Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Product Review: FruitaBu Twirls


We recently got the opportunity to review the new FruitaBu Twirls. As my son loves anything that tastes like a fruit snack, he was more than happy to oblige and do his own personal taste test.

The FruitaBu Twirls look exactly like a fruit roll-up. Miles of smooshed fruit in various flavors are available. What kid could resist this kind of product?

Ethan was not disappointed and has been enjoying the Grape flavor most of all. As the smooshed fruits before, these contain minimal sugar, no artificial flavor, and no preservatives. Because the fruit is in a format that kids love, this product is ideal for those picky eaters who aren't getting enough from the food groups. These make a great snack or can be part of any lunchtime meal.

Much thanks to FruitaBu for giving us the opportunity to sample their new products. We have become big fans of this company and their endeavors to enable us to eat more healthy. The best part about this company is that they do not sacrifice the taste factor in the process.

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Stepping Outside of the Bread Box


Remember when I shared with you how nervous I was about working with dough? Well, I put that behind me when I began making the Buttery Bread Machine Rolls. I have been cranking out rolls, pizza, and loaves of bread over here many times since that post. I am no longer inhibited when it comes to dough and have been having a lot of fun working with it.

For bread novices, Smitten Kitchen has an excellent post on eight tips for making great bread. She goes through a picture tutorial on working with dough, the perfect temperature of the loaf, how to tell if your dough has doubled and much more! It is a great post full of information for those of you who are like me and still learning the whole bread making process.

Stephanie, over at Stop the Ride!, has also started a "Make It From Scratch" contest where everyone attempts making something from scratch that they have never done before. As she says, everyone's take on scratch-cooking is different. For example, if making a boxed cake mix is from scratch for you...by all means, break out that Betty Crocker mix! It has been interesting to see everyone's entries.

For my entry, I found this great bread recipe from Recipezaar.com and we had this several nights last month. For me, free forming dough was a new thing and so was making French bread. This recipe said that it was foolproof. Well, I am a fool when it came to bread and this recipe did not fail me at all! It makes two loaves of delicious French bread and they have turned out perfect every single time. We use the first loaf for dipping in olive oil with our dinner and the second loaf can get chopped up for homemade croutons, made into French toast, or it can be used for paninis. The possibilities with these loaves are endless.

I have not bought a loaf of French bread since using this recipe. It is that good...really! Enjoy!

Failproof French Bread

3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 package dry yeast (or 2. 25 teaspoons of yeast if purchased in bulk)
1 1/4 cup warm water


Place ingredients in bread machine according to manufacturers directions.
Start machine on dough setting. When dough cycle is complete, remove dough with floured hands and cut in half on floured surface. Take each half of dough and roll to make a loaf about 12 inches long in the shape of French bread. Place on greased baking sheet and cover with a towel. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 450°. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown, turning pan around once halfway during baking. Remove baked loaves to wire racks to cool.

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Caring for Your Table Linens

I love having a tablecloth on our table. We have three tablecloths that I can rotate throughout the week- a red, burgundy, & white tablecloth. Of all of the colors I have, the white tablecloth is my most favorite of all. Although spills show on it more initially, I can toss it in the wash with bleach and the stains come right out. There is just something about a clean tablecloth & napkins that makes everything look fresh.

Despite loving the look of linens, I do not enjoy ironing. The rarity with which I iron is, at times, a little embarrassing.

Frankly, there are not enough hours in the day for me to be spending them standing over an ironing board.

Since the word ironing is not in my vocabulary, caring for my linens promptly is important when laundering them. I run them through a normal warm cycle (check the tags on your tablecloths to see what is best for your fabric type) and then I dry them until they are just barely dry. They are then folded into thirds inside out and hung on a hanger. I hang these down in our laundry area until it is time to use them.

If you do iron your linens, the best time to iron them is right before you use them. Spray the linens with starch or a spray bottle of water and press away on the reverse side of the tablecloth on the recommended setting.

If linens only make a rare performance on your table, there is one other storage solution that might work better for you. Take an empty wrapping paper roll and line it with acid free tissue paper. Fold the tablecloth in half and then wrap it around the roll. Line the top again with the tissue paper and then store the tablecloth horizontally.

While on the discussion of table linens, I did want to share a few links for folding cloth napkins. I am going to attempt a few of these and see if they improve the look of my table.

Cloth napkins are not only used to wipe faces, but they can also highlight something in the center of your table. This vintage napkin was the perfect place to rest an arrangement of flowers on our table.

Do you have any storage tricks for linens in your home? Do you use linens on your table?

And for those of you that are curious just what it is I am serving at my table, please visit the new “Aldi Queen” blog where I share my recipes and menu plans with everyone!

Be sure to visit Rocks in My Dryer for more tips & tricks from some of the best mommy experts on the net!

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Before & After: Dining Room Chairs

Awe-inspiring Meredith, from Like Merchant Ships, is a source of great inspiration when it comes to home decorating. In my opinion, you either can decorate or you can't. It has nothing to do with money, but has everything to do with being creative with what you have. She is one of those bloggers where I shake my head constantly and say, "Now that is a great idea! Why didn't I think of that?"

One of Meredith's claims to fame, in my opinion, is what a whiz she is at making furniture look new again. She has shown the tops and bottoms of pieces she does and with a piece of fabric and a few tucks here and there, she is able to recreate pieces in her home without spending a bunch of money.

In our house, our dining room set had seen far better days. When we bought it, we had no children and never gave a thought to whether plush cushions with ivory fabric would be a good selection for our furniture. After all, we knew how to eat without making a mess.

Countless playdates, hundreds of dinners on those chairs, a Kool-Aid spill here and there... then suddenly these cushions were beginning to show their age. With another child soon to be sitting in those chairs too, I knew that the situation was only going to get worse.

I ran over to the fabric store and did end up spending a mint on a little fabric to recover our chairs. Yes, I could have bought cheaper materials, but as this was my dining set, I really wanted to do this right.

The fabric is vinyl, but it is a nice faux brushed leather. The chocolate color and the wipeable fabric was just what I had envisioned with these chairs.

Spills on my chair? No problem! Greasy fingers? Easy Peasy! The difference in my attitude is night and day. Now food on our carpet is another story....but I am feeling much better about the chairs.

I hope I did you proud, Meredith!

Old Nasty Chair:






















Freshly Covered Chair:


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That's Hot!


Apparently, my post about frugality fueling my creativity struck a cord with someone out there. I received notification that this post was nominated for a Hot Stuff award. Thanks to whoever nominated me. I am very flattered!

Voting can be submitted by visiting GNM Parents and leaving a comment about which post you enjoyed most.

As I have never really been nominated for anything, I thank whoever out there thought it was noteworthy. It means a lot to me!

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Dressing Your Kid Like a Celebrity...Or Die Trying


I love to look at pictures of celebrity babies and see what stylish ensembles they are wearing. It provides inspiration to a small-town girl who wants her kid to look cute. I wish I had the money they had to spend on those cute clothes, but I am a woman working on a Goodwill budget so those items have to come second-hand or have to be invented by me.

Here are a few ideas for dressing your kids like stylish stars.. or at least getting them to the fashionable point where they don't stand out.

- I love iron-on transfers. I scored a great deal at Michael's where I got some really cute iron-on transfers for my son to be placed on t-shirts. The black t-shirt was $2.50 at the craft store and the iron-on was $1.00. Super cool, "Rock Star" t-shirt cost me $3.50. If you have a knack for design, you could actually design the transfer yourself and then get the transfer paper from the craft store. Same idea, except an "original" that no celebrity baby will ever have.

The t-shirt pictured here was a hit with my son and his mom & dad. He said he can't be a rock star until he is ten or a hundred though. At least he can look like one in the meantime.

- Check your thrift stores and try and buy when they run sales on specific items. I keep a closet of clothes that actually don't fit our son...just yet. Look for basic items that will never go out of style and start stocking up for the years ahead. Make sure to thoroughly check the items before purchasing them though. Items that are donated could be donated for a reason. Check under the arms of shirts, the seams on the item, the knees of the pants, the bottoms of the pants, make sure the zippers zip, and buttons and clasps are intact. Nothing is more disappointing than bringing home a "deal" and then finding out is, in fact, a dud.

- Make old items new again by embellishing them. Boys jeans can be quickly converted into a little girl pair with a cute heart applique or a little beading or pink buttons sewn on the pockets. A little boys shirt can be made into a girls shirt with a sweet pink shirt underneath it. Try to think outside of the box.

- Work out a deal with friends. I have a great friend who shares her bounty of clothes with me before taking them to resale. I am able to get quality name-brand clothing without having to hunt for it. She sells it to me dirt-cheap and she avoids the consignment shops while I avoid the hassle of running from store to store. Don't hesitate to ask if one of your girlfriends has children that are bigger than yours what they do with their clothing. You might be surprised that they just donate the items and would be willing to pass them off to you or could sell them to you.

