laundry sheets $5.99, $3 ECB
3 Kellogg's Cereals at 3 for $10, $5 ECB on 3
Gillette Fusion Razor, $9.97, $5 ECB
Blink Eye Drops, $7.99, $7.99 ECB

Crest Pro Health rinse $3.49, $2.50 ECB
= $37.44

$3 off Purex in today's paper
3 $.75 off Kellogg's  printable
$4 off Gillette Fusion from 8/01
$1.50 off Blink printable 
$2 off Crest Pro-Health from 8/01
Get back $23.49 ECB
= $1.20 oop!

Friday, August 13, 2010

DIY: The Write Stuff part 2

Who wouldn't want to jot a quick note on these fun note pads?  I know I do! I am going to have to make myself some ASAP before I use the ones I made for the teachers.  The best part about these, they are super easy to make, seriously, if you have 5 minutes you can whip these up!

First, I started with a standard 5x8 note pad, I scored 3 for a buck at my Dollar General.  Mine are yellow, I wish they were white.  I went to Dollar Tree and Wal-Mart, they didn't have white either so I'll have to stick to yellow.  My friends who live in civilization have told me that at Staples and Office Depot not only do they have white but pastels too.  For all of you who live in a town with more than 1 stop light, you may want to scope those out. 

Step 2, pick a pretty piece of cardstock, do you remember my paper?  It is the same that I used making my Anthropologie knock off letters.  I heart this paper, it is happy yet calming so I like to use it often.  So, after you have selected the piece that makes your heart go all a flutter, trace the notepad on the back side of the paper.  Make sure you that you include a little extra to wrap around for the front.

Now you have a big decision to make: Mod Podge or spray adhesive. Both are good options, the spray make be a bit more sticky and have less likely hood of coming off.  The flip side however, you don't have a whole lot of wiggle room, so you better get it straight the first time!

After you have determined your adhesive weapon of choice, apply it to the back of the note pad and then apply the paper.  You can use a credit card or something with a thin, hard edge to help get it nice and smooth. 
Just give it a few minutes to dry, ya' know, while you catch up on your Jersey Shore or Real Housewives episodes.  When you are finished with this highly intellectual programing you should be ready to write your grocery list, a note or reminder to DVR your shows. 

Next week part 3 will guide you on creating the monogrammed note pad. Have a good weekend : )

Thursday, August 12, 2010

DIY: The Write Stuff part 1

Who knew everyone would get so excited about the DIY Stationary Set sneak peek from yesterday.  Ok, I am excited too!  We are going to start with the easiest part of the set: the Clothes Pin.  This was so easy my kids even got in on the clothes pin transformation action.  

I was able to score a pack of 50 clothes pins at Dollar General for $1.  I think they run about $2.50 at Wal-Mart and may be a bit more sturdy.  Yesterday I used coordinating cardstock for the clothes pins, but today I wanted something more fun!  I checked out the local Family Dollar because I didn't feel like the drive to Wal-Mart, I was looking for cardstock but found something cheaper and fun: wrapping paper. At $1 a roll it was a great deal and will probably show up in many projects.
Here are the two that I decided were worthy:
Aren't they fun!

Step one is to trace your clothes pin onto the wrapping paper and then cut out the strips.  Next, break out your handy dandy tub o' Mod Podge and apply a thin layer to the clothes pin.  Carefully apply the paper strip.  Repeat for the other side.
Ta da:

Now you can decide how you are going to use your new and improved clothes pin, as a magnet, or to hang things.  If you go with a magnet add a dab of hot glue and then attach your magnet, you can find them in the craft section too. Pretend there is picture of a clothespin with a magnet on the back:

Thanks for playing along!

Another option is to use them to hang something such as Van Gogh like masterpieces like these:


 This is the hall between my girl's rooms, we added some adhesive hooks (also from Dollar General, 4 in a pack for a buck) and some twine that we already had.  This gives the girls room to hang a few of their masterpieces, we can rotate them easily.  The girls can see how many they can hang up and understand that once the line is full they'll have to remove one to add another. Instead of twine you could use ribbon but I like the way the twine is a bit rustic and unfinished, I feel the same way sometimes so I relate to the twine. 

