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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Is that really legal!?!!??!!

Sorry for the blogging break and lack of deals and steals this week, out youngest has been super sick so I was too busy being a mom to be a blogger.  Forgive me and it won't happen again...or until we are hit with the flu, strep throat, chicken pox, or any other illness that requires lots of mommy love : )

In case you didn't know I live in a small area, the kind of place where you see 15 people you know in Wal-Mart and you are "new" unless you are a 3rd generation resident.  The last 10-15 years have seen a lot of growth in my little county, a Wal-Mart, couple new restaurants....we are even getting a Sheetz! Recently, I noticed a lot of work going on in a vacant building and got excited, we were getting a new store!!

I had great hopes for a craft store or maybe a small Panera Bread (a girl can hope can't she), I just knew it would be something great! I was really disappointed last week to learn that it was a Rent-To-Own furniture store...seriously!  This is the last thing that we needed.  Another place for people to go buy things they don't need and can't afford.  Then, to top it off yesterday in the weekly newspaper (yep, a weekly paper!) there was an ad for the new store.  It was disgusting to look at their rates, I can't believe it is legal!!!

A few examples:
An Ashley living room set (couch, chair, tables and lamp) $39.99/ week (104 weeks) or $159.99/month (2 years) = $4160 total on the weekly option or $3840 on the yearly.  You could get a comparable set for about $1200 at Big Lots!

Next, an HP mini netbook, $14.99/ week (78 weeks) or $54.99/month (18 months) = $1170 for weekly and a bargain price of $1080 monthly.  This same computer is at Walmart.com for $288. About a 75% mark up!!

You could also strike a deal to pay $600 for a $170 ipod or  over a grand for a USED Playstation 3. But, I am sure that at their Grand Opening this weekend there will be tons of people lining up to get these "great deals".

I am sure none of my super savvy readers are foolish enough to even set foot in any of those place but I thought I'd open your eyes a bit this morning in case you were considering it.

Trip to Rite Aid, $65 of stuff for...$0 oop!


Between 2 transactions here is what I purchased:
Tran 1:
Bounty Basic  $5.49, $1 UP
4 boxes of Cheerios at $2.50 each, $1 UP on 2, $2 SCR wyb $15 of General Mills
2 boxes of Nature Valley granola bars at $2.50 each, $1 UP on 2
2 Oral B Cross Action Toothbrushes at $2.99 each, $2 UP
=26.49
Used
$5 off $25
$0.25 off Bounty from 9/26
(4) $0.55 Cheerios printables from coupons.com
$1/2 Nature Valley printable
$1/2 Nature Valley Rite Aid store coupon from riteaid.com
$1 off Oral B from 9/26
$1 off  Rite Aid store coupon from clip and save book
B1G1 free Oral B toothbrushes from 9/26 ($2.99)
=$12.04
I used $11 in UP Rewards from last week
= $1.04 which I used a $10 Rite Aid Gift Card from some promotion last month
Get back $8 in UP and $2 SCR

Trans #2
Tide HE $5.99
Clean and Clear $5.79
Old Spice Deo. $4 ($2 SCR wyb 2)
Gillette Body Wash $4 ($ SCR wyb 2)
Old Spice Body Spray $4 ($2 SCR wyb 2)
Venus Embrace razors B1G1 50% off (I bought 2 1 at $9.49, 1 at $4.74
=38.01
I used:
$5 off $25
$1.50 off Tide from a P&G mailer
$1 off Clean and Clear in ad coupon
$2 off Clean and Clear printable
$2 off Old Spice Deo. from P&G mailer
$2 off Gillette bodywash from 9/26
B1 Old Spice Deo, G1 Body Spray free ($4) from 8/29
(2) $3 off Venus Embrace from 8/29
=$14.51
I used my $8 in Up
=$6.51 from my Rite Aid gift card (leaving a balance of $2.45)
I got $10 UP rewards and $2 SCR

Next week looks like a great week to stock up on more cereal at Rite Aid! 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Got Guests??

I love when people come to visit us, I like seeing family and friends and sharing our community with them.  As much as I love our company, sometimes our almost 1700 square foot house seems to be busting at the seams when we have visitors.  I want our guests to feel welcome and at home, but that may be difficult since we don't have a guest room.

Since we don't have a guest room you probably guessed that we also don't have a guest bathroom.  And just being honest, with my family of 4 and our guests sometimes it gets crazy trying to figure out a bathroom schedule.  Then there is the inevitable which color was my towel dilemma.  I came up with a solution that I plan to implement the next time we have overnight guests:


I used some leftover scrap book paper to make these cute little towel tags. Now the next time we have guests everyone can rest assured they are using only their towel!  That and all the free toiletries from my stockpile should help them feel right at home!