- Outlet shop, but make sure it really is an outlet. Have you ever been to an outlet store that had the same or higher prices than the regular store? I have and what a disappointment that is. Know what regular pricing is versus the factory store before doing your shopping.

- Shop the end of seasons, but hold out until the bitter end for the really good deals. At the end of the season, I purchase winter coats for the following year. I never fail to have an amazing jacket for our son, but rarely do I pay more than twenty dollars for it. Check stores that you don't normally shop and hit the clearance section to get a quality jacket for a fraction of the price.

- Garage sales are great for scoring cute clothes for your children. We hit the garage sales all summer and stock up on clothing for our kids. No one knows that the Baby Gap shirt my daughter wore once was purchased in a garage.

How do you make your kid look like a star? Any tips to share with our readers?

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Organizing Ribbon


I have always envied people like Martha Stewart who have rooms dedicated solely to crafting. I think it would be so nice to have a special place where I could do things like this, but our house seems to be missing a room.

When I decided that I really needed a place to dedicate towards doing my hobbies, my husband suggested an area downstairs in our basement.

The former owners had mounted a door onto the wall and used that as a desk. The door knob opening was the perfect place to feed my hot glue cords through and a folding chair pulled up perfectly to my new location.

My crafting collections have seemed to really grow though and the ribbon situation was out of hand. Everywhere you walked, you would step on a roll of ribbon. I couldn’t find anything in the mess and things that should have taken minutes turned into hours when having to hunt for the perfect color.

I went online to see if they had any ribbon organizers that I could buy. Ah, there were many solutions, but not any that fit my price tag.

A trip to Michael’s was equally disappointing as they only had one ribbon organizer. This organizer would have held a fourth of my ribbon collection and at $19.99 the price was way too high for my taste.

In front of our craft table, I had a giant bulletin board so after much thought, I figured out a way that I could mount my ribbon onto the board and still be able to easily access it.

I took dowel rods and fed my ribbon spools through them. Then I took wide ribbon and stapled a loop on each side to rest the dowel rods into them. By leaving plenty of room on each side, I am able to slide ribbon in and out as needed or just pull on a spool to get the ribbon that I need.

If you have a large ribbon collection, this might be a good solution for you. If your ribbon collection is smaller or you just need a place to store ribbon that you use for wrapping gifts or for scrapbooking, this idea from Real Simple Magazine is also a great & thrifty solution. They also offer up a great idea for using a paper towel holder as a place to store your ribbon.

While we are on the subject of creative storage, be sure to read our new article on Frugal Storage Solutions as spring cleaning & organizing time is upon us!

What are some creative ways you have organized your home?

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Introducing the Aldi Queen Blog


We have been hard at work over here and finally have our new Aldi blog up and rolling. Please share it with your friends and loved ones! I hope that some of my faithful blogging friends could share this information in their corner of the bloggy world. It would mean a lot to me if everyone could spread the word about this new addition. I really hope that it is beneficial to many families!

On our new blog, I will be posting recipes utilizing ingredients that can be purchased at Aldi Supermarket. If you do not have an Aldi Supermarket, you can still prepare all of the recipes just purchase them at your own local grocery store.

Each day I will try to post a recipe for all of you! The blog is set up like a cookbook- main dishes, appetizers, chicken, pork, beef, pasta, snacks, etc.. As I add new recipes, new categories will be added too. This should make finding a dish for dinner easier!

I will be including some pictures too of the things we eat. I am no food photographer, but I will do my best to make things look presentable.

I hope you enjoy the addition to the site. If you have a recipe that you would like to share, please just email it to me at amy@momadvice.com.

Thank you all for your continued support and enthusiasm about what I am doing. I don't know what I would do without all of you!

Please note, if you hover the categories above, you will see that Blog has now been made plural and you can choose which of my two (for now!) blogs you are interested in reading.
Any suggestions are always welcome!

Sincerely,

Amy Allen Clark
"the Aldi Queen"

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Lazy Sunday

Yucky weather has kept us home and I am enjoying a Sunday with our family. Tackling laundry, baking banana bread, finishing the house cleaning, working on the website and finishing up another round of bow orders. This is my kind of lazy Sunday. Fueled with a big mug of coffee (the mug & French press both courtesy of our lovely Goodwill store), I have been able to accomplish so much today already.

As I was working on the last of my bow orders, my mp3 player filled my ears & heart with one of my favorite songs. If you are not familiar with Dar Williams, run, run, run to your library and pick up her music. She is one of my favorite musical story tellers. This song pulls at my heartstrings and makes me cry like a baby every single time I hear it. As a mother of a little boy, the last verse just breaks my heart.

The song begs me to ask the question, "Were you once a boy too?"

Hope you all are enjoying a lazy Sunday too!

When I Was A Boy by Dar Williams

I won't forget when Peter Pan came to my house, took my hand
I said I was a boy; I'm glad he didn't check.
I learned to fly, I learned to fight I lived a whole life in one night
We saved each other's lives out on the pirate deck.

And I remember that night
When I'm leaving a late night with some friends
And I hear somebody tell me it's not safe, someone should help me
I need to find a nice man to walk me home.

When I was a boy,
I scared the pants off of my mom,
Climbed what I could climb upon
And I don't know how I survived,
I guess I knew the tricks that all boys knew.
And you can walk me home,
but I was a boy, too.

I was a kid that you would like,
just a small boy on her bike
Riding topless, yeah, I never cared who saw.
My neighbor come outside to say, "Get your shirt,"
I said "No way, it's the last time I'm not breaking any law."

And now I'm in a clothing store, and the sign says less is more
More that's tight means more to see,
more for them, not more for me
That can't help me climb a tree in ten seconds flat
When I was a boy, see that picture?
That was me
Grass-stained shirt and dusty knees

And I know things have gotta change,
They got pills to sell,
they've got implants to put in,
they've got implants to remove
But I am not forgetting
That I was a boy too

And like the woods where I would creep,
it's a secret I can keep
Except when I'm tired,
except when I'm being caught off guard

I've had a lonesome awful day,
the conversation finds its way
To catching fire-flies out in the backyard.
And I tell the man I'm with about the other life I lived
And I say now you're top gun,
I have lost and you have won

And he says, "Oh no, no, can't you see
When I was a girl, my mom and I we always talked
And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked.
And I could always cry,
now even when I'm alone I seldom do
And I have lost some kindness
But I was a girl too.

And you were just like me, and I was just like you.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Frugal Carpet Steaming


When we got our townhouse in Massachusetts, the carpets were riddled with dirt & grime. I was pregnant with our son at the time, and the carpets were so disgusting that I refused to even take my shoes off, for fear of how filthy my socks would get from our carpet. The house had been owned previously by a rental company and, let's face it, many renters do not care about keeping a home nice that doesn't technically belong to them.

When my in-laws saw how horrible the carpets were, they offered to purchase a small steam cleaner for our new place. They took us to Target and invested in a small Bissell Steam Cleaner for our new home and some bottles of cleaner for us to deep clean the carpet.

Despite our best efforts, we ended up having to replace the carpet throughout the entire house and then two years later, we moved here.

The Bissell Steam Cleaner has been sitting in the basement the whole time we have lived here despite having some carpet in this house. Other projects have come before deep-cleaning carpets, but the other day as I was vacuuming, I realized that one of the reasons I do not like our lower level carpet is because the carpet doesn't seem clean to me.

A light bulb went off and I ran downstairs to grab the steamer and cleaners. I poured the cleaner into the steamer and started steaming our playroom. The water that I dumped out was a murky gray and I made my husband come in and look at all the yuckiness I was able to suck up. After all, isn't that what husbands are supposed to do? What is being married all about, if not for the fact that we can witness the grossness together?

After steaming those floors and feeling the pride in how clean they were, I was ready to steam all the other carpets and rugs in our home. Unfortunately, the cleaner had run out so I would have to invest in some more of the carpet cleaner... Or would I?

I ran downstairs and started searching on the internet to try and find if there were any alternatives to the pricey carpet cleaners. Sure enough, I came up with several recommendations from the commercial carpet cleaning companies.

If you do not want to buy the cleaners, simply fill the tank with the hottest tap water possible and throw in a cup (or two for a large tank) of white vinegar. Begin steaming as you did with the commercial cleaners and stand back in amazement as you notice that this inexpensive solution works just as well as the pricey cleaner.

My main concern with the vinegar was that it would make our carpets smell like vinegar. I need not worry though because vinegar has great odor neutralizing properties , so after about an hour my carpets smelled fresh and they no longer harbored the bad smells or the vinegar smell.

Now that I know how cheap it is to do this, I am more motivated than ever to keeping our carpets fresh and clean.

What are some of your favorite homemade remedies for cleaning items in your home?

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Freebie Friday: February 23, 2007

Friday Fun Question: What is your best tip you have for saving money?

Join the Doodlebops Fan Club and receive a free goodie. Click on, “Fan Club” to complete the form.