Here is another looksy:

And a closeup of our hook and twine:

Isn't is great and simple!  For all my teacher friends: I think this would be great in a classroom for younger kids if you have a big wall, or out in the hall. You could leave all the other teachers envious of your super cute clothes pins and ease of changing your kids art.

Stay tuned for the other parts of The Write Stuff!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

DIY Sneak Peek: The "Write Stuff"

Here is a little teaser about an upcoming DIY project!  This is a gift set that I will be bestowing upon my daughter's teacher on the first day of school. If having a BFF that is a teacher has taught me anything it is that a little kindness (and gift giving) can make 180 days go a lot easier. 

This gift set includes : 3 small, blinged out note pads, a monogrammed 18 piece note card set, and 2 decorated clothes pin magnets.  The attached note says:

Mrs. H. (I am not using her entire name on the blog),
Here is a little gift to get the year started on the "write note."

In the coming days you can learn how to make your very own, a great gift for many occasions!

PS...the frugal side in me can not keep it a secret that this set only set me back $1.10!!!

Banana Pops, mmm mmmm good!

Yesterday as I was wiping off the counters I spied two sad, ugly brown bananas. The result of a busy week when we weren't home a lot for lunch or snacks.  I felt bad for the sad bananas, and I didn't want them to go to waste.

Knowing my kids won't eat them if can see any brown on them I knew what I had to do.  Make Banana Pops!
So I ripped the peels off, cut them in half and inserted a popsicle stick into each one.
Then, I gave them a quick dip in a tub of vanilla yogurt, if you are careful you can dip them in on the stick and then just pull it back out.

Next, I added chocolate sprinkles and nuts.  You can use whatever you have though, or whatever is seasonally appropriate. And here they are:

 Then, just pop 'em in the freezer for a few hours so the yogurt hardens a bit then they are ready! What a great way to welcome the kiddos home from school after the first day!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Oh wait, I have a coupon for that!

If you hang out with me for 30 seconds or so I am sure that somehow my love for couponing would come up.  I am a addict and fully expect and intervention from my family before the year is over.  Just kidding about the intervention stuff, they love it...I think.  I use a coupon for just about everything, after I make sure that I will be getting the lowest price too.  Almost exactly one year ago my family staked our claim in the Great American Dream and bought our first house, it was and still is very exciting.

Since the day we moved in we have been doing little projects to make this house our home.  Luckily for us, we bought a brand new house so we didn't have to do anything major, whew! We have completed a few projects so far: grown grass on our 3/4 acre yard (way more hard and costly than we thought!), painted 4 rooms, built a swing set, and put in a mosiac tile backsplash. We still have a few things on our list though: first up, a deck, lay a sidewalk out of paver stones, re-paint the remaining rooms...I could go on but I'll spare you. Much to my dismay, home improvements are pricey and we have a limited budget so we are doing things a little at a time.  We are still saving for a new deck and will hopefully reach our goal soon, a whole lot sooner if my hubby would quit making it bigger!

Let me let you in on a little DIY secret, promise you'll only tell your 50 closest friends? Ok, here goes: All the major home improvement stores price match and accept each others coupons! Crazy coupon lady say what?! Yep, you heard me.  When we bought a new mower at Home Depot we sure did use a $50 off Lowes coupon and when we finally save enough for a deck I will be whipping out a 20% off Home Depot coupon at Lowes which will save us HUNDREDS!

No, I didn't bribe employees for these coupons. Some are sent to us but I buy the rest on ebay.
Yep, I bought them! A few weeks ago I purchased 5 of them for $9, I have used 3 and saved over $300 so far! I think it was a good $9 spent! You can buy Lowe's ones too, even cheaper since they are usually 10% off.

So next time the DIY bug bites you make sure you are prepared with a coupon!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Quick and easy...and yummy too!