Friday, September 24, 2010

$15 credit at One Tree Lane

I saw this and thought I'd share, if you sign up now you can get a $15 credit and $15 for each friend you refer!  They have some crazy good deals, like a 3 piece bamboo cutting board set for less than $7 shipped!


Head on  over to One Kings Lane and sign up!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

mmmmm mmmmmm Maple Pecan Pork Chops

According to the calendar it is Fall, you wouldn't know it though.  We are having 90 degree temps here in West Virginia this week, the leaves are not turning, there are no cool breezes and other than a few pumpkins on my neighbors porch, there are no signs of Fall at all.  But I have been waiting for Fall.  Besides my beloved Mountaineers being back in action I like fall food: yummy chili, butternut squash, roasts and of course, Maple Pecan Pork Chops!!!

So, I ignored the blazing heat that has kept me inside hiding from the sun, and made those yummy pork chops last night.  There is something about the sweet gooeyness and crunchy nuts mixing that makes me happy. Here's what you need to put this family pleasing meal on the table:

Boneless pork chops - we use 3, but use however many you need to feed your crew
Flour
Salt and Pepper
Oil
1/3 cup of honey a
1/4 cup of pecans - whole or crushed...whatever you like.

Here's what you need to do, it's so easy I let me 7 year old handle it while I soaked in a cool bath to recover from the vicious heat from the long walk from the car to the house.  Just kidding, she was playing babies while I slaved away.  Anyhow, here's the deal:

Mix a dash of salt and pepper with the flour.
Dredge the pork chops in the flour to cover both sides.
Now, grab a pan, put a dab of oil in there and fry these babies up.
In a separate, small pan pour in the honey.  I usually don't measure it and just eyeball it to get about 1/3 cup.
Bring it to a boil and then turn the honey down to low.
Add in the pecans and stir frequently.

When the pork chops are finished plate 'em up and drizzle a little bit of the yummy honey goodness on them.  Serve your happy family and enjoy!


I usually serve this with steamed veggies, baked or sweet potatoes and rosemary rolls because they are yummy and make my heart sing the praises of butter.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Extreme money saving tatics!

Like many families, my family has been trying to save a few bucks.  We try to have a meatless meal at least once a week, I always shop sales, use coupons and buy most of my kids clothes used.  Monday I read an article on yahoo about extreme money saving techniques.

The people in this article go dumpster diving, take ketchup packets from restaurants so they don't have to buy it (SERIOUSLY!!! how much ketchup do these people eat?!?!!!??),  and don't eat regular meals.  That is where I draw the line, I need to eat or I get grouchy...really grouchy!

Some people had good tips though, like packing a picnic lunch when traveling or searching for lost golf balls while golfing. Those seem like doable ideas. I read some of the comments from the article too, one person mentioned taking his laptop, ipod, cell phone and other portable devices to Starbucks to charge them...again, that seems extreme to me.

What are some of the money saving ideas you have tried??

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You got to pray just to make it today, I said we pray!

Yep, I grew up in the 80's and owned more than one pair of hammer pants so I have had that song in my head since I started working on this project.  Every night when we tuck our kiddos in bed we pray together and every night our 4 year old thinks about who we know that may not be home and prays they get home safely.  While it is sweet that she is always concerned about our friends and family making it home safely every now and then we'd like her to pray for a bit more.

After much thought, well, I thought about it for a good 5 minutes in the shower, I came up with a plan: a prayer book! After I toweled off and dried my hair I ran down to the DG (Dollar General) and snagged a simple 4x6 photo album for a buck.


It is cute and fun and would be easy to use for this project.  After drinking 3 Diet Mountain Dews and seeing what was happening on Facebook I was ready to get to work. I whipped out my scrapbook stickers that picked up for $1 at Big Lots and adhered a few to the front spelling out Let Us Pray:



 I decided on that because we say it during the Prayer of the Faithful at church each week.  On the inside I added some of the prayers that we say each night, the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be and a few others. Then, I added a few pictures of our family and friends.  Since Christmas is just around the corner I plan to save photo Christmas cards we receive and add them to the book.  I think it will be a great way to reuse cards we receive from our loved ones. Here is one of the pages in our book:


We will keep this in our daughter's room where we pray and add to it over time. This sweet project will set you back less than $2!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Deals and Steals week of 9/19

Rite Aid
Crest Toothpaste, 3D White Rinse, or Oral B Cross Action Toothbrush, Floss or Floss Picks at $2.99, $2 UP
Listerine Zero Mouthwash 500 ml., at $2.99, $2 UP
Mott’s Applesauce, Del Monte Fruit to Go, Sun Maid Prune Juice or Raisins, at $1.99, $1 UP
Mott’s Applesauce, Del Monte Fruit to Go, Sun Maid Prune Juice or Raisins, at $1.99,  $1 UP
(2) John Frieda at $5, $3 UP WYB  2
True North Snacks at 2 for $5, $1 UP 
=$25.46