Claim a complimentary one-year subscription to Positive Thinking Magazine. You can just answer, “No, Thank You” to the offers.

Claim a complimentary subscription to Smart Spot Magazine. This is a Quaker Oats publication filled with recipes and tips for healthy eating.

Fill out this form to receive a free Intuit Beauty Headband. This freebie will arrive to you shortly.

Sign up for a free sample of Aveeno’s Positively Ageless. This freebie will also include a coupon for your next purchase of the product. This sample will arrive in a few weeks.

Teachers can receive a free classroom kit for National Poetry Month. Please allow two to four weeks for delivery on this freebie.

Sign up to receive a free sample of Head & Shoulders Restoring Shine 2-in-1 Shampoo. Please allow up to four weeks for delivery.

Choose a free sample of Downy. They offer two sample choices- Ultra Downy Experientials Tahitian Waterfalls or Ultra Downy April Fresh scents. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery on this sample.

For the gardeners on the site, this freebie is just for you. Join the Proven Winners Circle and receive a gardening publication detailing different gardening tips, new varieties, and information from the experts. You will receive your copy within approximately two weeks.

Sign up to receive a free bag of Mommy Loot. I could not find any details of what was included, but they have a lovely list of sponsors so I am sure this is a great freebie.

Get a free sample of Pantene Texturizing Shampoo & Conditioner. Please allow up to four weeks for the delivery on this freebie.

If you are a State Farm customer, you can use Turbo Tax free, and e-file free. Go to their site, www.statefarm.com, once you are registered, you will have to input your information into the site for home/auto/banking etc., it doesn't automatically pull up for security reasons. You have to input your policy number. It can take up to 7 days for it to process. After that you can log in, and under 'additional links' you will see the Turbo Tax button.

Get a free “Soccer Mom Short-Cuts” cookbook from Ragu. The cookbook should arrive within four to six weeks.

Planning a trip? Don’t rely on MapQuest or Google for map-planning directions. AAA once offered their TripTik Travel Planner only to their members. They now have recently opened the playing field and are allowing anyone to take advantage of this freebie whether you are a member or not. For the full scoop on this great offer, please visit this review from Susan Breslow Sardone at About.com. This will be a great tool for anyone who is planning a trip during Spring Break or a summer vacation!

Photoworks.com is giving away 30 free photo prints. This is a great chance to print out those memorable photos stuck on your computer or camera. Use PhotoWorks coupon code: C622-38-5144-71 at checkout to get your free photos. You also get an additional 25 photo prints when you sign up today. This promotion ends on 2/28/07.

Request a free “Too Smart to Start” game to help you talk to your children about underage drinking and how you can prevent it. The goals for the game include increasing the number of conversations about the harm of underage alcohol use and increasing the percentage of children and adults who view underage alcohol use as harmful. The game can be played with two to six players, but works best when both youth and adults play.

Complete the quick form to receive a free sample of Arm & Hammer Advance White Toothpaste. Please limit one per household.

Happy Friday, everyone!

***Can you not get enough freebies? Have trouble waiting until Friday? Please visit our Freebies Galore board to get more freebies in your mail box. Share the freebies that you have received and post your own freebie deals! If you just want to chat and meet other moms, visit our Forum where you can share amongst friends! You will meet some of the most amazing ladies on our board who are happy to share recipes, organizational tips, and help you network with work-at-home moms too!

Are you new to Freebie Fridays? Did you miss your freebie fix last week? Under each entry are keywords that you can search under. Click on the word Freebie and it will direct you to all of the past offers. ***

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Frugality Births Creativity

I feel very blessed to have learned to be frugal because it has stirred within me creativity that I never knew I even possessed. The blessings from my thriftiness are endless and seem abundant in our life. When we had money, we did not feel the urge to be creative with our resources. If we wanted something, we bought it. End of story. Now that we are trying to be more careful with our funds, I have found that I am more creative than I have given myself credit for.

I just want to share with you one example of creativity that has helped us financially. Obviously the website has been a great endeavor for me, but there are little things in my life that I haven’t had the opportunity to share yet.

When we found out we were having a girl, all I could feel in my heart was love and a sea of pink. I couldn’t wait to dress her up in pretty dresses, tights, patent leather Mary Janes, and get to have tea parties with her. I love my son like crazy, and was just so excited that I have one of each child so that I can do unique things with each of them.

When she was born, I never knew that a baby could have so much hair. She had this beautiful, thick dark hair and all I wanted to do was put hair bows in it. We started out with the baby headbands and I was disappointed with the selection in our area. When searching online though, I thought the prices were ridiculous and not worth that amount of money.

Fast forward to six months later, and I had completed a spokesperson position with Cascade. We received the money from that endeavor and I turned to my husband one day and said, “I want to invest that money into a little business for myself making girl’s hair bows.” I won’t say that he was jumping up or down or anything, but he said he supported me, if that is what I wanted to do with my money.

I got a book on how to do it and started hording myself in our basement with a glue gun. I researched for hours on ways that I could get these little masterpieces to stick in their hair without ever being removed. I researched the best types of ribbon, where to purchase the ribbon, how to present the bows and pricing on them.

Pictured here is an example of some of my handiwork. These batches of bows were made for my girlfriend and I was so thrilled to put together such fun ribbon selections, chosen by her. When purchasing ribbon for her bows, I also happened upon these really cute Irish ribbons and I grabbed as many as I felt I could afford. We live in Irish Country (Notre Dame University is just minutes from our house), so in other areas this would be a seasonal item. In our area, it is a year-round type of thing.

I have had great success with selling the girl’s hair bows. Although I am not brave enough to put myself out there online, as it is a tough market, I have had great success by just taking my daughter places in her bows and people asking where I bought them. She has been a great little model for me and I have made some good money doing it. This money is being socked away for something special. What that is? I don’t know yet, but I feel empowered knowing that I can help with the finances and to have a little stash stored away for a rainy day.


The lessons I have learned through my latest little business are great…

I have learned that I can be a creative, even though I never believed that I was.
I have learned that a supportive spouse is worth its weight in gold. My husband could have shook his head and told me he thought my idea was ridiculous, but he didn’t. I didn’t say he didn’t think that in his head, but he never voiced those feelings to me.

I have learned that if there is something not out there that you want, or if there is something you want but can’t afford, find within yourself to be creative and come up with it yourself.

I have learned that there are two types of people- those who think I charge too much and those who think I am selling myself short.

I have learned that asking for money upfront is the best policy. I have had people place orders that have never paid or make requests for items that I worked tirelessly on, only to tell me that they changed their mind.

I have learned that one compliment can go a long way with me. Just one person telling me that they liked what I do is enough to push me for an extra week on whatever I am doing.

I have learned that there will always be people who think that they can do whatever you are doing, but better. There will always be haters out there, but the important thing is to not allow their negativity to take the best parts about yourself out of you.

I have learned that by teaching myself new skills, that I can draw from those skills when occasions arise and save a lot of money on gifts for others.

I have learned donating my creativity to good causes makes me feel more creative and powerful than I have ever thought I could be.

I have learned that doubting myself is the biggest creativity buster of all.

I have learned that frugality fuels creativity. Creativity fuels our bank account. Our bank account fuels a peace about what we have. The peace fuels a happy home. A happy home fuels my life. My life fuels my family. My family fuels me.

What are some of your proudest creative moments? What has frugality fueled within you?

For more Rocks In My Dryer Works-For-Me Wednesday Participants, please click here.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Things To Do When You Are Snowed In

Well, maybe all you folks out in the South aren’t covered with snow like Indiana is, but maybe you just are looking for some things to do to pass the time? Here is a compiled list of ideas to pass those long days at home…

1. Start paying your bills online. Signing up through CheckFree.com saves you time and stamps. I love getting their reminders to pay my bills and it makes preparing for taxes a cinch. I was disappointed that they have discontinued relationships with a few of the bigger companies that we work with (American Express & GMAC for starters), but it is still a great way to pay your bills and there are no monthly fees. If you don’t want to do your bills through a third-party, you can contact the companies you pay your bills to and sign up for their online bill-paying or have automatic withdrawals taken from your account.

2. Do your shopping through reward sites. These posts on MyPoints & Ebates should help you start gaining rewards for doing your shopping this year. Why shouldn’t you get a few freebies for things you are already buying? I just got another “Big Fat Check” from Ebates for $45.

3. Give your kids a bath. Oh wait! Am I supposed to be doing that regularly? Bath time does not need to be boring though with recipes for bathtub crayons & bathtub finger-paints. Check this post for thirteen tips to make your children’s bath time fun.

4. Update your spice rack with spices you actually DO use. Do you use Coriander regularly? I don’t! I do use a lot of grill seasoning mixes though. Updating your spice rack will save space in your cupboards and will make the spices you do use more accessible when cooking.

5. Program your cell phone with some handy numbers you might wish you had later on. Anyone ever use their phone as a light to try and hunt through the phone book for the electric company’s telephone number? Read this list for some contacts you should add to your address book.