My family is super busy, just like many of yours.  Between 2 kids in soccer, 4-H, PTO, church....ect. it seems like we have a meeting or activity 3 or 4 nights a week.  Filling two little bellies with some yummy goodness on those nights becomes difficult, and occasionally a car side to go or drive-thru dinner is what we settle for.  But, most nights I try to remain in the candidate pool for "Mom of the Year" (HA!)  and make something that doesn't require a great deal of time and everyone eats.  Plus, eating out is mucho dinero, I read recently the average family eats out 4 times a week, if so, we are far from normal. When I find myself in the midst of one of those days a go to meal is chicken and rice casserole.  My Mother-In-Law gave us this recipe and we use it often.  My girls LOVE it, like they could eat it 3 times a week.  Since it has rice in it I try to tell my self that it is healthy but when that fails (it also has a good bit of mayo) I conclude that is is better than dinner from a greasy bag.

So here is what you need to serve up dinner in a pinch:
1 package Knorr Creamy Chicken Rice, cooked according to directions
1-2 boneless chicken breats, boiled for 10 - 15 minutes
1/3 cup mayo
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1/4 cup milk
Grated cheese, we prefer colby jack

After the rice and chicken are cooked, cut the chicken up into small pieces. 
Mix rice, mayo, cream of chicken and milk. 
Add in cut up chicken.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes
add cheese and bake another 10 minutes

Enjoy! Sorry for the lack of picture, we devoured it before I could get one.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Deals and Steals: week of 8/08

It is a slooooooow week, hope you got lots of deals last week!  Here are the top deals I found:

Rite Aid - only 1 Transaction
Schick Hydro $5.99 (Use $5 off from 8/08)
Crest Pro Health $2.69 (SCR $2.69, use $1 off rom 8/01) * this count toward the oral health SCR too
2 Lysol products at 2 for $5 ($1 Up reward, use $1/1 or $1/2 from 8/08)
2 Old Spice Deodorant at 2 for $6 ($2 Up Reward, use B2 Old Spice Get a free Secret)
Secret Deodorant at $5.29
$5 off $25 from redplum.com
$5 off Hydro
$1 off Crest
2 $1 off Lysol Wipes
B2G1 Secret free
Get back $2.69 SCR, $3 UP

Biore or John Freida $5 ECB wyb $15
3 John Fredia at $5 each, use $3 off from 6/06
3 Biore at $6 each, use Biore $2 off printable
Air Wick Scented Oil refill $4.99 use $4 off from 8/08
Bic Soleil B1G1 50% off,$6.99, use $3 off from 7/11 or $2 off from 8/01 IN ADDITION to the B1G1 free from 8/01
Schick Hydro $8.97 use $5 off from 8/08 (make $1!!)
Lysol  Healthy Touch System $9.99, $5 ECB, use $4 off from 7/11
use $10 off $50 (last week I didn't get one and it really threw a wreng in things!)
3 $2 off Biore
$4 off Air Wick
$3 off Bic & B1G1 (Give the B1G1 First!!!)
$5 off Hydro
$4 off Healthy Touch
= $13.45
Get back: $14 in ECB

If you haven't previously submitted for the Schick Rebate then do the mail in rebate to get an additional $8.97 back.

I have decided to add Walgreens too, it doesn't pay to do big transactions there so here are the deals:
Note: RR stands for Register Reward which is like an ECB

Dial NutriSkin Body Wash $3.99, $3 RR use $1 off printable makes it FREE
Bausch  & Lomb Bio True $4.99, $4 RR use $1 off printable makes it FREE

for more deals check out southernsavers.com

Friday, August 6, 2010

Splurge or save???

As we have established, I am a bit frugal. I like to buy just about everything I can for the least amount of money possible or better yet, used!  Cars aren't the only thing that lose their value quickly!  However, I have a few exceptions to my rules, a few items that I believe buying used or cheap isn't the best choice.  Examples: car seats (no used ones for safety issues unless you know the owner well and know it hasn't been in an accident, after buying a few cheap-o's with our first kid and then going for a Britax with our second we learned the "you get what you pay for"), shoes (because shoes mold to the owners feet if it is a "heavy use" shoe we like to go for new ones) and backpacks which is what this post will focus on.