Use:
$5/$25 Rite Aid coupon
$1 off Crest Toothpaste 4 oz + or Liquid Gel, PG 8/29 or $1 off Crest Pro Health Toothpaste, $128 Inside Clip & Save booklet (Rite Aid coupon)
$2 off Listerine Zero mouthwash, 500 mL +, RP 9/19 
$1 off Quaker Instant Oatmeal or Oats, 18 oz +, RP 8/29 or RP 9/12
(2) $3 off John Frieda Root Awakening, SS 8/22 or $2 off John Frieda Frizz Ease Smooth Start Hair Care printable
(2) $1 off 1 True North Snacks
.50 filler item
= $8.46
Get back: $10 in UP Rewards 
=$1.54 Money Maker

 CVS
(3) Right Guard Total Defense or Dry Idea 2-4oz $2.99, $2 ECB, limit 3!!!!
Schick Hydro 8.4oz shave gel $2.79 L, $1.80 ECB
(2) Quaker Quick Oats 18oz Instant Oatmeal at 2 for $5, $2 ECB WYB 2
(3) Nivea Body Wash or Shower Gel at $5 each, $5 ECB WYB 3
=$31.76
 
Use:
Right Guard $3/2 printable  or $1.50 off Right Guard Total Defense 5 printable
$1 off Schick Hydro Shave Gel, SS 8/09
(2) $1 off Quaker Instant Oatmeal printable
(3) $2/1 printable
=$14.26
 Get back: $14.80 in ECB a $0.54 money maker!!

Hot Diaper Deal at Rite Aid!

Here is your chance to stock up on some free diapers!

Buy 3 Huggies Jumbo Pure & Natural Diapers at $8.99 each
Use:
$5 off $25
1/1 September Video Values Huggies coupon
3 $3/1 Huggies coupons or $3/1 Huggies Pure & Natural Diapers
= $11.97 OOP
Get:
$10 Rite Aid Gift Card & at least $2 in UP rewards, some people are stating they received a $2 UP reward for each pack for a total of $6!
= $0.03 money maker - $4.03 money maker

Friday, September 17, 2010

A promise I'll keep

I know it is only September but I have Christmas on the mind.  More importantly, I have the Christmas budget on my mind and how to give Christmas gifts on the cheap.  I am a whole hearted believer that it isn't the amount of money you spend on a gift but more that the receipant will like and use it and often those gifts can be cheap!  I also like to think I'm a thoughtful gift giver, I am trying to teach this skill to my hubby.  For my birthday the first year we were dating he gave me floor mats for my car, I was 22 so floor mats wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but I married him anyway : )  So here is my Christmas promise: I am going to make all of the gifts my family gives.  Either as a DIY, or an upcycled or recyled gift, I will have my hand in making part of all of 'em. 

What will I give you ask?  Well, since most of my gift list reads the blog I can't give too much away. For my Mother in law and Mom, quit freaking out, you will still get your yearly photo calendar of my adorable kids.  I have already determined my step-dad, Wes and Father in-in-law will probably be the most difficult so for that reason I have decided that I will include gift baskets I buy the contents for and put together in the "Yeah, I made this..." category. 

Of course I'll feature all of them right here on the blog with some super, secret FBI like nicknames.  I have a few ideas in mind, do think my nephews will like the rock dominoes from earlier this week? I'm sure more than a few will get this DIY stationary set seen here, here and here. And you can bet that some will be getting these shirts.

So, who wants to join me and make your gifts. Ya' know you want to!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Holy Candy Corn!

I have a deep unbridled love for candy corn, not Indian corn or pumpkins, but candy corn.  When the leaves start turning and the footballs start getting hiked I know it is officially candy corn season.  I am not sure when I started to love this pure sugar treat, I do know one of my favorite "everyday moment" memories from college involved candy corn.  Mt friend Jenni and I walked to CVS in the one stop light town where we went to school, no I wasn't using a coupon, this was pre-couponing days.  I spotted a bag of candy corns, the first one I'd seen that fall, back then  (ya' know, 10 years ago) they didn't put Halloween stuff out in August.  Anyhow, I got super excited and pretended to have wet my pants (dramatic much???) and in a loud announcer voice said, "Clean up in aisle 8." It was way funnier if you were there.  A few of my collegiate friends probably just unfriended me on facebook and will pretend to have no idea who I am at Homecoming.

What brought about the long candy corn laced diatribe you are asking?  Easy, candy corn garland:
Photo from tatertots and jello

I saw this bit of awesomeness on a blog I discovered called, Tatertots and Jello. I want this chicka to be my new best friend, (just kiddin' Anne). I LOVE LOVE LOVE this fall decor and want to make it right away.  Two problems: 1. I don't own a sewing machine and have to borrow my mom's.  And 2. I am not sure my mom is still letting me borrow her sewing machine since during the making of the birthday garland my mom realized that I am incompetent and have no idea how to sew.