6. Weed through some of your child’s artwork. Every mom knows that all of the pieces of artwork are special, but it is hard to highlight your favorites if you have piles of artwork stored. I shared a tip that we use for weeding through our son’s artwork that still works like a charm.

7. Find some free artwork for your child’s room. I offered a fun tip for putting your children’s books to work in your kid’s rooms.

8. Bag up some dinners for your family. This weekend I am bagging up pizza mix, cornbread mix, cocoa mix, and pancake mix. This saves me so much time throughout the week and I only have to dirty up the kitchen once versus every night.

9. Hunt for all of those broken crayons, scattered all over the house, and put them together to make fun crayons using a muffin tin & your oven. These are a blast to make with your children and are much better than throwing those crayons away!

10. Rent a free movie from your library or use a free code from RedBox. I just got a newsletter from the site and they have new RedBox codes for free movies.

11. Order what you need from Sam’s Club and then make them hunt through the store for you. It is fun to browse through their site and no need to entertain children while you are trying to figure out the best price.

12. How about treat yourself instead of treating the kids? Check this post for a few ideas on ways you can care for yourself!

13. Don’t wait until the last minute and start planning your child’s birthday party now! This post shares a directory for places that offer children’s birthday parties.

14. Update your calendar and use a free organizing software program. No more miscommunications between you & your hubby about your girl’s night out anymore. Using this software will allow your calendar to be right at his fingertips!

15. Hunt through your cupboards and find some plain white mugs and do a painting craft together with your children. This craft was a hit in our house and killed a few hours in a long day at home.

16. Craving some yummy restaurant food, but you don’t want to brave the cold weather? Try making some restaurant classics from home using these recipes I have provided. It might not taste just like the restaurant food, but it will be a hit in your house all the same!

17. Menu plan for the next month or so. Stumped for ideas? Check all of those take out menus that have been hiding in a drawer for inspiration.

18. Share the best piece of advice you have ever gotten or just read the responses from some of our readers.

19. Organize a gift closet to help you with all of those functions you will be going to this next year. This is the first entry in our series for stocking your closet.

20. Have you not made an effort with some relatives in awhile? Try penning a newsletter about your family and include some updated photos of your children. I loved this new free newsletter software for its ease and beauty.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Freebie Friday: February 16, 2007


Friday Fun Question: What is the best freebie you have ever gotten?

Freebie Friday Samples:

Receive a free sample of Oil of Olay Total Effects Daily Cleansing Treatments. Limit one sample per household.

Get a free subscription (print or digital) of Massive Magazine. This magazine is for gamers. There are limited quantities available on this freebie.

Educators have the opportunity to receive a free sample from Crayola and be entered to win a classroom full of Crayola Classpack assortments.

Claim a complimentary one-year subscription to Spin Magazine. You can answer, “No, thank you!” to the offers and receive the magazine with no strings attached.

Receive free candy from Mike & Ike’s. Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery.

Request a free DVD of Discovery Channel’s, “Babies: Special Delivery.”

This is a great freebie! Print out the coupon to receive a free issue of Quick & Simple Magazine. This coupon expires on 03/31/2007.

Try a sample of Oasis Mouthwash, specially formulated for dry mouths. Please allow up to four weeks for this delivery. Click on the free sample button at the bottom of the page to access this freebie.

Have a blog? You can receive a free $5 Starbucks Gift Card for sharing a link to the Vitabase website. Read the requirements for participation on the Vitabase site.

Claim a complimentary one-year subscription to Art in America Magazine. I am signing up for this freebie as it would make a beautiful magazine for your coffee table and who knows what art could be taken from it for framed art for your home? Answer, “No, Thank You” to the offers on this one.

Marie Claire is offering free samples of the new Always Clean! Maxi Pads.

There are a limited amount of t-shirts each day, but Starbucks is giving away t-shirts starting tomorrow at 10 AM PST. These will be given away each day until February 28th. If you want to give this freebie a try tomorrow, here is the link.

Claim a complimentary one-year subscription to Popular Photography & Imaging Magazine. This would be a great free way to learn how to take better pictures of your kids! Again, you can say, “No , thank you” to provided offer links.

This one would have to be provided by your doctor, but it is a great freebie should you qualify for this medication. How about a free seven day trial of Ambien CR Sleep Medication? Does a screaming teething toddler make me qualify? I sure hope so!

"Gmail sign-ups are now open worldwide! No more waiting for someone to invite you - just create an account directly at http://www.gmail.com.

Although not technically free, this is a great BOGO freebie. Buy one Scotch Lint Roller Sheets (available at Target), receive another one free. Go to this Scotch website page and click on, “Get a Coupon.”

Another BOGO freebie, but this one is from Cold Stone Creamery. Buy One Love It Create Your Own (which technically means, pick an ice cream with one mix-in) and get one free. This coupon expires on 02/28/2007.

Request a free catalog & free samples of Murad Skincare Products.

And a few freebies courtesy of Monica & her mom! Thanks to Monica’s mommy for always passing these on to us!

My Mom sent me an article with some freebie sites on it: www.giveawayoftheday.com www.freecycle.org www.freebies.about.com

Have a great day, my friend!

Monica


***Can you not get enough freebies? Have trouble waiting until Friday? Please visit our Freebies Galore board to get more freebies in your mail box. Share the freebies that you have received and post your own freebie deals! If you just want to chat and meet other moms, visit our Forum where you can share amongst friends! You will meet some of the most amazing ladies on our board who are happy to share recipes, organizational tips, and help you network with work-at-home moms too!

Are you new to Freebie Fridays? Did you miss your freebie fix last week? Under each entry are keywords that you can search under. Click on the word Freebie and it will direct you to all of the past offers. ***


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Thursday, February 15, 2007

It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know

Everyone knows someone who knows something. That something could be as simple as how to get a stain out of clothing or it could be as complex as the types of supplements you should be taking for optimum health.

I have a theory that everyone carries around one piece of information that has stuck with them from an expert in a field. Maybe it was your vet? Maybe your doctor? Maybe you are close friends with a nutritionist? Maybe you have a really good accountant who gave you some tax advice that you never forgot?

What is one piece of advice you got that you never lost? Your piece of advice could be life changing for one of our readers. Please share away by clicking the Comments link.

My one piece of advice that I received, while not life-saving, is one thing that has always stuck with me. One of my friends went to visit a dermatologist and she asked her what was the best thing that she could do for her skin. The dermatologist suggested to always, always moisturize her neck because it is one of those areas that many people forget. That is why you see many women with beautiful skin and they show their age in their neck area. She also said the best type of facial cleanser you can use is Cetaphil. I have discovered that our local Meijer sells an off-brand of Cetaphil and I have started using this on my skin. It is much cheaper & gentler than other things I have tried.

Not everyone can afford the luxury of expert health. Many people cannot even afford the insurance needed to ever sit down with an expert. Likewise, many of us have the financial means to employ someone to help us through tough situations. Do you have a lawyer, a doctor, a financial planner, a counselor for your child?

What was that one piece of advice that they shared with you that you could, in turn, share with someone else?

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Kid's Craft Idea: Painting Mugs

Since it is another snow-filled day, we worked on a craft project to pass the time today. What better way to pass the time than to work on some fun projects?

When I have been going to the thrift store, I have been picking up plain white mugs. The cost on these is fifty cents and I have been putting them in a box downstairs to make gifts for our family.

I then went to the craft store and purchased a porcelain paint set. The paint set was around four dollars and I used my forty percent off coupon to knock some money off of the total on that. These types of paints require no heat-setting since the glaze that is included sets the paints for you.

With this particular paint set, you need to do a glaze on the surface first and allow that to dry. I actually did this the night before so we wouldn't have to wait on this step.

Today we painted the mugs, which my son had the best time doing. We did put a heart on each of them, in honor of Valentine's Day, and we will be giving these out to some special people in our life.

While waiting for the paint to dry (to apply a final glaze on them), I have been doing a little baking for a mommy that I am running a meal over to. She just had a baby and I get to bring her Valentine's Day dinner. I am making a heart-shaped pizza, a cold pasta salad, and these giant heart brownies. I found this stoneware dish at the thrift shop for two bucks and have been waiting to be able to use it. I hope she will enjoy the meal as much I as have enjoyed cooking for her. Hopefully the weather will hold out so that I can deliver that meal!

I also need to get moving on some laundry and make cookies for my son's class. It has been fun though getting to squeeze in some quality time with my son and do something fun like this.

Give this craft idea a try with your children! These mugs are great for any occasion and what teacher wouldn't love a sweet mug like this made by your child?

Please visit Shannon's Blog, Rocks in My Dryer, for more Works-For-Me Wednesday tips!