Let's be honest: kids are rough on their backpacks, they drag them, throw them and in general are rough with them.  A typical Wal-Mart backpack runs $10 - $30.  I doubt many of the $10 ones make it through the year, a few may but will surely show the wear of tear of 180 school days.  The $30 ones may make it a a year or two but they may not, if I am shelling out thirty beans I want to know that it is going to last, a guarantee even.  So, when my kids joyfully run through the doors of their school August 19th they will have a L.L. Bean backpack strapped to their backs.

A backpack with a 100% satisfaction guarantee! And a company that willingly stands behind it.  We bought our oldest one 3 years ago and if her little sister hadn't taken scissors to it we would be using it again this year.  Since we were so pleased we decided that we would replace it with a larger size. 
For our oldest we went with the L.L. Bean Deluxe Book Pack. It is recommended for ages 10+, but only a couple inches bigger than the one recommended for 7 years +.  In the shocker of the century, our girly girl selected red, not pink. After making an audio recording ( I may need evidence of this conversation later) of her stating that she indeed wanted red, and me stating that she would need to use this for several years I placed the item in my cart, with 20% off it came in at $31, I added the monogram for $6 too. Some of the great features of this pack are: Ergonomically correct straps, 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material and great water resistance for those rainy mornings. LL Bean offers tons of color choices too to fit every personality.

Our youngest is headin' off to preschool this year so we had to get her set up as well.  We opted to get her a smaller option, the Junior Original Book Pack, which is recommended for 4+.  She decided that she wanted pink, which was shocking too.  $18+ $6 for monograming

L.L. Bean backpacks have a notorious reputation for being strong and tough, lasting for years.  L.L. Bean's backs it by stating that they will replace it if at anytime you aren't 100% satisfied.  With a good scrubbing or trip to the wash machine every now and then they will even look great for many years.

Here is the price breakdown:
Backpack #1 - $31.96 + $6 for mono = $38.96
We plan to use this for at least 4 years $39/4 = $9.75 per year, but it is likely to last closer to 7 or 8 ($4.50 per year)

Backpack #2 - $18 + $6 = $24
$24 / 4 years = $6 per year

You may get lucky with the $10 backpack lasting more than a year but I would rather pay the same price for a product that I know will last the 4 years I plan for it to or I'll get a replacement.  All L.L. Bean backpacks are 20% off through 9/2 and 2% cash back through ebates.com.

LL Bean has a great selection too, messenger bags, bookbags with wheels, small ones, big ones. Even coordinating lunch boxes.

Here is the legal stuff that would be said really fast if this were a commercial: All images are property of L.L. Bean.
The great folks at L.L. Bean have no clue who I am, have not paid me or otherwise compensated me for my "endorsement" of their fine products.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Yummy snacks: Gap tooth smiles

If your house is anything like mine you hear, "Mom, I'm hungry!" about every 22 minutes.  Seriously, sometimes I wonder where my girls put all the food they eat.  It would be easy to give them a cookie or snack cake every time they need to refuel, but it would be expensive and then not really healthy. My girls only get cookies and other sugary treats in moderation and even then they usually to meet my 11 grams of sugar threshold. To keep the whining at bay, I am always trying to come up with fun, healthy snacks.
Gap tooth smiles is a snack that we have often mainly because it is easy for me to make and kids love them.  Here is what you need to get this snack going:

Large, red apples (1 or 2 depending on how many kiddos are snackin')
PB (peanut butter)
mini marshmallows (white are best, we had rainbow and I just went with it)

First, slice up the apples.  I use a large onion slicer that I snagged at Wal-Mart a few years ago.  If you can find one they are great for making quick work of apples slices.

Next, spread the peanut butter on 2 apple slices then put a few marshmallows on one side.

Put the two apple slices together to make a "Gap toothed Apple Smile"!