I am left with option 3: Beg my mom and try to bribe her to sew these babies for me.  That may take a week or two of pleading and I didn't want to hold out on you guys.  So until I resolve my sewing dilemma head on over to Tatertots and Jello and scope it out.  Just remember to come back to me...promise you will.  Ok, see you tomorrow : )

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do you Groupon...all the kids are doing it.

Do you Groupon?  Do you know what a Groupon is?  A Groupon is group coupon, hence a groupon.  The basic premise of this new fangeled money saver is that a restaurant or entertainment venue will agree to offer a discount to a certain number of participants as long as there minimum number is met.  For example, the Zoo of Maryland recently offered admission for $7 (down fom $16) so long as at least 100 people bought the tickets.  The deal went the whole month of July and tickets had to be used by 9/30.

Unfortunately for peeps like me who live in the land of cows, trees and no major cities Groupons are only available in large areas right now.  Each city (over 50 in the US now) will feature a deal of the day, but you can look back at recent deals too.  Here is a looksy at the recent deals in Baltimore, MD (near my hubs family):



As you can see, it clearly states the price and your savings as well the percentage of savings.  If you click on each icon you get a bit more info. After you set up an account with groupon and they learn what you are looking for they will send you recommendations about deals you may be interested in.  Even if you live in the sticks like me, you can cash in on online deals or look at deals when you travel.  Most of my college crew lives in the greater Charlotte area so when I head down there I'll scope that out.  As I mentioned earlier, my hubby's family is in the Baltimore/DC area and his best bud hangs his hat in Pittsburgh...all of which are groupon cities so I'll make sure to log on before we head out for a visit.

You could save tons of money with groupons, head on over and set up an account.  Here is a look at some recent groupons for Charlotte...check out those savings!


P.S. Right now you can get $10 for referring a friend! And they are one of the new ad sponsors for my blog, just a take a gander to your left...thanks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rock Dominoes, why didn't I think of that??

One of the great things about living in the country is taking walks.  Now that the temperatures aren't as blazing hot as they were this summer the walks are actually enjoyable. Our youngest loves to pick up rocks when we go on these walks, she always wants to bring them home and name them all "wwwrocky." It seems like she always loses the rock and then I have to search for it or find a replacement.

I saw this super cool craft from the ultimate crafter, Martha Stewart and love it.  Rock Dominoes. 


 When we go on walks now we will have a reason to look for rocks.  I also love that this will give us another family game to play and this one has can even teach numbers and math, bonus!  To make your own set you need 28 flat, skinny rocks and a white paint pen (or white out pen).  Black or any other color paint would be optional depended in how you want your rocks to look. 

Draw a line through the center of each rock and then mark it with all number creations from 1-6 until you have a complete set.  I think these would make a great gift or stocking stuffer too!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Things I Love: cleaning products!

Most people spring clean, not me, I fall clean.  It makes more since, just hear me out: if you have kiddos they are back in school and your house is likely to stay cleaner longer.  If you don't have kids....well how does your house get dirty if you don't have kids, at this point I can't imagine a kid-less exhistance? You are probably wondering why I feel like I should write about my preferred cleaning products on a blog about frugal living, a couple of reasons: 1. There have been more than a few studies that show  people with clean and uncluttered houses (and lives) are happier and less likely to bust the bank with retail therapy. Reason #2, why waste money on products that don't work.  I pride myself in having a clean house but with 2 messy kids, a husband, and a crazy with a capital "C" dog it isn't an easy task. So here are a few tools that help keep cleaning time to a minimum and allow for maximum facebooking time. 

Drum roll please.......First up: Shark Floor Sweeper:


I use this baby about 437 times a day...did I mention the 2 kids and dog I have?   I used to be a loyal Swiffer Sweeper user and then I discovered this gem.  It has a rechargeable battery that has great battery life and really powerful motor along with an easy to empty dust cup.  This lifesaver works on hard floors, area rugs and even on carpet for small jobs.  It may or may not,  but probably is used to clean up the following things on a regular basis: crumbs, dog hair, rice, dropped chips that get crushed, dog hair, cereal, dog food, grass, dirt, small rocks and pebbles, sidewalk salt in the winter months, dog hair, shredded cheese and occasionally dog hair. It has handled all these like a champ and after 2+ years is still going strong. You can find em' at Wal-Mart, Target or Bed Bath & Beyond, don't let the $59 price tag deter you, it is worth every penny!