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Gift Closet Part One: Wrapping Gifts


I had an email which requested that I talk a little bit about the gift closet and how we stock our gift closet. First, I am using the word "closet" in quotes because we do not have a spare closet to stick all of these gifts in. The one major closet that we had in our house was revamped and now houses our entertainment unit (People with small homes should definitely read that post!) Instead, I actually use a clear plastic tote and a shelf in our basement for keeping these spare gifts.

A gift closet is just the idea of keeping gifts that you can use for any occasion. Some people stock gifts with a specific purpose in mind, like Christmas. Other people stock gifts that they think they will be able to use throughout the year, like birthday parties, weddings, or housewarming gifts.

Now just about any tightwad I talk to has a place that they horde deals that they run across. Why should you pay full price for a gift when you can raid the clearance sections of stores and thrift for goodies that will make great gifts? The purpose of my gift closet is:

1. To have a gift that will fit any occasion. I try to stock for weddings, birthday parties, thank you gifts, get well soon goodies, and the "just because" gift.

2. You are always prepared no matter what occasion strikes. If you forgot to write something on your calendar or suddenly realize that your brother's birthday is looming and you have no funds for a gift, you can always visit your closet for a great gift.

3. Christmas is not a blow to your finances because your gift closet is stocked throughout the year. I try to buy a gift here and there instead of a giant shopping session which can cause a serious dent in our account.

The first part I am going to discuss about stocking your gift closet are inexpensive ways to package your gifts. Storing gifts, in my opinion, is just one element of stocking a gift closet. Another blow to the finances can be the packaging of your gifts. Here are some of the items that I keep on hand for making my gifts look pretty for less...

- I hit thrift stores all of the time and try to look for pretty tins in the housewares section. At fifty cents to a dollar each, they are a great way to package homemade goodies and make them more special.

- Baskets are nice to have on hand to make an instant gift basket for someone in your life. Try and buy these when they run end of the season sales at the craft stores or when you are doing your thrift shopping. Remember that baskets can be spray painted or decorated with scrap ribbon and filled with odds and ends in your gift closet (tissue paper, a pretty dish towel, or whatever else you have on hand)

- I love to keep jars on hand for gifts. These can be used to package up soups, stews, sauces, jellies, or gift mixes. I use scrap fabric to place on top and also have little odds and ends that I have collected to tie around the lid (cinnamon sticks, silk flowers, twine, etc..)

- I always have items that I can use to wrap gifts with. I have wrapping paper, but I also have other items to wrap with. I save the comics section of our newspaper for children's gifts. I also look for wallpaper rolls at thrift stores to wrap gifts with. The wallpaper looks so elegant and I can get huge rolls of it for a buck at our local stores. Scrap fabric or tulle can add elegance to any gift.

- I save anything that I think would make a great home for a gift. For example, I love those little sacks that cards come in or the boxes that note cards come in. When I receive a gift, I save whatever that person used to give me my gift in. I have started to gather quite a large collection of gift bags and boxes from hording the ones that were given to our family.

- Coffee mugs and pretty plates are also stashed away for those unexpected gifts. I love to find elegant china plates in the housewares section of our thrift store or unusual coffee mugs. For example, a china tea cup can be a beautiful holder for a small houseplant. When the plant needs to move to a bigger home (or in our house, simply dies a horrible death!) the cup can be washed out and used for tea. Fill mugs with cocoa mixes or tea bags as a sweet & simple get well gift. These are just a few of the uses for these items.

- I love to use the china size boxes for giving cookies in, particularly around the holidays. Tuck the cookies in wax paper and tie with a bow. This makes your treats look like a gift anyone could want!

- I keep a manila folder in my gift closet and place any cards that I receive in it. The front of these cards can be made into a new card or they can be used for gift tags with a quick hole punch and a little ribbon.

- I buy the stacks of card stock scraps and use these for gift tags on my gift baskets & bags. Add a small stamp to it and a quick note and you can bypass Hallmark altogether.

Those are just a few ideas that I have for the wrapping portion of the gift closet. In Part Two, I will began discussing frugal gift ideas for various occasions. If there is something in particular that you would like me to touch on, just reply in the comments section.

Feel free to share ways you wrap gifts or how/where you store your gift closet!

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Site is Experiencing Technical Difficulties

I am sorry, but our website is having some problems today. The articles are not matching article descriptions and we are having some other general errors with the site. We are aware of the problem and I apologize for the inconvenience. Our Forum & Blog are still operating normally.

If there is something you are looking for and need today (a menu planner, recipe, article you wanted to read, etc..) please email me at amy@momadvice.com and I can send you the Word file. As long as I am not on overload with requests, I will get what you need to you.

Thank you so much for being patient and understanding. We will try to be back on track by this evening!

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Date Night Conversations

Yesterday my husband's parents called and asked if they could watch the kids for us so that we could have a night out. Do they even have to ask? We couldn't take them up on the offer fast enough as there is never a time when we feel like we can't use a little alone time.

We headed over there, with the kids in tow, and they gave us a bag of Valentine's Day goodies. There were a pair of pajamas for my daughter, a really nice shirt for our son, and then an envelope for us. In it was tucked some money for our night out. That means we got a dinner out and babysitting services for free! What an amazing gift!

Somehow when we get a night out to ourselves though, we end up spending the entire evening talking about the kids. What can I say? They are the light of our lives and we love them to pieces. Unfortunately, someday we are going to be older and our children will have their own lives and we will have to find some new dinner conversations.

I decided to try something new last night so that we wouldn't be sucked in by the talk of diapers, time outs, and who got up at what time. Instead I leaned over across the table and said...

"Greatest movie ever?"

"What?"

"I said, greatest movie ever?"

He answered the question and then leaned in...

"Best childhood memory?"

The evening just went from there. I have been with this man since we were teenagers. I thought I knew everything that I could ever know about him. Imagine my surprise when I discovered even more things about my husband. We sat there for a long time and just asked each other questions.

Need a dinner conversation that doesn't involve the discussion about poop consistencies? I highly recommend giving this a try. It was one of the best date nights ever!

Thanks, mom & dad!

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Friday, February 09, 2007

What is this Secret?

I mentioned today in my blog that I got the opportunity to go to a viewing of the movie, “The Secret” which was recently featured on an Oprah episode. I had decided to not watch the episode on her show and go into the movie with an open mind. I understood the idea behind it, but wanted to make sure that my heart was open to what the movie could teach me. Being a Christian, I also did not want to compromise my beliefs or feel as though I had strayed from what I had been taught. I had heard that the movie could help me be a more positive person though and who could not use a little of that in their lives?

Although I did not believe everything in the movie, there were elements within it that really made me think about the way I have been living my life and how I could improve myself as a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. For example, I try to be positive, but find that I am easily strayed by the negative. I want to change the world, but I focus on what I dislike about the world, rather than the positive things that I could do to improve it. I can be very pessimistic when a more positive attitude would be more beneficial to me. Of course I could go on and on about things I have done wrong, but we are focusing on the positive, right?

Many of the principles within the movie are harmonious with what I have been taught to be as a Christian, but hearing them reiterated in a new way made the ideas fresh for me and helped me in a way that I really needed at this point in my life. Here are some basic ideas that I would like to incorporate within my day…

Gratitude- I need to be grateful for what God has already supplied for me. I have so many great things going on in my life and I need to focus on my gratitude for those things, and less on the things that I don’t have. The suggestion for a journal of gratitude is certainly not a new idea, but it served as a reminder to me that I need to do this and start writing down the things I have been given.

Focus Board- They had suggested putting together a focus board of the things that you want in your life. Although I thought too much of the movie focused on the material things, I think there are words and images that I could use within a focus board that I could use to inspire me. I talked about this idea with my husband last night and suggested that we actually do this project together, rather than separate. I told him that I want our goals to be ones that we set together. His goals should be my goals and vice versa. I would like to put on the board the amount of money that we will need to be financially free and focus on that number daily. That is just one example of something we would like to put on our board. Once our board is put together, I will take a picture of it to hopefully inspire you to do your own board!

Ask & Patiently Wait- I have no problem asking for things in prayer, but then the waiting patiently part is the one that I have a hard time with. In a culture where we want everything NOW not later, I have been conditioned to not wait patiently for a response. In the movie they say that if you ask it and believe it, that you will receive it.

Be Positive- It is such a simple idea and yet it seems so hard to do. They do focus on energies and life forces, but what I drew from it is that I radiate what I feel onto other people. If I constantly am consumed with self-doubt and don’t believe in myself, no one is going to believe in me. Yet, if I can radiate confidence and self-worth, people will see that and be drawn to that.
The ideas within the movie are simple ideas, as are the ideas within the Bible. Do unto others, ask and you shall receive, you reap what you sow…yet, sometimes simple is good and simple is what you need.

What an awesome mom I could be if I could teach my children to do these things too. When our children get older we could have them also do gratitude journals and posters of the things that they want in their life. Teaching our children to surround themselves with positive people and to believe that they can be anything that they want to be are great things that I can do for them. Again, they are not new ideas, but gentle reminders that I am not doing enough of this.