Hand them over to your kiddies and pat yourself on the back for serving up a yummo and healthy snack that your kids have probably devoured by now.

$1 Coupon organizer at Target

Yesterday I was super excited because I got to go to Target, it was delightful!  The dollar aisle at Tarjay is my absolute favorite, it is like a treasure chest of goodies, imagine how thrilled I was to see $1 coupon organizers!  When I realized I could pull out my new iphone to take a picture of my deal I was so excited I could have done backflips! For all of you who are new to couponing you need to understand that organization is key: you can't use a coupon that you can't find. 
My organizational system involves a plastic organizer with 13 divider pockets, just like this one, I label the sections into categories: Women's Health & Beauty, Men's, Laundry and Paper, Kitchen and bath cleaning, fridge and freexer....ect.  When I became started couponing I bought a similar organizer at Wal-Mart but would have been all over this $1 one.
If you are getting started in couponing and have a Target nearby I would scoop up one of these pronto!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Do you ebates?

Have you heard of ebates.com?  I hadn't either until about 3 months ago when I read about the website on yahoo. Here is the nitty gritty: Ebates gives you a percentage of cash back on online purchases that you make at selected retailers.  The cash back varies from 1% - 25%, do not adjust your screen, yes it says up to 25% back.
Most of the time, though,  it will be a more modest amount like 2%-4%.  Get in on the action: sign up for an account with http://www.ebates.com/, when you sign up you will choose to receive a $10 gift card to select stores or $5 cold hard cash. Since I live in the middle of nowhere and find tons of deals online, I shop online quite a bit so I get a good chunk of change back.
It doesn't cost a dime have an account with Ebates and it is actually really simple: when you are going to make an online purchase instead of going to the store directly instead go to ebates and then search the store.
If the store participates the cash back amount as well as other deals with show up.  Trust me, there are loads of stores that participate: ebay.com, JC Penny, Gap, Wal-Mart, Kohls...I could go on and on!
In a few short weeks I have earned $8.29 in cash back that I will receive via check next week.  Now, I know,  you may be thinking, she is really excited about $8.  But, $8 can buy a lot : 3 gallons of milk, cereal to last my family for a month (with coupons), 20 pounds of potatoes, 8 Gillette Fusion Razors...again I could go on but will spare you.
Happy saving!

P.S. This week Old Navy is offering 10% back! If you add that to their current offer of free shipping on $50 or more and $10 jeans for kids you could get 5 new pair of jeans for $50 and save $10 ($5 in cach back, $5 in shipping)!

Monday, August 2, 2010

DIY: Make a hopscotch area

I had mad hopscotch skills as a kid, I think other 6 year olds were afraid to play me.   My oldest daughter developed a love for hopscotch this past year during first grade, my hopscotch domination was apparently a trait that I failed to pass along to her.  She was bummed when she would lose and mad that she couldn't practice at home since we have a gravel driveway.  My competitive streak reared it's ugly head and I began trying to figure out how I could improve Quinn's game, short of a summer long hopscotch camp.  I knew the key was practice but couldn't come up with a solution for our gravel drive issue.
One Sunday I had a hour to kill so I spent it roaming the garden section of Lowe's when it hit me: paver stones!  I grabbed 10 of the 12'x12' paver stones and a couple cans out outdoor spray paint.  That afternoon my girls and I painted the stones and determined where to place them.  After they were painted I dug out the area we had determined would be the perfect spot to ensure they would be nice and level.  A few hours later our little project was complete and my little princesses hopscotch skills are now stellar, watch out second graders she is going to kick butt and take names.  Whoaaa! There goes that competitive streak again.

Ta da:

I originally used a stencil and spray painted the numbers on but they washed off too easy in the monsoon rains we have had.  Now we use sidewalk chalk, the girls get creative and make funny looking numbers sometimes.
 Here is a close up:

Here is the cost breakdown:
10 pavers at $1.16 each
2 cans of spray paint at $3.50 each
Total = $18.60
The hours of entertainment and  fun they have provided : Priceless!