Now that you have a crumb free floor you may want to give it a good warshin', I prefer to use this:



The Shark Steam Mop.  This was actually my first Shark product, it was love at first use!  I had seen the infomercial and couldn't resist when I met this gal at Wal-Mart one day 2 years ago.  Not only is it super easy to use, but it doesn't leave a sticky residue like my Wet Jet did. And, all you need to get going is water!  A few pumps of the handle produces steam which seems to clean about everything my kids have ever managed to get on the floor, plus I have no worries about harmful chemicals for my munchkins or dog; the 5 second rule is in full effect in this house. It comes with 2 microfiber clothes that you just throw in the washer to clean.  I am not joking when I say that you will be shocked to see how clean it gets your floor, especially the first time when that clean white cloth looks black afterward!  This gal has been apart of the fam for 2 years, I also bought one for my mom (nothing says love like a cleaning product) and convinced my Mother-in-Law and 2 BF's (best friends not boyfriends) to scrub their floors with it too.  There is a newer model out there now, it has more bells and whistles but this one serves me just fine!

To complete my floor cleaning trio: The Shark Vacuum. Do you see a theme here?


I got this beaut last fall and haven't been disappointed.  I wanted a Dyson but I couldn't handle the $450 price tag. After being in love with my other two Shark products and with a 60 day money back guarantee behind me I decided to try it.  The suction on this is unbelievable!  Here is what the ad says are the best features: "21 cyclones that never clog and never lose suction. At less than 15 pounds, the vacuum is a breeze to maneuver around toys and furniture. The Navigator power nozzle makes quick work of pet hair from carpets, and, at 12" wide, fits into tight space for complete cleaning. Its powerful 2-motor system with brush roll shut off provides deep carpet and superior bare floor cleaning"
It is super light and easy to maneuver, and I couldn't live without the pet hair brush, our dog has yet to acknowledge that I don't allow him on the couch. The filters are washable and never need replaced, and are easy to pop out and wash.  In the year we have had it I have probably use it and average of 5 times a week and have not been disappointed one bit.  It rings up around $180 but that is still a good bit less than the Dyson.

The last cleaning product I'd trade a kid for is Swiffer Dust and Shine Spray:


With tons of dark wood and a gravel road that runs adjacent to our yard I dust a lot...like everyday. I love this stuff, first off, the lavender vanilla smells so good I forget I'm cleaning which is always a good thing. It also won't leave residue or build up behind like some of it's dust spray cousins. Like any good dust spray should it  leaves everything nice and shiny. In my opinion it is far superior to Pledge,  it's also only about $3 a can and I get coupons for it often so I don't mind being brand loyal.

Do you have a cleaning product you can't live without?


P.S. The folks at Shark nor Swiffer have any idea who I am, they don't know 'bout my little 'ole blog or my obsession with their products. I am not being compensated in any way to endorse or recommend these products....I really just love them.  That will conclude the legal portion of today's post.  I'm going grab my ipod, throw on some  Jay Z and go clean something now, it is Monday which means my brats urrrr...I mean angels had 2 full days to makes messes.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Deals and Steals: Week of 9/12

Rite Aid:
There are a ton of UP rewards this week and tons of deals on grocery items and candy...time to stock up for Halloween!

(2) Oral B Toothbrush $2.99, $2 SCR
(2) GE Soft White Longlife Light Bulbs 2 pk., at $2, $3 SCR WYB 2
Crest Toothpaste, 4 oz, $2.49, $1.50 UP Reward
Playtex Tampons, 18ct at $4, $3 UP Reward
Clairol Nice n' Easy, $4.99, $2 UP Reward
(4) Barilla Pasta at 4/$5, $1 UP Reward

=$26.46

Use:
$5 off $25 printable
-B1G1 Oral B Manual Toothbrush, RP 8/15 
$1 off Crest Toothpaste 4 oz + or Liquid Gel, PG 8/29 
-$2 off Playtex Tampons printable 
-$2 off Clairol Hair Color, PG 8/29 
(2) $1/2 Barilla Whole Grain products, SS 8/29 or printable 
=$11.47 
Get back: $5 SCR,  $7.50 UP = $12.50

Total OOP of  $1.03 MONEY MAKER!!

CVS
 2 Nature Bounty Vitamins, B1G1 starting at $5.99
Brach’s candy 99¢, $0.99 ECB
(2) Nivea for Men Active Body Wash 16.9 oz., $4.99, $4.99 ECB
Tylenol Precise $5.99 Limit 1, $2 ECB 
Curel Lotion, 13 oz., or Senstive Skin Remedy, 7.5 oz., $7.99, $3 ECB
Tresemme Hair Care, $5 ECB WYB $10 worth starting at $3.99 ($11.97)
(2) Old Spice Fresh Collection $3.99, $1 ECB (limit 2)
=$56.88

USE:
$10 off $50 from kiosk (I've been getting these like crazy lately)
 (2) $2 off Nature Bounty printable
-$4/2 Nivea Body Products, 8.4 oz + printable 
-$2 off Tylenol Precise printable (Manu.)
-$2 off Tylenol Precise printable (Store)
-$1 off Curel printable 
(3)$1 off Tresemme product, (facebook) printable (Manu)
-$1 off Tresemme product, coupon printing at CVS ( store)
-B1G1 Old Spice from P&G mailer for sending in receipts
=19.90
Get back: $17.98
Total OOP = $1.92

Total Product for both stores $83.34
OOP for Both stores $0.89 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pillow Fight!