I do encourage you to view this movie as it was such an amazing experience for me. Sometimes you need these little reminders and nudges in your life. This served as a great reminder for me and I look forward to implementing these ideas in our home.

If you have seen the movie and would like to share what you have gained from the experience, please chat away! Each person, I am sure, takes something different from it. I took from it what I needed to incorporate within my own life.

I would like to thank WSBT-TV for giving me the opportunity to view this movie!

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Freebie Friday: February 9, 2007

).

Hi all and welcome to this week’s freebie edition I am so glad you stopped by. If you only visit for the freebies, I hope you will take a look around. I blogged my little heart out this week and would love your comments.

Well, if anyone does not believe that I am sincere about being a freebie junkie, you would have enjoyed a newscast that I got the opportunity to participate in at WSBT-TV. They had a free screening of the movie, “The Secret” at their studio and had opened the invitation up to me. I, of course, rushed over after dinner to see the movie and then got the opportunity to be interviewed about my impressions of the film. When asked if I had planned to purchase the film at our local Borders, I had responded that I wouldn’t be buying it because I got to see it for free. The anchorwoman laughed when I said this and then proceeded to ask everyone else if they would be buying the film and their impressions of it.

We stayed up late last night to watch the broadcast. Very little of what I had said made the piece, but at the end they were chatting about the movie and someone asked if everyone was planning to run out and buy the movie. The anchorwoman stated everyone except for one woman who said she saw it for free so she wouldn’t be buying it. I think I laughed until I almost cried. In case anyone has missed it, I love a freebie and I love to share them with everyone. At least you know I am who I say I am! There are no mysteries here!

Here are a couple of letters from our readers for this week. Thanks to all of our tipsters for sharing with all of us. It is greatly appreciated!

Hi,

First of all, thanks for all the great freebie links, I literally can't wait for Fridays to come so I can see what new links you have. Anyway, this may be something you already know but, if you go to
www.kraftfoods.com and click on their food & family magazine link, you can sign up to receive the magazine absolutely free. There are five issues a year (fall, holiday, winter, spring and summer) complete with great recipes, coupons, previews of new Kraft products, and (occasionally) a sample of tea or some other mail friendly product. Clearly the idea is to use all these Kraft products for your family's meals but you can easily substitute whatever brand you choose. Hope this helps!

Sincerely,
Natasha M.


Hey Amy-
I’ve been reading your blog/site for a while now and really appreciate all of the great tips on frugality! A friend of mine told me about a website where you can upload songs and pictures from your computer and send them to your phone as ringtones and pictures for wallpaper for FREE! I tried it today. All you have to do is register at the site (also free), put in your phone number, and upload pics or music. check it out! Here’s the site:
http://www.myxertones.com/default/

Sarah

Free Gorton’s Shrimp Temptations. This offer is valid only on Valentine’s Day. TO RECEIVE YOUR GORTON'S SHRIMP TEMPTATIONS REBATE:1) Purchase Gorton's Shrimp Temptations on Valentine's Day (February 14, 2007). Cash register receipts must be dated 2/14/07. 2) Include this rebate form, the original receipt and the original UPC bar code from the package. Claims must be postmarked by 3/31/07.3) No photocopied, altered, faxed, substitute or counterfeit receipts will be accepted.4) Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery of rebate check. Gorton's, its affiliates or agents are not responsible for mail not received as a result of loss, damage or delays by the US Post Office. All disputes and claims of non-payment will require you to provide a photocopy of your entire submission. Not valid in conjunction with any other discount offer. Gorton's will give away up to $100,000 worth of FREE* Shrimp Temptations! 5) Complete and return this form in an envelope along with your receipt and the original UPC bar code from the package.

Print out a coupon for a free Choxie Bar from Target. The coupon expires on 03/03/2007.
Get a free Discover Healthy Living DVD from Del Monte. This offer expires on 04/30/2007 or good while supplies last.

Claim a complimentary one-year subscription to PC Magazine. Answer, “No, Thank You” to the offers listed and this magazine is a complete freebie.

Get a free sample of The Healing Garden’s Sensual Therapy Passion Rose. Please allow four to six weeks for delivery.

Request a free sample of Purina Pro Plan Selects Dog Food. The sample is 12 ounces and will come in a Turkey & Barley flavor.

Request to receive a Green Dot Pacifier, which alerts you when your baby has a fever. Please visit this site and use the provided email address to contact them for a sample.

Mark your calendars, everyone! Starbucks will be offering a free tall coffee on March 15th from 10AM-12PM. This information was located in this month’s issue of Parent’s Magazine on page 28, so be sure to cash in on this freebie!

Show your phone some love and download some classic love songs on your mobile phone. Visit AOL Mobile for the free song selections to choose from. They currently are only supporting the following wireless carriers: AT&T/Cingular, T-Mobile, & Sprint. Unfortunately, we are under Verizon so I can’t take advantage of this freebie!

Looking for free Mac Software? About.com offers a whole slew of free downloads for your Mac, visit this page for the list!

OS-CAL is offering a free Multi-Compartment Pill Case. Click on the link for the free pill case and it will take you to a PDF form that you can print and mail to the company. New offers will be added to this page regularly, so please check back!

The Big Comfy Couch has a Clowndergarten Kids Club that you can sign your child up for. When you join you will receive a membership certificate, activity & coloring pages, autographed photo of their favorite character, sticker sheet, & official kids club wallpaper. This freebie should arrive within six to eight weeks.

Join the Go Red for Women movement and become a part of the fight against heart disease. By joining this free club, you will receive a free red dress pin, a monthly newsletter, and a shipping discount from Macy’s.

Print a copy of this form and take it to your Torrid store for a free Electric Valentine Red Lipstick.

Sign up to receive a free sample of K-Pak Shampoo & Conditioner. Please note that the Cell Phone field on this form is optional.

Can you not get enough freebies? Have trouble waiting until Friday? Please visit our Freebies Galore board to get more freebies in your mail box. Share the freebies that you have received and post your own freebie deals! If you just want to chat and meet other moms, visit our Forum where you can share amongst friends! You will meet some of the most amazing ladies on our board who are happy to share recipes, organizational tips, and help you network with work-at-home moms too!

Are you new to Freebie Fridays? Did you miss your freebie fix last week? Under each entry are keywords that you can search under. Click on the word Freebie and it will direct you to all of the past offers.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Tax Man Cometh....

And I am afraid that he is going to be beating our family into submission this year. When you are self-employed, there is no employer to take the taxes from you, thus we end up getting physically beaten at the end of the year. We do save for tax time throughout the year, but somehow handing the money over in one lump sum hurts so much more than the nickle and diming they do throughout the year on other people's checks.

TaxAct.com is a great place to do your taxes for free or for really cheap, depending upon the plan you opt for. You can download their program or do the whole process over the web. Considering the most expensive plan on TaxAct is a mere $19.95, this is definitely one of the cheapest options out there.

When we were first married, we used H&R Block for our taxes. My parents had always used H&R Block, so naturally that was where we went to when it was time to do our own taxes. We were newly married, had nothing to claim on our taxes and were bringing in the big bucks. I about fell out of my chair when the agent told me how much we owed. Then he told us how much we owed him and a repeat performance of me falling out of my chair ensued. What a rip off! We vowed never to return there again, as it was almost like getting robbed from twice in one night. Say what you will about me, but I find H&R Block to be extremely expensive, especially with all of the wonderful programs they offer today.

I do want to direct your attention to this link where they are offering an exclusive offer to American Express Card Members. You can save 25% on TurboTax Online federal products which includes free e-filing. They also offer a complimentary TurboTax Tax Estimator. If you have an American Express Card, you should definitely take advantage of this offer.

TurboTax also offers a great tool for those of us who are guessing how much our donations are worth. It is a software program called, "It's Deductible!" and the cost on it is $19.95. You can access thousands of values for the items you donate, track your donations throughout the entire year, auto-fills tax donation forms, and it all comes out in a printable report. We are going to purchase this program as we make many donations throughout the year. A quick picture with your digital camera and you will have all the paperwork you need to make the tax deductions.

I am wondering how you do your taxes? Do you hire a private accountant? Do you do them yourself? What programs do you use?

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I Heart You!


Lucky for me, today's theme for Works-For-Me Wednesday is all about Valentine's Day ideas. I happened to have posted a whole article of budget-friendly ideas for the holiday last week, so please stop over to the article to get tons of ideas that won't break the bank!

On a related note, I attempted to do Valentine's this year with my son. Now being the frugal self that I am, I realize that the store-bought cards are really not expensive at all. You can get a ton of them for a couple of dollars that have dogs on them and say, "You're Top Dog!" and such...They are very nice and we have done that in year's past.

This year I decided I wanted to make the holiday a little more meaningful and with only eleven kids in my son's class, we could definitely swing actually making the cards this year. I was proud that we did it because it required more effort than the store-bought hearts and it was a creative way for the two of us to pass another snow day at home.

Since the weather was bad, all I did was pull all of the red & pink construction paper from his craft bin. I would have loved to incorporate doilies, but after seeing them going for $4.99 last week, I decided that we could do without these. The idea was to save some money, not spend four times as much!

I did have some of those cool jagged scissors that the scrapbookers use and by cutting all my hearts out with those, it gave a pretty lacy effect on the hearts and also on the edges of the cards.

I sat everything out for my son to put his cards together including a big box of buttons and a glue stick to incorporate different dimensions into his work. He came downstairs with a piece of paper (not provided for this mission) and covered it with buttons saying he would rather make lots of planets instead of doing the task at hand.

I then came upstairs to redirect his attention to all of the paper I had cut out for him and all of the pretty hearts and what happened next was exactly what I had expected...I sat and made Valentine's for an entire hour while he made planets on other sheets of paper.

Me: "Do you want to even sign your name on these?"

Son: "Nah!"

So much for being a fun & creative mom! Maybe there are more creative ideas on Rocks in My Dryer as mine was not inspiring enough even for my own kid!

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Personal Finance Corner: Creating & Meeting Financial Goals


I love reading personal finance blogs and have learned so much through these blogger's entries. I am not a personal finance guru, but enjoy reading the advice from the experts.

This past month we sat down and evaluated our financial goals for the future. We currently are carrying a mortgage on our house, have two car payments to make, a small amount of credit card debt (from when my husband was unemployed), and a sizable amount of student loans. I am a big fan of Mary Hunt and her website, and for her members she offers a rapid debt repayment calculator, that can help assist you in figuring out how to become debt free. Her idea, like many financial advisors, is to snowball the debt to get rid of it. When we pay off a debt, we simply move our payment over to the next debt and pay that off. Then we move those two payments over to the next debt, and so forth. Using this idea helps you pay your debts down quicker without putting any additional money into it (unless you choose so) and requires little effort on your part.

Once we put all of this information into the calculator, we were able to see that we could potentially own everything that we have and pay off all of our debt by 2014. What an achievement that would be for our family. All of this rides on the fact that our cars hold out that long, that my husband stays employed, and that no major catastrophes occur that could deter us from reaching these goals.

My husband was not too keen on keeping our cars for another seven years (his is a 2000 & mine is a 1999) and he didn't know if he wanted to stay in our house that long either.

My theory on the housing issue is no matter where we live, we will have to put work into our home in order for us to live within our budget. When we did searches on houses in our area, even the million dollar homes would need to be adapted to our taste. The more updating we do to the house we already live in, the more I love where we are. We have plenty of room and there are always things that we could do to the home we are currently living in that could make it special for us. This is also our first home, as we have previously lived in a townhouse and apartments, and I am proud of the home we have. Think back on your own first home...Was it everything you ever dreamed of? Maybe, but maybe not. This is our first home and being in our twenties, I am proud of what we have.

The cars are not the best cars on the block, but I have never felt the pressures of keeping up with anyone in the car department. In a sea of SUV's and fancy minivans, my Subaru Outback is different, but it is safe and functional. Aren't those the most important things about a car? If we care for the cars that we have, doing the routine maintenance of owning a car, they could run for many more years.


Have you set financial goals for yourself? Do you find them achievable?


Just some food for thought, but read this article on a woman who is living on 12,000 a year and struggling to get by. She has some creative ideas for staying within her budget. Likewise, how about a family who is struggling to live on $150,000 a year. What do you think about these two situations? How do they compare to your own?


Finally, just to put it all in perspective, did you realize that if you make $2,200 that you are considered rich according to a global study. I bet many of you never thought you are rich, but after reading this article, it might help you to realize just how blessed you really are.


I hope this offers some food for thought! I will continue to share our progress as we tackle our financial goals and will also continue to share ways (on our site and the blog) that you can reach your own goals!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Cheap Dry Erase Board


It was time to organize my little corner next to our phone. Receipts, notepads, pens and stationary were scattered all over the top of the table so when I happened upon this cute organizer, I snatched it up at Goodwill (a mere $.75) to reorganize this area in my house. The organizer was certainly a diamond in the rough as it was well worn and coated in a thick layer of dust. A good scrubbing did it well and now it houses all of the craziness that was on top of our table. (Note: By clicking the picture, it will expand it in case you want to see things in more detail!!)


Now I can't take credit for this idea, as I saw it over at mother-in-law's house. She had received this dry erase board as a gift and I was so excited to add one of these to our house. All you need is a tile (I had one saved from a past craft project) from the hardware store and a little picture stand. I found this picture stand over at the Dollar Tree. Ta-Da! Instant dry erase board. What could be cuter than that? Perfect for leaving messages to each other without taking up too much space!


I did want to point out that sweet picture to the left of our daughter. This is a picture I took when she was really small and had just discovered her feet. It made the perfect picture to frame and one that I am super proud of. There is nothing better than capturing a moment like this!

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Disposing of the Disposable Items

Frankly, I am pretty tired of being home. We have been in the house for the entire month of January, due to our entire family being sick, and finally everyone is starting to feel better...and there is a weather advisory today. I had gotten up and gotten the kids ready for the day, made plans to join my grandmother for lunch, and then noticed that my son's school had been cancelled. Despite our disappointment, this feels like it has been a month of accomplishments, as we have tried to tackle some stuff around the house. Some of the things that I have gotten done are:

1. My laundry is caught up. Everything has been washed and even has been put away (only a mother would know how hard that is to do!) I even did a little ironing while I watched television this weekend. I have been home too long when I am now ironing my dish towels.


2. When I do my laundry, I throw all of our socks into their own basket. Then when I have gotten all of the loads done, I sit and sort socks. Sometimes this never happens. This week...it happened! So sad when there is so much joy over accomplishing that.

3. Organized the area around my phone as I got a "new" organizer from Goodwill and filled it with all of the random junk that had been laying on a table. I made a little message board, which I will share for a future entry, and felt a good sense of accomplishment over that.

4. I made Valentine's with my son. More on that in a future entry...

5. Ripped out our entire closet and reorganized it. My husband did all of the hard work doing the putting together of everything and then I organized all of the clothes and weeded through everything that needed to be donated to charity. I even pieced together some new outfits for my husband to give him some new ideas. I have a lot of fun doing that kind of thing and sometimes it helps to have another set of eyes to your clothes to make you realize all that you do have. With everything now being accessible without a stool (as I am five-foot-nothing) I now have everything in reach and have found items in my closet that I had even forgot I had.

6. Cleaned out every single one of my purses. Ended up with almost eight dollars in change, three lipsticks, and a pair of sunglasses. I always scoff at people who tell me that they found money lying around their house that they didn't know they had. Eight dollars of change proves that I was the one who should have been looking!

7. Wrote a new article on frugal storage solutions. I will let everyone know when we post that!

I did want to share one system that we have incoporated into our home, that might be useful to you. One of the biggest questions I get is how we can feed our family of four for only $200 a month (including paper products). There are long and lengthy answers to that, but one of the main things that I have found is to dispose of the disposable items. Now I know not everyone is up for cloth diapering, but there are other disposable items that you might be buying that are wasting precious grocery dollars. Items like paper plates, paper cups, plastic cutlery, paper bags, napkins, & paper towels can drain the budget quickly.


Instead of wasting your money on these items, do an extra load of dishes and just use the dishes you already have in your house. Paper towels can be replaced by microfiber cloths, dish towels, dish rags. Finally, paper napkins can be replaced with cloth napkins.


You can make your own cloth napkins (as my friend Shannon, from Rocks in My Dryer, has suggested) with NO sewing skills required. If you are unmotivated or just love the look of a vintage cloth napkin, check your local thrift store for cloth napkins. I can get my cloth napkins for a quarter each at our thrift store, so it is definitely worth it compared to the amounts we save.

Since I had plenty of time this week, I actually gathered all of the cloth napkins we already had and put them in a basket. The basket is resting on my kitchen counter as a reminder to us all to use these instead of the disposable napkins.

My girlfriend had suggested a brilliant idea, which has helped motivate me further to use the cloth napkins. Underneath your sink, store a basket for all of the baby bibs, dish towels, dish rags (and in our house), cloth napkins. When the basket is full, or when I do a load of towels, I just throw them in the wash. It also makes removing the tablecloth easier, as I can just fold that and throw it in the basket too.

If you are not completely sold on doing the cloth napkins for every meal, start out small and use them for dinner only. You will soon find how easy it is to care for them and the benefits it will provide to your grocery budget.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Divine Caroline

Do you enjoy writing short stories about being a mom? Do you have a desire to put pen to paper and share what is on your heart as a woman? I would love to direct all of the aspiring & accomplished women writers out there to submit your story to Divine Caroline.