Our living room is home to a big, orange couch. Well, it is more of a burnt orange.  A few years ago we bought it on craigslist for 150 bucks, a steal since it is a sleeper sofa and was only 2 years old and in great shape when we bought it.  I love it, orange and all. 

When I decided to finally buy some throw pillows for our couch I had a vision: I wanted brownish pillows with a orange or turquoise design on them.  In my mind orange and turquoise go well together in small amounts.  After searching a while I couldn't find anything I liked in my budget.  I was sad.  I sat on my big orange couch watching Gilmore Girls re-runs and eating a large bowl of ice cream. 

Ice cream always brings me out of a funk, and on this particular night I believe it was the catalyst for my idea: I'll make pillows.  Now, just so ya' know, I can't sew.  By making my own I meant buying some and then making them what I wanted. After a quick trip to the wal-marts I had my supplies: A plain, brown pillow and fabric paint.

Here is my plain, brown pillow that was a budget friendly $3:


Next, I printed out a flower stencil I found online and then traced it on the pillow.  After a drink to steady my hand I carefully started applying the fabric paint, just kidding about the drink part. Well, probably not, but the life of a stay at home mom can be a trying one. Anyway....here is my masterpiece on my orange couch:


I would have take a picture of the entire couch so you could get a better idea but there was a half naked little person snoozing on the other end when I snapped this.  But, here is a (poor quality because my camera had dust in it) picture from a few months back I took when I was trying to determine if I liked another DIY project I had just finished:


I like my pillows, and since they ended up being less than $4 each I don't worry when my kids throw 'em in the floor and use them for horsies. I also liked the DIY art I made and will probably cover it next week.  Although, I wish now I had gone bolder with my pillows and may one day.  With the magic of photoshop here is a idea of what my pillows may end up looking like:


Whataya think?  Do you like the orange, blue or neither and suggest I need to go buy new pillows?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fall fun!

Ahhhh....fall! This morning it was a breezy 53 degrees when I took the kids to school. It has now warmed up to a lovely 65 with bright blue skies and plenty of sunshine.  What's not to love about fall: comfy sweaters, festivals, cool nights and warm sunny days, pumpkins, Mountaineer football, and great travel deals!  Yep, that's right, fall is a great time to find great deals on travel. 

This gem is right in our backyard! Photo courtesy of WV Tourism

Once back to school rolls around it is harder for most families to travel so there are always TONS of great deals to be had for those who have the freedom to take advantage of them.  There are deals on everything from beach trips to cruises and even state and national parks! If you can it's a great time to hit the beach, less crowds, cheaper rates and plenty of warm weather!  Because fall is also hurricane season it is a wonderful time to take a cruise, rates are cheap and deals are aplenty!

Thinking of something a little closer to home? Here in West Virginia most of the state parks are offering 50% off of camping or lodging stays throughout the fall.  Don't tell my husband, but I wasn't really looking forward camping trip my family went on this summer but I ended up having a blast.  Without TV's, phones and internet we actually managed to have some great family time and made great memories, out 4 year old even caught her first fish!

Scenic Highway in WV is gorgeous this time of year! Photo from WV Tourism


If pitching a tent doesn't sound appealing to you why not scope out a fall festival in your area. Your states Dept. of Tourism website should be helpful in finding events for you to attend.  I know in our neck of the woods there are 4 I can think of over the next few weekends.  The events at these festivals range from a tator tot eating contest to, craft sales, bluegrass music and cloggers.  Some even feature making apple butter and apple cider.  We will pack a picnic lunch, blanket and a jacket and enjoy these events and some beautiful fall foliage.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fettucine Alfredo (the easy way)

I have a deep and heartfelt love for fettuccine alfredo.  It is my comfort food; the rich, creamy parmesan and noodles....mmmm.  I used to buy a jar of alfredo, boil some noodles and call it a day, but then one day I searched for a recipe online and discovered it was easy to make. After a few changes and additions I have now deemed it perfect. Perfect in my eyes or mouth rather, I doubt Food Network is going to be banging down my door to get my recipe but it works for me.  Anyway, it is a pretty simple recipe using only a few ingredients, they key ingredient being heavy whipping cream.  Some people will say that is taking the quick or easy way out, those people have obviously never had to get 2 kids to soccer practice at 2 different fields, finish homework and get dinner on the table.