When I began the blog, I had intended to share a more real side to me as a mother. I love sharing stories about my children and the day-to-day drudgery of motherhood. Unfortunately, privacy has become more of a concern and sharing more about saving money seemed the way to go. I felt as though I had lost a creative outlet for myself so I was so thrilled when the ladies of Divine Caroline contacted me and asked if I would be among their trusted advisors in launching their site. I had agreed, but the concept was very hush-hush at the time and I had no idea what I was actually agreeing to.

I got the opportunity to meet one of their founding ladies and she was just as genuine and lovely in person as she was through email. She shared with me that they wanted to start a site where EVERY woman could share their story. Every woman has a story- heartbreak, love lost, love gained, children born, struggles and triumphs...this site offers the type of format where you can freely share these types of stories.

If you are interested in sharing your story, or reading the story of other great writers, please visit DivineCaroline.com for more information. We thank Divine Caroline for giving us the opportunity to share & contribute towards the launching of their new site!

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Freebie Friday: February 2, 2007

Before I start with this week’s freebies, I just wanted to direct your attention towards our latest article on our site. If you are stumped for frugal gift ideas for this Valentine’s Day season, please head over to my article where we share ways to show your love on a budget. I hope you will enjoy this new addition to our site!

Now it is time for me to show you guys some love and share this week’s freebies!

Claim a complimentary one-year subscription to Car & Driver Magazine. As with most freebie subscriptions, the form is long and tedious. You can, however, answer, “No” to any of the offers listed.

Try the new Luna Tea Cakes for free. Good only while supplies last and please allow eight to ten weeks for delivery.

Get a free download of H&R Block’s Deduction Pro software.

Get a free two week VIP Membership to Gold’s Gym, sponsored through Self Magazine & Gold’s Gym.

Download a coupon for a free Auntie Anne’s Pretzel (not to be confused with past offers, this is good for a Valentine’s Day freebie).

Sign up today and receive a free sample of Member’s Mark Soy Infant Formula.

Pantene is offering free samples of their new Pantene Pro-V Restoratives. They offer three different types of samples to choose from. This sample should arrive within six to eight weeks. I was getting a server busy message, but you can try connecting to this one.

Sign up to receive a free sample of Dove Pro-Age. They are offering three different types of samples in this freebie.

Kmart has started a site called, “New Day Your Way.” They are offering incentives and rewards for meeting your weight loss goals this year. Visit their site to sign up and get more information.

Sign up to receive a one-year subscription to Games for Windows Magazine.

Enter for a chance to win the Livin’ Lodge Xperiment and receive a free Schick Quattro Titanium Razor for your own experiement. Please allow eight to twelve weeks for delivery. This offer expires on 02/28/2007.

Sign up today for First Look Kids and read and review books before they are available in stores! Each month, HarperCollins Children’s Books will offer Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) of great books that you will have the chance to read and review before they are available in stores. Reviewers are selected at random but you must be a member of the program to be eligible. And, best of all, First Look is completely free!

In celebration of Babies Online's 10 year anniversary we are giving away free pregnancy wristbands to all expectant mommies in the U.S! This trendy bracelet can also alert emergency personnel to your pregnancy status if you are not able to communicate after an accident. Help us celebrate 10 wonderful years by requesting your free wristband today!

Sutter Home Winery is offering a free corkscrew to anyone who votes for their favorite blush wine. Good only while supplies last. Click on enter. Then click on "Vote now" at the bottom of the next page. Fill out the form and vote for your favorite Sutter Home blush wine. You will be shown the corkscrew that you will receive after submitting the form.

This offer has been posted before, but just in case you haven’t gotten it, I am posting it again. Fill out the request form below to receive a Free Meeting Solutions Sampler Kit which includes...- Post-it Pop-Up Notes- Post-it Super Sticky Notes- Post-it Flags- Post-it Durable Tabs- Post-it Wall Pad samples. This freebie is good through March 31, 2007.

If you have an ULTA cosmetics (which I am wildly jealous if you do!) this freebie is amazing. Simply print out the gift certificate and redeem in stores. You will receive a free gift from Smashbox which includes stunning lip gloss shades and a palette of their best-selling Photo Finish Foundation primer in a carrying pouch. This gift is available February 2-4, 2007. Basically, you will need to head over there after your husband gets home for work or before picking up the kids!

Clinique is currently offering three types of in-store events that include free samples:

Offer One: Indulge in colour and receive two free deluxe gifts at Clinique’s Colour Cravings makeup event where the Clinique Consultant will create a new fall look just for you in luscious tones of red, pink, violet and nude. Come to Clinique’s Colour Cravings makeup workshop and get step-by-step instructions from the expert, plus free gifts:
Your choice of Glosswear for Lips in Nudey, Mystic or Cabana Crush plus
Take the Day Off Makeup Remover for Lids, Lashes & Lips
One per customer. While supplies last. Call or stop by the Clinique counter nearest you to book your appointment today and get the look just perfect for you! To find the nearest "Colour Cravings" workshops click here.

Offer Two: Learn all you need to glow at Clinique’s Get Radiant event. Let the Clinique expert show you how to get fresh, glowing skin and play it up with luminous makeup. You’ll leave with a radiant new look plus free gifts:
Your choice of a full-size Long Last Lipstick in Glow Bronze, Berry Freeze or Pink Spice plus
Turnaround Concentrate Visible Skin Renewer
One per customer. While supplies last. Call or stop by the Clinique counter nearest you to book your appointment today and get the look just perfect for you! To find the nearest "Get Radiant" workshops click here.

Offer Three: A little makeup know how can do wonders. Come to Clinique’s Artist Eyes event and choose a new eye look created by Clinique’s top makeup Consultants then learn how to do it yourself with help from the expert. Plus, take home two free gifts:
Your choice of Colour Surge Eye Shadow in Taupestry or Lucky Penny plus
All About Eyes or Repairwear Intensive Eye Cream
One per customer. While supplies last. To learn even more and watch the Artist Eyes Video, click here. Call or stop by the Clinique counter nearest you to book your appointment today and get the look just perfect for you! To find the nearest "Artist Eyes" workshops click here.

P.B. Loco Cafes are offering free stuff on their website. In the right-hand corner is a link to sign up for free stuff from the company. The coupon they will send you is not technically free, but if you purchase five or more jars of peanut butter, the sixth jar will be free. This offer will expire on March 15, 2007.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (in New York) is offering free passes to their museum, good for the month of February. You can bring up to six people using this pass.

Get 5 issues free of Experience Life Magazine(this is a fitness magazine).

Did you get your free bag of cat or dog food from Purina One? Make sure to sign up for this freebie. They will send you a coupon in the mail.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mommy Inventor Interview: Dwink Drink Holder

I always find mommy inventors so inspiring and am amazed by their creativity. That is why it brings me great joy to feature this mommy inventor and her ingenious product- the "dwink box holder."

Yvonne Huang decided to launch her own business marketing a juice box holder that could fit all juice boxes, not just the standard size. For any mom who has battled with squirting juice boxes and hasn't been able to find a product that could accommodate their odd sizes, this product is for you.

At first glance, this juice box holder (although much cuter than most) appears to be the same as any other juice box holder. When held in your hand though, you begin to notice the flexibility of the container (to accommodate all drink box sizes) and the thoughtful details in it, like the no slip bottom and soft handles of the holder. It is just the type of invention that you think, "A mom must have thought of that!"

We got the opportunity to speak with Yvonne and learn more about herself and her product!

How many children do you have and where are you located?
I have 2 boys. Joshua (5 yrs old) and Jacob (4 yrs old). We live in Southern California.

How did you get the idea for your product?
My kids were squeezing their juice boxes and Capri Suns all over the place. I bought several different juice box holders but none of them could fit all of the different juice boxes and pouches. I didn't want to limit myself to buying only one kind of juice box, and I didn't want to keep track of which holder could fit which type of drink. So I decided to design my own "universal" drink box holder.

What would be your advice to someone just starting out?
Make sure you are fully committed and prepared - emotionally and financially - to go through with it. Because it's going to take a lot longer and it's going to be a lot harder than you thought. I also have a very supportive and encouraging husband.

What do you think makes your product unique versus your competitors?
It's the only holder that fits all drink boxes and pouches SNUGGLY, including soy milk boxes and extra-small juice boxes... AND I think it's super cute!

How do you juggle your children and your business?
I make my kids work for me- they are the ones who pack up the dwink boxes. Just kidding! My 2 boys are more work than a full-time job, even with the help of my husband. But they are in school every day from 9am-2pm so those hours are "my" time. I try to do what I need to do during those hours. If I have to do something work-related while the kids are home, I take them with me or ask my mother-in-law to help me for a little while. I often do work in the evenings when my husband is back from work. Basically, we take it a day at a time and help each other where we can.

The universal "dwink" box holders can be purchased for $4.99. Please visit www.mydwinkbox.com for more information on how to purchase this product.

We wish Yvonne and her company much success!

*If you are a mommy inventor and would like to see your product showcased on our blog, please email me at amy@momadvice.com*

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