Here's what you need:
- 1/2 - 3/4 a cup of heavy whipping cream depending on how large your family is
- 1 cup of fresh Parmesan cheese, grated. If you have a store where you can get fancy cheese great, if not the $3 kind from Wal-Mart tastes alright to me.
- noodles, we prefer whole wheat linguine. Fettuccine is a bit too thick for my munchkins
- a pinch of oregano, basil and fresh ground pepper (from the McCormick grinder, no fancy pepper grinder here)
- Chicken, shrimp, broccoli are all optional, we usually go with chicken. I fry it in a little olive oil and a dash of spices.

Boil your pasta preference to al dente. Shortly after you start the noodles pour the cream into a skillet, add the spices and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to simmer for a bit (a bit = about 10-12 minutes just for future reference).

Add about 3/4 of the parmesan cheese to  large serving bowl, mine resides atop our fridge housing random junk and must be rinsed before use.  Add in the cream mix and give these two a minute to get acquainted.  Don't stir or toss, or force their union in any way, just let them take their time to mix for a minute.  It'll look like this:


Can you smell that yummy goodness? Now, add in your hot, drained pasta.  Use tongs and toss everything together.  If you love cheese more than your children like me add more cheese on top.  Ok, maybe not more than my kids but cheese certainly doesn't backtalk or leave a dirty room for me to clean.


Yummo!
I serve mine with a side of chicken on the side because I have issues with my food touching.  You can get crazy and throw your chicken or shrimp right on in there, just not in my presence...seriously, I may gag.

Dinner is served:



Budget Breakdown:
Heavy Whipping Cream - $1.12
Parmesan Cheese - $1.50 ($3 a block but I only use half)
Linguine Noodles - $0.50 (I recently stocked up when I had a coupon)
Chicken - $1.20 (using 2/3 pounds chicken bought at $1.78 per pound)
= $4.32
or $1.08 per serving which is a little high for us but we only have this about twice a month

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Front Load Washers: Worth the hype?

Laundry is a dirty word in my house.  It seems to be never ending, everyday I do it yet everyday there seems to be more to do.  I thought about taking my brood to join a nudist colony but after I thought of hot seats on a summer day on a nudist colony I decided that maybe we'd stick with wearing clothes.

If I have to wear clothes and wash them I may as well do it as cheap and efficiently as possible.  After much research, we bought a  Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer when we moved into our house last year and haven't been disappointed.  My BFF, Anne and her hubby just sold their house and are buying a new one, yah for them!  Along with the their lawnmower, and fountain  in the front yard (seriously?!?) the new owners wanted the laundry units to stay.  That leaves my pals in the laundry market.  Anne has been a long time fan of my front loader, her iron loathing husband a fan of the steam option on the dryer.  But they are stumped, is it the extra cost really worth it?  Being the analytical freak that I am, I scoured the Internet to find some data supporting the front load decision, after all, I didn't want to look like a fool for buying them to begin with.

I came across this website, Mr. Electricity, he gives many energy saving tips and ways to lower your electric bill.  He also had this nifty laundry cost calculator that I did, you simply answer a few questions about electric and water cost, number of loads you do...ect and he tells you how much you spend yearly doing laundry.
Here is a snapshot of mine:




 

As you can see, all the inputs are the same except the number of loads.  Front loaders don't have an agitator so you can get more in them so it is typically less loads. Dry time is also different, our front loader spins the clothes at such a high rate of speed that they are almost dry when we pop them in the dryer  so a cycle is usually 20 minutes or less.  Electric is a major cost savings but water is up there too.  Average top loader s suck up 40 gallons of water per use as compared to it's front loader cousin at 12!  That's over 1000 gallons of water difference per month for a typical family.

Next, I hopped on over to lowes.com so compare prices. A top load washer with capacity size to fit my family is between $599 and $699.  The front load Whirlpool steam washer we have is on sale for $799.  Dryers is where it gets tricky, no dryer is energy efficient but most people still want the pair to match, myself including. Dryers that would work for my family are again between $599 - $699 regular and $799 for my front load washer twin. 

The sticker price is a difference of  about $200 - $400.  According to my handy dandy calculator, I'll save that or almost that in the first year alone.  So, it seems like a no brainier.  But some things too keep in mind, I wouldn't run out to get a new set unless your old ones really need replaced.  Also, none of the models were bottom on the line, regular sets may be cheaper in the economy range and bottom barrel front loaders may have more repair issues.  

At the end of the day, I love my front loaders.  I use 1/3 of the recommended amount of detergent and still get great results.  The design of the machine is more gentle on your clothes so they last longer.  When the swine flu hit our house last year I worked the sanitary feature on overtime to make sure it didn't spread.  And, best of all, we got a sweet deal on ours and we plan to keep them for a while.  

Here they are in our laundry room (we have the pedestals too):











Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fill 'er up!

According to AAA 9 billion people will be traveling this Labor Day weekend.  Well, not really, it will just seem like that when my family hits I-495 at rush hour tomorrow on our way to my hubster's old stomping grounds, Annapolis, MD.  We will be loading up the SUV with kids, suitcases, snacks and enough entertainment options to make the at least 5 hour trip bearable.

I am a planner.  I like to plan the minute we will leave (2:23 when our kiddos bounce off the bus), when and where we'll eat (for this trip probably somewhere around Cumberland, MD around 5:30 ish), rest stops and where we will get gas for the trip.  Yes, I am a bit type A and like to plan it all out.

Now, you fly by the seat of your pants peeps can quit scoffing, a little planning can be beneficial and cost effective.  For one, I can scope out restaurants in the area we want to eat and find restaurant coupons.  I can also figure out where the cheapest gas is before the first "She's looking at me" fight even starts.

Enter gasbuddy.com! With this site you can search gas prices by area, state or major city.  You can also view a map of the entire US to see where gas is the cheapest. With the trip planner feature I was able to enter my start and end point and some details about my car and find out where the cheapest gas is along the way and about how much the trip will cost us. For example, gas is about 20 cents cheaper per gallon in Cumberland than our town, so we will only buy enough to get us there.  It is also an additional ten cents cheaper in Annapolis so we will be sure to have a full tank before we head home.

If you are traveling this weekend for a last summer hurrah, a beach trip (although Earl may have ended those plans on the East Coast), or maybe you are heading to Touchdown city to cheer on the Mountaineers, make sure you check out Gas Buddy first!

Safe Travels!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Birthday Party Breakdown part 2: Fun and Games!

If you haven't been following along here are a few birthday weeks posts you may want to check out too:

It's Birthday Week
Birthday Garland
and Birthday Party Breakdown Part 1

What would a birthday party be without a little fun and games! We had several fun things that went well with our rockstar themed party. 

I always think it is a good idea to have an activity prepared to do as the kids are arriving, so if a kid from soccer or football doesn't know your child's classmates they won't have to worry about feeling uncomfortable.  This year we made guitars!  I found these cool, decorate your own guitars at Oriental Trading.  At $9.99 a dozen they were reasonably priced and offered a great activity for the kids.



We also had a tattoo parlor, what rockstar doesn't have some ink?  The kids loved running over to get a new tattoo throughout the party. We simply took 2 TV tables, covered them with a sheet and made a sign.  My mom picked up the tattoos and some glitter hair spray at Wal-Mart for a few bucks and my friend Jenny was a trooper sitting there for 2 hours tattooing and glitter spraying  the kids over and over!
Here is our shop:



What's a party without music!  Since we were having a rockstar party we took the music a step further with a karoke machine and stage complete with a red carpet!  I borrowed the karoke machine from my mom, I am still trying to figure out why my mom has a karoke machine by the way.  As for the stage it was a simple DIY: three cinderblocks+ a thick piece of plywood+ a sheet and couple baloons = a rockin' stage:


The red carpet was a $1 red  tablecloth that we cut in half and tacked down. Here are the kids rocking out:

In this picture you can see the bleached shirt we made a few weeks ago for Quinn to wear to the party, remember these.

We weren't sure if the kids would be into it, but the were, BIG TIME! We played Kidz Bop and kid friendly music like Hannah Montana and Jonas.  We had many, many encore performances!  To add to the fun we also bought these inflatable guitars from Oriental Trading and put them in the pink bin near the stage, then each kid took one home!

Speaking of favors, this may be my favorite one ever!  Since Quinn insisted that she was too old to give out favor bags we went a bit different route: CD's.  We downloaded some of Quinn's favorite songs, burned them to CD's ($5.88 for 10 including the case at Walmart), created an album cover and inside song list and handed them out.  It was pretty cheap and the kids loved it,since it wasn't just kiddie songs I think a few adults snagged one too!
Take a look:



So there you have our fun and favors!  The kids enjoyed just running around the yard too, kids will be kids!
Here is the budget breakdown:
Color your own Guitars: $9.99 (but ours were free since a friend had some left over from a event and gave them to us!)
Inflatable Guitars: $9.99
Karoke Machine: Free!
Stage: FREE!
Tattoos : $3
Glitter Spray: $1
CD's $12
I forgot to include the cake supplies from yesterday, since I used a coupon for almost everything I made the huge cake for $8.

Today's total = $43.98
+ $54.69 from yesterday
=98.67! Yah, less than the $100 budget!

Hope you enjoyed birthday week as much as we did!